Sunday, December 26, 2004

Earth Quakes

So after a relatively uneventful journey from Indonesia to Singapore to Detroit we arrived in the midst of a surprise winter storm. But, we found ourselves drawn back once again to that Little Rock (the capital not the Kabah). We're spending the holidays with family and attempting to feel something approximating normalcy.

I am writing due to the concerns of several who have heard of the devastating earth-quake that happened today in East asia and the subsequent tidal waves that have killed thousands. We were shocked and concerned about our friends, but it seems that the epicenter and waves were so far from our home in Manado that all of our friends and students are unaffected. Even a friend of ours on Jakarta emailed and said she was fine and didn't even feel it.

Thanks for your concern and prayers as we continue to look for work, insurance, permanent lodging and transition back into life here.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

There's Lumpkin Bread in the Oven

So, you want an update, eh? Well, Matt and I have officially resigned from our teaching positions at MIS. We will be heading back to Arkansas soon. If we can get flights worked out, it will be before Christmas.

If I have piqued your interest, then please, read on. There have been some recent developments in my health. More precisely, there’s one major development that will develop over the next few months and greatly influence my health. We are expecting a child. And I find myself wishing more and more that those stork stories were true.

We are sad to be leaving here, frightened by the possible complications this pregnancy could create, and excited about a new life.

We have a little over a week to sell, give away, and pack up all our things. My rat poison (which apparently is baby poison too) was replaced by twice daily injections. Matt is getting good at stabbing me. It’s a crazy life, but someone has to live it.

Ways you can pray for us (if you are so inclined):
- my health and the baby’s health
- Matt’s health (he’s sick right now with some kind of cold/infection)
- the long ride home
- financial issues (my new medicine is quite expensive and our insurance only covers us while we are out of the States)
- job/housing issues (we will be presuming on the graces of our parents initially, but hope to find a home to call our own soon)
- finding good doctors (anyone who happens to know a good hematologist in the LR area, let me know)

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers and we will see many of you soon.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

On Spirits and Stories

The week was long. The days are still hot. We spent copious time this week struggling with the administration of the school over petty things (and some not so petty things, like our salary). By Friday afternoon, I was exhausted and wanting to be anywhere but teaching fourth grade. Usually on Friday afternoons, I read to them, but we had finished our book and I didn’t want to start another one so close to the end of the semester. I explained how to make nouns plural, which they picked up rather quick (I’m sure they will forget it all by Monday). Not really caring about plurals, they asked me to tell them a story. Not really wanting to put forth the effort to drag them through singular/plural exercises, I obliged.

I asked them what they wanted to hear a story about. They said, “spirits,” “ghosts” “evil”. This wasn’t exactly the kind of story that I had in mind, but I thought for a minute and something came to mind.

In the second grade Bible class I teach, we had just talked about a story from Acts 16, where Paul casts the evil spirit out of a servant girl and ends up in jail. Paul prays and sings in jail and an earthquake shakes the doors open. I started telling this story and fourteen pairs of eyes stayed glued on me.

As I was telling the story, they stopped me, “Ma’am, true story ma’am?” I told them it was. I saw the fright on their faces of the idea of an evil spirit being inside a little girl. I saw them look relieved when Paul cast the spirit out. They had no problem believing that spirits were real. None of them tried to explain away about the spirit. There was no need to.

I thought for a while after that. The western world approaches spirits and spiritual ideas with great caution. Spirits need to be explained away with scientific explanations and nothing is real unless it can be proven. After being on planes and in airports for 44 hours, we stepped into a world where the seen and the unseen are equally real. Magic and ghosts are alive and well. The children have no problem believing that there was an evil spirit in a little girl. No one tried to explain it away as a seizure.

In other news:
Matt will be preaching tomorrow morning at a local church.
My leg is doing well, still slightly swollen, but much better.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Two Celebrations

First of all, Happy Birthday (quite literally) Jordan David Roe!!! Congratulations to the new parents--Haven and Jason. We miss you guys.

Secondly, Happy Thanksgiving! We celebrated today with three other American families. Matt and I didn’t have to sit at the kids’ table. It was great. There were nine children (ranging from 5 months to 8 years) and eight adults. Yesterday (Wednesday) I came down with one of my monthly sinus infections. Other than that, Thanksgiving was great. It was the next best thing to being home.

We put some pictures up (.Mac link on the right).

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Bali Mystique

We set out for the beautiful land of Bali on Wednesday (Nov. 10) very early. There was some concern about our tickets as the travel agent had our names wrong, but thankfully (for us, but not for the security of Indonesia) the airports don’t care what your name is or what you say your name is. Our ID was never checked. Thanks to a cancelled flight, we had a seven hour layover in a small airport with few food options and fewer things to do. We ate french fries and Baskin Robbins for lunch (Matt had JMA). When we finally arrived in Bali, we were tired, but greatly impressed by the beauty.

We spent five days on the beach, which is quite nice. The only problem is the enormous number of people trying to sell things. At least a hundred women wanted to braid my hair, give me a massage, or give a manicure. You can’t walk three meters (isn’t the metric system fun?) without someone asking if you need transport.

We did get to enjoy some really nice things there, like cheese. [Side note: Our senior year of university, Matt and I went to visit our friend Ben Utter in China. One of the things he asked us to bring was cheese. I thought he was a bit odd for the request at the time, but after living without good cheese for six months, I understand completely.] We ate some really good food: Greek (feta), Mexican (with cheese dip), and Italian (with lots of parmesan).

Matt wanted to try surfing, so he took a class one day. I sat and watched and was hassled to death by venders. It was a nice day.

After spending some time at the beach, we went up to Ubud, the artistic center of Bali (so we were told). They had real art galleries and interesting crafts to sell. We went into a gallery and ended up staying over an hour talking to the artist who owned it. He enjoyed music and made bamboo flutes. We sat and played flute and guitar for a long time and he told us of his art, wife and life in Indonesia.

We met many interesting people in Ubud, a lot of lonely expats. We talked with a very large European gay man one night after he joined us at our table and started picking over our leftovers. We met a lovely Norwegian woman at a Balinese dance who had some not so lovely things to say about Bush. The next night we met an Australian who, over the course of about an hour and several desserts, spilled his life story out to us.

We had many conversations with the locals about Hinduism as it is expressed in Bali. At our hotel in Ubud, a man named Mega would cook and bring us breakfast every morning. He explained several stories to us and told us about spirits and asked if the Muslims killed Jesus. We had some interesting discussions with him.

The most memorable moment happened in the monkey forest, home of the Monkey Forest Temple. We went to get some pictures of monkeys. They had a different idea. Matt was walking up some stairs behind some of the little critters. A baby monkey got frightened and screamed. The mother looked around, saw Matt and went into attack mode. She bit his leg and scratched his arm before finally deciding she had scared him enough and backed away. (Moms and people who have maternal feelings toward us: the skin was barely broken since he was wearing pants.)

We decided to sit down a bit out of the way and just observe for a few minutes. As we were sitting, an older monkey lumbered up to Matt and sat down right beside him. The monkey reached into Matt’s backpack and took the bottle of water. He held it in his feet and used his hands to open it then took a long drink. He looked up at us as if to say either “thank you” or “ha ha, you can’t stop me,” then dropped the bottle and walked off.

In all it was a nice trip from which neither of us really wanted to return. We go back to school tomorrow. There are four more weeks until Christmas.

**There are new pictures posted to illustrate all the major points of this post.**

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A cool Bali evening yawns its way across our balcony at the Oka Wati Hotel in Ubud. Sips of hot tea punctuate thoughts of our walk in the Monkey Forrest and the intentionally pitiful woman selling flutes at the entrance. My dark feelings of foreboading apparently from being so near the various Hindu temples keep giving way to thoughts of this inconvenient, annoying woman and how would Jesus handle the confrontation of a desperate person seeking a bit of his position of advantage.

I suppose Peter and John did it their way. And I worship the same living God but I hardly feel at liberty to say “rise up and check your bank account, I think you’ll find it full.”

All the other people going into the forest to worship carried stacks of fruit half their height towering above their heads, some with chickens strapped to the front. I wonder what she will bring to the temple. Tonight’s the last night for this festival and prayers end at 10:00 PM.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

We’re off to Bali! At least I hope we are. Our handwritten tickets are for “Mr. Melodi Matthew” and “Mrs. Lumpkin Melodi.” I’m hoping the Indonesian airlines are a bit less strict than the American ones. Matt assures me they are, but it still makes me nervous. We leave tomorrow morning at five and will be gone for ten days.

Here are the parts I am most excited about:
- having consist water and a bathtub
- white sand
- McDonalds and Mexican food
- being in the Southern Hemisphere (I promise to watch the water spin)
- being out of the pink walls of our house
- experiencing another part of Indonesia

On an unrelated note, this is my first official plea for guests. We bought sheets and pillows for our guest room and will reward the first visitor(s) with the knowledge that no one has slept on the sheets before. Wouldn’t you love to be the first to sleep on a set of new sheets? I’ll try to think of better things to entice you with for future posts.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Crime and Punishment

Discipline has never been my strength. For the two years I worked with the youth group, I struggled to maintain control. The semester that I worked as a substitute teacher challenged my crowd control ability even more. Now we work at a school that has very lax policies and minimal procedures for dealing with behavior problems. When I stopped a second grade student from chasing another student around the classroom with a metal ruler and asked him to hand over his weapon, he answered with a loud NO. What then? The school has no set consequences for misbehavior and nothing ready made with which to threaten them (i.e. “go to the principal” or “stay in at recess”). I’ve been working out some discipline measures of my own with mixed results.

