Saturday, December 13, 2014

A garden of delights

Another eventful - and event-filled - week is drawing to a close. The washing machine is whirring, the house is clean (thanks to Ibu A's hard work), and W and I are ready for a rest.

Neighborhood girlfriends
Thursday, December 11
Through the Tuesday network, I'm invited to the neighborhood gathering. They meet once a month at a woman's home. This time, we're saying farewell to someone who has lived here for 41 years. It's the lady who lit up the room with a smile and sat beside me Tuesday.

She and her daughter have cooked up a storm: gado gado (Indonesian "salad" with peanut sauce), meats, rice, noodles, fried bananas, and more. That's just on the main table. A large side table holds many kinds of desserts. She has individual boxes of baked goods ready for each one to take home, too. Wow - when hosting a group, is it always this elaborate? Truly amazing spread.

The women tell her how much she means to them and that they'll miss her. We sit on the porch, breezes stirring the dozen or more wood chimes hung from the ceiling. When the meal is done, she hands out plastic bags and the women divide up the leftovers for their husbands to enjoy. We gather all the women around to take a photo. When she asks if I would like to sit next to her, I guess she would rather have her best friends on either side. Two women immediately position themselves on the right and left.

The neighbor's beautiful garden
"And how about a fun one?" I ask, at which they wave and make faces at the camera. They are young at heart! She grabs my arm and leads me back to the dessert table. She parcels up rujak, a tangy fruit salad, for W. (He loves it.) I'm home before 1 pm, salad and a "mosquito-repellent" plant in hand.

Ibu A starts work at 3 with a younger sister in tow. They tidy up and make rice and scalloped potatoes. By then, I'm almost finished cooking as well: 2 loaves of bread, vegetables in white sauce, 2 pans of quiche, sausage in barbecue sauce, Swedish meatballs, and beef rendang. W lays out his coffee station while I set the table and arrange cookies for desert.

Pastor Dave from IES Jakarta meets us at Miss Bee's at 4. He's driven all the way to attend the evening gathering. We ply him with questions over a light meal before walking home together.

A double hibiscus from the garden
We have no idea who is coming to our Housewarming but there's enough food. The number in my head is 20. And by the time everyone shows up, starting 3/4 hour after the open house begins, we have about 20 neighbors gathered in our living rooms. PD prays a blessing over the house, the guests, and the meal before we eat together.

We feel so honored to have visitors. They ask where we're from, while we find out what they've done and how long they've lived in our neighborhood. The man who designed our house and many others is here. He's a distinguished gentleman; we tell him we're pleased by the way the breezes go through the house and the tall ceilings make air-con unnecessary. I meet another writer. (I can't wait to read her blog.)

At the end of the evening, everyone signs the guestbook, smiling and shaking hands at the door. Some of the women who have seen me three times this week kiss both my cheeks in farewell. We pray God's blessings over them and protection over PD on his way back to Jakarta, before falling into bed exhausted.

Steaming rock and sulphuric fumes
In the morning, I walk next door with a bag of beef scraps for the neighbor's dogs. (She said she has 8 - or did I misunderstand? Oh not understanding the language is awkward!) I also have pictures of yesterday morning's meeting. W's printed out a big photo plus two small ones of the "nice" shot - and one of us laughing and fooling around. (When W and I drop by Saturday, she thanks him for the photo memory. She has already given the 2 extra prints to the women on her left and right, so they really were best friends.)

Ibu W's driver Pak I comes to the house at 9:30. He's driving us up the mountain today. Our friends have planned a day off with us. We've seen almost nothing of the surroundings and keep hearing how many natural attractions lie close by.

Sulphur crystals
Josie arrives early and the others - including their daughter from Singapore - come soon after. First, we drive to the Queen Crater of the local volcano, a half-hour away. Pak I has his own route, backroads so narrow we have to pull over for oncoming traffic. But there are not many other cars along the way, unlike the regular route.

After taking pictures and looking into the steaming volcanic bowl, we drive a few miles away. It's a half-hour hike down the trail. I can't believe how much I've missed the forest. Though there are different trees, the ferns and moss look similar. The air is fresh, clean, and about 75oF (25oC). The guides pluck plants along the walk, explaining which herbs to use for healing, which mushrooms are safe or poisonous, and pointing out a two-hundred-year old tree that has survived several eruptions. They give us a few fluorescing rocks to take home.

About to be mudded
Sumathi and I splurge ($8) for a half-hour's treat. While the others wade in the warm pools, our feet and hands are slathered in volcanic mud and massaged. Even after a rinse, some of the powdery grit remains and dries our skin.

The guides blow into one vent and smoke pours out another. All the tunnels seem connected so fanning the fire in one affects the others. We look into sulphur-rich openings that burp fumes and heat before climbing back up.

"Madam, you are very fit," comments a guide as we hike back with them. (After all our walking, what's one more hillside?)

Our next stop is lunch. We've read great reviews about "the #1 restaurant" in the area: Natural Strawberry, attached to a strawberry farm in the hills. The landscaping includes potted zinnias, impatiens, and hibiscus. Once we sit down, the strawberry-flavored gourami (fish) is very good. The mutton saté is so tough we spit it onto the side of our plates: it's got great flavor but is inedible gristle. Oh well. The minute we quit waving our hands, flies sneak onto the food. That's predictable. It's an open-air restaurant.

First it's down-down-down. But
then we have to walk back up
We're happy to head back up and then down mountain roads to the local hot springs, where admission is $4.50. We sit in one of their four big pools and relax. Sumathi steps in with eyes wide - she's not comfortable in the water. But before long she's floating and even swimming across the pool. Wooohooo! = a lovely personal milestone in this warm bath.

We drive home for a supper of leftovers - oh, so much food! from last night. And then it's movie night in the living room. We've promised our friends an introduction to The Princess Bride, which is a hit. I'm happy to clean up after dinner and listen in. We take a coffee and tea intermission, accompanied by Sumathi's banana bread and Indian chips in addition to Christmas cookies.

It's a late night but everyone is in a comfy bed by midnight. We pray for W's mom on her birthday halfway around the world. She has the flu, rather a miserable way to spend the day. How we wish her health, a great Christmas season, and a wonderful year ahead.

We all sleep in. There's quiche, sausage, and bread for breakfast, followed by around-the-table prayers of thanksgiving and petition. My heart is overwhelmed by God's goodness and faithfulness. How often we sense the prayers of those back home! Thank you, one and all.

