December 30, 2015

2015: Year In Review

It's the last day of 2015 here in Papua, and I'm taking a moment during a brief pause in the fireworks and music from the pondok Natal to reflect on this past year. There were challenges for sure, but also moments of fun and much to be thankful for.  Here are a few highlights:

Safety in flying and travel
While David doesn't fly as much as he used to, he flew about 100 hours in the challenging terrain of Papua, all safe and accident-free.  We don't take this lightly, and if you are one of the people who pray for us and our safety, thank you! We also did lots of traveling - motorbikes on sketchy roads, car trips around town in heavy traffic, boat rides to the beach, airplane trips around the archipelago, and trips across the Pacific.  We are thankful for safe travels.
David with some passengers

 I turned 40 this year, and it's taken me almost a full year to come to grips with it.  But I think I'm finally okay with it, which is a good thing considering I'm almost 41.  Time to move on. 
Don't worry, young friends, 40 may not be this scary for you.

The end of teaching and the start of writing
The first half of 2015 I was teaching two high school English classes.  There were parts of it I loved - getting to know the students, rereading the classics - but for various reasons I decided to stop teaching, at least for now.  In its place I've been writing more, and with a friend started a writing group this fall.  There are about six of us that meet once a month to exchange critique on our writing and encourage each other in our writing projects.  It's been an exercise in vulnerability to put my writing before other people and ask for criticism, but it's been great.  One of my current projects is a children's novel set in Mississippi. One goal for 2016 is to finish this and read it to my two younger kids.  I've read aloud countless children's books over the years, and I know what makes an enjoyable read-aloud, and I know what my kids like, so I've been writing with them in mind.

In our family reading is the number one hobby, and there were some great books passed around this year.  All the Light We Cannot See and I Capture the Castle were two young adult books some of us read and enjoyed.  Quiet - a book about introverts and how our society tends to favor extroverts - gave me insight into the introverts in my life, and Boys Adrift challenged us about how to best help our boys grow into men, and not just stay boys. Cutting for Stone, State of Wonder, and The Invention of Wings were the best fiction I read this year. Neal Gabler's biography Walt Disney is a must for any Disney fan.  Grandma Gatewood's Walk was inspiring, and Same Kind of Different As Me made me cry.  I read Wuthering Heights for the first time, and didn't really care for Heathcliff.  Of the books that I read with Luke and Zoe this year, Zoe liked The Wolves of Willoughby Chase best, and Luke liked The Master Puppeteer. 
A rare precious moment, no one tugging the blanket or hogging the pillows

We spent the summer in the USA, and loved our time with family and friends.  Aside from the usual speaking in churches, consuming vast amounts of blueberries and Chik-Fil-A, and dropping some serious cash at Target, some other positive things happened - Carter had his first jobs, he visited the college he'll probably be attending, and I started to get a handle on the anxiety I've been experiencing.  I haven't written much about that, but hope to do so soon.


Return to Tarakan
In November, I was able to return to Tarakan in East Kalimantan, where we served for 10 years.  I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones, and took many trips down memory lane as I drove around that little island.  
My beloved Orpa

MAF Ladies

New babies
This year we were able to meet the new little people in our lives - baby Natalie my cousin, baby Natalie my "grandbaby", and my niece Annalee.  And yesterday our newest niece, Georgia Mae, was born and we are excited to meet her.  
Aunt Mary and Baby Natalie

"Grandma" and Natalie, Orpa's baby girl
Grace and her cousin Annalee

Another "baby" of 2015 is Braveheart, a gecko that Carter found as an egg and kept in his room until it hatched and found its way to a crack in the wall.  Every night when we sit in the living room to read or watch tv, he comes out, never venturing more than a few inches from his home.  It probably sounds ridiculous to think we love this little guy, but we do.
Braveheart being brave

Our last baby of the year is Little Guy, our sugar glider.  He has the cutest little face, but watch out when you wave a grasshopper in front of his nose.  Then he's all teeth and claws.
That pretty much wraps up 2015.  As we look ahead to 2016, we know major changes await our family when Carter graduates and moves on.  We hope it is a year of greater dependence on God, as we trust Him to grow us in our faith and in our capacity to love others.

Happy New Year! Selamat Tahun Baru!  


When Being O Negative is a Positive

Filling out paperwork before donating blood (photo by Ruth Boyd)

The phone rang mid-nap recently and my son answered.  By the time I came to and stumbled out of my bedroom, the call was over and he told me, "Someone needs blood."

My heart sank.  If I get a call about someone needing blood, it usually means something tragic has happened.  I called the local expat doctor and she said I could give blood the next day to help a young European woman who had lost several liters of blood during an operation.

'Why would they call you?' you may ask.  I have what is considered a rare blood type in these parts: O negative.  Hardly anyone living in our part of Asia has O negative blood.  And here's the thing about O negative - you can only receive your blood type.  However, my blood type is known as the "universal donor" because anyone can receive O negative.  Aren't we special?

A few times during our years in Indonesia I have been called on to give blood, and I have been happy to do it.  I imagine what it would be like if I needed blood, and how awful not to find a donor, so I am more than willing to give if there's a need.

Once we were on vacation in Bali and I read in the paper that there was a dire need for O negative, so I called the Red Cross and they sent a mobile unit to our hotel to collect my blood. Because that's what you do on vacation, right? I read somewhere that the number one cause of injury and death for westerners in Indonesia is motorcycle accidents in Bali, so they always are looking for O negative.

Another time I donated was when we were living in Kalimantan, and a young Indonesian living in a nearby town needed blood.  I donated, but there was so much paperwork and logistics to work out in how to get the blood to her that, sadly, she passed away before she got it.

This most recent blood need a few weeks ago was an opportunity for me to discover who all in our small expat community has O negative, and, surprisingly, there are about six of us. 

Three of us gave one morning at a local hospital, with our local expat doctor organizing us. I look like I'm enjoying a day at the spa in the photo below, but I was actually trying hard not to think about the needle, and also ignoring the wasp that was buzzing around my head.
One pint of O negative coming up! (Photo by Ruth Boyd)
 The best part of this particular blood donation was that about a week later, I met the lady who received our blood.  She was at the Christmas Eve service we attended, and she looked great.  She hugged me and thanked me for donating, and it was just so cool to have been part of a happy outcome.