Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Emma Smiles

Emma has been smiling for a few weeks now. I was talking to her after she ate and Karl couldn't resist taking a picture to share

And then, of course she decided to turn and mug for the camera.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bionicle Band

Enjoy these photos of the 'band' Logan created from various Bionicle and Lego pieces. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The orthodontist again...and other things

When Hailey had her appointment with the orthodontist a few weeks ago, the lady there told me to call if Hailey started complaining about the roof of her mouth being sore. Her bottom teeth touch the top of her mouth because of her over bite, so I guess soreness is a common problem. Wouldn't ya know that very day she started telling me about her mouth being sore, and it even bled a bit a day or two later. And she didn't hear the lady tell me about the appliance, so I knew it was a legitimate complaint. ;) Well, I called and made an appointment for impressions for an appliance she can wear that will keep her teeth from hitting up top. We went to have that done today and we will pick up the appliance on Thursday of next week. Hailey is excited...but I bet she'll find out it's not as fun as she thinks it will be. :}

My friend Kara is coming over today. I knew Kara when we lived in Palm Bay,Florida before she and her family moved to Tallahassee. We've recently been in contact again through Facebook. Her husband's parents live in New York, apparently only about an hour or so away. Kara and her family are visiting them right now, so she sent me a message on Facebook and asked if she could come for a visit. Of course I said yes! I'm so excited to have an old friend over. She's got 4 children...I think she's bringing them....and I've never met her daughter. I can't remember for sure but I think she's met all of ours except Emma. It will be so nice to catch up and see how her kids have grown. I'll post about it later this week so those of you who know Kara (and those who don't) can read all about our visit.

Emma has been a bit of a fusser this week. I know she's young yet, but I'm wondering if maybe she's teething. She has begun to drool and she's always sucking on her fingers. And she's been crying more in general. It could also be due to the fact that she's not sleeping as much as she really should during the day. She's doing great at night...she just slept through her 4th night in a row last night. We have 2-3 nights that she'll wake up overnight each week, but I think we're almost out of that completely. I'm wondering if maybe she's going though a growth spurt too, because she's been waking up sooner from her naps and wanting to nurse...I plan to add a feeding a day I think to see if that helps. Speaking of which, she just woke up so I guess I need to go. I'll be back later to post more, and Karl will be too to tell more about his trip to Jakarta.,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Treasure Seekers: an intro

Jason arrived and the 3 of us loaded up in Jonathan’s car to a group of people he has dubbed the Treasure Seekers. I didn’t ask, but I’m guessing that he arrived here via Matt:6 20, combined with the familiar idiom “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

The Treasure seekers are part of a group referred to locally as “newcomers”. They are individuals or families that have come from the rural reaches of Indonesia to the big city of Jakarta looking for a better life and more opportunity. Very few find what they are looking for. Some end up here in Bantar Gebang Landfill. I’ve occasionally thought that anyone who spends their day picking through trash must be looking for the basic necessities of life, food, clothing, etc. Not so here. While these people may eat, and ceratinly do wear some of what they find, this is not their main purpose. These people that form the bottom rung of the societal ladder here in Jakarta have actually become the first link in an entire recycling industry. All day they sort through the mountains of garbage looking primarily for plastic grocery bags. There are people who “specialize” in other things, such as rubber tubing, but mostly they seem to be looking for recyclable plastic. After spending all day collecting from the active section of the landfill they take it back home to a tiny shack in a makeshift community such as the one below that they have set up on a section that is not currently being dumped on. Ocassionally entire communities will be displaced as sections of the landfill are reopened for dumping. Here they wash and bail what they have found and sell it for approximately 200 Rupiah, or roughly 2 US cents, per kilogram. There are hundreds, if not thousands of families living like this, right here on this landfill. Not outside the landfill, on it.

Below is a picture of some recently sold plastic bails that we passed aboout a mile outside of the landfill.
As you might imagine, living conditions are anything but sanitary. One major concern is potable drinking water. Bathing water is plentiful. I believe this is taken care of in one of the many nearby canals which is of course, filled with rainwater runoff from mountains of trash. Although nasty, still it's not as bad as drinking the stuff. Currenly families either buy drinking water, or boil what comes from the canals or shallow wells right there at the dump. Both options are very expensive for a family that is living on about 30 US dollars a month.Very common in missions is the practice of finding something that a local population needs and finding a way to provide that. This serves 2 purposes: 1) it creates a “legal” reason to be in a society that may not otherwise be open to a christian presence, and 2) it helps to develop a personal relationship with people and communities while serving their needs. One thing these people need is drinking water. This has been Jonathan’s mission for the past several months. On this day I was able to tag along as Jonathan went to talk about the results of some water tests that were the key to the use of low cost filters that he was attempting to provide to familiess here. The next few hours would be unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jakarta part 2: Cold Showers and Facebook

As a quick side note before I continue my tales of adventure, I recently got word that Jonathan’s wife April and oldest daughter Phoebe just came down with some nasty 3rd world virus (no, not the swine flu!) for which Phoebe actually had to be hospitalized. Last word I got, they were both beginning to recover and are scheduled to have another round of blood tests today (probably happening as I type this actually). Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers that everything will be ok.

