Thursday, October 15, 2009

Learning Perseverance

One of the things I've always enjoyed doing is cutting grass. Perhaps it's because I like the feeling of control, pushing or driving a dangerous machine that chews through grass before spitting it out. Perhaps it's the smell of newly cut grass or the sense of accomplishment, making tall grass become short, though I'm not completely sure that this counts as much of an accomplishment. When we arrived in Salatiga three months ago, our backyard was starting to look overgrown. I immediately found myself wanting to cut some grass.
Soon, school started and I forgot all about the tall grass in the backyard. The school sends a gardener to each teacher's house at least once a month to help maintain the property. I asked that the gardener cut the grass in our backyard since the front yard requires virtually no care. Slowly, the gardener has been "mowing" strips of our back yard. I must confess that I've been a bit disappointed with his slow progress. So, being the American I am, I decided to cut the grass myself. Filled with a sense of the pioneer spirit I decided to walk downtown to buy a tool to cut the grass. Notice I said tool not lawn mower. The walk took me a bit longer than I thought it might and my initial attempt to locate a vendor selling what I was looking for failed. I couldn't remember where I had seen the man selling tools. Before long I found a different vendor and purchased my hand scythe for 20,000 rupiah ($2 US). I returned home eager to cut some grass.

I decided to cut a strip of the backyard like the gardener had been doing. Five minutes into my lawn cutting project I soon realized why the gardener only cut a small section of the yard at a time. It's not particularly hard work just slow. Two hours later I finished my small section of the lawn. Dripping with sweat, I look with satisfaction at the small area I had cut.
It is amazing how two hours of cutting the grass had changed my expectations. Normally, I like nice straight lines when I mow and an even cut. With my hand scythe, I was pleased to just cut the grass. There are no lines and it is certainly not cut evenly but at least it's cut. The grandeur of my accomplishment quickly fades as I survey the rest of the yard. The good news is that there are only about 5 more hours of cutting to do. The bad news is that I don't know how to keep up with "hand mowing" 14-16 hours a week during the rainy season. These reality make me feel discouraged and hesitant to even continue the lawn mowing project.

When despair starts to set in I like to put my situation in perspective, theologically speaking. Dripping with sweat and bleeding from two self-inflicted wounds due to my lack of experience with the hand scythe I'm reminded of other situations in my life when I've felt similarly. These memories are some of God's best gifts to me. Some of the memories are triumphant where everything works out just like a Hallmark made for television movie. Some, remind me of failures; times where my knowledge, strength and/or perseverance failed. While I don't like to dwell on failure, these stories remind me that despite the negative outcomes, God has seen me through them. I know it sounds cliche but maybe that is the point. Through good or bad, God is faithful. Through good and bad God calls us to be faithful. Perhaps God will use my hand scythe and love of mowing to teach me more about faith. As I learn I'll pass it on. God bless. Jeff

Becaks, Buses, and Trains!

MICS's Fall Break began after school on Friday, October 8. Students and faculty were all excited for this 10 day break to begin. Our family decided that during this school break we wanted to do a bit of traveling. We enlisted the help of three of the single teachers to serve as our tour guides; Leah Koger (Abby's 4th grade teacher), Christine Switzner (2nd grade teacher) and Hannah Van (Quintin's Geography teacher). Our destination was Yogyakarta, there are many accepted spellings including Jojyakarta (which is how it is pronounced). For transportation we decided to catch a bus from Salatiga to Solo City, which is what we did, literally. We went and stood on a corner where the buses travel past and waited until the one we wanted (the air conditioned one!) came by. The man in the picture was trying to get us to ride in his mini bus that was not air conditioned...we decided to wait.

After being dropped off in Solo, we hired three becaks (bicycle-rickshaws) to transport us to the train station. We were excited about riding on the train since Jeff was the only one of our family who had ever ridden a train before. We weren't sure what to expect before arriving...first impression of the station and trains took us back into the past to maybe the 1940's. We arrived at the train station early and so we waited right on the tracks, literally. After the train arrives people quickly get on board to claim their seat because you don't want to stand or have to sit on the floor since there is no limit to how many people are riding. Fortunately there were not many passengers headed to Yogya.

