a broom of her own


Brooms have become tools of great importance in our lives. I remember having dinner with some friends from India last year, and they were describing the differences they noticed between daily life in India and that in the United States. One thing they said really surprised me. “There’s so much more house work, because of the dust. You leave something out, you come back, it’s full of dust.” I thought that was descriptive hyperbole. I realize now it wasn’t.

With windows that are never shut in a house floored with white tile, we have to sweep everything out every day. Just so you know, that’s a royal “we”. It’s the kind of “we” that really means “the house helper does it”. Also the children, who have become obsessed with brooms. Even Wally, who is always staggering around the kitchen under the weight of a broom twice as tall as he is. Indonesian brooms are really cool. They are usually bundles of stiff straws bound with a cord, often with a stick of bamboo in the center as a broom stick. Of course, there are more modern plastic brooms here, but these don’t tend to last in our family. Probably because they are frequently called into service as cockroach-smashers. (I’m serious, we’ve destroyed three plastic brooms in this way to date and there was no end to the madness in sight until Alex’s mother came to visit and gifted Alex with a heavy wooden meat-mallet, now designated for this purpose. We’re notching the handle for every kill.)

Even with a helper, I find plenty of cause for sweeping around here. I like sweeping. It’s such a classic, universal activity. Like all cleaning, I’m always struck by the redemptive metaphor.

And I love it when the children learn things by watching the people around us. Yesterday I found Harriet in the courtyard making a broom. She had gathered a pile of straws and bound them to a stick, and she was busily engaged in trimming the ends.


“Mom, I’m making a broom. Can I paint the handle when I’m done?” Norah was so interested in the process that she immediately enrolled in broom-making class, as offered by Harriet, a veteran with one broom successfully made.

“Hey, Mom. Take a picture of me, like, teaching Norah, okay?” She’s the younger sister, she needed to capture this rare moment.


I love the innate ingenuity of childhood. It’s really fascinating, the way they are so curious and absorb the world around them and put their own creative twist on it. Though to be honest, I was less keen on the innate ingenuity of childhood when Walter sweetly stuck a stick in my eye yesterday, also when Hugh found the bucket of white powdery ashes from the grill and made it “snow” thickly over everything in the courtyard, including his own hair. I should have been more understanding–he was just providing me with another opportunity to indulge in the universal redemptive metaphor of sweeping.


Harriet’s broom turned out excellent. She painted the handle bright blue and red and embellished the handle with a ball of pink fluff (that was her creative twist). She announced that she was going to gift the broom to her new kindergarten teacher, along with her reversible picture of a tree and a volcano. (One way it’s a tree, turn it upside-down, it’s a volcano.)


I can only say I hope the teacher understands the magnitude of this gift, as the broom is, at the moment, her most treasured possession. She was riding it through the house all morning, the foreboding of this slightly witch-like activity alleviated by the fact that she was singing the words to Psalm 121 at the top of her lungs.




Posted in Little Ones, Make Do and Mend | 5 Comments

pinterest is bad

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Girls, have you seen the Pinterest fails? You know, the professional Pinterest photo somebody saw of a perfect crafting experience and its lovely outcome . . . and then photographic evidence of their own botched operation? The first time somebody sent me a link to one of those sites I did the snort-laugh. (I believe it was to one of you, O readers, that I am indebted. Accept my public thanks!) Some of you will now go and view it and fail to get the joke because these attempts, my friends, are not actually at all funny. They are sad. They are only funny if you look at them with an immediate, guilty sense of self-recognition.

I am crafty. The quandary of being born a craftish-type person (and you know who you are) is that such heritage does not guarantee talent. If it comes with talent, you’re “Artistic”. If it comes without, you’re a Time-Wasting Idiot.

It is for my fellow time-wasting idiots that I describe today’s efforts. (That is me, above, conveniently wearing my “I’m blogging this” shirt. All unplanned, people.) This week I managed at last to get a can of chalkboard paint. Alex purchased it for me and the man mysteriously insisted he also buy a bottle of thinner. If I were running this errand in an English-speaking country or an air-conditioned store I may have pressed for instructions. Alas.

