Monday, November 27, 2017

Of lizard poop, roaches, and cold showers

Stock photo of a dead roach
The silky swish across my ankle at midnight shouldn't be fabric: I'm wearing shorts in the tropical heat. So I switch on my cellphone light - and yeah, that's a +2" cockroach scurrying away under the bathroom storage cart.

Instead of screaming, I heave a sigh of relief. Thank you, God - it's running away, not coming toward me. I wash my hands and go back to bed.

While W was gone last week, there was not a single roach in sight. The same thing happened when he left last time. (The first morning he was back, an ant-covered roach lay on its back, feet kicking, in the shower. W disposed of it quickly. My hero.)

Stock photo, but we swept hundreds of dead ants
from the downstairs bathroom yesterday
When he travels to teach, my dear husband prays God's covering over me, our parade of visitors, the house and car, our work, and those we love. And somehow, God protects everyone and everything from harm and keeps those ugly critters away. We still have mass invasions of ants and the occasional rat or mouse. But however it happens, I see no roaches until he's back. So I thank God for his mercy when I see that first roach. Even when it's just run over my foot in the dark.

This past week, our guest noted the deprivation of hot water (= none for her showers all week). The fix is unique to each house, acquired over many experiments. Here, we turn on both water pumps to suck water into the reservoir tanks and pump them into our bathrooms. The squeal of the pumps may or may not come on until the initial sitting water in the pipes is expressed or drizzled out.
Every "bit of normal" is normally a "bit of extra" work
Sometimes - but not always - turning on the pumps means enough water pressure for the gas spot heater to click on. Even when there is water, you have about 2 minutes. Then the uneven water flow turns off the heater and you have to restart the process. If there's no water, you get dressed and try again later.

Filtering our water (and the covered
drinking water to prevent algae). Note, on
 the left, the plastic pipe for city water
Good thing we use bottled drinking water, though if we forget to clean the filter every week, it clogs and our supply is limited. We listen for that steady drip. drip. drip. drip to refill the 5-gallon bottles used for brushing teeth, washing food, making tea, and cooking. The other day, I saw the helper rinsing the rice with river water (filtered by the city before reaching our main house system, mind you) and I think that's how we're acquiring some immunity to stomach bugs.

Living here, you become desensitized to an ongoing variety of daily - shall we say, surprises? When we are back in the West, or at a hotel during transit, we stand under the hot flow and thank God for his blessings. A whole shower of hot water. Wow - it's not taken for granted.

And we're not complaining. We love it here, as you can tell from what I usually write.

Western visitors come expecting things to be different from home. But they enter our house with its old teak trim, the big meeting rooms where we host events, and the wide marble tile floors installed by the original wealthy family more than 60 years ago. The walls are solid concrete.
Spacious ... until the furniture is moved for 70 guests,
who sit on the floor, on pillows, and on the furniture
Somehow that's seductive and their expectations rise. The house looks like luxury, compared to the wooden structures and laminate floors of America. I'm not a shopper, but 50-90% off sales found me when we needed bedding, furniture, and dishes. (Thank you, God!) I sewed slipcovers and pillowcases to make the spaces feel homey.

However, by the time visitors stay a few days, they begin to experience the shock of real life in Indonesia. In our neighborhoods, water comes and goes, electricity flickers on and off, and traffic is so bad that it can take 3 hours for a 15-minute drive.

In the house, the ants, rats, flies, and roaches wage unceasing war on our food. Termites fight the spray to eat the wood trim. The fruit bats cling to the rafters until they peep peep peep on their way to eat the fruit in the yard. (Oh no, I was watching that papaya ripen and now it has a big hole torn in it. Toss.)
Weekend market chickens - @80o for 2 hours so far
We do love our life here - and mostly I write about that. But maybe, once in a while, it's good to admit that under the surface of an ongoing adventure of faith, we get homesick. We miss our grandchildren, parents, and children. Especially during the holidays when friends post pictures of family gatherings and church get-togethers. We sigh when parts of the modern life we grew up with disappear for a night or a week or forever.

