Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Music and culture, Sunda style

Traditional horse carts along the street
Friday, June 26, 2015
The morning starts with a tutorial in Bahasa Indonesia (language) for half an hour from Ibu Asih. My head swims with unfamiliar sounds. I have more words in my arsenal after each time, but long conversations still go right over my head. It’s easier to use the words we know because they are a limited set of sounds. Once Indonesians toss in descriptors and words we don’t know, I get lost.

W and I have some errands to run before the Bundas returns in the evening. They’ve spent 4 weeks in SE Asia, exploring and adventuring as a family. Having people from Seattle here is a real treat: it reminds us that we are “normal” somewhere in the world.

Home-cooked mie goreng and salad bar
After a morning trip to stock up on groceries, we have a visitor. Dr W comes over to discuss the future of the neighboring lot. She’s erected a compost station and intends to grow vegetables in honor of her late husband, who was a scientist. We’d like to work together to beautify the neighborhood.

I’ve brought dozens of packets of organic seeds from Molbaks. I’ve been sorting them into small bags, separating flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Dr W calls the Ibu-Ibu (neighboring women’s group) for permission to build terraced raised-beds where we can try out the seeds. Then – if the plants grow well – we’ll distribute the produce and seeds.

Meanwhile, with ingredients from the fridge, Ibu A makes the most amazing mie goring (fried noodles) for lunch for all of us. She takes leftovers home for her family, as usual, though they won’t eat until after sundown.

We’ve begun to stock an divided Tupperware dish from the 80s with salad bar ingredients, which puts color on our plates.

“Bulés like salad but we don’t eat many raw vegetables,” she tells me. She thinks lettuce tastes terrible but we crave it.

W joins the hiking group in the afternoon and turns his ankle by stepping into a hidden hole.

Beautiful costumes
We’re speaking at a nearby service for the next two weeks so we meet up with organizers and potential scripture readers. Lunch is at Miss Bees before we walk home.

We’ve been invited to a Sunda celebration with traditional dance and music put on by a nearby school training children and teens in cultural activities. W walks to the side of the room but I join the women sitting on the floor. They pelt me with questions about where we’re from, why we’re here, what we do, how long we’ll stay, how old we and our children are, whether we have grandchildren, and … many more.

Luckily two young women interpret when I resort to dumb smiles and nods. Partway through the program, they pull W and me to the front to join in their dances. It’s the first time W’s been called up to dance. He points his thumbs up and shuffles a bit. I’m busy try to figure out how our hands and feet are supposed to work together. Sitting on a piano bench since childhood, I never learned to dance – watching us is probably painful. And funny.

A friendly and attentive audience
We apologize to our host. “Not to worry,” he whispers. “The point is participation.” Maybe. We know how stiffly our tribe moves compared to our African family. No comparable body rhythm in us, sadly.

It’s considered impolite for women to cross their legs so I put my feet to one side – and when my hips cramp and my ankles fall asleep, change sides. Ohhhh, we are not used to sitting on the floor!

The group of about 100 breaks their fast with sweet fruit in juice. Everyone takes a boxed lunch home. When the conference center clears, we meet up with the school instructors and organizers at the Rumah Makan Ampera, Lembang. What great food and company.

Note the traditional rush weaving on the walls

First, we're served vegetables to cool down the hot sauce (sambal) with krupuk (crackers.

The base of any good meal: rice

Family-style options for 4: chicken, tofu, tempeh, and corn fritters
Another language lesson, this time reviewing 4 new words I’ve marked on flashcards. We break our fast with lunch at Carnivore.

"How many servers does it take to change a lightbulb?" In this case, four.
W orders a doughnut burger. Sounds awful to me but he says it tastes strangely okay.
Bundas enjoy music so we go to a Sundanese concert put on by a big art school in east Bandung. The pupils range from youngsters to adults. The orchestra and soloists play a variety of instruments we haven’t seen beyond Indonesia.

The anklung band
For example, the anklung is an Indonesian invention with materials at hand. Bamboo tubes are cut to size to obtain the correct pitch. Sunda tonality is pentatonic. I’m just beginning to listen so I can distinguish the instruments, rhythms, and melodies. It sounds like a cacophony to our untrained ears but it is pleasing not off-putting.

We snag a popsicle (other options include tea, coffee, water, and juice) on our way into the open-sided amphitheatre. Wood pillars and a tall rattan roof channel the breezes across the wood-slat seats. After an hour, the grooves in the seats are hurting my bottom. I scoot back onto the concrete riser floor behind us as the children sing and dance and play.

