Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Exploring Jakarta

Honest about what they do:
"Pores, Pimples, and Pigmentation"
A sign for a clinic in the church skyscraper
It's a true Sabbath for us. We wake at some unearthly night hour, eat a light breakfast, and fall asleep off and on during the morning. By noon we feel rested.

We've begun studying the book of Mark together, in preparation for preaching and teaching in the future church plant. Our thinking is to approach scripture with a variety of study methods. We're taking notes on theology and tools to make sermon preparation easier later on, when the pace of living picks up.

This lull in activity is unusual for us: we were crushed by to-do lists before we left. And we'll be swamped in a few weeks when language school starts. (So these days of rest and exploration are precious.) Of course, W's grading, I'm writing, and both of us are sorting out relationships, language, and how things work. But that feels like a vacation, compared to our normal schedules!

On our first trip to the grocer, Livia steered me to some rice she liked. Its fragrance and freshness bear no resemblance to the stale bags of Calrose white rice at home. We eat some with leftover chicken from yesterday's dinner. While the pot simmers, I plunge into the pool - I've doubled the laps I could manage when we arrived last Thursday. My back and arms feel more flexible in the water every day.

In early afternoon, I re-tape my blisters (healing well) and we ride a taxi to the mall. We walk our 10,000 Fitbit steps from floor to floor in three adjoining buildings, browsing the sights and relaxing together. In lieu of supper, we opt for tea at the TWG teashop, a Darjeeling for W and a clear Ceylon for me.

In Seattle, days cool down at sunset. I was worried about "losing" our sunlit summer evenings in the tropics: the sun goes down at 6pm on the equator. What I didn't consider was that evenings here are warm.  A whole new set of activities starts after dark. During Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month), the restaurants are crowded with people breaking their fasts. Streets teem with cars and motorcycles as workers rush home to eat out with friends and family. Note: "Rush" is a relative term; "rush hour" describes an intent to hurry, rather than actual miles per hour!

Dragon fruit, halved
One of the pleasures of Indonesia is the variety of fruits and vegetables. We have a dragon fruit for breakfast, its hot pink peel tipped with lime fins, and inside, its purple-black seeds submerged in sweet white flesh.

Monday is nominally a day off for the church staff. After I have a good swim, Livia and Kristi pick me up for girls-day out. After Livia drops us off at a spa nearby, Kamille and her grandma head to the Baby Spa. Baby's pampering starts with a light rub-down. Then she goes swimming in a warm bath, and ends with a massage. Needless to say, KC is one happy – and sleepy – baby after her treatment!
Kamille at Baby Spa
We hear the rain drumming on the roof of the spa. We have a double room so Kristi can interpret what’s going on. First we are scrubbed with a salt mixture, from head to foot. Eew as all the skin sloughs off. My massage is intense and painful enough to release the tension from the other day’s 10k walk. I ask Kristi if hers hurts. “No, I told her to go easy on me.” Smart girl!

The gals cake us with a tea mixture that makes us look like piggies rooting in the mud. After it dries, we head for separate rooms to soak in bathtubs.

Generous girlfriend – you know who you are! – today I used your gift of “Please do something just for yourself,” on Kristi and me. With great thanks for the luxury of bonding time and pampering.

Spa room
The tropical downpour has snarled traffic. W buys a refillable-ink printer and is lugging it home in a cab. He’s near the Pondok Indah Mall, so we ask him to hop out to join us there for supper. Traffic is so bad that his cab bill is $15 rather than $5 (normal) - and he's still a long way from our flat. Meanwhile, Stefano has it worse; he’s stuck in a cab for over 3 hours. We get a lift home with B’s driver – through flooded streets where motorcyclists lift their feet out of the water and some cars are submerged to their bumpers. No vehicles stall in the 8”-20” surge; it’s just very slow going, especially as people head home to break their fast.

Dark clouds above, raging waters below
We're getting American solicitation calls at 2-3am on our home phone number, which W set to take calls here. We unplug the phone before bedtime. Meantime, Yahoo and other home pages have switched to bahasa Indonesia (language); they give us English only if we request it. Since we can't read Indonesian yet, of course we request English.

