Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What next?

In progress!
"It's a bit of a whirlwind, isn't it?" T surveys the basement with a smile. His team has framed and roughed in plumbing. He's pulled wires to power up the new space.

"Sure is." W looks around and shakes his head. "This would have taken me ages." Perhaps months.

We've found that Craigslist is an excellent resource for buyers and sellers. Someone's here now, picking up our DR rug, a pale green 10X12 wool expanse. We tossed in a few tables, a slipper chair, and the sturdy loveseat W built for our first apartment (along with the cushions and covers I made.) Hurrah!

Our little slipper rocking chair. Gone!
It's been good fun seeing the happiness of people who like our stuff :-) God has blessed us with mutual satisfaction, for which we are grateful. There will be plenty to toss before we go.

The kitchen cabinets, closet fixtures, and furniture wait for installation. We'll need a wall-mount sink, a toilet, and a stacking washer/dryer. We're shedding dishes, tables, dressers, a queen 4-poster, chairs, and other "stuff" accumulated over 36 years of marriage and raising 4 kids.

We head to Montana for a family reunion in the morning. What's next? W has finishing touches to do at the cabin (flooring and lighting). We'll put mattresses on the bunks about the time the tribe arrives.

We got two notes from Indonesia coworkers this morning. One wrote: "Please come as soon as you can! We need you already." And from another team member, "We've been praying for this for 15 years!"

We're grateful for the friends staying in the house while we're away. Their schedule and ours synched so that when they're away, we're back. When we leave, they're home here.

After MT, W's teaching year and ITINERATION fills our calendar ... until we leave for Indonesia.

If you've considered supporting us, please pledge or donate here. (The site is under my name for administrative reasons; AG only permits one spouse to be listed.) Here's the link for faith pledges.
It's easy to give by clicking here.

Our cash budget of $30,000 and monthly support of $4000 will go toward transportation to various universities and colleges in SE Asia and the branch we're planting in Bandung. (It's almost half of a regular budget, because we expect partnerships there. Our initial term is 2 years, but we plan to renew.)

We're excited! You with us? We can't go without you. If you'd like to contact us about coming to your church or small group, please let us know! (All comments are vetted: I won't share your info.)

Read more:
*I wait for your salvation, O Lord. Genesis 49:18 NLT

*Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for our salvation and happiness. Your arising has brought us hope and peace. We thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Surprise! and surprise again!

Elizabeth and Alexander English Tea Room
"You can't make up days like today," I tell Mom this evening. "Thanks for praying. We wake up each morning not knowing what surprises to expect."

"I'm not the only one with you. You have a lot of people praying you through this," she replies.

God is providing a fast track for our basement project. This morning, the "two great guys" are back, finishing the framing. Tomorrow they expect to do the plumbing. And a friend is coming to string the electrical wire.

Meanwhile Kirsten and I take her dog to the groomer. While Zoe is madly squealing at being clipped, K treats me to a mother-daughter tea at Elizabeth and Alexander Tea Room. It's a precious time to talk over our children's growing years. W and I did a lot of things well and made a lot of mistakes, just like other parents.

I get to affirm the strong gifting of our daughter, too. She easily re-imagines spaces, creates beauty from chaos, and connects the dots between ideas. She loves seeing possibilities and combinations that may be non-traditional but fit into the world "just right." Both of us get great satisfaction from seeing how God arranges places and relationships for his purposes. (And we love to be part of those connections.)

When we go back for Zoe, we have a chance to pray with the groomer, Yvonne. She has serious health and financial challenges, but our God has all the resources in the world at His disposal. I've missed Yvonne since selling our dogs! One of my friends is taking her dog there - so we have a mutual contact.

W and I head to NW Seattle to look at used IKEA cabinets for the kitchen. As usual, I got a price in my head when I responded to the Craigslist ad last Friday. The seller lowered the price and wrote back: "$450 seems generous and fair." I agreed and got the internal green light to move forward.

When I sketch the shapes of the cabinets, I realize that they'll fit perfectly. The 24" sink cabinet is just the right size for our donated (free) kitchen sink. There's even a glass display cabinet.

At the seller's house, I'm stunned. The cabinets are like new, clean, and ready to install. The feet, end panels, and hardware are included. W and I looked at these in the Singapore IKEA, but they seemed an expensive pipe dream, what I might buy if we were splurging. Yet here they are, waiting for us. Doug shows us his remodeled kitchen, a lovely bright workroom with the same cabinets installed.

We start talking: this Swiss-German gentleman was raised in Ontario and went to Scarborough College, a sister college to the one I attended for 3 years. He finished his education in Springfield at sister schools to the seminary where I did my masters and doctorate. He was ordained by our denomination before moving to the Foursquare group.

