Friday, November 20, 2009

A Bit of Style

Wearing a school uniform is really not that bad...
at least when it looks like this

For the past few weeks we celebrated Indonesian culture at school. It culminated with a an day-long parade of costumes and dance and food. Some of the girls' traditional dress was really stunning. After I spent the day dressed with such pomp and dignity I was reluctant to take it off.

We have made it successfully through Kayla's and Hannah's birthdays. Connected to those two events has been the addition of two fish and a hamster. Pictures to be added as soon as we're sure they will survive. We don't have a particularly strong history of pets lasting too long. Hamsters don't like to be dropped and fish don't enjoy murky, green water. We'll see.

I've missed the last two weeks of golf due to rain. That has really tested my often said phrase, "I never get tired of rain." Usually I don't. I love rain. I love thunder and lightening. That reminds me. I should take a picture of the tree 50 feet from our house that was struck by lightening last week. Incredible. Took off a huge limb, ripped a 30-foot long barkless patch, and sent debris flying onto rooftops and all over the street.

Last night (Friday afternoon and then into the evening) we held a senior school retreat for 25 teachers who have leadership responsibilities in the MS an HS. Subject lead teachers and grade level lead teachers. Of course you can't just have meetings and discussion all need a break for dinner, hence the pictures of dessert and the tables. A nice bit of style, don't you agree.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There you saw it...the Mercers playing their instruments of choice. Kayla, sporting the new braidless hairstyle, has begun taking piano lessons. She actually likes singing even more than playing the piano. Both are done well.

Hannah also started on the piano but has been playing the saxaphone and flute at school. She was doing so well on the saxaphone that they asked her if she would play the baritone sax. It sounds wonderful and she plays it very well...the only problem is lugging back and forth to school.

Ben continues to love playing the guitar. He actually sounds pretty good and very loud as he imitates Jimi Hendrix and Led Zepplan and Paul McCartney.

And that's me, playing the CD Player. I'm OK. I hit the wrong buttons quite a bit when I'm not wearing my glasses. Most of the time I can hit "play" on the very first try.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Church, Picnics, and Trick or Treat

The first few weeks we were here we visited several different churches. Papa Bear thought some were too far to drive. Mama Bear thought some were too loud. Baby Bear thought some didn't serve good snacks. And all the Bears were confused when some didn't speak their brand of Bear-talk. A couple months ago a new church plant started and they were using our school's campus. That certainly was close enough for Papa Bear...a 1-minute car drive is just right. So that's what we now do on Sunday mornings.

I should back up and say that freedom of worship, at least in Jakarta, has been a real blessing. Indonesia is unfortunately usually pronounced this way: Indonesia-the-world's-largest-Muslim-population. It's one long word with emphasis on largest Muslim population and a long silence afterwards. It's almost like a warning: expect the worst, expect extremists. It has been surprising how casual and relaxed Jakarta has been.

Today walking around the mall I tried to estimate the number of women who wore even a basic head covering/scarf. It was around 20%. The population is 90% Muslim. And of the 20% who wear a simple scarf, it is 0% who wear the full length burka-type covering. I can't recall ever seeing one here. Nairobi? Lots. Regularly at Village Market, especially on Sundays. A crowd of burka-clad women wasn't even a head-turner to in Kenya.

So, it has been encouraging to have a wide choice of churches. It is encouraging to work in a school that is very clear in its Christian foundation and purpose.

The particular church we have been attending is a recent church-plant from Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was started by a group of Korean-Americans who moved here together. They have a web site (Harvest Mission Community Church) if you are interested in seeing what kind of a church it is. The pictures I've included are from the church picnic and games last Sunday.

This week, Saturday, many of the ex-pats from SPH and who have little kids got together to keep that great American tradition of Trick or Treat alive. Again, enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Friend From Kenya!

Not only did the conclusion of my 1,000 Island field trip mean I was no longer responsible for 25 seniors, it meant that on my way home from the pier I would drive to the airport and pick up our good friend, Kibathi. Between business in Dubai and business in Singapore, he was able to squeeze in four days to see us in Indonesia. Reconnecting with Kenyan friends brings back Kenyan memories which was very good. Kenya was a great time in our lives. Thankfully we enjoyed every minute there so we didn't need to leave with any regrets...only good memories.

If in the future at some point we can leave Indonesia with the same kind of good memories and good feelings we had when we left Kenya or Florida or Bolivia or the Dominican Republic or Michigan...well, we will be very fortunate and very happy.

