Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Everyone is somewhere

Some snapshots of our side of the world:
Traditional Sundanese garb - an angkot rider, happy to have W take his picture
Today I was struck by how many of our acquaintances don't live in their hometown. Many of us aren't even in our homeland. W lived in Germany for a year. He and I crossed the border from Canada to live in the US as university students. We returned home to pastor and study - and then shifted to Seattle in our late 20s. We stayed 29 years, putting down roots, making friends, and birthing our fourth child (a dual citizen, like his sister who took out citizenship in the US).

Cute kids hanging out beside the clotheslines and a poinsettia shrub.
In Seattle, we buy these plants in nurseries ... at Christmas
Over the years, some of our friends have stayed in the city where they were born. But we've watched people come and go across the continent or overseas, too. For many years, I sent letters, cards, magazines, and anything else I could think of that might interest them. Since we've arrived, we've had two pieces of mail (one was a credit card replacement) but hundreds of emails. We do feel connected! Well, sort of. In some ways.

17 is the legal age for driving a motorcycle. 9-12 is more likely.
How I admire early travelers in the faith who lived without connection to home. Mail boats might bring news every few months. Parents and siblings died without them knowing. Joys and tragedies happened at home and they were so far away. Out of touch. We read the stories in biographies and summary paragraphs, think, "Hmmm must have been hard," and move on to the next item on our agenda.

10 minutes from our house, a trail through a jungle valley
Even with all the connections today, we miss our parents, kids, and grandkids - and friends. We can see their faces on a Google Hangout, but we can't give a hug or put a hand on their shoulder. It's really strange being on this end of the we-miss-you!s that we said to others. We're in a big city with a roof over our heads. Many serve in deserts, jungle villages, or on the sea. I'm filled with wonder at God's choice of destination for each one.

A typical street between houses for motorcycles. Pedestrians. Bicycles. Carts. Chickens. Cats. Lizards.
Hope you enjoyed the walk through our neighborhood today. Where is Jesus sending you?

Read more:
*The Lord says, “If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine.” Exodus 19:5 ESV

*The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. Numbers 6:25 ESV

*Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19 NIV

*Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

*In Jesus Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV

*The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:9 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Dearest Jesus, thank you for allowing yourself to be the paramount manifestation of God’s love for us. 

Lord, the blessing of your love is made manifest through your Son. May his light shine through us to the rest of your world. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Circumcision and walking through the jungle

With the proud parents
Sunday, September 28

We're invited to a circumcision party, along with 700 other guests and neighbors. We are - needless to say - the only fair-haired people in attendance.

We attend a small Christian Alliance gathering in the morning. The service ends with the baptism of a young woman in a pool the size of a hot tub. She and the pastor shiver as they climb into the tank: it's in the shade, though it's a warm day as usual.

In front of us sit two young couples who are studying at IMLAC (the school we were supposed to attend). One pair lives directly across the lane from our house. The other lives two houses further away. They're Americans with young families and neither seems particularly interested in more than a perfunctory hello. We walk home without meeting anyone else.

Where the action happens: women cooking
The all-out Muslim celebration at noon is many blocks down the back side of the hill we live on. It's held in the home where our helper was born and raised her own children. Three families live in her small home. Her sister lives next door - and everyone knows each other up and down the street. We feel honored to be included. They fuss over us because we showed up - and probably because we don't know what's expected of us. Visitors sit, stand, flow in and out of the house, eating, greeting, talking.

The women cooked all day Saturday. While we're there on Sunday, they keep gathering and washing plates as people finish eating. The serving bowls are refilled as soon as guests empty them of fresh chopped vegetables, saté, broccoli and mushrooms, and other dishes, accompanied by rice. Delicious! W's stomach gets upset later in the afternoon but I'm fine.

The live band stations itself at the side of the alley, blaring at full blast. "To let the neighbors know there's a party," W muses. We lose some hearing - one of my earplugs falls on the floor and I can't find it to pick it up from the floor until I'm done eating - and dancing!

Bu A, her husband and their grandson
Bu A grabs my hand and pulls me on the stage, a little area beside the path and between the houses. She says I'm supposed to dance with her. Eeek. I can't dance Western-style, never mind doing Sundanese folk dancing! Awkward. I wave my arms around and move my hips. Her little grandson is a doll. He peeks at me and smiles from the time we first wave at each other until we leave.

Bu A probably hoped this bulé (Western foreigner) could raise some money as she did - putting out her hands for the bills thrust into them for her nephew. I don't even notice the money part until I've made it off-stage. Oops, too late.

The family asks to take pictures with us. We are immortalized in snapshots with boy+parents, grandparents+children, helper+assorted others... under a canopy strung around the room. The plan walls are wrapped with vari-colored fabric to make them festive. The family wears bright sparkly costumes to mark this occasion. We leave them a donation and card with Ps. 20:4 in it. (In the Indonesian Bible, it's Ps. 20:5. The verses of the Psalms are offset just as those in the Luther Bible we grew up with.)

Bu A and her husband take us into their house and offer purchased snacks. We're full enough to have an excuse to refuse politely. We ask questions about the family history and wish Ibu A a happy birthday. Yes, today is also her birthday. (I have a nice scarf at home, to give her Tuesday - when she comes - as a belated gift with a card.)

