The Day Hillary Clinton Made Me Wait For My Coffee

coffeeshopcrowd final
I’d never been to Mount Vernon before, a teeny little town in Iowa. And I probably wouldn’t have ever entered its city limits except it’s where my brother lives, and so Mae and I hopped over there for a quick visit last week.

I pulled into town on the main street and noticed that the corner, where I needed to turn, was blocked off.

There were lots of people and a few police officers directing traffic, which is kind of a big deal in a little town.

I smiled, took a detour and a few extra turns, and found where I needed to go.

We said our hellos and then we all decided to take a little walk. Little because it is a small town (have I mentioned that?) but it’s a cute small town. If I had to live in one, that might be it. Anyway.

One thing I’m a sucker for is a unique, non-chain, coffee shop. They usually have the best coffee, hands down. And so when my brother and sister-in-law were telling me about this one, Fuel, only a block away, I had to try it.

We wandered toward there, and the crowd I’d seen before was now surrounding the door to this place.

What’s going on?! Move! I’ve got coffee to drink at 4:30 pm!

Ok, ok, so I only thought it… 😉

But a girl standing in front of a store informed us that, OF ALL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET, Hillary Clinton was in town.

And? She was drinking coffee at the place that I wanted to go. (Correction: according to Fuel’s Facebook page, she was having tea.)

😉

So there was this day in this little Iowa town. And while there was a lot to love about it…especially the uber cute store I wandered into and walked out of with the current-most-adorable-bag-ever…Hillary Clinton made me wait for my coffee.

Yes, yes she did.

Hubby and I had this little tongue-in-cheek text exchange after it all…I was proud of my wit. 😉

textconv final
And I’ve got nothing against Hillary, really. I probably won’t be casting my vote for her but that shouldn’t shock any of us. Though, she might have had a better chance if I hadn’t had to wait a day for my brew from Fuel. 😉

Which, by the way, was awesome. I had it twice the next day. If you’re ever in Mount Vernon, swing by this little place and say hello. The coffee is yummy, and the people working there were incredibly sweet.

There was also a horse for my girl to ride…the kind when you put in a quarter? YEAH. I hadn’t seen one in ages. Mae loved it, too.

Mae&horse final
A total win for this coffee-lovin’ girl and her sweet daughter. :)

P.S. Thank you to almost the entire population of Mount Vernon for letting me get a photo of you. I got impatient waiting to actually get one of Hillary and decided to take your picture instead. 😉

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Why We Probably Won’t Ever Rescue a Stray Cat Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I decided that a sunrise photo from the upper floor in our Indo house was a much better picture for you today than one that actually goes with this story. I loved seeing this so many mornings…what a reminder that His mercies are new every single morning.

Oh, late-March Monday morning in the Chicago burbs.

You sure got me.

SNOW. Really?!

Ok, I might need to confess that my brain has this thing where when the calendar turns to March, I suddenly think that life should be daisies and green and NO. MORE. SNOW. (I realize that it IS still March in the Midwest.)

And alas, spring is not to be just yet, and here I sit looking out my dining room window, watching the inches of white fluff pile up onto Mae’s swing set, the same one she was finally able to play on in the last weeks after a frigid winter.

But I’ll get over it because there’s coffee and I’ve got words to share.

First of all, I took sort of a little unplanned hiatus from Indo stories the last two Mondays. My heart needed a break to process life, and it was time well spent.

Life is good, it really is, and I’ve got things to share. Soon. (AND they’re already written which is, like, a miracle.)

But today I want to keep doing what I said I was going to…sharing my stories and giving you a glimpse into Indo life. :)

This story is one that came up in a conversation with friends who were visiting last week. I warned hubby that I was going to share it…complete with maybe a little drama. 😉

His response? I’d expect nothing less from you.

He knows me well…and I love him. Truly.

And when I read this story, I’m reminded that I’m really blessed to be sharing this life with him.

Thanks for reading. :)

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36

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Tobin and I laugh now about a lot of things that have happened to us…and not just the Indonesia stories, though those adventures do seem to provide quite a bit of entertainment for people even a few years after our return to the States.

I’ve come to accept the fact that adventure just seems to find us…something that I have truly learned to appreciate and value.

Because hindsight is 20/20, it’s always easier to look back and smile. For one thing, my husband is here, home with me, and our family is safe and healthy and happy.  But there were a few days in March of 2008 where every possible scenario ran through my head…the kinds when I feared a life without him.

So, it’s no secret to anyone who knows us that we love animals.

We brought home a golden retriever puppy when we’d barely been married a year. We had nothing but instant love for the newest member of our family…love to the point of, less than two years later, purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Indonesia for him. (Scoff not…at the time, it cost more to get him there than it cost for both of us. Combined.) But that’s just what you do for family.

Less than a year into our Indonesia life, we adopted Sammy…our other golden. Our lives were suddenly full of happy puppy days and tons of golden retriever love…we love it that way still, even now that we have a daughter, who only just makes the love overflow even more in our house.

Neither of us had ever been remotely interested in owning a cat though we have nothing against them. But in Indonesia, it almost felt like it made more sense than it didn’t. At our first house, especially, we had quite a rat problem that, thankfully, the dogs were able to somewhat keep under control, but we thought a cat might help keep them out of the house completely. Still, we never pursued actually getting one.

And then one Thursday night, my husband came home from the high school boys’ Bible study he co-led and immediately came to find me. Almost out of breath, he told me that he’d found a cat about a block away, huddled on the side of the road. It had been there for hours, just bait for another, bigger animal. He said it looked sick, and would I be okay if he decided to bring it home so we could take care of it?

I was a bit shocked that he asked, but I quickly agreed.

If only we had known what was coming.

That night we noticed, almost immediately, that there was something severely wrong with this cat. It could barely walk without falling over and would twitch almost constantly. We set it up with a litter box, food, and a blanket in a box in a spare bedroom and closed the door for the night.

I secretly wondered if there was a point to even trying to help it. The cat was in really bad shape, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what happened for a few days.

Oh, a few days…we truly had no clue what those “few days” would actually look like.

The next morning Tobin was up early, checking on our new friend. He was sitting on the bed, holding the cat and petting it, when Sammy nosed his way into the bedroom, immediately frightening the cat.

The cat’s reaction? Was to sink its teeth deep into Tobin’s hand.

Here we are…5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and dealing with a cat-from-who-knows-where bite.

Not good.

I immediately got on the internet, and…to this day I have no idea why…looked up symptoms for rabies. We always hear about the foaming mouth stuff when it comes to rabies…never the symptoms that precede it.

Guess what?

One of the early signs is neurological issues…including twitching.

We made a quick, somewhat frantic, call to our school PA and tried to come up with some type of plan.

Let’s recount the facts…Indonesia. Possible rabies. We had no idea what to do…with the responsibilities of life staring us down.

While I got ready for school (and desperately tried NOT to freak out) Tobin called around and found people to cover his classes. Following the orders of our PA, he hopped on his bike and drove to the nearest hospital where rabies vaccinations could possibly be available.

