Whether I’ve been somewhere once, a few times scattered over a long duration or lived there, I try to learn at least the basics of the lingo. Sure, in Jakarta, everyone speaks bahasa indonesia, but why not take advantage of its status as a cornucopia of Indonesians and nab a few words of Betawi, the regional tongue. Watch out for the got! Yep, a sewer isn’t too friendly regardless of where you are, but in the Big Durian, they get a bit too irreverent in the rainy season. After a meal at a restaurant serving food from Sunda, I’d leave them with a nuhun, or thank you, in Sundanese.
Before 2006, I hadn’t traveled independently much. My two-week trod around India during that summer helped change that. I veered off into the backstreets and past the leper colonies of Cotton Green, accidentally hopped on the woman’s train carriage only to jump right back onto the platform to get crammed into the right one…and most importantly, realized that merely relying on English to eat my way through the subcontinent was naïve. I picked up just a scant few words, namaste (a formidable greeting), ehk (one), pani (water), but also aam, or mango, one of the great reasons to eat and drink in India. Every aam I consumed was sweet, plump and refreshing, putting prior mango-tasting outings (hmm) to shame. Nothing could have been better than standing on that incessantly busy queue in mid-June at a Delhi train station and without electricity than a mango? Actually, I’m wrong. How about filling that empty paw with a cool aam lassi? That’ll do the trick. Thus, my affinity for mango lassi was born.