Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Travels across the Pacific and a mini rant

Saturday, April 2.16
Packing. It's what we do. The flat dissolves into a mess of suitcases and sorting.
Another memory from Friday:
dear friends Zahra and Sadri
By noon, I'm on the way downtown for one final art demo. The lecture is on using Golden acrylic paints. We get a goodie bag with paints and mediums (gels to alter how the paint flows), which goes straight into my suitcase.

We have to lighten the load. Since we'll be in Singapore to process Indonesian visas, our luggage is weighed internationally for the first leg. But in the final flight - Singapore to Indonesia - we are permitted less weight. The website doesn't say we can pay for more, so we leave a full suitcase behind. The women's conference gifted us with fresh linens, familiar spices, and household necessities. We'll bring most of those on the next trip or kind friends /visitors may bring them.
The chaos of packing
Breakfast with a cross-cultural friend refreshes my spirit. We meet at a greasy spoon café. Dishes are saturated in fat and salt. Yum. Tasty. And more to walk off when I get home to Bandung!
Oh the irony at the next table.
enjoying a high calorie, high fat, high cholesterol, high salt breakfast:
volunteers for a Group Health event
She and I talk and pray - it's an intense morning of "small church" for both of us, one last reminder of God's care and calling before she heads east and W and I return to Indonesia. Pastor to pastor, we promise to hold each other accountable for learning, cultural adjustments, and matters of ministry. W goes to "big church" with our family.
A blessing to have godly parents
who like us enough to drive down for a goodbye
My parents drive from Canada, joining us and our children for lunch. Melissa's assembled a big lunch. We savor the meat in sauces from Shamiana (a Kirkland restaurant of northern Indian food) as we visit, pray together, wish each other God's blessings  - and much too quickly, my folks return home.
The tribe, including K's dog Zoe
In the evening, Jodi and I meet at a Starbucks near our place. She drives miles to see me. What a bonus! We run into Sue and her husband, dropping by this Starbucks for a treat. Hugs all around, of course.

For a few hours, Jodi - dear friend and mentor - refreshes my heart with reminders of the Lord's faithfulness, the importance of our calling, and the joys of obedience to God. Oh my, I feel recommissioned to serve by the time we wave goodbye. 

We have made no plans. We finish packing, W cleans the car loaned us by Dale and Phyllis (THANK YOU!), and we visit with the kids.

For supper, we take the two singles (K and J) out to say goodbye. The food is solid American and tasty at the Lake Forest Grill. We talk about transitions in their future.

I get to say goodbye to Phyllis, a longtime friend, as we drop the car back to her. She's ill so we forgo the hug.

Kirsten drives us to the airport. She returns to Austin tomorrow.

Monday night: a little rant, so please excuse me. I'm at the airport gate, feeling frazzled and invaded.

It's a part of the cost of travel. And I’m mad about it. Is it not mind-boggling to everyone that in a country that shouts “freedom and liberty for all” its people can be weighed down with rules? Some of the most ridiculous must be the pat-downs for those who choose to bypass the nuclear screening booth at airport security. (X-ray security machines at the airport have not been independently tested as safe. If you are a regular traveler, you will accumulate radiation in addition what streams through airplane windows. We choose not to.)

I endure the general strokes in public, which is humiliating and silly enough. The gal checks her gloves with the machine and it beeps. Her gloves register an explosive residue. Yup, that’s me. Explosive.

She calls another gal and the two women paw through my purse, touching everything including undies and makeup in my carry-on. They smash everything back into general position. 

"You are not done," they say. May I put on my shoes so I don’t have to walk across the whole area of airport dirt in socks? “Not yet,” they say. Oh yeah, those could be a danger, though they've already checked them over.

They move me to a private room for a yet more invasive pat-down, one woman touching and the other watching. I resent the invasive process, as humiliating for them as for me. I say it aloud: "Isn't this stupid?" One, who's worked for 12 years in security, says, "Yes. It's not good, all around. But what can we do?"

