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.

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