Monday, October 4, 2010


Are you thirsty?  Does your throat feel dry and parched?  Have you been working all day and can't wait for a delicious, icy cold drink?  Well look no further, we have just what you have been looking for in Indonesia!  How about a refreshing gulp of Sweat?  Pocari Sweat that is!

This delicious, "ion supply drink" is actually somewhat salty, so it gives you the sensation of ingesting real, authentic perspiration-yummy!  Chris enjoys it on a regular basis, in fact, here he quenching his thirst while we waited for his motorcycle to be washed a few days ago.

Pocari Sweat is just one of the many funny product names here.  Manufacturers like to take positive sounding English words and use them as the name of their item.  For example, the shampoo I just bought is called "Rejoice" and a popular facial tissue brand is "Nice".  It makes me smile every time I blow my nose, which is often since I currently have a cold.  My favorite so far though is a line of children's clothes and items (cups, plates, etc) that goes by the charming name of "Lusty Bunny".

"What should I wear today mom?"
"How about your Lusty Bunny t-shirt honey, it always looks so cute on you"

The nuances of the phrase "Lusty Bunny" were not quite understood by the manufacturer.

I mentioned that Chris and I were waiting while his bike was washed.  Here is the Indonesian version of a car/motorcycle wash

It's a little hard to see in this picture, but the men who work there take 20-30 minutes to hand wash and dry the motorcycle, and they do a great job.  On the banner is another great product name, Nosy oil - I'm not sure why the oil is "nosy", maybe they meant "noisy", but then that wouldn't really make sense either...I often try to reason out the why behind things here in Tarakan, but usually don't come up with a useful explanation.  The above picture is a good example of how a lot of the smaller stores and restaurants, which are called warungs, look.  The people who run them often have a living area in the back of the store behind a door or curtain. 

While we were waiting I watched people walking and driving by, and I was struck by how many crazy things people carry, particularly on a motorcycle.  I saw a man with large open buckets of cooked chicken and rice-yuck, someone driving while holding a large cage with a bird in it, and a man carrying some sort of flimsy metal rods that were about three times the length of his motorcycle.  I thought this was pretty funny at the time, but I look back on it and really laugh because yesterday Chris and I drove through the city on his motorcycle carrying a large area rug on our shoulders-little did I know I would so quickly start carrying things Indonesian-style!  Throughout the process of buying things for the house I have ridden on the back of Chris' motorcycle carrying 4 long curtain rods, mops, brooms, bags fulls of light bulbs, and many other things.  When a motorcycle is your main mode of transportation, you get creative and develop really good balance!

We are still waiting for our house to be completed.  The projects on the inside of the house are getting pretty close to being done, but there is still quite a bit to do on the outside.  Chris and I have been running around buying furniture, rugs, and all the things needed to set up a home from scratch.  We are hoping to move in tomorrow or the next day...we'll see how the work goes between now and then.  Everything was delayed last week because the street riots I mentioned in my last post actually became quite violent and the city basically shut down for several days.  The Indonesian military came in to get things under control, and since they have been here things have settled down.  We (the MAF people) weren't in any danger because the fighting was mostly between two ethnic groups on the island, but we all had bags packed ready to evacuate to the interior of Kalimantan if things began to get dangerous for us.  It was a little scary, and I definitely had my first thoughts of "why did we come here?!".  I'm so thankful that things seem back to normal now, and I am praying that they will remain peaceful even after the military leaves.  It really made me realize how big the world is when I was cloistered in my house (or rather, the house that we are staying in) because mobs of people with machetes were roaming the streets, but if I was home in Royal Oak, MI I would have been taking walks through the neighborhood and going to Target.  It's so easy to feel like the world you live in everyday is truly representative of the world at large, and that could not be further from the truth in many cases.

My experiences so far here in Tarakan have been pretty positive, besides the unrest of last week.  Since changes and adjustments do not usually tend to be my forte, I am surprised that so far I have been able to roll with things and keep pretty positive. 

Except for in the case of the curtains.

