Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tip-toe through the tea leaves

Wednesday, July 1
It's Canada Day but since we spent Tuesday in Jakarta we skip today's celebrations. We'd thought of having friends in for salmon barbecue and even been offered the use of a grill by a friend. But the day flies by. Instead of a party, we pray for our homeland and the people we love.

W, Paul, and the driver try to hoist an old sofa upstairs. Laura and I pad the concrete planter over which the sofa has to be lifted with blankets. In the end, we are defeated: the arm comes off and it thumps back down. Now it sits on the porch.

A walk in the clouds, Bandung-style
Thursday means a walk (actually a hike) with new friends.

But first, a couple comes for breakfast at 7am. We prayed for P and Y soon after we arrived  and God granted their request to conceive a child - after six years of dashed hopes. Y is expecting their son this month.

I make French toast and they bring desserts in little bags: purple, green, yellow, and white concoctions that are normally used to break fast during Ramadan. The sweets are made by Y's aunt, who gets a lot of orders at the beginning of the month when Muslims ease into their feasting and fasting routines.

Our guest Laura and I meet a neighbor at the gate at 8am and walk together to the main street outside the neighborhood. A German lady picks us up in her SUV and drives us to the meet-up: seven of us and an exuberant retriever are walking the hills northwest of Bandung.

The pictures tell the story:
 We drive through the gardening capital of the area, Lembang. The planted fields are interspersed with those being readied for planting. In some enormous fields, the farmers have put perforated plastic on 6-8'X20' rows.
Hillsides of mounded earth, covered with plastic wrap
The first clue that today isn't any old "walk in the park" comes when we step out of the car. We get to the path above the parking lot by scrambling up a 15' mud wall with steps cut into it. The dog rushes up, eager to be on his way, and we follow.

The mud-ladder 
The Dutch planned to develop coffee plantations, which needs shade from the tropical sun. They stripped the natural forests from many hilltops and replaced them with pine trees. WWII intervened and the coffee was never planted. The pines grew un-thinned in forests, left to grow tall and dense. The canopies of the imported pine forests form a striking contrast to the diversity of the Indonesian jungle.

In the first valley, we have to cross the river between beautiful waterfalls. We slide our bums across a narrow log (after balancing on the 20' length of a wider tree trunk). Once we wade across the shallows of the rushing water from the "island" we've reached to the other bank, we put our shoes and socks back on.

Laura's right behind me:
Mariska's done it by herself and gives us
a hand as we step onto rock.
One after another, we cross.
It feels good to be on solid ground.
The hills are very beautiful, eucalyptus trees towering over the tea plantations.
Wells and irrigation systems left by the Dutch still work.
We clamber up a steep slope to the top of the ridge and breathtaking views.

Sundanese harvesters heap and sort tea leaves on tarps between the rows
Sitting on tea bags, overlooking the valleys
We trek down the mountain side.
(For scale, note the big black dog at the bottom of the hill.)
I bought a hydration backpack and walking sticks - and oh my! What a difference that makes. On the slippery mud, bamboo leaves, or pine needles, I dig in the tips of the pole to brake going downhill. And on steep slick climbs, I poke them into the ground so I can haul myself up.
Lewak coffee: beans pooped out by a civet cat

Yup, then we have to head up again. 
There are relics of the Dutch occupation everywhere,
including this irrigation bunker.
Several traditional platforms are built for eating or relaxing
in campgrounds along the path.
I can't imagine most of our friends doing this. It's very strenuous, one foot carefully placed before the other. Here, once you start, you have to keep going on the loop back to the car.

Then we get to eat lunch with others who can no longer walk, from 2-4pm at a local Indian restaurant. Banana leaves, finger food, and biryani. All good.

Glorious surroundings
The guys and kids have come back from their day in the city, too. W heads out alone to his men's meeting in the evening and is back by 9.

Read more:
*O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you. Psalm 63:1 ESV

*Christ says, “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” Revelation 21:6 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Father, you provide the living water we need to sustain us through each day and each situation we face. Your life-giving stream restores us. Amen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Music and culture, Sunda style

Traditional horse carts along the street
Friday, June 26, 2015
The morning starts with a tutorial in Bahasa Indonesia (language) for half an hour from Ibu Asih. My head swims with unfamiliar sounds. I have more words in my arsenal after each time, but long conversations still go right over my head. It’s easier to use the words we know because they are a limited set of sounds. Once Indonesians toss in descriptors and words we don’t know, I get lost.