Now back to the weekend in Indonesia

Woke up at about 4 a.m. the next morning and, while still half asleep, decided to beat the rush for a shower (3 adults + 5 kids were in the house, including one of their daugher's roomates from school). There is no central air or hot water heater in the house that I know of, but there is a wall mounted AC unit in each bedroom that is only used during sleeping hours and an in line electrical water heater at the shower head. Pretty nifty device that heats water with an electrical element as it passes through the line before it reaches the shower head. About halfway through the shower everything went dark and the water got ice cold. I did my best to muffle the ensuing yelp that was brought on by the suddenly frigid water as I fumbled around in the dark to turn it off, then I remembered that I had soap in my hair that had to be rinsed out. I took care of that after slowly adjusting to the new water temperature and then started searching blindly for the valve to turn off the water. Just as my fingers found it, the lights came back on and the water got real hot, real quick. I squelched a yelp once more, turned off the water, dried off and, still not sure what had just happened, got back in bed to sleep off my shower.. ‘till well after 9.
Breakfast was a welcome taste of home. I won’t belabor the point, but grits were involved. During breakfast Jonathan told me that by turning on the hot water at the same time that my bedroom AC was on I had tripped the main breaker to that side of the house. Apparently when that happened, Jonathan’s bedroom heated up pretty quickly too, because he woke up and came out to reset the breaker, triggering my second sequestered outburst.

After breakfast, while we waited for Jason (one of Jon’s collegues in the region), Jonathan showed me some things that he is working on with the youth in the region. Youth here is somewhere in the 18 – 25 year old range I think, and are faced with may of the same problems that kids in the US are faced with today. They are actually using Facebook to get these kids engaged in discussions about problems they are having in their lives and to send out invites to home meetings. They have found that the anonymity of the internet creates an environment where they are able to open up in a way that would normaly not happen face to face, and then once they come to the home meetings... well they’ve already shared much of their pain and secrets, so they are then free and receptive to continue to open up and hear about Jesus’ promise of freedom from bondage and the source for true joy and fulfillment for their lives. First off I didn't even know anyone in Indo even knew about facebook. I just found out about it last year when Wendy started using it. It’s an ingenious use of technology that I’m sure facebook never intended. It is very exciting to see first hand the commitment that people that I am proud to call family are making in the lives of so many young people.

No this is not a “please give” commercial. I'll be the first to change the channel when one of those comes on. (Have you ever seen a distended belly on a 54" tv? Not cool.), but I can’t in good conscience talk about all the great things that Jonathan and his family are doing without at least giving anyone who might read this the opportunity to support them in some way. If you feel led to do so, please visit www.cmalliance.org/give/gmissions.jsp and in the Missionary’s Name field type Jonathan Eckman .
In the dropdown box right below the name choose either “work” or “outfit

-Chosing “work” means that 85% of your donation will be sent to Jonathan for use in his projects in the region such as the 36 youth program detailed above. The remaining 15% goes toward the Great Commission Fund, which will support other missionaries worldwide.
-“outfit” sends 100% of your donation to Jonathan for use on whatever he may need like unexpected medical bills(see above), or paying a visit to their children who have to be in a boarding school(previous post). But knowing Jonathan and April, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it ended up going to their ongoing missions projects also.
-The other option is GCF, which stands for Great Commission fund. This is a fine choice, and while your donation will be used to support missions worldwide, I do not know that it will go specifically to Jonathan and his family.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance is a fine organization. I grew up in one of their churches in Southern Alabama, so I have the highest confidence that anything that you may feel led to send will be handled responsibly. Even so, I know some people have reservations about web transactions in general. While I have no reservations about this site, If anyone wants to help support Jonathan’s Work, but would prefer to not do it over the web, send Wendy a note and we will let you know how to send something directly in the mail. I'm sure more grits would be apreciated. Take it from me, a southern boy can only go so long on noodles and rice for breakfast.

Next up, an unbelievable meeting at one of the largest landfills in southeast Asia.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Family Time in Jakarta

Dub here, going retroactive again with a side trip that I made to see one of my cousins while in the east last month. Jonathan Eckman is the son of my Grandfather’s baby sister, Carolyn. Before coming back to the states, Carolyn was a missionary in the region. Jonathan has since taken up the baton in Jakarta with his wife April. To my knowledge I’m the first person from the family that has ever come to see them. The flight over only cost about $100 from Singapore, so how could I be this close and not stop in for a visit?

I arrived at the airport on the west side of Jakarta at about 4:00 and cleared customs and immigration at about 4:30. Jonathan and David (Jon’s college age son) met me at the airport entrance amidst a gaggle of taxi and motorcycle drivers competing for my business. After 2 weeks in the region, it was good to be met by familiar faces.

