Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Walking Tour

As promised, although a bit delayed, I took a walk around our neighborhood and took some shots.   I started in our yard.  We are fortunate that whoever lived here before us created some landscaping, and although that landscaping does involve chunks of concrete made to look like rocks and wood (a VERY Indonesian-style touch), it is still very nice!  Here is our front yard from the porch.  It’s hard to see in the distance in this picture because of the bright sunshine, but we can actually see the ocean from the corner of our porch. 

 A palm tree and some plants in our yard.

Thought I would include a picture of these nasty red ants.  They crawl all over our porch and fence.  They keep to themselves if we don’t get in their way, but if one happens to get on us, look out!  They bury their heads in the skin, chomp down and don’t let go unless they are forcefully pulled or flicked off.  One time when Chris was dirt biking he ran into one of their nests in a tree and they crawled all over his head and neck biting-so bad!  Luckily their bites don’t itch, they are more like stings and they don't hurt too long after the ants are removed from the skin.

This is our side porch.  As you can see, our little dog Zero posed for this shot.  Our porch wraps around the house and we have a door in the front and on the side.  The tree behind Zero is a mango tree, although it has not produced any fruit yet.

Here is the side yard, the most prominent feature of which is the giant and unused satellite dish.  I am acclimated to it now, but as I took this shot it came home to me what an eyesore it is!  We will get it taken out eventually, one of those projects for later.  On either side of the satellite dish are bushes that bloom with vibrant orange flowers.  Butterflies love them, so I enjoy dousing myself in bug spray (well, I actually really don’t enjoy that part of it) and sitting on the side porch watching the butterflies and the birds. 

Beyond out house is a small jungle area and then the neighbor’s house, as you can see in the first picture below.  There are several fruit trees in the jungle area, including a lime tree that drapes over into our yard.  In the lower picture are some of the delicious limes that I often pluck off and use for cooking.  They smell delicious, but they are VERY sour!

In the back of our house is this space, which we don’t use for anything right now.  At the end of it is a door into our storage area that I always call the jail door for two reasons.  1) It looks like the door to a small-town unsophisticated jail and 2) We can’t actually open it because we don’t have the key to the padlock that closes it.  I think this area at the back of our house has potential, but I’m not sure for what.  I have various ideas, maybe making another room or increasing the size of our guest room or TV room, maybe tiling it and making it a patio with a table and chairs.  My personal favorite is putting up curtains and creating a private sunbathing area!  Although sadly it is so hot here that laying in the sun isn’t too appealing.  We will see what develops out here, but for now, it is just another place for Zero to sleep all sprawled out in the sun.

On the other side of our house in a dense, jungle area that personally I would not tromp through if you paid me.  I look at it and think “huge snakes” and that’s enough to keep me well away.  There is a wall, with barbed wire on the top, separating our driveway and yard from the jungle, which makes me feel a little better. 

The first thing I noticed as I got to the other side of our gate is this scary-looking specimen in a tree.  I wonder if she’s big enough to eat small birds-yikes!  She can stay right up there and away from me thank you very much!

A little farther down our driveway is this pohong kelapa, which means coconut tree.  It has continually produced coconuts since we have moved in (and I’m sure before that time as well), but we have yet to try them, mainly because they are so hard to get open that we don’t bother.  Also, people randomly come up our driveway and take the coconuts-I don’t know if they feel like because the tree is on our driveway and not in our yard that it is fair game, or if they just don’t care.  It doesn’t really bother me, especially since we don’t use the coconuts anyway, but it’s still a little weird.

I felt a little like a snooper taking this shot, since it’s looking down into someone else’s yard, but I wanted to show how because our house is up on a hill our driveway overlooks the houses that line the main road our house is off of.

So, here is the first part of our driveway.  On the left is a solid concrete wall and on the right is a wall that I think is hollow behind.  The white things sticking out of the wall on the right are drain pipes that gush water when it rains. 

Here’s Zero peeking through the fence, trying to figure out what I’m up to!

Around the bend is the rest of the driveway.  At the bottom is a road called Peremnas and across the street is an Anglican church that we have attended a couple of times.

This is the view looking down Peremnas road to the right.

This is a street almost across from our driveway that leads to another neighborhood.

Here are some views down Peremnas road to the left.  It’s hard to tell in these pictures, but there are mountains in the distance.  To the right in the lower picture where you can see a sign with red on it is B21, a restaurant we often eat at before our weekly Bible study on Thursdays.  Just before B21 are two houses where other MAF families live.  Across from B21 is a neighborhood up the hill where 4 more MAF family homes are located.  It’s great to be within walking distance of friends.  This road leads out to the main road that the mall, KFC, grocery stores and other shopping are.  Several other MAF families live off that main road in an area called Penenki, which is farther, but also within walking distance.  There is a family that lives in a neighborhood about 3 minutes away and another that lives out past the airport, which is a 10-15 minute drive.  I didn’t walk too much farther down the road because there aren’t many other interesting things to take pictures of and because it was super hot and I was sweating like crazy!

