Sunday, August 31, 2014

Savoring Sunday

Lizards everywhere: this stranger isn't as
creeped out by close encounters as I am :-)
Sunday, August 31. 

The lizard pair scared me twice today already, dashing from behind the garbage pail across the kitchen. They've been busy all day. Our home is open at the tops of windows and has vented slats rather than solid walls above the doors, as in many older houses. That brings good ventilation in a damp climate but also means we are not bug (or lizard) -free, ever.

The roaches aren't plentiful but they're at least 2" long. Their paucity might be due to the lizards. The roaches aren't the bugs that get us. It's the termites or ants in the ceilings that drop constant little black "pebbles" in the corners and middles of the rooms and in nearly every cupboard and drawer. I cover the dishes and cutlery. In the bathroom, my sink is about ready to fall into the cabinet: the wood frame for the concrete under the tiles has been eaten away. There are little black spots all over the things in the bathroom drawer each morning. Yesterday W took the doors off several kitchen cabinets because the mildew and decay makes everything inside the cabinet smell. He also affixed a faucet handle in place of the little rubber grip that let us turn water on and off.

But we love the house. It's funny to say that, because we can't yet walk around barefoot on most of the (un-scrubbed to date) tiles OR with the bug dirt falling from the ceiling. We finally moved the dining table so things wouldn't fall into our food. I cover the meals as I bring plates to the table so nothing is added from above. Besides God's blessings, that is. Haha. 

LR in process: front door is on the left, DR in foreground.
Artwork, accessories, and rug to come.
We love the scarred whitewashed rooms and the 17 foot ceiling peaks too high to dust and the marble floors not yet spotless. We can feel God's presence here. We moved the dusty green and tan sofas from the dark living room to the lighter living room. It's much better, especially with 4 bright pillows to make the seats more comfy and brighter. Every bit helps amid the clutter of suitcases that can't go in storage above the garage (the beams need propping up) and the unfinished to-dos. I want to focus on language but my space has to be orderly. Little by little, W and I are settling in.

Rainy season is almost upon us. The wind whips leaves off the roof at about 3pm and often, later in the afternoon, a downpour floods the yard (and occasionally drips into part of the hallway). Within an hour of it letting up, the porch, puddles, and streets have dried off. Laundry takes no time at all to dry outside during the windy afternoon, but I race for the clothesline when I hear the first drops. Usually I get 3-4 minutes warning before the deluge starts. 

The new maid didn't show up Saturday, as we thought we'd scheduled. Oh well. Who knows if she caught that in translation. She's due at 6:30 or 6:45am Tuesday, before we leave for language school. She'll come T/Th and on Saturday. We told her she'd be locked out on week days if she's not here before we have to leave the house at 7. I've left some ironing and bedding to be washed - hopefully she's a good housekeeper.

W breathes a sigh of relief: a building supply store
W's off to town via the little busses today. I've stayed home two afternoons this week while he races around. He loves getting out - it energizes him. I've worn out the footbeds of both pairs of Flojos since arriving in Indonesia and have to find other flipflops or comfy sandals for walking. W wears Keens but mine chafe when my feet perspire. (I hate to wear little black or white ankle socks with them.) Keens are also heavy compared to the flip-flops. "Buy hot-weather walking shoes" = another project for next week.

We took a 1-2 hour rides on a few angkots yesterday to the NE part of Bandung (new to us). We found a wholesale grocer like Costco (but with cheap products not middle end). Right next door was a building supply place, where we bought 2 faucets ($10 each). We walked over 7 miles, most of it in the hottest part of the day (90oF/ 32oC and partly overcast). My hat is instant shade but feels hot because it lowers air flow over the head. Needless to say, I wear ghostly-white sunblock from morning to night. And I'm hoping one of these days the bug spray will keep all the mosquitos away...

We met Rita in one of the shops. She immediately tried her English on me and encouraged me to use my skeletal Indonesian on her. We're now connected on WhatsApp (free messaging, huge here). Hopefully we will meet again in person.

On the way home, we stopped in Informa (household supplies and furniture) and ACE Hardware. They were out of things we needed. [W is checking at other shops in the same chains today. I gave him a list: ironing board. Dish drainer/dryer. Wall hooks. Clothes hanger/dryer. Very exciting, eh? Our first furniture (chairs) should be delivered Wednesday.]

Our local angkot stops running after dark and it took us 1/2 hour last night to admit it and flag down a taxi. There was a neighborhood concert that spilled onto the street at the university down the hill, so it took over 3/4 hour to get past it and home. The ride cost $4. Not bad, though W begrudges every cent over the 20-30c per ride of the angkots.

Today, at 3pm the imams are calling the faithful to pray. The voices, amplified over loudspeakers, resound against the hills and across the valleys. Five times a day (4am is the first and about 7:30/8pm is the last) there's this unearthly drone of men chanting and calling. Think Gregorian chant with extended notes, cranked to full volume, in many keys at once. Right now I can hear at least 4 calls to prayer between the pauses in our neighborhood imam's voice. (He's on the next block, far enough away to be clear but not shake the rafters.) We hope to meet him soon. We've begun to pray blessings on him and his family, that God brings the peace, prosperity, and hope we have found.

I can't believe we're back in class tomorrow. I'm trying to review what we should know. With all the bonus info poured on us, I'm in a fog. Lord have mercy! It will all come together, but this time of heaping us with info - before the basic files are sorted and labeled in my head - makes it a confusing time. We've had fun trying our limited language skills on people, who are SO gracious to us. They smile and help us sort out what we're trying to say before answering our questions. We love this people group! Click here for 10 Things we can't wait to learn about the city.

