Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bus rides and bedsheets

Tuesday, July 29:
We took the Transjakarta bus to Glodok Monday (separate bus lane is like a carpool lane, with bus stations in the middle of the street, separating traffic directions). The busses have women-only parts of the car. Often a female attendant will shoo the men to the back. Young boys can stay with their mothers, but when they reach puberty, guys sit in the back. The other job of the attendant is to see that pregnant women, mothers with young kids, and seniors sit down. She'll move a young gal out of her seat as needed. Children often take up seats beside their moms, though. It must not be considered polite to give an adult the seat.

A big sign on a seemingly deserted building,
except for a sizable grocery store
in the basement.
We see our first accident Monday; a bus has rear-ended a car. We pray for travelers headed to Eid. They stand on the side of the freeway, talking on their cellphones. Women tuck children around them and keep them out of the moving lanes.

A ramen-lover's dream aisle at Giant Express
W and I walk about 2 miles to Giant Express for groceries. We eat at a restaurant along the way - chicken noodle soup for me; W orders fried chicken and also gets smoked quail eggs, rice, skewered liver and mushrooms. He forgets that side dishes are charged for if eaten and cost nothing if they're still on the table when we're done. With ice tea, our meal is about $4.

Good food: $2 chicken dinner
It's not a good idea for me to shop when I'm full. I can't think of a thing I want to eat. I'm amazed by the aisle of "slimming teas." (If it were true, we'd all be emaciated.) W loads up on snacks. Laden with groceries, we catch a taxi home for $2.

We call Mom K to say hi for her wedding anniversary. We especially remember W's dad on this day each year.

We walk to the Transjakarta busline, starting around noon (1 hour walk). We've learned to tack 60-100% onto the time estimates of GoogleEarth. I'm trying new flip-flops which blister my feet. In the heat, the bandages keep lifting from my skin. We stop at a little Pharma Generic (generic pharmacy) in the neighborhood. Two young gals sit outside, chatting to each other and texting. They rush into the shop as we approach and sell us two kinds of medical tape: 75c and 35c. Feet fixed. Off we go.

We turn the corner on our walk: across from houses, a carnival sits at
the edge of a garbage dump, complete with smoldering fires,
grazing goats, and a muddy drainage canal.
On the bus, an old lady insists I take her seat. Maybe Indonesians can't tell our age, just as we're not sure how old they are. I'm glad though. She gets off the next stop but the bus ricochets off railway tracks and potholes as we criss-cross the city. W notes, "It has no shocks." In one area, it bucks up and down like a bronco. People smile at our astonishment as they are tossed around, hands locked on the metal poles and hand grips.

We're the only Caucasians on the 5 bus lines we take. There's not a brown head among us passengers, never mind blonds. We take lines #8, 1, and 12 going to the mall, waiting for the last bus connection for over an hour. On the #12, we start talking with 3 siblings who speak good English. The oldest, Eric, is in university in Jogja. He mentions that they are Christians, and he's met our coworker Jamie Kemp (Chi Alpha) at his university. His face lights up: Jamie has a great reputation among the students, he tells us.

We're at the mall by 2:45, after almost 3 hours of travel. There's a salon inside the door and my nails are splitting. I need a manicure and polish. The gal speaks a bit more English than I do Indonesian, so in my notebook, I draw a nail and a dotted line that's the shape I want cut. She has a used emory board and clippers that don't look sterilized. I pray for safety. She tells me she's a Christian and has a baby but no husband. She lives with her mom and they're from Medan. An hour later, I have a soft polish on my nails. (It partly wipes off two nails during our mall visit.) \

W thinks the bed in the principle suite of Bandung is one size; I'm sure it's a size smaller. So we buy 2 bigger sets of the white bedsheets. I can tuck in the extra 20cm on one side. Each bedset comes with 5 pieces: 2 pillowcases, 2 bolsters, and a fitted sheet. Buying is a hilarious process: four young employees try to figure out if "100% Sateen Jacquard" means the fabric is cotton. (Feels like the other cotton set.) I take my chances.

You can't buy flat sheets here, according to a previous heads-up from women living here. I brought 3 or 4 flat sheets from home to sew our duvet covers once we're settled in. (Duvet covers here are $50-$200 in good cotton.)

Supper is donar kababs for me; a lamb burger for W. His burger looks normal but the "bun" is 2 pieces of deep-fried flatbread.

It's 8pm by the time we walk back to the bus. I see my first rat on our walk, 9" of glossy black with a long pink tail. W teases that it had pink bows in its ears. Well, it was pretty. (But not that pretty.)

We can't figure out what bus to take. After reading the signs and checking W's map, we sit in an empty bus for 10 minutes, then almost hop aboard a bus that stops nearby. The driver and passengers wave us off. "Go there," they say, pointing to the terminal where we arrived for the mall. It's confusing: we'll be leaving in the same direction in which we came.

"This is correct, but Bus #10 takes 1 hour waiting," says a young couple passing their baby from him to her and back while standing in the terminal. They're on their way home home from Eid celebrations and family time. Apparently this route - whose bus took 1 hour to show up on the way here - is notorious for having hardly any busses. With so many people riding, it's a marvel of un-planning. We wait. And chat with the  couple.

