Muhammad Kalend Osen, now 69, grew up in Sebulu, East Kalimantan. His father was a farmer and the lad worked for a timber mill.
'The Singaporean owner spoke English, and so did my uncle who'd been in Malaysia,' he said.
'I admired them and wanted their skills. I knew I had to get out of the forest and make something of my life. I also had no religion and I needed faith.'
Aged 27 he moved to Java and became a Muslim. 'It was my time of revolution,' he said. 'If I'd gone to a Christian area I'd probably now be a Catholic or Protestant.'
He studied English at an Islamic boarding school near Ponorogo, East Java and found the going tough, claiming it took him a year to achieve the results now reached by his students after three months.
He married a teacher from Pare and moved to the little town. A couple of friends sought him out to help with their studies.
'I thought there might be a business here,' he said. 'My wife inherited land and we started Basic English Course [BEC]. Now more than 20,000 have studied with us. We currently have around 600 students from everywhere in the archipelago ' we've even had two from Thailand.
'The 15 staff are mostly former students with teaching ability that I've selected. I understand the criticisms but my methods have been developed through experience. Yes, I'm authoritarian, I believe in discipline. I know what works. The most important thing is to have spirit.
'I use former US president John F. Kennedy's quote to inspire students: 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country'.'
Among Kalend's techniques is to bus students to Borobudur to meet foreigners. The military style pre-assault briefing includes examining a model of the massive Buddhist temple to determine the best ambush spots.
'I never went to university,' said Kalend. 'I've never been to an English speaking country. We tried employing a native speaker once but there were too many cultural differences.
'He was from Scotland and didn't even understand pluperfects. A teacher has to know. No one from the government has ever been to check what we do. Even the regent hasn't visited.'