Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Jogja

Celebrating Christmas away from familiar settings requires a great deal of planning and initiative. In N. America, all the trappings of Christmas are easily at hand. Most people have a variety of traditions they follow at Christmas time that include such things as family gatherings, a particular menu, gift giving and church services. When the Christmas season begins gearing up, people easily engage these various traditions which often make Christmas as meaningful as it is. Obviously these traditions involve work, organizing events, preparing food, and choosing gifts, but they are made easier by the fact that there is an already established tradition of what to do. Changes in one's life, for example getting married, having children, or moving, require one to reconsider what one does at Christmas, and with it, how one celebrates Christmas.

We experienced this when we were in Nigeria. For the first time we weren't able to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, with snow and Christmas trees, with turkey and mashed potatoes. It was hard. Even though we were surrounded by other Christians celebrating the season, they did it very differently. For example, on Christmas day, there was a tradition of slaughtering a cow on the volleyball court in front of our house and then dividing up the meat between those who had pitched in to buy the cow. Having vultures hovering around the house picking at the remains of a slaughtered cow had not been part of my Christmas experience growing up. But we did the best we could. We listened on the radio to the BBC's presentation of lessons and carols from King's College. We gathered together with other expats on the compound. But it wasn't the same, and it was hard.

Christmas in Jogja has not been as hard. In large part this is because we know that Christmas will not be the same. But it is also easier because the marketing of Christmas has begun here. We can buy artificial Christmas trees (we didn't), Christmas decorations (nope), and Christmas music (yup). The malls had Christmas decorations including Christmas trees, reindeer and candy canes. This marketing is interesting given that Indonesia is over 90% Muslim and a leading Muslim body issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims to say 'Merry Christmas'. The fatwa was issued in order to protect Muslims who might be led from saying the greeting to converting to Christianity. I have had colleagues wish me a 'Merry Christmas' so I am not sure how seriously Indonesian Muslims take this fatwa. Also, there was no fatwa against Christmas decorations so they apparently decided that Christmas trees and reindeer won't tempt Muslims to stray, though I have heard many Christian sermons suggesting that such trappings might cause Christians to stray. Not sure what this says about the piety of Christians in N. America compared to Muslims in Indonesia.

So, we (read Lori) decided we needed to be more intentional about celebrating Christmas this year. I had a hard time with this. I just can't get my head around celebrating Christmas when I am happy to get to my office and turn on the air conditioner. Perhaps I am superficial and don't get the real meaning of Christmas, but Christmas cannot be properly celebrated on a day that is too hot for a midday walk. And I am pretty sure it was cold in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. I'll bet there was even snow. If that was good for God and Jesus, it's good for me.

Anyways, we celebrated Christmas by opening gifts, listening to Christmas music, and doing a Sunday School lesson on Christmas. Our church didn't have any Christmas programs, which was a bit disappointing. I can't say this was my most meaningful Christmas, in large part because many of the traditions I associate with Christmas were not there. But it wasn't as hard as it was in Nigeria because we are getting a bit better at figuring out ways of doing Christmas in new places. I wonder though what the girls are learning about Christmas. Katie remembers Christmas in Canada so she realizes that it is different here and misses the traditions the most. We discussed the Christmas story but Christmas is also about so many other things that make the Christmas story more meaningful. How do we make Christmas meaningful for the girls?

I suppose what we will have to work on is how to create new family traditions for celebrating Christmas in a Muslim country that doesn't have any snow.

Phil Enns

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Four Things I Noticed Recently

1. Asking about something is the same as asking for something. This is more a problem for Lori, and it may be language mis-communication, but we have encountered on a number of occasions a problem with asking questions. For example, in a restaurant, Lori will ask about the vegetables in a particular dish, whether there are a lot of vegetables, how much garlic is used, and the waitress will promptly write down the order. Lori will contact a hotel to find out their rates for a date in the future and we will get a response confirming a room for that date. Lori continues to insist that she should be able to get information without having to make a commitment. I, on the other hand, have responded by only asking about things I already want. Which means that I rarely try, for example, food that I haven't already tried. Which makes sense to me since it seems irrational to try a new dish and risk not liking it when I can get a dish I know I like.

2. Businesses here are not customer oriented. We lost our internet connection recently and I knew what the problem was. We repeatedly called the company and were told that a technician would come. At one point we had a technician call us to say that he was coming the next day, but a week later, nothing. This went on for over two weeks, a delay that was very frustrating for Lori since she needs the internet for her work. Finally, an Indonesian woman who works on our compound had pity on us and took up our cause. After a few days of calling she managed to get someone to come to our house, and shortly thereafter, the problem was fixed. This is typical of most medium to large businesses here in Indonesia, which focus on the system rather than outcomes. The people we were calling insisted we would get someone to help us because they had made the necessary note to the necessary department. The fact that no one came for over two weeks was irrelevant. The proper procedures had been followed and so everything was working properly. Unfortunately, we are clueless when it comes to working the system so we don't have much luck with outcomes. This focus on the system is also true for the educational system, but that is a different post.

3. Electronics can be priced in either rupiah or US dollars. To get our internet working again, I had to buy a modem. When I went to the computer store, I had a choice between a variety of modems, some of which were priced in rupiah, some in dollars. The cheaper models were in rupiah, but the better models could be in either. But it wasn't simply a matter of price. Certainly the most expensive computers and gear were in dollars, but in the mid-range, a laptop, for example, could be priced in either. For the last few years, the rupiah has been relatively stable and yet there still would be goods priced in dollars. I can understand this given current conditions where the rupiah has weakened, but then it isn't consistent since not all the products are priced in dollars. And the rupiah price tag will change according to how the rupiah is trading. Most, perhaps all, of these goods are coming from outside Indonesia and yet only some of them have their costs pegged to the dollar. I don't understand this.

4. Javanese are very superstitious. A girl who eats in a doorway will have a hard time finding a man to marry her. It is okay to shower under rain pouring off a roof, but if you stand under the rain falling directly, you will get sick. Drinking the rain from the second rainfall of the rainy season will make you very healthy. Until recently, rice farmers would perform a ritual for the fertility goddess before planting and before harvesting. I also find it interesting how Islam in Java has lived comfortably alongside what often appears to be incompatible traditional beliefs. In my opinion, what we are encountering here is what we also saw in West Africa where religion is only a surface expression of much deeper traditional and cultural beliefs. Javanese Islam is, therefore, very different from Islam in the Arabian peninsula. This difference isn't a matter of one being corrupt and the other pure, but rather that Islamic beliefs and practices have taken on the character of the culture in which it is found. The same is, of course, true of Christianity.

Phil Enns

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Islamic Javanese Wedding

Last night we went to an Islamic Javanese wedding. Islamic weddings are often multi-stage events with the official ceremony involving only the immediate family, and a reception occurring later, sometimes months later. For example, recently I went to a reception for the marriages of two brothers, both of whom had been married months earlier. This reception was very elaborate involving almost a thousand guests and involved a long greeting line with dozens of tables filled with food at the end. However, the event is only one of congratulating the married couple and then eating.

The event Lori and I went to last night was a much simpler event. As is customary, the wedding took place at the house of the bride. The road was blocked off to traffic and a sitting area was set up on the street under a canopy. The marriage ceremony took place in a small room in the house with only the couple, a few family members, and the Muslim official. The ceremony involved readings from the Quran and a prayer in Arabic, even though I am pretty sure neither the couple nor the family members understand Arabic. And then there was, of course, the paper work required by the state. It was a very simple ceremony, which I understand is the norm for Islamic weddings.

While the ceremony was simple, the bride and groom were in elaborate traditional Javanese dress. (See pictures) Both bride and groom had makeup on that lightened their complexion, making them whiter than normal. As I understand it, the desire to appear whiter is related to the association of physical labour with tanned skin. To have lighter skin is a sign of belonging to a higher economic class that does not have to engage in physical labour for a livelihood. A similar sign is men having long fingernails, usually only the thumb or pinkie.

After the wedding ceremony came the reception. The food was traditional Javanese food with rice, spicy vegetables and meat with peanut sauce. What was interesting was that on the tables were we sat were cups holding cigarettes. Many men smoke in Indonesia but I have never seen cigarettes distributed like this. All cigarette advertising in Indonesia comes with large warnings that are very explicit, but cigarettes are very cheap and boys start smoking when they are young. I haven't seen women smoking but I find it hard to believe that it doesn't happen. There might be some sort of social stigma attached to women smoking in public. Anyways, the men were helping themselves to the cigarettes but they didn't smoke around the table, which we greatly appreciated.

We had a good time visiting with friends and eating delicious food.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beginning of Rainy Season

Rainy season began last week. About two weeks ago the weather in Jogja became much more uncomfortable. I am not sure if the temperature is much higher, perhaps a few degrees, and certainly the humidity jumped to around 70%, but I think the main difference was the wind. During the dry season there was a constant breeze in the city, and in our house, we didn't really need fans since there was good air movement. However, about the beginning of October, this changed so that we have all our fans on all the time.

When it rains, it tends to cool down a bit, but we haven't yet reached the point in the rainy season when it rains every day. This means that for the last two weeks, it has been hot, humid and sticky. Of course, it is going to be hot, humid and sticky for the next six months or so, but as with the cold of winter in Canada, it takes a few weeks to adjust.

Indonesians usually bathe twice a day, once in the morning and once late in the afternoon. The lady who helps us with the children isn't particularly impressed by the fact that we don't bathe the children similarly so she has taken it upon herself to do it. It seems to me that Sara and Raina spend a lot of time taking baths. However, with the onset of rainy season, the rest of the family is slowly adopting the habit of bathing before supper.