I'm really tired, so W promises to choose another method of transport if the bus doesn't come in 10 minutes. We get distracted by our IPhones and have been waiting 15 minutes when the bus stops at our terminal. On the bus music mix, a soloist sings a cover of Adele's "We could have had it all". W and I almost lose it, remembering how my brother told us at Christmas (in Switzerland) that it was the favorite solo choice of girls in the reform school where he teaches. "There's a fiiiyer, burning in my heart..." The song goes on and on.

En route, Livia sends a happy message via WhatsApp (a free texting system). The realtor will send us a lease contract if we are serious about the house. We text back: YES, we're serious. Please send it! But would someone in the IES office be willing to read the two-year contract and help us transfer the down payment? She texts, "Sure" and sends initial directions.

So it looks like we'll live in our first choice, a home where we can host guests and perhaps start small groups. It's within a mile's walk of the language school. That's no small deal; on our last visit, it took over an hour to drive the few miles from downtown to our hotel in that neighborhood.

A comfy chair or 2 for the living room?
At our homeward-bound Jakarta transfer, it's only a 10 minute wait for the Blok M bus. A 23c ticket lets us ride the busses from one end of Jakarta to the other. If we transfer without leaving the stations, we could ride all day. Wow.

At Block M, the station is closing. It's 10pm, dark, and our feet are tired. W's carrying the linens. (Did I mention that we also bought 4 towels and 4 hand towels, besides the sheet sets?) Another family - 3 cute kids and their parents - point us to the exit through deserted corridors. We catch a taxi and are in our door by 10:35pm. Shower. Computer. Phone calls. Sleep by 1am.

I can't believe how time is flying. When we arrived, we didn't know what the days would hold. We had no job in Jakarta. We're in Jakarta until we sign our visas on August 3 (Tuesday). Meanwhile, we've been at VBS, enjoyed 2 churches, and begun to learn the language. When language runs out, I draw in my dot notebook (dots instead of lines; thanks Kim) to communicate.

After a breakfast of muesli and relaxing morning, we walk - only 45 minutes - to the mall (PIM) and have lunch there. Strangely to us, at restaurants, whenever a plate of food is done, the server brings it over. We've not once had everyone eating at the same time.

Our task is to purchase Korean futons that will be guest mattresses, 2 pillows, and washcloths to match yesterday's towels. W chooses a wet-dry vacuum cleaner at the ACE hardware and then we schlep everything to a taxi. We're home by 4:30pm.

Semi-automatic washing machine: put clothes and soap in
left. Turn faucet to "wash" and turn the dial to desired wash minutes.
*Unhook hose at side to drain. Turn faucet on again to fill tub to rinse.
Put on second cycle (rinse). Drain.*
[OR skip *to *, take out first load, rinse/spin, and add second load
to wash water on left. In that case, start with a white load and
move to darker, of course.] Take the clean clothes out, put them in the
right side spin tub, flip faucet on "spin", rinsing by letting clean water
run a few seconds over the spinning clothes. Turn off faucet.
Repeat turn on and off faucet on spin cycle, repeat, drain.
Lift the spun clothes out and hang to dry. Easy, eh?
Laundry time: I wash, spin out, and hang 5 loads of clothing and new bedding. In a few hours, the blouses and shirts are dry. The sheets and towels are still a bit damp. W zips through the house with the new vacuum, while I cook spaghetti, using up groceries bought the first week. We eat at 8, make some calls, write some emails, and W's asleep by 10. I'm still fiddling with the blog at midnight.

Is this spiritual work? We have time to think and pray for those around us. We lost a great friend early this morning: Pastor Erwin Rohde slipped into eternity. We last saw him in June, on our way home from our MT cabin. His home-going reminded us today that we are called to offer others hope and a relationship with God. And we're praying for his family.

Read more:
*In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying. Psalm 77:2 ESV

*Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

*Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 ESV

*You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14,16 ESV

*But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Holy Comforter, you know our hearts and you know our needs. We invite you into our hearts and into our lives again today. Walk with us. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eid comes and goes

Sunday, July 27:
Mario is preaching in NE Jakarta. We enjoy the morning service, held in a theater. We have a good lunch together in the mall and visit ACE Hardware and a few furnishing stores. We're gathering information on supplies for next month's move to Bandung, and also learning about culture. We look at the shop displays for what people are buying. Here's what was on sale in the girls' section:

Traffic is fierce: 8 million people are deserting Jakarta for their villages and family reunions. Drivers have gone home to their family celebrations, so a lot of tentative car owners are driving: "annual drivers" as they're known here. It's raining in various suburbs, which doesn't help. After a brief visit to a church friend's place, Mario and Daniella take us all the way through the city and home.

On the way, we stop at Fat Straw for bubble tea. Oh yum. Another favorite spot acquired. Good thing we won't be living in Jakarta: there's way too much food here. Though we hear that Bandung is even better... (or worse?)

We know we're acclimating because of little things: I actually flip the light switch correctly to turn off a room light. When the switch is closest to the wall at the top, it's off. So you press the bottom to turn on the light. (It's opposite to what we're used to, turning lights on by flipping a switch up.)

Guess: is it on or off? (Hint: opposite to N. America)
W makes rice porridge for breakfast in the new cooker. Recipe: 8c water to 1c rice, cooked 1 hour. I stir in a broth cube and we drop hot sauce and Bango (thick soy) on top in our bowls. As usual I can't finish. We're losing weight by eating well and getting good exercise.

