“Well yes,” the boys’ dance teacher said, “If you’re going to an arts university, even if it’s just for a year, classes are going to be like that.”
“I know,” I said. We were sitting looking out at the courtyard of the student union and I’d just finished telling him about the dance class I’d had earlier that afternoon, a class that had left my legs shaking and my shirt soaked with sweat. It had been all I could do to keep breathing through the pain of muscles protesting that they were much too weak. “It’s great.”
And I meant it. The first week of classes was exhausting, and most of those classes hadn’t even gotten to real instruction yet—we were still just going over the rules about how late you could be and what kind of clothes you had to wear. Actually, that was part of what made everything so exhausting—the sheer amount of language that I had to process every day was almost overwhelming. I didn’t understand everything, of course, but I understood everything I needed to without any problems. Except, like I said, the whole process left me falling into my bed and passing out cold every night.
Because, as it turns out, when I’m working in Indonesian/Javanese, I can’t zone out. There’s no subconscious processing going on. In English, my brain will alert me if something particularly interesting is going on, even if I’m not actively listening. This does not happen in Indonesian. I have to listen to every single word, just in case. More than once, I almost missed really important things like homework assignments.