October 26, 2012


I am happy to report that our lives have returned to normalcy after the flash-flood experience two weeks ago.  My mind still sometimes wants to camp out at that awful moment of hearing David shout and seeing the wave of water, but I am battling the flashbacks with remembering how we all came out safely. As a family and with our friends who experienced it with us, we have had lots of conversation about it, and I think we are dealing with it in a healthy way.  No one is ready yet to run up to any waterfalls, but we can talk about it without crying, and even with a few laughs.  

I feel like I need to counter the heaviness of my last post with something light.  There's nothing like a traumatic experience to remind me of how precious life is, and how marvelous, insanely glorious the little things in life can be.  

Little things like eating markisa (passion fruit) that friends from interior brought to us.  It looks like frog eggs, but I promise you it's yummy. Carter and I practically fight over them when we have any around.

A highlight last week was celebrating the solo flight of Daniel P., a new pilot whose initial checkout was David's responsibility. In a few weeks the Perez family will move to the MAF base at the interior town of Wamena, and we are going to miss them here in Sentani.

This week there was a half-day of prayer for all MAF staff and national workers, then in the afternoon we helped teach the national workers how to play ultimate frisbee.  It was hot as blazes, but fun to interact with our national friends in this way.
One afternoon I found myself looking up into our very tall avocado tree, imagining all the guacamole I could make if I could just reach the fruit.  I tried whacking at some low-hanging avocados with our rake and managed to knock one or two down.  Then David came out and improved on the rake by inserting it into a long PVC pipe.  Unfortunately when he then tried to whack at the fruit, the rake-pipe combination was terribly, hilariously wobbly and I about fell down from laughing so hard (a testament no doubt to my fatigue and stress levels).  Our neighbor noticed what we were doing and ran over with his far-superior bamboo pole with hook attachment.  And this is what we got:

Two more things to be thankful for: the girl (who is having a great year in grade 7) and the unexpected little beauty she's holding - a real pumpkin!  In all our years in Indonesia I've never seen one so round and orange.  
Another unexpected find was pine cones last weekend when we went up to the school with friends to play a frisbee golf course.  The last hole is in a little grove of pine trees and the ground was covered with mini-pine cones.  And so Zoe-who-loves-crafts wanted to make something with pine cones and Craft-Challenged-Mama came up with this:

October 14, 2012

 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3

This past weekend, these verses, which Zoe and I learned together a few weeks ago, became very real for me.

We decided to go on an outing with some friends to a local swimming hole located on a military base.  However, when we got there we were told we couldn’t go in because the Pramuka (Indonesian version of Boy scouts) were still having their jamboree there and it was closed to the public.

We then decided to go to another waterfall, which involves a longer hike and is a bit more precarious. As we were hiking up the trail, my ever-worrisome mind was conjuring up all kinds of potential disasters that could befall us at the waterfall – mostly kids falling, cuts, broken bones.

And so I did what I try to do when I am battling fear – I prayed.  “Lord, please protect us.” And then I focused on the trail ahead, and kept an eye on Zoe.

We got to the spot where we usually go to play, but it was overrun by Papuan boys who had stopped off for a swim after school, so we kept going  on to a higher spot in the river where there’s a high waterfall.

We were a group of 10 kids and 6 adults, and the kids immediately jumped in the river to play and climb on rocks.  The adults mostly hung out on a cement box built into the river to collect water for the city.  After 30 minutes, the kids got hungry and we all gathered on the box for a picnic lunch.

There were dark clouds on the mountain above us, and it looked like it might rain where we were.  We started debating packing up and leaving.

One of our group commented on a strange mist above us.   The next thing I remember was looking at David as he pointed to the falls behind me and yelled, “Look out!  The water!!!!”  And I heard a huge rushing sound – like an airplane was zooming low over us.  I turned around and time stood still.

A huge mountain of water was surging over the top of the water falls.  It took me a few seconds to realize it was a flash flood, and it was headed straight for us.

I have never felt such fear, such panic, in my life.  My first thought was, we can’t outrun this, and the little ones won’t be able to swim it, probably not the adults, either.  

My next thought was, this is the day we all die.

Most of our group froze, and then David started yelling, go up! Go up!

