Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thinking of You, Laura Jean

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of my cousin Laura’s passing from breast cancer.  She was only 39 years old and left behind a husband, a 12-year-old son and 6-year-old twins, a son and a daughter.  Even a year after the fact it is hard to believe she is gone from this world.  She was so vibrant, so funny, so full of life and energy, a wonderful mother, an excellent teacher, a creative and innovative thinker, and a lover of things quirky and unusual!  I think of her often as I live in Indonesia because of her love for insects, lizards and animals of many kinds-she would be thrilled about the little lizards that run up and down our walls and the big dragonflies that land on our windows and on the flowers that grow in our yard. 

When I was little she was my cool older cousin, and I hung on her every word and accomplishment.  I distinctly remember her talking to me about going to live in a foreign country and maybe becoming a missionary-she was probably in 9th or 10th grade at the time.  I remember thinking “She could do anything!”.   Now it’s me living far away from home and thinking of her.

My thoughts are on her today and I’m trying to smile instead of cry when I think of her infectious laugh, her willingness to be so silly and fun with her kids, and her ability to juggle more things than it seemed possible for one human to handle, and do it with a smile.  I love you Laura, I miss you, and I’m remembering you today.

If you think of it, say a quick prayer for Joe, Josh, Maggie and Miles, Laura's family, her mom and stepdad Nancy and Rick, and her brother and sister-in-law, Dan and Jenn today.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Uneventful Week-Hooray!

It’s been a pretty uneventful week, praise the Lord!  I will take uneventful any day over the kind of events we have been experiencing.  The toilet has been officially rat free for over a week, and I pray with fervor that it remains that way for all time!

Chris is flying today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday), and, since my regular language tutoring doesn’t start up until next week I have been trying to study Indonesian on my own.  Trying is the key word since I am actually quite bad at creating a schedule of studying and actually sticking to it.  Part of it is I seem to be so exhausted much of the time.  I don’t know if it’s the heat or what, but I think about my life when I was working in the States and I am amazed that I worked full time, kept up my apartment, cooked meals, spent time with friends, grocery shopped, and had plenty of energy for the most part.  Now making lunch and cleaning up after seems to be all I can handle before laying down for a rest.  And no I am NOT pregnant, for all of you that are thinking that, as I know some of you are!

I have managed to make a couple of fun things that turned out pretty good, including these middle eastern-style pitas, (think La Shish before it was shut down-yes I did eat there and judge me if you need to, their bread and salsa dip was too good to resist!), which were easy to make and delicious, especially right out of the oven.

Here’s a link to the recipe, if you are so inclined:  

I served them with Greek-seasoned chicken, marinated tomatoes, red onions and olives and a yogurt-cucumber-dill sauce and they were yummy, yummy!

I also made this apple puffed pancake for breakfast, which Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was from a recipe given to me by another of the MAF ladies.

Lastly, I finally busted out the ice cream maker attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer.  I can’t really make regular ice cream because that requires heavy whipping cream, which is not available here, but I can make sorbet because it is just sugar, water and fresh fruit.  Here’s the mango sorbet I whipped up yesterday.

It was pretty good; although it lacked the tartness that would have made it more interesting-I would add less sugar next time.

So those are some of my latest cooking ventures-making fun food is one of the ways I keep myself occupied and happy here!  I think Chris enjoys it too!

I was also able to be involved in two other neat events this week.  On Wednesday a wife of one of the Indonesian men that works in the MAF hanger hosted a get-together at her house for all the wives of MAF workers, both Indonesian and western.  We sang Indonesian songs together, read the Bible in Indonesian and had a delicious meal.  It was neat to see her home and spend time with the ladies, although I didn’t understand much of what was being said!

Today I went with my friend to a clinic that is held monthly in a nearby neighborhood.  Indonesian women volunteer to give babies and children from the neighborhood basic check-ups including height, weight, and, if they are babies, head size!  Pregnant woman can get their bellies measured to make sure their pregnancy is progressing well (I’m not sure how accurate that method is, but the way it is done seems very official).  Water and rice porridge is also provided to whoever wants it.  Rice porridge is the staple food given when you are sick here.  People from the hospital also come to the clinic and give immunizations as needed.  The clinic took place in a small concrete building about the size of a shed, with no doors and windows open to the outside (no glass or screens in them).  There was a curtain around a bed where the vaccinations were given and the pregnant women were examined.  My friend told me that before they had this building the clinic met on the porch of someone’s home!  The clinic had plenty of official volunteers, so my friend and I listened to the discussion among the ladies and talked when we got the chance.  Well, my friend talked, I mostly listened and tried to soak up as much language as I could.  A group of university students came while we were there and gave a presentation about Typhoid, what is it, how it is contracted, how to avoid getting it, and what to do if you get it.  They took questions following the presentation, and one of the neighborhood ladies asked if cutting up worms, putting them in instant coffee, and having the sick person drink it was a good way to cure typhoid, because her relative had typhoid and this was apparently the miracle cure for her!  The students seemed at a loss as to how to answer, especially since the woman already seemed convinced that worms were the way to go-all I can say is Y-U-C-K!  Being at the clinic was an interesting experience and a great way to get exposed to everyday language.  My tutors teach language from books that are used in a language school, so I learn very formal language-it’s great to hear how people say the words in everyday speech.  Just like we shorten words and phrases (“gonna” for “going to”, “how’re ya” for “how are you”, etc) Indonesians do the same with their language.

