Friends, there are so many things to tell you about this place, things you will understand and things that will make no sense.
Indonesia is a beautiful country; well, truly I can only speak to the tiny bits I have seen in and between Jakarta and Bandung. Hills covered with houses and terraced gardens or rice paddies separated by jungle gorges with dirty, garbage strewn streams. Lush tropical greenery grows from the earth wherever it can. Things we transplant as tiny annuals at home, like impatiens, and sweet potato vines, grow wild and two feet tall. Banana trees are plentiful. Yet, familiar flowers like hydrangeas and day lillies are also here.
I hear birds that remind me of the doves we are used to hearing in Hawaii, roosters crowing and dogs barking all hours, and nearly constant crickets and cicadas. Then there are many sounds we are unfamiliar with, a few we have identified, but so many we have not. Mostly birds and insects, but we hear there are monkeys and haven’t yet figured out if one of the calls belong to them. We are also keenly aware of the five times daily Muslim calls to prayer as we can hear the loudspeakers of a half dozen mosques near our home.
We knew there would be bugs, and have not been disappointed! We found a rhino beetle almost the size of a golf ball! A wasp with a body the size of two thirds of my pinkie finger was flying outside our room. Butterflies are all over, I don’t even know how many varieties we have seen: big, little, black with blue, brown and orange, bright orange, all white, and more! Not surprisingly, the caterpillars they come from abound. We keep vigilant watch for ants, small or large, who may be searching for any food crumbs or otherwise trying to invade the house. Geckos are welcome guests in every room to help manage the mosquito population. I think I currently and avoiding scratching ad many mosquito bites as I got in a month or more at home. Paul had some sort of grasshopper land on him in the middle of the night, but it hopped away before we could get a very good look at it. We have seen a number of spiders, one that nightmares are made of who’s body was several inches long and whose legs would have covered my dinner plate. Thankfully we spied him on a walk around the neighborhood, not in the house!
Traffic is a totally different animal here! On a road that at home would be a neat and tidy two lane road, one in each direction, here would have two lines of cars in each direction, and four lanes of scooters (motos) weaving in between. As long as you haven’t actually contacted another vehicle, it is all good. When you want to go a certain place or turn across traffic, you just start going and people make space. Drivers are in high alert for all other cars, motos, and pedestrians. Generally traffic is moving slow enough that any collisions are pretty minor. Drivers also must remain vigilant as to road conditions that are extremely varied.
Speaking of motos, you would not believe how versatile they are! We have seen families of five riding together. We have seen then used as a delivery vehicle for large floral displays, lumber, long pipes, even a small refrigerator! Ladies often ride dressed nicely for work in their heels, but we have seen people ride in flipflops or barefoot also.
Other things are also ubiquitous as we explore the city. There is trash everywhere. Little bits of litter are all over. Piles of trash bags and loose garbage can be found anywhere. It is common to burn trash, so there will often be a smoldering fire alongside the road. Another thing we see all over are mobile carts! I am impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the people here. People sell all kinds of foods, drinks, necessities, and knick knacks from mobile carts. Sometimes these carts have put in a foundation and become permanent. Either way, they are everywhere, on major streets, residential areas and alleyways.
No matter where you go, some things remain the same!
One of the things we are doing while we are here in Bandung is to explore and visit organizations who are working with children that the missionaries here may be able to partner with.
Along those lines we had the opportunity to visit a local Christian school one day. I really didn’t know what to expect. What we found was a beautiful facility, well equipped, organized spectacularly, full of happy kids and teachers. Granted, this is a private school and not a typical neighborhood school, but it was not a place to pity the children at all!
We were able to meet with the curriculum director, principal, and vice principal. It thrilled my heart to hear them speak of not only being teachers, but having the privilege to help shape the lives of the next generation of leaders.
As we chatted with the administration about their struggles, things sounded so familiar. In the classroom, their concerns were how to help the young ones develop the intrinsic motivation for good behavior and how to incorporate Biblical values into classroom talk and activities. However, the biggest desire they have is for parents that are truly partners with the school as they train this generation. Similar to home, more and more, parents are failing to engage in the training of their children, abdicating this role to TV, electronic devices, and school teachers. Being that the kids at this school primarily come from more affluent homes, this problem is exacerbated by a culture of helpers who work in the home as tutors, maids, and nannies who do most of the “work” of parenting.
These awesome administrators even took us out to lunch when we were done talking. They treated us to a traditional style of restaurant where they bring plates and plates of food to the table and you pay for what you eat. Everything was delicious!
If you think of it, please pray for the parents of this school to be engaged and inspired to be full participants in the lives of their children and for the teachers to keep the vision of both daily and lifelong impact they have on the kids.