One of the benefits that comes with the beginning of the rainy season is cleaner air. I have been struggling with a sore throat over the last month or so which I believe is the result of dust and pollution. My 30 minute walk to work is mostly along congested roads so it isn't all that surprising that I am having some sort of respiratory issues. Lori and the kids don't seem to be affected. The rain helps keep the dust and pollution down.

Another benefit that comes with the rainy season is everything turns green. It is not that vegetation browns like we experienced in Nigeria, but the greening is noticeable. Curiously, there isn't much colour. Javanese love elaborate gardens and plants, but most of these plants don't flower. There are plants here that have bright colours and one can't walk around without seeing many different varieties of orchids. However, the vast majority of plants cultivated around homes are broad leaf plants that don't flower. And these plants are almost always potted. I haven't figured that one out yet.

Mostly, though, I am looking forward to the rainy season for the great thunderstorms. In the middle of the season, we get two or three thunderstorms a week and there is nothing as soothing as rain pounding on the roof and some good thunder and lightning.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bali Holiday

We have just returned from Bali. We had a great time, dividing our stay in two different hotels. Our first hotel was more contemporary with a largely European clientele, mostly Germans, Dutch and French. The hotel was by the beach so we could hear the surf from our room. Unfortunately the surf was too dangerous for swimming so we played in the sand. The pool was nice and the girls had a great time there. The downside of the hotel was its isolation so that we couldn't really walk anywhere. Our stay in Bali coincided with that of another family from Jogja we have gotten to know through the girl's school. We had a very nice meal with them at an Italian restaurant on the beach, watching the sunset.

The second hotel was in Sanur. This hotel was a bit more down-scale and traditional, but we liked it as well. The clientele here was largely Australian. Unfortunately it was a 10 minute walk to the beach, but the beach was better for the kids. I am finding that Sanur is my favourite part of Bali. The beach isn't nearly as busy as other parts and it isn't as developed. The beach has a very nice 'boardwalk' that must be several kilometers long. Also, the main street is a nice walk with a mix of restaurants, tourist shops and art stores.

We returned home at the end of Idul Fitri so last night was a bit noisy. Indonesians like to celebrate the holiday with fireworks even though they are illegal. Someone in our neighbourhood was shooting them off late into the night, making it hard to get to sleep. Apparently the night before was even more noisy so I am glad we missed that.

On the other hand, our house has its share of bumps in the night. In our yard, we have a mango tree. This tree isn't nearly as big as the ones we had in Africa, but it is big enough so that it overhangs our house. This means that some mangoes will fall on our roof, making quite a noise. I suppose the mangoes fall all through the day but it seems that the big, heavy ones fall only in the evening as the kids are going to sleep.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

New School Year

We are slowly adjusting to a new school year. Katie and Mia started their school in August, but in a new location. Up till this year, the school had been operating out of several rented houses, however in the last few years the rent had been increased far beyond what is normal in that neighbourhood. A new location was found in the buildings of a former technical college. With some renovation and hard work from parents, the children have a very nice space for school. The downside for us is that it is almost twice the distance.

Lori has started teaching English language to the undergraduate students at her university. This has been a learning experience for her but she is enjoying it. I will let her say more.

I eventually started in the middle of Sept. I am teaching two courses but both have twice the usual number of lectures. The graduate course I am teaching is part of a program aimed at raising the qualifications of teachers in Islam, so all of these students are currently lecturing at other universities or colleges. They teach primarily in Islamic philosophy or Islamic law.

What has made this semester a bit different is that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, covers the month of September. This means that as the month goes on, and with my classes in the hot afternoon, students are not as attentive as I would like. Furthermore, Ramadan ends with the highlight of the Islamic calender, Idul Fitri (Eid ul-Fitr). In Indonesia, this holiday can last as long as two weeks, especially for those of us in Islamic institutions. For some reason I don't understand, the university doesn't adjust its calender to compensate for these holidays so I have had to find ways of making up missed classes due to Idul Fitri.

We are taking this opportunity to take a holiday in Bali. The problem is that everyone in Indonesia is on holiday as well so hotels in Bali are booked solid. I at least tend to think of Bali as a destination for foreign tourists but over Idul Fitri, almost all the tourists are Indonesian. The girls are very excited about going to Bali.

The rainy season is also approaching. Virtually every day we will have large storm clouds overhead but with no rain. It hasn't gotten really hot yet but it is definitely more humid. In preparation for the rainy season, I have planted bamboo around the house.

Katie is part of a production of 'Amahl and the Night Visitors', which will be performed both at our church and a local Indonesian church. Katie will be singing the part of Amahl, so she has a lot of practicing to do.

We are now entering our second year here in Indonesia and we are slowly starting to find a routine to our lives here. Lori and I are gradually finding our places in our respective universities while Katie and Mia have adjusted to their new school. We are still trying to find something for Sara, perhaps a local Indonesian preschool, but she is also happy staying at home with our helpers. Raina is thriving on all the attention she gets from our helpers.

We don't know what our second year in Indonesia will bring us, but I am certain it won't be boring.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Would you like some rice with that? (Lori)

Every once in a while, for one reason or another, our family has dinner at the McDonalds in Jogja. We know, from our travels throughout North America, that the menu at this global establishment varies depending on region. However, it was a pleasant surprise that we could, in fact, order chicken mcnuggets, Big Macs, and French fries, that taste very much like those in Canada (actually a little better, although this may be fading memory). If no one has reserved the party room, our kids can even use the play place on the second floor (it’s really, really small) where the walls are painted with pictures of Ronald and the gang. These similarities make us remember home, but there are plenty of strange and wonderful differences that remind us where we are.

Even though they serve some western fare, burgers and fries take a back seat to chicken and rice here. Yes, in a country where you can buy rice and chicken every few metres, some people come to the golden arches, and just order it again. In fact, it’s probably tastier at the nearby foodstall, and costs half of what it does at McDs, but for some reason it’s the most popular thing on the menu. Most meals include rice, rather than fries. In fact, I found out a little after the fact that none of the Happy Meals include fries. I was ordering our meal, based on the pictures from the display panel (the itemized menu is hard to find and almost impossible to read) when I realized that fries weren’t anywhere to be seen. Who wouldn’t assume that a happy meal included the things? Don’t Indonesian children have them with their chicken porridge? Other non-western items include (but are not limited to) spaghetti, sundaes a la Jogja (ice cream and jello), chicken porridge and hot sauce.

Hot Sauce is given with every meal, and is also available in those pump dispensers next to the napkins and straws. One would think that ketchup would be available too, but it turns out that this is flawed foreign logic. Actually we are proudly getting used to the taste of hot sauce with our food. I’ve been thinking about it as a ruler of our acclimatization. Even though it feels like we haven’t made many strides in our quest to become more fluent in bahasa Indonesia, we can eat dinner like the locals. And yes, I would like some rice with my Big Mac, please.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

School starts on Monday (Lori)

School starts on Monday. It’s been a long break. Throughout the summer, I did my best to give the girls a bit of a schedule. I bought spelling and math workbooks, so they could have something to exercise their minds. I tried to take them swimming every once in a while. We tried out 3 indoor playgrounds in 3 different shopping malls, (outdoor playgrounds are very, very rare) and decided we like the one at Saphir Square best. Whenever I had the chance, I would take them shopping with me (usually against their will!) We tried to set up playdates whenever our schedules allowed. In spite of all this, the TV has been getting a lot of use, and on several occasions I’ve had to wrestle kids to the ground for a chance on my computer.

Before school finished in June, I was asking around about summer camps, swimming /voice/gymnastics activities that would possibly be held during the break. Jogja is a city of many universities and I was hoping that at least one of them would have programs in place. But when I asked Indonesians if they knew of any summer programs for kids, I almost always got a surprised look, followed by “Do you mean just for the holiday?” responses. After talking to a few people I realized that Indonesian kids are really only away from school for about 2 weeks, before they start the next grade. So that idea was quashed.

We had understood that we would need to go to Singapore to renew visas this summer. There was a possibility that we would have to go in July, but the paperwork for our visa was sent to the wrong office and we ended up getting just another temporary stay. This meant we would surely have to leave in 30 days. And then, after making various plans and reservations, Phil’s university was able to get another unprecedented 30 day extension the day before our visas expired on August 20! This alone was a bit disappointing, but we had also been planning a trip to Bali around the Singapore trip, and for various reasons we needed to cancel them, and then re-book and cancel again. So as I think back over what has happened in the past 10 weeks, nothing significant stands out – except for the nothing part.

School starts on Monday, and I am glad.


Traffic in Indonesia

I was walking home from the university today and while I crossed the street, I was reminded of a recent article in the Jakarta Post. The writer, an Indonesian, was recalling a conversation he had had with an Australian who was frustrated with how Indonesians drive. The Indonesian responded by suggesting a difference between how drivers think in the two countries. In Australia, as in N. America, drivers aim to keep a safe distance between their car and the cars around them. The thinking is, if the car ahead brakes suddenly, the space between the cars gives time to react.

The writer suggested that in Indonesia, drivers think differently, adopting a 'fill-in-the-space' mentality. According to this way of thinking, a space in traffic is room to drive. If a driver wants to move into my lane, all the driver needs is enough room to maneuver the corner of their car in front of me. I will then be expected to make room. I can make room for the other driver by either stopping or moving over into the lane beside me. And in keeping with the fill-in-the-gap rule, the lane beside me doesn't have to be for traffic going in the same direction. It is, therefore, common to have on-coming traffic in one's own lane. To resolve this meeting of traffic heading in opposite directions, the rule is, yes, to fill-in-the-gap. That is, if I am in my lane and there is traffic heading towards me, I am expected to use any space beside me to make room for that on-coming traffic. Therefore, lane markings really are mere suggestions. It is rare to see traffic stopped at lights lined up according to the marked lanes. If cars are turning right at the light (remember Indonesians drive on the left hand side), they will often straddle the middle line. At traffic lights, two lane roads often have three or four cars across. Two 'lanes' for cars turning, two 'lanes' for cars going straight. Driving safely in Indonesia is not a matter of knowing the official rules of the road, but knowing how customs, like fill-in-the-gap, function. At first one might think that this custom is dangerous and would result in many traffic accidents, but there is so much traffic here, people just aren't driving that fast.

