Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prayers and a neighbor's memorial

Friday, September 22, 2017 
There's a civet on the roof (pics from the internet). At least, that's what we think is walking on the clay tiles at night. A civet has the face of a rat, racoon, or bear, depending on how you see such things, with the body of a cat = God mixing it up and maybe smiling at the cute outcome. 

They often eat the papaya that we are ready to pick, the night before we do. Great hunks of orange flesh, the rest of the fruit still hanging on the tree, mark their feast as the fruit. These cats also consume and digest coffee beans, which are gathered and sold as expensive kopi luak. We see the poop on our walks in the forest, sometimes. (And we leave it there.)

Many pet and feral cats live in the neighborhood. Our Japanese neighbor loves cats and adopted one or two. Now at least 5 or 6 roam the property, having found the food bowls outside our houses. They eat dog or cat food, depending on their appetites. We keep them off the furniture by sprinkling black pepper on the cushions = non-toxic and highly effective. The cats stroll boldly on our teras. 

Gypsy, our beautiful black mutt, chases off the strangers and plays with "his" cats. Something is bugging him: he's ripped chunks of fur out to scratch his skin. The vet sends along some steroid pills to soothe the itching.

We spot a youngster carrying a fighting cock (chicken) under his right arm, while he turns his bike and steers down an alley with his left. Boys love to raise these chickens and host cockfights. It's hard to see him in this picture because it took a while to get my phone out of the bag.

As we exit our neighborhood, several ponies are hard at work, taking little kids for rides. Every weekend or holiday, in this case for Muslim New Year today, Sunda horsemen tether their horses outside shops and popular hotels. They ride into town from pastures in the hills above the city - or hold the horses' reins to trot them beside a motorcycle.

We have made it a habit to pray Fridays at a retreat center nearby. Clusters of rooms (six per building) allow us to have personal time listening for God's direction before we pray together. It's crucial for us to hear God's voice with so many cultural and social adjustments.

I usually take along some art supplies and as I pray, I doodle. 
Occasionally, it looks like "something" but usually, it's not much of anything. This morning is about presence and becomes filled with color. Strangely, the bird looks the same upside or down. Can you see the two figures on the bottom left, leaning in to listen? (left above) Turned upside down, it's something else entirely. 

The shapes are abstract and hardly proportional. I doodle all around the pages, not paying too much attention as I'm praying for others. Using my hands sets my heart free. Most of the time, I can barely reach the scratchpad across the table where it's shoved behind my Bible and notebook.

My meditation is on Hebrews 1:1-4 (written out below). It's one of my favorite scripture passages. Since J&C have a morning commitment, we pray together before they leave.

W come an hour later, finds my shoes outside the building, and settles into the room beside mine. We wrap up by sharing what we have heard.

On the way home, we detour onto the Adventist University campus, where we've heard there is a health food store. One of the students jogs alongside the car, "I know where it is. I'll show you," he says - and takes us right to the door. Nice young man! We pick up a few staples (nuts, seeds, oatmeal for homemade trail mix) and are home for lunch about 1:30.

We leave the house to catch an Uber at 6. We're attending prayers for a Catholic neighbor who was our first landlord. His funeral is tomorrow - Saturday - and it will be a big deal. His body will be transported to the university where he worked as a respected biology researcher and scientist. His four sons also work in medical or scientific fields. 

Dozens of flower boards line the entry to the prayer chapel behind the hospital. They are memorial boards from classmates, coworkers, and friends. Some have four separate bouquets attached, a costly display of his high esteem.

We greet his sister. She tells us she has just arrived from Germany, where she's lived for 47 years. "I came yesterday, but haven't slept yet," she confesses. She's a medical doctor. She points out her siblings, likewise well-educated scientists.

Dr Alfred's grandkids are there, too. "They'll miss their grandpa," says their father. He's the youngest son, who studied in Seattle. They still have a cousin who also went to UW, and obtained a green card to live in Seattle.

The casket is gleaming white, draped in netting as is the custom. It's surrounded by flowers in an alcove draped with purple and white satin. Dr A will be laid to rest tomorrow in a Christian cemetery alongside his first wife, a departure from the usual Chinese cremation.

