Wednesday, January 31, 2018

We care because He cares

Beautiful batik fabrics: every region of Indonesia has their own patterns
Sunday, January 28, 2018
After leading the service at BIC, friends old and new hang around for an hour.

Sheila reminds us of why we trust and obey God. Her talk is about Sarah (Genesis 18), whose long wait for a son and doubting laughter turned to joyful laughter and hope. God alone knows what is coming and is powerful enough to do what pleases him. (It doesn't matter if his purpose and actions feel impossible to us.)
Sometimes you just have to put your feet up and rest
The lunch group that's invited me has long since left, so I walk home to make something to eat. Gypsy is delirious with happiness to see me walk in the gate. That's the joy of having a dog.

Starting with a call at 7, the day moves through the study at 9:30 into the team meeting at 11:30. From our office, we hear the laughter continue on the porch, and the chatter of friends connecting and doing life together. It's balm to my heart.
Simon usually videos the studies, but today the guys turn
the camera on him. 

We have lunch, a simple meal of chicken, rice, and vegetables. The cauliflower and buttered crumbs don't quite taste as expected. The first few times, meals are experimental - but they seem to settle down with a suggestion here and there.

We get wonderful news. I haven't said much about our 2-week-old granddaughter. After a series of tests, she's given a clean bill of health and our initial concerns are laid aside. Thanks be to God for the prayers of so many friends for baby Mac.

Today it's lawn and tree-cutting day. I tape a Sharpee marker to an old broom handle and draw lines on three thick branches of the guava tree. The gardener climbs up into the top of the tree and begins to disrupt the ant highway to our roof. 

It's an old tree and I hate to cut it. We ignored the garden when we first moved in and the branches shot 25' into the sky, even getting tangled in the retired electric wires overhead. Months ago, the last time we pruned, the tree responded with a burst of new shoots from every cut. I'm hoping for the same: maybe we, rather than the fruit bats, will be harvesting the tree if the fruit grows nearer the ground.

It's taken me a long time to decide which branches to take out and where to make the cuts. Every pruning remakes the shape. Today's decisions will show up in the history of the tree, decades from now.

Thud! Thud! Guava is a very dense wood and very heavy. It feels like mini-earthquakes as the branches fall to the ground. The dog runs to my office door and lies down near me. Pak Lili drags the branches and rakes away the leaves for the rest of the day.

A pragmatic choice - 2 little ovens in the space of one = cheaper and double the capacity. The gas canisters sit behind the ovens.
Meanwhile, the helper is baking and cooking. Today she's making bread and stewing the pumpkin from the garden. When she leaves, the kitchen will be clean and quiet.

In the afternoon, the book group meets to watch a movie remake of a book they read before I joined. Robert Redford (the women sigh that he's still handsome) and Jane Fonda (I think she's still beautiful) play elderly friends and neighbors who have lost their spouses.

It feels a bit close to home, watching the movie characters' children refuse to let their parents be together. That's happened to various people we know: the self-interest of the children results in a lonely future for the parent, especially because middle-aged children are wrapped up in their own lives and problems.

Afterward, the women sit in the living room and on the porch, sharing how we grew up and relate to our own families. And we respond to the film. By the time we get home, it's evening. I edit another paper and - ah, blessed rest.

I've left the keys in the door, so the helper knocks on my window to ask me to let her in. What? It's 8am already? Today, I must finish grading the week's assignments from an online course in the States. After an hour of work in my office, the alarm rings.

It's my heads up for a meeting of Yayasan Jari, a project started by local doctors dealing with the post-traumatic effects of violence against women and children. They've developed a training course for children and parents, designed to teach boundaries and ways to protect themselves from abuse and domestic violence.

By 9, Alice and I are on our way to town to the meeting. 
The strange quickly becomes normal. A 3-wheeler motorcycle "pickup truck" with someone sitting on the back, holding the furniture they're transporting. I almost didn't take a picture, until I remembered how wild that seemed when we first arrived...

The house for the Jari gathering is beautiful, a mix of old colonial style and modern architecture. The high concrete walls around the property block the noise. The courtyard is stunning, but honestly, everywhere you look, the house has touches of creativity and beauty. There are 1930s art deco stained glass windows, old teak trim, and marble floors.

Dr Hanna and her team introduce Jari to a group of about 20 - and there's a meal of course. Nothing in Indonesia happens without food! I am inspired by these locals who are changing their communities. This is such a worthy endeavor - I'm glad to be a small part of it.

I skip lunch when I get home, working in my office until evening. I've had to refuse a chamber orchestra concert tonight - but there's only so much time for life and learning in a day.

Read more:
*I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Exodus 15:1

*I will exalt you, my God the King;     I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. Psalm 145:1-3
*I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. Ezekiel 11:10
*If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17
*See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3:1
Moravian Prayer: All praise to you, holy Parent! You lead and protect us as a loving father. You nurture and guide us as a devoted mother. You cherish us as your precious children. We are blessed to be your family.
Giver of life, through the death and resurrection of your Son, you have breathed redemption into the dark corners of our lives. May we, your church, carry your healing breath out into world to speak life to the hopeless. Amen.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Soul music

Saturday, January 27, 2018
Breakfast is late: I'm in the mood for lentil soup and that takes a while. I put in smoke flavor since we try to be pork-free at the house. After an hour, the lentils still aren't mushy but they taste great.

After I wash my soup bowl, I fill a mug with hot water for tea. EEEEk. The third big spider I've seen this week is sitting in the sink. That's it! I splash the boiling water on it. Gone. (I refill for tea.)

W killed the first spider last weekend. The second showed up dead on the bathroom floor last night. (I debated leaving it there but tossed it out.) And then this morning, another. There must have been a new hatch of spiders. As long as they don't bother me at night, I'm ok.

The yard dog has an ear infection. We've been putting meds into its ear for a week, but it's still sore and inflamed. The kids grow up, and suddenly you're taking care of animals. What's the matter with us?

Never mind. Gypsy's the perfect dog. He lives outside and barks when someone looks over the fence or comes to the gate. He sleeps on the porch or at the neighbor's. When the gate's open, he doesn't run away. This morning I walked to the Little Free Library to post a notice, and he came right back into our yard when I whistled. Good boy. Looks mean but likes us. He'd protect me if someone attacked.

Curled up on the sofa upstairs, the storage area glares down at me. Supplies, suitcases, and boxes are stacked in the loft above the sitting room. There's a long stretch of rail: do I have a batik or something to hang over the rail? Let's go see.

On my office shelf, I find a long piece of upholstery fabric, a gift from my friend Sumathi over a year ago. I drape it over the railing and it fits end to end with an inch to spare. Hey, I couldn't have found a better piece if I'd gone to a shop. It reminds me of her. (Win.) It hides the clutter. (Win.) And it's beautiful. (Another win.)
In the evening, 3 friends and I head via Uber to my first concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bandung. Traffic is not bad as we have left the neighborhood before the supper rush. We are at the venue in plenty of time. There's no concert hall with convenient access in Bandung, so the orchestra has set up in the Hilton ballroom.
The lobby is beautiful, the circular marble staircase perfectly sculpted, and the quiet buzz of a classical concert audience is the same worldwide. Five of us sit in the courtyard with a cup of tea or coffee, waiting for the doors to open. And then we have our picture taken, with dramatic uplighting, of course.
We chat with a lot of people and make introductions all around. Dr Hanna knows everyone and I greet people I have met in other venues. What a great place to network. I introduce a journalist friend to someone and am happy for the evening: connection made.

I have a total flaw that makes me nervous about going to concerts: I get the giggles if the music is bad. Maybe the musicians think they're better than they are and try something out of their reach. Sometimes the score itself is awful, in my opinion. Or an oboe or clarinet squeaks and the violins can't synch their notes.

Do I giggle because I used to hate playing in recitals? Because I heard so many bad variations as a music teacher?  I don't know. But regardless, I can't help myself. Occasionally, I've bitten the inside of my cheeks raw, gouged holes in my palm with my fingernails, and pinched my sides. (Doesn't help.) If this performance is not good, I'll be an embarrassment to my friends. I have no idea what to expect.

"Are they supposed to be this loud?" asks my neighbor, listening to the orchestra warm up. They're practising on stage.
No. Most times, the musicians are tuning, taking a few breaths. We may hear some toots or swipes of the bow, but normally the musicians have warmed up backstage. This is a full-blown racket, including percussion, but maybe there's no backstage here. I take a deep breath. (And exhale with relief. The comment doesn't set me off.)

The bell rings in the lobby. A brass ensemble serenades from the back of the room as the last attendees are seated. When the orchestra tunes, I'm more tense than ever. Some instruments are starting really far from pitch ... and not everyone sounds on target when they're done.

The US ambassador greets the musicians on this joint project
Peer Gynt and Bald Mountain are classics everyone knows and likes. It's a bit of a shaky start with the first two pieces, but the performance gets stronger.

As the orchestra reconfigures for the third selection, many in the audience go out to the lobby. We stay put for a local premiere: Old Man Hauling Bamboo. Its lively harmonies describe an old porter carrying bamboo sticks, earning funds to support his family. Families are close-knit and work together in this society.

During intermission, someone snaps my picture with the American ambassador to Indonesia. Becoming a recent citizen, that's more of a surprise to me than to others. (I've never heard of the Canadian ambassador showing up anywhere I go.) In the break, I also get a chance to congratulate Fauzie Wiriadisastra, one of the "Bamboo" composers (already introduced to me before the concert by Dr Hanna.)

I close my eyes for the second half and am sucked into the music of another premiere, a viola concerto. Krakatoa describes an active Indonesian volcano that has had four significant eruptions in less than 200 years.
Acoustic "teeth" help balance the sound
The music describes the rumblings, hissing, and tumult. The viola pushes us and pulls us and the kettle drums and bass violins drag us into the growling earth. I'm scared, in awe, and riveted to the music. When it's done, all I can think is, "Oh, I want to hear it again." But I'm glad it's not the last piece because ... well, could I sleep tonight, living within miles of active volcanos?

Before we leave, I talk to Stacy Garrop, the "volcano" composer, the organizer ("Would you like to come to our fundraiser?" she asks. "Thank you for asking me, but sadly we have too many other projects"), and the viola soloist, Michael Hall. I come away with 3 stories and a glimpse of their passions and motivations.

My heart is pumping, my blood flowing. How could I have forgotten how much I need music? Raised in a family of musicians, it's easy to take for granted the swoop of melody and the feeling of being surrounded by harmony and rhythm. It's good to be immersed again.

We get home in rough traffic, about 11pm. The dog tries to jump on me but my knee comes up so he gives up. He brings a leaf (his sign of happiness) instead. I fall into bed and am asleep in 4 heartbeats.

Reza asked me earlier this week if I'd lead a church service. I've been thinking about how the loose liturgy of a Protestant service can lull the participants into familiar routines. This morning, it's too late to hunt down the notes I made about changing things up a little.

Before the meeting, when the leaders pause for prayer together, I encourage the worship leaders to project joyful energy. They've chosen such marvelous music. Sure enough, the congregation becomes energized by them - and fully engaged.

Found in the yard: a 30" stem
We have only one announcement. I ask attendees to close their eyes if they're willing, to hear the scripture, and consider its meaning. This morning when I woke, I read Luke 15 = Jesus' parable of the lost sheep. After I read it aloud, we pause quietly for a few minutes to reflect on the passage.

Whew, we have a lot of guests this morning, including some from the USA, Burundi, Australia, Japan, and Indonesia. We take 5 minutes to say hello. Finally, Reza suggests a whistle; everyone settles into their seats again.

Sheila is speaking. Based on the story of God's promises to Abraham and Sarah, she encourages us to rely on God's faithfulness, his understanding of our doubts, his competence, and his miraculous intervention.

In closing, the congregation offers their takeaways. First, I hand the mike to a few of our study participants for a brief synopsis of what they heard. Others jump in. (This is the part of our weekly studies where I learn the most.) And then the congregation is blessed and dismissed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

A good group stays to visit for nearly an hour afterward, talking, sharing life, praying for each other. I've been invited to lunch but by the time I'm done, the women are long gone. My orange shoes walk me home to a relaxing afternoon.

The lizard who lives in our bedroom is now 7" long. I eye him apprehensively as he jerks himself up the white plaster to the ceiling. How I dislike these wall-running amphibians. What if one falls on me in the night? (It's happened to many friends.) Yuck.

Yet how lucky am I? There may be no lizards in the houses in the Canadian city where I was born but it's -21C/-5F there today.  In contrast, this morning, we were shivering at church because it was windy and 22C/72F. Friends exclaim how cold it is and that we really need our jackets today. True. I'm considering putting a hot water bottle in the bed tonight.

Read more:
*Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

*The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. Psalm 111:10

*You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:11

Moravian Prayer: Merciful God, in times of turmoil and distress we pray for the patience and courage that we sometimes need just to make it through the day. Provoke us to ask for help from you and from those around us. Amen.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Life and death

Memorial page in my prayer journal
My youngest uncle has flown away: Dad sends a message that Uncle Otto died in his sleep on Thursday. What a shock. Hardest is that I can't go home to hug my mom, who has lost her youngest brother. The family connects (as we always do) over the continents and miles. We pray for peace and comfort for our aunt and cousins.

Friday, January 19, 2018
I have no idea where I'm going today. A neighborhood lady has invited me and she picks up another woman and me at 10.

"Dress is casual," she says. In this culture, that doesn't mean T-shirts and jeans.

It's a joint meeting of the three women's groups on the hill. "Group II is very small," I'm told. As women move, they are not recruiting new members. The arisan may be a dying institution but I enjoy it.

The women are a lot of fun - and still beautiful as they age. They're distinguished and accomplished: I'm surrounded by a general's wife on one side and a former professor (aged 94) on the other. So honored to get to know them.

Sunday, January 21, 2018
After church and W's final theology class ("What is Heaven like?"), we head to Bumi Sangkurian and lunch. It's always a treat to be with friends on the weekend.

In the afternoon, we hand out team evaluations, meeting at a new gelato shop. Bandung is modernizing! Gelato on our hill ... wow.

I'm amazed at parents' lack of safety concerns: a two-year old walks across the high walkway to the "selfie house." (Yes, there's a little house set up for taking pictures). Her mom and dad don't worry that she could fall 5' to the ground. She walks and runs back and forth, negotiating the stairs up and down from the bridge on either end (no railings there either) ... while I hold my breath.

And then she poses under the ice-cream sign as proficiently as any teenager. "She's probably seen someone posing before," says DrH.

W and I relax at home in the evening and get ready for the week. We talk to the kids off and on: our new granddaughter is in her second week, and seems to be doing well.

After an encouraging 7am conference call with a friend, it's time to give instructions. This is the part of help I don't like: sometimes it seems like more work to have someone around than to do things myself.

But the helper has arrived. I start the kettle boiling for tea. Cookies are waiting in the fridge (you can't leave them out if they have butter in them). She sets out dishes and food so we're ready for the study. After, she'll make our team lunch of chicken, rice, vegetables, and salad.

"Someone's at the gate!" The young man saw our
Little Free Library online and tracked it down.
We have the first one in Indonesia, thanks to Dr Wuri;
he has the second.
IbuS has bought vegetables from the weekend market: broccoli, carrots, and a variety of things I don't recognize. Between everything else, she'll wash and chop fruit and vegetables. There's a constant "food drain" because we have so much company. I don't mind cooking and often make supper when we're home.

The study is on Luke 15 and our conversation is lively. The porch rings with laughter, chatter, and prayers. Jesus is such a counter-cultural person; he doesn't care too much about local rules or do what is expected by others. His focus is on what God asks of him. That puts him on the trouble radar of "important" people, who are most interested in maintaining their political or religious status. (Some things stay the same, even 2000 years later.)

We have a team meeting over lunch. We're deep into the New Year, setting up the challenges for 2018. Each of us are expecting non-profit volunteers or houseguests in the coming months. Our homes, schedules, and hopefully our hearts are filling up quickly.

When you order food, you never know what you get.
This is a mango smoothie. (Ugh, I hate breakfast cereal.)
It's all hands on deck. The gardener comes at 7am and is busy clipping away the abundance of grass, hedges, and weeds. It takes him all day just to get a few basics under control. During rainy season, the plants race upward.

The guava tree, which looks quite bare at eye level, has grown to the third story roofline. A wide freeway of ants goes up the trunks into the ceiling tiles. By the time I notice, it's too late in the day to fix it. Next week, the gardener will have a big job: cutting off the huge trunks that carry the branches to the roof. Meanwhile, the grass and trees will spurt to outgrow him until subdued the following week.

2' blossoms look like chandliers
I edit all morning and approve a dissertation, while IbuS cooks and bakes. She's freezing fruit and prepping food for the next movie night. Cleaning up the dirt the wind blows in is her ongoing chore. Between, lunch has to be cooked and tidied for everyone working or visiting.

Later, we go through the bedrooms upstairs and down, checking bedding and supplies. Before we know it, it's 3:00 and everyone goes home. (Often, that's when the pace picks up for W and me, doing projects or preparing teaching materials.)

This afternoon, I'm grading: the online class has submitted their assignments. Some students have put in a lot of effort. Others slide through with minimal engagement. The grades reflect their work.

I head for town in the afternoon just to poke around. I rarely get a shopping day to myself but I'm worn out within an hour or two. I buy some toys for hospital visits and run a few errands. It's nice to pull into the driveway, to be jumped on and greeted by the yard dog, and kick off "outside" sandals to slip into my house flip-flops.

Senta's selfie on a not-so-sturdy bamboo platform above the valleys
HURRAH! I get to walk again. It's my first long walk since a hike in Bhutan last December. Almost a month has gone by without being in the hills. I breathe in the cool air (19o today brrr) and drink in the lush foliage.

It's not long (4.5 miles/7 km) or steep (200 meters elevation), but the first hill takes my breath away. We stop to take pictures and chat, so it goes by quickly.

We're walking up to a tourist lookout, completely deserted during the week but apparently buzzing on weekends.

The ticket booth is empty but a man hurries up to us (where did he come from?) and asks for Rp80,000 each.

"I don't think so," says Senta, who is leading today. "It said Rp5,000. Why so much?"

"A car is Rp10,000." The man assumes we parked a car (we didn't) but his math doesn't add up, regardless. Ok. So we give him 5,000 (40c) each, take the slips of paper he hands us, and walk further up to take some pictures.

I ask a little girl how old she is: she's my granddaughter's age - 6. But she speaks only the local language, not the country's bahasa Indonesia. She follows me around on her 4-wheeler. I show her a picture of our granddaughter and then snap her picture. She is fascinated to see herself.

Someone else asks her a question in Sundanese. She replies that she's not yet going to school. We are an hour from Bandung, but in this isolated village, modern conventions are not yet expected.
We're in farm country. We walk past field hands bagging harvested broccoli and cauliflower. "How much do they cost?" we ask. They tell us to see their boss in town, 2 kilometers (1.3 miles) down the road.

When we find the sorting area (a covered patio), we haggle until we have more than enough. 5 heads of cauliflower and 6 of broccoli cost me under $2. (Rp25,000. At the store, each big head will cost the same as the abundance today.) They put it all in a plastic bag, which I sling over my shoulder for the last hike to the car. The others get their own as well.
School uniforms, giggles, and screams as the dog and I walk by.
We stop on the way home for lunch at the Mandarin, a Chinese restaurant. It serves cheap and tasty food. We are stuffed for $7.50 each - and groan at our full bellies as we walk back to the car. (We just replenished every calorie we walked off!)
A few brave boys pet Gypsy: most Muslim kids are terrified of dogs.
The helper is not excited to see me come in the door with more work, an hour before she goes home. We wash the vegetables, cook a vegetable broth with the stems, and sort the florets onto trays for the freezer. The only frozen vegetables available in shops are mixed carrots, corn, peas, or edamame, or corn.

"Why would we buy frozen food?" the helper shrugs when I ask her about the limited selection. "We can find it in the market any day."

It's the traffic to and from the store that puts me off. When people drop by, I prefer to have something at hand rather than spending an hour going to the store, before cleaning and cooking.

In the early evening, DrH and I head back across the ridge between mountains to the next hill. We're meeting to study scripture and explore what it means to serve God. Eleven of us are reading Exodus 35, considering Sabbath. Imagine! a God who mandates a holiday and rest every week.

"Oh, we wish we could find a community like that," they say. "... a place where we could relax together and study God's Word together."

We point out that is what we are doing tonight. Oh right. So refreshing for the heart.

Friday, February 26, 2018
I need time to pray and think things through. It's time to head to Rumah Doa, a prayer house in the hills above the city. I love going there. Only one or two of us are on the grounds, beside the security guards.
The view from my prayer room is peaceful
I'm thinking about my Uncle Otto's life, about all he saw and experienced in his lifetime. Formed in his mother's womb, he came crying into this world. He survived toddlerhood, childhood mischief, and teenaged explorations. Then came marriage and family - I remember noticing when I was a kid how mich he was in love with my aunt.

He worked hard and loved his family consistently. He was hard-wired with a sense of fun and pranks. And now friends and family are left behind, while he gets to see what he has believed.

Heaven's welcome makes me envious, mixed with the grief that we will not see him again - and that his family will continue without him. Memories seem a poor substitute for a warm hug and his big smile and twinkling eyes. But the memories I have of him are good.

On the way back to town, I stop along the street to buy English and Spanish lavender. Lembang is lined with nurseries, but I have to go to a few plant stalls before I find lavender. The local version doesn't smell; it just looks pretty. The sellers try to give me rosemary but there's already some in our garden. The car fills with the scent, a comfort to me.

I'm home only a short time. The helper is attending a wedding out of town, so all is quiet. At 12, I pick up a neighbor and we head to lunch with the book club. I'm growing to love and appreciate these women. Today, we're in a tropical paradise, a home and yard built by Frances and her husband.
Everywhere I look, there's a treasure, a memory of travel, and nature. The guest room is astonishing: the antique Chinese bed is draped in sheer mosquito netting, a little room within a room. The huge windows let light into every space and the landscaping is dense enough that no curtains are needed.

One gem is the roofless master bath, overhung by a guava tree. "I can hear the fruit dropping into the room," says Frances.

I can hardly take it in, but the house soothes me and refreshes me with its beauty.

We are celebrating 3 January birthdays. The women enjoy being together and it's so interesting to hear what they think of the book we're reading. We talk about meaning and our purpose - why are we here? And can we ever really understand God's plan in setting us (uniquely as ourselves) in our surroundings?

Frances packs up cheese, salad, and twists a golden 5" seedpod from the chocolate tree. I'll see if we can coax a few plants from the seeds.
6" cocoa tree pod
It's almost 5pm before we're home again. The thought of my family getting together to share food, memories, and grief without me weighs heavily. I think of my auntie, learning to negotiate life without my uncle. My cousins missing their dad. My mom losing her little brother. It's a lot to take in.

And the ants are on the rampage. The kitchen is full of little soldiers, marching from ceiling to counter to floor and back. I wage war - and think I'm winning. Briefly. I hear a cat or a civit (like a mongoose) stalking across the roof. I can ignore it if I sleep with earplugs, I think.

Outside, the wind clatters the bamboo wind chimes and the metal chimes swing and sing along.

Read more:
*Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.

But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make your way straight before me. Psalm 5:1-8 NIV

*Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

*You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off. Isaiah 41:9
*The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29
*How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 1 John 3:17
Moravian Prayer: Gracious Provider, help us to deeply see the needs of others. Gift us with your vision—a vision that looks beyond circumstances and sees into the soul of a fellow child of God. Stir our hearts and hands to help.
Bless our congregation, Lord, as we honor the unique gifts that everyone brings to worship and service. May our community of faith rest in the assurance that wherever you call us to go, your Holy Spirit goes before us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

From sweet to savory

Today, I have Thursday morning tea with 11 women. The guests originate in Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, USA, and the Netherlands. It's quite typical in an expat get-together to ask, "Where are you from," but it takes a while to answer.

"Do you mean recently, or where was I born? Or where did I grow up?" we respond. It's hard to give a definitive place, since most have lived many places in the last 10 or 20 years, perhaps far from where we started. This time, tea is not at our house, which also makes it feel like a holiday for me.

W's been teaching all week. He comes home exhilarated and tired. He loves the classroom, whether it's large or small. He leaves in the early morning and comes home around suppertime, and it's like someone has plugged him into an electric outlet. He's fully charged.

We have a good study today on the porch. We're down to two kinds of cookies - there's not much left in the freezer, though we baked a few times last week. We'll carry on all this week to refill the freezer. The little things matter in ordering a foreign household.

The team goes to Maxi's, a nearby hot spot for events. We haven't been there for ages, but we eat a good lunch and work through our agenda.

Over brunch, some of our team evaluate where we've been this past year and what we've accomplished. Reviews are never easy, but they can be fun and give good information. I have some things to work on, as do they.

W and I have a date night - I go along to pick him up from school, and then it's time to head home.

A New Zealander from the walking group is leaving town, wrapping up work to return to their country or thereabouts. There's no fixed destination yet. She has a good bed and sofa to sell, which she and her husband deliver in the evening. Both fit the house well and will be useful.

We start baking at 8. The rooms get revamped today, with furniture moved and floors washed. (Oh my, what a lot of lizard poop under the beds and night tables! Its an ongoing battle.)

Pho on date night: just ok
Expat tea is at 10. What a treat to be in a beautiful home at the Australian Compound (our name for a neighborhood of military families). I finally meet Kim face-to-face. We were introduced via Facebook by a mutual friend in Korea who used to live in Bandung (and now lives in the USA).

Life gets complicated when you or your husband are roving internationals. The military or a company moves its employees around the world, so these women have lived in Vietnam, Europe, Mexico, Australia, and elsewhere, besides their own countries.

Several of us are friends from the Thursday walking group. Before Christmas, the walks switched to Friday. Today we acknowledge that almost no one is able to come Friday; we plan to start back on Thursday next week. What a relief. We've all missed the walks. Fridays are our preparation day for weekends when Jakarta descends on us. We do all our shopping and meetings before Friday afternoon, avoiding all but necessary travels.

One of the other women and I are going to lunch. Oh! I discover a second menu item I like at the restaurant on the next hill. We need a heart-to-heart chat and the comfort of spiritual companions. After dropping her off at her place, I head home for an afternoon of reading.
In the middle of the week, sitting at the next table, we run into some Jakarta friends of friends. It doesn't take long to make connections since there are so few foreigners in Bandung. We all know someone from elsewhere - though Indonesians recognize us before we recognize them. We take a quick selfie for our Jakarta friends with the instructions to: "say hi from his former boss." Done, with smiles all around
The Thursday evening study is a review of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). We agree that they align us with the nature of God for our own protection and well-being.

Imagine a world where every child respected their parents, every spouse was faithful, and no one took anyone's things. What would life be like if there was no coveting, no lying, or no disrespect for authority? If you could trust everyone?

God aligns us to himself for our own good. Jesus said that only two laws sum up all the others: "Love God; love others as you love yourself."

Read more:*You are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea. Psalm 64:5 (NASB)

*What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to
sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-4  NIVu 
*Jesus Christ came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:17 ESV
Moravian Prayer: Precious Jesus, you call us to be peacemakers in our homes, in our communities, and in our world. Help us to speak kindness into discord, comfort into mourning, and hope into hopelessness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Controlled freefall

115 people ate at our house Monday through Wednesday. Even I was surprised when I did the quick count.

Monday, January 8, 2017
We love the group that comes over for a study - they're interesting and as absorbed as well are in learning together. We've had so much rain in the last week, but it doesn't rain until everyone is gone.

Two helpers are hard at work today. One is the regular cleaner. We have so many guests that a clean home is a priority. She washes the porch where we'll meet, and then makes 3 pots of tea and a few trays of cookies for the study.

The other lady is a cook from the neighboring hill. She tells me, "Don't bother with Western food. These women won't like it. I will cook something for them."
The women behind the scenes: Ibus A and S

She leaves for the market, spending $40 on chicken, vegetables, and red rice. When she comes back, she gets to work on the meal for tomorrow's arisan, a neighborhood group of women that meets monthly. They're coming for lunch tomorrow.

Sumathi is staying the week - what a treat to have a friend in the house. I feel like a horrible host this week: there's so much going on that I just ask her to help herself as I cover the bases for our gatherings. I just can't keep track of anything more. Maaf, Ibu Sumathi! She's a good sport about it.
We squeeze in a few walks

I sleep in. HELP! I was up in the night from 1:00 to 4:00am so I set my alarm for 7:00. That should have given me plenty of time to rest and still get ready. Except that I wake at 8:30 - I didn't hear the alarm and W's prepping for next week's classroom, sitting on the porch.

I have to sort out my head first. Sumathi helps me set up for lunch and I walk around the porch and the kitchen a few times to remember the flow of lunch and what has to be prepared.

Waldemar goes to pick up 30 Bariton Bakery food boxes: inside are a cup of water and a few snacks. The arisan custom is to pick up a box, snack for a while, and then eat lunch together. Sometimes there's official business or an update on a project we are supporting.

The official start time is 10:30 but women begin to arrive at 10. The first group sits on the porch, enjoying the breeze coming down the valley. The chimes ring an accompaniment to their chatter. All 20+ women are accomplished: some have worked in education, politics, medicine, or are otherwise connected.

Gradually, more ladies come and spread out in the house. They've been here before, but with IbuWi who lived here for 40 years. The house looks a lot different with Westerners in it (including emptier).

IbuWi is still part of this group. She takes home all the vases left behind for me. (Good thing that I bought a few at a wholesaler last week.) She also has the guys manhandle a non-working washing machine down from the laundry roof into the back of her jeep. She leaves a non-heating water dispenser and another old washing machine: the helpers are welcome to take them or we'll toss them.

The arisan women have known each other for 30-50 years. I'm the newcomer. I understand so little, but can converse a little more this time around. Sumathi can understand most of it, but says she's rusty in speaking after being out of Indonesia for the past year and a half.
Wow, I owe the arisan a lot of money. I paid for September and October, but I don't have a receipt so can't remember if it's this group or another. I'm asked for 4 months fees and pay up without complaint.
The treasurer gives me back a portion for food costs, so it's all good. The women say they liked the food, so IbuA was right - they probably wouldn't have enjoyed a Western lunch.

Canadian friends of ours brought along a few suitcases of scrapbooking goodies two years ago. (Thanks, Trudy!) We're still using up their stickers, papers, glue, and other supplies. Today, we set up to make a photo page. The gals ooh and ahh over the sample pages, getting ideas on how to set up and personalize the craft. Some of the gals got the announcement via WhatsApp and have brought their photos. They choose materials and make some beautiful family pages.
A few didn't get the updated message: some take supplies home so they can work at leisure. "I don't have a husband and my days can be long and lonely," says one older lady. "This will be fun when I am by myself."

When they leave, the helpers help us clean up. The floor is sticky, but they'll be back next afternoon to carry on.
Friends from the local seminary drop by to say hi to Sumathi. It's great to see our language teacher again, who brings her 1 1/2 yr old miracle son (she's in her mid-40s). We drink tea and eat the yummy baking they brought along as a gift. I'm just not up to setting up another food tray.

During a breather, Sumathi asks me, "What are you making for movie night?"

I'm startled by the question and shake my head. "I don't know yet. I can do only one event at a time." With today done, I'll start to think through the next thing. I'm pretty sure we have enough food in the freezer and fridge for the big dinner tomorrow night.

Monthly movie night is tonight. Sure enough, when I wake, I have a general menu in mind. I make a list on the fridge for reference, to make sure we stay on track. W sets up the projector and has someone help him move furniture for the onslaught tonight.

Last night, we thawed 4 commercial-sized packages of frozen sausages. Sumathi starts grilling them as I head to the grocer for last-minute supplies. (What a help she is, my right hand in saving me that hour or two of prep.)

And here they come! Love these young people.
When I get back, we boil water to cook 3 huge packages of spaghetti noodles. Though the pot is very big, it can only take one package at a time. Because we live at an elevation where water takes longer to boil, it takes over a half hour for each pack of noodles, refilling from the drinking water dispenser after each packet and reheating.

While Sumathi keeps grilling, I pour olive oil over the cooked spaghetti to keep the noodles from sticking to each other. I'll warm them before our guests come at 6:30. I cook a big pot of coconut curry sauce for the sausages and heat spaghetti sauce, too.

Just enough room, if you squeeze in
The helpers arrive at 3:00 to make 2 pots of rice and a Sunda dish with potatoes and tiny meatballs in spicy sauce (which the ladies loved yesterday). They cut greens for salad (minuscule pieces despite 3 months of "can you make it bigger please?" haha), and chop fruit for a big bowl of fruit and yoghurt.

A young law student shows up 1 1/2 hours early with a cheery, "I'm here to help!" We send her to the "dirty" kitchen where the helpers are chopping and sorting. Sumathi and I are almost done in the main kitchen before clearing off counters and setting out plates and cutlery.
By 6:00, there's a crowd and they keep coming. S counts 75 but a few come and go all evening, as usual. We start the meal at 6:30 - and whew! It disappears into the long line of students and young professionals.
One of the bittersweet things is saying goodbye: one gal is moving to Germany this month. "Bye, Mom, I'll miss you so much," she says. I'll miss you too, sweet young lady.
We offer the caution to consider those behind them in line. "Please go back for seconds once everyone is though, ok?" but some plates are heaped inches deep. (But who cares, as long as everyone gets food and the food gets eaten, not tossed, right?)
A regular and his visiting brother honoring us during their limited time together.
As the food dwindles, during a second lineup, I ask the helpers to put supper on their plates. "Stash them in the back! There will be nothing for you if you don't take some now."

And sure enough, there's not even a grain of rice left (disappointing, since they usually have plenty of leftovers to take home.)
Just hanging out to talk...
During intermission, all the baking in the house gets eaten. We've put out the last of the cookies, all the snacks people have brought, and set out the fruit. It's gone in no time!
Celebrating a few birthdays, including for 2 Claudias
The classic and awful movie Galaxy Quest is a total hit. There's screaming, laughter, and afterward, lively conversation. People get up and move around, forming and re-forming new chat groups. They drift from living room to kitchen to porch, refilling their water glasses so they can talk some more.
"Please go through the neighborhood as quietly as you can. Try not to wake the neighbors, ok?" The house is empty by 11:00pm. Sumathi helps us close up before we all fall into our beds exhausted.

It's a grading and writing day, between reordering the house. I put some tablecloths and a few slipcovers from chairs and sofa in the wash.

Since we're washing up, it might be time to change the LR from cream to purple. (Thanks to IKEA for their decades-old slipcover, so well-made that it has traveled to Indo with us.) I leave only one big picture in each space. Empty. A fresh start. Since the weather is the same all year, I appreciate a change in decor more than ever.
Before and after
The evening study is at the Bamboo Shack. We have so much fun with these guys. We alternate facilitating with having others lead: Beba and Alice agree to be in the hot seat next week.

Waldemar meets a friend for breakfast. Pascal has returned from his home village, bringing a hand-painted batik shirt for W and a length of fabric for me. Very pretty! (Perhaps I can sew a skirt with it after things calm down?)

For brunch, Sumathi and I walk with DrW to Ethnic, a restaurant nearby. The food is good. The company is even better. Our friend sneaks to the front counter to pay while we're not looking, (hey, thanks!) and then we walk home together.

We considered going to Pasar Baru (the big central market) but S is not feeling 100%. We relax instead. In the early afternoon, W and I take S to the airport. She makes it to Singapore safely by evening.

On the way home, W and I stop along the street at a wholesale flower market. It's late in the day, so for about $6, we get 6 big bunches of white mums and little purple stems, plus 5 "Queen of the Night" stems (white flowers that release their fragrance at night). When I open the newspaper to clip the flowers ... "Eeew! Yuck!" the mum are crawling with scale and mealy bugs. I strip the leaves into the sink and make 3 huge arrangements. (Live and learn. I'll check next time at the florist shed.) The 2-3'-tall bouquets are beautiful anyway.

After cleaning away bugs and floral debris, I'm not hungry. We snack and veg out with a TV program. Then it's bedtime. Thank you, God! The house is very quiet indeed.

What a lousy start. I forget about my 6am walk with DrW. She kindly WhatsApps her faithless friend that she's off, after waiting in vain for me to show up. I'm puttering, getting ready for a big baking day.

One of the guys from the neighboring hill comes to pick the avocado tree. We have promised a full day's wage for picking the tree: someone may have to come back in a week or two to finish if all are not ready. The guy picks for 2 hours, and tells us the next crop will be done in a week or two.

However, he asks for the full amount, saying no one would come back on the second day. (I arranged this through an acquaintance; she says she probably misunderstood me.) W discusses and debates the arrangement with the picker, who is adamant. In the end, to keep harmony, W gives him the full amount but won't rehire him. I feel the turmoil of negotiations in a language we have not yet mastered.

It's a catch-up day, too. I have an online class to grade. Looks like there are 24 students enrolled, which is a multi-hour endeavor. They each write 4 things per week ... but I prefer to wait until everyone's assignments are in so the grading is equitable. That means a long day of grading ahead.

IbuA spends a full day baking to replenish the total devastation of everything food-like on Wednesday. "I'll be back Tuesday, and continue then," she promises.

Read more:
*Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Psalm 150 NIV

(What else needs to be said?)