Thursday, August 31, 2017

Catch Up 2: Of leaps, leading, and goats

We've just returned from a study group: one of our members was leading and did a good job. Well done, Steven! Here's why I haven't updated in a while. (See Catch Up 1, the post just before this one...)

Ever get the feeling that something is not quite right with a setting? W and I started a weekly date night. Last week, we ended up at an Italian-style restaurant. The furnishings, courtyards and hallways, the general shapes of the buildings, etc. suggested another continent. It was just weird. Beautiful but weird.

One of the things that happens in the tropics is that plants grow. And grow. And grow. So they have to be trimmed regularly. A man comes once a week to sweep the lawn and driveway of the constantly-falling leaves. He trims, chops, and generally tames a wildly growing yard. We inherited his help from a lady who lives down the street.
While I'm at a book group, the gardener chops the top half off the malinjo tree. He saves some berries for our friends, who love to cook them.
Pak Lili and the driver take 2 weeks to carve down two enormous trunks of the guava tree. Everything is done with handsaws: W has a Japanese-style saw that the men enjoy using. They climb up into the highest branches and start sawing. We save a few lengths of brightly-colored branches as supports: I'll be wiring native orchids or bromeliads onto them instead of tossing them away when they get a trim.

While they're working, I take IbuA to Miss Bee, where they serve a salt-and-pepper tofu that is second to none. "Can you make this?" I ask her. 

"Of course," she says. "Or I can make it Sunda style" (her people group)." Oh, the lady can cook! It's her first time at Miss Bee restaurant. She meets a young waitress who lives on her hill, and they exchange surprised greetings. ($5 a meal is a day's wages for her and her neighbors. We supplement her income with food a few times a week, as well as monthly bags of rice, oil, and sugar.)

On one of our dates, W and I got sucked in by the smell of the most gorgeous Vanda orchid. We caved and bought it: $15 for an enormous plant. We bring it in every night to fragrance the whole house, and take it out to get the light each morning.

We are walking the dog when we spot this over-committed tri-wheeler in our neighborhood. The recycled goods almost tip the cycle backwards as it backs up and then inches up the hill to the recycling depot. I suppose the man would just have tipped it back upright with the help of bystanders if it has turtled ...
At 12' tall, balancing it is a wonder of physics.

As we are training study leaders, the groups are getting bigger and more involved. It's a delight to see how happy it makes people to lead, even if they feel very nervous at first. We're all cheering them on so it's a meeting of friendly minds and hearts.

Thursdays, we walk in the hills above the city. Last week, we had a good group - and we all enjoyed the views. 
A cement bridge held up by bamboo braces
And a bamboo bridge over which we heavy foreigners walk one at a time
When we get high above the city, the view is spectacular

We walk the trails up a long mountain, but we come down unconventionally - through the fields, leaping across gaps, and scrambling down rocks that are almost like steps. (My calves are sore until Sunday.) W is often at the end of the line, helping the slower hikers down the "trails."
The ride home is typically Indonesian: 10 people in the car, we have 3 more in the back. No worries.
After the walk and lunch, we shower at home before setting off again, this time to host a study in a restaurant on the next mountain. 

And then it's off to an evening gala, a dinner to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a seminary in town.
Indonesian dances and singing
We have the only blond and white hair in the whole place.

The fish course is delicious, even if the fish looks like he's doing a summersault to watch us.
Best of all, our friends and language teachers, Pauline and Josie, are there too.
Pauline was one of the primary organizers.
Sunday, we meet fellow alumni (CBI and AGTS) at church. What a surprise!

This Monday's date night is at a car wash. That is, it's a car wash by day, and in the evening, they set up tables with cutouts for tin pans containing charcoal briquettes - you can grill your meal at the table. After diners leave, they put everything away and it's a car wash again.
You have to have a strong stomach to look at the murals.
It's that time of year again: the feast of goats. It's Idul Ada - the feast of Ishmael - this weekend. (Read Genesis 22 for the original story.) Goats are tied at intersections and along the road. The very rich Muslims buy cattle ($1500+ - forgiveness for 7 people), while the poor pool their money to share a goat among neighbors ($150-300 - forgiveness for 1 person).

