Friday, November 25, 2011

Basketball Indonesian Style

The first basketball games of the season at Mountainview are in the books.  The varsity teams, both boys and girls, won their first games.  Dana and I are coaching the girls' varsity team so we were pleased to start the season on a positive note.
We began the season with some question marks.  Last year we graduated seven seniors from the team, including the starting five.  Even the girls, themselves, this year didn't seem confident that they could compete with other teams.  The good news is that they can.
Thursday evening we had our second game.  We were supposed to play a high school team but they cancelled a day before the game.  Instead we played a club team made up of high school and college players.  We lost.  It was close, but in the end, more experienced team won.  What prompts this blog is not the fact that we started the basketball season 1-1.  I write so that you may understand some of the differences between Indonesia and the U.S.
For example, on Thursday the girls' game was supposed to be first followed by the boys' game.  We usually start around 4 PM.  4 PM came and went and still no girls' team for our team to play.  The coach, who was there, kept telling me that his team would arrive in 10 minutes.  If you were new to Indonesia, you might think that the coach meant that the team would actually arrive within the next 10 minutes.  Despite the words that the coach was using he meant that his team was late.  In truth, he hoped that they would arrive in 10 minutes but he had no idea.  So, after waiting 20 minutes, we decided to let the boys' play first.  The boys' team was already there.
I was pleased when some athletic looking Indonesian girls started showing up during the boys' game.  Good I thought, at least we'll get to play.  Now, I've been here long enough to know that things aren't quite what they seem.  Toward the end of the boys' game, two members of the Indonesian girls' team got up and left.  The coach explained to me that they were in high school students and had to be home by 6 PM.  Fortunately, the team still had five players present.
By game time, the Indonesian club team had rounded up one more player to make six.  We gave them jerseys to wear so their tops matched and got under way.  Just before half-time three other Indonesian girls joined the team.  I was glad they could make it.  It made for a better ball game.
In Indonesia, you never know exactly what to expect, except that it will surprise you.  Blessings, Jeff

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Boys, Drums and Ramadan

Indonesia is primarily a Muslim nation.  As such, most of the people here observe Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month.  This year marks the third Ramadan that we've experienced.  It seems like with each year we notice something new.  This year it was the drums.  In celebration of the end of Ramadan, the people of our city parade through the streets with floats, candles and drums.  This year our neighborhood put together a drum corp.  It included roughly 20 boys and young men.  Towards the end of Ramadan, they began to practice for the parades.  Everyone in the neighborhood listened as the boys would practice for 30 minutes or more.  Sometimes practice extended through much of the day.  One afternoon, practice was convened in our backyard.  Of course we didn't know what was going on at the time.  All we knew is that boys started flooding our backyard carrying all sorts of plastic buckets and sticks.  For the next hour, the sound of beating drums echoed throughout our house.  Dana grabbed her camera and captured a little bit of the action on video.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to load on the blog.
What impressed me about the boys and their drums was not their stamina, though I thought they would never quit, but their willingness to let others participate.  After an hour of near continuous practice the boys stopped and preceded to sat in a circle to talk and eat snacks.  While they snacked, the little boys in our neighborhood who had been watching took their turn on the drums.  None of the older boys stopped them.  No one restricted the little ones access to the drums.  It was fun to watch the little boys try to mimic the rhythms practiced by the older boys.  After about 30 minutes the younger boys grew tired and moved on to other things.  The older ones packed up their make-shift drums and sticks and marched out of our backyard.

As I think back on the incident, three things come to mind.  First, the rhythm of the drums.  I can hardly remember it now, but at the time I could think of nothing else.  Second, how good the group sounded considering their training the quality of their instruments.  The drums were old paint buckets with a large blue container for the bass drum.  I don't know where the bass drum originally came from.  I've seen containers like that used for hauling fish, ice and water.  The final thing was how open the older boys were to letting the younger ones play with their stuff.  Indonesians tend to view stuff differently from Americans.  Stuff is meant to be used, not simply possessed.  The boys used our backyard because we weren't using it.  They didn't hurt anything and left the yard relatively clean after their practice.  In the same way the older boys let the younger ones beat away at the drums while they enjoyed a snack.  They weren't using the drums right then so why not?  More important than gaining insight to how Indonesians view stuff was the example being put forth by the older boys.  I assume it was something that they were taught when they were small.  Let the younger ones play.  It allows them to participate and gives them something to look forward to in the near future.  In the U.S., it seems like as adults we set so many boundaries around what youth can and can't do that we push them into doing nothing.  Or worse yet, we push kids into doing things that aren't beneficial to them just to give them something, anything to do.
Well, Ramadan is over as are the parades and sounds of beating drums.  All that remains are the memories.  Memories of boys, drums and Ramadan.

Up Close and Personal with a Volcano!

During our fall break from school, we decided to take a quick trip to Bromo, a mountain/volcano.  Bromo is located on the eastern half of the island of Java.  After about four hours of travel we passed the sign marking the end of central Java and the beginning of east Java.  Five hours later we were out walking on a sea of gray sand from one of Bromo’s previous eruptions.  At the center of this enormous sand pile was the crater known as Bromo and along its edges steep cliffs that seem hold the sand in.
As the sun went down, so too, did the temperature.  Suddenly for the first time, we felt really cold in Indonesia.  We decided to go to bed right after supper since we wanted to get up early to enjoy the sunrise.  At 4 AM we piled into an old jeep that took us 4 km to the base of a lookout point.  From there we journeyed on foot up a steep sandy trail that eventually became just a long stairway.  After 200 steps we reached the lookout point and waited for the sun to rise.  I was glad that we had chosen to buy stocking hats as souvenirs.   Not only was it cold, it was also windy.  Gradually, more and more people joined us at the lookout point.  Most of the people were European.  A gentleman from France took our picture.
After enjoying the sunrise we head back down to the jeep.  Our next stop was the crater.  After a 15 minute ride, our driver deposited us about 3 km from the crater.  It is amazing how far a kilometer feels when you’re hiking up a steep sandy hillside in the higher altitudes.  It took a number of rest breaks, but we eventually made it to the crater rim.  The view was wonderful but a bit frightening.  The rim was only 1-2 meters across and covered in sand.  Looking down into the smoldering crater, I thought to myself, “only in Indonesia”.  In Indonesia, everything that you do as at your own risk.  Standing on a thin sandy rim looking down into what appeared to be a bottomless pit made a shiver run down my spine.  So, we took pictures and headed back down the crater to the jeep.
Fifteen minutes later we were ordering hot coffee and tea with our breakfast at a small restaurant located on the steep hillside bordering the sand sea.  As we ate, the wind picked up outside turning the sand sea and crater into a cloud of dust.  I was glad we weren’t still on the rim of Bromo.
Twelve hours later, we pulled into our driveway in Salatiga.  Home sweet, home at last.  Twenty-one hours in the car for a glimpse of more of God’s creation.  After a hot shower and a good night’s sleep the trip felt worth it.  I had ever stood on the rim of a smoking volcano before.  I had never contemplated how much force it would take to pulverize a rock mountain and reduce it to just a sandy crater.  Indeed, God has made an amazing world.  Blessings to you in whatever part of the world you live.  Jeff