This morning, we attended the only other international church we've heard about in Bandung. It's connected with Christian Missionary Alliance and serves a demographic group unlike the one we've been praying about. We'll be siblings rather than competitors. The pastor's wife is from Chilliwack (our hometown) and the pastor is a Mennonite-Canadian who's lived in many of the same places as our extended family. Should be fun getting to know them.

Read more:
*Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:6-7 ESV

*David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” 1 Samuel 17:45 ESV

"This is what the Lord says--Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come--yes, let them foretell what will come.

Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one." Isaiah 44:6-8 NIV

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

*That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people. 1 Timothy 4:10 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Majestic God, in this solemn moment of worship we humbly bow before you to acknowledge your sovereign majesty and to praise your holy name. For it is in your name that we make our prayer and live our lives. Amen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Welcome weekend

Congratulation boards are outlined in flowers
and carried to the spot on motorcycles.
Thursday, August 28

I thought I'd record a few blessings, a few updates, and some random pictures today. Enjoy.

W is teaching online so it's great to have internet again. The wi-fi guy came by two days this week. First the phone wasn't working. Then the connection was poor. But W is happy now; all is well because we are online again. That means our Seattle phone works, too. (It's offline during our night, so call if you like.)

Our UK-Singpore-Bandung friends have been a great blessing. It's really fun to be in class and hang out with like-minded people. They make us laugh and share the delights of food and culture with us. They've been here a few months so have a better grasp of how locals function than we do.

Rice fields beside the tracks: the view
from our train last weekend
Someone connected with the seminary gave us a factory-new queen-sized bed. We don't know the people who gave us the gift. Today two men delivered a headboard, box spring and mattress, new pillows and bolsters - and set it up for us. Wow! What a blessing! We've been sleeping on the bed that came with the house. The mattress was worn, but vacuumed and cleaned. We are light sleepers and kept waking up during the night: the whole bed moved when we turned. Hopefully the new bed is sturdier.

Our original bed moves to the guest room. The landlord brought 3 single bed frames and new mattresses over last week. Altogether, we can sleep 10 people (3 couples plus 4 singles in 5 bedrooms and 2 offices). Reminds me of our Montana cabin, which sleeps 19. Somehow hospitality finds us. The rooms in the house are small but interesting.

Our helper comes 3X a week, starting Saturday. She's a little Sundanese lady about my age, who doesn't speak English. W and I speak very little Indonesian. Should be fun. (?!)

A bowlful of goodness at the local food court
Our priority is language school. This week was brutal inside my head. W is amazed that I can't remember names. If words have the same first 2 letters, they look alike to me. And I don't have much of a memory even for unique words or names. (I've even forgotten some of the 10 women I studied for my dissertation.) You can imagine that I may have a hard time learning Indonesian; many words start with me-, men-, mem-, or pe-, pen, or pem... yikes.

Eventually Bahasa Indonesia will make sense, but one of our instructors pours words on words, takes rabbit trails from basic questions, and explains things in complex Indonesian. W and I have begun to "check out" when she strays from the original topic. That helps us focus on what we're learning. W remembers lots of phrases and vocabulary, regardless. I'm swimming in a deep blue sea of kata-kata ("words" - hey, I remembered!)

We're pretty active physically. We average 4-6 miles a day of walking (plus riding 2-4 mini-vans.) Gradually the house floors are emerging under hard scrubbing, the laundry is clean(-er) and tidy(-er), the house fans are whirling (since we dusted them), and the bug population seems less. We moved the dining table to a different spot temporarily because so many black "crumbs" kept dropping on it from the ceiling. W pulled out the stove and lower cabinets for cleaning. (They were loose and just wedged into place.)

We'll probably get the house fogged a few times to take care of co-inhabitants. W caught a baby lizard today and disposed of it after I nuked it with bug spray. We seem to have enough lizards in the house so I am limiting the number who get to share space with us. I continue to get bitten by mosquitos, usually adding 2-3 bites a day. I'm getting used to an itch here and there.

Inside the train, wide comfortable seats
W got some weird rash on his torso this week in Jakarta. We didn't know if it was a badly rinsed shirt, an allergic reaction, or if he was sick. He didn't have a fever and hardly slowed down. He insisted that he preferred not to think about it, so would I quit asking how he was? He's always been a bad (impatient) patient. Lucky me that he hates being fussed over?

The rain is pounding on the clay tiles of the roof as we prepare to sleep (- in a new bed at that; hurrah.) It's the first good rain in a week, and rainy season is apparently coming. So far we haven't seen any leaks.

We get to sleep in tomorrow morning. Usually we're out of the house by 6:45am and don't come back until 3pm or later. I'll be happy to have time to study this weekend. Maybe the mems and pems will start to settle into meanings. Sure hope so!

What's up in your neck of the woods?

Read more:
*Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 ESV

*Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he
has sent.” John 6:29 ESV

*Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV
Moravian Prayer: Listening Lord, hear us as we pour out the deepest concerns of our hearts before you in prayer. Then, by your grace and mercy, help us to hear and accept your answers. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Really nice people

A village along the rails
Friday, August 22, 2014

We’re at the station 1.5 hours early. One angkot takes 20 minutes from the main neighborhood street to the train station: we have only two carry-ons. W packs along the hand truck to help bring back our dishes.