Read more:
*"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." Psalm 91:14-16 NIV

*The Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and his name the only one. Zechariah 14:9 NASB

*So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 NIV
Paul wrote: Jesus Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. Philippians 2:6-7 ESV
Moravian Prayer: God of the beginning and the end, you alone have our complete devotion. Captivate every thought and make it holy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Catch up 1

It's dry season: trees are bursting into bloom, and the temperatures drop to 68o (20oC) at night. Brrrr. I'll catch up in 2 posts or this will be too long.

5 little mice lay in the glue trap atop the kitchen cabinet last night. W smelled them (so they must have been trapped the previous night) and got back into street clothes to take them outside to the garbage. We'd caught 7 before a trip in July. While we were away, the helper said there were more: she threw out chewed-up bags of ketchup (sweet soy sauce here), beans, and spices. We've left a kitchen light burning at night since we were back and haven't seen any in a while ... until this.

Hopefully the rodents who lived in our ceiling are eradicated. It's impossible to keep out "shared" animals when the side or back wall of one house is the wall of their neighbor's house. Cats, rats, and more come over as they please. We provide a hostile environment to discourage them from staying.

On a more cheerful note, our dear neighbor (right in the photo) was chosen as an Indonesian Good Will Ambassador for the next year. She'll travel the country to present "clean science," along with 72 other specialists. We are always amazed by her - and proud of the recognition she is getting for her good work.

Indonesian Independence (Freedom) Day, August 17
Last week, the country celebrated Freedom Day (from Dutch occupation). Everyone puts white and red flags up; there are neighborhood parties and national memorials.
Neighbors sitting in the gazebo, finger food
and some sit in chairs
The menu, cooked by our neighbors
Neighborly chit-chat

And 2 are not like the others... 

How it's done
We have a flag on our gate for the month, too.

I'm invited as a native English speaker to the English Studio Center down the hill. The students ask questions about life in North America and practice their English. We eat a late lunch of noodles and fruit, prepared by the owner. Yuuuum.
We met the two leaders of the Center at our movie nights. That seems to be the main connection point for us, as well as for the young people who stream in and out each month. They meet a lot of people here.

Our motto: "The first time, you're a guest; the second time, a friend; the third time, you're family." Make yourself at home. And they do. And they bring friends and family along.

We host another movie night. First, we disassemble and reconfigure the main room ... it will spill over with young professionals and students later in the day.

Young people seem to enjoy eating, hanging out, and watching movies with us. We love their company! So many of them are here for the last time: they've graduated and are moving to their new cities and jobs. With many hugs and promises for prayers, we send them off.
A few of our 60+ movie friends this month: from Indonesia, Iran, Europe, Palestine, N America, Australia, and beyond
The custom here is to leave dishes where they are finished (or half-finished). Europeans and Canadians/ Americans seek out the trash cans for used paper plates, but most locals will pile their dishes on the floor or tables or sofas. It's also taking a while to teach the helper to collect them so things don't spill while we stretch out to watch the movie.
These two cook rice and a few Indonesian dishes, and clean up - a godsend in a home with no dishwasher!
Some neighbors own successful restaurants downtown, and they have collaborated on a new place nearby. They must be very well-connected: dozens of 4X6' flower boards line the parking area for their soft launch. As usual, there's not enough parking and cars block the streets all around.

There's a huge pumpkin in the garden. Ibu A makes a pumpkin pie.
pumpkin pie!
And when I ask her if she knows how to make apple pie, she comes up with this food art.

WOW! I had no idea - and she's been here 3 years. I shuffled hours for the helpers this week, which was stressful. We don't want to offend anyone, so it's a long process of finding out how to adjust the hiring properly. Indonesia has many religious and national holidays; the locals are often sick, too (stomach bugs and flus sweep through neighborhoods). With numerous guests and events at the house, we need more than occasional part timers.

The more vigorous cleaner agrees to come 5 days a week and the cook will come 2 days, plus helping out for special events. This house, with its open screens and hand-built doors and windows, has to be swept and mopped a few times a week. (I do most of the cooking, but I'd be washing dishes and cleaning all day without their cheerful support.)

It's a nominal boost. Sure enough, it's not what it seems to be. The one gal waves a cheerful goodbye on Wednesday, with "See you Tuesday! But I can't be here next Wednesday either." She has a family wedding, a national holiday (the Feast of Ishmael) and a volunteer stint in the neighborhood coming up. The other will be here today (Thursday) and also not back until Tuesday, too.

