Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Sometimes brave means packing up your stuff in 2 suitcases and moving to a 3rd world country.

And sometimes brave can mean staying put for a bit and settling down, acquiring skills and learning a new trade.

Just came from another interview after about 2 weeks full of applying to local businesses.

I'm excited to put myself out there and try something new. So here's to doing a new brave thing!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Continuing to learn

I think that my learning about God has to do with finding him and letting him go.
I'll expand- We learn about God and we store those things we learn about him in our heads and hearts, but I think that we get so academic about it that we fill our minds then decide we know enough. Then we become stagnant like spiritual swamps and become (wether we admit it or not) bored with our religion.

I'm not talking about abandoning doctrines that are vital to our belief about the core essence of who God is  but I am talking about carrying him around with us and forgetting that he is everywhere. He is something to be sought but never really found to the point where the seeking ends.

If there's one thing that I have learned about spirituality from traveling, it's that you can't take God places. I have a problem with missions agencies that talk about "unreached people groups". As if God were not everywhere and working everywhere in his Spirit. If you go to a place with the mindset of - "I'm going to go and take God to these people" you're insinuating that he is not already there. And it's an insult to what he is already doing there and those people through whom he is doing amazing things. The apostles never stopped being disciples and being a disciple means continuing learning under a rabbi. Perpetual student.

I think its more important to focus on seeking God than sharing him. Because when you seek him you'll find other seekers who will want to glean knowledge from you, and you will find that you are sharing him. If everyone goes to only share, who is going to learn anything? No one, rightly, can be only a teacher. No mind can have a monopoly on the knowledge of God.

God in his perfect creativity made cultures and then he hid his image in them, and I think part of finding God, at least in my journey, has been learning about other cultures.
Before you know it, you see him everywhere.

The Bible is awesome and is great for foundational truth. But why stop there? Nature, art, beauty, dance, mathematics, music, law, social media, fabric, words, food. He is there in it all. We need to not think he's only there if there are Bible verses plastered over it or if we bring him to these things ourselves.

So what do I mean about finding him and letting him go? I mean letting myself "forget" stuff in order that arrogance and the illusion of having found him wont prevent me from continuing to seek him and find him. Not hanging on to things as if I might lose him, but continually seeking him, seeing him, and re-seeking him.

I think some people (hey, I've done it before) in fear of adopting un-truths, get to a point where they feel they know it, and then they stop learning. Dead faith driven by fear. I believe a living faith is characterized by freedom from fear and a love for looking and learning and being unsatisfied with what we know and see about him. "Where are you?! I want to see you!" instead of "I got you, I'm ok, we're safe."

Be still... but still moving.

Be still and know that I am God.    Psalm 46:10

but dance and know that I am Joy.

and be free and know that I broke your fear.

and reach out to others and know that I am Love.

go beyond your small world and know that I am everywhere.

and create and know that I am Creator.

Live and know that I will get you where you need to be.

Be still, but trust my sovereignty and don't be timid about life.

Be still... but still moving.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back in the US

I've been back in the US for a couple of weeks now. A lot of people have asked about reverse culture shock, and I'd have to say it's been a smooth transition. It was a good idea to go to Portugal for a week between re-entry week at the MCC headquarters in Akron PA and coming back to Arizona.

When I landed in Philadelphia after two long days of traveling I was greeted by my Mom's cousins and their kids. So great to have people there to welcome me home. It was a total surprise and the best way to come home. Signs, hugs, kisses... Seriously, I have the best family.

Re-entry was great and I'm so glad I went. Initially I was weary about spending 5 days in limbo between Indonesia and home, but in the end the sessions MCC had planned and the time I got to hear other people's stories and share my own was really great. That said, the heat in PA that week was miserable. I couldn't believe how hot is was... Hotter than Indonesia, it felt like!

Portugal.... What can I say, being in Portugal is always a blast and always so, so hard to leave. Spent days on the beach, nights in town, and sleep just did not happen very often. Amanda was there as well as the boys and getting to spend time with them was so good.

I've had some funny incidents being back... I realized that not understanding Bahasa Indonesian when spoken quickly or in long stretches (for example, church services) made me really good at zoning out mentally. I cannot for the life of me pay attention to someone for longer then 10 minutes anymore. Re-entry sessions, church services... Even though they're in English! My mind wanders really fast.

Also making decisions. If someone asks me where I want to go out to, I just get so overwhelmed with all the choices that I really do get mentally paralyzed and can't choose a place. That has been frustrating. I can't BELIEVE all the restaurants there are here in Phoenix! And not just restaurants- I walk into a store wanting to buy one thing and I get to the area of the store where it's at and there are 47 different brands and 3 different choices in each of the brand for the same stinking product.

And everything is huge. The bottles of shampoo, the meal portions, the cars, the houses, the streets, the mountains, the distances between places, the bills.... I didn't remember everything being just so big.

Ah but I'm enjoying things I missed. The Arizona landscape, meat and cheese galore, air conditioning, a dryer, a big fridge. People. People who I can relate to and talk to without avoiding certain subjects because I don't know how to say certain words in their language. And showing skin. Tanks tops, two pieces, shorts... Running and no one staring at me... I'm really enjoying it all. A lot.

I didn't end up applying for the job in Palestine after I got back. I need to take a break from traveling internationally for a bit and focus on acquiring some marketable skills that I can then take back overseas.

In the mean time I'll blog back on here once in a while as I process being in America again, and possibly will start posting some interesting development stuff I've been finding.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There are four days left in my Kudus experience.
I'm bad at goodbyes because I end up leaving mentally before I leave physically and then I end up just frustrated and cranky and not patient. I'm not a sentimental goodbye-er.
I'm trying to be here, to be present, to enjoy the moments and it's working... when I'm with people. But when I'm alone I end up getting super lethargic and worry about getting a job when I get home, and antsy to just leave. I want to enjoy Kudus these last days. I've found a couple potential job openings, so I'm going to stick them in my internet favorites and not touch them until I get to Portugal. Hopefully they'll keep my mind at rest. At least the part of my mind that's worrying about going through being unemployed for months on end again.

The past three weeks have been filled with travel, hanging out with people, goodbye parties, packing, and last minute shopping. So much food, too... I'm trying to not care about what I eat as far as food special to Indonesia goes. I have only a week left to enjoy Indonesian fried rice, grilled fish, fresh fruit juice, noodles and chicken... Oh, good stuff.

I'm liking not having to teach right now. My time is spent with people- talking, eating, traveling... There's an agenda when you teach, and it's getting info into people's brains. Sometimes it's hard for me to feel like I'm getting to know people when I'm so preoccupied with if they're understanding material and if I'm doing it all right. There's no pressure when you hang out with people. It's just letting yourselves connect and sharing experiences. Much more enjoyable to me than teaching.

And... Sleeping. I know my host parents think I'm the laziest person ever... But I get my second wind at about 10pm and the packing just come easier then. The packing, the laundry, the reading, the watching movies... And since I don't have classes at 7am anymore, why not go to sleep at 2am?

I'm reading an incredible book called "Waging Peace on Islam" by Christine Mallouhi. It's reminding me about what I'm passionate about and what gets me riled up. There wasn't a lot in this past year that dealt with injustice or other issues that make me mad and ready to make change. It wasn't a boring year... I know I blessed and served people here and no regrets with my decision to take the assignment last minute! But it's not want I want to do forever- I wouldn't want to do this year every year. What I do want to do every year that was part of this year was work with people who adhere to the Muslim religion. Wow, what kindness they showed me. And how very misunderstood the religion is in the west!
But specifically I love this book because of how much she talks about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and her up close and personal involvement in it. She is teaching me history through stories and I love it- it's how I learn best. It brings back my semester in Egypt and the travelling I did around Israel. I'm excited to be applying for an internship in Palestine and while it might not work out and I might be around the US for a while, I know I will end up the in Middle East at some point or another.