Traditional dances
The son of the school founder is continuing his father’s mission to promote culture and train locals in the arts. At the end of the program, he invites audience participation. The children hand out one pitch set to each viewer for an anklung play-along.

The conductor demonstrates single shake, the short “brrrr”, and the long kling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling. He and tells us to look at our bamboo rig for a number : each number has a matching hand signal. We clatter and clang, trying the three lengths of sound before combining tones into chords. It sounds like a room full of bamboo wind chimes.

Somehow, I get two notes: #6 and #7 (A and B). The folk melodies are simple and global – Hänschen-klein, movie themes, and more. He mocks our ineptitude with, “You are our best students ever!” haha. Not likely. We laugh along.

The mix of beauty – puppets, costumes, sounds (yup, ear plugs as usual), and traditional movement – gives us a glimpse into the rich arts of Indonesia. I send video clips to our granddaughter of little girls in ‘princess’ dresses who whirl, stomp, and glide across the floor in dances from many islands.

Young boys mimic a war dance, tossing shields in the air and motioning with wooden spears. I anxiously watch the one flailing a stout pole near the head of another student. His lunges miss and contact is avoided. Whew.

Three out of five can dance ...
Oh no, more dancing! Little girls and boys pull audience members onto the open floor, where we start with a conga line and tunnel of hands. The little girl who has snagged me (over my protests) is an excellent leader. She may be about 7-8 years old, but her hands initiate me into clapping, tapping, and swooshing our hands and leads me step-step-step around the floor. Her black eyes sparkle as a clue when we are about to change rhythms.

W uses his camera as self-defense, warding off participation by taking pictures. It is good fun all around. Certainly we’ll come back with work teams and guests.
Bright and beautiful: the children of Indonesia
We skip the planned evening hike: we’re not at he house until 4, plus W had twisted his ankle last time and needs to rest it.

We get wind of the birthday celebration for the lead pastor of IESJakarta and have our driver take us to Jakarta. The driver hangs out with all the others in the courtyard. He says many are Sundanese and they have a good morning together.

It’s a joy for us to be at the staff meeting, seeing all the dear faces of those working on behalf of Jakartans and beyond.

The food is amazing: the hospitality is organized by Gigi, wife of the birthday celebrant. She knows how to spread a feast. This time she offers sate, cheeses and Hong Kong pate with crackers, followed by a Mongolian barbecue. It’s topped by cakes and ice cream. We are so stuffed that I can’t eat supper later in the day.

Selamat ulang tahun, Pastor Dave! (Happy Birthday.)

We drive home – on the shoulder, in the lanes, and between the lanes of the highway as usual – and are back in Bandung by 5pm. Our driver heads home to break the fast with his wife.

“Do you want to walk to pick up some things?” W asks me. Is he kidding?

He heads off with the Bundas. They explore and eat out, while I enjoy the quiet and mangos for supper. They’re back about 7pm. I’m so glad I stayed home!

Read more:
*The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22 ESV

*Rise up, O God, plead your cause. Psalm 74:22 ESV

*You are my hiding-place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:114 ESV

*For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Matthew 20:1 ESV

*The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, you are our refuge and strength. Please forgive us our impatience and ingratitude. Fill us with peace so that our hearts can let go of negativity. Although we may not always agree or understand, help us to know that you answer in love.

O Ancient of Days, there are times we grow frustrated with your answers. There is nothing to fear when you are near. Forgive us when we forget such faith during troubled times. We pray to remain steadfast in our love and faithfulness to you. Amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lost in the cabbages and bitten by fire ants

Wednesday, June 24
We meet with a group who is working across Indonesia. A recent arrival, a woman from Hong Kong who assisted Indonesian domestic workers, has come to start language learning. We leave encouraged by positive advice and possibilities. "Take your time and put your roots into the relationships. Everything here happens through personal connections," they tell us.

Potential partners and friends: lunch 
The day starts at 6:30am with a 4" spider on the bathroom door ... just as W has left for his guys' group. I squirt a toxic toilet cleaner over it (and the door and the floor) and it runs away. I find it hanging on the sink drainpipe. At least it's off the door.