Fellow travelers have remarked on the absurdity and danger of not training airport security about the markers for suspicious people. Instead, they'll pull a young person, a grandma, or any traveler by lotto (“lucky you, #10"). It's pretty useless.

Being herded animals has become part of travel – and the odd thing is how few of us protest. We usually blunder through discomforts without a peep. [Historically, the powers-that-be evoke no protest from the general population. We keep a low profile to raise the least awareness, risk, or trouble to ourselves.]

This night, stressed after saying goodbye, the cattle prod shocks me again. And I protest. Without effect. Impersonal regulations. "Protect the people." My resentment swells against those who harm others and bring such a mess on the world. All the advancements of technology cannot compete with the wickedness and depravity of a broken human heart. Enough said. Maybe too much.

It’s late at night when we board: midnight is long gone by our 1:30 a.m. flight. We’re on our way back to SE Asia, with a Singapore stop for visas. We layover in Taipei, the airport a clean and orderly portal that shuts out the noise and color of this city.  People are subdued; we’re all tired.

It’s pretty incredible that the big birds will take thousands of us through the night air, winging over oceans and islands, cities and farms, mountains and valleys. We lose Tuesday to the International Dateline, arriving in Singapore at noon on Wednesday.

"Luckily, you get the time back coming to Seattle," says a friend. True.

We land in Singapore around noon, in time for a late lunch with Josue, Claudia, and their wonderful kindergarten-aged kids, Leo and Kat (for short). Josue took a masters-level video class by W and a class with me when we taught here last year. They are pastoring an international church while the lead pastor is on sabbatical.
The view from our Singapore window: a horizon of flats
At noon on Thursday in Singapore, it's 9pm on Wednesday, Seattle time. Our bodies feel the day/night shift, though traveling westward means less adjustment than traveling eastward. We have flown for a day and night - so hopefully our friends don't hold anything said in fatigue against us. haha

Claudia cooks a wonderful meal of chicken, veg, fruit, and rice. We also get to taste Brazilian-style pinto beans and another favorite, roasted pumpkin. It's a feast, a wholesome landing after airline food.
I nap while W takes public transport downtown. He hands off our passports to "the guy" who helps with our visas. It was nerve-wracking to be without passports, the first time we did this. Now, it's become routine.

And somehow, Claudia whips up another feast by evening. Their kiddos are adorable. They're also respectful, friendly and well-mannered. They head off to bed late (8:30) with minimal fuss.

Claudia takes the kids to school and rejoins us. Breakfast in Singapore ... what will it be? Roti parata of course, with curry gravy. 

Josue heads to work while W returns to the flat with us. He shows Claudia how to make a simple soft cheese with milk, lemon juice, and salt (or optional flavors). Claudia's Brazilian family owned a buffalo milk and cheese farm so she loves dairy: she adds another skill to her cooking.

I love the heat: 31oC by noon (91oF) and humid. I'm warming my bones in preparation for returning home. I am grateful for God's protection and provision so far.

My dear restless husband heads into town again. He has things to see and things to do. I stay behind to write, think, and pray. Claudia will pick me up when the children finish school and swimming this afternoon. We'll go downtown for supper together before Josue's meeting. Tomorrow morning, W and I are homeward bound.

My folks call on FaceTime - oh so good to see their faces again! Our daughter confirms she is back safely in Austin. As Julian of Norwich wrote: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Thanks be to God.

Read more:
*The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Isaiah 60:19-20 NIV

*For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV

*Jesus says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John 20:21 ESV

*The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us. Isaiah 33:22 ESV

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

Moravian Prayer: Mighty God, thank you for the shelter of your love. Your grace surrounds us, keeping us safe, even though we know we don’t deserve it. Help us to share your love and mercy with all we meet this day. Amen.

*C.S. Lewis in Miracles: To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all 
asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? 

These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world- shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else— since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?

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