I'll try to update again before I'm of to Akron, PA for re-entry. If not, next time I update I'll either be in the US or Portugal (visiting Sao Miguel for a week right after re-entry)!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Last of teaching

I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Semarang, a stop over on my way to Salatiga. I'm going to a good-bye dinner for two MCC families here whose terms are up this year. The dinner is in Solo, about two hours away.
So much traveling. I'm glad for this stop. And, happily, Starbucks has internet.
I haven't had internet at home for a couple of weeks and the internet at the university is spotty.

What a different world I'm in right now than I was even 30 minutes ago. One world but so many realities. I knew that before coming to Indonesia, but I'm re-realizing it here. Which is necessary, because I'm not supposed to stay in the little world I was born. It takes intentionality to make others' realities our own- either intentionally going into the slums, or taking a plane and engaging in another culture, or taking on someone elses' injustice and advocating for something that in the end might never effect our own living standards. Advocacy is a central theme I'm noticing in the job descriptions I am most attracted to. I've been thinking a lot about it lately and what it means.

Ok, big news-  I'm done teaching at the University!! My last class was yesterday, and afterward I had some time where I hung out at my desk and students could come by and say good bye. There will be a farewell party on the 11th but I'm not sure if that's just a teacher thing or students are invited as well. So we took the opportunity to talk a little about what my year there has been like and what they have learned and what I learned. I was so surprised by what some of them said- some of them that I thought didn't even care about the Small Speaking Groups or the workshops talked about how much they appreciated them. Some even cried! It was good for me to see that they have been blessed by my being there.

The last few days I have been pretty calm emotionally which is amazing seeing as so much is happening. I got good news from home and had a very encouraging conversation with my mother. What a good friend. I also got my tickets for Portugal. I'll be going right from orientation to Portugal to meet my family for a week. Maybe that's what I'll need as a buffer between Indonesia and Phoenix, AZ.

Also my current calmness has allowed to see Indonesia with fresh eyes. It's one month today until we leave our placements and start three days of interrogations- er, assessment meetings, ;-) in Salatiga with MCC Indonesia. Things bug me less and I'm able to be awed by this amazing country again. On my way here to Semarang I saw a lot of things I like about the looks of this place and that I know I'll miss. Specifically the colors used on the houses and buildings, some of the older architecture, and the chipped paint. Other things- little boys playing soccer with their Muslim hats on, food sellers cooking on the side walk or walking their mobile kitchens up and down the road, women coming or going from the market with live chickens sticking their heads out of wicker bags, men with little guitars waiting to hop on a bus and entertain the riders for a few coins. This stuff is unique. And I'm glad to be noticing it again.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

One month and seven days

I should not be counting down the time till I pulang (go home) because there is still so much to do here that needs me to be present in mind and heart but it'

When you know something big is about to come, something that will be emotion-filled and difficult and wonderful, it's hard not to rush to get there and start going through the emotional process before it's actually time to go through it. It can be damaging to jump the gun, but it's hard to keep your mind and heart from doing that. And at the same time, you can't just ignore that this huge change is coming, because that kind of denial wouldn't be good either and might make the transition harder.

I know there are still some great times to be had in the next month and I need not to rush through them, but savor them and allow them to be what they are... If my mind leaves before then I know time will go by slower, and I'll miss out.

I had  really bad day about two weeks ago. My helmet got stolen, it was a hideously hot day, there were some cultural misunderstandings, I was lonely, there was a bee in my juice... I just wanted to go home. I sort-of checked out of Kudus then. Just, really done with it. So I did. I let myself just be done with caring and started to really look forward to leaving. And once I did that, a survival numbness took over that made certain things that would have gotten on my nerves not effect me. It works. When I get into those frustrating situations that tempt me to bike off a cliff, I just kick in the survival numbness and try to roll with it. But when fun times happen, I let myself enjoy them. It's hard- these ups and downs. Awesome experiences dispersed within grueling every day life. The heat, the molding clothes, the traffic, the stares, the food... I guess it's just life now, and the people make it worth it. I'm not here because I love Kudus and love life here. I'm here because what I get out of my interactions with people is precious. I believe I am having an effect on my students, on my small community, even on MCC Indonesia and my host family and whether I notice it all the time or not, this experience is growing me. Sometimes I surprise myself with how I've changed over the year. How I've adapted to things I thought I could never handle. It's made me stronger in ways that will help me in life beyond Indonesia.

I've been reading Genesis and Exodus and while these books challenge my view of God more than any other part of the Bible, one thing I learned and that has grown my faith is that we are not known by God and blessed by him for the purpose of our happiness. We are blessed by him to be a blessing to others- the purpose of Israel in the first place.

I'm not going to apologize for being an American and having a great education and having money to spend. I don't feel bad that I have been blessed. Guilt is not the purpose of blessing, the purpose of being blessed is to be a blessing. That way, no one is left unblessed.

So momentarily, in this hot muggy Kudus, I am giving up some of my blessings. My car, having my family close, having food I love, being in my element.. In order to bless. And I am being blessed in return in ways I never expected. Three good friends, a free trip to Bali, amazing natural beauty... There are definitely moments where I lose it and just need to have a bad day, but the next day will redeem the previous days anguish and you move on to the next emotion. No getting stuck in the moment but taking everything as it comes.

This next week is my last week teaching at UMK unless I decide to have some special seminars my last week in Kudus. After next week I'll be teaching in a village with some other SALTers- there is a week long English camp at a church. Then that weekend we will head to a youth summit in East Java for the weekend. That next week there is a holiday where I might head to the beach with a friend, then the next weekend is my church's youth camp. From the 6th to the 17th I'll be in Kudus and possibly travel a little with my host family. Then it's back to the MCC office in Salatiga from the 17th to the 20th and then it's home.

There's a lot of little projects I'm working on at the moment. Translations, recording some narration for my host dad, producing and editing a text book at the university... As well as the normal 7:30-1pm school schedule. This week will be hectic. There are short stories I need to blog about soon and I'll get on that. I miss writing. And there is so much to say...

Monday, May 23, 2011

workshops & driving in Kudus

It's been two weeks but it feels like it's been forever since I updated on here. I've been told I'm long winded in some of my posts so I'll try to keep it short for you.

The week that I got back from MCC retreat in Bali there were no classes because UMK students were taking their midterms. I talked to a professor about organizing some workshops and we ended up deciding on four- Common English Mistakes, Business English, Being Muslim in America, and Education in America. I led all four and they ended up being pretty well attended. I prefer organizing workshops and seminars that teaching a regular class. Consistent lesson planning is just not my thing. More often than not I end up scrambling at 11pm Sunday night trying to come up with something to teach on Monday. It's just a conversation class but if I don't have some activity planned to get the students talking it ends up being me monologuing about something or other. And the less they talk the faster I talk and then the less they understand. It's great fun. Actually it's not and sometimes I get really frustrated. At myself for not being better on my toes with conversation games and not patient enough, and then with them for not being more assertive and interested in learning.

But. I look at where I am now and compare it to where I was even just two months ago and I'm doing better. I'm growing, learning from mistakes, trying new things... And it's paying off. I see students being a little more open and eager to learn. A little more comfortable with me. I honestly don't know if they're learning anything. It's hard to tell when you meet with 7 groups of 10 students every week. That's a lot of kids to keep track of and I can hardly remember any of their names much less their English abilities. There are some of them, the older ones, that I hang out with after class and I've gotten to know them pretty well.

I'm not spectacular at my job, but I am here, and given the fact that this was not what I signed up for when I applied to SALT, I think I'm doing alright. And there is something about having less than two months left that makes things more bearable. That motivates a little more creativity. And, it's amazing what a skype call home will do for my spirit. Really appreciating my mom right now.

I rented a scooter a couple of weeks ago because my host father was out of town which meant no ride for me. It was quite the experience. Riding on the back is crazy, but driving is a whole lot crazier.

First, driving on the left. I've gotten used to it because of riding the bicycle around everywhere but on occasion I still screw up directionally when making turns.

Second, people pull out without looking when they are turning left (not having to cross the road). They just go. All of them. And so when you are driving you need to be A) aware of people coming towards you on your right when passing each other and driving into your lane and B) people pulling out from roads coming in on the left. There is some order to the madness. It's not like those pictures you see of Indian roads where there are cattle, motorcycles, trucks, people, complete craziness seven lanes across with seemingly no pattern of direction. Roads are usually just two cars wide and people tend to ride on the right side. Which is the left side.

Third, horns. All the time. When you're passing someone, when you're letting someone know you will not be moving so they had better move, when someone pulls out in front of you (which happens all the time, see above), a half a second after the stop light turns green (especially when they are count down stop lights), if the vehicle in front of you has stopped for any reason, or if you see someone you know. Or if you see a white person and want to get their attention and because you think it's funny when you scare them half to death and see them about fall off their bike cause they don't have a thick helmet to muffle your obnoxiously loud horn.

Fourth, bicycle cart men. They look super unique and cultural when you're first here but once you start riding you realize what a nuisance they are and why drivers here are trying to get them to be outlawed. They are super slow and tend to ride in the middle of the road and take over traffic. Or they part on the side of the street and snooze in their carts and make it impossible to pass the car in front of you. Driving has definitely made me not a fan of becaks.

Fifth, gas is not too expensive but when you live as far out of the city as I do and are regularly coming in town either to buy diet coke or rent a movie or pick up a friend or go to church, you end up having to fill up every other day. And at 2.50$ a tank, it gets expensive. "Expensive". Comparatively though. That's three meals here in Kudus.

So I learned much in my one week of renting a scooter. It was about $3 a day to rent it and I probably wont rent it again. Cause like I said, that is expensive for here. It took me back to Azores days for sure though. When I was 14 my dad bought a scooter for us girls and when I was 16 I was allowed to start driving it.
And consequently, riding one here made me a bit homesick for a warm family to drive home to at night, the comforts of knowing the city by heart and having memories everywhere I drive.... Will possibly be visiting Portugal this summer though which is super exciting and will give me a chance to "matar aquelas saudades." Sorry, no translation available.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama, war, and things that matter.

This morning a friend skyped me that Osama was dead. Being morning and being pre-caffeinated, I mistakenly saw "Obama" and flipped out for about 15 seconds until I realized that he meant Osama bin Laden and that our president was indeed alive and well. I went onto facebook and it was everywhere. People love big news. It's like when Michael Jackson died and I got 15 text messages about it in the space of an hour. "Did you hear?! Can you believe it?!" We love delivering news, whether good news or just big news. People usually don't like having to tell people bad news... Who likes to see a broken heart and the rawness of uncontrollable emotions that come with the shock of receiving unexpected bad news? Ew. But we love news. Weirdly, it didn't move me at all. It made me wonder if we would finally leave Afghanistan, but I wasn't necessarily happy. Which for anyone else might be normal but five years ago, that would NOT have been my reaction. I just realized this about 30 minutes ago, that my non-reaction to the news is significant and shows something about me and how I actually have changed a lot since my pre-college days. Like, fundamentally changed.
Five years ago I was dead set on working for the CIA or FBI in counter terrorism intelligence. I was seriously debating doing ROTC in college and going the military route. It consumed tons of hours of my thoughts. I was so angry about 9/11, about the attacks in Spain, about the Russian school siege... Those people who inflicted that kind of pain on innocent people had to be stopped. And they simply deserved to be murdered. Taken out of this world. A tough job... Who wants to actually pull the trigger and take a life? But in my rationale back then, someone had to do it and that person would be actually saving the world. Saving it from brokenness, terrorism, preventing heart break and injustice. I was so passionate about justice. The justice of retaliation. "You kill my people and I will obliterate you and your people. Whoever innocent on your side that gets hurt, that collateral damage is your problem. It's worth the sacrifice. Whoever is not on our side is our enemy." Writing that now is so hard for me. It makes my bones hurt and my heart so sad for the time I spent so awfully mistaken. And now here I am, 5 years later, working with Mennonites in the largest Muslim country in the world.

I love it.

I love it how Jesus can change people and radically break down their ideas and re-direct their passions. I love that God has done that for me. I'm not sure when it was... and it doesn't matter, really. What matters is that along the way... Along the journey that has been life in the past 5 years, my passion and desire for justice has not wavered but my idea about what justice is has changed dramatically. Reading about the heart of Jesus and taking seriously his commands and taking a good look at his life and realizing that it was not flowing with my career goals. Not that I didn't care about religion and Jesus before... I remember feeling totally convinced in myself that it was completely alright in Gods eyes what I wanted to do in the future. Killing terrorists is acting out justice, and God is a God of justice! But, I remember freshman year in college when I started hearing some different views about justice and war from some of my hippy friends. I took a course called Urban Ministries and some of the stuff that Papa C (as we affectionately call my professor) said about justice started really challenging me and my ideas of fighting terrorism. The way he described the brokenness of the world and the things that really mattered. The deep brokennesses of the world that are harder to see but that cut deep. Racism, poverty, discrimination, lack of love, the prosperity of the church and its lack of brokenness for this aching world, our over crowded and neglected cities... I had a class called Current Events right before his class and it was all about BBC news and the back-story of all the crap that is going on in the world, and I remember a number of days where I just went back to my room after those classes and cried for all the brokenness and heaviness of the world. Later I took another class of his called Contemporary World Missions and I went through some legitimate injustices during a 3 day refugee simulation that left me very changed in my ideas about who exactly is facing injustice in the world. I remember beginning to think that there are bigger wars to be fighting than those in Afghanistan and Iraq, than the war against terrorism, and for the next couple of years in college I learned about those bigger wars. The war against human trafficking, the war against apathy, the war against our ignorance of the world, the war against discrimination and domestic abuse, the war against the breaking of families and the presence of neglected orphans, the war against aids and against unjust urbanization... The list goes on. I realized that there is so much more. And it's deeper than a hijacked plane. Acts of terror (as depicted by the media) are only a symptom of a more deep brokenness in the world. I don't want to be fighting symptoms my whole life.

Also during college I read Shane Clairborne's book the Irresistible Revolution and absolutely fell in love with the Kingdom of God and what it looks like to live for it. Real relationship that satisfies the deep loneliness we often feel, holistic views of Jesus' life and the Bible, radical justice that not only changed how I saw justice in the world but how I view God's grace to me. To handle justice with grace... They seem so opposite, really, but they aren't. And I've been learning that. I think the last straw was spending a semester in Egypt where I met Muslim people for the first time and realized how incredibly hospitable and diverse and alive the people of Egypt are. I met fully veiled women, I met women who wore veils that let some of their hair show, I met Muslim women who didn't even wear a veil, I met Coptic Christian women, I met Catholic nuns who worked in an orphanage that Mother Teresa started, I met Palestinians who had lost livelihoods because of the wall Israel built and who had their houses destroyed and their precious, ancient olive trees burned, I met Israelis who were terrified of suicide bombers and who were wanting their missing soldiers to come home from where the Palestinians were keeping them.... I met people and I heard stories and that changed everything. I met rabbis from the organization Rabbis for Human Rights that spoke about fighting for the rights of the Palestinians, I met Palestinian Christians who were heart broken for how Christians in the west were neglecting them in their unwavering support for Israel... These are people. From both sides. Whose lives are tangibly broken, because the world is broken. And we are broken. And killing one man who masterminded some awful, awful events is not going to change the brokenness of the world one bit. Celebrating death? Really? He's just a symptom of a deeper brokenness.
I read this facebook post today: "what honors the God within us more: celebrating the destruction of broken humanity, or mourning the brokenness? (thank you, Kara S.)"
It reminded me of why Osama's death didn't really lead me to celebrate. That's not the war I'm fighting anymore. It's not the justice I'm passionate about anymore.

Fighting brokenness starts with people. Working with people, individuals. I may eventually work in politics and policy, but for now I am finding wisdom and growth by working with individuals. Sharing in their brokenness by living with them, but at the same time fighting that brokenness either through providing shelter and food, breaking down stereotypes and correcting cultural misunderstandings, providing education (and being educated myself!) and health, advocating on their part, bringing awareness to discrimination and hate and encouraging an environment of non-violence and peace, getting mad and starting a campus org to raise awareness of and funds to fight human trafficking, or just loving on people and building relationships with them even though they are very different than me. I'm only currently doing some of the above mentioned things, and sometimes its easy to lose site of the larger battle and just run home to McDonalds and apple pie and American flags, but that's not where I'm supposed to be right now.

I'm here, in my own brokenness, trying to proactively live out what I would like the world to be. I would like the world to be a place that learns, a place where there is grace in the midst of tensions and misunderstandings, a place that is not afraid of uncomfortableness, a place that is not so ethnocentric and self focused. A place where we teach each other about those things we don’t understand, so that we can understand, and be better for it. A place that mourns for life lost, regardless of whose life it is. A place that understands grace and forgiveness and true justice.

A place that moves for things that matter

Sunday, May 01, 2011

here are images to go along with the stories.

Soccer game in Kudus! We paid the normal ticket price but we
got to move onto the field and lead chants and be crazy.

Hiking mount Colo

Host Family- Fani, Bu Nanik, Pak Adi

Mushroom soup that was served as one of the six courses in a
crazy elaborate wedding I went to.

Joel in front of an old entrance on mount Colo during our hike.

Food therapy!! Frying garlic naan. (Not eaten here, I got a pre-packaged mix when
we were in Singapore renewing our visas. )

A pretty old lady at the circumcision party I went to in a Kudus village.

Said circumcision party. Crazy masked people and a lot of ceremony and food.

Books that peoples sent with my parents for the UMK library.

Kudus vs Surabaya soccer game! Yeah, sepak bola!

Go blue!!! (Also the color of my favorite Portuguese soccer team. Appropriate!)

action scene turned artsy via

team spirit!

Wedding of a teacher I teach with at UMK

Students in a speaking class I co-taught

Saturday morning choco chip pancakes!

i love my french press. They even have skim milk here!

Students learning about being Muslim in America

Miss my family!

Everyone should conform to my desired sleeping schedule.

This post is not about my sleeping schedule, nor is it about my desire that everyone should conform to my habits. Though that would be nice. :) No 6am church services, no 7:30 am classes, no 8pm curfews (that I regularly break anyways...). This country is a morning country! I thought I would have conformed to that but no, at 1am Tuesday night you will still find me typing away an email or drawing or, most likely, reading a book. I've stopped washing clothes past 10pm because I think it was disturbing my host parents especially when the spinner gets off balance and it makes sounds similar to those of someone knocking down a cement wall. And plus, the clothes had to hang out all damp in a bucket until I could hang them up in the morning. Speaking of which, 6 months ago the sound of rain made me think thought of curling up with hot tea and a good book. Now they bring panicky thoughts of "Oh crap do I have clothes on the roof?!" and realizing that yes, I do have clothes on the roof and I will not bike it home before A) I myself am completely soaked (shoot! I'm wearing a white shirt!) and B) my clothes on the roof are good as unwashed. And hot tea, are you kidding me?! Iced tea, maybe, if our freezer worked and there as ice available.
No this post is actually just about life and what has been going down in Kudus and elsewhere since my last post. The title was just the first thing that came to my head. This post will be brief as I am about to go to Jepara with my host family as we once in a while do on Sunday afternoons. Jepara is a coastal town where both my host parents parents' live. It's a bumpy hour-long ride (although we're taking a different route today, so we'll see how long it takes us), so a pillow and a good book is necessary for comfortable survival (I am SO thankful that I don't get car sick easily! I think it's because of all the church-to-church travelling while on missionary furlough that I did while growing up.).
I just got back from Bali, but let me back up and give a shout out to Yuliana, who again has come through and given me relief from everyday Kudus. The weekend before going to Bali she invited Joel and I to Semarang to stay with her sister (who I found out later is actually her cousin. Sister here rarely means sister. It can mean good friend, cousin, older acquaintance...). It was a good time! I loved meeting her sister. She has the MOST ADORABLE DAUGHTER. Deserves all caps for sure. She looks like the little girl from Monsters Inc. Fell so in love with her. They were so kind to us.. There ended up being 10 people in a little house with two rooms so there was some squishing but really it felt like a huge slumber party, Indo style, complete with a spaghetti breakfast at 6am. We went to a great restaurant where I had a very legitimate Cesar salad and quite good chicken cordon-bleu, seated outside with a beautiful night view of Semarang. The next day we all went to Water Blaster water park together which was pretty fun. It was nicer than I expected. Leanne met us there and it was nice to converse and get a little wet in the sun together. I did not burn which was a plus. Thank you sister Amanda for the 100 SPF sunblock. It does it's job well!
Funny story about getting burned, the day after going to Jepara beach last month and getting burned up with Leanne, we went to the mall Paragon Starbucks in Semarang and the barista (who knows us by name :) ) commented on my sunny face. The next time we were there, he commented on me not being so bloody red anymore, which Joel and Tyler, who had been making fun of me all week for it, got a good laugh out of. I didn't care too much, because I got another long Starbucks receipt which means if I go online and type in some survey answers I get a free drink on the house! I love long Starbucks receipts.
Again, what a blessing Yuli is to me.
Bali was grand. Getting there, was not. It started out with me not going to bed until after 3am (I have no idea what I was doing which means it was not worth staying up to do) and having to get up at 6. Wicked bad head ache. Wore my new pink/red comfy paisley pants which made the day slightly better. This is an important detail to add, and culturally appropriate seeing as everywhere I go people comment on what I wear especially if my shirt is the same color as someone elses. Ahhh! Out of control coincidence! Pictures pictures!


It started with Pak Adi taking me half way to the bus station because we had to stop and pick up Joel and he didn't want to have to turn around because the family was late to the good Friday service. So after Joel was done grabbing his two bags (let me just put it out there that he had more stuff than I did...) and football (which I am super surprised survived two bus rides, two boat rides, and the beach with out getting lost or damaged. Although I did accidentally throw it at Karen's face in the bus. Sorry Karen! I blame my Portuguese upbringing. Which I blame most of my blunders on. When I can't sing karaoke, I can't speak correct English, I can't count... It's convenient.) We then walked to the angota (van bus) which we took to the bus station where we took an hour long bus to Semarang, taxied into the town, met up with Tyler, bought a coffee and McDonalds (McNuggets anyone?!), then bussed it 2 hours to Salatiga where we got poured on coming off of the bus. Lilik from the MCC office was kind enough to rescue us sopping, tired (though hyped) travellers from under a random building entrance and take us to yet another bus which would eventually take all us 30 plus MCCers, after 18 grueling hours, to our final paradise destination. I was pretty hyper the first few hours of the ride due to the headache pills I took, my sixteen year old bus seat partner, the excitement of seeing fellow SALTers and people I love, snacks galore, and, hello! Bali the next day!! This is Bali, paradise island of Southeast Asia.

I've been getting crap from people for not ever having read the Narnia books (which I also blame on my Portuguese childhood) so I started this trip. Strange, little books. Love the word images and creativity though. I've only made it through the first one so I'm not trying to judge too much yet. I read some of that on the bus ride over.

My bus partner moved to another seat so I got a few unrestful hours of sleep (he said my legs were flopping around and my hair was flying everywhere. I guess I looked a little rough lol)
When we go to East Java we had to ride the bus onto a boat and boat over to Bali. We got off the bus and eat oranges and roti (bread) from the top of the boat as we tried to explain to Tyler (who has been living in Indonesia for 7 months) where exactly we were in Indonesia. Apparently not everyone looks at or understands maps. And I am glad to have someone be as silly in their knowledge of obvious things as I am :) ) It was beautiful to see the dark sky become early morning and fun to feel the breeze and joke around and tell stories. We have good story tellers in our SALT group, the kind that make you laugh before they even get to the gist of the story, and it makes for good times together.
My headache endured until the next day and even into the next day, but it finally went away and didn't wreck any of the trip for me. Health is a hard issue here for me. It's not like I have been to the doctors (thought once or twice I probably should have). But it's just a stressor that I don't need. I'm fine when I don't eat Indonesian meals or when I stay away from the fried food and the rice but that is 90% of the food here, so it is inevitable that I will be consuming those things. Lots of fruits and vegetables, coffee, water, peanuts.. For a week before Bali that was basically my diet. Add a bit of tempe (moldy soy bean patties) and veggie soup. Nausea is the worst, with some headaches and constipation (and the opposite) issues. Then just plain tummy aches. Not super bad just always there. I've started working out and lifting and getting enough protein is a challenge. Gotta give these baby muskles some food to grow! I want to impress my bros with my mad flexing skills when I get home.

Bali was... so restful. The sleep I got there was restful and long even though I got up pretty early (7:30ish) every morning. Our hotel was grand. Just beautiful. Flowers all over, courtyards and a wonderful pool, view of the ocean, kind staff, a great conference room, amazing breakfast (I just have to break it down for you: pancakes with MAPLE SYRUP (not real maple but having never grown up with real maple syrup, I actually prefer the fake stuff!) , BACON, ham, COFFEE, fresh fruit, pastries, eggs to order, cereal, bread, jam... Oh. Man. It was definitely a highlight!!!), clean rooms with AC and hot water... I loved leaving my phone in my hotel room and not checking it for days. I loved not getting on the internet for days not because it wasn't available but because I just didn't want to. I lead worship and was a little nervous about doing so because I'm not exactly sure what Mennonites believe or their style of worship. Other than being a little shy, I loved doing it and was thankful to get my hands on the guitar again. Allan, one of the MCCers living on another Indo island, showed me some guitar tips and I have some stuff I want to work on here in the next two months. I also lead a foot washing and I had never even participated in one so I'm not sure if I did it right but it was fun to do regardless. I still haven't participated in one, actually... hah I was playing guitar while people washed and then I forgot to wash someone's feet and have mine washed. :)
The sessions were really insightful and the accompanying snacks and coffee break helped me stay awake and attentive. Ah again, it made me miss being in school. We talked about Islam, the resurrection, the church, and the holy spirit. Sessions went till noon and then we had free time.
One day the SALTers plus Paul (the MCC director's son and my bus seat partner) rented scooters and went around town, visiting a holy site and shopping at Carrefour.
Another day us girls stayed behind while most of the rest of the MCC group went to a waterfall. We got massages, played in the pool, shopped, and then got a delish burger before coming back to the hotel in time for a hymn-sing. There was a Indomaret shop close to the hotel so every night we went there and bought snacks, often including a Magnum ice cream bar. These ice creams are worth a mention. Expensive at $1.20 (10.000 rupiah) a bar but worth every penny. Very creamy vanilla with a chocolate, almond covered shell. Yes.
One night we hung out on the beach and chewed beetle nut, a bitter, tasty nut that you eat with chalk and that has effects similar to caffeine when chewed for a while. It makes you salivate like crazy and your spit is blood red. It looked like I had been clobbered in the mouth. We all got a little crazy off of it.
Another day we took the bus to a lake and saw some hindu temples and went to a strawberry farm where we bought strawberry pancakes, milk shakes, and strawberries with ice cream.
I loved being able to fall asleep with Leanne in the bed next to me. I legitimately love the people I am here with in Indonesia. We don't see each other terribly often but when we do there is always laughter, fun, and honesty. And we keep in touch well via phone texting. It was refreshing to room with her. I'm thankful for the MCC Indonesia team and how unique each family and individual is and the gifts that are brought to the group. Even if I don't personally speak to each one every time the group is together, I hear their stories via group emails and during retreat and team meeting sessions and we have some very passionate and gifted people working with MCC Indo.
The bus ride home was rougher than the one to Bali, but we made it and after a weird day of getting to Salatiga at 5am then sleeping at the SALT coordinator's house for 4 hours then eating bananas and drinking coffee and leaving at 1pm to bus it home again, we finally made it to Kudus. In Semarang I had fun talking to Leanne over coffee while Joel did some internet stuff and it was a little hard to finally leave and take the final bus back to Kudus. But, no counting days till the next thing. To be present is to live well and wisdom is knowing that the grass may be greener on the other side but the water is sweeter on this side. There are positives anywhere and negatives too. There is more than the grass! Wherever I go there will be challenges to overcome (whether health issues, or workplace troubles, or a new community to try to break into, or fighting apathy, or joblessness...) and if I begin my adult life by dealing with challenges by looking forward to the next thing and rushing through rough phases, then I will rush through life.
The last couple days I can say I have been able to live presently, have my heart and mind here, and appreciate this place. The joking of the church group as we made the long drive to a church in the village to show a movie, the unique movie snacks provided there to eat (fried cow skin, anyone?!), the warmness of the people at the church that contrasted with the brightness of the interior of the house/church and the harsh ceiling lights, the beautiful views from the mountain as we travelled there, the new friend I made who has promised to take me dirt biking, eating a guava like an apple (had never done that before!) and enjoying it's almost un-natural pinkness, rescuing clothes from the rain, talking to Yudhi about life and extra-terrestrials...
Then today going to the community market and buying ingredients to make fried rice tomorrow, and then biking with my host sister to buy food, going for a family drive to Jepara to see the keluarga besar (grandparents and aunt and uncles) and spending max an hour there and driving straight back.. Five hours in a suspensionless car... Thankful for Narnia and my pillow (I started this post before leaving and finishing now that I'm back)... Then stopping at KFC and getting some good old fried chicken. We got too many ice tea bottles though so I had to down two of them quickly before we left and that combined with the three I had already drunk that day at different houses left my head spinning. Someone connected with MCC said that a lot of development work and SALT work is often sitting and drinking tea- aka, relationship building. Living. Talking. But those last two teas left my head spinning and stomach slightly less than happy, not to mention freaking my bladder out. I've used the squatty 6 times today.
Nothing huge, no big events, just living with my community and being a part of this family today (my host parents are very busy all the time so this is a rare occasion that we're all together for a day) and I hope, being a blessing to them. Ok as I re-read this I see that I mention McDonalds, Starbucks and KFC. Don't get the idea that I'm at these places often! I get McDonald's or Starbucks maybe once a month and KFC less than that. Everytime we travel to meet MCC we have to go through Semarang so we take advantage of the new mall there.
This next week will involve planning and executing 4 lectures/workshops at UMK ( Topics: Business English, Being Muslim in America, Common English Mistakes, and Education in America), and some (hopefully) dirt biking, a youth meeting tomorrow night, teaching English at the hospital tomorrow afternoon, cooking with some students on Wednesday, a church meeting Thursday night, and we'll see what else pops up. While I'm not counting down days to leave, it is important that I stay busy and have my calendar days filled up. Which they are filling up. Rather quickly. And I rather like it.
So bring it, May, June, July!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Different Kind of Social. Part II.

In my last post I expressed frustration and confusion over how socialization is done in Indonesia. After I wrote it I kept thinking and observing and found more to add.

First, let me point out a pretty obvious error in my thinking. I put everyone together in one big group and overgeneralized hugely. Which, while I'm not trying to excuse overgeneralizing and it's negative effects, to get to any detailed thought about anything you start with generalizations that you then question and dig into deeper. This is my digging deeper.

Kudus may be a small town in the north of central Java- a huge island belonging to a country that has another 14,000 islands, but even then it has its own little diversity. OK you don't have much diversity in things like hair color and skin color and language but you have diverse little bubbles that make up the people of Kudus.

There are Christian circles, Muslim circles, University student circles, community leader circles, teacher circles... I walked into this culture and am awkwardly trying to find my identity here. I'm trying to learn about a culture without being treated like a person belonging to the culture and without a long history and therefore relationships and rhythms and familiarities that the local people have. I am an outsider. Which is fine, but it does make interpreting the culture an interesting task. It's a crazy endeavor. I come from countries that are so, so different than Indonesia. The way we perceive things is so tied to what we grew up with (I know there is psychological term for this but bare with me and my simple, quotidian vocab). How can I ever BEGIN to understand anything from this country the way the people here understand it? Simply put, I fit in no circle here in Kudus and so I'm smooshed between two (or three, if you count the Portuguese culture. I kept trying to say Portuguese words today as I was speaking English and it killed) cultures and still trying to create a daily rhythm and maintain my sanity while still being who I am but enjoying the other culture that is everywhere I look and permeates everything I do. Can you see how it would be hard not to resist it, get a little frustrated, get a little confused?

So here, from my unique bubble, it is difficult to see into other people's bubbles and understand how their rhythm of life works. Even being in a home stay situation, I see my unique family's life but it's still difficult to understand. The key word, is unique. My host dad is an assistant pastor and on fifteen thousand boards and committees. My host mom is a nurse. Their lack of what I see as a social life does not mean that my students at the university also live like that, or that because my students at the university don't seem to socialize a ton with each other out of the university doesn't mean that Joel's students and church youth don't socialize outside of academics either.

There are things I don't see. For example, every Wednesday evening  I have been gone for some reason or another, so I did not know that my host mom goes to a community women's meeting every Wednesday. I knew that once every other month a ton of ladies were at our house and that meant there was a ton of snacks laying around for the next two days, but I didn't know that was actually a weekly thing where they got together and sold things to each other and talked about the community and... socialized. I realized that this week.

Also, this being a very religious society it would make sense that much of the socialization that occurs would happen in the church setting. My church is in the village and frequented by I would say 12 adults ages 50+ and 2-3 teenage/young adults. My attempts at getting together with these 2-3 young adults have failed miserably. That said, the church in town, from a different denomination and budget, has about 35 youth and young adults and have weekly special events on top of cell groups, youth meetings, regular church services, sports events, praise and worship programs etc. The kids socialize at these events. Maybe they are not for the sole purpose of socialization but they bring people together and relationship happens there.

My university has no dormitories so most students who don't commute stay in boarding houses around the school. My host parents have a boarding house attached to our house that houses about 8 girls. Most of their nights are spent wearing PJ's and giggling in front of the TV. But they do it together. I am often woken in the morning by their laughter and yelling. They have relationships that were built while wearing those PJs in front of the TV. Every night. Seven nights a week. Because there isn't a lot of "going out", there is a lot of "staying in" and a lot of socialization happening then. Behind closed doors. So when I ask my students, "What do you guys do for fun? Where do you go out to?" And they answer that they don't go out, but they just stay at home, it doesn't automatically mean no socialization happens.

I see a ton of students hanging out at the university and while they don't seem to go many places together outside of campus, they sit around and talk inside of campus and that's where their memories are made. That's where it goes down, on that partial wall that separates the scooter parking lot and the main campus road. When I've asked them what their best memory is, some of them tell me stories of this once when they went to the beach (which is an hour away) with their senior high school friends. It confuses me because they live so close to the beach town. Why not go every weekend?

The fact that girls can't be out alone or with other girls and no boys past 6pm makes for a very different social life than I was used to. I guess everyday relationship building happens in the workplace, in the school during their breaks or in class, in once a week women meetings, in the church (I'm not sure what kind of community activities happen in the mosque), in front of the TV, sitting and doing nothing in the town square (which is actually a huge grassed roundabout in the middle of town), .... Not necessarily at coffee shops over a late, or in bars over a beer, or playing games, eating together, cooking together, staying up late out on the town, going to the cinema, shopping, bowling, going to the beach.... People here also visit family, and that takes time. They are a very family oriented society and that includes aunts, uncles, etc.

Though I may feel bored or lonely here it doesn't mean that the people here aren't social. It means that I am new and out of my element where I am known and have history and can readily seek enjoyable, intentional social interaction. If I grew up here A) I'd understand and therefore be satisfied with what this culture offers as far as socializing time and place, and, B) I'd know people and have my own family.

Perceptions, objective reality... So hard, especially when you bring the inevitable heavy baggage of your own culture.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A story of being blessed.

I've been having an awful time with my stomach lately. A lot of nausea and stomach pain, and it's not enough to go to the doctor but it's enough so that it gets my spirit down and it's hard to work. I would rather have diarrhea a hundred times more than having nausea and stomach pains. I don't know if it's all the fried food I eat or all the rice I eat or a combination of both but this last week has been bad. Waves of nausea in the middle of teaching, heavy stomach and fatigue.... In a fit of frustration yesterday I vowed to stop eating Indonesian food. I can cook my own food that will not make me ill, thanks very much.

I managed to make it all day with no Indonesian food. Coffee and an apple for breakfast.  another apple and a carrot and a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and for dinner... I was just planning on having an orange and maybe a piece of bread. (There is a market here with fresh ingredients but it's a half an hour bike ride from here. And when it's raining, that is not an option...) Just so tired of rice and fried chicken, or fried rice, or fried noodles...
And actually I've felt really good all day. Feelin' fresh and not heavy in the stomach. But now I'm hungry. But I don't want to buy fried rice again!

I was going through my dinner options and realizing that if I couldn't even do one day without Indo food, surviving till July... Not going to happen. Ugh Sometimes I just want American food. Stuff my stomach can stomach!

Then I get a text from a friend of mine, her  name is Yuliana :) and I met her teaching at the hospital. She's a kindred spirit. Her text was something on the order of, "Juliana, I'm at Papa Ron's Pizza [the only pizza shop in town] with my family. We have left overs. Do you want some?!"

Do I want some? Are you serious? Heck yes I want some! It was perfect. And the first time it has ever happened. My first thought was: "that girl is from God, and God's blessing me through her."

Weirdly, it gives me a sense of, "Ok, maybe I can make it on Indo food till the end of term." As long as I have days where I can detox and go all out on fruit and maybe something American, I'll be ok. Reminds me that God going to come through when I'm at my limit and really just needing rest from the stresses of life. Whether those stresses are from living overseas with all the newness that comes with that, or whether it is stress in the States struggling with a heavy work load, or whatever. God will come through. Makes for a blessed Church!

And a happy Juliana stomach.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Different Kind of Social

I've been going to the gym about 5 times a week. Running and lifting. Feels really good to push myself physically and get tired out. Helps with getting emotions out. The first few times I went were frustrating as people stared and the gym guys obsessed about my knowing how to use the machines, but now they know who I am and mostly leave me alone. Someone has mentioned before how the other SALTer here doesn't talk to many people when he's at the gym. They seemed to think that he was being anti-social, and I've gotten the same comments said about myself when I am biking somewhere with my head phones on, for example. I explained that when we go to the gym, we don't go to talk to people. We go to be alone and exercise and that we really don't want to converse with anyone. It's not the purpose of going to the gym. In America, most people have their headphones in and it would be extremely rude to stop them in their run to ask for a photo, or to distract them while they are lifting weights. It's just not done.

I know people don't understand. Why would we not want to stop what we're doing and talk to them for 20 minutes?! Why would we want to be cut off from others and so alone when we are doing things? It's the American way, I guess. There is social time, and there is alone time. Socializing is done on dates that you usually schedule ahead of time, usually during meal time over food and in the evening. Other than with family, social time in the US is usually at events. You meet up with people. Alone time is for the in-between, and to be alone is perfectly alright and does not indicate that a person does not have friends or no one wants to be them. When I tell someone I'm doing something or when I first get to an event, the first question I am always asked is "Sama siapa?" ("With whom?") and it sounds strange to them when we say "Sendiri" (Alone). Sometimes I'm told I'm brave. Sometimes I'm just looked at with an "Oh! Poor thing..." expression. It's the same with romantic relationships. All the time I am asked who I am dating. When I explain that I have dated before but broke up with my boyfriends, it confuses them. Why would you not want to be dating someone? Why would you purposefully be alone?

And yet...

I often, often eat alone.And my evenings are sometimes spent alone, even though I know plenty of Indo people. The eating thing especially confuses me. Everyone will be at home, but my host parents will take their food into their room and I will eat at the table alone and it will be completely normal to them. Evenings are spent in front of the tv, not in a coffee shop talking with friends, or playing cards and talking with your family.
And yet they are constantly texting people, constantly on facebook.

I don't understand it, really. A very social society. You do everything with people. And yet you don't often have intentionally social times and times that would be convenient to be social, in the evenings when everyone is home, or at meal times, are not taken advantage of for socializing. There is no time purposeful for socialization, not many friend dates that from what I see in the society. That makes me sad. Yet people are trying to talk to me all the time, and people think I'm snobbish for not answering their calls and their yells as I'm walking somewhere or doing something.
This is just a cultural observation that my limited experiences have given me, but it's a phenomena I haven't quite figured out yet. What's the underlying pattern, or cultural value that I'm missing? Is it not so much a difference in socializing as it is an independence thing? Confusing...

This week.

Last Saturday Christian (a Fullbrighter here) and his friend JT (also a Fullbrighter) and Joel and I went to a soccer game here in Kudus. It was Kudus vs Surabaya, a big city in East Java. We were predicted to lose but ended up winning. Super fun to watch. They were not too bad! Took me back to the days of soccer games in the Azores, watching Santa Clara get destroyed:

This is Marlon and Andrew, Stephen and I are in the background. Circa 1999

Unfortunately my computer/internet connection has decided it does not want me to update anymore photos onto blogspot, so I'll try to put them up on facebook and put the link to the album on this website.

The game was pretty nuts. We met JT and Christian at a local fish restaurant and felt our bicycles there. Walked over and got out tickets and I should have known from the near squeezed-to-death incident in the line to go into the stadium that it was going to be a wild ride. One of Christian's Indonesian friends grabbed us and took us to the area where the face-painted, waving, chanting crowd was and we were immediately the center of attention. A lot of camera phones in our faces, soccer club scarves around our necks, chant yelling in our ears... It was mad. And I, both as a girl and on top of that a white girl, was definitely in the minority. I've gotten used to it mostly but sometimes I just wish there was a chick around here that I could hang out with and who could relate!

Eventually we got told we could cross the fence into the field for better pictures and so we climbed over the 7 foot barbed wire fence and got to get some pretty cool pictures of the field. Ahaha I have some great photos of Joel leading the crowd in cheers from a high platform on the inside of the fence. My newspaper friend from church saw me and came over. He took some pictures and apparently we all ended up in the newspaper on Monday. I have yet to see it but I've heard it's a pretty cool photo. He did an article about me a couple weeks ago as well, so I've been in the newspaper twice so far this year. : ) Celeb status!

Kudus ended up winning and we got to see the crowd celebrate.

I had thought about not going... I had a rough morning where all I wanted to do was cry and not be around people. Sometimes I just feel such a void of love and understanding here. Not the love I'm used to anyways. No hugging, no cuddling, no hair messing, very little eating together as a family, very little soft speaking and politeness in the way that I'm used to, very little creative stimulation, not around a lot of people who have travelled and know where I'm coming from when I have difficulties with the culture.... I had just watched "New York, I Love you", a movie about many different stories of different kinds of love. Just made me feel sad. I'm glad I didn't give into the mood though, and got to experience the game.

It's hard to know when you've reached your limit and you need to shut down for a while. When is it appropriate to get away from it all, and when is it appropriate to dry your tears and get out there and face the world again? There could be negative consequences on both sides. If you don't respect your stress but go out there and try to face the world you may end up saying mean things to people, being rude, getting more irritated... That could be damaging to the world and to you. But then if you stay at home, what are you missing out there?

Sunday I went to the wedding of one of the lecturers at UMK. It was one of the smaller weddings I've been to (at the last wedding I was at they gave away a fridge and a tv as door prizes, had dancers with 4 foot feathers coming out of their hair, and a 6 course meal) but I really enjoyed it because there were so many people I knew from school there. I realized that they are my community and it was neat to see them in a setting other than campus. For some reason there was a lot of really beautiful batik and clothing at the wedding as well, and it inspired me to look into getting some clothes made here before I leave. And possibly making enough to sell over there in the States. Maybe. The month before I leave Indo there are no classes at the university. Maybe I  could use that time to travel around, find some good batik, and have some stuff made...

Other than New York I Love You, I watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Life As We Know It. Maybe because I had read the book before, but The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was not a great movie. For one, it was dubbed in English from Swedish and that was a little distracting, plus they left out significant parts. But Life As We Know It, with Katherine Heigle was really, really good. Laughed out loud several times, but it had some serious parts too. It reminded my a bit of What Happens In Vegas just because it dealt with the real issues. The hardness of life. The acting was pretty believable I thought..

This week Karen, Major, and Lilik came to Kudus to visit. I think they're going around visiting all the SALTers but Tuesday was the day for Kim, Joel and I to be visited.It was so, so great to be able to talk to them about my position, experiences, frustrations... They were really encouraging. Listened a lot, asked good questions, praised the strengths they saw in my work... It made me more excited for retreat. I just long for fellowship. I'm super thankful that Joel is here, but it still gets lonely.

This week in Small Speaking Group I showed the students a book I got from Christian called "Being Muslim in America." It had a lot of pictures and stories and lead to some really good conversations. Plus, I learned a lot through the book as well. You can read it too. Here:

I went to the gym 4 times with week. Felt so good. It's been raining a lot lately so running outside hasn't been an option.