Doug smiles and says, "I bet we have a few people in common." He writes down four names of friends and favorite professors. Surprise! We both know them. The list includes Dr. Gary McGee, the professor whose history course determined my dissertation topic and the direction of my studies. What are the chances?

Click here to buy the book.
Moreover, Doug Hagey is a writer, college prof, church planter, and handyman - much like W. His wife Ellie is a nurse who works with impoverished immigrants. They've traveled the world serving people. These kitchen cabinets are the leftovers of God's provision for them.

Doug and W load up our SUV. Doug volunteers his trailer to bring the rest of the cabinets over. We follow him through the neighborhoods to avoid the freeway. On the way home, I read aloud a chapter from his book, In Search of the Church. W and I are learning the same things about emerging communities of Christ's followers. We're blown away in agreement.

Doug helps unload the cabinets in our driveway and speeds away without accepting gas money. "It's my contribution," he insists.

Our next trip takes us back into Seattle. The sweetest boy Freddie and his mom greet us at the door to their complex. She's a dark-haired beauty! The family is selling the counter and table that will complete our kitchen (@$20). We are as delighted to get it as they are to sell it. (W and I looked at that unit in Singapore as well.)

On the way out the door, I risk asking the husband the nationality of his wife.

"Indonesian," he replies.

Of course. Who else would she be? Her sister studied at the top university in Bandung, where we'll be in language school.

He's an anthropologist who teaches at UW. He and his wife met in Indonesia while he was working on his dissertation. They'll return to Jakarta for a few months of research about the time we arrive there next year.

"This is amazing," says the gal. "This is like ... "

"A God-thing?" I ask. She nods.

Kitchen counter and entry shelf
We all agree: "Let's stay in touch and get together in Jakarta!" W and I offer, "Feel free to stay with us if you are in Bandung and we're there at the same time." (We'll definitely need a guest room!)

Our son drives over to help W carry the cabinets into the basement. We tell him and our daughter about the so-called coincidences, one after another.

W make one more trip - to the builders' store for plumbing supplies - while I think about the meetings of this day. You really can't make stuff like this up.

Read more:
*But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reunion, party, and coyotes = a day

My body clock has been off by 5 hours since we got home. I'm wide awake until 3 or 4 a.m. and wake up at 10 or 11 a.m.

The retro loveseat W built for our
first place: on its way out
I trim my hair in the morning. Feels good. It grew untidy while we were away. If we could take scissors in our carry-on luggage, I'd drag a comb and hair scissor with me when we travel.

Meanwhile, the whole house feels like a mess. More than a dozen picture frames are stacked on the front porch, waiting for pickup. Inside the entry, there's a black trash bag full of donations. K and I sorted her things from the basement the other day. A few items wait for CL pick-up, and W and I have flip flops ready for runs to the basement or outside. Every room has items coming and going. I can't wait to get this downsizing business over with!

Speaking of which ... the basement walls are mostly framed. There are two short walls to go. Wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, doors, paint: there's still a lot to do. But with the help of two fellows loaned us by a friend, we're underway. The backyard is littered with things being cast off and re-purposed. Ugh.

Emptied and coming apart:
the greenhouse moves away
Someone hauled away our greenhouse today. It acted as a car-stop years ago, when the old Mercedes' brakes failed and it ran away down the driveway with me. In a few heartbeats, I had to choose whether to have a basketball post or the greenhouse stop me. Kudos to the strength of the greenhouse wall: our runaway monster came to rest with its bumper against the greenhouse and its front tires hanging over the concrete blocks at the end of the driveway. There was no damage to the car. Nothing in the greenhouse broke, either.

Despite good intentions, the greenhouse never regained its footing or level. When it was bumped sideways, a few panels had dislodged. W pulled a tarp over the roof but the popped-out panels let air in so I couldn't use it.

A very happy gardening couple and their friend disassemble it and take it away in 2 pickup trucks.

"We would never have let it go if we weren't leaving, right?" W asks me.

We're shedding so many things. I'm relieved to get rid of extras ... and eyesores like that unusable greenhouse! The income is being tucked away for missions.

Elvin and Ray at the 2012 reunion
We arrive at the annual 1960s NU alumni reunion in Sedro Woolley in early afternoon. Wow! All those lifelong friends, being healed by God's love, worship, and mutual acceptance. Those 60s alums can cook, preach, and sing! It is such fun to hear the old hymns, to listen to familiar arrangements, and watch the groups (formed in college) reunite as 60-70-year olds. They're still good musicians and confident speakers.