Delicious home-cooked food - for 700 guests
After an hour, we leave and the party goes on without us. We head down and away from our neighborhood, avoiding the occasional lizard who scurries across the path. The path down the hill winds through the jungle. It's well-traveled. Very thin, wiry and fit men haul water, rice, and other things up to the neighborhood on the slick gravel and mud. The waterfall for the local electric plant culminates at the base of the adjoining hills. It's a beautiful valley and we could imagine that we're far away if it wasn't for the city noises echoing off the slopes. After we've gone down, we have to climb up the other side to Dago, the next hill over.

Kids are flying kites on the hilltop. Motorcycles race out of the little lanes between houses on both sides of the path. And three boys pose for W to take a picture of them jumping into the canal beside the street. A few feet away, a long line of men hold fishing rods. One shows me his 7" fish, dropped in a net under the waterline. Part of the canal has fishing line strung 4' apart, from bank to bank. Each man is permitted to swish his line back and forth within his numbered spot.

Boys jumping into the canal:
10' away from 20-30 fishermen
We walk downhill for a few miles, passing some of the outlet stores that Bandung is famous for. I stop into one or two while W waits outside. I find some shoes (about time! - mine are worn out) and pick up a few things for our grandkids.

We're tired and crabby when night falls at 6. By the time we finish our errands, W is hungry and ready for supper at Miss Bee's. We arrive about 8:30pm. I can't find a thing on the menu: I'm craving ramen at home. But it's 9:30 when we get home and all I want to do is sleep ... after we finish our homework. It's lights out at 11pm.

Monday

Typical morning - except that I'm wide awake at 4pm, wondering if something just fell on my face. Maybe. Maybe not. There are termite "crumbs" in the bed, which I swish off the sheets and onto the floor. W plans to pick up a mosquito net to ward off the bigger pieces. I can't get back to sleep though I'm really tired. I listen to the whole book of Revelation and then give up and get out of bed. (We fall asleep to scriptures read aloud each night.)

Goats tied to fences all around town
We walk to the angkot past a new little bamboo fence at the intersection. What's it for? I wonder. We don't know until afterwards. First, we catch the little bus to Pasteur Rd, then walk our 2-3 km. to school. Up 37 stairs and across the concrete walkway above the busy street. Then 37 steps down and a brisk walk to the school driveway. The parking lot looks pretty empty today. After the big open house hosted by the elementary and high schools last weekend, maybe the kids have the day off. 

W occasionally take the lift at the seminary if he's heavily laden, but usually we climb 3 flights of 20+ steps from ground floor to #3. Lantai - or floors - are labeled with Ground, then floor 1, then 2 (which we'd call #1, 2, 3, etc.) So going to Floor 3 means three full flights of steps. It's good for us. I breathe in on the landings and out on the steps as though I'm pacing breaths for lifting weights. 

Language class makes more sense today. At least, I feel I can follow along more intelligently. W always tries complex structures in our writing exercises, but I'm happy with a noun, verb, object - and perhaps a descriptor or modifier here and there. I'm relieved when I get something right and know I understand. (What would we do without Google Translate to help us with the new vocabulary in every paragraph?)

Narrowest house ever, on our Sunday walk
We have a TV coming soon. That will help us acquire the language more quickly. At this point, not that many people can engage us in complicated conversations. We have to stick to the basic questions -where we're going, what we're doing, if we like Bandung, our age!, where we lived before and live now, how long we've (or they've) lived in Bandung, and if we have children. We're looking forward to watching news reports and Indonesian family dramas on the tube.

After class, W and I look for a present for Bu A's birthday - but no luck. So, a scarf it is! Her husband's working on the window when we get home. Friday, he nailed a board over the open space where the windows had been removed. He's come back today to continue working on it. 

At the bamboo fence build overnight, someone has tied a few goats. People stop their motorcycles and pause to feed and pet the goats. Some kind of festival is coming. The goats don't know what they're in for. But neither do we.

The cutlery drawer - before vacuuming
While W heads back downtown to run a few more errands. He is sent across town to three shops for mosquito netting - with no luck. Back home, I step on a few ants, squish others in my fingers (the ones on the kitchen counter while I wash dishes), and vacuum out the drawers and floors. There's a pile of termite granules in the cutlery drawer, on and around the plastic I keep to cover the knife and fork organizer. 

Our landlord insisted Saturday that he's taken care of our bugs. W was gone and Dr A refused to look at the drawers full of bug stuff. When I pointed out the poop beside him when he sat down at the DR table, he said, "That's dirt." Excuse me! I told W I'm not talking to the landlord about this any more. But I do need sleep - so we may have to pay an exterminator ourselves. The first quote is $1000 - to take up the roof tiles, crawl into the attic, spray the ground, and bore holes in the floor tiles to place poison under the house. Not exactly healthy, but probably effective. We'll try to be away when they do it.

The dining room window (eaten away)
and the handyman hard at work
We ask our Indonesian friends about our options with the landlord. (We can't move out: we've paid a year's on a two-year lease; it's doubtful that we could get our money back.) They point us to the seminary's go-to gal, who can probably talk to him and mention potential legal action. I'm considering having the neighborhood women put pressure on him as well: they are already afraid a few sprays with a general pesticide will send the termites fleeing - to their homes. (Termites travel up to 100 yards, looking for welcome spaces like they found in the empty house before we got here.)

W is fast asleep by 9pm. He's walked 19km (12 miles) again, while I'm at 5-something km (3+ miles). Have a great day - and pray that we have a good night. Thanks!

Read more:
*I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9 ESV

*I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him. 2 Timothy 1:12 ESV

Moravian Prayer: God, we ask for your presence in our lives. When we don’t receive it in the ways we feel that we should, we sometimes have anger or lose faith. We humbly ask that you would open our eyes to the many different ways you live within and are present with us. Amen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Frog, fish, and fruit

In the seasoning aisle at the supermarket
 Wednesday, September 27

It's grammar time. The last two sessions of every week (W/Th), our teacher is an elementary TESOL teacher who begins to put things into place for us.