The odd thing about this hall, located behind St Boromeus Hospital, is that three viewing alcoves share the space. Dr Hanna, who takes us along tonight, says that "sometimes all three are occupied at once. It can get a bit chaotic if the service times coincide." This time, Dr Alfred is on his own.

As per tradition after the last night of prayers, attendees eat bubur ayam (rice porridge with chicken). I just ate before we came so my stomach says no, though it's a favorite food. We're still learning the local customs.

We ease awake and fall back asleep. I start the day by baking oatmeal pumpkin muffins. They're not sweet at all: next time I shall add sugar as well as honey.

Most of the day is spent doing research. I'm prepping a class. W buys my tickets to Thailand, reserving the first two flights of three, en route to Bhutan in December.

My mind keeps going back to last night: what is temporal - money, wealth, power, relationships - is left behind. Only eternal investments go with us through death into eternal life.

Read more:
*It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Psalm 127:2 NASB

*Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 NIV

*Paul wrote: My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 ESV

*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 NIV

Moravian Prayer: 
Lord, thank you for being with us and helping us to rest. Continue to give us strength. Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mentoring in Medan

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
We're off to Medan in the evening. The flight is not long: Medan is on the other side of Singapore - about 2:20 away. The drive is smooth - the roads are paved and curbed.

We stop to eat at a restaurant that has a unique form of service. The waiter piles plates in the center of the table. Anything that we touch, we will pay for. The rest goes back to the kitchen. We serve ourselves, and it's all delicious.

The university puts Pak Hubbi, W and me up at a nice hotel. The beds are comfy so we sleep deeply.

Comfy leather executive seats for every faculty member
We are in a car on the way to the university by 8 and ready to start by 9. But the faculty is returning from a budget meeting and we start at 10. Hubbi and I go back and forth, teaching research writing.

There's enthusiastic participation. The faculty is kind and attentive. The boxed lunch of rendang (Indonesian beef stew) is delicious, but we're back in the conference room within an hour to finish up.

typical edits
We break into small groups and let them edit a paragraph of their peer's paper. W demonstrates a citation program to help them footnote their papers more easily.

And then we wrap it up with speeches, selfies, and a group photo. They present us with a picture frame from the rector and wrap me in a local fabric.

Indonesians love selfies. So we take a lot of them, besides the official photo.

W and I meet for supper with Karrie and then tour her church. We see two groups studying and enjoying time together. "Doing life together," we say.

The city is full of little motorcycle taxis. One lady waves as W leans out the window of the car to snap a picture.
A little beca (taxi)
We have an early breakfast at the hotel and are on our way to the airport at 6:30. One flight later, we're on the runway in Bandung. There are no motorized jetways (bridge) at the airport, so everyone walks from the plane to the terminal, hauling carry-on luggage.

Today, we have to wait near the plane after we walk down the steps to the taxiway. There's a plane leaving. It taxis right by us - an attendant keeps us from getting run over by putting out his hand and making us wait until it passes by. Then we walk across the hot pavement to the domestic terminal to get our luggage from the one baggage carousel.
Yes, it's that close. The wing extends over our heads.
The new terminal is such an improvement from the old one, which had one conveyor belt that shot luggage off the end into the waiting arms of passengers.

We catch a Grab home by 12:30 @Rp16.000 ($1.20).

I'm exhausted. W has some administrative work but I take the rest of the day to read. We have no study in the afternoon. It's another national holiday - this time, New Year's in the Muslim calendar.

Read more:
*The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12
Paul wrote: Test everything; hold fast to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Moravian Prayer: Lord, open our eyes and ears to see what you see in others and to love those that are difficult to love. Amen.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Water from where?

Apparently, our tap water (and shower water and toilet water) comes straight from the nearby river. Someone just told us the good news.
Rice paddies upriver
We know that river. It runs through dairy farms, crop fields, and villages on its way into the city. It stinks when you walk next to it because people dump everything into it. Everything.
A bridge over troubled waters
Now I know why, when I ran a bath in our portable tub a few weeks ago, the water was greenish. I sat in it anyway. I was desperate to read a textbook that had my eyes glazing over in minutes, sitting at my desk.