A security guard points the way across five tracks to our train. We and others cross the open tracks, climb through another train standing between the station and our platform, and settle into wide comfy seats. The train moves 100 feet forward as people are still boarding to let another train go by. “Look and live!” You learn that early here.

The train (kereta api) is on its way to Jakarta by 8:30am. We arrive around noon after enjoying the ride through beautiful countryside. The blue sky and high clouds shine above the little dirt paths that lead up and down away from the tracks along the way.

We cut through the mountains and cross valleys on the rail lines engineered by Dutch whizzes: the view is spectacular. In one scene, rice paddies lie on the hillside under a 6-lane expressway bridge. Small rivers flow through jungle valleys under our trestles.

Terraced farms in the mountains
Just before Jakarta, the air starts to taste heavy. Car fumes. Lots of people. Heat. And our friends are waiting at the station near the Starbucks. They’ve just returned from the Assemblies of God 100th Anniversary celebration in Missouri and give a lively update of their travels with novice tourists to the USA. Lots of fun and lots of new experiences all around.

Once we get to the flat, W grades papers. He’s been frustrated by the lack of an internet connection in the Bandung house, so he tackles student grading and questions all evening. Meanwhile, it takes me a few hours to repack 9 – yes, that’s NINE – boxes of dishes into 5. Not even one dish is broken! We walk to Strawberry Sam’s a few blocks away for a supper of noodles and chicken and W treats himself to a blackberry smoothie.


We’re up before 7 but have misunderstood when the ride leaves for church. We’re ready at 7:15 when the driver is long gone. Breakfast is a pastry that we picked up last night. W has to be at church to do a video for a series around “meals in Luke” – so we hail a taxi. I walk to the nearby mall for a $10 massage. I have a “floor knot,” a cramp in my shoulder from scrubbing the floor the other day. The masseuse barely touches my back but my feet feel great afterwards!

At noon, there’s a new-attendees Connection Lunch with pastoral staff on hand to eat together and introduce newbies to the church and small groups. It’s good fun to meet Maureen, an early-20s professional who works in investments and loves it. Of course, being IES, the food is great too.

Living near the tracks: people everywhere
The first person assigned to help us open our bank account has a previous engagement. So Bramonos step up to the plate again. We cannot open the account without a letter from our “company,” so Stefano (church administrator) hurries back to the office to write a stamped document on official church letterhead. We take out the visa, passport, and the church letter. But we’re locked in with only a small exit door by the time we finish at 3pm.

Again, God provided. The original person could not have provided the official notice of employment and the bank was closing in an hour by the time we arrived. Our friends take us to a traditional Indonesian tea/coffee shop in the mall to celebrate. We try some regional desserts, from sweet corn to coconut and cassava fritters. Of course Livia and I are tempted by the fun clothing for little kids. Livia finds an adorable dress; I find a cute batik shirt for our grandson: (Bramono’s daughter flies to Seattle next Sunday to stay in our basement flat while her husband attends NU. We’ll send it along.)

We continue to ask for a course in Manners 101. So far we’ve learned:
  • ·      Do not walk in front of a seat (or lower standing) person without bowing or nodding to indicate equality and respect.
  • ·      Sit by a friend who’s driving. Staying in the back seat insults him/her by treating the friend like your servant-driver.
  • ·      Point with the thumb not the index finger which looks prescriptive and demeaning.
  • ·      Call people Ibu (Mrs) or Bapak (Mr) and (optionally) their name.
  • ·      A tap on the horn can mean go ahead, I’m coming up beside, or I’m behind you as you merge into traffic (so watch for me).
  • ·      Say hello in Indonesian to people looking your way. It shows them you’re making an effort as a bulé (Western foreigner) in their country.
  • ·      To cross the street in traffic (everywhere), you watch for a break in motorcycles. Wave with the palm down to ask cars to slow down to let you through. Then walk boldly but stay alert for motorcycles spurting between the cars and buses. Even drivers of 3-wheeled  bhajaj-es stick their hands out the window and wave their way across 3-6 lanes of traffic to negotiate an intersection. There are few traffic lights – mostly, everyone gets to the crossing and somehow keeps going wherever they’re headed. It’s quite amazing to watch (or cross).
It’s fabulous to be in IES on Saturday night again. It’s like coming home, listening to the worship, taking in a good talk, and meeting the staff afterwards for supper. We are introduced to people with a Bandung heritage as well. IES Bandung has connections ready.

One of the must-dos is a visit to Bawean P7Rasa bakery. Ibu Avisha, Pastor Dave’s admin, tells us about this bakery famous for its cakes, puff pastry, chocolate and homemade ice cream. She’s tiny. She laughs when I ask how she can love cakes and be so slim: “You can take my food. No problem. But if you ask for my sweets, I will have to fast and pray about it.”


We’re up before 6am and putter as we get ready. Breakfast is another serving of “buggy granola” with not a single ant floating in it. Anyway, it’s stored in the freezer so whatever got in a few weeks ago should be dead. Tastes great, regardless.

The taxi driver doesn’t know that Sunday downtown streets are closed to cars; it’s pedestrians only. He takes a half-hour, many-mile detour to the train station. We follow another cab doing the same thing.

Jakarta gives new meaning to mixed-use zoning. Businesses spring up in neighborhoods. There are moments of startling beauty – plants in pots, set in colored “woven” patterns; the architecture is amazing. But there’s the ordinary and the bane of Indonesia – plastic bags everywhere along the roads.

