Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

People we've grown to love:
teachers and fellow students
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Thunder pounds against the concrete walls of the house as we tidy up after our school brunch. A small gathering (14 people) spend a noisy, happy final morning together, celebrating the end of term. At school, we break from 9:30-10am for tea, coffee, Indonesian snacks, and conversation. Sometimes the Korean, Indian, or we Canadians have brought our national goodies to share.

W and I are still bad at deciphering rapid conversations in Indonesian but the simpler phrases are clearer. We've learned a lot of words – and some grammar during our semester of language school. Yesterday, our class was tested.

One of the bits of advice I've received as well as given is: "Is this is something God expects of you? Or are the “ought”s and “should”s of others creating a sense of obligation?”

While we are preparing for the exam, it occurs to me to ask those questions. Is there any advantage to taking the test? Do I need the class certificate as well as the information gained? In other words, should I invest the time and energy to study for a final or will my time be better spent crafting a meal?

Some of the guys from language school
It is no contest. I stay home and listen to Indonesian lessons online. W and our classmates pass the spoken and written tests with flying colors. And we're prepared for a nice brunch. Win-win.

Brunch goes off without a hitch. The administrator teases me that she'll spring the test today. "No problem," I laugh. "I know no more than yesterday and probably no less." But she lets me off the hook.

It’s the helper’s regular day. When she arrives, she does a quick pass through the house with broom and mop, clearing the debris that continues to fall from the ceiling and the last day’s construction mess. (Her husband has begun repairs on the ceiling and roof in the badly leaking wing.) When we haul dishes to the second kitchen, they are miraculously cleaned. We chase her out after noon, an “early time off” since we have travel plans for the afternoon.

Ugh. The lock in the front door has jammed – W has to fiddle with the deadbolt for an hour before we can lock up. It’s 2pm before we’re on the road. We can't leave the locks as they are: there have been thefts in the neighborhood this week.

We are celebrating Thanksgiving dinner away from family for the first time. A morning call from Mel and Martha in Seattle cheers our hearts. 

In the evening we enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Jakarta friends who are becoming increasingly dear to us. We're so grateful to be included in personal friendships as well as the ministry of IES Jakarta. We’re dreaming and planning into the future with them. God is good!

“It’s Thanksgiving. But look at the weather!” W exclaims as we drive over. Yes, how we love the tropics in November and their 83o (30oC) temperatures.

Gigi serves up a feast of turkey, ham, pork, and side dishes. Dessert includes apple cobbler a la mode and other sweet treats. We eat downstairs in the building's auditorium before heading upstairs to talk and relax in Kenneys' flat. What a lovely day!

We are so thankful for all our partners in this adventure. For YOU. Thanks for your notes, your prayers, and your encouragement over the past 5 months in Indonesia. We feel the presence of God with us through your faithfulness.

It’s been a week since I last wrote. Here’s to catching up. Bonus: an easy recipe at the bottom of the page if you need a quick-and-tasty dessert.

Friday, November 21
We are planning on a day off but have a last-minute appointment at the seminary. In the morning, we meet the academic dean and his assistant. They ask if we are interested in teaching there. Certainly, if we can work out details and permissions.

W needs some tools and gets a screen for the back door, left open during the day by helpers. What a relief: we immediately have less bugs and mosquitoes in the house. W stapled screens to the open windows last week so that’s helped too. I still need the mosquito net over our bed but am learning to untangle it from the blanket in my sleep.

LR before: potential for improvement?
When we arrive home about 4:00, a text pings on my phone. “Are you home? We’d like to visit.’ Yes, please come, I text back. I’m baking Christmas cookies, trying out an Italian cookie press ($4 at the local hotel ware shop). When Dr Hanna and her daughter Alice arrive at 5, we sample the fresh baked goods.

It’s nice to have people drop by. We put aside our chores and sit down to talk together. My mom taught me the basics of hospitality: always have food on hand. Keep the door open. Enjoy the guests God brings. We do.

LR after, almost ready for Christmas guests
“Would you like to go to an art gallery? My friend is co-owner,” Dr H asks before they leave. Sure. I’ll be ready in the morning as arranged. We are looking for regional art that suits our budget (low) and dresses up a few of our many white walls.