PVC pipes are strung along the walls of neighborhoods, and I guess they bring the water directly in. Other open-ended pipes poke through retaining walls, draining water from home sinks and showers right back into the streams.

Sometimes the water smells musty; sometimes it smells of other things. A while back, a friend of ours got amoebic dysentery when he brushed his teeth in the shower. Yeah, that was a bad idea. Even locals buy drinking water.

Most weekends (Friday through Sunday, and sometimes during the week,) there's not enough water pressure to have a shower. At least five new highrises were built on the hill in the past two years, and as many new restaurants. But our infrastructure is the same.
Wash vegetables at the sink. Then rinse them well with filtered drinking water. And you're seeing correctly, that's a bit of garden hose attached to an outdoor faucet - at the "dirty kitchen" in the house. The previous tenants took their faucets with them. We've replaced most of them, but a few are still in "original" move-in condition. (Another fact of life: that back room is open to the sky and wind - anything fried is made there since no kitchen stove has a fan to whisk away grease.)
We often walk along the river
This morning, I open the kitchen taps (gravity fed from algae-crusted roof-top tanks), toss an electric heating coil into the basin as it fills, and wait for it to warm up. (Oh yeah, we have to get someone to go into the tanks to scrub them clean. We're too bulky to fit in.)

Every traditional bathroom has a pail of water beside the toilet. A plastic dipper is used to scoop up water for sanitation after using the toilet. Most people don't use toilet paper. (That's also why you never use your left hand to pass things to others or bring food to your mouth.)

We have a few dippers lying around, relics from the people who used to live here. Our helper fills one to rinse the shower once a week. After a few years of rinsing, I figure the dipper is pretty clean. Today, I use it to splash water on myself in the shower. Do I feel cleaner? Maybe.
Irrigation, drainage, you name it ...
The house looks quite modern and sturdy. When people come to visit (esp. our Western guests), they think we are living beyond our means. "We could never afford the 40-year-old stone tile flooring in the USA." They're right. We couldn't either.

And then they try to shower. "There was no hot water today because the pressure was low. I feel kind of stinky without a shower," or better still, "We have no water at all." Yeah. We know.

The basics are sometimes a challenge. For example, we bought a dozen dining chairs from a local commercial shop with an excellent reputation. W and I both liked the look of them. They were narrow enough to seat 12 around our table, and that they were half price at Informa's annual clearance sale.

After a few months, the piping began peeling from the seat and the back. The manufacturer apparently used material that disintegrates in the heat and humidity. No returns permitted, of course.

"Oh well," we have to shrug. Such surprises are par for the course. I sewed slipcovers last month to prevent further damage. The canvas covers are made from a huge painter's dropcloth (bought ages ago at a USA hardware story).

Truth be told, Indonesia has been good for us. It's reminded us that life is not about appearances. It's about reality. About people, living with us side by side, life on life, day by day.

Being here is wonderful. And crazy. And interesting. If you're particular or a perfectionist, you would soon be in a madhouse. But if you don't mind an unexpected event or two every day and something new every morning (in addition to the blessings of God), this is a wonderful place to be.
Regional delights: a wild banana tree in bloom
Locals seem taken aback when we say we like it here. "Isn't it a step backward? We want to go to the West and leave here." "But it takes so long to get anything done!" and, "Don't you mind the garbage?"

yes yes yes. Our experienced expat friends warned us when we moved here: "Don't compare this to that. Just live in the day or it will kill you." Their counsel has been spot-on. Time after time.

Yet when you know you're supposed to be here, you love it. Ask anyone who's been in our shoes.

Read more:
*Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits. Psalm 103:2
I will praise God’s word, I will praise the Lord’s word. Psalm 46:10 NKJV
Jesus says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63
Moravian Prayer: Lord, you are great and you created all things. May we always remember your goodness and keep your spirit in our hearts. Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Women as bright as birds

Saturday, September
It's our rule not to go to town on the weekends, when traffic is stop-and-go. But we need a new fridge and the landlord has agreed to contribute 4 Juta (about $300). We visit a bunch of shops on the “appliance street” and haggle the price from Rp5.6 J (about $400) to our price.

