Friday, January 16, 2015

Friends, old and new

Fun getting in the picture together
Tuesday, January 13
Have I been anticipating the day with dread or joy? On the one hand, we really like having people over. On the other, we hardly know what we're doing in this new culture. I'm up part of the night thinking through logistics: we can squish about 30 people in (30-non-floor-sitters). Is everything in place? I give up on sleep and by 6am, the oven is preheating for the French toast casseroles.

Neighborhood security delivers extra seating: 12 chairs from the community center. Ibu W mentioned it would be nice to tip them though it is not expected. We tip. They normally make $6-10/day, so any bonus helps.

Improvised arrangement: a 1' tip of a yard plant
in a bowl found in the garden
About 9, the Bariton bakery motorcycle delivers 36 snack boxes. We ordered 35, but they fit into the bag better with an extra. Each contains 4 little savory or sweet treats and a water cup with a straw. I cut the warm bread, bake the egg casseroles, heat the meat, and set the table. It takes me a lot longer and more energy here. After living in the same Seattle house for 20 years, I knew where everything was. Here, I don't even know what I want half the time. When I look for a small serving bowl, I realize ... oops, I haven't purchased those yet.

Between 10 and 11am, 30 women show up with little packages wrapped in newspaper. They each take a Bariton snack box. Some of them start eating, while others put theirs aside to take home. Providing the snacks was my culture lesson from the last arisan.

Hmm. What is the newspaper thing about? "Untuk tahun baru," they say. Whatever that means. I run into the bedroom to wrap a small gift to add to the stack.

The beautiful colors of my gift scarf
Finally I figure it out. Happy New Year gift exchange! A few women write numbers on each parcel and hand out papers with numbers on them. We're supposed to get the gift corresponding to our number. I draw #13 and am given #2 gift. Somewhere the numbering system breaks down. I twirl around once or twice wearing my bright-hued scarf. It's pretty; something I would get for myself. Near the end, the organizers rush to wrap a gift for a last-minute guest. She explains why she was late but I can't understand much. Sigh. Does she live far away? Work somewhere and couldn't come earlier? I can't tell.

There's a lot of food on the table. Ibu A dropped off cut fruit and her market purchases last night. She arrived at 7am today to cook fried chicken, nasi kuning (yellow rice which is traditional for events and celebrations), and a spicy vegetable dish. It's the first "heat" she's put into our food. The other family she cooks for must hate hot food because she is shocked when we say "Kami suka makanan" (we like it).

Almost done: the women pack up amid goodbyes
My contributions are three home-baked loaves of bread that took all of yesterday to rise and bake, between making other dishes. There's French toast and sausage in gravy. Half a dozen women ask for the recipe. Oh oh. I make it differently each time. This time the Bockwurst was so salty that I added creamed soup, sweet barbecue sauce, and a can of creamed corn to balance the flavors. Of course there were trays of home-baked cookies, too.

Ibu A has cooked a feast. We have leftovers until the women see the plastic food bags on the table. They ask if it's okay to take food home. Of course. That's the custom here. Some take more, some hardly any, but bit by bit the table empties. There's a lot of fruit left over so I freeze some and make a smoothie for Ibu A and me.

The arisan treasurer hands me an envelope of food money. I sign that I've received it and have counted it. The president of the group writes the next month's address in my guest book and many of the women sign their names.

Lunch at Miss Bee's Providor
After the women leave, I snag a plate of food for each of us. W and I haven't eaten. I ask the helper to fill a few bags for herself and her family. We used paper plates and real cutlery and serving dishes, so the helper finishes washing up. She mops the living room floors before hoisting herself and the food bags onto the back of her husband's motorcycle.

In the evening, we met three Seattle leaders who are looking for service projects for their groups. One is an Indonesian expat who knows young professionals in Bandung. We eat a delicious Sundanese meal together with them and four outstanding young people.

