Saturday, June 17, 2017

W's Birthday and a week in 3 big cities

June 12, 2017
Happy 60th Birthday to my husband, Waldemar. He chose a date night over having a group over ("if we were in Jakarta, we'd go out with our friends...") - but I'm still in Singapore. He's hosting the usual study on our porch.

So I text the helper to find a cake from the freezer. "Back bottom, on the left." She pulls out this
no! please don't eat my Costco Christmas cake!
and this
and then I send a picture of the pan and she finds it. She serves it unfrosted, but in this heat at least it thaws quickly. And she does find the birthday candles in the drawer.

In her TX evening, Kirsten takes photos of all the cards she's received for W: she sends those to me. Combining the emails and photos takes most of my Monday morning. I send the file to W in the evening. He is overwhelmed by the good wishes and kind comments. Thanks to all who participated! It was a good surprise.

I hopped a bus to Singapore's IKEA Saturday, where I met the visa agent and handed off my passport. He promised to process the visa papers first thing Monday (today.)
The view from the 5th-floor stairwell at our apartment: basketball coarts, parking, playgrounds, gathering spaces
Sunday, I walk to meet Claudia's friend at the MRT (rapid transit train) station in the next suburb. She hands me cash - this visa run is complicated. I'm grateful to have the money in hand. W took most of our money back to Bandung after he got his visa  Thursday... so I don't have cash to pay for my visa. Our friends offered to help.

I guess I could have taken the bus, but the walk is pleasant and there aren't hills in Singapore.  There are a lot of steps, starting with 100 steps down from my apartment to the ground floor. The freeway overpass has another 100 side-to-side.
The pedestrian stairway to get across the freeway: every step to code height
 I clock 5 miles and +700 stairs in 95oF (35oC) heat and humidity. Of course, I am soaked by the time I get back to the flat: happy to shower in the tepid room-temperature water.

Meanwhile, in Bandung W is hosting two people from Surabaya - Korie and Isabelle - teachers who will be assisting in training preschool teachers in surrounding villages. I'm so sad not to be there: they are taking up a challenge from our neighbor to work with 118 preschools.

W and I sponsored a little library for one of the schools, and another friend (Yoanita) has donated 4 bags of her children's school books. Korie takes pictures - and I feel like I'm there. (But I miss seeing her face.)

Monday afternoon, I hop a bus to town to get the visa. Four #83 buses don't show up, and finally, the first one comes after 45 minutes. It's slow and winding but I don't have to do transfers. I alight but get lost underground in the tunnels under the street - there are entire shopping centers - but I finally make it out to the street I want to be on. A few blocks later, there's the hotel ... and the person I'm meeting shows up about the same time.

The noodle dish (recommended by the server at the little mall restaurant) is delicious - softest beef and spicy sauce. I'm home by 7:30pm - a quick run up the steps to the 7th-floor flat ... and it's time to pack for home.

I catch a taxi on the street at 5:30 am - and make it to the airport for an uneventful flight to Jakarta. After negotiations, the taxi driver is willing to take me from the airport to town for Rp200.000 (about $14) - and then wants toll money (100.000), which is silly - I refuse and tell him to wind through the streets if he doesn't want to pay tolls - it doesn't matter to me. He's already getting Rp100.000 more than a regular metered taxi. He goes through one toll, then pulls off to take side streets, which don't take long at all.

W has come in from Bandung this morning by train. We hand in our new visa applications to the agent in Jakarta. (We have to come back for the completed forms on Monday.) This visa will keep us from having to exit the country every 30 days. Hurrah!
The Starbucks at the train station is curtained; fewer temptations for those fasting for Ramadan
One of the blessings of association is sitting around the table to hear what others are doing. We join the staff meeting and eat lunch with the IES team - love these friends! We are always inspired by their reach into (and heart for) their community. W gets his wish: there's a birthday cake for him and PD at lunch.
Lovely friends and NU connections at IES: Tirza (alum) and Katie (currently in the grad program)
We make it back to Bandung on the train late in the evening. I'm exhausted: Singapore is one hour ahead of Indonesia - so I've been up a while by the time my head falls onto the pillow at home.