We count how many people help us in the next shop. Wow, 11 employees are involved, between walking in and paying. We have been greeted, shown to our department, seen all the features we’ve needed and more … When our shopping cart is ready, someone has recorded the price on a sheet and another has taken it downstairs to the payment center. We follow, pay at the counter (below), and walk away with smiles all around. There’s low unemployment here.

There's a big "Scout" meeting downtown. The police have roped off several main streets, so we chat with the kids as we wait for our Grab car. One girl sees me about to take a photo of her friends and runs across the street toward us, screaming, "Wait wait! Me too! Me too!" She squeezes in. Snap.

Is it a good idea for hundreds of scouts and their troop leaders to be sitting in the hot sun on the pavement? They must be assembling for a parade. Some kids are dragging dragon costumes around the lines of teens and children who are streaming from all directions. 

The Grab driver can't get to us. The roads are blocked, so we hike a half-mile to him instead. It takes another hour plus to get home (usually a 1/2 hour trip). Not bad. Traffic hasn't really started up yet. The evening's macet (traffic jam) will be ferocious.

After church and his theology class, W heads for a Catholic group who are interested in theology. They have lots of questions. It takes him until late evening to get home. Why? Apparently, iIf they miss the break between masses because they're wrapped up in discussion, they have to wait for the next pause.

I'm home when the fridge is delivered. It's the first of five on the pickup bed. One skinny young guy hops off the truck, maneuvers the appliance off the truck, and holds the two straps wrapped around the box. He hefts the fridge onto his back and into the house, before his friend helps him manhandle it upstairs. 

They ask if they can grab some fruit from the guava tree. Sure. One climbs the tree like a monkey, tossing fruit down to his coworker below. We add a small tip to their overflowing hands and they drive out of the gate happy.

The fridge is even better than we thought (how can you tell in the store, with the lineup of models?) Our friends shake their heads when they hear the price. "You are truly Indonesian if you only paid that much." Hopefully, the landlord will be as happy: it has a great warranty and came in at budget.

After the morning study, W and I do some writing and head for town. One of our strange little finds is a press: we don't know what it's used for. But it makes enough Spätzle (German noodles) for one person. We squeeze two lumps of dough through and bravo! what a great little invention, whatever it is.

There’s an arisan meeting (the neighborhood women’s group) which I’m attending for the first time in 3 months. We start munching from plates of snacks on the table and open the boxed water and snack packet. Then we eat the main meal. Soooo. Muuuch.  Foooood. What can I say? I take most home to share with the helpers. They provide plastic takeaway bags for such emergencies.

There are warm greetings all around, updates, and lots of conversation. The beautiful older woman next to me is the most honored: she's in her 90s and still active. She gets the first handshake and kisses on each cheek. 

I'm getting better at understanding – especially since these women are articulate and educated. They don’t use slang, though they slip from Indonesian to Sundanese in conversation with each other. Some know English, and translate the jist of what I need to know.

Our part-time helper is ill but bakes cookies in the morning to draw her day’s wage. It looks like the beginning of the flu – she has a lot of kids and grandkids living in her house. They attract and spread colds and flus, especially with the change to dry (or wet) season. She promises to be back Thursday, but nope, she’s still sick.

Rear-ended, plus 4 dings from traffic
It’s a deadline day so we have to skip the long walk. W and I take a break to walk 2 miles down the hill to see if our car is finished. (Not yet; it’s in the body shop – maybe tomorrow.) Then we hit the books. I’m determined to finish editing a few academic papers, and have just gotten another from a journal editor. I’ll wrap that up today and tomorrow.

We are at the study in the afternoon, along with several others. We share an Uber ride with DrH and her daughter on the way home. We haven't been at Wild Grass Resto for months, and we're too tired to cook. We eat, then walk home in the warm darkness to unwind with a movie and a bit more work before falling into bed.

We get a shock! William is in hospital, having surgery. He’s a French expat we met at our movie night. He is known and liked by many. Apparently, last night, he was cycling down a main street when a motorcyclist knifed him in the stomach. Thankfully, none of his major organs were hit, but he is in serious condition.