Ibu A arrives at 8am for her Saturday routines. Today she doesn't have to cook lunch. We're going to reheat and finish the rice and beef rendang if it kills us. Well, it doesn't kill us, but we put the last of it away in the freezer. She washes dishes while we visit.

Before Josie leaves, she negotiates two tricky conversations in Bahasa Indonesian with the helpers about expectations (theirs and mine). No, we did not agree to give a raise after one trial month. A raise and review happen after a year. Please come every two weeks to trim things. The hedge is cut crooked because the concrete wall is thicker there? Um, to straighten it, perhaps we could let it grow wider to match, rather than cutting this end into a narrow ribbon of twigs? Q to helper: Should someone be sweeping the leaves away from the sliding gate? A: Doesn't it stick because of the metal holder? (Nope, it sticks because of debris in the track.) Etc.

May God BLESS Josie for her ministry to us!

Amaryllis hedges in bloom
The neighbor lady is a wonderful gardener. W and I knock on her gate. She's been resting after a relative's wedding but offers to show us around. There are mangosteen, jambu air, and soft-apple trees on her acreage. We sample a few fruits and smell a fresh clove pod, reddish before drying. Staghorn ferns hang from their perches. Dozens and dozens of pots edge the porch and driveway, while hedges of amaryllis and other flowers line the drainage canal. Bullrushes and water lilies fill two bathtubs removed from the house. (The ikan - guppies - in the troughs keep the mosquitoes at bay.) She introduces us to the gardener who keeps things tidy.

Beside a little house for the driver, there's an office and home for J, a longterm tenant and commercial photographer. He says he used to shoot a lot of photos from his ultralight plane but now he mostly operates drones. The guys get into conversations right away about gear, while his Japanese wife and I smile at each other and shake our heads. It's almost 3pm (when Ibu A leaves) so we have to get back so the house isn't left unlocked.

My eyes are filled up with beauty and my heart is warmed by another plant-lover's passion: oh wow, so many flowers to paint in that garden! How gorgeous.

At 6:30 it's dark. W and I walk to the nearby Ethnic restaurant for noodles at supper. Takeaway is cheaper than cooking. We unpack the meal at home and discuss the week behind and ahead. Christmas is just around the corner. It's good to share life with a dear friend and spouse.

Read more:
*My Lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Genesis 18:3 ESV

*He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4 ESV

*...and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:4-6 ESV

*And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 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; Immanuel, God with us, we long to be in your presence. Quiet us in the midst of the busyness of this season so that we might recognize and be with you.

Great Protector, shelter us from the storms of life, give us refuge in times of trial, and fill us with the peace which surpasses all understanding. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I win the lottery ... Ummm, did I enter it?

$10 Saté at the Padma Hotel
Wednesday, December 10
Tomorrow we host the second Housewarming at our place, the third gathering in three weeks. It's starting to feel like home.

Monday we shopped for the week's groceries and got a few miles in. My FitBit quit and I haven't had  a response from their customer service.

I clean, cook, and wash dishes most of the day, but also write our Christmas letter. W and I address envelopes and talk about the wonderful people who support us. As we write, each friend is precious to us! and there's almost always a story attached to your names.

Still can't believe we can leave the windows open
in December. At the Padma Hotel.
We walk to an expensive restaurant nearby. (Would be cheap in Seattle or Jakarta @about $10 plate.) The Padma Hotel overlooks the jungle valley between Ciumbuleuit (our hill) and Dago (the next hill). It's only our second visit, but today we celebrate Advent and anticipation in moving forward. We pause to consider what we care most about in establishing IES Bandung. We appreciate the 5 values of IES Jakarta, so will probably transfer them here.

In the evening, I clean up the ants and rice weevils from the hallway by zapping the thick trail with the stove lighter (quick and deadly). Then we spray Bagon repellent and call it a day.

We agree with this "value" of IES Jakarta
We planned our first trip to the post office but the day brings too many diversions. Our neighbor Dr W and I walk to GRHA Guesthouse for a regional women's meeting. It's her first attendance as well as mine, though she joined a few months ago. She teaches abroad so can't always be at the meetings. I join the group as well. Ok, I'm fuzzy on details (a monthly meeting? This lady is known for this? That one for that? A lottery?) as Indonesian flies by on all sides. I need to learn a lot of flashcard vocabulary by next time!

The lady who lives next door sweeps in the door like a ray of sunshine. She teases the women and makes her rounds, friendly to all. She and Dr. W are good friends. I feel flanked by warmth with them on either side of me. I also chat with Lillian, a Dutch woman who organized the event. The two of us are the only ones without black hair. She remembers, "The glory days were in the 50s and 60s, when I was young."

A gathering of educated and distinguished women
"I wish I'd learned the language sooner," I admit to her. "You have no accent in Bahasa." She smiles and says she's lived here for 60 years.

The chairperson makes announcements and Dr W asks me to add an invitation for our Thursday gathering.

Dr. W leans over: "If you win the lottery you can have everyone over. And when you win they also deduct membership fees back to September." Win? Apparently part of this morning's fee was $8+ toward a money pool. They draw names and someone "wins" about $125. Hmmm. "It's a good way to invest in each other," Dr. W explains. "Then someone has a large sum at once."

There's a brief chatter among the ladies: many are older and would rather not venture out at night. The chairwoman looks at me and asks, "Since we can't come in the evening, shall we have the next meeting at your house?"

I'm taken by surprise. I'd be serving a full brunch, if this hotel gathering is anything to go by - and the women are meeting me for the first time. They really want to come over?

"Sure. You are welcome to meet at our house in January." And it's suddenly settled for the next second Tuesday, 10-12.

"We will give you $70+ to buy food for the meal," they tell me. "Part of what you pay each meeting is $3 for food. If it is at your house, you will get that money." They tell me I don't have to keep receipts.

Then someone draws names ... and I win the lottery. God knew the women were coming over but I am surprised - and amused. What next! I stand to bow with my palms together at nose level and say thank you.

"I apologize for winning my first time. We look forward to hosting you at our house in January." We may have to do something about the steps to the house. Some of the older women had trouble with the same number of stairs at the hotel.

The craft show on the way home
The hill where we live was the hotspot for the last generation of doctors, government officials, educators, and scientists. The 30-some women at the table come from all those groups. Some are practicing physicians, lecturers, and researchers. Among them are grandmothers, mothers, spouses, and siblings of government ministers and other influencers. What am I doing at the table?