Indonesians are the most helpful and courteous people we’ve ever met (besides Canadians). Whether at church, in our neighborhood, in the angkots, or if they’re taxi drivers, people willingly give directions, are open to conversations, are curious and engaged – and just plain nice. Even school kids on the mini-vans ask where we’re from and try their English on us. We feel at home.

In the train station, we talk to a Dutch couple spending three weeks of vacation here. They’re taking a flight from Bandung to Bali after taking in the regional sights for a few days. 

The train ride is once again a fine trip. I have to use the toilet. It’s stainless steel and clean at the start of the journey. It is however “squat only,” a hole in the floor with foot rests on each side. No worries, my knees are healthy enough to pull me up again. At least there’s paper provided. At the seminary and other places, you have to bring your own Kleenex pack. Enough said.

We arrive to the relatively cool fresh air of Bandung after 1pm. Unfortunately we go out the wrong exit. The security guard lets us back in and W drags the heavy box of dishes and our luggage on the hand truck across all six train tracks. We walk through the station parking lot and across the crush of cars and motorbikes on the street. 

The taxi drivers waiting outside the station want $7 (a $3.50 trip) to take us home and refuse to set their meters. An old parking attendant, a tiny, withered gentleman, wades into traffic and flags down a taxi for us. {It sounds like a “company” car is coming our way in the next while, which will make running errands and exploring the city much easier and safer at night. We’ll probably still take the minivans and our early morning walk to rouse our brains for school.}

Traffic is horrendous. Apparently Jakarta comes to town on weekends to shop and eat the great food of Bandung. Many motorcycles carry entire families, mother, father, children and occasionally babies in their mom’s arms. A little girl snoozes with her head on the handlebars beside the taxi window.

While I wash the new dishes (we left all but one box in Jakarta for another trip), W tackles the living floor tiles again. Slowly but surely the black grooves are turning stone-colored. [When the landlord comes in Monday, he exclaims, “These are dirty!” comparing the before-being-cleaned tiles with our hard work. Oh yes they are.]

We bought huge towels (200X140cm or 6.5’X4.5’) at an outlet store in Jakarta for mattress covers. ($13 each, instead of $50-100 for mattress covers.) Little by little the house is turning into our home. It’s great to be back!


We head for the classroom at 6:45, taking the bus and walking. (We reach over 12,000 steps – over 5 miles – by the time we’re home.) During morning break, Sumathi and I walk the neighborhood behind the seminary and find a shop selling canaries. She tells me to disappear when I’m ready to buy; she’ll negotiate or it will cost me double the amount.

Japanese food, Indonesian style
After class, we check out an unoccupied guest dorm at the seminary, looking at commercial furniture. I like the 2-seat sofas and the coffee table. W and I catch 2 vans on our way to the mall, but the shops are out of notebooks; the bedsheets we want cost $100+ (for singles, @ half price. No thanks.) We’ll have to find the things we need at the outlets. We walk another mile or two to the angkot headed up our hill and beat the landlord home by 3pm.

The landlord, his helper, and the internet guy are here for a few hours. We once had a dial tone in the phone. For whatever reason, service is disconnected. They’ll be back tomorrow after the phone company reconnects the line. The helper takes a handsaw and fits the slats to the beds the landlord bought for us. He puts the mattresses on top. Need a good night’s rest, anyone?

W scrubs away at the living room floor while I catch up on the blog. At 7:30, I heat up our lunch leftovers, crack in an egg, and supper is served.

A 3" roach crosses our bedroom floor while W is in the shower. (It's big enough that I first thought it was a lizard.) I'm not fast enough to catch it before it scuttles under the wardrobe. W puts chalk along the front edge of the furniture. Eeek. I knew those roaches were here somewhere. And now they've come to visit.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In which she falls apart

The minivan that transports a city: an angkot
Tuesday, August 19
Language class is intense. W and I get home afterwards as soon as we can. The landlord (Dr A) is meeting the handyman at the house to eradicate the termites. The handyman paints the windowsills; he finally gives up on the lower part of the DR window where it is eaten away. He nails a board over the base and leaves for other jobs. He hasn’t got a ladder tall enough to do the beams and Dr A is still figuring that out. So the droppings continue to land on the DR table and the corner of the kitchen counter. We work (and eat) around them and swipe disinfectant over the area a few times a day.

I point out a black-ant trail across the front step to W, who passes the info to Dr A. I don’t sleep well. It’s K’s birthday across the dateline and we are far away. As far as I know, no bugs drop on me in the night, but I've got a few new mosquito bites by morning.

W finds an angkot app for his phone that shows us which buses to take. Def. angkot: a little van-bus with a driver’s seat and a double flat bench seat beside him. In the back, two benches are scrwed against the sides. The door remains open. We rode with 13 adults and 2 kids this morning. Passengers flag down a van from the side of the street and call “kiri” (left) so the driver pulls over to let us hop out. We pay through the window after getting off; sometimes we get change, sometimes the driver keeps the bule’s money or asks for more (European foreigners are fair game.) How do weknow which bus to take? The names of the start and turn-around points (A-B and back) are written on the front and back of the angkot. We haven’t figured out the paint color-codes for most routes yet.

One angkot takes us to within 2 km of the seminary and we walk the rest of the way. There's heavy traffic so the air is very thick and polluted but neither of us is sensitive. The brisk walk wakes us up.

Our new teacher is new to the school. She’s also new to language teaching, apparently. Both of the guys (profs) shake their heads when the lesson goes in every direction. Even before class starts, W and I ask a question and get long Indonesian explanations. We have no idea what she is saying. I have to excuse myself to use the toilet (that’s the word here) so I can be ready for class at 8am.