Part 2 coming later today: we're off to the first meeting of the day. Be well - have a good one!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Chop chop

Indonesian Independence Day (Aug. 17) is Thursday, August 17. All kinds of traditional games will accompany picnics, parties, and the parades celebrating 72 years of Indonesian independence. It's a big deal - we have the white and red flag flying at our gate, as do our neighbors.
A beautiful bride and her groom pass us in a restaurant hallway
Our neighbor Dr. Wuri is headed for Jakarta this week. Along with the many honors she has earned, she's been chosen as one of 72 "outstanding citizens" for Indonesian Day. She'll attend receptions and meet with the Indonesian President. Throughout the coming year, she and the others honorees will be Pres. Jokowi's ambassadors of science, art, literature, etc. throughout the country. We're so proud of her.

The first chop comes before Sunday morning church. I take the scissors to my hair. I can feel the shape clearly in my mind, so this cut is actually pretty good. It won't need reshaping.

Tuesday, August 15, 2007
It's our first team meeting in a month. What a thrill to sit around the table and talk about what has been happening, where we're going in the next months, and pray over our plans. Dr. Hanna joins us for the first time: she's a treasure with a loving heart and willing hands. She's also the Rotary Club President this year, a distinguished honor.

In the afternoon, Pak Entang takes me to a wholesale food place on the east side of the city. I snag a new oven to replace a 40-year-old model our kitchen that doesn't heat past 375o and leaks hot air from a non-shutting door. A women's group (NWMN) has sent funds for the new oven. Thanks to them and thanks be to God!

I add some food into the cart for next week's movie night. The nice lady at the register rings the food up, asks for my card, and then starts talking in Indonesian. I think she's saying that the oven can be paid for by my credit card, but I need a different (local bank card) to pay for the food that is already in shopping bags. What to do?

"Could you make an exception for me, this once? I have no cash or other card with me."

"No, it wouldn't work, sorry." It takes an hour to sort out the details. The frozen food is thawing but oh well ... First, we need a bar code for the oven. Then the manager calls his manager who talks to someone else. Will it be possible to put food on my credit card, just this once?

"No. We cannot manually enter the number to put the rice and other food on that card."

Pardon? They just swiped my card for the oven.
Ready for food prep! Gas canisters sit behind.
But when the ibu (woman) runs my card for the oven purchase, she and another checker whisper together. They have me sign the oven purchase. Then they move the food items from our first shopping bags into a new shopping cart.

One by one, they ring up the food items again. They manually enter my Visa number, using the first receipt. Then they walk to the printer where the second receipt cheerfully ticks out of the slot, and ask me to sign it. Somehow it's been done. Paid. The impossible has happened.

Everyone cheerfully wishes me a good day and a happy holiday as I push the food-filled cart to the exit. The man from the appliance department helps us take out the oven and lifts it into the back of the car. And Pak Entang and I drive towards home = another adventure in paradise.
In the street, a typical garbage dump waiting for pickup
Meanwhile, back at the house, W has met with the landlord. Pak H gives us permission to prune trees and replant if we want to. (Good! I've been eyeing a spindly guava tree and a diseased mango tree is pushing against the garage.) We put away the purchases and get to work again.

First thing, we take the dog for a walk.
Barely wide enough for one car: no passing
Then I take a Sharpee marker from my office and draw rings around branches of the guava tree when I want them cut. About 7am, W brings down his Japanese pruning saw and hands it off: the gardener climbs up up up into the tallest branches and begins to chop away at one side of the tree.

He throws the branches down,  crawling lower as he cuts one after another. The last big chunk hits the ground with a solid thud. It looks like we'll have to wait until next week to cut the other side. Things just take a while when they're done by hand.
See that blue shirt up in the tree? Glad it's not me.
We reserve three 6'-8' branches that we'll prop somewhere and hang orchids from. The rest are cut into short pieces, piled for drying, and will be used for a cooking fire in a month or two. Guava wood produces a sweetish smoke.

I spray one of the cut guava trunks with ant killer ... and out pour hundreds of ants. Some run with the nest's white egg casings, but they twitch and drop in a very satisfying way just like the others. There are thousands of ants in the guava tree. Maybe even tens of thousands. I won't miss the few hundred that are no longer in the stump.