"Our neighborhood has no problems with utilities because the family members of the person in charge lives here," I am told. 

There's another meeting for women in our neighbors on Thursday morning. "Please come!" says the hostess. Ok, I'll be there.

She's moving to another one of her homes in February and American friends of friends are moving here then. "Please look at the house when you come for the morning," she offers. Her place is similar in size to ours; the family coming has 3 or 4 kids.

We stop by Dr W's faculty office on the way back. They teach special chemistry courses, renting spaces at a hotel. The fitness facility is good and the pool looks inviting. Going back to school? Not so much. We browse a retired faculty gathering. They have a craft fair at the back: batiks ($5 for 4 meters) and jewelry. I spent my little wad registering for the group earlier. A really good singer on stage is followed by someone who is probably tone-challenged. Dr W and I then explore the restaurant and ballroom which can be rented out for events.

The tinsel arrived in a package from my folks, but I
found the stone bowl in our flowerbed.
On our walk home, Dr W points out who lives nearby and refuses to be introduced to someone she suspects of corruption. I admire her principled approach to life and value her insider's perspective on culture and what's considered right and wrong.

Meanwhile, work continues in our house. The living room is almost up to "regular" condition. That is, the big cracks in the plaster are repaired, water damage is cleaned up, and paint goes to the ceiling rather than ending where the last painter's bamboo pole reached from the ground.

The first thing to greet me in bed (besides W) is an ant. Squish. Go away.

Climbing up the white wall
on a homemade scaffold...
A local artist drops by in the morning. Two weeks ago he convinced us to buy 2 large paintings of local scenes ($8 each). He has made frames (another $8) and staples the canvas to them. That takes care of two bare bedroom walls. The artwork here is unlike the art we sold in Seattle. How nice to use those funds gradually = the house feels more lived-in. Soon I'll pluck a few flowers and take out my watercolors to make my own paintings.

The handyman sets up his bamboo trellis and hangs a length of batik fabric that Dr. H brought last week. It drapes down the tall end wall of the LR. Another piece in place, portable enough to move when we change our minds.

Our shopping list is boring essentials: bulletin board, envelopes, and paper for the office. A return-address stamp. Tension rods to put a curtain up in a bedroom. After checking that off, I'll be cooking for tomorrow most of the day.

... to hang a bright focal point.
"Bagus (good)," says the handyman.
Read more:
*Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more;  the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Isaiah 60:1-3, 19-20 NIV

*I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

*Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. John 11:25 ESV

*In love God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Loving God, we are blessed to be your children, recipients of your amazing love. Help us to share that love in our families, in our churches, and with those who have not experienced it. Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"You're stuck with what?"

Are there things in your life that you can't change? Have something you can't live with, except the options seem limited so you're stuck with it?

Before: dreary red and dirty
When we first saw this house, I almost fell over in the master bath. The fixtures were an ugly maroon / rust / deep red. I couldn't even describe the color and I sure couldn't imagine that someone liked it enough to outfit an entire bathroom in it.

Then this week I saw the 2015 "Color of the Year: Marsala." Whaaaat? So our bathroom is hip, chic, and totally in? Who knew. Apparently someone really likes what I could barely tolerate.

I flipped through all kinds of colors chips and accessories on the computer, comparing them against the brown-red. Finally I saw a sky-blue that cheers up the depressing shade. I found a bath mat at ACE Hardware with that color and W brought our old white and swirl-a-blue-Sharpee curtains from Seattle.

Over the course of a few weeks, Ibu A and I scrubbed the hardwater stains off the floor tiles, tub, and sink. I bleached the tired grout and W replaced the cloudy mirror and the lumpy grey grouting around the sink. The handyman built a new drawer under the sink and removed the mould- and termite-infested one.

After: cheery, bright, and clean
And somehow it works. I don't mind our bathroom anymore. Those of you who know how visual I am realize why I wonder if God performed a miracle.

When our surroundings - people, things, resources, or ideas - seem overwhelming or impossible, we have at least a few choices:
  • Freeze. Decide there's nothing you can do and hate every minute.
  • Sit tight and pray. Hope things will improve. Sometimes the situation gets better without our help or meddling.
  • Look around at the possibilities. What might improve things? Can someone who knows more than you advise you? (Coaching is great for exploring your options.) 
  • Think outside the box and try the unexpected. Is there anything you haven't thought of yet? Sometimes weird fixes are worth a try - and you might have a one-time solution for your problem. ("Are drywall corners sturdy enough as a cheap curtain rod if hung on hooks?" Yeah, we did that in our family room years ago. =$10 for 38 feet of windows. Not another person knew what was up there. What's not to love?)
  • Try something new. (For example, have you ever tested a new recipe on dinner guests? Someone at the table will probably like the dish even if your family doesn't think it's great. Right?)
Jesus is a good role model in thinking beyond the expected. 
  • He was born in a manger and died on a cross, hardly bookends for a conventional life.
  • He challenged traditional ideas by emphasizing a transformed life rather than religious rules. (For example, he reframed conventions of purity and washing with principles for separating self from defilements of the heart.)
  • He used everyday situations of farming, herding, and finances in stories to explain revolutionary ideas of heaven's values, true humility, and service to others. 
  • He asked his disciples to do the impossible = feed 5000 people. He had them to look around for what was on hand. Then he performed an extravagant miracle with the bare amount they found.
  • He stepped into a fishing boat when the crowd on the shore was pressing in and he couldn't be heard. (Have you ever read of other rabbis teaching from a boat?)
Are you facing the impossible? What are you being called to do? 

Look around carefully. What is in your hands? Who is waiting nearby? In what ways might God be preparing an unconventional or unexpected solution?

Read more:
*Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. Deuteronomy 32:7 NASB

*If you seek the Lord, he will be found by you. 2 Chronicles 15:2 ESV

*He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. Isaiah 40:11 ESV

*Everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:10 ESV

*Paul wrote to Timothy: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 2 Timothy 1:5 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Faithful God, hear us when we cry out to you. Let us dwell in your presence when we seek you—help us to find you even when you seem hidden. 

Thank you, great Teacher, for those who have passed on their faith and stories of you from generation to generation. Give us words and courage to teach those you have placed in our lives. Amen.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What 5 things would you add to an empty jar?