Fourth grade is a very difficult class. I have them at the end of the day, right before they have sports. One of the biggest challenges is to get them to keep their clothes on in the classroom as they want to change for sports. After weeks of struggling with them for their attention, I think I have finally found a solution: Mr. Graham-ometer. Mr. Graham is a middle-aged (for people who live to 100) British science teacher. The kids in elementary know him as the bule that yells at them. They are terrified of him. Sensing their terror yesterday, I came up with an idea. I told them that if they could not behave for me, then I would get Graham to switch places with me. I would teach his science class and he would teach their English class. They did not like this idea. Preying even further on their terror, I drew a tall, thin column on the board with several sections and labeled it “Mr. Graham-ometer.” When they are being loud or not paying attention, I fill in one of the sections. It works wonderfully.

Third grade is a wonderful class, full of excitement and eager to learn. They are convinced that I am a walking Barbie doll and sneak up behind me to touch my hair. While this class has won its way into my heart, they still have a few problems. They love to wander. They roam about the room as much as I let them. Today two girls kept getting up. I told them that if they got up again, I would give them a punishment. I looked up again and they were standing together away from their desks. I wrote “I will stay in my seat during class.” on the board and told them to write it twenty times. They cheerfully sat down to get started. A minute later, another girl came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Ma’am, can I make like Ester and Monica?” I looked at her confused and asked if she wanted to write the sentences. She nodded. With a strange look I said, “Okay.” In the end, four girls wrote the sentences. Although it wasn’t perceived as a punishment, it did keep them in their seats for the rest of the class time.

ps- could someone tell us how to do titles? or how to get kittens out of the roof?

Sunday, October 24, 2004


This photo of Melody in quiet contemplation is designed to attract your attention to the new photos on the .Mac Photo Page (link to the right). Most are from our most recent visit to Singapore along with few more tasty bonuses from Manado life, for contrast.

Also I would like to call your attention to our most recently added Blog: Project Samaria. In it you will read about our dear friends Shane and Dianne (our former Pastor and his wife), Taylor, Allie, (their children) and Sweetie (their dog). They recently moved to Slovakia to work with the Romany people (aka Gypsies) who are just as shunned, stereotyped and despised as they have ever been, not unlike the Samaritans of the first century. They are a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and we are proud to have shared a church home, ministry, and many many good meals with them. Shane, in particular, is one of the most independant thinkers I know (though he may chafe at the characterization). Those who enjoy having your particular take on things gently stretched in different directions should give Project Samaria a look.

For those of you who are wondering, I, Matt, am still alive and thinking though I'm letting my thoughts cement a bit more before I try to offer them up to you, our loyal and patient readership. I'm reading a great book (Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples by V.S. Naipaul) that's helping me think through the role of religion in general and now, particularly Islam, in Indonesia. For now, content yourself with this question: at what point does submission to authority (of Government, God or otherwise) become learned helplessness? Talk amongst yourselves.

I'll talk to you soon.

Monday, October 18, 2004

We have returned. A little after one o’clock this afternoon, we stepped off of a plane into a dreary airport. The first time we flew into Manado, I was enthralled. The runway is set next to palm trees and thatched huts. We had no idea what we would encounter in this new land and were excited about the possibilities. The second time we flew into Manado, we were again anxious, but this time for different reasons. We now knew the limit of the health care and were unsure about how our lives here would be changed by my recently developed health problem. Today as we stepped into the airport, I wanted to be anywhere else. I am in the midst of my fourth cold (is it still called a cold if you have fever?) in three months. Sleep is my friend, trying to communicate with immigration officials is not. All went very smooth. We were out of the airport and home (in bed for me) in less than an hour.

Living here is very interesting and at times quite enjoyable. I just think that our quality of life would be improved if there were less mucus, puke, and swelling of limbs. You should be able to pull some prayer requests out of there somewhere.

Singapore was quite nice. Our main objective was to get the ultrasound Doppler study done of my leg and see the doctor. That was accomplished before we were there for 24 hours. The Doppler study showed that there had been much improvement. There is no complete blockage in the vein now, but several places where there is still partial blockage. The doctor (who is quite amiable) upped my dosage of the rat poison and said I should continue it for six more months.

Our secondary objectives were to stock up on reading materials and American foods. We got everything to make a green bean casserole, stove top stuffing, brownie mix, Pace picante sauce, dark chocolate, hot chocolate mix, canned pumpkin, alfredo sauce, and various other goodies. Shopping there was fun because all of the prices are in Sing dollars, which are each worth about 60 cents US. It was a like a huge sale where everything was 40% off.

We were hosted by wonderful family who live in a Balinese resort (as described by the family Matt stayed with last time). I enjoy visiting new places more when we get to stay with a local family and discuss our observations of life in their geographical corner. This visit, I learned more about the school system, mandatory male military service, and Bible Study Fellowship. We also learned (from 11-year-old Victor) that Singapore means “lion city”.

Speaking of lions, Matt and I went on a safari. At least, that’s what it’s called. Someone involved with the Singapore Zoo had the brilliant idea of housing nocturnal animals in a separate place with dim lighting so people could see them when they are most active. They call it a night safari and it was amazing. The barriers were generally worked into the natural habitat and the animals looked happy. We saw all kinds of great animals: lions, a tiger, a red panda (does that count as bears?), various pigs, tapirs, Asian elephants, rhinos, hippos, fighting rams of some sort, many deer like creatures, leopards, a cloudy leopard, and cats that jump into water to catch fish (creatively named “fishing cats”). It was amazing and fun.
Yesterday, we got to go to an English speaking church! That was the first sermon I have understood since the last time we were in Singapore. We spent the day with the Wee’s, the family that Matt and, for a shorter time, I stayed with last time. Matt went on a hike with the father and son of the family. Remember those analogies from standardized tests? Here’s one for you: monkeys are to Singapore/Indonesia as squirrels are to Arkansas/most of the States.

It’s time again for me to go to sleep. Tomorrow is ugly uniform day and I have to get plenty of beauty sleep to battle it.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

“Ma’am, if dead, talk to Ma’am?”

I stared blankly at Do Hee, a fourth grade Korean girl, wondering what the heck she meant.

“No, dead people don’t talk to me.”

“No, no. If dead, talk to Ma’am?”

“You mean ghosts?”

“NO. If dead, talk to Ma’am?”

I looked at her again, even more befuddled. She pointed to a boy in front of her who was lying on the floor not moving. “If dead, talk to Ma’am?”

In a moment of epiphany, I looked at the fifteen fourth grade students and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh. As my stern face gave way to laughter, all control I had gained up to that point was lost.

Friday is story day. Every Friday, I read to each of my four English classes. Sixth grade hears There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, fifth grade listens intently to Charlotte’s Web, and third and forth grade are enthralled by The Boxcar Children.

On this particular Friday, forth grade was having a hard time sitting still and listening to the adventures of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. Every few sentences, I would be interrupted with a cry of “Ma’am, Andri do like this with her, I mean his feet.” Or, “Ma’am, Deigo is look.” In frustration, I found myself saying words that I had heard all through elementary, “Work it out between yourselves. If there is not blood or a broken bone, don’t tell me about it.”

Of course, they thought this was hilarious. Instantly, in some strange natural disaster striking only fourth grade students, all of them had broken bones. Miraculously, though, they all healed when I threatened to stop reading. That’s when Do Hee spoke up. She wanted to know if death was serious enough to interrupt reading. I assured her it was, then several kids dropped “dead.”


In other news, we are heading out to Singapore on Wednesday (Oct. 13). I have an appointment with my doctor there for an ultrasound/check-up. I’m really excited about going back since I can walk this time. We will leave on Wednesday and return on Monday.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

One of the most frustrating things is miscommunication. For fifteen minutes today I struggled to be understood and to understand. I was talking with my section coordinator about grades. The elementary uses this strange grading system where the lowest possible score is a 50, the highest is 100, and 75 is the lowest passing score. This is not the common Indonesian way to grade, but a mixture of Filipino systems. When I went to her and asked for the break-down of what letters corresponded with which numbers she said, “We only use numbers.”

“Okay, well, could I have a chart or key of some kind to explain the numbers. For example, 95-100 is excellent, 90-95 is good, etc.”

“The parents understand.”

“Well, numbers as grades are used differently in different places. In the States, generally 74 is a C, which is considered average. Here 74 is failing. Don’t you think we should tell the parents how we use the numbers?”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but you worry too much. The parents will know what we mean. I looked in the encyclopedia and it said that grades could be given in any form we wanted, letters or numbers.” [I really wanted to press this and see what kind of encyclopedia article she had read about grades, but I let it be.]

“Right, but we have to ascribe meaning to the numbers.”

“You can tell the parents at the parent teacher conference.”

“Here is how it is done in the States: children go into a class knowing that if they make a 90 or above, they will get an A. If they make all A’s and B’s, they will be on what’s called the Honor Roll. They use numbers and letters, the letters giving meaning to the numbers.”

“That is not applicable here.”

This went on for way too long. Finally, I smiled, said okay, and went back to my cubicle. Using the system I was most familiar with, I gave a letter value to groups of numbers and that made me feel better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

“But, America will help, right?” I stood looking at Sonya, wondering what to say. We were talking about the recent presidential elections. The man who has most likely won (all of the votes have not been counted) is a Muslim, just like the current president. There were rumors that if elected, he would enforce Muslim laws.

In my fifth grade class, we were discussing proper nouns when the election came up. Most of the students in the class are Christians, at least in name. I asked them what they would do if Susilo wanted everyone to become Muslim. “I would go to Singapore.” “I would leave.” “I would move to America.”

These comments were racing through my mind as I talked to Sonya, who hasn’t the means to leave if she wanted to. I asked her what would happen if Susilo enforced the Muslim laws. She told me that this province, which is mostly Christian, would become an independent nation. She said that America and Australia would help them because they (this province) are Christians. “America will come and kill the Muslims before the Muslims kill us. We are bigger than Iraq, and they help them.”

I wanted to say, “Iraq has oil. Most Americans don’t know where North Sulawesi is. There are many places in the world where horrible things are happening and America is doing very little to stop it. A couple of years ago when the Muslims and Christians were fighting in the Mouluccu’s there was no American intervention.”

Instead, I looked unsure and searched for an answer. That prompted, “America will help right? We are Christian, they will help us, right?”

I looked at the woman who had just told me about her son getting beat up at school. I wanted desperately to give her hope. Her life here is hard. She looks up to our great nation as a source of hope. If things get too bad here then America will step in and help. Right? How do you answer this?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Fresh Photos From Our Alternately Exciting and Mundane Home
(If you've sent a package recently, these are for you. If you've not yet,
observe how it's done.)

Click .Mac Home Page then>Critters and Things

Saturday, September 18, 2004

And the rain came. Sometimes when it rains here it’s like a mother patting her child’s head, gentle and comforting. Today the rain is cool and hard. The wind makes the trees in our ‘garden’ dance. We wander through the house, taking note of where the water is coming through the roof.

Today is the first day of our three-day weekend. Monday is another election day, thus a holiday. We have many tasks before us to complete on this long weekend, but today we sit and watch the rain.

This has been a good week, for the most part. I could do with fewer meetings and more understanding among the people in the meetings. In the fourth (but not last) meeting of the week, there were five different nationalities represented. We were all using the same language, but everyone was using it differently. Communication is sometimes a lot of work.

I was sitting in my office one day wondering if I should tell my section coordinator that she has been spelling ‘basis’ wrong (bases). We have been talking about what we should use as our basis for grading for a long time. Every time she sends a memo about it or I see it in other paper work she has prepared, I think of baseball bases. Then I think about all of the students running around bases and the teachers giving them grades for it. While all of this was going through my mind, I hear a fellow teacher start to sing softly. She is often singing, but today her song caught my attention. “Give tanks with a grateful heart...give tanks to the Holy One...” Instantly my mind starts wondering why God would want tanks and where we would get them even if he did want them and how we would get them to God.

I spend quite a bit of time amusing myself with the petty mistakes of the ESL people around me. In all these long meeting we go to, I often find myself wondering exactly how we ‘asses’ the students using the ‘bases’ for grading presented.

Every other week there is a chapel service for the students and by the students. This past week the fourth grade class presented. They sang various songs about hands. One of these songs was “Where is Thumpkin?” They did not leave out the “Where is Tallman?” verse, much to the amusement of the fifth and sixth grade. The song left me quite puzzled. The last verse they sang was “Where is family?”, meaning the whole hand. Now, in every verse the first finger asks the second finger, “how are you today sir?”. What kind of family is this with only five males? I quickly realized that not only had the fourth grade flipped everyone off, they were also presenting homosexual themes. Maybe the school is less conservative than I thought.

“I don’t mind dying so much and doing it all over, I just hate letting Mario down,” said Matt as he plays a game boy and eats beef jerky. This past week we received four boxes. One was from Shane and Dianne and contained books (WOOHOO!), a much needed lint roller, and various interesting cds. The other three were from Matt’s family and contained various DVD’s, a game boy and games, snacks, and Dr. Pepper. Life has normalized. We came home from work yesterday and watched the Simpson sandwich, as it appeared daily on Fox (in Malvern), King of the Hill-Simpson’s-King of the Hill (then some Batman). Then it was time for reading.

Twice a week, I get to teach a class called “Religious and Moral Education.” I was given no materials to use and less than a week’s notice to prepare. That means that most days I just tell a Bible story and then tell the first and second grade students, who understand little of what I say, to love people or something. Yesterday, I told the story of the Good Samaritan to the second grade class. Their assignment was to make a list of three things they could do to help people. One little girl answered, “Tell story to people when the people don’t know the story about Jesus.” I’ll leave you with her bit of wisdom.

For those of you who are dear to our hearts (even more dear after we get mail from you) here is our address:
M. Lumpkin
Manado International School
Jl. Walanda Maramis
Kolongan 95371
Manado 95016
Sulawesi Utara

Phone: 62 431 812 512

Thursday, September 09, 2004

For those of you who keep up with the news: don't worry about us. We are not even on the same island as Jakarta. Where we are is safe. If anything changes where that is not so, we will leave.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

This image is designed to lure you into reading this obscenely long post. If you're more interested in pretty pictures then I suggest you click the .Mac Photo link to the right for more of the volcano hike alluded to herein.


Melody told you of the lecture we endured last Friday night about the Sabbath. I then decided to skip church on “Sun” day as I was invited along on an expedition to hike a nearby volcano called Mohawu (it seems that invitations to go hiking always happen on Sundays) with the whole crew of Seventh Day Adventists from the Crusade team and some of their accompanying national church members. The irony was not lost on me, be sure.

It was a nice hike in the beautiful highlands where the breezes are cool and the air thinner (a little) and the mountainsides cultivated with neat rows of cabbage and carrots. I was torn because I wanted to take them to task for the hasty glossing over of history and cultural complexity they had done a few nights before (as they all deliver the same sermons which are written by someone older back in the states) but I also really liked many of them and it was such a relief to be able to talk in normal vocabulary and feel understood. I didn’t want to argue about something that is so central to their identity because I feared it was impossible to do so without hurt feelings.

On the hike down I became involved in a conversation with an American Adventist pastor who had grown up in Manado but was serving in the States. I was telling him how little I had known about Adventists before I came and how impressed I am with the indigenization of their mission work (nationals of all countries seem to be assimilated into what appears to be a truly global church structure, sort of an international Baptist Convention, for those of us familiar with that metaphor). In fact, as he pointed out, Adventist churches are waning in America and waxing all over the developing world (true of the Church in general, some argue). At some point in the conversation he smiled and said “You’d make a good Adventist too.” To which I smiled and said “Well, you’d have to make a better argument for the Sabbath than I heard the other night.” And then it was on. To his credit, for the most part, he remained civil and detached and we talked about the issue. But he kept throwing in phrases like “it’s about the truth of scripture” implying that any other view denies such truth. At one point he said “I don’t really feel I need to defend the Sabbath as the day of worship as Sunday worship is a change to God’s ordained order. It’s you who should defend the change.” “Well, that’s a clever rhetorical move but we both know that you have nearly 2000 years of church tradition of Sunday worship that you only as recently as 1850 decided was incorrect and you can’t just pretend that almost every other church, in history, and still a majority worship on Sunday.” So there we were. He didn’t like my use of the word “tradition” as such lends dangerous power to evil popes but we both know we read the scripture through lenses called tradition and culture. By this time we had caught up with his wife and a few others who heard that the Sabbath was being questioned and jumped in to his aid with cross sounding voices, tired of arguing for what is so obvious to them and so central to their identity.

And that is what it comes down to, I think, identity. Joel (Anonymous’ husband) asked about the idolatry of emphasizing one aspect of your religious system to an extreme (i.e. the Judaizers of the first century) and I think that is what some Adventists do (though most not to the same extreme). They have adopted aspects of a religious system that is a tremendously powerful source of identity and being connected to that gives them a sense of weight, gravity and adherence to the eternal order of things. It gives them identity over against the rest of a church that (at one time in the sordid denominational history of America) they saw as corrupt, confused or both. “The reformers didn’t go far enough in reclaiming the truth of scripture from the Roman Catholics,” my walking companion said. A very 1850’s sentiment reflecting the characteristic distrust of the Catholic church at that time (which I think is very much alive with some of the SDA today).

The problem is that adopting these traditions they have embraced a law that the early Christians had to struggle to individuate from. At first Judaism and Christianity were sharing synagogues and prayers but there came a time when Christians were no longer welcome and they had to develop and identity, as God’s people, apart from those who had been God’s people for so long before. It was messy and hard and people got hurt and people got mad. You can read about it in Acts 15 (and in Hays and Pate’s book Apocalypse). Gentile Christians especially those who did not worship with Jews before they became Christians (as “God-fearers”) did not keep the law, or know how to, yet they had the Spirit. You can read about it from Paul. But it seems that in search for identity in the midst of and boiling soup of American denominationalism, Seventh Day Adventists looked back to the schoolmaster of the law with a longing eye for a tradition they could hold on to, root to and trust. In doing so, they seemed to have taken on what they were freed from (and they want you too also).

(Stop reading here if you want to continue considering me a thoughtful, balanced, fair-minded individual of uncommon maturity).

Oh, and they believe that Ellen White was a prophet with visions and writings inspired by God but she wouldn’t want you to call her a prophet or elevate her writings above the “greater light” of the established (protestant) canon of scripture. But you technically don’t have to believe any of that to be a part of the church, it says so in the church constitution. But the longer you stay an Adventist, the more likely you are to come around…

Further to their credit, they invited me to pray with them, which was quite enjoyable and many of the (younger) students there seem very committed to their relationship with God and to helping others understand what that means. Also, I had several conversations in which I was sincerely asked for my difference of opinion about the historical development of Sunday worship and listened to, intently. But, to my discredit (or theirs, I’m not sure yet), on the ride home I was tired and not feeling well and generally annoyed by the Ned Flanders-esque aura of campyness that filled our long bus-ride back to Manado, as I overheard more Bible-school songs than I ever care to and statements like: “How could anyone believe in an eternal hell and a loving God? Really.” And all the things that annoy me most about American Christianity came flooding back to me.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

On Toilets, Refills, and Refilling Toilets

I despise going to the “comfort rooms” at the school where we work. I have been known to hold it for hours to avoid using the toilets here, especially if my personal roll of toilet paper is empty. Yes, I have a personal roll of toilet paper. We all do. The bathroom, excuse me, comfort room does not come stocked, thus, if you want it, you bring it. Each stall in the comfort room does come equipped with a sprayer, which you use to wash off the toilet seat (and your seat if you are so inclined) when you are finished because a wet bathroom is a clean bathroom. Sometimes I use it to wash the muddy footprints off of the seat.