Our plans for lunch fall through, so we have a relaxing morning. That is, it fills up with doing laundry, cleaning the flat, and computer chores. We talk to family and friends on the phone and find out one of our sons has a new job. Hurrah! for answered prayer.

W and I walk to the mall after noon, the nearer one this time @40 minutes. I wipe out again in a mud patch at the side of the street. I'm wearing the same flip-flops (Flojos) as the last time I fell. Note to self: they apparently have zero traction walking on leaves (Singapore) or if it's wet (today).

W has wet wipes in his bag with which I can scrub muck off a foot and shoe. The knee of my trousers have to wait until I get to the bathroom in the mall. Unfortunately, it's a classy bathroom with the bidet built into the toilet, rather than a side hose. I clumsily wash my shoe, my food, and my trousers over the toilet, trying not to spray beyond the toilet. When I leave, I dry the toilet seat and the attendant mops the water drops off the floor.

Baby loves dessert! Jojo, Kristi, and Kamille
We find the first food court and have lunch at 3. Then we go to a few shops. W gets sore feet when he stands: when he's in motion he's fine. Hard for him to pause to look at things, but he manages. We're starting to get an idea of prices of appliances (vacuum cleaner, bottled water holder, etc.) We're thirsty, so stop at Sour Sally's for a tea and mango juice.

4 of a kind: the beautiful Bramono women
Bramonos pick us up for supper from the mall. It's Livia's birthday tomorrow, so we celebrate at a Hawaiian theme restaurant (excellent menu, thanks Mario). Rain is pouring down as we set off for desert at a Chinese place, 3 doors away. Mario orders for us: warm herbal jelly that looks scary but tastes great.

Hot dessert: herbal jelly, red beans
and everything above. Yum.
The other deserts look and taste interesting too, but they're cold. The air con wicks away the rain from our clothing within minutes. 

Beans, green tea ice cream, and jelly,
plus - well, I don't know!
Traffic is light on the newly opened ring road: we're home from north to south Jakarta within a half-hour. Almost miraculous. And 10pm when we walk in the door. Our bedding is still damp so we toss it in the dryer. An hour later, barely damp. Good. Bed. Sleep.

I get my time zones mixed up on a phone call with my Seattle friend Willy. Our accountability group is doing our first Hangout on Monday, so we want to work out the kinks out before then. We have our same home phone number (Seattle) so Willy and I figure things out as we go.

W and I are gathering information from various places in town so that's the plan for the day. Like yesterday, many shops will be closed. The security guard offers to hail a taxi after he opens the gate but we decide to walk again.

Read more:
*God, turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your custom toward those who love your name. Psalm 119:132 ESV

*Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 10:2 ESV

*Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Luke 19:8 ESV

*Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46 ESV
*Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... Hebrews 12:1 NIV
Moravian Prayer:  Lord, you have given us eyes to see and ears to hear. You have also called us to be your hands and to do work that is not always easy. Strengthen us for the work you would have us do. 

O loving Lord, let us know righteousness and not evil. Today let us consider the ways we can give, forgive, and set things right in our own lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The gitty nitty

Thursday (July 11, not posted earlier)
We walk back to the places we shopped yesterday, hoping they've found my wallet. No luck. I probably left it in the cab and we didn't snap a photo-receipt since we were on our own. So, unless the cabbie wants to return it, he got an IPhone, a wallet with a bit of cash and two cancelled credit cards ... and a handwritten address where he can give it back. W says he'll pick up a cheap camera-phone for now.

Heated by our walk, I hop into the pool for a half-swim (20 laps), before making supper from scratch: Beef rendang and noodles.

Beef rendang

M drops by for a short visit and takes Waldemar across the street where the taxi dropped us, to ask the market owner if he has - by any chance -  the wallet. It's unlikely, we're told. Ramadan ends in a feast where gifts are exchanged. So the month is an opportunity for gathering things, by whatever means, for generosity to family and friends at Eid. The taxi driver would feel a lucky man, scoring from a bule's (foreigner's) carelessness.

It's a choppy night's rest. W's tired early; I fall asleep about 7:30. At 10pm, nap time's over! I'm wide awake until 2:30am. At 6:30, my body says, "Enough lying around. Get up," and up I go.

It's been easier to acclimate to a new time zone when we've had strict teaching schedules. If we have to be in the classroom early in the morning, we're tired by evening and sleep well. This time we've had a looser schedule which hasn't helped us flip our days and nights as quickly.

We're at the church at 9am to help with VBA (VBS). The theme is the Israelite exodus. I'm assigned with 3 other helpers to a small group of kids, "the tribe of Reuben." (There are 12 groups.) We start by singing with everyone, then retire to our tent to learn a scripture verse. The morning is filled with games, snacks, and crafts. W takes pictures of the activities.

Partway through the morning, Livia hands me our Indonesian grandbaby, sweet Kamille. The baby is a hit with the kids, who joke that we "found a baby in the desert." Kamille chews a piece of flatbread in the "Tent of Moses" while we listen to the Bible story, smiles at the kids, and delights us all. The kids measure her toes ("the length of my thumbnail!") and exclaim over her round eyes and hair barrette.

