Monday, May 31, 2004

We began teaching today. Our schedule has changed since the last the last time I wrote (surprise, surprise). Matt and I each have a class from 2-5 in the afternoon. All last week we prepared. I went to look for materials—crayons, pencils, glue sticks, etc.—one day and was rerouted to several people. Finally the director told me that she had placed a purchasing order for a long list of materials. She gave me the list and I incorporated various items off of it into my lessons. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with a kilo of beans, corn, and cotton; maybe a lesson on plantations? All was going well. Meetings were supposed to happen, materials were supposed to be delivered, and copies were to be made. None of this happened, but Matt and I had learned from our mistake of expecting people to do as they say and were not overly disappointed, frustrated, or confused. After all, the Filipino consulate was visiting on Thursday and the three hour kindergarten graduation was on Friday, when would we have time for meetings or obligations of any kind?

So when the director told me that she hadn’t actually placed the purchasing order, but would do so before this week, I was not surprised. When I was told that I would be able to start setting up the classroom on Friday then was not able to, I was okay. When the supplies were not purchased on Thursday, Friday, or over the weekend, I was still dealing with it in an appropriate and gracious manner. When I got to school this morning (late because our driver was about 30 minutes late) and the director told me to go over the list that she had given me and decide what I needed for today so someone could go into town to get them, I was calm and agreeable (they came about 30 minutes before the class was over for the day). When the copies I needed for today were not done, I changed the lessons with little complaint. But when I needed some card stock for flash cards that I was making this morning and I went up to request some, I became upset. I stood in front of the sign that said “Speak only English in here” and asked the non-English speaking secretary how I could get some card stock. There was some on her desk, but through a series of gestures and rewording I could not convince her to let me have some. She said I could place an order and someone would go into town for it. I eventually got some by going back into the office when someone who spoke more English was there. Supplies are guarded like Fort Knox here and can only be accessed through a long series of forms—kind of a hassle to go through for a pencil.

The only other frustration came around 12:20, when Matt and I had just finished lunch and were about to force our way into the classrooms to set up. We were walking back to our office to gather our things to take to the classroom when we were approached with a memo. Matt remarked, “Great, I love these memos!” I was just as enthusiastic until I saw that it was announcing a “program” for the kickoff of the PEC (preparatory English Course) at 1:00. That would give us 40 minutes to set up our classrooms. Luckily we are in Indonesia and things always start late. The program started at 1:30 or so. By this time I had all the decorations I had made hanging on the walls and most of the things set up like I wanted.

I had 16 kids in my class this afternoon. The youngest was 3, the oldest 9. A little boy named Joshua instantly became a favorite, as he is very bright and cute. We read The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss and they were to draw a picture of something with feet. I went around to the different tables and asked in Indonesian what they were drawing and sometimes could tell them the English word. A little girl named Amelia drew an Indonesian flag with someone standing next to it. I asked her what it was and she stated in clear English, “flag” and “the teacher.” For the first time I felt like maybe we belong here. Seeing a drawing of myself under the Indonesian flag was an interesting mixture of emotions, mostly nice ones.


Matt and I are celebrating our one-year anniversary today by…well, working for ten hours. We decided to gift ourselves with a water heater for our shower. We were going to get it last weekend, but they were out of stock. Hopefully we will soon have warm showers.

I cleaned a chandelier yesterday. What odd things life throws into our houses.

Speaking of things being thrown into houses…it poured down rain today. We had heard from other people that our roof leaked but had failed to see any evidence of it until today. Our helper told us that we needed to keep a towel in the doorway between the back room and the kitchen. She explained that during the downpour today our house flooded. The water came in through the roof in the back room and filled the kitchen. All of the floors in the house are tile, so no damage was done there. Tomorrow we will talk to someone about getting it fixed.

There are termites eating away our cabinets. Luckily, our walls are all concrete.

We bought several things for our house last weekend. I got a toaster oven, Matt got speakers and we bought lamps. I was really excited about having the oven since there is no real oven here. Now if I could only find some brown sugar I could make chocolate chip cookies.

We bought dictionaries, one English to Indonesian and one Indonesian to English. They help a lot in grocery shopping. Matt used them this evening to translate his new comic book called "Kung Fu Boy."

