Notes on Language, Floods and Sambal

An update on the floods in Aceh and North Sumatra, as of Xmas day afternoon. The number of casualties has been raised dramatically since yesterday, and now over 70 are confirmed killed and over 100,000 have fled their homes, most from a single district in Aceh.
Floods raging in Northern Sumatra add a certain element of uncertainty to the trip I am meant to take in a few days. The paper this morning, Kompas, that is, the largest daily in Indonesia, said there were at least 18 dead, 2 missing, and over 70,000 people displaced from their homes. Kasihan mereka. Like Aceh has not received enough “Christmas Presents” in the form of killer natural disasters the past few years…


Nothing sums up the Indonesian eating experience like the ubiquitous sambal, or chile sauce, in its infinite forms and flavors and recipes. Above, in its mass produced, bottled form, it is enshrined on a pillar under an underpass of the tollway in South Jakarta, next to the Tama Jagakarsa University campus.

As you dealve in deeper and deeper, it seems that the expanse of language grows wider and wider. Language is indeed a window through which to see the world, and each language offers a language of a different tint.

For example, take the number of different ways that one can talk about “clouds” in Bahasa Indonesia. In general, I think the word is awan. However, there is also mega, but only if it’s a big white fluffy one in a blue sky. There is also gerombolan, if the sky is dark and it is going to rain soon.

There are also a seemingly countless number of ways to talk about death. If you die as the victim of an accident or disaster, you are a korban, if you are killed by a murderer, seorang membunuh anda, you are tewas. If your grandpa dies, he meninggal. If an animal dies, it is mati. I forget the word for someone that dies as a hero, a pahlawan, but there is one… And many others…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *