Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Final December Musings

Before 2013 slips from the calendar and becomes memories captured in pictures and journal entries, there are many December happenings worth recording.
First and exceedingly important: Elise's 12th birthday! 

I brought Krispy Kreme donuts (a rare treat in Jakarta) to school at lunch time and her friends provided this very shiny birthday sign. We celebrated with her favorite foods: waffles for breakfast and Thai basil chicken for dinner.
It just happened her birthday was also a YW mutual night - Elise attended her first young women meeting with Madi.

Choir brunch.
Very few things are better than music and delicious food.
 Eating before singing (of course!) with Lyndi, Rebecca, Tasi, Cherylyn, and Julia.

Oh how I love Yuli! We cooked side by side in the kitchen many times during the holidays.

Indonesian Santa at "Hero" our local grocery store.

 A Winter Wonderland in Kemang Club Villas with the portable golden reindeer.

 The Nutcracker Suite (synchronized-swimming-style).
This will be our last Christmas Eve to enjoy 85 degree weather and a swim in the pool, so we made the most of it.

 Christmas Eve Luminaries with our neighbors Rachel and Guillo Citron.
My most heart-tugging homesick moment was lighting our luminaries and thinking of our hometown Hamilton and our winter walks to see the entire town lit up.
Perhaps my favorite Christmas Eve moment was the spontaneous caroling with our neighbors who walked down to look at the lights.
With the New Year just minutes away, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for this year. December was just the icing on the cake of an incredible year--a year filled with adventures, dear friends, travels, Indonesia, teaching, learning, and growing. 

A few weeks ago Truman asked me when I was the happiest in my life. Without any hesitation I answered, "This year." 

Farewell 2013, you've been my favorite so far.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Experiment

The eve of Christmas Eve was dismal. I spent the entire day shopping for last minute gifts (arguably lots of stuff we don't really need). I spent way too much. I felt cranky, fed-up, a bit sick to my stomach, and far from the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Eve morning I awoke before the kids and lay in bed thinking. We had planned to go to the mall for our traditional ice skating adventure, followed by an A&W restaurant lunch. But I realized I just couldn't stomach another day of malls, shopping, glitzy Christmas decorations, and basically activities that aren't very soul-satisfying.

So, inspired by this video on the Philippines, I decided to change our plans. I knew if I could just stop thinking so much about stuff, getting, and recreational fun for ME, there was a good chance I'd feel the holiday spirit. I had exactly one day to try to do some good. Obviously, I couldn't jump on a plane and head to the Philippines, but there were plenty of people in need right in my Jakarta neighborhood.

Little did I know just how much this day would change me and my family...

When I proposed the change of plans to the kids, I was humbled by their willingness and eagerness. We started with some cash (the $60 we would have spent on ice skating and lunch) and a list and headed to the neighborhood grocery store. Here's our story in pictures of what happened next:

(Yes, it's an escalator in the grocery store) 
Toys, food, and Bacari Sweat (like Gatorade).
Assembling bags. 
First delivery was to a family of four who own and live at their small shop, which is smaller than my downstairs bathroom. I buy minutes for my cell phone here every other week.
 Next stop: Ria and her grandaughter Sasha. Ria is a tailor who lives with her extended family at her shop. When Charlotte gave Sasha the gift, Sasha kissed Charlotte on the cheek.
Next we drove to the day workers - just a couple blocks from our house these men wait on the side of the road to be picked up for manual labor and taken to various construction sites every day. Notice they are barefoot. 
 Finally, the garbage pickers. They are the hardest working people I see in Jakarta. They pull their handcarts filled with trash down the busy streets.
My most heartbreaking moment: a garbage-picking mom and her young son. The young boy was sick with fever. He slept on the ground. Flies swarmed.

 Owen and I drove back to this location later that day with medicine. But the Mom and son were gone. I hope the money and food we gave them helped. 

This all happened within walking distance to my house - less than one square mile. So many people in need. While we only did something small - just handed out some food - it still felt good. 
So good, in fact, that after we were out of bags to give, my kids wanted to do more...

So my children donated their own money, we went back to the store, and repeated the entire event again.