We bought an Indonesian Bible yesterday. Now we can fit in when we go to church.

Wednesday we will attend a wedding party. I think the groom’s name is Michael. They are people that were at the church we went to on Sunday. Because our skin is white, everyone wants us around.

People come up to us often to “practice their English.” Only two have talked to us for any length of time. You know the conversation is not ending soon when they start asking your opinion of political issues or how many prepositions can be in a sentence. Generally they ask for our phone number. We offer our e-mail address instead.

I think that is all the tidbits of information that I have for now. Please do not give up on a well-composed post. One will come soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

We sit in our office at Manado International School on a Wednesday, poring over books and planning for our first week of teaching. Our first assignment is to teach what is called a Preparatory English Class for incoming students. The class is three hours a day for four weeks. We will each teach a three-hour morning session and a three-hour afternoon session (different levels of students in each class). Matt will be working with 7-12th graders, while I am with the never-been-to-school-before through fifth grade. Matt was given four books to combine and use for lessons. I was given a schedule of what the elementary teacher did last year. We have both been working very hard on lesson plans that are easily adaptable, so we can meet the kids at their English level.

One of the main goals of this class, according to the memo we received, is to “asses” the students. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds an awful lot like a scene from Pinocchio.

So far the school has been great to give us just enough information to confuse us completely. One thing may be decided in a meeting, so we act on how we understand that decision, only to get a memo or some other form of information later that contradicts what we thought was decided. The meetings are abundant, formal, and useless—unless the use is to confuse.

If you can’t tell, we are a bit frustrated with and confused by our employers. Getting a straight answer is impossible, rumors are abundant, and information is seemingly senselessly withheld. We are trying to understand the culture, trying to understand how the school works, and trying desperately to figure out how we fit in.

Many of you have asked what you could send or what we need. We need books. I brought twenty or so children’s books with me, and I have more than the school’s library. The problem with books is that they are generally heavy, thus making them expensive to ship (I have priced shipping on and it is about $7 plus $5 per book, which adds up fast, hopefully UPS, FedEx or USPS will be less expensive). If any of you have children’s books that your kids have outgrown, or anything that would be appropriate for a student (K-12) it would be of most help. Reference books (i.e. picture dictionaries, non-fiction books on different subjects) would be a great help as well. Christian-themed books are acceptable since this is a Christian school.

Also, Matt and I read a lot, so much that in the two and a half weeks that we have been here, I have gone through most of the books that I brought with us (we brought books other than children’s). Although, I just started The Pickwick Papers—seven hundred pages of Dickens should last a while. English books are very hard to find here. I have only found one—a book of Indonesian short stories, which was interesting.

We would very much appreciate any books that were sent (except for anything from the Left Behind series), especially a new historical fiction novel by two of our former professors (Dr. Daniel Hays and Dr. Marvin Pate, the book is called “Apocalypse”).

We are still experiencing culture shock and most likely will be for quite some time. Last night we were invited over to our neighbors’ house for cake. When we got there, dinner was on the table. We had left our new helper at our house starting dinner for us, telling her we would be back in a few minutes to help her cook. We got back over an hour later and apologized profusely to Sonya, feeling awful for not being able to foresee that we would be served dinner and would be gone much longer than we expected without a polite escape.

Having someone cleaning and cooking for us is a major adjustment. It is very nice to come home to such a clean house with everything in order, but I find myself never really knowing what I should do to help, if anything. We are at school for nine hours a day, five days a week, which makes having someone to help us very nice. In fact, working and wearing clean clothes would be almost impossible to do here without help. It is just a very strange feeling to walk into your house and see someone ironing your underwear.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

J and Victory

Friday we went on a field trip. We accompanied the Middle school classes (along with their homeroom teachers and other school staff) to the nearby town of Bitung (on the other side of the peninsula from Manado for you orienteers out there). We visited the Bimoli Coconut oil production facility where the managers of the plant struggled to describe their work in English to students who struggled to decode it. We toured the plant and I learned that vast piles of drying coconut meat smell an awful lot like turkey houses in need of new litter.