I’ve seen the clever things people do with chalkboard paint and today was my day to join them. I ignored the Indonesian words on the can and pried it open. My initial plan was to paint a big square of the wall in our courtyard at kid-height. If successful my children could rapidly become chalk-covered little people wearing dirty little clothes at any hour of the day in a very short space of time. I pried the can open, found to my surprise it was only half-full of a very thick wet-cement like substance, dipped in my best paintbrush, and advanced it toward the wall of the house. Half an inch from contact I remembered that we are renters. The brush shook spastically in my hand as I wrestled with temptation, causing the goop to drip perilously near my best jeans. My conscience won, and was confirmed immediately by Alex who felt that glopping it on the house was probably not an excellent plan.

But we had a cheap mirror from the street market that fell off of our dresser and shattered (right before our guests arrived on Christmas Day, actually) and I repaired the frame and saved the plywood backing . . . I decided that this should become a chalkboard. I began glooping and smearing the stuff onto it. When it wouldn’t spread and the brush began to make deep unsmooth-able tracks in it I began to think perhaps there was some purpose in the bottle of greasy thinner. It was too late to mix it into the paint (is that even what you do?) so I poured some on top. Then I kicked it over by accident and it spilled and soaked into my jeans and all over my ankles. At this point I think the fumes began to go to my head (or maybe sooner?). I tried to paint the stuff on some Mason jar lids, getting at least as much on my hands in the process. (I could hear Alex calling from the house, “The Benjamin Moore website says don’t get it on yourself but that’s for the American kind . . . “) When I had maximized the damage, I brought everything to the kitchen sink for cleanup. A rag soaked with the thinner was not removing the black from my hands, but optimistically I poured some into a plastic container to put the brush in. The chemical fumes were intense (lunch was in the oven, Alex said it smelled like meatloaf with paint thinner sauce). Two minutes later I tried to lift the plastic container out of the sink and learned that the thinner had eaten through the plastic and black-painty-oily-thinner splashed all over the kitchen sink. And wouldn’t come off.

(“What are you doing, Mommy?”)(“Oh, just . . . nothing. “)

Forty-five minutes with steel wool, folks. And to remind me of (one of) today’s crafting adventures my best jeans, the stones in the courtyard, my left heel, and, of course, the new chalkboard–remain deeply black.

Nailed it.



Posted in Make Do and Mend | 10 Comments

of praying for light

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
—1 John 1:5


Checking the news early this morning I learned of the strangling of a young Pakistani woman in an “honor killing” almost certainly conducted by her own family. I keep thinking about it, about the things happening around the world in God’s name. I keep thinking about Jesus, who was also killed in the name of religious law, in the moments of his death pleading with the Father for the forgiveness of his killers. I keep thinking about how he said, “They do not know what they are doing.” He knew they were striking blind, like a fistfight happening in the dark.

This morning before church I was standing at the stove, thinking about these things and searing vegetables for a casserole for dinner when I heard Hugh, who had been building a tower with magnet-tiles in the corner of the kitchen. “I’m praying at the mosque. I builded a mosque so we can pray.”

Norah has always made up little songs to sing to Jesus and sung them in her high-pitched, repetitive little voice as she’s crafting or playing. Lately the melody of every song I hear her singing is the yodel-like drone of the call to prayer, which sounds through our house five times a day.

We are surrounded by the blind.

When we pray for them, what do we pray? Are we praying for our safety and protection, or for justice, for their capture and punishment? Or are we praying for light?

We know that our God is a God of justice and it is a comfort that all things will be made right. I can understand why the writers of the psalms plead with God to give their enemies their just deserts. But the fact remains that God didn’t give me mine.

Fear is powerful–and fear tactics are their best weapon. Unless we have love.


“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
–I John 4:18a

Posted in Jesus | 8 Comments

of the putu man and spontaneous delight of children

Hi Strangers. Anybody remember the series Starting Again: Five Dos and One Don’t in which I gave all of my free and unsolicited advice to pilgrims? Quite astoundingly, considering I was living in Europe at the time and had not yet encountered Indonesian cheese, I wrote the following (here): You are allowed to hate the cheese. You can tell your husband once in a while that you hate the cheese. (Don’t tell the children.) Then invent the cheeseless taco and have something local that’s delicious for dessert. It was like a premonition. I’m not going to discuss the cheese. But these days, that local something we find for dessert is heralded by a steam whistle.

(Really? I haven’t written in two months and I’m writing about dessert? Yes.)

It’s the putu man.


He comes at night, with a steam cart. In Indonesia it’s always well and truly dark by six, and we’re usually around the big table in our kitchen having supper. He signifies his advent with a high-pitched steam whistle, like a roving tea kettle. When we hear it, which somehow we do under all the hubbub of the supper chatter and clatter, silence falls.