Sweet Kamille
Lunch at church is nasi goreng, Indonesian fried rice. Very tasty. B's driver drops their family off for their meeting in the mall on our way back home. We'd planned to go to Chinatown, but W's got the tummy blues today. Maybe tomorrow.

So let's talk about toilets, another cultural curiosity wherever we go. We've encountered some squatting toilets here, but used few of them. Sewers are overloaded with such a massive population so you can't flush tissue.

Instead, beside the Western-style "thrones" at church, malls, and our flat is a hose inside (bidet) or a hose beside the toilet. It's for washing - from the back forwards. If there is no hose, there will be a water bucket and scoop. Drying tissue (toilet paper or kleenex) is tossed into the garbage beside the toilet, damp not stinky (maybe more than you want to know.)
Squat toilet: feet to the side please
[Note: July 27. In the house we're looking at, there are 2 Western and 1 squat toilets. So when you visit, you can try either.]

Saturday special

The breeze drifts in the sliding door of our hotel room, bringing fresh air up the mountainside. We love the beauty around us. Our breakfast is on a patio overlooking a pool. It feels too cool in the mornings and evenings for a swim, so we enjoy the view. Stefano is preaching tomorrow, so we pray God's peace and rest on him as he prepares.

Breakfast view
In mid-morning, Livia takes us to meet the realtor; we want to negotiate a lease for the first house we viewed in the Ciumbuleuit area in the north end of Bandung. It's an old-style home with separate guest and service wings, 2 lounges that we could use for small group meetings, 2 offices, and a garage. It's been sitting empty for a year in a quiet gated neighborhood. It's in the upper end of our budget, but alternatives in the same price range are 2-3 bed/1 bath apartments in noisy neighborhoods at the bottom of the hill, near the universities.

Could you pray with us? The roof needs repair and the house must be cleaned before we'd move in. Our target date is early August, in time for language school. We hope God has saved the house for us; it looks like an ideal place to birth a faith community of business people and students. We make an offer for a 1-year renewable lease.

The commute home is as bad as the commute to Bandung. The 120 miles from Jakarta took 5 hours on Thursday; today it takes 5.5 hours to drive back. No wonder our friends exclaimed last summer when we drove there in 1.5 hours and back in 2 hours, including rest stops.

BTW: On our way out of town Thursday, Livia gets a call. The purchaser of my IPhone contacts her: what code shall he use to unlock the phone, please? We talk the whole weekend, letting him know we'll be in touch when we're back in Jakarta. We're willing to buy it back for the price he gave the taxi driver. And would he please contact the seller to see if he has my driver's license and wallet? Thank you very much.

It's an "impossible" answer to prayer to hear from the buyer. We were told to write it off as a loss when I forgot it in the taxi last week. But you have been praying, and in answer, it looks like God may give it back, which would be truly miraculous.

From one moment to the next, the favor of God amazes us. We're walking through each day, hour by hour, to see what He will do. We could not earn the favor or opportunities that are emerging through your prayers and support and the kindness of the IES Jakarta team, especially the Bramonos. THANK YOU all.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Missions meet and retreat

The muezzin is chanting prayers through the loudspeakers on the mosque's towers. Five times a day, the call to ritual prayers echo off buildings and hillsides. Some chanters are better than others and just when I think they're through, they start up again. So far, it's been over a half hour. (How different would Western nations be if we had been called to pray that often?)

Mosque in Lombok
"What you have to understand about Indonesia is that it's all about religion. At its core sits religion. At the heat of tradition and culture? Religion." So says an expat who's been working here for years.

We've had several wonderful days at the mission retreat. The island itself is lovely, though locals take the beauty for granted, like everywhere else. Yesterday, someone negotiated a good rate for a group of 27 to take a boat to the reef for snorkeling. (I was thinking aquariums might classified as cruelty to animals as see the waves sweep through the corals and the fish darting in and out. I've killed my share of marine life back in Seattle.) GORGEOUS zooanthids and sea anemones bloom under us as we paddle by. Fishes we see only in aquariums swim under our feet.

Our return trip is bumpy. We're between two islands when the wind whips up and it takes us nearly a half-hour to get to the shore. The waves are high and the old wooden boat leaps and plunges through them. Some of us get soaked and everyone is damp.  The boat with its crew of  heads back immediately and we are left on the shore without transport. One of our gals speaks with fellows in a little shop. Apparently the vans are on the way. Sure enough, they soon appear and drive us 20 minutes along the coastline, back to the hotel by 1:30pm so parents can pick up their kids from children's activities. The second contingent arrives in the late afternoon.

I take a quick swim before we eat supper by the pool. It takes an hour from the time we sit down to when we get our food. Four tables of guests are equally late to our meeting. "We're on island time, so don't worry," says one missionary. And sure enough, service starts an hour late.

Coworkers from the NWMN
The worship and talks have been excellent. I am so aware of the prayers supporting us at home: God's presence is very near. We begin with songs and prayers, watch a short missions video on ministry issues, and hear from a speaker. Then it's snack and chat time before bed.

This morning we took pictures of the entire Indonesian group. The NWMN people stayed behind for a group shot: there are 14 of us (one absent from photos). The country is SO big. Only China, India, and the USA have more people.

Top 4 countries: world population
It's hard to imagine this handful of people having an impact, but various ones tell us how God is reaching out through us. Without the home churches and friends, none of us could be here or do what we do.

