Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Birthday Thoughts

I'll start out by saying my birthday here was great. More people than I could have thought remembered, and I felt fully loved. Thanks to everyone who made it special.. Being woken up by singing, two birthday cakes, many text messages, many wall posts, and a skype date home. Who could ask for more?
Birthdays are days to feel loved. And usually, at least for me, it's a day to reflect on life and it's progression. I'm 24, and that's pretty young by most standards. That said, it's a year more than 23, and it's 10 years older than 14. I am getting older. Every one is, and it makes you think about how fast life happens.
I've never been afraid of death and I didn't understand why people would be. It's a moment of pain and then that's it. It's not like dying (usually) takes a really long time. There are some injuries that are more painful than some deaths. But anymore I don't think that's what people mean by saying they're afraid of death. I think fear of death goes beyond the fear of pain involved with the finishing of life. I think it's the not existing that gets to people. No one cheats death forever, and while there is technology for so much now days, we still have not invented something that will give us eternal life on earth. It's the inevitability of the day that we will finish actively effecting the world. Even for religious people who have strong beliefs about the afterlife, there's no experiencing it before it happens. There are ideas and there are words in sacred texts and there are stories of people who are dead for moments but return, but those are so subjective. We can't put our hand through to death and bring it back and see what it looks like. And we can't reach our hand into death and pull out ones who have gone before us. There's no going and coming. There's only going. And there's no sending reports back to people. Our consciously effecting the world is finished.
Even if you are not a deep thinker, not very philosophical, not into morbidity.. You have thought about it. Everyone has.
One side comment. My sister died 7 years ago, and this does effect my view on the end of life as we know it. This is from a poem by John White Chadwick.
"More home-like feels the vast unkown,
Since they have entered there;
To follow them were not so hard,
Wherever they may fare."
The thought of death is easier when someone that you love a lot has passed through before you.

That said, it's still hard. And there's no way out of it but accept it. Cause living a life in constant fear of it's ending is no way to live. It's a life of constant death.
Living life as if there was always a tomorrow is no way to live either. Because then you get to the end and you're like, "Wait, what?! It's done?! I'm not ready!" How awful and devastating that thought is. I think the right balance is keeping in mind how old you are. Living so that your life is full whatever age you are: keeping your relationships strong, letting go of those relationships that are empty and not life-giving to either of you, being at peace with God, doing those things you love without fear. And also, living so that your future, your next year, will be better. Doing a bit of planning. Improving yourself, gaining experience that you can add on to the next year, and make your next 5 years more full.
The best thing would be to get to the end of your life, be on your death bed, and be able to say "Wow, what a life! I'm so tired! I'm ready to go. A full life that will keep effecting the world for years to come. Kids that will contribute positively to the world. People who will miss me and feel there is a hole in the world because I'm gone. A community that is changed. People who love God more because I affected their lives. Full." To be ready to let our life speak for itself without our bodies to speak for it. What I mean is, our lives will echo once we're gone, and to let that echoing start. To be ready...

I realize that this post is a bit of a downer, but that's life for you. There's a time to be very present in the moment and be lost in the activity around you, and there is a time to step back and be a bit more philosophical and check and make sure that in those moments of being present and engaged in the activities of the day that you're living out your philosophy of life that you develop when you're thinking your deeper thoughts.

I think to be ready for death also involves being at peace with God.
My faith is only legit BECAUSE I will die. It would be stupid to be a Christian if we lived forever.

"If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are all people most to be pitied."


"But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ."
I Corinthians 15

So yeah. Anyways regardless of religion we don't know exactly what it's going to be like over there. On the "other side". Such an image of crossing over, and the bridge only goes one way!
But I like the end of Chadwick's poem. It's honest about the fact that we know nothing about the next life, except one thing.

"They cannot be where God is not,
On any sea or shore."

I know nothing about what's next after death. Except that I will be with God. And whatever that looks like, whatever "sea or shore", He can worry about. I'm satisfied knowing wherever I will be, God will be there. Created meets Creator and never looks back.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I bought an oven. Basically it's a tin box that sits on top of the stove, but I have some great Christmas-cookie-expectations for it.
Except for the occasional memory that hits me about Christmases at home, I'm really doing ok being here for the Holidays.
But I'm not passing over the season. I'm definitely embracing it. I play Christmas music on itunes a lot, and have started plucking them out on the guitar. This years song of obsession is "It's Christmas" by Coconut Records. Something about it's 70's music feel, it's simplicity.. I play it constantly. Also, Zooey Deschanel's "Baby It's Cold Outside"... I just love her voice. So classic.
I haven't understood yet what Indonesian Christians do for Christmas yet. My family has yet to set up a Christmas tree or any decorations at all, for that matter. It may have to do with the fact that my host mom had a bad seizure a couple of weeks ago and has been going to the hospital for therapy every other day since. Some of the neighbors in the hood have Christmas trees up. They're little though, and there are only about 3 neighbors in the area that are Christians, so it's not like the place is lit up.
I've been to two church Christmas celebrations. Well, one of them was a church birthday with some Christmas songs thrown in. The other was in Semarang and the church group took a bus from Kudus and met up with a church there. It was like a Christmas service would be in the US, with a candle lighting, but then there were also some non-church songs which I thought was interesting. Not bad, just interesting. Like "Oh Christmas Tree" and some Santa songs. It didn't make me homesick like I thought it would. Maybe because a fellow SALTer showed up to the event and we sat together and we were able to snicker and exchange observations.
Homesickness hits me at weird times. Once in October I was at a church play and they played a praise song in English and I lost it. Just started crying. I was alone in a big congregation and didn't have anyone I knew sitting with me. Maybe that was it. Other than that, there have been no times of pit-of-the-stomach homesickness. Just, missings.
Sometimes, to be honest, I miss the food from home more than the people.
There, I said it.
But I do miss the people too.
My Christmas plans are as follows:
-Bake Christmas cookies and not burn down the house (having the cookies actually turn out and not burn would be an added bonus. Low expectations is the way to go.)
- My mother sent me some Christmas decorations and I have put them up. They include a gold glitter star, a huge plastic door hanging, and window clings. The tacky (ok Mom, it IS tacky and you know it. I do love it though, and I play the little music and the flashy lights at least once a day.) door hanging is up (It's a full length plastic sheet with a manger scene and some lights that blink and sing when you press a button) and the gold star in on my computer desk. The clings are yet to be put up.
- On the 20th I will take Christmas cookies to the school for teachers and students. This will serve two purposes: The 20th is my Birthday, and it is customary here for people to treat others on their birthday, and I want to share with the school my culture and part of that is Christmas and it's cookies.
-On the 22nd I will travel to Salatiga for the annual office Christmas party. Cookie decorations, a dinner, and a white elephant gift exchange will be involved.
The next day I will either stay in Salatiga and do some more baking and festiviting or I will head to Semarang and see some of the Christmas lights at the mall there. And buy a peppermint mocha from Starbucks.
-I will spend the 25th at my host families home in Kudus. There are several Christmas day church services I will probably attend. I may or may not be in one of them. Communication here is weird. Because it just doesn't happen sometimes. So sometimes you just have to go with it. Better that than get your panties all up in a ball and try to get information that will just change in the next couple of days anyway, which leads to a lot of frustration and unnecessary mental stress.
-Then Jerica and Amanda arrive the 28th and 29th and we head for a week of discovering and adventuring and relaxing on Lombok, the island next to Bali.

I'm excited for these things.
But mostly I'm really, really thankful for God-incarnate, Jesus. Christmas is critical to the Christian belief. God becoming man, coming to the earth to teach us how to live and to die so that we can be with him after we leave the earth. I can't find that kind of beauty and love in any other religion. It wins me over to the religion of Jesus.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Indo Wedding

Most of my students are between the ages of 18 and 23 but I'm sure this kid sitting in front of me is at most 16. But no, she's 18, and she just told me she is getting married.
Pang in the stomach. But you're so young! She's cute and she giggles behind her hand. Here in Indonesia it's rude for a girl to show too much teeth when she laughs, so the girls are always laughing behind their hands. This is a little bit sad to me because I love seeing a huge smile and to think it's rude is just so.... culturally different. That's all it is. You know, living in another culture for 3 months has shown me really just how culturally prideful I am and I've had to check myself in the way I describe some of the aspects of culture that clash with my own. Some differences in culture are soft and aside from a "Oh, well that's interesting!" they're not too mind blowing but some cultural differences are really hard for me to not judge. Like getting married young.
I want to say that there's no way it can be alright and be a good thing for anyone, but I can't say say that. To see things without passing judgement is so hard, but it's a good lesson in grace and learning. I'm learning about a culture and giving it grace when it offends my own culture. And different is not bad. Different is interesting and different is challenging. It's ok, and I'm learning to embrace it.
But A.'s just so young and she's my student.... Not just a stranger pictured in the National Geographic or a population statistic or a vague idea in a Cross Cultural Understanding class... And here she is giving me a wedding invitation, giggling. Her light blue head scarf complements her dark features and her eyes are so bright.. How can I say no?! She looks so happy- of course I'll go. But I do express to her that I think that she's a very young girl to be getting married. S., our mutual friend sitting next to her across my desk, explains that in the villages people tend to get married younger. Well that makes sense, I've read that places. But her? Couldn't she break the trend? I ask her if she'll continue studying in the university after her marriage. Of course! And she has. I've seen her several times in my classroom since her wedding and not only is she present but she radiates happiness. How can I in turn not be happy for her? She's a rock star. Getting married young but staying in school, and based on her mega intelligent questions in class, she is still learning just as much as before.

I've been to a wedding in Indonesia before but I didn't know who was getting married and I just came, took a picture with the bride, eat a lot of delicious food, and left. This wedding was totally different- I got behind the scenes access and they let me take pictures even though I broke the rules and took some during the ceremony. It was amazing, and such a unique experience.

I arrive early- I think it was 7am. S and I eat some rice treats and drank a bottle of tea while we waited inside, sitting alone on the colorful carpet in the living room area of the house. Soon I am ushered in and got to see A. getting ready. She tells me she's been up since 5am getting ready. The evening before she sent me a text explaining that she was in the 3rd phase of a traditional, day-before-the-wedding cleansing process. I can hardly recognize her now! Her face is powdered and heavily made up. She's beautiful though, see for yourself.

After I snap a few shots and talk to her some I leave the tiny bedroom and sit outside with her classmates in a small area between the front living room and the kitchen. We eat Soto and talk about school. Many of them have been in a class of mine but I can't remember their names. We get re-introduced but my mind wanders and I forget their names again in seconds. All the names sound the same, and I can only say that because they say the same thing about American names.

She comes out and hangs out with us for a bit. "Hangs out" is not quite right.. She sits stiffly on a plastic chair and doesn't move a muscle because her head piece is pinching her face and she has a delicate flower sash draped across her that could fall off in a second. Her shiny silver head piece starts falling out so we have to readjust it. She's hungry, so a friend spoon feeds her some Soto. It dribbles down her chin and we scramble crazily to not let it mess up her make up. Finally it's action time and her classmates and I huddle in the middle room while she, her father, her fiance, and some religious and government men sit in the front living room. The ceremony begins. There are some prayers that happen between the legal proceedings and while I don't know what all is going on, A and her fiance are signing papers and the main man preceding over the ceremony explains to them their legal rights and roles. I'm still peeking from the middle room, not sure if it's proper for me to go into the other room or not. This is when I get in trouble for taking pictures at the wrong time.

After this ceremony A changes her clothes and her new husband disappears to his house. The wedding is happening at her house. She sits outside in a decorated wooden seat on a platform with a heavily flowered background as we all sit on plastic chairs around tables of food and glass bottles of tea. The MC jokes around with the guests and we wait for the husband to arrive. When he does, a long and traditional ceremony takes place where different symbolic actions happen such as the bride and groom bowing at each set of their parents, the husband stepping on an egg and A cleaning his feet, money is transferred somewhere along the way, all the while the MC is speaking in very traditional Javanese explaining what is going on (later I find out almost no one knows what he is saying because there are several levels of Javanese and he's speaking the one least people know. I'm told this happens at every wedding.)

Finally it's picture time and after several pictures with A, her husband, and then classmates, I take off with S. In total I was here about 4 hours I believe. What an experience... I loved being a part of A's day and I'm glad she's still coming to school and this is not the end of her life- it's just another fase in it. We're having breakfast next Thursday and I'm excited to hear about how she's doing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Every few months I have a mini break down where I realize that I cannot save the whole world right now, nor will I ever be able to save the whole world, and that the burden I put on myself to create the perfect resume that will land me the job where by the age of 27 I am saving the whole world from my desk with a view of the Empire State Building or the Capitol Building with a gourmet late by my side and an income exceeding 40 grand a year... Who am I kidding? Heck, now that I think about it is that even what I really want....
It's quite a load and I begin to see things as "What will this look like on my resume?" instead of "What does this add to my life?".

Resumes don't have anyone's name on it but your own. It doesn't reflect your quality of life. It reflects your academic and work achievements and attempts to give a possible future employer an idea about your ability to successfully fullfil job requirements. No one puts on their resume that they have a healthy body, a healthy mind, a good community of friends and peers who hold them accountable to be the best version of themselves.. A resume doesn't mention the quality of your relationship with your family or your outlook on life- if you are able to appreciate the small things and understand the meaning of living a full life. It doesn't mention if you are at peace with the Creator of the universe and have the right perspective about making a broken world less broken with the creativity and uniqueness you were made with.

I know these things are so much more important than what is written on a resume, but sometimes I get caught up in the rat race of the world and the bad economy and lack of jobs and the prospect of being out there in the job market again in about 7 months just gives me a headache and a heartache and I wonder if I have what it takes to make it. And then that brings me to think.... What does it mean to "make it"? What is dying well? One thing that still strikes me when I think about it, is that we are all going to die one day. From famous TV actors, to presidents, to multi millionaires.. Their fate and my fate is no different than absolutely anyone elses in this world. We all have one finite life to be lived, and none of us can get away from the question "What does it mean to make it?" What am I living about?

Sometimes I feel panicky when I think that maybe I will die not being known very well in any area of work.... In development or politics or writing or theology... That I will not have made a mark in any of these and that 2 generations after my death maybe a handful of people will know my name. I dont know though.. Because then I think- better to be known while I am alive, then work all my life and neglect relationships so I can be known after I die. Not that I think that anyone who has ever made a mark in the work world has neglected their relationships. I'm just saying that if the stress of making my resume better is putting stress on my relationships, it's not worth it. Let it go. Be where you are and do what you need to do to take care of your mind, soul, spirit and relationships where you are, and think about your resume later.

The world is not meant to be carried on a single pair of shoulders and I think when it does it's really a shame and ignores that fact that I'm part of a bigger humanity. We're not in this alone, and no one steals the show, because no one lives forever. Death means that our role in this world ends, and hopefully we will have done something to bring peace and redemption to the broken areas in us, around us, and between us.

I can deal with that. Since I have the bigger picture about life after death, there's nothing in that last paragraph that I can't live with. I have a hope in humanity (because I have a hope in the One who became human and by redeeming us, showed us how to live and how to work to redeem the world around us) and I have hope in the role of an afterlife that is just as lively and legit as life on earth.

So now that the world is off my shoulders, I see it was never meant to be there anyways. I will have an "Ugh life is too big for me, this burden is too heavy!" moment again in a few months but hopefully truth will hit me over the head again and I will be able to refocus before going insane.
That said, I need to get out of my head and out of the open Word document entitled "Resume 2010" and engage these people around me, starting with creating a power point for the Writers Forum at the university tomorrow and then visiting the work girls at the store next door. And write some emails to some people I miss a lot back at home. :) And make some tear-out snow flakes for my room. I love Christmas time and I don't care if it's 110 degrees outside, it's going to look like Christmas in here.!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Update on life

I realize it's been a while since my last blog entry and it's not because I haven't been doing anything worth blogging about. Often I'll be engaging in an awesome, unique activity and think, I so need to blog about this later! But when your internet is iffy and everyday you have those, "I need to blog this!" moments, time gets away from you and before you know it it would take 15 blog posts to relay your crazy stories.
I haven't been doing a very good job of personal journaling either which I'm mad about. Sometimes life's too busy and I'm too tired to go through the motions of remembering and writing.
This month of November has been hot. Maybe it's because at the moment I'm sitting in my underwear with a fan pointed blowing toward me and I'm still sweating, but I do feel like this month has been warmer than months past. I shower in the morning, shower right as soon as I get back from school, and usually shower right before bed if I have the energy.

In the beginning of this month we had MCC Indonesia team meetings in Bandungan. That's near Salatiga (where the MCC office is and where we had language training) and much higher than Kudus so it was colder. Actually, it was legit cold. I loved it. It was a great reminder that it's cold back in the US now too. It felt right. Team meetings were so great.. It had only been 2 and a half weeks since we started at our assignments but it was still good to be back with the office people from Salatiga and the other SALTers. I miss native English speakers and people who are accustomed to my culture when I'm in Kudus. I miss like minded people who understand the meaning of my being here and understand who MCC is and why I am here. The greater goal and vision. It was a crazy team meetings because of the natural disasters that had hit and were hitting Indonesia. The tsunami and earthquakes off the coast of Sumatra and the floods in Papua were over, but there were still relief efforts happening to address them. And then the Merapi eruption was still going on and people were being evacuated and then shuffled around as the danger distance increased around the volcano, so Jeanne, MCC Indonesia director, was both leading team meetings and trying to coordinate and work with MDS (Mennonite Disaster Services) to address the volcano craziness. It was great for me, actually, to see her "in action". I got to hear and see what MCC is about. We made lists and talked and our voices (even us one year SALTers) were listened to. I definitely feel a part of MCC Indonesia and appreciate that I am here not on my own but a part of a bigger effort to serve this country. We watched some good documentaries (ok, I slept through half of one but it started at like 8:30pm and we had had a pretty early morning and a full day that day so don't judge), eat some good food (some American chocolates, pretzels, and Karen even brought candy corn!!!!), had good discussions on the vision of MCC Indonesia, were updated on MCC's response to the natural disasters, talked about plans for MCC Indo team retreat in April (Bali?), and just hung out with each other.
It was at a beautiful green cabin-ish place and I loved the fresh feel. Kudus is pretty muggy, stuffy and hot.

Teaching has been good. It's not easy for sure and my patience gets low at times but I enjoy talking to the students and helping them understand new concepts. I've started making powerpoints and the students like the pictures and I think them reading the bullet points as they hear me speak on them is good for their learning. I teach about 2 classes a day and then spend a couple hours at my desk either talking to the professors, making power points, or talking to students who stop by. There is usually a professor in the class with me and I am technically an assistant. Some classes I only talk for about 40 minutes and other classes I have the whole time. My schedule is strange and not very consistent because the English dept director would like me to visit every class at least once so there is a lot of repeating information and new names to learn but I've started repeating classes a bit so faces are beginning to look familiar and I have started begin able to open up strait with teaching and not a long intro about who I am and what I'm doing at UMK. Starting next week I am meeting with groups of students outside of class a couple times a week and I think that will help with their opening up with me. They tend to be shy in class and that's hard when I'm teaching a class called "Speaking". They're great kids though and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year. The meetings outside of class will allow us to talk about subjects of peace and current events and I'm excited to engage their minds with some critical thinking opportunities.

I'm getting sick of the food here a bit. I'm tired of rice and have started eating mainly either toast or cereal in the morning. Just everyday the same thing is tiring. I feel like the food has many names but much of the same ingredients. Rice, peanut sauce, chicken, meatballs, noodles, broth, sambal. I'd like to start cooking at home more and creating some meals similar to what I'd eat at home. At least once in a while. I'm thinking about biking into town now actually, to buy pasta and Presto sauce and make spaghetti for dinner. It's a bit expensive though.. The pasta is maybe RP 10,000 and the sauce RP 30,000... That's not much in US dollars but when you can get a full meal here for RP7,000, RP 40,000 becomes a lot. Plus I'm not sure if I have enough energy to face the traffic and the stares and the heat.

I've been sleeping a lot and I'm sure if it's because I'm sick and don't know it or if it's the heat starting to wear on me or if it's just normal. I sleep 8 hours a night and often can sleep two hours in the afternoon after school. The heat is just so tiring... I read a lot too. I've read several books and instead of boring you here by listing them, I think I will start a tab on my blog labeled "Books" and review them there. I've been reading random things.. Suspense, romance, memoirs, economics, poetry, modern history, religion... Just a mix of stuff I brought from the US on my kindle and then some from the MCC library. I love reading here. It's super for relaxing and provides an escape for my mind, plus I have time here that I didn't have when I lived in the US. It's crazy.. I will go to school at 7am and stay till noon, and then I might have an activity in the afternoon or at night but then that's all I can handle. My mind can't take any more stimulation than that. It's exhausting, being in these new situations. It's so so great for sure. But all the newness and hyper awareness tires a mind out and there needs to be greater time for rest than when I'm home in my comfort zone. For example I went to school at 7 today and then went home at 12:00. There was a wedding from 1-2 which I went to but then when I got home at 2:30 I was done for the day. Ready to not have anymore activities. I gauge myself.. I want some engagement with people and the culture everyday aside from classes in the morning. So either meeting a friend for baked chicken, going to a church meeting, participating in praise and worship somewhere, going to a wedding, visiting a family...... I don't want to get into the habit of going to school and coming home and reading all day. I could definitely do that but that's not why I'm here.

Because I don't have my art supplies, I think creativity in this time in life will come in the form of words so I decided to start another blog where I will talk about less personal things and more opinions and essays on current events and write some stuff on Indonesia. Hopefully it will be quality and something I can put on my resume. I know I haven't had time to blog much this month so you may be skeptical that I can handle another blog, but I think that if I severely limit my facebook time (which I plan to do anyways... With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, my spirit can't take looking at everyone's punkins and family gatherings and bright lights and cozy homes.. Nope, not healthy for me. ) and read a little less I'll have time to journal, blog here, and blog on the new blog. We'll see.

I'm happy and healthy. Missing home a little more often then in past months but excited for Jerica and then my sister to come at Christmas time and before I know it it will be spring then summer again and I'll be saying tearful goodbyes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Glimpse Java!

I have decided that Indonesia and I have a relationship akin to that of an arranged marriage. I did not decide to come here because I was deeply in love with the country, I didn't get to date the country before and find out if we would be a good match... We just got put together because it was the most practical solution to the current need. Because of that I think that I have not really had a honeymoon period. I've had moments where I've been more impressed with the country and moments where I'm less impressed and a little more critical of what I see, but there hasn't been a big turning point where things start going down hill emotionally and where I am constantly missing home and struggling to see the positive in this culture.

While I'm beginning to form a routine and stick to a schedule, there are still new adventures and lessons everyday and I'm looking forward to continuing to getting to know this town of Kudus and the unique things she has to offer.
Last week I went to a small "warung" (food shack) with a girl I met through a friend of a friend and had roasted corn with wicked spicy sauce and ice tea. Afterward I rode with her on her scooter to the big town circle, bought avocado juice, and walked around the little park. The talk was sweet and I realized that I could get used to these things being my social life. In the states there are countless ways to socialize. Almost too many. Maybe not almost. Maybe too many. Regardless, there are less here. There aren't coffee shops. But there are warungs and baked corn. There aren't malls (actually there are but not in Kudus) but there's the town circle with some grass and places to walk. There aren't a ton of people I can socialize with who understand my culture, but there are books. There are ways to make life here and I'm getting to know them and while I didn't plan on this country, I'm pretty sure I'll be sad to leave once the time comes and there's a good chance I'll be able to say I'm leaving a part of me here. Also like arranged marriages, I think I'll slowly come to love this place, as opposed to love at first site and big, romantic expectations for life here.

Happy news: I'm no longer sick. *cheeeers*

And since I've overcome this poo poo problem, I feel it's time to hunker down and switch from survival mode to living mode. Pull out my pen and sketch book, dust off my guitar.... Do those same things I do at home in the US, but here. Decorate the room, figure out a laundry system where my underwear wont get stolen (down to 3 pairs. wth), start makin' my own food (I have been craving chocolate chip cookies for days now), do a little grocery shopping, make a budget, take my vitamins daily... Ridin' solo in Kudus and makin' it a good one.

Oh my goodness ok. I write way too much about myself on here.

Want to get to know Indonesia?

She's an archipelago of 17,000 plus islands in Asia. Actually, more commonly she's referred to as Asia Pacific, hanging out below the Philippines and above Australia, and bordering Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor Lorosea.
Crazy history but in short: colonized by Portugal, the British, and mainly Holland.
People: Malay decent, Javanese, Chinese decent/Chinese immigrant.
Her position in the Ring of Fire means that crazy natural disasters visit often and can create a sort of fatalism in people's thinking. There are earthquakes, volcanos erupting, and tsunamis not to mention mudslides and other rain-induced problems. Like floods.
Natural disasters this past month:

Flash flood in Papua

Merapi volcano eruption

Tsunami near Sumatra

I think this is not the norm, just a super active month. It's exciting. And scary. And heart breaking, cause those people in the pictures are not "tho
se" people over there, far away. They could be my neighbors. Uh, the ARE my neighbors... So be in prayer to Jesus for them, please?

Here are some Indo glimpses......

This is Soto.
famous in Kudus but better (to my tongue..) in Salatiga.
Ingredients: lemon grass, lime leaves, bean sprouts, garlic, tumeric, salam leaves, cucumber, ground pepper and white pepper, salt, limes, chicken, fried onions.

This is a rice paddy. They are beautiful, and they are everywhere,
and they provide our daily food.

There are motor bikes EVERYWHERE. They are the main mode of transportation. I do not have one. I ride a bicycle (lame compared, I know)..

This is jagung bakar- grilled corn. Ridic good, especially smothered in spicy love sauce that will burn your lips off.

These are what we often sit on when we eat in warungs. They are colorful, and they are everywhere. Cheaper than chairs, and prettier.

This is a wedding. I didn't get a good picture of the bride and groom dressed in traditional clothes, unfortunately. But you can see how the place is decorated and the two on the left up front are dressed traditionally. They're a sort of brides maid and groomsman.

This is a view of mount Merapi (taken from Salatiga) now billowing smoke and spewing lava. This is pre-eruption.

This is batik- cloth dyed into beautiful pictures by drawing with wax.
Super traditional, its everywhere. Clothes are batik, wall hangings, bed sheets, table cloths.....

And that's all for now. More to come about life on Java.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Adventures in Kudus and elsewhere. Week one.

Wow, okay, let me get my mind around this... It's been only one week since I started teaching...?! How is that even possible... Maybe it's because I still haven't created a rhythm and a schedule or maybe it's because every MOMENT is a new adventure, but woah.. All the emotions and happenings in the last week could comfortably fit in the time span of a month and I would not think life was boring. Where to even start....
Let's start with last Sunday. I'm just going to put this out there: Mennonites have too many committees. There are conferences and synods and committees right and left and I get so confused trying to figure them all out. Also, Menno
ites travel a ton (I'm being super general here.. I've only been exposed to them in the last 2 months, so this is just my impression from the little, though intense, exposure that I've had). And last but not least, they are ridiculously nice, open minded, and overall I like them a lot. There was a semina
r this past week and my Pak (host dad) has been ba
ck and forth all around central Java taking Canadian Mennonites everywhere. I've had the pleasure of meeting them and picking their brains on everything from good books on development to schools they've attended and jobs they've had to what life is like in Bangladesh. It was profitable and they gave me the time of day a
nd blessed my heart.
This all went down Friday through Sunday. Saturday
we spent the day picking up a Canadian Mennonite from the airport who would be teaching at the seminar. The rain delayed his flight, and we ended up coming home at 11:30 pm which was wicked late considering we had to leave for church at 5am the next day. Thankfully there is such a thing as Indonesian rubber time and we
actually left at 5:45am the next day.
Church was good. One of the Canadian Mennonites spoke and had some positive things to say about how men in the church are supposed tak
e on the role of a good house wife in their work in the c
hurch. I think it's always a hard balance, being both a leader and a servant. Like, the role of deacon was formed because the preacher couldn't effectively preach and serve tables. But yet we are all instructed to serve. Some serving is just dirtier than other forms of service and less appreciated, but I think everyone, including those who preach, need to get their hands dirty once in a while and scrub the church floor, clean the dishes after the fellowship gathering, and do nursery duty. To prove a point. That when we pick up the cross of Jesus, we lay down our statuses. We are the same in Jesus- Jews, gentiles, servants, masters, men, and women. And may I add- pastors, pastors' wives and husbands, deacons, etc. Nothing is too dirty or unimportant for any of us to do, regardless of our degrees and titles.
Traditional music accompanied the singing and gave me a he
adache. It's a choir of gongs and symbols and xylophones but they are slightly off tune and shrill and while they're awesomely creative and unique in their sound, they are a little disturbing to the ear used to traditional melody and harmony and..
well, un-confusing music. But it was great to see the church incorporate some culture into the service. Go them. By the way, the music is called Gamelan
Something that surprised me after church was everyone's clamor to take pictures with me "For my facebook profile pic!!" I felt slightly harassed and a little embarrassed for the adults behavior about it. Just, a cultural difference I guess. I forget how.... I guess the appropriate word would be "exotic"... I am to them. Most of them have never seen a white person up close. God grant me patience. No seriously, I need patience because if you know me you know I like personal space and the touching drives me nuts sometimes. So far I have done quite well with it but I a
m a little concerned I might snap one day and break someone's camera phone.

Later on that day I was able to go to the beach with Joel and his brother and friends. Oh man... It was gorgeous. The SALTers took a trip to the beach once during language training and it was cool, but it wasn't the traditional touristy beach with white soft sand and blue clear water. This was. And I was not expecting it to be, so it took be a while
to take it all in and r
ealize it was for real. I still can't believe it was this beautiful and I can't wait to go back.

I know.. Ridic beautiful, right? Blessed to have found that place and definitely planning to return.

Monday school started. Pretty crazy..
I get my own desk, which I love. I've already put some pictures and cards up. Family, Micaela from Portugal, and Cassie and Kena. You all made the cut, congratulations. Well, I spilled coffee on my desk and Kena and Cassies faces are now slightly distorted. Sorry chicas. I still look good in it so the pic is staying. lol
My favorite card says this: Go into the world and do well, but more importantly go into the world and do good. It reminds me that "Result is not the goal"- according to Putut, my Bahasa Indonesian teacher who has been a great encouragement to me. There are bigger things going on behind the scenes and I need to remember that while I am teaching English, there is a lot more learning happening that is not measurable and may not be super evident to me. The relationships that are being formed as well.. They are priceless.

Let me think.. More school stories...

There is a crazy man who comes in once in a while selling things. Well, more like everyday. He used to be a psychology student at the university but after he graduated he went insane and now wears his hair long and gray and knotty, usually dresses in short shorts, sox and sandals, a long sleeved and a short sleeved shirt, two scarves and a lot of jewelry. He's very nice though and funny as could be. If I ever go insane, I want to be like him. As long as I'm happy and oblivious to my insanity and embarrassing behavior, just let me go free and be nice to me and don't put me in an institution, ok? (Sometimes I wonder if I'm insane right now, and that everyone around me knows it except for me. Every wonder that? Maybe I've been watching too much Shelter Island.)

The teachers are so nice to me. They come by my desk and talk to me and it's my favorite part of the day. They bring me fruit or ask me academic questions or questions about my life here.. I feel like I'm building community with them and I like it. A lot.

I ride my bike to class everyday and get yelled at a bit. First, I'm white. Strike one. Then, I'm on a bicycle while everyone else rides a motorcycle. Strike two. And then I'm usually lost, therefore riding in circles. Strike three. They can laugh. I'd laugh too. And usually do.

I am teaching around 15 hours a week. That's two classes a day. As little as that sounds, I do get tired out easily and haven't built up the stamina to go to 3 classes a day. It takes creative energy to get the students talking and to make lessons up on the spot. I will be talking to the head of the English Department this week to see if I can't go up to 3 classes a day starting next week. I do appreciate them starting out slow with me though. The students are so great and I usually have a blast teaching and talking in class. I'm excited to start some more informal after school activities with them, especially the girls.

I'm supposed to be working in the community too but I haven't started. My position mentor is also my Pak and has not had the time to sit me down and explain what all is expected of me. So until that happens, I will keep using my time up in teaching, and after class either reading or socializing or sleeping.

I have read two books in about 2 weeks. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is hilarious. Also sad. She's a good story teller. I also read The Poisonwood Bible. Incredible book that I will be reading again with a pen in hand, and I strongly strongly strongly recommend it to you. As in, you should stop reading this immediately and go buy it. Buy it, not borrow it, because you will want to read it again and underline parts. Just a good commentary on people, on missionary work, on life in general. Quality writing right there.

This weekend I went to Samarang with Joel. We left on Friday after school and stayed till Sunday, just now. What a crazy weekend. It deserves a post all for itself.
To get there, I rode my bike to Joel's house and then two girls who were friends of a friend of a friend of mine took him and I to the terminal. But not before picking up catering and taking it to their house. I had no idea what was going on. Or who they were. (You just gotta go with it....). Then we took a bus for an hour and then we took a taxi into town to my friend Vivi's house. So many diff forms of transportation. Then we went to a 5 hour long church birthday celebration which I will write more about in a moment.
Joel lost his wallet. Then we found it in a taxi the next day. Then Tye, Joel and I went to a movie and ended up being scarred for life and walking out before the movie ended which was about an hour too late. Then we spent the next couple of hours recuperating with ice cream and banana bread while Joel tried to get his money card back that the ATM swallowed. Oh my goodness. There is definitely more to tell but I'm exhaust.

And there are some other thoughts pressing on my heart..

So we went to a 15 year celebration of a church. It went a little long and we ended up getting out of there at 11:00. It was a crazy church- super lively and I loved it. (The parts I understood.) I've had quite a lot of different church experiences here in Indonesia. It's had an interesting effect on me. It's made me super non comital about denominations. Also made me weary of saying any way is best as far as how Jesus is worshiped and learned about. It's also made me miss my church back at home a lot. I'll say it- I know God a certain way. I know him in a way that is comfortable to me. My upbringing and personal and unique style of thinking and searching has made me find a perspective and view of God that works for me. Not that there isn't sacrificing and struggle and learning, but it's in terms of my ability to understand God based on my culture- it fits me, fits into my mind, and makes sense to me.