We record many new words on Mondays and Tuesdays. It's not like I can actually memorize them all, but a few here and there are becoming familiar when others use them. When I pull out flashcards, W remembers most of the words. I'm still working on the first deck, but he knows most. Oh for such a memory! (Lucky-duck. As father, he bypassed the hormonal swings of manufacturing 4 kids, with the accompanying memory loss.)

We have supper at Miss Bee's and walk home in the dark at 7:30. W whips out his flashlight so we can see the edge of the street. (Last trip, I fell off a curb 2 feet from the gutter.)

Thursday
Goodbye, house people. See you later.
Our helper arrives at 6:30am as we're finishing breakfast (the bread is frozen so the ants don't get it, then toasted). We're carrying 6 ziplock-style bags of sour fruit that was almost dripping off a tree in the backyard. We'd have 6 more bags available if I could reach beyond the little stepladder's assistance. Apparently these little greenies taste great cooked in salsa (sambal) or are used to flavor meat / fish dishes. Our classmates and lecturers say they are expensive in the shops. They'd get squished in the backpack so we drive to school. W's getting more confident and it takes us only 25 minutes.

A sour little harvest
Can you see the fruit hanging from the tree trunks (center)
Ibu A cooks up slices of sausage for lunch. When I pointed out the refrigerated meat in the morning, she asked about the content. I showed her that it's chicken not pork, and told her we won't bring pork into the house. We want to respect her and we appreciate her good help.

A fraction of the hill... down we go
Ibu A has a nephew getting circumcised Sunday. We're invited. She tries to explain where she lives. It's impossible to understand the directions, so after work, we accompany her through the back of our neighborhood, further than we've been.

We go down down down the side of the hill. The narrow lane is so steep that some motorcyclists have gotten off and are pushing their bikes up. Little steps at the side make the climb easier. No wonder the elderly stay active and strong: it's the continual exercise.

Ibu A introduces us to neighbors and family, whose kids swarm us. Everyone stares and says hi and we find out where Sunday's ceremony is.

Back up we go... imagine motorcycles.
This is maybe 1/8 of the way.
W heads further down, across the valley to Dago on the other side, to run errands and look around. I climb back up the steep hillside and walk back home.

Some ladies sitting at the side strike up a conversation. They exclaim at my skin and blond hair while I protest that they're better off with their beautiful dark hair and skin in the sun. We part with smiles and greetings all around.

W comes back home in the evening with 17 km/ 11 miles underfoot. My own FitBit clocks only 4 km.

Friday

We can't sleep in on our day off: we're judging a spelling bee. When we signed up, we understood it was time with high-schoolers and their parents. But our Friday stint is part of a sports and academic showcase for elementary kids. We wait in a classroom for 2 hours and then adjudicate 6 teams of delightful elementary students. We smile at people on our way in and out of the parking lot. And we're introduced to the principal on the stairs as we leave. Who knows the outcome? Our job is to show up at this point. We arrive at 8:45 and are done by 11:30.

Frog's legs - a first for me:
it's true - they taste like chicken
Afterwards, we ride an angkot to the first errand - and then walk. And walk. I get a massage to ease my night leg cramps (have to buy bananas! keep forgetting) while W pays the data provider bill. The fee is a week overdue: W's been sent 3 different places in different parts of the city. He has to pay in person the first time, but had no luck finding where to pay. After today's connection, we can do it online.

We meet two of our instructors, Josie and Pauline, and a fellow student at a food area that comes alive at night. We eat frogs legs (my first time - yes... they do taste like chicken and I pretend it's quail), lamb and chicken saté, fried tofu, 3 kinds of Chinese bbq pork, nasi goreng (almost as good as the fried rice our helper makes), and three kinds of local desserts. Total: $20.

Little clay bowls for Chinese dessert pancakes -
baked over the charcoal that heats the bricks
From there, it's a short walk to the Chinese section of town. Food carts, little restaurants, and lots of shops line the streets. Josie points out the best venders and meals. We'll have to come again - group-sharing food is a lot of laughs. We end up at their Chinese church, a huge structure behind office buildings, with people just leaving a women's conference. We are too tired to climb the stairs to tour the building, but promise to do it next time. We catch a cab home.

All evening, J and Pauline give us cultural tips and answer questions about life and expectations. They emphasize the necessity of holding the landlord responsible to finish the rat/bug/ant extermination at our place. They also tell us we are truly blessed: a good helper is hard to find.

High heels and a formal office outfit in 90o (left).
Note the bicyclist crossing diagonally during the red light.
It's got to be weird to have outsiders quizzing them about life as "normal" for them, but they are good-humored and patient. Thanks be to God!

W has walked 15 km (11 miles) and I've walked over 12 km (9 1/2 miles). We're happy when the taxi driver drops us at the neighborhood gate. We walk only a block or two before we're home.

Read more:
*Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4 ESV

*Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 2 Corinthians 3:4 ESV

*And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15-17 NLT


Moravian Prayer: Christ, guide us to a place of comfort and peace. Help us to place our faith in you when it feels so hard to trust in something we cannot see or touch. Give us patience on our journey. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Body parts and new friends

W reads a script about a traditional dance.
The demonstration = priceless.
Monday, September 22

We take a bus and then walk 1.5 miles to school. There's so much traffic this morning that I get a headache until a few minutes into class, when the pollution clears from my lungs. Our regular watchers wave or greet us with S'lamat pagi (good morning).