W and I have some errands to run before the Bundas returns in the evening. They’ve spent 4 weeks in SE Asia, exploring and adventuring as a family. Having people from Seattle here is a real treat: it reminds us that we are “normal” somewhere in the world.

Home-cooked mie goreng and salad bar
After a morning trip to stock up on groceries, we have a visitor. Dr W comes over to discuss the future of the neighboring lot. She’s erected a compost station and intends to grow vegetables in honor of her late husband, who was a scientist. We’d like to work together to beautify the neighborhood.

I’ve brought dozens of packets of organic seeds from Molbaks. I’ve been sorting them into small bags, separating flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Dr W calls the Ibu-Ibu (neighboring women’s group) for permission to build terraced raised-beds where we can try out the seeds. Then – if the plants grow well – we’ll distribute the produce and seeds.

Meanwhile, with ingredients from the fridge, Ibu A makes the most amazing mie goring (fried noodles) for lunch for all of us. She takes leftovers home for her family, as usual, though they won’t eat until after sundown.

We’ve begun to stock an divided Tupperware dish from the 80s with salad bar ingredients, which puts color on our plates.

“Bulés like salad but we don’t eat many raw vegetables,” she tells me. She thinks lettuce tastes terrible but we crave it.

W joins the hiking group in the afternoon and turns his ankle by stepping into a hidden hole.

Beautiful costumes
We’re speaking at a nearby service for the next two weeks so we meet up with organizers and potential scripture readers. Lunch is at Miss Bees before we walk home.

We’ve been invited to a Sunda celebration with traditional dance and music put on by a nearby school training children and teens in cultural activities. W walks to the side of the room but I join the women sitting on the floor. They pelt me with questions about where we’re from, why we’re here, what we do, how long we’ll stay, how old we and our children are, whether we have grandchildren, and … many more.

Luckily two young women interpret when I resort to dumb smiles and nods. Partway through the program, they pull W and me to the front to join in their dances. It’s the first time W’s been called up to dance. He points his thumbs up and shuffles a bit. I’m busy try to figure out how our hands and feet are supposed to work together. Sitting on a piano bench since childhood, I never learned to dance – watching us is probably painful. And funny.

A friendly and attentive audience
We apologize to our host. “Not to worry,” he whispers. “The point is participation.” Maybe. We know how stiffly our tribe moves compared to our African family. No comparable body rhythm in us, sadly.

It’s considered impolite for women to cross their legs so I put my feet to one side – and when my hips cramp and my ankles fall asleep, change sides. Ohhhh, we are not used to sitting on the floor!

The group of about 100 breaks their fast with sweet fruit in juice. Everyone takes a boxed lunch home. When the conference center clears, we meet up with the school instructors and organizers at the Rumah Makan Ampera, Lembang. What great food and company.

Note the traditional rush weaving on the walls

First, we're served vegetables to cool down the hot sauce (sambal) with krupuk (crackers.

The base of any good meal: rice

Family-style options for 4: chicken, tofu, tempeh, and corn fritters
Another language lesson, this time reviewing 4 new words I’ve marked on flashcards. We break our fast with lunch at Carnivore.

"How many servers does it take to change a lightbulb?" In this case, four.
W orders a doughnut burger. Sounds awful to me but he says it tastes strangely okay.
Bundas enjoy music so we go to a Sundanese concert put on by a big art school in east Bandung. The pupils range from youngsters to adults. The orchestra and soloists play a variety of instruments we haven’t seen beyond Indonesia.

The anklung band
For example, the anklung is an Indonesian invention with materials at hand. Bamboo tubes are cut to size to obtain the correct pitch. Sunda tonality is pentatonic. I’m just beginning to listen so I can distinguish the instruments, rhythms, and melodies. It sounds like a cacophony to our untrained ears but it is pleasing not off-putting.

We snag a popsicle (other options include tea, coffee, water, and juice) on our way into the open-sided amphitheatre. Wood pillars and a tall rattan roof channel the breezes across the wood-slat seats. After an hour, the grooves in the seats are hurting my bottom. I scoot back onto the concrete riser floor behind us as the children sing and dance and play.

Traditional dances
The son of the school founder is continuing his father’s mission to promote culture and train locals in the arts. At the end of the program, he invites audience participation. The children hand out one pitch set to each viewer for an anklung play-along.