Thank you, Kibathi, for a great visit. I hope you are the first of many friends and family. Kayla wants to make sure everyone knows she took the picture of Rebecca, Kibathi, and me.

A Little Time Away From School...With 25 Seniors!

It was a chance to visit the exotic-sounding "Thousand Islands" of Indonesia. A 1.5 hour boat ride from Jakarta to a small island. Time for snorkling. Visit a sea turtle hatchery. Study a mangrove area. Do some "coral transplanting". Sounded great, so I said, "yes" I will be glad to chaperone.

And as a bonus, the other participants would include 25 seniors, most of whom had severe sleep disorders. Actually they were a pretty good group. The field trip was well planned so that they were quite busy on a variety of activities.

The highlight of the trip was certainly snorkling on the reefs. Love that warm water. The most discouraging part was certainly the boat ride out of Jakarta. The plastic junk in the water was so bad that three times we had to stop the boat and "untangle" the propellers. The water looked like a huge jet had crashed scattering debris everywhere. It was like driving through a junk yard or garbage dump. The further away from Jakarta we drove, the better, but even an hour away we were still awash in junk. I guess that's what a city of 15 million people can do to the coast.

I don't like to think that I contributed to the junk, but of course I did. I don't mean that I threw my plastic water bottle into the water...of course I'm more sophisticated than that. I put my garbage into nice, clean garbage bags and then take it to a nice, clean garbage can in front of my house. And then sometime early in the morning when I'm still asleep it "disappears". Well, maybe it doesn't exactly disappear. Maybe people throw it onto their big truck along with other people's garbage and then the truck people take all that garbage and dump it somewhere. Maybe even in the ocean. But at least I didn't throw my garbage there. Someone else threw it there for me. That's better, isn't it? I guess my other option would be to recycle as much as I can and waste as little as I can and clean up all that I can to at least minimize my negative impact since I can't eliminate my negative impact.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fun Days for Hannah and Kayla

Kayla and a few of her friends from K-2

This is where to find Kayla before her day begins

A jump that won her second place!

Hannah and her friends...1st, 2nd, and 3rd place

Kayla's social circle is ever-expanding. School means lots of new friends. This morning she received a call from one of her friend's mom inviting Kayla for a sleep-over tonight. Although it was 8:00 am and the sleep-over doesn't start until 4:30 Kayla quickly packed her bag and went outside to the chairs in front of the house to wait. It took a good deal of convincing that waiting there to go to Sherlynn's house was going to be way too long.

Hannah had a big day at the school's Athletic Day Activities yesterday. Sort of a giant intramural track and field day. I was surprised to see she had entered the high jump and long jump. Neither seems to be a natural fit. And who would have guessed that five hours later she had five each for each event she entered. Her high jump was really pretty impressive. I think she was clearing a height that was just about at her shoulders.

This coming week both Hannah and I are on trips. Hers is the 7th grade spiritual emphasis retreat and I am on a 12th grade environmental science field trip. Both our trips are 3-days long and hopefully I'll have some interesting news to post next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Still Safe for a Visit!

The natural disaster news for this part of the world has been brutal lately and the suffering caused from earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis is very real. Some of our teachers have family in Samoa and the Philippines. The earthquake in Indonesia (off island of Sumatra)is producing a rising death toll. I think at the time of this writing the number is close to 1000 dead.

Here in the bubble (see earlier post) and on the island of Java, we have been spared any impact from the quakes and rains.

The lights were out last night from 6:00 - 10:00 but it had nothing to do, I think, with any of the weather problems. Lights out is no big deal...except that I had to wash the dishes in the dark. Seemed to go all right at the time but this morning when I woke up and took a look at the dishes...well, let's just say I didn't get all the food off as well as Rebecca would have liked.

But I digress. Back to the reason for writing tonight: For all of you considering a visit to Indonesia, please don't let earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis stop you. We'd love to have visitors. In fact, visitor number 1 should be arriving in two weeks. Our dear friend Kibathi Mbugua from Nairobi will be here for 3 days as part of a China-Singapore business trip.

Good golf outing this afternoon. Shot a 43, which is pretty good for me, especially since I didn't cheat very much.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bursting the Bubble

In Kenya, most people said that Rosslyn was a bubble. Especially those of us who lived on campus were quite insulated from normal Kenyan life. We could go for days on end and basically only come in contact with Rosslyn students and teachers and parents. A 5-minute ride to Village Market for groceries or a movie rental hardly changed things at all. Village Market was not exactly a Kenyan experience.