I went to school; I had every intention of keeping life that day as normal as possible, but my emotions were exploding so much I could barely stay calm. After teacher devotions that morning, a friend offered to take my class for the first few minutes so I could get myself together.

And I finally cried.

Once I got the tears out, I went downstairs to my classroom, streaky eyes and all. My students, ever the prayer-warriors, wanted nothing more than to pray for my husband, and so that’s what we spent our Bible class doing. :)

Tobin showed up later that morning with the news that he hadn’t been able to find a locally made rabies vaccination, but that the hospital had given him a Tetanus shot.

I wanted to be snarky and make a comment about the fact that a TETANUS SHOT probably wouldn’t do much good, but I held it in.

I knew he was panicking, too…we just had different ways of showing it.

He had found an imported-from-France rabies vaccination in town, but our out-of-pocket expenses would be over $500…and so he was trying to find a local one first. Knowing that he had a window of 24 hours, he spent most of the day looking but eventually went back that afternoon for the imported vaccination.

So…rabies vaccination: check.

We thought it was over. (Well, once he finished the series of shots that would happen over the course of the next few weeks.)

But during a school music concert that evening, Tobin noticed something.

A redness creeping up his arm.

At the suggestion, again, of our PA, he took a Sharpie and marked how far the redness had spread. We were alarmed, a few hours later, to discover that the infection was progressing at a scary speed.

Oral antibiotics were begun the next day, but the redness continued to creep…and we were starting to worry.

In almost a curious way, Tobin asked our PA, So what will happen with this infection if we let it go? Will it eventually just go away?

She wasn’t being cruel, just direct, but her reply? No, it will kill you faster than the rabies.

We now realized that we needed to get this thing under control. But the problem was that every option was being tried. It wasn’t like people were sitting around watching Tobin get worse. They were trying everything.

And speaking of control, I was having major control issues by now.

Because cat bites, international medical care or the lack thereof…they don’t teach you how to deal with those things is training.

And I was terrified.

There was nothing I could do to help my husband, and I was scared he might not be okay.

As the oral antibiotics continued to fail, our PA finally found a series of antibiotic shots that, thankfully, worked.

The red that had crept halfway to Tobin’s elbow by this time was finally stopping and even receding a bit.

After several more shots and a few more weeks, the swelling and red were completely gone though Tobin still had a scar from the bite.

And we were so incredibly thankful…like the kind where I really can’t express our thankfulness in words.

I never imagined we’d be in a place like that…a place where something happened and there was nothing we could humanly do to help.

God taught me a lot during those few days. That He’s got it worked out, and when things seem hopeless, He’s still got a plan.

No matter where we are.

Oh, and the imported shot that cost us $500? Insurance paid every single penny. God is pretty amazing, isn’t He? :)

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: A Sweet Friendship

 IbuMae&Mel final

Well, Monday. Hi there.

I’m having a hard time believing that this one isn’t out to get me just a little.

I had the stomach flu all weekend…it was a weird one. Lets just say I was pretty miserable, but I didn’t throw up at all. (Thank you, God, for that part.) I’m still exhausted. Still not really very hungry. And I’m pretty sure I reached my goal weight in just two days. And I spent those two days praying that no one else in our family…or on the planet…gets this because OY.

And now I’ll quit talking about being sick and about how I’ve barely had any coffee in the last 72 hours. (Which could be the biggest record ever. Just throwing that out there.) 😉

There are so many stories I want to tell y’all about Indo…and some of them I still need to write because they’ll pop into my head, and I’m like, Oh! I forgot about that one! And that also always, ALWAYS happens in the shower or when I’m driving or while I’m sitting in church…when I. CAN’T. EXACTLY. DOCUMENT. ANYTHING. (Though I may have blogged something from my phone during church once. I swear it was related to the sermon, though.) 😉

But today, I just thought I’d tell you about someone really special to me.

Let me be up front and just say that while there were things that were rough about life in Indo, there were also a million blessings. And one of them came to me in a most unexpected way. I honestly wasn’t thrilled, at first, about having someone working in my home every day. Yes, I wasn’t all that happy about having a housekeeper.

Really, Mel?! 😉

But a week into it all, I knew that this woman would be a welcome, special part of our lives there. And she was. I miss her every day…truly, I do. (And not just because she did all the laundry and cooked for me!) 😉

Sometimes there are people who come into our lives…and they change us forever.

Ibu S was one of them. She will always be our family.

And though words are hard to find for people who mean that much, I tried. :)

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14

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

She showed up at our house at seven in the morning, one week after we arrived in Indonesia.

I could barely talk to her as I relied on my English to Indonesian dictionary for virtually every word. (I sometimes think about how badly I probably botched the Indonesian language during that first conversation…I don’t even want to know.)

She washed our clothes, cleaned our (very dirty) house, took care of our dog, and cooked chicken teriyaki and rice for us.

I instantly took to this woman.

Ibu S.

And I loved her…not because she did all of the house work so I didn’t have to. :)

She had the kindest smile…that was what told me we were friends. Even if we couldn’t talk to each other.

I communicated with her using that ridiculous dictionary for the first year.

As time went on, we learned more about each other…especially once I could speak a little of the language.

She would cook us dinner almost every night…and she could cook. Yum. I still crave her nasi goreng and mie goreng and wish that I’d taken the time to learn to make it well and not just from a packet. (Though it’s not too bad that way, either.) 😉

She could fold laundry with the best of them. Even after years of having my clothes washed, dried, ironed, and folded for me (yeah, I was spoiled), I would still smile each time I’d see the meticulously folded, organized-by-color, stacks of shirts and pants in my lemari (closet).

She had an infinite amount of patience for the craziness that ensued when our dogs were being their usual, hyper selves. And she loved them anyway.

She would squash cockroaches for me after I’d squeal in disgust over the latest creature attempting to inhabit my home.

She would make me cake with frosting, homemade no less, when I was pregnant, sick, and the only thing I wanted in the land of not-very-good-cake was CAKE. 😉

Sometimes she would talk to me. About struggles, about things that brought her joy. And sometimes we would cry together.

But usually, we would laugh.

We finally visited her in her home during our fourth year in Indonesia. She and her family treated us like royalty, cooking a meal that I’m sure cost the equivalent of what she’d make in several days. She showed me around her kitchen and then took me out to the little sitting area in the back of her house. Tobin sat in the living room and taught her husband and son a card game that didn’t require too much Indonesian.

We would return to her house a few times, and each time she treated us as if we were the most important people in the world.

We would laugh together often. Sometimes the way I would mess up whatever I was trying to say in Bahasa Indonesia was enough to get us giggling. She knew I had said something wrong, and so did I, and that was enough for the laughter to ensue. (And I may or may not be talking about the year I spent saying, I’m a house instead of my house. Yes, yes, subject placement is an extremely important thing to pay attention to. Clearly I did not.) 😉

During my last year in Indonesia, I was pregnant and very sick, and she took care of me. She made sure I ate and would make me noodles in the morning and hold my head while I threw up. On the rare occasion that I didn’t make it to the bathroom, she would insist on cleaning up after me.

