From inside the NBC Library, we heard the salawat tarhim (or praise to the prophet) flowing from the minarets. It is the sign for the Salat Asr or noon prayers. It also is a sign that we must rush to the community. It was a Friday which meant there was a schedule for pendar or tutoring in Rumbata.
That afternoon, in another NBC Library room, we were just sitting while sipping coffee and talking about unfinished taks.
Cecep: "Bro, I have got to go. I have something to do. I'll leave these stuff and coffee to you. Sorry, it’s a bit messy."
Dimas: "Yes, fine. I know, you are usually like that.."
Amidst laughter, the sound of Cecep's steps eventually faded, and in a minute he was out of sight.
Dimas and I returned to our topic. There was a film we just finished watching. Truthfully, we were still in the mood to continue watching but never mind, we had some other things to do in Kalumata.
Dimas: "Bro, is there any schedule in Rumbata today?"
Me: "Yes, but wait, I have to copy the children's fairy tales first".
I stood up and searched for the fables to be copied. After doing so, Dimas and I were all set to go to Rumbata (Kalumata Reading Corner). Dimas was looking stylish and was in high spirits. I then ran to the room to find a hat and also groomed myself.
That day, we didn't have our usual backpacks filled with books which we used to bring whenever there was a pendar (tutorial) class. That time, we simply had a few fairy tales, one red marker and four letters for the kids.
All set and ready, we both rode our motorbikes. Seeing the dark sky made us silent for a second. Facing skyward, we hoped against hope that we would not return home soaking wet or that it wouldn’t rain before we arrived at Rumbata.
Me: "Bro, it is getting dark."
Dimas: "Oh.. Bro, it might rain soon.."
Me: "It’s all right. Let’s go ahead. It’s just an overcast sky."
A few meters away from NBCL, suddenly, an English saying appeared in my head. "We a teacher, but we a student". I said the sentence aloud without realizing it. The grammar was not perfect. Dimas began to correct me, "We are teachers but we are also students."
Right. We are teachers. But we are also students.
I kept repeating the sentence silently. Like reading a zikr (remembrance) for a soul that is about to die.
Shortly after, we arrived at Rumbata at 16.04.
Three kids, Nadia, Tia and Denis happily welcomed us both while, Abu, and two other children ran away, hiding. They did not want to be called in as they were busy playing a game.
After parking our vehicle, we proceeded into the reading corner with the youngsters. There were only five kids in the room. Some of them still had not turned up. Even the senior grade children had not arrived yet. “Instead of waiting for them, I think we should just start the lesson,” Dirman said.
"Come on, be quiet, please! Nadia, please help Kak Dirman lead the prayer." I begged the children to calm down. They would not be silent at all. They did not want to be disturbed when playing. Dimas and I tried to be patient. Meanwhile, Nadia shouted, asking the young children to be quiet. No effect.
"Bro..." Dimas said to me with an amused expression. I raised my eyebrows as a signal.
"Who has heard the story about ‘hell’?" I asked them. That made them silent even for just a moment.
"I have”, a kid answered, “What's wrong with the angel?"
"Me too.. me...” “No, not you”. The kids scrambled to answer.
"It worked .." I whispered to myself.
Then, I proceeded to tell them about ‘hell’. The children looked enthusiastic to see me starting to stand to tell the story.
"Long time ago, there was a young man who was walking with a bottle of water in his right hand," I told them while demonstrating the story.
I continued, “Then came a grandfather, whose steps swayed while trembling. The grandfather was apparently going to ask the young man for water.”
The children were now listening seriously. They laughed because they saw my trembling legs, playing the character of the grandfather.
"Oh, young man ... may I have some water? I'm so thirsty."
By the end of the story, I then concluded, “When the young man died, he went to hell and was tortured because he was disobedient to his teacher. So, when the teachers are talking, you should listen!"
“We are all listening..." the children answered loudly.
After successfully keeping the children quiet, two older ones showed up.
"Mr. Dirman, what are we going to learn today?" the two kids asked.
“I want to create a group and tell a story, but there’s only the two of you." I said to the newly arrived.
"Why don’t we just play a guessing game?" one of the children offered, which made me realize something.
Yes, when you are in a class where the children have a wide range of age difference, you should not choose a game that would cause other children to be unenthusiastic because it is not appropriate for their age. Eventually, I chose to play the guessing numbers game. I figured this game would be perfect for their age and it would cultivate their imagination, trying to figure out what animal is right for each number.
I wrote the number 2 on the board and asked, "What's the number?" "Duaaaaaa", the children answered.
"What is the English word for that number?”
"Tuuuuu", answered the children.
"What kind of animal can we draw from that number?”
"Fish!" Tia, one of the children answered.
Dimas then asked Tia to come forward and draw the number ‘2’ into a fish.
"Come on, Tia, try drawing," I pleaded with a cheerful face.
“I’ll teach you how to draw a fish first.” I said. Hearing that, the cheering voices of the children and their enthusiastic applauses encouraged Tia to draw a picture.
We reached the end of the game after solving the number puzzles. Unexpectedly, the children reverted to making loud noises as they had before. The situation could not be controlled. Dimas and I decided to let them play as they were.
Me: "Bro, today is amazing. Ade Fajar and Opik in Fora are far less noisy than this."
Dimas: "Yeah yeah ... Oh my God... We didn't even know what else to do.”
While laughing, we chose to take a rest for a while and enjoyed the tea provided by the kindhearted Mrs. Ani.
It was already 17.58. Time to go home.
"Come on in kids. Let’s pray. It's six o'clock already now." I shouted to the children who were playing outside.
After praying, we shook hands and reminded the children not to forget to pray.
The room was quiet again. Only me, Dimas and Ibu Ani were left standing at the door of the reading house.
"Today, God really tested our patience," I said breaking the silence.