Friday, March 30, 2012

Water and Fire

Our hotel was a tropical lagoon complete with an island, palm trees, and bridges.

First day on the beach. I could not believe the CLEAR blue sky. After almost eight months in Jakarta, I just lay there on my ratan beach chair and breathed in the delicious air. Here's Leasie watching the kite.

The turquoise ocean was as warm as bath water.
Day two at the beach, Madi and Dad went boogie boarding. They had to swim out quite a long way to catch the breaking waves.

We traveled down to Uluwatu (literal translation is land's end rock) in the late afternoon to explore the Hindu temple and watch the sunset Balinese dance. I stood at the stone railing and watched as the surf broke against the majestic cliffs.

Perched at the tip of the cliff is the Ulawatu temple.

We watched as the sky went from calm... a blaze of color so dramatic that it took my breath away.

A perfect backdrop for the fire-dance at sunset.

Water and fire. In Bali, we experienced the best of both.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Besides the deliciously sweet air, the first thing I notice about Bali are all the shrines. Some are ornately carved stone with intricate faces as tall as houses, while some are as simple as a smooth rock pillar no bigger than a tree stump. But all are adorned with a sarong and sash. They are everywhere I look: the airport, street corners, in front of shops, at the beach, and of course, at the temples.

Then there are the offerings. Small, palm-sized containers with offerings for the Gods. They hold rice, flower petals, fruit, even wrapped mentos candy. They are presented with incense. And the air is filled with the scent of burning that perfumes the salty air.

We enter the ancient temples of Pura Puseh and Pura Dasar in the village of Batuan. The temple workers help us tie on our sarongs and sashes. We walk past the weathered stone, the moss, the lichen, the dust, the blackened carvings, the ghoulish faces, the gilded chairs, and the thatched roof pagodas. And there is a tangible peace here. As though the ancientness of the place, with over a thousand years of worshipers coming and going has now become part of the earth itself.

A temple worker, an old woman, whose gaunt face, tender smile, and calm way seems as much a part of these ancient shrines as the carvings. She beckons me to sit by her. She gives me a palm leaf offering to hold.

Since arriving in Bali, I have watched different people present these offerings at all times of the day. A waitress with her apron still on, stacks her offering on the sidewalk just outside the restaurant. A cab driver puts his offering on the hood of his car in the early morning hours. The man who rakes the sand at the beach, places his offering near the lapping waves.

And I wonder, what do I have to offer?

The answer comes simple.

Gratitude. And so there amongst the towering shrines, in the bright sun that has seen it all, I offer a silent thankful prayer. For all that I have seen, for all that I have felt, and for the joy of simply being.

The beauty of Bali surrounds me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dare to Dream

Ten years ago, I worked as an editor for a computer software training company. Future Enterprises, Inc. I dressed up with high heels every day, rode the metro into DC, and spent my days editing computer software instruction manuals. (Exciting place to be, but tortuously boring work).

The first year I was there, the top salesmen of the company earned an incredible award: a trip to Bali. The owners, a husband and wife, took a couple salesmen and their spouses to this tropical paradise. Since I was a recent college grad (aka poor), and the most junior member of the staff (aka poorest), Bali wasn't even part of my vocabulary. I remember thinking of it as an exotic place and as the farthest possible location away from me - both physically and metaphorically. Frankly, Bali wasn't even on my radar. It was someone else's award.

In less than forty-eight hours, my family is going to board a plane and fly to Bali.

I've been trying to wrap my mind around this fact and figure out how I feel about it. I am, of course, excited. But it's more than that. I certainly don't feel like I deserve this trip or that somehow I'm entitled to it in any way. I just feel incredibly blessed. And absolutely humbled by the opportunity.

Some dreams I never even dared to dream. Traveling to one of them.

But perhaps those unspoken dreams, the ones we don't even allow ourselves to hope for, are the ones most worth celebrating.

So here's to a few days of blue sky and ocean breezes.
To temples amidst terraced rice fields.
And to discovering a place that was, until now, only a unspoken dream.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Our passports were lost this week.

I couldn't find them. The most important documents we have here. Missing.

I had a distinct memory of putting them someplace safe. Hidden. But obviously, I hid them much too well.

The first night, my husband and I stayed up late, searching everywhere in the house. Every place I could think of. The next morning, I continued the search. This time more thorough. Every cupboard, every closet. I emptied drawers, I opened boxes, I went through the entire filing cabinet, file by file.


By noon I was sick. My head hurt and my stomach churned.

I started calculating the cost of replacements. I entertained the idea that perhaps they had been stolen...but I couldn't fathom how or by whom. My husband made inquiries at work if it was possible for our family to travel to Bali without them.

Nausea. I can only compare the sickening feeling to when I misplaced my wedding ring during the first year of our marriage. That was horrible.

At three o'clock in the afternoon, after nine hours of searching, Yuli and I were in the office. Yuli was helping me search by going through some boxes in the corner. I had just started searching a portable filing box, when Yuli screamed. She pulled out the ziplock bag with the passports.

I screamed. I jumped up and down. I hugged Yuli. And the relief was instant.

Where had I stashed those passports?

In a small pink Rubbermaid container filled with "Annie" scripts! (What was I thinking!???)

I moved the passports to a new spot. A spot that is still safe, but a bit more logical. I have also taken precautions and let everyone in the family know where they are. So you can bet, I will never, never lose them again.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Little Luck

I don't actually buy-in to the idea of "luck." I do believe in fate, blessings, and a lot of help from friends.

One difficulty of living overseas is finding things. I've lamented before, and I'll lament again, about missing Target - the one stop shop of all that is fabulous. Oh Target, how I miss you!

