Friday, December 5, 2014

Guess who's coming for dinner?

The meat department of a sprawling food and dry goods store
= one counter with chicken parts on ice
Thursday, December 4
Seven tiny ants run out of my computer keyboard as I write. I don't know why they love the MacBook but it's always got ants coming out of it. Sigh. Squish.

The lizards chirp and their footpads stick with a sucking sound on the beams overhead. "Go guys. Eat those ants, and while you're at it, chew up the mosquitoes that are biting me!" My feet are scratched silly around the itchy bumps, despite the insect repellent.

W and I aren't sure how many people will show up at the Open House / Housewarming in the evening. Several reply. A few cancel at the last minute. And some say they might bring friends along.

Hospitality takes more work here because everything is unfamiliar. I typically think through the details of an event and write down what I might forget. (That started years ago, after I left a bowl of red jello in the fridge instead of serving it to company. Who wants to eat jello by yourself? Ugh. Actually, who likes jello? What was I thinking?)

Smiles all around
When we shop, we have to go to a few stores; we're still learning about their specialties. The meat department of the big Borma store consists of a counter with chicken parts on ice. Mangos, papayas, and other local fruits abound but vegetables are limited. We buy beef, eggs, and potatoes at another store.

Two pieces of glass are delivered via motorcycle before noon: the parents of Josie's student are glasscutters. One pane is for the top of the dining cabinet - voici: a drinks counter. The other replaces a missing pane in a storage unit - voila: a "china-ish hutch."

I glance at my list. Almost done. Oh oh, we have too few serving spoons. What will we use for each dish? At least we have enough serving platters and bowls. (Our trip to the porcelain factory when we first moved here wasn't excessive after all.) It must be time for a long afternoon nap. W and I relax for a few hours.

Getting to know each other
At the stated time, people we've met all over Bandung knock on the door, leave their shoes on the covered porch, and walk in. Each picks up a plate and fills it with food. The initial meeting of strangers is a bit awkward. But then the introductions and laughter begin. The house feels cozy and welcoming.

We are surprised by the breadth of backgrounds and where everyone has been, including Spain, Czechoslovakia, England, Holland, India, Singapore, Canada, USA, China, and Vietnam. Over half are Indonesians, some well-traveled. Our guests include:

  • students met on the angkots (public transportation minivans)
  • FB contacts - including a young man who walks in, looks at W, and remembers their chance encounter at the Apple (Computer) store a few weeks ago
  • faculty from nearby universities
  • dear friends and language school classmates
  • gurus who worked hard to instill Bahasa Indonesia (language) into us
  • two friends from IES Jakarta who drive out for the evening
  • young professionals
  • a young woman with a heart for slum dwellers and orphans

A quick snap at the table
It was fun. Our helper first shows up at 8am - and realizes she isn't expected until 3pm. She goes back home and arrives in the afternoon with her younger sister in tow. They wash the floors, cut fruit, and cook rice and Ibu A's yummy scalloped potatoes. (By the time they leave at 10pm, dishes are washed and mostly put away. So glad for good help!)

W and I prepared food in the morning, including a first stab at Beef Rendang. Beef is stewed in spices and coconut milk for hours. (I tried the 2-hour "stew" setting on the rice cooker. Sadly, the cooking temp was too hot. The stew needs to simmer instead of boil.) One of our evening guests points out that 4 envelopes of spices would have made more of an impact on the amount of beef we made. We also have 2 big pans of French Toast/quiche. A platter of Bockwurst with barbecue sauce disappears quickly. The enormous fruit bowl begins to empty.

Selfies abound
After the savory foods, it's time for coffee and cookies. W's been making a coffee concentrate that simplifies serving coffee to a boiling kettle and a pitcher of concentrate. I baked a few weeks ago so I just arrange the goodies on serving plates. Whew.

Among the memorable moments:
  • Our Seattle friend asks if she can see a live termite. I nod, "Sure, right this way." She grabs the stove lighter and burns 7 termites off the walls and the kitchen cabinets within a minute. Go Avery!
  • Sharen tells us about her Christmas project, collecting children's clothing and donations for impoverished young families.
  • With the help of an extension pole, guests take a lot of selfies.
  • Most exchange WhatsApp numbers and promise to stay in touch.
  • Guests gift our Christmas tree with a traditional puppet couple. 
  • The fruit gift basket is full of things we haven't seen before - and a few we recognize (but haven't found in North American fruit stands).
  • Our friends bring a package mailed to the language school by my folks, filled with Mom's home-baked cookies and Christmas goodies. Ah, Mom and Dad, we miss you!
If you recognize these fruits, chances are you grew up in
Indonesia. Thanks, Pauline and Josie!
After a busy event, I sometimes hear Mr. T's voice (from the 1980s TV program, the A-TEAM) in my head. I hardly ever watched the corny show but one line has stuck with me. He used to crow with glee when a goal was reached despite all the disasters along the way: "I love it when a plan comes together."

