Confusing Moments, War with Duck

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A couple of unique things happened this week. Sometimes I don’t know what’s weird anymore. All my wires are criss-crossed, my point of reference has definitely shifted eastward!

This week a boy who I didn’t recognize was knocking on our front door. So I open the door and he has a package of rice porridge in his hands. I ask him what it is, and he says ‘rice porridge’ or “bubur” in Indonesian. He’s obviously here to give it to me. What’s not obvious is why he wants to give me rice porridge. I’m thinking it’s because the day before we went around to a few of our neighbors to hand out Christmas cookies. It’s a very Indonesians thing to return the favor. So I didn’t ask any questions. But I watched him leave and he didn’t return to one of the houses we had given cookies to. OKAY! So I took the porridge inside and, several days later, it’s still in our refrigerator. We still don’t know who it’s from!

Today, we had an intruder in our house. I have an ongoing war with a certain duck that hangs out in our yard. I hate this duck because for the longest time he leaves piles of mess on our front terrace where I park my motorbike. I’ve tried chasing the duck away, throwing rocks and sticks at it, and even tried several times to hit it with my motorbike. But he always keeps coming back.

Today, it got personal. The duck walked through our front door and into our bedroom!! I freak out, grab the broom and start to chase it out. But before I got him out the door he left a little present for us on our bedroom floor. You’d think that would be enough. But no, after I cleaned it up he came in again, and left another little pile! He’s escalated the war to something else. I have to come up with some new ways to rid our house of the duck. . .

Marathon Surviver

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Well, I’m glad to say that I survived the Singapore marathon, my first. It was a lot more grueling and intense than I anticipated. I guess that’s just a sign that I’m in my thirties now (not twenties) and my body can’t leap over buildings like it used to. Ha!

My analysis. . . well, I did the first half pretty well. My legs were starting to feel sore and heavy but I was able to keep going. My running partner, Natalie, and I made good time up to this point. But a half marathon is the furthest distance I’ve ever run before and my body started to protest. (I hadn’t really trained for a full marathon, but was taking the place of my friend who had an injury). So I really had to slow down after that. In fact around the 3/4 mark I couldn’t continue running at all. It was a strange feeling. My legs hurt, my heart rate was sky rocketing, and I felt dizzy. I wanted to keep running, but because my legs were about to fail I had to walk. And I was afraid my heart rate and breathing were too high. So to play it safe I had to walk for long parts of it.

Faithful Natalie stuck with me the whole time even though I protested that she keep going. As I think back about it I don’t think I would have finished if she weren’t with me. I’m pretty sure I would’ve given up. That’s quite a shock for me as I’m really NOT a quitter. But I came really close. . .

I think this race showed me that I need to train more if I’m ever going to do it again. I can’t just throw myself in haphazardly no matter how good my intentions are. It takes a lot of work to run a marathon. You can’t do it half way. Like our motto “Go hard or go home!”. Next time, go harder! Also, it showed me the value of a partner. Just knowing that there was someone else with me, and that she wouldn’t leave me no matter what was incredible motivation to keep going. Thank you Natalie for giving me this picture.

Will I do it again next year? We’ll see! If I can confidently do a half and push myself beyond that then I think I have a chance. Otherwise, no way!

Little Hero. My Motorbike is AWESOME!

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Today I did some calculations on my motorbike. I had to convert kilometers per liter over to miles per gallon, but I figured out my gas mileage. Pretty amazing. . . We are getting 113.75 miles / gallon!! Haha. That pretty much blows the Prius out of the water. Not bad for such a little thing. Oh, I also figured out how much we’re paying for the gas. Using the current exchange rate and again converting from liters to gallons I’m paying about $1.88 per gallon at the pump. So not only is gas cheaper here, I get to go a lot farther with it at the same time. It’s a win win situation. Way to go little buddy!

Adventures in Karaoke

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One thing you should know about Indonesians is that they love karaoke. I think Asian people in general love karaoke. It’s definitely no exception here. This is something we’ve had to get used to. They’re crazy about it. Every wedding there is always karaoke. Karaoke here is much different than in the States. Here, you don’t have to possess talent. You’re actual musical or vocal ability has NOTHING to do with it. Anybody and everybody can karaoke (and they do!). It’s not an embarrassing thing. They get up there, no reserve, sing their little hearts out, off key a lot of times, and sit down feeling all the more happy for it. The important thing is that you tried.