Today the old lady is sorting chickens beside the sidewalk: flies crawl over the little birds lined up in her crate. Sometimes she has limp vegetables, eggs, or even what looks like compost. Once in a while people pick through her stuff with her. I wonder if it's what she scavenges to sell or cook up.

Class is pure nonsense. As in - nothing makes sense. It's like they switched languages on me again. I can't understand what the teacher is saying: she explains in Indonesian, which doesn't help. I'm in a tired fog. The night was too short and being away most of the weekend means I'm not rested.

After break, we learn vocabulary for parts of the body. I add over 80 words to my flashcards. A few words I know. Some seem logical. Others fall into patterns, which makes learning easier:

  • gigi (teeth); kuku (nails); dada (chest) 
  • punggung (back); pinggang (waist); pinggul (hip); pandat (buttock); paha (thigh) 
  • dahi (forehead); dagu (chin); dada (chest).

Got that? Of course there's also tumit (heel); betis (calf); lutut (knee); mulut (mouth) and rambut (hair), among others . . .

After class, we dash into a Bakso (meatball) restaurant recommended by a teacher. Not bad! In the evening, I flip through the flashcards. Some words stick. Others are Teflon-coated.

We spend a few hours with our really wonderful neighbor, Dr. Wuri. She offers us banana and coconut soup, baked cassava with palm sugar, and roasted peanuts from Bali. She and her sister bought a coconut and shaved the flesh into the milk: she pours a refreshing glass for W and me. So delicious - we are getting to know entirely different foods here.

Tuesday
The morning walk is easier and less exhausting, though traffic is a beast again. Even our little "park walk" under the overpass is crammed with cars and motorcycles. It's still strange to see a motorcycle coming toward us on the sidewalk or driving against the flow of traffic to avoid crossing over for a block or more. Sellers with carts are on the move in the morning, pulling mobile restaurants and goods either with or against traffic. Everyone flows around everyone else.

We're praying for R, hit by a motorcycle while exiting a car to attend church in Jakarta. He's in hospital for treatment and observation. The IES prayer list comes nearly every day. What a good reason to pause to remember the One who hears us!

Flowers from the garden at
the Polish consulate
Class goes better today. I actually remember some of the phrases and the vocabulary. The angkot riders are friendly and move over for us as we scramble in and out. We're headed straight home because we have afternoon plans.

Bu A arrived at 6:30am to clean - she clears the termite mess once again, this time after our landlord drops by during the day. She also scrubs the dirt from a few more rows of marble tiles in the living room.

Bu A's husband is redoing the windows the termites have eaten. so we ask her to cook enough for all of us. We bought a little New Zealand shank of lamb (10 oz/300 grams@ $3) yesterday - "let's see what she does with it," I think. It's a bit tough (fried rather than steamed or baked) but the flavors are marvelous.

Rice. Lamb. Steamed vegetables. Thank you, Bu A - and thanks be to God for this cheerful and willing worker and her husband.

Dr. W invites us to meet her friend, the honorary Polish consul. The driver winds the car up the hill (so far we've only been down) to new territory.

Ibu Mariola lives one or two mountain ridges over, in a stunning home overlooking a state park. Exotic plants line the yard and flowers drape from vases on the table. Art hangs on the walls. She loves animals - three tiny Yorkies are allowed in the house. The other four dogs wait outside with her two cats and numerous birds. She scoops a few aquarium plants into a bag from her round tank - very pretty! to populate my guppy tank at home.

With Dr. Wuri and Ibu Mariola
Ibu M serves home-baked banana bread with butterscotch sauce and tea. We are also willing taste-testers for a new creation: dried sweet bread from her bakery, in pandan and rosella flavors. We have been on the alert for a good bakery - and look forward to ordering her treats in the future.

W snaps a few pictures and tries out his Polish conversational skills. He's interested in Polish citizenship (born there, parents born there). Ibu M sends us off with advice, goodies, directions to watercolor classes, and the beginnings of a new friendship.

Then Dr. W shares some landmarks and her favorite supermarket with us. We weren't going to shop but soon we have fresh vegetables, a few cleaning supplies, and other odds and ends in the cart. Lucky guppies: they now have fish food instead of the occasional rice kernel I toss into the bowl.

We're home before 7pm. Night has fallen, and it's time to eat a light supper - a slice of cheese on fresh bread swiped with mustard and topped with sliced tomatoes. The water dispenser bubbles away, reheating water after we've made tea before bed.

Bu A has left the house spotless and tidied up the kitchen. It's been a good day. It's time to hit the flashcards and see how much will stick tonight. Goodnight all!

Read more:
*My times are in your hand. Psalm 31:15 ESV

*Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Dear Lord, as we sit in the day to day, the highs and lows, help us not to get ahead of ourselves. We wish to enjoy the joys of our days and not become overwhelmed by those things far off in the future. Please let us feel your loving support as we experience the glory of this day. Amen.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Don't look my way

Grateful for dear friends here and there!
Dr. Joseph Castleberry speaking in Jakarta
Sunday, September 21

My heart is full as the new week starts. As usual, we've had a great weekend at IES Jakarta. We've traveled back every second weekend since our move to Bandung. It means 2 hours in traffic plus a 3 hour train ride each way.

We always return home refreshed and encouraged by Pastor Dave (nicknamed PD), Gigi, and the IES team. They have supported and helped us beyond all expectations. Thanks, everyone! We're so glad to partner with what God is doing through you.

