Most Indonesian long-timers will be acquainted with ‘pete’, a kind of Indonesian string bean known for its surprisingly meaty flavour. Many Indonesians love it but they usually regard this unusual bean as a bit of guilty secret, because it is said that after you eat it you have horrendously bad breath for a while. “Bau pete” or the bad smell which comes with eating pete is a well-known phenomenon in Indonesia and to say someone stinks of “pete” is clearly not a complimentary thing to say about someone. Yet according to Luke Preece (who was close to the owners of TBI Cibubur- more on this is the coming days) the owner of TBI Cibubur dumped an expat teacher she was using because she thought he stank of pete.
During 2011, an Englishman with the initials of PE was taken on by the owners of TBI Cibubur on a part time basis. In truth, I was lending TBI Cibubur this man, as his KITAS was issued by the school I was managing. By some legal instrument he was also working at TBI Kuningan (this was during the dark days when DIKNAS had first started denying KITASes by the truckload) and TBI was having to get creative to properly staff their schools. TBI Cibubur had borrowed PE because they had a chronic lack of expat teachers, and we had worked it out (with financial compensation being offered for his services, of course) that they could borrow him for 3 days a week for a couple of months.
Having PE over at Cibubur gave me a second window to get a look at what was going on at TBI Cibubur. According to PE there were a couple of other expat teachers working there, but they were employed on a part-time basis too. In short, a year or so after it had happened, TBI Cibubur was struggling to staff its school legally and was using various teachers without KITASes issued by them. TBI Cibubur was already going the illegal route.
After the first two months, it was getting close to Christmas 2011 and I asked Luke Preece whether the hot dog vending owner of TBI Cibubur wanted to borrow PE for another month. He said that she didn’t. I asked why and he said that the owner of TBI Cibubur had said that PE “bau pete”- stank of pete. He said she didn’t want him over at TBI Cibubur stinking up her school. I said that it didn’t sound like she was very appreciative of the help he had given her. Luke Preece said that TBI Cibubur’s owner was no different from any of the other franchise owners- she cared about money but didn’t know anything about education and didn’t care about teachers. A student had complained that he stank, so she wanted him gone. Luke said that the reason the franchise schools were not successful was because they were owned by greedy Chinese-Indonesians who wanted to pay low wages and didn’t respect teachers. This reflected , to an extent, what W**** had said when she said that the owner had bad priorities- she spent a lot of money on furniture and fittings, but didn’t want to pay high wages to staff and teachers. Perhaps Luke Preece is right and the owner is insensitive and rude.