She couldn’t wait to meet my little girl, and when we realized that I wouldn’t be delivering Mae in Indonesia, I think both of our hearts broke.***

During my last days in Bandung, there were many hugs exchanged, but our emotions were stuffed beneath the surface.

Until the very last morning.

It was as if God took away all language difficulties and gave us the gift of being able to truly speak to each other. I gave her a few gifts, and she looked carefully at each of them, especially studying the pictures. I thanked her for all she had done for us and for being a friend.

Then the tears began to drip, and we looked at each other.

The five years of fumbling through communication, of wanting so badly to connect on a deeper level, and finally being able to, were coming to an end.

I gave her one final hug, and it lasted a long time. When we finally pulled away, she placed her hand on my belly to say goodbye to my baby girl.

We were just two friends who stumbled through language barriers for years, but we emerged with a beautiful friendship. What an amazing reminder that true friendship is more about heart than it is about having a common language.

I sobbed as we pulled away from the house and waved goodbye to this dear woman who had given so much of herself to us. In our time together, she had become more than our pembantu and friend; she was a member of our family, and we will never, ever forget her.

***Ibu S got to meet our sweet Mae last year when we visited Indonesia. It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

Mae&Ibu final
_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Disliking Durian

durian final
Happy Monday, friends. :)

It’s well into the afternoon before I’m even finding my blog today, but that’s ok. Some days, especially when you’re the mama of a four year-old, there are other things that are way more important. Like smearing copious amounts of red glitter glue all over paper and thankfully not the table.

We created a memory. A sticky, sparkly one…and I’m breathing thanks for it and for my sweet girl today. :)

It’s so funny. Every Monday, after I’ve posted, I tell myself that next week I’ll get this all ready to go before Monday.

I never do. Never.

Thus proving to all of you that I am a procrastinator in the truest sense of the word. 😉

Honestly, the weekend was a good one…it was busy enough and I’m still run down enough from being sick…that last night I was tired. I watched tv instead. (And that’s ok…I’m giving myself permission for things like that lately.)

And even though there’s always an elevation in my heart rate when I share a new story, I love handing over this piece of my heart to all of you. Even almost five years after life in Indonesia, that time in our lives still remains such a precious part of who I am. I embrace that, especially on the days when I want rice for breakfast. :)

This is one of my more quirky stories. I remember writing it at Starbucks late on a Wednesday night two years ago…there was laughter between sentences and a lot of caffeine flowing, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I love hearing from all of you, but especially if you’ve tried durian, I’d love to hear your thoughts. After all…this is just one snarky opinion, written by someone who’s not completely Indonesian. :)

And there are durian lovers out there…kind of a lot of them.

Enjoy. (And please forgive the quote I used…it may have been the most accurate and descriptive I could find.)

😉

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34

 Indescribable, something you will either love or despise…Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.
Anthony Bourdain

Durian.

From practically the moment we stepped into the country of Indonesia, and probably even before, we’d heard about it.

The elusive, unique, all-its-own-kind, supposedly-wonderful-but-often-detested, fruit so pungent it was banned from many places including airplanes, most hotels, and even mass transit systems.

Tell me…after that description, would you have high hopes?

Most people never do. You can smell the stuff just passing by a stall where it’s sold on the street and its hard, outer, spiky shell has yet to be cracked open.

But for some reason, I did.

Have high hopes, that is.

Durian.

It was rumored to have once been an event on Fear Factor, and that alone was enough to pique the curiosity of this girl who planned to adventure as much as possible during her time in Indonesia.

And not only was it in fruit form, you could buy it in ice cream or baked into bread or it could even surprise you when you bit into a donut.

Believe it or not we didn’t dive into trying it immediately. First of all, a chance didn’t exactly fall into our laps, and it didn’t come squirting out of a donut either…thank you, God, for that. And so we never even pushed for a chance to give it a try.

Maybe it’s because the smell was truly enough for me.

Our opportunity finally came in the spring of our first year.

We had some good friends who were Indonesian, and they wanted us to take us to the Chinatown area of Bandung for dinner one Saturday night. Tobin and I drove our motorbike, following them on theirs, to a tucked-away section of the city I had never known existed, and had an amazingly good meal of pork nasi goreng and pisang goreng with chocolate and cheese. (I actually still think of this night often…that was some pretty good food.) :)

After dinner we walked around the area a little and decided to go out for “dessert.” (Funny, because I thought the cheesy, chocolate banana qualified as dessert.)

It was quite the bike ride to get to our destination, but they finally pulled over in front of a stand at the side of a pretty busy street.

Hello, durian.

I’m not sure if I’m excited or not to make your acquaintance just yet.

Our wonderful friends knew what they were doing, and we clearly did not, so we just stood and watched as they paid for one of these large, brown, spiky fruits…an object that I was sure could be of far better use as a piece of sports equipment rather than something to eat.

But if so many people raved over this delicacy, there had to be something to love about it, right?

Our friends took the fruit, which was now cracked open, and offered us some. They showed us how to pull out a section, which we both did so, reluctantly, taking the smallest pieces.

Watching them start to eat, clearly enjoying the entire experience, we put the fruit into our mouths.

Actually, I’m still not sure why it is even classified as a fruit…it tasted like stinky gym socks with a little garlic thrown in there.

And I do believe that was a very kind statement.

I choked it down and, probably-less-than-politely, declined seconds.

EW.

EW.

And I managed to keep it down, too, which I believe qualifies as a success worthy of some kind of medal. For it was truly that bad and it took all I had to keep myself from losing my dinner on the side of the road.

But the one thing everyone says about durian is that to appreciate it, you have to try it three separate times. Two of my friends even attested to this fact…after three times they liked it.

Honestly, that was hard to fathom after the one bite I had, quite literally, choked down.

Enter time number two.

As a birthday party/introduction to the Indonesian culture for new staff, several girls hosted a fruit party at their house. The party itself was actually a great idea…there are tons of incredible fruits available in Indonesia, and I would never turn down a chance to eat manggis (my favorite!) or rambutan.

After we’d all tried the good stuff, one of our hosts pulled out the durian.

In my head, I’m thinking…this is my second time. Surely it’s got to taste better than the first.

I watched the birthday girl have her first taste, and she swallowed it down like a pro, even exclaiming, Oh, it’s not that bad!

I just figured we’d lucked out and ended up with an exceptionally wonderful piece of this particular fruit, and her exclamation was followed by a few others who ate it and liked, or at least tolerated, it.

The pressure is kinda on here, Mel…

I reached for a bite, popped it in my mouth…and…

Blech…

Ok, ok, so I didn’t throw up, though if I had let it hit the back of my throat, I’m quite certain I would have lost my breakfast or lunch or whatever meal I’d eaten previous to the party.

That time, I spit it out right into my hand. I didn’t care who was watching.

And thought, What the heck does everyone see in this nastiness masquerading as a fruit?!

It was quite a while…over a year later…before I even wanted to go for my third try. I was pretty much convinced, by that time, that it was pointless.

Some friends and I were at a local shopping mall, and we passed one of my favorite restaurants there, which also served gelato. The workers there were always great about letting us sample the different flavors, and I noticed that there was durian flavored gelato.

