Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Little Blessings

Just had to give a quick shout out to God for the little blessings He gives just at the perfect time.

I headed out to the grocery stores today feeling pretty deflated-not excited about enduring another shopping trip full of stares, people yelling out to me, confusion about money (on my part, I can't seem to get that everything is in quantities of thousands, it gets frustrating), and looking for items that are usually not to be found.  I am planning to make a roast chicken dinner on Christmas day with mashed potatoes and stuffing.  I need celery for the stuffing, but that is an item that is hardly ever available.  I wrote it on my list with little hope of locating it...but as I walked to the back of the fruit and vegetable store, low and behold, there it was, lovely fresh celery!  A smile spread across my face as I gladly picked the bundle of celery stalks up and put it in my basket.  I couldn't help reflecting that my life sure has changed from this time last year, when I am filled with joy at finding celery at the grocery store!

I moved on to the next store looking for a difficult-to-find gem, American barbecue sauce.  I've looked for this item for weeks without any luck, but there it was, sitting on the shelf smiling at me!  Hooray!  I got one of the last bottles available.

Lastly, and most unexpected, they were selling bags of tiny clementine oranges at the fruit market.  Every year that I can remember my mom would buy clementines at Christmas and put one in the toe of my stocking and my brother's stocking.  I never thought I would find clementines here in Tarakan-I wasn't even going to bother to look.  As I stood in the hot, dusty market I held the mesh bag of clementines up to my face and I could smell the fresh, citrus scent.  I knew this was a special gift for me, a gift of familiarity, of home.

I headed home from shopping, certainly not all better or totally happy (I almost got hit by a huge sand truck, which didn't improve my attitude about living here-although I guess I can count it a BIG blessing that I wasn't hit!), but knowing that in the midst of the frustrations and exhaustion of life so far from home, the Lord gives me small blessings to help me through.

Keep your eyes open for all the little blessings-they are surely there in the midst of whatever circumstances you are facing.

My Darling Clementines

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

Everywhere you go (well, not really, but there are little signs here and there)

There’s a tree in the grand hotel...



The nicest hotel in Tarakan, the Swiss-Bel Hotel, has this lovely, tall and very cone-shaped Christmas tree in their lobby.  It’s made out of some sort of wire with garland wrapped around it.

One in the park as well…



Okay, not exactly the park, but at a Tarakan hot spot, KFC!  This unique pohong Natal (Indonesian for Christmas Tree) is made of drinking straws with delightful paper ornaments.  I certainly wouldn’t characterize it as “The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow”, but it seems to hold up fairly well in the wilds of KFC.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…



Another interesting tree-I think it’s made of sticks glued together.  Of course it has the required shiny tinsel and flashing Christmas lights, although I don’t think the lights were turned on yet when I took this picture.

Soon the bells will start...

Well, we don’t hear too many bells here, but lots of calls to prayer over the loud speakers from the Mosques in town, not that their daily prayers have anything to do with Christmas.  We also hear lots of karaoke, belted out loud and proud, from the nearby restaurant bar-but that doesn’t really have to do with Christmas either-mostly it has to do with monster ballads from the 80s and early 90s.

But the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing right within your heart!

This part of the song is surely true here in the tropics where it truly doesn’t look or feel like Christmas at all.  This morning as we sang Christmas carols at the home church we attend with some of our MAF colleagues, my heart felt full of Christmas.  It’s been hard being away from family and friends and home and yes, the wonderfully commercial American Christmas!!!  I unabashedly love every TV Christmas special, fake holiday wreath, cheesy Christmas song, and the unending ads and commercials urging us to shop, shop, shop.  Mall Santa Claus, Christmas lights on the houses, those crazy inflatable snow globes on people’s lawns, even the crowds of people shopping…I eat it all up joyfully!  In the absence of all that glorious fabricated Christmas I have been trying to capture and linger in the special moments, because even during this difficult first Christmas away from home, there are still moments that make me feel Christmas.  Like singing carols at church this morning, and watching the MAF kids put on a great Christmas program that included a Nativity reenactment just as you would picture (wildly jumping, giggling, goofing around shepherds, a dressed up angel fluttering her wings, a shy Mary with her head covering askew, a sheepish Joseph, a doll standing in for Baby Jesus, adorable sheep, even a camel complete with a hump back), watching “Little Women” with the MAF moms and daughters after drinking tea and eating goodies, and enjoying the lights on our Christmas trees, especially when it is raining and dreary outside so it almost feels like more appropriate December weather.  There have been some great moments, and I pray there will be many more to come during this week leading up to Christmas.  God gives me clearer vision to see all His blessings as I learn to celebrate His Son’s birth in a place so unfamiliar, yet probably much more like Bethlehem than Midwestern American suburbia.

Okay, that was the sentimental portion of the post, here’s the factual lowdown-I like to try to satisfy those who want to know what I’m feeling and thinking and those that mostly just want to know what I (and Chris) are doing.  We have a busy week ahead of us after a busy weekend!  Friday night was the kids’ Christmas program, as I mentioned before.  Saturday we had our MAF Christmas Party with the American and Indonesian staff-it was a really special time, which included a white elephant gift exchange.  I brought a ladies manicure set to add to the mix, and I walked away with these gems…




A Christmas hand fan and a clock in the shape of a person will ensure that I am both on time and not too hot on Christmas day!

Tomorrow the other MAF ladies, their kids and I bring toys and food to the kids in the hospital in Tarakan.  Unlike hospitals in America, the hospital in Tarakan does not provide food or clothing (hospital gowns), so the family of the sick person is expected to feed and clothe their ill loved one.  Tuesday we head to the post office to bring cookies and sing carols to the workers and customs officers that have so quickly and diligently gotten our many Christmas packages to us in good condition.  Wednesday Christmas shopping, Thursday joining a Christmas open house that other MAF families are having for Indonesian friends, neighbors and coworkers, and Friday Christmas Eve dinner with some other friends!  Oh, and I have my usual language tutoring too.  I think I am busier here at Christmas than I was in the States!  It’s a blessing to be able to share the season with so many new friends.  Chris is working Monday-Thursday, but has Friday and the weekend off-yay!  We are planning to celebrate Christmas just the two of us on Christmas morning, talk with family on Skype in the afternoon, and have dinner with some friends in the evening.  Hopefully it’s a really nice day-as good as it could be considering the circumstances.

Enjoy this last crazy week before Christmas!  Soak in some commercialized Christmas for me…and take time to read that familiar Christmas story in all the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, (John is sort of a different take, but you know, same theme), and remember, Jesus was sent as a baby for you-what an amazing blessing!!!

Consider this your Christmas card from me…the Tarakan version of the mall Santa Claus-playing the sax and shaking his hips of course!!!



