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Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

My son, David and his new wife, Anna, in the wilds of New Mexico. Sent to me by my sister, Pinky, from her cell phone. I hope this picture goes all the way into your heart - from America to Indonesia to you!

It’s a little after 4am. I just got out of my mosquito net bed. I put it up yesterday with just rope and no hooks. One end is attached to the curtain rod; the other is tied around my cabinet that has clothes in it. The weight of the net pulls the lines tight enough for the net to stay in place. I was really proud of myself for figuring it out. A few days ago I had asked my host father for a nail and he looked in several places and found one and I hung my calendar but I am hesitant to keep hammering nails or hooks into the plaster walls.

I remember Katrina tried several different solutions to the “getting the mosquito net to stay up” project when she was in Africa. The idea is to keep the mosquitoes out and not have the net touch your skin. It’s impregnated with some chemical that helps keep the mosquitoes from wanting to sit on it and use it as the landing spot to stick their probes through into your skin which has accidentally touched the net. But it’s hot. It limits air circulation. During the day I sometimes lay on my bed to read. I’m pretty happy with this solution. I can pull the net off to the side for the daytime and to get in and out.

And if it’s a really hot night, I do have an electric fan and mosquitoes are not strong fliers and with the fan blowing on me, they don’t usually attempt a landing, so I can pull the net off to the side rather than having it blown into me. Any way, that’s my current strategy.

It’s my son David’s wedding rehearsal right now in America. I just texted with my son, Peter. Yesterday I was able to skype a little with the family. It keeps cutting in and out so that we sometimes have pictures and sometimes don’t but I was able to see them for a while and talk to them for a few minutes at a time. Then the signal would disappear and it would take a minute or two for my computer to go from a blank screen with numbers and letters to powering up the computer and starting everything all over again.

I just realized it’s the 4th of July! For me in Indonesia, I mean. It’s only the evening of the 3rd of July in America. I am remembering some awesome 4th of July parades – Monument, CO and Centerville, TX and Placitas, NM! And I’m feeling homesick. I wish I were there at the wedding rehearsal, sharing this time with my family.

There is a funny clucking noise which I often hear outside my window. I don’t know if it’s a lizard, or a bird, or some time of grating thing done with a noise maker to tell people that a seller is outside. There are many different “sellers” who push carts or pedal bicycles with attachments or ride motorcycles outfitted with frames where they hang vegetables and fruit and meat and homemade crackers. Some of them sell homemade food complete with dishes and a spoon for you to eat the food. Some have a propane tank attached so they can cook the food. It’s pretty ingenious. At my training site, I got to know which sounds went with which seller. Occasionally one would have a bicycle horn, but often they use a wooden grate or a particular calling noise that they make.

Okay, back to day dreaming about being at my son’s wedding. This was a hard decision. Peace Corps actually gave me permission to go. Usually, we are not allowed to leave our sites for the first 3 months to ensure that we bond well with our new community. Without even asking they just offered out of the blue to let me go. But I didn’t like the idea of the first words out of my mouth after meeting my new principal, being a request to leave the school and go back to America. Plus it would take 3 days to get there – one on a bus to the airport, 2 days flying, 2 or 3 days at the wedding, then 3 days to return. So now the trip becomes closer a week and a half. And the school didn’t have a schedule then, and it looked like the 1st week in July was the first day of classes. And it would cost $2200! A lot! Half of our re-adjustment allowance.

Now I know that I am totally on vacation for a week and a half. I tried to go see my counterpart and found out that he has left town for a different city to visit his family (or Bali, the neighbors told me two different stories. Maybe he went to both places.) And most teachers go someplace during this vacation, so it would have been totally appropriate to go. And the $2200 seems like such a little bit in the greater plan of being able to see my family.

So, God, Great Spirit of the Universe, why did you lead me down this path? I have no clue why. I’m resisting. Maybe the reason is just to feel the resistance. Maybe it’s good to just know that life goes on, with me or without me. Maybe this is a little preparation for the time when I’ll be asked to let go of life completely. It feels like some kind of spiritual lesson, because it’s too painful to be anything else.

I really do believe that everything leads to growth, so what happens when I just take a deep breath and get curious about what kind of growth this will lead to. Actually, that helps. Okay, I got a tissue and blew my nose. They actually do have toilet paper in Indonesia. They put it on restaurant tables or in a decorative container in living rooms. It’s for wiping your fingers or noses. You dispose of it in trash containers outside of houses. I have a 6 inch high trash bag in my room and I’ve been filling it with trash for the past month. Wow! I’ve been at my permanent site for a month! All scraps of paper, like receipts, I save to write notes to myself or my host family, if I go for a walk while they are all napping, I like to let them know.