He has come to me in a way different than people here. And that's ok, because my culture is different. Yeah, we serve the same Jesus, but he sure does look different to different people sometimes. I wonder how that works. Jesus is one, but cultures are many. How flexible is the Truth of Jesus? Is it ok that some churches have speaking in tongues and some don't? That some have adults moshing to praise music and some have solemn hymns? Is it ok that I form my praise style around the Jesus that I know and my culture has allowed me to know? Is it okay that while I appreciate the many different styles of Jesus-loving that I have come to know, that I will pick and choose what seems best to me, based on my understanding of truth? Because everything we know about Jesus passes through our head and our eyes that have presuppositions and a personality and a perspective and life experience and a unique tendency to certain ways of thinking and understanding.. God is sovereign over those things, I know. But still in his sovereignty he allows diversity in how his children view him. That's so... weird... to me..

And it makes me super turned off to trying to make people view him as I do (not in terms of big picture doctrines like the divinity of Jesus, but in terms of issues like...Do we need water to be baptized? Can we lay hands on people? Speak in tongues? Can women preach? Should couples date before marriage? What does the day of rest look like? Can Christians be rich? How much is true tithe? How long should a church service be? What version of the Bible should be used? Is cursing ok? How about smoking? How about working at a tobacco factory?). It has, however, presented me with some ways that my personal loving of Jesus can be improved. I will never wholly adopt someone else's or another denomination's view of God. But I can be challenged to re-examine my relationship with Him and improve it.


It's reminded me that America is not where it's at as far as Christianity is concerned. We get a little lost in our own America-world and forget that the HS is alive and well in very many other countries and that we would do well to stop sending our missionaries out but start supporting indigenous church and community support movements abroad. Yeah, I'll say it again. We would do well to not send missionaries out, but to send learners out, to find those places where Jesus is alive in his people, and to learn afresh the trueness of Jesus' cross-cultural message. And then to go back to the American churches, and teach the lessons learned abroad, and present them with the financial and prayer needs of the churches abroad. Build mutually beneficial relationships. Instead of "Here- we'll give you one of our members because your country needs Jesus," it perhaps should be "Here- please host one of our members because we desperately need to learn from you and your love for Jesus, and we want to know how to effectively share our gifts with you to help you serve your people better, and in turn you will fill our need of a fresh and different and unique perspective on Jesus."

And now there is a roach walking across my floor so this post is done.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Teach a man to fish, but make sure his lake isn't sacred...

I'm not sure why I titled this post the way I did.. I guess because I'm a little frustrated these days about how development is looked at. So much teaching but not enough learning.
Take the example people use for effective charity: "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a life time. " It goes something like that. It sounds great, but it's not that simple. What if the man has no water to fish in, or what if there is a lake and but he can't fish in it because it's a sacred lake, and so fishing is not an effective way to produce food in that culture?
For there to be any help given, learning has to happen on the part of the helper about the culture of those being helped. That's my point.

I'm sitting on a chair in my room with my legs to my chest because there's a mouse the size of a cat under my bed. He's not so scary as he is fast, and the fastness is what frightens me and makes me throw things every time he decides to run back under the closet.
I'm back in Kudus, with my pink room and little table next to the door that barely reaches the ethernet chord that stretches up to the ceiling in the living room. But I am connected and this is an awesome fact.

I started teaching today.
I thought I was just going in to the school to get my schedule but no, they wanted me to start. Which is no problem, just takes a lot of thinking on the spot. I have my own desk :) Pretty excited about that. Also got the feel for what the school is like and the flexibility I will have in working with the students. Right off the bat I see that I'm going to need creativity and assertiveness to make the most out of this year. It's not going to fall into my lap. There are two long breaks and I'm starting to think about possible English camps or conversational classes that could happen then. Also, I'm seeing that I will usually be given a topic and then asked to lecture/teach on it for the entirety of the class time, so I will need to have stuff prepared beforehand and be creative in how I deliver the information. If I'm not careful I can easily start lecturing instead of teaching and these kids get enough lecturing. They need interactive teaching. So right now I'm off to look for some materials for tomorrow. Today I started at 9am but tomorrow I start at 1pm and will be teaching Intensive Course D and Speaking 2. I dont know what I'll be asked to teach or what those classes are about but I want to be prepared with something... Pronunciation is one of the biggest difficulties for them. But pronunciation takes interactive practice and thats something difficult in a classroom of 40. Thus the need for creativity. I was pretty pooped after teaching today and ended up coming home and taking a 3 hour nap. Then I woke up and realized I was really lonely which is another issue that will require creativity to address. There's another SALTer in town which I appreciate, and there is internet. And there are the friendships that I will create after a while here.
And there is the mouse under my bed.....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Terima Kasih Tuhan

I'm in at the MCC office in the sitting area between the airconditioned meeting room and the courtyard that leads to Karen and Major's office. It's not AC'ed in here but the rotating fan is enough to make it comfortable.
Leanne just left to buy more sweet potatoes. She and Rea are making sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner but the potatoes they bought were bad so she took them back. Worms and such. Tye is on the computer typing and giggling away. Joel is on the internet and I am anxiously awaiting 3pm when I can stick my Green Bean Casserole in the oven. Nervous, a little. I mean, it's Thanksgiving dinner and if I screw up the Green Bean Casserole it's just not going to be the same. Funny, this is the second Canadian Thanksgiving I have celebrated in a row. Last year I was at L'Abri... I made rolls then. I think they came out well, I can't really remember... I can just remember how amazing the table looked and how Joel Smart and I made wreaths, wore them on the deck and took pictures. Then we got to drink wine.


I think the giving of thanks is really important to God. I mean, he killed people in the Old Testament for not being thankful. Burned up cities I'm pretty sure. And if he didn't I'm sure he thought about it. Said some harsh words to Israel for their complaining, not to mention made them walk around in the desert for 30 years. After living in the desert of Arizona, that's pretty severe in my mind. Especially walking in circles. I wonder how many circles they walked in?

And why are we not walking in circles? Cause the Lord knows we complain just as much if not more than the kids of Israel. Does God have more grace with us or is he just not as involved/doesn't care so much about thankfulness anymore?
Maybe these questions come from my desire to walk in circles than accept the grace of Jesus.
Somedays I'd rather sacrifice sheep and somedays I'd rather walk in circles in the desert than accept the grace of Jesus for the forgiveness of my ridiculously loveless heart.
And sometimes I'd rather be a Catholic and pay for my sins through repetitive prayer than just have to sit in a state of grace and accept in my weak faith that no prayer but the prayer of Jesus on the cross will ever satisfy the Just cause of the Father's wrath.