Selamat Hari Natal!!!  Merry Christmas!!!




Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving, Faulty Christmas Lights, and Bad Belly...Highlights from the Last Week or So


Hello all!  I can’t believe Thanksgiving already came and went and now on to all the hustle and bustle that is Christmas.  Well, maybe for all of you in America, here in Tarakan it’s business as usual with only a few stores with Christmas decorations for sale, and what stimulating decorations!  They are all about the glitz and glam here; tinsel, ornaments saturated with glitter, and many bright flashing lights are a must. I went into a store selling Christmas decorations and nearly had a seizure because of the riot of blinking tree lights.  Not quite the understated white lights and cranberry garlands of so many stores in the U.S., but very fun for sure!  But I am getting ahead of myself, first, Thanksgiving.

I woke up a little blue and missing my family on Thanksgiving, but I soon felt better once I began cooking.  I started on the sweet potato casserole, the more involved of the two dishes I was in charge of preparing.  After finding out that there are in fact sweet potatoes available here, I decided to make one casserole with pumpkin and one with the obi (oh-be), which is what the sweet potatoes are called here, just to see which would taste better.  I quickly discovered that obi are quite different from the sweet potatoes I have used in the U.S.  In the first place, they are much more tough and dry.  In the second place they are a vibrant shade of purple…yes, purple!  I tried to take a picture of one, but it doesn’t quite capture the purple hue.



Half the obi were orange and half were purple, so unfortunately the casserole came out a disconcerting shade of gray.  Luckily the sweet topping covered it up nicely (I had to use cashews instead of pecans for the topping because there aren’t pecans here), and based on what everyone said, it was quite good.  Oh, and for all you taste-test enthusiasts out there, the pumpkin and sweet potato casseroles tasted nearly the same with only subtle differences in texture, so one can definitely be substituted for another.

I also made a spinach, pear and parmesan salad that was well received, so it was a good Thanksgiving, cooking-wise, although our oven still wasn’t working, so I had to walk my casseroles one at a time down our slippery driveway (it had rained quite a bit throughout the day) and down the road to a friend’s house to bake them.  It gave the Indonesian people driving by on their motorcycles something to laugh about.  Sometimes I really feel that one of the major things I accomplish in my life here is amusing the local folks, ah well, at least I’m bringing joy to their lives through my misadventures! 

The Thanksgiving spread was phenomenal!  I have never been to such a huge Thanksgiving feast.  The MAF family in Tarakan had a great time celebrating together.  I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy eating, but here is one that Chris' MAF colleague Dave Forney took of the food-laden table.



The Saturday after Thanksgiving I started to put out Christmas decorations.  I tried putting on Christmas music to get in the mood, but I found that it just doesn’t feel “Christmasy” here during the day.  Sweating as I arranged mini snow globes with “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” in the background just wasn’t working for me.  So, I ended up putting decorations up in the evening, when I could at least pretend it is like the Christmas feeling that I am used to!  Oh, yeah, the Christmas lights, that was our latest quest.  So I brought a bagful of Christmas lights with us, which would have been great except that they are 110 voltage/amperage/whatever so they are basically worthless in Indonesia.  I’m not sure what I was thinking even bringing them here, except that I guess I thought we would just get converter boxes for all of them.  That was before I knew converter boxes are like $40-$50 each.  Yeah, not happening.  We went out in search of Christmas lights and ended up at the little store I mentioned before, you know, the one with the seizure-inducing lights.  I just wanted basic white lights.

Not an easy thing to locate, apparently.

There was blinking Christmas bulbs with strange-looking Santas painted on them (that cost $30 might I add), fluorescent flashing lights, even mushroom-shaped lights, because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like flashing mushrooms, but no regular, plain white lights!  Finally we settled on lights with covers that looked like colored pieces of candy and managed to find two sets of tiny bright, clear lights.  We got them home and I started to put them on the little trees.  I brought two mini Christmas trees with us because my big tree was too large to bring all the way over here.  The sets of clear lights worked, but the candy lights were stuck in flashing mode.  Chris worked on them and eventually soldered some wires together, which got them to light without flashing, but also made them smell like they were about to burst into flames, so we had to get rid of them. 

Back to the Christmas-light store.

No more candy lights, so this time I bought lights with iridescent apple-shaped covers.  We got them home, plugged them in, and immediately one of the wires pulled out and they were dead.  Sometimes the quality of the products, or lack-thereof can be a real frustration here.  I was less than pleased-all I wanted was some Christmas lights, good grief!

The next day while I was grocery shopping I randomly found a set of regular-looking colored lights hidden in the back of the store by the pet supplies (what?!) and quickly bought them.  They are now lighting the little Christmas tree in our TV room faithfully.  A happy ending to our Christmas light search, that is, if they continue to work!

The Christmas Light Graveyard



One of Our Little Trees-with working colored lights!


Another happy ending to report, on the saga of the oven…it finally works-praise the Lord!!!  As of Monday of last week the parts came in the mail, Chris installed them, and we have a fully functioning, excellent oven.  It is so great to be able to bake things-fresh bread, cookies, granola, muffins-hooray!

Also, the furniture we ordered about six weeks ago came last week too…here are some pictures of our bookcase and side table.


Our Side Table with the other little tree 
I would also include a picture of our bedside tables, but that leads me to the not-so-happy news that Chris came down with some sort of stomach bug on Saturday afternoon and is still feeling pretty bad (it’s now Sunday night).  He is actually in bed, hopefully sleeping, so I won’t disturb him to take pictures.  He is having a hard time keeping liquids in him and I am worried about him staying hydrated.  He is very tired and weak, so I am watching him to make sure he doesn’t need more intense re-hydration (an IV perhaps).  Please pray that he gets better quickly and that I can avoid getting sick too!   

I am still working on learning the language, word by word.  I have another tutor that I started working with last week and a couple of college-age Indonesian girls that are in school learning to become English teachers that I will meet with weekly to chat in Indonesian and English.  With all that I am now working on language with someone Monday through Friday, which is great, but makes my brain tired!  I hope to continue to see improvement as I work hard.  I am actually going to meet the Indonesian girls on their campus at the University of Borneo on Wednesday and go to class with them.  I have a feeling I am going to be like their show and tell item…their new American friend.  It should be interesting-more adventures to tell you about on this little blog!

I will go look in on poor Chris and see if he is awake and needs anything.  I feel like such a mom lecturing him about drinking liquids and monitoring his bathroom visits-gross.  On that lovely note, have a good day!  Enjoy Christmas decorating and shopping-when you see the hundreds of Christmas lights for sale everywhere from Walgreens to English Gardens remember what a blessing it is to have such quality products in such a large quantity right at your fingertips!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Go! Magical Hen


The person who posted this video included these great details...


