Hello to all from sunny Indonesia! It has been hotter and humid the past few days. Yesterday it finally broke down and poured, but that's another story.
The time is clicking by so quickly! The business of piano lessons is booming. I think that Tuesday lessons might settle in at about 12 or 13 students. They sort of come in families. Sister Collins has about 5, so I am praying that by April, (when she goes home) there will be another missionary that can teach. Wednesday lessons are still picking up. Sister Grover had a group of 5, however 2 of them do not come regularly, and 1 of those is going away for a month, so most days I just have 3. Then Bro. Barita started, he is zipping along. The Wednesday group also meet on some Saturdays. Last night Pres. Budi (one of the District Pres.) asked if he could start, and today at church Sis. Imma (the District Relief Soc. Pres.) asked if her children could start. So, I think Wed. will pick up some. This would bring that total to 8. Anyone who has taught piano, or had children who have taken lessons know that some students like to practice and some don't. Teachers delight in the children who do practice. I have two boys that are a constant delight. Yos and Agus are serious students, and they are really moving along. I think I told you that I started Yos on a Clementi Sonatina and he is loving it. We are correcting a bad hand position that comes from pianos sitting on tables that are too high (but that can't be helped). Agus is learning a Scottish Dance that he loves. They all, all 21, work on hymns because that is the point of all this. I have really been pushing on recognizing intervals, (important in hymns) and chords, which is very important. They put up with my terrible language skills, and the groups all help each other in translating. I love their spirits, and their patience!!!
Elder and Sister Meridith (humanitarian missionaries) brought Elder and Sister Smith (Area Public Affairs from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) here this past Wednesday evening. They also brought along Dr. Titi, a pediatrician that they have been working with in Jakarta. She is Muslim, but very interested in the Church Humanitarian Work. On Thursday we set out on a trek to visit a bunch of humanitarian projects in Surakarta District. Brother Sutarno, a member from Solo and a big part of setting up many of the projects, followed along in his truck. We were all traveling in his van, all 8 of us, with Bono driving.
Thursday was the opening ceremonies for a new water project in the Boyolali District. There are four villages that will benefit from this water project, a total of about 30,000 people. Lucky for us that they usually hold these ceremonies adjacent to elementary schools. So we got to shake hands and talk to about 60 children, and of course hear them sing. Elder Meridith always is asked to speak as the representative for the Church along with Elder Subandriyo, the area authority I have spoken of before. I know I have told you that Elder Meridith is this wonderful Utah farmer, so his speeches are always very basic, and usually centers on the children. At this ceremony, he had them all cheering and clapping as he praised Indonesia and its children. He has a huge heart. We then took a short hike so that Elder Meridith and the Village Chief could lay the "cornerstone" for the project.
The chief is a woman, and she is Christian! Talk about amazing odds. Then they fed us. When we entered the room all of the dishes were covered with newspaper to keep the flies away. But once you start eating, no one worries about it, as you will see in the pictures. We started out with food from that specific area. So we had casava (singkong in Indo.) which tastes like potato. It is the root of a small tree, and when it gets about 2 meters high, they yank it out of the ground, lop off the roots (which is the potato-like stuff), stick the tree back in the ground and new roots grow. They served it fried, (think steak fries), and sweetened, (think sweet potatoes). Yummy! Then they serve what looked like peanuts in shells, but the shell is soft (you pinch it to open) and inside are 3 or 4 soft "nuts" that taste like pine nuts and have that consistency. More Yummy! Then they told us to fill our plates with, ayam bakar (chicken), kucing ikan goreng (fried cat fish), spicy(burn your mouth up) vegetables, fried tofu, and of course rice with sambal sauces of every kind.
Then we left the village and went to the city of Boyolali where we met for about an hour with the mayor and his staff. He, Elder Meridith, and Elder Greenway talked farming. Elder Greenway told them that Grampa Roy was a cattle rancher and farmer. Elder Subandriyo now believes I am Annie Oakley. He wants to see me ride a horse. I think I am safe as long as I stay in Solo. I don't know exactly what happened in that meeting, but as we were leaving one of the aides to the Mayor asked if I would come back and speak "as a native speaker". I hope that means to help them work on their English, and not for me to speak Bahasa???? I just smiled and said, "I would love to come."