The streets are dry by morning. I swim 6 laps before a nosebleed puts a stop to it. Our cab drops us at IES for their weekly staff meeting. I’ve worn a sweater, anticipating the cold air con.

Waiting, we look down on a skyscraper building site. The machinery is submerged in ponds or slogging through several feet of mud. “They’re used to it,” says Livia. “This happens regularly.”

The staff meeting begins with worship songs sung tunefully, rhythmically, and with gusto to the accompaniment of two guitars. The liturgy of interactive readings and prayers refreshes us and helps us focus on Christ and the mission of God. The staff shares prayer requests and ministry updates. Participants are engaged and noisy – there’s a lot of banter and history among staff members.

Pastor Mike has returned from the States with bags of goodies. He passes them out, to loud hurrahs. “This is our tradition,” says Tirza, sitting beside me. “Anytime anyone travels, they bring back candy and treats for staff meeting.” She writes the names of the staff in my notebook as they introduce themselves to us. We are warmly welcomed.

White "crackers": no one could tell me
what they were made of
We eat lunch together in the staff kitchen: chicken, salad (basil and cabbage), rice, and crisp crackers that look like meringues. W starts talking tech; I visit and catch up with friends.

About 1:30, a driver takes us home. A light beep on the horn tells others you’re coming, merging, or turning. Somehow the vehicles flow around each other. We pull into our gates, opened by the security guard by 2:30, while the driver heads back to the church.

Palm trees are the tropical equivalents of Pacific Northwest evergreens. They come in many sizes and leaf-shapes. 3-5’ Staghorn ferns droop from tree trunks, while coconuts and mangos hang above the streets. Plants that we consider houseplants thrive in the medians between street lanes. Tropical plants shed leaves, blossoms, and fruit continually, so it’s easy to see where gardeners are employed. Otherwise, things lie where they drop.

Minum taro: sweet deliciousness
We catch up on reading before heading down the street for supper. Christian music is playing in the restaurant. The owner tells us he spent 3 years in Canada so he can speak some English. We start with minum taro, a sweetened soy drink with taro doughballs floating in it. Yummy.

Then comes mee goreng (fried noodles) and ayam (chicken). The birds here are tiny: a chicken breast or drumstick is typically 2½-3” long. (Compare it to the smallish tomato below.) It’s flavorful and filling. As we’re waiting for the bill, the owner brings over corn fritters, hot from the griddle. I’m too full to have more than a half, but W finishes mine and a few more besides. We promise to come again.

Spicy, soy sauce (salty), and sweet options
Mee goreng and fried chicken

We head out the door in the direction vaguely pointed out for the Hero supermarket. After a few blocks we give up and walk home. We’ll find it another day – it’s getting dark and the roads are crammed with people going home. On the sidewalks, sate grills, barbecues, and other types of food vendors are setting up for the onslaught of Muslims breaking their fast. 

W’s asleep before 7pm. During the night, I wake up for a few hours with my first (slight) encounter of traveler’s flu. The process of acclimation has begun.

Read more:
*I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. Psalm 138:1-3 NLT

*In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Father, you call us to love one another and to serve. Today let us clearly hear and without hesitation answer that call. Thank you, God, for the gift of your son and your everlasting love. Amen.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: to Mary Van Deusen, on the difficulties of moving and on the lessons moving teaches us. 21 November 1962: 

I think I share, to excess, your feeling about a move. By nature I demand from the arrangements of this world just that permanence which God has expressly refused to give them. It is not merely the nuisance and expense of any big change in one’s way of life that I dread. It is also the psychological uprooting and the feeling—to me, as to you, intensely unwelcome—of having ended a chapter. One more portion of oneself slipping away into the past! 

would like everything to be immemorial—to have the same old horizons, the same garden, the same smells and sounds, always there, changeless. The old wine is to me always better. That is, I desire the ‘abiding city’  [Hebrews 13:14] where I well know it is not and ought not to be found. I suppose all these changes should prepare us for the far greater change which has drawn nearer ever since I began this letter. We must ‘sit light’ not only to life itself but to all its phases. The useless word is ‘Encore!’


  1. Very interesting, Rosemarie, wishing you much sunlight for your new life. God bless!

    1. It's like our hearts are settling in. This s where we are meant to be. Thank you for prayers.