Friday, December 27, 2019

The sweet gift of friends at Christmas

Sunday, December 22, 2019
Dr Hanna and her daughter Alice are our scripture readers today. They're wearing beautiful traditional fabric: batik, sewn into modern styles.

After a Sunday focused on peace, we have our final Monday study of 2019. We're starting into our "finals" and "lasts" of the year.

Are we really this close the year's end? The study participants bring the most wonderful food for our enjoyment. First, everyone shares ideas, prayers, and observations. After, some of us take pictures around the tree before everyone scatters into the day.
While I'm in the office, W gets the Lessons and Carols stapled into Sanny's cover. Sanny and I choose readers and send out the story passages from scripture to each one. 11 people will read their parts between carols tomorrow night.

The team is already on break, and this is the last staff day for the office until the New Year. Tabitha flies to us from Malaysia in the morning - she's became a friend the first times we taught in Malaysia. I take the morning off - but have to get to the office to prepare for the Candlelight Service tonight.
I make a cup of tea and fire up the computer at my office desk. It's time to start the New Year's report,  but we look forward to the meeting tonight. We've invited many friends, so we'll see who shows up.

There's a lot of traffic in our quiet neighborhood - the destination restaurants don't help! In typical Indonesian fashion, cars are parked beside and into every street.

Young men direct traffic and collect the fees before a car pulls away - it might be 35c (5000 IDR) or if it's really expensive, may be up to $1 for unlimited time. It's a whole industry across the city: various people are assigned to their block and they'll collect the coins or small bills for their "boss."
The Candlelight Service is wonderful. Guests have come from various places. Many of our regulars are away. Della leads the carol singing. Along with Jun on drums and Dimas on guitar, W plays bass. I'm on piano. (It's maybe my third time since we got here.)

And after, we gather around to share treats and conversation. W and I walk home slowly after 8pm. The night is warm around us.

Wednesday. CHRISTMAS DAY: "Merry Christmas Everyone!"
It's Christmas morning! I'm cooking before 5:30am. The pasta water is put on to boil while I make the curries and other sauces. By 9:30 I'm finished with most of it. We have spinach in cream sauce, spaghetti in tomato sauce, curried sausage, and pineapple-sweetened meatballs. I hard-boil 36 eggs and sort out which dishes to use and the logistics of the White Elephant exchange. I print out the numbers and instructions for whoever will announce it. (Turns out to be me, so I don't need that.)

Our kids call to wish us Merry Christmas - what a treat, and how far away they seem. (On Boxing Day, it's cute to see my mom and her youngest great-grandchild together. There's a definite family resemblance between these two.
W puts three tables in place while Tabitha brushes out Cocoa the poodle. She also sets up the rattan plates and their liners. I decorate upstairs and down. It turns out to be a waste of time upstairs: the +60 guests cram onto the patio and crowd the main room downstairs.

We've announced that we will open the gate at 11 - but a few come an hour early. They relax on the porch while we finish preparing. About noon, W prays a blessing on the food as we start to eat. Everyone brings food - there's an abundance at the feast.
Dr H and Alice bring bakso, a traditional soup broth poured over a variety of fried foods (similar pieces to dim sum). Danny brings two boxes with a variety of chicken. Sayaka brings sushi in the shape of a Christmas tree. There are so many other dishes that the tables groan with choices.
The ones who have been here for movie night exclaim because the room setup is so different. (We reconfigure the house for movie nights.) They pose together, with us, and with their families. We meet parents and siblings of our regular friends.
Many bring white elephant gifts but we've wrapped some for those who forget. It starts to rain as we begin to open gifts. What a lot of noise. It's great fun. The gift I intend to steal goes home with a gal who leaves early - she had a good thing. haha There's another just like it - W finds it for me later, what a guy.
Instead, I steal from a 6-yr-old boy who opened his the "My Little Pony" gift with dismay and muttered a hilarious observation: "Self-sabotage!" He's happier with the "Thomas the Tank Engin"e set he snags on his second try.
Afterward, many selfies are snapped by the tree and in the yard.

The last guests leave after 4:00. The helpers stay to tidy up until almost 6:00. There's still a lot to do, but it's a good start and they carry the trash out. (The ants are back in full force with rainy season. We  take out the garbage every day.)

