Friday, February 27, 2015

Moving days

Teachers and students: post-school celebration
Tonight is our last night in the house where we landed in Bandung. Tomorrow at midnight, our lease kicks in and we'll be in a new home.

Wednesday, February 24
We finally have lunch with our teachers from last semester. Sumathi's stomach continues to give her trouble but she comes along anyway. How we appreciate the patience and enthusiasm of our tutors!

Parts of Wednesday and Thursday are spent signing papers and getting a copy of the house lease from the notary. W and I plan the next few days. An American family with four kids arrived Tuesday before noon. They unfolds into bedrooms and stack suitcases in the entry. Before long, they're getting sorted, the LEGOs are spread out in one corner, and everyone is getting comfy.

Paket 6: Raja Sunda restaurant
We're not sleeping well or long enough. With change swirling around us, we're both crabby and occasionally short-tempered.

Two girls have short bouts of illness and the family rallies around them. They've moved into our household seamlessly, pitching in to cook, wash dishes, and play together. W's walking around town most of the afternoon so I disappear into my room for some quiet time, reading, and writing. This house is ideally a one-family space: the living spaces are connected so what happens in one room happens in all areas.

Meanwhile, at the new place, Bapak E paints our bedroom white and takes out a big wooden frame above the bathroom mirror. It was built for fluorescent fixtures but when the lights stopped working, the owners ran a wire to a naked bulb in the center of the frame. I asked permission to remove the structure; without it, the whole room looks brighter.

Two floor tiles that dressed up our IKEA patio tables fit over a worn kitchen counter. Pak E will customize and finish it off by inserting a wooden cutting board between them.

To end the day, one of the girls vacuums both sides of a rug left in the house.Then Ibu A and I roll it up and carry it up the stairs. Unroll. Done. Back downstairs. We'll tackle upstairs on another day!

Recycling, 18 tires on a motorcycle
At 6am, W walks Kevin and his 15-yr-old son down the hill to a coffee shop. They have breakfast with the usual guys before walking back up. We love to walk the neighborhoods and pray for those who pass by and those who sit at the side and call out a greeting.

Ibu A shows up at the house at 8. By the time Stacy comes back from a walk with her girls, I've packed up the living room cabinet and much of the kitchen; Ibu A has moved it over. "That's my kind of 9:30," Stacy exclaims. Mine too, life in motion.

We shift blankets and bedding, shoes and hanging clothing, stationary and art supplies. The family comes back from a quick trip for basic supplies. It can be frustrating when the shops are out of goods that they display. That's normal: we often have to go back several times and to several stores to get things we need. "Kosong," they tell us. ("None.")

When I get home, the girls run back and forth with what I pack up. The youngest is quick as a rabbit. By the time I turn around, she's back for another load. It's a huge help. While I'm at the other house, Kevin and Luke roll up the rugs and move the living-room furniture over. They're strong: together they bring the sofa and heavy chairs.

The point is not a new place. We feel always on alert, called to pray when we hear the calls from the mosques. We sense that God is stirring the people we are coming to love and every resource is a tool from him.

W and I start with joint devotions, today from Romans 11. It can be a confusing passage - yet Paul sings an exulting hymn of praise at the end. We have missed a few days of joint study. It's a relief to have time, even shortened to a half-hour, to work together.

Then comes a tutoring session from 9-11am with Josie. W and I are both distracted but it's helpful to hear and speak Bahasa Indonesia. Josie translates for us when the appliance store delivers our new refrigerator. It's big compared to the little one in this house and it doesn't leak water. Here we kept a towel at the base of the fridge to dissipate the water on the floor. (The new fridge costs less than our fridge in Seattle cost 20 years ago.) Cooking and food preparation for groups have been a real chore with limited storage. Being about to work the day ahead allows me to focus on a meeting day.

The Johnson family has fun, too. They head off in the morning with a driver from the language school. While we continue to clear out, they're shopping for appliances and household items. They have their first encounter with ACE Hardware, walking from one counter to the next to pay, to sign up, and to sign out and ... ? Everything takes longer here. It's not as simple as standing in line and handing a credit card to the check-out worker. Typically, we walk from one person to the next until the transactions are completed. It's a good way to employ a lot of people.

Friends, a few weeks ago, in what will be our kitchen
By the time they come back in the evening with a fridge of their own (plus a few other necessities), the old kitchen is emptied and wiped down. The remaining dishes, food from the cabinets, and bedding have been transferred.

In the afternoon, I do a final load of laundry and hang it outside on the clothesline.

Meanwhile, Ibu A has put things into cabinets in the new kitchen. I open a drawer and think, "That goes there? Maybe not." Gradually, we'll move them to suit my own rhythm of cooking and baking.

When the second team of delivery men arrives, they install the Johnson's appliances here and bring our washing machine to the new place. W tells the movers to set the washer in the living room.

"We'll figure it out tomorrow," he promises me.

Good! I would have sent those hardy bodies right up the circular staircase to the laundry on the roof. He'd better figure out how to move it early in the day because I need it tomorrow.

Oh we're tired! W is "finished" by about 4:30. I motor on for another hour and a half. The new place is heaped with pillows and blankets on the sofa and table, packing materials strewn in two piles, and food boxes on the counters.

By nightfall, only our office, fridge, and bedroom are left to clear out here. Let's leave those for tomorrow.