Over a week ago, I ran across an interesting idea. What if my life today was a blank slate or an empty jar? If I took out everything in my life and refilled it only with things that are absolutely necessary to me, what would I choose?

W and I had a long drive ahead of us so we discussed our top 5 non-negotiables. As you read our short-list, let me challenge you to consider the top 5 things you can't live without.

W and I had the same list, except for #3:
  1. God. He's not a cliche or the answer we "should" give. He is central to us. His love is overwhelming. Encompassing. How could we live without knowing our sins are forgiven and gone, day by day? That his constant care surrounds us?
  2. Each other. Far away from familiar things, our relationship is more important than ever.
  3. Our essence. No matter how we'd try to conform to others' wishes or plans, this would remain unchanged. Since we were kids, W and I have been intensely curious, learning, moving things around, and absorbing life. We teach and mentor to share our delight and appreciation to God. 
But the way we engage people and the world is distinct:
*He values knowledge: "HOW? WHY? WHAT?" His quest to know (theology, how things work, places, etc.) means he's always inquiring, acquiring, and exploring facts and procedures. He loves to pass on what he learns. He often says, "What I love most is learning about God and talking about him with friends."

*I value beauty: "WHO? WHERE? WHEN?" Looking at the hearts and talents of people, this big wide world, and the creative process of life, I savor beauty (not just "prettiness"). I love to draw out the possibilities of God-with-us and God-among-us. I like connecting people, resources, and ideas so they're more than the sum of their parts. Entering a room, I automatically wonder, "Who / what belongs together?"

    4. 5. We had a hard time ranking two final things. They are so entwined that there's no hierarchy (since our kids have grown up and moved out). One is our family and friends - how we love you! 

But we have left most of you behind to engage in the other: serving God. We used to sing, "Where he leads me I will follow," and so we've done. We're exploring how that service will look in the future on our adventure of faith.

If you had to choose 5 things - anything at all, without considering what others would think or how they might judge you, what would you put in your jar? Share your list in the comments below.

Read more:
*Boaz said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” They answered, “The Lord bless you.” Ruth 2:4 ESV

*In the Lord my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7 ESV

*Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 ESV

*John wrote: Peace to you. The friends send you their greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name. 3 John 15 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Holy One, you know and call us by name and pour out your blessings upon us. We give thanks today for the friends and loved ones who share our journeys of faith. 

Let all that we are give praise to you, our Savior! May our thoughts, words, and deeds reflect our thankfulness to you, our God. Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Guess who's coming for dinner?

The meat department of a sprawling food and dry goods store
= one counter with chicken parts on ice
Thursday, December 4
Seven tiny ants run out of my computer keyboard as I write. I don't know why they love the MacBook but it's always got ants coming out of it. Sigh. Squish.

The lizards chirp and their footpads stick with a sucking sound on the beams overhead. "Go guys. Eat those ants, and while you're at it, chew up the mosquitoes that are biting me!" My feet are scratched silly around the itchy bumps, despite the insect repellent.

W and I aren't sure how many people will show up at the Open House / Housewarming in the evening. Several reply. A few cancel at the last minute. And some say they might bring friends along.

Hospitality takes more work here because everything is unfamiliar. I typically think through the details of an event and write down what I might forget. (That started years ago, after I left a bowl of red jello in the fridge instead of serving it to company. Who wants to eat jello by yourself? Ugh. Actually, who likes jello? What was I thinking?)

Smiles all around
When we shop, we have to go to a few stores; we're still learning about their specialties. The meat department of the big Borma store consists of a counter with chicken parts on ice. Mangos, papayas, and other local fruits abound but vegetables are limited. We buy beef, eggs, and potatoes at another store.

Two pieces of glass are delivered via motorcycle before noon: the parents of Josie's student are glasscutters. One pane is for the top of the dining cabinet - voici: a drinks counter. The other replaces a missing pane in a storage unit - voila: a "china-ish hutch."

I glance at my list. Almost done. Oh oh, we have too few serving spoons. What will we use for each dish? At least we have enough serving platters and bowls. (Our trip to the porcelain factory when we first moved here wasn't excessive after all.) It must be time for a long afternoon nap. W and I relax for a few hours.

Getting to know each other
At the stated time, people we've met all over Bandung knock on the door, leave their shoes on the covered porch, and walk in. Each picks up a plate and fills it with food. The initial meeting of strangers is a bit awkward. But then the introductions and laughter begin. The house feels cozy and welcoming.

We are surprised by the breadth of backgrounds and where everyone has been, including Spain, Czechoslovakia, England, Holland, India, Singapore, Canada, USA, China, and Vietnam. Over half are Indonesians, some well-traveled. Our guests include:

  • students met on the angkots (public transportation minivans)
  • FB contacts - including a young man who walks in, looks at W, and remembers their chance encounter at the Apple (Computer) store a few weeks ago
  • faculty from nearby universities
  • dear friends and language school classmates
  • gurus who worked hard to instill Bahasa Indonesia (language) into us
  • two friends from IES Jakarta who drive out for the evening
  • young professionals
  • a young woman with a heart for slum dwellers and orphans

A quick snap at the table
It was fun. Our helper first shows up at 8am - and realizes she isn't expected until 3pm. She goes back home and arrives in the afternoon with her younger sister in tow. They wash the floors, cut fruit, and cook rice and Ibu A's yummy scalloped potatoes. (By the time they leave at 10pm, dishes are washed and mostly put away. So glad for good help!)

W and I prepared food in the morning, including a first stab at Beef Rendang. Beef is stewed in spices and coconut milk for hours. (I tried the 2-hour "stew" setting on the rice cooker. Sadly, the cooking temp was too hot. The stew needs to simmer instead of boil.) One of our evening guests points out that 4 envelopes of spices would have made more of an impact on the amount of beef we made. We also have 2 big pans of French Toast/quiche. A platter of Bockwurst with barbecue sauce disappears quickly. The enormous fruit bowl begins to empty.

Selfies abound
After the savory foods, it's time for coffee and cookies. W's been making a coffee concentrate that simplifies serving coffee to a boiling kettle and a pitcher of concentrate. I baked a few weeks ago so I just arrange the goodies on serving plates. Whew.