On the way there a girl who we think is named Rachel and has the kind of raspy voice that aught to belong to a chain smoker but comes off really charming in a 12 year old kept us supplied with music via hip-hop mix-tapes of her own selection including but not limited to “Jump Around,” and a single by Missy Elliot (who should be in Jakarta performing this month). Much of the music blasted on the bus stereo was extremely sexually explicit. I was a bit shocked at this being allowed by our conservative (Seventh Day Adventist) staff who, at least ostensibly, is trying to help these wealthy, young kids to become “good Christian people.” I remember being offended to see Ms. Elliot performing her song, which is entirely about her sexual exploits with her male friends, with a chorus of pre-pubescent school children on stage with her, singing along on the MTV music awards. I was beginning to wonder if anyone was listening when it occurred to me that Melody and I were the only ones on the bus capable of understanding most American rap music (a skill I’ve had to cultivate). I asked Rachel if she could understand what they were saying. She smiled and said “very little.” I told her I would translate it for her sometime.

Our next stop was the Zoo. It’s a private collection of animals not funded by the government which served as sort of a disclaimer for the generally shabby appearance of the place and its animals. About half had small cages, and those who didn’t were tethered to a tree or post. Zoo’s, somewhat like bad nursing homes, are almost always sad just because of their distinct manifestation of the concept of captivity. We saw Tarsiers (the smallest monkey, also a native of Sulawesi), the sort of monkey-bear called Cuscus, and dozens of different birds (see the new posts on the .Mac Photo Page linked at the right).

We generally hide behind fans and under roofs during the times when the sun is directly overhead but today we were out and about and feeling what it means to live on the equator. I saw melody heading over a hill just past a tree-tethered ape and decided to follow. Over the hill I saw several thatched roofs, an old abandoned boat on the beach and a massive sprawling tree with 2-foot thick branches that seemed like they weren’t sure which direction to grow. The school kids sat on logs and asked Mr. Joy, how to spell various animal anatomies. I wandered around the beach and found shade under another spreading tree and watched as a dirty little girl with short hair climbed into a boat with the name “Galatia” on it. Anywhere other than Northern Sulwesi I would be intrigued by the biblical allusion. But here religious phrases litter the streets and buses, paper the walls and provide blessings for everything from food-carts to luxury cars.

A bit later her sister joined her in the boat. In the mean time I found a large marble jammed into a knot in my shade tree, I suspect by these little girls’ hands. They both remained hidden in the safety of “Galatia,” peering through its portholes at these loud, uniformed kids who had invaded their front yard (which happened to be adjoined to the ocean). I walked over and held up my camera asking “Okay?” I always feel ambivalent about taking photos of residents of places I visit for a thousand reasons (the distance it can create, the transformation of them into a spectacle or an object to be collected rather than a person), but these girls were just so captivating. After each shot I turned my camera around to show them the digital image on the screen I had made of them. With each shot the older sister seemed more delighted, while the younger one still seemed uncertain. It wasn’t until I took the closest shot that I noticed she had a razorblade in her hand.

Later they emerged from the boat and I asked them what their names were in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian). The younger didn’t respond but the older quietly stated her name (it began with a J though I can’t remember it for the life of me), and then introduced her sister as “Veektree.” Victory was missing one of her flip flops so I asked her as where it was but it came out something like “where foot your?” J translated it for her sister who probably only speaks the local dialect. We drew pictures in the sand until Melody came over and with her a gaggle of middle school girls. Rachel informed us in English that she thought that this girl was very very poor and that she probably didn’t know anything about school or learning. “I know,” I responded, somewhat annoyed that such an observation needed to voiced, though I suppose its truth would render it less offensive (or comprehensible) to J and little Victory. “They live here and they have nothing,” said the girl with a backpack full of snacks, and a thoroughly customized cell phone she would later misplace in my bus seat.

Melody later asked sarcastically if the houses and their residents were part of the owner’s collection implying the similarity between the poor conditions in which they all live. Walking back over the hill, we cringed as some of the older boys ran up to the two little girls, surrounded them and spoke loudly, pointing. We don’t know what they said or in what language they said it.

We ate lunch at another nearby beachfront where more people have shacks and a little brown boy was running around without clothes inspiring more laughing and pointing which is to be expected from middle-schoolers in any culture. The stray dogs ate well on the scraps they scrounged from us.

