Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 14)

Our English learning program was not just merely coming to the class and listening to what the teacher said, or doing any activities like what I had when I studied in the English college in Surabaya. In class activities were much more liberal and engaging. We were encouraged more to express ourselves when making introductory. And the teachers were also more creative in making the class environment fun to be. They sometime able to develop materials out of student’s personal story, which truly made us feel respected, as if we are really part of the curriculum instead of just being objects.

Class activities don’t just take place in the class itself. Sometime the teacher invited us to go to library and allows us to read books or browsing the internet for the remainder of the day. It was really fun and relaxing because it allows us to socialize more with the fellow classmates.

Group photo in the classroom. This was actually taken on the advance level, not the first level that I attended. From left to right, me, Nami*, Namu*, Hiroshi*, Sung Ho Park, Kim*, and our teacher. Honestly, I can’t recall their name, except for Sung Ho Park. Hence I marked their name in asterisk.

That is how I get close to one South Korean student, Sung-Ho Park. He was a very nice and courteous student. After socializing with him, we began to realize that we had many things in common: we were nerds and geeks, love reading books, we came from conservative background but keen to liberate ourselves from that, and also like to explore new things. We often helped each other throughout our study there, although later I learned that his course ended earlier than mine.

Other South Korean in the class is Woo Jae Kim. He has a big, muscular, and very athletic body. In fact he is a keen bodybuilder. He also sporting long hair dyed in partial blonde color. Contrary to Sung Ho, Woo Jae is an easy going and very liberal person. He is very much westernized, in his attitude but not in language knowledge. He frequently went out into the pub, and often partying and drinking a lot. He also has a girlfriend from Taiwan, with voluptuous body, which often made the Indonesians drool.

He was a draft dodger who had been in Australia since a few months prior to his 18th birthday, which is why he works hard to obtain Australian citizenship. And he also had a habit of using the library’s computer to play Red Alert game. This habit earned him a lot of reprimands so much that in later months all of the computers are locked on students could no longer used the computer for internet.

Then there is Nami*, a Korean woman in her late 20s or early 30s. I wasn’t very close with her, but remembered her very well as she spoke in strong American accent when speaking English, which draw the teacher’s inquiry. Apparently she grasped such skill from watching Hollywood movies. Just like Woo Jae, she is actually interested to move to Australia and that’s the main reason why she attended this course, although unlike him, Nami’s reason is more financial related.

Indeed, all of South Koreans that I met back then were very friendly, affable, and courteous. In addition they also have good sense of humor too, something that quite unexpected from the people that come from a rather strict, workaholic, and conservative country. But it was probably a changing time for them too. Some of them already show rebellious traits. Like what was displayed by Woo Jae Kim.

I also get to know several Japanese students as well, including Namu*. She is a Japanese girl in her mid-20s who came to here to improve her English. But one that surprise me is Akiko*. She was a Japanese lady in her 50s who came to improve her English. Back home in Japan, she worked as a tourist guide in one tourist attraction, and she came here to improve her English. Her appearance was largely informal, she wore jacket and waist bag filled with dictionary and notebook.

The Japanese are very refined, polite, and hardworking people. They smiled a lot, and are actually gregarious people. Yet they also showing contrasting trait. Although they tend to group together with their fellow Japanese, it doesn’t mean that they’re reclusive. They would smiled and greet me whenever I joined conversation with them. Despite of their poor level of English in majority of them, it doesn’t mean that they would shun non-Japanese. On a contrary, they’re willing to converse with me. Indeed, it is common that some Japanese ladies have a non-Japanese boyfriend (mostly Indonesians).

Contrary to the image of Japanese people that often being portrayed in Indonesia as conservative, tenacious hard workers, friendly, hospitable, and extremely sophisticated, I found some Japanese students can be laid back, indiscipline, rebellious, ignorant, and even lazy!

There was one spoiled Japanese girl who was known as being the center of attention because of her attractive appearance as well as rebelling nature. I heard that she came from affluent family in Japan. I often saw her smoking a lot during break, and mingled with the guys.

Then there was one Japanese guy named Satoru who had a habit of heavy drinking, turning up late in his class, and not dressing up smartly. All of this truly serves as example that Japanese people are not superhuman like what was told in my country.

I get close with some Japanese ladies (whom I forgot their names completely now), as well as some guys like Takeshi* and several others which I have forgotten their names now. But I also notice one Japanese student with strong European appearance, complete with blue eyes and tall body. At first, I thought he was European. But upon knowing that he spoke fluent Japanese, while his English is not very clear, then I realize he is Japanese. It turned out that he was a Eurasian (the term in Japan is called “Hafu-hafu”) of mixed Japanese-German ancestry.