I put my feet up and thank God for Jesus, the reason for the season, as W snoozes beside me.

The massage lady comes over - ah, I was looking forward to that when my back was aching yesterday! While Tabi endures/enjoys her deep-tissue massage, the helpers and I clean.

After lunch, W, T, and I are off to the ACE Hardware store. None of the post-Christmas sales are marked yet. There's no planning ahead here; gradually there will be markdowns. By the time we get back to town, everything may be picked through. "We don't know when we will do the sales," says an employee to Waldemar. There's no telling when is a "good day" to come.
It's one of the oddest things we see around here: the escalator ends with a half-flight of steps at the bottom. Not sure if there's a standard size of escalator and they're saving money, but it's not disability-friendly. It's puzzling, actually.
We spend some time browsing at a nearby indoor-outdoor mall. We're served Vietnamese food at the mall by servers in yellow floral tunics. It's an early supper, and then a quiet evening back home.

I shoot a WhatsApp to a dear neighbor regarding our annual New Years Eve neighborhood get-together. "Yes, or no?" I ask her. "Is it something enjoyable or would it be difficult?"

Our neighbors are getting older. It's more dangerous to walk through the potholes after dark ... and harder for them to get out in the evening. They're also having a few smaller parties around neighborhood. We're off the hook. No need to hold an event this year.

What a difference a day makes. Tabitha, Sumi, and I clear the Christmas ornaments out of the living room and off the porch. Everything goes back into storage - except for the bare pre-lit tree in the LR. That stays another day. We'll get our ornaments back from BIC after Sunday. They were used to dress the hall and set up a selfie station that was well-used during Advent.

Not quite sure why W moved the aquarium bowl from a side table to the side of the porch - the dogs slurp water from it. That can't be great for the fish! I stash away the little porch tree and he promises to return the fish bowl to its place tomorrow.

I make lunch while W and Gum pack the newly-washed folding tables into the back of the SUV. They take them back to Green Gate.
Oh oh. The helpers apparently took home the spaghetti from Christmas Day that I bagged up and was expecting to heat for lunch today. Oh well, I start again. W doesn't really like the pasta but Tabitha and I enjoy the smoked mushroom sauce and meatballs.

We have a glorious tropical downpour that threatens to soak all the furniture on the porch. W tosses the pillows inside the LR, out of the rain and wind. The dogs retreat to their crate in W's storage room. Alexa plays music to divert their attention from the spectacular thunder and lightning.

Tabitha, W, and I walk to Miss Bee for supper. (No soup and fresh bread tonight. Change of plans.) I'm sleepy before 7pm. The dark of night has fully arrived.

Read more:
*I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive. Jeremiah 33:8
*The angel said to Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Moravian Prayer: Loving God, you entered into human history to show us your love, to be with us, and to wash us clean. We are made new through Jesus, and we rejoice. Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2019

What do you do all day anyway?

Friday, December 20, 2019
Can you believe Christmas is just around the corner? Woohoo! Two covered dishes, brought from my mom's collection, remind me how far away we are from a wintery season.
Anyone living near a coast or in the tropics knows the constant maintenance that keeps things going. We moved into this place 5 years ago. The outdoor wood has worn in sunlight and strong winds. It's been chewed by termites and peed on by civits (wild cats) and rodents. The roof leaks where the tiles have shifted. The tiles have begun to slide off and there's water damage where the eaves have pulled away. (See the V? That's supposed to be a closed right angle: it's the supporting board for the last course of roof tiles.)

Our landlord agrees to pay for repairs and W agrees to oversee them.
For the past 3 weeks, a small agile man has manipulated +30 bamboo stalks into custom scaffolding. He moves them around the roofline to access the second and third floors. (No muscled Western handymen need apply - think of their weight on those poles.)

Today, the handyman adjusts the last roof tiles, nails up a few more boards that have drooped with water weight, and sprays wood stain on the swath of ceiling over the porch. He paints the end wall where bats have tried to find a foothold or pooped as they swoop around at night. I snap a his picture through the bedroom sheers, just before he climbs down and dismantles his perch.
When he's done, the varnished wood glows. "Hopefully he hasn't sprayed on too much, because then it stays tacky," says the pessimist among us. The wood drinks in the stain - you can't leave anything unprotected for long.

On our last visa run to Singapore, we found some jingle bells in a baking shop. I string a few packs of bells onto a 10 meter (30'), 50c ribbon. (I couldn't believe the price either.) We drape them above the edge of the porch. The wind rattles them in a gentle hiss. I can't wait to hear what happens when the afternoon storm blows through.
The Spanish moss is starting to fill in, too. I unwound ten circle-frames of moss into a long line. We hung them on the edge of the porch roof. Only one neighbor overlooks us and an old guava tree provides privacy for most of the teras. The hanging moss is becoming a beautiful grey curtain in the gap.

Some people, reading the blog, may wonder if we work at all. Or what we do, since we have weekly assistance. This week, the yardman chopped down the lawn and tamed the hedge with his machete. The helpers baked 4 loaves of bread and filled 12 ancient Tupperware boxes with cookies for Tuesday's Christmas Eve service and a potluck at our place on Wednesday.
We go shopping for enough eggs (56 this week), flour and sugar (8 lbs of each), and other supplies. I supply the recipes and do ongoing demos. One morning, before help arrives at 8, I plug our old KitchenAid mixer into the power converter, and whip up batches of sugar cookie dough. It feels so good to bake; I rarely get a chance. In an hour, 6 long cylinders of dough are cooling in the fridge, ready to be rolled out, baked, and decorated while I'm at the office.

We don't let our helpers use our best appliances: they instantly burned out a new hand mixer ("Oh, you have to wait for the butter to soften?") and - to W's frustration - have torn out both ends of the wet-dry vacuum ("Oh, sorry. We've been dragging it from room to room when we clean.")

"Um, this is how to do it, please." W orders a replacement vacuum hose and I remind them to push not drag the vacuum when it's needed. They usually sweep and mop away the daily dust and dirt.

Our helpers are willing learners and good workers. I love and appreciate the two women more each year; it also feels less awkward to have them here working around me. One is here two days for special event baking and cooking. The other comes M-F. But since locals don't grow up with appliances, it requires hours of instruction and ongoing explanations before we can hand over repetitive chores.

Ask any expatriate. Those who live in small houses and apartments often do everything themselves. It's easier in the short run than constantly overseeing another person, giving instructions, and prepping supplies for someone else. In a bigger home, with people coming and going, "no help" limits either cleanliness or what we can do.

I love having help! It's an investment to teach others what we need and prefer. Yet our helper jumps in when the house floods or to make tea for a full house of visitors. She'll strip beds and irons the clean sheets. Can't complain. And I am SO grateful.
Our kids also grew up doing chores. I was never an "I have to do everything perfectly" kind of mom. My motto is "Delegate, delegate, and do what you can do best and what only you can do." It takes high energy bursts for events, deep focus for research, and corralling endless details to plan things that look simple or effortless. W and I are speaking on Sunday. The team helped plan the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. I'll cook for a host of friends on Christmas Day. What fun! Yes there's a lot to do. But ...

The pressure or stress unwinds when I nap, make art, design things, or just drink in the beauty around us. I love the rhythm of doing, going, and resting. We listen to hours of scripture and read a lot of books - all kinds of books - not just useful ones, but playful, artsy, designer books, as well as novels.

So when you see pictures as we take pleasure in God's wonderful works and his stunning world, enjoy them with us, ok? You'd love it here. Just saying - at 8:40 a.m., the temperature is 27C (80F). Going to be a hot one today.

Read more:
*You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Psalm 30:3 
*The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:2 
Moravian Prayer: Merciful God, we thank you for the hope and future that is ours in Christ. Gracious God, we thank you for the life and freedom that is ours in Christ. Amen.

Thanks for the memories and a weather report

Thursday, December 19, 2019
W is under the weather. Tired, dizzy, nauseated, he stays in for a whole day. He usually has to get out every day, unlike me - content to stay in whenever I can. As the weekend approaches, he starts to feel better. And out the door he goes.

I'm in and out - my big job is researching online historical archives for a book chapter I'm writing. I reacquaint myself with Margaret Peoples Shirer, one of the adventurous women in the book I published this year. What an interesting person!
As I studied 10 women from the early 1900s, they became my mentors and inspiration. The book is now free on Kindle Unlimited. (You can also buy it as a gift for yourself or anyone who needs inspiration and empowerment at this link.)