Among the memorable moments:
  • Our Seattle friend asks if she can see a live termite. I nod, "Sure, right this way." She grabs the stove lighter and burns 7 termites off the walls and the kitchen cabinets within a minute. Go Avery!
  • Sharen tells us about her Christmas project, collecting children's clothing and donations for impoverished young families.
  • With the help of an extension pole, guests take a lot of selfies.
  • Most exchange WhatsApp numbers and promise to stay in touch.
  • Guests gift our Christmas tree with a traditional puppet couple. 
  • The fruit gift basket is full of things we haven't seen before - and a few we recognize (but haven't found in North American fruit stands).
  • Our friends bring a package mailed to the language school by my folks, filled with Mom's home-baked cookies and Christmas goodies. Ah, Mom and Dad, we miss you!
If you recognize these fruits, chances are you grew up in
Indonesia. Thanks, Pauline and Josie!
After a busy event, I sometimes hear Mr. T's voice (from the 1980s TV program, the A-TEAM) in my head. I hardly ever watched the corny show but one line has stuck with me. He used to crow with glee when a goal was reached despite all the disasters along the way: "I love it when a plan comes together."

That's how I feel at the end of the day. God is good and life is fulfilling. Accomplishments and successes don't depend solely on hard work or personal gifting. Sure, we get better at doing certain things. They become easier. We develop skills and find out what we love to do. But - regardless of our best-laid plans, the outcome belongs to God.

Proverbs 16:9 reminds us: In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. All our worries, anxieties, and efforts can't guarantee results. Neither can our talents and experience. The following quote has sat on my desktop for over a year as we've transitioned to Indonesia:

It's recovery day so I plan to sleep in. Therefore I'm soundly asleep at 7:30 when the phone rings. I reach for it and hear: "The tree man is coming at 8 and you can have some branches. I won't be here after 8:30 because I'm driving to Jakarta." I'm disoriented. What?

Oh ... earlier this week, Dr. H came by for tea. She left a wonderful piece of batik fabric to hang on a long empty wall. Her gardeners are trimming bushes today; I'm welcome to have some branches for hanging the batik. Aaaah. I hope I wasn't too incoherent.

W and I walk a few blocks to her house about 11, after a late breakfast of yesterday's leftovers. Her housekeeper shows me the branches and then hands me a traditionally carved hanging rod. Wow! We take them home, grab our tote bags, and head to town on the angkot.

W is looking for the shop where he can sign up for cable TV. We can't get captioned channels without cable but we need the captions to understand Indonesian programing. Seeing the words - whether they're translated or not - helps us decipher what is going on and improve our language skills.

Side dishes: little skewered eggs, meat, and deep-fried soy
We walk a multi-kilometer loop, following cheerfully-given directions from a half-dozen helpful bystanders. Finally, W gives up. "I have 5 possible locations on the online maps. None of them seems to be near here!"

We stop for a late lunch at a Bangkok Soto Ayam warung. Oh, Bangkok = Thailand. Maybe a Pad Thai would be good. The server says they're out of the specials (Indonesian chicken combo) and the only thing available is chicken soup. No Thai food anywhere in sight. But the chicken broth is excellent. She brings pay-what-you-eat side dishes that are brown and beige as usual. We share a skewer of croquettes (deep-fried flour and potato, served cold.) It's ok - but we leave the quail eggs, liver, and other things on the plate, waving away flies who buzz around and volunteer to sample the food. I can't imagine how many flies have already been on it. When we leave, the almost-full dishes are passed to other diners. The bill for $2 includes our hot sweet teas.

My FitBit does a "happy dance" for 10,000 steps as we walk toward home. I'm glad to be out of the house and moving. W wandered around the city by himself all last week while I rested after the end of language school. This week we hung around the house because he was ill. One way or another, we get "down time."

The old military equipment beside the café is interesting,
but the mangos hanging low enough
to knock the heads of passersby catch my eye.
We drop by the corner store a block from our place, the first visit for me. Aha! Those beautiful orchids on the wall that I've admired from the street have price tags ($5-10). They're tempting for a mad plant-lover but we walk away with a few little containers of coconut milk and a bottle of Larutan Penyegar that looks like clear baking flavor / extract. It turns out to be a remedy for sore throats. Whatever it is, it has no taste. 80c for all.

The orchids put me in a mood for flowers. As we go in our gate, I detour to pluck orange blooms from a tree behind the house. The white flowers beside the walks have evolved into green balls. They look so pretty in the vase. W starts his nap at 5pm and falls fast asleep for hours. He's still not completely well. He walked slower today and actually gave up on a location = clear signs of not being 100%!

A bouquet from the backyard
The cats outside are yowling. It must be mating season. They've cried like babies and sung like tortured souls for the last three weeks. Four sang a quartet on the porch the other day. We groan as we watch them entwine on the side streets: "Oh no, not more kittens!" The neighborhood is already overrun.

Tomorrow Ibu A shows up at 8am to sweep and wash floors and dust the furniture. Her husband is still working his way through the house: he was up on the garage roof trying to fix the leaks today. Wouldn't it be great to actually use the storage area that we've rented for the past 4 months? He also installs sliding manual locks on the exterior doors for security (our doors open out) and paints the ceilings he replaced this week in the laundry room.

Read more:
*Joseph said to his brothers, “Do not quarrel along the way.” Genesis 45:24 ESV

*So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:7, 9-10 ESV

*Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Mighty Counselor, we struggle to be respectful and loving towards those with whom we disagree. Guide us in paths of peace, give us ears to listen to one another, help us to bear with one another in love, so that even in our disagreements we may witness to your love. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, on prayer in Miracles:
When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that (if only we knew it) the event is already decided one way or the other. I believe this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers. The event certainly has been decided—in a sense it was decided ‘before all worlds’. But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering. Thus, shocking as it may sound, I conclude that we can at noon become part causes of an event occurring at ten a.m. (Some scientists would find this easier than popular
thought does.) 

The imagination will, no doubt, try to play all sorts of tricks on us at this point. It will ask, ‘Then if I stop praying can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes has been the fact that you are asking such questions instead of praying. It will ask, ‘Then if I begin to pray can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes is your present prayer. Thus something does really depend on my choice. My free act contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity or ‘before all worlds’; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time-series.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sakit but doing better

Traditional rice cone with the
gado-gado peanut salad
Tuesday, December 2
Sakit is the Indonesian word for sick or ill. W has been sakit or under-the-weather since Saturday. At first he feels weak, ache-y, and his throat is scratchy. By Saturday night, he has a full-blown cold with attending aches and pains. He's starting to feel better today and is sure he'll be fine by tomorrow. Hmmm. Quick recovery from feeling so awful that he was dizzy yesterday...

