Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Idul Fitri

We got the green light to move into our house in Kemang early. A family needed our temporary housing, and so everything got sped up.

We spent the day before Idul Fitri (the Muslim equivalent to our Christmas Eve) moving our stuff back and forth. Not an easy task. The temp apartment was on the 27th floor. Elevator rides are one part of our temp housing that I will not miss. My husband navigated the roads between the two places. Thank goodness the roads were mostly empty because of the holiday. Our car is right hand drive and we have to drive on the left side of the road. He did great...and I didn't scream even once.

By evening we were tired and hungry. I was not up to cooking and cleaning up after a meal. So we got back in the car and drove around trying to find a restaurant that was open. We drove by this KFC.

But we opted for a more Indonesian restaurant - it was Idul Fitri, afterall. We found a restaurant that serves a mix of Indonesian and western food. The kids ordered mashed potatoes and you'd have thought they were eating ice cream sundaes. I opted for gado gado - a delicious Indonesian salad served with a spicy peanut sauce.

By the time we got back to our house, it was dark. Some of the neighborhood families had gathered as one family shot off fireworks. These weren't the wimpy kind you can get in Virignia. These were the real thing! Huge booms.

We watched as the sky lit up with color. And once again, CJ thought they were just for us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Soccer at Sunset

We wind our way through the maze of bungalows at Jakarta International School. After an hour-long ride in traffic, it feels good to move faster than slug-pace. The air is warm. And from over the high cement wall that borders the campus comes the smell of charcoal. Madi thinks someone is cooking hotdogs - but I'm sure it's saute. Either way, it smells familiar, like a summer barbeque.

We finally find the field (there are at least four large playing fields on the JIS campus). Coach Tim is from Holland with a beautiful accent to match. We meet the other team members...Sindre is from Norway and Ruben is the coach's son. We're guessing Nicholas is Italian because of his dark hair and accent. There is also an Indonesian boy who stops warm-ups to break his fast. Madilyn is the only girl tonight. There's another girl on the roster, but she didn't come.

The trainer leads them through drills until all of them are breathing deeply and drinking water. The field is large - football sized. Stadium lights flicker on and hum in the evening air. Bats dart and dive above the field.

The boys hold back, probably not sure how to interact with Madi. They are tentative at first. But after she scores two goals in their scrimmage, they treat her as an equal player...and don't give her an inch.

I watch her sprint across the field chasing down the ball. She fights for the ball. She wins some and loses some. I know she will learn a lot playing at this level.

It is a bit surreal to watch Madi and consider that here we are, on the other side of the world, playing soccer.

I lean back, rest my hands on the cement stairs, and look up. There are no stars. And the night sky is a rich shade of plum.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Favorite Day (So Far)

On Saturday, we took the embassy city tour of Jakarta. I really needed this break from the daily routine. As a side note, the daily struggle of just figuring everything out from food shopping, to getting taxis to and from everywhere, to learning the quirks of my apartment oven and washing machine (and not knowing the language!!) has taken its toll. I'm exhausted.

But today, today was a welcomed break! Finally, a chance to explore a little bit of this huge city. (I apologize for the tininess of the pics - I had to use the camera on my iphone because we packed our other camera's cables in the shipment - this will have to do for now).

We visited Istiqlal Mosque near the city center. It is the third largest mosque in the world! Jakarta is 85% Muslim. Since we hear the call to prayer five times a day, it was interesting to get a look inside.

Here are Madi and Elise in the mosque's courtyard.

We also visited Jakarta's national monument. I know you can't tell from my brilliant photography skills (sarcasm), but the monument looks a lot like the Washington monument. We took a non-air conditioned elevator to the top. We were smashed together like cattle and I really thought I was going to throw up. Wouldn't that have been lovely? But the view from the top was amazing. There is no end to this huge city...from every direction as far as I could see, there were more buildings.
My favorite part of the day was a visit to the old part of Jakarta. We ate at a fabulous restaurant called Cafe Batavia. It was like stepping back in time. Big Band music, wicker furniture, large overhead fans spinning lazily, guests sipping fruit drinks from tall thin glasses - picture Casablanca (but in Asia).

After lunch we explored the puppet museum next door. Here's a shadow puppet demonstration. It was in Indonesian, but the girls and I belly-laughed at the fight scene. The sound effects were hilarious.
Here's the main square of the old city us. Behind us were rows of bicycles to rent (each bike had a fancy sun hat to go with it).
At the end of the afternoon, we bought streamers on sticks from a local Indonesian. He showed the girls how to make the streamers flip, twirl, and wiggle in the air. The girls twirled the colorful ribbons all the way to the bus.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Unexpected "Walk"

We told the taxi driver to stop and let us out. We'd gone around the same block three times. (Even I knew we were driving in a circle). I've decided to believe that the taxi driver was more lost than us. I refuse to get cynical and think that he was just out to make a couple more dollars.