By nine, I’m finished. Each simple question unleashes a fountain of long sentences and categories and exceptions. I ask her to slow down a few times but she doesn’t understand our rawness.

I’m drowning in foreign words by break. Overwhelmed. I have a meltdown, seemingly because I can't understand the question. Actually it's because of K’s birthday and health challenges, so far away. And ...

·      Our house is in turmoil between bugs and cleaning and interruptions to cleaning. I love adventure but need tidy surroundings from which to explore.
·      The lizards are ok. The termites prevent us from eating at the table so they have to go before the rafters fall down.
·      Our things are still in suitcases so I wash and wear the same 3 tops and 2 trousers day after day. If I need something like deodorant, I’m rooting through luggage.
·      While I need rest every day, my husband thrives on gogogogogo. He’s got the maps and apps and I’m disoriented as to where we are, trotting along everywhere. I feel like a I’m being spun through a city, blindfolded like a child about to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
·      We have late evenings and poor sleep during our short nights.
·      The hot water doesn’t work and I hate cold showers.
·      We don’t have internet so I can’t phone to run things past my mom or daughter or friends for balance.
·      On top of everything, we’re planning to leave for Jakarta tomorrow, so we’ll have to root through our half-open luggage when we get home and pack for an overnight trip…. Aaaaah!

That’s it. When the tutor calls on me after a rambling explanation, my mind goes blank. The tears start to roll down my face and I dissolve, startled. My heart is hurting, my head is topsy-turvy, and I’m thinking, “Who are you, crazy lady who’s crying now?” I’m SO not a cry-er; I might sob at one thing or another once or twice a year, if that.

For the rest of the morning, every time I try to answer a question, I choke up. The poor tutor. She doesn’t know what to do with me. Sumathi comes over and hugs and hugs me after class, comforting my soul. On the way home, I tell W I need the suitcases unpacked and to quit running around so much.

After class, Sumathi tells the tutor that she is going too fast. “Those two began studying 2 days ago and know nothing. Maybe hello and goodbye.” Oh well, today (day 3) we learned our numbers … “Why are we being given such complicated lessons?”

Our neighbor across the street is a chemical scientist. She has invited us for tea. The landlord comes over again. This time they’re waiting for the servicemen who will give us hot water. W has to stay until everyone leaves.

I cross the street. Dr U and I have tea together and chat. She’s prepared mango slices, cookies, and banana/plantain fritters. Deeeelicious! She’s a “cousin” and longtime resident of our neighborhood and tells me some history. The government owned the hill before selling it cheaply to 40 scientists working at a nearby facility. These people are aging; some have passed away. About 30 remain in this tight-knit community. Dr U says that expats rent the available houses (sold or rented out by younger family members): “No Indonesian could afford the rental!”

She has a certificate as a member of a company that won a Nobel Peace prize. She shows me a picture of her late husband, who was Polish. Oh my, he looks like W! and W’s grandpa. I like her spunk and zest for life.

Meanwhile, back at the house, W has spread anti-ant chalk on the stoop. The ants come pouring out of their nest carrying eggs, etc. They swarm into the living room in thick swaths across the walls, up the drapes, and across the marble floor tiles. They are so quick and deep that the floor and wall disappear under a writhing black mass, 2-3 feet wide.

Dr A and W can’t believe their eyes – thousands upon thousands invade in a panic, trying to rescue the colony as the dead ants have brought chalk into the nest. W runs for the commercial vacuum and sucks up live, dead, and dying ants. He sprays the area with bug killer, puts some inside the vacuum for good measure, and plugs the hose to make sure they’re not coming back out. When Dr A leaves at 7, W stashes the vacuum in the garage before coming across the street for tea. I pluck an ant from his sleeve and squish it.

Before bed, we wipe down the big cabinet in the bedroom and pull our clothes out of the suitcases. When they’re empty, the shelves are unorganized and full. I’ll get to sorting them later – for now, I can FIND THINGS! Hurrah.

I wake a half hour early and have my quiet time, meditating on the Lord’s Prayer. We sing a hymn in Indonesian and English to start the class: “I need thee ev’ry hour.” I guess the tutor knows to encourage us. She has asked someone to preach to us next week for inspiration and encouragement. (Will more foreign words do that? We’ll see.)

A serious introduction. Not.
W and Augustine crack us up.
Augustine’s faculty seminar is over (M-W) so he’s with us from now on, instead of just for a morning hour. W and A (the guys) make us laugh, cracking jokes, making puns, and suggesting funny homonyms between Indonesian and English. It’s much more relaxed today and the tutor is limiting new information to what we can grasp. After class, I have a quick hot shower at Sumathi’s before we head for the train station.

Upon the advice of IES Jakarta staff, we cancel the train tickets for today; there’s potential unrest with an upcoming election announcement by the MK, Indonesia’s Supreme Court. The losing candidate for president has contested last month’s vote; thousands are in the streets protesting for and against. TV warns that 20,000 police and military have been dispatched with instructed to shoot anyone who becomes violent. Many main streets are closed, though we hear that anti-vote para-military trucks drive through barriers in a few places.

However, by evening, local news reporters say many demonstrators faded away after a few hours, accepting gifts of oranges from the police in exchange for dissipating. The election is upheld by the court.

We pray for peace. Please pray with us, that God would help the government transfer of power to go smoothly and the authorities to govern well.