"God is faithful even when life gets messy," one gal says to me. NU has left a wonderful stamp on the tribe. We get the chance to visit, to encourage the alums to support current students, and to ask them to given and pray as we go next year. Several offer to help us go - so we are very grateful.

Dave and his young family
On our way back home, we arrive at our friend Jim's 70th party in Everett, as it is wrapping up. I've tracked Jim's son in ministry for years. He's an alum who's making a difference in his community. It was good to meet the young man in person and to be at his house.

Outside our window, a pack of coyotes is yowling in the forest. By the sound of it, they've captured a neighborhood pet. The yips and yelps subside and the night is quiet again. I expect a poster with a picture on the telephone pole in the morning: "Missing Fifi. Call 206-222-2222." Sigh.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A little birthday party, money, a Tiffany bracelet ... and a bit of freaking out

It's weird to see the 100-foot firs, the traffic moving between the lines, and the big yards and houses after we land uneventfully in Seattle. The 17 hours of travel take us over 15 time zones. I sleep 4 hours on the second flight.

Day and night are flipped (12 hours), and the clock goes back 3 more hours. So instead of 11:30pm when we land (Singapore time), it's 8:30 on Monday morning. Our daughter-in-love Rebekah picks us up from the airport and drives us home. (Thanks a million for that cheerful smile on arrival!)

Our "short nap" around noon lasts 4 hours. The contents of our suitcases lie strewn in heaps in our bedroom. Usually, we tackle the unpacking before everything else. But we may be gone for a few days this week, so what should we take? When the week's plans fall through, the half-done chore lingers.

For supper, we visit the kids and Kinsey, our granddaughter, who turned two Saturday. (The hazards of ministry: we were halfway around the world instead of being at her party.) She's surprised to see us but happy at her presents, a walking bike, some hair clips, and the most fun of all - squeaky Miss Kitty shoes. With every step, she "peep"s at us.

Once K figures out where the noise is coming from, she runs across the room, then stops and stamps her heels. "Peep, peep, peep!"

On this trip, we couldn't find squeaky shoes in any shops. We'd first heard them on little kid feet five years ago, but they're an old and forgotten trend. Sunday, our last evening in Singapore, a little boy runs past me in the food court, squeaking happily.

I chase after his mother: "Excuse me, where did you find his shoes?" She points me vaguely in the direction of the vendor: "Store here. Straight, then right," and off they go. When W returns from a haircut, I tell him, "We found those peeping shoes!"

We go round and round Tampines Market Center until we find a little shoe store at the back. The man points us to several squeaky shoes. Of course, the one in K's size is the most expensive. But she's our granddaughter. What can I say? [Once we're back in Seattle, I find a few online vendors. Trust me, these are a riot, though they look innocent enough!]

Sleeping beauty
Kinsey cries at bedtime. I pick her up. "Zeit zu schlafen!" I tell her (time to sleep). She settles immediate at the "hi-a hi-a" every German mother knows, accompanied by pats on the back. I put her on her pillow, stroke her eyes, nose, cheeks, and ears in our routine, and she falls asleep within a few mintues. Must be Grandma magic. It sure didn't work for my kids.

We fall asleep ourselves under a warm comforter, in a quiet room, at a decent hour and don't wake until 4am. Not bad! The silence is amazing: there are no taxis and motorcycles whizzing by our windows. There's no air-con buzzing and chasing air over our bed and no streetlights shining in the windows ... this is a different quality of sleep.

Tiffany blue heart bracelet: mine
never comes off
Tuesday morning, I meet my accountability group. One woman is having cancer surgery at the end of the month. We have a special treat for her: a Tiffany bracelet like the one they presented to me for completing my doctorate. It's a reminder of our prayers and love for her.

One gal leaves early to catch a flight to visit her children. The other has just spent three weeks hosting her daughter and grandkids. Our prayer requests are many and varied.

One of my requests is for an opportunity beyond W and my comfort zones. We have to raise our support this fall. We'll be in churches and meeting people to share our mission.

"Wait! You want us to start supporting you now?" ask the WPPRs. They're shocked. "We thought we'd help when you leave next year. We've never supported people at home. W is earning a salary. Why should we start now?"

I explain how the organization works: we're not "double-dipping" with a salary from NU and mission money. We have to gather resources before we can apply for our visas. We need $30,000 in the bank and $4000 pledged per month ASAP. Our budget includes travel to teach around Asia, housing, insurance, food, and ministry expenses. We can't go before our account is topped. Of course we'll be contributing to the cash amount also, but we'll live off the monthly support once we're in Asia.

Here's the link to support us now and later: in effect, we're asking you to "Come with us!" We need your help immediately, in getting ready for the future.