Yes, yes, I realize what you are thinking by this point. Durian-flavored gelato is NOT the same as durian. Point well taken.

But if you want a happy ending to this durian-sized fairy tale, this is going to have to be it.

I took a bite.

Uhhh…mmm? Maybe.

Of course, we are talking about gelato here. Not some silly, spiky, grayish-brown, somewhat-spherical fruit.

Then I asked for another sample. Chocolate chip to wash the flavor down. 😉

And that, my friends, is where the saga of my life with durian ends.

That third attempt, in the form of an ice-creamish substance, was my last time.

 The truth is that I think everything is worth trying once. Or even three-ish times. But sometimes, there’s just no hope, and it’s best to move on to things we do like. Like cheesy, chocolate, fried bananas.

A year and a half later, we left Indonesia. Among the very long list of foods I was sad to leave behind were most of the wonderful gelato flavors available there, my favorite fruits, and many Indonesian foods.

But durian-flavored…anything…didn’t make the cut.

And I’m totally good with that. 😉

no durian sign final
Photo Credits: Hafiz Issadeen, Tagosaku

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: On Being Brave

Bandung traffic finalOh.

The things I could write about today.

Of course, you know there will be an Indonesia story at the end of this…because, yes, it is Monday and there is coffee. (And that’s all I’m going to say about those things today…feel free to be shocked.) 😉

I was also down with…the flu. a bad cold. a headache. a fever. potentially all of it…all weekend and so coming back to my blog sort of feels like I’m crawling off the couch and back into humanity. And I’m starting to feel better and can actually talk now without squeaking.

Oy.

I really hate to be sick, but since I know y’all don’t want the details, I’ll leave it at that.

However, Valentine’s Day happened this weekend, and I found myself grateful beyond words that we celebrated last week with friends so I could fully enjoy my day(s) of crashing on the couch and trying to sleep and rest and diffuse this thing out of my system. It sort of worked. And to save the weekend, hubby made red velvet cookies yesterday, which I ate for breakfast this morning.

Life just feels a little better after those plus coffee.

So let’s get to Indonesia, shall we?

I’ve sort of been in homesick mode for the last week. I think part of that is because I’ve done so much reflecting and remembering…and I’ve got friends in Indo who know how to make me miss this place and these people with just a photo or two. Seriously. One of them posted a photo of the crazy that is motorbike parking in Indonesia…aka: a SEA. OF. MOTORBIKES. And I totally found myself wishing for my cute pink bike once again just so I could zoom it up and down Wisconsin Street once. Or fifty times.

However, my husband has forbidden me from having a Vespa here, my dearest motorbike wish, despite multiple moments of begging, therefore I’m sure this would not go over well.

But I do miss my bike in all of its cute, pink, I-can-drive-this-thing-in-flip-flops, glory. I kind of miss it a lot.

And so I bring you the saga…and it IS a saga…of how I learned to drive a bike. So let’s all shed a tear for Mel and her bike-missing that’s happening over coffee this morning.

And feel free to smile, too. Especially during the part when I run into a bush.

:)

As always, thanks for being here. (And if anyone would like to buy me a Vespa, you know where to find me.) :)

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28

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.
Madeleine L’Engle

Anyone who lives in a big city knows that having some mode of transportation is necessary for sanity.

When we arrived in Bandung, our immediate needs were close enough that we could walk or take an angkut (minibus) down the hill. Therefore, for the first several weeks, we survived just fine without a car or motorbike or even a bicycle.

But once we had been in-country for a month or two, we had the itch to get out and explore more. Public transportation was doable, but not our favorite method, and the day a stranger sat on me on the angkut, I knew it was time for a motorbike!

I sent Tobin to pick it out because I was down with Bandung Belly, (that’s another story for another day…) and therefore, not going anywhere. I told him I had few preferences other than I did not want a manual transmission and that I’d give him bonus points for a unique color.

He did great and came home after ordering a semi-automatic (yay for multitasking!), orange (woo hoo!) bike.

I was thrilled!

And I was actually the first of us to drive it. It was delivered to our school a few days later, and I hopped on, started it up, and drove it right home from school…AND without killing anyone, though I did have to stop at an intersection to yield to a group of school children. I’m pretty sure they sprinted across the road in utter fear of the newbie bule who, most likely, had no business driving.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed our new-found freedom, even if it just meant having a quicker way to get to and from school. I loved driving that orange beauty, and my confidence grew quickly.

Maybe too quickly.

After we’d had the bike for two weeks or so, I hopped on it to drive myself to school. Tobin was going to walk there later, so I decided to go ahead and leave early to get some things done in my classroom before the day started.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The satpam (guard) saw me coming, and I just assumed he would open the gate wider than he did, mostly so I wouldn’t run over him. Well, he didn’t, and being the brave girl I was, I gunned it…right into a bush.

It was one of those humbling moments where I had one of two choices. Laughter or tears…thankfully I chose laughter, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely uncoordinated (and stupid?) in my life.

And it took me almost a year to have the guts to try driving a bike again. For that year, I was content to ride around on the back of it while Tobin drove. Yeah, I was a chicken, but it was also good for me because I was able to learn the city…which streets went where and how to navigate the multiple one ways that seemed to dominate the art of transportation there. I probably learned Bandung better than Tobin did because I spent so much time watching, scoping out the good shopping and coffee places…

…and getting lost, because we did a lot of that, too. 😉

After that year, once I had gotten into the groove of Indonesian life, I knew it was time to try driving again. I needed the freedom to meet up with friends (and to go get coffee!) and so we went out one random day and bought me my own motorbike.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It was pink and soooooo cute. It was an automatic, meaning that I only had to gas and brake with my hands, which was better…less to distract me as I navigated the streets of Bandung on my cute little scooter, which I almost always drove while wearing flip flops.

I did well in the neighborhood around our house but knew I would eventually need to dig up the courage to actually drive in the city…among the cars and motorbikes and angkuts and buses and trucks and bicycles and carts and horses…you get the picture.

I was terrified.

It took every ounce of courage I had to venture out that day. I drove, my hubby followed me on the other bike, and we weaved our way in and out of traffic, going all the way to one of our favorite shopping centers and home again.

And I didn’t die.

Not only did I manage to stay alive, I also learned a very important lesson about bravery. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture of a situation and let fear take over, when, in reality, all I had to worry about while driving were the vehicles around me. The one rule of Indonesian driving was that I was responsible for what I could see in front of me. And that was it.

Once I understood that, it was much easier to drive the city…and I got even braver, making trips all over town on my own.

We sold our motorbikes once we bought a car and little M was on the way, and a part of me was sad. Those motorbikes were only things, but to me, they represented an important part of our lives as we learned to really live in Indonesia.

They were also great reminders of a lesson I learned in being willing to do things that seem more difficult than they really are.

Here’s to bravery and to doing more than we think we can.

Anyone for a Vespa ride? 😉

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_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Oh, Rats!

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Well, here we are.

Another Monday.

I’m determined to like Mondays, I really am. I have to admit that coffee helps them as coffee does generally improve my outlook each morning. 😉 (And I’ve probably had too much of it today, too…hello, Starbucks flat white. Where have you been all my life?!)

