A Glimpse Around Town

Having lived in Asia-Pacific for a couple of years now, a few months ago we moved to the particular island/region where we intend to live long-term. Here are a few pics to give you a peek in and around the town in which we currently live.

There’s one main road that goes through our town. Traffic is a mixture of cars, motorbikes, and “taksis.”

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This is a “taksi.” There are a ton of them that go up and down the main strip. They all are the same model vehicle, but the decals and ornaments will range anywhere from Mercedes to Nike, and there is no limit to how big the spoilers get (the one pictured is quite small. Amateur).

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While the taksis are available on the main strip, people can hire an “ojek” to take them up and down the side roads. Ojecks are just motorbike taksis.

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If you can’t tell from this pic, the humidity is thick! Probably the only thing thicker are the mosquitoes.

 

Most houses and other buildings are built with bricks and cement, painted and finished, but there is a large population of people living around the town who grew up in the mountains and only recently moved closer to town. Many of these people build their houses and plant their gardens in the same fashion as they’re used to from their village.

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“The tree in the bridge” is one of the landmarks I use when giving directions to our house. We don’t have a house number, and our street doesn’t have a name, so we’re always giving directions.  I’ve actually never had someone give me a specific address, even where they do exist; a person will tell you what neighborhood they live in, then you go to that particular neighborhood and start asking around to find out which house they live in.
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I quickly learned that things like beans, flour, rice, etc. need to be frozen for a few days after you buy them. – This kills all the bugs and eggs that are almost certainly hiding in the mix (TMI? – Think of me the next time you buy your beautiful Grade A groceries).

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Bat BBQ anyone?

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Or whatever this thing is?

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The food options may not be for the faint of heart, but some of the scenery here is beyond beautiful.

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Some days, we enjoy the adventure. Some days, not so much. But one thing’s certain: we’ve yet to have had a dull moment!




Max’s Birth Story

Each child has his or her own unique birth story for their mother to cherish (or try to forget…). Since the story of Max’s birth here on an island in Asia Pacific includes a window – small as it may be – into life and culture here for my American readers, I wanted to share.

I went into labor bright and early on a Monday morning. A friend of mine, Marie, living in the same city as we, is an American who married into this country, and who so wonderfully serves many pregnant expatriate ladies as a doula. Her being fluent in both languages is an extra super-bonus when you’re in labor and trying to communicate to hospital staff (which is hard enough to do in your native language). Marie came over, and a couple of other friends also came along for the experience. So, with Jim at the wheel, and a car full of ladies (one being his laboring wife – he’s a good man) we started for the hospital.

The drive takes 1 hour, about half of which is on a smooth toll-way (just last year, before the toll-way was completed, it would have been a bumpy three-hour drive).

During the throws of labor, I remember seeing a demonstration in the middle of our road (I read in the paper the next day that it was about wages). Thankfully, traffic laws aren’t quite as strict here as in the US, so really, you don’t even have to think twice before detouring into the oncoming traffic’s lane (people expect it, so it’s not as dangerous as it sounds).

Once we got up to the labor and delivery department of the hospital, I was so relieved (but only for an instant – until the next contraction hit) to find that our room was air conditioned! The day after Max was born, the city we were in hit the all-time record high temperature for the country at 103° F – and, while this may not compete with records in Texas, this is a humid place where AC is not commonplace, so we feel every bit of the heat, alllll the time. And after 9 months of being pregnant in the tropics (not to mention that labor makes it feel a good 20 degrees hotter), you can imagine how welcomed it was.

Max was born about 1 hour after we arrived. Thankfully, Jim and Marie were right there to snag little Max when he came out, because it was another hour before the Obstetrician and Pediatrician arrived. There was a nurse there, but she had stepped away for the moment, not realizing his birth was quite so imminent.

I really cannot tell this story without acknowledging how much God’s hand was on little Max and myself from beginning to end. He knew all the little concerns that were close to my heart (none of which had to do with our location), and He tenderly took care of all the details, just like He does.

Rachel and Max in hospital
He always sleeps with his hands up by his face 🙂

We stayed in the hospital until the next day, and let me just say that it was much more relaxing than staying in a hospital in the US after giving birth. They don’t feel the need here to come in and check your vitals every couple of hours – they actually let you sleep! Jim had his own full-sized pull-out bed. They bring you food at meal time, come in to change the baby’s diaper from time to time, then the doctor comes in to shake your hand when it’s time to leave.