Friends are amazing!
In the evening, we eat supper with dear friends. There's nothing as sweet as talking about God and his ways, is there? Before we part, the fellow offers to help build out our space so we can vacate our house. He's experienced at building, quick on his feet, and efficient at getting the job done.

We accept with wonder and appreciation! This saves W weeks of work and frustration. It moves our timeline ahead by at least a month and gives us more time for itineration. Thanks be to God - and thank you, T.

Once home, we take a measuring tape and pencil into the raw space and mark out where walls and fixtures will go. We are both relieved beyond words.

Raw potential: BEFORE
(I'll post the after later.)
I promised to be honest with readers about the process of going next year. The stress of the impending build-out has been incredible. Our kids asked Monday if they can move into our house at the end of August - their rent is accelerating as their lease runs out. "We'll just be guests. We won't be in your way."

I am an event planner. I can imagine days unfolding. It's not going to be 3 guests, detachedly living in a side room while W and I cook, pack, eat, sleep, work, and itinerate!

I'm as bold and as courageous as I can be, while still being polite. I flat-out tell them and W that I'm not leaving here until the build-out for our new space is complete. The young family can stay in our guest rooms, but they can't move in their own things while W and I are packing up the house. They'll have to share our dishes, kitchen, bathrooms, etc. as the house is emptied. OOOOh, that will be messy.

Can you imagine a kitchen,
dining area, and bath here? I can.
Why won't I move into a construction zone? I've done it twice and almost gone crazy. We moved into this house 20 years ago, before it was finished. A few things are still unfinished. We moved into our roughed-in cabin 13 years ago. Living in construction chaos bothered me so much that I quit going up there for a few years. W all-but-finished it in June this year. Now, after this summer, we won't be around to enjoy it.

I'm adamant. "I'm not doing that again. If everyone understands that I can't move into an almost-finished space this time around, you kids can move in with us. Just don't pressure me to leave before Dad's finished!"

W and the kids look shocked at my determination and my ultimatum. Yeah, I am surprised, too.

However, my closest friends and my life coach have insisted that I clarify this survival item ahead of time. Everyone around me knows how visual I am. It's incredibly stressful for me to live in unfinished spaces. I can hardly function. I wander around in a distracted and distressed fog. It's not like W isn't busy without building! His pace of life is hectic and he's at the end of his energy by the time we move. I understand that. W and I know that the pace of building will slow to a crawl once the crisis of moving is over.

Kirsten and little Zoe,
her toy poodle
But I can't do that to myself this time ... not while we're remapping the future, selling off 20 years of accumulations, and packing up ... with a 2-year-old and grown kids underfoot.

Our friend's offer is a godsend.

Our daughter K and her doggie arrive from Texas late in the evening. Once again, Rebekah makes the trek from the airport up to our place.

W and I fall asleep about 1 a.m. In the morning, he's off on an all-day errand with a friend. K and I have a leisurely breakfast and I take pictures of the gleaming white floor, where W and I will soon place our furniture.

Lord have mercy! This process of life-change is as complicated as I suspected.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Singapore Day 30: All pain and some gain

Zentangle #4: Where are we?
OUCH! That was the most painful massage I've ever had. In the evening, we stop in at a semi-famous Javanese traditional massage, and the hour of torture begins. If I'd been a screamer or even a whimper-er, they would have heard me on the sidewalk. I'm not sure it helped do much but strip my veins: I'm sore rather than relaxed when the tiny but strong gal is done.

One big mangrove tree!
W and I enjoy the morning service at VFC. The pastor talks about the four animals that encourage us to be practical in our walk with God: the ant, the rock badger, the locust, and the lizard. (Students may have used some of the tips from W's class to run the accompanying videos.)

I make ramen for lunch before we catch our favorite bus #12 to East Coast Road (actually the south coast). W and I walk a mile or so to the beach from the bus stop. It is 95o, humid, and brutally hot at 3pm. (By 7, it's cooled to 90o.)

The sandy beach has "No Swimming" signs posted, but campers have erected little tents for sleepovers. Families and friends using the barbecue pits make the most of the stunning ocean view. Off-shore, dozens of ships swing at anchor. We can see freighters, container ships, smaller vessels, and everything between, nose pointed into the wind. W drops me off for the massage and strolls up the street and back.

Ships on the horizon
I'm sore after that massage torture. We ride #12 back to Tampines Street and eat. Can you believe we have hot rice and chicken (W) and tea soup (me)? We eat warm food for most meals; so does everyone else. The fans overhead move the air around so everything cools quickly, including us.

