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.