On the way home I was getting really annoyed with the kids who would shout “Mem, mem, mem!” five times before Mam Sharon (an Indonesian teacher who was accompanying her homeroom class) could even have a chance to respond. It’s clear that these kids are accustomed to demanding what they want from adults. This is probably because many of them are being raised by their parents’ servants. I remarked to Sharon later that I was impressed with her patience with the demanding kids. She responded that even though they are rich and spoiled they still need our attention. Just as I was trying to communicate to Rachel that even though those two girls were poor and uneducated they still need our attention.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The phone rang this morning (Tuesday) a little before eight. We were both still in bed, half asleep. Last week Jenny had told Matt something to the effect of us using this week to set up our house. That was a great relief to us, since we still had not totally unpacked. We have two weeks before we actually start teaching, so it made a lot of sense for us to spend some time making our house comfortable. Yesterday a driver came to pick us up for school at 7:30. Matt sent him back to school, explaining that we did not need to be there this week. Apparently we were wrong.

The phone call confused and frustrated me. It was Jenny, the director of the school. She said that there was a driver outside waiting on us. Matt looked outside and saw that there was. In ten minutes I was out of bed, dressed and ready (more or less) to go. We did not know why they wanted us at school. The classes we would be teaching did not start for two weeks and the materials that we would need to prepare for teaching were not available yet. I was grumbling as I went from sleep to wake to out the door to a situation that I didn’t understand.

When we arrived at school, I was embarrassed and frustrated. What we understood and what was intended was different. I didn’t want us to appear as slackers before we even started. We apologized as best we could and tried to explain how we misunderstood.

They had fixed a cubicle in an office space for us: two desks, four chairs, a bookshelf, and a computer desk. They supplied us each with a pencil, a pen, two highlighters, a ruler, a stapler, and a pencil sharpener and white-out pen to share.

All day I worked on adjusting my attitude. Mornings are the hardest time for me to be flexible. Being awoken and told that we were to leave at that minute (without a much needed shower) to go sit in an office with nothing to do was a really frustrating way to start the day.

Two things needed in order to live abroad are a sense of humor and the ability to be flexible. (In the words of Dr. Terry Carter, “Our word for the day is: be flexible.”) Today I had neither.

We got two memos today. One was telling us that beginning yesterday we would be picked up at 7:30 for school (it would have been nice to get that one last week!). The other announced a program where Matt and I would be welcomed. The program would begin at 4:30, which was the time when we were supposed to be going home. I asked Jane, a teacher from England, what the program would entail and if it was normal. She said she didn’t know, but she didn’t get a welcoming program.

Last night another British teacher named Graham informed us that the administration was not always on top of informing the ex-pats when their bills were due. He didn’t know his electricity was due until he got home one day and had no power. So today, we went by the office and inquired as to if there were any bills we would need to pay this month and when they would be due. The phone bill is due tomorrow and we owe 38,000 rupiah (less than $4).

That presented a problem. Neither of us have ever managed much money in cash. We are accustomed to using our debit cards for everything or paying bills on-line. I could tell you almost to the cent how much money I had in my checking account, but would have no clue as to how much cash was in my pocket. So last night when we went shopping for household supplies, we didn’t keep good track of how much cash we had and thus spent all but about 30,000 rupiah. We tried to get some money out of the ATM, but couldn’t find one that worked last night.

So, while I was trying very hard to have a sense of humor and be flexible, we were trying to think of a place to get some money changed so we could pay all four dollars of our phone bill. We were talking through some of this with Jane, explaining that we wouldn’t have this problem if the school would just go ahead and reimburse us for our travel expenses and the English curriculum we bought. Jane said something that was not encouraging and, on the verge of tears, I asked for something positive. She said, “Well, there is a lovely peaceful volcano over there.” We both looked up at it at the same time. It was completely hidden by a cloud. So we laughed and life felt better.