What brought all of this to mind was that I have finally grown accustomed to walking across intersections. Traffic lights here operate in a rotating manner. That is, at a four-way intersection, only one way has a green light, with the other three ways waiting. Sometimes the green light moves clockwise, sometimes counter-clockwise. (I haven't figured that one out yet.) Crossing the street therefore requires awareness of who has a green light and who will have it next. Furthermore, traffic can always turn left. However, traffic doesn't have to stop in order to turn left on a red light. Here, again, we have the fill-in-the-gap custom. As one is turning left, one checks to see if there is any room, and if there is, one proceeds, even if this means that traffic with the green light has to slow down or even stop. So when I am driving through an intersection, I need to keep an eye on the cars around me, but also any cars that might be turning left into my lane.

But back to crossing the intersection. I was standing on the sidewalk and when the light changed, I started to cross. However, motorcycles were turning left, fast. In the past I have made the mistake of stopping, or even worse, backing up. This is a mistake because it runs counter to the fill-in-the-gap custom, and drivers don't know how to respond. What I did today was to just keep moving forward, and the motorcycle drivers did what they are used to, filling in the gap around me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nasr Abu Zayd

UIN held a colloquium this afternoon with Nasr Abu Zayd as the main speaker. Zayd is an Egyptian who was a literature professor at the U. of Cairo before he was forced to leave the country. Zayd is at the forefront of a movement that applies hermeneutical tools for reading the Quran. This approach, which sees the Quran as a work of literature as well as holy text, has been condemned by Egyptian Muslim clerics and Zayd was declared apostate. A curious twist to this tale lies in the judgment that a Muslim woman cannot remain married to an apostate, so Zayd's wife was declared divorced from Zayd even though she refused. Remaining in Egypt was dangerous so he is now living in Holland.

Zayd's presentation was largely a summary of a recent book of his on the reformation of Islamic thought. For the most part, this reformation lies in applying historical critical methods to the Quran and the development of Islam. Some Christians may recognize this as something that has been happening in Christianity for over 100 years.

This historical critical method involves asking questions, for example, about the relationship of the Arabic language used at the time of the Prophet to the revelation of the Quran, the development of Islam as it spread beyond Arabia, and the nature of reading the Quran today. Zayd gave a fascinating overview of many of these issues but, more importantly, pointed out how such a hermeneutical method may lead to a resurgence of Islam. Zayd emphasized that Islam today has been reduced to Sharia, which represents a small part of the Quran, and what was needed was a desire to pursue other ways of being Muslim. These included the development of mysticism/spirituality as well as theology and philosophy.

What I found most interesting, however, was that Zayd tied the reformation of Islam to the necessity of respecting individual freedoms and rights. Individualism is often cited by Islamic scholars as one of the defining faults of the West and particularly democracy. Zayd emphasized that respecting human rights and the development of democracy was necessary for addressing problems of oppression as well as poverty and injustice. Unfortunately, he did not make clear why individualism was necessary for the reformation of Islam. What is the connection between a hermeneutical reading of Islam and democracy? Zayd did not make clear what this connection might be and so the relationship between a method of reading the Quran and Islamic politics remained unclear to me. Luther's insistence on the individual believer reading Scripture and being directly responsible to God transformed the politics of Christianity and Europe as a whole because it established the sacred as a realm distinct from the profane. It is not clear to me how a historical critical approach to the Quran and Islam produces a positive alternative politics that could establish the sort of reformation Zayd is looking for.

While the politics of Zayd's approach is not clear to me, it was clear why some Muslims might feel threatened. I was curious how the audience would react to his presentation. In fact, the questions were largely positive and I didn't sense any real opposition. Curiously, though, the audience was made up almost entirely of students, with only a few junior faculty. I am not sure what to make of the fact that apart from Zayd, I was probably the oldest person there.

I found the presentation to be fascinating, largely because it opened a window on a part of Islam I have not yet encountered directly. What I have experienced so far is an Islam that is heavily dependent on maintaining and repeating traditional understandings of being a faithful Muslim. Zayd's approach is a distinctly modern method that applies a scientific analysis to the tradition in the hope of opening up previously repressed possibilities. I have no idea how influential this hermeneutical approach is, nor do I have any sense of how effective it could be in bringing about a reformation in Islam.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thursday, 21 August - Final Update

We got our extension and so won't have to leave for Singapore till the end of September. We probably won't go to Bali because school begins for the girls on Monday and Katie doesn't want to miss the first day. (All flights are booked on Sunday)

So in spite of all our planning and uncertainty over what might happen this summer, it ends with a whimper. Depressing, really.

Have I mentioned that I am probably going to Malaysia in November?


Thursday, 21 August - Update

It is 2pm Wednesday, 20 August and still unclear what we will be doing tomorrow. We have our tickets to fly out of Solo at 10am, which would require that we leave Jogja at about 8. Someone from my university is in Jakarta applying for the extension and has been told that an answer will come by 4pm today. He is confident that we will get the extension but it isn't clear to me what his confidence is based on. He has worked hard on our behalf and I would hate to have all that effort go for naught.

If we don't get the extension, things get a bit more complicated. In order to apply for the extension, we had to hand over our passports to Immigration. And we can't get the passports back until the question of the extension is resolved. Which means that we have to consider how we will get our passports back in time if we have to be in Solo by 10am. At this point, if we don't get the extension, the tentative plan is to be at Immigration here in Jogja when it (hopefully) opens at 8am, get the passports, and then race to Solo.

Of course, by 4 we may find out that we don't need to go and then the only things we would have to do is cancel appointments in Singapore and figure out what we will do for the rest of the week.

This isn't really interesting in and of itself, since we will be fine no matter how things turn out. What is interesting is the degree of uncertainty to which we have become accustomed. Much like our lives in Africa, we have slowly become used to a degree of uncertainty that one wouldn't normally experience in N. America. In 24 hrs, we may have to be in a different country. Or maybe not. I don't know what courses I will be teaching in September, nor do I know when classes begin. Also, Ramadan runs over most of September and I am not sure how this changes the operation of the university. I have heard that as Ramadan progresses, the campus becomes progressively more empty. Our lives rarely have the opportunity to become routine so we gradually become used to change. I really need routine to structure my day but I have to admit that I also enjoy the uncertainty of our lives here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thursday, 21 August

I am afraid we won't go anywhere on Thursday.

The last few weeks have been a bit difficult. At first, our plans to holiday in Bali were on and off for a variety of different reasons. Then, as August came, we weren't sure about going to Bali because we were supposed to be going to Singapore at the end of the month. We are on a kind of visa that is good for six months, after which we are supposed to leave the country. Through my university, we are working on getting a different kind of visa that would allow us to stay for a year before being renewed. However, getting this different visa has been complicated. The short, and polite, version of the story is that our situation is now so convoluted we aren't certain what will happen on Thursday.

One scenario has us leaving the country, on Thursday, for Singapore because our visa expires and we need to renew it out of country. We would stay in Singapore getting a new visa of the same kind we have been on so far in Indonesia. But we would also be doing all sorts of medical checkups, for which we have already made appointments. This is high season for Singapore so we have booked flights as well as hotel rooms. We would then return on 26 Aug. This is the scenario we have been planning for months. The downside of this scenario is that when the process for getting the different visa is complete, most likely by the end of September, we will have to make the trip to Singapore again. We don't necessarily mind visiting Singapore, but the trips are expensive, even though we don't pay for them.

Another scenario, one which we became aware of almost by accident in the last few days, is that my university manages to somehow get a special dispensation for us, allowing us to overstay our visa by one month. The university has told us that we don't need to go to Singapore until the end of September, at which time we will be able to get the new kind of visa. However, it isn't certain that this special dispensation will be granted, and we won't likely know until Wednesday. (Monday is a national holiday.) The university is confident it will work out, but we have never heard of anyone getting this sort of dispensation.

This leaves us not sure what will happen on Thursday, but having to make plans as though we will be traveling to Singapore. If we have to go to Singapore, we have plane tickets and hotel rooms. However, if we don't go, we are thinking of going to Bali. But this is high season in Bali so getting flights and rooms is difficult. But we can't book flights and rooms in advance because we might be going to Singapore. So we might not have to go to Singapore and not be able to go to Bali because we can't get flights or rooms.

I fear that on Thursday, we won't go anywhere.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ants (by Lori)

We have alot of ants. Most are very small, and some are a similar size to what we had in Ontario. The little ones have a shocking ability to get into places that you thought were safe. We take care to cover all food that is outside the fridge. The minute a pack of cookies or crackers or even gum is opened, the leftovers have to be put in the fridge. After each meal we have to be meticulous about cleaning up, wipe tables (and kids mouths, and shirts) and sweep. Should we fail to do any of these, disagreeable are the consequences which we shall surely face. Here is one such story.