Thursday when W and I get to town, we settle into the flat and rest up. Friday morning, we walk down the street to the Rempoa Outlet store. W finds Royal Robbins travel shirts for $8 (retail $80 in Seattle). I find some blouses. Oh hurrah... finally, a change of clothing!!! It feels wonderful to put on a different blouse in the morning. In the afternoon, I pop into H&M, a British-based retailer and find lightweight rayon trousers for $13, a God-given sweet bonus. Though I'm not a clothes horse, I was getting sick and tired of wearing the same clothes for 3 months.

We catch a ride to church with PD. President Joseph Castleberry of Northwest U in Seattle has arrived in Jakarta for the weekend. W and I participate in the university info event in the afternoon, encouraging parents to consider Christian higher education for their children. Later that evening, Joe preaches a wonderful message that synchs with the series of the previous weeks.

Joe is a friend as well as having been our boss. Seeing a familiar face in this context is surreal - our two worlds collide. I especially miss seeing his wife Kathleen but SO much appreciate the Trader Joes chocolates and chocolate chips she sent along!

Beautiful fresh veges - with a kick
W's stomach heaves from eating fresh veges at a Vietnamese restaurant. He misses the service before his system settles down with a generous dose of the charcoal pills we carry with us. I'm fine; I stick to cooked vegetables and enjoy my noodle soup.

We leave the cake from Bandung on the office table for staff dinner. We can't stay. Bramonos take us to the mall to transfer our phones from their names to ours. Earlier this summer, before our visas and bank accounts came through, they graciously put our phone cards on their account. However, we need our names on the contract to pay online. (After running around all week without being about to recharge our data in Bandung, W's put this at the top of his Jakarta-chores list.) It takes the Telcomsel assistant until 9pm (store closing) to complete the transaction. Meanwhile I run downstairs to buy more of the same rayon trousers from H&M.

Our late supper is worth the wait. W has butter chicken, while I enjoy a Malay chicken curry with roti (our go-to breakfast when we teach in Singapore). B's find their favorites in the traditional-food court as well.

W snaps pictures of the scenes outside the train
Sunday morning, we catch a ride downtown with Gigi, who is headed for church. We hop a cab from Dr. C's hotel (next to the skyscraper where the church holds its services) to the station and board the 10:15am train.

At the station, we experience the curious dynamic that we've noted in malls, on the street, and in other public context in Asia. Expats walking past each other don't look each other in the eye. We ignore each other.

Why? It's strange to see someone so out-of-context (=someone who looks like us rather than like local Indonesians, Singaporeans, Chinese, etc.) Foreigners grow accustomed to being stared at by the locals but when we meet, it somehow feels awkward. We often pretend we haven't seen each other.

One day when we were riding the bus in Jakarta, another European couple boarded. "Hey, get off our bus," W whispered to me with a laugh. I knew just what he meant. We're considered out of place ourselves; seeing more of "our people" multiplies the weirdness.

We're still not immune to this beauty: rice fields
We approach the young Dutch couple sitting a few seats ahead of us on the train. They tell us they're in Bandung overnight before heading to Jogja and Surabaya. We give them our contact info: if something unforeseen happens, our friends in both places would be happy to help them. Once outside the station, we flag down an angkot mini-van to take them to their hotel. Off they go! Godspeed, you two.

The angkot driver who picks us up knows the complex where we live. There's hardly anyone on the street. Apparently he and the passenger in the front seat are friends. They buy a cigarette each from vendors walking between the cars. Before lighting up, they ask our permission.

Then they ask if we want a ride all the way home. We say, "Sure!" There are no other passengers so they detour off the main route to wind through the neighborhood. They drive us to our house! The driver asks for $4 and cheerfully accepts the $2 W counter-offers. (W finds that drivers often ask him for double their actual fee.) Cool. We've never been driven to the door before by a bus driver. It's just as good as a taxi, at a fraction of the cost. We schlep the carry-ons inside and unpack.

An ugly surprise on top of the bookshelf:
3 days of termites at work
We love this house. Walking in the door means coming home. Sadly, wood and termite debris is scattered over the living room: the beams are rotting away. It better get fixed before it falls down. We send pictures to the landlord but don't hear back.

For our late lunch-supper, we walk down the hill, through the neighborhood alleys. We discover a new food court behind the Catholic University. The food is good. And cheap. W's schnitzel ("chicken steak") costs $2 and my noodles are a few cents less.

Some female students leave the tables at the same time. They shriek and don't know what to do: 2 mid-sized dogs are walking in the alley. Many cousins are afraid of dogs (classified as unclean). I motion to the girls to come with us, pointing at the dogs and saying a stern "NO!" as we walk by. The girls are very happy! to escape the potential fierceness of these friendly unknowns, who wag their tails as they stroll by. The girls kindly point us through a warren of options toward the main street. We'll return to that food court another day. The gals say the food is good and lots of students eat there.

An old man stops us to ask us where we're from. He understands some English, acquired 20 years ago for business. He bemoans his need for a cane and we talk about where we're from, etc. Like nearly everyone else we've met in Bandung, he offers a warm welcome to his city.

W needs to get a key cut for Bu A's husband. Mr A plans to repair our termite-eaten windows and back door this week. A heap of wood moulding lies on our porch, ready to go. The key shop is closed, but we stop by the market for a brush and some facecloths. We walk back to the house and relax.

Oh dear. My Mac computer mousepad has been crushed and cracked in W's bag. Luckily it still works. We catch up on writing and email until 9:30pm.

