Monday, June 24, 2013

Being Enterprising

Mbak Yanti remarked that of all six of us, it was not Lilli and Luqman who are most different. It is me and Luqman.
To some extent, there is no denying her words, surga di telapak kaki ibu-ibu and all, but also because it was also factually accurate that I didn't spend a dime in tuition for my tertiary educations while Luqman, well, had to strive to go to college.
It was no question by the time I was in high school that I'd go to college. The only question was only what major I will choose. This led me to consider few of the most esoteric of them all: Nuclear Engineering (only listed in UGM), Russian Literature (UI is one of the few universities that have it in Indonesia), and of course, Astronomy.
Our path could have been very similar, though.
After my father passed away, I actually pondered if we'd still be able to go to school. It was not that I doubt Mom's capability to be the breadwinner but the soils her three children tread on don't magically turn into gold anyway. Despite the old "banyak anak banyak rejeki" axiom, this rejeki needs investment in form of education first. Maybe that's because our family wasn't--isn't--a farming family which can simply turn a pair of infantile hands into unpaid labor*. Or maybe it's especially because we're not a farming family.

On the other hand, stories like Luqman's are probably the more common ones here in Sulawesi. Dabbling and trying one's fortune in various occupations to make ends meet. My headmaster and teacher colleagues are no exception. Not when my headmaster is practically a jack of all trade: he's a teacher cum carpenter cum transporter cum trader cum farmer cum print shop owner. All told, adding the time he has spent in each occupation means that he has lived four times longer than the average human lifespan. Even if one only lives as a farmer who moonlights as a teacher who preaches Islam in one's spare time like the Islamic study teacher in my school, he will still out-enterprise me by light years. In his case, his farming expertise repertoire boggles an urbanite like me: cocoa, rice, all sorts of vegetables, corn, banana, salak, and of course, oil palm.

And then you have me. The juxtaposition couldn't have been more jarring. Because enterprising in business is clearly what I am not.
Our path could have been very similar, though.
Yet it was not. Looking back, my distinct lack of retail acumen possibly stemmed from the little reward and appreciation to my first attempt in sales. Back in junior high school, awash with wide-eyed enthusiasm for KKN students, some of my friends turned one of the craft they were taught to items for sale. The craft in question was an imitation rose made from ribbons, folded and glued together. It was painstaking work that needed attention to details if you want your roses to be realistic. It was something fun.
True, the fun wears off after the thirtieth rose or so, and curling the ribbons and neatly folding them was not work you can multitask with, say, doing homework. But until that point, it was rather enjoyable, and the companies were pleasant.
Which was the reason why Mom expressly expressed her disapproval to this particular activity, pointing out with the particularly unassailable brand of adult logic that (a) this would have reduced my study time, and (b) it's not like our family's livelihood was in dire need of the Rp. 1.500/flower cash that I could
get from the plastic roses, and they didn't even look /that/ real.
And thus end my first foray in craft retails.

This is anachronistic, I know, given how arts and crafts are essential to Mom's line of work. But is it any wonder now that I wonder how I don't /actually/ need any antihistamines whenever I had to deal with anything even remotely artsy?

* case in point: cocoa harvest at Auliya's school.

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