Our visitors walk home with a bag of cookies after the rain stops: they live just around the corner. At 7:30pm, it’s pitch dark with only the neighborhood lights on. Each home is responsible for turning on the streetlight connected to their electric bill. W has put ours on a timer after we forgot a few nights. I finish baking by 10:30pm.

Dr Hanna picks me up at 8:20am. I don’t know what to expect at the gallery. W has work to do around the house so I go with $85 cash in my pocket. We are furnishing our Bandung home with money from selling our things in Seattle. It’s interesting to think about what will find us here after shedding so much back there.

Oh! We pull in at the Reading Lights bookstore W and I have passed many times. I’ve wanted to go in as recently as yesterday. I have only one novel along (a gift from W’s sister) and miiiissss books. W loves to read online so he’s fine without.

The bookstore used to be Galeri Bandung. They’re downsizing their artwork. Their shelves are filled with used books but the walls are hung with 40 paintings. The barista hands us a price sheet, ranging from $30-300. I find several framed originals: 2 in markers and one enameled with sand and metal.

Sumathi and Augustine are over, having taken an angkot to our place in early morning. They and W head to the market and to Setiabudi grocer with my short-list and their long one: they’re preparing an Indian menu for the class Monday at lunch. Indian food is extremely time-intensive. (Sumathi will be cooking tomorrow as well.) Our Bosch mixer/food processor slices onions galore and the blender smashes the fragrant spices together. Meanwhile, Ibu A makes us a good chicken and rice lunch.

When W drives them home and Ibu A leaves, I bake more Christmas goodies and start to roll newspapers into cones for an art project. I run out of papers before enthusiasm. We’ll get old ones from the library next week. I usually do one big craft before Christmas. This will be it.

New friends around their Christmas tree
Dr. Hanna comes by for the two of us. We begin the day with a visit to neighbors. She went to school with Edward, a bio-chemist and his wife Hunny. Hanna’s cousin, the head of Indonesia’s Autism Society, is also there. (Seems like everyone knows each other on the hill.)

Hunny has decorated the whole house for Christmas. Their kids live in the States so they have familiar ornaments, including motion-and-song Disney characters. The tree by the piano is lit. The piano! I head over and play a quick carol.

Hunny is also a gardener. She shows us unique plants including a Brazilian grape tree (or Jabuticaba, known back home at smoothie caf├ęs as high-nutrient guarani). The deep purple fruit hangs from the branches in her front yard. It tastes sweet and plum-like. We leave with some seedlings and a bag of fruit. It will be fun to explore her yard with her.

One blond head in the crush
We’ve left the house early. On the way to church, the plan is to view the ITB faculty-student art show that takes place only once every fourth year. We hop out a half-kilometer before campus and leave the driver to find parking in the stop stop stop and crawl traffic. ITB is a prestigious university for arts and technology; the campus swarms with students, families, and Bandung residents. At squeeze points, the pedestrian traffic jam holds us in place for 10-20 minutes.

Oh my! A sudden downpour – rainy season after all – completely soaks us below the raincoats we pulled out of our bags. Our trousers drip and our feet wade through one to six inches of run-off. Dr. Hanna and her daughter find raincoats at a vendor and quickly don them. The little booths push the heavy water off the tarps above, but not everyone successfully defends their wares. Some gear and artwork gets soaked and ruined.

A rainy morning
By the time we push through the crowds and find the car, we are quite wet. Our shoes and feet are muddy. Dr. H and Alice will have to dry off in the car: they point out that it’s too late for church so they will drive straight to Jakarta. W and I don’t have a chance to make the service: even the angkots are standing still in traffic and we’re a few kilometers away. Would we catch the closing prayer ? Even that is iffy. We snag a hot dog and fries (what?!) and walk up the hill toward home empty-handed. Maybe meeting people – these friends of friends – is what God has in mind for us.

A traditional dance group - under shelter
But there is the bookstore again. W asks if I want to go in. Why not? We leave carrying two framed gouache paintings @$60. The angkot driver is surprised when I wedge them around me on the front seat, while W hops in the back with other passengers. The driver carefully moves the gear shift around the bigger painting. (We hang them Monday night and the house begins to feel like home.)