Music from IES Jakarta streams through the house this evening as we wind down. (To listen, click here.) It's been a lovely weekend. But I'm not sure that I'm ready for another challenging week of language school.

God is enough, right?

Read more:
*Happy are the people whose God is the Lord. Psalm 144:15 ESV

*For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Philippians 1:21 ESV

*You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19 ESV

Moravian Prayer: The promise of life with you, dear Lord, fills us with joy! This joy comes from the simple fact that we have union with you, no matter where we are in our lives. Thank you. Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Instead of more books...

Before: A fraction of our books on 7'X12' shelves
I'm a book lover. We had to shed thousands of books in the past years of downsizing, and W cut and scanned thousands more to take with us electronically when we moved overseas. So I'm not against writing or buying books.

This morning I open email to find messages promoting books on sharing our faith, being better followers of Jesus, and how-tos on being good people. None of the books are bad, as far as I can tell.

But as I listened to Proverbs in my devotions, a few thoughts struck me about dealing with the exhausting heaps of advice and never-ending how-to fads:

1. Do we know the Book? How many observations do we need about scripture - before we actually read it for ourselves? Can we be discerning about what others write if we don't know God's message to us first? Reading the commentaries before reading the Bible is a bit like building a house without a foundation. When you get to a certain mass, the whole thing collapses. Without pouring strong spiritual footings, we may not know where the builder went wrong or the warning signs of a leaning structure, whether of theology or practice.

Idea: read the Bible in big chunks. Read it often and think about the implications of following or not following its principles. What patterns of God's character become obvious? What does he care about? Do we value the same things?


A quiet corner for meditation
2. Live out the Book. W and I have marveled at the complicated "theology" that some preachers work out. We've talked about how much simple and practical counsel the Bible offers - without our complex twists and turns added.

We have a hard enough time doing what the Bible obviously says. Never mind trying to make up more intricate stuff. Lord have mercy! (not said lightly)

Idea: stick close to what we know for sure, without worrying so much about potential rule-breaking. Live a good life, far from the cliff's edge of "maybe I can get away with this because the Bible doesn't specifically forbid it." What happens to the obedient? What happens to the rebellious? What outcome do we desire - for ourselves, our families, and those in our circles of influence?

3. Be accountable in / to a community of believers. In a conversation this week, friends noted that the higher up a leader is, the less willing s/he may be to let others point out weaknesses in his/her character, actions, or thinking.

Gathering one or two people around us who think like we do isn't always helpful. We also need people who see things differently, who challenge our ideas, and who will call us to account when we swerve from what is right.

Idea: let's let God bring people into our lives. Carefully listen and evaluate what they tell us, aligning their advice and their lifestyle with what we learn from scripture.

4. Let others get to know you. Our family, neighbors, and cities will be more greatly impacted by how we allow Jesus to shape and form us into a godly persons, than by seeing us try one gimmick after another from books about: "101 cool ways to share your faith."

Idea: put away the evangelism trends for a few months. Let's take the pressure off. What if, instead, we'd live thoughtfully and truthfully from morning to night. What if we'd pause throughout the day to ask, simply, "What is the best way to speak and act, following close to Jesus?" Also consider: "Am I doing this to please and glorify God or me?" Let's watch how others respond to Jesus, reaching out to them through us.

Read more:
*This was Hannah's prayer: "How I rejoice in the Lord! How he has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, For the Lord has solved my problem. How I rejoice! No one is as holy as the Lord! There is no other God, Nor any Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:1-2 TLB

*The righteous know the rights of the poor. Proverbs 29:7 ESV

*We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1 ESV

*Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

Moravian Prayer: As we go about our days dear Lord, remind us that we are to love one another, weak or strong, just as you love us. Amen.

C. S. Lewis,  Weight of Glory:
When I attempted . . . . to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the land- scape loses the celestial light. . . . . For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. 

Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: “Nobody marks us.” 

A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. 

By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. 

And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On our feet (most of the time)

Good homemade Korean food!
Thursday, September 18
After my third fall, these comfy shoes are history. The first time, I slipped on wet leaves walking in Singapore. The second time, I skidded onto hands and knees on a muddy patch along the road in Jakarta.

We were coming back from dinner in the dark the other night. Pavement in Indonesia can range from great to awful. I stepped sideways on a 3" repaved edge a foot or two from the side of the street and my foot tilted sideways. Before I knew it I was on the ground. Again. In the same sandals. (Hands and knees have a few scrapes and bruises. My trousers are intact. So the fall itself is no big deal.)

I've worn out four favorite pairs of walking shoes since we arrived. I have to splurge on some lasting footwear, a pain for someone who finds item-specific-shopping a chore. There's no Nordstrom's Rack nearby and I can't return a non-fitting shoe to Sierra Trading Post, my former go-to shops. Great walking shoes are expensive here so I will pray over an online order and have W bring it back, taking my chances.

Squished silver
It's been a learning and exploring week again.
Wednesday after class, we went to a family spa and had someone try to press the kinks out of us. W's back has been spasming (he says it's unrelated to the walking) and sometimes he's in a lot of pain. The massage relaxes us but doesn't help with physical issues. We put our watches and rings into W's knapsack. My silver family ring gets crushed out of shape and there's an imprint of woven cloth on the top. Oh no! W says a jeweler can fix it so I hand it over and put on the original brass one.

