Saturday, December 31, 2011

Grandma and Poppy

They came. My parents. They came to the other side of the world. And when I saw them in the airport, I cried, because I was so happy.

We show them Jakarta. We ride elephants. We brave the tropical heat.

We show them Puncak where the mountain sides are carpeted with emerald tea bushes, where the clouds play tag across the blue sky, and where gardens bloom.
We play croquet on the Merisole lawn. We hike the volcano to the triple waterfalls. We drive past the terraced rice fields that lay before us like a green quilt. Tufts of rice plants in perfect rows.
We watch the sunset from the Hilltop restaurant.

I remember my grandparents following my family all over the United States. From Alabama to Alaska.

And like them, my parents followed us.

We've shown them Jakarta. But nothing can compare to the love they've shown us by coming to the other side of the world.
My heart is full.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Good Tidings

Today, we went to visit Lestari, an orphanage here in Indonesia. We came with presents, food, and baby supplies. I couldn't think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve morning.

I was prepared to be saddened, and perhaps a bit shaken, by the experience. But it was quite the opposite.

There are no sad faces here.

The children here are loved, kissed, and well taken care of.
They have sad stories. Sad histories. Like this fellow, who only had a father. The father had to work every day. So the boy was left by himself (age 3!) for 8-10 hours a day. His father would leave him money by his bedside to buy food. He recently came to Lestari. And he is now healthy and loved.
This is Roby. He is 1 year old today.
The woman who runs the orphanage, Ingrid, has a PhD in Social Sciences. She moved here because she wanted to make a difference. The orphanage motto is: "Always a shelter, always a home."

I left here, not feeling sad at all. I felt uplifted. There is good in the world. I saw it today. There are good people, like Ingrid, doing incredibly good things. There is beauty. There is joy. There is peace.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Leasie Turns 10

You came this way.
Sweet from the beginning.
A nurturer even when you were two.

A tender heart.
A sunny heart.
A heart that smiles.

A lover of music, dancing, and singing.

A girl who is brave and soft at the same time.
A girl who often shows me the way.

You are an angel on earth,
and I am so blessed to be your mother.

Happy Birthday.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Extra Package

I have seen many disabled people here, many with terrible deformities. There is the street of the blind, where the blind people stand every few meters, ringing bells. There is the one legged man who walks using his able leg and two arms, bent, head down, gorilla-like. There is the woman who holds her child in a sling, pacing through the traffic in the hot midday sun.

But nothing prepared me for this.

My girls and I emerge from the shops at Myestik, each holding a bag of fabric for new dresses. I watch as a mother spreads a blanket on the cracked concrete between the line of parked cars and the gravel road. She sits down, and then I see her daughter.

I consider shielding my own daughters from this sight, steering them in a different direction. But Meya squeezes my hand, and I know she has seen.

The child on the blanket turns her head to look at us. Where a mouth and nose should be, there is only a gaping black hole. Three teeth poke out at odd angles between her eyes. She cannot close her mouth, because the hole is too large.

She turns away from us, and I see that the cleft palate is not her only burden.

Bulbous growths protrude from the side of her head and back. Large and pink, the size of grapefruits.

She snuggles into her mother, her face against her mother's chest. Just the way my own children do when they feel shy.

I cannot open my wallet fast enough. But I stare at the bills. I feel sick. What can I give that could possibly express how sorry I am? What can I give that will provide any relief? I take out the most I have ever given and offer it to the mother.

She accepts with gratitude, but I am haunted. It is not enough. I'm not sure anything would be enough.

As we drive away, I clutch at my own children, pulling them to me. I hold their perfect hands and lean against their perfect heads. My gratitude has no words. But guilt is mingled with it. Guilt at too often, too little gratitude for all I have been blessed with.

There is a sadness. I carry it with me like a package throughout the day. It fills my hands and hurts my heart. But unlike the plastic bags from Myestik, this sadness, I cannot put down.

Sometimes Jakarta breaks my heart.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Brown Paper Packages

Oh the love!
Brown paper packages...

Charlotte's face pretty much sums up my feelings.

