December 28, 2011

Christmas Break - 1st Venture out of Town (Part II)

A week or so ago Simon and I ventured out on the scooter for a kind of "let's see what's out there, but not too far...and let's not get lost" experience. So we headed up one road out of town that seemed to mostly go up. From what I have figured out, if we continued on it we would have got to a town called Kopang, which is kind of on the side of a mountain (maybe Mt. Merbabu, the closest volcano to Salatiga). I was kind of looking for a nice scenic view, but it was pretty overcast and we were running a bit low on fuel, so we turned around before reaching any sort of destination. I grabbed a few pic's when we stopped for a snack Amy had packed for Si.

You can kind of see this truck blowing some black smoke as he trudges up the hill. Maybe not a candidate for "Air-Care," (a reference for all you BC lower mainlander's). I wish I had a shot of all the 2 stroke engines in Jakarta pushing black and blue smoke out and up into the atmosphere...a site worthy to cause any of you who own a hybrid to be filled with both indignation and maybe a little futility. But hey, don't let me put a damper on your efforts, spend a little extra for that high efficiency washer & dryer! Come to think of it, over here you don't even have dryers. I guess Indonesia is super eco friendly! I also hope to get some pictures of "scooter-pooling", it's like carpooling but instead you throw the whole family on the scooter...helmets optional for kids :)

Where you wouldn't expect it, we stumbled on a Hindu Temple of sort. The sign in front didn't say too much about history or anything from what I could tell. I was kind of surprised it was Hindu and not Buddhist, but there is a minority of both religions here in Java, both pre-dating the arrival of Isl*m and Christianity. Although, maybe the historical aspect makes it seem a little more noticeable. Check out the rather interesting symbol on the front gate...enough to give a westerner like myself a double take! I read that this particular symbol has been a commonly used symbol in a few different Indian religions since way back. It is interesting to think of the multiple historical outside influences to this area include India, Europe, and the Middle East.

December 27, 2011

Christmas Break - In Photos (Part I)

Ah yes, Christmas has come and gone! For us it has been a different experience, that's for sure. I have yet to see a single giant blow-up Santa in anyone's yard, waving at random passers-by, or any of those weird mechanical - electric rain deer. Although not near as pronounced as North America, you can tell it's the Christmas Season here in Central Java, but you don't really see much of Santa. What a shame, but after seeing him a few times at the annual Barden Xmas Party, I can imagine that big ol' red suit gets hot and itchy near the equator. Yes, our kids still kind of believe in Santa (what horrible parents we are), although I think secretly Luke is somewhat confused about the details of how it logistically all works just one short night. Plus, no one in his class believes in Santa! At least you can still call it Christmas here as it won't loose you votes to 'believe' in an 'organized religion'. In fact, it is common here when filling out government forms to have to write your religion...Christian, M*slim, Buddhist, etc. There's no "none of the above" box to tick off either.

 What we did do for Christmas was wear sandals and summer clothing. And, our neighbour did shoot off some fireworks, I hear that's a standard procedure for holidays in Indonesia. We also walked to a pretty nice local restaurant and ate out (yes, we ate out on Christmas Day), it was quite lovely! I had a fried noodles (Mei Goreng) dish that just about burnt me a new esophogus. Amy had a specialty fried rice dish, she gave it two thumbs up. The kids...I can't remember what they ate. To top it off, we barely got rained on! Speaking of rain I should mention the lovely brunch get-together we had with the other MAF families on Christmas eve. It was awesome, but it sure did rain! I rode the scooter all 3 blocks home and just about drowned.

So, being that it came so quickly after we arrived, Christmas was different! But being together  as a family is an awesome way to celebrate the birth of Christ, no matter where you are.

Last week Luke had his last day of school until the new year. And after Luke's Christmas play, we were treated to a tour of his school room! Here's Luke showing us his school desk and also showing little brother (below) just how cool and sophisticated Grade One is...Especially when it comes to producing top notch Christmas decorations for the whole family.