Ahem.

It wasn’t my intention to only blog on Mondays, either. It seems like life has gotten in the way a little…or, rather, life has needed to be lived not in front of a computer screen. Some weeks are like that, and I’m determined to be ok with that and not apologize for it. (Though I think that’s why you get a rather random intro every week…it’s my way of still writing out my thoughts a little.) 😉

I went back and forth with what to share with y’all this week. My hubby commented last week that my story sounded different from what I usually post. I was like, huh? I guess the difference is that last week was more serious instead of funny. (I do have a good mix of stories from both sides, but that’s not something I thought about.) I don’t want to lose readers or bore you to tears by being intense and serious all the time…it’s just that life in Indonesia wasn’t all giant puddles and falling in squatty potties. (No, no, not really…but that would have made an awesome story!)

So I’ll try to mix up the laughter and the tears. Thanks for sticking with me. :)

Aw, this one. It’s fun. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) 😉 One of the things we just had to deal with in Indonesia was rats. They flocked to us…or packed to us or whatever it is that rats do.

They could smell our foreign blood, particularly this girl’s, and they came running through grass and gutters and garbage piles just so they could give me good stories to tell. Funny enough, those stories have become precious pieces of my heart…ones I’d love to go back and live all over again. I guess I really loved Indonesia, didn’t I?

Yes. I REALLY did. And I still do. :)

I bring you…a tale of a rat and two dogs. It’s a doozy.

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37

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Along with cockroaches and snakes, one of the creatures I never got used to?

Rats.

*shudder*

My first interactions with them were from a distance…I’d often see them hanging out in the gutters or ditches, usually when we were on the bike.

Once in a while, if I was walking outside at night, I might hear one nearby, but it was kind of one of those things you don’t stick around to process too long. At least I never did. 😉

One time when we were driving, one ran in front of us, so close that we almost hit it.

But we made it through our first year in Indonesia, keeping our interactions with them to a minimum, and that was just fine with me.

I can do this. I can live here, I’d say to myself.

But sometime during our second year in that house, we started to hear the pitter-patter of little feet on what we thought was the roof.

We had our jaga (guard), who watched our house each night, do some checking for us. He couldn’t find evidence of anything, but we continued to hear the noises, and they were starting to make us nervous.

Eventually we figured out that there were, indeed, rats…but they were running between the floors of our house. The way our house was built, there was space between the floors, giving them just enough room to run through and around and play rat tag…and totally creep us out.

We were also very aware of the fact that, with two big dogs, it was only a matter of time before there was a nasty interaction.

Andre was the first to have a go at it.

For weeks…and I do mean weeks…we watched our golden retriever camp out by a certain spot in our yard. After he’d done his business, he would lie down on his belly, nose outstretched toward a little hole/crack in one of our gutters. (Concrete gutters are built into the ground in most places in Indonesia to deal with the copious amounts of rain we’d get during rainy season.) We were curious about what was so interesting down there, but we could never see anything until the night he “got it.”

Andre was a quick killer…one chomp and that rat was toast with minimal bloodshed.

Sammy was our more aggressive golden, though…he’s the one who gives us most of the good stories. His first “kill” was just a few weeks after Andre’s, and he caught this one in the kitchen. It had been hiding behind the washing machine, and he cornered it, chomped it…

And even though he could have just stopped there, he chose not to…shaking his head while holding the now-dead rat and, thus, spraying blood all over the kitchen walls.

Yes, it was a lovely mess to clean up since I know you’re all wondering.

We also said silent prayers, following that kill, that Andre would be the rat killer among the two in the future.

As the years went by, we really tried not to stress over the rats or the fact that they were becoming an inevitable aspect of life in Indonesia. And we were doing well…or so I thought.

When we made the move to the new campus and set up a new house, rats became a problem again almost immediately…I was starting to wonder if they could just sniff out expatriate blood and know who would be the most freaked out. 😉

Our pembantu (house helper) was living with us for several days each week, and one night she, my hubby, and our two killer doggies went down in history with possibly the most memorable rat-kill the world (or at least Bandung) has ever known.

I was sitting in the living room on the couch, prepping for my lessons the next day, when I heard a strange sound coming from the laundry area. Since both of the dogs were in the room with me, I connected what we were most likely dealing with…and so did Sammy, who immediately sprinted in there to survey the scene.

My feet had literally just hit the floor when I saw it come flying through the kitchen and into our family room.

I wasted no time…I took a flying leap, laptop still in my hands, and sprinted to another piece of furniture in the next room.

For the next few minutes that rat used our family room as his own, personal, obstacle course and sprinted over and under and – what seemed like – through furniture, constantly chased and nosed by two dogs who wanted a piece of him.

Literally.

Hearing the commotion, our pembantu came out of her room, saw what was happening, and grabbed a broom. (Just one of the many, many reasons I loved this woman…I don’t think she was afraid of anything.)

She expressed her idea to contain the rat by opening the door to the garage…and the rat eventually ran in there, followed closely by the dogs, herself, and my husband. (I stayed outside and listened.) 😉

It was one of those seriously hilarious scenes, even though I couldn’t actually see what was going on. There was noise, clatter, and even things falling over as four beings were in hot pursuit of this terrifying beast. I could hear her smacking at it with a broom, the dogs growling…it was really hysterical. (And I was totally laughing while I listened to it all.)

And then…quiet.

Pin-drop quiet.

The door opened, and Andre…ratless…emerged. The look on his face expressed all I needed to know.

He was extremely proud of his kill. (The one that our awesome pembantu was now picking up with a plastic bag and disposing.)

We were just breathing silent prayers of thanks that Andre had been the one to get the rat and not Sammy since many of our belongings were stored in the garage.

And that particular rat kill was over.

Oh, there were more…and they continued up until we left the country because, well, the rats continued.

There have been many times when this story has come up in conversation with friends…it was one of those that we’ll never forget. Yeah, it’s a little (or a lot) yucky, but may it was the proof we needed…

Proof that God can always give us the strength to survive some pretty unpleasant situations.

And laugh about them…and even cherish the memories of them…later.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Always There

sammy 600 final
Haha…I’m laughing to myself.

😀

SERIOUSLY.

The things I will do to put off posting on Mondays.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, please…I want to share these stories.

But sometimes I have to get over myself first, and it takes random things like shoveling FEET of snow and wasting my brain on old NKOTB videos (thanks to my bloggy sister who posted that one) 😉 before I’m quite ready to go there.

The truth is that my Monday morning snark really has nothing to do with this chapter.

Right now I have a lot of words to choose from…of course, that will change as the weeks go by. Well, unless I write more chapters, which will probably happen…there are even a few more ideas saved in the notes section on my phone right now. :)

So I asked my hubby yesterday which one I should share…and he immediately said, Sammy.

He hasn’t read my book…in fact, there are only a handful of friends who have seen a few pieces of it and one friend who’s read the whole thing. Tobin is reading it right along with the rest of you, and yet, somehow he knew there would be a chapter about this.