From the box:
-This is a very well famous toy all around the world
-The magical hen function as mentioned below
-When it walks the wings and the tail are flashing the head is waving and the music is heared
-It could install three egs at one time (Provided along with this product)
-After about 2 meters walk it stops crowing and then lays an egg.Isnt that exciting.


My Dad found this video and emailed it to me and I just had to share it with you-what a fantastic product!


For That Person On Your List That Has Everything

As we enter the holiday season most of us have gift-giving on the brain.  You probably have at least one or two people that you just aren't sure what to buy for.  Scented candle, cologne, one of those tins with the three flavors of popcorn that is painted with a winter scene...none of those items striking your fancy?  Well, look no further, I found a little gem that would be a perfect gift for any age, any gender right here in Indonesia...


For the bargain price of just around eleven U.S. dollars you can pick up this fantastic magical hen.  As you can see it's not the old, tired magical egg-laying hen that you might think, nope, this is the all new edtiion (see the upper right corner of the package).  That means, by the way, that if this is truly a remake of an older version, that somehow this must be an item in demand enough to come out with a new and improved product...I find that somewhat surprising.  Not that I am demeaning the hen, I mean just look at  the package, it's good, new, electronic, and most importantly, magical!!!  What child, or adult for that matter, wouldn't be thrilled to find this little wonder of the poultry world under the Christmas tree with their name on it?!  

"Look what Aunt Ruth got you honey!"

"Is it a bike, a Wii, or maybe an Ipod?"

"No, it's a magical hen complete with eggs."

"Wow, that's just what I was hoping for, forget the rest of those pesky gifts, my Christmas is complete!"

As you make your Christmas shopping lists, don't forget about this spectacular item for those hard-to-buy -for people that refuse to make a list.  After receiving one of these beauties they are sure to communicate their Christmas wishes quite clearly next year!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Memorable Birthday

Last Monday was my 31st birthday, and I just had to tell you about how Chris and I celebrated it in style!  My birthday festivities actually lasted almost a week-starting with a semi-surprise party given by the other MAF ladies on the Saturday before my birthday.  I say semi-surprise because I knew we were having a get-together of "Cookbook Club", where we each make a recipe from a particular cookbook or website and then eat them together, but I didn't think it would have anything to do with my birthday.  When I arrived there was a cute homemade birthday banner, singing and gifts-it was really special!

On Sunday Chris went birthday shopping for me and couldn't resist giving me a couple gifts on my birthday eve...he is so fun with presents, he gets so excited that he wants to give me everything NOW!  He is sure to make my birthday really special, which is why I said this was another memorable birthday, because he always finds a way to make my day fun-he is such a great husband!

My first waking moment of my birthday was at about 3 am Monday morning when one of our rat traps in the storage area snapped.  Happy birthday to me, a lovely dead rat awaited us-yuck!!!  Not quite the present I was hoping for, still there is now one less rat trying to get into our house and that is definitely a good thing.  When it was actually time to get up I had barely opened my eyes and Chris was saying "You have to open your other presents now!"  Before he left for work he gave me each one while playing happy music in the background.  Then I made pumpkin pancakes for us-a yummy fall treat in the middle of the tropics-yay!  After Chris headed off to work I talked to a couple of good friends from home via Skype and they sent me a hilarious power point gift.  They had taken a picture of me around town with them to some of our favorite hang-outs and snapped shots of the three of us (them and the picture of me) at each place.  What a great gift!  Then I talked to my parents and opened the gift they had sent, which included a fun apron that my mom made.  Here is a picture of my 31-year-old self with all my birthday loot...


One of most special gifts I received was from my Grandma Kathryn, my dad's mom.  She sent me this cute apron that her mother had made for her when she was a young bride.


A close-up to show the hand-stitching
Tears filled my eyes as I opened the package-how special to have such a beautiful piece of work passed down to me.  It is so nice that I'm almost afraid to use it...it will have to be my company apron!

So, best for last, my birthday dinner.  Chris and I had heard of a restaurant called Warung Kai that has a great view of the sunset on the water, so as soon as Chris got home from work at 5:15 pm we hurried over there.  The sun goes down pretty close to 6 pm and it is a 20 minute drive out to the restaurant, so we were speeding along the road.  When we arrived we saw that there was a large covered platform to eat at, or there were booths just big enough for two down the side of a hill.  We chose to sit in a little booth.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera, so all I have is substandard shots from my phone.

Our little booth

You can see how the booth is made private using leftover advertisement banners for the local cell phone company-they are all about creative re-purposing of items here!  Straight in front of us was a beautiful view of the ocean, here's a picture, although it doesn't remotely capture the scene.


As we enjoyed the scenery in the distance, I couldn't help but notice our more proximal surroundings.  Just south of our table was a pile of burned trash and at other tables around us stray dogs scavenged for food.  I couldn't help but turn to Chris and say "Just think how much we will appreciate it when someday we are in a place where we can enjoy beautiful scenery without burned trash or stray dogs!"  
Here in Indonesia stray animals and rubbish just have to be embraced as part of the experience!

Soon our food arrived...along with about 173 bugs that were intent on biting us!  Also, at this point the sun had set.  What we had not realized is that there were no lights in the area where we chose to sit, which made eating rather challenging.

Especially because my food needed to be both beheaded and shelled before it could be ingested.

Yes, for my special birthday meal I ordered shrimp, or udang (pronounced oo-dung) as it is called in Indonesian.  There was only one type of shrimp on the menu, and each time I have ordered shrimp at a restaurant it has come lightly fried with a sauce and rice, I figured that this dish would be no exception.

I was wrong.

I was presented with a large bowl of robust shrimp with heads, tails and legs intact, floating in the water they were boiled in.  Along with this I was given a container of plain white rice.  I gazed at Chris after looking at my birthday dinner and started to laugh.  I gamely began to peel the shrimp in the quickly diminishing daylight, but found that it just wasn’t going to work.  I couldn’t even see if I had properly peeled the slippery guys, not to mention if I had emptied the charmingly named “poop shoot” that had not been cleaned out-delightful.  We decided to relocate to the well-lit pavilion up the hill.  However, this move involved a trek across a slippery, uneven lawn and up a somewhat precarious flight of steps.  This hike was repeated several times by each of us because we had so many different dishes.  Food tends to be served in many dishes here, so a small meal for 2 can come in 7-8 plates, bowls and cups!  As we paraded back and forth I had to laugh again, what a fiasco! 

