Sunday, November 9, 2014

McDonalds, Our New Home in Surabaya

Selamat Malam from Indonesia.

Well, we have discovered that housing in Indonesia has changed considerably in the past 40 years for some, although certainly not many.

For that matter, so has transportation.  After a very comfortable 75 minute flight from Jakarta to Surabaya last Tuesday on a newer Airbus 320 on Asia Air, we arrived in a brand new terminal (they actually have drinking fountains there you can drink from!) in Surabaya to be met by our new best friend, driver, translator, confidant, and keep-Elder Williams-out-of-trouble buddy, Peter Prahari.  He drove us home in our virtually new Toyota SUV, stopping at our request on the way in Sidoarjo at McDonalds for a double cheeseburger lunch.  Great burger, great fries.  Peter told us he had just downloaded some new music...turned out to be the BeeGees album from the early 70's.  What is so weird is that in 1973 when I was here the first time, the BeeGees were popular in Indonesia, and the youth loved "Massachusetts".  Being from Massachusetts at that time, they all thought I should know Barry and Robin and Andy.  Now I'm listening to it again.

So there I am sitting in a new, air conditioned car eating a Big Mac after flying across Java on a jet, rather than a hot and crowded railroad car on a 10 hour, red-eye train trip eating boxed nasi goring 40 years ago, yet still listening to the same music.  Wow.  Back to the future.

Here's a tour of our new home in Surabaya...

We are housed on the 18th floor of a high rise Condo building in the southern-central portion of Surabaya.  Surabaya is a large, growing, modernizing city on the northeast coast of Java.  The island of Madura is a just a bridge away.  It is hot and very crowded.  It sometimes takes us two hours to cross town in our car during rush hour.  Where did that name come from...there is nothing rushing about it.  More like a crawl.  I have never seen so many motorcycles in one place.  They are like nyamuk's...mosquitoes.  Except DEET doesn't repel them and they don't take kindly to swatting with your car. Motorcycles all around you, on the sidewalks, darting, cutting lanes. 2-4 on a bike, but at least they all have helmets!  There are probably 10 times the vehicles on the road now from decades ago, but most of the roads are still built for horse carts.  And before there were traffic police at many intersections. Now infrequently seen.  The rule of law here is the rule of the horn, or klaxon, as they call it.

I say Surabaya is a modernizing city.  It certainly is in some respects, as is every growing city here. Yet what a paradoxical juxtaposition...wi-fi, blue tooth, high speed connections in a place that still cannot control its human waste. I say plumbing before Facebook.

I think this pic is photo-shopped; you can see pavement, and you cannot see any motorcycles.

Yeah, you're seeing correctly.  There is another McDonalds about 200 yards away at the other end of the Mall.  Lots of food court stalls, and primarily electronica sold here. In between is a water park. 

"Just put me in summer and I'll be a........happy snowman."

Below is another mall in town called Central Point Mall.  Like we never left home, right? In a way it seems like we haven't.  Virtually every day we have gone shopping, filling up our pantry and buying household stuff; you know, brooms, mops, copy paper, Diet Coke, bananas, mangoes, papayas, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, ice cream, cookies, cereal, tuna, Diet Coke.  I know it's hard to see why we need to buy food when we are a five minute walk from a Quarter Pounder with cheese, but there you go.   

So Tuesday night we met 11/13 of all the young missionaries in Surabaya.  Transfers (to new assignments in Indonesia) was the next day.  Told them we would take them out to dinner, thinking they would like a nice Indo meal.  Wrong.  Guess where they wanted to eat?  Yep. 13 Happy Meals and two dozen Dunkin Donuts please.  Tax deductible, right?

So we have a great view out our balcony, right?  It really is pretty on a clear day.  Unfortunately, not too many clear days so far. Lots of haze, clouds, smoke.  The surrounding neighborhoods tend to burn their trash, yard debris, etc.  Cheaper than paying to haul away, and the smoke ??? keeps nyamuks away.  But the air tends to be smoky and heavy, even up 18 stories.  The exhaust from 20 million internal combustion engines don't help.

It's hot.  I like it but it can be a little oppressive at times.  93 degrees today and about 80-90% water saturated. Even the Indo's are complaining.  Surabaya tends to be a hot place anyway.  The rainy season is late starting.  I'm excited to experience it again.  Loud, long thunderstorms sometimes with local flooding. I might not be as excited for it if I were still on a bike all day long. 

So it hasn't been all shopping and eating this week.  We have been so blessed to meet so many wonderful and kind people here.  The Church members have been friendly and generous.  The taxi drivers, front desk and security people, store clerks, all have been warm and helpful. 

Below is a cute little family we met playing badminton, a national passion here, in front of the Barat chapel yesterday. 

We are enjoying learning Indonesian, and God is blessing us with spiritual gifts to speak and understand.  As the scriptures say, it is right that every man and woman hear the gospel in his own tongue and her own language. They do speak fast as a rule, but are patient and seem to appreciate that we are trying.  Kath has made good progress and is gaining some confidence.  She has great faith.   

Kathy taught English class Saturday night, while I played volleyball with the guys. We met the Presidents of both Surabaya branches this week along with the Branch Mission Leaders.  We attended Church today in Timur (East) Branch.  A wonderful unit.  We will enjoy it here.  We felt uplifted by their faith. Each unit has its own chapels...very nice, newer structures, two stories, with AC and lots of space and parking. Beautiful grounds. The east chapel has nice public exposure. The west building is pretty hidden from general view. 

Tonight we were invited "in" for dinner.  A couple brought us dinner to our home.  Wonderful Bak Mie and a fruit gelatin dessert. Sangat enak!  Very delicious.  Thank you to the B.....

Tomorrow is a partial free day, which means we can shop twice as long and eat both breakfast and lunch at McD's.   Just kidding.  I am going to swim in the pool in the morning, and then go buy a bike, if possible.  Tuesday and Wednesday we are splitting with the FTM's.  Kathy will take the car with the Sisters, and I will try and avoid SDBM (sudden death by motorcycle) with the Elders on bicycles.

Have done some doctoring as well...GI illness, migraines, URI stuff mostly so far.  Trying to track down some influenza vaccine right now. 

We are generally well and very happy in our singleness of purpose right now.  So nice to not have all the many distractions of "our other life" right now. We are still praying to know with more specificity what would be of most worth for us to do with our (really God's) time. What does the Lord want us to do this year, this month, this week, this hour?  What would be not good, not better, but the best use of time and energy? In the meanwhile we put our heads down and plow forward trying to serve people and God and invite all to come unto Christ.

We thank you for your prayers and faith in our behalf. Please also remember the Indonesian people in general, who we are growing to love and appreciate more every day.


  1. Keith and Kathy, thanks for your fun and such interesting posts and many details of your experiences so far. They are great reads, how wonderful to have the technology to do this. I think of you every day and pray for your health, safety and purpose.
    Much love, Deb

  2. Thanks Sis! Miss you. Come visit next year. Love.