We fly home in early afternoon after a 1-hr. taxi ride from the Sengigi hotel to the airport. It's an uneventful (if late-starting) flight. Below us, the islands carve the ocean boundaries. A huge yacht churns a temporary white swath across the blue sea between tankers and freighters in port. The anchored ships line up in parallel formation, bow to stern swept in the same direction by the currents and winds.

Near Bandung, the clouds pile up. It may be raining in the city, which is known for precipitation and a moderate climate. So far we love the weather in Indonesia, where theoretically it's dry season. Residents of Jakarta and elsewhere tell us nothing is predictable; the weather patterns are constantly shifting. It's rained many days since we arrived.

A rainbow arches over the countryside near Bandung. I usually have a middle or aisle seat, and so being able to look out reminds me that God is overseeing our journey. He knows every step of the way and every part of what lies ahead.

Indonesian rainbox
Our evening is relaxing. We unpack again. We set the flat in order. We catch up (W with students, I online) and then fall asleep.

W finds some household outlet stores, so that's built into the agenda for exploring Jakarta today. The malls are modern, with a few surprises, like the Boeing store with the front of a jetliner protruding. People pose for pictures as we did the first time we walked by.

W at the Boeing store
Every day brings some new thing our way. A few practical things we learn this week:

  • Yellow rice is an appropriate gift to take when knocking on a neighbor's door for the first time. 
  • Our eyes have adjusted again to "driving on the left side."
  • We might need changes of clothes multiple times a day, depending on an office climate (air conditioning - take a scarf or sweater), an outside walk (dress lightly - natural fibers, no synthetics), and "normal" wear (natural fibers, lightweight clothes, be prepared for cold taxis, hot transitions, and everything between). 
  • Water hardness and quality has as much to do with hair texture and cooperation as do cleansing products.
  • We are the most privileged of people. Many have not yet heard Good News and many live in dire poverty. We don't take for granted our good health or staying in a clean hotel with likeminded God-fearers. We feel God's presence and care all around us.
Read more:
*Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:6-9 NIV

*It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5 ESV

*Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Proverbs 24:11-12 NIV

*Jesus said, “Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Matthew 25:45 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, today let us remember those who may be hurt by our actions or our inactions. Let us be conscious of all our decisions and the unseen effects on our brothers and sisters. Help us to be aware and awake. Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Getting ready to move

Our friends from Jakarta, Pastors Stefano and Livia, took us on a 3-day fact-finding trip to Bandung. Our tasks in the next few weeks are to:
  1. sign up for language school
  2. find housing
  3. experience the setting and people, praying grace and favor on them - and that we feel at home in this new city.
Rice bowl, leaves line the basket
We wonder if some of the best food in the world is made in Bandung. Over the three days, we especially enjoy Maxis and Roma Enak Enak, blown away with tasty menus. When the bill comes, we are astonished: we four eat for the expected price of two. 

Deeeelicious fish

We eat breakfast on the second floor, overlooking the hotel pool. It's shaded in early morning and I'm a warm-water swimmer. (They were doing maintenance on it when we arrived so the pool has just opened.) Two little boys splash into the pool from a Little Tykes slide. They stand at the top of the slide, jump over the sides into the water, and dive to the bottom of the 3.5 depth. 

Trying to imagine this breakfast view in the USA: no lifeguard,
no safety rails on the Little Tykes playspace...
The realtor and friend come by again at 10. We go to House #1, take a lot of pictures, and ask a lot of questions. 

Pastor Livia on the front porch
"What about the furniture?" I ask. There are multiple shelf units, 2 or 3 beds, lots of occasional tables, a dining set, and two living room ensembles.

"Come for supper" - a kitchen and dining area
"Think of the furniture as a bonus," smiles the realtor.

I ask him to check if the owner would be willing to let us live in it for a week and then remove the parts of the "bonus" that we didn't need? Could they clean before we get in? It has already been cleaned once, we're told.

A place for company - entry / living room 1
When we look up at the high ceilings, a 6" lizard sits near the top. 

Can you spot the lizard?
"That's what the spots are on the sofa," says the realtor. (Oh, lizard poop. Where's the vacuum? We can take care of that in a jiffy.) Livia says we don't chase out those lizards: they eat mosquitoes and other bugs. Yay, a house lizard - a good sign. And the kitchen is open to the garage, which has vent slats open to the outdoors. Couldn't keep lizards out if we tried, I guess.
Back yard shade
Perhaps these things can be negotiated, the realtor says. We make an offer for a year-long lease but haven't heard back by Tuesday (today). Please pray with us; perhaps this is the place to begin.

In town, we eat another great lunch. Then it's a long drive back to Jakarta: 5.5 hours ... and S & L are still miles from their own place when they drop us off about 8pm. Pastor S has to preach in the morning, too. We pray together over the services tomorrow and the accomplishments of the weekend. We are grateful for the generous attention of the IES Jakarta church and our friends during this transition.

Classic BMW motorcycle in the hotel lobby
At 11:30pm, we get a text. Our visa is partially finished. We need to hand over our passports tomorrow in church and appear in person to sign the visa next week. Whaaaaat? Don't we need the passports to get on the flight to Lombok tomorrow? We partially repack our suitcase for the next retreat - and fall into bed after midnight. God - and Indonesians in the know - will have to sort things out.