In my head, I can see it all in place. It's a lot of work (again), but we can't wait to have people over when it's done. We'll talk and pray together and see what God wants to do among us.

Read more:
*Because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Deuteronomy 28:2–3 NKJV

*Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. Psalm 25:8 NEV

*Jesus said to his disciples: Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Matthew 13:16 NEV

*Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Romans 14:1 NEV

*Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 NEV

Moravian Prayer: No matter where we go, Lord, you go with us. In each breath we take there is the Holy Spirit filling us to excess with love, mercy, and grace. May each breath that leaves us gift others with the same blessings. 
Let us take the time to listen, Lord, when you are calling. You are not always direct in your speaking to us. Let us be ready to meet you in the places and times of your choosing. Make us instruments of your peace and love. Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Full house!

Pastor Terry of BIC church
Sunday, February 22
W and I are privileged to speak at a local church. That's one of the most energizing and relaxing things we do together, trading off information and stories as if in a conversation. Getting the material together is an arduous process since we only began to do it last year.

We start with scripture or a topic - this time assigned. Either one of us begins to stash ideas in a GoogleDoc. Usually we have to talk through the direction because our approach is almost opposite. W gathers details that sort into a flow of information. I'm more likely to set up a target and sections and flesh out the ideas as we go.

Our idea edits are mutual and simultaneous. We start typing and assigning parts as we read aloud. If a main idea feels long, we keep breaking up the reading into shorter sections. By the time we present, the conversation is comfortable and well-timed.

Ibu Josie's mom explains the significance and
nutrition of the special foods for New Year
And so it was Sunday. Listeners always seem surprised. First, few couples co-speak equally. More often, one person will say a personal hello to greet or wrap-up while the other is the main speaker. Second, we plan 10-20 minutes for audience remarks and Q&A at the end. People talk about what they've heard or ask theology questions. It's good fun for us and hopefully helpful to those who respond.

Our good friends Sumathi and Augustine came to cheer us on and pray for us. Having a "friend on the bench" means the world to us. We dropped our things off at home, walked through the new house together, and then went for lunch at Miss Bee's.

Happy Chinese New Year with teachers and friends
We are invited to a Chinese New Year's lunch for seminary students at Guru Josie's house. Her mom, a great caterer, starts us off with Chinese pancakes. Each filling has a special meaning. And then the main course arrives: noodles, rice, various meats and vegetables. I go back for seconds. TOO MUCH food! followed by home-baked pastries. Oh yum.

Back home, we finally meet Kevin, Stacy, and their 4 kids from Texas. They're experienced expats, having lived in India and visited many countries. They're staying in a hotel nearby for 2 nights before moving in with us tomorrow. (We hope to sign the lease on another place Wednesday, but the earnest money and initial contract were exchanged last week.) How do they want to arrange sleeping quarters until we shift out this weekend? We talk over some details and part friends.

While I look over our language sheets, W walks to Yogya for chicken. Ibu A will be cooking a big lunch tomorrow!

The Johnson family in cooler times
After language class, we walk back across the street to move a few items of furniture into place. We don't have a bench, so we snag a sofa for one side of the table. Ibu A outdoes herself again with a coconut curry chicken dish, papaya and lime, salad, avocado, and rice. Of course there's rice.

The Johnsons pitch in to do dishes while we walk Ibu A and her handyman husband Pak E to the new place. Today Pak E's task is to put a commercial paint primer over old water stains on downstairs ceiling. Ibu A will vacuum, wash, and rinse cabinets in the main bedroom and kitchen. And we have to buy a fridge and make a hospital visit. So we have our own chore list.

Thank you for your prayers all along the way!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why does every word sound the same?

Lina quizzes me on life in a foreign country
We'll speak together in Indonesia for the first time this Sunday morning. In English. It's a strange process, this gathering of God's work and words into a presentation. More about that later.

Lent began on Wednesday. Every day requires its own discipline to write a post at the Simple Life blog.

The backyard is once again filled with construction debris. "I'm finished," declares the handyman, after replacing the roof tiles above the leaking hallway with corrugated metal sheets. Plastic lunch baggies, a scrap pile of rotted wood, and bamboo scaffolding clutter the driveway and back yard. Ok, so who is going to carry away the garbage?

A welcome diversion: our niece calls from Edmonton. She has to interview intercultural workers. "Call an organization? No way. I'm calling my aunt." We have a lively Q&A. She's a smart cookie and great writer.

Friday, February 20:
Guru Josie, we've MISSED you! One of our language school tutors from last semester comes for our first session. She reviews the material Pak B gives us on Tuesdays, conversing with us and correcting our pronunciation. We realize how much we've forgotten from what we knew in class.

We constantly need to use vocabulary and structure to make the language our own. It's easier to decipher the action as we watch TV though. I find a favorite Korean drama translated into Indonesian. That helps keep my attention from wandering but I often have a headache from focusing and trying to understand. I keep Google Translate open on my laptop.

After two hours of language tutoring, W heads downtown. My shoes are on, my phone is in my pocket, and ... I just don't have the energy to walk out the door. So I take off my shoes, put down my phone and sunglasses, and get out my language books. I write a weekly "New Normal" caption for a strange photo (see the frog below) and develop an outline for our talk for the church bulletin.