The conductor demonstrates single shake, the short “brrrr”, and the long kling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling. He and tells us to look at our bamboo rig for a number : each number has a matching hand signal. We clatter and clang, trying the three lengths of sound before combining tones into chords. It sounds like a room full of bamboo wind chimes.

Somehow, I get two notes: #6 and #7 (A and B). The folk melodies are simple and global – Hänschen-klein, movie themes, and more. He mocks our ineptitude with, “You are our best students ever!” haha. Not likely. We laugh along.

The mix of beauty – puppets, costumes, sounds (yup, ear plugs as usual), and traditional movement – gives us a glimpse into the rich arts of Indonesia. I send video clips to our granddaughter of little girls in ‘princess’ dresses who whirl, stomp, and glide across the floor in dances from many islands.

Young boys mimic a war dance, tossing shields in the air and motioning with wooden spears. I anxiously watch the one flailing a stout pole near the head of another student. His lunges miss and contact is avoided. Whew.

Three out of five can dance ...
Oh no, more dancing! Little girls and boys pull audience members onto the open floor, where we start with a conga line and tunnel of hands. The little girl who has snagged me (over my protests) is an excellent leader. She may be about 7-8 years old, but her hands initiate me into clapping, tapping, and swooshing our hands and leads me step-step-step around the floor. Her black eyes sparkle as a clue when we are about to change rhythms.

W uses his camera as self-defense, warding off participation by taking pictures. It is good fun all around. Certainly we’ll come back with work teams and guests.
Bright and beautiful: the children of Indonesia
We skip the planned evening hike: we’re not at he house until 4, plus W had twisted his ankle last time and needs to rest it.

We get wind of the birthday celebration for the lead pastor of IESJakarta and have our driver take us to Jakarta. The driver hangs out with all the others in the courtyard. He says many are Sundanese and they have a good morning together.

It’s a joy for us to be at the staff meeting, seeing all the dear faces of those working on behalf of Jakartans and beyond.

The food is amazing: the hospitality is organized by Gigi, wife of the birthday celebrant. She knows how to spread a feast. This time she offers sate, cheeses and Hong Kong pate with crackers, followed by a Mongolian barbecue. It’s topped by cakes and ice cream. We are so stuffed that I can’t eat supper later in the day.

Selamat ulang tahun, Pastor Dave! (Happy Birthday.)

We drive home – on the shoulder, in the lanes, and between the lanes of the highway as usual – and are back in Bandung by 5pm. Our driver heads home to break the fast with his wife.

“Do you want to walk to pick up some things?” W asks me. Is he kidding?

He heads off with the Bundas. They explore and eat out, while I enjoy the quiet and mangos for supper. They’re back about 7pm. I’m so glad I stayed home!

Read more:
*The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22 ESV

*Rise up, O God, plead your cause. Psalm 74:22 ESV

*You are my hiding-place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:114 ESV

*For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Matthew 20:1 ESV

*The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, you are our refuge and strength. Please forgive us our impatience and ingratitude. Fill us with peace so that our hearts can let go of negativity. Although we may not always agree or understand, help us to know that you answer in love.

O Ancient of Days, there are times we grow frustrated with your answers. There is nothing to fear when you are near. Forgive us when we forget such faith during troubled times. We pray to remain steadfast in our love and faithfulness to you. Amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lost in the cabbages and bitten by fire ants

Wednesday, June 24
We meet with a group who is working across Indonesia. A recent arrival, a woman from Hong Kong who assisted Indonesian domestic workers, has come to start language learning. We leave encouraged by positive advice and possibilities. "Take your time and put your roots into the relationships. Everything here happens through personal connections," they tell us.

Potential partners and friends: lunch 
The day starts at 6:30am with a 4" spider on the bathroom door ... just as W has left for his guys' group. I squirt a toxic toilet cleaner over it (and the door and the floor) and it runs away. I find it hanging on the sink drainpipe. At least it's off the door.

That means I can open the door to get a can of bug spray from the helper's kitchen. The spider sticks to the pipe by one leg - it succumbs to the spray and I pry it loose. It finally drops into the garbage pail. My heart is pounding. I pour another blue stream of toilet bowl cleaner on it to make sure it's dead. [We find the sister-spider in the hall Friday morning. One dart and it's across the hall. This time, W gets the bug spay and sweeps the dead spider out into the garden.)

It is my first outing with the ladies "walking" group. We meet after 8 at a neighbor's and drive north into the hills.

