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 bulĂ© (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.

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