Ah, since I cut my hair on Sunday, I might as well finish the job. I have an hour before I have to leave for a study group. I color my hair, shower, and am out the door on time.

It takes 45 minutes to get to the study, normally a 20-minute ride. Traffic is backed up at the university, so we creep along. But the women who meet are wonderful: this week, we challenge each other to a 45-minute "listening session," where we will sit in God's presence without speaking, listening only to what he tells us. we will write what we hear and share it with each other.

My next meeting is postponed so I run a few errands. I pop into an art shop. Um, they want $33 for a liter of gesso (white underpainting for an art canvas)? Nope. A quick stop in a student art shop nearby nets a half-liter of gesso for $3.70. That's closer to my price range, especially when sharing supplies with students.
The blue line marks a typical drive = up and around, following the terrain
And just like that, it's past lunch time. Pak E drives up the hills and around the bends, getting us home by 1pm. Today there's fried rice with chicken shreds in it. I cut and toss a quick salad.

After we eat, W moves the old oven in the back area. (This will ease meal prep, especially when we have big events.) And then he's off to lead an evening study in town.

Read more:
*God says, “In distress you called, and I rescued you.” Psalm 81:7 ESV

*Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24 ESV

*But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NIV

*A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. Mark 1:40-42 ESV

*Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"

"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?" For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV
*Paul wrote: He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10 ESV
Moravian Prayer: Source of salvation, give us eyes that look for justice, ears that listen for peace, and voices of righteousness proclaiming Christ’s love. God, in your mercy you hear us. Calm our anxious hearts. From your hand we receive peace. Amen.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Unexpected additions

Each day this week contained a surprise.

Thursday, August 10, 2017
We thought we'd get into the swing of things at home by walking this morning. And a great walk it is through the hills. It's the first time we've walked on roads the whole way, rough though they are. The sky is overcast so it's a cool (78o) 8 km (5+miles) walk. Nice.
Snake in a cage
We always see something new. Someone has put a 5' boa constrictor they've caught in a birdcage. And entire houses have siding woven in ratan and bamboo patterns.
Woven walls
The surprise is that we don't get back until 3. The drive up into the hills takes an hour and a half, but coming down, we have a long detour around road construction. Most streets are 1.5 lanes wide; cars, buses, trucks, etc. pull off the side when possible to let oncoming traffic pass them.

The new paving is the same width: 1.5 lanes. In some places, sheer dropoffs and cliffs lie within a foot or two of the edge of the road. So when half the narrow road is being refinished, there's no way for traffic to go both directions. The paved areas are 6-8" high, a raised lane of solid concrete, which would make a nasty scratch if touching the side of the vehicle.
10 crammed into our minivan
Somehow, another winding mountain road becomes the "other" one-way out of the area. The drivers here are amazing - how we get from A to B is always a mysterious coil of turns. After 3 years, I'm still lost most of the time.

There's barely time for a quick shower before leaving at 3:30 for the study at the Bamboo Shack. We have a wonderful reunion with friends coming back after holidays. And the conversation is uplifting and warm. We pray for each other -

and then go to dinner at Josue and Claudia's. They offer a warm welcome and a wonderful spread, Brazilian food and some noodles brought by Dr. Hanna and her daughter Alice. We're home by 8:30 and fall into bed.

The day starts early at 4. Our bodies haven't quite adjusted to our time zone so when we walk at 6, it almost feels like noon. We are catching up and preparing for the upcoming classes. We need groceries! We make a quick run into the store on the way to a massage ($10 for 1.5 hours) that kneads the kinks out.

I run a bath. There's no impromptu soak though: it means submerging a heater for 1.5 hours as the water from our tap isn't warm enough. But wait! the water is green. And I can't see the bottom of the tub. Is that because the air is warm and there's already algae forming, or is it just dirty water? (It's dirty and smells like swamp.) I shower and crawl in anyway - I'm craving a good soak and I have textbooks to read.

In the evening, we have an unexpected treat. We eat at Miss Bee with Kamlesh and Eri, a couple on holiday from IESJakarta. We walk back together to the house after and chat - it's a delight to get to know them better, beyond the occasional staff meetings we get to attend in Jakarta.

