Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Stuff of Life

Rainy season is in full force here in Salatiga. The upside to the rainy season is that there is no dust. The downside is that we have mud and mold. At least every other day we receive about 2 inches of rain. Yesterday, it rained hard and then on and off for the rest of the day. We easily exceeded our usual 2 inches.

We've had to adjust our thinking toward rain. In the Midwest we welcome rain. It's something that happens throughout the year. While we are accustom to rain in Oklahoma, it is not a season in and of itself. Here, there are only two seasons and they are named by the frequency of rain; rainy season, rains almost daily, and dry season, rains occasionally.

During the rainy season we have discovered what it means to have and maintain stuff. Our first experience came when the hard rains began to fall. A collection of leaves where two roof lines converge caused the rain to come in. Frantically we moved furniture and "stuff" to somewhere dry and then spent the next couple of hours soaking up all of the water. After this initial soaking, the mold has been growing everywhere. We've tried to repel it by running ceiling fans 24 hours a day. We've been fairly successful at stopping the mold from growing on most of the walls and ceilings.

However, what do you do about books, clothes and shoes? We're familiar with items feeling and smelling damp when stored in a basement. But what happens when everything everywhere feels damp? Clothes mold, books mold and everything made of leather molds.

Over the Christmas break I left my pair of leather shoes up at school. I usually wear sneakers to and from school and then change into my dress shoes once at school to avoid tracking mud everywhere. I didn't think about mold growing on my shoes. After two weeks, the mold had taken root. Even after a good cleaning and multiple coats of brown shoe polish, my shoes still bear witness to the realities of the wet season. Another causality of the wet season has been my leather sandals. The picture tells the story. The mold developed in just a few short weeks. Colorful, right? Well, I cleaned them multiple times before I smartened up and had our maintenance crew install light bulbs in our wardrobes. The bulbs provide just enough heat to dry out the air inside the wardrobe and keep the mold from growing. Now we keep anything that can mold in the wardrobe with the doors tightly shut.

Our experience with "stuff" and the rainy season has lead to a new perspective on Jesus' sermon to the people gathered on the hillside somewhere in Galilee. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [and mold] destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust [and mold] do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Perhaps we all need some type of rainy season in our lives to remind us of what is important and what is just "stuff".

A Typical Day In Indonesia

It is amazing how quickly one gets used to things being a bit different. While the differences seem obvious when you first arrive in a new place or start a new job, they quickly become "normal" for you. I was reminded of how much we've gotten used to Indonesia this morning while shopping downtown. Dana and I took our motorcycle downtown. Traffic was a bit heavier than usual but we zoomed in and out of the traffic without too much difficulty. One of the ways I measure the traffic is by how many people in the opposing lane pass forcing me to the far left of my lane. Remember, we drive on the left here. While oncoming traffic crossing the middle of the road to pass really bothered me when I first started driving the motorcycle, I barely notice now. I'm even comfortable with forcing opposing traffic, specifically motorcycles to their far left so I can pass slow moving traffic. I know that this sounds like aggressive driving but I’ll ask that you withhold judgment until you’ve visited.

After finishing our weekly shopping, we headed home. Suddenly the heavens opened and the rain began to fall. A motorcycle is a bad place to be in a downpour so people usually park their motorcycles and head for some type of shelter. Today, like everyone else, we parked the motorcycle and sought shelter in an abandoned eating place along the road. The downside of this decision was that it was next to a garbage collection site. Yes, it smelled. Looking around I noticed a barber shop. Needing a haircut, I went in. I say went in loosely because the shop is just one small room, actually more of a temporary shelter then an established place of business. After a few confusion moments where I tried to explain how I wanted my haircut, the young man began. Drops of rain continued to fall both outside the shack and inside. The radio, which was up too loud, was playing a mix of Asian and Western pop music. Geckoes darted between holes in the wall. In about 15 minutes my hair was cut. Most barbers on the street charge 5000 Rupiah. (US 60 cents). He did a good job and looked like he needed the money so I paid him 10000 Rupiah. Anyone in a temporary shelter cutting hair next to the garbage collection/distribution site needs money because clearly they don’t have many options. As a practice we’ve started trying to pay more for services/products from Indonesians instead of giving handouts to people who come to the door. In this way, I hope we can be a blessing to people in need without enabling folks.

While I was getting a haircut, Dana was waiting under the food stand awning. She was joined by about five other Indonesians who, like us, didn’t want to get soaked. While they were trying to overcome the language barrier, a big rat run through their midst and across Dana’s feet. I say “big rat” to distinguish it from other smaller rats. There are a lot of rats here. Most of the time Indonesians pay little attention to rats aside from killing them. Dana said that this particular rat was big enough that even the Indonesians jumped! What makes this even more impressive is that some of the Indonesians that had sought shelter were folks who worked at the garbage collection/distribution site. I assume that if anyone is comfortable with rats, it would be these guys.

Eventually the rain let up enough for us to make our way home. As I’ve been writing this entry the rain has come again. When the rain comes, the power often goes out. Anticipating this I had unplugged the computer from its charger just before the power actually went out. Like rice and chicken, rain and rats, the power going out is just one more thing that happens here often, almost daily, and we hardly think twice about. While we miss the States, I think we are getting used to Indonesia.  Blessings from halfway around the world. Jeff