It takes an hour to draw a hot bath: the shower head slowly drips lukewarm water into the tub while 10-12 kettles of hot water heat up. I have two pots running on the induction burner: as soon as one boils, I pour it into the tub while the other pot goes on the burner. As I write, it occurs to me: I could heat 4 pots on the stove at the same time and make it faster. (Ah, my brain is truly on under-drive if I just realized that, after living here 6 months. Sigh.)

W's back with 10,000 steps on his FitBit. (I have 300 on mine.) He brings a crispy pizza from Miss Bee's. It's Italian-style thin crust with limited toppings. But it is pizza-like and that's a good thing when my head is buzzing with words like menggunakan (to use), membeli (to buy), and melihat (to look). Don't even get me started on pernikahan (wedding/marriage), pembantu (helper), and pelayan (waiter). Or beristirahat (to rest), berkumpul (to meet together), or berasal (where you come from).

Our New Normal: A real bullfrog transformed.
Need a 12" nightlight anyone?
I can't always place words onto my tongue in the moment. And if W jumps in with the right one, my brain goes into a total scramble and then blanks out. (It's like zapping my circuits with electricity and shutting down the system.) Language acquisition is a slow process. How frustrating to have had a snapping memory and now to have almost none!

W and I always have a rocky start to joint presentations. This time, he asked me to come up with an outline while he works on a talk for Northwest University. As we read the passages during devotions, three points jump out at me. I put them on paper and hand him a copy for discussion.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" he asks, glancing at the page. "This isn't the way my mind works."

Haha. That's always the problem, no matter who takes the lead. He and I process information so differently. I immediately draw a big picture of where we're going, while he begins to analyze the pieces and sort them into categories. The broad scope emerges for him as a result of research, while I zoom in on a general target and build steps toward it. I gather resources and plug in details on the way.

W and I sort and scramble and sift. We have a script in the end, working out who will say what. It gets smoother and smoother and finally lays flat on the page, settles in our heads, and rolls off our tongues. It helps to be surrounded by prayers.

The morning has started by the time Ibu A arrives at 8. The oven is heating, which we don't take for granted. (Most households have a stovetop only.) In our new surroundings, baking is considered a noun, something to be picked up from a bakery, rather than a verb, something to be done.

Most locals don't bake much at home. Frying? Oh yes! Everything is fried. I finally bought oil-gathering sheets to soak up the cooking oil in our foods. Ibu A slips a sheet under the freshly fried rice, fried chicken, fried noodles, and fried "you-name-it" before transferring it to a serving bowl.

Anyhow, when the oven is hot, I bake a loaf of bread. W and I read our "talk" together in preparation for the Sunday service and eat hot bread and cheese, a luxury item from the expat supermarket. I leave 1/3 of the small loaf on Ibu A's counter. By the time we return from our meeting, it's almost gone.

"Roti enak," she tells me, a big smile on her face. [= Good bread.]

Hard at work to run a harmonious neighborhood
The meeting is our second attendance at the monthly neighborhood council. Water, garbage (a new composting program) and traffic are on the agenda. Last month the leaders also mentioned security concerns. "How do we find out what we could do to inform security when something is going on?"

The security guys come by a few times each night, rapping a stick against the metal poles and fenceposts to announce that they're on the job. We don't even hear that any more, but it was startling at first to wake to the clang clang clang on our gate at 1, 3, or 4am. How could they be informed if a thief is on the roof or we have an emergency?

I had mentioned that W's a tech and gadget whiz; perhaps he would be willing to assemble some basic info for them. (He'd gone to another errand at that point last month.) Today, W comes prepared with handouts of options and prices. The parameters are helpful in the discussion. One of the things we love about Indonesians is how resourceful and gracious they are as a society. They appropriate and appreciate shared information and resources.

I am surprised to hear that I also had volunteered to lead an English class for them. (I do vaguely remember agreeing that if someone wanted to learn English, I'd be happy to help.) Only one person has indicated interested in a class. Whew. But they think it might be fun to meet monthly at the community center for English conversation. Could we help them by speaking English? Of course. Someone mentions that maybe every other month they would speak only bahasa Indonesia so we could learn their language.

"Maybe one-on-one would help more for that," another suggests. When we get back after our travels, several of us will talk about practicalities.

We find out that we'll miss the neighborhood's 50th Anniversary Celebration in March. We're so disappointed! What an important milestone for our neighbors. The Indonesian government established Kompleks LIPI to consolidate efforts to develop and promote a national program of scientific research and development. The best minds in the country came together - and many of them still live here. We appreciate our brilliant neighbors and they've extended a warm welcome to us.

W and I drive to a few furniture stores. We're back by 6pm, which gives me time to nap before a conference call to Seattle. The credentialed women on the Hangout refresh my heart and set me back on track. Thank you, ladies! I squish the ants that climb onto the desk and into the arms and legs of my pyjamas as we talk.

It's almost 2 a.m. when I get back to bed. Two security guards clatter by in the deep night. Prayers appreciated for the upcoming presentation. Thanks!

Read more:
*I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me, or I will die.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. Psalm 143:5-10 NLT

*Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100 NKJV

*We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 NEV

Evening Prayer: Dear God, let our hearts rest in you as we look back on the day and forward to the night. Whatever the changes and transitions, let us turn time and time again toward you, never away. Give us the confidence to come to you with our requests. We are grateful to belong to your family and that you hear our prayers. With our thanks we honor you. Amen

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My biggest culture shock and a girls'-day-out

The view from our window: an ongoing construction zone
My annual discipline at Lent: blog@ SIMPLE LIFE.

