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.
“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.
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.
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.