A father and son ask if they can drop in at 9. After our 6am walk, I bake 3 dozen cupcakes and a dozen scones. W and I don't know if our guests have eaten: Indonesians get up early, usually at 6, so they eat early. Maybe they'll be hungry. I asked W to buy eggs yesterday - and then didn't see him in that section of the store so picked up 10 eggs as well. We were in a rush; we got to the register with 30 eggs - his and mine. Yikes. Well, I do have to restock my baking! I toss some in the scones and hard-boil another 8.

I make breakfast for W and me - scrambled eggs and sausage. Our guests arrive before 8:30 as we're about to eat. We put everything on the table: fresh baking, eggs, sausage, and coffee. They bring pastries from a famous downtown bakery, too.

It's hard to anticipate the time of arrival here. Some people show up early, like this morning. (Our study participants often arrive an hour early as well.) Others arrive a half hour or an hour later than planned. It's a bit disconcerting for meal prep, but we are in constant adjustment mode anyway. Time is just another flexible factor.

Yup, we start with a 6:30am walk around the neighborhood. This morning, W's back to teaching his class in Christian Thought. We discuss the full humanity and deity of Christ - and the enthusiasm and presence of God is palpable. Then it's lunchtime at Bumi - we are so happy to have friends to share life and lunch with.
It's not uncommon to see overloaded trucks. This little motor-tricycle is heaped with recycling.
Our first friend shows up at 8:30. Several others arrive by 9:15. It's our first week facilitating the Monday 9:30 study in a month: others have been taking their turn, learning to lead and ask good questions. As often happens, questions lead in unexpected directions - this time (in Luke 11:14+), we talk about how we can build unity in our families and communities. The group comes up with 1) value others; 2) show respect; 3) extend love; and 4) focus on pure and good things. And they repeat these 4 items until everyone has memorized them. I love the learning style - and their participation.

Simon, a regular attendee, asks us to meet him at an international school at 1. When we show up, he introduces us to the principal. She extends an invitation and W agrees to teach the non-Muslim religion class for 45 high schoolers each Friday. (Muslim students have religious training every Friday, so non-Muslims generally have an equivalent mandatory class, too.)

We have a date - and drive up the mountain to Lembang. One street is lined with garden nurseries. You can't imagine the colors and shapes: there's an abundance of flowers like coleus, gardenias, frangipanis, bougainvilleas, geraniums, orchids. There are also citrus shrubs and green plants and trees of every shade, shape, and size. They grow all year in the tropical heat. Their abundance and beauty is renewing for people like us who sit at a desk much of the day. We walk up the street, admiring, smelling, and touching the foliage.

We've wanted to do this for the past years and never took the time. Lembang is famous for its vegetable farms and ornamental nurseries. W and I stroll the dirt aisles and across bamboo platforms: we're on the steep side of a hill and I have no idea how solid these bamboo "floors" are under the weight of the plants and us. In places where the bamboo has broken or rotted, a board is casually placed over the hole.

We choose a few fragrant plants, including the funniest-looking frangipani tree. It has a clump of yellow blossoms, a few leaves, and bare bark branches. We add 11 vines into the back of the car as well. Those will grow to shade and curtain off our teras, providing privacy from the neighbor who overlooks the yard. The huge Vanda orchid ($15) scents the air - it's my sweet date's bouquet "splurge" on this date night. The back of the car is full, but all the plants cost about $25. A green bargain indeed, for my garden-loving soul.

Our dinner is at the Valley, the "best" restaurant in town. The city spreads below. The view is stunning, Someone has strung white Christmas lights through a 50' pine tree.

The risoles (breaded vegetable dumplings) are great. The rest of the meal is a shock: my lamb curry is a finely-chopped tough stew in a screaming hot sauce that almost chokes me (and I usually like heat.) I gulp a few spoons of rice to cool my burning mouth. Our only light is from two candles so I can hardly see what we're eating. That's always a bit scary. But the ambiance is great, and my companion is handsome. It's a good date night.

Read more:
*God said to Noah, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature, that never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Genesis 9:9-11
*Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV
*Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1–3 NIV
Paul wrote: God was entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Corinthians 5:19
*Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV
Moravian Prayer: Watchful and caring God, pour into our hearts, our souls, and our minds a strong love for you. This is our prayer today. Amen.