June 28, 2011

What a crazy couple of days it’s been.

Yesterday was Pack the Container Day.  We are shipping our stuff to Papua via a 20-foot container, so Monday night David and I were up past one, boxing up and wrapping our worldly goods.  I was hanging out laundry at midnight, having just remembered my aprons hanging on the back of a cabinet.  You’d be surprised at how much noise there is at midnight here – roosters crowing, toads croaking, the night watchman banging out the hour on a pole. 
Tuesday morning a crew arrived to help take our stuff to the dock where the container is.  In just a couple hours all the stuff was gone.
The truck is loaded.  Note the sweet grafitti.

It is a relief to have a bare house, after the craziness of packing up.  And yet it is sad, too.  Our voices bouncing off the walls, and the early morning light coming in earlier than usual because of the lack of curtains attest that our house is EMPTY. 

My sentimental side has kicked in, and allowed a floodgate of memories to hit me when I am already feeling emotionally vulnerable.  I stood in our playroom/schoolroom yesterday, and thought of all the playing and learning my kids did in that room.  In the kids’ bedroom, by the door, are the fading marks of where we’ve marked their growth over the years, the first mark for Grace – now a gangly 11-year-old – barely two feet off the floor.

Our kids learned to talk, walk, ride a bike, read…so many things in this house.  Leaving here is the end of an era for our family – the end of the Holstens With Small Kids Era.  And while there are some awesome perks to having older kids, I am sad to leave the small kid era.

And Orpa is pregnant, and I am bummed that I may never get to hold her baby, my “grandchild” if you will.  Many Indonesians wish to have children right away after tying the knot – sort of making their family or the marriage complete, I guess – and Orpa and Herry were no different.  She and I have had our first good cry – she flung herself on me the other day and I held her as she sobbed, “Oh Ibu, I never got much love from my own parents…it wasn’t until I lived with you that I truly felt loved.”  So yeah, this goodbye is going to be pretty tough.  She made soto ayam (Indonesian chicken soup) for us one last time yesterday, which was sooooo good.  So good that we had it again for breakfast this morning.
Comfort food

Monday was kind of an insane day – David flew one last time in the Krayan region, and there was room for Zoe and I to go along.  The plan was to drop a load of passengers in Long Bawan, then another load in Long Layu, then head over to Paupan where one of our adopted families lives.  We were hoping to be back in Tarakan by 2 so we could get back to packing. 

Alas, it never seems to go according to plan when you really need it to.  The load of passengers was a group of immigration officials who wanted to hang out in Long Bawan for a little while before heading over to Long Layu.  So we had to wait while they did their visits – but we were invited along so we had a meal, which I was happy about.  Any chance to eat the wonderful short-grain rice of that region, along with a side of wild ferns, I take it.
With the immigration officials

On one leg of our trip Zoe got to sit up front with David and “fly” the plane.  She is our fearless one and was more than excited to go “weightless”.

When we finally got to Paupan, we had to rush it a bit.  Zoe and I went on a little walk, and I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but I was able to say goodbye to the beautiful wild jungle of Borneo.  Our “father” in Paupan, Pak Ajang, hosted a little goodbye meeting for us, which was followed by a meal.  He and his family rode with us back to Tarakan, where they will wait for the birth of their second child.  Their older son, Bryan, is 14 and will be living in Tarakan to go to high school.  For years they've wanted a second child, and it's finally happened.
Pak Ajang (standing) formally bids us farewell

Goodbye Borneo! (photo by Zoe)

June 13, 2011

A Dilemma

What to do with the dog?


Sandy, our beloved mutt with the face of a fruit bat, will not be able to accompany us to our new home in Papua.  We acquired her after the unfortunate demise of our first dog, Sydney, who was accidentally given away to be eaten for Christmas dinner.  No joke!

For eight years she has guarded our home well - sometimes, a little too well.  She's a barking fool, as my neighbors can attest, and as she gets older and grumpier the barking has gotten worse. 