Then, “It’s the PUTU MAN!” And they’re off. Everybody furiously shoves on flip-flops while Alex steps into the road to head off The Putu Man. When he stops, everybody gathers around to watch the putu-making process.


Putu (poo-too) is a Javanese treat that consists of little rolls of steamed rice with coconut and palm sugar inside. While the children watch, fascinated, the putu man packs the rice into little segments of bamboo and sets them over his steamer to cook. (Hot tip from me to you: If you are going to feed the children street food, feed it to them really hot!)


When the putu is done, he rolls it in a bit of newspaper and it is carried into the house by excited little people.


(Where Wally remains, abandoned in his chair, wondering where everybody went.)

Putu for all of us runs just under fifty cents total. It’s worth far more than that for all the fun. I love the spontaneity of not knowing when we’ll hear the whistle, the sudden delight and the mad dash when we do. Baskin Robbins was never this much fun.


Posted in Indonesia | 10 Comments

of losing Grandma

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Yesterday on the other side of the world my family gathered to remember my Grandma. Grandma went to be with Jesus on Leap Year Day. I guess you could say she made the biggest leap of all, isn’t it, entering heaven. It was just a month after her 95th birthday.

There is gratitude behind the tears. My grandmother was unbelievably wonderful and I had her for 35 years. There is peace behind the tears also. She was ready to go. She wanted to see Jesus and she was looking forward to seeing Grandpa again. (He always made her laugh. Everybody else, too.)

Looks like everyone is coming . . . except us, of course.

That’s the part of this life we live that weighs the most. While my family were gathering in the church it was nearly midnight on Java and I was painting the kitchen ceiling blue. (What do you do on Saturday nights?) I wish I could have been there to remember her together. Maybe it would help me let her go. But Jesus is enough, he always is. He’s near us in our sorrow and he takes the sting out of our grief with his glorious promise of eternal life, in which Grandma is now rejoicing at last.

We’ll see her on the other side.




Posted in Jesus | 2 Comments

of java on java

Alex: “Feel like an adventure this Saturday?”
Me, instantly: “NO.” Adventure is something of which, I feel, we have enough at the minute.
Alex: “It’s a coffee plantation.”
Me: “I’ll pack a picnic.”

There are times when I forget that we live on an exotic tropical island. Last weekend I was reminded. A very short drive from our new home there is a mountain covered with coffee trees that are covered with coffee beans and we went there and it was beautiful. (Thus I prove to you I am in language school by the thoroughly awkward sentence construction that now characterizes all of my communication. Although just why learning to speak Indonesian should mean I can no longer write in English this I do not know.)

We took a ride on the “Tourist Train”, a sort of golf cart in disguise, that begins at the rubber trees, drives past a nutmeg grove, winds through the coffee trees, and concludes in a grove of cocoa trees.

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That’s nutmeg growing on the tree, folks. The road winds up the mountain through acres of stunted coffee trees. Most of the trees on the plantation are at least forty years old but carefully pruned to keep them at a reachable height for the more than 600 people who will come in August to harvest the beans. Coffee trees do best without direct sun, so there are taller trees planted throughout to provide shade for them. Isn’t this road stunning?



I think they look like rhododendrons from afar. Only so, so much better because they are laden with clusters of the world’s most magical and delicious bean…



The children were all about picking the beans and tasting the beans . . . then immediately back to just picking them again. They’re inedible, so our harvest is now just sitting on the kitchen table in the apple bowl looking cool. (“Mom, you drink that stuff?”)

Yes, dear. Yes, I do.

It’s actually a bit of a quest to locate good coffee here–most growers find greater economic advantage in exporting their harvest. But we were able to buy a bag of locally-grown roasted beans from the plantation before we left.

Here’s Harriet immediately after she exclaimed, “Well THIS is a whole lot funner than I thought it was gonna be!”


The best part was when suddenly, careening around the edge of the mountain, we were granted a view of the rice paddies in the valley and the volcano behind. The pictures don’t do it justice. We’ll take you here when you come visit.


We lingered so long on the trail that the cart behind caught up with us. This was a great little partnership. We were taking pictures of coffee. They were taking pictures of us.


There was a rusty metal playground, ATV rides, a zipline, and the inevitable bouncy castle. There were wonderful cappuccinos served to us as we sat in a little straw hut. But my favorite was definitely the sights like this one:


And this one–isn’t she beautiful under the rubber trees?

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This last photo sums up how we felt about this adventure. Things are looking up.