With St. Patrick's day (and a reason to turn an otherwise normal day into something really fun and memorable), I didn't get a good enough head-start to take advantage of online shopping. Which meant that I had to find everything here.

Easier said than done. Add in some traffic. And the task of locating the simplest items becomes a three hour car trip with no guarantee that what I'm looking for, will actually be at the store when I get there. As was the case yesterday when I went to the store, Grand Lucky (the irony of the store's name did not escape me) in search of Lucky Charms. Valiantly fought traffic. And no Lucky Charms.

But thanks to some great ideas from rainbow fruit kabobs (fresh fruit is one thing that Jakarta has plenty of). A friend who tracked down corned beef in Jakarta so we could have corned beef and cabbage. My husband's success at finding Lucky Charms for less than $10 a box. And a sister who had the foresight to send me some chocolate gold coins in a care package (thanks Jen!). And of course a lot of fun with green food coloring, we will carry on our family traditions.

Tonight in Jakarta, our family will munch on Lucky Charms and watch "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" while dragon flies the size of small birds buzz outside our windows and the palm trees rustle in the evening breeze.

Luck? Nope. Just lots of blessings.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Counting Petals

(This is for you, Grandma, because you counseled me to write these kind of things down.)

Counting Petals

Today Charlotte and I sat by the pool (I know, I'm cringing as I write that, because I know for most people, it is not pool weather yet). But, there we were, by the pool. Charlotte found a yellow flower with petals and told me, "This is a love flower." Interested to see what possible "loves" or "crushes" my 3 year old might have, I scooted closer.

She tugged a petal off the flower and said, "I love Mommy." Another petal, "love Daddy." Another. "Love TUman" and so on, all through the family. When she got to the end of her list but still had petals to go, she added, "love family" and repeated it until all the petals were gone.

There's plenty of time for crushes. Family love is the best!

Sleeping Beauty
Charlotte and I were playing sleeping beauty in the pool (again, sorry) which is really just a fancy way I've been getting her to practice floating on her back. I hold my hand under her back and she tries to relax, letting her head and legs dangle in the water.

As she was floating, she said with eyes closed, "I'm Sleeping Beauty."
I asked, "Who is going to save you?"
She opened her eyes to think about this. Then replied, "The prophet."

Made me laugh right out loud. Yay for church and primary lessons on the prophet!

Me: "Who wants to help make cookies?"
Meya: "Me!"
T-man: "Me too!"
CJ: "Me three!"
Madi, hearing the other comments piped in, "Me three!"

CJ, stopped mid-run, and turned to face Madi. "You not three! I'm three!"

Ah CJ. She may drive me absolutely crazy sometimes (like when we're in the car and she decides to cry her horribly loud, head-ache inducing cry and I can't put her in time out, because we're IN THE CAR), but she sure keeps me laughing.

And the truth is, I wouldn't trade my time with her for anything.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I no longer flinch when I see a woman begging. Her bone-thin hand outstretched, fabric across her shoulder making a homemade sling for her sleeping child. Her child's hair matted wet from sweating in the midday heat. The woman who walks on all fours, like a gorilla, her back twisted and useless, forever bent forward. The children who play barefoot in the streets and wade in the gutter water. I look at them and feel sad, but the rawness of the sight is gone. The tears that once stung my eyes during our first months here, are dry.

They are part of the infrastructure, part of the scenery, part of Indonesia. Like the high cement, fortress-like walls that separate homes, covered in graffiti only as tall as someone can reach. Like the rusted barbed wire that coils along the fence tops. The poverty is here. I see it everyday. But I no longer flinch.

And that makes me so sad.Why does this happen? It is as though my soul has become callous through the repetitious sight.

I remember the year I was first married, my husband and I had no money to pay for cable television. And we rarely had time to watch what few channels we could get with our rabbit ear antenna. The result was almost a year with no tv. When we finally invested in a better television and started watching programs again, we were shocked by what we saw. A year of not seeing made the sights fresh again – and in this case shocking. Words, violence, vulgarity, innuendos, outright immorality. We actually turned off shows before they were finished. Then slowly after a few months of watching, keeping the tv on a little longer each time, the shock wore off, and those things that had shocked us, became commonplace again.

Here, daily poverty is commonplace. And because it is commonplace, it has become less shocking. And while the poverty here is heartbreaking, the fact that my shock at the poverty has lessened, hurts my heart terribly.

So to the woman with her child, to the woman who travels the streets of Jakarta like a gorilla, and to the barefoot children. I will try to keep seeing you. I will not look away. I will open my heart to you and remember you. I will roll down my window when you approach. And although my heart does not prick with the sharp pain the way it did the first time I saw you, I will give each time you ask.

And because I believe we are more alike than we are different,

I will always,


look you in the eye.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


In our church we have a program called Home Teaching. And it's exactly what it sounds like. Every family is assigned a set of home teachers. These home teachers visit their families on a monthly basis. They share a spiritual message, do service, and are there to support the families of the congregation.

Here in Jakarta, the home teachers assigned to our family live in Sumatra. Sumatra is a small island - a completely separate island from the island of Java where we live.

Today we had our first home teaching visit via skype.

I was amazed at the technology. A true miracle that we can converse with people and see them! so far away. (Can you tell skype is new to our family?).

When it came time to end, our home teacher offered a prayer. My children, my husband, and I bowed our heads and closed our eyes. And there on the island of Sumatra, our home teacher did the same. He spoke a beautiful prayer, blessing our family...a family he has only seen through the computer monitor and has only talked to over skype. And yet, I felt his love and the love of a Heavenly Father who answers our prayers and watches over us.

Another first in Jakarta.