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.

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