So, that’s our week!  Not too much to report other than these everyday life kinds of things.  I am planning to do a walking tour of the area around our house and neighborhood soon, as requested by my cousin Jill-thanks Jill!-so stay tuned!  Hope you are doing well and surviving icy January (if you are in the north that is).  Bye for now!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Toilet Trauma

2011 just keeps getting better.

So Friday I woke up feeling awful-sore throat, headache, body aches, intestinal upset, and what usually follows intestinal upset.  This continued for all of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and that takes us to this morning, Monday morning.

After a night of minimal sleep due to sinus pressure, a thunderstorm, and frequent trips to the bathroom I got up wearily to shower, get breakfast ready-all the normal morning stuff.  While in the shower I heard some strange sounds coming from the toilet, like swishing and glugging water.  I didn’t think too much of it because changes in water pressure often cause the toilet to make strange sounds.  Chris and I went on with our morning as usual.  Chris was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom.  He hustled out and I raised toilet seat, but quickly jumped back and screamed.

Sitting in the bowl was a large, wet rat.

The phrase “drowned rat” will forever have new meaning to me.

Chris jumped up, and I screamed “There’s a huge rat in the toilet!” and began crying.

Chris told me to wait on the porch while he went in the bathroom, and a few seconds later I hear

“There’s no rat in here.”

“There was one, I saw it, it was right there, it has to be there”

“Well, it’s not there now”

I’m thinking, “Okay, so I know it’s been a rough couple of weeks, but am I seriously starting to have hallucinations of rats in toilets?!  I mean are you kidding me?  And if I’m going to start having hallucinations couldn’t they be of something fun like I don’t know, kittens or bowls of candy or family members I haven’t seen in awhile? “

After about five minutes of Chris sitting next to me on the porch attempting to comfort me and me freaking out, crying and proclaiming that I plan to leave the country today, we went back inside and Chris opened the lid of the toilet again.  He let out a yell and I knew our wet, matted rat friend had returned. 

I didn’t imagine it.  Thank the Lord.  I was starting to really worry for a second.

So what do you do with a live rat in your toilet?  Neither Chris nor I were interested in trying to grab it or club it to death.  In fact, I had fled back to the safety of the porch and Chris was standing with one foot on the closed toilet lid to keep the nasty rodent from getting loose.  After making a few phone calls, one of the MAF kids who was excited to catch the rat for his snake came over.  Sadly, after multiple attempts and several blows to the head, the rat went back down the toilet and so far has not returned.  I am praying said rat went to his watery grave somewhere, or if not, that he went back the way he came and is too traumatized to come back and he will tell all of his friends to stay away too.

In reality I am probably the only one who is traumatized in this situation.  I feel like I will never be able to open the toilet again without being petrified that there will be a furry beast inside.  That’s not even to speak of actually using the toilet, especially at night. 

Really I don’t understand why these things are allowed to happen sometimes.

I’m sure many of you are rolling with laughter, and I don’t blame you, I probably would be too, but beware, when Chris and I later googled “rats in the toilet” stories popped up from all over the world, including many from states all over the U.S.  So check your toilets before you sit-you just may have an unwelcome potty partner.

Signing off and hoping, praying for better times ahead with no rats, sickness or other awfulness. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Holidays & Lightening Bolts

Hello and Happy New Year!  I have been going through a period of insomnia for the last week, and I figured instead of laying in bed aimlessly waiting for the power to go out or a thunderstorm to start or wondering if whatever critters are wrestling in our ceiling will actually fall through and onto our bed at some point; I would get up and update this blog that I haven't been on for quite a while.

Our first Christmas in Tarakan was actually really good.  The time leading up to Christmas was harder than the actual day I think.   Our celebration started on the Thursday before Christmas when we helped our friends host a Christmas open house for Indonesian friends, neighbors and coworkers.  In Indonesia visiting friends and family is the main event on Christmas; gifts are often not part of their celebration.  We wanted to share Christmas with Indonesian friends, but still maintain a quiet Christmas on the actual day, so we decided to have the open house a few days early.  It was great to have a chance to spend time eating and talking with those that attended the open house, (around 80-90 people from beginning to end!), and it helped me realize that I actually am making some progress on my language because I could understand quite a bit of what was being said and speak a little bit too-yay!  

On Christmas Eve we ate dinner with some friends and schemed with them to surprise their kids by a trip to our house to watch Christmas movies in the "man cave"- otherwise known as our TV room.  We had hot chocolate, hot cider, (well, actually it was a mysterious thing called "Apple Pulp Juice" that they sell here.  It's not exactly cider, but it's more cloudy than regular apple juice...not sure why that is, but it tasted good!), and Christmas cookies while watching Mickey's Christmas Carol and of course, Charlie Brown's Christmas.  We made sure to turn down the air conditioner real low so those hot drinks would actually taste good!

