Culture. Such a small word for something so huge. Where do you even start when you want to compare “yours” with the one you are trying to fit into? It can be frustrating (to say the least) and hilarious at the same time. We are so into our privacy in the states. Most of us have huge personal bubbles and you just don’t dare pop someone else’s! My bubble was popped whether I liked it or not pretty much the minute I stepped off the plane! With every day of interacting, my bubble gets popped over and over again, but slowly and surely its size has shrunk a little each day. How could it not shrink when standing in a grocery line doesn’t mean a single file, 2 foot buffer zone, steadily moving procession but instead a shoulder to shoulder, basket to butt, churning mass of people pushing their way to a register? How could it not pop when driving here is more a constant game of “chicken” than a logical, “all cars going the same direction on a one way street” idea from America. You mean those yellow lines on the road actually mean something!?
Talking on the phone or texting while driving a bike is too common. I even heard of someone who got struck by lighting because he opened his phone during a storm!
Having a baby in this country opens so many doors for conversation and relationships but it also can put you in some very awkward positions! If you have a baby here, it’s pretty acceptable to nurse them whenever and wherever you want to. No one cares if you are sitting smashed up against them on the local taxi/van and you want to stop your baby from crying so you whip out a “snack” and it’s a common suggestion to feed your baby at anyone’s house whether he is hungry or not. The other day we were visiting some friends in a village pretty far away. This village does not see white people very often, so all the women from the village came over to see Noah. They passed him around and were pretty much ecstatic to have him there. When it was time to feed him, our host let me use a side bedroom to nurse him. I’m not really sure why I was given a side room because there was no intention of giving me any privacy. One by one, about five women came in to observe. They were so giddy about Noah and just stood there staring at me with huge smiles on their faces. But looking wasn’t enough; one crawled up on the bed and plunked down right next to me so she could get a better view. The others sat around me on the bed and took turns reaching in to squeeze Noah’s cheeks. I am pretty much over the modesty part by now, but I was just cracking up in my head imagining how this would go over in the states! It’s just so drastically different than “my” culture but I am really glad I can laugh about it and not get annoyed!
One thing I love in America is just going to a store or the mall to browse. Not intending to buy anything really, just to browse around was very relaxing for me. There I no such thing as browsing here. For one, the isles are about 4 feet wide, so it’s not necessarily a leisurely stroll when you are dodging carts, customers, and groups of employees sitting on the ground together sorting products… or… I’m actually not sure what they are usually doing. Another reason it’s hard to browse is that you are being followed at all times by at least three employees waiting to see if you need help. No thanks… I don’t need help looking at this shirt. No thanks, I can read the sign that says this is on sale. No thanks, I can carry my shampoo myself. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t relax and shop when there are three smiling employees trailing my every move.
Although some things are hard to get used to, so many things are just awesome about the people here. Almost everyone is willing and happy to help you with anything you need, and they will drop what they are doing to assist you. Whether you are out in the heat and a stranger invites you in out of the sun to cool off and have a drink, or your car breaks down in the blazing sun and a friend drives over immediately to help once he hears about it, you can always count on someone to care!
I was encouraged and re-motivated the other day as I watched a video of a newly completed Bible translation being handed over to a tribal group who had never had the Word of God in their own language until now. It’s so easy for me (Abby) to forget why we are here and neglect to keep my eyes set on the end goal – a people group to know and accept Jesus Christ, but the video brought me back to that reality. We have become comfortable and accustomed to the people and ways here in Java, and we have come to love it as well. That is such an encouraging thing to be able to say after struggling through all the new and different parts of life these last 8 months, but at the same time it’s sad since we know we won’t be here permanently. The relationships we’ve made and the little city we like so much will be left behind as we head to a new region and desire to live among an unreached people group. Sometimes it seems like the only consistent thing in a missionaries life is change!
The holiday season around these parts is finally over and it ended with quite a few interesting events. The month of July was Ramadan (where Muslims fast during daylight hours and refrain from anything impure) and it ended with a celebration called “Idul Fitri”. This is a time when people travel home to visit their families, friends and neighbors as well as ask forgiveness for any wrongs that they may have committed, intentionally or not. There is lots of eating and celebrating, along with fireworks and parades! We visited some friends and neighbors for Idul Fitri and everyone enjoyed seeing Noah and serving us food.
August 17th was the Indonesian National Independence Day! That was a full weekend for sure. There were small parades in the villages and several neighborhood wide ceremonies to celebrate the holiday. One of the most fun parts of the festivities was a game called “Panjat Pinang”. In this game a huge bamboo pole is mounted in the ground and lots of gifts are hung from the top of the pole. Then axel grease is smeared all over the pole to make it slippery. Men are divided into teams of 4 or 5 and each team gets a chance to climb the pole to reach the prizes! Sounds fun, right? Nathan thought so, and joined in on the game and was the “base” of the tower of climbing men as they scrambled up the slippery pole to grab the prizes above. It was very entertaining to watch but Nathan sure felt the pain in his muscles for a few days afterword!
Below are some pictures of a cultural "Kuda Lumping" horse dance.
The whole month of August has been a busy one as we had to make a trip to Jakarta to get Noah’s passport process started at the American embassy. We travelled by train since Noah is still too little to fly, and had a nice time in the city while we got our business done. Abby’s Aunt Charlotte who is a missionary in Papua, Indonesia happened to be in the city for some medical work and we were lucky enough to be able to spend almost a week with her! This was special since she is the first of our families to meet Noah. While in the city we got to learn more about the different regions in Asia Pacific at a park called “Taman Mini”. This park had cultural villages set up replicating all the different regions in Asia Pacific! We also got to learn about the history of this Country at the Monas Tower monument in the center of Jakarta.