None of that today though.. Just thankfulness for everything good in my life because I know that I am entitled to nothing. Compared with the nakedness I had when coming into this world, I have so much. Countless blessings throughout these past 23 years. From naked to clothed and fed and familied and living in all these foreign countries. I am blessed for the purpose of being a blessing to others and that fact helps me refocus the ever-tormenting question"Why do I have so much when others do not?" to thankfulness of heart coupled with giving to others with my time, love, and possessions. I still suck at it but it's a good goal and better than sitting in misery wondering why I am plagued by good fortune.
Really, seriously, what else is there to living life well but thankfulness and sharing? And how great is it to have a day to intentionally do just that?
I mean really.
This day is awesome.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Tomorrow starts the last week

Officially, since I'm here in Indonesia where the week starts on Monday, I have another day until I can say that tomorrow starts our last week in Salatiga.
I always tend to count by "the day after"s and "tomorrow"s.
For example.. "Tomorrow I can say that tomorrow is Christmas eve!!" Anything to put tomorrow and Christmas in the same sentence. Makes time so much shorter.
Back to the point.. It is officially week 6 and day 49 of life in Indonesia and I can say that I am ready-o to start living "for real" in Kudus. And in 5 days I'll be doing just that. If things go as planned. Ahaha.

My first week in Indo was spent in Kudus and was for observation purposes. So I knew what kind of life I needed to prepare for and the importance of language learning.

So the following 6 weeks have been language learning/ cultural learning. Really, you can't have one without the other and the day trips and non-classroom conversations have been just as beneficial as the words on the board and the flash cards.

No I am NOT fluent, but I can joke around, order and give directions, learn someone's story and share my own in Bahasa Indonesia. The rest will come with time. Or not at all. I'm not under the illusion that I will leave here writing books in Baha Indo. Or read books for that matter. But I will be able to speak without thinking about the content in English, and not hesitate after every few words when I speak.

This past week consisted of language learning Monday through Wednesday, and then a trip to Yogyakarta (spoken Joe-g-juh-car-tuh or just Jogja) till Friday for some cultural learning, some bus figuring-out, and some away from Salatiga time before we run through the next week. I think something interesting happened on Monday or Tuesday but I can't remember what. Probably just the insanity of our classes which feel like a daily event consisting of ridiculous conversations, joke telling that takes 10 times the amount of time to tell in Baha Indo, juice and pre-lunch trips, music parody writing, mega often "istirihat"s (breaks) where people make coffee, throw ant-filled sugar containers on the floor, relieve themselves of the tummy conflict the coffee from the previous break caused, and eating what ever delish snacks one of our families sent with one of us. Much laughing, much groaning, much "What the heck, I can't even understand you in English..". Much of everything.

Next week= Last language lesson and class bash, Thanksgiving dinner which we are all attempting to cook for (Green bean casserole without cream of mushroom soup will be interesting), a ton of goodbyes, then off to Kudus!

One thing, while I'm anxious for Kudus, there is something about having weekly (and almost daily) activities of a diverse nature that makes time go by faster and in Kudus, as much as I love having normalcy and a schedule, I bet it will get a little harder to pass time. Less distractions, a little more seriousness. I'm interested in knowing what I'll be writing about in the next 9 months. What my writing will look like, how it will look different than my language-learning weeks posts...

"It's business, it's business time!"

But first, a few days of part-ay are in order!!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The ails and graces of mega last minute reassignment.

Today as I was wandering around Anda Baru (“baru” means new, and every shop here seems to have it in its name) mourning all the things I had thought out carefully to bring with me and now realize can easily be bought in about any grocery shop here (specifically what triggered the thought was seeing moist towlettes for sale) and all the clothes I did not bring with me because I was planning on buying 3 cheap Bangladesh saris that I’d wear everyday when I got to my assignment, I decided it was time for a blog post on the ails and graces of being reassigned to a different country within days of leaving for SALT year. And by days I mean 2 days.

First, after talking with Nathan, an MCC Bangladesh worker visiting Indonesia for a few days, I realize I packed my single suitcase absolutely perfectly. For Bangladesh. For Indonesia, not so much.

I brought Toblerone chocolate because I heard Bangla has no dark chocolate. As luck would have it, I got to Indonesia only to find that the single western chocolate bar available here is Toblerone. Sad fail.

I brought enough cosmetics and higene products to last a year and realized upon arriving that they sell them all here. And, they are considerably cheaper then they are in the states.

I brought about 4 western-ish outfits for vacationing in Bangla and then got here and realized I was reassigned to a university teaching position that requires professional, conservative dress. While MCC has been gracious enough to cover the cost of a small work wardrobe, it’s been a trip trying to find clothes that fit (and when I do, buying an XL when I’m a medium in the US is a mental war) and will be modest enough for a Muslim university but cool enough for the out-of-this-world heat of Kudus.

I brought my hiking boots, expensive water purifier, French press, transformer and international drivers license all of which I have not used yet and may never because there will be no 4-day trekking through Nepal, the natives drink bottled water so it’s available anywhere, I live on an island called Java – French press uncritical, I realized that all my machines needing to be plugged-in can handle 220v, and last but not least we’re not being given motor scooters like we would in Bangladesh and bicycles don’t require an int’l DL.

Second, the mental trauma of being told what you have been preparing yourself for throughout the last 6 months…

all your readying, praying, planning, researching, expecting, $75 postcard making, putting 7 hours and $25 into making a website, telling the three hundred people who now think you are going to one place and now you're not… Was a little numbing.

I think subconsciously I decided to not traumatize myself by thinking about the hours and efforts lost to preparing for “Bangla year” (see and just focused on what was ahead, and now that I have time to think about it, I am pretty glad that’s the mindset I had because wow- that was a pretty huge turn of events.

Oh my goodness where to start. I think there was remedy in the fact that I was still going to go SOMEwhere, we just didn’t know where. There was an adrenaline that came from the uncertainty about my immediate future and sometimes I feel like I’m still running on it. When you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed. And like I mentioned in a past blog post, once I got over the initial disappointment it was go-go-go. I was so busy with thoughts about how to be effective (or just survive) in Indonesia and what this country was all about anyways that there was no time to be disappointed. I felt a little like I was on that TV show where people race against time to get to a certain international destination and they never know where the next clue will take them and what experiences lie ahead… The Amazing Race, I think it’s called. But this was real life, no cameras, and no one who knew where that end destination was going to be.

Still, it was a struggle the first couple of nights when I went to bed and my mind calmed down and started being rational and processing the realities of the day. Luckily MCC orientation and fellow SALTers puckered me out enough that I fell asleep before I could think too much about the bigness of what was going on and before my pillow got too wet (not tears of sadness as much as tears of overwhelmedness).

Third, now that I am here in Indonesia, I am seeing that it is hard to divorce my expectations for Bangladesh from my experience in Indonesia and be completely comfortable with my surroundings. Indonesian life is easier than Bangladesh life, plain and simple: My living conditions here are much better than they would have been in Bangladesh. Every house I’ve been to/stayed in has a helper/maid, and they usually wash my clothes for me. I brought with me baby packets of Tide thinking that I might be washing my 3 outfits by hand in a bucket in some dirty river. I brought with me these little paper cups called “urinelles” that facilitate relieving ones self sanitarily in wilderness-like circumstances as well as a ton of moist towlettes for extreme bathing and here I am with a western toilet and the option of a warm shower.

In short, the challenges I was expecting for life in Bangladesh were mainly in the area of physical survival, sanitation… living in poverty. I was mentally prepared for that. The challenges I will actually be facing now that I am in Indo are more intellectual. The thought of teaching college students when I myself just graduated a year ago is super intimidating.