Behind the scenes, we work hard, especially when we have new courses to prepare or events to host. It takes a few days of cooking to get food ready for our monthly movie nights. For a house manager raised by a German mother, it's an ongoing battle for clean bedding, floors, and walls. (Lizard poop dries up and sweeps right off, thankfully.) The yard sheds leaves onto the porch, rainy season turns everything to mud, and plants grow wild ... all year long.
When we fly off to some exotic destination, our friends sigh with envy. "We've always wanted to visit Bhutan / the Philippines / Singapore / Thailand ..."

Meanwhile, we've dragged our carry-on luggage down a flight of broken stairs and walked a city block or further along (and then across) the taxiway with jets blasting by (earplugs are our friends)  ... just to get to the stairs of our plane. Up we go.
Waiting for a jet to pass so we can cross to the terminal
Boarding may have been delayed an hour or more because the incoming flights are late. The planes can be old and a bit stinky, and there's usually one flight option at a time. There's rarely a first or business class, even if we could afford it with travel miles.

When we return to our city, sprawled across the valleys between tall mountains, we are tired and happy to be coming home. Still, our plane may circle over the city because of storms. We may have to make so many turns that the air traffic controllers divert us to refuel in another city before we return for a landing: thunderstorms are too dangerous to fly through and wind gusts make the runway treacherous for takeoff and touchdown.

I won't mention much about the promises kept and revised. About permissions given and withdrawn. How, "let's start breakfast at 9:00am" means people may be on the porch at 7:30am, wanting to hang out as we prepare. I'm scatterbrained and easily distracted: for big events, I have to work with a list and a timeline. (Oh oh. Hold those loosely.) Some guests may not arrive until 10:30 because they've met someone along the way and the chat took longer than expected.
Still moving: it's a good day

When we are stuck in traffic, it's hard for W not to feel anxious at "not showing up when we're supposed to." However, our Indonesian friends shrug off the half-hour delay and greet us warmly: "Come sit here. We're so happy you came."

Our conference session - carefully prepared over weeks - may be cut in half (spontaneously, as we stand at the mike) because the conference started late and the dances, speeches, and photos at the beginning ran long.

It's all part of this crazy, high-alert, and marvelous life abroad. Please pray for us as Christmas and New Years approach, would you? And we'll happily keep you posted about how privileged we feel to be called to serve across cultures. Thanks.

What would be the hardest part for you in crossing culture and living here for the next 10 years?

Read more:
*Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. Proverbs 10:9 NIV

*Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. Joshua 23:11

*The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. 1 Samuel 2:8

*God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1 John 4:16

*God appointed a Son (Jesus) heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:2-3

Moravian Prayer: Lord of all creation, you hold the whole world in your hands. We give you thanks for the teaching of your Son, Jesus, who sustains us and brings clarity to how we should live our lives. 

God of compassion, if we truly love you we will feed your sheep. Grant us the strength to love and serve our friends as well as our enemies so that we will live in the warmth of your love. Amen.

Friday, November 24, 2017

An 8-fly day is a good day

Thursday, November 23, 2017
8 flies. That's all I got today.

Every time I get into the shower, I squish as many drain flies as I can catch. They flit over the chipped and the peeling surface of the aged blue tiles. When they land, a hand slap and they're dead. These super-bomber-shaped triangles buzz around the bathroom walls and ceiling.

Some days, there are 40 or more of them. I've sprayed, put essential oils and other natural deterrents into the drain and shower ... and they persist. On a good day, there may only be 8-10. Today was a good day. I'm thankful.

A lot of writing happens in this office of mine. I curl my feet into the rug we bought a decade ago in Montana. The rug was finger-crocheted using yarn ends from the Penelton wool mill in Oregon. It's a warm and comforting base under the old teak dining table that serves as my desk.
In the evening, I head to a restaurant on the next hill to meet about 50 others for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm privileged to say grace over the meal, dreamed up by our friend Bob on the porch a week and a half ago. I didn't know if he and his staff could pull it off, but the table settings are beautiful, the attendees are happy to be together, and we have a good evening.
The evening gets off to a cheery start: we're judging 20+ photos hung on the wall in a contest of scenes of Bandung.
Rice terraces: my photo entry

The restauranteurs are friendly and some of us pitch in to help with their first-ever Thanksgiving feast. Four friends have baked turkeys for them; my helper made 8 breads, which are a hit with pumpkin soup as a first course. Then we eat the turkeys, potatoes, gravy, and veges ... all yummy. We end with ice cream on pumpkin pie. (Our helper baked the 6 huge pies from 4 little pumpkins).