Next week we will have another opportunity to learn more about the regions in Asia Pacific and where we want to go after we are finished with language study here. Please pray that the Lord would make it clear where He desires we serve. We are also planning some trips to visit different regions in the coming months to see the needs up close and hopefully decide on which Island we want to serve long term.
He’s finally here! Yes, he took his time, and yes, the labor was intense, but the wait is over and we are praising God for the gift of Noah Keith Burris, born July 16, 2013 at 9:50am, weighing 7.9lbs and measuring 22 inches in length! He is a very alert and expressive little guy and we just love him! We want to thank everyone for their prayers during the labor as it was pretty drawn out and difficult. We know God was protecting both Abby and Noah and we thank you for taking the time to lift us up to Him.
There is some baby commercial on TV that uses the slogan “Having a Baby changes everything” and they are so right! After several days of exhaustion adjusting to no sleep and realizing we now have to take care of this thing we brought home from the hospital, we are starting to catch up on sleep and getting into a sort of routine with Noah. The paperwork for a baby visa in this country is proving to be way more complicated than we thought and Nathan has been very busy tracking down the right people who need to sign the right papers in order for us to make the trip to Jakarta to get Noah’s visa made. We would appreciate prayer in this as sometimes a simple thing like getting a signature can take days at a time simply because an office worker doesn’t feel like doing his job that day. It can be really frustrating and we could use supernatural patience! Nathan has been back in language school this month as well, which adds to his exhaustion each day. He is trying to stay caught up with classes and homework as best he can, but with preparations for the trip to Jakarta and so many other weekly things to keep up with, he is tired. Abby has this month off of language school but hopes to resume classes in August. It’s hard for her to imagine getting back into the swing of language learning full time with a new baby so she could use your prayers as she tries to make time for both being a new Mom and continuing her language and culture studies.
In this culture when you have a new baby its customary to send boxes of sweet breads or a small meal of chicken, veggies and rice to all the neighbors in your village. The box has a birth announcement and picture of the baby on top. Once a neighbor receives a box, it’s basically an invitation to come see the new baby! We are in the middle of preparing boxes for all our neighbors and will be expecting many visitors in the next few days/weeks! We have already had several friends and neighbors stop by to meet Noah and give us gifts.
This month on the Islamic calendar is the most special month of the year for Muslims. It is the month of Ramadan. This means most of our neighbors are participating in “puasa” which is fasting from about 3am until 6pm. During the night there is a lot of celebrating with fireworks, eating and reading of the Quran from the Mosque. Ramadan celebrates the month that the Quran was revealed to Mohammed the prophet and is a special time for Muslims to cleanse themselves. Because most of the city is fasting, restaurants that are still open during the day will put curtains up in the windows in order to not offend the ones who are fasting by seeing others eating during the day. We have been careful not to eat out on our porch or in public as well. Ramadan is a month where many rewards in Surga (heaven) can be obtained if you follow the rules of fasting and keep your mind on pure things. We pray that one day these people will understand the true free gift of salvation and accept that the perfect work of Christ has already been done on their behalf!
Continue to keep up in your prayers; we know they make a difference!
Even though we’ve only been here about 4 months, the regular sights and sounds of this place can already feel so ordinary that you forget to stop and look and listen. I don’t notice the huge mosque on the horizon as I walk down the narrow market street filled with men and women selling their produce and snacks. I don’t hear the constant ringing of the cicada’s outside anymore, even though they used to drive me crazy. The man pedaling his bicycle cart full to the brim with bread and cakes rolls by with hardly a glance from me. But when you do stop to take it all in, it’s a pretty amazing place to live.
We are well into January of the New Year, which marks 2 months of us being in this country. It also reminds us that we have several more months of “rainy season”, which I like to call “moldy season”. The other day I pulled out a pair of jeans that didn’t used to be green… and realized they were covered in a thin moldy film. Yuck.
We have a new Niece! Abby’s sister Chrissy and her husband Don welcomed darling Lily Renee into their family this past week. We are so excited for them! Abby is now 17 weeks along in her pregnancy and we are getting excited to maybe find out if we are having a boy or a girl in the next few weeks. Continued prayers are always a blessing!
As the weeks go bye we are learning more and more language and how to be a part of the life and culture here. As new relationships start and grow it gets more and more fun to learn from the people who call this Country “home”.
On New Years Day we attended a parade in our village. The different sections of our city are all divided into what are called “RT’s” (air-tay’s). Our RT is number 10 in the region. For the parade, each RT had prepared their own performance and way of showing their unique culture and style. Some had children’s marching bands with garbage can drums, while others were dressed in their cultural Javanese style clothes and carried huge displays of food and fruit. It was so interesting to see all the uniqueness that makes up this Country.
Later that day we attended a carnival and got to see a common cultural practice called “Kuda Lumping” which means ”Horse Dance”. People crowded around the roped off ring to watch 8-10 men in costume ride their “horses” (woven, painted horses) around to music and chanting. After about 15-20 minutes of dancing some would fall into trances and do some pretty strange things like eat sharp objects and lunge into the crowd at people. It was a real eye-opener to the deeper spiritual practices going on behind normal daily life.
A few days before that we had ordered what we thought was Chicken Sate, only to find out that it was basically everything INSIDE the chicken that they decided to put on the stick. Yup- hearts, livers, and what looked like every other vital organ you could imagine. I will try anything once, but some things only need one try!
You can find just about any kind of meat on a stick here… but as delicious as most of it is, not everything is worth writing home about. Yesterday we got to try “Sate Kambing” which is Goat with some new friends. It was very good!
We are on wheels! Nathan got a bike and has been practicing driving us around on back roads. It’s so nice to have a break from walking everywhere we go. I will get my own scooter in the near future!