My hair is bugging me. Singapore voltage is hotter than Indonesia, and my hair gets burned with the dryer. It takes 15 minutes with a scissor in hand in front of our mirror - and I'm happy. 1.5-5" lengths of hair are swept up into the garbage. (Much faster than the salon and I know what I have to work with when I'm done.)

Today, 5 students from Northwest U in Seattle arrive. Amanda's been here before: in fact, she's left her things upstairs. It's her temporary home-away-from-home for 2 months; her family in the States has moved to a new house while she's been gone.

We take them to Anklung Udgo, a cultural show where they can see some of the region's music and arts. They're still worn out from doing a youth camp last week, so it's a low-key evening.

I make French toast and sausages for breakfast: we need energy for what is ahead. We walk 5 miles, up and down and along the river that borders our hill.

Some of the students are wearing sandals, maybe not the best plan for the tall grasses and jungle settings - Gypsy runs ahead and scares off snakes. W bats a 9" spider off the web above the trail, slashing both sides of the web instead of one ... it falls on the path rather than off to the side. But we walk by without incident.
Across the river: houses neck on neck
 One of the students has no appetite at lunch: he probably has a touch of heat stroke: he wore a black T-shirt and cap. Living here, we take certain things  for granted (wear bright, loose cotton shirts, not clingy T-shirts; wear broad-brimmed hats rather than baseball caps, wear shoes not sandals in nature, etc.) The students refused walking sticks so a few are muddy from slipping on the trails. Otherwise, they're tired but in good shape.
from my art book - 5 min sketches
We decide to have the study at the house: getting across town in Ramadan traffic can be a bear. Ibu A has made supper - jackfruit in curry, fried rice, and leaves/berries from our backyard tree. She goes home early: she'll be cooking at night for her family, who will eat at 3-4am and fast food and drink all day. Ramadan is not a rest for women.

One of the cultural surprises when we first came - as it is for most foreigners - was that employers are required to pay a bonus salary (usually an extra month's pay) to Muslim helpers. Meanwhile, the women are exhausted from cooking so their families can finish feasting before 5:45 sunrise. Muslims work at half-speed during the days of fasting month, but that's the norm. Everyone understands.

The student team is heading back on the train this afternoon, after 3 days with us. Amanda decides to go to Jakarta with them. That means a mad scramble on WhatsApp and email for me. She's left - already on the train - by the time we get things sorted out.
An exotic fish at the aquarium shop near the train station
After many apologies and interactions with our Jakarta friends, I know the process for "next time." This internship has been a learning curve: we will be much more specific with our teams - and stick to the agenda. (Otherwise, it takes more energy, time, and calling in of favors than the benefit for the student or us.)

We have a half-hour at home before W and I walk down the hill. We're meeting a new couple and their friends. W and Finn met at our last conference in Malaysia; they used to work in Indonesia but are based in China. They want to introduce us to locals with a heart for philanthropy and community care.
Meeting Finn and Sandy
We are delighted - what a nice group. They drive us back up the hill, take a tour of the house, and then sit down for a bit. Finn takes a conference call - the way so many of us keep business going - while the rest of us have supper at Miss Bee. The sun is down when he joins us - as does the local couple's son. The young man is an architect who works for the mayor's office. He walks back with us to our house. I serve him and W tea.
Jolly old ? (not St Nick): the Ramadan display at Miss Bee
While they chat, I pull new linens onto our bed. (I stripped off the old bedding this morning. It's still drying on the laundry racks on the roof.) Ah, finally, we stretch out between the fresh sheets; it feels like pure luxury to sleep in our bed with the house to ourselves. It's been a long week.

Upon waking, I listen to the Jesuit "Pray as you Go" for the day. The words are startling and the scriptures speak directly into my heart. Thanks be to God. W sits on the porch with his slough of emails.
A street chicken peeks into the window of a chicken restaurant (ayam = chicken)
After a few morning phone calls, I start editing, wrapping up in the early afternoon. This time I'm rewriting my own dissertation into a book. It's harder to sort through the information I know: what to cut? what to keep? But by the time my eyes blur and my back starts to ache, the rough copy is ready. Then I give myself the rest of the day off.