As I read, I'm stunned again by the sacrifices and adventures of men and women who left their homelands to help others. The bugs. the fires. the disease. the illnesses. the opposition. the years of work with no results. I'm so glad to meet these people, years after they have died, in their letters and reports.

There's the smell of Christmas trees in the air. Ok, so I'm faking it with essential oil on some pine cones we picked up last month. This was my favorite brand, after sniffing my way through a dozen Seattle shops in October. If you have a "most Christmas-y" pine, spruce, or fir fragrance oil or spray, would you let me know? No vanilla or cinnamon or cloves. Just a fresh-cut tree smell. Thanks!
I light a few candles around the shell-and-pearl tree we brought back from a teaching trip in the Philippines. People in the Philippines start to decorate for Christmas in September! Many factories make ornaments for the West, too. On my table, a chip-and-dip glass plate elevates the little tree and catches any wax drips.
Many of our northern friends are vacationing in the tropics. On FB, they exclaim how weird it is to be away from winter weather in December. Och, Seattle and Vancouver are cold, and Winnipeg and Edmonton are freezing. Meanwhile, our southern friends are sweltering in record heat in Australia. It's 40oC (105oF). What a contrast.

In Bandung, we wake up to a pleasant 70oF (21oC). We expect a few downpours amid sun breaks. The grass-like backyard is back to green in this mild wet season. The flowers suddenly grow tall in the yard and burst into pink and yellow blooms. Jackfruit and mangos are ripening in the trees. I can't wait for the mangosteens to ripen (Feb/Mar). There's nothing like biting into their cherry-grape-flavored translucent flesh.

The yardman took some shoots from the neighbor's driveway a few months ago. They've grown into a tall hedge. I remember when we paid dearly for heliconias (below) in Seattle. It's interesting how anything out of place seems exotic and anything in its neighborhood is just something pretty. These are very pretty. I sometimes chop a few to fill in bare spots in flower arrangements.
Those who knew us well in Seattle may remember how W brought me a few gardenias every Friday. I LOVE the smell - straight from heaven. I planted a little shrub near the porch so the perfume would drift into the house at night. Well, as it as grown taller, I can reach down from the porch and pluck the white beauties. In the morning, I come into a living room full of fragrance.
Who needs snow and cold or rain? Smiles. (Not me) There's so much we do here, but it's in a setting that comforts and sustains me. Even the rain is warm when we get caught outside. The pavements steam themselves dry within minutes when the rain stops. Humidity is +80% so we run a dehumidifier in our bedroom. Otherwise, bags and clothes and shoes mildew and fall apart.

What's the weather like where you are?

Read more:
*[Elijah saw that] there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 1 Kings 19:11-12 
*God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24 
Moravian Prayer: God of truth, we thank you, that in the midst of our world’s chaos, you come to us day after day in unique and special ways. Grant us eyes and ears that see and hear you moving in our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Art and Sunday

Sunday, December 15, 2019
The weekend is full of creativity. One of the fun things we do each year is an Art Sunday. There are many ways to express gratitude and respect to God. Sometimes we raise our voices. Sometimes we use our hands.
Art Sunday sets aside time to unleash our creativity and appreciation of God's goodness and the joy he brings to us. We use our hands, paint brushes, glue, and a lot of other material to explore the good news. People choose one or two activities. Some are very focused on what they're doing. Others are relaxed.

The topic for this third Sunday of Advent is JOY - the shepherds' story.
Little Ben's the cutest - he models a few headbands. He pretends to plays for us, too. The best part of electronic instruments is that there is no sound once the power is off.
The scrolls on the wall are next to a story-telling station. 
The little sheep station is a hit. The topic of the talk is peace as told to shepherds watching their flocks at night. Oh, that there would truly be "Peace on earth and goodwill toward men on whom God's favor rests."

It's a long afternoon at the office. We're wrapping up the year and planning January and February. I sometimes feel like I live in the future so much that the present needs extra mindfulness.

We have dinner with some friends under a stunning, central-Java-style pavilion. The carved detail is stunning overhead, and two metal butterfly chandeliers droop from the ceiling.