Wednesday, February 18

The big event of my week and maybe my month? It's my first girls-day-out in Bandung - and we've been here 6 months. HURRAH. Sandy says her job as  "resident tour guide" has developed as part of her call to Bandung. She has time (her husband is a pastor) and she knows Bandung. What fun! Both of us have a 2pm deadline so we start early, at 9:30am.

While we're gone, W tries to record his sermon for Northwest University Chapel (due Feb. 22). Motorcycles, noisy conversations, and the roof repairs prevent a good video. Maybe tomorrow.

First, S's driver drops us at a busy furniture workshop down the hill. I imagined a Western furniture store, not a hole-in-the-wall with a desk and pamphlets of furniture finishes and foam coverings.

The furniture workshop. (The sign is for
a tech company.) Would you have known?
"This is the way it's done here," S gently reminds me. Of course! I should have come prepared with pictures (and will, next time.) Luckily I know the dimensions for the nook bench and dining table we need. I draw a few options while the driver helps interpret. The shop owner promises quotes by evening but time is flexible here.

Next we drive to Good Buy, an expat-friendly showroom. The furniture is beautifully made of quality woods, about $40+ for chairs, chaises, tables, and more. I ask for nook and table quotes and spot a few items we need for the new place.

Each time we go to the house we plan to lease, more furniture is missing. W sends a note to the landlord with the updated contract. Could he please let us know if anything else will be taken? At this point, there are two lumpy daybeds on the porch, a dining table, 2 worn sets of LR furniture, and some cabinets downstairs, with a few beds, desks, a chair, and 2 nightstands upstairs. It's a big house and we'll have lots of company as usual.

Local furniture outlet: Good Buy
"Please stop emptying the place!" we think, having agreed on a lease price when it was still quite furnished. Who keeps raiding the place? Stop already. The lease says partially furnished. Can we agree on what that means?

On the way to lunch, S and I find a porcelain reject shop. The cutlery prices are fabulous - oh oh, actually they're 10X the price I first understood. Put those forks and spoons back! And then I feel hungry.

We have a delicious lunch at Hummingbird, a shop own by the Miss Bee's Providor group (our neighborhood favorite). We choose creamy mushroom pasta and Thai salad.

When S leaves, I realize the enormity of her gift to me. A day out with a woman friend. WOW. Priceless balm to my soul.

I promised to be "real" about our life here. So here's something I didn't expect to be such a bother.

Everyone facing a new culture says at least one thing shocks their system. What I miss more than anything else - my most drastic cultural shift - is giving up my autonomy. I can go nowhere alone. As a man, W often heads out by himself. He prefers to walk so even simple errands can take most of the day. Depending on traffic, driving the car can take hours in traffic. And if we're driving, we have to focus; it's not the casual "jump in the car, drive and chat, and soon you're there without even thinking," like where we grew up.

As a female bulĂ© (Western foreigner), I don't drive around alone: I'd be in serious trouble if my car bumper hit someone who wandered into the roadway or tried to drive a motorbike through a too-narrow gap. That means I'm effectively grounded unless W chaperones. It's worse than when I misbehaved as a teen.
Traffic: a slow moment, noting the gaps between vehicles

S affirms what every other woman - local peer or expat - has said: "The supir (driver) is a necessary buffer between traffic and our destination, between a woman's restrictions and access beyond her immediate neighborhood. We have little [and some say, no] freedom to explore or experience our surroundings without a driver."

S's excellent driver speaks good English. He often translates to make sure she's not overpaying, being taken advantage of, or mis-communicating with locals. When he's not driving, he gardens, is a handyman, keeps the yard clean, and cleans inside the house when they travel. What's not to like?

"Do you know a good driver who could work for us?" I ask him. "Would he do the same kind of work for us?"

"Yes, I have a friend looking for work," he replies. "He is in his 50s, not young, but he knows Bandung, is a good driver, and reliable."

"Please ask if he wants work," I say. It's time to write a driver into our budget, for my sanity's sake. If not before our break next month, we must hire someone upon our return. (But what a relief it will be to drive myself during furloughs! My shoulders go down and I feel relaxed just thinking about it.)

After reaching home, S and I walk through the new house. She likes it but notes that there's a lot of work to do. We both left big houses in N. America. Here we have the same, but this time with a helper. It makes all the difference in releasing us for other things.

W and I are supposed to sign the lease this afternoon but the official "chop" hasn't been put on the contract. We wait for the landlord to get that done and hear no more this evening.

Thursday: Happy New Years to all our Chinese friends!
W heads off to his morning men's group. Not surprisingly to him, no one shows up because of the holiday. Many shops are closed. He comes back with 10,000 steps on his FitBit. I have 300 so far.

Fortunately, Ibu A comes as usual to clean and make lunch. Her beef rendang is a work of art. Click here for a similar recipe.

Beef Rendang
Most of the morning, we work on our Sunday talk for a local church. W's also recording his chapel video for Northwest University, to be shown February 25. (Get the podcast after that, if you're interested.) Motorcycles zoom by = "Take 2." Our canary chirps too loudly so W takes the cage off the porch hook and puts it on the ground = "Take 3" or 5 or 7. One of 100 neighborhood cats knocks the cage over to get at our bird. Water spills in the cage and the rotting cumber disgorges its contents on the cage floor. Time to clean the cage. Poor birdy.