Also, I thought the issues I would be directly addressing in my work would be poverty relief and women’s development, but here in Indonesia I can only work to change those things indirectly. My work will involve motivating the students I work with to care about poverty and peace, about non violence and the respect of humanity and the care for what we’ve been given to be stewards over. The challenge for me will be seeing the big picture of poverty and need, and seeing how I am giving indirectly, but still giving something important and valuable. This maybe will be more of a challenge then living with mud floors and washing my clothes in a river.

Being reassigned also involved a number of graces.

There was something weirdly life giving about being reassigned without much say in the matter. It was like for once in my life I had no choice. When everything in life from college to career to simply dinner involves a myriad of choices that you have to decide between and then live with the consequences of that choice hanging over your head, to have one choice be made for you, it’s a bit… freeing. I do believe God is sovereign over our choices but there is something about me not having the opportunity to choose that reminds me that God is truly sovereign and we are really just men. He, being sovereign over life circumstances, decided this with no input of mine, so it is not vulnerable to my sabotaging. Make sense?

Also, MCC showed a lot of care and concern about getting me reassigned and in so doing showed me grace.

Not having expectations makes it easier to not be disappointed. Expecting a lower quality of living makes me appreciate the warm water, tiles floors, and good, healthy food.

The fact that my spirit is still strong and my heart is at peace here is the hugest grace I’ve received. You make plans based on what you think is right for you aka. what will lead you to a sense of peace. When things become out of your control, but you still end up in a place where you’re at peace… what a gift!

I don’t feel I’m becoming passively resigned to a life where I don't try, and just let things just happen. I feel like I’m learning to embrace the curve balls and use them to the best of my ability because no one, as well as they might plan, will be able to forever avoid a change of plans that is out of their control.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Establishing rhythm, experiencing new things.

I passed the one month mark about 6 days ago. One month in Indonesia down, 10 more to go. I actually have been pretty good at not counting months. For one, 10 months sounds like a long, long time, and for another it makes me not be present in my life here. Makes me rush ahead to July in my mind which will make the time here c r a w l by.
Idul Fitri was at the beginning of this month and it was nice to have a few days off. Going back to school after breaks is always tough and we all drug our feet a little. I definitely was way over jet lag at that point and dragging my body out of bed at 7am became the hardest part of the day. I decided after the first week back from Idul Fitri break to start getting up a bit earlier to give myself time to wake up and prepare my mind and spirit for the day. I now get up at around 6:30 and listen to some music and some BBC as I go through the slow motions of getting dressed, packing my bag for the day, check email, and go over some bahasa Indo notes. I also find that my journal entries are much more hopeful and positive when I write in the morning. There's something about the night that gives me a more somber view on life here and while that can be good for reflection, it's good to record my lighter, morning thoughts. My home-missings have happened all at night, when they happen at all. I am happy here and I can say I'm pretty content and present.

So yes. Establishing rhythm is essential for my feeling at home and it's been a good exercise for me.

The weekend of the 19th we went to a beach called Suing near Yogyakarta. Yogya is on the south border of the middle of Java. Salatiga is where I'm staying now and is an hour south away from Samarang- the capital of central Java. Some photos of the trip can be found here on Rae's blog :
One photo is of the shack on the beach that we stayed at the first night we were there. The second night we got kicked out (we hadn't reserved it and someone else had. oups. ) and ended up staying on the floor of the warung (an outside restaurant) next door. I go to hike up a little mountain with Rae where she took the beach pic, but unfortunately due to the runs couldn't go much farther. Happily, my health is all better now. With the help of MCC worker Dan and his ameba-killing drugs, the flora in my stomach (I did not know that I had flora in my body before this sickness getting) is now stable.
We were there for a weekend and other than changing our living quarters, sleeping on super hard floors and having the runs, the weekend was quite enjoyable. Loitering on the beach, finding sea life, getting wet in the shallow water, reading, laughing, eating awesome fish, and frolicking on rocks.

This past week was adventurous. On Wednesday we got to plant rice in a "sawa" together. The mud went up to our knees and the process of plunging little bunches of rice plant into the mud garden was a pretty unique experience. We guessed it wouldn't be long after we left that someone would come back along and correct what we destroyed of the rice paddy but hey, we tried.

On Thursday I went to a house warming service. I actually really enjoyed that because there was a man who translated the service for us and the man preaching had really good insights into God. He's a wise man and it was encouraging to hear his thoughts. I also got make pretty good conversation in Bahasa Indonesia. Score. My knowledge is growing and every night less words are falling out of my head.

On Friday we went to play traditional Javanese music and learn a little about Wayang Kulit. The puppets are pretty scary, not going to lie... But, it was good to learn about the history of them and to get to know their characters. Banging on symbols was pretty fun too. We were pretty bad at it and it gave me a head ache by the end but hey. It's about the experience. I'll put up pictures soon.

Saturday we had planned to go to a tree-top climbing place but unfortunately it rained like crazy all day. Ended up being a pretty fun day though. Had a great late breakfast at home consisting of home made granola and banana bread. Then Leanne and I met up with Tyler (I live near him and Leanne was staying with me the weekend). Thats when the heavens opened and we became the victims of the oh-so-stinking-often rains of Indonesia. Drenched. Luckly I had brought an umbrella and Tye and Lea bought themselves one and we leisurely walked to Este Soto, # 1 Soto place in Salatiga. So, so good. Soto is a stew of rice, chicken, bean sprouts, garlic, lemon weed, lime leaves, turmeric, and fried onions. There we met up with the rest of the gang and watched the rain get harder and harder at which point we decided that tree swinging would not be wise. So we walked down the main shopping area slowly and ended up at the Cozy cafe, a westernish but still Indo restaurant where we eat and drank some (juice and tea of course. :) I had an amazing blueberry yogurt smoothie that is definitely worthy of a blog mention.) and played the card game President till late. Dinner and laughter at my family's house and then convincing Tyler to come with Leanne and I to Yogyakarta for a wedding and shopping the next day.

Sunday was a full, full day but very fun and distracting (in a good way). The wedding in the morning was extravagant and the food was the best I've tasted in Indonesia (minus the fermented rice ice cream). Beautiful people, beautiful colors, wonderful food, and a few stares. Next we went shopping and I was able to get traditional Batik (printed cloth) oleh-oleh (awesome word to say, it means souvenirs) for myself and family members. I got a pink skirt (gasp) that will be great for teaching in Kudus and this is blog-mention-worthy because of it's implication for my growing up. I have begun to accept pink as an acceptable and respectable color to wear. Mother, be proud. After that we had dinner at McDonalds and it tasted JUST like the real thing and lead to some deep thoughts and conversation about western culture in the world. More thoughts on that later. Maybe. :)

Overall a very relaxing and funny week with new experiences and sights, sounds, and glimpses at what makes Indonesia what it is. Also some good deep thinking about this place, about God, and about what it means to be white here. I am growing and there are good thoughts being thought. Change is happening and I like it.