The next day we all left very early and headed south to Yogjakarta, (about 2 1/2 hrs.) to visit a number of Islamic Boarding Schools where the Church is building MCKs. Just to remind you, and MCK is a building where clean water is brought for drinking (minuman), washing (cucian) and (this is really the literal translation) peeing (kencing). Each school, and there will be 7 involved, will receive 2 MCKs, with 4 stalls in each MCK. One for the boys and one for the girls. These boarding schools teach a basic curriculum, but focus on the Koran. The students are challenged to memorize the entire Koran, sort of like memorizing the Old Testament. The first school was built into the side of a hill in a forest. The boys lived in bamboo huts that were woven by past students. The girls lived in a bigger building, but you need to think 18th or 19th century. Although the building were not that old, they were constructed by the students and their leaders, so they were very old looking.
The current water situation was horrid. We were so grateful that the Church was helping. At that school, we didn't see a single student. They help the local farmers to learn about farming, and to get food, so they were out in the fields. At the next school things were not so basic, so we got to talk to the students. The girls do not talk much, but the boys loved to talk. We asked them what subjects they were taking. Science, mathematics, geographic, English, and of course the Koran. They even sang for us. The boys ranged in age from 9 - 17. They loved for me to guess their age, so I would look at them and add 2 years. Indonesians age slowly. I was very accurate and they were impressed. Elder was taking about a zillion pictures all this time. We were to visit 3 schools, but ran out of time. Elder Meridith had some appointments in Yogja, so off we went.
The Church is sending an Ophthalmologist from Iowa to lecture and teach in Yogja, and are donating equipment to a hospital there. In turn, there are 3 doctors heading to Utah in March for 2 weeks of training at the U. of U.. We met them at the hospital and discussed the trip and their plans. It was good Elder Greenway was there, because one of their equipment needs were Lupes, magnifying glasses that are expensive, and the Church needed to know if it would need to provide them. Elder Meridith, of course didn't have an idea, and they showed him what they had, which were not Lupes. So Elder Greenway clarified what was needed and they'll be provided for them. Then one of the Doctors had us follow him to a clinic where he is donating time doing cataract surgeries, etc. Well, this clinic was a Physical Therapy and Prosthetics clinic that had pickup the need for eye care rehab, and recruited the Dr. Elder was so excited and will be going back to see their prosthetics unit, and to work with them a bit. It was a very fulfilling day. We are so grateful to be part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who "giveth to all men", who can see the need and loves their neighbor, and takes care of the "least of these".
Now you remember I told you about Dr. Titi, the lady from Jakarta, well she was invaluable. She translated, she defined, she clarified, she was simply one of the gang. We joked, we laughed, we talked about religion, she even clarified that after two years of living in Indonesia you can adopt any number of children, like 3 or so. I had asked her about orphanages here. She said that they were okay, but she hates orphanages. So I asked why their adopting process was so strict. Then she told me that after two years you can adopt multiple children, so I told her I'd take 3. We really laughed, and she told me I was crazy. In the end, we were sad to see her go. Elder Meridith always introduced her as his sister, which made everyone chuckle, but oh how true. We really hope we get to see her again. We know that Heavenly Father loves all of His children. We know He loves Dr. Titi!
My goodness, this has turned into an epistle. One last story... On Friday Dr. Titi and the Meridiths stayed in Yogja and the Smiths and the Greenways returned late to Solo. Saturday the Smiths were free because there plane returned to Malaysia today. So, Elder and Sister Grover, we took them to Pasar Gede! We squished around as we walked in chicken goo, we bought roasted cashews, we bought batik, we bought spices from the spice counter ( I decided to make potpourri), we bought baskets, and then we left for PGS (pronounced Pay Gay Ess) where we bought more batik and JILBAB PINS FOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!!! My goodness Brother and Sister Grover, look at the legacy you left behind! But as we were doing all that, the heavens opened and it really came down. We were absolutely soaked, and so you can imagine what my soaking wet natural curly hair did. It dried just in time for piano. I look like little Orphan Annie. On the way home from lessons we met a couple from Arkansas that are lecturing at the Seventh Day Adventist church here. He told us that he had seen many Mormon missionaries in his life, but they could have been our children. So he got a quick lesson on the Senior Couples place in the Missionary Program of the Church. They are staying at the Paragon, so maybe we will see them again.
Well the sunny Indonesia has become the stormy Indonesia as I have typed this. It is beautiful and breezy and cool now. We love this land, and We love the people. We wish everyone could have the privilege of knowing these delightful souls. The Malaya area is losing 5 Senior couples before May, so if you are thinking of a mission...However, Indonesia is better, and if we lost 5 couples we would all be gone. The "world has need of willing men"...
We love you all so much so let's all take care of each other,
Melanie and Ron