W and I walk a few blocks to a food courtyard called #Nara. W has changed his early meeting from today to tomorrow. It's an early breakfast date at #Pinoterrace. I enjoy  pancakes and 2 eggs-over-easy. It hits the spot, along with some local tea from the hills above the city. There are big tea plantations in the shadow of the volcanos around us.

Up the street, we attend our last team meeting of the year. In the courtyard below the office, volunteers are serving the international community by disinfecting all the seats of the hall. A crew brings the chairs outside for the sun to dry them. The guys and rush the chairs back under cover when it starts to rain.
Lunch afterward is beside a quiet corner of Miss Bee #missbeeprovidore.
While I get back to work, W goes into the city to pick up our travel documents. Hurrah, he brings our passports back with a visa stamp in them, which is a relief.

My dad sends an old picture; it's Mom in her early 30s, resting in the backyard. She's beautiful, isn't she?
Late in the day, I write Christmas enews, line up some appointments, and sort emails. W comes home late from town, but heads out again to a concert.

Several venues within a few blocks of our neighborhood are trying to attract clients. They offer casual concerts in the evenings. I prefer not be bombarded by sound - the volume is excruciating at times. Even earplugs don't completely protect us.

I wait up for W until after 10pm. Freeform jazz makes me edgy - so I avoid jazz concerts. He's had a good time, but is really tired when he gets back.

I'm in the office by 7am. My big year-end project is writing a chapter for an academic book. I begin by compiling notes from previous research. It's consuming and focused work. Meanwhile, W has a breakfast meeting.

After several hours, W comes by the office. We need to drive to town for some gift shopping. (Christmas Day, a potluck at our place is followed by a White Elephant gift exchange. People forget or don't have the money to bring a gift, so we always put some extra gifts under the tree.)

Because every religion has its own public holidays, Indonesians have a lot of time off. A group of kids dances on a stage in the mall where we eat.
By the time we sit down to eat,  it's smack in the middle of lunch hours. We find a table in a casual stop near the shops: #BakmieGM. I order noodles and some bubble tea.

One of the main store exits is an escalator. You leave the cashier and head upstairs. I guess they're making sure you don't stuff your pockets without paying to head upstairs to the rest of the mall.
We need eggs, sugar, butter. Flour, oil, and other groceries. We make one final stop at a grocer: Toko Setiabudi. By the time we pull into the driveway at 4:30, W is feeling sick. His body enforces rest on him every once in a while.

Read more:
*Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. Isaiah 35:4
*When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. Psalm 65:3
*Zechariah said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.” Luke 1:76-78
Moravian Prayer: When we believe that all is lost, O Lord, you reach out to us in love. We rejoice in the surprising good news that all is not lost. Your forgiveness is new every morning. Amen.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Friday, December 13, 2019
The morning starts with a crash. Well, that's a few hours in. First, I'm on a 5am call with a women's caucus. I'm glad I came - someone reminds me that I proposed a book chapter which is due in 2 days.  "But you can have an extension, don't worry." Good - because I forgot about it completely; I don't even remember that it was accepted.

Two hours later, W and I are walking past some lovely plants and stately homes. The 3' long stem of red palm tree fruit has snagged on a tree trunk. I pause to take a picture. I'm tempted to go back and get it. It should be in a vase, it's that beautiful.
The sweep of bougainvillea on a neighbor's gate is stunning.
As we near home, we hear and see a "CRASH!," the sound of fiberglass shattering as a young man launches into the air from his motorcycle. His bike tears into two pieces and lands on the edge of the street. He groans, pulls himself away from the wreck, and tries to stand up. Another motorbike is lying on its side beside him, wheels spinning. Its rider stands up. The front of his machine is also crumpled. He starts the conversation about what happened as we reach them.

People start to run toward the accident. It's a normal (busy) morning on the way to work for most, so there are parents with children, women waiting for Go-Jek motorcycle rides, a few security guards from neighboring businesses, and people out for exercise like we are.

One rider has T-boned the other, neither of them paying attention at the 4-way intersection. There are no stop signs: the rule is if you catch someone's eye, you are responsible to give way - in a car or a motorcycle.

We cannot stop but begin to pray for the families, against injuries, and for the loans the ruined bikes may represent (uninsured is the norm). As foreigners, we've been told we have to keep going. We can be blamed for walking dogs (distracted the riders?), for being a distraction ourselves, and perhaps be held financially responsible (somehow). We walk on the other side of the street: thankfully, many good Samaritans are already on the scene.

