Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!

Our Easter Morning table-thanks to an awesome package from the Royal Oak Missionary Church Pioneer Girls we had little Chinese take-out box-style Easter baskets and Easter candy! 

Happy Easter everyone!  A day late, but that’s okay!  We celebrated Resurrection Day by getting together with MAF friends for worship songs and reading of the Easter story in the morning and later having brunch with the whole MAF gang followed by an Easter Egg hunt for the kids.  It was chaotic and fun with lots of yummy food! 

This year I was rejoicing not only in our risen Lord, but also in the fact that I could enjoy Easter somewhere balmy and full of new life as opposed to the often snowy, and usually chilly, gray Easter in Michigan…although I think this year it was actually quite nice there…still, I was loving wearing a spring skirt and short-sleeved top without a coat!

After the brunch Chris and I relaxed at home-well I relaxed, Chris finished transferring his written flight logbook to a digital logbook, a project that has taken him 30+ hours!  He was so happy to get that tedious work behind him, now he just has to maintain the log by entering his flight hours weekly and he’s all set.  A job well done!

The only other thing that is notable since my last post is we attended a wedding about a week ago-our first Indonesian wedding!  The bride was the long-time house helper of one of the MAF families, so we were all invited.  Since the bride has become so close with the MAF family she works for, she had the pilot, David and his wife, Natalie, take part in the wedding by walking her down the aisle (I guess it was quite the procession with the bride, her parents, David, Natalie and the groom all walking down the aisle together) and sitting on the stage at with her, her husband and family members during the reception.  It is customary for family to go to the wedding ceremony and then friends to join them at the reception, so Chris and I didn’t see the actual wedding vows. 

The reception took place at the house of the groom’s family.  Chris and I drove our motorcycles to the reception, (side note, I would NOT recommend riding a motorcycle in a knee-length dress and high-heeled sandals…helmets don’t do wonders for the hair either) not quite sure where we were going, but when we got closer there was no question where the party was!  A large cluster of people was visible from the road as well as countless motorcycles and cars parked every which way.  People crowded under a homemade archway, slowly moving toward the brightly lit tent, stage and tables of food.  As we were enveloped by the mass of wedding guests and waited on a narrow, rustic wooden bridge over a drainage canal I prayed that the logs would hold up under the weight of so many people…it would have been quite a fall!  Luckily, we made it to the other side safely (everyone else did too), and were immediately corralled into line for rice and various meat and vegetable dishes.  We then found a seat under the tent, ate and looked at the bridal party.  The food was delicious, the music was loud, and the bride and groom looked very nice, although rather solemn and very hot!  Traditionally brides and grooms don’t do a lot of smiling here-a wedding is a more formal occasion…plus after the long hot day of getting ready, the ceremony and time with family, they are probably exhausted!  The bride (and maybe the groom, I’m not sure) is Torajanese from the island of Sulawesi, so the bride’s sister and some other ladies did a traditional Torajanese dance.  Sadly, we were stuck in the middle of the crowd trying to get in when the dance was going on, so we missed it-I was bummed about that.

After we finished eating we watched the wedding party and the crowd for a little while, then made our way onto the stage, shook everyone’s hand, said “congratulations”, dropped our money gift in the bucket on the platform, and headed home.  All in all the whole process took less than an hour-so different than an American wedding, but that is how they do it here.  It was a unique and fun experience, although I didn’t get any pictures because in the flurry of getting ready I forgot my camera at home-grrr!  Her are links to Natalie’s blog and Dave's blog, which have great pictures and more description of the wedding.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and are enjoying the beauty of springtime-flowers, new leaves, birds chirping-such a special time of year. 

He is Risen-Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mango Men

On Tuesday I was busy starting dinner in the late afternoon when I heard the sound of a motorcycle making it’s way up our long driveway.  If I’m not expecting anyone this sound makes me feel a little nervous, because it usually means someone is here to try to ask me something that I probably won’t fully understand, and that always makes for an awkward few minutes of attempting to communicate with gestures, facial expression, and what words I can remember in my flustered state.  As I stood inside the screen door at the front of our house two men I had never seen before pulled up at the end of our driveway, stopped the motorcycle engine and got off.  I headed out with a tentative smile thinking “Oh boy, what’s this going to be about?” 