CK and Mimi bring their 2-year-old twins over from 8-9pm. We pull the big newprint block out of a suitcase (Yay, someone can use it!) and hand over the two sets of markers I used for class. The kids keep busy: they're drawing, jumping, looking around. Angel and Ansel are beautiful children, an answer to prayer and a long wait. It's easy to see that they have good parents: they're friendly, lively, and creative. What fun!

W coming back from taking pictures
on a breakwater
We finish packing at 10 and fall into bed for a few hours. We'll be leaving here at 2:30a.m. for our 5a.m. flight to Tokyo and then Seattle. The plan is to arrive Monday morning - after 17 hours of travel- a few hours later than when we leave Singapore. Time zones. Jet lag. It's all coming our way.

Read more:
*They shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid. Ezekiel 34:28 NLT

*No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NIV

*Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:13 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Like a comforting mother, hold me this day, Lord, with the tender touch that kisses our wounds and rubs our shoulder and keeps us safe when we fall or even fail. Thank you Lord. Amen.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Singapore Day 29: Wrapping up the month

Zentangle #3: Cry for the city
W goes off to teach his last session. I start to pack and tidy up the bedroom.

While I relax, I draw my third Zentangle. We picked up four black gel pens @ S$1.50 ($1.20 US) last night after supper. Little India is full of bargains and the pens are good fun.

W lets his class out two hours early. He starts to gather the tech gear into his hard-shell suitcase for protection and security. The month of teaching has flown by for both of us.

We head for IKEA. It might not sound like a foreign destination, but every shop has local tweaks. In advance of setting up a home in Bandung, we've been scouting out furnishings and prices. IKEA lands in Jakarta next year. We trust their dishes to be lead-free, their plastics non-toxic, and their furniture classic. I'm hungry, so we eat in the cafeteria. I should have skipped the pasta with its watery tomato sauce and meatballs. We love Asian food: it's a shame to miss even a meal.
Look-alike to the lady nearby

At the next table sits the most beautiful Indian woman I've seen in Singapore. She could be a model, with her perfectly painted eyebrows and lips, and a stunning black flip. Before we leave, I say hi and tell her husband he's a lucky man. Their preteen son smiles at his pretty mom. Singaporeans tend to have few children: most of the island's population growth comes from immigrants and the bigger families of Muslims.

The market bustles with shoppers
We hop the shuttle bus to the center of Tampines, a series of three malls and a crowded Ramadan market. Two weeks ago, thin and nimble men bolted and clambered on the metal trellises. They stretched canvas over the frame to assemble a huge covered space. Kirsten and I were in awe: they hung 20' above the ground without safety harnesses. Now, the booths inside seem to be selling phone covers, fake purses, and food.

Japanese prawn and
chicken croquettes
Neither of us is hungry. But we pick up a "Satay burger" (mutton, peanut sauce, and lettuce on a bun) and some Japanese croquettes. The vendors pour dough into round, cast iron trays, letting the dough firm up before flipping them over with long skewers.

We walk a mile or so to Tampines Shopping Street to see if we can find a massage place. There are two reflexology shops. Indonesians charged $11 for an hour. Here it's $35-50. Too much. We get a bubble tea instead.

Supper last night in Little India
with Augustine and Sumathi
It takes us less than a half hour to walk home but it's very humid and hot (in the 90s. As usual, a surprising number of people are exercising: shooting hoops on the basketball courts atop parking garages, cyclists speeding by, and lots of people out walking.

We split the mutton burger and each try a croquette. (Shall we have leftovers for lunch tomorrow after church?)

One day left. Unbelievable! God has faithfully helped us to do good work. Today W brought back a card from a student who took all three of our classes. Students with similar enthusiasm and progress make our time - and the long flights - feel worthwhile.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Singapore Day 28: Only 2 more days ... and zentangles

I love blogging. And I like being part of the "aha!" moments when students set up their own blogs.

Zentangle #1: Going Places.
(one pen-stroke at a time)
This morning, W asks me to help his tech class set up new blogs. Before long, they're up and running. I can't wait to see what they've come up with. Each blog - whether poetry, prose, photography, or art - is unique and reflects the student's personality and interests.

K left for home in the early hours of yesterday. W took her to the airport for a 5am flight. The restlessness of waiting for the 2am alarm kept us all awake. None of us got more than a few hours of sleep.

En route, K sends a reassuring update; her flights have been uneventful. When she arrives late at MN airport, she's worried about missing her connection home. (She'll have to wait 7 hours for the next flight.) However, at the gate, an attendant comes for her, grabs her bags off the conveyer, whisks her through customs and immigration in the diplomat's line, and gets her to the last leg of her journey on time. What a relief!