Yes, I nearly lost it over the curtains.  My poor husband thought that he was going to have to take me home, or at least to a place where I could buy ready-made window treatments.  So, in order to have any privacy in the house we need to have curtains.  There are no stores here that sell curtains ready-made, so that means they need to be made.  This involves taking measurements of the windows, choosing fabric, determining how much fabric is needed, and explaining to a tailor how you want them made.  Some of you may read those steps and think "what's the big deal?".  Let me just outline the difficulties in this scenario.

1.  The majority of the fabric here can I put this delicately...not my taste (read hideous).  Think shiny, formal, lacy and flowered.  Basic and understated is just not what they do here.  

2. I suck at anything with numbers.  Thinking about how to measure the windows and then adding in measurements for hems and allowing for enough material so that the curtain flows and then translating that into how much fabric to buy was so not up my alley.  Oh yeah, and everything is in metric here.

3. I don't know much about sewing-I am completely spoiled by having a mother that is a wonderful seamstress, so I didn't bother to learn much-boy am I regretting that now!  That being said, even when I looked up instructions on the internet about making curtains to try to get an idea of how to explain how to make what I envisioned they were full of terms I didn't comprehend.

4. I don't actually speak or understand Indonesian.

All these things combined led me to standing in our living room two days ago, sweat streaming down my face (and neck and back), a measuring tape in one hand and a tissue in the other, sneezing because of a cold and crying and saying "I just can't do this! That's it, we are just not going to have curtains!  I can't take it anymore!  Why is it so hot in here!?!".  Yeah, it was not a pretty sight.  Like I said, poor Chris, he didn't know what to do with me and I didn't know what to do with myself.  At that moment I would have given almost anything for a Target or even a Walmart that has rows of lovely pre-made curtains in neutral fabrics.  Next time you are at one of the aforementioned stores, take a glance down the drapery aisle and remember how fortunate you are to be in America!

Fortunately the next day a dear, dear MAF teammate of mine, Rebecca, offered to take me to the fabric store with her and then to her tailor.  She helped me alter my measurements, find some lovely white fabric that they had in the back of the store, which I think is actually used to make shirts, and explained to the tailor what I wanted done.  It was so wonderful to walk away from the tailor's shop knowing that by the end of this week or the beginning of next week we should have curtains.  A million thanks to Rebecca, I never could have done it without her!

So that was my first major melt down, and it was over curtains.  Apparently I can take ethnic violence in stride, but home decorating sends me right over the edge-good thing I have my priorities in order.  

I have not taken too many pictures in this last week or so, not because of lack of opportunities, but more because I don't want to offend people or make them feel uncomfortable.  They are just going about their normal lives, and may not appreciate being photographed by some weird western girl.  I will try to sneak some in here or there and post them next time.  Have a great day or night and thanks for stopping by!


  1. I love reading your posts. They give me ideas of how to pray for you, and make me laugh sometimes, or commiserate with you at others. Why does everything crash down on us at once? A nose cold, heat and humidity, curtian dilemmas... At least you didn't have the runs that day as well. Glad to here you had help from a friend. Just imagine if you were the only MAF wife there.
    Hopefully your cold is gone for good now.

  2. I think the curtain meltdown was thoroughly justified!! So glad that you are safe-ish, and hoping and praying you get to start to set up home this week. Can't wait to see pictures. We love you and miss you so much! Jill & Kira

  3. Oh my lord girlie! I had a meltdown with you just reading about the fighting and curtains! My heart is racing and I'm in tears so I'm having sympathy pains over here. I'm so thankful for Rebecca and her tailor hopefully you can use them again whenever you need something! I'm trying to picture you riding on the motorcycle with a rug! hehehe! oh dear me! i love you and think of you daily! oxoxo

  4. You should consider starting a new SNL skit titled "Hello Mister Lusty Bunny!" All about Indonesians speaking English. LOL... love it!

  5. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts! I appreciate your willingness to commiserate with me and laugh with me at the crazy stuff that happens here everyday! My cold is much better now, and I'm very thankful for that. Thanks for reading everyone-love and miss all of you!

  6. Hi Sarah, what a great blog! You are a talented writer...I was right there with you on the curtains. I have been trying to figure mine out for about a year now!!!

  7. Sarah - I'm having fun reading through your blogs - I just found them and am starting from the beginning... this is probably a good preview of what I'll have to deal with in Haiti sometime, at least in regards to the cultural acclimation! :) - Liz