He knows me and he knows the many things God used to shape me during our time in Indonesia. They weren’t always easy things…and this is definitely one of them that is still painful.

A slight disclaimer: this is oh-so-very-UNedited. And it made me laugh when I read the two scenarios that I managed to combine. But to me it makes sense. And even if it doesn’t to you, I hope the truth here will resonate.

It’s one I need today…and every day.

Thank you for being here. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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20

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

I haven’t made it a secret that Indonesia was not easy.

It wasn’t something I dwelled on as we lived the day-to-day, but there were definitely moments when it became a blunt, in-my-face reminder.

There were moments of homesickness that made me hide under a blanket, curl up into a ball, cry every tear inside me…and eventually bring myself to the point of realizing that since I couldn’t will myself “home” that I would have to crawl out of my cave of despair and face life again.

I always came out, and life always went on, and it even included smiles.

I will never forget a certain day in Decemeber of 2005.

We’d been in the country less than five months…definitely still members in good standing of the newbie group.

But we also wanted to break out of that somewhat and learn to live in this place that was our home and would be just that until God gave us a definitive calling for something else.

And as part of our “breaking out?”

We hopped on the motorbike, determined to find a certain restaurant I had eaten at once.

One. Time.

One time, a little restaurant, in a city of about three million people.

We had a vague idea of where it was, but compounding that very vagueness was a maze of one-way streets. A drive that should have taken us fifteen minutes left us still on the bike ninety minutes later, the sun beating down, the dreaded farmer tan forming on my arms, and our spirits sinking.

Oh, and we had a form of bike butt that I can’t even talk about. Because, for some reason, I remember the pain, and it still makes me cringe.

It was one of the worst feelings to be so lost and have no clue where we were going. (Or, if we were going to get there. Ever.)

Anyway, more and more and more wrong turns later, and after almost two hours of driving around (with a gas stop for a very empty tank), we finally arrived at the restaurant. Ate lunch. Did a little shopping at the outlet store next to it. And left.

Feeling a euphoria mixed with some form of what-on-earth-just happened-here.

Frustration could have ruled the day, but we were both in the same place, I think.

We were finally, really living in this place…finding our independence.

And it felt spectacular.

But was that day easy? Absolutely not. As much as it is etched in my mind for eternity, it is not a day I want to repeat. Ever. (Well, I would repeat the lunch-and-shopping part of it…those were definitely aspects I always enjoyed.) :)

There were so many days and even weeks like that…times when we were left to figure things out or trust that it would all work out even when we had no clue how that might happen. Things always did work out, but sometimes not without a lot of confusion, frustration…and tears.

Perhaps one of the hardest things we experienced was so much like this first account…and yet so different.

We’d just begun our third year of Indonesia life, and we were no longer the new kids in town. We were moving into the mentor role and had just spent the week prior with new staff, helping them set up their houses.

It was a good place to be…and we were truly enjoying life and where God had placed us. We were also coming off of a summer spent in Indonesia…the one summer we chose not to return to the U.S. It had been a difficult two months but was not without blessings, either…including a trip to Bali to celebrate our 5th anniversary.

We’d also had some transparent talks as a couple about our relationship with God and how we both felt there were areas we could improve, specifically with spending more time in His Word.

For the previous two weeks we’d been intentionally rising early to do this in the morning rather than late at night as our eyelids began to droop.

We were being intentional…and we were growing.

That’s why we were blindsided…We. Just. Didn’t. See. It. Coming.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I had just sent my fourth graders to their specials class. I was attempting to dig through the stack of grading that had somehow miraculously appeared on my desk, just two weeks into the new school year, when my husband walked into my room.

I took one look at his face and knew instantly that something was very, very wrong.

Sammy’s gone.

Those words still bring tears to my eyes as I, once again, see the image in my mind of my husband standing in front of me, tears in his own eyes.

Though our pembantu (house helper) was at our house and it was broad daylight, someone had stolen our precious golden retriever without anyone seeing.

To say that the days that followed were horrible is an understatement. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function…and yet all of our school responsibilities went on as expected. My students became accustomed to a teacher who did all the things asked of her but did so with red, swollen eyes and a spirit that seemed to be sinking lower with each passing minute.

We spent every free moment combing the city, blanketing it with fliers, and taking locals with us who would translate for us as we explained to pet stores and the two “stolen” dog markets that there was a big reward, and we would not call the police. We just wanted our dog back.

And in between those things and teaching, we would just try to breathe…somehow.

But it almost felt like helpless floundering.

We felt so lost.

I remember the Sunday that followed because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was too great, my heart was too heavy, and my God seemed too far away.

I found myself face-down to the floor, my forehead pressed against the ever-dusty tile, and wept to that God. The One Who had promised that He cared for His children, the One Who said He cared about the robins and sparrows, the One Who had promised He’d always walk by my side.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, but I know it was for a while because I had a pretty good mark on my forehead for a few days. And I can’t even tell you everything I said between my tears, but I do know that I told God, Sammy’s Yours. I want him back, but he’s Yours.

Two days later, Sammy was returned to us through a series of events that I know my Father orchestrated…but that one is deserving of its own chapter.

Again…that feeling of complete bliss but mixed with some wondering, too, of what on earth had just happened to us.

Having our precious doggy-boy returned to us was a day neither of us will ever forget, but is it a day or a week that we ever want to repeat?

I don’t think that question even bears the need for an answer.

And we’ve since revisited those emotions…emotions that can still be strong enough to bring tears. I’ve combed through the story in the past, searching for something deeper that God may be still trying to teach me, and I think I’ve finally found it in the midst of another season when I just don’t see.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not going to shock any of you.

But it is Truth.

There are times in life that are just hard. And while we cry and hurt and wonder, we must never, ever forget Him…He is always there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Today my Sammy is still his crazy, loud, wonderful, golden-retriever self…and he is a living reminder of this Truth.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: A Tale of a Really Big Puddle

rainy season finalMy deepest apologies for the lack of a puddle picture. This is what we have.
That’s mostly because, when we were in the middle of a downpour, the last thing we thought about doing was pulling out a camera.
😉

Hi there and happy Monday to you, friends. :)

So, clearly, there will be an introduction for every chapter if I continue this way.

I’m sorry about that, and if you don’t like the, here’s-what-I-think-about-this-chapter part, I’ll forgive you if you skip ahead.

So do you ever have a day when you just need a good smile, even a laugh? Today is one of those for me…and this story? Well, it’s one of my favorites. To be fair, I love them all, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t forget this one, even if I tried.

Some days I shake my head, and I seriously can’t believe we lived out some of the things we did. God has a sense of humor, and He also taught me to have one, too. I’m still working on it some days, but it is there.

So here’s to puddles…BIG ones…and the fact that, most days, I’d give anything to live this all over again.

Enjoy. (And laugh.) 😀

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30

So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter.
Gordon W. Allport

When I was little, I would puddle jump like most kids do when it’s raining. You know, in those little patches of water that would miraculously (well, at least to a toddler) appear in the most convenient places after a sudden downpour. The kind that made my mom grumpy when I jumped in them and got the bottom of my jeans wet.