What could have gone down as a non-memorable, self-gratifying day turned into one that changed me. I was humbled. I was touched by the meekness of the Indonesian people and their beautiful smiles. 

Somehow, on the polluted streets of Jakarta, I found the Christmas spirit. I thought of a tiny baby born in a stable. I thought of His life spent in service and sacrifice. And I went to bed Christmas Eve night not only overwhelmed for my blessings, but also praying for all the people I had come in contact with that day.

Best Christmas Eve ever.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Jakarta Christmas Performance!

I got to sing on a stage...in Jakarta! 

Rebecca, Lyndi, Tasi, and I represented our church in an annual Christmas concert. Yes, we had matching sparkly shirts (fabulous!) We sang "Christmas in 3 Minutes" - a medley of Christmas songs.

After our song, our children joined us on stage for "Little Drummer Boy." It felt very Von-Trappish (although minus husbands). 
The building we were in was a bit dilapidated. When the kids explored during the dress rehearsal they went to the fourth floor where cat feces was scattered all over. A man, who appeared to be living there, asked them if they wanted to see the roof. And they said yes! (Stranger-danger seemed to have escaped their brains.) Luckily, the man was very nice, and did indeed show them the roof. He also stopped them from trying the elevator which was broken, thus saving them from plummeting to their death. 

Here are the girls when they weren't "exploring."  

My wonderful singing friends! There are very few things I enjoy more than singing with people I love! 

Charlotte and her friend Clara waiting for the show to begin.

We knew the night was truly Indonesian style when the emcees jumped up on stage and yelled "Salamat Natal" (Merry Christmas!) so loud we had to cover our ears. Behind them the huge screen projected all the acts. Oh yeah, it was a BIG deal. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bah Humbug!

Madi acted in the Middle School production of "Bah Humbug!" 

With the Indonesia-access to incredible seamstresses and carpenters, the costumes and sets were amazing.

 Miriam, Madi, and Dewi
 "Oh so sad that Scrooge died...NOT!"
 Generous Scrooge!
What a delightful cast. Oh how nice it was to see Madi on the stage! We have missed our Pickwick adventures. Also, Christmas activities/cultural events in Jakarta are scarce. No Nutcracker or Hallelujah Chorus here. So it was wonderful to come and hear the Christmas songs and feel the Christmas spirit...even if it was before Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Over the Pot Holes and Through the Mud

"Over the pot holes and through the mud" (sung to "Over the River and Through the Wood)

A Jakarta Adventure

Saturday was one of those busy, over-scheduled days. Church-cleaning, birthday party, soccer tournament, cub scouts, and primary activity. And those were just the "scheduled" events. There was also the Christmas baking to be done, cards to be signed, envelopes to be addressed (don't die of shock - but YES I'm sending Christmas cards this year!!), and normal daily-living responsibilities. 

On days like this, Owen and I have to divide and conquer. We ran together at 6:30AM, then he left at 8AM. I didn't see him again until 9PM. 

One of my responsibilities during the day was to get Amelia to the American Club by 4:30PM so she could catch a ride to the primary activity. Owen had the car at the soccer tournament. It was raining, so I couldn't call a taxi (they are VERY hard to get when it's raining). So I had the grand idea of walking. It is, afterall, only about one mile from our house.

Elise, Charlotte, Amelia and I braved the rain. I made the decision mistake to wear flip flops because I didn't want to ruin any good shoes in the muck. Poor thinking. Sure, I didn't ruin in shoes. But the yuck factor of slogging through mud, grime, and puddles (with all kinds of horrors) reached epic proportions. 

We took the underground walkway from Lippo Mall to Antesari St. Elise got a fume-induced headache in the non-ventilated tunnels. When we emerged, we had to cross the crazy busy street. I nearly slipped on the slimy sidewalks. I actually had a conversation with Elise about "what to do if one of us is hit by a car or motorcycle."