The plumbing system isn’t designed to handle toilet paper. Boy, that’s an understatement. I think for Indonesians, it’s no big deal, but it always surprises me to see someone with their pants down in the stream beside the road. Washing your butt off with your hand – funny, I really did resist writing – washing My butt off with My hand. Okay, even though I’ve been doing that every day for 4 months now, it’s still hard to write it in a letter to America. For all of you who are planning to visit me, don’t worry, it’s not that awful. I’ll teach you little tricks: get your hand wet first, use the scoop to pour water into your hand, make sure your hand is really clean with just water before you use soap, use a lot of soap, scrub both hands together, tilt the scoop up to pout water in both your hands at one time, use the sniff test to make sure your hands are clean. It’s really not so bad. That may be more information than anyone wanted. But I want my children and my sister and my family to visit! 220 million (maybe 240 million, I forget) Indonesians have been doing this for centuries – I guess it’s safe to say the majority of the world has been doing this for centuries, I guess we pampered Americans can do it too.

Daylight is coming. I’m usually out walking at this time, but I want to stay here, just in case I got a skype call.

Love you guys lots. And miss you lots! Oma Colleen

It’s 9:00am. I went to church. And printed in English on the little booklet they gave me is:
“Each step will be a miracle.” And on the back:
“Victory kids.”
Now, if God would just send a code book to tell me what it all means, that would be great, but in my limited understanding I think it means something pretty positive and maybe even wonderful!

I don’t know what kind of church it is, but they say the same creed in Indonesian as I am used to saying in English and I like the music and every week there is a different person who talks for about an hour and I usually get the flavor of what they are saying. Today I brought my dictionary and that helped a lot. There are about 50 people in the church. It’s the big room of a little playgroup school for pre-schoolers. There is playground equipment outside for the kids to play on and it’s on the road right next to my alley.

And my daughter called after the rehearsal and I got to talk to her! And she sent a picture of my granddaughter with her flower girl dress!

It’s shaping up to be a great day!

(I wonder if all these emotional lows and highs are related to the mefloquin anti-malaria medicine? I find it hard to believe I’m as unstable as I sure have been feeling since I came to Indonesia. It’s a little reassuring to think that it’s a side effect of the medicine and not me just periodically becoming an emotional basket case. I’ll blame the medicine. Crying and hunting for Kleenex is not my typical behavior pattern. Sure this is a stressful time, but I’ve had a lot of stressful times in my life and I walked through them with a lot more confidence. Maybe I’ll never know. Embrace the ambiguity.)

6:00 pm on the 4th of July.
I just had an excellent dinner of boiled eggplant and onions, white rice (at every meal, it’s not a meal unless you have rice) shrimp with little black eyes and tails that really do look like shrimp, a piece of beef like what comes in a bowl of beef stew, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber slices and a glass of warm milk. I get warm milk every evening. I don’t know if it’s an Indonesian thing or if my ibu’s daughter who lived in America told her mom that Americans like to drink warm milk before they go to bed. Actually, I have to say this was a great meal! My host father explained to me that eggplant is good if you have a stroke. He had one 2 years ago and has recovered so well – he gives thanks to Allah every time he talks about it.

This morning I walked to Erna’s house. She’s my ibu’s daughter and lives about a 20 minute walk away. I had a pile of sewing that I wanted done. I cut the lining out of a pair of too hot pants and used the material to make cut-out ready to sew pockets. I have 7 different skirts and dresses that need to have a pocket. I like to keep my cell phone close and I like to keep a pen handy for school. So I took clothes pins and pinned where I wanted each pocket to go. And I put clothes pins where I needed extra stitching. Some of my skirts have a small slit at the bottom and I’ve been told that’s not appropriate at my Madrasah. One day they had me turn a skirt around so I wound up sitting on the buttons all day. My skirts come down to within 5 or 6 inches of the floor, but I needed to get those slits sewn too.

Erna and I walked around the corner to the house of a woman she knows who does tailoring. It turns out that the tailor has a son who is in grade 11 at my school. So I left my whole wardrobe (Actually I have a few more things at home.) with her to fix and she promised to have them done in a week so I could wear them when school starts.

Then Erma’s husband suggested that we all go swimming. They have a 1 year old son and a boy who’s about ten. His cousin who is about his age also came. What fun! A swimming party on the 4th of July! Actually that is exactly what my family will be doing in a few hours when it’s the 4th of July afternoon in America! We went to a swimming pool about a 25 minute drive away and I had a blast with the boys and also with the baby.

And Erna insisted that I take two outfits that she has that don’t fit her anymore. Wow!

So here I am at the end of the 4th of July. It’s hot. I have the fan blowing on me. I wait till an hour after sunset before I open the window. This is the bad mosquito time. And tonight at 10:30 it will be 9:30 in the morning in America and I’ll try to skype again with my family while they are having breakfast together. The wedding will be at 7am my time tomorrow morning.

Not such a bad day. Actually a pretty good 4th of July. I’m thinking back and out of the 61 years, I can remember about 20 different 4th of July’s in different places including several fire camps. I think I’ll remember this one too!

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