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Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful for Candles!

Happy Thanksgiving!  If you're not from the U.S., then you probably don't celebrate Thanksgiving, at least not at the same time we do.  But of course this is one of the biggest holidays in America, and many family traditions often go along with Thanksgiving, not the least of which is stuffing yourself with good food and hanging out with family and friends!  

We certainly have a lot to be thankful for...a loving family, great friends, an awesome ministry and team here in Indonesia, generally good health, and most of all the hope of eternal life with the One to Whom we give thanks for everything--Jesus!

As is the tradition here in Tarakan, our entire MAF team got together to celebrate, including our Dutch and Canadian families!  The wives slaved away in their respective kitchens all day, cooking up a massive feast, on par with anything found on a Thanksgiving table in America, but this one being made entirely from scratch!  I mean, seriously, take a look at the dessert table above!  Unbelievable!

There were smashed potatoes and rolls and corn and green been casseroles and salads and more!  Joy even went so far as to string and cut each individual green been lengthwise, to make her green been casserole look and taste as much like it would in the U.S.  This is one of my favorites, and her's was awesome!  

What about the bird you ask?  You see, in the U.S. you virtually HAVE to have a turkey or a ham.  Well a ham is just out of the question in this country--at least in Tarakan, and a Turkey--well, um yeah, those are really hard to get and very expensive too!  One of our families, Chris & Sarah, generously bought a turkey to share with the team, but in addition to that we also roasted eight chickens!  Yeah, you can stuff a chicken and put gravy on it just like a turkey, only it's smaller!  Over here you have to improvise.

By 6:30pm we were finally all crowded together and getting ready to start the feast.  You can see Paul, on the left, whistling loudly to get everyones' attention.  (Notice the beautiful lights and ceiling fan--that's important, as you'll see in a minute.) 

And then, just after we prayed and started dishing up the food, this...

I guess we forgot to be thankful for electricity--which seems to be rather sporadic as of late.

It stayed off the rest of the evening...which gave us the chance to be thankful for candles!  I mean, despite the fact that it was stiflingly hot and humid, with no fans and no breeze, what could be better than eating a thanksgiving meal with dozens of your best friends, lit by candles, cell phones, and LED flashlights?

The below picture almost makes it look like the ambiance is intentional.  Isn't it "romantic"?  Well, this is one of those rare cases where something actually looks better in the photo than it was in real life.  This is a long exposure that I took just after the power went out, just to show you what was going on in the darkness.  Initially, it actually looked a lot more like the picture above, almost totally dark...until we rounded up more candles and flashlights.   (You might notice that the ceiling fan is still moving in this shot, since it was just a minute or so after the power died.)

Well, it wasn't what we had in mind for our Thanksgiving dinner, but we still had a great time none-the-less.  And now we won't forget to be thankful for electricity--when we have it--and candles when we don't!

Here's a few ladies from Long Sule that seemed joyful and thankful the other day.  I had just flown in some government employees for a meeting with the village, and I was waiting around for a half hour until they were ready to leave.  These ladies were taking a lunch break, having been working hard in their rice fields on the hills behind the airstrip.  They were all laughter and smiles!

And here's the rice field where they were working.  There's two types of rice here in Kalimantan--wet and dry.  "Dry" is misleading, b/c it's never really dry here, but the dry rice grows on hills like this, whereas the "wet" rice grows in the flooded, flat rice paddies like you've probably seen in pictures from here, or areas like Vietnam or Thailand.  It just depends on the village and the terrain as to what type they grow.

It was a busy week, ending with some flights for the Governor of Kalimantan on Saturday, along with an overnight in Samarinda and return on Sunday.  But I'll save that for next time.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Here's a few shots from the past couple of weekends.  First, flying RC airplanes down at the airport on Sunday afternoons with MAF friends.  To see a few more photos like these, go see Joy's post, "The Glorious in the Mundane."

And last Sunday we went to a baby dedication that we were invited to attend for a family in our neighborhood.

Notice the envelope that the guest is slipping into the side of the crib, beside the sleeping baby.  It's customary to bring an envelope with a monetary gift inside for this type of event.

Of course, the family wanted to pose for photos with my family.

The proud grandma was sitting on a chair next to the baby.  I never saw her get up.  However before we left she specifically asked for this picture, with her older granddaughter, knowing that later we'll print it out and bring it to her.

And of course, no "weekend post" could be complete without an airplane shot.  The Kodiak is in such high demand, and there are so many flight requests, that we started flying it six days a week way back in May when I finished my Kodiak checkout.  Ever since then I've been flying the Saturday schedule, and taking my weekend on Sunday and Monday.  Here's a shot from this Saturday in Data Dian.  It was a beautiful day, but those big white clouds in the distance were an indicator of things to come.  Usually when it's this hot and sunny there are massive thunderstorms that build up in the afternoon.  Saturday was no exception, as I had to negotiate a lot of ugly weather on the way home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Airstrip Checkouts etc.