Despite of my good relationship with the Japanese, I found that maintaining friendship with the Japanese take more effort than what I would have done with the Koreans. It seems that they demand more attention and focus in order to retain the relationship. That is contrary to the Koreans, which have slightly more down to earth attitude than the Japanese.

Sometime, teachers would invite student to come to their house so they can socialize better with the students. I remember one day Georgina* invited the students to come to her house in Cottesloe.

The trip to her home was also the first time that I used the train service. Prior to that, I thought that in order to use the train we must buy separate type of ticket. But Sung Ho taught me that we can use the Multirider ticket in here too. Using that was quite simple, you just put the ticket right into the ticket validation machine on the platform, and you can go! Other method was purchasing the ticket from ticketing machine. You choose the type of ticket (adult, pensioner, student, etc), your destination, and then you must insert the coin. Then the ticket would come out from the hole underneath the machine, and including the change money if we pay more than the ticket value.

Typical of ticketing machine in Transperth station. The device on the right is ticket vending machine,while the one on the left is automated information counter, complete with train schedules and route display. The rounded button, if pressed, will announce the remaining time before the train arrive. The phone (seen vandalized) is used to call police in case of emergency.

I remember during one rainy late afternoon, we gather on Perth railway station to go to Georgina’s house. At that time, we followed her direction where we must take the train on Fremantle line and then alight at Grant Street station.

I was initially quite nervous to use the train. Back home, anyone who wants to access the train platform must either produce their valid ticket or having “platform ticket” to enter. In Singapore MRT, only passengers can enter the platform. Yet in here, we can just go into the platform without any need to undergo such screening. Upon arriving on the platform, I was slightly confused on how to validate the ticket. Sung Ho helped me by showing how to do that (which I mentioned earlier), and we quickly ran into our train which is about to depart.

The train was packed with commuters who went home after work. The ride was very much similar to MRT in Singapore: very smooth. Although I notice that the car looks a bit narrower, as it run on narrower gauge. But one unusual feature, and quite a luxury too when compared to MRT, are row of seats that facing forward or backward, like what you see on intercity train. During peak hour, this can reduce passenger’s space, but for long trip it is very comfortable.

After several minutes of trip, we finally arrive at Grant Street station. Back then, the station consists of 2 different platforms separated by railway tracks. Interestingly, they are not located adjacent to each other, but rather a few meters apart, separated by a small street. Years later, when the station was expanded to accommodate longer trains, the platform on western side was demolished, and new platform, located across the track from the original eastern platform was built. The eastern platform has also been extended now.

From the station, we walked north and bracing the rainy weather to reach Georgina’s house. I can’t recall the exact location of her house, but all I remember was the front of her house was lush with greeneries. Her house had classic 1980s feelings. Upon entering her house, we were greeted by the sight that resemble personal library. Her husband also greeted us. It was a very hospitable reception. I remember we sat and having some chat on an enclosed verandah that overlooked her backyard. I can’t recall what did we talked about, but it was very much fun. Later that night, her husband took us to our homes with his car, and we were thankful for his generosity. It truly saves us from the hassle of having had to use late night public transport.

Gathering at Georgina’s* house in Cottesloe. Due to my mistake, the “no rolling” button at the bottom of my camera was accidentally pressed, causing the next photo to overlap with this photo.

Another off-class activity was “Excursion”. When I first listened to that word, I was wondering what “Excursion” is. Does it have something to do with “Exercise”? After I read dictionary (book), I learn that it means a trip (especially recreational ones).  In fact throughout my study there, we had several excursion trips to variety of destinations. All are aimed to improve student’s understanding of English language. There were several destinations that we visited, but only a few that I clearly remember. I will start with the first one.

One day, my college arranged an excursion trip for several classes to Serpentine dam and waterfalls (I remember Woo Jae spoofed the word “Dam” into “Damn!”). We departed from the college using a non-air conditioned minibus, which seem to be dating back from 1970s. Despite of its age, it was well maintained and quite comfortable.

The dam is located to the south of Perth city, about 45 minutes’ drive from our college. We drove through Kwinana freeway, before turning east and then crossing the railway line and then turned south at Great Southern Highway.

For me it was the first time that I get to see the typical Australian countryside. Although at brief glance it looks similar to those in Java, in reality they’re quieter and less populated. A farming area would be purely used for such purpose, without any patches of village in the middle of it. And they don’t grow rice, or any similar plants like in Java, but something else like wheat, potatoes, and etc. Sometime there is even some open grassland too. Countryside in Australia seems to be much more rural than in Java. Patches of uninhabited place does also exist too, despite of its close proximity to Perth metropolitan area.

Typical countryside in West Australia. This one is in Wungong, just to the south of Armadale. This was the view that I saw during this trip.

Our route seemed to be parallel with the railway line that goes to the south of Perth. Although the track looked active, I didn’t see any trains that pass through it. Sometime there were also some branchlines that diverge from that mainline and crossed above the main highway. Although I’ve seen similar sight in Java, what I didn’t know back then the majority of intercity trains in West Australia are dominated by freight trains. Passenger services are rarity.

After several minutes of driving south, our bus taking a left turn and goes uphill before we finally arrive in a huge dam. If I’m not mistaken there was one tour guide who explained several things about the dam, mainly about its purpose to provide water supply for Perth metropolitan area and surrounding areas.

We didn’t stay very long at the dam, before we head to Serpentine falls, which is located a few kilometers from the dam. Compared to the dam, the waterfalls is a much more scenic and exciting destination to visit. In here we can see beautiful scenery of the waterfalls as well as the forest surrounding the area. In summer it is a popular tourist destination where visitors can swim on its small lake. But since it was in the middle of winter (despite of the sunshine) we didn’t bother to take off our clothes and swam on its frozen water!

Serpentine Falls in August 1997.

From the waterfalls, we head to the nearby park where we had barbeque party (locally known as “Barbie”).

It was the first time that I had a barbeque party. And amazingly the park management did provide several fixed stoves in the park where visitors can ignite them for fee (you can insert the coin into the stove, and then press the button to ignite it).

My classmates cooking some Japanese and Korean barbecue menu.  

Everyone grilled all of the meats that they carry in the stove (including my Halal chicken and beef meats), accompanied by several bottles of soft drinks.

Preparing my grilled chicken. Thankfully, no one was harmed with that knife during the making :p

It was truly fun occasion. We enjoyed the delicious meal while surrounded by idyllic scenery. No wonder why the Australians regard “Barbie” as an important way to spend the weekend or holiday with their family members or friends.

If I’m not mistaken, there was only one operable barbecue table in the park. So everyone had to queue to cook their meat.

During the barbeque party, I also get to know students from other classes

One is Aven. He is an Indonesian student from Jakarta. Just like me, he is also taking the English language course to prepare for his university study in Australia. Aven is such a nice and friendly person. He is a humorous person who loves to make jokes. Despite of his limited English language capability, he was still able to entertain other students from different nationalities. We grew close throughout our study, although his activities prevented us from being best mates.

Having fun with the Japanese girl, and also Aven (wearing white hat).

I also get to know one Eurasian student from French (I initially thought he was Chinese or Japanese as his Asian traits seem to be more dominant in his appearance). His name is Patrick*. One surprising thing about him is that he spoke fluent Indonesian! It was Aven who first introduced me, and I was initially stunned in awe upon knowing his ability to speak Indonesian language, despite of the audible French accent.

The Japanese students cooked their meal, while Patrick* (center) looked on.

It turned out he was actually born in Indonesia, to mixed parents (French father and Indonesian mother). I can’t recall where in Indonesia where he was born, but at the age of 5 years old, his family relocated to France.

Once our meals are cooked, we sat down on the tables in the park to enjoy our meal. It was truly delicious. Despite of the Halal chicken meat that has been provided by Feroza to me, I curiously tasted the Korean food. They cook some kind of grilled meat, which served with spring onions, sesame seeds, and Korean sauce. It tasted truly delicious! It has spice, sweet, and savory taste.

After lunch, some teachers taught us on how to play some popular Australian sport games, such as Aussie rules football and cricket.

Many students, especially males, truly enjoyed playing the game.

A Korean student is seen chasing after the ball during the Aussie rules football game.

The cricket game is also exciting, although none mastered how to do the “bowling”.

A teacher demonstrating cricket game to the students.

Those who don’t play the games (including me) playing around in the park.

Sometime we also take group photo of our class members.

Group photo with the classmates and teacher. Woo Jae Kim can be seen on the left. I wore the gloves because it was freezing cold for me.

We also went to see the waterfalls.  I remember, I took one selfie photo using my tripod. Since smartphone or even digital camera didn’t exist, I had to use my film camera to take photo. I didn’t realize if I had made mistake in setting the camera, and the result is quite….a disaster!

Thanks to my lack of knowledge in photography, my face looks completely dark in this photo.  

We also went up on the top of the hill above the waterfalls.

Some students are climbing the hill to get a better view.

The view from the top is truly majestic, because we can get clear view of the area from above, although admittedly, it was quite a dangerous trek too.

The hills around Serpentine falls.

Once we conclude our picnic today, we packed up our belongings, cleaning up the picnic site, and head back home to Perth.

Going back home to Perth at the end of the tour.





About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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