 Luke and his school buddy Daniel eating up some delicious cookies, and just generally looking cool.

And Charlotte looking cute. She is very mobile now and we now just entered another "barricade" stage in our lives...That being where we use whatever is available to prevent Charlotte from crawling out the door, eating electrical cables (since she has two new teeth she might break through the insulation), gnawing on Christmas ornaments, etc. In our case, that means half full rubbermaid bins around the Christmas tree & turned over chairs.

A few pic's of the kids opening presents.

Yes, the boys are in their underpants...It's not exactly 'Canadian Cool' in the evenings here, and the excitement of Christmas morning resulted in the whole getting dressed process to be deleted from their busy present opening schedule.

December 21, 2011

Christmas Ad-Lib

Now that our family has entered a Christmas break from school, we're totally excited just "to be". we hope to do a few low key fun outings with the family to see some of what our new country has to offer, and also just to have fun! Hopefully, a few pictures will follow. I'm legal now to ride our scooter, as I officially have a "surat izin mengemudi" (driver's license) for a scooter (a car license is a separate license altogether). And yes, I google translated the above to make sure I was writing the Indonesian the right way :)  We know more Indonesian than when we arrived, but so far that's about it!

We didn't know quite what to expect regards to getting our hands on some of that "Christmas" stuff...the stuff that  back in Canada sits in boxes and bins in the basement for 11 months out of the year. But, on short notice - with a little help from our friends...but not Ringo, Paul, George, & John - we were able to get a Christmas tree! 

Since Salatiga doesn't have douglas fir tree farms in close proximity, we didn't run down to the local Superstore and spend $28.95 for that wholesome natural genetically modified look. And we certainly didn't go frolicking in the snow full of Christmas spirit looking for that perfect tree with evenly spaced branches. Instead, we got a "does not require water" type of tree that came in a box. Furthermore, the branches go wherever you want to put them! Thanks (again) to some MAF friends it also has some pretty blinking lights on it. Of course, I don't really have any full-on shots of it still needs some love. Lets just say Amy's standards to what is an "acceptable" Christmas tree differ slightly to my own preconceived Xmas expectations. But, I'm sure our whole family will enjoy it...purdy or not!  That said, we just put on some decorations Luke made at school and it really helped with tree character.

Charlotte does love it though, especially since she's now able to generally make her walker go where she wants it to go (not necessarily what her parents like). Those few decorations sure look tasty!

Simon and Luke did a little cookie decoration last night, the best part obviously being the taste testing...

The cookie burglar is on the prowl!

Not bad Luke & Si!

Luke and Si goofing with some neighbour kids. I think the neighbour kids were mostly laughing at Simon, as he was putting on a show.

Since we're well into 'rainy' season, almost everyday you get at least some rain, usually in the afternoon...but sometimes it rains just whenever and for quite awhile. The rain does cool down the temperature (which is very nice since we don't have AC anywhere in the house yet), but I'm sure you can imagine what lots of rain does to the humidity. Most things are damp most of the time...which is another good reason for AC as in at least one room you can kind of control the humidity and thus protect important items from rust and mould. 

December 20, 2011

I will uphold you...

"Fear not for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous hand."
Isaiah 41:10

Our family would like to thank each and every one of you who have prayed for us in the last few weeks, whether for MAF's ministry here, or giving us scripture, or prayers for specific needs we've had. We've felt at times as if we've spiritually relied completely on you guys - the people and body of Christ - to be our stability and foundation, our strength...because at times we've felt like we had very little of that ourselves. We are truly blessed!

December 15, 2011

News & Wheels...

Yesterday we were able to purchase a scooter So to all those who gave so generously to our scooter fund right before we left, here it is...                        (Thank you so much! )

Here is Luke after getting his first ride home from school, and looking cool as possible. This is a Suzuki Skywave, and at a whopping 125cc's, it is one of the bigger "sepeda motors" to roam the streets of Salatiga. Actually, I've been told that a disproportionate number of Skywave's are owned by white folk around here. For one reason or another, the expatriate crowd want or need that bigger seat and extra horsepower. Go figure :)  Too many Big Mac's and not enough 'nasi' (nasi = rice). For us, it means I can take both Helena & Simon to pre - school in about 2 minutes, and be at our language school in another 4. Once we get more settled, we might look at scooter shopping for Amy.