I sit with two Australian women who are studying foreign development and politics. Their universities are participating in an exchange with Indonesian students. They like Bandung, though they admit some things take them by surprise. One gal is treating her studies as a test run, to see if she can cross cultures successfully. So far, so good. We invite them to some of our events.

Our hikes have changed from Thursday to Friday for the next few months. (Thursdays, W and I have a study in the afternoon, so it was always a scramble to get back on time from the mountains around the city to home - and then we'd quickly shower off the grit and dirt before heading out.)
Sundanese tea plantation workers
Today, we're circling some hot springs, which means we're pretty close to a volcano. We walk through tea fields and overgrown forest trails. Someone has hacked off the abundant growth of rainy season from on one side of the path. The cuttings fall over the ground. We can hardly see the trail under piles of sticks and leaves.
Our security yard dog Gypsy runs ahead and does his job of chasing away wildlife: we see no snakes or other critters during the miles of grass, branches, and mud underfoot.
The scenery is stunning and the ground is mostly level (if you don't count a steep hike down and back up from the waterfall.)
Acres of tea
Ants swarm the fallen branches, scavenging and returning to their nests. We have many kinds of ants in the house, in the yard, and in the wild. They're everywhere, persistent and hardworking. Ugh.
I ask some of the women what they get out of the walks. One, in language school, says it clears her brain for the hard work of learning. Another thrives on the exercise. For some it's the company, getting out of the house to be with other people.
Up and down a treehouse that serves as a lookout across the valley
Me? It helps me stay healthy and alert for planning, hospitality, teaching, and other stuff we do here. I also get to pray for people I'd never otherwise meet, in places I probably wouldn't go.

After lunch, we drop fellow walkers at their places, and I get some reading done. Soon it will be time to teach another course.

In a sudden burst of creative energy, I chop my hair, It was almost time for a haircut anyway. Saves a lot of time and money to do it at home. I'm grateful for sharp scissors.

Read more:
*The Lord will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. Psalm 9:18 NIV

*Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100 NIV
*When I think of your ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. Psalm 119:52 ESV
*Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. Luke 10:39 ESV
*Paul wrote: We will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 ESV
Moravian Prayer: Gracious God, you never abandon those in need of your help. Remind us that we cannot rely on ourselves alone, but are in constant need of your guiding light.
God of the harvest, we give you thanks not only for the bounteous yield, but for the peace we find in your holy teaching. Help us to be like Mary and listen to your words for us. Amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy American Thanksgiving

An old bear from when our kids were small.
I stabbed all the fall florals into the waiting
Christmas tree after our Thanksgiving dinner;
I'll decorate the tree next week.
I'm thankful for many things today, especially family, friends, and meaningful work.

I'm making notes for the presenter at tonight's Thanksgiving feast (held at a friend's restaurant, the Bamboo Shack). Apparently, the USA is the biggest party nation and makes the most of celebrations. But other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving on different dates. We already celebrated our October harvest tradition, Canadian Thanksgiving - and last week we gathered the IES Bandung team and a few friends around the table for an early American Thanksgiving.

It's complicated, this crossing cultures and holding two passports. I say, celebrate everything. And cook a lot.

We're helping with the Thanksgiving meal by bringing 8 loaves of fresh bread. To make 2 small loaves, baked in little round !well-buttered! Pyrex dishes:
4 c flour
2 c water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Stir and let it rise. Then bake @425o for a half hour. It's done when it sounds hollow.
Cooling on the breadboard
Ibu A also makes 6 pumpkin pies for the dinner from 4 little sugar pumpkins a friend found in Lembang, the garden city in the hills above town. Oh the house smells good.
A dark tablescape at home
Monday and Tuesday
We have a few meetings in a row on Monday. Several people are away, a fact of life in Bandung where many people travel for business. And just like in Canada, when the weather changes, people get sick. Here it's a shift from Season 1 to Season 2: from dry and hot to wind and rain.

On Tuesday, I have to go to town. Locals say there is a "party street" where all kinds of decor is available. With several holiday events ahead, I find myself walking up and down a long stretch of they-weren'-kidding! toys, party supplies, and food stalls. It's a bit overwhelming for a first-timer.
The shop owner makes an employee pose
It's been months since I've had a girls' day out. Three of us gals go to town, starting with a visit to a little guy in the hospital. He has dengue fever but is recovering with the help of all the toys his visitors are showering on him.