Presents with the Amazon insignia. Love boxed and shipped from the other side of the world. Karen - the care-package extraordinaire! Christmas arriving by mail.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Giving Back

I stand on the balcony of the JIS module. I'm just a substitute today, so I look on as an observer, not a full-fledged participant. But I'm happy to be here, to watch what Madi does every Friday.

The students gather at the Bali stage for the morning assembly. The air is warm but not oppressive. The trees spread out above us in a giant canopy. There is a buzz of excitement as students pile their backpacks on the grass and find friends to sit next to.

A teacher takes the stage. He describes another school in Jakarta. This one is an all Indonesian speaking school. This one has no Bali stage, no shade trees, no massive funding. And we soon find out - no library. "There are 150 students," he tells us. "And only 50 books...all in English. No Indonesian fiction books in the entire school." He goes on to challenge the JIS student body to help with a book drive.

And I am moved. Moved by the problem. Moved by the blessings I take for a library filled with books for my children to read. Moved by a student body who claps their hands and pledges their help.

And I pledge too.

That night, we gather as a family and make a decision. On Monday, we will go to an Indonesian bookstore. Each of us will pick out a contribution.

Madi wants to find The Lightening Thief in Indonesian. Elise wants to find a counting board book for 1st graders. The twins will look for mysteries or Junie B. Jones. Me? I think I will look for Harry Potter...because we all deserve a little magic.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Train in Jakarta

The motorcycle ride to the concert was usurped by threatening rain clouds and a flat tire (although Elise is convinced it was an answer to her prayers - she was extremely worried about her parents riding on a motorcycle).

There was no taxi to be found. They all seemed to be out of service for dinner. So we walked down the street until we found a sympathetic (non-dining) taxi driver.

Traffic was traffic. But we arrived at the venue just in time to eat a delicious dinner at a restaurant called "Grass Fed Cows."

I expected a crowd of expats. But we were definitely the minority. We stood head and shoulders above most of the crowd. Though I was stuck behind the one Indonesian with a three inch mohawk.
My only complaint was that it was soooo hot. Hot as in sweaty sweaty sweaty. I literally could have wrung out my clothes by the end.

My favorite moments:

Getting filmed for a local Indonesian morning talk show with Cherylyn, and the camera man saying "No good. Do over. This time with more emotion!"

Tanner announcing "sweat is dripping down my ankles."

Hey Soul Sister, Drops of Jupiter, Meet Virginia, Calling All Angels

Watching Patrick Monahan almost get mobbed by screaming Indonesian girls.

Holding hands with my husband while we listened to "Marry Me."

Finding and purchasing Train t-shirts that say "Train, Live in Jakarta"!!

And then there was the strange moment when I realized the people around me all knew the lyrics better than I did. And I was amazed how American pop culture has reached the far corners of even this wonderful third world country.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Indoor Snowstorm

Wednesday night. The kids watched Nickelodeon in the sunroom while I perused the internet. The night was turning out to be a forgettable one. Then I read a post by Shelley, one of my favorite bloggers and friends, and it changed the course of our evening. You can read her inspiring story here.

I shut my laptop, turned off the TV, and announced, "It's snowflake time."

We pulled out our box of scissors and a stack of pristine white copy paper. I demonstrated the folding process, and soon creations were underway.
Madi experimented with tiny snowflakes. Her masterpiece was one the size of a dime.
Soon the table and floor filled with tiny paper shards and scraps.
Meya remarked that the scraps of paper scattered across the table and floor looked suspiciously like snow.

I thought of my friend Shelley, again. And made a rare spontaneous (and even rarer messy) decision.

We scooped up the scraps in our hands and moved to the open space by our front door. On the count of three we threw the paper in the air. I looked up, and for a moment, it did look like snow, fluttering down. The scraps got caught in our hair and on our shirts. We piled them up a second time and made it snow again.

Outside the mosquitoes hummed in the warm night. The call to prayer from the nearby mosque mingled with our "Cherish the Ladies" Christmas album. And thanks to a brave friend, who is helping me be a better mom, we had our very own snowstorm.