Only Two Photos!?
Photos on our blog have been a bit scarce as of late. Part of this is just due to how busy our family has been, but also partly for another reason. A little background: Just before we left Canada we decided to purchase a 2nd laptop computer. This was mainly to be a backup to our 1st laptop as we weren't sure how easy it would be to replace a computer during our 3.5 year stretch overseas.

Well...last Sunday night our new computer grew legs and left the front room of our house for good - all the while Amy and the kids were in a nearby room. At the time, I was out playing basketball at the international school. Although it was a new computer (that I loved), it was just a computer. The obviously more troubling aspect for our family is that someone would be gutsy enough to walk into our home when someone was home.

That said, this type of occurrence is quite rare here. Crime exists everywhere, even Canada (and all of you who had recently had something stolen can attest to that), and in country that imposes the death penalty for things such as drug trafficking, crime is generally kept in check. The MAF community here was (and is) very supportive in helping us go through all the proper process after something like this...who to call, what to do, who to notify, etc. When you're new to a country, you don't have a clue. We had about 12 Indonesian 'polisi' folks in our home at one time, and I got to spend 3  hours (with my very lucky friend Dan Geaslen who translated all night) in an Indonesian police station.

We've found out that many other families in the area that have been taking no more security measures than we were, but just never had a problem. That said, obviously there is a lot we will be doing to prevent something like this happening again, and also allowing our family to feel safe in our home. Related to this, it has been interesting how the neighbourhood has responded to our home invasion, as Javanese culture is quite different than what we know of Canada. 

First off, everyone in our neighbourhood knew right away about what happened. Sunday night happened to be the same night the 'men only neighbourhood meeting' was taking place (something I at some point would like to attend). Our Pak RT (Pak = Mr. or Sir, RT = neighbourhood leader...When we first moved into the neighbourhood we had to bring our Pak Irti copies of our visas, Indonesian police reports, and passports) was notified right away what had happened, as it is culturally best to notify your neighbourhood leader before even notifying the police. At the meeting everyone found out what happened, and having your neighbourhood on the watch may be the most effective crime deterrent there is. I've been told that if a crime was committed and the neighbourhood caught the person, sometimes the police are not involved and 'justice' is served in whatever way they deem appropriate. Definitely not Canada! Amy and I are hoping that out of this we can strike up a bit of a relationship with some of our neighbours.

We have a lot to be thankful for! I personally am so thankful to God that Amy and the kids never heard or saw anything - as an actual encounter with someone with the intent of stealing could be a bad situation. With me not at home, it is not something I like to think about. We're thankful to God that we had two computers, and now still have one that works just fine (just slower and older). I'm thankful to God that I hid my camera bag before going out, I don't know how I would replace it over here.

Just Sunday morning Amy and I had read Luke 12 at church:

"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."    Luke 12:4 to 7

How appropriate.

 (Charlotte passed out in her walker - not worrying!)

December 9, 2011

Crawlies & Down Right Creepies!

Ah yes, we are slowly getting a little more used to all the new forms of life they have here that they don't have back in Canada. Like many other areas of the world in tropical zones, you have little gecko lizards both around and in your house. They are generally a good thing since they eat bugs.

This little baby one freaked Amy out when it ran passed her hand while she was doing dishes.

Now, so much for the cute type of crawlies. These next two photos are of a Giant Wood Spider (I only know because I looked it up on the internet) that lives about 14ft up a tree in our backyard. The much smaller spiders (that I roasted with a can of WD40 and a lighter) in our front yard were kind of gross, but this one truly gave me the willies when I first saw it. I'd say it is a solid 5 inches in diameter, maybe close to 6 inches. Of course, I'm not about to climb up there and find out :)  Apparently they're known for making the biggest webs of any spider, with really strong silk.  It's pretty amazing the diversity of life, creepy or not! To make creepy things less creepy, Amy and I will often name a critter with a human name...a little 'humanizing' something that is not human can do wonders. In fact the local rat  (Dale) could almost become the family pet. So, I officially named this spider "Wilson".

For all of those who might be concerned about the giant spiders of Indonesia eating our children, you can quit worrying. I'm always looking for any spider who needs to be liquidated in our yard. Wilson is way up a tree and doesn't go anywhere.  So, for now he's alive and minding his own business (actually, the females are the big ones, so Wilson is actually a Mrs. with a guy name...She got named before I knew her gender). And as far as dealing with Mrs. Wilson, a small shotgun should do the job if I need to put the family pet down :)

The boys playing out front. As you can see from Luke's face (3rd photo down) he wasn't terribly excited about spending a 1/2 hour outside. But they eventually had fun!

December 5, 2011

Around the Neighbourhood...

A few pictures of people and places not too far from home.

This building is about a 1/2 block down from our house. Amy was chatting with some girls (who  live in this building) yesterday and found out that it is a m*slim boarding school, probably girls only. As it seems to be under construction, I just figured it was empty!

Some local kids playing. I didn't see the one kid when I walked by because he was up a tree. After he made his way down, they were more than happy to pose for a picture. Plus, they liked seeing their picture on the back of the camera!

A retaining wall washout on a stream the meanders through the neighbourhood. I assume it happened recently since it's the beginning of rainy season. I feel for the residences who now have part of their home in the stream. I can't imagine any level of government is going to rush to their rescue and compensate them.

I wondered what the smell was by this stretch of road until I noticed it was a covered trash heap. There's a couple guys in it looking for something worth keeping, the one guy I noticed was bare foot. A good reality check to see just a small glimpse into the type of poverty millions live in. I have so much to be thankful for.

And alas, Charlotte getting her first taste of veggies! Amy is putting her Baby Bullet to good use (a small blender / food liquefier type deal).

We're quite happy for the arrival of an organic vegetable store that is soon to be opening up about a 5 min. walk from our home. It'll have veggies produced by local farmers, yum!  Shopping for food here is a bit different than your average North American experience, you have to figure out where you can get what - as apposed to running to Walmart or SaveOn, and then maybe Costco. Some stores sell some pretty weird combinations of stuff. But maybe that's for a future blog post!

December 3, 2011

In Photos...

 Helena showing off her apron and checking out our new drying rack. When it's sunny, clothes dry fast. But not getting rained on is a bit of a challenge!

 Papaya! We have a papaya tree in our back yard. It's nice to have a little free fruit!

 This picture makes us look like we live in a Martha Stewart magazine. Although Amy wouldn't say "no" to the thought - trust me, we don't. And for Marjorie's sake (Amy's Mom), here's the new plates Amy bought on a day trip to the city of Semarang. The papaya with lime was delicious!

Simon enjoying the Leap Pad that Annie gave to the kids just before they got on the plane. (Thank you Brad & Annie!)

December 1, 2011

Attack of the Flying Bugs!!!

The other night Luke noticed a flying ant looking thing so I swatted it and put it in the garbage and thought that was that...till I walked into our front room. I made the mistake of leaving the front light on, and the entire front window screen was covered with thousands of flying bugs all trying desperately to get in so they could bathe gloriously around our front room light fixture. About 40 of them somehow made it into our house, so I turned the light off and spent the next 1/2 hour killing bugs.

My understanding is that this type of bug hatches after one or two big rains come (as the rainy season here is just getting in full swing), and have a very short life span. I'm not sure they have much purpose except for providing a food source for other bugs, lizards, chickens, and whoever else would choke one down. Here, some ants are cleaning up some leftovers the next morning on our porch.

Bug wings...everywhere.

And of course, a few chickens let themselves into our yard and helped themselves to some delicious, wingless bugs....just waiting to be eaten. Yum!

Rain! And lots of it lately.