Sunday, November 14, 2010

Halloween through Indonesian Eyes

Zach, Levi and Else finish harvesting their pumpkins' seeds

Living in a different country forces one to decide what traditions they will chose to maintain and which ones they will let go of.  For the traditions that are practiced, one must be ready to explain why, especial to people how do not share the same culture.  Of course this dilemma is nothing new to the hundreds of thousands of people who throughout history have moved to different or distant lands.  What is new is the fact that we are now a part of those numbers.
Two weeks ago, people in the US and in other parts of the world practiced the tradition of Halloween.  Growing up in the Midwest, Halloween was an excuse to have parties in school, dress up and pretend to be someone you're not, go door to door getting candy or simply to celebrate the end of the harvest season.  For our family it has also meant going somewhere to pick out pumpkins, carve jack-o-lanterns and roast the pumpkin seeds.  I particularly enjoy eating the pumpkin seeds.  However, what seems harmless in the US Midwest feels much different in Indonesia.
Here there are witch doctors who have the power to heal, dances designed to enable demon possession and the common belief that volcanoes erupt because the volcano god is angry.  Superstitions abound in Indonesia and with good reason.  From trustworthy people, we have heard stories of broken bones being healed by witch doctors, people eating light bulbs or climbing down coconut trees head first while possessed and swords adorned with a deceased chieftain's hair flying around a room.  Indonesians are quite conscious of the spirit world that is all around us.
As we learn more about Indonesia, we begin to see how strange our own traditions look.  Here, Halloween is not associated with the end of the harvest season because crops grow year-round,  Jack-o-lanterns seem like an odd use of food and dressing in frightening costumes really is scary.
Recently I assigned my New Testament students the task of answering the question, "What does your life bear witness to?"  I explained to them that our lives bear witness to something and I wanted them to start thinking about what their lives bore witness to.  I was compelled to apply the  same question to my life and the practice of traditions associated with Halloween.  Needless to say, I think differently than I used to. 
This year we didn't celebrate Halloween, but we did get pumpkins as a way of remembering the Fall season.  Without football or colder temperatures it's easy to lose track of the seasons in Indonesia.  We journeyed south about 20 minutes to an agricultural area known for its vegetables. After passing a number of roadside vendors, we stopped at one that seemed to have a nice selection of pumpkins.  Most of the pumpkins here have green exteriors instead of orange, but they taste the same.  After purchasing some pumpkins, we returned home.  Later that night we gathered with friends to eat pumpkin pie, carve pumpkins and roast pumpkin seeds.
I'm finding that the longer we live in Indonesia, the more we learn about ourselves.  I hope that our lives bear witness to more than the country in which we were born, but to something a bit more eternal.  No matter where we are I hope this is always true. 
Enjoy Fall for us especially the cool nights and brilliant autumn colors.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Safe in the Face of Danger

It's been over a month since our last blog.  It's not for the lack of content, but energies to post something.  I got twelve hours of sleep last night so I'm feeling up to the challenge of covering some of the highlights since our last blog.
Mt. Merapi one month before it erupted.  
I'll begin with a local reaction to the volcanic activity now going on near us.  Mt. Merapi is the second of two major peaks located just south of where we live.  Between us and Mt. Merapi is Mt. Merbabu.  Mt. Merapi continues to erupt spooing ash and hot gases.  The gas clouds created are very dangerous.  They're estimated to move at speeds of 300 kilometers per hour and contain super heated gases; as high as 600 degrees Celcius.  The deaths related to Mt. Merapi's eruption have occured in villages located close to Mt. Merapi's peak.
Quintin's JV Soccer Team
We have recieved many concerned emails as to the threat Mt. Merapi poses to our safety.  We feel safe being separated from Mt. Merapi by the equally large Mt. Merbabu.  Life in our community continues, untouched by the volcanic activity of Mt. Merapi.  Should a major eruption occur, the greatest change in activity would be welcoming refugees and possibly some ash.  Rainy season is upon us, so dust in the air is neutralized quickly.  Please continue to pray for those living in areas affected by the volcanic activity.
Quintin in action!
With "fall" in Indonesia comes the soccer season at our school.  Quintin played on the JV team this year and I coached varsity girls' soccer.  Everyone had a good time.  Our school competes with local schools and with other international schools located on the island of Java.  This league is called IISSAC (Indonesian International Small Schools Activity Council) and currently is made up of six schools.  Last weekend the varisty teams travelled roughly nine hours to participate in this year's soccer tournament.  Both teams made a good showing.  The varsity girls' placed 3rd.  Also at this tournament was the Battle of the
Battle of the Books Champions
Books.  Started by the school's librarian as a way of promoting reading, the Battle of the Books asks teams questions from 10 different books.  The format is similar to a quiz bowl.  This year, our school won the battle and the right to take the traveling trophy home with us.  Inaddition to playing soccer, Quintin also got to participate in the Battle of the Books.  It was a good way for him to use his love of reading.
Varsity Girls' huddle up
At the end of the nine weeks, staff and students got to enjoy a week long "fall" break.  I continue to use the word "fall" loosely as we only have two seasons, dry and rainy.  Using the word "fall" helps me keep track of the seasons in a land of only two.  This year for fall break, our family joined a number of other teachers and visited Karimunjawa.  Karimunjawa is a small island located off the north coast of central Java surrounded by a number of even smaller islands.  By small, I mean islands that you could walk around in an hour or so.  After a six hour ferry ride from Java and then a 30 minute boat ride from the main island of Karimunjawa, we arrived at our island.  The pictures tell most of the story.  For three days and two nights we lived quite simply.  Our days revolved around trips to area reefs to snorkel, rice and fish for meals and hunting for shells.  Our island was significantly off the gird but our hosts were very gracious.  We did have electricity at night.  They ran a generator from 5:30 PM to 5:30 AM to power the floor fans that were located in our rooms.  The kids really seemed to have a good time.  They even got to wade with sharks!
This past month, I've been reminded of the impact teachers at our school make, including our own.  For a significant number of students both in the elementary and high school, Mountainview is their first experience with school outside the home.  Many grow up in places where home schooling is the only option until children are old enough for boarding school.  Mountainview provides a college prep high school education in English and boarding opportunities for youth 7th grade and older.  Located beside an Indonesian language learning center, Mountainview provides education to many children who's parents are here for a year to learn the langauge before going out to live among unreached people groups.  Many of the parents taking langauge have expressed appreciation for Mountainview's role enabling them to do so without compermising their children's continued education.
For now, we continue to serve where God has called us, hopeful of His care and continued guidance.  Blessings, Jeff