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.

No comments:

Post a Comment