Posted in Indonesia | 2 Comments

The Easter Invitation


I saw this window in the cathedral in Bath, England.

As some of you may remember, Alex and I wrote a series of twenty-four Advent Readings for the Very Young for our daughters (and this blog) back in December 2012. I just wanted to mention that I also wrote twelve Easter Readings for the Very Young (in 2013) to post for the 12 days leading up to Easter from the Wednesday before Palm Sunday (March 20, 2016) through Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016). I’ve provided a list of headings below, if any one is interested in joining us in reading these with our little ones.

As I prayerfully considered this project, I decided to base the readings on the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Gospel of John. Thus there is no reading on “Jesus is the Lamb” and I have gone to the synoptic Gospels for the account of the Last Supper. I have begun four days before Palm Sunday to get us thinking on the life of Jesus before Holy Week begins. That way, even though we may be reading at the moment in different places in the Bible, we can all pick up here and know where we’re at. Activity suggestions for some of the days are included. Beside each day are listed the materials we will use for the activities, in case anyone is interested in the same activities and would like to prepare.

The memory verses we will be reviewing nightly with this series are John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” and Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Easter Readings for the Very Young
Wednesday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus Opens the Eyes of the Blind (John 9): blindfold
Thursday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10): stuffed animals: lion and lambs
Friday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus and the Disciples (John 11:1-16)
Saturday (before Palm Sunday): Jesus Raises Lazarus (John 11:17-57): roll of toilet paper
Palm Sunday: Jesus Enters Jerusalem (John 12:12-19): palm branches; real or paper
Holy Monday: Jesus Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14): 2-3 pieces poster board, brown construction paper or cardboard
Holy Tuesday: Jesus Has the Greatest Love (John 15)
Holy Wednesday: Jesus Washes Feet (John 13): water, soap, towels
Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22): bread, grape juice
Good Friday: Jesus Dies On the Cross (John 18-19:1-30): a few candles
Holy Saturday: Jesus Is Buried In the Tomb (John 19:31-42): felt or paper figures
Easter Sunday: Jesus Is Risen (John 20): bells, musical instruments

You are very welcome to join us! Please do send along any suggestions or ideas you may have for helping our littlest ones understand the Savior that we celebrate at this season.

Posted in Easter Readings for the Very Young | Leave a comment

of dwelling rights


A matter for much prayer at the minute is our pursuit of a new visa. Perhaps these words will not carry much meaning for some but for anyone who has taken up residence in a country where they were not born, they are significant. Perhaps if you have done so, you have had a chance to reflect on how being born in a nation makes you an incontrovertible part of it. You belong to it and thus it belongs to you. All the rights and privileges of a citizen, a fully-invested member, are yours as a matter of course. No one may contest your right to be–and to stay–present.

Not so the immigrant. Somehow permission must be obtained: not just the right of entry, but the right to remain. Dwelling rights, regularly renewable—must be yours. There are papers, fees, and processes that must be engaged in and outcomes are ever uncertain. We last engaged in this process last spring, leaving, as we thought, adequate time to receive our first visa before we departed the home shores on July 22. But these things do not always (ever?) go according to plan. Our visas did not arrive. A few days before we left Boston we learned they were stuck on a desk in New York. With our passports. Thus rendering our impending (and expensive) departure for Asia impossible. There were prayers and heart-burnings and many, many phone calls. In the end Alex drove to New York and was able to pick up our passports and visas (probably with the ink still wet) and drive all the way back again, thus missing the last day with his family. At three o’clock the next morning, we headed to the airport and left the country.

It was during that time that my scheduled Bible reading happened to be Psalm 87. When I read it, I could not believe it. Who knew that a Visa Psalm was in the Bible?! I could not remember ever reading of entry rights and dwelling rights before—but it’s there. It’s about the citizenship everybody’s trying to get and the only one that really counts: citizenship in the city of God.

1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God.

Have we pondered of late what glorious things are spoken of the city of God? Could this be real: “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away . . . behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:2-5). Are we ready to be done with the dark yet? Are we ready to be done with tears and death and brokenness? How can that even be true, says my mind. The next thing he says: “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” How do we get a visa for that city? Who has the dwelling rights in that one?

4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
‘This one was born there,’ they say.

Is that a typo? The list of nations that know this city is a list of the enemies of God’s people. Rahab is a recognized term for Egypt and Tyre was a Canaanite city. What are they doing in Zion? And they are claiming full citizenship—“This one was born there.” In the psalm that comes right before this one it says this: “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (Ps. 86:9). But how do they get in? How do we get in?