Recently in our weekly teacher meeting, we were asked to instruct the students on proper toilet use, i.e. to pee into the toilet instead of on the floor. Since that discussion, I have been even more hesitant to enter the stalls there.

Where we live it is very common to not have water for hours or even days at a time. We have a large tub in our bathroom that we keep filled with water (as do all houses here). We use that water to flush our toilet when needed. I have learned that it takes three scoopers full of water to fill the toilet tank. I have also learned to be aware of where the toilet paper is before splashing water about.

We find ourselves refilling many things here. All liquid soaps come in bags. You buy the container for them once, then you buy the refill. I go to the store and pick up a bag of fabric softener, a bag of dish soap, and a bag of hand soap (all of which are very messy to try to use out of the bag).

At school we are given one board marker in ever color and bottles of ink to refill them. Since acquiring supplies from the office is such a difficult task, when I saw the bottles of ink that I needed the other night when we were in a store, I bought them. I refilled all of my markers the next morning, happy to have three colors (blue, black, and red). The blue marker was writing especially well, so I used it a lot. Usually I have students erase for me after I leave the class, so I didn’t notice that the blue ink was not erasing well.

All day I wrote in blue ink until I finally realized that it was not erasing. I had bought the permanent ink instead of the dry erase ink. I have since gone back and cleaned all of the five boards I wrote on. The worst was in 4th grade. We were studying friendly letters in there and I had written an entire letter on the board—in blue.

Today in 4th grade we talked about thank you notes. The assignment was to think of something nice that someone had done for them and to write a thank you note. I thought I would share this one with you:

“Dear Mrs. Melody Lumpkin,
Thank you very much because ma’am teaching me. And then me smart.”

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Friday night Matt and I decided to attend a “crusade.” I was relieved when we got there to find that it was not a true crusade with Muslims and Christians killing each other as was the case in Middle Ages, but merely a church service. The speaker was a young woman from California, which was one of the reasons we went—anytime we can hear a sermon in English, we try to take the opportunity. A group had come from America for this crusade. Matt had heard them speak in the chapel service at the school where we teach and thought that I would enjoy the service.

One thing you need to know about our school is that most of the teachers and faculty there are Seventh Day Adventist, thus the crusade was hosted by the SDA churches in the community and the American team that came is SDA. Generally this is not an issue. We go to church on Sunday; they go on Saturday. We eat pork; they don’t. Not a big deal. (There was a problem when the man teaching history in high school noticed that the A Beka books that the school uses classify SDA as a cult.)

We went to the crusade expecting to be able to agree with them on a lot of issues—we all love Jesus, we all read the Bible, we all believe in God. Little did we know that the message on Friday night would be on the importance of worshiping on Saturday.

We entered the church and were greeted with a sound system that was maxed out to the point of causing hearing damage. The Indonesian people took turns yelling into the microphone, singing and such. I think that sound systems are still a bit novel here. If someone has one, they want everyone in the surrounding 50 miles to know about it.

So we sat in the second row of this church, next to the young woman who would be speaking (her name happened to be Jody Foster). After about an hour of singing and preliminary speakers, Jody got up to preach. About 15 minutes into her 30-45 minute sermon, we knew we were in trouble. We sat for a long time listening to misinformation about the early church and Constantine (Thanks to Dr. Carter and his gruesome class on Baptist Heritage, we knew where her sermon was historically wrong or misrepresenting the truth). Then there was the exposition of why going to church on Sunday was started because of the pagan sun god.

I was relieved when I heard her winding down, thinking, “good, it’s almost over. Surely the invitation will be normal.” Wrong again. We were invited to raise our hand if we were ready to follow “Jesus and his commandments and worship on the day he set aside for us.” My hands stayed down, although by this point my ears were ringing and my head was pounding from the loud PA and I desperately wanted to put my fingers in my ears. I refrained, not because it would be rude, but I was afraid it would be misconstrued as raising my hand.

Matt when hiking with all of the visiting Americans and the SDA people today (Sunday). Since my leg is STILL swollen (more on that later), hiking up a volcano is out of the question for me. I went to church with one of the other teachers. Selvia goes to a Full Gospel church, complete with speaking in tounges and people being slain in the spirit.

We arrived about 30 minutes late, which was earlier than most others. The sound system was quite loud in there as well, but luckily Selvia wanted to sit in the back. I was quite relieved. After about an hour of a lively song service (which included some speaking in tounges, but because of the distortion in the sound system and my ignorance of Indonesian I could never tell when they were doing it), a guest speaker gave a nice sermon on wisdom and how God has it or something. Selvia translated some of it for me, but I didn’t quite understand.

Afterward, a couple who have two children in our school approached me to see if Matt and I would tutor their children. I told them what we have been telling everyone, the truth: we are very busy with the regular classes we are teaching and adjusting to the culture and do not have the time to tutor anyone at this point. I advised them to get a tutor from the school for their girls (who really do need a tutor, as their English skills are well below par). They said, “No, we want a native speaker.” I restrained myself from slapping some sense into them and said that I understood, then explained (again) that there are no native speaking tutors available.

I left the church annoyed and frustrated with their persistent pleading for us to tutor their daughters. I tried very nicely to say no about five times. I told them “maybe next semester” and even, “I’ll talk to Matt about it.” Nothing would dissuade them, “How about just once a week?” Sigh.

Health news:
Please continue to pray for my leg and the blood within it. It is still quite swollen. The doctor said that since it is still swollen, I will need to be on the rat poison (i.e. blood thinner) for six months instead of the initial three that was prescribed.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Things I miss (in no particular order):

- checking for mail
- Wolverine comics
- English speaking churches
- the way we could go in a circle in our house
- consistent water
- warm water
- calling people
- driving
- Brookshires
- cold milk and Oreos
- milk that does not come in a box
- shopping in Hot Springs
- Mexican food
- telemarketers
- the funky smell of our yellow house
- being understood
- understanding
- trains
- bathtubs
- the always interesting family dinners
- raspberry vinaigrette
- King of the Hill
- The Simpsons
- Hot Springs
- Gap
- dinner parties
- answering machines
- having a dryer
- our washing machine
- Wendy’s
- long evenings with OBU friends
- screened windows
- Sunday afternoons at the McNary’s
- ER
- the tea kettle that whistles
- early morning fog
- Super Mario Sunshine
- shampoo and conditioner in one
- microwaves
- sitting in the grass at OBU
- oak trees
- bagels with strawberry cream cheese
- Thrio’s
- (never quote me on this) Wal-Mart
- Baskin Robbins
- books
- book stores
- rugs
- both of my legs being the same size
- stop signs

Things I don’t miss:
- Dr. Phil
- washing dishes
- the funky smell of things rotting in dishes we hadn’t washed
- Brittany Spears
- Hollywood Squares
- knowing which celebrity was dating/marrying/divorcing whom
- short skirts/low shirts dominating the market
- pharmaceutical commercials
- central air
- bad political commercials

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Long Ride Home

Friday night Melody and I went into town for blood tests, burgers, and new pants. On our way out of the department store, the waiting taxi drivers spotted us and we agreed to let one of them drive us home. We immediately recognized the driver who stood up to claim us as a man who had driven us before. I remembered how his face had come alive when he discovered that we had studied the Bible in University. He had some pamphlets from a certain “Watchtower Society” of Brooklyn, New York that he would love to discuss with us. Kicking myself for having already betrayed limited understanding of Indonesian, I was still able to evade his requests for a good time to come to our home for “diskusi” and “dia-log.”

We were in his cab (which was missing interior door panels, smelling of misdirected exhaust and lacking in enough room for both my knees and the dashboard) and on our way home before we knew it. Before long the conversation turned to matters religious. We discussed his church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or as it is unfortunately rendered in Indonesian: Seksi Jehovah (say it out loud). I had to try to stifle my smirk as Melody laughed in the back seat every time he would say it. He had been meeting with my boss, Mr. Vijay, an Indian Seventh day Adventist, for “diskusi” about “Alkitab,” that is, the Bible.

Soon he was offering me the same privilege. I declined, as I would not truly be able to understand the nuances of his discussion with my rudimentary Indonesian. Not to worry. He said he had a church brother who has studied at the Watchtower Seminary itself in New York and has since returned to spread the “kabar baik,” news good, bilingually. As the conversation continued he became more animated, kept his eyes on me instead of the road, spoke faster, drove more slowly, and began to yell across apparently great chasm of about arms-length between us.

My annoyance and frustration matched his mounting intensity. I told him, in Indonesian of course, that I had already discussed at length with Jehovah’s witnesses in the States, native speakers of English, and I agreed on the matters where he held similar beliefs but I could not agree on the matters where we differed. I did not see how it would be different here. He assured me (even more loudly) that they had more to tell me. I was getting angry. Not because of miscommunication, we were communicating fine, but he was not willing to take no for an answer and was yelling at me, shouting into my face with a smile. I turned to him and said, “Why do Jehovah’s witnesses always want to go into peoples homes and have discussions? Why must you come into the home?” This question thrilled him. It game him a chance to explain to me the great commission of Jesus Christ to spread the kabar baik out to… to… “all nations.” I finished his sentence. “But I already know all about that. I have Jesus, in my heart. I know him, already. Why do you want to come into my home?” “Diskussi…dialog.” Right.

I tried to remain civil. But he had just tried to explain the great commission to me. Did it really seem that I was that unaware of it? I can understand how groups like the Seksi Jehovah can promulgate their non-traditional and even non-Christian beliefs (i.e. a non-divine Christ, or their pseudo-open canon of scripture) but what I can’t understand is how they manage to maintain, cross-culturally, the homogenous consistency of their pushy, abrasive, cloying techniques for evangelism.

Had I the Indonesian to express myself properly in this, my first truly theological discussion in a language other than English, I would have told him that I understand and believe in the great commission. People do need to hear the good news. They just need to hear it from people they can trust - people who don’t take advantage of captive audiences and manipulatively steer conversations. They need to hear it from people who love them and long to gather them under the same wings within which they also seek shelter from pain, disease injustice and the great hollow emptiness of sin.

The next day I got an email from my not-so-little little brother, Andrew. He and his friend, Chris had had an encounter the day before with two Mormon missionaries who had happened upon them, alone at Chris’s house in rural Arkansas. They were a little intimidated by these two young men who seemed interested in them but also had a strange falseness to the way they tugged in certain directions on the conversation, tossing out loaded questions like spinner-bait, waiting to recite long prefabricated responses from memory. I reminded them that those “Mormon missionaries” are kids, just like they are, who are doing what their families and churches think is right. “If they make you uncomfortable or get too pushy, you don’t have to take it. But the important thing is to treat them like people,” even if they don’t return the favor.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Air Means Water

Ah, another saturday, another cup of Sulawesi Toraja Coffee, another lazy morning spent chatting with my brother about the excentric intricacies of Mormon history. Just a notice to all our loyal readers to check the new photo album "Air means Water." They're all from last weekend's hike to a series of amazing waterfalls near here. I think you'll like them, and Jason (Roe), you can count this toward my credit of shooting more "landscape" shots. But if you're really looking for photographs as opposed to these snapshots you have to wait until I get back to see the stuff I shot on film (yes I dragged both the digital and film cameras up that river and back down it and they both still work, much to my surprise).

Enjoy, and remember: photos worth enjoying are photos worth commenting on :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

When we got back from Singapore, I surprised by the announcement that I would be teaching two Bible classes a week in elementary—first and second grade. The classes have a Sunday school feel, but are supposed to be graded. With little time to prepare for the first lesson, I decided to talk about Noah.

I walked into the first grade class where 19 pairs of eyes were looking everywhere but at me. I finally got them all to sit down and look in my general direction. Not wanting to lose them, I began to draw on the board—a big boat, a man with a beard in a funny looking dress, the man’s wife also in a dress, animals.

In an attempt to explain why Noah was spared from God’s wrath, I drew an arrow up from Noah’s head to a heart that said “love.” I said, “Noah loved God.” I drew an arrow up from all the other stick figures on the board to a heart that was crossed out and said, “These people did not love God.”
“They loved Satan,” came a voice from somewhere in the back.
“Well, I’m not sure if I would say that…” I started.
“No, they didn’t love Satan because the devil wasn’t there until Jesus came,” spoke up 6-year-old Edward. He continued, “Satan lived with God in heaven. His name was Lucifer then. One day he broke something and he wouldn’t say he was sorry. God made him leave.”

Shocked and slightly taken aback by Edward’s explanation of the origin of Satan, I said, “Right, and so Noah…”

Next week I think I’ll tackle eschatology. I’m sure Edward’s got it all figured out.


Saturday, August 07, 2004

If you or someone you know is responsible for a deposit into our USBank account, please let us know.

My mom sent me a warning e-mail that there has been a scam where an e-mail or pop up window asks you for bank information. When you give the information to them, somehow your money gets put into an account in Thailand. Maybe somehow we are Thailand. Matt said not to question it.

"In English, it doesn't work when I tell my class that, it doesn't work when I tell the tv that." --Matt

He is watching tv, which just got much more interesting: small dogs on remote controled Harley Davidson motorcycles in hospitals in Ohio. I think this is a matter worth looking into.

"American standard of care, my foot! There were no dogs in the Singapore hospital." --Matt

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Today was a good day so we thought we had better write something to counteract the dreadful tone of the last post. So here’s a little something from Melody and from Matt. We hope you enjoy.

“Pray without kissing.”

This was a fourth grader’s reading of “pray without ceasing.” I love the ABEKA books. The ABEKA curriculum is a Christian curriculum, which is generally good, except for the archaic language and random references to tabernacles and Zephaniah thrown in. There’s nothing like teaching ESL kids English using example sentences like, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Which, locally pronounced, is more like “honor tie father and tie mother.”

“I am your friend.”

Sunday I went to church alone so Melody could rest (isterahat). Sunday is our day for grocery shopping for the week since that is the day that the school provides a car and driver to haul the apparently inordinate amounts of food we buy. The grocery store is in the basement of the Mega-Mall (home to only the coolest and newest shops, restaurants a now a Billiards Bar on the roof). I was looking for anything non-top-40 in one of the three music stores (all of which promised me they could order me any album I wanted, but when pressed revealed that they in fact could only order what they already had), when I saw an awkward toothed Indonesian stride proudly up to me. I turned to face him.

“Ekscuse me sir I hope I do not bother you.”
“Well, you haven’t yet.”
“I hope I do not bother you because I have a class and the teacher say that when we see foreigner we must go and conversation with him, so that is what I want and I hope I do not bother.”
At this point I’m remembering that last encounter Melody and I had like this that dragged on for an uncomfortable fifteen minutes culminating in a horribly awkward inquiry about our sense of safety in what the inquistor saw as a frightening place for bule’ such as ourselves.
“Oh, so you would like to practice your English? Well, alright we can do that, but just for a short time, I have to finish my shopping.”
“Oh, OK sir. What’s your name sir?”
“Where you come from, Mak?”
“I’m from America.”
After three months I’ve almost given up returning the question as the response is almost invariably “Manado,” even when they’ve lived elsewhere. I think they interpret it as where did you just come from.
“How long you here?”
“I’ve been here for three months.”
“What you want in Manado?”
“Today I’m here for groceries.”
“No, why you here? Why you live here.”
“I’m a Teacher.”
With light in his eyes “Where you teach?”
“I teach at Manado International School, on Kolongon.”
“What subject you teach?”
“English, of course.”
Smiles and laughs.
“Oh, I have a friend who also teaches English at M.I.S. He also from America…”
At this moment I knew what was happening. Dr. Randy told us a story once about meeting a man on a remote island who, trying to establish common ground with his new acquaintance insisted that he knew of another American, indeed, his good friend, who also lived and worked in Manado (where Dr. Randy was based). Dr. Randy assured him that he was the only American living and working in Manado at that time. Eventually the man produced the name card of his “friend.” It read “Randy Richards.” After they both read it, the man extended his hand with a broad smile to meet, for the first time, his friend, whose name card he had carried in his wallet for many years.
With a look on my face that indicated I’d gotten my own little inside joke (Brandon, you know the one) I offered my hand and said,
“I’m your friend.”
He looked shocked and embarrassed and then his embarrassment turned to indignance and I realized that I had in fact met this guy before. He was the same guy who had detained us for excruciating minutes on end in another store, another night.
“You not remember me?” He said without a touch of irony. “I’m Aiudi.”
“Aiudi, you didn’t remember me!”
“Why you not email me back?”
He had me there. When we had first met he wanted my phone number, and like so many young women hoping to stave off stalkers, I had offered my email as an acceptable second prize. But when I received his first transmission of text less decipherable than his speech I ignored it, busy, and assuming that this city of 400,000 would shield me from further encounters and email-buddy accountability. Alas, another curse of the ‘bule’ is that you have no anonymity. I always looked at becoming a pastor with trepidation because of the extra scrutiny their lives receive. I had no idea coming to Manado would magnify attention to my action, choice and purchase by a factor of SPF 36.
“Well, I’ve been very busy…”
“What your hand phone number?”
My saving grace for this question is that “I don’t have one,” yet.
“House phone?”
If you think Aiudi’s tenacious demands for my personal contact information are out of line you and I are agreed but we are the only ones to whom this seems self-evident. This is part of my local fame as an American in Manado: my contact information ought to be publicly accessible. Though I have to say, after a couple of weeks of urban anonymity wandering the streets of Singapore amid tides of blank-faced audio-earplugged people, it was nice to return to Manado where, grown men feel compelled to stand up and yell “Hello Meester!” upon seeing me pass their neighborhood in a cab with the window down. I benevolently nod and smile feeling ridiculously royal.
“Aiudi, I have to be careful who I give my phone number to.”
“Why? Why you have to do that?
“Be careful? Because I work very hard at school all day teaching and when I come home I need to rest and prepare for class. If I give my number to everyone then the phone will always be ringing.”
“But email me again and I’ll try to write back this time. OK?”
“Now, I should probably go buy some food. See you later.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Tuesday Night

A giant cockroach greeted me as I opened my un-packed bag to retrieve a pair of pants. After a couple of swats in its general direction, I decided it wasn’t worth my energy.

We returned home Monday afternoon to find that our phone bill had not been paid since we were gone on the day when it was to be paid. Thus we had no way of calling people or using internet. We paid the bill yesterday and today they turned our phone back on.

Now I sit writing to tell you of the encompassing weariness. We left Manado after the first day of the week for planning. We returned after a week of classes had passed. Now we are struggling to play catch-up. Lesson plans that we haven’t had a chance to make have to be turned in, classes have to be taught.

They did allow me Tuesday to prepare. Unfortunately, they did not allow Matt the same luxury. The even more unfortunate part is he is teaching 26 classes a week (a bit more than the 18 that they promised us in the enticing come-teach-at-our-school e-mails), none of which have textbooks. Half of the classes have books ordered. The other half requires Matt to make up a curriculum and find resources to implement it—without any time to plan.

In health news, my leg is generally less painful. I am walking with the aid of a cane and wearing an ugly white stocking that causes unsightly bulges. The leg is still very swollen and stiff. I am taking blood-thinning medicine every day, which the British chemistry teacher informed me that it is the same chemical as in rat poison.