Yesterday I bought a bag of candy (of the sweet and sour variety) and left the open bag on the kitchen counter. Now, after my first paragraph you are asking, why would she do that? Because most of the candy one buys here comes individually wrapped, so that you buy a bag of individually wrapped candies (not the kind that you can open by stretching the 2 sides apart, but the truly, completely sealed kind). My daughter asked for a candy today after dinner, and I agreed. She took it herself and was asking me to open it, when she starting crying. While waiting for me to get the scissors, she had put the wrapped sweet in her mouth. By the time I got to her she had ants on her shirt, on both hands, and on her tongue! We acted quickly to get them out of her mouth first, and then took care of the rest. As soon as we got them out of her mouth, she was fine - no lasting distress. Not so true for me!

It is times like these that remind me that I am not at home. Sometimes I get very tired of constantly having to be on top of things - and its not just the ants - its checking the beds every night before we go to sleep, for bugs, its the foot long lizard in the back room, the mosquito larvae that live in our bak, the neighbour's dog which has a regular case of worms, the daily smell of burning garbage, plastics, and other toxic stuff, the reality of earthquakes, political sensitivity and the fact that we are very obvious foreigners living in a majority muslim country - the list goes on. No, I don't want to come home yet. Yes, I still enjoy living here. But every once in a while I crave the ability to take a walk outside without being an object of interest, drink water from household taps, to experience a good old fashioned snow storm that will kill off most of the bugs and share the road with people who have actually taken driver training.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Visit to the village

Today we went to visit the home of Ibu Wahl, the woman who helps us with our meals. She lives with her mother and sisters in a village just outside of Jogja. We had a good time visiting and being shown around the area. I will keep this short and recommend checking out the pictures.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bridge-building Conference

This past week, I have been attending a conference organized by the Religious Studies program (CRCS/ICRS) at Gadjah Mada University. The conference was the conclusion of a series of meetings that brought together religiously affiliated people that might not otherwise meet. There were Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. There were people from different parts of Indonesia as well as from the U.S., Europe, Chile, Egypt and Singapore. There were academics, social activists, journalists and politicians. There were also people from across the political spectrum ranging from self-identifying liberals to conservatives. In one respect, the actual topic of the conference was less important than the fact that such a diverse group of people gathered together over four days to talk to each other.

The topic was 'Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities For Religions' and included sessions on the media, youth and education, environment, poverty, religious symbols and identity. Presenters represented a variety of organizations including leading newspapers (The Jakarta Post, Kompas), NGOs (Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Humanitarian Volunteers Network [Christian]), as well as more activist organizations like the magazine _Sabili_ and the organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia.

While the aim of the meetings and conference was to bring together a variety of people in order to encourage conversations on a variety of topics, the conference was dominated by the issue of Globalization and Islam. In large part, this issue was the result of the presence of the editor of 'Sabili' and the representative from Hizbut Tahrir.

'Sabili' is an Indonesian magazine that is at the forefront of Muslim radicalism. It gives a steady diet of anti-Western, anti-Zionist, anti-Christian articles that are quite inflammatory. They have listed the names and addresses of Christian churches which are to be targeted by militants. In his session, the editor gave a presentation that told us how globalization was a tool of the West to destroy Muslims. He was also very vocal in expressing his opinions regarding the positions of others. It was inevitable, then, that at least part of the conference would gravitate towards responding to his position.

I had a hard time getting a read on this fellow. It was clear what he thought of the West and globalization, but his comments on other religions were far less extreme than what one finds in 'Sabili'. 'Sabili' is a business and needs to sell copies, and I had the distinct impression that what I was hearing was less personal convictions and more of a show, or advertisement. For example, at one point this fellow became so upset with how other Muslims were using the name 'Islam' that he stood up, shouted his objection, and threatened to leave if people didn't change. The response of the crowd, the vast majority of whom were Muslim, was to start laughing. My guess is that this was not a nervous laughter but laughter at the show of indignation. I suspect that many people read 'Sabili' not because they agree with the articles, but because they are entertained by the outrageous claims being made. This does not mean that 'Sabili' is innocuous, it had a role in the destruction of churches, nor is the editor a buffoon, his influence among Muslims is considerable. Rather, in my opinion, the role of extremism in Indonesia is not a simple one. A few people are inflamed by 'Sabili' leading to acts of violence but almost without exception these are clearly disenfranchised individuals. They are angry at the West, at Christians, at other Muslims, and are looking for someone or something to channel that anger. Yet, the vast majority of Muslims in Indonesia, while most likely sharing some resentment of the West, would reject the extremism of 'Sabili'. This would be something like people who read supermarket tabloids. They may suspect there are secrets and conspiracies, but most likely don't believe that world leaders are really aliens.

The other force at work in the conference was the presence of Hizbut Tahrir. HT is a Muslim organization working towards the formation of a Caliphate, that is, a transnational state of Muslims led by a single individual, a Caliph. HT is banned in a number of Arab countries but is being 'watched' by the U.S. and European countries. It explicitly rejects the use of violence against innocent people but, as someone put it, creates an environment where there are not many innocent people. Currently on its website, HT has articles explaining the plan of the West to destroy Islam as well as how India is an enemy state. A year ago, HT held a rally in Jakarta in support of forming a Caliphate and 100,000 people attended. (The free meals may have had something to do with the participation of many.)

The representative of HT gave the sort of presentation one might expect on globalization, but reserved part of his speech for urging the adoption of sharia by all Muslims. In particular, he emphasized that the Quran was very clear what was meant by sharia. This is important because there is a raging debate going on in Indonesia regarding sharia. Several parts of Indonesia have been given permission to institute sharia but the question is, which sharia? While many Indonesian Muslims are open to sharia, most disagree with some of its traditional forms. So the question people are debating is whether sharia has one universal form or is it always translated into cultural settings. In particular, the arguments center around the role of women, the nature of punishment, openness to conversion out of Islam, and the place of non-Muslims. Once the issue of sharia was introduced by the representative of HT, it repeatedly arose throughout the rest of the conference. At one point, as Muslims were debating, a Hindu friend leaned over and asked me when this became a conference on Islamic law. As the conference concluded, one participant explained to all the non-Muslims present that the truth of sharia was not just for Muslims, so everyone could accept it, which I thought was very generous of him. On the other hand, there were many Muslims who vigorously objected to this understanding of sharia and Islam. So, while listening to HT was a bit disheartening, the response was encouraging.

The conference organizers consciously avoided any reference to 'dialogue', a word that is anathema to some participants. Rather, the goal was to get people like those from 'Sabili' and HT, into the same room with people from other religions, with the hope that talking to each other might help overcome some of the distance between groups. I was told that there was some evidence of improved relationships and I would like to think that this is true. As with most conferences, the quality of presentations was uneven, but the event was well worth attending for the insight it gave me into Islam and Islam in Indonesia.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Occupying the kids

A debate is raging in our household this summer break: How do we occupy the time of the kids? I am of the opinion that, for the most part, the kids should find their own way of filling their time. They should figure out their own games using what is available around our house. For example, the kids enjoy playing in the dirt in front of our house as well as riding their bicycles around the compound. We try to do other things, like go swimming, but for the most part I think the kids should learn to play on their own.

Lori, on the other hand, believes that the kids need far more structure in their lives, so that summer break is similar to school time. Lori has looked into getting the kids into swimming lessons, singing lessons as well as other sorts of activities. These haven't really worked out so far, for a variety of reasons.

This past week has been a bit tough since several of their friends have been gone. However, the kids have started to figure out different things to do. From friends we received a play kitchen set and so they have been playing 'restaurant'. And of course they play in the dirt. (See pictures.)

But the debate rages: Should kids have most of their time filled with structured events or should they work on finding their own ways of occupying their time?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

School End of Year Program

The girls had their end of year program last night. The program was originally planned to be held at the school with a potluck supper, however the person who runs the Hyatt hotel here in Yogyakarta has a child at the school and so we ended up at the Hyatt last night. This was the first time we had been at the Hyatt and it was beautiful. The people at the Hyatt went out of their way to accommodate about 50 very excited kids.

The program had a 50's theme and the teachers did a great job of organizing it. Katie had a special role as Elvis. It was a bit scary just how good Katie did, doing the rock star thing in front of a large crowd. Mia had a lot of fun doing the hand jive with her friend.

It was a curious experience because of the diverse group of people that make up the school. On the one hand, there are relatively ordinary Indonesians. I say relatively because government regulations allow only Indonesian children with a father holding an international passport to attend. Then there are expat business people as well as expats connected with NGOs. So, the mix is quite eclectic. One of Mia's classmates is from Belgium but moving to Morocco. Another classmate has a father who is from Guatemala and mother from the former East Germany. There are children from the U.S., Senegal, Australia and Korea. With this mix, social events are an interesting experience as we meet people from all parts of the world and from different paths in life. More importantly, however, is that Katie and Mia are able to have friends from very different places and learn to get along with people who may do things differently.

We had a great time and the kids did a great job.

See our web album for pictures of our rock star!


Friday, June 13, 2008

From Katie

Hello everybody! This is Katie!!! I’m having fun in school. At the end of June my whole school is having a Rock’n’Roll program. It’s gonna be so fun!! There will be 5 Elvises and I am one of them! First I will be wearing a poodle skirt for the first song, but then after I have to go back stage and change into my Elvis clothes. The last 2 songs everyone will sing. The last song’s words are hard for almost everybody. I always practice that song so I know it very well. I’m gonna be done school soon. Starting last week I didn’t have any homework. There are three kids that live beside us. When we had homework from school we couldn’t play after school (that ended at two o’clock) until three thirty because we had lots of homework. Now we can play whenever we want to until five thirty. At five thirty we have to go home and eat supper. Tonight my class is having a party named Seven Eleven Night. It’s when we have to go to school at seven p.m. and our parents pick us up at eleven p.m. We can bring snacks like chips, and ice cream. Our teacher is bringing soda and smores. She is also bringing a huge chocolate bar the size as a computer screen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lori's Diary

Friday May 30, 2008

Friday evening, Katie and I, and some of her friends from school went to a Hip Hop Concert. It was sponsored by LIP (Lembaga Indonesia Prancis), the French Cultural Institute in Jogja. What a show! There were seven young men undulating, twirling, and flipping to music with spooky, insect, and African themes. The moves were creative and the group had no problem keeping us entertained for 2 hours.
Afterwards, Katie and her friends went up to the stage to get autographs. That moment gave me pause – seeing her there, among other excited young people, I could see that she is growing up. I hope she stays young for a while longer.
It was a great evening.