Read more:
*My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2 NIV

*O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you! Jeremiah 32:17 NLT

*Who dares despise the day of small things, will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone. Zechariah 4:10 NIV

*As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” Matthew 17:22-23 NEV

*For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 ESV

Moravian Prayer: As we prepare for the solemn time of Lent, help us grow closer to you. Teach us about the life of your Son so that we may better understand the sacrifice he made for us. We look toward Easter with anticipation and hope. Amen.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kota, sweet kota (city)

Orange trees at every shop door for New Years
Friday, February 13
We sleep in before a final walk to Chinatown to find the cute baby-boy backpack that I spotted the first day. We don't find the shop but log a 5-mile walk down the alleys, in and out of stores, and through every vendor stall. (We put 23 miles on our soles in 3 days in Singapore. Feels good.)

One of our regular stops in Chinatown is Erich's Wursthaus und Backstubbe, run by an Austrian expat. Dozens of Chinese senior citizens visit in the square nearby. My Bockwurst is good; W enjoys his meatloaf sandwich. And we speak a bit of German, a relief to know so many words when we're so often stumped by Indonesian.

At 1:30 W looks at his watch and notes that if we don't make tracks, the airplane may leave without us. We hurry back to the hotel for our luggage, grab a cab, and hang out at Changi Airport until we fly home from Singapore.

It's an event-less flight on Air Asia. The attendants are especially friendly and we suspect the mechanics are doing extra-careful checks since the accident. (It's likely safer to fly now than before.) In Bandung, we stand in line for a few minutes for our Visa on arrival, good for 30 days. When we return we'll pick up the regular visa again. Money drains like water into airport taxes, flights, hotels, and meals for these trips. We mostly eat at hawker stalls (at a fraction of Spore restaurant prices) but how grateful we are for faithful friends and supporters.

Meatloaf at Erich's Austrian cafe in Chinatown.
IMAGINE that. (It's actually pretty good.)
The air feels cold in Bandung at 8pm (75oF). The taxi drivers outside the station refuse to meter their fare, asking a flat rate of $12. (Meter is about $3.50.) Passengers with luggage are somewhat hostage to them but we walk half a kilometer to the main road in the dark. There, another cab driver offers us a ride for $4. Yup, better. We hop in.

The driver gives us Bahasa Indonesia lessons all the way home. We converse about family, weather, the city, the food, and education. W and I are shocked by how much we understand and how many words we can speak. W is much better than I am. But I'm happy with the number of things I can comprehend. And we're glad to be among Indonesians, so hospitable and friendly to strangers.

How nice to pull up to the house and walk in the door. A big pile of termite frass has accumulated on the rug under the main beam in the living room. It won't be long before we leave that behind. The house smells musty and moldy with the repairs going on in the back wing.

Singapore, a city under constant construction
Saturday: a forgettable Valentine's Day
We're studying and eating by 8am. Next week, W and I preach together on Nebuchadnezzar, so we're reading all the Old Testament passages that mention him.

Our helper Ibu A is back today for the first time since her mother died last weekend. She says her eyes overflow with tears unexpectedly. I can't imagine.

W and I walk to the new house next door. Our earnest money has been received. We begin to measure the rooms. We check the conditions of cabinets and rooms. (Most of our current kitchen cabinets are being destroyed by termites, so we store most dishes in the living room hutch.)

Only a bare minimum of furniture remains and it's very much used. The sofa and chair leathers are clean but badly cracked. We are a bit overwhelmed when thinking of buying furniture. It's not in the normal budget. We need desks, a dining table (looking for 2 meter round) and dining chairs. Some porch furniture? The family took nearly everything from this crammed house to their new place (1/3 the size.) Wish they'd left more. We'll outfit it bit by bit.

Considering another kitchen
Dr W comes over with her handyman, who went to construction trade school. (We don't know what that means here.) Before we move in, he'll paint out the ancient leaks on a few ceilings (from a water valve failure 10 years ago, acc to the landlady). We need a door upstairs to the laundry room, or dirty clothes and linens get carried downstairs through the kitchen and back up a circular stair. The water pump in the middle of the kitchen counter will be moved over to the side. He taps the roof and walls. Sound, he says, but make sure you spray regularly for bugs. I look at the ants climbing the trees and coming down along the balcony. "They have two weeks to move or die," I think to myself.

All of a sudden W looks at me and says, "Happy Valentine's Day!" Oh yes. That's right. It's Feb. 14. I guess our heads are wrapped around other things. We got some needed items in Singapore and I found a few purses on Arab Street. (About time, after 6 months with 2 purses and a few tote bags.) I feel blessed, as though we already celebrated.

Upstairs, bare and ready to go
When we get back home, Ibu A assumes we've eaten because we were gone so long and I hadn't mentioned cooking. She's made enough noodles for her and her husband. She looks at me anxiously but I tell her not to fuss. I boil spinach noodles and frozen mixed vegetables with a bouillon cube, drain it, and grate cheddar cheese on top. Lunch in 5 minutes. Not the most exciting meal today, I admit.

She and I walk to the new house. I show her the helper's room and point out my expectations of cleaning while we're in Seattle = scrub the first floor from top to bottom. The upstairs is pretty clean. Of course throwing bleach on the grout in the bathrooms will help upstairs and down!