I am supposed to have blood tests run twice a week and email the results to the doctor in Singapore (abbreviated S’pore). I went yesterday to the lab in Manado, where they stabbed me with a giant needle to steal some of my blood. The nurses in Singapore really spoiled me. They knew how to take the blood without it hurting or leaving a bruise.

When the lab called last night with the results, it was two hours later than they said it would be. We were awakened by the phone ringing. Matt answered and struggled to understand complex series of numbers and medical terms in Indonesian. He hung up unsure of any of the results. The school had told us that they could pick up the results in the morning, so we didn’t worry much. They just now got them to us (7:30 pm).

Breaking News: Within the time of writing we have already received a response from the Doc stating that her blood levels are good and that she needn’t return to the Manado lab to repeat it until next week, which will allow for the veins to recompose themselves.

In case you can’t tell by the tone of this post, we’re more than a little tired. I normally attempt to self-edit this sort of thing out but I suppose the good folks who read this far actually care how we feel. We feel better than we did. The night before we flew to Singapore Melody was sicker than I’ve ever seen her and we were both more scared than I can recall. She looked deathly ill the next day before we got on the plane but slowly improved.

Tonight she was showing off how she could walk without her cane (which she’s been using since she cast off her wheelchair sometime last weekend). We’re still letting all the new info about her genes and predisposition to blood clotting sink in as we search the web for more info hoping to learn how this will change our lives. We’re tired and struggling to do the things we need to do to get through the day. If not for the gracious aid of people like the Wee family (our hosts in Singapore), and Sonia, our wonderful helper, I’m not sure what we would have done.

Last night was my first really good night’s sleep in a while and that makes a great deal of a difference. It’s been a long couple of weeks. To all those who have been praying, we thank you deeply. God was truly with us through His people in Singapore, as He is with us here. Remembering that and trusting him are the challenges. Thanks for your comments and emails and phone calls. We missed our friends and family most last week and many of you reached out to us then.

Special thanks for the Wakefield family who helped connect us with Grace Baptist Church who took great care of us. Thanks to those who responded to our pleas for advice. We’re still doing our best to make decisions we can look back on as the best possible ones at the time. Thanks to Ben Wakefield who came down from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he happened to be bumming around. He spent the better part of a week with us when we desperately needed someone to listen to and be with us.

Check out the new photos from Singapre on the .Mac site.

Melody then Matt

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Just a quick post to let you all know what is going on.  I (Melody) was released from the hospital yesterday (Wednesday) with a wheelchair and a stocking to help circulation (which unfortunately caused a rash).  We will go back to see the doctor tomorrow (and most likely Saturday) for more blood tests.  If all goes well, we will be heading back to Manado on Monday.

Today Matt took me to Borders.  We bought a couple of books, ate some good food and went back to the appartment where Matt has been staying.  I really apprieciate (I'm writing without the spell check) all the support, phone calls, and prayers that we have received.  I'll write more later about how amazing things worked out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I am writing to inform any of you who don't know, of the same news that Melody's mother Mary just left on the last comment on the last post on the weblog: Melody and I flew to Singapore to get her medical treatment for what we suspected was a blood clot in her leg. Two days ago it swelled to almost twice it's normal size and turned blue. After consulting with several physicians we decided to take the flight here. They did an ultrasound study of her leg an confirmed the clot and now she is being treated with blood thinning drugs. We will be here for at least a week (which is nice because Singapore is a beautiful, clean, safe, and very western city, and not nice because we were supposed to begin teaching classes next monday at school). However we are sure this was the best choice for her treatment and have been overwhelmed by support from our family and friends, as well as from brand new Manado friends who have reached out and opened hospitality to us by way of people they know here in Singapore. I am writing from an IMB office here using their internet while a kind man named Tim brings me a coke and offers to buy me lunch. God is with us through these people and he has answered all our prayers of a safe arrival and good treatment and we are expecting full healing and recovery.

Melody feels much better but is still unable to walk but she is in a place where she can get the care she needs and for that we are gratefuly.

Thank you, especially to those of you who have called (if you want to contact us you can email Mary Willliams, Melody's Mom, she has the contact info) and for everyone's prayers. We don't know how many people are praying but it is working. Please continue to pray for treatement and for us as we consult with the Doctors to learn what changes we can make to prevent this from happening again.

More Later.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

Going to the Movies

Spiderman 2 hit Indonesia this week with the same media blitz as Canada’s new speed bumps. We heard by way of Matt’s students on Thursday (none of mine showed up, so I joined Matt’s class) that “Speeder-Man” was playing at the nice theater in town—Studio 21.

Friday we were given an unexpected day off (as is the custom) and so we decided to go into town to check it out. We first went to Mega Mall, so Matt could get a much-needed (in what I feared to be the opinion of our employers) haircut. I think I was more nervous about the endeavor than Matt. We ended up going to the training center instead of the actual salon, where they gave Matt the option of having a teacher or a student cut his hair. He chose a teacher. One of the many Indonesian guys in tight black clothes approached Matt. Using what Indonesian he knows and some photos, Matt tried to explain what he wanted. I think he succeeded. His hair is shorter and the more I look at it, the more normal it looks.

We still had some time before the movie started, so Matt went to try to see if some of the music stores could order a cd or two that he wanted. I decided to try a manicure at the real salon, not the training center. I sat and a guy in tight black clothes and three inch heals began my manicure. After he cut one nail very unevenly, he gave up and called someone else (a woman) to take over. She continued cutting my nails unevenly and then sawing back and forth on them with an un-sanitized file. I made it through that part by thinking of anything except my fingernails. When she put lotion that had bits of black hairs in it on my cuticles, I looked away. But when she began scraping flesh away, as politely as I could (on the verge of tears from the pain) I asked her to stop. She looked confused and put the flesh-scraping tool down. She looked at me again, at the next finger, at her tool, and at me again. She went to pick it up and franticly I said, “tidak, tidak!”

She seemed very confused by me wanting to keep all of my digits in working order, but went on to the next phase. I washed the lotion (and hair) off of my hands and she began filing the tops of the nails. She worked on the left thumb for about two minutes. I wasn’t sure if she was doing my nails or trying to start a fire. As I was pondering this, I happened to look down at my watch and see that the movie was to start in 15 minutes on the other side of town. As politely as I could, I made a lot of gestures—pointing at my watch and looked hurried. She seemed to understand and released me. Embarrassed, but more relieved than anything, I paid the three dollar fee and left.

I found Matt and we went to find a taxi. We ended up getting to the movie place at 7:35 for the 7:30 show. Matt went and bought the tickets while I went and bought the cold popcorn and canned drinks (at least they are cold as well). After Matt bought the tickets, he noticed that Spiderman was playing again at 8:00. I encouraged him to see if he could trade times. The ticket lady refunded his money and looked really confused, but was nice. We waited for the box office for the next show to open and bought the tickets at about 7:45. As we were standing in line to go in, I realized that no one else in the line had the same color ticket as us. We had yellow tickets and they all had the pink tickets…just like the ones that Matt had first bought.

The “7:30” showing ended up starting around 8:00. Some confused theater workers watched us sit around until 8:30, when the “8:00” show started. The lesson of the day: Even in theaters time is tentative.

As soon as the movie started and the screen was full of scenes of NY and Peter Parker, all was well.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


The day I went snorkeling I was the only one on the boat who had left the shore with that intent. I had heard we were going farther than usual to an island named “Nain,” about one hour by boat. When we arrived our guide began passing out bamboo tongs and explaining how to best capture “our” prey without getting stabbed by their hundreds of venomous spines. They had bags and tongs of bamboo to hunt their the renegade crown-of-thorns starfish who had been running amok, over-populating and gobbling up their beloved coral.

I plopped into the water and watched as many of the divers drifted down the sloping cliff ledge into the hazy blue. I swam for the shallows and drifted along, intermittently looking for these strange creatures and wondering how the fish could at once seem so disinterested in me and so aware of my presence as to constantly not be in my lumbering way.

I spotted three crowns-of-thorns and was a bit alarmed at how close I had gotten before seeing them. They leave a sort of white destruction in their path with the bones of coral sucked dry, cracked and broken. The ones I spotted were quite large (almost two feet across) and rigid with criss-crossing, wicked spines seemingly woven together by roman hands. I swam a distance away and pointed with both hands. When one of the guides spotted me he swam over, clapped his tongs in an amazing underwater clack (everything sounds like it’s taking place inside the center of your brain underwater) to summon others. I proudly supervised the extraction of these rigid yet passive demons then swam on to more interesting (and less spiny) waters.

I was becoming aware of a growing self-consciousness in the water that I had not had before. I had no armor, no wetsuit, and no defense should anything spiny, venomous our nasty decide to reach out and express its disgust at my visit. I tried to put this down but found myself more comfortable over bare, empty sand than those coral dreamscapes where all manner of life, recognizable and not, thrives. I tried to overcome these thoughts and swam above a sort of valley between two coral embankments and pleasantly watched critters of all sorts dart in and out of crevasses and shadows. My little valley came to an end with a large, round conglomeration of several types of coral, sea fans, anemones and other ocean-hair waving in the breeze. As I rounded its top I saw the back half of a little black and white striped fish the size of my hand wiggling hastily out of my field of view behind the coral. I swam closer to see the hand-shaped fish back out of its hole and grow into six feet of coiled movement. This is the second coral snake I have seen in as many trips out into North Sulawesi’s Bunaken Underwater Park. The last time Melody grew frightened enough for the both of us but this time I didn’t have that benefit. Melody’s phobia of snakes is most pronounced when she is surprised by one and that day I understood why.

