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.

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