When we were finally settled in the lit eating area I began to try to dismember and eat the shrimp again.  I tried, I really did, but I could hardly choke down 4.  If you have had shrimp and/or white rice, and I’m sure most of you have, you know that both items are quite bland.  They need sauces to give them flavor.  With no sauce in sight I felt like I was eating watery rubber and dry chunks of paste, I just couldn’t go on.  My attempts at eating were also discouraged by an insistent bordering on aggressive mangy stray cat that kept jumping onto my lap, or, if I leaned forward, onto the back of my chair, looking for a meaty morsel.  I was trying to peel shrimp with my hands while fighting off the cat with my elbows and knees and squealing "Ew, get this cat off of me!"  Finally I gave up eating and started throwing shrimp across the floor to divert the cat's attention, which I suspect was the crafty feline's plan all along.  We left soon after, not too full, but with a story to tell.  Yet another night we can look back on and say "remember when..."  That makes it all worth it, the memories, it really does.

We topped off the night with a trip to our local mall to exchange some shirts Chris had gotten me for a different size, and then to this shoe store that has shoes attached to nearly every inch of wall space.  The people there were very friendly and kids were just following us around the store staring and giggling.  It was a funny experience as shopping always is here!

So that was my memorable birthday.  Just another example of the two lessons that I am being taught over and over again through living in this culture...

1) Come without expectations and you will never be disappointed.

2) Keep your sense of humor in every circumstance-so many frustrating things are actually really funny if you are willing to laugh at them, and at yourself!

Having this blog helps me to see the humor in situations.  In the moment I think about how funny it will be to compose an account of the situation for my friends and I just have to laugh.  So thanks for being there to share with-it helps me keep my perspective-well, it helps some of the time!

Speaking of frustrating things, we awoke in the wee hours of the morning to the air conditioner coming to a halt and realized that our power had gone out.  This has been happening more and more frequently-at least every other day-but usually for only about 30 minutes at a time, so it has been no big deal.  This time it didn't come back on until 12:30 in the afternoon.  We found out that the blackouts are going to be more frequent and for longer periods of time-I guess tomorrow we are supposed to be out of power from 6 am to 6 pm-12 hours, ugh.  Pray for patience and the ability to take this in stride-I am feeling pretty frustrated about it right now.  No power means almost nil water pressure, so we can hardly take showers or do dishes-although we are very fortunate compared to some of our colleagues who do not have any water when the power is out.  The heat here is bearable with fans running, but without it gets quite steamy.  If the extended outages occur daily or even every other day it will make life here significantly more difficult.  Prayers for adaptability are appreciated!  Thanks for sticking with me and for your thoughts and prayers-they are much appreciated.  More later!    

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Local "Big Box" Stores

Since we have moved into our little house on the hill it seems we have been spending most Saturdays at one store or another hunting down items to improve our place and make it feel like home.  In those weekend wanderings we have spent significant time at our local "Walmart" and "Home Depot"...

This store, called Toko (which means store) Metro Jaya, is often referred too as "Walmart", mainly because it has a little of everything...

Look at that handsome guy with the helmet on!



From trash cans to underwear, kids toys to upholstery fabric, this place has about anything you can think of...and many things you probably wouldn't think of.  As you can see it's stacked floor to ceiling with stuff, and the more I dig, the more I find.  Although it's hard to just look around as there is perpetually a worker standing at my elbow asking me what I want or just watching me...that gets me all flustered and then I start to sweat-well I start to sweat more than usual, which is a lot especially when I am ensconced within the tall stacks of wares without a breath of air...except for the sales person breathing down my neck that is!  On this particular trip we were buying foam to make our couch cushions a little cushier and to create some cushions for the back of our couch.  Somehow we managed to carry all this foam on the motorcycle from the store to our house-it was a little crazy!


Another place we often go is Toko Hawaii-the closest place to a Home Depot here in Tarakan.  I have no idea what the store has to do with Hawaii, but it does have some very nice hardware store-type items.  There are other hardware stores in town, but this one seems to have the best selection.


Note the pastel tile and fancy (some would say gaudy...I would be a part of that some) light fixtures.  The home furnishing here are by and large very formal, and usually involve some sort of faux gold...nothing wrong with them exactly, just not quite my style!


Many stores here, these two included, don't have doors on them, they are open to the street.  When they close for the evening, which usually happens around 5:00pm, the owners pull shut and lock metal garage-type doors or accordion-type doors.  You will notice the multi-colored urinals-they love to make sinks, toilets, tubs and urinals colored-it is often hard to find white ones.  They especially enjoy pastel pink, yellow and blue, although in one of our colleague's houses they have a bright frog-green bathtub in their kid's bathroom.  I think it is pretty fun!  Toko Hawaii also has this bad boy parked outside, I assume  to make deliveries of small items.  One of these would make grocery shopping so much easier!



Nothing like a motorcycle/pick-up truck to fulfill all of your hauling needs!  

There is also a grocery store across town that people call Sam's Club because it is big and they sell larger quantities of items and just more items in general.  I have only been there once, and I didn't think to take any pictures-maybe another time.

I have been busy working on learning language, and I feel like I am understanding more.  I can understand a lot of single words, but constructing sentences is very challenging.  I am enjoying working with my language tutor.  She is a college student studying to teach English and she is good teacher-very friendly and pretty patient with me.  It is fun when she has a question about English because I feel like I can help her learn just like she is helping me.  We often discuss the differences between the cultures we grew up in-I try to tell her stories and details about America in broken Indonesian, because if I try to speak English too much she says "Speak Indonesian, you must try!" (she says that in Indonesian though).  It is interesting to get her perspective on life and share mine.  As much as there are difficulties to living here in Tarakan, there are experiences that are so rich that I couldn't have any other way.  I am truly thankful to be here.

Chris has been getting back up to speed with his flying.  If all goes according to plan he should be flying solo next week, which he is pretty excited about.  He was also able to use his avionics skills (if you want more info on what avionics are, click this link) to build an antenna for one of the villages that has not been able to communicate well with the MAF hanger in Tarakan for some time.  He and another pilot flew into the village last Thursday to install the antenna and I guess it works great-the people in the village were very excited about being able to communicate more easily.

Oh, the conclusion of the the Stove Saga...they refused to return the stove.  Chris tried and tried to convince them to at least give us store credit, but they would not do it-they just kept saying "we don't do that in Indonesia".  Good to know.  Wish we would have known that BEFORE we bought the stove!  Oh well, live and learn.  They at least gave us a new stove that hopefully works.  We kept it in the box for fear of touching it, because if it didn't work again we would surely be blamed for breaking it because we attempted to use it!  We contacted another MAF family that is due to arrive in Tarakan in January and they were happy to buy the stove from us, so everything worked out.  At least I hope it is worked out...we will see when they try to actually use the stove.  The parts to fix our oven should be coming late this week or next week-I am praying sooner than later because it would be great to have a stove for Thanksgiving.  The whole MAF team gets together for a big Thanksgiving dinner, and I mean big, like with all adults and kids it is 40+ people!  It should be fun and crazy and hopefully tasty!  I am looking for it to help chase away the blues of not being with family.  I so wish I would have recorded the Macy's and America's Thanksgiving Day Parades and brought them with me to watch while I am cooking on Thanksgiving-it just won't seem like Turkey Day without Al Roker in earmuffs describing the same balloons and floats that I have watched every year since I can remember.  Also, I'm sure I will be missing an unforgettable performance by Justin Bieber or some such tween sensation...ah well.  The good thing is I can almost be sure when I return to America that the parades will be nearly exactly as I remember them-that is such a comforting thought!