The shorter of the two men, who looked to be in their 40s, gestured to the tall tree in our yard and said “Bisa mangga?” (well, he said more than that, but those are the words that I heard and understood), which basically means, “Can we have your mangoes?”  I followed his gaze up the tree and realized for the first time that our tree was laden with mangoes!  They were hanging so far up there I didn’t even notice them!  I promptly answered “Ya, bisa”, which means, “yes, you can”.  I watched as the taller man nimbly swung up the tree and attached a long rope to one of the branches.  The shorter man attached a long stick with a hook on the end and a plastic basket that looked like one of the handheld ones that would be used for a small load at the grocery store to the rope, and the mango harvesting tools were pulled up the tree.  For about 15 minutes the man in the tree used the stick to grab every possible mango.  The man on the ground attempted to catch any mangoes that didn’t make it into the basket-it was pretty funny to watch him rush to catch them, or jump out of the way so he wouldn’t get hit in the head by a wayward fruit!  Unfortunately I forgot to get out my camera and get a picture of the reaping of the mangoes-I am often so busy experiencing things here that I don’t remember to snap a picture until it’s too late. 

When the basket was lowered down, full of green mangoes, I ran out to get a few before they were taken away.  I think the men were shocked when I only took six mangoes, but I don’t know what I would have done with any more than that-I would rather the mangoes be used to bring in some money for those men at the fruit market.  After all, if it weren’t for the skill of the tall man to pick the fruit and the boldness of the shorter man to ask me in the first place, most of the mangoes would have gone to waste pecked away by birds or smashed and rotted on the driveway. 

Here’s the tree-now stripped of mangoes

And here’s our share of the windfall-still hard as rocks, but hopefully they will ripen soon and then, yum!   

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rat Dungeon No More!

I mentioned several weeks ago that we were getting the storage area that is off of our kitchen on the side of our house re-done.  To give you an idea of exactly why we felt this was necessary, let me show you some of the “before” pictures…

The front of the storage area-complete with a non-working, permanently-stained bird fountain

From the front door looking in

The Drainage ditch-a favorite hangout of the rats-our sink and shower water drains out into it.  Mold anyone?  Also, water poured in through holes in the wall when it rained.

The infamous jail door at the back of storage area-we never used it..but it adds to the dungeon-like ambiance

Looking from the back of the storage area-to the right is the door into the kitchen

Let me also mention that I could hear rats scuffling around in the area nightly, and was often greeted in the morning by a dead rat that had escaped from the trap, but couldn’t make it through the drainage ditch that ran along the wall, when I opened the door to start the laundry.  These may be circumstances that other much stronger, more tolerant, and decidedly more Spiritual individuals would calmly deal with, but not being particularly calm, nor tolerant of non-human creatures, and not infused with this particular brand of God-breathed serenity in the face of mangy critters, particularly of the sort that I’m sure carry diseases and would like nothing better than to find a way into my kitchen, which I would NOT handle well, I needed some major changes to be made.  And after finding a furry friend (in my case, enemy) perched on the porcelain of our toilet, (click here for the full story) I am looking to keep vermin in all it’s forms as far from the house as possible.

Really, is it necessary for there to be so many rats in this world? And why must they be as strong and hearty as lumberjacks? 

But I digress, as I tend to do when thinking about rats.


So yeah, I really needed to have that room enclosed and rodent-proofed!  Also, there was a smell that wafted up from the drainage ditch, especially during a rainstorm, which was a tantalizing combination of old food, mold, and animal waste…and that smell would invade our kitchen regularly.

Again I say, ick.

After about one month of work, which was interrupted by the 20-gallon-drum-as-a- septic-tank debacle (click here for that lovely tale), we officially have a fully enclosed, much cleaner, useable room in which to park our motorcycles, store stuff, and do laundry!

The new front doors-much more sturdy and the wide doorway makes it easy to pull the motorcycles in and out.  Sadly the bird fountain is a distant memory...

Looking in from the front door-so much space and light-we went from one lightbulb to six!