Carter and Grace with little Sandy, 2003

Unfortunately, because of her incessant barking, she scares the hooey out of most Indonesians.  I feel badly about that, and we try to put her up when we know people are coming over.  

So no one really wants her, and I would be hesitant to give her away, actually, knowing how she can be with strangers.  I don't want her biting anyone.  There is also the very real possibility that if I give her to someone, they would eat her.  And one of our dogs getting eaten is enough.  If there were a humane society or animal shelter here, I would probably take her there, but alas, no such option exists.

So, sadly, we will probably have her put down.  Our friend, Tim, has offered to do this after we leave.  As he  said, "Hey, that's what friends are for - we kill each other's pets."  

Another sad goodbye.  Poor Sandy.  She's been a good dog, even if she has driven me half-nuts with her barking.  

June 01, 2011

The Goodbyes Begin

The painful process of pulling up our deeply-embedded roots from East Kalimantan has begun.  Our first few years in Tarakan, I would have had a hard time imagining myself depressed at the thought of moving away.  There were times when I could have left and not looked back.  But the longer we stayed the more betah or at home we have felt.

 For months I've been saying to myself, a la Scarlett O'Hara, "I won't think about packing and saying goodbye right now - I'll think about that tomorrow."  Tomorrow has arrived and our goodbyes are beginning. I have always been a sentimental sap - in part thanks to my dad who would often say things to me like, "This is your last Thursday as a third-grader" or "That's the last turkey sandwich you'll eat as a 13-year-old." Silly stuff, but it did ingrain in me the need to "mark the moment" be that moment the end of third grade, or a move across the country.  So my next few posts will "mark the moment" and hopefully help me process the goodbyes in a healthy way so I'm not a mess at the airport when we leave.

Monday I flew with David for the last day of his operational flying in the Apo Kayan region of East Kalimantan.  He wanted to "pamit" or officially take leave of his friends in the villages there, per local custom.  There is also a cultural tradition to "minta maaf" or ask forgiveness from your friends for any possible sins committed against them.  So in each of the villages David gave a little speech about how much he is going to miss the people there, how thankful he is for their friendship, and to forgive him for any possible misunderstandings.

Getting ready to take off in the Kodiak

 David with Taman Bang ("father of Bang") in the village of Mahak Baru.  Taman Bang and his sister, long-time airstrip agents, are good friends of the MAF pilots.  They usually have lunch waiting for the pilot, and Monday was no different.  We feasted on fried chicken, rice, sauteed pakis (ferns), and - what Mahak Baru is famous for - fresh pineapple.  The pineapples from Mahak are the best!!!  

 Taman Bang hacks into a freshly picked nanas (pineapple).

Me with Taman Bang and his daughter.  Taman Bang's sister gave me the necklace.

David receives an ornately-decorted machete from the village elders.

As we flew to other villages, we were likewise showered with kind words and gifts - baskets, hats, sugar cane.  I got choked up watching David fight tears as he said goodbye to friends he's known for almost ten years. 

Flying home that afternoon, my eyes hungrily took in the miles and miles of lush, pristine jungle and I thought of the people who live in the little villages below. Their lives are directly impacted by MAF - like the woman who was one of our passengers that morning.  She told me how she was returning to her village after going to Tarakan for treatment for a miscarriage.  She and her husband have hoped for a baby for five years, and were very disappointed over their recent loss.  "But," she said, "I am so thankful the MAF plane came to get me when it did."

Laden with gifts from interior

 The goodbyes continued today with the departure of Dorkas, a young woman who has lived with our family for the past three years.  She is our house helper Orpa's younger sister, and she worked for us part-time while attending a local high school.  She just graduated, and today she departed for her home island of Sulawesi where she hopes to go to nursing school.  She was a great help to us, and has such a sweet spirit about her.  We will miss her, especially Zoe who would spend hours playing with her in the back yard.

 So I'm hoping that by crying a little bit over the next few weeks, I'll save myself from the really big ugly cry that's been building.