As I walked I realized why I hardly ever take pleasure walks here, this realization came after I was nearly run over twice by people so interested in yelling out “Hello Bule!" (pronounced boo-lay, it means foreigner) "how are you?” that they nearly ran down this Bule!  Sidewalks aren’t common in Tarakan, so walking can be a bit hazardous and always interesting because of the constant yells and sometimes strange comments.  One of my favorites is when people speed by on their motorcycle and shout out “what is your name?”  I’m wondering what response they are looking for-should I yell “Sarah” after them as they leave me in the dust?  I’m never quite sure what to do with that one.  Then there are the guys that work in the sand pits.  There are usually anywhere between 3 and 10 of them riding in the back of a dump truck and they enjoy yelling out “I love you” and then staring and laughing.  It’s a little like walking by some construction sites in the U.S.-I guess the inappropriate behavior of male laborers in groups transcends culture! 

I snagged a quick picture of these flowers that are all around.  They are called paper flowers (I’m sure they have a more official name than that, but I don’t know it) and I love their vibrant magenta color. 

Walking back up our driveway, you can see the big field to the left, which cows (steers? I’m not sure what to call bovines whose main purpose is not to produce milk) often graze in. 

Here are some pretty palm plants at the top of the first part of our driveway.

Zero coming to meet me as I trudge around the bend of our driveway.  It gets slippery on the concrete because of the water from the drainage pipes, which produces a general coating of slime, so I have to be careful not to fall.

And now I’m back at our house-here’s our little white place. You can see the pile of bricks on the right-we are preparing to have our storage area renovated.  Right now it is a damp, moldy rat haven with a drainage ditch running through it.  We are hoping to make it more like a usable room.  Before and after pictures of that project to come in a later post.

I hope that gives you a feel for the area where we live and some of the trees and flowers and bugs that are around.  I wish I could give each of you a personal tour, because I can’t capture the heat and the smells, both good and bad, and the ever-changing sky-often piled with thunderheads foreboding a midnight thunderstorm.  The sounds are unique too, motorcycles speeding by, bugs humming and buzzing, frogs and toads with their various croakings, and the ever-present calls to prayer from the multiple Mosques.  It couldn’t be more different than the Midwest suburb I grew up in, but it’s feeling more and more like my home!

The latest on life in the last few weeks is Chris had what we think was strep throat all last week, but after getting antibiotics on Friday he is recovering, although he has a lingering cough.  I have avoided strep so far, but I fell today coming off a flight of steps onto the slippery ground and landed hard on my left knee.  My knee is swollen up now and it feels wrong when I walk, like something is twisted inside.  I am praying that the twisted feeling is just swelling and once that goes down it will be fine, because a major knee injury would mean care that isn’t available in Tarakan.  Other than those things, no major news, just life as usual.  We have a prayer letter coming out in the next week or so, so you can be looking for  that in your mailbox, or better yet, you can find it on our Desjardine’s Destinations fan page on Facebook-click here for the link.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!  If you have any questions or requests for future blogs, please let me know-I would be happy to oblige!  Thanks for reading!


  1. The strep and cough thing that Christ had...those things are going around here, too. Strep's going around like crazy, as well as colds. The lingering cough thing, my mom's had that, and I guess been going around, too. Wow. 12,000 miles is no match for germs, I guess.

    Thanks for the tour. Tell Zero I say hi, although he doesn't know me.

  2. I like the look of your yard. The mango tree looks like a big bonsai! You could turn the satellite dish into a giant bird bath. Who named the dog? I like the idea of watching the butterflies - the simple pleasures. The mountains so close to the ocean remind me of Viet Nam, which is the first place I ever saw the two so close together. The pix of the road make it look like Sleepyville there! Is that how it really is, are you far enough from the hustle and bustle of town to have it be peaceful? I'd guess the beasts would be called cattle, but, hey, I'm a midwesterner just like you. Hope your knee continues to get better. I really enjoyed this set of pictures, presented by my all-time favorite tour guide. It's nice to have a feel for what it's like around your home and neighborhood. We think about you often, and really enjoy your keeping us updated here. We love you two! Uncle Paul

  3. Glad you enjoyed the tour Uncle Paul! Love the idea of making the satellite dish into a giant birdbath! We are a little away from the bustle of town, so it's pretty quiet here, although we have several karoke places near us, so it can get kind of loud at night! My knee is much better, just a bruise now, but not much pain-I am thankful for that. I named the dog, after the ghost dog in the movie "Nightmare Before Christmas" if you are familiar with that one. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers! Love you too!