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!!