Monday, September 27, 2010

Tarakan - We are finally here!

As I sit in the guest room in the house of one of our fellow MAF families I am marveling that we only arrived here last Thursday, just 5 days ago-we have done so much that it seems like we have been here for weeks!  When our plane landed at 10:30 am on Thursday we walked down the steps and across the tarmac in the rain-ah, the tropics!  Much of our MAF team came to meet us in the airport terminal, and it was great to see some familiar faces and meet some team members that were away from Tarakan when I was here visiting in November 2008.  The airport terminal here is really funny-a small building with doors propped open wide, security, nope, not so much!  I don't even think they have a working x-ray machine to check bags, although they still make you run your bags through the broken machine just because it's part of the process they were told to follow at some point.  It's such a contrast from American travel that it makes me laugh.

Anyway, I digress (what's new?!), so we left the airport and headed for the house of our teammates Dave and Natalie, who have so kindly hosted us while our house is being finished.  I was itching to get a look at our soon-to-be abode, so after a yummy lunch (Gado-Gado, an Indonesian meal with rice and cooked vegetables, topped with peanut sauce that was so good I could have drank it) we headed down the street and up a hill to our place.  Workers were busy prepping the outside of the house for paint and doing various projects on the inside.  I can't give a great verbal description, but as they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words...

The Front of the House
The Dining Room-Our Bedroom is on the left and two others are straight ahead.  The kitchen is to the right and the living room is around the corner to the left
One of the bedrooms-they all look the same so I just took a picture of one
  The kitchen-No counter top, stove or fridge yet

The bathroom-the shower will have a curtain and the wood beam is just there during construction

Our side yard with the HUGE useless satellite dish-we will be removing it   

The view from our front porch

Our awesome non-working waterfall/fountain that includes 2 delightful stone egrets-what should we call our rocky feathered friends?

Those can be considered the "before" pictures of our place.  Some progress has been made since I took these pictures.  The outside of the house is painted, the kitchen sink and toilet were plumbed in and we borrowed an older kitchen counter from another MAF house that is not being used right now to use until our counter is finished.  The water is still not fully functional though, and there are some problems with the electricity most likely stemming from the fact that our circuit breaker only has 6 amps.  I don't understand the significance of that number, but judging from the fact that other MAF houses have 20 amps, and we aren't able to run one ceiling fan and an air conditioner at the same time without blowing out the power (and that is without any other drain on the system, no other appliances or lights running), the 6 amps seem to be quite a bit less than our electricity needs.  We are waiting for the electric company to come and up our amperage (I think that is a made-up word) and when that and the water issues are settled we hope to move in by midweek.  We actually thought the house might be almost done today, but then there was a random street riot and the deliveries that were supposed to happen and the services that were scheduled were all cancelled.

Yes, you read that right, a random street riot.

Chris came back from buying some furniture in town and said that when he walked into the furniture store the owner told him to come in quickly and bring his motorcycle in with him, and proceeded to close and lock the store door behind him.  The storekeeper explained that there was a conflict going on between the Bugies or Buganese People and the people that are native to Tarakan.  The Buganese people are basically modern-day pirates, and because Tarakan is an island and a place where many things are imported and exported by sea, the Bugies are around here frequently.  Interestingly enough, the phrase "the Boogeyman" actually came from the Bugie people because they were notorious for taking over Dutch ships years ago when the Dutch were in power in Indonesia.  Anyway, so I guess a local Indonesian woman was assaulted by a Bugie person and as a result a fight broke out and a Bugie person was killed.  In retaliation for the murder a house was burned down yesterday, and today an angry mob was "sweeping" the area looking for people who could be involved in the conflict, I suppose to beat them up or something, I don't know.  

And I thought we moved to a quiet little island town.  

According to the other MAF families nothing on this scale has ever happened before, and from what Chris said, since he was practically in the middle of it, he mostly saw a bunch of people lining the streets waiting for something to happen.  He did say he saw people carrying machetes and police with guns, but no real action.  He was able to go home the back way, and when he went out later nothing much was happening, but all the stores were closed and the town had pretty much shut down.  It's usually fairly uneventful here, so I think the locals were kind of soaking up the drama.  I am hoping everything has died down tomorrow and it is business as usual.  It's weird to be living in a place with no local news and an essentially unreadable local paper, so all the goings-on are related by word of mouth or text message.  There's no weather forecast either, but that's no big deal, just plan on it being hot, more humid than you thought possible with rain sometime during the day or night-that pretty much sums it up!