The program went well, I guess. The headmaster of the school said a few things then asked us to say something. They had a microphone set up even though we were in a small room with less than twenty people there. I think the motto here is “If we can make it louder, we will.” After the short talks, we were to eat, which was great because I was very hungry and we still don’t have much food here at the house. They asked Matt and I to go first. As kind of a gesture as that is, it was very frustrating because I like to watch how the people in front of me prepare their plates and follow in suite. Instead of watching, we asked Jenny, who was right behind us, what was the proper way to prepare a bowl of this type of food was. She is very gracious.

Over half way through the meal, I finally got up the courage to ask the nice teacher sitting next to me what the meat in the broth was (it looked like cut up pieces of hot dog and tasted bland). She told me that it was mock meat; the other pot had chicken. Many people here are Seventh Day Adventist, which sometimes translates into meaning they are vegetarians.

How can a day that ends with mock meat be all bad?


Monday, May 17, 2004

“Bule!” We hear this at least a hundred times when we go anywhere. This is the Indonesian word for white skin (pronounced boo-lay). Another “bule” told us that it literally means “beautiful skin.” Pregnant women have come up to her and to touch her skin, hoping that their baby would be born with the same “beautiful skin.” When we were shopping last night we saw various creams and lotions labeled “skin whitening” or “skin bleach.” The first day we went to the school a lady on staff was telling us about the students’ reactions to us. She said that they thought we were friendly and that Matt was handsome and I was beautiful, “like Adam and Eve.” (When will people drawing Bible stories stop using only Western ethnic traits for their characters?)

This really seems to be a grass-is-greener thing. You can tell when summer is coming in the States by all the tanning advertisements—tanning beds, tanning lotions, tanning sprays, etc. Hmm.

This morning we got up and cleaned. We cleaned the kitchen cabinets with bleach and water. We scrubbed the counters. Matt washed all of the dishes and I ironed and mended clothes (our washing machine is destructive). We did some laundry, which is quite a chore. I’m getting nice biceps from lifting buckets of water to pour into the washer. After working until about noon, we decided to shower. I have learned to appreciate the cold shower. We actually set a huge pot of water on to boil to add to the tank of water (called bak mandi) so we could have warm water to rinse with. It didn’t get used much at all. The cold water felt so much better.

Which brings me to my next point: it’s hot. Somehow people here can wear jeans and long sleeve shirts. This amazes me. I don’t understand how people can live within a rock’s throw of the equator and not own a tank top or a pair of shorts. I understand the more conservative culture. I understand the Muslim influence that says “if we cover the girls the boys won’t lust and thus will be saved from hell.” I just don’t understand how more people don’t just fall over from heat stroke. I guess it’s what you’re used to. And the cold showers do help.


Friday, May 14, 2004

Hello loyal readers (and I think you know who you are).

First, by popular demand: our mailing address:

Matt and Melody Lumpkin
Manado International School
Jl. Walanda Maramis,
Kolongan 95371
P.O. Box 1627,
Manado 95016
Sulawesi Utara, INDONESIA

Second, instructions/warnings: it’s incredibly expensive to ship things here (must be something about being on an island in the middle of the pacific) and we have not been here long enough to know exactly what we need, yet. However, we deeply appreciate the outpouring of generous offers to supply us with things. Also, if you do decide to send something of your own volition, other ex-patriots (people living out away from their home country) have noticed that packages whose contents had been creatively listed for customs were more likely to arrive intact. For example: if you were sending Sweedish fish you would want to list that as a “vitamin supplement” instead of “delicious sweet sweet candy.” The bigger the words the less likely the customs official is to know it in english. It’s not that big of a deal but packages that don’t look or sound (by way of listed contents) interesting, valuable, or tasty tend to reach their destinations unmolested.

Also, feel free to call us from the states at 62 (431) 812 512 (but bear in mind the 13 hour time difference.

In other news: check our .Mac homepage for a new section with photos of our house and school. Check back later for actual photos of real Asian students complete with cute little uniforms and ties!

We’re slowly tieing down bits of our lives that seemed to all come apart around us when we arrived as we learn how to live here. I now know where to buy towels and other things you just assume you have. I now think I could get into town on my own without having to wait for a car and driver from the school. Thanks to the help of many people, especially Mr. Graham, a British teacher from Manado International School who took me ‘round last night and allowed me the benefit of his some 3 years of experience living in Indonesia.

Tonight I walked to the local “warung” or little roadside, neighborhood store that is more like a walk-in closet to get some soft-drinks and verbally greeted the stares of my fellow evening-strollers with “selamat sore” /good afternoon. One passerby asked if he could come over and talk about some things (everyone wants to practice their English).

When I got back, Edward, my neighbor who just moved here from Jakarta (the capital and I think the 2nd most populous city on the planet) stopped me in front of his gate. We proceeded to chat for about an hour until the sun went down and Melody went looking for me. He had a lot to say about live in the city versus the country and about the upcoming elections. Edward thinks Indonesians are getting all worked up over the upcoming presidential election and that they have every right to. For thirty years under Sohartou no one could really say what they thought politically. Even after his regime fell in 1999, the major parties still controlled a lot of the votes with threats of retribution, firing or literally buying voters. But this is the first direct election ever in Indonesia and the people, as Edward put it, “like in America in 1700’s, people are excited to vote, voting means something, it means that all that they had to keep down inside them before, now it can come out… and you see people talking at their gate, on the street, talking politics because it actually matters this time.” For the first time since I’ve arrived, I really felt like I understood and was understood almost fully by an Indonesian. It was nice.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

We have been working on getting our internet connection to work since we got here on Saturday. After many consultations with various people (or orang-orang) we learned that the problem had something to do with the phone company. We were told to contact them about the problem. We arranged for a very kind fellow to do this for us and after several phone calls, the problem (whatever it was) is solved.

Even though we had both done quit a bit of reading about Indonesia and had spent time talking to former missionaries that had lived there for several years, we were still overwhelmed when we arrived here. We were able to get a small hotel room in the Singapore airport so we could sleep for most of our nine-hour layover and take our last warm shower for a while. When we reached the airport, I realized we were flying into a seemingly randomly placed asphalt strip in the midst of a jungle. The airstrip was lined on one side with coconut trees and on the other houses with thatched roofs. The airport is about the same size as Little Rock’s, maybe smaller.

As we were going through the immigration line, we were called back into a small office of an Indonesian officer of some sort. He pointed at a single chair and said, “Sit.” I sat. I had heard of people being held up in the offices for years or at least hours. He took our passports, examined our visas and started writing on them. Matt tried to ask him what he was doing, but his English was less than good, so we were left wondering what was happening and why. Eventually he communicated that we needed to visit the immigration office within seven days. We hoped that the school director would know what it all meant.

She did. The director is a very nice woman named Jenny Wuysang. She met us at the airport along with her husband, Dr. Tommy (he is a cardiologist) and their high school daughter. They took us to the school, which is amazing. We will post some pictures of it soon. Then they took us to our house, which is…interesting. It is much more than we expected. It came furnished with a western toilet (which unfortunately is the most comfortable seat in the house), a telephone, a washing machine, an A.C. in our bedroom, and a (cold) shower. The shower wouldn’t seem so cold, except the bathroom is connected to our bedroom, which is air-conditioned.

Our house is full of surprises and things we just don’t know what to do with. I made a dress for. Matt calls the naked woman in the tile above our randomly placed sink “Our Lady of the Sink” and I made a dress to cover her. We have a gecko in the bathroom named Forum, since he was first spotted around 4am. Geckos are amazing little critters. We opened a box that we had brought with us and this little gecko jumped sideways several inches and ran away quick as anything. We also have this room that looks like a stage. It is raised about six or eight inches above the floor and has an arched entryway. The room is about six or seven feet square and is painted green to match the maroon tile. We will post a picture of this small space and would greatly appreciate any insight any of you might have into what it might be for.

The main colors in our house are pink (walls), red (furniture), and maroon (accents). The curtains are green with yellow accents. We have a lovely garden in the front where there are large snails and geckos play in the evenings.