On the return trip, Elise stepped in a puddle that splashed mud (and probably poo) up the front of her shin. She became slightly hysterical (vacillating between laughing and crying), especially when we saw the dead rat sitting in a nearby puddle. It was all a bit too much. Charlotte thought the moment was entirely hilarious. I will never forget the three of us laughing (Elise half-laughing, half-crying) in the rain, jumping in our flip flops, trying to avoid the puddle-pot-holes.

We rewarded ourselves with a rare Baskin Robins ice cream cone ($4 each!) and a triple-scrub down/sterilization of our feet in the bathtub.

Oh the joys of Jakarta! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Some Things I Learned from This Year's Primary Nativity

Last night we gathered in the Bill's home at the American Club for our church's annual Christmas party. The warm balmy air stirred the palm trees. The buzz of the motorcycles was drowned out by Tom Bill's piano playing. And the fact that the only snow to be seen was the fake snowflakes hanging above the door, didn't hinder the Christmas Spirit.

Can I just say? Mormons really know how to present a wonderful meal for a huge crowd. Moist turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes, salads, homemade rolls...and delicious cookies and bars. I will not confess how many treats I tried, but I will say the soft ginger cookies and the Hello-Dolly bars were my favorites. (I'm starting to taste sweet again--and it is truly delightful!)

I sat by Dawn, Cherylyn, and Julia at dinner...we talked about food, holiday plans, and furniture shopping. And somewhere between a bite of mashed potatoes and thinking about going back for seconds, I was struck with how much I love these ladies. So instead of going back for seconds, I just sat back in my folding chair and listened to them. Knowing this is my last Christmas celebration with them made the moment particularly bittersweet.

And then there was the program, organized by the primary (Oh the joy of getting to sit back and just enjoy - now that I'm no longer serving in primary!!) Some favorite moments:

1. Bishop Woodland as the Ghost of Christmas Future - full on Grim Reaper costume saying "Beware!"
2. Tom Bill's energetic rendition of "Feliz Navidad"
3. The Prendergast family's mini-people dance (I laughed until tears streamed down my face!)
4. Joining the women for an anklung choir of "The Chipmunk Song."
5. The girls and I singing Jakarta Style Christmas Carols: "I'm Dreaming of No Traffic" (to the tune of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas").
6. The youth presenting a hilarious version of the 12 Days of Christmas
7. And of course...the Nativity.

The Nativity this year was full of the normal humorous antics: Mary practically juggled the baby Jesus in her enthusiastic rocking. The Shepherds exhibited true fear when the angels arrived and they had to be told to "stop being fearful" by the narrator (Elise). And the "live" sheep played by Madi Whitaker looked more like a white executioner in her ghost sheep costume.

But there were some tender learning moments for me too...
After MUCH practice (reciting in various locations like in the car, at meal times, and during family scripture study), Amelia delivered her well-rehearsed Angel Lines. As she said those beautiful words "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord..." I wondered...had the angel who greeted the shepherds that night long ago practiced the wonderful declaration too? For such an eternally important event...I suspect the answer is yes.

I learned something from the Wisemen too. While the congregation sang "We Three Kings of Orient Are" the Wisemen (led by Truman) circled the living room - enacting their long journey. On their second lap around the room, they realized the song was ending soon, so they picked up their speed. By the end, they practically ran, nearly tripping over their long robes in their hurry, to get back to the Manger. How fitting. And I wondered, do I show the same amount of eagerness to find and follow Christ in my life?

Charlotte did not pillage the Wisemen gifts this year. Instead, she sang her angel songs with joy and with a huge smile on her face. She kept trying to catch my eye - as though she wanted to make sure I was seeing her effort.

I smiled back. And my smile said: Yes, I see you sweet girl! Yes, I feel so joyful too!

But perhaps one of my favorite moments was after the program, in one of the Bill's bedrooms/converted to a dressing room for the Nativity. I found myself gathering and folding the robes, scarves, and sashes with my friends, Lyndi, KA, and Tasi. I've loved celebrating Christmas with these awesome ladies. How I will miss them next year. My Jakarta family.

We walked out into the tropical night, said "Selamat Malam" to the embassy guards, picked our way back over the broken sidewalks to our car, and I realized there was no place I'd rather be.

Merry Christmas from Jakarta!!