Pak Herry demonstrates squatting, Indonesian-style.
Can you do it? Keep your heels on the floor!
In the morning, we meet up again with the three travelers. They've brought a few goodies along that had been delivered to our house in Seattle after Christmas: silicone measuring cups, a mixing bowl grip, and a few tech items for W. Very exciting. (Really.) And very useful.

We have fun together, too. Pak Herry lays down a mean beat that is the traditional rhythm for folk music. He shows the guys how Indonesians can sit on their heels by the hour. Since arriving in Indonesia and walking so much, W can do it, too.

We have lunch at Miss Bee's nearby. The guys walk the neighborhood to pray blessings over people living here. Then we talk about projects by work teams or interns that could benefit the city. By the time they leave in the evening, we feel encouraged about possibilities for partnering together.

After I format and send our "New Normal" photo, it's 11 pm. Time for bed.

I'm up at 3:30, preparing for a 4am conference call with leaders of a women's caucus. Most of them teach or do research in the USA, but a few are in England and elsewhere.

I stay up until Ibu A comes at 8am to clean. "Please do the walls, floors, and surfaces very well. We have to clean up after all the holiday company." I think that's what I communicate.

By 8:30, I'm ready for bed. I sleep until 11:30. We stay in until supper, go for a short walk and end up at Miss Bee's again.

The server asks if I'm Ibu Rosemarie. Eek. How does he know my name? Ah, apparently one of the young men at a pre-Christmas get-together had invited him to our place. The server was working but he promises he'll come along next time if he's free. We talk a bit and then W and I walk home, bemused by the networks all around us.

Graves are oriented with the faces toward Mecca
We plan to attend a concert at the seminary in the morning, but as we're ready to leave, I check the venue with a friend. Oh oh, the concert is another place on another day. So we are dressed and ready to go ... with the morning ahead of us. W is researching alarm systems for the neighborhood council and I've wanted to go to the local bookstore for months.

We walk down the hill, saying hi to the regulars who sit and stand at the sides of the lanes. The paths are so narrow that we have to move aside when motorcycles drive by. Many are not wide enough for cars, through the houses on each side can be big and elegant.

Reading Lights bookstore and coffee shop
Last time we came this way, a frail-looking old man walked through the cemetery path ahead of us. He easily negotiated the uneven steps cut into the muddy hillside, slippery in rainy season. Occasionally bricks or stones are placed as treads. Usually the path is chopped into the slope at whatever pitch is needed: some risers are 24" deep while others are 4-6". We always watch our feet. (We marveled and wondered how many North Americans his age could use the path.)

W leaves me at the bookstore for a few hours. Helen the owner and her assistant sign me up for their insider discount. Oh yes, I'll be back. I find a new novelist and time flies. I like an original painting "Orb" that glitters on the wall ($12). I'm fascinated with the creativity of people, whether in words, sounds, or art, aren't you?

Textured acrylic landscape
A $2 cutlet
W orders lunch at the student food court on our way home, a $2 chicken cutlet. We detour a few times walking back up the long steep hill toward home. Between every few houses, a narrow lane leads to still more homes. We discover a new way across the valley to Dago, the next hill. Maybe next time.

We're asked to contribute to an article for a local paper. The back and forth between text and pictures takes a while. We'll see what they use.

Read more:
*Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

*Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV

*If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21 ESV

C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain:
   If the world exists not chiefly that we may love God but that God may love us, yet that very fact, on a deeper level, is so for our sakes. If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed. Before and behind all the relations of God to man, as we now learn them from Christianity, yawns the abyss of a Divine act of pure giving—the election of man, from nonentity, to be the beloved of God, and therefore (in some sense) the needed and desired of God, who but for that act needs and desires nothing, since He eternally has, and is, all goodness. And that act is for our sakes.

   It is good for us to know love; and best for us to know the love of the best object, God. But to know it as a love in which we were primarily the wooers and God the wooed, in which we sought and He was found, in which His conformity to our needs, not ours to His, came first, would be to know it in a form false to the very nature of things. For we are only  creatures: our role must always be that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire: to experience it in the opposite way is, as it were, a solecism against the grammar of being.

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