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 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!    


  1. I'm glad you had a memorable birthday, and I am glad you are learning to laugh about the strange daily events in your Indonesian life.
    I'ts 2:30 here in MN and I'm praying that someone bring you ice today, or something cold. If only I could send you some of our snow:-)

  2. That would definitely be a memorable birthday! As for the power outages, when I was in the Dominican Republic, they had random power outages. At the compound where we stayed, however, we could still use the water when the power was out. I thought, "This is better than when the power goes out at home. At least here we can still flush the toilet and take a shower! At my house, we can't use the water when we don't have power." Praise God that we have a hand pump in our side yard we can use (and have used it many times).

  3. that is the craziest restaurant story I have ever heard!