Monday, June 8, 2015

Visa renewals and a big hole in the wall

A cutie at immigration
Thursday, June 4
We gather up toiletries and PJs for a quick stay in Jakarta. We have a mandatory appointment for our visa renewal tomorrow. W drives and I read all the way, our coping duet to preserve sanity, reduce stress, and let W focus on the crowded roads. His voice begins to disappear during his running commentary to David and Paula S, friends returning to Jakarta after spending 5 days with us.

David is feeling slightly better and is able to travel. We stop for a KFC lunch at a rest stop. Yup, that Kentucky Fried Chicken has spread across Asia and Europe. The grease bomb affects my stomach in the same way it did in the USA! We take David and Paula to their apartment, where they graciously let us use their guest room overnight.

I have a conference call to the USA late in the evening. I'm wired afterwards. Though I dive into bed immediately. I'm awake again from 1-4am. Ugh.

We're up and out the door by 7am. Gigi has ordered a taxi to take us to immigration. It wends its way through Jakarta's main streets and back alleys. The drivers here keep many alternate routes in their heads. We are amazed by the creative driving, which often cuts off minutes or even hours at crowded intersections. Sometimes we're unlucky and we sit in traffic with everyone else on the shortcut.

The trip to the visa office is relatively quick: a mere 1:20 for 13 km. It's marked on the map for under a half hour in good traffic. People who live here deal with the world's worst traffic, an unrelenting jam. The taxi costs $10 getting there. On the way back, we take the toll road, which turns out to be 10 minutes faster and $10 more expensive by the time the tolls are paid. Next time we'll save the money and stick to surface roads.

At the immigration center, a helper has put all our papers in order. We wait a half hour for our turn to take visa photos, give our fingerprints, and sign papers. A little Chinese-Indonesian plays near us, staring at the white-haired and blond foreigners. She - like most Indonesian children - is adorable. Her little brother jumps and runs on and between the metal bench-seats.

What color is your house, beside the glass skyscraper?
The houses along the way are painted to taste. In one block, the upstairs and downstairs dwellings - with shops between them - are painted every color of the rainbow, including purple. Southeast Asian cities are a mix of zoning. Perhaps more accurately, homes and shopping have sprung up before zoning is in place. Enormous mansions designed for extended families of the wealthy can bump up against small warungs or mega-stores on one side and residential shacks on the other. Everything and everyone seems interconnected.

We're done by 8:45. It takes a while to flag a taxi on a nearby thoroughfare, which takes us back to the flat. We're on the road to Bandung by 10:30. It takes 3 hours to get home, with gratitude for God's protection, as always.

It's chore day. W is ill with a sore throat and laryngitis but heads out the door. He walks and rides the angkots to pick up supplies for the workers coming Monday. There's no sense in taking the car: as usual, weekenders from Jakarta and elsewhere are enjoying the town.

We've been praying for the fellow pastors at a nearby church since we met last year. We see each other for a week or two and then one or the other couple is on the road. They flew to their son's wedding (Australia) and a conference in Thailand. Then we were in the States. This week they begin a short furlough in Canada. We'll speak at their services the first weeks of July.

Our friends Augustine and Sumathi are back from New Zealand, Singapore, and India. Hurrah! Hurrah! We finally visit in person over lunch at our place. We begin to catch up on their amazing adventures, family time, and celebrations.

As the sun drops toward the evening horizon, W drives them back to their apartment at the seminary. We say goodbye at the side of the road a block from the driveway, cutting across 3 lanes of traffic to make a U-turn back to our house. Two teens put their hands up and wade into the oncoming cars and motors, stalling them so we can edge through a narrow gap and change direction. W hands the nearest fellow two small coins (total 75c) for their trouble and off we go.

On one side of the street, Jakartan cars with license plates marked "B" are backed up for several kilometers. They'll pay a few dollars for the convenience of joining tourists fleeing the city after a weekend of shopping and restaurants. On the side for our return, traffic streams smoothly and quickly on nearly empty streets leading into town.

Our place is buzzing. It's a writing and language study day but we're also checking off to-do lists. First, I interview another part-time helper. She washes windows and starts to lift the grit out of the old teak floors. She tells me something funny: last fall when we walked through the neighborhood hills, she snapped our picture. "You were almost jogging," she says. Yes, we walk quickly. And Indonesians take a lot of pictures!

Second, we need a driver a few days a week.  (Most people hire full-time sopirs but we also ride public transportation.) Such men provide basic security during errands, see to it that we are charged fair/er prices, and do odd jobs when not driving. Done! in a cross between W's limited Indonesian and the young man's limited English. He's been highly recommended by expats and agrees to a trial period.

Another workman and his assistant come to cut through a door to the laundry area. For the past 40 years, the women of the house or house-helpers have dragged soiled bedding and clothing down 18 steps to the main floor, across the living room and kitchen, through a little hall at the back of the house, and back up a steep circular stairway with only a single metal railing to prevent a plunge over the side. I've gotten quick at negotiating those stairs with arms full of laundry. My initial learning curve was steep enough to convince us that it would likely be a dangerous trip for short-term groups and guests.

It looks like this when it's done. But below, how it started ...
The handyman built a made-to-measure door Friday while we renewed our visas. Today, he tunnels through a concrete wall with a pick and sledge hammer. His assistant hauls plastic sacks filled with cement rubble down the steps, tracking dust with his bare feet all the way to the gate. He dumps his load and heads back up. The new helper shakes her head, wiping dust off the floor and stairs before heading home in the early afternoon.
Drilling a hole and checking the placement
Hammering an opening
Shaping the doorway 
Fitting the door-frame
On the other side of the door = the laundry area. The men will trim the frame tomorrow.
A short step for woman, a giant leap avoided for womankind.
Why didn't someone think of this sooner? The older part-timer, who has arthritic knees, dreads the circular stair. She'll be happy to save each double-stair marathon!

We have a full week ahead. Meetings. Gatherings. Visits. 3 dinners. Some days I truly need an afternoon nap.

Read more:
*Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. Psalm 90:2, 4. NEV

*Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! Psalm 130:2 NEV

*The Lord grants peace within your borders. Psalm 147:14 NEV

*Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27 NEV

*John the Baptist said, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Luke 3:11 NEV

*Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. Romans 14:19 NEV
Moravian Prayer: Loving Father, many of our neighbors find themselves in need. Help us to show your love for all by accepting them as they are in addition to sharing your word and our resources.
We live in a time of hatred, war, famine, poverty, and despair. Thank you, God, for providing us with hope that one day the world will be at peace. Until then, help us to be strong in faith and love. Amen.
C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain: In obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam’s dance backward and returns.


  1. As I read your commentary I felt so at home, Rosemarie. As the weather now is so much like Malang and Tohomon and Bandung lately I don't feel so far away as I did in the winter. Why did no one think to make a door there (heading to laundry)? Because the owners would most likely never use those stairs, only the see? Love reading of your life. Col

    1. Strangely, for the past decade or so, the lady of the house (in her 70s and 80s) ran the house without a helper.