I read, nap, and in the evening, we walk to the neighbourhood Maxis Restaurant. We order ravioli and a grilled chicken entree. I have mango juice, and W enjoys a desert and coffee. It comes to about $15 (a splurge).

We overlook a courtyard where a young bride and groom dance and host their friends. We pray a blessing over them, pay the bill, and walk back home in the warm darkness. The chants and prayers continue through the night.

Read more:
*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'sPsalm 103:1-5 NIV

*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

*I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit iin you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:26-28 NIV

*We will say no more, “Our gods,” to the work of our hands. Hosea 14:3

*Paul wrote: All belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. 1 Corinthians 3:22-23

Moravian Prayer: Our God and Father, may we truly believe that we are one with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We can never get outside of God’s love. We are created in his image and we receive all the sap which flows from the vine. Our very being is totally dependent on him. May his Spirit continue to push us to drink deeply from the rock. Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Passing by

"And will you grow tired of this?" she asks herself.

"No, I don't think so."

Life is both treasure and adventure.

What if you were meant to be the little boat that rocks the lineup of ships - just by passing by?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Research methods: for theology, food, visa runs, and a sunset thrown in

One of many beautiful harbors in Singapore
The second week of class is over. But there's a wrinkle to going home. I glance at my ticket. It looks like I'll be in Singapore until Monday or Tuesday. More about that later.

Weekend: June 2-5, 2017
My job this weekend is to edit a book. It's long (250 pages or so), being revised from a 350-page dissertation. Those of you who've done a PhD know the hoops of writing a dissertation. Each school has its way of asking and answering questions, defining research methods, writing literature reviews, and organizing sections of repeated information from different angles. That all has to go away in a book.

Books take a reader through information in a different way, based on time, history, or a flow of ideas - with few repeats. I worked on this project for 3 weeks earlier this year and sent it off to the author. By the time it came back, I was traveling and unable to tackle the revisions.
Rapid transit at rush hour
But this weekend ... oh finally! This weekend I took 4 days (Friday pm to Monday) and crashed, crammed, interacted with the author and publisher, and whee: it's donnnnnneeee. It felt good to send the completed file. It's checked off my list and I learned a lot about Korean culture and theology along the way.

What good practice for publishing my own work! And Waldemar's.
A city built into the sky - and on land reclaimed from the ocean
Tuesday to Friday
Morning pickup for school is before 8. I get up at 6am to ensure the PPTs, notes, and handouts are ready for the day. We visit the library, look at online resources, and edit work on the board.

The students also share their research proposals, do class presentations, and think about daily takeaways. In 2 weeks, their writing is so improved as to be unrecognizable, compared to their first submissions.

By 1:30, the class is done. If there are no other meetings, I head back to the flat to grade papers and prep for the next day. Sometimes I watch a bit of YouTube before falling asleep.
FedEx is everywhere - I spot a truck from our outdoor restaurant seating
Waldemar arrives Tuesday afternoon. He explains 2 computer research programs to our class before heading to the visa agent downtown. (If the tech expert's in town, have him teach!) When he leaves for home Thursday morning, he has his extended Indonesian visa in hand.

Tuesday evening, our date night starts with supper at Chilliz (not what you might think - they make delicious Indian food.) We share spinach paneer, mutton curry, and butter chicken.
Indian Chilis - a marvelous menu
Our sunset stroll on the beach is just a few miles from the apartment. Since Singapore is a small island, Singaporeans are only a bus ride from the coast. Families cycle, walk, and sit on the benches, enjoying the cooling evening air (89oF/ 32oC). I'm very comfortable in my long trousers and a blazer. (I guess I'm acclimated, eh?)
Doesn't this look too perfect? It's unedited from my IPhone.
Singapore takes its rules seriously. There's a $1000S ($722US) fine for riding instead of walking a bicycle or motorcycle over the pedestrian bridge of the causeway. Most parts of life are mandated - especially orderliness and cleanliness. As a result, Singapore is safe and clean - almost pristine.
Taking disobedience seriously @$1000S a bike ride
There are broom marks at the tidemark in the sand where the sweeper has just cleared away leaves, seaweed, and debris. WHAT? They sweep the shores? Yes they do.
Brush marks in the sand
The fishing boats are chugging into the harbor as the sun goes down The ferries tie up at the dock for the evening.