All riots aside, our time has been really good so far.  The ladies of MAF had a women's retreat at a local hotel the day after I arrived, and I was thankful to get to spend time with them and get to know them better.  Different MAF families have been having us over for dinner every night, and everyone is welcoming and helpful-which I appreciate because I have never felt so helpless!  I can't wait to start learning the language because I feel like such a dunce without it.  I know a few basic phrases, but beyond those I am unable to communicate at all.  Unlike many places in the world, people do not know much if any English here, so I can't fall back on my native tongue.  I realize just how ethnocentric I am when I feel shocked that in this little corner of the world so far from America that people wouldn't know enough of my language to help me get by.  People pretty much know the English phrases "Hello mister" and sometimes "How are you?" or if they are really advanced "what is your name?", and they LOVE to yell these phrases whenever they see a westerner.  So when I walk up the hill to our house or down the main road to shop I hear "Hello mister!" repeatedly, often not from people I walk past, but from people driving by on motorcycles and in cars.  They don't quite get that I would be considered a Mrs. or at least a Ms., so they cheerfully yell out to me that special phrase with a huge smile.  It is funny and rather charming at first, but when you are walking alone down the road in the rain (as I was this morning), it can really get a bit annoying.  After awhile I start to try to analyze it "Do they expect me to answer them as they are driving by me?  Are they trying to be friendly or sort of playing a game of 'can I make the weird foreign girl look at me?'  Are they taught in school that Westerners enjoy being yelled at as they go about their daily tasks?  Do they think that's how we communicate in America?"  I have to remind myself being a fish in a bowl is all part of the experience of living here.  I feel like I know what animals at the zoo must feel like all time, or would feel like if they had the capacity to.

There is so much to share about this experience, but hardly the words and the time to write it.  We are so busy trying to buy furniture or have it made and communicate with the workers at our house and getting acclimated (that is going to be a looong process for me) that each day flies by with hardly a moment to soak it all in.  I will keep being faithful to share my experiences with you.  Thanks for tuning in and for your encouraging feedback!  Being a "words of affirmation" gal (See The 5 Love Languages), your comments on the blog and on Facebook mean the world to me.  

Here are a couple of pictures of Tarakan that I took from the window of the hotel we stayed at for the women's retreat.  I can't believe this is home for me now...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Here we are in Indonesia!

Hi Friends!

Well we made it to the other side of the world, praise the Lord!  People often say they can "feel" the prayers of others, and I definitely had that experience as I sat on the long (12 1/2 hour) and somewhat bumpy flight from Los Angeles to Taipai, Taiwan this Saturday night/Sunday morning.  Those of you who know me well know that I do not enjoy flying...a charming combination of motion sickness and claustrophobia make it a less than pleasant experience...but the flights really went well, although the persistent low-grade turbulence during the long flight was NOT appreciated!  I was able to stay calm for the most part and even get some sleep, wonder of wonders!

I have been pretty nervous about this big move to tell the truth, and being the worrier that I am, I have spent hours thinking of all the scary things that I will be facing, (snakes, cockroaches, intestinal difficulties, loneliness, language barriers, the list goes on-I really am a champion worry wart-by the way what is with the phrase worry wart anyway!? I mean I just called myself a wart, gross!), but not too much time thinking about the great possibilities of living in Indonesia.  As we deplaned in Jakarta and I was bathed in the heat and humidity, and breathed in the unique smell that is Indonesia; cooking spices, smoke, sweat, growing things like flowers...and mold, and over everything the scent of incense; I looked at Chris, grinned and said " I am so happy to be here", and I really meant it!  I know there will be hard days and scary times, but I am excited to learn to live in this country.

We have been staying at a guest house in Jakarta since we arrived on Monday afternoon, and it is comfortable and homey.  We started off our time in Indonesia right with a very authentic Indonesian dinner...

Is, you ask?  Yup, Pizza Hut Jakarta to be exact!  It's funny because I love to try new foods, and usually when I go to a new place whether it's Italy or Wisconsin I want to try the local specialties. However, I know we are soon going to be in Tarakan, where western-style food is scarce, so I want to fill up on good old American comfort food as much as possible!  You can tell by Chris' enthusiastic expression (ha-ha) that we were quite exhausted after all of our flights and then traversing the joys of sending our huge bags as freight to Tarakan ahead of us, and getting a cab to the guest house, which is about a 1/2 hour from the airport.  I will spare you all the details, except for the amusing mental image of me routing through our bags in the middle of the airport terminal in Jakarta trying to find clothes for the few days we will be in Jakarta so we could send our bags ahead of us.  Indonesian men were continually coming up to us offering us taxi rides, help with bags, etc...all while I was trying to find a way to discreetly transfer my underwear and bras from one bag to another-yeah, not my finest 10 minutes, but we made it!  Oh, and the pizza was great by the way, and I also had a strawberry-watermelon juice (shown above) that was off the charts.