I don’t remember exactly what I did.  I know that I grabbed Zoe like she was a sack of potatoes, and ran up the hill to a large rock.  The water was rising rapidly.  In less than a minute, it rose two meters. I know at one point I was praying out loud, “help us, Lord! Help us!”

Once on the rock I looked around to see where the other kids were.  One of the kids had been in the river playing when it happened and his dad ran to him and crossed safely to the other side, but then the water rose so fast they were stuck there (eventually they would make it down safely).  All the other kids made it safely up to the rock.  The Papuan kids who had been playing below us came running up to where we were.  They were concerned about us, and urged us to follow them to the trail.  I thought it was so cool and kind of them to do that.

The kids were all crying and freaking out, but we kept reassuring them we would be okay, and we started down the trail.  We made it down safely, but we were all very shaken up by the whole experience.

I have been battling the “what ifs” – what if the kids had been all spread out in the water playing?  We never could have gathered them in time.  What if the older kids had been climbing higher on the falls, like they wanted to but we wouldn’t let them?  They would have been washed away.  What if, what if, what if?  But there are no “what ifs”; there is only what happened. 

My mind keeps wanting to replay that awful moment when I turned and saw the water and realized what was happening.  I am stuck there, contemplating losing those most precious to me.

I have to keep going back to Psalm 46 – the waters roared and foamed and I felt like my “mountain” – my family, my friends, myself – was about to fall into the heart of the sea, but the Lord was our help in trouble.

We have been hugging each other a little tighter the past few days.  Praise God for his protection over our family.

October 09, 2012

It's October again (sigh)

It's October again, when living in the tropics kind of stinks if you grew up loving autumn, even a half-hearted mostly-warm-till-December Georgia autumn.

I miss the changing colors, the pumpkins, the brisk air in the morning.  I especially miss it if it's blazing hot like it's been in Sentani the past few days.  

So what does one do when one yearns for fall in the tropics?  You pull out the plastic pumpkin, you hang a fall wreath on the door, you make you and your hubby a pumpkin spice latte (made with home-cooked squash, which is close enough to pumpkin, but it was a bit pulpy and we gagged on the last few sips), then you go hide in the air-conditioning.

Ok, enough whining, Natalie.  Here's the latest.

Zoe and I spend our mornings doing school together.  On this particular day she was a pirate and wanted to do her work in her pirate ship.  I love her imagination and enthusiasm for life. 

We are now taking care of this lovely parrot "Kwik" for some friends who have gone on furlough.  Our friends are Dutch, and so Kwik speaks Dutch.  I'm hoping to have it saying, "Hey, y'all" by the time our friends return in five months.

This lovely lady is my new helper, Ibu Lora.  For our first eight months in Papua, I have not had a helper, by choice.  Maybe it was pride, but I just wanted to see if I could do it on my own.  Even with David and the kids helping around the house, I was about half-dead trying to stay on top of everything and then Ibu Lora providentially came along.  She works for me two days a week, and came to me blessedly well-trained, and she's a good cook.  She is a native of southern Papua but has lived in Sentani for many years.  

How many snakes do you see???  Carter has borrowed a male snake from a friend and is hoping it will mate with his female.  They seem to like each other.

There's a band teacher at the school this year, so Grace is learning to play the flute!  Here she is, checking to see if she has proper placement.  I love hearing her descriptions of what a room full of 7th and 8th graders learning to play instruments sounds like - it's very comical.

Most Fridays I try to do an art project with Zoe and two other girls on base who are homeschooled.  These owl paintings were the first thing we did together, and I got the idea from this super-fun website deep space sparkle

Yesterday I was helping Carter with his algebra when the table starting shaking.
"Stop shaking the table," I told him.
"I'm not," he replied.  Then he and I looked at each other wide-eyed and said, "Earthquake!"
And we shimmied for a few seconds and it was done.  I guess it wasn't really an earthquake, but more of a tremble.  This is the third one I've felt here, and each time I vascillate between wanting to bolt outdoors, and wanting to stand up and "surf" the tremor.  It's cool and scary all at once. 

So we may not have lovely autumn to enjoy, but we have our tremors, cute owl pictures, lovey-dovey snakes, Dutch parrot, flute-playing, and new house helper to enjoy and be thankful for.  Life is good.