Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sweet landings

A relic of Dutch occupation: train bridge
Saturday, May 9
Bandung is an utter shock to the system after Seattle’s grey coolness. The weather is mild and the house not yet familiar. We moved here 2 weeks before we left town.

There’s a strange buzzing in our yard. Cicadas swarm the trees. When I walk around the lawn, I also notice that our avocado tree looks odd. A few fruits hang in the naked upper branches. I go over for a closer look. The trunk is writhing with 2-3” grey caterpillars. They’ve stripped the tree bare of leaves, all 40’ of it. Good thing I brought garden spray along; we’ll make short work of them next week.

Except that we’re told that this is an annual phenomenon. At the end of the rainy season, the caterpillars function as a reset button for the trees. With no winter pause, the stripping of the leaves allows the tree to regenerate for a new season. The ants are back in full force on trees, around the porches, and in the dirty kitchen (where food is fried.)

Oh oh. I’ve slipped into flip-flops. I forgot about the snakes and rodents so I make a limited round of the yard, stomping to chase away anything that claims the ground. Then I head inside to continue unpacking and settling in.

Strange blooms on the hedge
W goes to the store for drinking water and flour. I stir up a bread for supper tonight and it rises on the oven while Ibu A cooks lunch. We’re happy to see each other this morning, after a long separation. The house is mostly clean at first glance in the drawers and corners. I'm uncertain about the month and a half she was here "cleaning." At least I can walk barefoot with minimal grit.

Ibu A is pleased to take away things that we no longer need: half-used candles (I don’t like fragrances), lunch leftovers, and her treat from the USA, TJ Peppermint Tea.

We have no internet at the house yet: hopefully it will be installed next week. (Nope. Which is why I’m hardly writing. Phone connection only.) We could go to check our email by sitting on the steps at the old place – we left our connection for the family who moved in. They’re out when we swing by to howdy.

It’s so good to unpack a few personal items. I left them behind last year but bringing them here makes Bandung feel more like home. I brought a few of my watercolor paintings, some sewing supplies, and serving spoons. Little things mean a lot to women overseas, I’ve been told. Correct.

As the helper waves goodbye, the rain starts to sheet down. I run upstairs to the drying area where she hangs clothes after washing. Today we did a few loads of bedding and travel clothes. An old shower curtain, left over from the previous place, helps ward off the rain, carried by a strong side-wind. I pull it across the opening in the roof so the water runs down and away.

It’s warm and muggy. We head to the nearest church and a warm welcome from people we’ve met before. The talk about relocating and finding God’s presence and calling along the way is encouraging for us on our first day back in Bandung. We spot a a friend from our Boxing Day walk through the jungle. He works as a project manager and his wife owns a restaurant. The guys strike up a conversation while his wife Riga and I introduce ourselves. She’s recently become a follower of Jesus and is looking for someone to study scripture with. We agree to meet Tuesday to chat.

Amaryllis, plucked from the flower beds
After lunch, we list the chores awaiting us before our company arrives on Tuesday. We keep unpacking. Our clothes and shoes in the closet have partly mildewed so we put them out into the sun. They’ll be brushed off and cleaned later.

We visit our friend DrW, who serves us fresh young coconut juice before W heads to town. He returns late in the evening. I stay to examine the shape the house is in. The helper has happily checked off the entire list of to-dos. Apparently she dusted, swished around, and otherwise cleaned while we’ve been gone. It’s a pretty good but not a “German clean” by any means. (It would have taken us a week, not 7 weeks to get this far. Sigh.) Her husband has painted the walls white, streaked rather than the smooth finish W and his dad would have done. Oh well. It is what it is. And we’re glad it’s done.

Today’s a work day. I toss clothes and several loads of sheets into the wash. Mom sent some bedding along, and Tanya’s linens need refreshing.

Tanya, an NGO worker, used to live in Bandung. She contacted me before we arrived here, saying she’d heard we were coming before she moved. She kindly put things in storage for us. Through a miraculous confluence of events and connections, her things were delivered the day before we left for Seattle. We shoved the boxes into our bedroom, locked the door, and left.

Unpacking Tanya’s windfall of generosity, we are surprised by good dishes, two steamer chairs, and assorted small appliances and office supplies. We sure didn’t have room at the previous house, but this place needs items on both floors.

Upstairs: after
Upstairs: before
In town, W and I buy a small stove/oven, a dining/conference table and bench, and spot 2 used leather lounge chairs in great condition. W needs plumbing and building supplies, too. We get caught in traffic so we’re hungry and tired by the time we get home at 6pm. It’s a  ramen night. Quick. Filling. Sometimes even delicious.

We push furniture into place on the second floor when it is delivered in the evening. W and the neighbor pull the fridge upstairs from the porch. The helper’s husband has closed and covered it to get it out of the way while he painted. Imagine the smell when we open it. We prop the doors ajar. W assembles a kampor (cook’s) counter and slips it into place against the wall. It’s starting to look like a kitchen up there. We’re exhausted and jet-lagged. We can’t do another thing.