Yesterday I went into town and just hung out by myself which I really didn't mind. I'm thankful for the personality I have. I think it goes with what I want to do in life. I do need people- for sure. But I don't need a lot of people. I need a few close friends and a few occasional friends and then I'm set. I don't need people around me all the time and I'm completely ok with hanging out with myself for an afternoon. I could see myself getting along fine in a developing country living in a town with very few expats as long as I had at least a team of about 10 who come from my culture and be my community. I could do that for a good many years.

While I was out I went to Omah Mode, a factory outlet with a restaurant attached, I found out that a pair of pants I had been looking at for a while was 75% off. So I bought them for $5. :) They are cream and pink paisley, stretch, flared. Awesome. I'm not big into pink but I really love these for some reason. With a grey t-shirt they'll be fab. I also found out that a lot of the stuff there is 75% off including some amazing scarves I saw. I'm tempted to shop and re-sell back in the States. Really tempted. There's Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Burberry, Charlotte Russe, and Christopher and Banks. Also a lot of Adidas and Nike.

That's about all I can remember of significance for this week. I'm sure there's more that could be written but this is getting long and I just wanted you to get a little overview of my week and the activities it held.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Party in Kudus!

Well there's just positiveness all around today!

1. Yesterday I had no school so I did all the work I was putting off. Productive day, which makes for a less stressful following day.

2. Last night I was able to finally access my Kindle online, which means the fact that my Kindle disappeared does not mean I will not be able to finish Stieg Larsen's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I have loved his trilogy and am slightly obsessed at this point. He's dead now, so the fact that there is no more where this came from makes it even more consuming.

3. Got an email from my mum this morning, replied, and got a reply back. I love it when that happens. It's almost like we're talking.

4. Finally drug over all 60 books to the campus (all of which I signed yesterday... in case you donated them and are wondering, I wrote "To UMK students from Juliana's church, friends, and family in the US. With Love." The department head, Bu Fitri, was ecstatic.). Handed them over, and now I have a desk again!

5. Joel got his long awaited packages from the US today!

6. I had a for real laugh in one of my classes. I don't really, really, laugh a lot these days. Indonesian humor is not like US humor and I find it hard to understand at times. And it's frustrating when I make jokes and find I'm the only one laughing.

I walked into my class late cause I had some trouble dragging the books to my desk. OK that's not true, I was late cause I woke up almost late and then decided to make coffee (TOTALLY worth it, by the way) but then it was too hot to drink so I had to wait for it to cool and then I spilled some down my shirt and then I had to change my shirt. Seven thirty classes are real buggers.

I walk into class and the kids are all sitting on the floor. There are four students up front and one of them has a bundled up jacket they are protecting and this is what I hear: "No this is my hen!" "Then why was it in my house?!" "It went walking, walking!" (In Indonesian "jalan jalan" means traveling and literally translated it is "walking walking"). The teacher corrects him- "No, it took a walk." "Oh yeah it took a walk!" "No, I can recognize it! It mine!" "I know my rooster. Look into it's eyes!" "The cock is mine. Fine we will cut it up." "OK you can have the head and feet, I will have the body." "No that's not fair." "OK I will chain it up next time and it will not travel to your house." "Fine lets cut the chicken in the half." "I'm confused!" "Same with me!"
All the while I notice these 70's glasses someone is wearing (those ones that are kind of in style now but still are ridiculously huge and hideous and should have been left in the 70's) begin to travel from person to person. I have no idea what is going on or whose glasses they are but they look ridiculous and SO out of place, especially on these conservatively dressed veiled girls! It was pretty hilarious and I couldn't help but
Finally the chicken/cock/rooster/hen issue was resolved and they shook hands on it. That was after the girl kicked the guy in the shins. Pretty awesome drama. I explained to them the difference between cock/hen/chicken/rooster/chick. The stuff they come up with to get by using limited vocab is pretty funny sometimes. Yesterday someone was trying to get his group to say "doll" and described it as a "toy for a woman child."

And positive happening number 7.... I am about to nap and then I'm going into town to pick up money and my newly repaired phone.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

:) We're definitely related...

Like brother, like sister. Love you Stephen!

"Give us days to be filled with small rebellions, Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all" -JoC

It's Wednesday, and because the English Student Association meeting that was supposed to be today was postponed (I would be talking about Business English. If you have any suggestions for the presentation let me know) I am working on other stuff that I've committed to but have been putting off. Specifically, worship for the MCC retreat in Bali at the end of next month. I'll post my final worship plan on here in case you want to join in our worship from far away. I've gotten most of the songs together that I think would be appropriate but I'm still working out the transitions, prayers, liturgies, and scripture readings.

When she was young my sister wanted to be a pastor but because I come from a conservative Baptist background she was instead encouraged to develop her personal knowledge of the Bible and God and share it only in informal settings. She has since been taken from us to live wherever God is (I'm actually not bothered much with the fact that I don't know exactly where she is, because we have been promised that those who love God will be with God when they leave this world, so wherever it is she that she is now, it is very, very good. Because the face of God is there. Time will fly till I see her face, and God's face, and I rest in that.). I've never wanted to preach because I really am not interested in Greek or Hebrew and I don't believe that a knowledge of these languages is necessary to know the truth of God since he is just as present here with us (and additionally we have the Holy Spirit) as he has ever been and I doubt that my translation of the original writings of the Bible would be terribly different than any of the hundreds of versions of the Bible that are available now in English. In the past 5 years (since I have left my small bubble of Portugal and been exposed to other small bubbles in the US) I have come to see that it doesn't take an academic to be qualified to effectively share with other people truths and insights from the Bible. The Bible is alive and the words are very living in the sense that there are so many lessons to be learned from the simplest stories about the nature of God. The Bible to me is a book that says- Look how God has worked in the past and better see how God is working where you are now. It is a testament to God's continual involvement in the human story and God's promise that God will always be involved in our breaking, redeeming struggle.
Preaching is therefore not ripping apart individual verses and scraping the barrel for truths from a dead language (A word about that- what message do you give your congregation about knowing God through the Bible when all your sermons revolve around your knowledge of dead languages that took you 5 years to learn? Perhaps, "Wow, I will not be doing that at home. My daily devotions are simple and dumb compared to this academic stuff!"), it is, in my opinion, leading people in the simple Big Picture of the Bible and the stories of God's making good of our bad, and our love for that Redemption moving us to imitate and worship him. I'm not against quoting individual verses but when taken too literally, individual verses without a grounded knowledge of the big picture can be very misleading.

With this perspective, I've started to love the Big Picture and being able to share with others my discoveries. I'm not looking at a career in the ministry in the traditional sense but I'm excited to take opportunities to share those discoveries and lead people in worship again in the future.

(My family has since slowly but surely converted from Baptist fundamentalism to a religion founded on grace and simple Truth and therefore I know I would have their support if I did go into the ministry full time. :-)   )

While I looked up music for retreat I came across this song by Jars of Clay- my all time favorite "Christian" band- called Small Rebellions. It struck SUCH a chord with me because since I was small I have been looking for something to fight and trying to channel my passion and aggressive spirit. I have found plenty wrong in the world to rebel against, and this song talks about one of them.

You tube video with music and lyrics:

Small Rebellions lyrics

Jars of Clay

God of the break and shatter

Hearts in every form still matter

In our weakness help us see

That alone we'll never be

Lifting any burdens off our shoulders

If our days could be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

Push against the current and the fall

The current and the fall

God of the warn and tattered

All of Your people matter

Give us more than words to speak

Cause we are hearts and arms that reach

And love climbs up and down the human ladder

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

[ From: ]

Push against the current and the fall

The current and the fall

The fall

We will never walk alone again

No, we will never walk alone again

No, we will never walk alone again

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

Push against the current and the fall

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

Push against the current and the fall

The current and the fall

The fall...