These feet are made for walking:
the flower painted on my toenail
has stayed on, all these miles
W taught the full day yesterday before we walked to our old neighborhood. Meanwhile, I graded papers and did some art. I have discovered Zentangles, an artistic way of adding line to line that is perfect during meditation and prayer. It takes me an hour or so to complete a 4" square, letting my pen wander over the paper. I find it soothing and the results pretty as they emerge.

In our old neighborhood, the shops on Tampines Market Street are booming. The food is excellent: we walk around the entire complex and explore.

We neither want nor need anything, but it's amazing how much "stuff" is on every shelf. I'm fascinated by housewares (how other people set up their homes). W compares prices on electronics to see what he should bring from home next year or would be better off purchasing here.

Coffee makers include options for
Milo, Teh Tarik, and cappuccino
Today we have an hour or two at home after class before hopping the buses for an hour-long ride into town. We share supper in Little India with Augustine and Sumathi, friends from Cambridge days.

"It seems like we're following you around the world!" we exclaim. They landed in Singapore eight or nine years ago, and have been teaching in Indonesia for a year.

"Now we'll have a place to stay in Bandung. And I'll have a friend to visit," Sumathi exclaims. We've stayed in touch all these years, since hitting it off in England. Our youngest, Jono, who came along to the UK, and their kids (Adarsh and Amitha) became friends during our stay. All are now adults and on their own.

Augustine specializes in Old Testament studies at a university. "I mentioned that I know someone who teaches New Testament," he smiles at W. My TESOL studies may also come in handy: their post-grad (doctoral) students need help with English.

Zentangle #2: The Winding Road
Augustine and Sumathi know a young husband and wife who will be moving to Bandung. They'll connect us. I pass my business card to Sumathi. (As usual, I should have paid attention to the Voice: it said, "Take two." Sigh.) Sumathi promises to pass the card to the couple so we can get in touch. Their interests include working with children.

W and I get home at 10pm, happy with another piece of the puzzle unexpectedly falling into place. Wow. We'll definitely need a guest room or two while we're in language school. And these dear friends will be most welcome visitors!

Read more:
*But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me  and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NLT

*The Lord said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city?” Jonah 4:10-11 NASB

*Jesus said, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Dear God, please let Jesus call on us so you may forgive us of our sins. In your name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Singapore Day 26: A list of Other-ness (or "This place is not like home!")

Everyone who travels experiences moments when they realize, "This is not like what we're used to!" I thought you'd enjoy a short list of some things that are different between Singapore (or Indonesia) and Seattle.

Jakarta traffic

  • Human cargo: 
    • To save space on the roads, work teams of foreigners sit on the bed of pickup trucks. Rails on the sides and a canopy suffice for moving people efficiently, protected from the weather. (In the US, animal rights activists sometimes protest dogs riding in the open back of a truck.) A taxi driver explains that employers move huge numbers of people this way: having them crowd into buses in their workclothes would be inefficient and dirty.
    • About 270,000 men from China, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, India, and Bangladesh provide the bulk of a work force for landscaping and construction, while female Filipinos and Indonesians help with housework and nanny-ing. Most support their families at home with wages from Singapore.
    • In Indonesian cities, middle and upper class households hire drivers and maids. City commutes can be hair-raising if you're not used to lane changes, cars zipping by on the shoulder, or motorcycles squeezing between the lanes. People walk through any space provided (at their own risk).
    • Locals who have been down-sized sometimes join the taxi workforce. Singapore's taxi drivers are AMAZING: they find the address quickly, are fountains of info on food, shopping, and local sites, and fees are regulated. (Here's a funny video about taxi drivers: click here, and get a feel for the language, too.)
Electrical socket and plug

  • Electrical plugs: 
    • voltage is 220, not 110 (so you'll fry Ami electronics that aren't wired for dual voltage). 
    • The plugs themselves are varied, but mostly British style - big and clunky. 
    • You have to turn on the out at the wall and on an extension cord before power flows.

  •  Kitchens: 
    • Many Singapore kitchens have no oven and some have no stove. Why would you cook and bake when there are hawkers stalls within walking distance?
    • Every neighborhood has food courts with individual vendors in hawker stalls. Eating outside (on the open ground floor of a building) is cheaper than eating inside (enclosed air-conditioned space).
    • Most parents work late. Children eat with friends at the food courts. Many kids become picky eaters: from the time they're little, they can choose whatever they like from a variety of cooks. A family eating together will have many different kinds of food from various food stalls.
    • Restaurants that serve supper are open until 10 or later. Friends or family often hang out together after work. Little kids run around their parents' table area with no fear of danger or getting lost.
Change of style: you may have to
squat not sit