Below is one of the meals that was served. This is a traditional meal that is often served at times of thanksgiving – one of those times being after a birth. Clockwise, it’s carrots, fried tofu, tempe (which is a fried soybean dish), grilled chicken, coconut sambal (a condiment), eggs and vegetables, and in the little bag is a dried fish to sprinkle on for flavor. The spiced, milky drink is flavored with a root that’s similar to ginger, and having jellied floaties in your drink is a special treat.  Thanksgiving meal

When you leave the hospital, they send you home with the placenta in a clay pot. You actually cannot leave the hospital without it…but of course, what kind of person would even want to? The typical practice on our island is that it is taken straight home by the father, washed, and buried outside the house. A small lamp is placed above the burial spot to protect it from darkness. Many people include in the pot things like a pencil, some fuel, a needle and thread, rice, and other small things to help ensure that the child will be healthy and successful.

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Around four days after the birth, a gift with a birth announcement is given to the neighbors. This gift often consists of a variety of traditional cooked dishes, cakes, or fruit. My dear friends helped us pull all this together. It was all hands on deck.

Preparations

 

Gift baskets

In the days following a birth, neighbors and friends come to visit and see the baby (Similarly, when people know your household is celebrating other joyous occasions, such as Eid-al-Fitr or Christmas day – they know which ones you’ll be celebrating based on your religion – they come to give their greetings).

Some common questions people ask when they see Max are, “Why do you not wrap his legs together (to correct the newborn bow-leggedness)?” “Why do you not wrap his tummy (to pull in his pot-belly)?” And the hotter it is, the thicker the blankets you tend to see people using to wrap their babies and protect them from the sun (and the heavier the coats that children and adults wear). People also wonder at the fact that we keep a fan blowing in the room where he sleeps. Almost everyone here will tell you that wind hitting and entering the body is a – if not the – major source of illness, not to mention he could get cold.

For now, Max sleeps in bed with us, and most people here would highly disapprove if he didn’t. People are shocked at the fact that our older boys sleep in their own beds, as most families sleep all together. They simply can’t believe that our kids are willing and able to sleep in beds by themselves.

It’s fun getting to chat and chuckle with some of my local friends about the differences in thinking from one culture to the next. Just as a saying here so aptly explains, “different field, different grasshopper.”

A Tale of Two Ibadah

Ibadah is the local word for religious ceremony. It’s a word we learned early and use often because the milestones in life on our island are commonly marked with the gathering of friends and neighbors for good food and a traditional ceremony. Each type of ibadah is specific to the circumstance: tujuh bulan (literally “seven months”) marks the seventh month of a pregnancy, and another ibadah follows shortly after the birth of the baby; traditional weddings are more like a series of ibadah involving various parties to the new marriage; and a death means not only the funeral, but ceremonies to mark seven days after death, forty days, one hundred days, and one thousand days. Events like these date back thousands of years and are steeped in the local cultural worldview. They provide a great opportunity for us to carefully and pragmatically participate in community life as language learners and observers.

But there is a fascinating nuance to these ceremonies as well: each ibadah is both cultural and religious at the same time. It reflects the traditional cultural worldview as passed down through the centuries, but also the religious worldview of the present. The two – the cultural and the religious – are so intertwined that the expression of one aspect necessarily reflects the other. A cultural ceremony cannot be merely cultural because the minds of the participants are not merely cultural – they are religious also. And a religious ceremony is never merely religious because the participant is not merely religious, but immersed in a cultural context as well. Here is an example:

In the past few months I received invitations to two events in different neighborhoods, one marking 40 days after the passing of a man in my neighborhood and one marking 1000 days after death of a man whose family attends a nearby church. These post death ibadah are very much particular to this island, rooted deep in the animism of ancient generations. And although the basic animistic, ancestor focused, foundation has long been replaced (or at least overtaken and obscured) by various more recently incorporated religious beliefs, the ceremonies themselves live on with their new faces. I had already observed several of these after death ceremonies in my neighborhood, all with families practicing the majority religion of the island.