That means I can open the door to get a can of bug spray from the helper's kitchen. The spider sticks to the pipe by one leg - it succumbs to the spray and I pry it loose. It finally drops into the garbage pail. My heart is pounding. I pour another blue stream of toilet bowl cleaner on it to make sure it's dead. [We find the sister-spider in the hall Friday morning. One dart and it's across the hall. This time, W gets the bug spay and sweeps the dead spider out into the garden.)

It is my first outing with the ladies "walking" group. We meet after 8 at a neighbor's and drive north into the hills.

At the very beginning, one of the women warns me, "We get lost sometimes; we can't walk by ourselves to plan the route. And sometimes it gets later. Usually it's 2 hours of walking. But you never know."

A steep descent: note the blue cap ahead: we're going down fast
Five of us trek down a slope, walk through a valley and back up the other side, skirt the rim of the mountain to the ruins of an old Dutch army lookout, and then walk back down for a late lunch. It takes 3.5 hours to do 6 miles (9 km).

We miss the trail and get lost in a cabbage field as we climb our way out. We know the general direction so we make our own trail through tall grasses and shrubs on the jungle slope. I keep my eyes open for snakes. None in sight!

Sometimes we have to hoist upward on our knees where the slopes are too slippery or the pitch too high.

The pictures tell the story:
Secondary pine forest, planted by the Dutch.
While we're talking about which way to go, I feel stinging on my ankles and look down. I'm standing in a nest of fire ants and they're biting me. I flip them off as quickly as possible. One of the ladies offers me hand disinfectant and I rub that on the stings. They fade as the grass on the trails scratches them.

Seller of sticks waits beside the trail
One of the other women steps into a hidden hole and twists her ankle. She's limping badly by the time we're done.

Little farms spring up in the jungle. Someone will put a few trellises in, another terraces the hillside for vegetables, and another tells us he's come to cut tall grass for two calves he is raising.

Coffee plant along the trail
Catching birds with a pet owl: "If I don't
catch birds, I have no money to feed my family."
There are few birds in the jungle: most are trapped or shot for sport.

The old Dutch fort - an abandoned ruin at the top of a hill
Sap is drained from the pines for turpentine.
When you go down, you have to come back up - in this case,
through slippery leaves dropped by bamboo plants 
Welcome shade under a farmer's bamboo trellis
We have a pleasant lunch, meeting two women who no longer can hike the strenuous paths. These women have lived in Bandung for years.They advise me on helpers, language, and cultural taboos.

Cafe Oz with new friends
Just before I shower, I color my hair. It's been utterly limp; roughing it up will help.

W finishes the evening by meeting with a student over coffee at a local restaurant.

Read more:
*Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, and I will bring you to Zion. Jeremiah 3:14 ESV

*The Lord waits to be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18 ESV

*He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth--the Lord God Almighty is his name. Amos 4:13 NIV

*In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1–2 ESV

*Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Revelation 3:20 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Father, at times we think our way is better than yours, and we ignore you. Please be patient, forgive us for being foolish children, and help us to understand your instructions so that we may follow you to your kingdom.

Lord, you may be knocking, but at times we treat you like a stranger and keep the door closed. Help us to be more constant in prayer and in our faith so that we can hear your voice and let you into our hearts. You are our salvation. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Our first Hash Harriers hike

Cuttlefish in a basin in front of the grocer's chicken case
Sunday, June 20, 2015
"Happy Father's Day, Pop." We're far away from my father and our children. I call Dad just before we go into the service but the connection is spotty and we lose touch after a short conversation. 

There's no one like my dad. I am so grateful to have been born into his family. He and Mom made sure we worked together as a family as we learned to love and serve God. I'd come downstairs in the morning to see him reading the Bible. I opted for prayer with Dad if possible: he got right to the point, while Mom took time on details. What a great heritage from both!

I can't believe who drives by: "Hi, Josie!"
The driver takes us to town. We are visiting Ratna at her shop but are hailed by a "Hello!" as we step onto the sidewalk. 

"It's easy to spot you," says our friend Josie, pulling up on her motorcycle. "You stand out along the street." (Blond and white heads among the dark hair.) 

She's on her way from one appointment to the next and can't stop long. Josie's mom is a journalist and photographer who sometimes buys from Ratna's shop. Cool. A hug and quick photo and Josie's on her way.

It's taken us a long time to reconnect with Ratna and we've missed her. Her mom passed away while we were in the States. She gives us a memorial clock with a picture of her mom, which we hang in a guest room. A beautiful lady, hardworking and invested in her family. She was a believer so we know we'll see her again in heaven.