"Di sini?" he said (here?).

"Di sini," my husband repeated.

We opened the door and spilled out of the blue cab onto the broken sidewalk. We were on our way to the American Club, and we knew we were close. With swim bags slung over our shoulders, and CJ asleep in my husband's arms we started to walk. Huge trees, that crumbled the sidewalk and asphalt with their trunks, shaded the street. There was no traffic because it was a holiday, and we were well away from any main thoroughfares.

We stepped over large holes in the sidewalk where the cement or brick was missing.

We walked by two men sleeping on their push carts. Their feet were bare and as black as the asphalt. We walked by a tree that held a miniature tree house in its branches - pet monkeys? We didn't stick around to find out. Two bird cages swung from low branches holding a pair of doves.

I had the distinct feeling that if my mom could see us wandering around this strange neighborhood, she would get on a plane that instant and come take her grandchildren home. But I didn't feel unsafe, just completely out-of-place.

We walked into a crowd of Indonesian teenagers all wearing red shirts (in honor of their Independence Day). There is no drinking or smoking age limit here, and it was strange to see such young kids smoking cigarettes as they leaned against their bicycles.

I smiled and greeted them, "Selamat Siang." Good afternoon.

"Siang." They replied and smiled back.

We found the club. It was close, just like we thought. We walked through the guarded gates and passed through the thick cement wall. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in a crystal blue pool. We dined on hamburgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes - a taste of home. We laughed and enjoyed spending time with new friends who we've known less than a week.

It really was a lovely afternoon. But tonight as I think about my day, what sticks with me the most is our unexpected walk. And seeing both sides of the wall.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


We piled into a blue bird cab in our Sunday best. (The cab size is similar to a Civic). We were just a tiny bit squished, with a few lap-sitters. But cabs are our only choice until we find a car. So we rolled with it!

The roads were eerily empty at 7:30AM. We've been used to bumper to bumper traffic and hoards of mopeds. So it felt strange, but oh so nice, to drive at 40 mph down the streets.

All throughout Jakarta are huge bronze statues. But this is my favorite so far. It is called the Pacoran Statue and it represents the Indonesian airforce. We saw it on our way to church...and would you believe, he's pointing the way to our LDS chapel!

Amidst concrete buildings, and various stores, there it was, an LDS church building. A sight so familiar, down to the golden insignia sign (of course this one was in Indonesian). I got a bit choked up pulling into the parking lot.
We were warmly welcomed by everyone. We took our seats on a cushioned pew and opened up a green hymn book to sing the opening song. "Go Forth with Faith." The significance was not lost on me.

There are only two primary classes here: Junior (ages 2 to 7) and Senior (ages 8 to 11). It looked like there were about 20 children total. Madi wasn't sure how she felt about being in the same class as the 8 year olds. But I told her it was good chance to be a leader and example, right? And the twins echoed the sentiment about being in the same class with 4 year olds. But they emerged from their classes happy to have met some new people.

My favorite moment of the day was sitting in Relief Society. There were only about ten of us - but there were women from all over the world. I sat next to the sweetest Australian sister who has lived here for six years. There was someone from the Philippines, a woman from Tonga, an Indonesian sister, and the rest from the states. We sang "As Sisters in Zion" and that song has never rung truer for me.

"As sisters in Zion we'll all work together,
The blessings of God on our labors we seek.
We'll build up His Kingdom with earnest endeavor
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak."

Out the window, I could see the palm branches swaying in the morning wind. My tears of gratitude flowed freely. And I didn't wipe them away.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I'd been warned that cooking in Indonesia would take more time. Many newly arrived people opt for take-out and restaurants for the first week, just until they get settled. But with school starting for the kids and my philosophy about food (it's all about the love), I was bound and determined to make some home-cooked meals.

First meal: Mac&Cheese.

Easy, right?

I had brought a box of good 'ol Kraft Mac&Cheese in my suitcase. The kids were hungry, CJ was crying because she was tired-we'd just gotten back from a school orientation. So I whipped out my box of Mac&Cheese. Cheers all around!

I cooked those noodles and was just about to add the mix, when I suddenly realized I had cooked the noodles in tap water, not bottled water. Here in Indonesia, you can't even eat/drink the boiled water; it's still too dangerous. I didn't dare risk it - though I confess, I considered it for a moment. So the Mac&Cheese was ruined. I dumped the inedible noodles in the garbage. And I cried just a little bit.

The kids were greatly disappointed - there may have been some tears. We had Ramen instead.

Second attempt: Taco night.

Easy, right?

It's my go-to fastest meal. In the states I can have it on the table in 10 minutes flat.

Not here.

First, I had to soak the tomatoes and lettuce in the vegetable wash and rinse them with bottled water. The lettuce had to be done leaf by leaf. (20 minutes) Next, I cooked the meat and was ready to tear open a seasoning packet...uh oh, no seasoning packet. I made up my own mix (thank goodness I had mailed my spices ahead of time). (10 minutes) Time to grate the cheese from the block of cheese I had frozen and brought in my suitcase. Uh oh, no cheese grater. My husband cut the cheese in fine pieces (10 minutes). Tortillas which I'd brought in my suitcase - check.

40 minutes later dinner was on the table. At least I didn't have to go out and butcher a cow.

Since those first two experiences I have made pumpkin muffins (actually found Libby's canned pumpkin in a grocery store!) and pancakes (topped with Lisa's delicious homemade thimbleberry jam). So I'm getting there.

But next time you fill your pot with water from the tap--or rip open a bag of shredded cheese--or rinse your vegetables with plain water, think of me. And be grateful. :-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First Impressions

We sit around a table in the Hong Kong airport and share a bowl of steaming noodles. Tman uses his chopsticks like spears, jabbing at the noodles. Leasie twists the noodles around her chopsticks the same way she twists her hair around her finger. We all agree it is the yummiest breakfast. Beyond the airport, the sun rises over of the emerald mountains.

My first view of Jakarta from the plane's window is of rows of orange-tiled roofs amidst clusters of swaying palm trees.

Red flowers on a tree. Petals the size of my hand.

A man walks in socks carrying buckets of wet cement.

Dinner is delivered by our sponsor (aka our angel). The chocolate chip cookies are still warm. I shed a few grateful tears and eat three.

Mopeds swarm the streets like insects, buzzing, passing, dodging, suicidal. I actually scream on the way from the airport to the apartment because I am sure we are going to hit one of them. (The driver does not appreciate my vocal concern).

I listen to my husband converse in Indonesian, and I am humbled by the work he has done to allow our family to come here.

Grocery store - nothing is in English. Nothing is familiar. I search through foreign looking fruits and veggies to find something as simple as carrots and apples. "Overwhelmed" doesn't even come close. (Perhaps we should have waited a couple days to brave the grocery store instead of going two hours after we'd arrived in Jakarta! You think?)

The dichotomy: Elegant fountains on one side of the road, and on the other, a canal with garbage extending five feet from its bank. Palatial apartment buildings with marble floors next to shacks pieced together with sheets of tin. A man with only one arm and one leg begs in the middle of the road during evening rush hour. He teeters on a crude, handmade crutch while collecting change. Minutes later we are walking through a mall passing high-end stores like Gucci and Prada. The dichotomy is unsettling and tugs and my heart until I want to cry. I don't know how to reconcile the polarity in my conscience.

The first night, we stand as a family at our window on the 27th floor and look at the city lights. Somewhere someone shoots off fireworks. We look down, instead of up, to see them. CJ thinks they are just for us - welcoming us here.

We are so very grateful for this experience.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Last Run

The gravel crunched under my asics. I ran by the red roofed barns and the grazing black cows. I passed the clump of black-eyed susans, with their gold petals and their fuzzy gumdrop centers. The sky held ribbons of overcast gray and the oak trees towered above me. My favorite road to run on.

To the tunes of Ingrid Michaelson on my ipod, I gave myself over to a moment of sadness. Not because I will miss this road (though I will), but because I am so grateful for the time I've been given.

I've decided that everyone should experience a significant move. Not for the boxes, sorting, cleaning, headaches, backaches, and tremendous amount of work. But because when you know you are leaving, you savor everything.

In the last two weeks, I've been given the gift of time to savor this place and especially the people here. I've savored the hugs, the farewell dinners, the affection and love that sits on the surface of every conversation and every goodbye. I have savored the stolen minutes of time with friends--reminiscing, cheering for our SYTYCD favorites, gingerbread cakes, trips to the pool, playdates for the kids, and yes, even packing into the wee hours of the night (thank you Lisa!)

And the biggest gift of all. Amelia's eyes. Healed. Perfectly. And so our extended time here has truly be a gift.

So I gave myself over to tears as I ran this morning. And for a small moment I allowed myself to wonder, how can I leave this place and these people who have been so good to me? And I wondered how these next two years will change me. Surely I'll have more wrinkles, but will I also have more gratitude, more charity, more savoring moments? I hope so.

And so, farewell road. Until next time, when my feet pound the gravel. And I again get to listen to morning crickets and breathe in the Virginia air. When I'm surrounded by hellos instead of goodbyes.

Until then, I will miss you.