The first event I attended, a forty-days ceremony was exactly what I have come to expect based on prior experiences. The neighborhood men filter in and find a spot on the rugs which have been spread out on the floor, and a family member makes an opening statement. Following this, a religious leader begins a prayer chant in Arabic and those who can join in do so. This goes on for a short time before a brief pause, and food is served (usually traditional snacks – various fried foods, fruit, etc.) and another round of prayers begin. When I asked what my neighbors were praying, they told me the prayers were offered in hope that the deceased person would be allowed into heaven. After fifteen to twenty more minutes of praying/chanting, everyone is given a small gift (usually food items or a meal for later) and the house slowly empties.

The second ibadah, a one-thousand-days ceremony, though derived from the same cultural bedrock,  was nothing like I was expecting. For this event I followed a local Christian pastor to the home where members of his church were gathering to remember a fellow believer and former member of the congregation. The event started with songs of praise to the creator. The pastor talked about the man’s love for God and his family, and the faithful testimony that had marked his life. Those who were present were given the chance to reflect on the hope that we have in the one who died for us – an assurance that cannot waiver – and to rejoice with one another at the life well lived and the One who gives life. There was no pleading for heaven, as the pastor explained, because we have a hope in the finished work of Christ who has already paid our debt. Finally we ate together and departed.

As I made my way home, I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. This was the same ceremony, and the two were nothing alike. Two ceremonies, two gatherings of people who share the same national identity and cultural heritage holding the same culture-derived event in incredibly different ways with vastly different themes. The sole difference was the gospel – not a gospel that eliminates the culture but penetrates it and reveals what it can be in the light of Christ. This is the impact the good news can have on a community.

And this is the reason we’re toiling away at language study right now: because hundreds of people groups (that use this national language as a second language) have never been given the opportunity to interact with the gospel. Proficiency in this national language will open up opportunities for us to dig in with one of those groups, learn their distinct language and culture, and eventually allow them to hear the Word of God for themselves in their own language and cultural context – and to glorify God within and through that context in new and exciting ways.

Chickens

I finally gave in.

Of course every kid wants a pet. I kept telling Hudson that all the little house-geckos on our walls and in our cabinets are our pets, but he didn’t buy it (he’s pretty smart, and that doesn’t always work in my favor). Then, I thought I was brilliant when I told Hudson he could seal up some worms in a box and those were his pets (no smell, no clean-up, and I never even have to see them!) – that seemed to have satisfied Hudson, but it later became clear that my husband also wanted a pet, and the worms just weren’t going to cut it for him.

So, Jim suggested we buy two baby chicks from our neighbor – one for each of our boys. A couple days later, our neighbor arrives to drop off 6 baby chicks and the mother hen (at least it wasn’t goats that were involved in this cultural misunderstanding).

My parents were here visiting at the time, so they got to share in the boys’ excitement.
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That mother hen…bless her heart.

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Lots of memories are being made around those chickens.

I’m glad I gave in. 
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Fun Festivities!

A few days ago we got to learn and participate in some new holiday festivities! This particular holiday celebrates the heroine of this country’s women’s emancipation movement, marked by kids dressing up in traditional costumes and adults competing in traditional food platter decorating contests.

Jim and I had certainly never done anything like this, but we had a local friend show us what to do, and we gave it some good effort. Tumpeng is the name of this platter, and it consists of rice in the shape of a volcano plated with some traditional side dishes and as much creativity as you can muster. Everyone else’s included much more elaborate elements, while we made the most of our limited exposure to the craft. Below, the whale with the blowhole was Jim’s personal touch on our entry (You’ll later learn how it saved me when I was in a tight spot!)

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This was our finished product. Made from tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and green onions. The only reason the rice looks as good as it does is because a sympathetic competitor saw I was struggling to make a decent cone mold from the banana leaves (like most people do), so she graciously loaned me her metal mold.

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Since everyone else knew the side-dishes that typically accompany the tumpeng, much more time went in to making theirs. Hudson’s preschool was the host of this event, so a few of the tumpengs had kid-themes, and each of the ladies was quite creative.

 

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Spongebob with Patrick

 

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This one was themed after an area volcano. I don’t remember all of the symbolism included.

 

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Can you see the swan made from eggs? She later added an elaborate palm tree carved from vegetables.