A windstorm kicks up in the morning. That is, a stiff breeze moves through the yard, rustling the leaves outside the breakfast window. I shiver. It looks cold out, judging from our experiences in Canada and the USA. Instead, a warm wind blows in and out through the screened wood grates above the doors, swaying the IKEA paper lanterns suspended in the hall. The shells of the capri chandelier clatter gently in the air currents. We moved the lamp to the side and up a bit: it hung so low in the entry that everyone banged their heads against it.

Lighting the first Advent candle. The awnings are up,
shading attendees from the heat.
Instead of staying home to recuperate, W pulls on his Sunday shirt to attend the morning service in a nearby church. W wants to make sure we connect with a German student he met last visit. She's mentioned being alone at Christmas and we want to invite her to celebrate with us. After the service, we run into her and a few friends. They've made Christmas plans - and lunch plans, so W and I head out to eat and go home so W can rest.

A few decent restaurants are scattered within a mile of the house. Today we make a second visit to My Secret Garden. Looking around the walls lined with cabinets and china, it seems obvious that 6-7 tall potted palm trees would warm it up nicely - one here, one there, maybe another one by the corner window = to make it feel chic instead of slightly abandoned. (The streets 5 miles north are lined with gardens and nurseries. Shouldn't be too hard to fix it, should it?) Be still, my interior designer. The food is okay.

... now imagine this room with a few 8-10' palm trees. Right?
The little toddler at the next table has the roundest brown eyes. He catches sight of us and panics. He doesn't know what to do. He clutches his mother and stares and stares, afraid to look away or move. We wave. Smile. But nothing. The poor kid is in shock. I do "peek-a-boo" with my hands - and he bursts into tears.

"Sorry, mama-of-a-cutie! Didn't mean to make him cry." We are the only bulés (Western foreigners) in the whole place and maybe the first he's encountered.

We stay in and rest. I'm gearing up in my head for the two Thursdays ahead. We'll have an open house for students and young professionals this week and a more formal group the next. I'm not in the swing of things here: it takes more thinking to have people over because our kitchen is still out of sorts. We can't store everything in our cabinets, which are falling apart. We stash things for hospitality in a few places around the house.

One of our tasks this week or next is to find a metalworker to build the supports for new cabinets. We'll have replaceable boards - oh those termites! (They're entrenched in the old kitchen cabinets but slowly being banished elsewhere. I killed only 2 flying ones last night in the bedroom.)

First thing in the morning, Ibu A finds the source of the grain weevils that have been swarming the kitchen this past week. A big Tupperware square full of organic red rice has been eaten down by a quarter. The inside of the lid and the rice are full of wriggling bugs. And they have figured out how to escape. She hurries the plastic square to the back door - while I try to explain that she never needs to show it to me on the way out. I'm happy with an account of the missing items after they're tossed.

Where would you put such stuff? We don't want them crawling back into the house. Ah, it's perfect chicken feed. Of course. The helper and her husband pack away the offending rice: their poultry will feast tonight. Very little is wasted around here.

The grands, explaining life to Opa and Oma via FaceTime
We talk to the kids via Facetime before strolling downhill to the local grocer. We ride the angkot back up the hill before walking through our neighborhood. W is laden with 4 shopping bags dangling back and front over his shoulder, clipped together with a carabiner. I carry a little bag of tissues and washcloths. Seriously, he's only about 60% of his normal energy and he's already putting miles on his FitBit armband?

Ibu A cooks up flavorful Beef Rendang but the meat is tough. She and I explore the options on our rice cooker. Yup, there's a "stew" option. We'll try that next time around. Maybe for the first-Thursday crowd? Meat costs about the same here as in Seattle, $4.50 for a lb of stewing beef.

It's nice to have our offices at home. I go upstairs with a cup of tea and sit at my desk, looking out at the wind ruffling the fronds and swinging the fruit of the belimbing tree. It's toasty warm inside and outside of the house.

We're missing our family today. It's good to keep reminding ourselves why we're so far from home as Christmas approaches. We get news of the death of an old friend, the retirement of another from Northwest University, and the generosity of friends toward others. Life is filled with meaning and purpose under God's heaven.

Read more:
*The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:8-12 NLT

*He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Isaiah 30:19 ESV

*He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd. Jeremiah 31:10 NIV

*The angel of God said to Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” Acts 10:4 ESV

*The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 ESV

*Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Hear our prayers, O Lord, as we cry out to you. Give us open hearts and ears to hear your answers.

Heavenly Father, you have blessed us beyond what we can comprehend. Please continue to bless us and make us worthy of your sacrifice. Amen.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Transformation and grace

It's one thing to read about rushing rivers
from the comforts of home ...
It's Sunday, a day of reflection on the transformation Jesus brings about in his followers. Surrender to Jesus is not about surface changes or being "better people" by obeying the rules. Thank God for that!

If it were, I'd be without hope. I can't maintain a "good front" for longer than a few minutes at a time. (Those who know me best know that's true.)

What runs through your mind when you read the following quote from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity (below)? Do you agree and lean forward with anticipation? Or do you find yourself resisting this kind of "interference" from God?

   "And now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talking about. It talks about Christians ‘being born again’; it talks about them ‘putting on Christ’; about Christ ‘being formed in us’; about our coming to ‘have the mind of Christ’.

   "Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. 

   "It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new
little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity."

Scripture tells us that the future is cataclysmic but hopeful: God is in control. We prepare for the renewal of the universe by allowing God to transform us day by day, not by accomplishing "goodness" on our own terms.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness...? 2 Peter 3:10-11 ESV

The holiness that God works in us is a separation unto Himself, away from evil. When God is in the process of changing our hearts to suit himself, it's not always comfortable. He's doing surgery - cutting away the unnecessary and the bad. Instead of bandages, he transplants in a new heart, grafts on new skin, and injects new desires into us, which sometimes feels more like a burn or scarring rather than healing. 

... and quite another thing to ride life's rapids.
Behavioral scientists have observed that people feel helpless and internally chaotic during times of change. In such seasons, when we're clearly not in control, the grace of God - his unmerited favor - is particularly important.
  • He covers us with his love.
  • He offers enough strength to get through the day.
  • He is endlessly patient and watchful as we are being transformed.

  • Such gifts from God are Good News indeed. They're becoming more and more real and important to me. 