No more drainage ditch!  They sunk the pipes into the ground and covered over it with concrete.  Mold & mildew-free walls as well...Chris and I scrubbed them with bleach ourselves!

From the back looking forward.  A wall was built to block off the back part of the area with the jail door.  The wall and ceiling there were so damaged that they decided to leave them as is.  This means we still have a small, nasty little dungeon room we have to enter from the back of the careful naughty children!

We still need to give it a couple coats of paint, and I am toying with the idea of painting the concrete floor with a fun, bright-colored design-this is if we can get the floor to fully dry, which has been our only problem so far with the remodel.  We aren't sure if the concrete itself is still sweating, or if we have a permanent condensation problem.  We are really hoping it's the former because if it is the later we will probably have to get more work done, and we aren't sure what would help with that type of problem.  We started moving stuff out of our guest room and into the storage area last week, which feels great!  We can actually begin thinking about furnishing our guest room, and Chris can get into his wardrobe (located in the guest room) without traversing piles of haphazardly stacked boxes!  And the best part is, so far, no rats or evidence of rats in the renovated room.  Hallelujah!

While we are on the subject of home improvements, I don’t think I have posted any pictures of our kitchen since the very beginning of our time at the house.  A countertop with lower cabinets came with the house, but we needed a bit more space, and I have always wanted to try open shelving because I adore a cottage-style look, so this is what we ended up with.

I would highly recommend open shelving-I love the look of it, and it is so convenient.  No opening and shutting cupboards or standing on a chair to dig around in the back of them, it’s great.  It’s a nice option, especially for those who use their kitchen a lot and use the dishes often, because if they sit, then they get dusty and that’s gross.  No danger of that here, I regularly use nearly every dish in the kitchen, as my husband, the faithful after-dinner dishwasher, will attest to!

Chris made it through his big week of flying last week just fine-thanks for the prayers.  He actually played a significant part in making a Christian men’s conference happen at a village interior as he and another MAF pilot transported 100+ men to the village doing numerous shuttle runs with a Cessna 206 and a Caravan (those are the names of airplanes, for those of you who aren’t well-versed in pilot-speak, and trust me, I’m not very well-versed myself) on Friday.  Chris said many of the men, especially those who were more advanced in years, were grinning from ear to ear; they were so excited to have the opportunity to attend this men’s meeting.  Chris was blessed to help the Indonesian church in Kalimantan in this way!

I felt a little beat up after last week myself.   I don’t know if it was the back-from-vacation-blues or another surge of culture shock (I have heard it said that around 6 months tends to be a hard time in the first year overseas, and we hit that in mid-March), but I am feeling a bit down and out.   I am officially tired of language-learning and daily feeling like a dummy…I know I won’t always feel like that, but I’m ready for it to stop sooner as opposed to later!  I have to keep taking it one day at a time and not being too hard on myself, but not being lazy either, because I can tend toward that too-sometimes everything feels like too much and then I just end up spacing out in front of a movie that I’ve seen 100 times.  This can be good, but only in moderation…not like everyday…that described several of my days last week.  It only perpetuates the emotional malaise, but at the moment it feels so therapeutic! 

I just started reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp (if you want to know more about it you can click on the title of the book for a link to the website), and it is an excellent reminder of the need to be thankful for all we are given each day-all the blessings God gives that we don’t deserve…I need to remember that every moment! 

So now I will wrap this up and be thankful while making refried beans and salsa and guacamole from scratch…be thankful that I have the time and the resources to cook things like this in a foreign land that isn't Mexico.

And try my hardest not to think about Jack’s Artichoke Garlic Salsa and refried beans in a can, lard and all…or authentic Mexican restaurants…dwelling on those things definitely won’t increase my thankfulness.   

Just saying.

I hope you are smiling now, because I am too!  Talk to you later!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Good, The Sad, and The Creepy

Hi all-I must admit that so much has happened since my last post that I got to the point where I was just avoiding writing a new post because I knew it would be super long, but here we are, so brace yourselves for a lengthy note!