Wednesday, friends cook dinner for us downtown. It's a precious time with like-minded peers. Susan prepares a fantastic dinner of baked potatoes, veges, and roast (tender Australian beef). Young Anna welcomes us with a personally wrapped present. After the meal, W and Shane disappear into the office for some tech support. Shane drives us home afterwards.
Ribbon-knot gift wrapping - cute! (6-yr-old Anna and the gift)
Thursday after class, Kathleen first takes me back to the flat to drop my heavy computer bag - I run the usual 6 flights (100 steps up to the seventh floor. There are no Singaporean hills nearby so I do what I must.)
Palm trees in bloom overhead
After I walk back down, Kathleen drops me at the mall to mail some letters. It costs less than US$1 to mail overseas letters. However, when I get to the shop counter, a $4 Hallmark card is $11S ($8US. Gulp - sticker shock.) I find a few art supplies and small necessities, too.
Every night, I put color and words in my black "visual journal"
First thing Friday morning, W and I get a most welcome notice: my own Indonesian visa is about to be processed. The hitch is that I have to be in Singapore for it - and there's a time limit for getting it. Our upcoming weeks are crammed. Wait a minute!

I have a plane ticket home tomorrow. I've been waiting and waiting for our special company, two friends who are staying with us in Bandung for the weekend. Shall I go home tomorrow afternoon and fly back Sunday night?

We decide - thanks to many factors, including the generosity of the school in letting me stay in the flat - that I must forfeit the ticket home. Our priority is to process the visa for which we've waited 2 years. (We'll save a few hundred dollars, time, and avoid a problem if Singapore won't let me back in with such a tight turnaround. Their immigration is as strict as every other government department.)
A typically beautiful apartment complex - our faculty home in Singapore
Each teaching break fills up with visa questions and logistics. W and I are on WhatsApp with various team members; I call the Indonesian visa agent and arrange a Monday meetup; Ruth (the college's Wonder Woman admin) walks me to a nearby shop for passport pictures.

W has taken most of our Singapore money with him. How to pay for this? More texts whiz between us. We have several options. One falls through. Another possibility emerges but the online links aren't working. Our Brazilian friends have connections here - can that work?

We'll have to sort it out by Monday morning when I meet the agent. (You can probably tell that the bumps and requirements of working overseas are not always expected. Flexibility is key.)

W and I usually treat our classes for brunch during their final Friday morning break. Today the class heads for roti parata (fried pancakes with gravy)@ Mr Prata's. It's a walk through the shopping courtyards to the back of the complex behind the college ... and  a new place to some. Delicious.

Ooooohh, the fusion food in Singapore - Chinese, Indian, and Malay. My mutton curry sings in my mouth, the roti melts into the sauce. Fabulous food! Singaporeans demand nothing less and guests anticipate the cuisine each trip. Meals from hawker stalls (like the ones in my pics) cost $2-3US. It's cheaper to eat out than to cook.

It looks like a quiet evening so far. I finish grading in time for an hour's meditation, some art, and writing. The sun's going down just after 7pm.
Growing: playing around in my "2-minute journal"
One final class assignment is due in a month; otherwise, I'm done. These masters and bachelor students include pastors, a doctor, a lawyer, and other NGO workers from across SE Asia. W and I consider it a privilege to learn from them and teach them - and those like them in this region.