Pastor Dave's family lives down the hall from where we're staying. They are back from a trip to the States and offer us a ride to church at 8. PD (as he's called here) introduces us to the congregation and asks people with Bandung connections to consider a one-week-a-month commitment (for three months) to bring local friends and family to the service, once we open. The meeting is refreshing and inspirational. Between services, we walk quickly to a nearby mall and find the moneychanger to exchange funds for the retreat.

We're told not to worry: we can use color photocopies of the passport and passport sticker (temporary visa), with a letter from the church explaining why we don't have our passports in hand. Pastor Stefano writes the letters, makes color copies, and sends us off in good shape. (What would we do without him?!)

We have to finish packing so we go back home in a taxi. We get caught in a jam a kilometer from home, so jump out and walk the rest of the way. We set off for the airport at 2pm to make sure we get on the 6:15 flight. The driver is the first woman cabbie we've met here. She heads to the toll ring road and gets us to the airport in good time. We have supper in a local-style restaurant before meeting coworkers at the Starbucks. 

It's an uneventful flight but W's luggage takes a half hour to unload. Our fellow travelers wait patiently before we all catch the shuttles to the hotel, an hour away. It's 11pm by the time we reach the Sheridan and later still when we settle into sleep.

We miss our granddaughter's third birthday. It does our hearts good to look at new Facebook pictures of her and her little brother.

It's a full day in Lombok. What a glorious setting upon awaking. The palms wave outside the balcony, with the ocean beyond them. The breakfast buffet includes several counters of international dishes. I eat lightly: the conference schedule includes snacks as well as meals.

The welcomes are warm all around as coworkers from across Indonesia meet. It's clear that the field is united in purpose. I have a quick swim before our afternoon business session, which is conducted efficiently. W and I watch and listen. Diverse personalities and ministries are encouraged; differences of opinion are aired without criticism. Participation in the evening worship session is enthusiastic and wholehearted, led by Pastor Gigi Kenney and her sister, Chelley Rody.

The beautiful pool in the evening
Over breakfast, the SE Asia Area Director Bill his wife Kim, and Pastor Dave (and daughter Isabella) help us understand procedures and expectations. We need permission to travel, submit receipts a certain way, and should consult on anything we have questions about. The field committee will discuss particulars as they come up. We're grateful for mentorship - and offers of friendship - early on. 

The morning business meeting concludes this year's business agenda. The field committee has been expanded to 3 men and 1 woman. At the lunch buffet. Katie sits with us and shares her heart for Community Development. She's interning this year at IES Jakarta, learning by working with their staff. At 23, her heart has been captured by Indonesia, so we will be praying that she continues to find direction and make an impact. Please include her in your prayers, too.

We go back to the room and nap. Then I have to write. Thank you, everyone. It takes a while to get the internet connection, so most of the afternoon and early evening are gone by the time I'm done.

God's peace to you - and loving prayers from Lombok, for all that you need for life and to carry out the mission of God.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bandung - we explore

Text only. Check back in a few days for pics: we have limited internet here. Thanks!


We start for the airport at 5:30am, missing the worst of morning rush-hour. By 9:30, our flight leaves for Singapore. It’s a short commute – less than 2 hours. Singapore sounds so subdued after Jakarta, and cars drive between lane markers. The shuttle takes us to the YMCA, one of the most reasonable hotels. Scripture verses line the halls and hang over the bed.

We’ve forgotten how humid the island is: we are sweat-soaked in a few minutes, but the breeze steadily wicks off the moisture. It’s 30o+ (90s) and the humidity is 85%. We walk to Plaza Singapura and Tim Ho Wan, a dim sum standout we love. We like the familiar things we’ve ordered and are less impressed with the chef’s recommendations on the menu. We also find an Aveda store. Somehow, the hair product I’d specially purchased for our move didn’t make it into my suitcase. W treats me to a replacement at the shop.


After a breakfast buffet at the YMCA, we walk a mile to the free city bus tour that came with our plane ticket booking. The tour starts with a half hour in Little India. Not many shops are open at 9:30am, but the colorful fabrics tickle the eyes while the fragrance of flower garlands (for special occasions and idol offerings) pleases the nose. Singapore is a real mix of old and new: a glass diamond-motiv skyscraper rises across from colonial-era two-stories with wooden shutters.

Our tour guide Janice points out Arab Street and the Muslim quarter along the way. Apparently the shops – known for their carpets and baskets – don’t open until much later. The Raffles Hotel “is yours for $700-7000 a night, but not part of the tour expense. On your own dollar-la,” she laughs.

The Chopstick Memorial, for stakes pointing to the sky, reminds Singapore of the atrocities of the Japanese during WWII occupation. The four chopsticks represent the Chinese (now 77% of Singaporeans), the Malays (14%), Indians (7%) and the others (2% including Europeans) caught by the conflict. “We remind Japan that this should never happen again. They come to visit and take pictures. We hope they will remember.”