Let’s start with “The Creepy” since it happened first…

About 2 weeks ago I was mopping our side porch in the afternoon.  I have had to start cleaning it myself because Zero has become so aggressive and protective since getting pregnant that she does not let our house helper come on the side of the porch that she (Zero) sleeps on.  I had disturbed the crabby sleeping dog so I could mop where she usually lays and she had moved onto the grass.  I was walking backwards and mopping in front of me to avoid leaving dirty footprints, when I heard Zero give a growly-sounding bark.  I turned to see what the trouble was and I see her face to face with a cobra, both of them in attack position!  I hurried to the end of the porch farther away from the action, and yelled for Zero to come to me, which of course she ignored.  I watched in fear as Zero went at the cobra and the cobra struck out at her.  At one point Zero ran away shaking her head and rubbing her face on the grass, which I assumed meant she was probably hit by some of the cobra’s venom, oh, did I mention that the cobras we have here are often spitting cobras, as if a regular old cobra wasn’t enough, we have to live with ones that can spit blinding venom-horrible!  I thought Zero might be done messing with the snake at the point, but no, that tough little dog went right back, head to head with the beast.  I went inside the house at that point because I couldn’t bear to see the snake bite Zero.  I called Chris at the MAF hangar and told him what was going on.  He said to stay away from the cobra, and if it didn’t go away immediately to call him and he would send someone to the house to kill it.  I got off the phone and peeked outside, and Zero was back in her usual sleeping place like nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and the snake was no where to be found.  The rest of the day passed without consequence, and I haven’t seen a cobra since, so hopefully the snake was just passing through, it doesn’t live in our yard.  It makes me shiver to think about how I was walking backwards right towards where the snake was-it was a stark reminder of how aware I need to be of my surroundings here in Indonesia.  Thanks to Zero the vigilant little dog I was okay this time!

So that was the creepy…thus reinforcing what I always say to Chris when I get frustrated with living here, “This part of the world in not safe!  Humans were not meant to live in the jungle!”  Spoken like a true midwestern, suburban-dweller!

Next in line, “The Good”, and after seeing a highly poisonous snake right in our yard I was ready for something good!  Last week the whole MAF Kalimantan team, which includes the families from the base in Tarakan and the base in Palangkaraya, which is located on the mainland of Kalimantan, headed to the “big” city of Balikpapan for our annual family conference.  Balikpapan is a 50-minute commercial flight away from Tarakan and it is on the coast of the mainland of Kalimantan (Borneo).  It’s a center for off-shore oil drilling and coal mining, so there are many more western ex-patriots that live there and that means there are more western-style places to eat…

Yup, you’re seeing it right; there are those golden arches!  I don’t think McDonalds has ever tasted so good, especially the fries!  We also enjoyed ice-cold root beer at A&W, good Mexican food at a cute beachside cafĂ©, and even ate at a yummy Indian restaurant.  There is a cafe with actual cold cut sandwiches too, something that is nonexistent in Tarakan, so we enjoyed some faux-Subway for lunch one day as well.  There is also lots of shopping, including several large malls, one of which has a real, authentic Starbucks in it!  It felt so good to sit in a nice, clean, scent-controlled mall, sipping a Starbucks latte.  I didn’t know how much I was craving a shot in the arm of Western culture until that moment!

There is also a delicious Pizza Hut in Balikpapan, but they have the WEIRDEST stuff on pizza-lettuce, mayonnaise, macaroni.  This sign was in front of the restaurant advertising their latest creation...

We didn't try it-cornflakes on pizza just seems wrong!

There are also large, well-stocked grocery stores in Balikpapan that have cheese and pork products.  Here are a couple pictures of my experience at the Hypermart, the closest place to a Walmart that I have found in Indonesia thus far. 

A lot of the frozen food is just in these open bins-it's kind of weird!  Notice how clean it is, and how bright and open and uncrowded-this is the opposite of my usual grocery shopping experience and it was WONDERFUL!!!
So funny-I didn't try any of the "Original Love Juice", but I'm sure it's quite potent with all those extra polyphenols (what?!)

I brought home a HUGE block of cheddar cheese and lots of bacon as well as heavy whipping cream, lasagna noodles, couscous, good chocolate, and a little carton of honest-to-goodness chocolate milk-not ultra-heat-treated (UHT) shelf milk, but real yummy milk!  We also visited the Ace Hardware store (yes, Ace is the place, even in Indonesia) and found a few much-needed good-quality household items (tools, hoses for our hot water heater that won’t leak-you know, boring but essential stuff).