The young train station attendant is an English Lit major and former teacher. He learned English because his dad is a sailor and they meet in ports abroad to stay in touch. He goes through the lines with us, securing a refund and new seats for tomorrow.

I need linens for the new mattresses Dr A brought but the angkot driver takes us in a circle and then points toward the mall we want to go to. W pays him anyway. And off we go, asking directions of teenagers coming from school. Some of them giggle and wave us off while those who know a bit of English help us out.

There’s lots of local fashion shops in the BIP Mall, but no bedding. It’s not as fancy as the tourist malls. Gradually we’ll find suppliers and goods tradesmen. For the first time, a lady asks if she can take her picture with me. She snuggles up close and her husband snaps away. She says thanks with a smile and off she goes. Maybe it will be the reverse of our photos: everything around her may be in full color except for the blond ghostly face beside hers.

Outside the mall, there’s a stage, a few police cars, and a Ford Ranger decked out for military use. There’s a small crowd listening to a man shouting through a mike. We skirt the back of the demonstration and stay out of trouble.

We’re on our way home by 3. As usual, we are the only Caucasians in the angkots on our way home. Hopping off one van and asking how much, the passengers, driver, and I have a bidding contest (we bid for how high it should go, not negotiating for less, just for fun.) W pays an extra amount “just because” and everyone is happy (=total 70c for the two of us – instead of 40c).

We are able to use this week’s language information to answer where we’re from, ask for directions, and figure out some of the conversations. Amazing.

The landlord comes at 4:30 with the hot water technicians. They tramp back and forth and fix one heater and promise to fix the other. Our back door lock (new) sticks in the door; the helper cuts it open and fixes the latch. I’m starting to think there is opposition to us being in this house. Prayers please! We love the place.

While the guys are busy – W and DrA visit as the others work – I pull on rubber gloves, get out the disinfectant tile cleaner, and with a brush in each hand, tackle the LR floor. I get about 1/3 done in 2 hours, scraping years of dirt out of the grooves in the marble. Hey, there is no black in the stone? I guess not, once I’m done. The men leave at 5:15.

We have hot showers! in the evening after walking to Ethnic, a neighborhood restaurant. The hills are steep but walking them is getting easier all the time. We turn right instead of left and end up walking back toward our place. (No problem, it’s mostly downhill on the way home.) I order glorified ramen (labeled mie Malang) while W has stuffed chicken breast. We’ll try something else next time. And I’ll be cooking more once the kitchen is clean.

“We’re in the tropics. And we live here. Isn’t this wonderful?!” W and I marvel as we sit in the restaurant courtyard with palms and “houseplants” around us. We love it and feel privileged to be called here.

W tackles the bottom cabinets in the kitchen (my arms are too short to reach the backs) and I write. It’s another late night, but we’re headed off to Jakarta in the morning. Thanks be to God.

Monday, August 18, 2014

School begins

Saturday, August 17
We are exhausted by the whole money transfer issue and the move! We sleep in a bit – I’m in full swing by the time W stirs at 9. It’s usually I who likes to sleep longer, so we know he’s very tired.

The landlord calls to ask if he can come by. His helper brings three single beds in and he asks about a few other not-perfect items. He likes being with W, who has started to vacuum grit and bugs but sits at the table to chat.

We move a few items and clean as much as we can. Laundry, with its water changes and move of clothing from the wash to spin tub (and more rinses) takes a long time between everything else. We are DELIGHTED when our friends Augustine and Sumathi call. They’re bringing lunch, which turns out to be a superb mushroom and chicken pasta dish with fresh green salad.

The prospective maid and her younger sister have made an appointment to visit us at 3pm. The sis has worked in the neighborhood for 20 years. She stopped Friday to ask Dr. Alfred if the new owners need a maid: her older sis needs work. She mentioned a figure which would be crazy generous (and foolish of us).

Sumathi agrees to negotiate in Indonesian with the Ibu Ap and her younger sis (the current neighborhood maid), though she’s studied Bahasa only a few months. She negotiates a rate less than a third of the initial sum and everyone is happy – to our astonishment. We'll be practicing bahasa on the maid for sure. She doesn't speak English.

Waldemar and I want the house spotless before she arrives so she knows how we want it kept. Ibu Ap will work for a trial month in September. If we like each other and the work, she’ll come three times a week for 7.5 hours each time. She will cook a meal for us and be able to eat that one as well.

Augustine and Sumathi pray with us over the house and our mutual call to missions, over the neighborhood and our families. The four of us decide to take a tour with angkots, back toward the seminary so we’ll know how to get there Monday when language school starts. Sumathi asks the drivers for directions handles the fees and gets us from place to place.

Except that we get off too soon. We take 4 little buses (2 more than planned) and see a lot of neighborhoods. People live in every corner with small and big shops all around. We walk a mile or two along the busy road at a brisk pace. Up and down the pavements, dodging cars and motorcycles, people pushing carts, and pedestrians. Motorcycles and cars are not necessarily going the same way as the designated direction of traffic. Shortcuts seem fine as long as the driver is skilled at honking. We hope this first adventure together defines our friendship. It certainly made a fun memory all around.

At the bus stop before the seminary, A and S hop their final angkot while we walk another mile to Plaza Istana to see what hardware is available. On the third floor of the mal, a precocious preschooler amuses us. A little children’s train runs a circular 20’ track around a supporting beam. It screeches “Für Elisa” while the five-year-old boy treats it like a trick rodeo motorcycle. He jumps on and off. He sits and lays down in fancy positions – sideways, upside down. And he lies in wait for it and drags it to a stop on the track before springing on again. We never do see a parent minding him.