The train stops multiple times in Yogya. The first stop is at the airport, second is in the middle of town, and the third stop will let you off on Jalan Malioboro (Yogya's main shopping street, the street to the Sultan's palace and to the motel where we were staying). Unfortunately we got off one stop early and weren't quite sure where we were... our tour guides stepped in and used their Indonesian to ask a few of the locals how to get to Malioboro. After asking for directions three different times we finally arrived on the right street.

Upon arriving in Yogya we didn't have reservations for a place to stay but had been assured by our three tour guides that that would not be a problem. Our first choice was the Bladok Losmen (meaning lodge) and Resturant. In the "Lonely Planet Guide to Indonesia" it describes the Bladok as "having oodles of charm". They are right, our family has decided that we will definitely stay there again.
During our stay in Yogya we ate at McDonald's twice, had delicious doughnuts from JayCo Doughnuts. went bowling, and yes of course went shopping on Malioboro. This street is one long bazaar of souvenir shops and stalls selling batik (printed cloth made by coating part of the fabric with wax, then dyeing it and melting the wax out), leatherwork, woodwork, jewelry, and so much more... It was very over-whelming. You can bargain with the vendors on the street to get a lower price for items or head to Mirota, which is a multi-level store with fixed prices. We enjoyed Mirota, for one it was air-conditioned and for two no bargaining! Although the bartering allowed us to practice our Indonesian, or at least our numbers.

Even though our stay in Yogya was short, we had a good time experiencing Indonesian transportation as well as being introduced to Java's cultural center, Yogyakarta. This trip was definitely a success because of our new friends, Leah, Hannah, & Christine. We look forward to more visits to Yogyakarta, maybe with some of you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zach's Birthday!

We celebrated Zach's birthay on October 3. We can't believe that he is 9 years old...but that is what happens, they continue to grow and get older. Zach decided that he wanted to spend his special day at home with family, his birthday presents, and pizza! When we moved to Salatiga in July all of the kids had to make very hard decisions in what to bring and what to leave in Oklahoma. Since arriving here we've second guessed all of our packing decisions. Zach even realized after being here for a week that he did not pack his favorite toys, legoes! Unfortunately we are unable to buy any legoes in Salatiga. But fortunately his grandparents and his aunt sent him some via the postal service for his birthday. Now we're good.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Dokar Ride

Each Saturday, we journey downtown to do some shopping for the upcoming week. We try to purchase items that are heavy so our helper doesn't have to carry them home when she shops on Wednesday. Unlike our helper, we don't shop at the pasar or local market. Instead we shop at American type stores, places where the prices are clearly marked and you can get by speaking minimal Indonesian. On one such shopping trip we decided to purchase two "buckets" (gallons)of paint in addition to the usual items. Like other Indonesians without a car or motorcycle, we depend on the angkota, public transportation, to get around. There is an angkota (the light blue van) just to the left of the horse. Like in the U.S., you have to be on the angkota's route to get a ride. With the paint and groceries weighing us down, our usual three block walk seemed like more than we wanted.
So, we decided to take the dokar. A dokar (do-car) is simply a horse drawn two-wheeled cart. We bargained with the driver, actually, we explained where we lived and then agreed to pay what he asked, and got in. It was quite a drive. Sections of Salatiga are quite hilly. This means that the driver must really slow the horse down when going downhill and then have the horse gallop to get up the hill. The trip reminded me of a wooden roller-coaster ride. I don't enjoy roller-caoster rides, especially wooden roller-coaster rides, they're too rough. The speeds weren't as great on our dokar ride but like on a roller-coaster, I found myself wondering why I thought this would be a good idea. In the end, we arrived safely at our house. Since our dokar ride I've heard stories that really make me question our use of the dokar. Of course, if you come to visit us, we will most definitely take you on a dokar ride just to say you've been. Shalom, Jeff