Be Prepared – tourists need help
Have you been semaphored the good news? The Government is working with the nation's Scouts to spread tourism awareness across the country.
As a former Baden-Poweller I’d like to pass on to the 21 million woggle-wearing cewek and cowok just a few tips. First, no tips; you should be in this for the joy of helping promote your country, even though most tourists look like overweight walking ATMs, desperate to shed a few pounds. Sterling, preferably.
In fact by refusing payment for services you’ll be giving leadership to the elected leaders. Sure, you’re only a wong kecil (ordinary kid) in khaki shorts, but your example will shame the sticky-fingered VIPs.
Should you spot one or two (their natural habitats are five-star hotels and they have loud calls) offer a Scout forest remedy for cleaning greasy palms. Suggest Atropa Belladonna –they’ll assume she’s an exotic bank marketing executive hoping to service their accounts. Should dermatitis follow (deadly nightshade can be allergic), don’t worry; politicians know exactly how to wash their hands of problems.
In the notebook you always carry jot down the clean public toilets in your area in case you find a tourist needing a convenience. Inconvenient for you, but don’t worry - little writing is necessary. For Westerners abroad finding a decent WC is essentially their bottom line requirement.
Foreigners often lose their way, much like city planners and moral crusaders. When you see someone with light skin and dark glasses wishing they’d rather be somewhere else, don’t direct them to the airport.
Scouts master crafts; that means being crafty. Send them in another direction. (Successful completion of this exercise will help you get a cab driver’s license when you grow up.)
Mari Elka Pangestu isn’t just the Tourism boss who’s mustered Scout skills. She’s also Creative Economy Minister. Helping tourists miss their flights is certainly creative and could help boost the national economy – so double merit points here.
Sadly few from abroad understand rural Javanese or village Sundanese. Some may carry Indonesian phrase books and try a word or two, but should not be encouraged lest they learn our secrets. If they persist it’s important to laugh out loud at their clumsy pronunciations. Get your troop to join in; ridicule helps relationships.
Why not reverse the roles? Learn a little Inglish.
When addressing tourists be polite. ‘Alo Mister’ is not appropriate for lady visitors. Say ‘Alo Miss-ter’. If you can’t tell them apart say ‘Alo Miss-ter and Mister’. This shows you’re aware that foreign women take precedence over men and should get you a Gender Awareness badge.
However this can cause problems if they’re both the same sex. Which is often the case with aliens and a queer thing indeed. It might mean you won’t get your award though you could cop a clipped ear.
Foreigners have funny habits that you must study. Their favourite food is not rice. I know you and 240 million other Indonesians think this so weird it’s unbelievable, but believe me – I have a Cook’s Badge to prove it.
I got it for mashing spuds, boiling limp cabbage and cremating mutton chops. Learn to do this and it will help you pick a guest’s origins, thereby showing how smart you are. If they enjoy your fare they’re Australian or English. If they throw up they’ll be French or Italian.
Alcohol is another tricky issue. Most foreigners will recommend you for a Presidential Award if you can track down a coldie come sundown. As you know the Archipelago is practically dry so you need to ransack your initiative box to earn a Grog Finder’s badge.
Hint: Don’t get your neckerchief in a knot – ask a friendly member of Front Pembela Islam. The Islamic Defenders seem to know all the best booze outlets to trash and will happily put a few bottles aside as a gesture of good faith.
Finally remember each day to do a Good Turn. Should you encounter an old lady trying to cross the road first ask about her travel insurance. Maybe she forgot to buy. So keep an application form handy in your backpack. Where it says ‘beneficiary’ just get her to write Duncan Graham.
(First published in The Sunday Post 18 March 2012)