W buys a hand truck at ACE Hardware, beams, and says, “Like a boy scout, always be prepared.” He loads it with our bags of light bulbs, and cleaning supplies. We take another angkot to PVJ Mall to buy a water dispenser. On the way, two teens pop into the open door of the van as it pauses in traffic. They sing with all their might, not in tune with each other or the strumming ukulele. They’re having a whale of a time, words emerging like, “Look at us. We’re singing for you. Please Mister, we’re so hungry (cracking up)and we can sing for you and…” They make me laugh so hard that I persuade W to give them 20c (Rp2,000). We hate to encourage this kind of begging but they were good fun and I was weary enough to appreciate their efforts. They hop off and are gone in a jiffy to entertain the next gullible pair.

A taxi takes us home and the driver unloads our bags at the door. It was an eventful day. We do not have a church yet so we will have church at home tomorrow and tackle the household chores. I shriek like a girl when a lizard runs up the kitchen wall as I come around the corner, but it’s gone in a flash. A moth, ant, and termite visit us us in before we go to sleep. W kills the insects. Termite dust falls on us as we prepare for bed and say our nighttime prayers. It must be time to shut off the lights and ignore our surroundings until morning.

We sleep until 7 (me) and 8 (W) and eat the leftover pasta for breakfast. When prayers and dishes are done, we go into a cleaning frenzy to attack the kitchen and bathroom. Termites live in the rafters and wood windows all over the house. The tops of the cabinets we vacuumed and wiped yesterday? Covered in shavings and droppings.

W tackles the upper cabinets of the kitchen and starts vacuuming the lower bedrooms. I scour our master bath from the top of the tiles (7’ high) to the floor. I hold a flat scrub brush in each hand so I can work twice as fast. It still takes me three hours; the charcoal mask can barely keep up with the bleach fumes in the tile cleaner. But the tub is clean, the sink disinfected, and we could go barefoot if the rest of the floors in the house were as clean. (But that’s work for the future.)

We walk through our neighborhood for a break at 3pm. Our neighbors are pulling out of the driveway in their big van. They stop to introduce themselves. They’re at IMLAC (the neighborhood language school that wouldn’t let us in with our visa). Their three active preschool boys take the chance to escape the vehicle and explore the ditches and street. These boys don’t have the innate watchfulness of Indonesian kids: their mom keeps an eye on them as cars and motorcycles drive by.

They ask if we’re walking. Yes. So they tell us good places to eat nearby. (No offer of a ride.) W mentions we have to set up wifi to grade papers and connect with students. They remark that they have great wifi and tell us the company that does it. (No offer to use theirs, and we have to have a bank account to activate - which takes at least a week of set-up.) We smile, say thanks, and invite them over for a later date. They leave for another SE Asian country next month when their studies are done. He has a PhD in missions and will teach in a seminary.

We stroll through hilly paved alleys and wide sidewalks bordered by houses and cement walls. People sit on the sides, smile, and wave good afternoon: “Selamat soré,” as motorcycles whiz by in close quarters. After a mile or so, we come out onto the main road below the restaurant where we planned to eat lunch. We are hungry since it’s mid-afternoon and we missed lunch.

We keep going down the hill. The food court on the top floor of the grocery store is across from a university. We order noodle soup (with dumplings for me; beef meatballs for W) from a young gal behind the counter. She knows her stuff: it is simply delicious. Students are hanging out in the food court so we’ll go back to meet them.

Today, an American and Indonesian couple come by to say hello. We invite them to sit down but they can’t stay long because the wife gets a call that their appointment is waiting. They live 3 hours away, where he has a big factory. They’re in town a few times a month for special needs education for their teen son. We tell them they’re welcome to come by for tea whenever they can make it work. They exchange contact information and off they go. We flag down an angkot to PVJ Mall. We’re tired from the physical exertion and head home early on the bus. We explore another part of the neighborhood on the way.

Language school begins. We had a lousy sleep. Between wondering what (besides us) was in the bed and pre-class nerves, we sleep fitfully. The neighborhood security guard paces the streets and knocks on various metal gates to assure his paying customers that he’s making the rounds. I hear him at 3am. W says he bangs around on every hourly lap.

We walk to the main road, a brisk mile away. It’s ideal traffic, only 45 minutes with 2 angkots. We are early enough that we decided a walk would wake us up, so we skip the third van to walk along stop-and-go vehicles for a mile or so. (Oh the pollution!) With other pedestrians, we take our lives into our hands, crossing 6 lanes of traffic.

The language course is intense. We get a badly-needed half-hour break in the middle of the morning. Sumathi scoots to their apartment next door to cook. (Augustine teaches at the seminary so they live in the housing.) It’s Augustine’s birthday and he has no idea of the surprise meal. After class, S finishes cooking and A comes home about 1. We sing Happy Birthday as he walks in the door, astonished.

The food is fantastic: fish in curry coconut sauce, Indian-spiced chicken, and cashew-flavored rice. We pray over Augustine’s day and year, and are off again. We walk a mile or two to make a brief stop at the ACE Hardware. W is looking for a toilet flapper and a few other items. I buy hooks, kitchen drawer dividers, and a few utensils.

My head is buzzing on the angkot home when I look at the vocabulary I’ve written in class. We’re on the wrong bus and to add insult to injury, the driver overcharges us (after giving us false information). So we catch a taxi the rest of the way @$2.25. Big deal. We check the routes that run past our place and will do better tomorrow.

