Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My morning drive

I got stuck in traffic on the way to meet some ladies from my church for a primary presidency meeting. While we were chugging along at a snail's pace, I snapped a few pictures out my car window.

Bench for guard and driver.

Corner grocery store.

Fresh vegetables. Love the rainbow umbrella.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Our smallish friendly gathering for Thanksgiving turned into a dinner for 30 as my husband and our embassy friends learned of co-workers who had no place to go. And Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is just one of those holidays that should not be celebrated solo. So we kept saying yes and filled up our house to the brim with pies, turkeys, sides galore, an extra dining room table, 10 additional chairs, and people, people, people.

Align CenterAnd so on this Thanksgiving, here's what I want to remember:
Pulling those 12 pound, $40 turkeys out of the oven and making sure not a morsel was wasted!
The mountain of Vanessa's rolls on my kitchen counter...
enough that everyone could have four if they wanted.
Trying delicious mangis fruit brought by an Indonesian family.
Having thirds of carrot souffle that turned out wonderfully
thanks to Megan's yummy recipe and an emergency call
to Karen in Virginia for tips.
Checking on the kids upstairs and finding them belly laughing together.
Cutting and serving pies (it was like handing out plates of love).
Finding my sweet husband and CJ taking a much deserved nap.

Standing side by side at the kitchen sink with Yuli doing dishes until late in the night. In just two months she has become an invaluable presence in our home, and also my friend.
The march of the dining room table and chairs at 10pm
from one end of the cal-de-sac to the other,
while the distant lightening turned the sky into a strobe-light.

It wasn't a cozy, relaxing Thanksgiving. There was no Macy's day parade to watch or cold weather to bundle up for.
But that's just fine.
It was a day filled with food, family, friends new and old, and
...that is what makes life worth celebrating.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


JIS soccer field, right before the rain storm.

I stand in the empty classroom, the students having just left.
Outside the rain comes down in steady sheets. Puddles grow before my eyes. The sound on the tin-roofed, covered walkways is thunderous.

Looking at the walkways, I remember when we first walked this campus at Madi's orientation in August. And I remember thinking "How nice that this campus has provided shade for the students as they walk from building to building."

Now looking at the pelting rain, I realize. The cover was less for shade and more for protection from the rain. There are, after all, plenty of shade trees on the campus.

I have just completed my first stint as a substitute teacher in middle school. Middle School. Now there's a place I NEVER thought I'd teach. In fact, just last year I warned my sister vehemently about taking a job in a middle school...because it is just so scary. And yet, here I am. And it isn't as intimidating as I once thought it would be. It helps, of course, that I have my very own middle school daughter, who isn't scary at all.

But it's gotten me thinking about perspective. About how experiences broaden my vision. How my perspective is not only malleable, but down right changeable.

After all, years ago, if you asked me what I thought about Jakarta Indonesia. I would have said it's a third world country somewhere in Asia.

And it is those things.
But it is also a place with warm summer-like days almost all year long.
A place with a churning sky.
A place with people who are quick to smile and just as quick to nap.
A place where the wind whispers through the palm trees.
Where fruit is fresh, abundant, and oh so sweet.
A place where I would teach middle school for the first time.
A place that for now, is home.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Morning Drive
We drive to church past the traditional Indonesian market.
A black cloud of flies hovers above the butcher block.
A live chicken struts and pecks at the ground under her hanging sisters,
pink, plucked and ready for sale.
Goats in bamboo pens bleat.
There is a truck with mangoes stacked higher than the cab
I wonder if they will spill over the side and roll down the street like marbles.
A woman wearing bright red flip flops
carries a plastic bag of newly purchased onions, garlic, and greens.

Primary Program
Four of my children are on the stand at church.
Tman looks at the congregation and speaks clearly - a huge accomplishment for him!
He peeks over the piano at me when he sits down,
I give him a thumbs up.
Meya recites most of her talk from memory.
I am not surprised - she's just that kind of girl.
Leasie talks about Jesus. And when she says she has felt His love, I know it's true.
It is Madi's eighth primary program,
and her last.
She sits with the other eleven-year-olds and narrates the program.
I look for traces of childhood still lingering on her face.
But she is more youth than child now.
She bears her testimony and teaches me.
Tears - happy tears because of the girl she has become,
and sad tears because of time's ferocious speed.

Afternoon Storm
CJ and I snuggle in my bed for an afternoon nap.
Her bare toes wiggle, tickling my knees.
We wake to darkened windows and the rumble of thunder.
I wander downstairs to find the children laughing and snuggling with Dad.
We play board games to the accompaniment of pattering rain.
Tman has a glorious win.
Leasie and I work in the kitchen together.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
We blow the fuse five times trying to use the electric griddle.
We opt for the stove top.
Warm gingerbread with whipped cream.

We stay together as the stormy evening blurs into night.
Our laughter drowns out the sound of the rain.