Kim and I have had our fair share of karaoke experiences here, much to our chagrin. Not that we’ve wanted to! But when everybody around us loves it so much it’s kind of hard to say no. And being the guests of honor we don’t want to offend anybody. Here are a couple for instances.

The first time I karaoked was with a group of boys who invited me and Kim to their family wedding. I didn’t want to karaoke, but they all thought it would be so great if I got up there and sang a song for everybody. And they promised they’d back me up. But when the DJ announced I was going to sing something they panicked and stayed in their seats. So I got up in front of the whole crowd (none of which I knew of course) and sang Imagine by John Lennon. The worst part about this was that there were no words to look at and I didn’t know the whole song. So I just sort of repeated the first verse over and over again until the song was over. When the song was over the whole crowd erupted into applause and I sheepishly took my seat. I don’t think they knew the difference.

One other time, more recently, we were asked to karaoke at another wedding. This time my friends came up with me, along with Kim. So about five of us were going to sing. I scanned through the English songs that the DJ had and finally settled on My Girl by The Temptations. Fortunately they had lyrics to read. So Kim and I started singing, but our Indonesian friends didn’t know the words and stood there. Then at the chorus I signaled them and we all joined in for “My Girl, My Girl. . . talkin’ bout My Girl, MY GIRL!” That part they could do. Oh my gosh it was hilarious. After the song was over there was applause again and we walked back to our seats. It turns out the DJ recorded us and started playing the song over the loud speakers. Wow, as if once wasn’t enough!

The last time we had to karaoke was the grand daddy of them all. Kim and I drove out to a village wedding with our local family, about a forty-five minute drive. They rarely get to see foreigners out there and we really stood out. We all took our seats. The reception began and the man up on the stage paid a special welcome to their guests from America. He went on to explain that we were fluent in Indonesian, the village language (Anugerah), and the mountain language (which is not true). FURTHERMORE we were going to sing a song for everyone. What?! This was a break in protocol. Usually the singing and karaoke happens after the prayers. I looked over at Uncle Weh who was just as surprised as me. He graciously agreed to sing for us while we stood up on stage and ‘joget’ (dance). So we got up on stage, everyone watching us wondering what the heck we’re going to do. . . and the music starts. Uncle Weh starts singing and Kim and I start dancing in place in front of all these people. Here’s their first glimpse of white people- Josh and Kim making complete fools of themselves on stage dancing around, trying to take it all in stride. I’ve been stretched in a lot of ways since coming overseas, but that one was probably the worst.

Of course it wouldn’t help to explain to them that we don’t really do karaoke in my culture, that we don’t like getting up in front of strangers, and singing/dancing on stage is really awkward!! I think we’ve tried explaining that before, but for whatever reason it never works. Oh well, you win some you lose some. As crazy, awkward, silly, weird, dumbfounding and baffling as these experiences are, sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself, laugh at them, and just go with it.

Learning Guitar

I’ve been blessed this month with lots of guitar playing. I’ve had a lot of uninterrupted time to practice. Up until recently though I haven’t put this much effort in.

A couple years ago (our first year in Indonesia) I bought a guitar because I wanted some way to express myself musically. I’m a trumpet player but carrying a trumpet around with me everywhere traveling is kind of heavy. And not knowing where I was going to end up I thought a trumpet might not be appreciated by neighbors and people around us. It’s not a very subtle instrument if you know what I mean. So a guitar was more appropriate.

In my search for Christian music and songs I could play I came across this website called e-chords.com. They have a ton of songs but even more than that the songs can be transposed to fit the key (and, ah-hem, skill level). And there are quite a few instructional videos on how to play some pretty cool songs from people like U2, REM, Scorpions, and a bunch of other people. So anyway, learning guitar has been rewarding this month. It’s a musical outlet for me, another way to worship and lead worship for me and Kim, and a way to play some of my favorite songs.

Natural Beauty

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Sitting at the pool relaxing. This is great. What can I say, vacation is going wonderfully. Today I went snorkeling in probably the most beautiful reefs I’ve ever seen. Maybe some of the best in the world for all I know. It was like a forest of color stretching as far as I could see. A whole underwater world that I rarely if ever get the chance to be a part of. Thousands of fish all around me. Waters teeming with life. All I could do was laugh, trying not to gag on my snorkel! Sometimes God’s creation leaves me like that- speechless but bursting with praise and wonder inside.

