Masih tak boleh berbahasa Melayu.

All I have is a teh o ais in front of me to show for my ability to speak and understand Malay, even after seven months.

There was a new kakak here at Ammoo today as well as the kakak I call “Kak Az”, though never to her face. I don’t really say much to her at all, usually just a smile, maybe a nod, maybe a nod without the upwards motion so it ends up just being a looking down. Tonight she greets with a smile and a “Hey Boy!” from behind her table of vegetables and condiments and stuff for frying.

The new kakak came to the table I was seated at and asked, “Water?”. I smiled on the inside at her direct translation of the Malay. In Malay, I replied asking for a teh o ais. She then asked what I’d like to eat, this time in Malay. I said the words that I intended to mean “that thing with the rice and that plate of fried tempe and uncooked cabbage and long bean and cucumber with peanut sauce”.

Usually when I say those words the kakak asking would nod and after a few minutes I would get a plate of rice and another different plate with all those yummy things I asked for on it. But this time the new kakak didn’t nod and leave, she started saying things. I got confused which made it harder to understand what she was saying. The shattering of my food dreams made listening to a language I still have a shit grasp over really hard.

I think she told me they didn’t have it and that they only have sambal instead of the peanut sauce but maybe she also said there was no tempe and they only have tempe in the morning and the only stuff they have now is stuff like nasi goreng. It all added up to more confusion. They always have that tempe thing I want at night time, why not now? It didn’t make any sense. I said not to worry, I’d have the teh o ais only.

But I was still hungry. I guess I could’ve easily ordered something else, but I didn’t. Maybe I was hoping Kak Az would come by and save me and say, “Sebenarnya, we have that!” She didn’t though. And when I did finally think I might order something else – nasi goreng without all the animal bits – I was scared the new kakak wouldn’t understand and confuse me more.

The thing I like about that place is that I’ve been there so many times the workers know what I like and want that I could probably make any sounds with my mouth and then in a few minutes i would be given some food that I wanted. But not today. Having to deal with a new kakak ended with me realising how shit I still am at Malay. Seven months on and all I can get is a teh o ais.

I went to pay, at the cash register Kak Az was standing at:

Tak makan?
Tak.
Tak nak makan?

Kenapa tak nak makan?
Tak tahu.
Kenyang lagi?

Bila balik?
Balik mana?
Kampung.
Tak tahu.

And that was about it. She said something else but I didn’t catch that either.

As I left the shop and walked past the kitchen set up out the front I walk past a plate of fried tempe.

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