Since Chris and I didn’t have a motorcycle or car in Balikpapan we took taxis and sometimes these funny little vehicles that look like wrecked up VW buses called Angkots (sounds like on-coats).  I took a couple pictures while we were riding in one of these.  The guys that drive them seem like they have a great time.  Often they have one or two of their friends up front with them, or sometimes their entire family, wife and several kids, and they just drive around and talk and smoke all day and night.  At one point the driver of the angkot we were in pulled up next to another angkot and had a lengthy conversation with the other driver in the middle of the road!  The people stuck on the motorcycles behind them were not excited about this.  The angkots are sort of like buses in that they drive particular routes, and when you want to get off you yell “Kiri”, which means “left” and they know to pull over to the side of the road and let you out, but not before you pay them of course!
Me in the back of the Angkot

Chris in the Angkot, chatting with the Indonesian guy beside him

Since Balikpapan is on the coast, Chris and I decided to try and take a walk on the beach, unfortunately we soon found that it was clogged with garbage-bummer.  I had to capture this unfortunate Barbie in a photo…a casualty of the Balikpapan beach!

And yes, we did more than just shop and go out to eat!  We spent time with our MAF teammates and were privileged to have Kevin & Linda Swanson come to speak about the commandments of Jesus: Love the Lord with all your heart, Love one another as God has loved us, and Love your neighbor as yourself (my paraphrasing).  It was great time to get refreshed and refocus on our purpose here in Indonesia.  God knew we needed to return to Tarakan feeling relaxed and rested because there was hard stuff coming.

A quick after-dinner picture in Balikpapan

Which brings me to “The Sad”.

Those of you that are on Facebook may already know that we had to find our little Zero dog a new home last weekend.  Since she has gotten older (she was a big puppy when we moved into our house), and especially since she has been pregnant, Zero has become more and more aggressive.  She barks and growls whenever someone besides Chris or I comes near the yard and if she is not held she will try to run at and bite people that come over.  It started with just men, but now it has spread to women and even kids, which has been scary.  We were hoping once Zero had her puppies that she would calm down and we wouldn’t have to re-locate her, but last Thursday one of the people who take care of our lawn startled Zero and she ran at the woman and bit her.  I tried to grab Zero before it happened, but I couldn’t get to her in time.  I felt terrible and the woman who was bit was hurting and upset.  I helped the woman clean out the bite, and later Chris took she and her husband to the hospital so she could get the wound thoroughly cleaned and have some shots of antibiotics.  We knew after that incident that we had to find another place for Zero to live because people come to our house almost every day between our house helper, the yard helpers, and my language tutors, as well as friends who have young children. 

With heavy hearts we said “good-bye” to our little dog on Saturday, one of the Indonesian guys that works with Chris agreed to take her-he is a single guy and he felt like he could handle her aggression and that she would be able to become friends with the other dogs in his neighborhood.  We felt terrible to give our sweet Zero away, because she was so nice with us-neither Chris nor I would have described ourselves as dog people before meeting Zero, but we are both missing her very much and so sad to let her go.  So far she has not bonded with the guy who took her, he actually said it seems she has run away, but I am wondering if she had her puppies and is hiding out somewhere close by his house with them.  If you think of it, please pray that Zero would get adjusted to her new home so we won’t have to worry about her, that we would not feel so crushed over letting her go, and most importantly, that the woman whom Zero bit would heal and have no complications.  I don't know if I want to try to have another pet again, it's too hard when it doesn't work out!  I just want to explain to Zero that we still love her, but we can't keep her because she bites-I actually did tell her all about it the day before she was taken away, but somehow I don't think she quite understood me...poor little dog.

The Zero Dog
I told you this would be a LONG post!  That sums up the major events of the last few weeks.  We are getting back into the swing of regular life after being away-language tutoring for me, flying and fixing for Chris.  Chris actually flies 4 out of 5 days this week!  Please pray for his safety because that is a big week of flying.  Hope you are all doing well and thanks for reading! I will post again soon.