I can’t think of a more beautiful place to be. We’re on a remote island off of Bali. It’s so much more calm and peaceful here than the main island- nobody hounding me about buying things, nobody chasing me down asking if I want a massage. No traffic. Much quieter. The local people here exist as they always have. In fact our hotel is split into two sections- an older one by the beach, a newer one down the road, and locals still living in huts in between. They’re all really helpful too, willing to give us a motorbike ride up the beach or advising us as to the best surfing spots.

I remarked to some friends today that although we work in some pretty tough conditions we have by far the best vacation spots in the world. Yes, living in Southeast Asia does have it’s benefits. There are times when I just have to pinch myself and say “Josh, where are you? Do you really get to do this?” The people I’ve been able to meet. . . The places I’ve been able to go. . . What can I say? I’m truly blessed to be able to do this. And I thank God for all the opportunities He’s given me. It’s truly remarkable.

“Thank you lord for the beauty of your world. Thank you lord for the wonder of your creation. Thank you lord for the privilege to experience it. I stand in awe lord! Amen!”

— the glory of woman is her beauty
— the glory of man is his strength
— the glory of God is His everything

Ignorance is bliss!

One of the interesting side effects of living overseas is that I’m for the most part removed from current events and news. At first this was hard for me to adjust to. One thing we have readily available in America is information. We have access to pretty much anything we want to know, be it the weather or how to get from point A to B. As an American it’s a really unsettling feeling not having access to information anymore. We feel kind of stranded.

It’s been a couple years now and I’m really starting to feel a little differently about it. I’m starting to feel a sense of freedom. This is something that gained clarity for me when a small group of Americans came to visit recently. They updated us on all the latest news. It was interesting. I made the offhanded comment that I really have no clue about what was happening in the states. One person from the group said they really admired that, that to them it seemed a purer way to live. I kind of took that to heart. what an insightful comment. I can’t say I disagree. It reminds me of a philosophy, an axiom that I’ve held onto over the years and have applied to several areas of my life: “ignorance is bliss”. This little idea has been a recurrent theme in my life for quite some time. I’m seeing the truth in it now more than ever.

The basic idea is that sometimes we’re better off for NOT knowing, or not seeing, or not doing something. Sometimes being in the dark has it’s benefits. I’m not saying we should run away from things. I’m not saying be stupid I’m only suggesting that sometimes we’re better off not knowing everything.

I think politics is a good example of what I mean. Political season is right around the corner and people are starting to think about elections again. I love the fact that over here I’m completely removed from that whole scene. I love the fact that I don’t know much or anything about the upcoming candidates. I haven’t seen the tv ads, I haven’t watched the news, I haven’t listened to the commentators or heard everyone’s opinion. I just simply don’t have access to it. But it’s great! I’m not complaining at all! On the contrary this is giving me the complete freedom to make up my own mind about the candidates. I’m not influenced by anything. What a wonderful feeling it is! It’s so freeing- the freedom to make up my own mind. It’s no longer a complicated or divisive thing. I feel so often politics is such a personal and heated subject. Oftentimes there’s so much slander and misinformation it’s nearly impossible to know what’s true. It’s even harder to have a productive open-minded conversation about it. Being free to make up my own mind is a rare opportunity that I’m enjoying.

I think this also applies to television. I rarely watch tv in the states, it’s virtually nil here. Matthew 8:22 says “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” So much of what is seen on tv is junk. I’m better off not seeing it.

In a world that places great value on “knowing”, on having all the information, on being up to date with the latest trends and gossip, I argue the opposite. Sometimes it’s so refreshing to be removed from the deluge of information and media. I’m thankful that living overseas has afforded me the opportunity to experience this.

Above the Waters

Been a busy day. Did some painting, helped at our language school, going to a meeting later to talk about our friend’s homestay. . . Everything we planned to do today sorta got lost in the shuffle. Not a very predictable day. But we’re trying to have a good helpful attitude about it. This really is a common thing here. “Sudah biasa” (already normal) as we say so often.

Two things we were able to control today. Painting, and reading our bible/praying together. Basically the two things that depended on us. Everything else depended on other people. But we realized again today that having a time in the morning to read and pray together is so important. We really feel it when we don’t. We’re moody, grouchy, and just not in good spirits. It’s really noticeable. So even though life can be pretty unpredictable, pretty wild we have a resource to help. But it’s more than a resource- it’s a life line- a buoy to keep our heads above the turbulent waters. Wow, thank you God for your word, which gives us life and energy in the here and now, and the promise of eternal life in the hereafter.

