The man is tall, with sharp features, dark eyes, and an accent that I can’t place. He’s receiving instructions about where to make photocopies and he’s confused. With good reason. I was confused the first time I tried to make photocopies. Luckily the same girl who takes me to Immigration and talks very respectfully with all the men there for me also works in my department, so my first day she told me where to go and what to say.
This man isn’t so lucky; the only help he’s going to get is me.
I sidle up to him. “Do you know where to go to make photocopies?”
“No,” he says.
So I lead the way out of the building, across a small courtyard filled with students milling about, and up to the photocopying stand. On the way, he introduces himself as Shariff and says he’s from Egypt but is here to study.
We jam ourselves in between the other people clustered around the photocopying stand. This is one of those places where there are no lines.
When the man behind the counter ventures close to us, Shariff says, “I want one copy of all of these.”
The man nods but isn’t listening. He’s making sure that he gives the girl who just printed something her papers and not someone else’s.
“How much is it?” Shariff asks me.
“I’m not sure,” I say. “He’ll tell you.”
And then it’s our turn. The man behind the counter takes the papers, looks at me, and asks how many copies.
I tell him and when he hands everything back I ask, “Berapa, Mas?” and then tell Shariff how much to pay. I’m pleased that Mas—the form of address for young men—came so naturally at the end of my sentence.
As Shariff fumbles with his money, he explains, “I’m new here,” in Indonesian to the girl printing things and the man behind the counter.
I think, I’m new here too.