April 20, 2012

Around Main Street

These pictures are of the main street in Salatiga. But it's not called main street, it's called "Jalan Jenderal Sudirman". General Sudirman led the Indonesian Armed Forces against the Dutch in the 1940's as Indonesia fought for their independence after WW2. He then died from TB in 1950 at the ripe old age of 35. All that to say, the main thru road in a lot of Indonesian towns are named after him. No picture of his statue though, maybe another time and in another exciting post jam packed with stories about "The Heroes of Indonesia From Times Past!"

"Ada Baru" (sign in top left corner - above) is kind of a mall complex that has a pretty good grocery store in the back. We shop there quite regularly. Instead of a 3/4 ton pickup or SUV out front to load groceries in, we use a scooter.  But then again, there aren't any giant jars of mustard or 3 kilo bulk packs of q-tips for sale that might make the trip home hazardous. Smaller quantities and more frequent trips shopping, that's the way we roll.
Notice above-right the family of four on the scooter...a fairly common site. In fact, I've done it with Luke, Si, & Helena. The kids aren't wearing helmets because I don't think they have to till the age of 12. It's kind of a reverse logic when compared to North America where children seem to require more protection in/on moving vehicles. Car seats, 5 point harnesses, etc. My philosophy is that the actual potential for danger changes from country to country as apposed to merely the perception of what should be done to prevent a dangerous situation.  In other words, driving small children around on scooters with no helmets just isn't as dangerous in Indonesia as it is in Canada. In fact, a lot of things here aren't. But don't worry, this logic doesn't apply to aviation :)
Becaks (3 wheeled bike carriages) parked.
Down a couple side allies from the main drag is the usual gathering location for human and horse powered transportation. They often sit here waiting around for passengers, or doing whatever they do. A great little weight gym I go to is right down here too. The guy who runs it used to be in Indonesian action flick movies like 20 or 30 yrs ago. He once was "Rambu" (Indonesian version of Rambo) and was good and ripped for the part (poster hanging in in gym to prove it). The gym has a personality to it that I have never seen nor most likely never will see in Canada...Including smoke break benches outside the front door, and the odd cockroach by the free weights. I was going to take a picture of the gym store front, but the sign was taken down as it was Sunday.

This elderly lady was fast asleep on the sidewalk. She most likely is sleeping here because she begs in this area. I would imagine (and I am bordering on ignorance here) that most of the beggars along here may have some family and do not live 24/7 on the sidewalk, but come here each day (or are helped here) to beg in order to have at least a bit of income for food. Then again, I could be wrong, maybe this is it.

How very sad. I wonder how many people in just this country alone regularly have a similar sleeping situation. If she was given the usual amount a beggar is given every 10 minutes, 8 hrs a day, 7 days a week, it would take her over a year to earn the worth of the camera I took this picture with. The reality is, she would receive far less. I am so far removed from this woman's life, her plight, her poverty, her everything.

I find it a bit overwhelming to think about, as my heart and my head race to rationalize and categorize the sad plight of someone truly impoverished. What did Christ say about this? I kind of know some of what He said already...What I do for someone in need - how I treat them, it might as well be to Christ...But, I could find several people in the same situation along this street, where do I start and where do I stop? If I stop thinking about it and just go buy my groceries (like I came here to do), is that wrong? What about getting used to seeing this, does that somehow make it okay to walk on by? 
I've struggled with this before when I often passed people on the street in Canadian cities I've lived in. But since coming here God has allowed a lot to go through my head related to poverty and wealth. Amy and I have had many related discussions about this. As expats trying to set up a home for the next number of years, we are doing a fair amount of spending. You could justify pretty well everything ten different ways in the comfort of North American cultural context. Example: "We should probably get a decent stove that is big enough to fit a regular size baking dish inside...After all we are a family of six."  Sounds good to me, no problem.  But, the reality is it isn't a no brainer for the many families that live around us that cook over a fire pit and generally have dirt floors throughout most of their house. How about a new mattress that doesn't hurt your back? Well, when your bed is a sidewalk... Soon the "Norm" isn't normal anymore, and buying a stove or having a decent mattress has quickly gone from "a given" to "a luxury". But is it wrong to have these things? Of course not, but for what is my heart yearning? What is my mind usually focused on? On what do I burn my energy? How do I pray? Are my prayers completely irrelevant to the world around us too? What does the Word of God say about this, and do I dismiss it as quickly as I forget the person on the street?

What a needy mess up bunch we are. I am so so grateful for how completely blessed my family is, but our hearts are so deprived and we need Christ so very much. Maybe it is from their situation that the poor have more clarity and insight into the condition of their hearts.

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen 
those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith 
and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to 
those who love him?
James  2:5

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