Coral snakes (I have read and been told by countless Nature specials on public television) possess the most deadly venom in the world. Death occurs approximately one hour after a bite. I tried to slow my breathing as I quickly swam away to the safety of larger numbers of humans. I wanted to tell them but quickly realized that I had no way to and wasn’t sure if they would care anyway. I finally saw one guide go up to the surface to fix his mask and I too went up and said, in English, “I saw a snake!” “Snake? Yea…” Hardly as satisfying as I had hoped.

I decided to become this group’s self-elected snake-guardian and make sure no one went too close to where I had last seen it. Their star-fish hunting was distraction enough to keep them stationary and I felt better. However, one, unusually tall European man was not hunting starfish. He had a camera and was filming underwater creatures skittering here and there and his concentration was complete. He came close to where the snake had been and I kept my eye on him. Sure enough, the coral snake (by far the largest creature we had seen off the coast of Nain) slithered, no, glided over the ridge above the tall man. I began furiously pounding my fist into my open palm, one of the few ways you can make noise underwater with this soft flesh. He looked up, I snaked my arm and pointed behind him. He turned, saw nothing and flipped his palms up in question. I pointed, more emphatically as the snake slipped between his legs and up between his chest and the sand. He looked, down and gave me the “Ok” sign with one hand pulled his camera around with the other. This was not the reaction I had expected.

He followed the snake, closely. Documenting every curve and every effortless, weightless arc of its body, he moved with it. The snake was hunting. The snake we last saw had been hiding and had only emerged to take a breath. This snake was flying from one coral mass to another, prodding around, darting its body deep inside, striking, and whipping before moving on to another spot. The tall European stayed behind it and I stayed behind him. I was transfixed. At once I was frightened, jealous (of the images he was getting), and overwhelmed by the exquisite grace of its every movement. I watched as he moved the camera up its body in mid-flight, inches away, toward the leading, tiny head with intentional cinematographic tension and release. The snake did not care. It did not acknowledge this massive creature swimming feet away from him. I followed them for over thirty minutes watching it move through the water with the effortlessness of a ribbon on a gymnast’s wand through the air. At one point I saw it gliding up to the surface and followed. My head popped up to see a tiny stick, fifteen feet away, its mouth open, gulping air, once twice, three times. The snake was all that broke my horizon on the endless water. We were there together, the only two with our heads through the mirrored ceiling of his world and into mine.

A friend once expressed frustration at a poem by D.H. Lawrence called “Snake” which he was once required to read for class. In it, Lawrence encounters a black snake at his water-trough and is inwardly compelled to kill it yet overwhelmed by its regal, nonchalant beauty. Eventually he gives in and hurls a log from which it easily escapes into a dark hole in retreat from his pettiness. I think that my friend was frustrated at the excessive sentimentality with which he styles the snake “Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, Now due to be crowned again.” I think in that conversation I agreed.

But then, while swimming with a man and a snake who were obviously swimming together, sharing something, if nothing other than each other’s presence, I felt, with Lawrence, that my own fear was also a pettiness; a pettiness fed by both knowledge of information ignorance of character. I knew what the snake could do. What I didn’t know (and what my tall European friend did) was what it would do.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Dua Bulan
New Photos -->

Tommorow we will attend church with Dr. Joubert Sumanti, former guest proffessor at OBU. Then we plan to celebrate the fourth of July with the Cassels and several others (perhaps even a few Brits) at a good old fashioned BBQ.

We just returned from a relaxing weekend at Santika Hotel here in Manado. We decided to go after we learned (one day prior) that we would be graciously given a few days off after completing our Preparatory English Course. It's main attraction to us was it's bathtub complete with warm shower, good water pressure and snorkeling. However we found it quite more enjoyable and attractive than we had expected. More on that later...

We are swiftly approaching the two month mark (dua bulan) and so it is also time for a few NEW PHOTOS. The latest is a collection of shots from our excursion to Tondano lake in the nearby highlands (it's actually a huge volcanic crater), some pics from the PEC, Indonesian road construction at our house (it actually invovled/employed 90; they finnished the job in record time), and a few shots from this weekend.

Thanks for reading and looking, your comments are a great encouragement.


Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Dear readers,
I am writing to clarify for any of you who may be wondering just where those promised pictures of Indonesia are. It seems that some of you have been having trouble finding the photos we have been posting. This is understandable as they are not actually on this website but on another site we have because we are in the “.Mac” club as it were. Though it should be noted that the last two readers who have voiced to me their inability to find our pictures both share the last name “Roe.” Whether I am emphasizing their apparent inability to navigate simple web-pages or rather, their more admirable quality of having the courage to ask for directions when ‘lost,’ I’ll let you be the judge. Nevertheless, all you silent voices out there shall benefit from their courage.

Simple Directions for Viewing the Super-cool pictures From Indonesia:
1. Open (hint: you already did this)
2. Click the first Link you see on the Right of the page:
Photos at our .Mac Home Page (I suggest you open it in a new window so you can keep reading: right-click then select “open in new window”) the url is
3. When that page loads you should see a goofy picture of us, and Even, who happened to be behind us when we took the first ever photo with our digital camera. At the top of the page there are about six or so other links to different Albums of photos. The bottom three or so are from Indonesia, the others are from our exploits before we left the U.S. of A. Enjoy, please feel free to leave comments, and rest assured that more are on the way…

As for those of you who have recently reached out to us from so far away through Comments on this page, we thank you. Comments like yours brighten our days and remind us that we are not forgotten on days when it seems hard to convince ourselves otherwise. I plan on responding to some of your comments beneath them so check back later. We miss our friends and people who think like we do but then again, I always did want to learn how think again. Thanks for caring and thanks for reading.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

Three little boys stopped by this morning, wanting the birds’ nests from our trees. After realizing what they wanted, Matt obliged. We watched as a small ten-year-old boy climbed the small evergreen tree and retrieved two nests, one with five tiny eggs. To be nice, Matt offered the three boys the three bananas left from dinner last night. The boy looked at him, at the bananas, and at him again, and said that the bananas had gone bad. Matt was a bit indignant that the boys said his bananas were bad, as they still looked perfectly fine to us. The boy seemed a bit indignant that Matt had offered him bad bananas.

The students in my class (3 year-olds through 5th grade) generally begin to arrive 20-30 minutes before class starts. Today at 1:30, I followed Jordi up the stairs, peeved that my last 30 minutes of preparation had just been taken. Soon Yoshua’s round smiling face found it’s way into the room and the two were content to look at books, which is the activity that I strongly encourage early-comers to engage in.

As the students enter the classroom, their clothes always find a way to amuse me. My favorite today was four-year-old Bella’s costume—a black leather skirt and a red halter-top. Albert was wearing a Tom and Jerry shirt until his mom striped him down to his underwear in the middle of my classroom and changed his clothes. Many days the t-shirts will have “English” phrases, like “I like to football.”

For some reason, people here don’t consider the heat a factor. The building where these classes are held has windows on all of the outside walls of the second floor, thus giving it a green house effect that our small ac units struggle, unsuccessfully, to fight. Sometimes I step outside to cool off. Luckily, the heat has only induced vomiting in one child.

We were told in an e-mail that we received today that we are in stage two of culture shock. I had said the same thing to Matt a few days ago. In the first stage of culture shock, everything is new and wonderful. In the second stage, all is dreadful. You walk around wondering how people could live like this and how you are going to deal with living like this. You start to salivate over a glorified shadow of the culture you left behind and wonder why you left. Soon we should level out to stage three: acceptance.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Sketch 1

Hundreds of things happen every week that I want to pin down into a collection and present to everyone who makes the mistake of asking. I’m trying to learn to just breath in the humid air and live here; to absorb it as life and not as a thousand photos to be taken printed and displayed on a wall or weblog. But for now I still feel compelled to preserve bits and pieces in this virtual shoebox and show them to you, with all the anticipation of a child whose glassy eyes beg you to agree that these moments really are special.
Last night I’m on my way back from the VCD rental store after dark and a minibus (mikrolet) stops.

“Maumbi bisa?” (Can you take me to Maumbi [name of our ‘village’]?)

I’m the only passenger so I climb into the front seat. After the standard exchange about how long I’ve been here and how I can only speak a little Indonesian he spots my headphones.

“Apa handphone nomor?” (What’s your cell-phone number?) he asks.
“Tidak punya. Saya tidak perlu.” (Don’t have. I don’t need).
“Apa ini?” (What’s this then?)
Then it dawns on him.
“Ya. Walkman.”

A look of absolute excitement washes over him and he starts digging his shirt for two hidden ear-buds with the wires run beneath his clothes. I’m watching the road as he veers out of our ‘lane’ though such concepts only exist in my mind. With one final triumphant jerk he untucks his shirt and reveals his cassette walkman cleverly hidden from any curious passengers.

“Apa anda dengar?” (What you listen?) I ask.
He proudly states the name of a local singer. Then says:
“Kamu dengar!” (You listen!)

His ear buds thrust towards me, I accept them as the gift they are and put one in my ear trying not to stop and think about what are clearly inappropriately western notions of personal space, hygiene and cleanliness, inappropriate at least for this minibus. The tape drags distorting what was once a clear and earnest feminine voice into something vaguely inhuman and ill. I feign enjoyment of his music and ask:

“Anda tahu dia?” (You know her?)
“Ya, tahu.”
“Teman, anda?” (Your friend?)
“Tidak, tidak….[then some words I don’t know that I smile and nod approvingly toward]”

By then he notices I only have one headphone in. This music was clearly intended for full stereo, binaural enjoyment as he insists: “Tidak, dua, dua!” (No, both, both!) How silly of me. Of course. I listen for a few more seconds then thank him for sharing his music, a gesture and impulse I really do appreciate, understand and enjoy. Now it’s my turn. I cue up “Clocks” for him on my MP3 CD featuring Coldplay, hit play and put my headphones (also designed to fit ‘in-the-ear’) on him, making sure I have both ears.