As it happens, the visa-granting process to the kingdom of God is simple. It’s simple because no one needs one. Every single citizen of the city of God was born there.

5 And of Zion it shall be said,
‘This one and that one were born in her’;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.’

O the greatness and beauty of the incredible mercy of our God! I read this and I can see him, writing each beloved name in indelible ink with a flourish, his countenance broadly smiling with satisfaction as he changes the birth records of humanity. You—you, were born here. The full rights of citizenship are incontestably yours. There are no processes, or papers. There are no fees. Permission needn’t be obtained and re-obtained for you, you’re a native.

But you weren’t born there, cries our accuser. You were born in the dark.

Oh, that was the first time, we say. I’ve been born again.

7 Singers and dancers alike say,
‘All my springs are in you.’



Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode;
on the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters,
spring from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint, when such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace which, like the Lord, the Giver,
never fails from age to age.

—John Newton

Posted in Jesus | 4 Comments

of sharing our slushy salt


We love having guests. We always have, I guess. We would usually rather host something than have it elsewhere. We consider a week with people to dinner is a richer and better one than a week without. I have experienced a series of breakthroughs in my ideas of hospitality over the years—the first one came when I realized the hospitality I best enjoyed was often the least perfect.

Somehow it occurred to me then that cleaning my house and putting it in order because that makes a better environment for everyone to live and relax in it is different from frantically perfecting the angle of every last sofa cushion so it appears a gleaming showplace. That small touches that make others feel celebrated and welcome are different from a crystal perfection that makes others feel intimidated. The most hospitable family I know taught me that one. This lady always has a candle burning and something freshly baked (or on a busy day, still in the oven). If you’re staying overnight, she just might iron your pillowcase. But the house feels like people live there and every person that walks in the door feels like a part of things right away. Questions like shoes or no shoes and whether the dish you brought to share burned could not seem less important. I think they probably have trouble getting people to leave (they did with me).

I realized from them that if I’m going out of my way to make things nice in order to bless you, that’s still about you. If I’m trying to make them perfect because it reflects on me, then it’s about me. That sort of hospitality has left the realm of service and entered that of show-and-tell.

This revelation in my ideas of hospitality is still underway. It has deepened as we moved overseas, especially the second time. It’s happened as I’ve realized what it means to share your salt during rainy season in the tropics. Do you know what happens to salt when it’s wet? Sometime we’ll talk about what happens to clothes, furniture, human hair, bed linens, and bath towels also. For today we’ll stick to salt. It’s slush, people. My first intimation of this was when a new friend and I were shopping in a little store and I said, “I need a salt shaker.”

“Don’t bother,” she said. I didn’t understand why. The rainy season hadn’t begun yet.

Our salt is slush. No matter how it is packaged or stored, it’s the consistency of sandcastle-able sand all the time. Salt shakers are out of the question—I now have one and large beads of water collect on top of it. When you shake it, you get water droplets. Not salt. We take pinches of it with our fingers and try to sprinkle it over our poached eggs, where it mostly drops in a clump and refuses to disseminate itself. (“Mommy, there’s no salt on my . . . OH. THERE it is.”) We still gladly share our salt. But sometimes it’s not quite what we feel salt should be.

We had a houseguest due this week. It’s a friend from our organization in the States who befriended us during our summer training and happens to be in country for a trip just now. We have looked forward to his arrival, which occurred late Monday night. We don’t have a guest room but we have already purchased an extra single mattress for Wally one day, that usually resides underneath Hugh’s mattress, thus making it seem more like a bed. We pulled that out and put it in a tiny room off the kitchen that we are calling the Study. It is studied in by the man of this house. But it also functions like a closet in a house with no closets, housing suitcases, Alex’s clothes, carseats, hardware, and anything we need to store. I dragged an empty crate in there for a nightstand and put a lamp on it. The room is frequently overrun with lizards but so is the rest of Southeast Asia, apparently, so we can’t help that one. We don’t have top sheets because they don’t make them here and I haven’t contrived a way to get them. We have exactly one extra blanket, which of course smelled and felt damp until the neighbor let me use her dryer. Perhaps you are starting to see what I’m getting at.