Janice gives other interesting facts: (skip down if this doesn’t interest you)

  • ·      5.5 million Singaporeans live in their city-state of 42km (28 miles) east to west, by 23 km (14 miles) north to south.
  • ·      High-rises house 90% of inhabitants. 80% own their homes. Flats that sold for $125,000 20 years ago now cost $450,000 (for approx.1000 square feet, 2-3 bdrm/1-2 bath.)
  • ·      The higher up the flat, the more air flow for ventilation and hanging laundry on a bamboo pole outside the window. So each floor adds $2000 to the cost.
  • ·      The ground floor is open for gatherings of neighbors and traditional events: Chinese hold their funeral wakes here. The cleansed body is brought in a coffin, then after the feast, is cremated and a table put into the Chinese temple. Malaysians hold their weddings here for hundreds of guests. “The Malays show us the importance of community and family. Chinese are more interested in self and prosperity.”
  • ·      Leases are 99 years (like Hong Kong for the British). After that, the flat returns to the high-rise owner or government.
  • ·      Because of the housing demand, you submit your name and preferred apartment area, block, and floor. The wait is about 10 years and selection is somewhat by lottery.
  • ·      Parents stay in the flats to pass them on to their children without the high inflation. Rate.
  • ·      Wages are garnished at 17%; your boss adds 3% of your salary. The government holds that money into 3 accounts: 1. Savings (retirement, etc.) 2. Special funds for housing, etc.; 3. MediSafe (or similar name), which pays medical costs. We pass hospitals for the rich and others where the government subsidizes care. A baby costs $3000, but the third child (for a mother under age 28) is free. Why? The government is trying to boost the population to a sustainable 7 million, but upwardly mobile women resist having kids and staying home to raise them. BTW: If you can’t pay, the family is expected to do so.
  • ·      Retirement age is 70 and there is no government pension or welfare system. No begging is allowed. If you run out of retirement money in your #1 account, your family takes care of you. The motto is “never be lazy,” so the elderly work and sell little things on the street if that’s the only way to eat.
  • ·      The National flag hangs from balconies for the month before National Day (August 9). The crescent moon represents a young country (established by separating from Malaysia in 1965), the red stripe represents (strength?), and the white stripe, purity. A big cloth flag costs $5 from the high-rise council and is stored year after year between celebrations.
  • ·      Sir Raffles, a British governor, is considered the founder of Singapore. He paid $5000 to Malaysia for the island and brought in foreign investors, erected the Palace Mosque, and established the global trade that put Singapore on the map. There are no natural resources here. It’s resource is its people and their ingenuity.
Then the bus drops us off at Marina Bay with its spectacular views of hotels and shops on reclaimed land. The financial sector with its banking skyscrapers loom above us. At the harbor, the Merlion spouts water, a national symbol of strength of a lion and the water around (fish). We snap pictures and grab an ice-tea at the 100th Starbucks store.

Chinatown is a warren of alleys and streets, mixing stores and small vendors. Tourists and citizens alike buy specialties here. We revisit a restaurant shop: I’m looking for dishes and cutlery at hotel quality and wholesale prices. I find Swiss cutlery for a fraction of retail and order it for pickup tomorrow.

We pause for 20 minutes at Singapore Gems, a factory of craftsmen cutting gemstones. They create pictures with semi-precious stones, from small (3X5”) to large (4’X6’+), build castles, carve statues, and make jewelry. The men hunch over spinning wheels without breathing masks, the stone dust flying into the air. I wonder how heavy the dust in their lungs.

Our final stop is the Botanic Gardens, featuring Singapore’s national flower – orchids. Janice points out a strip of jungle that Malaysia owns, now being purchased back by Singapore’s government.

In the gardens, we wander between towering flowering trees, our “houseplants,” ferns, and orchids of every imaginable size and shape. Some orchids are wired to trees, some staked into hedges, and some ground-hugging. I love the fragrant garden best, lingering over the sprays of perfumed flowers. W’s in his glories, snapping photos on every side.


We put another 26,000 steps on our foot soles, starting in the morning by picking up cutlery in Chinatown at a restaurant wholesaler. In the shops, it really hits home what we had accumulated and distributed (as well as given away.) Each of our children took a major appliance: Vitamix, Cuisinart, KitchenAid, and Bernina sewing machine. We couldn’t replace them here on a mission budget.

We have an indifferent wanton noodle lunch in the early afternoon. W finds a cordless phone and the shampoo I like (different water here). We trudge all over the downtown area in computer malls, electronic stores, shopping malls, and vendors who line the streets. By 4, we’re almost done in – the very hot and humid weather wears us out and we’re ready to get back to the YMCA. We pick up our luggage from behind the hotel counter, flag a taxi on the street (saves $2.50 booking fee), and are on our way to the airport.

For supper, W orders Texas Chicken and I try again for wanton noodles (ok, but not great). We walk through immigration, hand over our entry visas, and are on our way home to Indonesia by 7:30pm. I’m sitting by a 20-something from Czech Republic. She’s in Jakarta with her boyfriend, and says her mom is having a hard time back in Europe. “When I first came, my mother thought, ‘Only a few months, then she will be back.’ But now that we are here 14 months, she misses me more.”

She gives us the funniest one-liner yet: “Indonesia is so … Indonesian.” Ok, what does that mean?

We have no trouble with our entry kitas (visa). W spots a counter where it is activated and we are shooed to the luggage retrieval without further ado.

There’s supposed to be two custom zones: red zone (things to declare) and green zone (nothing to declare). I don’t even see a red zone. We’re under the limit of what we can bring in, so we follow the pack to the security scanner (“hand luggage only, ma’am), and out the airport door to the curb.