We're checking out a new mall and Sandy exclaims that it feels familiar. The two of us are Canadian and it seems more like a Canadian than an American mall - spare and clean. Most local purchases are made in owner-driven shops but we have a few other malls in this city of millions.
I find these furry red 6" globes in the yard
One of the gals has lots of allergies, so she has a hard time finding something to eat. We wander around several floors and finally find a place in the food court. I find a mango juice vendor and then grab a bowl of spicy ramen nearby. (Next time, I'm eager to taste the dim sum at the Chinese restaurant! Oooh, touring past great restaurants when you're hungry is such a bad idea.)

After the mall, we stop briefly at an appliance discounter. Our guest would like to put a small microwave upstairs for her use and future guests, but the price is out of her reach. We walk back to the car for the short drive to the touristy art street. Doesn't every city have at least one of these?

We're not looking for art though. Tucked between the art stores, there's a porcelain factory outlet with dishes by Sango, Lenox, and others. Our guest snags a Spanish bowl ("thanks to God" or something similar). I find 3 fancy plates for serving holiday cookies or cakes: $6 for all 3. I resist the other tempting offers ...

In the evening, our guest is hard at work, hosting an informational event. I stay outside on the porch, watching the gate for over an hour after starting time. Traffic can be awful and four attendees are snarled in it. The group seems to have a good time and our guest is pleased at their engagement with her material.

Holiday or not, today is catch-up day. I sort files, send notices, address a few cards, blog, and take time to say thanks to God for the abundance of his love and goodness.

Read more:
*O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever. Psalm 28:9
*Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:16
*I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1: 4-9 NIV
*Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15 NIV
Moravian Prayer: Good Shepherd, so often as a church we look to those outside our own community as “other.” May we let go of our pride and work together with all people so we will be one flock under your leadership. Amen.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Wind in our faces; clouds on the horizon

Friday, November 17, 2017
My 2 appointments are scheduled for 11 and 12:30. Or so I think. On my way to the first, I'm in the car with two others. Coworker Mandy is visiting from Jakarta but she has weekend plans and must return home. She tries to buy a train ticket after her overnight visit. Tee, our other guest, is helping her with transportation.

On the way down the hill, I get a WhatsApp message. My first meeting is postponed: the lady is ill. With WAs flying back and forth, we make new arrangements for Monday. Timewise, you need great flexibility here. Sometimes as a day goes by, plans seem to change hour by hour. Today's one of those days.

I was going to drop the women off at the nearest Indomart grocer, where online booking and payment is possible. But with the cancellation, I might as well wait in the car for them. (Since W's teaching in Malaysia, I can't help. I leave travel hacking and planning to him. I know none of the shortcuts he uses.)

The gals find it impossible to book a ticket online. Every train is sold out. They get all the way to pay and the machine crashes. So they try again. And again. No luck. I sit in the car for a half hour and catch up with emails, messages, and reading.

I also call a friend: does she want to ride along to the next meeting, which is on another hill? She tells me, "Actually, it is at 2:00. The lunch meeting last time was an exception." Whew, I thought we had to be there at 12 or 12:30. Good thing I didn't show up as planned.

That gives me some breathing space. When Mandy, Tee, and I finally head up the hill, I think I have time for a cup of tea with them. I want to hear what is on their hearts. Each gal works in a needy community and I want to know, "What God is asking you to do in Indonesia or around the world?"

Tee especially loves the Padma Hotel with its valley overlooks. (W and I seldom go there because it's so expensive.) The gals and I get dropped off and are seated at a table next to the wonderful view.

The two women hardly look up though. They're online for 2 hours, trying to book a ticket on the train, plane, or maybe a shuttle van, if nothing else? They call local friends for help because you need a certain debit card with a certain bank if booking a ticket online. (And you can't get that debit account without having a certain visa or being a citizen.) Oh my. It's complicated.

We drink tea and coffee, and Tee orders fries to share while they work. Finally, I tell them I have to leave by 1:00. And there's just one more call, just one more try ... and it's 1:10. They book a plane ticket for the morning: it costs under $20 to Jakarta.

For me, it's now or never. I have to get home. Mandy is as cold as I am from the wind and storms rushing over the valleys and hills. She comes back to the house with me. Tee stays to work on her studies and meet another friend.

I quickly change into something more dressy and make spaghetti for lunch. Then we go to get the neighbor, headed to a book group that's met for almost 20 years. Last month, they invited me to join them. They've read a book about North Korean defection. We talk about reunification, the identity of self, and how we can know the truth.

"What is truth?" asks one. Another says it might be what we learn and what we are told, unless we are curious and keep exploring. My belief is that ultimate Truth is what Jesus reveals about God.

Everyone talks and listens. The stimulating discussion rests on their longstanding friendships: they've met almost monthly for such a long time. They slip in and out of Indonesian and I learn a few new words.

The food is yummy. I haven't had such a large piece of cake (in this case, cheesecake) in ... forever? I eat the whole thing. Marjie is a fabulous cook and baker, everyone agrees.

It's almost 5:00 when I get home. The gals go out for supper and I tackle work. I get a call at 10pm. A friend has baked bread and is sending it across the city to our place by motorcycle. It takes the guy 20 minutes to arrive and then I read until almost midnight.

The sun comes up about 5:30am so I'm awake. I lock the gate behind Mandy at 7:00 as she heads to the airport. Her flight is (of course) delayed, but at least she's there and ready to go.

I review a dissertation for one of our doctoral students. It's on the short side and missing some key things but so much closer to done. And then I review a book that the author hopes to use for his masters or doctoral research. I've been asked to write a recommendation.

Tee orders lunch for us from Miss Bee a few blocks away. A motorcycle brings it to the gate. Tee works through lunch upstairs and I work downstairs. I'm happy with my 16 oz tea mug, which gets refilled a few times as an excuse to stretch my legs.

Before it's "O Christmas Tree",
 it's 'Oh look, it's still autumn" 
The thunder and lightning is fierce today. The yard dog, who is scared silly of thunder, sneaks past me as I'm working in my office - his nails have been clipped this week, so I don't hear him go upstairs. He follows Tee around until she lets me know he's up there. I have to put him on the leash to bring him down. He crawls behind my chair and lies still until the storm has passed.

Inbetween, pings and beeps remind me of incoming messages and WAs. Everyone is connected online here - many people have several phones for different groups (work, family, friends). My one phone keeps me busy enough.

Occasionally, I get up and walk around. I put away the vases holding the fall silk flowers. I poke the bouquets into the undecorated Christmas tree. I like it enough to snap a photo. And I'm relieved to send off the two major projects by evening.

Read more:
*Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:1-2  NIV
*Devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God. 1 Kings 8:61
*The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2
*Paul wrote: Who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17
*Paul also wrote: Jesus Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14
Moravian Prayer: Radiant Christ, you are the beacon of hope and the light in a world of darkness. Empower us to spread your light to others by feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, and providing shelter for the homeless.
God of all things, every aspect of our lives can be an act of worship. Remind us to work, play, and serve in the joy of salvation so we can devote our whole hearts to you and experience happiness. Amen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Sunday, 12 November, 2017
At 7:00am, two students are sitting on our teras. The traffic is minimal: they've arrived two hours before we've arranged to leave for the university. One of the confusing things about living here is time - people come early and late, seemingly at random.

By the time we leave at 9, the others have arrived: we're on our way to a student-led conference at the Adventist university an hour away. I speak for 45 minutes on crossing cultures to a room with 200 students. The translator is doing this for the first time - and she does a great job, assisted by the whispers of experienced professors on the first row.

The Q&A panel consists of an Indonesian who moved to Bandung for school, a Ugandan who is in his first of three years of a masters program, and a middle-aged woman in language school. The student questions and responses are enthusiastic.

We eat lunch together after a photo session - everyone wants a selfie with us. Lunch is yummy: vegetarian, of course. They hand me an envelope wtih a donation to a local women's shelter: how cool is that?

Monday - Wednesday
We are off to Jogjakarta for an organizational meeting. It is mid-island: 1 hour by plane and 8 hours by train or bus. We fly.
A military plane cruises across the crosswalk from the plane to the terminal
One of our colleagues presents his doctoral project and the national executives share their vision for the future. We eat some great food and meet some good people.
Someone snaps a quick picture at supper.
We're back in Bandung by Wednesday afternoon, stopping at the grocer on the way from the airport to home. Eggs. Check. Milk. Check. Butter. Check.

It's a relief to come into the house after travel. I unpack and set the suitcase to the side.

W lifts my Bernina sewing machine onto my desk. I match the pattern on 4 meters of printed batik fabric ($11 in Jogjakarta). It doesn't take much time to sew it into a big square and set it on the dining table as a tablecloth.

My favorite - and most relaxing - chore when having people over is setting the table. I think about and pray over our guests.


We're celebrating Thanksgiving with our team. We're either early or late, depending on the passport. Canadian Thanksgiving falls around October 11 but the Americans will celebrate next week. W's off to teach in Malaysia then - so we decide to have our Thanksgiving a week early.

W brings down the Christmas tree: I'll be decorating this weekend. It makes me happy to see the empty tree standing near the entry.

Sadly, my favorite blue glass bowl from Bali is a casualty: it falls off the hutch while I prepare the room. It was a "first souvenir" of our first organizational trip 3 years ago. Smash ... and the beta fish lies on the tile floor. 
I walk to the kitchen, find a glass jar, and fill it with drinking water. The fish is flopping around but when I try to pick him up, I have no luck. I take a leaf and scoop him off the smooth tiles - he's so slippery that he is impossible to pick up without it. The fish is fine. The glass is gone!

The turkey has been submerged for a day in a plastic pail filled with salt water. I wonder in advance: "Will turkey smell as good cooking in this heat as in a cool Seattle kitchen?" The answer? Yes. Everyone brings food to share: sweet potatoes, beans, and more. The table will be groaning.

Mandy comes from Jakarta in the late morning and settles in upstairs. She's been up since 3am (had to catch an early train). She unwinds, relaxes, and greet people as they start to arrive.
Sweet talking
By the time I've cooked the stuffing, planned the timeline for the menu, and sorted out help, it's almost 3:00. Everyone has chipped in with food so we start with a salad while it is put into serving bowls.The house is soon noisy and full of life - we have 11 at the table tonight.

We prove Josue's theory of "two stomachs: one for savory, one for sweet" by eating the enormous feast and then having a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Leftovers and cookies disappear into doggie bags, to be enjoyed later.
Whipped cream and cookies ...
On a ribbon of paper, we write a few lines of what we're grateful for, before sharing that around the table. Then we pray our gratitude to God: what a pleasure to share good food and time with friends.

Indonesian-style, we line up for a selfie before hugging and saying goodbye to those going home. I am thankful tonight.

Read more:
*I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27 NIV

*Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:3

*Jesus said, “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:30
Moravian Prayer: Our Lord Jesus challenged the status quo when he dined with tax collectors and embraced those who society rejected. God of grace, inspire us to extend love to all, especially those who are marginalized. Amen.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Medan: island hopping

"Hmmm. What?" or should it be, "Oh oh, what now?"
Work in progress: a storm on my desk
before the calm in my head.
Life overseas is flexible. How much we enjoy a new culture depends a lot on our attitude. Many of our friends say, "We could never do what you do." That may be true. It's been a week of structured events combined with the unpredictable.

Wednesday, November 3, 2017
It's movie night again - which means a lot of cooking and baking at the beginning of the week. By the time the dinner hour comes, the food is out and 70+ guests have arrived. We eat, talk, and watch a movie together.
The kitchen lineup
There's a lot of noise and happy chatter. The students and young professionals love having a place to eat and talk about life. They seem to enjoy "A Field of Dreams" (a Costner oldie) and then discuss ways to redeem the past.
Talk, laugh, and talk some more
A waterfall backdrop to a beautiful jungle walk
I can barely drag myself out of bed, but when we're in town, the weekly walk in the hills is a necessity, not a luxury. We go up and down for 5 miles (8 km) and then have lunch together.

Sunday - Tuesday
We've had guests off and on all week. W has been fighting the flu or a cold since he got back from the last trip over a week ago. He has to cancel his theology class at church: tomorrow he starts a 40-hr class at a local seminary. He'll need his voice for that. I rested most of Saturday, so the presentation for next week starts to gel. I finish the PPT and W uploads a short clip (instructional video) into it.

W is teaching from 8-5 most of the week, so the Monday study and a few other things he usually does roll into my days. For my trip coming up, it's vital to finish prep and make sure my material is loaded. A one-hour presentation plus travel means 3 days away from home: there's a lot to arrange before I leave.

We leave the house at 7:30. W gets dropped off at the seminary, where students are eagerly awaiting him. The driver takes me a few more kilometers to the airport and hoists my suitcase up the front steps. It's lightweight until I fill it with snacks - gifts for the university committee who has invited me to speak at an international conference.

My heavy computer/book bag is slung over my shoulder as I surrender the snack-packed suitcase to young men at the "plastic wrap" station. A little carousel turns while the luggage is encased end to end with plastic wrap. Then the guys lift the suitcase upright and wrap it side to side. The wrap prevents the snacks from disappearing before the other end of the trip.

The flight leaves an hour late and is bumpy, but I don't mind. Clouds feel like gravel or pot-holed roads and we're used to those.

A Thai professor who specializes in glass (optics, alternatives for crystal lasers, fiber-optic boosters, etc.) is on the same flight. He's also speaking tomorrow. We meet in the lobby, introduce ourselves, along with the department head from the university who takes us for lunch. (Since it's after 2pm, is this slunch - supper-lunch?)

We arrive at the hotel by 4:30 and meet up again in the lobby at 6:00, waiting for a few Thai students until almost 7:00. Supper is delicious - local food with the zing of hot spices. I love it, though I can feel my stomach churning a bit as it digests the chili peppers.

"Have you spoken at an Indonesian conference before," the organizer asks.

Have I spoken at conferences? I reply: "Yes to speaking. But in Indonesia, not yet." I have no idea what to expect, so am open to whatever happens. I've been asked to present for 40 minutes. No worries: I've prepared enough material, which I'm excited to share tomorrow.

Traditional Batak weaving
I go over my notes before heading to the hotel ballroom where the seminar is being held. I am waved toward the restaurant for a complimentary breakfast. "Please go eat. Be back in 20 minutes?" asks the organizer.

Sure. It's 20 minutes past starting time and people are still trickling into the room, chatting in the lobby, and signing in. (Almost 9:00 by now, though check-in was 7:30-8:30.)

The conference begins an hour after the posted time. Opening greetings, a prayer of blessing by the vice-rector (campus imam), traditional dances of welcome, plus welcoming speeches by dignitaries. The speakers are called to the front to be draped with traditional woven cloths and then we pose for photos with some university leaders.

The first speaker gets 40 minutes for his slides and presentation. He must be a good professor: I want to go to his science class by the time he finishes. The deans come up to shake hands and present him with a memorial gift (more photos).

My PPT has been transferred to a computer at the media table. I open my laptop at the podium so I remember what's coming ... and begin. The moderator rushes over after 3 slides: I've got a remote control at the podium. I should click it. Ugh. Forgot about that. So I click through to where I'm at in the presentation: 40 minutes is not that long.
Traditional welcome dances by student performers
I have a 1-minute video embedded in the PPT. Oh-oh. First, it appears without sound so I synch the track from my laptop into the mike. Partway, the media team figures out the sound so we restart. Then we play the clip again, as planned with a translator. She speaks Indonesian over the loud English track until the volume is adjusted. Oh well. Value added? Maybe. (Lesson learned: skip the video slide if the PPT is remote.)

About 25 minutes into the speech, the moderator interrupts with a 2-minute warning. Time compression! I flick through a few more slides and am done. Gift presentation, smile, and photos. Sit down and sip tea, refilling the cup from my Contigo thermos a few times. The other two speakers similarly have their time shortened. We're behind the clock enough that their gift presentations and photos are postponed until the lunch hour.

I talk with several lecturers over lunch. The food is too spicy for some of the people at the table but I love it. My favorite is a kind of rendang (beef stew steeped in a sharply spicy sauce.) I'm headed to my room by mid-afternoon, grateful for quiet time. I read over my notes for the seminar I'm presenting at a Bandung university on Sunday ...

Unexpectedly, the hotel restaurant is open early = before 6am. Last night, I requested takeaway nasi goreng (fried rice), one of two options on the free breakfast for travelers. I couldn't understand what the other option was - so rice it is.

