Monday, January 29, 2007

My sister, my kaka…

The kids soon picked up a few words of local Bahasa Malay and would greet the security guards at our condo with salamat datang! (goodday!) or they said terimakasi (thank you) when we were served something or in a shop. The kids loved to chat with taxi-drivers who we used daily to go to and from school. The taxi drivers would ask them how many languages they spoke and when they said two the chap would laugh and say his children spoke four languages! It was true, local kids all spoke the national language (Bahasa Malay) plus English, then they had a local home language, either Chinese or Hindu and usually another family dialect too. It was impressive. being bilingual was nothing in multilingual Malaysia!

Marc and Nina learnt that the word kaka meant big sister. They had heard some kids in the condo calling their Indonesian maid ‘kaka’, and laughed and laughed, since that meant ‘poo-poo’ in French! Marc joked he could call Nina ‘big caca’ and she could not be angry, because he meant ‘big sister’!! They were just at the age when they loved the playground slang and their favourite mixed version was ‘You are a big caca!’ so this linguistic novelty amused them greatly.

Gabriel was now nearly six months old and with his sunny personality I could take him nearly everywhere; for dinner in a restaurant, to someone’s house or to an organised event and no one would mind. That was a huge bonus after England where children are not always welcome. Gabriel was easy to travel with and everywhere we went people stopped to talk to us. They would smile at Marc and Nina, ask their names or give them a sweet. But it was Gabriel who people loved, a big fat bald baby with huge blue eyes and a smile too! They pinched his cheeks, or tickled his legs and arms and picked him up to cuddle or cooed over him while he slept. When we visited the zoo in June people even asked us to pose for their photos next to the orang-utan or the elephants, or would crowd around us for their group shots!

The summer term or trimestre wound up with a show in a local auditorium. Not knowing any other parents yet at the school I sat next to a woman who looked friendly. She immediately introduced herself as Mahes, the mother of a boy in Marc’s class. Although we only exchanged a few words throughout the performance it was a relief for me to have someone to talk to and I felt we had a lot in common. She was Malaysian, of Indian heritage and married to a Frenchman too. The theme was French songs from the Seventies, which of course I did not recognize any at all, but our boys did their songs and then Nina danced Tata Yo-yo with the little ones. Both children looked happy and proud to be on stage and had no problems to sing along in French. I was reassured for the next school year.

As the holidays approached expats prepared to leave for the long eight-week summer holiday. Having only just arrived it seemed too soon to go back to Europe already, but the news that Jean and Nora would get married in August was an occasion too good for us to miss. We also thought we should spend a good part of the holiday in France to help Nina adapt more to her new school language and spend some time with the cousins there. My mother-in-law offered to take five of the cousins on a beach holiday and so with bags over-loaded with Malaysian souvenirs we set off for Paris….

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Hi Suzanne .. it's a pleasure to have found your blog. I have the same funny story .. my husband is French, I'm Indonesian. 'Kakak' means also big sister/brother in Indonesian. It was a bit difficult for my husband not to laugh each time he heard 'kakak' mentioned by an Indonesian. My son is just 3 years old, he doesn't make jokes yet :D
Santi
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