  • Toilet stuff: 
    • The bathroom is called a toilet here, as in "Where's the toilet, please?" It's called a WC (short for "water closet") in Indonesia. 
    • In many places, you'll use an old-style toilet, a hole in the floor.
    • In most flats, tap water runs only cold (that is, a tropical lukewarm). We flip a switch to turn on point-of-use heaters for showers. (Hardly anyone has a tub.)
    • Some Singapore toilets and every one we saw in Indo come with a bidet: manual (a water hose running from the wall beside the toilet) or automated (a water jet sprays from inside the toilet rim).
    • In areas of limited sewer capacity (like Indonesian cities), the garbage bin in the stall is for toilet paper. Do not flush it! Before you say, "Eyew!" keep in mind that it's the same in Israel and other limited-water/sewer areas.
Shopping in Chinatown
  • Getting around:
    • Walking? Watch your step. You need to know what's underfoot, both in style and stuff.
    • The curbs and sidewalks are smooth and uniform in newer neighborhoods. In others (like Little India), every shop has paved or tiled its own frontage. Steps up and down, level or slanted walks, and variations in width are just a few of the hazards. In Indonesia, there seems to be no regulation. When pavement is dug up for repairs, it might be replaced by uneven blocks (18"X32" near our hotel) or repaved in any fashion. The sidewalk can serve as a motorcycle passageway if roads are too congested, or may disappear entirely in some places.
    • Instead of following the curving roads on sidewalks, most housing is built with an open ground floor. You can take shortcuts through courtyards and under buildings.
    • Buses and taxis are commonplace. The SMRT (trains and buses) that run through Singapore are efficient, routes are easy to figure out, and the cost is reasonable. If it takes an hour and a half to get from city center to our eastern side of the island, there's a lot to see from the bus window. Long lines wait to get on the trains during rush hour. People are polite, even while queuing and jockeying for position. However, sometimes Chinese or Indian grandmas elbow their way past us without qualms.
Wave down a taxi when
the green roof sign is lit
  • Service:
    • Whether it's food or shopping, Singapore takes its experiences seriously. The people go out of their way to give great service. Check out this "Goldfish Birthday" video. Made me laugh.
    • Singaporeans are hard workers. Competition for education means tutors and after-hours studying. Then the workplace demands a lot of overtime.
    • Singapore is CLEAN. If there's litter, it disappears in a hurry: mostly foreign workers sweep and wash public spaces. Garbage is efficiently disposed of. From shop windows to bathrooms, surfaces are wiped down and sparkling. Back alleys and ethnic neighborhoods aren't always as tidy or hygienic.
    • The Singaporean government uses ad campaigns, fines, and other incentives to enlist locals' help in wiping out mosquitoes. Standing water is forbidden and inhabitants are strongly cautioned against providing breeding ground for bugs that carry disease and fevers.
How we love this part of the world!

Read more:
*O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me. Psalm 71:17-18  NLT

Monday, July 15, 2013

Singapore Day 24-ish: Falling in love with Bandung

A traditional pony cart in Bandung,
full of kids
[Enjoy the pictures, ok?] "We just fell in love with a city," I post on FB Saturday, after a trip to Bandung. It's our first time to the city where we'd like to live and learn Bahasa Indonesia next year.

The language school in Bandung
We fly into Jakarta Thursday night. The Bramonos, our friends and the parents of two wonderful students who stayed with us a few years ago, meet us at the airport, dropping us at the All Seasons hotel. We're close to the International English Service (IES, where we will attend Sunday.) The hotel is a relaxing boutique hotel, full of modern surfaces, glass, lime greens, and browns. The complimentary breakfasts includes Indonesian as well as Western choices. We alternate between guava and orange juice, nasi goreng, rice porridge, and waffles. The view from the restaurant deck is spectacular, overlooking the city of trees, skyscrapers, and old neighborhoods.

Friday, W and I explore the area on foot, stopping at the IES office to say hi to Pastor Dave Kenney, an alum of NU. Turns out Dave graduated from our alma mater the year before we did, so we know a lot of the same people. (I got to know him when I was Alumni Director a few years ago.)

Window display of Pasta de Waraku
Afterwards, we pop into the Grand Indonesian Mall, a complex of big and small shops. We eat at a shop advertising "Japanese Pasta," where my supper of prawn and pesto spaghetti is fantastic! For my sore feet and tight neck, I splurge on an hour-long foot and back rub at the mall's massage shop @$11. Well worth it.

Meanwhile W is cruising the mall to find a bandage to ward off a blister (my sandal was rubbing). By the time I'm done and relaxed, he's done and exhausted. We head back to the hotel without shopping. I do find a Grade 6 Indonesian workbook. This write-in-text of math/science/language/grammar/social studies should be perfect for acquiring some commonly used vocabulary. W doesn't have the energy to cruise the mall for Indonesian videos as I'd hoped. But our friends send us links to some programs for listening to the language.