Tuesday June 10, 2008

Weather today started out a bit overcast, and more comfortable. This morning, went to the Post office at Gadjah Mada to mail a letter. As opposed to my experience in Salatiga, the post office here has been easy. This morning I walked in, was the first in line at the Post biasa (Standard Mail) booth. The girl sitting at the desk spoke to me in English and understood my own. She stamped my letter and I walked out within 2 minutes. Then, I took a becak (pedicab) to UKDW, Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana to finish up some editing.

I am editing papers for faculty at the university who are doing PhDs overseas, and need to write their dissertations in English. This work is a bit tricky. I need to correct grammar and spelling, but sometimes I can't do this without changing the meaning of the sentences. As Indonesians tend to speak and write in the passive form, I often have to wait till the end of long sentences before realizing the general gist. Sometimes, I am left scratching my head as to what the writer is trying to say. As these are all theologians, could it be that I am unaware of specific theological terminology, that doesn't make sense to the lay person, like me? Or is it just plain poor English? As a result of this, I can spend about 1 hour doing this before getting a headache.

We had another pembantu issue yesterday. As we are relatively new to having Indonesian househelp, we are continuously encountering situations that need addressing. Our cook (who is a bit of a tattletale, and very territorial) was trying to get my attention in the kitchen yesterday. The other one, who helps with cleaning and looking after the kids, was once again, working in her kitchen. She was making fruit salad, using the papaya, (which the cook brought from her mother's house 1 hour away on bicycle) and other fruits (which the cook just bought at the market in the morning, for our day's meal). Granted, we had plenty of fruit, but the cook was not happy that the nanny was helping herself, both to kitchen space, and also to food which was meant for something else.

Most of the time, we let issues like this go, as we don't want to amplify a situation that could better be left alone. This time, we are wondering whether or not to say something.

June 11, 2008

Re: the pembantu issue yesterday, contrary to our dynamic, zealous natures, we have decided to do nothing, just wait and see what happens!

I had an interesting discussion with a friend from the university today. Her son has a developmental disability, which no doctor really seems to be able to diagnose. He isn’t able to sit yet, though he’s almost 3, and the latest CT scan shows that his metabolism is compromised, so that he is losing his eye sight and can’t hear. Something about amino acids. She is struggling to understand what the doctor says, and the doctor keeps apologizing to her and telling her to have another baby! There is much better health care in Singapore, but if she had enough money to get there and take him to a doctor once, she wouldn’t be able to continue treatment in Singapore indefinitely. It is clear that she wasn’t asking me for money – this is someone I see several times and week and get along with quite well. I suspect she is bringing up the subject with me, partly because I, as a foreigner may have some knowledge of what may be hurting her son. As a mom, my heart aches for her, its clear that she loves him very much.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Gita Gutawa

For the first time, I was dragged to a bubble gum pop concert. Katie and her Indonesian friend, Tika, have been listening to the self-titled album by Gita Gutawa. Tika found out that Gita would be performing at a nearby mall last night and so the two of them had been conspiring as to how to get there. Tika's parents refused to take her, so the two of them ganged up on me. I resisted as long as possible. I can tolerate one or two songs on the album, but listening for too long makes me want to break something.

Well, as I said, I resisted as long as possible but resistance is futile in the face of two determined pre-teen girls. The crowd was primarily high school aged kids so I stood out as both a foreigner and an old guy. I let the girls go up to the stage while I stayed in the back. The girls had a great time. The set was only five songs so it wasn't that long but it included the girls' favourite songs. When Gita finished, Tika managed to shake her hand and give Gita her cellphone number. In the car, Tika kept looking at her hand in disbelief as well as her cellphone in expectation. Katie just kept shrieking, overwhelmed with excitement. I had a headache.

While the music was terrible, it was an interesting cultural experience. In many ways the concert was what I would expect at a N. American mall. Girls dressed not quite enough and boys in baggy pants that defied gravity. Ironically, many of the girls were wearing jilbabs, suggesting that the covering has more to do with culture than religious conviction. There was also a 'flirt message board' where kids could write messages to their loved ones and it would be posted on a large electronic message board. The messages were typically adolescent but I was surprised at how public it was. This is a country that considers itself Islamic and came very close to having Sharia installed in its constitution. There are parts of the country that have Sharia police who will punish Muslim women wearing clothes that are too revealing. Indonesia is not an easy country to label.

Katie went to Tika's house for a sleepover and no doubt they stayed up late into the night staring at Tika's cellphone hoping Gita would call.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

A day in the life of ...

Our day usually begins with Mia or Sara waking me up around 6:30am. On school days, I will then spend five or ten minutes trying to wake Katie up. Yes, she is slowly morphing into a teenager. Breakfast usually consists of home-made bread and peanut butter, for the girls, or cinnamon buns, for me. Occasionally we will have instant noodles, but Lori doesn't approve of the MSG in them. I, on the other hand, am a big fan of MSG, and any other spice that makes food taste great. Apparently, Lori likes her food boring and bland. But that is a different post.

On school days, the oldest two girls have to be ready to leave the house by 7:30. The girls have to wear school uniforms. The regular uniform is a crested blue polo shirt with either beige pants or skirt. However, the P.E. uniform is a red T-shirt with blue shorts, so at 7:15 we are running around trying to figure out whether this is a P.E. day and where the appropriate clothes are. The girls don't take a lunch. An Indonesian woman who lives near the school has set up a service where she offers lunches for students. The menu is a mix of Indonesian and other kinds of dishes, including spaghetti and hot dogs. However, the girls do need to take along drinks and snacks, so at 7:25 we are running around trying to get hair combed, bottles filled with water, and snacks that make everyone happy. The early part of our mornings tends to involve a fair amount of running around.

We share school-driving duties with a neighbour family who have a boy and girl also attending the International school. Some days I drive the kids to school, other days I pick them up. The other MCC family in Jogja have a girl also attending the school, so we pick her up on the way. We arrive at school, then, with five kids, which is quite a sight given that the school doesn't have more than fifty students.

(I will try and encourage Katie and Mia to write something about their day at school.)

If I am driving the kids to school, I tend to get back home shortly after 8am. I usually aim to be in my office by 9am, so I have to leave the house by 8:30. To this point, all my classes have been in the morning, starting around 9:30. Classes tend to be about 2 hours long. The undergraduate course was in a different building in a classroom with no air conditioning or fans. It was hot. I told the other professor that I would never teach another course in that building unless the classroom had A/C or a fan. I was joking. But not really. Fortunately, my other class was in a room with A/C, in the same building as my office. I tend to work in my office till noon and then walk home.

(I will try and encourage Lori to post something about her work.)

Lunch in our home is starting to become regular now. The menu includes fried rice, soup with rice and noodles, rice with peanut sauce and toppings that include potato, bean sprouts, and egg. We also have hamburgers and french fries, baked potato, and tortillas. Recently we added a mixed curry salad. Every meal has fresh fruit, including pineapple, watermelon, or papaya, and vegetables, including carrots, cucumbers. We have also started to enjoy a vegetable that is here called bengkuang, but is apparently also called Jicama. Occasionally we will have corn on the cob.

Our afternoons don't have a routine. If it is my turn to pick the kids up from school, that needs to be done at 2pm. I rarely go to my office but try to work at home. The girls will do their homework and then play with friends or watch videos. This is also the time we try to do shopping or run errands.

Supper tends to be around 5 or 5:30. This meal is almost always leftovers from lunch.

After supper, it is time for baths. Indonesians tend to bathe twice a day, first thing in the morning and then in the late afternoon. After baths, the girls will watch videos or we will read books together. We try to have them in bed by 8pm, though they are allowed to read or play quietly in bed.

Lori and I will then watch videos. We have worked our way through all the seasons of the TV shows 'Monk', 'The Unit', and the U.S. version of 'The Office'. Occasionally we will watch a movie but usually we don't have enough time.

Our days tend to be full but not busy. We have developed a comfortable daily routine that has allowed us to enjoy life here in Indonesia.

Monday, May 19, 2008


While the Yogyakarta area is now overwhelmingly Muslim, traditionally it was a mix of Buddhist and Hindu. Two of the largest tourists sites in the Jogja area are the Buddhist temples at Borobudur and the Hindu temples at Prambanan. Today we visited Prambanan with fellow MCCers from Jogja.

Pramabanan, which was built around 900 A.D., is comprised of three large temples to the Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, surrounded by several hundred smaller temples. All these smaller temples have collapsed while the larger temples were damaged by the earthquake in 2006. Because of the damage, the buildings are structurally unsafe and therefore people are not allowed in or around them. The buildings are very impressive and we were disappointed we couldn't get closer.

We arrived at Prambanan around 10:00am, which was too late, so it was hot and the kids were not happy with the tour part of the visit. However, there was a play and picnic area, which the kids did enjoy.

One of the things that has become increasingly annoying for us in Indonesia is the attention our two youngest kids receive. This attention includes strangers blocking our way so that they can take pictures of the kids with their cellphones or asking us to stop so that other people can take their picture with us. This was a problem at Prambanan and I took a picture of the crowd of people following Lori and the kids.

