I don't know why I number my updates; rarely do I manage to publish more than one or two at a time, but it was the title that came to mind, so I went with it.
I have been in Indonesia 10 days now, since last Saturday (10/11). Since arriving, I have been in Jakarta, Wamena & Jayapura/Sentani. For those of you unfamiliar with Indonesian geography, I've been around. :) The distance between Jakarta & Wamena is about 2500 miles. To get to Wamena, we had to take an overnight flight that stopped three times - more than the number of stops I had between Baltimore and Jakarta! Needless to say, I hardly slept that night (more on this night later...I've quite a story!).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. On my way to Jakarta, I had a layover in Seoul, Korea. It was just long enough to get a good night's rest in the transit hotel, then take a bus into Seoul (the airport is in Incheon) to visit one of the palaces, Gyeongbokgung (sp?). One of my good friends in Baltimore is from Korea and so she asked her sister to meet up with me - it was good she did because I would not have had as much fun on my own! We wandered the palace grounds for about two hours, looking into beautiful old buildings, walking through the gardens and little lakes surrounding the palaces. It was a compound that was originally built in the 12th or 13th century, then reconstructed in the 1850s and likely again since then. The week before was the anniversary of the creation of the Korean alphabet, so there was a special exhibit in the scribes' building on the history of the alphabet. I've forgotten everything I learned while I was there, except that there are a LOT of different vowels in Korean and many different ways to write the same sound - I'd have a hard time learning it! When I get back to the States, I'll post a photo or two of the grounds. My internet connection is too slow to upload them now.
The best part of Seoul was the fabulous lunch my friend's mom made for me - and it was all gluten- and dairy-free! I didn't think until it was all gone to take a picture, but there were these wonderful omelet rolls, bean sprouts, brocolli, sweet potato (the extra starchy, extra sweet kind), and mushrooms, all with delicious Korean sticky rice...it was fantastic. I love home-cooked meals, especially with all the restaurant meals I've had!
I arrived in Jakarta the evening of October 11 and hit the ground running. (For those of you that don't know or need a reminder, my main purpose in Indonesia was to accompany a group from a partner church that was visiting to assess how they can specifically partner with our programs, staff, and other partners in Indonesia for the next couple of years. I served as a facilitator of these relationships and the conversations we had to determine how they would be involved. Fun stuff!) We arrived at the hotel late, so all I did that evening was meet my roommate for the week (one of the team members from the church) and climb into bed.
In the morning (Oct 12), we went to church with two of the WR Indonesia staff (country director and admin coordinator). The church was an English-speaking international church with an American pastor. The best part about the service was that it was 'Guitar Sunday', which meant that, in addition to the band leading worship, there was a chorus of a dozen or two guitarists ranging in age from 12 to 60 - it was a lot of fun! I had never seen so many guitars in one place at one time. :)
Sunday afternoon we did two things: visit the National Museum for a quick intro to Indonesian history, then a trip to the mall for an Indonesian-style food court lunch. I learned two things: Indonesian history is strongly influenced not only by Islam but also Hinduism & Buddhism; and Indonesian food is wicked spicy. I don't think I've ever eaten anything so hot. :) Our country director's youngest son took me around to some of the different food court options and helped me figure out what would be okay to eat (and Bahasa Indonesian is his second language!), but apparently I didn't pay attention when he told me it would be spicy. I settled on a fish and vegetable stew-like dish with steamed rice. Very tasty but, again, very spicy.
Monday & Tuesday (Oct 13 & 14) were our days for meeting with staff and partners in Jakarta. We began both days with some time with the staff: the team led a devotional, we learned an Indonesian praise & worship song (or an English praise & worship song I didn't know that had been translated into Bahasa...I'm not sure which), and we prayed together. On Monday, we sat through a few presentations on the various projects and programs managed by the WR Indonesia office, which include some wrap-up of post-tsunami disaster response work in Aceh, a maternal & child health project in Nias, local partner capacity building in Jakarta, and HIV/AIDS prevention work in Wamena. I could go into greater detail about what each of these projects entail, but this post is already long enough, so I'll have to save it for the next one.
From there we went to visit a group of church leaders, NGO workers, and other individuals who had recently been trained in World Relief's Choose Life curriculum, which teaches participants how to teach others about HIV/AIDS - specifically how it's contracted and how to prevent it. It was really cool to meet with all of these trainees - they came from all walks of life, different organizations, and had different ideas for how they were going to use the curriculum, but all were passionate about teaching others about HIV/AIDS. It was also with this group that I learned some of the standard introductory questions in Indonesia (at least in Java): "How old are you? Are you married? Why not?" I was also offerred two bags of rice (because it's all I can eat apparently) by one of the single young men to stay in Indonesia...fun fun. :)
On Tuesday (Oct 14) we met with the chairman of the Yayasan Whana Rebas Indonesia, or the local foundation that was created when we started our tsunami response work in Indonesia. Over the next few years, the WR Indonesia office plans to help the leadership of the yayasan develop a thriving, sustainable NGO in Jakarta that will help to mobilize Indonesian churches to support community development and HIV/AIDS projects throughout the country. It was neat to meet with the chairman & executive director and hear some of their existing and planned projects, all in community development. One of their projects was a partnership with a seminary in West Timor that wants to train seminary students in community development, so that when they have their own churches they'll be better equipped to respond to some of the needs in their community. Very cool.
Tuesday evening we left for Wamena, but I'll save that for later. It's late and this entry is already REALLY long! If you've read the entire thing, thank you (and congratulations)! I'll have more tomorrow/tonight...or maybe again in a bit if I'm up to it!