Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Indonesia - Day 1

It's been nearly two months now, but I'm really glad I took the time to write down these first impressions after a single day in Salatiga!



Yesterday we flew from Singapore airport to Semarang, Indonesia. We were absolutely filled with glee and excitement as we touched down and filed off the airplane into the wall of heat and humidity. The hour drive from the airport to our home in Salatiga had our eyes glued to the windows, watching the passing scenery of jungle, mountains, and rice paddy. In town the intersections are filled with motorcycles, political ads for the upcoming Presidential election are ubiquitous, and everything is so... different.

It's very surreal to have such long periods of waiting, traveling, and expectation end in a crash of immersion into what feels like a different universe.  For me it's so bizarre to have it all feel so new and foreign but also so familiar. It's a world away from the life I have been living for 13 years, and yet is almost exactly the same as how I lived as a child... apart from the fact that I am now responsible for the life of a family. Considering the fact that we looked at options around the world, it's a huge gift that we ended up here, where from the get-go I am familiar with so much, able to read signs, talk to shop owners, identify food items, and help the rest of the family adjust.

My own first memories are of my first arrival in Indonesia, the heat, the customs line, and being hungry and tired in the middle of the night. Now I'm watching my own kids go through the same sense of disorientation. They were up in the middle of the night from 12:30 till 4 am, hungry and unable to sleep. We keep them in just diapers and underwear as they adjust, but they still are scratching and struggling with prickly heat. Since leaving Grandma and Grandpa's house, Judah has kept a sharp eye on where everyone is at all times, worrying even if one of us was behind the other while walking through the airport. Now he panics when we leave the room and worries at every new noise he hears. This is all normal, and while I would like to take away the discomfort of transition, there's nothing to do but be with him as he goes through it. Soon this will be normal to him, and in the meantime we will provide lots of grace, love, and snuggles to both kiddos. I am typing this as I sit next to him and try to help him fall asleep with the security of my presence. He is, however, entirely comfortable with little geckos that run around the walls (they are called "cheechucks"). The first time he spotted one he laughed and said, "Look mommy, a yizzard, it's so sweet!"


It was thrilling to arrive at our new home and walk through the neighborhood. Our home feels enormous to us, who have only ever had one bedroom apartments. It's very pretty from the outside, and it has a nice tile floor that is cool to walk on. It's partly furnished and has a Western style toilet. However, there is no AC or ceiling fans. I grew up with this, but also grew up with screens on open windows, and these windows are glass and if you open them there are no screens to keep bugs out. So, we're still figuring that out, but last night was muggy with stagnant air. Today we're just letting in the bugs for the sake of a little breeze. Because it's all open, you can hear every noise from one side of the house to the other, despite the size. It also lets in the noise of the Muslim call to prayer, which echoes from mosques and loudspeakers across town multiple times a day. It's a very familiar sound to me, because I grew up with it, but it's a very haunting sort of sound and Judah especially is still getting used to it. The first call is at 4:30am, but we managed to sleep through it this morning!

The other unique thing about the house is that all of the plumbing is outside the house. The only sink is outside the kitchen on the back porch. The toilet and dipper bath are both in rooms off the back porch. The porch and back yard are all walled in, so it's still private, but it feels really different and sort of uncomfortable to have it all outside! That's different than what I grew up with. We don't have a dryer, so after washing we hang up our clothes to dry on the line. That's fine, except when it rains, because then clothes stay damp and everything smells mildewy.

One thing that is the same as how I grew up and definitely something not fun is the bugs! Ants are everywhere and get on any food  that's left out or unsealed. Even a drained glass of coke attracts ants to the sticky residue at the bottom of the cup. We haven't had a dishwasher for two years, so that's not new, but here you have to wash dishes immediately to keep from attracting the bugs. We killed three monster roaches last night too, and I hate roaches more than I hate spiders and snakes! Since the houses are pretty open to the outdoors, we know we'll never be rid of the bugs, but we'll work on decreasing the surplus population. :)

To keep ourselves awake yesterday evening we took a walk through our neighborhood, something that we have been looking forward to for a long time. It's a little neighborhood in what feels like jungle, filled with banana, coconut, and papaya trees. Beautiful. Just a few minutes away are a few tiny roadside stores run out of peoples' homes. They sell toiletries, packets of ramen noodles, instant drinks, candy, and bottled water. Everyone sees Elly and immediately come up to say hi. It's SUCH a gift to have an outgoing and flexible baby like her in this situation. It provides constant opportunities to build relationships with those around us. Just after we arrived our teammate Ryan took us to a local restaurant for lunch and literally as soon as I stepped into the room the owners took Elly out of my arms and whisked her to the back of the restaurant to play with her, where they kept her until we left. She loved it, they loved it, and I was very glad that I remember my mom saying this was a major cultural adjustment for her years ago, understanding that your child is perfectly safe and that this is perfectly acceptable!


At one of the little road side stores down the road, Elly smiled away at a little Muslim granny while I made friends with the owner, Mita. She is about my age and has a three year old boy who wasn't there at the time. She was born in the same house she is now running a store out of, and her family is Catholic. She started a conversation about faith after learning Judah's name. I really enjoyed talking to her and noticed that when I used the incorrect word for rice (I used the word for cooked rice and I was buying uncooked rice), she corrected me gently. It's crucial to find friends that can guide me in this culture and language without being afraid to correct my mistakes, so I took it is a good sign!

"Culture shock" is an accurate term, and we know we are reacting to immersion, like the sense of putting a warm hand in a bucket of ice water. Everything around us is different than it has been, even though we have the gift of my background growing up here and some knowledge of the Indonesian language. Sometimes we just marvel at everything that we love around us, and sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all we have to do and adjust to. Today we are off to the shops to buy all of the necessities for our home. That means being out in the heat with jet-lagged kids, so chances are it will alternately be incredibly fun and also stressful.

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