Those tiny, Midwest puddles got nothin’ on Indonesia, rainy season puddles.

In fact, it wasn’t until moving there that I experienced a true puddle. (In my mind, anyway.) 😉

During our first rainy season, we owned a motorbike, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times we got caught in the rain. It would be a sunny day, and five minutes later, it would be pouring…so needless to say, we got used to being very wet a lot of the time.

But the puddles that were created by rainy season were a completely different story…and gave us some pretty interesting memories.

On one such occasion, we had gone to a shopping center at the other end of town on a Sunday afternoon. ­­Kings was one of the best places we could buy fabric in the city, so we spent a couple hours that day browsing and eventually buying what we needed. When we drove there, it had been a sunny, gorgeous day, but just chalk it up as something we had to learn by living in Indonesia longer than we had…

April afternoons = rain. Almost. Always. Rain.

And it was raining. Like, monsoon-ish rain.

We decided to wait it out for a while, found a nearby McDonald’s, and had some ice cream while we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Eventually we realized that we would most likely be waiting for hours and decided to give in to getting wet. Tobin had a rain jacket with him, but I was in khakis and a jean jacket.

Smart ensemble, I know, for a tropical country.

However, in less than a minute I was so completely soaked that it didn’t matter anymore. Water is water.

But what we hadn’t counted on? Was the puddle.

THE. PUDDLE.

It was just like you see in the movies. Big puddle. Big bus. Motorbike carrying two bules approaches puddle. Bus drives through puddle creating tidal wave. Motorbike and its occupants have nowhere to go and, thus, are drenched by the nasty, dirty, wave of wet.

Never in my life had I felt so soggy and gross.

To make matters worse, once we got back up to our part of town, the sun was shining, and we? Looked like grimy, drowned rats who’d gone for a swim through the streets of Bandung.

And the even-funnier thing is that once we had a puddle experience, it seemed like we had so many more of them…because they’re just a common fact of life in a place like Indonesia. It was almost like God said, “Ok, they can handle as many as I can throw at them.” (Who knows? He probably did.) 😉

They became a strange type of normal in our ever-adventure-filled lives…and almost so normal that we stopped complaining about them pretty much altogether.

I remember the time that a friend and I had made a much-needed, after-school jaunt to the Starbucks down the hill. After some caffeine and a good heart-to-heart, we hopped on her bike to head back toward home. As we left, it started to sprinkle, so we were completely expecting to get wet.

That wasn’t the surprise. Like I said…wet equaled normal on most days.

But as we took a short detour into the kampung so she could show me her house for the next year, we unsuspectingly came upon it.

Another PUDDLE.

This one, we drove right into without even realizing it was there. Well obviously, we saw water…but not the depth.

It. Was. Deep.

SO. DEEP.

Like, up-to-our-thighs deep.

I still, to this day, cannot tell you how we managed to drive OUT of that puddle without toppling over, but we did.

And then? We just laughed and laughed and laughed. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my life.

And it was at that moment when I realized why God had made the rainy season puddles in Indonesia so massive.

Yes, there was another reason other than to get unsuspecting motorbike drivers completely drenched.

Maybe it was to give us more chances to laugh and create memories that will be etched in our minds forever.

As gross and nasty as those puddles were, I will never forget them.
Or the laughter that came along with them.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: (3) On Getting Up Again

surfing final
So here I am on a Monday afternoon (or, evening…ahem…) and that’s because yours truly woke up with a monster migraine. Hello, beginning of the week and the inability to function and write a coherent sentence until the pounding-nails-into-my-temples feeling is gone.

I’ve mentioned this a time or two before, but I really am not a Monday fan. That was part of the reason I decided to share my chapters on Mondays…you know, to try to make Monday into a day I actually LOOK. FORWARD. TO.

But enough about the fact that it’s Monday. Almost Tuesday now. 😉

Also, you are not going crazy. I promise. I shared chapter one last week…this week, chapter three. I decided to jump around a little. That, and chapter two needs some revisions that my brain wasn’t up for over the weekend. And if I post chapter 26 next week, don’t be too alarmed. 😉

So today I bring you a different one, but this is one of my favorites. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I hope you enjoy reading about the time this clumsy girl learned to surf and the lessons I’ve learned from the wipeouts…and from the getting up again part, too.

_____________________

3

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Maya Angelou

Something I’d wanted to do since I was a little girl was learn to surf.

This is a particularly odd choice of goals since I grew up in small-town Iowa where large bodies of water were all but absent. Nevertheless it remained a dream…something I could see myself doing someday.

Before we moved to Indonesia, I only saw the ocean twice. The first time, we were in California for our first anniversary, and not getting killed by the waves? Was my goal. (Let’s just say I had a very unhealthy fear of death by large wave.)

The second time was when we were in South Africa, and the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean hovered in the 40’s, I’m sure. Just sticking my toes in was enough to freeze my entire body…no way was I going to submerge myself in that water!

I really didn’t even have a chance to learn to surf until we moved to Indonesia.

During our five years there, we made just three trips home, and we usually spent our Christmas breaks traveling. During that first Christmas in 2005, we took a two-week trip to Bali, where my love for all-things-ocean was kindled.

We swam, we bodysurfed, we boogie-boarded. We soaked up all that the glorious Indian Ocean had to offer us.

But I was afraid of that sport that required standing and riding a board propelled by ocean waves…surfing looked really, really scary.

So during our first trip, I didn’t try it, certain that I never would have been able to actually stand up on that board anyway.

During Spring Break of our second year in Indonesia, I went back to Bali with a few girlfriends. We spent our days between the beach and the pool, shopping, and eating all the yummy food we could never find in Bandung.

Our last morning there I had this nagging feeling. The whole week, I had psyched myself out of trying to surf, making excuses.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

So I hopped out of the pool, followed by two of my friends, marched right down to the beach (which was less than fifty meters away), and up to a guy renting out surfboards. Before I could chicken out, I hired myself a surf instructor and board for $5. (I love Indonesia prices.)

My instructor gave me a quick crash course in how to move from lying on the board to standing, all in Indonesian, of course. (I nodded my head and pretended to understand.)

Two minutes later we were out in the ocean, and as I stood in the chest-deep water for my first run, I felt like throwing up my breakfast. What on earth was I doing?

I carefully climbed onto the board, which my instructor was holding for me, and I watched the wave come up behind me. He let go…and I flew forward, hanging on for dear life.

But did I stand? No.

Did I even try to stand? Hmmm. Nope.

We laughed, he said something to me that I couldn’t translate, and I went back for another run, determined to at least move this time.

Again, I watched the wave come up behind me and felt my heart start to beat like crazy. As he let go of the board, I pushed myself up. I actually got one leg underneath me before I tumbled off the board.

Hey, it happens, and I’m pretty sure I scored graceful points for the somersault I did on the way down.

Third times the charm, right? I grabbed my board and faced the waves once again, determined to get it right.

Same story as before. As he let go of the board, I pushed up with everything I had, and I was standing!

The thing I forgot? Was that one must balance in order to stay ON the surfboard. I was so busy celebrating that I lost my balance, face-planted into the water, and came up sputtering after inhaling half of the ocean.