Our daily lives consist of the nigh-constant question, “How do we…” or “What could I use for…”. For example, our kitchen came stocked with several amber plates, glasses, spoons, forks (knives aren’t a common table item here), a skillet, and four big pots (the smallest is eight quarts). Jenny took us to the new Mega-Mall when we first got here so we could buy some groceries. She first took us to the food court for some fish chips (not fish and chips, but fish flavored “chips”) and gentle foods for our travel worn stomachs. We bought a few foods, including bread and Laughing Cow spready cheese. When we went to eat it, we realized that we had no idea how clean the utensils where and we had no dish soap. Even if we had soap, we knew the water was not safe to drink and thus were unsure if it was safe to wash dishes in. Eventually I thought of the hand sanitizer that we had brought with us. We used sheets of paper for plates and cleaned enough silverware to spread the cheese and jam. Later, after we got our gas connected to our two-burner range (we have no oven), I was cooking some Ramen noodles (thanks jdf) in an eight quart pot and realized we had no pot holders. Matt, the genius he is, thought of socks, which worked great.

We went to church on Sunday at a church full of wonderful people who shake hands limply. They insisted on doing their best to translate Sunday school and the sermon into English for us, which we were grateful. The person translating the sermon for us happened to be the adult son of the pastor. He would translate a couple of sentences then say “Now he’s just reviewing.” There was a beautiful little girl asleep in the hard wooden pew in front of us. When the service was almost over, I felt Matt nudging my feet with his. I thought, “how sweet, he’s playing footsy.” Actually he was moving his feet and mine away from the growing puddle of urine from the little girl.

The school is nearing the end of the semester here. Soon they will start what is called the “Preparatory English Class” for new students who are enrolling. Until that starts, Matt and I don’t have much to do (except learn how to live here, which is quite a chore). The school was founded by a wealthy man who after surviving a brain tumor, decided to start a foundation. The foundation funds the school, which is only one or two years old. The goal is for the school to bring in a profit that will be used to start a kind of technical school to teach job skills to people in the community free of charge.

We both spent Monday and Tuesday at the school being stared at by the younger students. Matt went back on Wednesday and today (Thursday). He spoke in chapel on Wednesday and showed a fairly hastily put together slide show of pictures we had on hand. I spent most of Wednesday in bed and in the bathroom. Today was about the same, except I got up just in time to see the end of Oprah. According to our “Healthy travel in India and Asia” book this is a normal bacterial problem that is cured with rest, re-hydration, and time. It hasn’t been that uncomfortable; especially since Matt’s brother Andrew let us borrow his Game Boy. It has made the long hours of not feeling like doing anything much more bearable.

Everything is so different here, even more so than I expected. We are constantly feeling overwhelmed by simple things. It seems that we are oscillating between laughing and crying. I was feeling really alone on Tuesday, so we walked to the store that is close to our house. We just wanted some salt, pepper, and butter. They had salt. It came in a bag. On our way back, I heard someone calling my name. When we turned and looked, it was Joanne, one of the students from the school. We met her mom who invited us in. They had lived in America for 14 years before moving back to Manado. Sophie, the mother, is having a hard time adjusting and feels lonely too. She offered her friendship and any help that she could offer. It was a nice bit of encouragement.

For all of you who are praying for us, thank you and please don’t stop. Little things keep “just working out.” Nothing unbearable has happened and our first five days here have been more or less pleasant. We are lonely, but now we have internet and can feel connected again.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

For those of you checking our blog, congrats! You will be among the first to know what is going on in our lives. Now that both of you who are reading this know that, I will continue on with the update.

Matt and I found out last week that there was a possibility for us to leave this week. Our visas came, which meant if all the information on them was correct, we could leave. Most of the information on them was correct. The only problem was it was not the kind of visa we had applied for. We are going anyway. When we get to Manado, the school will sort it out.

That brings me to my next point. Early tomorrow morning, before the roosters crow, we will be on our way to the airport in Little Rock to begin our 40+ hour journey. We will fly from Little Rock to Dallas to San Francisco to Singapore to Manado.

The next glitch in our plan came when we received an e-mail from the hotel in the Singapore airport where we have a nine hour layover. We had requested a reservation in one of their nice rooms, but alas, there was no room in the inn. We contacted our ever-patient travel agent to see if there were other options and eventually (after much research) decided to sleep in the airport like all good travellers. There are armed guards in Singapore's airport, ready to protect the innocent sleeper.

So tomorrow morning, on the national day of prayer, we will begin our journey to the other side of the world. We hope that the glitches are few, but those generally just add to the adventure.