On Friday I rode along with Tripp Flythe for the day so that I could give him airstrip checkouts in Long Alango and Long Pujungan.  Below, Pendeta (Pastor) Yahya walks down the Long Alango Airstrip in the direction of the village, carrying woven roofing thatch for his rice field pondok (hut). 

The Long Alango airstrip from above.  385 flat, slippery meters long (actually short).  This photo was taken on a different day.

Two pondoks surrounded by fields of beautiful, green rice growing next to the airstrip.

Long Pujungan airstrip, with the village just visible to the right.

An old photo that I took when Paul College and I got checked out at Long Pujungan a few years ago.  It's a very narrow, dog-legged strip that has a challenging hooking approach and an exciting departure!

A few shots from the Kodiak last week.

Lunch in Mahak Baru.  Fried rice with eggs, cucumbers, and hot Chile peppers.  And hot, sweet tea.  They're always so kind and generous there in Mahak, making sure the MAF pilots absolutely do not go hungry or thirsty!

It's so great to have Joy back from America!  While she was gone, the kids and I did a lot of fun stuff around Tarakan and at home.  One of the things that the boys and I worked on for a few days was a building project.  The boys have been looking forward to working with dad on this for quite a few months, but I wanted a good chunk of time (a few days off work) to "hammer it out" without interruption.  So we hit it hard while Joy was gone.  It was a lot of fun!

What is it?  Well, nothing fancy, that's for sure.  But we closed in the area under the wooden stairs that climbs up the vertical stone wall behind our house to our two neighbors' houses.  This is the new home for one of our many pets.  He had outgrown his previous home, so he needed a bigger place to sleep and "hang out".  This area gives him plenty of room to swing and climb, even though he spends much of his time free, out and about in our yard.

For those of you that do building or construction in the U.S, you may wonder why it would take a few days to throw something like this up?  Good question.  First of all, there never seems to be a time when there aren't interruptions here--whether it's water pipes breaking, LPG running out, or someone calling from the MAF hanger needing something.  But the main thing is the wood.  You can either buy soft wood that's easy to work with and will be eaten up by termites within a few months, or you can buy the really hard wood that will last for years but literally can't be nailed without pre-drilling.  Oh, and it's all rough-cut.  

You can't just go buy dimensional lumber or boards here like you can in the U.S.  Every piece is just a little different diameter or thickness than the previous one, and often one piece varies in width or thickness from end to end.   It comes to you right off the saw from the saw mill, and I often think the saw must be pretty wobbly.  If you try to pound a nail through this stuff (even a descent size nail like a 16 penny), it will absolutely not go in.  I can drive hundreds of nails in a row without problems in the U.S., but I can't drive a single nail through this stuff without pre-drilling a pilot hole.  It's humiliating to my manhood!  How about decking screws you ask?  Well, first of all you can't buy them here, but I do have some from the States.  In this case the wood will either break the screw in half, or the bit will shred the head of the screw, or you'll split the wood if you do not pre-drill a hole.  So yeah, it takes a lot of time--always way longer than I estimate, b/c I'm still used to doing things the easy way in the U.S.  Oh, and all I have to work with are hand tools--no table saws or anything like that.  But who's in a hurry when you're having fun with your boys?  Oh, and by the way, Hannah was happily reading a book nearby (her favorite pastime) and she's the one that took the picture of me and the four boys.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Idul Adha (Part 2)

Here's a few more shots from Idul Adha on Sunday here in Tarakan.

As I said before, everyone was very friendly as usual.  After prayers I was swarmed by a bunch of kids, many of whom wanted their pictures taken.  In this case they begged to have their picture taken with me.

Shortly thereafter a guy who'd just finished prayers walked up to me and began asking some questions.  Turns out that he is a photographer in town here and was curious what I was up to and why.  He invited me to follow him back to his home and studio to drink coffee and chat a while.  So for the next hour or so I sat with Pak Tony and had a great visit over a cup of coffee as we talked about photos and people and Tarakan and America and many other things.  I'm sure it won't be the last time Tony and I get a chance to hang out over coffee and cameras.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Idul Adha (Part 1)

Today Muslims throughout the world were celebrating Idul Adha.  Here's a few shots from morning prayers outside one of the many mosques in Tarakan.

As usual, everyone was extremely friendly and curious.  I never cease to be amazed at the devotion many of these folks demonstrate in their many in the overflow crowds threw their prayer mats down on the rain soaked pavement right in the middle of the street to pray.  Would you be willing to do that?

I have a few more shots I'll share in a second post as well.  In the meantime, if you want to see and read more about Idul Adha, you can check out my posts from last here, "Idul Adha - The Tarakan Muslim Center" and "Idul Adha - The People" and "Idul Adha - The Sacrifices".