    Sometimes I cannot believe the junk I've held onto through the years. Should I not be "perfect" and "godly" after serving Jesus for decades? When I am impatient with my husband, rude in speech, or unkind to someone who cuts into line, does my conscience convict me - or do I shrug off my sins and failures?

    Lord have mercy! Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    People we've grown to love:
    teachers and fellow students
    Thursday, November 27, 2014
    Thunder pounds against the concrete walls of the house as we tidy up after our school brunch. A small gathering (14 people) spend a noisy, happy final morning together, celebrating the end of term. At school, we break from 9:30-10am for tea, coffee, Indonesian snacks, and conversation. Sometimes the Korean, Indian, or we Canadians have brought our national goodies to share.

    W and I are still bad at deciphering rapid conversations in Indonesian but the simpler phrases are clearer. We've learned a lot of words – and some grammar during our semester of language school. Yesterday, our class was tested.

    One of the bits of advice I've received as well as given is: "Is this is something God expects of you? Or are the “ought”s and “should”s of others creating a sense of obligation?”

    While we are preparing for the exam, it occurs to me to ask those questions. Is there any advantage to taking the test? Do I need the class certificate as well as the information gained? In other words, should I invest the time and energy to study for a final or will my time be better spent crafting a meal?

    Some of the guys from language school
    It is no contest. I stay home and listen to Indonesian lessons online. W and our classmates pass the spoken and written tests with flying colors. And we're prepared for a nice brunch. Win-win.

    Brunch goes off without a hitch. The administrator teases me that she'll spring the test today. "No problem," I laugh. "I know no more than yesterday and probably no less." But she lets me off the hook.

    It’s the helper’s regular day. When she arrives, she does a quick pass through the house with broom and mop, clearing the debris that continues to fall from the ceiling and the last day’s construction mess. (Her husband has begun repairs on the ceiling and roof in the badly leaking wing.) When we haul dishes to the second kitchen, they are miraculously cleaned. We chase her out after noon, an “early time off” since we have travel plans for the afternoon.

    Ugh. The lock in the front door has jammed – W has to fiddle with the deadbolt for an hour before we can lock up. It’s 2pm before we’re on the road. We can't leave the locks as they are: there have been thefts in the neighborhood this week.

    We are celebrating Thanksgiving dinner away from family for the first time. A morning call from Mel and Martha in Seattle cheers our hearts. 

    In the evening we enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Jakarta friends who are becoming increasingly dear to us. We're so grateful to be included in personal friendships as well as the ministry of IES Jakarta. We’re dreaming and planning into the future with them. God is good!

    “It’s Thanksgiving. But look at the weather!” W exclaims as we drive over. Yes, how we love the tropics in November and their 83o (30oC) temperatures.

    Gigi serves up a feast of turkey, ham, pork, and side dishes. Dessert includes apple cobbler a la mode and other sweet treats. We eat downstairs in the building's auditorium before heading upstairs to talk and relax in Kenneys' flat. What a lovely day!

    We are so thankful for all our partners in this adventure. For YOU. Thanks for your notes, your prayers, and your encouragement over the past 5 months in Indonesia. We feel the presence of God with us through your faithfulness.

    It’s been a week since I last wrote. Here’s to catching up. Bonus: an easy recipe at the bottom of the page if you need a quick-and-tasty dessert.

    Friday, November 21
    We are planning on a day off but have a last-minute appointment at the seminary. In the morning, we meet the academic dean and his assistant. They ask if we are interested in teaching there. Certainly, if we can work out details and permissions.

    W needs some tools and gets a screen for the back door, left open during the day by helpers. What a relief: we immediately have less bugs and mosquitoes in the house. W stapled screens to the open windows last week so that’s helped too. I still need the mosquito net over our bed but am learning to untangle it from the blanket in my sleep.

    LR before: potential for improvement?
    When we arrive home about 4:00, a text pings on my phone. “Are you home? We’d like to visit.’ Yes, please come, I text back. I’m baking Christmas cookies, trying out an Italian cookie press ($4 at the local hotel ware shop). When Dr Hanna and her daughter Alice arrive at 5, we sample the fresh baked goods.

    It’s nice to have people drop by. We put aside our chores and sit down to talk together. My mom taught me the basics of hospitality: always have food on hand. Keep the door open. Enjoy the guests God brings. We do.

    LR after, almost ready for Christmas guests
    “Would you like to go to an art gallery? My friend is co-owner,” Dr H asks before they leave. Sure. I’ll be ready in the morning as arranged. We are looking for regional art that suits our budget (low) and dresses up a few of our many white walls.

    Our visitors walk home with a bag of cookies after the rain stops: they live just around the corner. At 7:30pm, it’s pitch dark with only the neighborhood lights on. Each home is responsible for turning on the streetlight connected to their electric bill. W has put ours on a timer after we forgot a few nights. I finish baking by 10:30pm.

    Dr Hanna picks me up at 8:20am. I don’t know what to expect at the gallery. W has work to do around the house so I go with $85 cash in my pocket. We are furnishing our Bandung home with money from selling our things in Seattle. It’s interesting to think about what will find us here after shedding so much back there.

    Oh! We pull in at the Reading Lights bookstore W and I have passed many times. I’ve wanted to go in as recently as yesterday. I have only one novel along (a gift from W’s sister) and miiiissss books. W loves to read online so he’s fine without.

    The bookstore used to be Galeri Bandung. They’re downsizing their artwork. Their shelves are filled with used books but the walls are hung with 40 paintings. The barista hands us a price sheet, ranging from $30-300. I find several framed originals: 2 in markers and one enameled with sand and metal.

    Sumathi and Augustine are over, having taken an angkot to our place in early morning. They and W head to the market and to Setiabudi grocer with my short-list and their long one: they’re preparing an Indian menu for the class Monday at lunch. Indian food is extremely time-intensive. (Sumathi will be cooking tomorrow as well.) Our Bosch mixer/food processor slices onions galore and the blender smashes the fragrant spices together. Meanwhile, Ibu A makes us a good chicken and rice lunch.

    When W drives them home and Ibu A leaves, I bake more Christmas goodies and start to roll newspapers into cones for an art project. I run out of papers before enthusiasm. We’ll get old ones from the library next week. I usually do one big craft before Christmas. This will be it.

    New friends around their Christmas tree
    Dr. Hanna comes by for the two of us. We begin the day with a visit to neighbors. She went to school with Edward, a bio-chemist and his wife Hunny. Hanna’s cousin, the head of Indonesia’s Autism Society, is also there. (Seems like everyone knows each other on the hill.)