Not too much else to report, except that I have been having pretty rough headaches and a general sense of ickiness (vaguely dizzy, tired, upset tummy) for the last week.  I'm not sure what is causing it, although there is a bug going around, so I may have a mild form of that.  Headaches, especially in the heat, are no fun, so prayers for heath would be appreciated.  We actually just got back from a dinner for my birthday, which turned out to be both humorous and memorable...along with some other things that have happened today.  More about the celebration of my 31st coming soon-maybe tomorrow.  I am headed to bed early to try and sleep off this headache.  Thanks for reading!  Talk to you soon.






Friday, November 5, 2010

An Uninvited Dinner Guest

Every Thursday night the MAF team here in Tarakan gets together for dinner at one of the local restaurants and then we have Bible study at one of the team member's houses.  We were sitting at dinner yesterday at a restaurant that is just down the street from us called B-21.  Our team is fairly large, so we were sitting at a series of tables that had been pushed together to to make one long table.  I was siting at the very end of the table farthest from the door.  I had finished my food and was busy talking to one of the other MAF wives, when suddenly from the other end of the table there was a scream and one of the other MAF ladies jumped out of her chair.  This was followed by others jumping out of their chairs letting out various screams, yells and exclamations in a chain reaction down the table.  I quickly realized that whatever was causing the commotion was heading towards my end of the table, so I retreated to the far wall of the room in pretty short order.  Moments later a medium-sized rodent came leaping and bounding out from under the table!  I was told that it was a shrew, I say "was" because the furry intruder quickly met his death under the shoe of one of the MAF guys.  Shrews are rodents that are larger than mice, but not as big as rats.  They have the gross stringy tail of a rat though.  Apparently the people at the other end of the table had been hearing strange sounds coming from the wall unit air conditioner, and it turned out that the shrew was stuck in there.  When he got out he retreated under the table and created the mid-meal stir that led to his untimely death.  Ah well, one less rodent to root through the dumpsters...there are plenty more to take his (her?) place.  I am trying not to think about rodents in restaurants, ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to food prep here.  Just eat and hope everything turns out okay-so far so good for me!  Anyway, just thought I would share that delightful story-one shrew in Tarakan was certainly tamed last night!

Quick stove update-the "technician" for the Indonesian stove came out to the house yesterday to look at the defective stove.  He didn't actually bring any tools with him and had to ask to borrow a screwdriver, which was decidedly non-technician-like, if there be such a term.  Also he seemed confused about how to turn on the burners.  After he pulled a bunch of parts off the stove, tried to fix it, and cut his hand in the process, dripping blood on the stove and the kitchen floor, which he used my dishrag to wipe up (blood-borne pathogens anyone?) he announced that yes, it was in fact not working.  However, when Chris went back to the store to get a refund and arrange for them to pick the stove up from our house, the woman who runs the store claimed she never said she would give us a refund, even though she had given that guarantee several hours previous.  She said that we had to keep the stove because we broke it by trying to turn it on.  Chris was like "Um, how could we know it was broken unless we tried to turn it on?"  They went back and forth and the conclusion is we have to talk to the owner of the store who is out of town until Monday.  So we currently have two stoves in our kitchen-both broken except for the burners on the American stove, which I have been able to use, thankfully.  The Saga of the Stove continues!  We are praying that we will be able to get a refund-we will find out on Monday.  I will keep the updates coming.  Thanks for the prayers and encouragement!  I am just laughing at the ridiculousness at this point-it will all work out.

That's all for now...time for bed!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Don't Worry, I'm Not Dead or Anything

So, long time, no blog...ridiculously long time actually-so sorry friends!  There are several reasons for my negligence:

1) A week of spotty power.  The timing on the power outages was amazing actually, they occurred precisely 5 minutes before I was planning to get on the internet and catch up on email, Facebook and the blog or 5 minutes after I put in a load of laundry, so the clothes were soaking wet and could sit and mold until the power came back on.  Luckily the poor power lasted only a week and it has been better this week.

2) My computer has been being very cranky.  For the last 3 weeks it has consistently said that I was on the internet, but would not load any web pages and gave me a message either that I wasn't connected to the internet or that it couldn't find the internet server.  It was really beyond annoying.  Chris's computer has been connecting to the internet fine, so it isn't the internet, it is my little Macbook.  I know, I know, I could have used Chris's computer to blog, but the truth is I don't like to use his computer, I only like mine.  I'm a bit of a computer snob.  Also, each time my computer wouldn't work I would become angry and shut it none to gently, stomp off grumbling and refuse to do any computer work...not sure what point I was trying to prove, or to who (maybe I was trying to show the computer? the internet? Really, unpacking my various neurosis is beyond me at times).  At any rate, no computer work was getting done.  We finally broke down and paid $50 to talk to someone at Apple last night and they gave us a fix that is working so far-hopefully the computer is all better now.

3) Our crate of stuff from the U.S. finally arrived-praise the Lord!  It came last Friday, so I have been pretty consumed with getting everything unpacked and set up.  I don't think I rested at all last Friday, Saturday or Sunday except for collapsing into bed for the night...and attending an awesome Pirate Murder Mystery Party on Saturday (more on that later).  Blogging just has not been my priority-sorry!

4) I have kind of been in a frustrated funk.  The end of last week was wonderful, followed by a pretty bad week this week.  It just seems like things are going wrong left and right, and I have not retained my ability to laugh at the various blunders like I was before.   I think my perspective is improving, because I am feeling much better.  To be honest, I didn't have a whole lot of nice thoughts to share with you, so you are probably happy I didn't unload my frustrations!

So that's the list of excuses, on to more fun stuff like...

THE SCOOPY!!!!


My little motorcycle-I think it's considered a scooter really-the Honda Scoopy arrived last Wednesday!  We were told it wouldn't be here until around Christmas, so it was a great surprise to have it come so early.  I absolutely love it!  I like riding the little Scoopy so much more than driving a car, it's fun to zip around in the open air.  I don't know, I might be hooked-it might be scooters only for me from now on!  It has been so helpful to my psyche to have a way to get out of the house during the day, being dependent on others for transportation is no fun.  Now I go out whenever I want to grocery shop, run errands, whatever needs to be done that my limited language abilities can handle.