Found in my vegetables
Of course we’re awake at 3am. W drives to Jakarta at 6am and arrives for the IES staff meeting at 10:30. Then it’s off to the airport. Two families from Seattle are arriving on the same flight. Our friend Stefano once again helps negotiate their entry, as he kindly did for us last weekend. One family will stay in Jakarta until language school starts in August. W brings the other – a couple with two kids – to Bandung by evening.

Meanwhile, back at home, Ibu A has 3 jobs today: 1) cook two meals (lunch for 3 and supper for 6); 2) iron at least 4 sets of the bedding I’ve been washing; and 3) wipe down the stinky fridge. (Yikes. Imagine opening a fridge stored for 7 weeks in the tropical heat.)

The couple we met Sunday comes for lunch at 1. The three of us sip our rice and chicken soup on the porch. Riga and I give each other reading assignments – studies of various sorts – in preparation for a second meeting next week. We decide to start studying the Bible with interested friends at her restaurant in coming weeks. Hurrah!

After they leave at 3, I continue to stock the kitchen upstairs before raiding our moving boxes for pillows, blankets, and bedding for the guest rooms. The mandate is to have a functioning kitchen and clean bedrooms. Ibu A stays an extra hour but I’m barely done – just pulling on the last duvet cover – when the car pulls in.

We decide to eat in; everyone is wiped out from travels. The family is happy that they arrived safely and we orient them to the house. I’m pooped from housework @6am to 7pm … before supper. Thank goodness I just have to heat up Ibu A’s second meal. After washing dishes, it feels great to fall into bed about 10pm.

I’m planning a default breakfast of oatmeal (not a favorite of one of the kids) when I spot the eggs our neighbor Stacy put into our fridge, along with fruit and vegetables. (Thank you, Stacy!) So I cook pancakes instead, served with the apples, strawberries, and pears Ibu A cut up yesterday. By the time we finish eating, it’s time to go grocery shopping, my first opportunity for food shopping since we arrived on Saturday. Dirty dishes left on the counter? = ant heaven. So what.

We promise our guests a more local experience later, but first take them midway down our hill to the most Western grocer in town. I buy meals to be cooked by Ibu A or myself for the rest of the week. Laura and I stuff our carts and then check out the bookstore nearby, while the guys pay in the checkout line.

By the time we put everything away, we’re hungry again. What’s in the fridge? Turns out it’s the makings of two big frittatas (omelets), some sausage, and a salad. I’m not done cooking until 2. The guys walk downtown to get internet hooked up, but the shop helpers say the DSL service won’t be available for a few months! while the internet company changes their delivery system. We may have to shift the system we left the Johnsons at our old place to this house. Nothing is straightforward but we are grateful that most things “can be done eventually.”

I don’t finish lunch dishes until 4pm, so I’m not cooking dinner. As we head out at 7pm to buy supper at the warung around the block, our friend Dr H comes to the gate. The others head off to get takeaway while she and I make ourselves comfy at home and catch up on the news. She lost her husband while we were away and her friend's son was swept away in the Nepal landslides. My heart aches for these women and their losses.

Soon everyone comes back, carrying a few packets of mie goreng (fried noodles), nasi goreng (fried rice), and ayam goreng manis (sweet friend chicken) – for about $10, the price of one dinner in Seattle. We unfold the brown paper wrappers and dig in. There’s plenty, with leftovers. More dishes, but with help. Ready for bed. And I can’t sleep until 1:30. Jet-lag is a pain.

A pause at the lobby of a local hotel
I’m up by 5am, ready for the day. W and Paul walk to the coffee meeting with the guys and come back while Laura, the kids, and I are on a stroll through the neighborhood. There’s a burial going on next door: W saw a table set up for preparing the body last night, walking Dr H home. This morning people mill around the graveyard that lies between the two houses we’ve lived in. The street is lined with men, sitting on their haunches. By the time we finish the walk, everyone is gone.

We knock on Johnsons’ door to introduce the families to each other. Ibu A has arrived at 8am to finish ironing the bedding and cook lunch: baked chicken and scalloped potatoes with fresh vegetables. (Pass the salt, please. It was pretty bland but otherwise tasty.) She’ll take Saturday off to be with her family for the Ascension Day weekend.

Stacy swings by after lunch. Her four kiddos want to take our two young guests swimming at the local clubhouse.

My big chore today is tackling the storage area again, trying to finish sorting the linens. The mildew-ed bedding has been washed and ironed, so matching sheets and pillowcases go into their pillow cover. Pillow and blanket forms go together. There’s a heap of green garbage bags at my feet when I’m through. We kept tossing things into bags when we packed up the other house. There’s no shelving to store things here, so into Rubbermaid bins they go. I’m still working my way through when I decide on a nap. It doesn’t happen. I have to catch up on writing and some business … I’m so far behind.

Read more:
*Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1-2  NIV

*For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14 NEV

*Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1  NIV

God, thank you for the day. When we are weary and worn, whether we accomplish much or little, let us do it in your Name. Help us to see the big picture - you at work in us, around us, through us. We are grateful to be yours. Amen

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the  pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash- up. Well, go and do it.

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