That's how I feel at the end of the day. God is good and life is fulfilling. Accomplishments and successes don't depend solely on hard work or personal gifting. Sure, we get better at doing certain things. They become easier. We develop skills and find out what we love to do. But - regardless of our best-laid plans, the outcome belongs to God.

Proverbs 16:9 reminds us: In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. All our worries, anxieties, and efforts can't guarantee results. Neither can our talents and experience. The following quote has sat on my desktop for over a year as we've transitioned to Indonesia:

It's recovery day so I plan to sleep in. Therefore I'm soundly asleep at 7:30 when the phone rings. I reach for it and hear: "The tree man is coming at 8 and you can have some branches. I won't be here after 8:30 because I'm driving to Jakarta." I'm disoriented. What?

Oh ... earlier this week, Dr. H came by for tea. She left a wonderful piece of batik fabric to hang on a long empty wall. Her gardeners are trimming bushes today; I'm welcome to have some branches for hanging the batik. Aaaah. I hope I wasn't too incoherent.

W and I walk a few blocks to her house about 11, after a late breakfast of yesterday's leftovers. Her housekeeper shows me the branches and then hands me a traditionally carved hanging rod. Wow! We take them home, grab our tote bags, and head to town on the angkot.

W is looking for the shop where he can sign up for cable TV. We can't get captioned channels without cable but we need the captions to understand Indonesian programing. Seeing the words - whether they're translated or not - helps us decipher what is going on and improve our language skills.

Side dishes: little skewered eggs, meat, and deep-fried soy
We walk a multi-kilometer loop, following cheerfully-given directions from a half-dozen helpful bystanders. Finally, W gives up. "I have 5 possible locations on the online maps. None of them seems to be near here!"

We stop for a late lunch at a Bangkok Soto Ayam warung. Oh, Bangkok = Thailand. Maybe a Pad Thai would be good. The server says they're out of the specials (Indonesian chicken combo) and the only thing available is chicken soup. No Thai food anywhere in sight. But the chicken broth is excellent. She brings pay-what-you-eat side dishes that are brown and beige as usual. We share a skewer of croquettes (deep-fried flour and potato, served cold.) It's ok - but we leave the quail eggs, liver, and other things on the plate, waving away flies who buzz around and volunteer to sample the food. I can't imagine how many flies have already been on it. When we leave, the almost-full dishes are passed to other diners. The bill for $2 includes our hot sweet teas.

My FitBit does a "happy dance" for 10,000 steps as we walk toward home. I'm glad to be out of the house and moving. W wandered around the city by himself all last week while I rested after the end of language school. This week we hung around the house because he was ill. One way or another, we get "down time."

The old military equipment beside the café is interesting,
but the mangos hanging low enough
to knock the heads of passersby catch my eye.
We drop by the corner store a block from our place, the first visit for me. Aha! Those beautiful orchids on the wall that I've admired from the street have price tags ($5-10). They're tempting for a mad plant-lover but we walk away with a few little containers of coconut milk and a bottle of Larutan Penyegar that looks like clear baking flavor / extract. It turns out to be a remedy for sore throats. Whatever it is, it has no taste. 80c for all.

The orchids put me in a mood for flowers. As we go in our gate, I detour to pluck orange blooms from a tree behind the house. The white flowers beside the walks have evolved into green balls. They look so pretty in the vase. W starts his nap at 5pm and falls fast asleep for hours. He's still not completely well. He walked slower today and actually gave up on a location = clear signs of not being 100%!

A bouquet from the backyard
The cats outside are yowling. It must be mating season. They've cried like babies and sung like tortured souls for the last three weeks. Four sang a quartet on the porch the other day. We groan as we watch them entwine on the side streets: "Oh no, not more kittens!" The neighborhood is already overrun.

Tomorrow Ibu A shows up at 8am to sweep and wash floors and dust the furniture. Her husband is still working his way through the house: he was up on the garage roof trying to fix the leaks today. Wouldn't it be great to actually use the storage area that we've rented for the past 4 months? He also installs sliding manual locks on the exterior doors for security (our doors open out) and paints the ceilings he replaced this week in the laundry room.

Read more:
*Joseph said to his brothers, “Do not quarrel along the way.” Genesis 45:24 ESV

*So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:7, 9-10 ESV

*Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Mighty Counselor, we struggle to be respectful and loving towards those with whom we disagree. Guide us in paths of peace, give us ears to listen to one another, help us to bear with one another in love, so that even in our disagreements we may witness to your love. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, on prayer in Miracles:
When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that (if only we knew it) the event is already decided one way or the other. I believe this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers. The event certainly has been decided—in a sense it was decided ‘before all worlds’. But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering. Thus, shocking as it may sound, I conclude that we can at noon become part causes of an event occurring at ten a.m. (Some scientists would find this easier than popular
thought does.) 

The imagination will, no doubt, try to play all sorts of tricks on us at this point. It will ask, ‘Then if I stop praying can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes has been the fact that you are asking such questions instead of praying. It will ask, ‘Then if I begin to pray can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes is your present prayer. Thus something does really depend on my choice. My free act contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity or ‘before all worlds’; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time-series.

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