We have had a stream of people staying at our house the past few days. First, Katie and her friend from school had a sleepover. Then friends of ours from Salatiga have been here for the weekend. She is Malaysian and works with MCC while he is from New Zealand and is working on a Ph.D. in Anthropolgy. It has been a lot of fun.

See the pictures for more.


Saturday, May 17, 2008


The rainy season is over. I suppose it was over a couple of weeks ago when suddenly the humidity dropped by about 20 percent and the evenings were cooler. We still had rain occasionally, but it has pretty much stopped now. The days are still hot, getting into the low to mid 30s, but a regular breeze has started. Most importantly, it is drier and our clothes dry the same day they are washed.

The bad side of things being drier is that Indonesians now start burning all the vegetation that wouldn't burn during the rains. One can't walk anywhere without seeing and smelling burning leaves. I have heard stories that Singapore and Malaysia regularly complain to the Indonesian government regarding the smoke that drifts over. I don't know of any reasonable alternative. Leaving the growth on the ground encourages pests and snakes.

I am appreciating the more comfortable weather since my walk to work has gotten longer. The university has locked its front gates so that all traffic now has to enter from a different street on the other side of the campus. The reason I have heard for closing the gates was that since there has been an increase in theft on campus, having only one access point will deter thieves. The logic escapes me. Both entrances had security posts and since closing the front gate, security has not been tightened at the remaining post. If the thieves walked out before, they walked past the same level of security that is in place now. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that a bureaucrat felt the need to demonstrate that they were doing something about the problem. Personally, I think the gates were closed to give me a hard time. Instead of 20 minutes at a brisk pace, it now takes me 30 minutes to get to work.

My Intro. to Philosophy course finished last week. We had a good group of students and I really enjoyed the discussions. I finished the course with three classes on Nietzsche, Freud and Wittgenstein. Those classes were hard work. I am midway through my Religion and Democracy grad course, which will finish the beginning of June. The students are now giving seminar presentations and I am learning quite a bit about Islam and politics in Indonesia. In June, I begin teaching an intensive summer course at Gadjah Madah University in the Center for Religion and Cross-Cultural Studies (CRCS), which is the Master's program for Religious Studies at UGM. The course will be on Post-Modernism and I will teach it with a fellow MCCer who is seconded to CRCS. The class should be really interesting but it also leaves me with a very short break before classes at UIN begin in August.

Finally, I preached my first sermon here in Indonesia. Today is Trinity Sunday so I decided to do a teaching sermon on the Trinity. I gave time after my 'sermon' for questions and discussion, and there was some good interaction. What made it memorable was that as the worship leader came up to the front, she loudly announced 'Well, that was confusing.'


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Islamic Education

A debate is going on within Islamic circles here in Indonesia regarding the nature of Islamic education. Actually, this debate is similar to debates going on in Islamic communities throughout the world, and the debate in Indonesia is influenced, in part, by these other debates, particularly the one going on in Egypt. (Al Azhar university in Cairo had been a model for Islamic universities in Indonesia and the changes at Al Azhar influenced the development of UINs in Indonesia.)

With the foundation of an independent Indonesia, there also came the formation of Islamic institutes of higher learning. These institutions, known as IAINs (State Institute of Islamic Studies), were established throughout the country with the intent of providing an explicitly Islamic education, distinct from the education students would receive at 'secular' institutions such as the University of Indonesia. Faculties included the study of Arabic, Sharia (Islamic law), Koranic interpretation and Islamic propagation. With the spread of these IAINs, the development of pesantrens (Islamic boarding schools), and the establishment of Islamic courts, there was a need for religious teachers and scholars. However, as a saturation point was reached, the need for religious teachers became less. At the same time, Indonesia started to be influenced by the development that was sweeping South East Asia and there then grew a multitude of opportunities for young people to become involved in business and technology. The consequence for the IAINs was a marked decrease in enrollment, with in some cases, a complete lack of interest.

The two main IAINs, Jakarta and Yogyakarta, decided to expand to include non-traditional subjects such as the hard and social sciences. In order to accommodate this change, the institutions altered their identities, becoming UINs (State Islamic universities). However, in order to maintain their Islamic identity, the institutions adopted the mantra of pursuing the 'Islamasization' of knowledge. So-called 'secular' subjects would be taught with an Islamic perspective. There was little thought given to what this might look like and in practice it often involved combining Koranic texts with course material. Given their recent development and mixed mandate, these faculties are at a disadvantage in competing with the well-established programs at UI and University of Gadjah Mada. The government has intervened by heavily subsidizing the UIN programs so that they are, in relative terms, very inexpensive.

The debate in Indonesia, therefore, has two competing focal points. First, should these institutions of Islamic higher education include 'secular' subjects or should they focus solely on the Islamic sciences? Second, how can these religious institutions remain viable given declining interest in an exclusively religious education? UIN Yogyakarta is a curious institution resulting from these two competing forces. Combined with faculties in Information Technology and Science, and Social Sciences, are faculties in Sharia, Ushulludin (Islamic Theology), and Dakwah (Missions). It therefore has a curious split identity between a very modern streak, as represented by the faculty of science and my own presence, and a very traditionalist streak.

As I said before, this debate is not peculiar to Indonesia and has raged in such iconic institutions as Al Azhar. In many ways, this debate is about the role of Islam in the world today and so it is a particularly important discussion for many people, whether they are Muslim or not.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Visit to an Islamic Elementary school

This morning, Katie and I visited an Islamic Elementary school. Today is Saturday and here in Indonesia, almost all public schools run Monday through Saturday. UIN also had scheduled classes on Saturday but that changed last year, thankfully. Our connection to the school is a bit convoluted. A doctoral student at UIN has a friend whose wife is the headmistress of a newly-founded Islamic Elementary school. None of the students at this school had ever met a Westerner and she wanted to encourage the students to be more committed to learning English. She hoped that by meeting a Westerner, they might be a bit more inspired. I asked (read: forced) Katie to join me so that the students could see someone their own age, but also, and more importantly, I wanted Katie to see what an ordinary Indonesian, and Islamic, school looked like. To this point, Katie has only experienced International schools, which are quite different from Indonesian public schools.

The school has been operating for five years and so only has grades 1-5. In Indonesia, they are not called grades but classes. The school is an Indonesian Islamic public school. In Indonesia there are three streams of education. The first stream is made up of public schools that have no religious teaching included in their core curriculum. If there is religious teaching in this stream, it must include the teachings of at least two of the official religions of Indonesia, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. So, such a class would be something like a World Religions course. The second stream is made up of special public schools that include religious education in their core curriculum and so are Christian schools, or Islamic schools, etc. These schools are not required to teach other religions. The third stream is made up of private religious schools that are devoted primarily to religious education. These schools, which are almost all Islamic, are called pesantrans, or madrassa, and are led by a kyai, a religious teacher. Those who graduate from this third stream are generally not qualified to continue their studies in post-secondary institutions since their education is almost exclusively religious. Lately, however, in the face of declining enrollment, pesantrans have been including curriculum from the public school system so that graduates can be eligible to attend university.

The school we visited is an Islamic public school that mixes a public school curriculum with Islamic education, which includes learning to read and write Arabic, as well as memorizing the Koran. All the teachers have an undergraduate degree in education from one of the main universities here in Jogja. The students come from the neighbourhood. Tuition is Rp60.000 per month which translates to about $7CDN. This tuition includes lunch. Classes begin at 7am and finish at 2pm, with two breaks. The school has just over 40 students and includes both boys and girls. The school is building a new structure nearby since the building they are in now was damaged by an earthquake two years ago. Classes 1 and 2 have their own rooms, since they are larger groups, while Classes 3,4 and 5 share a single large room separated by dividers. Also in this room is the teachers' 'offices'. There is a play area in front of the school with several play structures but not much room.

We spent most of our time with Classes 3-5, who have the most English training. We began by introducing ourselves and having each of the children introduce themselves to us. This was great fun and filled with much laughing and giggling. Then I taught the students the song 'Mary had a little lamb'. After they were able to sing it by themselves, they sang 'Are you sleeping?', which they already knew. This was a bit of an odd experience for me because I could only think of the French version of the song. After we finished with these classes, we visited Class 2, who were busy learning how to write/draw Arabic. Up to this point, the girls had been very shy, pointing at Katie from a distance. But as it became clear that we were leaving, the girls swarmed around Katie, shaking her hand, and asking her all sorts of questions about where she lived and went to school. I know Katie felt awkward and conspicuous, but I hope she gained a bit better understanding of Indonesian life.

Our hosts were very generous and welcoming and we had a wonderful time. I am not sure how much good we did for the school, but I know that Katie and I received something special.

(See Webalbum for pictures.)


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The End of Rainy Season

It is still raining. Apparently the rainy season is supposed to be done by the end of March but the humidity remains in the high 80s and it rains every day. One thing that has changed is that the nights are cooler, it may drop down to 26C or 27C, but during the day the temperature is still in the low 30s. In one part of our house, where we don't have fans running, the temperature is 31C.

For the most part, it isn't a big deal that the rainy season continues. One plans on the fact that it will rain late in the afternoon and perhaps in the evening. We try to walk as much as possible so if there is somewhere we have to go, we plan on doing it sometime earlier in the day. And I love thunderstorms. For a while, we had great thunderstorms three or four times a week. Around our place, there is very little wind so the rain falls straight down and creates a nice breeze around the house. The other day we had a thunderstorm that knocked out the electricity. While I sat on our back veranda the girls played in the rain. (The Indonesians are troubled that I let our kids play in the rain. They believe that getting rain on one's head leads to one having 'angin', which is usually translated as 'wind'. But in this case, 'angin' means something like a cold or flu or general internal distress. So there are many advertisements for medicine that cure 'angin', which doesn't mean what one might think if 'angin' means 'wind'. Anyways, the Indonesians don't like that our kids play in the rain and our helpers are not impressed with this aspect of my parenting skills. But the kids love it.) The rain was so heavy that it overflowed the gutters and flooded the back yard, making great puddles for the girls to splash in. If that was all, the rainy season would be great.

However, when it rains every afternoon, and the humidity is in the high 80s, and one air drys ones clothes, it means that clothes take more than one day to dry. I really am getting tired of wearing almost dry clothes. And it's a problem because Katie and Mia have school uniforms that are either dirty or not quite dry. Every morning I have to evaluate whether uniforms are dry enough or clean enough. I look forward to those days when our clothes dry the same day they are washed.

I have been told that when the rainy season finishes, it won't rain again for four or five months. I remember there being no rain through September and most of October but given the climate I would be surprised if there was no rain for several months. In Nigeria we had dry seasons that lasted half the year and it literally did not rain for five or six months, but it was bone dry. It just seems too tropical for there to be no rain. And apparently it gets hotter. I hope the humidity drops so it is more comfortable in the shade. I can't say I am looking forward to higher temperatures with this humidity.

But all this interest in the weather is such a Canadian thing. Just like Nigerians, Indonesians aren't interested in the weather except if it is of the disaster sort. In large part this disinterest is due to the fact that there are only two seasons and very little variation. But I like a change in seasons and having weather. I found it a bit disorienting when I would realize that it was January or February and too hot to take a walk outside. On the other hand, the kids love the fact that they can just run outside and jump on their bikes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday, 26 March, 2008

Last week and this week we are on mid-term break and I had hoped to do some preparation for a course I will start teaching in April. However we had the retreat in Bali last week and just before we left for Bali I was asked to give a presentation today for a monthly forum organized by the Faculty of Theology. The topic I was given was 'The Philosophy of Plato'. I wasn't able to do any preparation before Bali and so I had to rush something together since we returned.

This event represents one of the dilemmas I have. I am at the university as a Philosophy professor but I am sent to the university by MCC, and so I am trying to satisfy both. The obvious problem is how giving a discussion on the philosophy of Plato can be understood within my role as an MCCer. I can feel the skepticism of many Mennonites with the idea of MCC supporting a Philosophy professor.

What has happened is that I recognize several issues that might overlap the interests of both UIN and MCC. One such issue is that of the peaceful relationship between religion and political life. I have been assigned a graduate course on Global Issues and one of those issues is that of religion and public life. This is the course I will begin teaching soon and so I have yet to see how the students respond, but the material I am putting together will explore the ways in which religion and political life can peacefully relate.

I am hoping that this is in line with the expectations of both UIN and MCC. UIN is a relatively progressive Islamic institution and so I am hoping that in my class we can explore the issue of religion and politics, an issue that is particularly sensitive for Indonesians as well as Muslims. I am hoping that this also lives up to the expectations MCC had for me in creating my position. Because my position is such an unusual one, both for UIN and MCC, I am feeling my way through this.

So, I had the topic 'The Philosophy of Plato'. I decided to focus on the discussion of justice and politics in The Republic. I think my spiel went well but I had some interesting questions. One set of questions had to do with the relationship of my discussion to the politics in Indonesia. I try very hard not to make any direct connections, but only give material and tools for people to do their own reflections. There is a deep skepticism about politics here with the feeling being that it is too corrupt and that people who might be able to contribute something positive, like the some of the people here at UIN, are ignored. I tried to encourage them that being a positive example of political involvement can make a difference.

The second set of questions had to do with the relationship of philosophical reflection on justice and the teachings of Islam. Here I have to tread even more carefully. I make very clear that whatever I say, I say as a philosopher not a Christian, and that I am in no position to comment on Islamic thought. I simply present the material to the best of my ability and leave it up to the Islamic scholars to figure out if or how it connects.

For example, I presented Plato's argument that it is better to suffer injustice than to risk acting unjustly. I was told that in Islam there are times when it is permitted to kill and asked how this fit Plato's argument. I responded that, for Plato, there were very few if any conditions under which one could justly kill someone, and I gave his reasoning. This seemed to be an acceptable response though it was clear very few were buying it. I always try to be clear that I am not commenting on Islam but rather providing arguments for various positions.

The other question I had was how God fits into Plato's philosophy. This is a tricky one because I don't think God does fit in, or at least God as those of us in the Monotheistic traditions consider God. I therefore try to balance between giving an accurate account of Plato and making sure he isn't summarily dismissed. There is a stereotype among many Muslims that Western philosophy is atheistic and so I regularly get asked how God fits into the material I am teaching. I have the personal answer I give as a Christian, but I don't give that answer when I am teaching and I certainly don't give it when I am teaching here. As to the answer I give in my classes here, I tend to deflect it by pointing out that this isn't a theology class but a philosophy class and so I give a philosophical answer. The students are rarely satisfied because they want a theological answer. I am not sure I am satisfied either but at this point it is the safest answer as far as I can tell.

So, I had my forum on Plato and I think it went pretty well. I am hoping that with these sorts of events as well as through my teaching, I will be able to build enough of a reputation so that I can make some sort of difference. And I am hoping that this difference is of a kind that will satisfy UIN, MCC, and Mennonites back in N. America.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

MCC Team Retreat - Bali 03/08

We have just returned from an MCC retreat on the island of Bali. The goal of MCC retreats is to provide an opportunity for MCCers to get away from their assignments and build relationships with other MCCers that they might not otherwise see. In the case of MCC, there are people working in Papua, Java, and Aceh, places that are far from each other. Retreats usually have a guest speaker and in our case it was Lawrence and Shirley Yoder. Lawrence and Shirley have a long history of working in Indonesia with MCC and Lawrence has written two books on the Mennonite church in Indonesia.

We stayed in a nice hotel that caters primarily to backpackers. Our kids loved the pool and spent as much time in the pool as we allowed. While we adults were meeting, the kids had their own program. For the most part we stayed at the hotel though we did do some walking around Lovina. Two excursions were arranged, one to see dolphins and the other to see a Hindu temple set on an island in the middle of a lake, but we didn't go on either.

There was also a talent show night where Katie sang a song about peace. On our last evening there, the owners of the hotel brought in some Balinese dancers to entertain us. Katie says that the best part of the dancing was how the ladies used their eyes and face as part of the dancing. Another part of the show was two men dressed as monkeys who did a monkey dance. The children were encouraged to participate and enthusiastically chased the 'monkeys'.

A cold bug was going round the kids and Raina picked it up towards the end of the week. She is still coughing and has a fever.

We arrived early in Denpasar for our flight home so we spent a bit of time visiting Kuta Beach, the main tourist area in Bali. We didn't actually get to the beach, it was too hot, but spent our time eating lunch and walking around the shopping district.

We are back in Jogja where the rainy season lingers on. I am on a mid-term exam break and won't begin lecturing until the beginning of April. However, I have been asked to give a talk on Wednesday to a Philosophy/Theology club at the university. The invitation came just before we left for Bali so I am not quite prepared but hopefully I will have enough time over the next day or so to work something up.

Mia's birthday is also coming soon. As soon as she turns five, she can enter Kindergarten at school. Right now she goes to school Mon, Wed, and Friday in a pre-school program that is only half-day. This makes transportation very complicated. We car pool with another family who live near us. Having to make an extra trip to pick up Mia takes up a lot of my time. However, when she starts Kindergarten, she will join the schedule of the other kids. She loves school and is very much looking forward to going to school every day.

As for Katie, she now has braces. Her teeth have been coming in crooked and we wondered how it would work with our being in Indonesia. We were very fortunate to find an Indonesian orthodontist here in Jogja and Katie is now using a retainer. Hopefully in a year she will have train-tracks. The bonus is that it is much cheaper to have it done here.

Sara continues to grow. She spends her time at home playing with the helpers. She is still adjusting to all the changes and for example when we traveled to Bali, she clung to me most of the time. She is healthy and with no strangers around, she talks without stopping.

As for Lori, I will try and encourage her to write about herself. Her work responsibilities are not yet clearly defined and she continues to try and navigate the expectations people have for her. But I won't say anymore.

While we enjoyed the retreat, we also enjoy being home here in Jogja.


Monday, February 25, 2008


We had to leave Indonesia in order to renew our visas, so we traveled to Singapore. Unfortunately, the day we arrived was also the last day of the Singapore Air Show and so most of the hotels were full. We ended up in a seedy hotel in the red-light district. Walking to the subway was an experience in the middle of the afternoon so we made sure to use taxi when we returned in the evening. Fortunately, we were able to find a better hotel downtown for the next two nights. The hotel was very close to Orchard Rd., which is the famous shopping street of Singapore. Walking down Orchard Rd. was quite an experience, with mall beside mall. And most of the malls had large boutique stores such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Prada, etc.

What we did appreciate were the book stores. I was able to buy a few books for my work at the university while Lori was able to buy books for Katie's school. Books are one of the main things that we miss here in Indonesia. My university's library is very limited and Katie's school's library is in pretty sad shape. It is very difficult to find English language books here and so any chance to buy books is important.

We had hoped to visit the zoo but circumstances conspired against us and it didn't work out. We got our visas and flew back to Indonesia this morning. Lori and I both agreed that it was nice to be home and it was even more interesting that we now feel that this is home.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Walk to Work

Most days I walk to work. I try to be in my office every morning during weekdays and occasionally in the afternoon. I dislike walking to work in the afternoon since it is either too hot or raining. Walking to school takes me about 20 minutes, which is reasonable earlier in the morning but by noon can be a bit much. We have a car so I could drive but I enjoy the exercise as well as getting to know our neighbourhood.