I have lived many Sundays.
This one...
this one was one of my favorites.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Two weeks ago I drove home from a soccer game. Yes, I drove! In the traffic! There were screams from all passengers - mine being the loudest. And there was a collision between me and a moped carrying a huge ice block. The moped and ice block disappeared up the street before my shock even registered into an audible swear word. Our car sustained minor damage to the headlight.

After the experience, I decided it was time I became a legal, licensed driver here. Just in case.

Thus, my trip to the Indonesian DMV:

I boarded the bus at the embassy early in the morning with other eager license-seekers. The ride to the Indonesian DMV was long. I stole glances at my book while we were at a dead stop. Then watched the city roll by as we trundled along. The muddy river clogged with trash. A crane lifting trash from the water. Street after street of tin houses with laundry strung from windows.

An hour later, the bus pulled a Uturn and entered a barbed wire area. From my window I saw drainage ditches as big as baseball diamonds lined with bamboo. They conjured images of castle motes, with spears jutting out.

We unloaded into the bright sun. To say we stuck out is an understatement. All eyes were on us as we walked to the first building. Rows and rows of blue folding chairs filled a warehouse-sized room. Our Indonesian "helper" collected the first amount of money from each of us.

Now, I'm not sure how much of that money was for a bribe or the actual cost, but we circumvented the long wait and were filed into a small room for an eye exam.

Easiest eye exam ever. Three letters. The same three letters the person just before me had to repeat. Hmmmm. Could explain a lot about the traffic problems in Jakarta...I'm just sayin'.

More money. (Bribe?) And a little waiting while paper work was filled out.

More money. (Pocketed?) And a long wait.

Finally our Indonesian helper announced that the computer system was down. We have to come back tomorrow.

Really? Another 2 hour ride home. Another 2 hour ride back to the DMV tomorrow?

Me: Not a happy camper.

But bright and early the next morning, I boarded the bus again. This time the computers were working.

Here's the room where we got our picture taken. I liked the fake flowers - added a nice touch, softened the room a bit, don't you think?

And here's the result of 10 hours of riding, bribing, and waiting...

Watch out Jakarta (i.e., ice-carrying mopeds), I'm driving!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Indonesian Halloween

I think what I love about Halloween is, at least for me, it involves an entire month of preparation. (Unlike Thanksgiving, for example, where really the prep is 48 hours max.)

This year, Halloween required an extraordinary amount of forethought. It began back in August when the movers had packed up my Halloween decorations and after tears and a good 'ol temper tantrum (actually a whopper of a tantrum), I had them dig out the orange Rubbermaid boxes, unpack them, and send my gravestones and garlands with our early shipment. I know those Spanish speaking movers went home to their families with stories of a loco lady who cried over fabric ghosts - but it was worth it!

On October 1st, Tman enlisted the help of our driver, Abidin, to hang up the ghosts on our front porch. Together, they strung the rope-web between our house and tree and carefully mounted the big, hairy, black spider.

Then of course, there were the costumes. Decisions. Decisions. We've always done family-themed costumes every other year. And this year was a theme year. I figured, this might be the last year I can convince my family to do a theme, so I wanted to make the most of it. And oh it was fun to visit a tailor and get custom-made costumes.

Alice in Wonderland ("We're all a little mad here") seemed the perfect theme for our first Indonesian Halloween. Not pictured: my husband who was an Ace of Spades soldier for all of fifteen fun minutes.

The kids enacted their favorite scenes from both the Disney and Tim Burton movies in our back yard. Meya's "Off with her head!" was by far the most authentic.

I had this plan to have a "small" dinner with friends before trick-or-treating on Halloween night. And as with most holiday plans, it grew and grew until we had a full-on PARTY. No less than 30 kids and 14 adults came. Yuli and I worked in the kitchen side by side for 3 hours getting all the food ready. I served Karen's award winning white chili, mummy hotdogs, bat cupcakes, fresh papaya and dragon fruit, and homemade pumpkin doughnuts. Friends brought witches brew, pumpkin soup, more chili, and lots of treats.

With full tummies, we poured out of our house into the dark night. The streets were damp from an afternoon thunderstorm. Peels of laughter could be heard as children approached the more "scarily" decorated houses. There was no traffic in our gated neighborhood, so the children walked from house to house and crossed streets, with no worries. It was a strange sight, strange in its familiarity.

Only the air did not feel Halloweeny - it was humid and warm, more like a summer night. But everything else felt just right. Children. Costumes. Smiling neighbors. Cobwebs spread over bushes and trees.

And of course plenty of candy.

It is a strange holiday to get emotional about. But there they were...a few stray tears just as we walked back to our house and ducked under the ghosts on the front porch. Perhaps it was the result of familiarity lapsing into a bit of homesickness. Perhaps it was gratitude for friends and traditions here on the other side of the world.

Most likely, it was both.