Home Stay

It’s been one of the most remarkable, intriguing and perhaps challenging weeks of my life. Leaving the comforts and familiarity of my modern, American culture and lifestyle, we’ve been ‘roughing it’ for the past week living with a local family and searching for a house of our own.

So what does it look like? We are woken up usually around five by either the morning call to prayer or the roosters, one of the two. We’ve been sleeping on a mat on the floor which actually is quite comfortable. Breakfast is rice, fish and some type of spicy sauce mixed together and eaten with your right hand. Coffee is served- grounds and one spoon of sugar. We take ‘showers’ twice a day which consists of pouring chilly water over your head and body using a bucket. It’s pretty shocking in the morning, but feels great later on in the heat of the day. We just use shampoo for soap.

I’m seeing more and more just how relationship based this country really is. Evenings with our family is very social. After dinner more coffee or tea is served and we all go and sit outside the house for hours. There is something called ‘mampir’ here which means ‘drop by’. People can ‘mampir’ anytime they want, unannounced, stay as long as they want, and this is both common and expected. In fact, if you don’t mampir for a while it communicates that you don’t want to be friends anymore.

Getting back to what I was saying. . . after dinner we usually sit outside and talk for hours- with neighbors, family members, friends, anybody who wants to stop by. Foreigners have never really visited, much less lived with a family in this village, and so people have been ‘mampiring’ much more regularly. They’re all very interested to meet us and are quite surprised (and honored t00) that we can speak their language. They think it’s really funny that we’re interested and care that much about them. The kids love to practice their English with us. They know a variety of basic vocabulary and a few are brave enough to try sentences. The men I’ve met are all really friendly and respectful.

The first couple days with our family were really hard. It was hard to process so much information at once. Sometimes vocabulary from two, three or more languages were being taught to me. It’s like, “If you’re from (People A) you say this. . . if you’re from (People B) you say it like this, and we say. . . ” etc. You get the idea. I had to strain to understand what they were saying. It’s gotten better though. I have a little notebook to jot down notes which helps me remember.

Our family has helped us find a house in their area! We’re really excited to live down the road and mampir as often as we want. It’s going to take a few days to get the house ready, but Kim and I are SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED to finally have a place of our own. And not only that, but it’s in a really incredible location too. It’s right in the heart of Anugerah territory. We’re excited to build on relationships we’ve already formed, plus make new ones. We’ll stay with our family till everything is ready.

Contrast and diversity

I am so amazed by the contrasts I find in SE Asia. One minute I’m eating fish and mush on the floor of a random family that invited us in for a chat. . . the other minute I’m eating a mouth-watering burger at TGI Fridays restaurant. The contrast between rich and poor is so blatantly obvious, as is the contrast between traditional way of life and Western influences. It’s just so shocking.

I find so much diversity here in Kuala Lumpur. Kim and I are staying for a little over a week as we wait on our new visa. But this truly is a WORLDLY city. Worldly in the sense that people who live here are from all parts of the world. To give you a sense of this, picture this. We rode the monorail all around the city today. Sitting across the train from me were a mixture of faces, not one of which I could definitely identify as “Malaysian”. But in our one little car were people from India, Germany, Korea, China, Indonesia, America (that’d be us), and other European countries. There were too many to identify. The cacophony of languages and accents was quite a sound to hear too. A lot of people spoke English, but the “English” they spoke was as hard for me to decipher as anything else. It’s quite funny when you overhear a conversation for five minutes not understanding any of it, when all of a sudden it dawns on you, “oh my, they’ve been speaking English the whole time. . !” That’s happened on more than one occasion.

And because of all the diversity, Kim and I don’t stand out as much. This is a HUGE breathe of fresh air, trust me! When we’re back on our island, we’re the ONLY white people around. They’re very intrigued by our fair skin, big noses, and my blond hair. It’s very hard to remain inconspicuous when you’re the only different looking person for hundreds of miles. Yeah, we’re still trying to get used to that. But this little vacation is pleasant just for the simple fact of being anonymous. And in a big diverse city like this we’re enjoying it. Now we’re the ones who want to stare!