We pick up our office supplies at home. The sun's a-shining on the porch. It looks so empty, cleaned up from the 20-30 people sprawled everywhere on movie night!
Today we have our-date breakfast at a nearby cafe, #PinoTerrace. Since Wednesday was movie night, we skipped our regular date. I order a "no-oil" plain omelet and W shares a half-pancake from his order. Then it's off to work. The office is a half-block further.

By lunch, W has finished the poster wall we started a month ago: the original magnets to hold the front and back strips of wood disappeared in the office. After he's gone, I put away the glue gun he left cooling on the side of the room.

Alice, Sanny, and I finish preparations for Art Sunday, grouping the art supplies by table. We make samples for everything with paint, colored glue, and cotton balls (sheep's wool).

I take an elongated seed pod = a perfect manger for a paper cutout of a child. I make a few trees from crumpled tissue paper (saved from candies someone brought to a study months ago).
I find the most interesting stuff on the street here. W and I collected the 4-sided seed pods months ago. They've brought a smile to my face every time I see them on my office shelf. I knew they'd come in handy for something.

To the basic table bags, we add printed instructions for the volunteers, table signs, and art supplies from my home office - tissue paper, sketch paper, acrylics and watercolors, brushes, and canvases. When did we get those? (along the way) W brings the 3-D ornaments he's made for people to paint and take home.
Lunch is at Kalpa Tree. My appetite is still not back: I get about halfway through the noodles and am sated. I pour the hot chocolate over ice cubes and sip it. Can't finish that either. W helps with both.
W's brought a few 3-D prints that failed. Some are prettier than the successes - I love a star with a web of lace around it. "Don't toss it - I'll hang them up," I say.
W has errands to run. I have to make a powerpoint. About 2:00, Gypsy lets us know a storm is coming. There's nothing but his whining and trying to open all the doors, but I put the dogs in the crate in the house.

Within a few minutes, the lightning and rain starts. The thunder is loud and persists for a few hours. The tukang (handyman) keeps working on the 2nd roof. I hear him hammering under cover of the highest roof. I wouldn't stay up there in this storm, that's for sure.

I eat one of my precious Canadian chocolate bars to celebrate being dry - and warm inside.

Read more:
*The Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage. Psalm 94:14
Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
Moravian Prayer: God of all, we thank you that our identity is in you. We rejoice that we are part of your family, and we marvel that your wide embrace encompasses us all. Amen.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Advent, Christmas prep, and movie night.

Monday, December 9, 2019
I feel tired but much better - until after my first morning meeting. Then a stomach ache hits - I need food, I guess. I have a bit of oatmeal but I'm nauseated and my stomach hurts. My mom taught me to work when sick - it makes us focus and passes the time. So I sew 6 pillows to cover the rest of the porch furniture. There's some batik left, so I grab the throw pillows that don't match and finish off 5 more throw pillows.

DONE! That looks better and I get ready to put the Berninan away. Except there are 2 more floor cushions for BIC to cover. They've sat in the corner of my office for 2 weeks. Well, while the sewing machine is out, I might as well do them, too. I cut 2 zippers to size and finish up. My stomach ache is almost gone.

Our tree is filled with ornaments gifted by friends here and Seattle. I love the mix, including the puppets that were given us our first Christmas. Most of our ornaments are on the trees at BIC, but there are plenty.
Every morning, I hang another ball with a December date and a scripture verse on the tree. We're almost halfway to Christmas ...   
We cancel the weekly team meeting: most of the team is away. We go into town to pick up some ingredients to cook for movie night tomorrow. The steps that span the train tracks are steep and short.
They are are corroded at the sides and on the risers.
We make it safely across to the food wholesaler. Waiting in line at the cashier, watch as a cat springs out of the way as a careless shopper touches it with her toe.
The stairs are just as steep going back. I'm worn out by the time we reach our neighborhood.
W suggests we take advantage of the special at the new spa and restaurant that opened yesterday near our neighborhood. At $12, it's a 2-for-1: we each get an hour-long foot massage and a free fruit drink.

Dinner at the little cafe is cheap (a little steak with fries for $2.20) By 7, when we get home, I just want to sleep.