In addition to the arrival of the Scoopilicious friend, as I mentioned earlier the crates came last Friday with our stove and all of our other belongings.  Does this look like a familiar scene?


Think my parents house about 6 months ago.  It was so much more fun to unpack than to pack though-isn't it always?!  Our little house was overflowing with boxes and bins.  It is somewhat unpacked now, although we need to have some things built, like shelves for the kitchen, a bookshelf and some end tables, so things won't quite be settled until those things arrive, which unfortunately will probably take 3 weeks to 1 month.  Patience is truly a virtue that is well-cultivated on this little island of Tarakan!  Thankfully our things arrived intact with hardly any damage other than being a little dirty and wet because the customs people did not reseal the crates well when they sent them on from Jakarta.  One humorous tidbit, well it is funny now that it is over... so our crate travelled all the way across the U.S., across the ocean to Jakarta, from Jakarta to Tarakan and everything made it splendidly.  Then en route from the MAF hangar, where the crate was dropped off, to our house one of the plastic bins full of stuff fell out of the back of the pick-up truck and broke, sending the contents flying all over the road.  Nothing was seriously damaged, but our brand new silverware has some significant nicks and scratches and my little red Copco teapot is pretty beat up.  All the stuff was safe until the very last minute-I just have to laugh at that!

I was so excited to actually be able to cook and bake with our stove and my very own pots, pans and dishes.  Sunday night I prepared a celebratory first meal of chicken meatballs with spicy barbecue glaze, mashed potatoes, and salad with ranch dressing (something that does not exist here in Tarakan-thank you ranch spice packets).  We realized that the only way to light the oven was with the electric igniter, so we plugged it in to the power converter, (for those of you that don't know, as I didn't until I traveled overseas, different countries run on different power levels; that's probably not he right term, but anyway, I'm sure you understand what I mean; so many of the electronics from the States have to be run through a converter to the plugs in the house because if not the electronics will blow up), and tried to start it.  

Nothing happened.  

We tried again.  Still nothing.

Thus began the Saga of the Stove

After checking everywhere in the manual and on the stove itself for voltage information and not finding any, we decided maybe the stove ran on 220 Hz, the local power level.  We plugged it in and it worked-hooray!  We noticed that the oven light seemed abnormally bright, but the stove lit and I cooked the meatballs, and I must say they were delicious.  After dinner I was cleaning off the stove and I noticed that it was still hot...really hot.  I checked the in-oven thermometer and it read over 500 degrees-and the oven was turned off!  I yelled for Chris and we quickly turned off the propane running to the stove/oven.    The next day when we attempted to light the oven again, it wouldn't work.  Upon further inspection Chris found that the gas regulator and the oven light were both burned out, rendering the oven useless.  This was probably because we plugged it into the 220 Hz.  Now if we were in the States, well if we were in the States this wouldn't have happened because there in no electricity differences, but if the stove had broken in the States, no big deal, we would call Sears and get the parts replaced under warranty.  After Chris rode the Sears customer service carousel ("let me transfer you to the parts department"  "But I just talked to the parts department, they transferred me to you"  "okay...let me transfer you to the parts department.") for 30-45 minutes we were told that since we are out of the country our warranty is no longer valid-we found this out after a less informed employee offered to send a Sears repairman to our house to assess the damages to the stove.  Chris's response "That would be great, it just might take him awhile to get here."  The conclusion of the phone call was that we would have to foot the bill for the parts and shipping, and that would cost nearly as much as the stove itself.  This also meant no oven for weeks to months.

Please pause for Meltdown #1

Since we moved into our house I have been cooking on a 3 burner counter top stove that is set WAY too hot and burns nearly everything.  I was ecstatic to finally have a normal stove and an oven.  Since most food has to be made from scratch here having an oven is pretty essential.  Waiting weeks to months more before receiving an oven, not acceptable.  That's just what I said to Chris in a cold, stony voice "NOT ACCEPTABLE".  Not a happy night in the Desjardine household.

Let me also mention the other issues that arose concurrent to the Stove Saga.

1) Chris lost both keys to his motorcycle, so it was out of commission.  He has his dirt bike, but that isn't so great for around-the-town riding, it's a trail bike.

2) Our sink/cabinet finally came back from the furniture-maker with a sink of usable size-yay!  However, after it was installed we discovered that water that goes down the sink leaks out underneath the cabinet-so gross toothpaste water, etc. is leaking onto the nice new wood of the cabinet-delightful.  This is in addition to the other leak on our bathroom floor that comes and goes at random leaving puddles on the floor.

3) The gauges for the propane bottles kept breaking, like we have probably gone through 4-5 already.  This would always happen after the store was closed so we couldn't buy a new one, so I couldn't even use the stove top to cook.

4) My computer was not working, as aforementioned

So the frustration with all these issues was mounting.  On their own each one wouldn't be a big deal, but together they were sending me over the edge.

Finally yesterday (Wednesday) we decided to buy an Indonesian stove.  Our reasoning was the parts for the stove from America may take months to get here and they may not even work when they get here.  We went out and looked at stove, well really, the stove, there is only one model stove/oven that is available here.


The cabinet on the right is for the propane bottle, the stove is pretty tiny, just big enough for a 9x13 pan. There is actually a glass top that comes down over the burners, I have it open in this picture.  You may be impressed by the stainless steel...don't be, it's like a grey sticker-type overlay-a faux stainless steel look!  After it was delivered we plugged it in and...

Nothing

AGAIN!!!

Pause for Meltdown #2 (actually I may have been on #3 or #4 by then, it had been a rough few days...I had had a meltdown earlier that day upon finding a swarm of ants on the floor that were attracted by nothing that I could see.  I must admit I went on an ant massacre with the bug poison, not pretty, but effective).

Apparently this stove was also broken, and since we were never able to get a flame we think it is a defective model.  So now we are in the process of trying to return the stove, but the store owner is giving us a hard time and is convinced we just don't know how to use the stove at all.  She won't return it until they send a technician out to see if the stove is really broken, that is supposed to happen at 4:00 today.  In the mean time we bit the bullet and ordered the parts for our American stove last night.  We are just going to wait it out until the parts get here and use the stove top burners on the American stove, which work, thankfully, and return the Indonesian stove.  Unless of course they won't let us return the Indonesian stove, in which case we will have 2 stoves with non-working ovens in our house.  Perfect.

So that's the Saga of the Stove.  I will keep you updated as the rest of the story unfolds.  For now, if you have any great recipes that can be made on the stove top only, please share!  The internet is always helpful for recipes too-and now I have my trusty cookbook collection again, so I'm sure I will be fine.