    Hunny has decorated the whole house for Christmas. Their kids live in the States so they have familiar ornaments, including motion-and-song Disney characters. The tree by the piano is lit. The piano! I head over and play a quick carol.

    Hunny is also a gardener. She shows us unique plants including a Brazilian grape tree (or Jabuticaba, known back home at smoothie cafés as high-nutrient guarani). The deep purple fruit hangs from the branches in her front yard. It tastes sweet and plum-like. We leave with some seedlings and a bag of fruit. It will be fun to explore her yard with her.

    One blond head in the crush
    We’ve left the house early. On the way to church, the plan is to view the ITB faculty-student art show that takes place only once every fourth year. We hop out a half-kilometer before campus and leave the driver to find parking in the stop stop stop and crawl traffic. ITB is a prestigious university for arts and technology; the campus swarms with students, families, and Bandung residents. At squeeze points, the pedestrian traffic jam holds us in place for 10-20 minutes.

    Oh my! A sudden downpour – rainy season after all – completely soaks us below the raincoats we pulled out of our bags. Our trousers drip and our feet wade through one to six inches of run-off. Dr. Hanna and her daughter find raincoats at a vendor and quickly don them. The little booths push the heavy water off the tarps above, but not everyone successfully defends their wares. Some gear and artwork gets soaked and ruined.

    A rainy morning
    By the time we push through the crowds and find the car, we are quite wet. Our shoes and feet are muddy. Dr. H and Alice will have to dry off in the car: they point out that it’s too late for church so they will drive straight to Jakarta. W and I don’t have a chance to make the service: even the angkots are standing still in traffic and we’re a few kilometers away. Would we catch the closing prayer ? Even that is iffy. We snag a hot dog and fries (what?!) and walk up the hill toward home empty-handed. Maybe meeting people – these friends of friends – is what God has in mind for us.

    A traditional dance group - under shelter
    But there is the bookstore again. W asks if I want to go in. Why not? We leave carrying two framed gouache paintings @$60. The angkot driver is surprised when I wedge them around me on the front seat, while W hops in the back with other passengers. The driver carefully moves the gear shift around the bigger painting. (We hang them Monday night and the house begins to feel like home.)

    What a great review class with Ibu Josie. She grills us on grammar and structure, helping us understand how Indonesians ask and compare jobs, time, and places. After going through the material, this reprise helps the information to stick.

    Great friends and good cooking
    During break, we head upstairs to faculty housing next door where Sumathi and Augustine live. They cook and listen as Josie continues. Then the rest of the classes arrive. Thirteen people squeeze in and around the table, heaped with biryani rice and marinated mutton, curried fish (tails and fins cut off, unlike Sundanese style), eggplant, and tender butter chicken. The roti and chapattis fill us to the brim, while raita cools our tongues with cucumber, onion, and tomatoes in sour cream. I baked a fruit cobbler that S serves with ice cream and sugared balls of dough, Indian style.

    Ibu Greti starts to wash dishes as soon as she finishes eating. It’s nice to have most of the cleaning done before everyone leaves. We sink onto the couches, replete and happy. What a feast! S sends home leftovers and hosts other faculty in the evening. So much food…

    It’s the last day of class, a wonderful review session with Ibu Greti. I’ll miss meeting with these friends and our teachers. “They have heart,” I think. Both a heart for God and for his people.

    Chinese-Indonesian food
    Afterwards, we eat lunch at the Sundanese restaurant around the corner of the school with the academic dean and his assistant Ibu Dwi. They choose “beef foot” soup (delicious broth; you don’t eat the gelatinized hoof). It is a mix of Chinese and Indonesian food: gado-gado (our favorite Indonesian peanut salad), dried fish and bean sprouts, deep-fried spinach, and fried chicken legs.

    Since we are out and about, we drive to ACE Hardware for some nails before hitting Lucky Square to retrieve W’s pen from a store. We shop for groceries for the class event on Thursday, too. We splurge on $4 one-hour foot and back massages outside the grocer. (Two days later, W’s soles are still sore: we get a work-over so painful that we talk and plan today’s events to make it bearable. The young men grinding into our feet with bony fingers smile charmingly as they inflict pain.)
    The wreath starts to take shape

    I finish gluing the newspaper cones to cardboard backing. Yikes – it’s big: 5’ in diameter and needs a larger backing so the upper cones don’t flop forward. W runs to the store for the Indo version of Elmer’s All-Purpose glue and we glue a large sheet of cardboard across the back and let it dry overnight.

    W finishes the test, along with Sumathi and Augustine. He gets off the angkot at the grocer on the way home, replenishing our kitchen cupboards with a long list compiled from what I used up this morning. I’ve baked 2 kinds of bars (recipe for the smash hit below) and 2 kinds of cookies. The meatballs are formed and baked. The sausage and onions for the egg casserole are fried. And I’m so not hungry, looking at all the food stashed in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. (That’s why I was skinny when the kids were little: by the time I’d prepped and fed everyone, it would be 3pm and I barely had an appetite. Evenings when the kids went to bed, W and I ate everything in sight.)

    Snickerdoodles and shortbread

    We hang the wreath above the sofa, where it fills the empty wall almost to the ceiling. Our guests Thursday exclaim over it: it’s spectacular, another one of God’s surprises – more than the sum of its parts. Its quiet colors and humble materials sneak up on the moving eye.

    In the evening, I assemble the egg dishes, check supplies, and write a list for the morning. We’re asleep before 11, quite early for us. We sleep tight and awaken, rested on Thanksgiving morning before the regular alarm at 5:30am.

    Here’s the promised recipe. These easy bars got rave reviews from my primary tester (W) and were the favorite at our Thanksgiving brunch. (My apologies: I lost the site where these came from.)

    No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars

    Prep Time: 30 Minutes
    Ready In: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
    Servings: 32

    1 cup butter
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3 cups quick cooking oats
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or smash into pieces ½ -¾ of a “pound-plus” Trader Joes Bittersweet Chocolate and Almonds bar)
    1/2 cup peanut butter
    Grease a 9x9 inch square pan.
    Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Mix in the oats. Cook over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until ingredients are well blended. Press half of mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Reserve the other half for topping.
    Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust in the pan, and spread evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon.

    4. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate layer, pressing in gently. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cutting into bars.