Read more:
*Bless the Lord, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases. Psalm 103:2,3 ESV

*The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11 NIV

*Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV

*Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. Acts 3:8 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Your promises are sure and steadfast and we can rely on you for everything no matter how minute it is. We know that we are protected and even if something happens unexpectedly, we can still sing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” 
Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thriving on a Thursday

Thursday, June 1, 2017
Isaac's second birthday has come and gone. Happy Birthday, little guy. Sometimes his smile reminds me of Timo's (his dad's). The grandkids are growing up while we are away. How we miss them.

It's hard to believe it's been a week since Brandy and I went on our daylong spiritual retreat. We sat in separate rooms, but ate breakfast and lunch together, and snacked as we debriefed in the evening. That one day of listening in solitude and silence has recalibrated our hearts and our serve.

God has reminded me all this week of who I used to be - expressive, enthusiastic, ready to jump into life and new things with both feet. I used to love to teach. I looked forward to seeing students each day. (In the past 2 decades, sometimes it's been more of an effort.) Where did I go?!

Who shot this photo? Amazing
A little of that personality and largess has begun to come back to life. I am utterly grateful to God.

I've evaluated last week's meeting with God through the counsel of trustworthy friends, as well as my parents. They've urged me to show up with all my might into relationships, into work, and into things that stir my heart. Whatever God asks of me, I need to be fully present.

no comparisons
no expectations
no rules or regulations
no "should" or "must" beyond what God asks
... and no regrets

Of course, with:
good manners
cultural appropriateness
seeking wisdom, understanding, and knowledge
... and the maturing fruit of the Spirit: more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)
Sunday's quick airport visit with a dear friend - she's going as I come in
I happen to be reviewing a new book by Todd Henry called Did Empty. The theme is giving life our everything so that there are no regrets whenever our time is done. How appropriate.

Henry advises questioning our assumptions and perceived limitations: "All great feats begin with 'why?', 'how?', and 'what if ...?'" That's great advice for research and new projects, but also for life. I'd forgotten to ask those questions, which used to jump naturally into every experience years ago. (Remember our random, deep-diving, and broad-ranging homeschool "curriculum," kids?)

Yet Henry urges readers to assimilate and curate information, thinking deeply about what we let in and give out. Cool. (I hear you, Todd! and I highly recommend the book.)
Women who serve: with Brandy and Amanda
Brandy's gone back home after three weeks with us - done with the long flights and layovers. Her cat Izy is probably ecstatic but I miss her already. She's a soul sister. Amanda wrapped up training in Bali, staying with Josh and Clau. She's on her way to Jakarta soon for more experiences.
Lunch overlooking a spectacular valley, with 60' blooming trees

W's working hard at home and I'm in Singapore. Oh, how I love this city. I don't know if I could maintain the pressured pace and long hours of living here. But the orderliness, the lack of rubbish strewn about (think of it: garbage bins on most corners! that are emptied regularly), traffic rules that are adhered to, the trimmed flowerbeds, and towering trees ... it's balm to my German DNA.

These two weeks, I have wonderful students who need to research and write their papers. Research Writing 101 and 501? Sounds boring? Well, maybe on Day 2 - when there's lots of information with few hooks to hang it on. But by today, they're fully participating and on their way to some great writing. Our classroom gets noisy at times.

Each afternoon, I head out the door to walk laps the apartment complex, prayer-walk the 10 floors of one apartment (there are 10 buildings), and do a circuit on the fitness gear in the central courtyard. I run our 100 steps up and down on the way to work, slowing halfway when it becomes a slog - especially when I'm lugging my workbag home. W and I are sooo grateful for healthy bodies.

I don't even mind my evening homework, editing student work.
After a day at work, an evening of homework and an art journal
Read more:
*David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant.” 2 Samuel 24:10 ESV

*My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15 ESV

*Jesus says, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 ESV

*As for us, we can't help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation--a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good  thing you do and say. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 NLT
*You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. James 5:8 ESV
Moravian Prayer: You call us to faithfulness, Great Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; bless our labor, as we patiently move through life.
Father, you are the source of every joy—may we experience this amidst the aches and pains of life. You are ours and we are yours—fill us with all joy and peace as we cast all our cares on you, believing in your goodness and relying on your mercy. Amen.