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.

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