Today, September 6, marks the nine-year anniversary of our arrival in Indonesia. Nine years ago, we were stepping off the plane in Jakarta, scared to death and wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into. I'll never forget stumbling down the jetway from the airplane and encountering the sights, smells, and sounds of a new country - the faint scent of clove cigarettes, the warm blanket of humidity, the distant call to prayer from a mosque.
Those first few weeks of language school, trying to make my mouth twist around new sounds, were challenging, all the more so after the events of 9/11. Back then I never could have imagined how much I would come to love this country, which in many ways seems more like home now than the U.S.
Grace (age 17 months) and I experience culture shock in 2001
As a tribute to our nine years in this country, I'd like to share some things I love about living here - there are many, but here is a list of 10.
1. The friendly people. Indonesians are soooo friendly. Total strangers frequently strike up conversations with me, curious about where I'm from and what I'm doing here. I love that they are open and easy with a smile. It is easy to get to know people and make friends here, and I'm really thankful for that.
Amal Beach, Tarakan, 2009
2. The gift of another language. It didn't seem like a gift when I was struggling to make myself be understood in the beginning, feeling like an idiot. I still feel like an idiot much of the time, but I love, love, love being able to speak a different language. Knowing Indonesian has been crucial to developing relationships, but it's also opened up my world and (hopefully) flexed my brain in new ways. I love the simplicity of the Indonesian language, and saying lovely words like "perpustakaan" (library). Plus, when we're in the U.S. it's like knowing a secret language, since very Americans speak it.
Teaching a song, Long Alongo, 2008
3. Orpa. Orpa has lived with us for almost eight years, and I can't imagine life here without her. She is my right-hand woman and is such a huge help to me around the house and with the kids. She would kill me if she knew I posted the picture below of her, but I think it captures her personality quite well - she is so much fun and loves the kids. The whole employer-employee relationship can be a little weird at times, but she's so much more than our employee - she's family.
Orpa and Zoe, 2006
In 2008 Orpa's sister Dorkas came to live with us as well. They are both from a poor mountain community in Sulawesi, and Orpa and her family wanted Dorkas to have the chance for a better education. So Dorkas goes to high school and works part-time for me. Like her sister, she is a joy to be around.
Dorkas, Zoe, Orpa, Grace, 2009
4. Watermelon all year-round. And pineapples, mangoes, papaya, rambutan, etc. You get the idea.
5. The food! Aside from the fruit, there's nasi goreng (fried rice), srikaya (coconut jam - my latest obsession), fried cassava, chicken sate, spring rolls, soto ayam (chicken soup), and so many other yummy dishes here, including the one pictured below, gado-gado.
6. Rain and the weather in general. I have always loved rain and thunderstorms and while I really, really miss the Weather Channel, I love that we get lots of rain and when it's not raining, lots of sun. I have moments of longing for a crisp fall day, but most of the time I love the fact that I get to wear flip-flops all year round. Which reminds me of another thing I love about living here - a salon right down the road where I can get a cheap pedicure.
7. The beauty. Orchids, virgin rain forest, rainbows that span the sky, bright blue kingfishers, crystal clear seas - there is much beauty to behold in Indonesia.
8. Amazing vacations. We've been able to take some pretty cool vacations in our nine years here - to Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, and some islands close to Tarakan that have great snorkeling.
Carter, Grace, and their friend Britton on a weekend snorkeling trip, 2008
9. Going interior. One of my favorite things to do here is a weekend trip to a village interior. The mountain air is so refreshing, and I love just going for walks and hanging out with the people, getting a glimpse into their lives. On our last trip interior I met the young lady pictured below, who is going to the Bible school there. She was disowned by her family for her faith and has a very inspiring story.
Sarah, Kampung Baru, 2010
10. The crazy experiences I have here, and the beautiful friends I've made.
Cuddling a sun bear, 2007
Riding down a river in the heart of Borneo, 2008
Learning to drive a motorcycle, 2009
My friend Maylan, 2010
Ibu Markus holding Zoe, 2006
Church cell group, 2007
Neighbor Kids, 2006
MAF women, Family Conference 2010
Young couples class we teach, 2010