My walk takes me through a small alley past Chorus, our local Mini-mart store. Apparently it also has a recording studio but I am not sure what that means. Following the alley, I come out on to Jalan Gejayan, one of the main North/South roads in Jogja. Crossing this, I walk down a small street that has a nice hotel, Pura Artha, on it. Occasionally we go to this hotel to swim in their pool.

At the end of the street, I turn down a smaller alley. I don't know the name of this street but I call it Jalan Kunci, or Key street. Half the street is taken up with small stalls where you can have keys cut. As far as I can tell, all the stalls offer identical services. This isn't unusual here in Indonesia. For example, it isn't unusual to find, grouped together, a dozen or so Nokia stores all selling the same Nokia products. My guess is that someone owns the land and, instead of having one big store, divided the property up into small units. Labour is very cheap so the owner employs a large number of young people who hopefully will lure in friends and acquaintances. If I didn't know someone, I am not sure how I would choose one store over another.

On Jalan Kunci, I also pass our local video store that sells pirated DVDs. It is very difficult to find legal DVDs in Indonesia, and in fact I am not sure whether any DVDs here are legal. When I am talking about legal, I am not talking about legal under Indonesian law, which is extremely generous when it comes to copying material, but legal in the sense of being a copy that was made according to the conditions originally fixed to the DVD. For example, some DVDs sold here are labeled as 'Original', but what this means is that someone copied it from a legal DVD. This would be opposed to those DVDs which come from digital recordings made by someone sitting in a movie theatre. We have a few of these and it is not uncommon to see people blocking the camera as they move about the theatre. The movies that I am reasonably certain are legal come in a VCD format. The disadvantage of this is that the format requires multiple discs for a single movie and there are no extra features. Also, the choice of movies available on VCD seems to be rather idiosyncratic so we rarely find movies we want on VCD. It used to bother me that we had pirated DVDs, but then I found that the store has a number X-Files seasons for sale, so now it doesn't bother me so much.

Following this alley to its end, I come out on Jalan Solo. It isn't actually called Jalan Solo but Indonesians have a very annoying habit of changing the name of a road every few blocks. Within a span of a few kilometers, this street has a half dozen names and I can't remember the names nor which parts of the road they name. It seems that a significant number of Indonesians have the same problem so roads will often have a name that won't show up on an official map but is the commonly known name. This street, for example, is the main highway between Yogyakarta and Solo so people will refer to it as Jalan Solo.

At first, crossing Jalan Solo was a bit intimidating. Jogja has a tremendous number of motorcycles. I am not sure if 'motorcycle' is quite right since they are more like scooters having no clutch. Here, these vehicles are called 'bebeks,' which is Indonesian for 'duck'. It seems that many vehicles here are referred to by animal names, so we drive a Zebra, friends of ours drive a Kijang (deer), and one can drive a Panther as well. However, a real motorcycle, that is one with a clutch, is a man's bike. What makes bebeks so popular is that they are relatively cheap so families will often have one or two around for quick trips or for kids in school. Since Jogja is a university town, the place is flooded with these bikes. And flood is an appropriate term. Motorcycles don't obey traffic laws so when one drives a car in Jogja one first watches for other cars, and then for bikes. The bikes move around cars like a wave moves around your legs at the beach. As long as one doesn't do anything sudden, the bikes will move around your vehicle without problem, adjusting to your movement. Driving in Jogja was quite intimidating at first because there are just so many bikes and they fill up any empty space on the road. But now I have gotten used to driving here, using the rule that if I have an accident with a bike, at least I won't be hurt. This isn't true if I am walking, so crossing was a bit of an adventure. However, now I have raised my risk tolerance and am relatively comfortable dodging bikes.

Universitas Islam Negeri is on Jalan Solo. The campus is made up almost entirely of new buildings. The campus itself is almost 50 years old but there was an earthquake recently that destroyed or severely damaged most of the buildings. The building my office is in is not quite finished but in use. The main construction project on campus is a new mosque. The old mosque was very well-known and a tremendous amount of effort was put into trying to save it, but the damage was too extensive and it was demolished. The new buildings are nice and many of the rooms, including my office, have air conditioning. However, the building where I teach my undergraduate course only has one classroom with air conditioning. Needless to say I will be trying to avoid teaching anymore undergraduate courses.

I try to walk as much as possible but I am not sure how long I will keep this up. With all the vehicles on the road, and people's apparent interest in contributing as much exhaust fumes as possible into the atmosphere, air quality is very poor. I have noticed that my lungs and throat are not as healthy as I would prefer. However, I usually enjoy the walk and the interesting bits of Indonesian life that I see.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Life in Jogja

Well, we have arrived in Jogja. We moved on my birthday, perhaps not my first choice for things to do on my birthday. But the opportunity was there and we had to take it or wait till later in January.

Because the move was very sudden, the house was not exactly ready for us. Many of the screens on the windows were either damaged or simply gone so the house was a bit buggy. It took about two weeks to have the screens repaired and so during that time we were eaten alive by mosquitoes. We live beside a field with lots of garbage on it, so there are plenty of mosquitoes in the area. We have tried to clean up our backyard so at least in this area we can be outside without too much trouble.

Our house is very nice. It has quite a bit of open space so we can get a nice breeze going through. It also lets the kids play inside when it is raining. We have three bedrooms, storage room, smallish kitchen, an office, and a dining room/living room. Our washroom has both a bak, a traditional Indonesian water reservoir for bathing, as well as a shower with hot water. The house came with a water heater but it is only for the shower. The back yard is walled in. It isn't large but there is enough room for the kids to play. Because it was neglected for a while, we are still trying to fix it up. We also have a guest house that is not attached to the house. It has one large room and a washroom.

We haven't been communicating as much as we would have liked over the past month for several reasons. First, we spent a week in Bali. We spent five days in the north of Bali, at a hotel near Lovina. The beach there was a fishing beach and not really suited for swimming. However, the area was beautiful and not nearly as developed as around Denpasar in the south. Our hotel was right by the ocean with a nice Balinese restaurant by the beach. The pool was great and the kids made full use of it.

Speaking of the pool, the second reason why communication has been limited is that our camera went into the pool. Early in our stay at Lovina, we were coming back from supper when Sara fell into the pool. I jumped in after her and she was fine, but the camera went in with me. The camera has not recovered so I only have a few pictures from the very beginning of our trip and no pictures of our house. I had hoped to be able to repair the camera but the nearest service place is in Jakarta so I am afraid I will have to buy another camera.

Back to Bali, we decided to spend the last two nights in Sanur, near Denpasar. We were in a small hotel a few minutes walk from the beach. The beach was much nicer but the kids preferred the pool. Sanur/Denpasar is very developed for tourism and I didn't like it nearly as much as Lovina. However, others didn't share my opinion. Sanur has a very nice boardwalk along the beach with small shacks set up to sell tourist stuff. If one isn't firm enough, the sellers can be quite aggressive and annoying. Sanur/Denpasar is also more expensive and so we were almost paying Western prices for lodging and food. In the end, we had a very relaxing time and wonderful recovery from months of language study. We will be back to Bali in March for MCC team retreat.

We returned to Jogja and began to organize our life here. Katie is now attending Yogyakarta International School (YIS). YIS is much smaller than Mountainview in Salatiga, with all classes being combined. Katie's class is gr.3-5 combined with 16 students. The school uses an Australian curriculum and most of the students are children of business people. The school has a much lower profile than Mountainview. Mountainview is set up like a walled compound with multiple security gates for entry. YIS, on the other hand, is made up of several renovated houses, so that it is difficult to even recognize it as a school. Because it is an international school, there is security, but with a much lower profile than Mountainview. We aren't sure whether this makes YIS safer, but one thing in its favour is that there are much bigger more inviting targets than YIS. Mia started pre-school last week. We had thought of holding off till September, but it was obvious that she was ready for school. Both Katie and Mia are enjoying YIS and making friends there.

Lori's position was never clearly defined. However, she has decided to help Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana (Christian University Duta Wacana) with the administrative aspect of developing a Master's program in theology. Lori will be using many of the skills she developed at U. of Toronto and is excited by the prospect of working with faculty. UKDW is a small university with a peace program that MCC has been supporting.

I have just started teaching at Universitas Islam Negeri (State Islamic University). UIN is a large university that offers degrees in a variety of disciplines including the hard sciences, social sciences, as well as in Islamic law (Sharia). My appointment is in the graduate program, which is primarily oriented towards Islamic law, Islamic economics and philosophy. This semester I am teaching a doctoral course called Global Issues. A Muslim professor will teach the first half using an Islamic perspective, focusing on issues like globalization and human rights. I will teach the second half, starting in April, focusing on the relationship between religion and politics and society. I am also teaching in the undergraduate faculty of Islamic Theology, an Intro to Philosophy course. I am teaching this course with another professor, Dr. Fatima, who has her Ph.D. from an Australian university. We get along well and our first class was a wonderful experience. It was also obvious that my understanding of Indonesian needs improvement. Many of the students come from pesantrans, or Islamic boarding schools. I am very interested to find out how they respond to me and what I teach.

Finally, we just had internet access installed in our house. Our application had been in some mysterious process for three weeks, but it eventually happened. Hopefully Lori and Katie will be moved to contribute as well to this blog. I am also hoping to have a new camera soon so we can put up pictures of our new home and Yogyakarta, but for now I will post a few pictures from Bali.