So, yesterday morning (Tuesday), 5:00 am and Chris and I were wide awake...hello jet lag!  After a delicious breakfast at the guest house-fresh mango and papaya that put the tropical fruit in Michigan to shame plus thin pancakes somewhere between American-style pancakes and crepes, and actual bacon-yay for bacon-we ventured out to the Grand Indonesian Mall and was it ever grand!  I think it was possibly the most beautiful, fancy mall I have ever been to.  I took at couple of pictures, but they definitely don't do it justice

Outside the mall

On the way to the mall entrance
We ate in this train car restaurant
7 stories of shopping and eating!
The Chinese-themed area

Standing by a fountain in the Moulin Rouge area (Sorry for the dark picture)
The mall is 7 stories high with additional floors for a movie theater and a hotel.  It spans both sides of a street and the two sides are connected by a walkway.  It has every designer store you could want-Henri Bendal, Gucci, Armani...the list goes on, plus many more functional stores.  The top two floors are decorated around various themes including the streets of New York City, a Chinese zen garden, and a Arabian-type bazaar. It has mini-amusement park type rides for kids, and more restaurants than I have ever seen in a mall-American, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, you name it!  I think the only ethnic food untouched was Mexican-it is amazing!  It's nice to know that just a 2 1/2 hour flight away from our home in Tarakan is this mall.  If I really get desperate for a shot in the arm of Western culture, the Grand Indonesian would surely provide that!  

Even with the myriad of food choices we decided to get an Indonesian favorite-Soto Ayam or chicken soup with was yummy!

We also got these little custard filled doughnuts, shaped like little ears of corn (random!).  I love the side of the package, everyone needs instructions on how to enjoy their food!

Here are a few pictures of the city of Jakarta from the mall window-it is really big!

After our mall extravaganza we headed out to meet a friend of Chris's for dinner.  The place we were headed was only 5-6 km away, but it took us nearly and hour to get there and over an hour to get back to the guest house where we are staying because of traffic.  Although Jakarta has many of the western comforts that I will miss in more remote Tarakan, I am glad we are going to be living where there is less bustle and congestion.  

I will end this information-filled post...this more of a "show and tell" entry as opposed to my usual diatribe, but hopefully it gives you a flavor of the city of Jakarta.  Thanks for reading and experiencing it with me!  Tomorrow morning we head to Tarakan on a 6:00 am flight (ugh to the early wake-up time), and my next post should be full of pictures of our home-yay!

I saved the best picture for last-this is a store in the huge Indonesian mall, and although the name does include some odd-color language (hopefully no one is too offended) I had to include it because I think it is sooo hilarious

My thoughts exactly!!!

Until next time!

***I was about 5 minutes from being done writing this post 2 days ago when, in classic Indonesian style (or so Chris tells me), the internet at the guest house was fried by lightening!  I haven't been able to get internet until now, so I am finally posting this.  We made it to Tarakan, and my head is about to explode with all the decisions to make for our house, motorcycles, et cetera.  I will tell you more details soon!***

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Packing and packing and packing...

First of all, thank you to everyone who looked at my first post and for all the encouraging comments!  I appreciate your enthusiasm and your time, really!

Secondly, I wanted to warn you that this blog may not be going for much longer because the author may have to leave the earth due to extreme packing exhaustion.  You have never heard of such a cause of expiration you say, well let me confirm that after nearly a year of packing and unpacking suitcases, including moving from Michigan to Florida and back again, this last gathering and stuffing of belongings has nearly done me in.

So I'm being dramatic, but really, it seems the packing will NEVER END!!!

I often get a false sense of happiness and relief and think, "Oh, I'm nearly done, not much left to pack."  This sunny thought has been inevitably followed by the realization that I have forgotten an entire drawer, bag or category (socks, pants, toiletries) of items, after which I wade back into the packing fray.  Ug.  I really do think I'm almost done though, really.  My parents have been amazingly understanding throughout this year of Chris and I being in and out of their house with various amounts of our stuff (sometimes a couple suitcases, sometimes a whole apartments-worth).  Thankfully their patience has remained throughout this last packing process, which is awesome since I've taken over nearly every communal room in the house minus the bathroom and the kitchen.

The Basement
The Living Room
The Den

That just gives you an idea what they are dealing with, but I guess they figure we will be out of here in a couple days, how bad can it get?!