The insect exterminators came Thursday to explore and give an estimate ($1000). We are not imagining the infestation in the house. There are two kinds of termites everywhere in ceilings and wood trim (including a few doors and windows about to fall down) plus we have carpenter ants. The workers will have to take off some roof tiles and shimmy into the attic to clear the ceilings. The landlord had promised us he'd take care of insects before we moved in; we figure he'll negotiate a better rate for himself. We'll pay maintenance fees once he's paid the initial exterminations.

School was hard. The new teacher (W/Th) teaches kids English, so she brings pages of grammar exercises to help us make sense of the vocabulary we're acquiring. SOOO helpful, thank God! A few more things make sense and we have the basics to chat on the bus and along our morning walks.

Better than a good restaurant! Korean food
A Korean couple hosts a class lunch at their home for Thursday. With a few gas burners in a small kitchen (and a huge Korean-imported fridge), the wife cooks us an 8-dish meal with kim-chee, sticky rice, spinach omelet, noodles, and more = fantastic flavors, beautiful colors The food is mostly steamed (not fried!) so we all dig in and enjoy it.

Thursday, W also drives to school for the first time. The commute takes half the time and cut 4,000 steps out of our morning. Being a passenger to a "new" driver is a hair-raising experience. (Remember your teens learning to drive?) W's getting the hang of having the driver's seat on the opposite side of the car and driving on the left. He'll have to be as patient with me when I get my license (lost with my wallet the first week, so it's being replaced.)

We're home at 2, in time to pack up and head for the train station. We walk to the main street with our one rolling case and two little carry-ons. An angkot comes before the taxi so we hop on and for 70c are dropped at the station a mere 3/4 hour later. W drags our luggage across the long rail station parking lot and finds us bubble tea, which we sip before buying 4:15pm tickets to Jakarta. The 3-hour train ride costs $20 for both of us - much cheaper than car maintenance and we don't have to sit in traffic. The last two City-Trans (van) commutes were 5.5 hours for 100 miles.

The teachers and students we're beginning to love
The train winds past green mounds of rice plants waving on terraced slopes, palm-covered forsets, and houses both cobbled and crafted. The reddish soil along the track sis littered with cigarette packs, plastic garbage bags and food wrappers.

We get out on the wrong side of the station but one of the taxis dropping off passengers pauses for us - just as a policeman is explaining we have to go to the other side where the taxis queue.  We hop in for the $7 taxi ride. The driver thinks he's in the Grand Prix, racing between other vehicles and motorcycles. I quit looking at the road and pray for safety - which God grants in a record time of 1 hour.

By 8:30pm, we're hauling our bags into Sebastian Coffee Shop (a funky little restaurant across from the flat), where we eat a light supper. Then we flag a break in traffic (wave hands, palm down as we enter traffic), cross the street to push open the gates to the courtyard, and wave hello to the security guard. Up the steps and ---

oh, Gigi has been hard at work! There's pretty bedroom furniture, a flower arrangement on the dining table, and red-framed mirrors brightening up the LR wall. It's a lovely respite for this visual person. I sleep like a log, knowing nothing will fall on my face from the ceiling.

Friday morning, one of our churches sends me an email. Their women are shopping for their church-sponsored missionary wives, so it's time to think of Christmas presents. Is there anything I'd like? A few things spring to mind but the note itself makes my day. I laugh and then I tear up. That women across the world would think of blessing and praying for us ... wow.

The transition - from Seattle where I knew what was in my cupboards, having a clean and organized home with everything at hand -  to here where I'm missing doors on kitchen cupboards that are mildew-ing and being eaten alive - is probably bigger than I realized, if I'm having such an emotional reaction.

I'm feeling peckish from not sleeping well (bugs above my head) and not being able to communicate with locals. A few emails last week also sideswiped me with unexpected challenges. So submission to Christ and the learning process continues. Emails like the one this morning are God's gifts to my heart and soul. W and I are finding out that missy's are the ones most affected by their calling. Beyond what happens in others through our service, we are being changed inside and out. Thanks be to God.

Here are some random things about where we are that might interest you:

  • Many motorcyclists wear flip-flop sandals. Some gals drive wearing high heels and formal office wear. A few riders wear their coats backwards for better protection. 
  • A lot of people wear sweaters and coats in the tropical heat. Students pile backpacks on top, and a lot of women wear full head scarves in the 90o heat. I'm gasping in a cotton T-shirt. (I usually wear ugly but efficient heat-wicking travel gear since we're outside so much. If I were indoors, I'd wear normal clothes.)
  • Nights are pleasant in Bandung: 67-72oF. The lizards inside the house chirp to each other as soon as dusk, dark, and cooling begins.
  • A motorcycle takes the place of a 4-5 passenger car. Men and women pile 2-3 kids on the bike and take them to school or shopping. Sometimes the whole family is on one cycle. (We've become so accustomed to it that we hardly blink now, but it was a source of wonder at first!)
  • Kids learn to drive early. 12 and 13-year-olds take the car for a spin around the neighborhoods; youngsters 8-10 years old putt by on motorcycles. By the time they'd be getting a license (if anyone did), they're experienced drivers. 
  • Trees and plants shed their leaves, blooms, and seeds constantly. Everything needs trimming, pruning, and shaping. Maids and gardeners sweep, mop, and rake at least a few times a week.
  • Indonesia is green. Wherever a tree sprouts, it's left to grow. In the cities, sidewalks and streets veer around trees. The roots lift pavement and pavers. The trunks block the sidewalk or side of the street. 
  • Just like in North America, you have to be intentional about eating fruits and vegetables. Other than chilies, most food is fried and tan-colored, not green, red, purple, or yellow.
  • The violence of US movies seems shocking from our distance. When we see movies on the train or in electronic shops, know they're from Hollywood when people are getting stabbed, beaten, or assaulted. 
  • Cement has pliability added for flex during earthquakes. It's not the hard-cracked surface we know, though it looks the same.
  • Garbage is collected, sorted, and recycled by hand. Trucks may bring garbage to a central point in a neighborhood. It's often dumped on a sidewalk for sorting, so we breathe deeply before and after we swerve onto the street around it. Men and women go through the bags and take out recyclables to sell them. The man who called out in our neighborhood last weekend was thrilled with his haul of cardboard from our unpacking. He filled his cart and went off as happy as we were to see the last of it. 
  • It may be rainy season, but it hasn't rained in Bandung for weeks. The streets and water drainage ditches stink with garbage and dust. We're all waiting for a cleansing rainfall.
That's it for today. Blessings! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puzzling through the new culture