Other developments in the last few weeks, I started working with a language tutor 2 days a week.  This is my second week.  I am learning a lot, or trying to learn-it's hard.  I think I know something, I study it over and over again, but when my tutor asks me a question I stare at her blankly like the scarecrow with no brain!  It's quite frustrating and more than a little humbling.  I need to be brave and go out and talk to Indonesian people, but it's scary and very out of my comfort zone.  I don't even like to talk to people I don't know and ask people for help in my own language!  All prayers for patience, strength and boldness in this area would be greatly appreciated.  In fact, prayers in general would be appreciated-it has seemed like Chris and I have been under attack between all the little things that have gone wrong, and our diminished ability to deal with them, okay, mostly my diminished ability to deal with them.  We end up getting frustrated and lashing out at each other, and that is pretty non-helpful!  We want to keep our focus on why we are here, to serve the people, and our prayer is that all this little, frustrating stuff wouldn't get in the way.

Speaking of serving the people, Chris has been working very hard in the MAF hanger trying to get airplanes up and running so he and other pilots can keep ministering to the people of Kalimantan with the gift of flight.  He has yet to begin to fly-with so many airplanes in need of inspections and maintenance he is most needed on the ground for now.  He is anxious to fly, but is happy to work on planes and put into practice the avionics training he got at Embry Riddle in Florida.

Okay, I feel like I am writing a prayer letter now.  Just wanted to give a quick update on what Chris is up to besides fielding house problems and comforting his wife during her frequent meltdowns, which probably feels like a full time job to him.

A couple other pieces of news with links...

We had a very fun Pirate Murder Mystery Party on the eve of Halloween.  Everyone had specific characters they had to play and created their own costumes from goods found in Tarakan (for the most part),  including an authentic-looking powdered wig in George Washington style made from cotton balls with plenty of baby powder!!!  Click here to see some pictures.  I was Antonia Napier, the Governor's daughter...look for the girl in the aqua hat.  Chris was Sealegs Sam, a merchant sailor and my sweetheart...and he turned out to be the killer!!!  It's always the one you least suspect.   

This beast was found in the jungle very near...in fact way too near to our house and brought to the MAF hanger for containment.  


Yuck, yuck, yuck!!!  More prayers please!  If you are interested in a more detailed account of the snake story you can click on this link to Dave Forney's blog-he is another of the MAF pilots that works with Chris and not only does he have some impressive pictures of the snake, he has lots of awesome pictures of Tarakan and Kalimantan.  

Last, but not least, we have successfully adopted a part-time dog, I think.  She has hung around our house since we moved, so we decided to start feeding her in the hopes that she would stick around outside and alert us if there were people or animals (please see the above picture) in the yard.  She was pretty wishy-washy at first and very skittish, but now she comes around everyday, lets us pet her, and even takes naps on our porch.  In fact she is looking in our screen door right now!  She is a cute little dog.  We call her Zero (see The Nightmare Before Christmas).  She may really belong to our neighbors, but she is a little bit ours too. 


I kept trying to get her to look at the camera, but I guess she is a little shy!


She comes and goes from our yard by wriggling through these little circles in the gate.  We don't know what she will do if she gains a little weight and is too chubby to fit!

We tried unsuccessfully to adopt a puppy, but that is another longish story that I will save for later.  This blog post is already too long as it is!  Thanks for tuning in, and thanks for your prayers and thoughts and grace with my lack of posts in the last few weeks.

We will talk again soon...or I'll babble and you'll skim and look at pictures!

So long!



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dessert Gone Wrong

A few nights ago Chris and I were tooling around on his motorcycle in the evening, something we enjoy doing because it's nice and cool zipping around in the open air and people can't see us as well in the dark so they don't stare at us and yell out to us as much.

We were headed down one of the main streets, and Chris pulled off at a little restaurant called Cafe Elizabeth and announced we were going to have a sweet dessert treat.  I was excited because I LOVE dessert, as many of you are aware!  Here's the little cafe, it's lit with all sorts of Christmas lights and hanging lanterns, very cute!


We sat down and the waitress brought us menus.  As with many places in Tarakan the menu was like a book-although the funny thing about that is that restaurants often have lots of things on their menu, but what they don't tell you is that many of those things aren't available.  This becomes a bit of a bummer at times, especially when I have finally asked Chris enough questions to decipher the menu and have decided on something, (which takes forever because when I order in a restaurant it's like I am deciding on my last meal, ask Chris, he will tell you it is true), and then the waitress/waiter tells me that the item I have so carefully chosen isn't available and I have to start from scratch, this time with the pressure of the wait person standing there staring at me.

Anyway, so we were looking at our menus at the Cafe, and I saw a dessert with the appealing name of 'The Snowball'.  I decided to order it, although I knew very little about it except it involved ice cream.  Chris also ordered an ice cream treat, 'The Tarakan Special' I think.  Ten to fifteen minutes after we ordered, my ice cream came, looking quite yummy...


Excited for the taste of cool, delicious ice cream, which I have not had since leaving the States I took a bite...


I quickly found out that the lovely light yellow "Snowball" of ice cream on the top was durian flavored.  For those of you that don't know what durian is, which I didn't until I started learning about Indonesia, it is a spiky fruit with a gooey, fleshy inside that smells like a cross between sweaty socks that have been sitting at the bottom of the hamper for a week without drying out (you know the smell I'm talking about, especially if you have a boyfriend, husband or child that exercises or plays sports) and a rotten melon.  For more extensive information on the mighty durian, often called the "King of Fruit", you can click here.

There was strawberry ice cream underneath the durian ice cream, which I tried to eat, but sadly the flavor of the durian overtook the whole dish and I had to give up.  It was truly awful, and so sad because I didn't get the much-anticipated yummy dessert.  I have to say this has not been my first bad experience with dessert in Indonesia.  I am beginning to suspect I have entered dun-dun-dun...a dessert-less culture.  Usually the "desserts" here involve fruit, which I am not a huge fan of in desserts in the States, and often some sort of jello-like or jelly-like component, something I definitely DO NOT care for.  Sometimes they even just serve fruit and call it dessert.  To quote my Grandpa Dunkerley when my Grandma tried to serve him fruit as his sweet after meal treat, "Fruit is NOT dessert".  It is another one of my life mores.
 
Chris' dessert came, well after I was already finished with mine-their timing with bringing out food at restaurants is somewhat archaic.  It looked very impressive...


Chris actually enjoyed the first few bites, but then he got a nasty fruit flavor, he didn't think it was durian, but it was something yucky, and he stopped eating it soon after.  We left the restaurant disappointed, but with another funny story to tell.  When we got home I ate some of the chocolate bar I have stashed in the refrigerator, but the durian just kept on giving all evening and into the night with the dirty-sock-rotten-melon taste in my mouth...finally in the morning it was gone.