Christmas day Chris and I exchanged gifts and looked in our stockings.  We didn't have any Christmas stockings, so we used our actual socks!

We were blessed to receive packages from generous family and friends that we had fun opening-we felt so remembered and loved!  Here I am holding up 2 particular gems that a friend sent me inside of an adorable stocking-instant Starbucks coffee packets, awesome!  I whipped up some of my Dad's special coffee cake and enjoyed it with a mug of delicious Starbucks coffee for Christmas brunch.  Oh, and thanks to another thoughtful friend I was able to indulge in my usual Christmas breakfast treat, peanut M&Ms-delightful!  

Chris was also excited about his new water bottle-useful for water and Coke, his drink of choice.

We talked with family on Skype and I even made Christmas dinner-not a turkey, but a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, the works!  That night we headed over to a friend's house, sang Christmas carols, and ate dessert.  While we were there Chris received an SMS that some of his dirt biking friends were planning to come over the next morning to wish us "Selamat Natal" (Merry Christmas).  I felt a little panicked as this meant I needed to figure out a meal and get the house ready for visitors on short notice, but it worked out fine.  It was great to host Chris's friends and hopefully they enjoyed the American-style brunch we served!

So that was Christmas-I got through the first one and hopefully the next ones are easier.  We will see.

New Years was low-key, well it started out the way.  We had dinner with friends, played games, shot off some fireworks and headed home by 9:30 pm (they have young kids, so staying up until midnight isn't quite their speed).  We drove around town a bit to see the celebrations, and it was hopping!  New Years is a big deal in Indonesia-how do you know?  Karaoke everywhere of course!  At the police station, the mall, random cafes, even at the cell phone provider's store there were big screens and speakers set up and people were singing their hearts out.  They were also selling cardboard horns at about every corner, so people were running around blowing those.  It was very festive and fun.  We headed home and watched the fireworks go off at midnight and soon after we went to bed.  

Unfortunately, the beginning of our year wasn't nearly as fun.

Fairly soon after midnight a thunderstorm blew in and our power went out, which is not atypical in the least.  Chris was in a deep sleep and didn't hear any of it, but for some reason I feel like I have to stay awake until storms pass and the power comes back on-I guess to make sure I am ready to respond if there is a crisis?  I don't really know what I think I would do to help in the pitch black in my PJs, but, it's yet another manifestation of the control issues that I have, which I was aware of, but have become so much more pronounced to me since I have moved here!  Anyway, the storm died down, the power came back on and I started to drift into sleep when suddenly there was about the loudest crack of thunder I have ever heard.  I jumped up in fright, and Chris not only jumped up, but also let out a scream that about stopped my heart.  He was sleeping so deeply that he awoke in terror at the noise.  Once he actually woke up after he screamed, he didn't even know it had happened.  I however was shaking uncontrollably and crying.

Then the power went out and it was pitch black.  Again.  How comforting.

So, I was awake for the rest of night and I have been having trouble sleeping ever since.  I keep having flashbacks of the lightening strike and Chris's horrible scream and I don't want to go to sleep for fear I will wake up to that again.  Plus I'm afraid of the dark, yes, I'm like 5 years old, I know, but it's true, I really am very scared to be in the dark.  Unfortunately the advent of the New Year has marked a decrease in the reliability of our power.  We are having more frequent outages, and although they don't usually last very long, 20-30 minutes, they are still unnerving for me if they happen at night.  So that's my struggle right now.  I feel like I am living on constant high alert and it is tiring-physically and mentally.  I'm sure it will get better with time, but it's hard now.

Anyway, when we got up on New Years Day we had no Internet.  After waiting several days for the Internet company to send someone out, we were told that our modem was ruined, presumably by the lightening bolt that struck our house or near our house early on New Years Day.  After Chris bought a new modem he realized that parts of his computer were also fried, so he had to replace those as well.  Finally we were up and running with Internet yesterday, so I am finally able to update you today on everything that has been going on.  It's been a bit of a rough start to the year, but nothing TOO bad.

Those are pretty much all my stories-sorry I don't have anything too funny or entertaining.  Our events of the last week have been of the scary or frustrating variety.  A bright spot is that Chris is now officially on the flight schedule and flew his first long day today.  He felt that it went well and he is excited to get more "air time" very soon.  My language studies have been partially interrupted for the next few weeks because one of my tutors is having her final examinations at the University of Borneo.  It’s kind of nice to have a break, but that means I have to be even more disciplined to study on my own, something I am not so good at.  I am trying to keep at it!  I am still studying with my other tutor 2 days a week, so I can keep moving forward (hopefully).

That’s the skinny on our lives right now-not too exciting, but thanks for reading.  I’ll post again soon as long as our Internet keeps holding out and we have power.  Hope 2011 is treating you well thus far!