Many friends head to ICU right away, as we are hearing about it. They send texts, “Don’t come to the hospital. Already, there are too many of us.”

W WhatsApps William, assuring him we are praying and we will visit as soon as he is able to see us. We get a heartfelt thank you and a recovery timeline: if all goes well, he’ll be in a regular ward by Sunday. Then would be a better time for a visit.
Between everything, scribbling pen markings on a postcard of watercolor splashes.
But wait! Claudia WAs that her two kids are in the hospital, too, along with several others from their school. They’ve caught a stomach virus from the food and are severely dehydrated. 

“But don’t come. Apparently, it’s contagious.” The kids are on IVs – they’ll be there at least until Sunday when their vitals stabilize. We get a cute picture of them learning origami from mutual friends, whose son is in the next bed.

W walks down to get the car, while the driver walks the dog and waters the garden before heading home. (He doesn’t have an extra motorcycle helmet or he’d give W a lift.) 

It's marvelous to hit "Send" on 10 journal blogs to Jakarta, an edited academic article in town, and another to the Philippines. Isn't it amazing how we take for granted all the messages and work we exchange around the world? It's sure faster than a postal delivery, which is a wonder in itself.
Enormous blooms on the neighbor's tree
Isabelle flies in from Surabaya in the early evening. She’s a Montessori specialist from Surabaya, come to help about 40 teaching volunteers learn about life stages and classroom discipline.

We have a nice supper together W’s made chicken in his sue vide machine; I grill it, make rice and pasta, and add a green salad and papaya with lime. We eat a few chocolate and a few peanut butter cookies for dessert.

We leave the house just after 7am. It’s a one-hour drive. Dr Wuri’s driver, Pak Igo, gets us there on time. The superintendent of schools is waiting with the administrators. The minister of education shows up 20 minutes later. We wait in the office until he arrives and greetings are exchanged.

There are informal (community-run) and formal (government) schools in the city. The informal preschools have sent 40 teachers to Miss Isabelle for training. They are dressed like colorful birds in jilbabs (headscarves) and bright clothing. Bandung women are cantik (beautiful).

The steps to the second floor take up a mere 8’: yes, they are that steep (a 13-15” rise). Good thing we have healthy hips and knees! We sit on the floor, but luckily there’s a carpet roll at the side. I park myself on that for a bit of ease and a sigh of relief. Usually only the men sit cross-legged, but it’s the only way I feel comfortable on the floor. So I tuck my knees up and to the side. Several others gradually ease up onto the riser as well: it’s way comfier and I can lean my back against the wall (think, 4” chair).

After a few speeches (1/2 hour+), we stand up to take a lot of pictures – including one with the certificate that I will get for showing up. The minister says he is already hoping we’ll do this for schools all over Bandung. The room is bright and sunny. It's going to be a hot day.

These teachers may be volunteers but they are devoted to their young charges. Most teachers and students come from poorer homes. They cannot afford the uniforms, books, and extra-curricular fees required by government schools. (Tuition is ‘free’ but the peripherals costs money.)

Part of our reason for living here is resourcing worthy local projects and education. This morning, Isabelle brings her teaching materials for a day-long workshop. Dr W provides the snacks and connection to the schools. W and I provide the link to the master teacher, many prayers for the well-being of the participants, and pay for drinking water. The two little libraries we sponsored last year are filled with books for teachers and families to borrow. Everyone does his or her part.

The lead administrator hands me a gift (yummy cakes) as I leave them after an hour. I start work in the car - the one-hour trip down takes an extra half-hour on the way back. Traffic is picking up for the weekend. Soon every road will be crammed.

The wind chimes are ringing on our teras. Today, we are thankful to live in the northern part of the city, where mountain breezes keep temperatures about 5o cooler than in the central city.

Read more:
*My times are in your hand. Psalm 31:15
*Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
*God has helped me to this very day. Acts 26:22
*Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4 NIV
*Paul wrote: Let us keep awake and be sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:6
Moravian Prayer: Lord, we are thankful for your forgiveness and need your hand in all we do. Be with us always. Let us not forget that everything we have is from you. Keep our world living by your command. Amen.