What a great review class with Ibu Josie. She grills us on grammar and structure, helping us understand how Indonesians ask and compare jobs, time, and places. After going through the material, this reprise helps the information to stick.

Great friends and good cooking
During break, we head upstairs to faculty housing next door where Sumathi and Augustine live. They cook and listen as Josie continues. Then the rest of the classes arrive. Thirteen people squeeze in and around the table, heaped with biryani rice and marinated mutton, curried fish (tails and fins cut off, unlike Sundanese style), eggplant, and tender butter chicken. The roti and chapattis fill us to the brim, while raita cools our tongues with cucumber, onion, and tomatoes in sour cream. I baked a fruit cobbler that S serves with ice cream and sugared balls of dough, Indian style.

Ibu Greti starts to wash dishes as soon as she finishes eating. It’s nice to have most of the cleaning done before everyone leaves. We sink onto the couches, replete and happy. What a feast! S sends home leftovers and hosts other faculty in the evening. So much food…

It’s the last day of class, a wonderful review session with Ibu Greti. I’ll miss meeting with these friends and our teachers. “They have heart,” I think. Both a heart for God and for his people.

Chinese-Indonesian food
Afterwards, we eat lunch at the Sundanese restaurant around the corner of the school with the academic dean and his assistant Ibu Dwi. They choose “beef foot” soup (delicious broth; you don’t eat the gelatinized hoof). It is a mix of Chinese and Indonesian food: gado-gado (our favorite Indonesian peanut salad), dried fish and bean sprouts, deep-fried spinach, and fried chicken legs.

Since we are out and about, we drive to ACE Hardware for some nails before hitting Lucky Square to retrieve W’s pen from a store. We shop for groceries for the class event on Thursday, too. We splurge on $4 one-hour foot and back massages outside the grocer. (Two days later, W’s soles are still sore: we get a work-over so painful that we talk and plan today’s events to make it bearable. The young men grinding into our feet with bony fingers smile charmingly as they inflict pain.)
The wreath starts to take shape

I finish gluing the newspaper cones to cardboard backing. Yikes – it’s big: 5’ in diameter and needs a larger backing so the upper cones don’t flop forward. W runs to the store for the Indo version of Elmer’s All-Purpose glue and we glue a large sheet of cardboard across the back and let it dry overnight.

W finishes the test, along with Sumathi and Augustine. He gets off the angkot at the grocer on the way home, replenishing our kitchen cupboards with a long list compiled from what I used up this morning. I’ve baked 2 kinds of bars (recipe for the smash hit below) and 2 kinds of cookies. The meatballs are formed and baked. The sausage and onions for the egg casserole are fried. And I’m so not hungry, looking at all the food stashed in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. (That’s why I was skinny when the kids were little: by the time I’d prepped and fed everyone, it would be 3pm and I barely had an appetite. Evenings when the kids went to bed, W and I ate everything in sight.)

Snickerdoodles and shortbread

We hang the wreath above the sofa, where it fills the empty wall almost to the ceiling. Our guests Thursday exclaim over it: it’s spectacular, another one of God’s surprises – more than the sum of its parts. Its quiet colors and humble materials sneak up on the moving eye.

In the evening, I assemble the egg dishes, check supplies, and write a list for the morning. We’re asleep before 11, quite early for us. We sleep tight and awaken, rested on Thanksgiving morning before the regular alarm at 5:30am.

Here’s the promised recipe. These easy bars got rave reviews from my primary tester (W) and were the favorite at our Thanksgiving brunch. (My apologies: I lost the site where these came from.)

No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 32

1 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or smash into pieces ½ -¾ of a “pound-plus” Trader Joes Bittersweet Chocolate and Almonds bar)
1/2 cup peanut butter
Grease a 9x9 inch square pan.
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Mix in the oats. Cook over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until ingredients are well blended. Press half of mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Reserve the other half for topping.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust in the pan, and spread evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon.

4. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate layer, pressing in gently. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cutting into bars.

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