In most ways, we have moved from one bubble to another. The Rosslyn bubble has been changed for the Lippo Village bubble and let me be clear: the Lippo bubble is a double-layered, hard-coated silicone bubble…it’s not easy to pop. We’re going to have to do some real work if we expect to get to know Indonesia and Indonesians.

And so we thought we’d break out of the bubble a bit during this holiday break. Do some traveling. Do some exploring. The following narrative and accompanying pictures will testify to our total failure. While we geographically ventured a few kilometers out of Lippo, we more or less took our bubble with us.

Our first few days of vacation took us to the coast. It was a 2 ½ hour drive on mostly smooth roads in an air conditioned car. The end of Ramadan holiday is sort of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years all rolled into one. It’s big stuff so the rates for most things skyrocket. Several of the nice hotels at the beach would have cost us over $200 a night. Instead, after little internet surfing I found a budget place near the beach for $35 a night. Then, a 15 minute car ride takes us to the nice, expensive beach hotel where you can pay a small fee ($15 for our family) and use their pools and showers and private beach during the day. Love a good deal.

Next stop on our “breaking the bubble (but not really) tour” was Kidzania on the sixth floor of a fancy mall in downtown Jakarta. Kids spend the day learning jobs, making Kidzos (play money useful in Kidzania), and then spending their Kidzos. The picture of Kayla with the baking hat on was when she was learning her Biscuit Factory job. Kidzania was followed a day later by Waterbom, similar to water theme parks all over the States. In fact, it was hard to remember where we were. Bubbles all look alike, I guess. Interesting to see the few “modest” Muslim girls who wore the full bathing suit covering including over the head. That was about the only thing that added a different look to this bubble.

After all that travelling and activity, it was time today to do something close to home. I took Hannah out golfing and you can see from the pictures that the course is as beautiful as the players. Fees are usually around $23 and a caddy will be $10 for 18 holes. The great thing about this particular golf course is that it is a 4-minute drive from our house. A couple of other random photos you see...a typical breakfast for Hannah and one of our least favorite shopping stops: the aptly-named HyperMart.

Sorry. I know this is boring, uninspired writing. My mind is on holiday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Today I write about where we spend 95% of our time: at home and at school. The pictures show a bit of our neighborhood and home from the outside. A very, very, very quiet and small neighborhood located right next to the school. It's a 5-minute walk from doorstep to "sign in". I included a picture of how we sign in each day with our James Bond fingerprint system. Kinda weird and techy.

As you can see, homes are close to one another with very little yard space. Comparatively, we have quite a bit. Since we have one of the older neighborhoods, we enjoy lots of trees which keeps the temperature down in the houses. Our little neighborhoood street enters onto the boulevard which you also see pictured...a pleaseant little tree-divided road that passes in front of our school.

It's relatively easy to tell time in our neighborhood or I should say it's easy to tell when it's 5:00 am, 9:00 am, noon, 3:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. as we hear the Muslim call to prayers from several nearby mosques. It's not a particularly "pretty" sound through the loudspeakers but at the same time it has a certain exotic appeal and is a daily reminder that this isn't Kansas, Dorothy.

Our school campus is large and well-maintained. You can see a portion of the soccer pitch in one of the photos. Immaculate, soft lawn. What a contrast to the Rosslyn rock-hard termite mounds. I don't know how our Rosslyn teams survive injury or play so skillfully on that field! One pool is an 8-lane, 50-meter pool and the other one is a "fun" pool with kiddie area. And the GREAT thing is that both of them are warm enough for me to swim in regularly. For those of you who know me well, you know that means they are so warm they are almost hot. Enough for today. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Visit to the beach

Just got back from three great days at the coast. Everyone warned us ahead of time, "Don't go! Not now! With the Idul Fitri holiday the traffic will be terrible, the hotel rates sky high, and the beaches crowded."

The roads were deserted, we found a really cheap place, and had the beaches to ourselves. So much for the expert opinions.

It was a 2 1/2 hour trip from Karawaci to where we stayed at the coast. But, unlike Kenyan pot-holed roads and our Kenyan air-conditionless van, these roads and our new van made the trip seem like a 20-minute dream. Great weather and great waves has Rebecca saying we should drive over here once a month. We'll see.

Looking forward to another week and a half of holiday. Will try to photos of the neighborhood, house, and school in the next couple of days.