Those of you who know me know that I like to be prepared for any and every least "prepared" is what I call it, Chris calls it "overpacking".  Me: "But honey, what if we have to ride horses, I'll need these cowboy boots" and so it goes throughout the packing process.  God bless the man, he hardly says anything at all really, after a year of traveling with me he knows it won't make much difference.  Especially when we are leaving the country for 3 1/2 years, there is not much I am willing to leave behind, as well as an infinite amount of scenarios I can make up in my head that require me to pack most everything I own.  Of course my husband is right, my packing tendencies really are atrocious.   I have learned in a year of living with him that his wisdom far surpasses mine in many areas, and I often follow it, just maybe not in the area of packing...

By the way, vacuum space bags are great if you happen to ask yourself when packing, as I often do, "how can I pack all 4 black short sleeve shirts AND 5 pairs of shoes?".  They really are a genius invention, (I just had to look up the word 'genius' in the spell check, both ironic and sadly telling), for those of us "prepared" types.  I will leave you with a picture of me and my new best friend, the size large space bag.  Any packing tips for me?!?  I will take all the help I can get!

The Happy Packer 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Very First Post

Hello out there!  After much research, deliberating, and the realization that my knowledge of designing something visually pleasing with the computer is probably at about the level of a second grader, (possibly younger...maybe I should have asked a second grader to create this blog for me...), I am finally posting my very first blog entry.  Even though I feel like my blog is sooo boring-looking, I realize that the blogs I have been admiring are of those who started blogging years ago, and that they too may have started with a ho-hum template and blogging knowledge that could fit on the head of a pin, as I am.  As per usual in my life I want to be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT at a task before I start it, or else I want to forget it...ah the joys of being a perfectionist that is spectacularly average at most everything...but that's another post for another day.

Anyway, so T-minus 3 1/2 days until the big departure date, on Saturday September 18th, 5:30 pm is the end of my life as I have known it and beginning of new sights, sounds, smells, everything!  As I sit in my in-laws guest room, (still in my PJ's at nearly 11:30 am; joining the world of blogging in style apparently), I am still stunned that at this time next week I will be across the world in the country of Indonesia, not to return to my safe, Midwestern life until sometime in 2014-yikes!  Most of you that are reading this, at least at first, know why I am making this big move, but if there are any readers that don't know me that join this adventure at some point, (I'm really thinking positively here), let me give a little background.

In 2007, (you are thinking, "Oh man, she's going back years, this is going to be a LONG story", but I promise I will give the short version), I was leading a fairly boring, predictable life, living alone in a beautiful upper flat of a home in Royal Oak, Michigan and working as a speech-language pathologist at a rehabilitation center for those who had suffered traumatic brain injuries and that's where I met my husband-no, I'm totally kidding, my husband doesn't have any brain injuries...that I know of.  I was attending Genesis Church at the time, and had been involved in a small group Bible study for almost 1 year.  In that Bible study we often prayed for Chris, a missionary pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship serving in Indonesia.  I had no idea who he was or what he looked like, I actually pictured him as an Indonesian man.  A few weeks before Christmas 2007 I showed up to Bible study and this guy walked in, a very good-looking guy might I add, and he sat right next to me!  I quickly found out that he was Chris, the missionary pilot we had been praying for-he wasn't Indonesian at all, but actually quite the All-American boy.  That was the beginning of a quick hanging out/dating stint (January-March 2008), we were engaged by the beginning of April 2008, he left for Indonesia for the year, and came back 3 weeks before our wedding on June 6, 2009.  Since then we have been on a whirlwind tour of the country attending missionary training, airplane electronics training (Chris did that one on his own), and finding people to partner with us with their prayers and finances so that we are able to get overseas and stay there for our full term, which is 3 1/2 years.  There are so many more fun and crazy details to our story (our all-night first date-totally innocent, I promise-our infamous Engagement Story involving a broken back, conducting a relationship over Skype, et cetera, et cetera) I will have to blog more in detail later.  For now, you have more of an idea of why I will be moving to a little island off the coast of Borneo called Tarakan in just a few days.  After living out of suitcases for over a year, much with my parents and in-laws (Lord help us!), we are finally leaving to begin our new life in the jungle!

I suppose that is probably enough for today, I don't really know the rules of blogging, but I do know that people have a limited attention span (admit it, you've probably checked your cell phone, facebook, or email at least once while reading this post) so I will skedaddle for now.  I have to get dressed sometime today, and then there's the packing I haven't done yet...yeah, gotta go!  Thanks for stopping by and reading, more to come very soon!!!