Finally, we all lined up with our tumpeng creations, and one of the judges came down the line and asked each of us about the theme of our dish. Pictured below is me saying, “The theme?……………uhhhhhh…………………………………..whale?” Jim said the lady standing next to him leaned over and asked, “Are there whales near volcanoes?”  He said, “Sure… after a flood.”  =)

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And the kids were as cute as could be! They dressed up in traditional attire from the various regions/islands in our country.

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Hudson is blessed with some wonderful teachers!

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Batik!

Fabric lovers the world round, be jealous. I recently got to participate in making batik fabric! Batik fabric has been a favorite fabric style of mine for years, and since we now live in the very part of the world in which this method originated, this was a thrill for me!

Here’s a rundown of how it’s made. First, blocks of a specific kind of tree wax are melted in a pan.

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Unique copper stamps are made and used to stamp the dye-resistant wax onto fabric. The stamps on the table below have a unique pattern of stacked rocks that is specific to the city we currently live in for language study.

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The tables on top of which the fabric is stamped are topped with wet cardboard covered by plastic. The wet cardboard makes a cool surface so that the wax hardens quickly.
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The stamps are dipped into the wax, the excess wax is shaken off, then [usually a master batik maker] carefully stamps the wax onto the fabric. The quality of the stamping, in addition to the quality of the dying, are important in pricing the finished fabric (mine would not have sold for much). Ironically, though, in America, we prefer and import batik that is less meticulously stamped and dyed, giving it a little bit of a whimsical and tye-dyed effect. DSCN3340

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An alternative method for applying the wax is using a special pen (same idea as a quill pen for ink) to apply the hot wax. As you can imagine, that is quite time consuming, but batik made well that way by an expert can sell for around five hundred dollars per yard!  Below, my friend is adding some additional detail to fabric that was stamped.

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After the wax is dry, the fabric is dipped into a bath of dye, or, alternatively, if more detail is desired, a brush can be used to brush dyes onto the fabric.

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The below fabric (not mine) was dyed with a brush, and is now being air-dried.

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The wax is then boiled off, leaving a white design which can be either left white or the fabric can again be dipped into dye (a lighter color than what was previously used) to fill in the white areas.

People don’t wear suits and ties here. Formal attire is shirts/dresses made from batik fabric.

I only stamped mine, then let the experts dye it. Here’s how it turned out:

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Just the Mundane


Many of y’all have asked us to post more pictures, but now that we’ve been here a couple months, all the things that were so exotic and fun at first have now become commonplace. So, since I’m no longer a good judge of what an appealing picture would be, I thought I’d post pictures of the everyday sights around here – things that are now common and mundane for us, but were probably exciting when we first arrived.

Here are a couple of pics from around our neighborhood.

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Free-roaming chickens are always crossing the road. Why? The world may never know.

The local language doesn’t distinguish between “mountain” and “volcano” because all the mountains here are volcanoes. There’s usually a lot of humidity/fog (maybe there will be less during dry season?) so I still don’t have a good handle on what the scenery is, but we get a good glimpse from time to time.

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This has certainly begun to feel like home by now. However, we’re only in this location for language study until later this year, when we’ll move on to our target region.

Here are few pics from the downtown area in our city.
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Oh yes! I almost didn’t even think about it! Yes, in the above pic, Jim is indeed wearing a shoulder bag. It’s what the manly men do here.

This is some of the fish at the supermarket. It’s probably best that I don’t have a picture of the outdoor meat market.

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One of the banana shops. Lots of variety to choose from. 
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Another thing that is common here is having the electricity go out for a few hours at a time. It’s not a big deal; it just means we get to have more candle-lit dinners.

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One thing that’s a little more annoying, however, is running out of tap-water. It’s only happened twice in our first two months here, but I hear it happens often in dry season. Jim thought I was ridiculous for using some of the drinking water to bathe. I thought he was ridiculous for not doing the same. We make a good team. Balance each other out. =)

And this is what bath-time looks like around here. Probably this kid’s favorite activity of the day. Of course, non-potable water makes keeping him from drinking the bathwater a whole new adventure. He must think my reaction to his immunity-building antics is hilarious because he seems bent on finding new ways to ingest everything yucky. He may be a little roly poly now, but he will one day have a stomach of steel, that’s for sure (but for now, I will continue pumping him full of probiotics). Praise the Lord that Noah has stayed healthy so far! (wish I could say as much for the rest of us, but we are certainly grateful that it hasn’t been worse than it has)

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And I’ll leave you with a couple more pics of the scenery outside our city.