Moral of the story: If you see a yellow snowball, don't eat it!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This and That

Good Morning!  Well, morning for me, probably evening yesterday for many of you.  It's strange to be living in the future compared to my friends and family in the States.  It makes me start thinking about how time is so arbitrary, really it's just something we humans made up so we could satisfy our need for boundaries.  I'm starting out quite philosophical this morning, apparently!

It's a sunny, beautiful morning and I'm sitting in the living room listening to the birds twitter and the melodic sound of sawing and hammering.  The team of guys that have been working on finishing our house have dwindled to one guy, and he is working on putting up the porch roof and then the house will be completed as far as structural work goes.  It will be so great to be able to clean up the dust and dirt that is constantly on everything from the construction work and also not to have workers in and out of the house all the time.  I'm a little worried that we are making a bad impression on our Indonesian neighbors.  So, Chris leaves for work and soon after he leaves a young Indonesian guy comes over and stays until before Chris gets home (sometimes he leaves after Chris get home)...you can see how that does not look very good, especially in a culture that is so sensitive to the interactions between men and women.  I am hoping they see that he is working, if not, we may have some explaining to do!  The only thing we will need the workers to come back to do is install the cabinet and sink in the bathroom.  The cabinet/sink was delivered a couple days ago and I was excited for about 10 seconds, then I realized that there was something very strange about the sink...


It was tiny!!!  As you can see it is about the width of my hand, the whole thing is about the size of a small shoebox.  I call it the 'Barbie Sink'.  It is also set so far back in the cabinet that you would have to lean WAY over to do anything-I can't even imagine how Chris would be able to shave in it...actually I can imagine it and it would be messy!  Chris and I decided that, although we try to roll with most things and not complain too much, we were going to have to send the cabinet back with a request for a larger sink.  We actually went out yesterday and found a sink that will be more functional.  We were cracking up at this mini sink-who uses something like that, and for what?!  When the sink & cabinet are completed they will need to be installed by the workers, I am hoping that happens next week-that is being really optimistic!

Grocery shopping-I promised pictures, and here they are...


This is one of the four-five main stores that we stop at to get groceries-one of the other ones is right next door and it is called Golden.  You have to visit both stores because they have different things at each store.  There are many other stores too, but you have to limit yourself to getting most of your things at a few, otherwise it would take literally all day to grocery shop.  


The inside of Galaxy-not all that different from an American grocery store...except for the products, which are really different!  I like to try and buy something new, often I'm not even sure what it is exactly,  just to discover new Indonesian products and hopefully find some new favorite foods.  So far I haven't hit upon anything spectacular enough to share about.


Here's another grocery store, Setia Budi II (I'm not sure where Setia Budi I is...I should figure that out)  that is decidedly more Indonesian than Western-style.  It is smaller, not as clean, and more crowded.  It seems like more Indonesian people go here than either Galaxy or Golden, the parking lot is always crowded with car and motorcycles.  They were selling goldfish in bags outside of the store, so I had to get a picture of that...it reminded me of a carnival in the States, except I'm not sure if the fish were for pets or for eating.  I hope for pets because they don't look like very good eating!


Here is one of the guys that regulates parking in the grocery store lot, you have to pay about 10 cents (1000 rupiah Indonesian) and he arranges your bike in the lot and sometimes attempts to stop traffic so you can get out of the parking lot.  He only stops traffic for cars though.  I find it really funny how they stop traffic here.  Basically they give kind of a limp-wristed wave and walk out in front of cars.  People like to do the limp-wristed wave when they are driving too-it basically means "Hey, I'm about to do something that is at the best rude and at the worst dangerous that defies any framework of driving rules that may be established in your mind, and you are going to let me do it with no questions, complaints or retaliatory hand gestures."  It's actually pretty funny, and I'm sure once I start driving I may employ it as needed!

You may be wondering where the pictures of the mounds of beautiful fruits and vegetables, chickens (dead and alive) and other meats are.  Those things are sold at the Pasar, which is best traversed by someone who speaks good Indonesian and knows how it works.  I have only walked through it, and let me add, saw the biggest cockroach I have ever laid eyes on trotting along in broad daylight over some unsuspecting potatoes...it was DISGUSTING!!!  I am definitely not ready to try to shop there myself. This week one of the sweet MAF ladies sent her house helper to go for me.  Next week our house helper starts work two days a week, and one day will be going to the Pasar and then cleaning the meat and vegetables that she buys there.  So, no pretty pictures of veggies or fruit...or cockroaches.  Maybe some other time when I gather my courage to go to the Pasar again.

I wrote about people carrying crazy things with them on their motorcycles, and I have been waiting to get a picture of one of these to share, and in the last few day I have caught two.  We were driving both times I saw them, so the pictures aren't great



These guys are amazing, they carry an entire store on the back of their motorcycle.  Both of these men have food and spices, but others have kids toys, trinkets and balloons.  It's really funny to see them driving down the street weighed down by all that stuff, I don't know how they do it without losing anything.

As I have been settling into the house I have taken a couple of pictures of animal friends, or soon-to-be animals friends.  The other day I looked out our side door and guess what I saw...


Yes, those are cows (steers?) grazing on our neighbors lawn.  They wander around from time to time.  They were quite shy to have their pictures taken though, and actually started lumbering away stampede-style-I'm sure the neighbors were less than pleased-oops!  I was telling the bovines to please find their friends that produce milk and bring them around...milk that doesn't sit on a shelf, cheese, fresh butter...all beautiful dreams that could come true with a milk cow in attendance!

The workers moved some plywood from one side or our garage area to the other and I found these behind it


After consulting one of the MAF kids, who is pretty much a jungle animal expert, I found out that they are gecko eggs and the more geckos you have, the less cockroaches...so I left them there.  Geckos don't bother me, but roaches are another matter.  I haven't seen any action with the eggs yet, although I did see a tiny gecko running around yesterday, so maybe they are beginning to hatch. 

I have been feeling just a little sad the last few days.  I think as things are less busy and I have more free time I feel more lonely and out of sorts in this foreign place.  I will start with my language tutor 3-4 days a week either next week or the week after, and our house helper starts on Mondays and Thursdays next week, so I will be busy trying to communicate with her-she speaks little to no English, so that will be an interesting challenge!  As I get more of a schedule it will probably be easier to chase the blues away.  All and all I am still liking it here-it's so beautiful and warm and different.  I wish you could all experience it first hand-come and visit anytime, I promise we will clear the junk out of our guest room and even get a bed for you!

So long for now!