We wait an hour in the Blue Bird taxi queue. Various independent taxi drivers come by, soliciting tourists by promising great deals and no waiting. Every guidebook warns against them. So we wait.

Our Blue Bird driver debates with the next taxi driver, trying to get out of taking us.  We find out why about 1 km from the airport: the driver has no idea where he’s taking us. We have him call B’s but his pre-paid phone has no minutes, so W texts Livia, who calls back and gives him directions. He drives off happily, without further trouble. We’re home in an hour – and upstairs in our flat by 11:15pm. By the time we unpack, hand-wash a few things, repack for Bandung, and turn off the lights, it’s well after midnight.


Stefano and Livia B pick us up at 8:30am. We get snarled behind an accident or two plus traffic for the beginning of the new school term. Cars turn their hazard lights on to go through tunnels and to warn those behind them that they’re coming to a sudden stop on the highway. Stefano impresses us by negotiating the ins and outs of Jakarta congestion and the freeway, getting us to Bandung by 1:30 (120 miles?) The countryside landscape stuns us with its beauty, the hills terraced with gardens and rice paddies, Dutch train trestles built in the early century, and blue-green hills in the distance.

We’re meeting friend R (the friend of friends A&M). But first, to lunch. R tells us about Maxi’s, a restaurant near the language school (IMLAC) and our hotel. Oh my! For the price of an American burger, in a beautiful setting – surrounded by trees and plants – we order an amazing meal: lamb chops for me, tenderloin with egg, mushrooms, and cheese for W. (Livia notes that it’s much cheaper to eat here than in Jakarta.)

Friend R and two other fellows meet us at the hotel after we eat, showing us two good-sized homes. One has been available for a year and needs a lot of work. The other is much too big for students like us. Maybe it would be more appropriate in a year, once study groups are established and we have lots of company. They promised to look for an apartment that is closer to our needs and budget.

We find IMLAC just down the street from the hotel. The office is closed, but we’ll come back to register after breakfast tomorrow. The buildings are worn but sturdy. The time-cards of at least 20 students are filed by a time clock. Maybe we have to punch in and out of campus. We land back at the hotel for a 2-hour rest, walking by the fish pond, where 1-2’ koi swim lazy circles under the walking bridge. Their mouths gape open and shut beside the path as we lean over them: they must be accustomed to being fed at that spot.

We end up in the Braga district, the street lined with shops full of art, both paintings and reproductions. The restaurant we want to go to is full, with a long waiting list. While we wait for them to call us with an open table, we stroll down the street. The tables are full of people breaking their fasts, but we find a Bangi Kopitam (restaurant chain) with an opening. The guys order dim sum; L has roti prata (flatbread) with curry, and I have kwei teo Bandung, a combination of prawns, chicken, egg, and flat rice noodles. Yummy. My jeans are still too tight to foster an appetite so I eat half.


We wake for the first time In Bandung. We pray over the government, police, religious and political leaders, neighborhoods, and our home-to-be. We pray for the churches and people that support us, and the church sponsoring our plant and the church-to-be. We pray over our parents, children, grandchildren, extended families, and friends.

We open the balcony doors to a balmy, sunny morning. And we decide to take another look at the first house we saw. The layout is excellent. The grungy furniture and bugs would have to go and it needs some maintenance. We’ll see it once more tomorrow.

We go to the language school after breakfast. Each of 9 sections runs five days a week for four weeks, with a week off before the next module. Looking over the info, we’re in sticker-shock. Because of our working visa, class costs are more than double the student visa rate: we’d be spending thousands more than budgeted.

We visit another language school in town, designed for Christian workers. We have friends (also professors) who will be enrolled in August. The cost is less: there is no penalty for our visas and the classes are tiny (2-4 students per tutor). Our Indonesian friends help us check out the first semester’s text-workbook: it’s a challenging program designed for conversation, as well as the ability to give a testimony and preaching in Bahasa Indonesia. The schedule of two semesters may be more conducive to starting small groups = four days of coursework weekly for 16 weeks, with  a month between semesters. Something to think about, anyway.

We have a wonderful lunch at Roemah Enak Enak, our first taste of Sundanese food. The side dishes and 4 main courses are under $20. And it’s outstanding food! My boneless barbecue ribs in peanut sauce compliment the red rice and mango juice perfectly. W has chicken and white rice before we share an amazing dish of “young coconut” that tastes like dessert.

Our vehicle get stuck in traffic on the way to visit Augustine and Sumathi, friends we met in Cambridge 10 years ago. They moved to teach in Bandung in April. On their way out the door, they delay their errands to wait for us. They meet Stefano and Livia. We share hugs and happy conversation all around, looking forward to living in the same city again.

We go back into traffic and then B’s introduce us to the Indonesian pastor of a downtown church and his family. They serve us tea, then we pray together and talk about our hopes for partnership. It’s wonderful to tour the church and talk about hopes for future work together. We have different constituents: they’re a Bahasa Indonesian group; we’ll be reaching out to English-speakers.

It takes until evening to reach the hotel again. It may only be a few miles away, but traffic is backed up through downtown. We make a quick stop at a grocer. I have a chocolate bar from Canlis (Seattle) in my bag. We split it and Earl Grey tea from Trader Joes with B’s before bedtime. 

In the next room, a big family is eating and screaming as the kids fight and chat together. Guess it's earplugs to make sure we sleep tonight.