The landlord is waiting for us at 4 when we get home. He’s brought 40 or 50 guppies for the basin in the backyard. Tropical aquarium guppies live outdoors here and keep the mosquitoes out of the little pond. They swim around and around the bare concrete. (Now to find water plants for the pond.) He introduces us to his outdoor handyman who cleans the roof, prunes the trees, and sweeps the yard. He is the security guy 2 houses away. We ask him to continue at the present rate, twice a month.

W shows the landlord that our water heaters in the shower don’t work, points out the termite dropping on the DR table and elsewhere, and notes that several faucets need work. His handyman and driver will be back tomorrow to take care of things. Hurrah! We tell Dr A we hope he will be dropping by soon for good news, rather than always hearing what’s still to do.

We move a bit of the furniture today. Slowly (oh so slowly) the house is changing from uninhabited into a home. The termites still send hundreds of black pebbles down on the table, the showers are working, and we have to review our language. It’s 8:30 pm. Laundry is underway. We’re tired. But the shower is hot.

It’s been a great day. And the week has just begun. God is good. We pray for the people we are called to serve before we sleep. We’ll be up at 5:45 again in the morning.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wrapping things up. Again.

Jakarta lights up at night
 Wednesday, August 13, unfolds in unexpected ways. We planned go to the mall to check on an order and then head for church. Instead, we're happy to catch a ride with Pastor Dave. We meet another church planter for lunch at a Balinese restaurant. The roofless courtyard is fragrant with flowers and good food. It's always interesting to meet someone doing the same work in a different way. God seems to love using our individual gifts and personalities. It will be neat to see IES Bandung emerge, based on the people who come.

At church, I catch a catnap behind some furniture, while W figures out some things. Banking and money transfers are complicated; I'm glad he enjoys the process more than I do. We make a quick trip to get bags for packing and return to church.

Before 6, we head out with Dave to a life group. The home setting is lovely. Stone walls and floors, exquisite artwork, beautiful furniture to feast the eyes. Dave has brought bacon-flavored treats and chocolates from his trip to the USA to complement the dinner. The group mills around the table, catching up on their friendship. It's obvious how much they like and trust each other.

Tina and I, two meetings in two days
The video study is Towards Belief and tonight's topic is suffering as a barrier to faith. W and I enjoy the warm conversations about the life of faith. After the video, while W hangs out with the guys, the gals discuss the presentation and share how suffering influences us and pulls us towards a God who loves and understands us. We are home just before midnight, but I don't fall asleep until 2am.

We're off to a wedding on Thursday, our first Indonesian event. First we exchange emails with the dishes factory. Some of the items cannot be produced so I check the catalog for replacements. W has not yet heard from the person who has his phone, but it took a week for the buyers to contact us when mine went missing. So he is hopeful.

It's time to throw everything in bags and suitcases and get ready to move. W walks out to a neighborhood barber for a $2 haircut between packing.

We ride in and back to Bogor (south of Jakarta) with the pastors. In the hills outside Jakarta, the couple has chosen a stunning venue. The white slipcovers on the chairs, the petals dropped by two little flowergirls, the fans given as favors - and the cooperative weather. The rain holds off and the sun peeks through clouds that loom overhead.

Dressed for the wedding
I pull my trusty hat out and shade my face, as others are doing with their programs. We got instructions yesterday to dress conservatively. I should have asked Gigi, who looks chic in a cool and flowing outfit. Most of the other women wear sleeveless short dresses and have no problem with varying necklines. I feel overdressed in long sleeves and a black skirt pulled out of the suitcase. The skirt has long ties that I stick back into the lining. Ugh, the sides puff out and add 10 lbs. under the blouse. Ah well, at least I'm so well-covered that I'm in no danger of a sunburn. I suppose it's better to err on the side of caution, but next time I'll ask a woman for advice on clothing!

Yesterday we heard about an Indonesian tradition of marrying young people off when they became interested in each other. They are not necessarily expected to stay together and may marry and divorce several times before finding a life partner. It's serial monogamy similar to what is practiced in the US without the sanction of marriage.

Newlyweds Kristin and Jelly greet their parents.
In contrast, this bride and groom, in their 30s, have invited 200 guests to cheer them on in their lifetime commitment. She's stunning and elegant; he's happy and obviously in love. At the end of the vows and ring exchange, all the pastors are invited up to pray for them. They greet their parents after the ceremony, then head to a big table to sign legal documents. The official pronounces them husband and wife. The MC calls the various people up for photos while guests begin to eat from an abundance of food at the buffet.

We close out the day with several families who meet at the Sport Stube, a German restaurant owned by a church family. It takes us over 1 1/2 hours to get there but it's worth it. We met Patrick and Tina last night in life group - what a treat to see them at their restaurant. The food is fantastic and genuinely German tasting. The Rotkohl (red cabbage) is as good as ours at home, slightly crisp, aromatic with a hint of cinnamon and cloves, and deeply colored. We order Jägerschnitzel and Zegeunerschnitzel (variations of cutlets) that are far above expectations. Patrick lived in Europe and his perfectionism shows in the food and decor. Oh yum.
Isabelle and Gigi - a true mother-daughter team

W and I finish packing. We're off to Bandung in the morning. He'll ride with the mover; I'll take a shuttle to Bandung and a taxi up to the house. Can't wait! We call our folks at home as night comes and midnight slips by on our side of the planet.