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!


  1. I'm praying for Chris--and you.

    As for the good Christmas lights you found in the pet stuff, I think the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to them. Isn't it cool how well He knows us and how much He loves us?!

  2. Hope Chris is feeling better! Those little candy lights are cute! Too bad they did not work out. I like your two little trees. Very nice.

  3. Oh, I wish I could have been there to help! I have mastered the art of making seizure inducing lights stop blinking. Everything you are describing sounds exactly like China.

    I have to tell you that my Mom and I had a very similar experience trying to find lights this year. Everything has turned to LED so nothing matches with the old lights we have. All of the colors are off and we only needed one strand. So, we ended up buying a strand of red and it mixed nicely. We went to 5 stores but it looks like you either have to go all white or change over completely to the new LED lights :(

    Your tree's look great! I love your yellow side table!!!! Super cute!

    Sometimes I feel like half of my purpose overseas is to entertain the locals!

  4. Rachael-yes, God gives awesome blessings just when I need them! Thanks for the Christmas card, by the way!

    Cindy-Thanks! I was disappointed about the candy lights too.

    Carolyn-I will have to learn your secret to stop the flashing lights! So sorry you had to do the Great Christmas Light Search, in America no less! I am so not a fan of the LED revolution-I don't care that they save energy, they don't look as pretty!