Then an hour before our guest arrived I suddenly became very ill. I could not leave the bathroom floor to welcome him and spent the entire night vomiting. At 5 am Wally woke up vomiting. At 6 am Norah did. Alex began to feel very sick by morning and staggered around helping the children because I couldn’t get up. We now think it was food poisoning. It’s not our first bout with this malady since arrival but it was the worst one. I’m going to skip the story of the next 48 hours but let’s just say we had to find another place for him to stay. Now we’re recovering—our friend is still in country so we get to have a visit after all, starting tomorrow. But now there is something wrong with the toilet . . .

You see? I’d like to have a nice, cozy place to welcome a guest. Including (dry) sheets on the bed (and an actual bed). Perhaps even reptile-free, if we’re really dreaming big. I’d like an appetizing meal on the table. These are all things we should provide if we could—and it would be a joy to do so. But what if we can’t? What if what we have is what we have? Why should it be difficult to just offer the best of what we have, regardless of how it compares to someone or somewhere else?

Reader, I think it’s pride. It’s difficult to say, “Sorry the back toilet is broken” or “Our internet is down right now” or “These are the only sheets we have” (or “Hey, I’d like to welcome you but I’m vomiting right now”) because it’s humbling to do so. It’s humbling to say, “Welcome, come on in to my life just as it is” and not strive in some way to make it appear somewhat better. I think probably true hospitality says, “Here is what I have now, you’re welcome to share in it.” (I do believe in offering the best of what we have, making things as nice as we can to honor those that come through our door. But maybe sometimes our best means soggy salt with a smile.

Posted in Indonesia, Keep House and Carry On | 6 Comments

of rain falling and falling


The images coming from friends in the States this week are all white. Flocked trees and drifty rooftops, buried driveways, friends’ children with brilliantly red cheeks above their scarves standing with sleds. It’s cold, they say. Events are cancelled. Despite our crazy, adventurous life I have still lived more years in Minnesota than anywhere else and how well I know these scenes. These will not be the memories of my children’s childhood.

The extremes of hot and cold are not Java’s climatic parameters. Around here things are always in terms of wet and dry. Right now, in the heart of the rainy season, we’re talking wet. I’ve been told by many people that this year rainy season is different–it rains nearly every day but apparently still less than normally.


It still seems plenty rainy to us. Rain visits us often and we see her in all her moods, her cheerful plopping ones, her wispy, misty ones, her raging tantrums. Sometimes it’s not so much rain as a deluge. Water just falls from the sky in sheets. The air seems more water than air and the noise of the water striking the tile and tin roofs and the gushing of the streets is instantly deafening. Rain comes with a literal roar.

The children don’t mind. We’ve had several rain parties, usually on Sunday afternoons. It’s lollipops and raindrops for all and the children dancing wildly around. I have so far had the good sense to confine these parties to the courtyard, so the neighbors receive no additional proof that we are, in fact, crazy.


When we moved here it seemed strange that most roads are edged with two- or three-foot deep concrete trenches. I wondered why there was a concrete track six inches deep running around the patio in front of our house.

It is because water runs in sheets from the roof and neither the gutters nor the ground can absorb it fast enough. And there are roaring rivers everywhere. Yesterday was one such day. Though most days still dawn sunny and bright and the rains don’t begin until afternoon, yesterday dawned dark grey and by mid-morning the roar of rain was reverberating through the house. We had the day off from language school and a busy week ahead so I spontaneously kept Norah home from school for some needed family time. After lunch the girls and I ventured out with umbrellas to a little restaurant about a half-mile away.

(Mommy: “Norah, if any of your teachers or friends ask you why you weren’t in school Friday, just tell them you had to go out for milkshakes.”
Norah: “Yes. It was an emergency!”)

We were soaked by the time we reached the end of our street. I was astounded to see the trenches on each side of our road full with rushing water and all manner of flotsam and jetsam eddying on the current.


I love Java like this. I guess I’ve always liked the rain and around here it seems special, refreshing and miraculous in a particular way. Probably because it is. Hot climates really aren’t my valentine and sometimes I have to make a mental rule that I will not think about Oxford until the weather changes. Transitioning to a new climate involves a certain kind of loss–perhaps I knew it was coming but it’s one of those things that’s harder when you’re in it. During autumn I felt the loss of many things, perhaps particularly of cosy. Does Indonesia even do cosy? I did not think so.

But she does. Oh, she does. Yesterday we opened all the windows and doors to the roar of the rain and I turned on lamps and lit candles in the family room.


I made a big pot of steamy cauliflower soup with parmesan and crusty bread for lunch and ate it in front of the courtyard door, watching the rain.


Which fell and fell and fell.




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