After a prolonged and tiring meeting with the local government, we settled the deadline – two weeks from that moment they would present us the crucial information. All happy with the agreement, we concentrated on other things. Within the two weeks me met for other reasons, we nodded, we smiled politely and seemed to share a mutual understanding. But on the day of deadline there is just a great silence. Another week passed that we started to ask for explanations. Mildly and overpolitely, like they do here in Indonesia.
“Excuse me, sir, did you, by any change, happened to have an infinitesimal moment to have a glimpse on our project, or not yet?
“No, not yet. I’m sorry, it’s not a problem I hope.”
“Well, dear sir, excuse me for my frankness, but, at the moment, I hope you understand, we have fifty people waiting for the results to continue working. I’m sorry to say that.”
“Oh, dear Lord, I’m thoroughly sorry. I’m sorry. You see, madam, the be honest with you, if I may, we didn’t really understand what we had to do.”
Then everything starts again. Telling the same story, making a new deadline, spending more and more hours explaining and seeing the same faces nodding as they did before. This time we are smarter and call them every few days to make sure we are still in the same boat.
This story doesn’t stand alone but is an exemplary one to illustrate most of our endeavours. If we said a poster was beautiful, only needed to change the colour from red to green, next day the whole design was marred, but still red. If we asked someone to invite our team members to an internal meeting, he forwarded it to all public Facebook groups. There were ones who quitted three weeks before, but forgot to mention it, forgot to share e-mails passwords or forgot to put our logos on event posters. But if you call and ask, then everything is always going flawless. No problems, no questions, no hesitations no negations. Until one day…
..”Sorry, I hope it’s Ok. We just had a miscommunication.”
“So you are sure all equipment and space will be provided by you?”
“And we don’t need to pay rent for space?”
“And our way of saying thank you is providing food for teachers who stay as guards?”
Being exhilarated by the simplicity of our negotiation didn’t last long though. Two days later a sms arrived:
“And where was the transportation for teachers? And no presents? They came there from their free time!”
All this made me want to bang my already fragile head against my phone, as nothing seemed to make any sense at this point. The only way to get myself out of that problem was to reply as an Indonesian would reply. But the same time I thought that the day of me understanding Indonesian subliminal messages would probably never come.
And you can imagine my glee when at the same moment two men at my next table were discussing some business deals when one of them said: “Sorry, miscommunication, iya?!”
It is not just me!