Alice, Sanny, and I talk through the upcoming process of Art Sunday. Two other groups are renting the hall on Friday and Saturday. They promise to leave the room user-ready. We'll see. "Not going to happen - hasn't happened in 5 years," Sanny grouses.

We'll have to get to BIC by 6:00 a.m. Sunday to set up. It takes us all morning to plan out the tables, supplies, and resources - plus describing the volunteer jobs. We'll have to be ready to run when we arrive. I take a long checklist home and make piles of print-outs and supplies, which get taken to the office.

I bake about 150 sausages and marinade them in black pepper sauce. I boil 2 dozen eggs, which the helper cuts for mayo-eggs.

The jackfruit curry made from our tree fruit has spoiled overnight: the helper left it on the counter too cool after cooking. I closed the lid against ants, lizards, or cockroaches falling in, but the 80o kitchen temperature is not conducive to preserving food. It has fermented to smell like strong cheese, so she tosses the huge pot-full in the compost heap at the back of the yard. "Don't want stomach aches for our guests," she cautions.

Before I know it, it's 4:30. I'm too wound up to sleep but I read and rest for an hour. We postponed movie night from last week because I was sick. I still don't have the strength to cook a full meal.

We've order 3 sets of tumpang, a cone of rice and sides for 25 people - perkadel (dumplings), chicken, and vegetables. Most non-Indonesians will never get invited to this type of traditional meal, which is served at special occasions and celebrations. Christmas is that. Istn' it pretty? (The platter is 30" across.)
The helpers also cut salad and fruit. We plate cookies on festive trays for dessert. Soon our guests start arriving, some with sweets to share.

We eat the main course before the movie. The house is full tonight and there are 25-30 guests on the porch. Conversations in many languages resound against the concrete walls of the living room and spill into the garden.
The Christmas tree is the main selfie station. Our two birthday friends pose with their birthday plates: if it's your birthday month, you get to start the food line.
During December, we ask guests to read the Christmas story with us. We miss this family tradition. We pass out and listen to the readings before we watch the new Grinch movie.
 Dessert gives us a pause halfway - and after the movie we hang out almost until 11:00 p.m.
In the Indonesian tradition, the special celebrant - birthday child or grad student or ? - gets to cut and eat the cone off the top of the tumpang. A foreign students ends up with the cone his first and second pass-through as we bring out the second and third platters.

We run the Roomba vacuum three or four times, each time filling the dust bin. The growling of the motor continues through the night.

I have just enough energy for an early online meeting. The helpers are here by 8. They "put things back" in the living room from the move-night dumping ground in my office. It takes me most of the morning to move things to where they belong. Finally, even the flower bouquet is back on the entry table.
W stays home from the walk to finish grading papers. He suggest some options for a date, but I can't fathom going out. The shamrocks are blooming on the porch.
I haven't looked around the yard for a while. Since rainy season started, the garden beds have burst into bloom. There are bird of paradise plants, shoots from the neighbor's driveway.
The birds-nest ferns on one side are thriving. We found them under heaps of leaves under the trees at the back of the yard. Their 4-5' fronds drape over the vines that cover the cement wall between our neighbors and us. The benjamina fig that was constantly buggy and stunted in the pot on the porch has grown into a 20' tree in two years (left, below).
The yellow and pink seeds scattered during dry season have burst into a hedge of color. The volcanic soil is excellent.
Gypsy the dog loves to run between the flowers. He circles the back, jumping through the flowerbed in the middle.
Even the purple water hyacinth in the fish bowl is flowering. Several kinds of aquatic plants grow in the bathtubs straddling the deep water gutter between the upper and lower yard. In indonesia, it seems whatever you put into the ground or the water grows.
This week, the neighbor points at a durian tree towering over our entry gate. (Durian is an acquired taste, so stinky that it cannot be taken on public transport in Singapore.) The towering tree has one fruit, the first in years, but Jez says, "It was loaded with fruit until someone chopped it down mid-trunk. It's taken years to regrow." We're always discovering new plants here.

Read more:
*Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you. 2 Chronicles 14:11

*Everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:8

*In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,  sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.Hebrews 1:1-4

Moravian Prayer: Ever-present God, we thank you that you dwell within us, and are always with us. Teach us and help us to rely on you each day, in matters both great and small. Amen.