If you’ve ever gotten saltwater in your eyes, just multiply the pain times fifty or so.

It hurt.

I hurt.

And I was totally mortified that about a hundred people, give or take, had witnessed my thrashin’ wipeout. Sometimes there were just disadvantages to being the sometimes-uncoordinated-but-way-too-brave, white girl who thought she could surf.

Thankfully, I can laugh at myself in the midst of pain, which is probably what saved the day from being a total disaster…because on the next ride, I was determined to succeed.

My instructor had barely let go of the board when I popped up, steadied myself on both legs, and rode that board all the way in. A few feet from shore, I hopped off, looked up at a spectator who’d obviously witnessed the entire scene, and gave him a grin as if to say, You didn’t think I could do that, did you?

I spent the next hour riding wave after wave. Sometimes it would be a beautiful ride, sometimes I’d wobble, sometimes I’d completely wipe out…

But I couldn’t stop smiling…because I was following through on a dream I’d had for myself, and it was a beautiful one. There are few feelings I’ve had in my life that top what it’s like to ride a surfboard into shore.

There were several trips to Bali and other beaches over the next few years, and each chance I had, I’d rent a surfboard for a few rupiah, run out into the ocean, and ride the waves like they belonged to me.

Sure, there were wipeouts and face-plants. (Lots of them.) There were days when I fell more than I actually surfed. A couple times I probably came close to severely injuring myself when I took some hard falls.

But learning to surf taught me a lot about life…because there are going to be those days. Days when we feel victorious as we rise above everything…conquering the things that threaten to tear us down. There are also those days when, no matter what we do, the waves are just too much and they knock us down…sometimes harder than we were expecting.

But no matter what…I’ve learned to always get up and keep going.

We recently passed a shop that had a surfboard for sale, and I joked about buying it to use on Lake Michigan.

The truth is that the surfing part of my life is over, and I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever hop on a surfboard again to face the waves.

But I know the lessons I learned from those rides…and they are worth every wipeout.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: (1) Finding Beauty

indo green
I’m not sure if I’ll write an intro for every chapter or not, but today you get one. :)

I sort of had a freak out moment yesterday…the kind when I basically told my husband that I didn’t want to share my book with the world anymore.

But don’t leave. Keep reading. 😉

Why? he asked.

There were a lot of replies swirling around in my head.

For starters, I am SOOOOO imperfect. Like, more imperfect than any of you, at least it feels that way often. I tend toward the drama and the crazy and the exuberant, and I think I drive some people crazy a lot of the time because of those things. I don’t want my words or my stories OR ME to be annoying.

And also, in the more realistic realm of all of it, writing a biography-ish piece is…well, it’s a true story that’s been lived. I write the way I saw it and felt it and remember it, not the way others saw it. Does that make sense? I fear that my writing will be questioned.

Which might bring us to the final answer I gave to my husband. The truth of why I didn’t want to to do this? Fear.

It’s true that when we chase a dream, even if it looks so much different than we every could have anticipated, it’s just plain scary. Plus, I really think the devil is just having a heyday with all of this, too.

Oh, my book may never see the shelves of your local bookstore, but words are words, and they’re here just the same. In public for anyone to read and critique.

Fear. It’s creeping in.

It could win today, but I’m going to choose to kick it to the curb.

So here’s the first piece of my heart…the first piece of many. And it’s pretty fitting that it’s also about the first day we spent in Indonesia, too. :)

_____________________

1

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
Confucius

I can’t tell you a lot about the first day my husband and I spent in Indonesia. I do know that we arrived at the Jakarta airport sometime in the afternoon, and that it was hot.

Shirt-glued-to-my-back-in-two-minutes hot.

And by the time we’d stood and sweated our way through that way-too-long, visa-on-arrival line, I wanted only one thing…to go home. I’m not sure what I considered home to be at that very moment, but I knew it was calling my name.

It may have been that the single thing on my mind was a bed with a pillow.

Well, there was another thing, too…I also wanted my dog who had completed his mandatory quarantine in the country and was waiting for us at some obscure, out-of-the-way pet store/shipping company tucked somewhere in the bustling city of Jakarta.

Thankfully we found the friends we were supposed to meet quickly, and they led us (and our mountain of stuff) to a waiting van, and we were soon on our way.

With just a few wrong turns, our driver managed to find our dog, which provided a joyous reunion. We grabbed some McDonald’s and endured our quite-by-accident, first experience with sambal…Indonesian chili sauce.

And then we were really on our way.

I was jet lagged.

I was emotional.

I was dreading the inevitable of using a squatty potty.

And I forgot to look around me.

That first day in Indonesia remains such a fog of images, pieced together by what I imagine and what I’ve seen other times. But I can’t really visualize my first impressions.

And that makes me sad.

After an exhausted night’s sleep in a strange place, I woke (around 3:30 a.m.) to the sound of the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. We had known about the call to prayer from our previous interactions with people who worked at the school, and so it didn’t catch us completely by surprise. Nevertheless, I still let out a grumble, stuffed my head under my pillow, and tried to catch a few more winks.

It didn’t work.

I pulled out my husband’s laptop and popped in a movie to entertain myself instead.

Nowhere in that moment did I look for beauty…granted, I’m not sure exhausted scratched the surface of how I was feeling. Yet at that very moment hundreds, even thousands, of people around me were rising to spend time in prayer. Who they were praying to is not the issue here…but rather the idea of a commitment.

That’s beauty.

I took living in the mountains for granted.

The beautiful, green that surrounded us became our normal backdrop. What I should tell you? Is that I’m not sure there’s more beauty anywhere else on the planet.

And what I loved even more about the mountains is that God placed them in a country that I sometimes found sad. The vast majority of Indonesian people have little and live day-to-day. At first glance, the city of Bandung was not very beautiful…in some, or more-than-some, ways it looked quite dirty. (It actually won the Dirtiest City in Indonesia award one year, though I’m still looking for the proof on that one.) 😉

But the mountains that surrounded it?

Beautiful.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that living there was always easy. While I loved it a lot of the time, it was sometimes a hard place to live, and I never reached the point when I felt like I belonged completely.

I often became frustrated when I couldn’t effectively communicate in Indonesian. I would figuratively curse rainy season and the many days it ruined my plans as well as my clothes and my hair. I complained about traffic and not-so-silently wished that the masses descending on our city for a visit would just go home.

But I also grew to love the Indonesian people and found them to be some of the kindest, friendliest, most loving people I’ve ever had the privilege to live among.

They are beautiful.

Really, when we stop to look at our daily lives, there is beauty all around us.

It can be found in the form of a friend taking time from her day to call and chat for a few minutes. Or, in a just-because-you’re-important-to-me hug from a student. Or a stranger going out of his or her way to offer help to someone who is directionally impaired…and can’t speak a lick of the local language, either.

When I look back at the time we spent in Indonesia, I wish I had taken more opportunities to drink in the beauty that surrounded me…to stop and savor each and every moment.

For there is always beauty, no matter where you are. Take the time to look for it.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig