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

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