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.

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