“Lagi anda dengar.” (Now you listen.) I say with a smile.

If he’s feigning enjoyment he’s doing a better job than I did. He sways with chords, he drums with the steady staccato of the song, he sings syllables of words he doesn’t know. He listens for a full kilometer or more before politely taking off my headphones and thanking me.

When he drops me in front of my housing complex, I double his fare (which is normally about ten cents) and said “untuk anda.” (for you). He thanks me again and I tell him to have a good night and I walk through the cool damp evening towards the house and throw my headphones on to catch the rest of “A Rush of Blood to the Head” having forgotten that I had intended to wipe them off with my shirt first.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


I’m sitting in the cool night air of the front porch, one foot on a regal column balancing me against the window upon which my shoulders rest as I lean back in my chair like so many teachers told have told me not to do. Mrs. Goodnoh, this is for you. I’m the teacher now! But I have rules too: “If I see a cell phone in your hand it’s mine for the rest of the day.” And “We all make mistakes. Life is better if you can laugh at yourself.”

At night the heat and some of the moisture go away and it’s quite pleasant outside. I hear a dog in the distance barking. It’s that sort of barking that’s more like echo-location than anything else: just sending out a signal to see if it bounces off of any other dogs. I think it’s a mixed blessing to be a dog in Manado. On one hand, I've read that the Minahassan ethnic group of North Sulawesi find dog, particularly black dog, very tasty. So it’s not uncommon for dogs to disappear from gated and locked front yards. It’s also not uncommon for owners to treat dogs very poorly. I’m not sure if this is because they plan on eating them (I can’t say that the turkeys on my parents farm live a luxurious life), or because some see them simply as a status symbol. Our neighbor directly across the street has a German shepherd who must think, and sounds as though he thinks, life has played a cruel joke on him. I think it ought to be one of Dante’s circles of hell to live here with a perpetual coat of thick fur and no sweat glands. To make matters worse, he seems to spend his days locked in a small cage except for the singular occasion of his daily walk down the street which his owner seems begrudgingly committed to.

The mixture in this blessing comes from the shear amount of traffic that even remote residential areas like ours receive. The noodle man with his spoon rapped bottle, the mobile, motorcycle produce section with his bicycle horn, and especially the Walls Ice cream motorbike with it’s melody that never quite resolves on any satisfying note seem to provide the often fenced or caged dogs with an endless supply of stimuli to bark at and ward off.

The dogs I’ve seen on the loose perpetually and inexplicably have the look of having just won the lottery, or perhaps having just stolen the lottery check. You’ve seen it. It’s something like the Tramp from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” only less earnest. I don’t trust these dogs but I can’t deny that they seem to be having a good time. They eat garbage and serve no man.

Jane, a British teacher at our school, has a dog that came from the village. Yesterday she explained that as a result of his upbringing he only understands Indonesian. So, as she visited with us in our living room she would periodically shout words we don’t know at this dog as he trotted around our neatly swept tile floors. It wasn’t until he hiked his leg toward one of our indoor, regal pillars when she finally shouted “Jangan!” (Don’t!) that I started to believe her. Though I suspect that I could have shouted “Chimichanga!” in the same tone and it would have done the trick, and I was very nearly on the verge of trying.

“Bagi Yesus Semuanya.” A Personally Amplified voice piles its song into the night air. We sang the same words the second day we were here at church. I still don’t know exactly what it means but I have a vague idea that I could, were I to walk over and pick up the Indonesian- English Dictionary. Which brings me to my final point about dogs; if Jane is right about their linguistic limitations, then Manado really isn’t a bad place to be. Indonesian may be one of the most intuitive languages to learn (from my point of view), and as I was reminded tonight while we sat through the Mandarin Chinese News spot in order to get to the English one, there are much much harder languages for dogs, and people to learn.

So, hats off to dogs and friends and friends of dogs who have spent time and energy learning Chinese language and culture wherever you may be. Lately I’ve been quite happy here, learning how to communicate with and how to teach English (one of the more counter-intuitive languages) to Indonesians. It can be fun being the teacher.

Post Script
Those of you who are wondering right now whether I mean the British “quite” or the American “quite” have too much time on your hands and a special place in my heart.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I write as a nice Indonesian man in bright blue pants is installing our water heater. I am very excited about warm showers. Now if only our water consistently worked.

I think yesterday was our best day here so far. School went well. I kept the 15 students busy and interested enough that six-year-olds Jason and Albert (who happens to be quite fat) didn’t have time to hit, kick, or throw their chairs, as is their custom. In fact, I kept them so busy that while we were singing a song that involves a lot of moving, a cute little boy lost his snack.

The children want to please and want me to be able to speak their language. I have two assistants who are able to speak Indonesian. Once when both of them were out of the classroom a little girl kept saying something seemingly urgent to me. I couldn’t decipher what she wanted, so I looked outside to see if there was anyone who could help. The director of the school was walking by. I called her over and she translated for me. I had somehow skipped the little girl when I was passing out erasers and she wanted one. I was embarrassed, but such is par for the course.

We were invited to a lunch at the school yesterday via a memo. The memo said the lunch started at 12:15 and would be by the swimming pool. Matt and I arrived around 12:20, thinking that would be late enough. After the honored guests showed up at 1:15 and there were a few speeches, we ate. They had a meal of various grilled fish, rice and soups. Matt and I went first since we had to teach a class at 2:00. I had trouble getting any meat off of the any of the fish (fishes?). It seems that every time I stuck my fork in to get the flesh, it would find a hollow spot. I ate mostly rice.

We were sitting with a very enjoyable couple, Joie (Joy) and Brian. She is Filipino and he is from Manado. She just started teaching at the school this week and is helping me in my class. He predicted when we sat down at 12:20 or so that we would eat in an hour. He animatedly told of the worldview of the Indonesians as being an “enjoy life” mindset.

After school we came home to still warm freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (more chocolate chunk). Sonya, being the wonderful person she is, made a cookie jar full of cookies. We sat down and had cookies and milk. They tasted different than what we are used to, but so very good.

Both of the kids were here and were playing the run and giggle game. Matt had brought home a literature book to look through. It had lots of colorful pictures in it and Joshua and Stacia sat with me for a long time looking at the pictures. Joshua was amazed by a close-up picture of the moon. He is very quiet and attentive.

Sonya and the kids left and we got dressed to go to a wedding party. The pastor’s son from the church we had gone to on Sunday was to pick us up. We dressed in our nicest clothes and waited. He came and actually apologized for being late. I hadn’t been watching the time because by this time I have realized that a set time is actually a 2-hour window.

We arrived at the wedding party, with our white envelope with money in it. There were Christmas lights up everywhere and the immense building was decorated elaborately. We walked up to the door, where neon Styrofoam signs congratulated the bride and groom (we learned her name is Vicky).

As we entered, I saw a woman in an ivory colored strapless dress with a big puffy skirt. I assumed she was the bride until I saw four other girls dressed just like her. They were the bridesmaids. Behind them in the center of the entrance was a giant colored ice sculpture that had an M and a V connected by a heart.

We were escorted to our table, which happened to be at the very front of the room next to the bride and groom’s table. There were hundreds of people there, many of the women wearing dresses that included something that sparkled. As we sat down, we noticed that the Cassels were seated at the table next to us. I guess they have to keep the bule close to the front.

When I was telling Sonya about the wedding and musing over our place of honor, I told her that we must have been seated there because we were with Henry, who is a doctor and a friend of the groom, and also with his wife’s parents, the father being involved in the government somehow. Sonya laughed and said, “No, it’s because your skin is white.” I laughed with her and realized again what a crazy land we moved to.

The wedding was a mix of elegance and cheesiness. As the bride and groom descended the grand staircase at the back of the room, colored tissue paper confetti fell on them. The bride’s dress was beautiful, very much like wedding gowns in the states, only hers had a ring of pastel flowers seeming airbrushed around the skirt. There were several men with cameras, videoing the reception. They had assistants they held very bright lights on poles. There was a screen set up so everyone could see what was going on and would video the audience and show them on the screen. I was on the screen for what seemed like a very long time before they moved on. Scenes from the wedding ceremony were also shown on the screen, along with engagement photos and other photos generally framed in bright colors with English captions such as “Romance” and “Forever Love.”

A very nice meal was served, complete with chill coke in wine glasses. Some kind of energy drink was also available. I joked with Henry and his wife that it was to help people get through the mayor’s long speech. Henry said that the mayor’s (he called him the “major,” I think because y’s are pronounced like j’s sometimes) speech walked around a lot without getting anywhere.

I watched very carefully when filling my plate and when eating to make sure I was doing it right. The spoon goes in the right hand and the fork in the left. When you are finished you place your fork and spoon up side down on your plate in an X formation. The brown and green “pudding” is eaten with a smaller spoon and before the fruit in sauce, which is eaten with a new small spoon.

After we ate a choir came out and sang “From the Moment” and a song in Indonesian. The choir was amazing with good harmony and no accompaniment. After the bride changed into her pink gown (why? I don’t know) the choir sang part of Handel’s Messiah. They did a great job with it, but hearing the Halleluiah chorus at a wedding sends a number of messages. I think they were saying “Halleluiah, the mayor stopped talking.”

As the party ended, we were shoved into a tightly packed mob pushing and shoving for their turn to shake the bride and groom’s hands. I was wearing heals, making me taller than most of the people there. As I examined the tops of the heads around me, I realized how utterly out of place we looked. In my mind it was as if we were on Sesame Street and Big Bird started singing, “one of these things is not like the others.” It was a very strange feeling.

We got home after eleven, exhausted, but in a good way.