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.


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