The bread I mixed this morning goes in the oven. Two loaves, one for Ibu A's family and one for us. W's running errands downtown, putting more pulsa (minutes) on our data plan and getting passport pictures taken.

Outside, Dr A's handyman is putting sheet metal on the back wing. Trimmings and dirt fall off the roof into the guppy-filled pond. I drag the pond clean and put a scrap piece of plastic over. The sun's out, it may rain tonight (rainy season), and we're glad to be in Bandung, even on temporary visas.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Arab Street, Chinatown, and Bugis

Thursday, February 12

We're tired so we sleep in. The bed quivers and tilts with each move. We're half-asleep much of the night.

I love rice porridge. Who knew! (I thought it awful the first time.)
The food court is in the next block. W gets chicken rice and I get a chicken porridge. Rice is cooked for a long time: about 8 parts water to 1 part rice. It's completely yummy when seasoned and sprinkled with onion and chicken floss. What is chicken floss, you ask? Chicken fried, shredded, and dried. Looks a bit like breadcrumbs.

Posters in the Arab district: Bali Lane
By the time we walk to our first errand, we've put a few miles on our shoes. By the time we get back to the hotel at 8pm, we've walked almost 10 miles.

Arab Street: fabrics galore
We pass Chinatown and head for the tech mall. W doesn't find the tools he's looking for, preparing to teach a tech class. He may bring things from Seattle. We pass a variety of temples. All the Chinese cultural centers are dressed in red and lit with gold for New Years next week.

Reminders of why we're here
We pick up a wallet left at a hotel by a friend earlier this month. We'll drop it off in Jakarta for pickup in May. The money and credit cards are intact. Kudos to the Village Hotel at Bugis for their honesty.

We buy a young coconut at Chinatown. A thin old man wields a cleaver and chops the top off the coconut, sticks a straw into the water, clamps the top back on, and hands it to me. Delicious and refreshing. All along the way, we pray over the city. Every person has a story and God's attention. People pass by in a constant flow. We meet many expats and Western tourists.

Goods of the world are exchanged here. 
Near the hotel is a gourmet pizza joint. It sounds so good after a lot of meals with rice. The salad is fresh, the pizza delicious. It's the freshest salad we've had in months. And we are tired. 22,400 steps. My feet felt the last few thousand.

Read more:
*Know that the Lord is God. Psalm 100:3 NEV

*Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:5–6 NIV

*Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:9 NASB

*The Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true. 1 John 5:20 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Peaceful Savior, our strength is in you. You deliver us from the difficult times in our lives and you give us peace through hope for what is still to come. May our struggles always find us in your care. 

Great Truth, we never see you directly but we know you are there. Deep down, we feel your power and presence. Help us to share that understanding with those for whom the trials of the world cause their faith in you to falter. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Journeys through water and air

All kinds of kids' shoes
Sunday afternoon we walk across town “the other way” about 2.5 miles. It feels good to be walking up and down the hills after a sedentary week. Borma is a super-department store that carries supplies from food to canary seed to clothing to tools to car parts in its warren of buildings, in the chaos of its shelves. Our granddaughter Miss K has chosen shoes from 4 photo options. Oh look! there are also adorable peep-peep shoes that can be locators on her little brother while they drive his parents crazy.

In the evening, the helper’s husband says he won’t be working on the roof in the morning. His mother-in-law is very badly off. We tell him not to worry (he’s working for the landlord anyway.) And we activate a prayer line for Ibu A’s mom.

Fording the streets of Jakarta
Monday, February 9
We start for Jakarta just after 5am. WAZE is a great app but it takes us “faster” through the streets beside the direct toll road. The reason there’s no traffic on the side streets is … water. The neighborhoods are flooding as rain continues to pound the city. In some areas we drive through 2’ deep swirls that race down alleys, tug bicycle and motorcycle wheels, and grab at the feet of people wading along. Few cars are venturing where WAZE takes us. We pray for safety. (Later we see pics of cars up to their windows in water.)

The trip takes 5 hours. The parking attendant rushes over with his umbrella as we walk to the front door of the hotel. We missed the first half but still feel it’s worthwhile.

Bill Hybel (Chicago) is the speaker, taking Q&A from the group of pastors, including IESJakarta staff. Questions range from administration to staffing to organization and vision. He is whisked to the airport as soon as he’s done, while attendees enjoy a leisurely lunch.

We want to know at our table: “What’s your biggest takeaway?” The responses review what we heard and fill in gaps of what we missed. Dave K has the best team and they are engaged and moving forward in their areas of expertise. We’re grateful to be part of their vision.

We’re back on the road about 3. Where are our passports? The assistant arranging our exit visas is flooded at the immigration office: he can’t get them to us. We are almost to Bandung when he calls, asking where we are. We’re too far to turn back, unless he can’t deliver them. He will hand-deliver in the morning, he promises. Good. We must fly to Singapore (exit the country) on Wednesday.

Dutch legacy: beautiful train bridges along the highway
We get permission to move ahead on leasing the neighbor’s house. The termite frass in the current living room and garage is increasing. With the roof open for repairs, the entire wing is leaking water. Time to say goodbye. We tried. 

W forwards the earnest money for the new place and gets a note that it’s been received.