But now I'm standing in front of a table of fruit and bubur ayam (chicken porridge - mushy rice slow-cooked, which I love!). The server hands me an empty box. Bubur it is!, with a slice of mango and a teeny croissant. And then the server comes from the kitchen with a full box of fried rice, too.
Sweet drink with shavings of coconut and brown jelly
The driver is late picking up the lecturer who wants to accompany me to the airport. She texts me that they are on their way. "Don't worry. We will be on time for the flight."

I'm flying home today - and the plane leaves at 9:00. The airline is usually late leaving so no worries. I relax in the clean hotel foyer. (We don't take clean for granted here.)

When I stroll to the piano, a manager hurries over and says, "You cannot play. This is for the night musicians." Indeed, someone played and sang last night. Ok. I sit quietly in my chair eating bubur and fruit. I'll leave the nasi takeaway with the driver when we get to the airport.

Airport companion
The lecturer riding with me is a sweetheart. She spent 6 months in Illinois for doctoral work and has an interesting story. Her English is excellent. She accompanies me to the check-in counter and all the way to the gate.

Boarding is on time, down a normal flight bridge to the plane ... but wait! Why are a few people headed straight ahead to a plane while a few others have gone disappeared down an unmarked stairway off to the side of the bridge?

I pause with 2 others and ask, "Which way to the airplane to Bandung?"

Someone points the way. Down the side stairs. Whew. Glad I'm not headed somewhere else on the "obvious" flight.

At the base of the stairwell, I cram onto a bus with about 60 others. We're whisked to the plane, which is parked in a vast lot. Three more busses disgorge passengers to the plane in the next half hour. We leave on time. Wow! Great.

The plane is full of babies and shouting little kids. My earplugs block the loudest shrieks and I fall asleep before we leave the runway. By the time I wake up, we're over the ocean and most "littles" have fallen asleep or subsided.

I'm surprised that I even notice the racket. Maybe it's because an earplug fell out of my ear - and it's quickly jammed back in. As a previous parent of 4 toddlers and now a grandmother, my auditory blocking skills are well-established. Noisy kids are the responsibility of others and I can ignore what I can't coax away.

Lunch is served: cookies and water to tide us over
on a 3.5 hour delay
When we get to Bandung, the captain announces that there's a severe thunderstorm over the city. We circle for an hour before flying to the next airport for refueling: Jakarta. We sit on the tarmac for another hour, waiting for the storm to pass. And then we lift off - and land in Bandung without difficulty. Our 2:20 flight has taken 6:30. We are disgorged and our luggage is rushed to the carousel.

The driver gets W from school and comes to pick me up as well. I ask W about the weather. They had gushing rains and lightning. I'm grateful for careful pilots and traffic controllers who put passenger safety first.

When we're almost home, we park at the side of the road: the driver hops out to walk home. The rain has been so bad all week that he didn't bring his motorcycle this morning. W continues driving to Bumi restaurant, where we usually eat with our class on Sundays.

I just want something familiar ... and to relax. We try beef roll-ups and crooked potatoes. What's that? I have just enough adventure left in me to want to know. Turns out, it's potato croquettes (mashed and breaded potatoes, Dutch style). I'm happy to walk into our home door at 6pm, unpack, and read a few pages. I'm fast asleep by 7:30.

We head to a coffee shop at 8am to meet the pastor of a local church. He is a joy to talk to: his dream is to encourage young and old to lead their own groups. The company is as good as the food and hot tea at Benne Cafe this morning.
Every sidewalk seems to become a market on Saturdays
Indonesia has required that all cellphones SIMs are registered. W registered ours at a shop a few weeks ago. However, we get a notice that it has not gone through (no reason given), so we'll have to register in person - at another office. The young woman helping us is efficient and friendly. We are done in no time, and back outside by 11:00.
A peek in the doorway of a snack shop
I head home with a Grab driver and W keeps going to town to run errands. There's a complete downpour in the afternoon: W is in the rain but I listen to the splattering of water on the roof from a comfy perch with my computer in my lap.

Read more:
*Jeremiah said, “For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” Jeremiah 8:21-22
*Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
*All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.

My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:7-12 NIV

*Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:11-14 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Healing Christ, you are the great physician. Give us the strength to admit our brokenness and come to you so that we might be made whole through your love. Amen