At the very beginning, one of the women warns me, "We get lost sometimes; we can't walk by ourselves to plan the route. And sometimes it gets later. Usually it's 2 hours of walking. But you never know."

A steep descent: note the blue cap ahead: we're going down fast
Five of us trek down a slope, walk through a valley and back up the other side, skirt the rim of the mountain to the ruins of an old Dutch army lookout, and then walk back down for a late lunch. It takes 3.5 hours to do 6 miles (9 km).

We miss the trail and get lost in a cabbage field as we climb our way out. We know the general direction so we make our own trail through tall grasses and shrubs on the jungle slope. I keep my eyes open for snakes. None in sight!

Sometimes we have to hoist upward on our knees where the slopes are too slippery or the pitch too high.

The pictures tell the story:
Secondary pine forest, planted by the Dutch.
While we're talking about which way to go, I feel stinging on my ankles and look down. I'm standing in a nest of fire ants and they're biting me. I flip them off as quickly as possible. One of the ladies offers me hand disinfectant and I rub that on the stings. They fade as the grass on the trails scratches them.

Seller of sticks waits beside the trail
One of the other women steps into a hidden hole and twists her ankle. She's limping badly by the time we're done.

Little farms spring up in the jungle. Someone will put a few trellises in, another terraces the hillside for vegetables, and another tells us he's come to cut tall grass for two calves he is raising.

Coffee plant along the trail
Catching birds with a pet owl: "If I don't
catch birds, I have no money to feed my family."
There are few birds in the jungle: most are trapped or shot for sport.

The old Dutch fort - an abandoned ruin at the top of a hill
Sap is drained from the pines for turpentine.
When you go down, you have to come back up - in this case,
through slippery leaves dropped by bamboo plants 
Welcome shade under a farmer's bamboo trellis
We have a pleasant lunch, meeting two women who no longer can hike the strenuous paths. These women have lived in Bandung for years.They advise me on helpers, language, and cultural taboos.

Cafe Oz with new friends
Just before I shower, I color my hair. It's been utterly limp; roughing it up will help.

W finishes the evening by meeting with a student over coffee at a local restaurant.

Read more:
*Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, and I will bring you to Zion. Jeremiah 3:14 ESV

*The Lord waits to be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18 ESV

*He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth--the Lord God Almighty is his name. Amos 4:13 NIV

*In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1–2 ESV

*Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Revelation 3:20 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Father, at times we think our way is better than yours, and we ignore you. Please be patient, forgive us for being foolish children, and help us to understand your instructions so that we may follow you to your kingdom.

Lord, you may be knocking, but at times we treat you like a stranger and keep the door closed. Help us to be more constant in prayer and in our faith so that we can hear your voice and let you into our hearts. You are our salvation. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Our first Hash Harriers hike

Cuttlefish in a basin in front of the grocer's chicken case
Sunday, June 20, 2015
"Happy Father's Day, Pop." We're far away from my father and our children. I call Dad just before we go into the service but the connection is spotty and we lose touch after a short conversation. 

There's no one like my dad. I am so grateful to have been born into his family. He and Mom made sure we worked together as a family as we learned to love and serve God. I'd come downstairs in the morning to see him reading the Bible. I opted for prayer with Dad if possible: he got right to the point, while Mom took time on details. What a great heritage from both!

I can't believe who drives by: "Hi, Josie!"
The driver takes us to town. We are visiting Ratna at her shop but are hailed by a "Hello!" as we step onto the sidewalk. 

"It's easy to spot you," says our friend Josie, pulling up on her motorcycle. "You stand out along the street." (Blond and white heads among the dark hair.) 

She's on her way from one appointment to the next and can't stop long. Josie's mom is a journalist and photographer who sometimes buys from Ratna's shop. Cool. A hug and quick photo and Josie's on her way.

It's taken us a long time to reconnect with Ratna and we've missed her. Her mom passed away while we were in the States. She gives us a memorial clock with a picture of her mom, which we hang in a guest room. A beautiful lady, hardworking and invested in her family. She was a believer so we know we'll see her again in heaven.

So happy to see each other!
Ratna's pre-schooler Ofel (think Ophelia - her grandma loved opera) comes home mid-visit, chattering about her day. She helps us eat a pastry and drink tea.

When we finish, we make another stop at the hardware store but they've sold out of the items we are looking for. "Kosong." (Zero) Oh well. 

The driver takes his half-hour of prayer while we eat lunch. We sometimes have lunch out to minimize eating in front of our helpers. 