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These are some rice paddies with volcanoes in the background, a scene that I imagine characterizes this area pretty well.

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Our First Tropical Christmas

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Our Christmas had a very different feel to it this year, but it was a sweet time reflecting on our Savior’s birth and starting some new family traditions.

Plenty of days in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it just didn’t feel like Christmas season. There aren’t festive lights and music everywhere here. But if I would light a Christmas candle, put on some Christmas music and start baking, that would do the trick. Of course, baking here has been an adventure each and every time. I could write a whole IMG_0636series of blog posts about that (don’t worry, I won’t). Here is one of the “pumpkin” pies I baked. So far I can read very few of the ingredients on labels and signs, so I have to make do with whatever mystery items make it home with me from the market or grocery store.

Then there’s our oven. At one point Jim asked me if the pumpkin pies were finished baking, and he laughed when I simply and honestly replied, “Well, they’ve only been baking for twice as long as they’re supposed to, so they’re probably not done yet.”

 

I love, love, LOVE Christmas trees…Like a little kid… I didn’t know that we’d be able to find a Christmas tree here, so I was ecstatic when we brought this home and set it up. We’ve always enjoyed having real trees in the past (and this one sheds like a real one), but this is most certainly my favorite tree that we’ve ever had, and I’m sure this tree will see many fond Jobe-family memories made over the years.

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Hudson had just put the star on top.

 

Christmas morning we had some sweet family time. This is the gift Jim gave me. I might have cried…

Family picsOkay, I totally cried. We are so blessed to have such a large, wonderful, loving, extended family and we loved being able to Skype in on Christmas.

Here, people usually visit various friends and neighbors on big holidays. In the afternoon we took some esteemed “American cookies” to some neighbors, and we had some kids over to play. Hudson pulled out his new playdough and sidewalk chalk.

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One thing that I am ever grateful for is being away from all the commercial busyness of Christmas season.

Simplifying.

Focusing.

Focusing on the greatest Joy that this world has ever seen. O come, let us continue to adore Him, born the King of angels.

It was a very special Christmas season, and I look forward to many more tropical Christmases!

3 Signs That You Might Not Live in TX Anymore

1. You appreciate the free-roaming geckos in your home because they help keep the bugs out. I even saw a big juicy bug earlier today, and instead of killing it, genuinely thought, “Nah, I’ll leave it for the geckos so they’ll stay around.”

Yep, things have changed.

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2. You learn that company’s coming, so the first two things you do are sweep your porch and put water on to boil. Porches are kept squeaky-clean here. People don’t even wear their shoes on their front porch. What am I sweeping off of my porch you may ask? Of the millions of strange bugs that were swarming last night, a few thousand decided to kill over right outside my door. Our first night here, we somehow left a light on in the room where all our opened luggage was. The next morning, tens of thousands of dead bugs were all over and in EVERYTHING. The good news is, the swarms haven’t been the norm (and we also learned which light switches are for what), it’s just happened two or three nights since we arrived. Reference number one.

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This is not our house, just a random one. It probably has a squeaky-clean porch.

3. 10 people climb into a 5-seat vehicle and it still feels nice and roomy. I haven’t taken a picture inside one of the buses here, but we sometimes fit 20 people in a “bus” the size of a minivan. So it’s quite a treat when our coworkers give us a ride in their vehicle. Here, we accompanied them to a church service in a town up the nearest volcano.

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It’s been fun to have these thoughts and then afterward realize how my thinking has changed in little ways in the short time we’ve been here. Of course, for each one we mention, there are dozens more. Some are lighthearted and some quite sober, and most will probably happen without us even realizing it. And thus begins the long process of becoming.

Noah, of course, has begun to acclimate to the local culture faster than the rest of us, in behavior as well as appearance! Below, this was his own idea to whittle a stick on the side of the road.

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Okay, kidding. This is a neighbor boy. But he’s got mad skills. 😉