So happy to see each other!
Ratna's pre-schooler Ofel (think Ophelia - her grandma loved opera) comes home mid-visit, chattering about her day. She helps us eat a pastry and drink tea.

When we finish, we make another stop at the hardware store but they've sold out of the items we are looking for. "Kosong." (Zero) Oh well. 

The driver takes his half-hour of prayer while we eat lunch. We sometimes have lunch out to minimize eating in front of our helpers. 

Adorable Ofel
During Ramadan, our Muslim helpers don't eat or drink during daylight. W and I skip the big pre-dawn breakfasts they eat to stock up for the day. We fast the night and breakfast and eat two meals later in the day as our reminder to pray God's blessings and favor on those around us.

In the afternoon, we go for our first Hash Harriers hike. "Do you like hiking?" one of the women asks me. 

I think I do. "I like walking," I tell her.

"This will be a good walk," she smiles. The smile worries me.

One of the ladies has a heart condition that forces her to stop on steep inclines. We've done miles of city walking but without her pauses, it might have been a tougher initiation for us. 

Some harriers run the course. During our walk, runners pass us - either those who started late or those got lost. Occasionally we have to stop at crossroads and ask for directions ourselves. Villagers smile and point to the path taken by those ahead.

Checking that the hare has paper for the trail
First we squelch downward through marshy terraced farming fields. "Oh oh, we're going to have to come back up," I think. But it's only the beginning. Innocents abroad, indeed.

We hike past plant nurseries and little houses along roads and lanes. We traverse up and down mountainsides. I count at least deep 4 valleys. We negotiate creeks and little gorges on bridges made of 4-5 bamboo stalks. One person at a time crosses: the material flexes with our weight. Only one bridge has a guard rail, a single bamboo stem. Yes, I use that railing!

We came from the other hill
Some trails are mud; some village lanes are pavers or broken rock. We clamber up and down uneven stairs made of cement or cut into the hillside. Steep drop-offs line very narrow dirt paths. Our shoes become filthy from splashing into holes in the grass and picking up dust.

A Sunda family is picking watercress from a cement reservoir. Their little daughter showers under a pipe at the side of the pool. The husband wades into the water for us; we exchange a chocolate bar for a big sack of greens.

The sheepdog/retriever mutt who runs alongside has a marvelous time. He dives into the valley streams a few times and then goes crazy with excitement. He rushes past us on the trails, shakes himself off beside us, and brushes our legs with his wet tail. (He confirms our need for a change of clothes.)

W and a new friend coming up the trail
The big loop is almost 5 miles. My pulse climbs to 157 on a hillside. We feel our leg muscles working. But we're not sore. 

The game is this: a human "hare" runs the course before the pack sets off, dropping slips of paper along the way. Sometimes s/he will put down a false trail to slow the fastest chasers, or make a chalk mark in areas where paper could be swept up. (From the website: A typical hash today is a loosely-organized group of 20-40 men and women who meet weekly or biweekly to chase the hare. We follow chalk, flour, or paper, and the trails are never boring . . . we run streets and back alleyways, but we also ford streams, climb fences, explore storm drains, and scale cliffs. And although some of today's health-conscious hashers may shun cold beer in favor of water or diet sodas, trail's end is still a celebration and a party.) Fortunately, beer is not a temptation! Ugh, what a taste. I gulp water, though. Others also eschew the stronger beverages.

We finish at the other side of the house where we started. It's already dusk, so W and I hop into the car to change clothes. The party afterwards, attended by about 40 former and current harriers, is a mix of conversation, food and drinks (from water to Coke to beer). It gets pretty loud as attendees cheer each other's accomplishments. One German lady - who's been in the hash almost 40 years - celebrates 1400 runs! In this group, more than half are local Indonesians and the rest are expats. What a great way to meet people. 

Doing the actions while singing,"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
We stay for over two hours, eating. Feasting, actually. Members caution us against being spoiled by the amazing food. "Don't expect this every Monday." 

Two women have birthdays so members have brought homemade fried noodles, pork knuckles, noodles in broth, various kinds of rice, and other goodies. The birthday cake is soaked in rum, which we find out after a small piece is on our plates. It tastes like the cakes we grew up with in European households. 

The event is a lot of fun because we love meeting new people. I also get invited to the next walk - ladies only - on Thursday. 

"It's more of a walk and less of a hike," I'm promised. Sounds good.

Read more:
*You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. 2 Samuel 22:37 NIV

*You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:7 ESV

*Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:8-9 NIV

*Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9 ESV

*Paul wrote: I have learned to be content with whatever I have. Philippians 4:11 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Shepherd, you are ever patient with our inaction. Help us to drown out the noise so that we can hear your voice. Hold us in your arms so that we can let go of fears that hold us back. We look forward to following you.

Lord, you make us feel loved and happy! May we praise you always for the miracle that you are in our lives. Help us to share our joy with everyone. Amen.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Getting off base

A lorry, partly loaded with bottles and paper for recycling
Saturday, June 20
We get kicked off an army base early in the morning.

"You need permission to be here," says the security guard from his motorcycle. He is not happy to see us. "Go out that way."

We started walking to the Borma store on the next hill about 8:30am.

Last time we came this way, some men pointed us left, onto a narrow path that ran beside the creek. We were still in the woods when we ran out of time and turned around.

This time, there is no one around so we head to the right, around an empty firing range, and up a very very steep road into a neighborhood that looks pretty much like any other middle-class area. An older gentleman is hiking up so we puff uphill alongside him.

He asks, "Where are you from? How many children do you have? How long have you been in Bandung? Where do you live? How much rent do you pay? How long do you plan to stay? How old are you? What are you doing here? Which way are you going?" ... all questions we've come to expect.

Up we go
"This road is much better than the other way," we note to each other. "It's more direct, if steeper. I wonder why the guys pointed us the other way last time."

We find out in a few more minutes. A security guard with an army uniform rides up on his motorcycle. He asks many of the same the questions as the old man. When we tell him we're headed for Borma, he points us downhill. We're sent on a long detour, away from another gate that we suspect is just around the corner and close to the store.

"You must go that way," he is insistent. "Bulés (foreign Westerners) are not allowed here without permission."

We apologize profusely - no harm intended! - and start down the road to the far gate. The guard zooms off.

A few blocks later, several men talk in the shade of their porch. They wave at us and ask similar questions. "Where are you from? Where are you going? What are you doing? How long will you stay?" etc.

We pause to be friendly but stay on the road, facing the way we were told to go. We hear a motorbike behind us.

"This is the Provost of the Army Base," explains the guard from before, pulling up with a frown and pointing to a senior officer on another motorcycle. The men chat with him in Indonesian. They wave us off. We apologize again to the security guard and Provost and continue our walk, this time with the senior official riding beside us (= making sure we don't stop again?)

We walk out through the gates, check the GPS for direction, and stroll along a frontage road to get back up the hill.

How to pave a road
CRASH!!! We look back. An older fellow in uniform has hit a curb and fallen off his motorcycle onto the street. Several young soldiers run across the street from the gate to pick up the man and his bike. We don't wait to see any more: we're already feeling in a grey zone of trouble.

Further along on the hill, two men squat beside black barrels filled with raw asphalt. Near them, two metal sheets sit on emptied drums.

Smoke rises. A fire is burning underneath and the asphalt is melting on top. Ah, so that's how they prepare the paving material. They'll spread the hot topping on the road when it's liquified, like frosting on a cake.

Look out above! at the hardware store
After Borma we have a few more errands. We walk down the hill on a main street with broken curbs, sometimes-sidewalks, and heavy traffic. We scramble out of the way as best we can. We pause to talk to people along the way, finding out what they are doing for Ramadan and practicing our Indonesian. We pray peace on our neighbors and the strangers we pass.

The other day, someone knocked a picture off a ledge and the glass broke. Today we get a replacement. The man at the hardware store slides a metal scraper along a big sheet of glass and snaps it to the perfect width.

The old birdcage is falling apart and needs new bamboo reeds. Our usual shop is being renovated. So we veer onto another road where a different bird seller offers us a clutch of 50 bamboo reeds for 70c.

An old cage and a happy bird
Many people have birds or cats. Dogs are not as popular and a lot of people are afraid of them. Our friend Pauline brought two canaries Friday, replacing one that flew away while we were in Seattle. The birds swing in the wind on our porch, chirping and singing cheer to each other.

Our phones say we've walked 7-8 miles. Our legs aren't sore but we're definitely for desk work when we get back home.

Read more:
*A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken. Proverbs 15:13 NEV

*Upon him was the punishment that made us whole. Isaiah 53:5 ESV

*Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things. Matthew 12:34-35 NKJV

*Christ himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

Moravian Prayer: Eternal Savior, thank you for your sacrifice. We are able to live because you died for our sins. May we continue to follow the path of righteousness so that we refrain from going astray.

Lord, when we are hurt, heal our hearts. Help us to share our sorrow with you and to forgive in love as you do. When we do this, the full expression of love becomes evident and you will be able to work through us. In your name we pray. Amen.

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem with Pain:

The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. 

‘Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created’ [Revelation 4:11]. We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. 

To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities—no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. 

What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Volcanos and the beginning of Ramadan

Mt. Sinabung, Indonesia. (photo: Binsar Bakkara)
The volcano on another island (Mount Sinabung) is spewing lava. It reminds us that there a volcano bubbling away on the nearby hillside. We - and many others - often hike down the jungle trail to dip our feet in its hot pools. This week we pray for the villagers displaced in North Sumatra.

Sunday, June 14
After church, we meet Bridget for lunch. We've been waiting to see her face-to-face since we moved to Bandung. Finally we connect - and it's a happy occasion. The food at Porto is good: it's a highly rated Italian-and-everything-else restaurant. Most importantly, we have a lot to talk about. We've been praying for her for 10 months.

A pleasure to meet Bridget, at last!
Bridget offers us another connection as well. "Would you like to meet Ibu Ingrid? She has led many English conversation groups for women." Of course!

We drive up to Bridget's house to meet Ibu Ingrid. At 70, she is a high-energy grandma. She shows us around her houses on a large lot. (Need a place to rent near UP Bandung, anyone?). She's interested in helping start an English conversation group in our neighborhood. Lo and behold, her sister and nephew live in our complex, a few houses away.

The most fascinating rental is a traditional-style home above where Bridget lives. Ibu Ingrid's husband was an architect who also commissioned and designed artwork. Filled with paintings, pottery, and wonderful stonework and woodwork, this house combines his tribute to Indonesia with a labor of love. Plus it has all the conveniences of a contemporary Indonesian home.

Traditional Indonesian house
We get home after 6pm, hearts full of new friendships and possibilities.

We start the day with a study in Dago. What a pleasure to meet with Sumathi and Riga! We're looking at Mark 2, an account of Jesus challenging the religious assumptions of his day.

"What is harder," he asks religious leaders, "healing someone or forgiving their sins?" They admit that only God can do such things.

And then Jesus does both. God-with-us, as promised. W and I are so grateful for that every day!

Zodia: light-green leaves and
pungent smell in a black bag
We wrap up the study about 11. We need "anti-mosquito plants" or zodia (alternatively, euodia). Their very pungent smell repels bugs and gives people a headache if they are too big or too close.

The bugs have been bad and with dengue fever among the neighbors, we want to keep the bites as far away as possible.

When we first looked at the house, there were 20 or more zodias along the balcony, which the landlady pointed out. "This keeps us from being bitten when we sit outside," she claimed.

The driver helps us eat a 3-portion meal
Time for similar help! Usually we disappear inside just before sundown unless we're under a mosquito net.

 But first, lunch. We reach the north-Bandung garden village of Lembang just before noon. We're hungry but none of us is certain of where to find good food. We pull over at the first restaurant with lots of cars in front of it. (A rule for eating out: eat where many others eat. If the food makes local diners sick, they avoid the cook.)

The food is good. A paket for 3 people includes chicken, tofu, rice, and vegetables. Our driver sits just to the side of the table and enjoys it with us.

We get lost among the winding trails of Lembang but eventually find a plant nursery on a narrow road. The gardener disappears for 20 minutes, sourcing 10 small plants from his greenhouse (and maybe from his neighbors).

Here's looking at you!
A 2' arjuna in the restaurant
tank watches us eat lunch.
Just about the time we're ready to leave, he shows up on his motorcycle, little plastic pots dangling from every side. We'll have to buy pots separately: seedings at the nursery come in black plastic baggies. The bags lie atop the soil or in the greenhouse as the plants grow. It's an easy, cost-saving method for growers.

We decide to increase the hours of the helper who speaks some English. Her previous employers recommended her for boosting our language skills and said she was a good worker. (A tutor is typically $15/hr ... and well worth it. However, needing as much help as I do, Ibu Asih cleans for the whole day @$4 and corrects my Bahasa Indonesia.)

I set aside 1/2-1 hour each day to converse with her. I also listen as the women talk on the days they work together but much of their talk is in a completely different language: Sundanese. Sunda friends tease us that we should learn to speak it as well, but we say, "One at a time, please!" Slowly a few things begin to make more sense. I gain at least a couple of words each day and Ibu Asih corrects my grammar, too.

Traditional puppets against the
woven reed walls of the tofu restaurant
Today it's the last day before Ramadan, the annual Muslim festival. The month-long celebration includes fasting food and water from sun-up to sundown. Women will cook in the wee hours of the morning so their family can eat before going to work. After sunset, families and friends gather to eat together. Near the end of the month, they'll return to their home towns from all parts of Indonesia. Much like American Thanksgiving, it's feasting and relationship time. Restaurants offer special dishes during the month so we hope to try a few meals that only appear annually.

It's time to do some baking. As I'm about to put a tray in the oven, the oven repairman shows up to finish from last week. Let's turn off the heat, put the cookie dough in the fridge, and run errands while he works.

The trip downtown shows a transformation of the city for the holidays. Ads are posted everywhere: most things seem to be "on sale." Traffic is jammed (macet) as people swarm the roads, buying supplies in anticipation of the month to come.

An innocent look behind those boney knuckles. OUCH.
The building supply store says the order should be in tomorrow. W finds a few other supplies - boring things like a decent shower-head that can be disassembled for cleaning, wire to fix the cord on the vacuum and the bath fan, etc.

I buy inspiring things ... haha, not!... like groceries and gift packs of cookies for the helpers (to be accompanied by money, of course). Not inspired by groceries? Neither was I.

Since we're at Lucky Square, I join others who pause at a little open stall outside the grocer. We're decompressing with a half-hour's foot and back rub: $2.50, plus an optional tip. The youngster giving the foot massage takes great pleasure in scraping his knuckles along the bones in the sole of my foot - until I mutter, "Silahkan kurang!" ("Less, please!" Have I mentioned that Indonesian is nothing like English?)

Harvesting family supper: plucking young leaves
and snapping off high branches laden with berries
When I try to bake the cookies in the evening, it's disappointing to find that the thermostat is tidak bekerja belum (not yet working). On any setting, the oven gets to about 375o. I open the door and shut off the heat early to prevent the shortbread from burning.

By lunch, the helper says her lips are dry, parched from not drinking since sunrise. The gals go into the garden after lunch (fasting for them), harvesting berries and young leaves from our trees.

"So many ants!" they exclaim, shaking the little monsters off their arms and brushing their legs.

A 2" present on the porch. Yuck.
Before leaving, the last chore is to mix borax and icing sugar. One of the women spreads it around the trees.

They bear with my comedy of language errors all day - piring (plate) instead of pulang (to go home); kerang (shell) instead of kering (dry). And they teach me the words for nest, neat, and teasing someone.

The last word comes up when one teases the other about chasing her with the big green caterpillar that suddenly shows up, waddling side to side on the porch. Ibu A hates insects. We're all glad when W uses the electronic sparking bug-killer to zap it.

The cats are yowling (must be mating season again) and all the worms that have hatched into moths and butterflies are flapping through the plants. How blessed we feel to have a garden, ants, worms, and all.

Read more:
*The Lord our God protected us along all the way that we went. Joshua 24:17 ESV

*Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 68:4-5 ESV

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5 NIV

*Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory. Jude 24–25 RSV

Moravian Prayer: Good Shepherd, we pray that you continue to protect and guide us all the days of our lives. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of PainGod whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sorrow amid studies and celebration

Last night, our helper's family buried her mother-in-law. IbuA lost her own mother 3 months ago. What sadness for the family. We pray for them - the children who are grown and the rest of the family who will be missing their beloved Oma. Our hearts break when these older souls pass into eternity.

A glance back from a building site in Dago: we live on the other side
Thursday, June 11
In the morning, W meets the guys for breakfast. Then he and I walk across the steep hillsides to the top of Dago, where we meet Riga and Sumathi. We are reading Mark 1 together. The chapter is crammed with things we haven't thought about for a long while. Many of the ideals of scripture seem puzzling to a newcomer but the questions spark a great appreciation and worship in us old-timers. It takes us more than an hour to explore these insights and more:

  • 600 years before it happened, the prophet Isaiah wrote that John the Baptist would introduce Jesus. Mark 1 tells how it happened.
  • The message of Jesus is Good News (gospel), explained in the 4 histories by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
  • The Trinity is present at Jesus' baptism: The Father delights in the Son and the Spirit descends on Jesus to empower and affirm the Son. God in his fullness is an all-present unity.
  • The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness where he is challenged by temptation - and the angels serving Jesus afterward. Hard times come to all but we are not forsaken.
  • The baptism in the Spirit is promised as a gift from Jesus; how lovely the fulfillment in Acts 2.

W and I walk back across the hill to home. (Above, a steep staircase going up and looking back to the garbage dump. We love to talk to people and to pray as we walk. It's hot outside - it takes a while to cool off when we pause or arrive.

Our daughter calls to wish W a good day. She's on her way to Korea and in spite of a few travel hiccups, she and her friend arrive safe and sound. We pray that MERS stays far from them.

In the evening, W's off to meet with several men for a post-supper dessert.

It's W's birthday. We study language and read together overlooking the garden before walking a few blocks to a lovely breakfast at Miss Bee Providor. Hardly anyone is there so we choose a table outside, under a canopy. We can't get over the beautiful weather in Bandung. This morning it's a refreshing 73F (22C). The breeze quickly cools our food.
Birthday breakfast
I need to pay the rest of my arison dues so I walk to the neighbor. The vacuum is running and no one comes to the door. I push the envelope under the door and head home.

Three women are chatting nearby. They call me over to offer me tea and rojak = peanut sauce over vegetables or fruit - in this case, pineapple, jicama, and cucumber. They show me the plan for the community garden and extended parking at the end of our block.

A relaxing garden
"I thought that they were making a parking lot beside our gate," I am puzzled.

"When there are weddings or special events, we have nowhere to park. This also will help. And the gazebo we plan is for when we have guests and want to meet outside to visit or eat."

We are blessed with a porch but many homes nearby do not have a green space. The neighbors are contributing to the cost and we are asked to do the same. The organizer shows me several receipts so I know appropriate amounts to give. I promise to take the material home to show W.

W and the driver work together on some projects while I bake a birthday cake. We haven't tried local cake mixes so I'm on my own. I pour sweetened condensed milk into a few slashes made with a little knife. (Thanks for the idea, Rebekah!) I pour a homemade mango sauce over and top it with Nestle's chocolate morsels (a gift from Canyon Creek - thank you!)

Dear friends Augustine and Sumathi
We take it to Augustine and Sumathi's for supper. Their Sunda helper has cooked a birthday feast: Rendang and a Sundanese chicken dish. Sumathi has added an apple cobbler that is delicious. We are so full - heart and tummy - when we return home.

We make a quick stop at the local grocery store but they say we have to come back tomorrow: they are out of chicken. Whaaaat? We never know what to expect.

When Ibu A comes, we find out that her mother-in-law passed away and was buried yesterday. Burial happens within a day. Many neighbors knew this lady because she worked for years at a nearby household; her family has lived on the hill for generations.

We promise to pray for the family and text a friend for cultural information. Josie says it's appropriate for us to give a gift to buy flowers or food. There are so many things we don't know about the culture, but bit by bit we are learning. IbuA cooks a Sunda chicken soup before we send her home to be with her family.
Sundanese chicken soup
It's a study and reading day. We have prepare classes and talks for the future. I try for my obligatory hour of Indonesian TV. It's not inspiring to watch shows that I can't understand, but gradually the sounds and meanings are becoming clearer.

In the afternoon, four men arrive to repair the stove. (Why? The insulation has been taken away by rodents. Its wiring is partially disconnected. The light and igniters are not working. The oven temperature is unstable and limited.)
How many men does it take to repair an oven?
They haul it to the driveway and clean and take it entirely apart, finishing as it's getting dark, before 6pm. W watches and chats, acquiring language and finding out how the appliance works. If it breaks again, maybe he can fix it.

My heart is heavy, thinking of the family mourning just down the side of the mountain.

Read more:
*O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Psalm 30:2 ESV

*On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples. Isaiah 11:10 ESV

*Simeon said, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:30–32 ESV

*Pray for one another, so that you may be healed. James 5:16 ESV

Moravian Prayer: O great Physician, we turn to you in prayer for our physical and spiritual wounds. Bless and comfort us as we heal and teach us to pray for the healing of others.

Merciful Savior, we are your disciples today. May we work in your kingdom and spread your word through the power of the Holy Spirit. We work to increase the number of believers throughout the world, so that all may know their Creator. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity: Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.