Before we head to the tutor, Ibu A and Pak Engep come to the door. She falls into my arms weeping. Her mom has passed away. Before she asks for the day off, I tell her we will pay this day but she must go home to her family. And Thursday will be paid as well. Not to worry. (If helpers don’t come, they don’t get paid. And every amount helps the family. Pak and Ibu have 17 grandkids living together or nearby.)

The tutor subsidizes two hours of conversation with ginger tea, steamed and fried casava (think amazing French fries), and two kinds of loaf cake. We nibble and share a slice of cake. It all tastes so good.

Dr W and I walk to the arisan meeting in the neighborhood. About 40 women contribute $10 each for lunch and a shared money pool. I drew that amount on my first visit in December, so feel obligated to come back for each meeting. (I have to pay back my winnings, after all.) On our way into the ballroom, we get a snack pack (water and three treats, sweet and salty) as well as steamed bananas and peanuts. I don’t touch my snacks. There’s a meal coming and I just had “French fry” cassava and cake!

The faces are becoming familiar. There are hand-swipes followed by fingers tipped upward as well as two-cheek hugs from those who are better acquainted. Lots of smiles and twinkling eyes – this culture is gracious and friendly to outsiders.

Mango salad
And the food is wonderful. Three tables: noodle soup with traditional broth, tofu goring and shiu mei dumplings on another, and the central table with nasi goring (fried rice), chicken, and pickled vegetables. My stomach has been churning occasionally but otherwise happy for a few weeks, probably acclimating to local food. It all tastes delicious.

The speaker is a young-ish man with a white cap. He lectures in an amusing and engaging way = how to be happy when you are old and sick. The ladies chuckle later. “He expected women who are in their 80s but we are still young and healthy.” The similarities with Christianity are many: God is loving and observes us, we are all sinful, good works are a good thing, and heaven and hell await us when we die. It’s good to prepare for heaven.

The differences are striking. A Christian has the security of sins forgiven and erased because God Himself satisfies His perfect justice. The speaker instead encourages women to earn merit and offset their sins by good works, cheerfully bearing God’s “test” of sickness, and living each day to the full. It sounds like a scary way to live.

It makes me think of asking a righteous judge to ignore a thief because he’s stolen less times than he’s been kind or helped someone cross the street. And how can you know when God’ merit scales tilt in your favor? You take your chances when you die.

Everyone takes home the leftovers in their snack box. I have added a banana to mine. W meets Dr W and me as we walk home. The passports have arrived with Pak T so W is driving to pick them up at the station. Dr W invites me in though both of us are ready for a nap. I refuse but she tempts me with the coconut water her helper makes. She also supplies me with chocolate treats her sister has brought. Oh yum. W stops in at McDonalds for a Big Mac and so we’re about even.

I need the afternoon to decompress from so much Bahasa Indonesia (language) and culture learning. We wait for Dr W’s carpenter to come over to price the painting and repairs in our new place.

It’s almost dark when we walk through the neighborhood and down the steep alley to Ibu A’s. We have a card and gift for the family. We haven’t packed yet and have other chores tonight so we don’t stay long. I have to stop twice on the hike up the hill; it’s really steep. But it feels fantastic to be moving.

Pretty airplanes
I always forget how steep the 1km. hike is up to the main street. We get on the first angkot before 8am. Our fellow passengers worry that we’ll miss our connection and point out where we hop out for the airport bus. We have to walk to the next street for the second angkot .W’s app had a more direct route and a short-cut. But our fellow travelers have a certain way they know and insist on our taking it. We still have to walk a few long blocks once we get off the second bus. Good thing we travel light: one carry-on, two totes.

The Air Asia plane is delayed two hours in Bandung. Good. Take care of whatever the problem is, please. The attendants wear cute red hoodies over skirts or trousers. It feels cold, after all. 70oF (21oC) Brrr. I slip my scarf on, unused to the cool temp. Singapore will be hot (90oF/33oC) and humid so we are dressed lightly. The plane is cold: there are fewer of us in capris and blouses than women dressed in headscarves, full length skirts and trousers with closed-toed shoes. A lot of passengers wear winter or fall coats.

The year of the goat: almost Chinese New Year
“Hot grrrrreen tea?” asks the flight attendant. Love those rolled Indonesian Rs.

W and I walk to Chinatown from our hotel. The weather is fantastic. Usually we're here in rainy season but the breeze is cool and dry now. It's only a few miles each way. But W's feet are killing him from stopping as I look around.

Dozens of goat armatures line the center of the main street. At sundown, they are lit and utterly beautiful under the glowing coins hanging over the streets. We're back at 10pm with 7.6 miles on our soles.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Look out above!

Scuttling overhead ... a cockroach
Thursday, February 6
What's that weird scrunching noise as I'm falling asleep? Something is moving and it sounds more like scuttling than the pad-pad of the lizards that roam the house from dusk to dawn. I flip on the IPhone flashlight.

It's a roach. It's fallen on the mosquito netting above my head. I killed 3 roaches the other night, the first I'd seen in weeks. What is going on? W gets up, takes down the netting, flushing the bug in the toilet, and tries to go back to sleep. I'm grossed out and quite awake. So it takes us the a half hour to fall back asleep.

It's been a full day. We've started moving forward toward living elsewhere, meeting a potential landlady in the morning. In the evening, the current landlord texts us: he's sending someone to fix the roof, starting tomorrow. It's the first communication from him since October. He hasn't responded to our questions or pleas. In December, we had to pay the handyman's wages and building supplies to redo the porch ceiling and install gutters. In January, the house inspectors said the entire roof of another wing needs replacement. Patching it up would be a very temporary solution. But the owner is patching it up. W and I agree: we are uninterested in doing this every few months or permanently re-roofing the house for the owner. (By law, he owes us for past repairs and should prorate our lease for the uninhabitable parts of the house to date.)

Sleep is fitful of course. With the mosquito netting sitting on a chair rather than overhead, will the next cockroach fall on the bed? Hmmm. By 7 it's time to get out of bed.

Supplies for repairs, under the new ceiling and
gutters we paid for in December
The handyman shows us what he'll be doing. The upper roof stays the same, sloping ridge and all. The lower flatter portion is getting sheet metal to help rain and tree debris slide off more easily. And the gutters will be repaired. Yes, it's a half-repair, not a replacement. Yesterday my dad reminded me that trust was built on action not words. Today that's reinforced.

W's helping Dr W and a niece set up her photography equipment. They work away for 2 hours and call me over. I turn off the burners (pasta sauces in progress) and join them for tea and Indonesian goodies. Then it's back to work. Two loaves of bread go into the oven, baking until 4:30pm.

Friends of friends come from Jakarta after lunch. Their kids hang out, read, and play with the few toys we have on hand. They look through this house and flip through photos of the place we're considering. Yes, it is more livable.

They're off to the specialty grocer and a movie store before heading back home. Meanwhile we ready ourselves for company in the evening.

We get a lot of regrets (RSVP). So it's Augustine, Sumathi and us for supper and time together. How we miss class together and relish the time we have. We pray over those we've met, that God would lavish blessings and peace in each heart and family.

Read more:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Cry out, "Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise." Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 

Then all the people said "Amen" and "Praise the Lord." 1 Chronicles 16:34-36 NIV 

*I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness. 1 Chronicles 29:17 ESV

*Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Loving God, we are a heart-led people. In your name, we seek to end heartbreak and suffering and live lives of hope, love, compassion, and caring. Help keep our hearts true to your calling. In this we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pics and post

A few pictures and comments from the week:

Working away
 We've always got work to do. This week I sent our monthly updates and a "New Normal" photo to friends and supporters. W tallies expenses and keeps the paperwork squared away.

Though we can buy some vegetables we recognize, they are often a different texture or ripeness (left on the vine longer?) Okra is quite hard: here it is usually sliced against the grain instead of the long way as I'm accustomed to cooking it.

We haven't found frozen beef anywhere. Chicken. Tofu. Fish. Yes. Beef? Nope.

The map of Indonesia on my desk.
Can you find West Java on the map above? Bandung is southwest of Jakarta.

When will I take houseplants growing outdoors in January for granted?
We walk twice to the seamstress with Dr W. Ibu K make a batik shirt for W and a skirt for me @$30. She sews for a lot of expats.

Exploring similarities and differences of Sunda - expat cultures
I'm invited to a presentation on Sundanese customs for women. Based on an Oxford dissertation, the talk puts a lot of things into perspective: the flow of power and influence, the expectations of sharing resources, and the roles of men and women in Sunda traditions. 

Does "your heart feel save"?
Reading the occasional typos makes us realize that we probably won't ever be completely fluent. The promo at this top-notch heart center made us blink.

Potentially our new home. It looks almost Swiss from this angle.
Note the wind chimes to chase away fruit bats.
We meet with IbuW. Her house is for lease. Dr W helps translate the conversation, though IbuW has a good grasp of English. It looks like we'll be moving, whether or not hers is the right place. Our half-repaired roof leaks and the kitchen still needs replacing. We finally give up on this place.

We are surprised to get a knock at the door the same morning: the landlord has sent the handyman to fix the leaky spots. Leaks are not uncommon in Indonesia but this is in a good neighborhood and our neighbors say the condition of the house is completely out of line with the rent. We've been putting a pail under the leak or swooshing the water out the back door. Perhaps the helper (who is the handyman's wife) has told him that she's mopping water out of the back hallway every time it rains. 

We ask our friends to pray and feel peace about the next phase of life in Bandung. Coming up soon.

Read more:
*For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. Psalm 33:4-5 ESV

*It's a mark of good character to avert quarrels, but fools love to pick fights. Proverbs 20:3 MSG

*I will set my eyes upon them for good. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. Jeremiah 24:6 ESV

*Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Builder, you have created a foundation of love and a garden of life. You give us the strength to grow and thrive, to do your will and seek your kingdom. May we never stop reaching. Amen.

C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory
For it is not so much of our time and so much of our attention that God demands; it is not even all our time and all our attention; it is ourselves. For each of us the Baptist’s words are true: “He must increase and I decrease.” He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that He will accept a deliberate compromise. For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself; and He can give that only insofar as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls. Let us make up our minds to it; there will be nothing “of our own” left over to live on, no “ordinary” life. 

I do not mean that each of us will necessarily be called to be a martyr or even an ascetic. That’s as may be. For some (nobody knows which) the Christian life will include much leisure, many occupations we naturally like. But these will be received from God’s hands. In a perfect Christian they would be as much part of his “religion,” his “service,” as his hardest duties, and his feasts would be as Christian as his fasts. 

What cannot be admitted—what must exist only as an undefeated but daily resisted enemy—is the idea of something that is “our own,” some area in which we are to be “out of school,” on which God has no claim. 

For He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.