Bandung traffic
Saturday morning, Bramonos and Kristi (their oldest daughter) pick us up to head for Bandung. We've been drawn to the city since we first considered moving to Indonesia. Dave has set up a meeting with a couple who used to live in Jakarta and attend IES. An IES branch in Bandung would be a great asset for speakers of English, whether Christian or not. We're exploring what that might look like.

It's Ramadan, the annual month of fasting for Muslims. They eat a very early breakfast (before sun-up) and celebrate a late supper (after sundown). The driver doesn't eat during the day, but he drives the two hours to Bandung. Sometimes the ride takes 4 hours, say our hosts, depending on traffic. With everyone feasting and meeting families, traffic this weekend is amazingly light (moving, not congested as usual).

Alwin and Maria join the fun!
We meet up with a delightful couple, Alwin and Maria, friends of IES who moved back to Bandung to be with their families. They're great company and full of good ideas about living in Bandung. We encourage them to start a Life Group, like the one they miss since their relocation. After a cooling drink at Chatime (Ciwalk Mall), they scoot off to other obligations.

We browse a few of the outlet stores for which Bandung is famous. W buys a shirt; I find a blouse for myself and a handbag for Kirsten. For supper, we're headed to the Peak, a restaurant Bramonos enjoyed on their last trip. We follow a winding lane up the side of the mountain. Barely wide enough for two vehicles and in the pouring rain, we miss the unmarked turnoff.

Instead, we pull into the driveway of a place that looks like a modern retreat center. Indra goes in to get directions and comes back to wave us inside. "The place requires a reservation, but we have a table," he says. "Let's eat here."

We have arrived -- by happy "accident" -- at Lewangwangi, an art gallery and restaurant. We sit overlooking the city, lights sparkling below. Fireworks climb the sky from the houses on opposite hillsides, celebrating the end of the day's Ramadan fast.

The gallery-restaurant of Lawangwangi
The owner, of Lewangwangi, Dr. Andonowati, sits and chats with us. She tells us that she moved home after 10 years at McGill University in Montreal (yeah Canada!). She's a math professor at a local university in Bandung. Over the years, she has purchased student art at her institution. Her collection is varied and interesting. It's well worth a visit, to give a feel for the artistic side of the city.

It's a long drive back down the mountain and back to Jakarta. By the time we get home, it's 11:30pm. (Bramonos live another hour further away!)

Chinese food around a big table
The next morning W and I sleep in. We intend to attend both morning sessions at IES, but miss the first. We visit the 11 o'clock meeting. We enjoy the music and speaking. The group says goodbye to a family who is returning to South Africa. How touching to see the care for its members!

Over lunch, we visit with Pastor Dave, Gigi, their daughter, and the IES worship leader. The South African family, who join the feast, are great fun. Their daughter is moving to the USA to attend a community college.

"Where?" we ask. Wow - she'll be studying within a few miles of our home and church in Kenmore! It's a God-arrangement: we invite her to join us for Sunday lunches once she arrives. As we wrap up, the guys exchange jokes and stories that make everyone laugh.

Bakezin, alias 'Temptation Central,' with our friends
For dessert, the Bramonos pick us up to take us to the Bakezin, a dessert chain of culinary temptation. We get to see "our girls" Kristi and Daniela. They are happily married to nice guys who pursued them for years to win their hands. (Kristi is expecting a baby, whom we can't wait to meet!) We're so full we can't eat a thing, but our tea is good. We give and get hugs all around before we part.

Then Indra and Yayu are off to a traditional service, where he is speaking. Meanwhile, W and I pack up our things in the hotel for checkout at 7pm. Bramonos return to drive us to the airport. It's hard to say goodbye. Knowing we'll be back in a year makes it easier.

A teen sprayed silver,
soliciting funds for
a Bandung orphanage
It's one thing to hear about the hospitality and personal kindness of Indonesians. It's quite another to experience such generosity and friendship. This family, among all their obligations and long commutes, has helped us enjoy exploring Jakarta and Bandung in ways we never imagined. We are so grateful!

On the flight home, W and I talk about what stands out to us. What a weekend! W sleeps through most of the flight, while I read.

We arrive at Changi Airport at 12:30am, whisk through the efficient customs and immigration process, climb into a taxi, and are sped to our apartment in record time (S$13 instead of the usual S$20). We unpack before falling into bed exhausted.

Lucky W: he teaches at 8:30-3:30 Monday to Saturday. My obligation is grading papers and continuing interactions with students from the past two weeks. We're looking forward to a few more days with our daughter, Kirsten, who heads home later this week.