Adorable Ofel
During Ramadan, our Muslim helpers don't eat or drink during daylight. W and I skip the big pre-dawn breakfasts they eat to stock up for the day. We fast the night and breakfast and eat two meals later in the day as our reminder to pray God's blessings and favor on those around us.

In the afternoon, we go for our first Hash Harriers hike. "Do you like hiking?" one of the women asks me. 

I think I do. "I like walking," I tell her.

"This will be a good walk," she smiles. The smile worries me.

One of the ladies has a heart condition that forces her to stop on steep inclines. We've done miles of city walking but without her pauses, it might have been a tougher initiation for us. 

Some harriers run the course. During our walk, runners pass us - either those who started late or those got lost. Occasionally we have to stop at crossroads and ask for directions ourselves. Villagers smile and point to the path taken by those ahead.

Checking that the hare has paper for the trail
First we squelch downward through marshy terraced farming fields. "Oh oh, we're going to have to come back up," I think. But it's only the beginning. Innocents abroad, indeed.

We hike past plant nurseries and little houses along roads and lanes. We traverse up and down mountainsides. I count at least deep 4 valleys. We negotiate creeks and little gorges on bridges made of 4-5 bamboo stalks. One person at a time crosses: the material flexes with our weight. Only one bridge has a guard rail, a single bamboo stem. Yes, I use that railing!

We came from the other hill
Some trails are mud; some village lanes are pavers or broken rock. We clamber up and down uneven stairs made of cement or cut into the hillside. Steep drop-offs line very narrow dirt paths. Our shoes become filthy from splashing into holes in the grass and picking up dust.

A Sunda family is picking watercress from a cement reservoir. Their little daughter showers under a pipe at the side of the pool. The husband wades into the water for us; we exchange a chocolate bar for a big sack of greens.

The sheepdog/retriever mutt who runs alongside has a marvelous time. He dives into the valley streams a few times and then goes crazy with excitement. He rushes past us on the trails, shakes himself off beside us, and brushes our legs with his wet tail. (He confirms our need for a change of clothes.)

W and a new friend coming up the trail
The big loop is almost 5 miles. My pulse climbs to 157 on a hillside. We feel our leg muscles working. But we're not sore. 

The game is this: a human "hare" runs the course before the pack sets off, dropping slips of paper along the way. Sometimes s/he will put down a false trail to slow the fastest chasers, or make a chalk mark in areas where paper could be swept up. (From the website: A typical hash today is a loosely-organized group of 20-40 men and women who meet weekly or biweekly to chase the hare. We follow chalk, flour, or paper, and the trails are never boring . . . we run streets and back alleyways, but we also ford streams, climb fences, explore storm drains, and scale cliffs. And although some of today's health-conscious hashers may shun cold beer in favor of water or diet sodas, trail's end is still a celebration and a party.) Fortunately, beer is not a temptation! Ugh, what a taste. I gulp water, though. Others also eschew the stronger beverages.

We finish at the other side of the house where we started. It's already dusk, so W and I hop into the car to change clothes. The party afterwards, attended by about 40 former and current harriers, is a mix of conversation, food and drinks (from water to Coke to beer). It gets pretty loud as attendees cheer each other's accomplishments. One German lady - who's been in the hash almost 40 years - celebrates 1400 runs! In this group, more than half are local Indonesians and the rest are expats. What a great way to meet people. 

Doing the actions while singing,"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
We stay for over two hours, eating. Feasting, actually. Members caution us against being spoiled by the amazing food. "Don't expect this every Monday." 

Two women have birthdays so members have brought homemade fried noodles, pork knuckles, noodles in broth, various kinds of rice, and other goodies. The birthday cake is soaked in rum, which we find out after a small piece is on our plates. It tastes like the cakes we grew up with in European households. 

The event is a lot of fun because we love meeting new people. I also get invited to the next walk - ladies only - on Thursday. 

"It's more of a walk and less of a hike," I'm promised. Sounds good.

Read more:
*You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. 2 Samuel 22:37 NIV

*You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:7 ESV

*Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:8-9 NIV

*Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9 ESV

*Paul wrote: I have learned to be content with whatever I have. Philippians 4:11 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Shepherd, you are ever patient with our inaction. Help us to drown out the noise so that we can hear your voice. Hold us in your arms so that we can let go of fears that hold us back. We look forward to following you.

Lord, you make us feel loved and happy! May we praise you always for the miracle that you are in our lives. Help us to share our joy with everyone. Amen.