I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what the Yahoo headlines mean (translated from Indonesian). Can you figure these out?


How about this one?

Or this?

Sometimes I think I get pretty close to understanding but other times I'm plainly off track! Word orders, alternate meanings that get translated strangely, and not knowing what's going on make for funny reading.

Sunday, August 10

I'm home resting when W bursts into the flat. He hasn't been gone more than a half hour. He was on his way to the transport company to arrange our trip to Bandung, phone in pocket. When he stood up up from his seat on the bus, his pocket had been picked and his IPhone was gone. The thief immediately turned off the locator so W can't find it with my phone tracker. He puts it in lost mode, wiping data and programs.

W texts my number to his phone. If someone buys it and tries to use it, they will have a way to contact us to let us purchase it back. As is, it can be hacked for parts, but it can't be used. (Needless to say, I've kept my returned phone in view since its return!)

We relax together for the rest of the day.
Friday: August 1:
One of the things I love most about moving to Indonesia is the eternal summer. The thought of 3 months of summer, squeezed between rain or cool days, has always made me feel desperate as the calendar flips from month to month. No longer. In spite of it being dry season, we hear rain on the roof almost every night. Sometimes a nice ocean breeze sweeps through Jakarta and cools the moisture from our skin. Other times it’s just plain hot. Lovely.

In the morning, we catch a ride to IES (church) to watch a recording session and catch up with the staff. Pastor Dave’s recording all day, but we break for lunch after 2. Mario and Daniela are amazing at finding food. (We haven’t yet figured out the protocol for bringing something for the staff shared meals.)

We’re on our way out of the foyer when Gigi calls us back for apple crisp and ice cream. I am so not hungry (didn’t we just eat?) but W loves fruit pastry. Totally worth the 40 steps up to the offices again! along with the million-layer traditional cake we’re still munching on since VBS two weeks ago. Here everyone walks the stairs, ignoring the elevator. No wonder they’re trimmer than back home.

At 4, we hop Bus Blok M for a jaunt to see what’s what at Glodok. W finds a tech mall that’s mostly closed, so we walk by and he’ll return. By 6:30pm, we’re ready for supper at Sun City, where we had dim sum another day. It’s not far from the bus stop, but we can’t find the entry. We end up being waved to a service elevator and coming out beside a garbage truck on Floor 5. It’s a quick walk through the parking lot to Sun City, a whole different world = Chinese elegance. Above us, three 8’ wide crystal chandeliers hang in gilded ceiling nooks. Over the balconies, 2-3’ crystal lamps droop from rounded gold domes.

We are the second table seated in a restaurant with 70+ tables. Gradually Our server puts the napkins on our laps and hovers at table’s edge. He refills our jasmine tea the moment we’re down ½ inch. He adjusts the table # sign (62). And the minute food is ready, he takes it from the person who brought it from the kitchen. We decide on steamed rice and 2 dishes: first, crisp Szechwan chicken (teeny skewers = toothpicks). Hot hot, deliciousness. And second, a mushroom/port noodle combo. Oh yum to both. We have leftovers for another day.

When I put rice in my plate, the waiter rushes over with a separate rice bowl. Oops. He brings a fresh plate once our plates are near empty. It’s slightly strange to have someone watch us eat. Good thing we’re not self-conscious.

We walk out and around the block since we come down another elevator and don’t know where we landed. A gal on the street points us to the next bus station. W’s happy: he walked through a new neighborhood (dark put populated) and gets to see what’s around a new stop. He notes how safe things feel and how friendly people are. The occasional person glowers at us, but they might do so to their neighbors as well.) A man shakes his finger and acts embarrassed when his little daughter looks up in surprise and exclaims, “Bule!” (foreigner). We smile and say, Yia (yes).

We hop the bus for one more stop: Senaya malls. We’re not in the mood for much, though W finds the tea shop he spotted the first days here. He buys a teapot (IngenuiTea type, that drips tea out the bottom when placed on a cup.)

We’re happy to catch a taxi. The driver has no clue where he’s taking us and makes a U-turn which makes it obvious. He stops so W can hop in the front seat with GoogleMaps to steer us home before 10pm. In the night, I get enews from Seattle when I wake to turn on the Bible reader. As usual, we have things to pray for and things to thank God for.

Saturday:
Our daughter emails and calls with a practical question. She has decisions regarding flat rental. She’s not accustomed to being yelled at or having her stuck wrecked by roomies, so it's time for a change. We pray God’s protection and provision with her. All is well that is under God’s control.


Today’s typically the day we go to service at IES Central.  We leave the flat by 11:30 and are working online by 1. W catches a nap in the office while I write. It feels like another day in paradise - except that there's work to do and prayers to pray and books to read and . . .