We got in their car and made the trip across town to their house… amendment… we made the 3 hour journey across town to their house. I’m going to throw out a guess and say the total distance was about 30 miles. I have never in my life experienced traffic like this anywhere in the world. Ever. To this point, Karl’s Personal Trophy (KPT) for worst traffic had been in Bucharest, Romania. Judges?? Yes, ladies and gentlemen we have a new winner! Let’s hear it for Jakarta, Indonesia! Unbelievable. I don’t know that I will ever comprehend how the Indonesian public found a way to cram 7 lanes of traffic onto a 3 lane highway. But more on that later.

When we arrived some time during the 7:00 hour, April had dinner ready and the whole gang was there. I was fortunate to be in town during the tail end of a school break so that all the kids were at the house too. They attend a boarding school in Malaysia that, I think, is set up specifically for Missionary Kids in the region. The upside is that parents do not have to worry about the quality of their children’s education regardless of where they are serving. The down side is that they don’t get to tuck them in every night :( I was a little apprehensive about encroaching on the last weekend of their family time, but they assured me that I was welcome and would only add to the family, not detract from it. Seriously, what a great group of folks. Dinner was fantastic and then it was off to bed. We had a big day ahead of us…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Catching Up...

It has been a while since I've written anything, so I thought I would try to catch up a bit.

I took Emma to the doctor last week and the doctor says she's doing great. She got all her first shots...which she did NOT like....her weight was 11 lbs. 3 oz., her height 24.5 inches. Her doctor says she is in the 100th percentile for height, 75th for weight. Another tall and skinny girl....;)

The older 2 kids had SAT's last week, so we did a lot of running to and fro. I had a dentist appointment which I ended up splitting into two days due to needing to pick up the kids from their testing site. That was interesting.....never had to leave an appointment in the middle like that. Thankfully, the hygienist and receptionist were both very accommodating and got me back in the next morning. So now I have nice clean teeth, but I do have to go back to have a crown (actually 2) placed, something I knew would have to happen eventually. I am dreading that...not a fan of dental work!

Logan and Karl went tonight to a baseball game...in New York City. Our realtor offered 2 complimentary tickets to us for a game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. I was unable to go because we really wouldn't want to ask people here to keep our 3 children overnight (that's a lot to ask!), plus I do have the baby...didn't think she would be too pleased with a baseball game and a crowded subway. So, Karl took Logan with him. I'm sure he will post much more about all that happened, along with some pictures. But after speaking with them both, it sounds as if they had some interesting experiences. :} Logan was very excited to be able to visit Times Square before the game!

Karl's parents just left early this morning after a long weekend here. It was the first time they were able to see Emma and their first visit since we moved here in 2007. It was nice to show them around a bit; give them a little taste of spring in Rochester. It's been beautiful here...weather has been sunny, at least some, and the temps have been in the 60's mostly. We took them to the Lilac Festival, which is kind of a big thing here I guess. Karl's dad took a ride along the Erie Canal on Karl's bike, and I think he enjoyed that. His mom spent a lot of time outside with the kids, and I know they all really liked that. We also took them to several of our favorite restaurants while they were here, so many that they probably believe all we ever do is go out to eat! We really don't go as often as we did while they were here, but wanted them to experience some of the new flavors we've found. I'm glad we got to spend the weekend with family. It was really nice to see them and to let the kids spend some quality time with their grandparents.

I've been busy with the baby, but am still working on finding curriculum for the next school year. I plan to take a good look around at the used curriculum sale our home school group is having this month. I know there will be a large selection of books. I will also be selling some things, but Karl is going to help me this year so I should still have plenty of time to look around and buy some things if I need to. I'm still hoping to combine as much as possible with all the kids...we'll see what I can find.

We have one more week of bowling before the session is over. After that we will just go occasionally as a family. We might participate again in the fall, but I would really rather go during a time when I can bowl too. Then I would know how everyone did and would be able to give the kids pointers as needed. However, they may be better than I am at this point....as it is, I've been split between the two groups (bumpers and big kids) so I haven't really been very helpful or very well-informed! I think they've all had fun though, which was the point.

Well, it is getting late. I should head upstairs to get some sleep. I've been staying up too late and getting up earlier than usual. I need to keep getting up early, but obviously will need to get to bed a bit earlier if I'm going to get the rest I need. So, good night everyone, rest easy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Girl's afternoon out

The girls went out and got haircuts for spring today. They both had locks down to the middle of their backs before they left the house, so they decided to go about shoulder length. Hailey looked so much older when she came home than when she left with Wendy earlier today. I just had to take a picture of them both. They’re just so pretty. Of course we got Emma in on the photo action as well.

Bonus Baby Pic

Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh great, another Pandemic

Karl back again just long enough to pass on some divergent cross cultural views that I’ve experienced as a result of this swine flu news story, as well as one of the funniest spontaneous comments that I’ve heard in quite some time.

Just wrapped up a visit from one of my Singaporean customers last week, and the original plan was to take the group into NYC for a day before their departure to do a little sight seeing and to catch a show. By mid week plans were all in the air again as a result of this new flu strain. Because of their recent experience with SARS and the like, Asians as a group are extremely sensitive to any perceived threat of a global outbreak. The sensationalist news outlets with apparently nothing better to talk about are not helping matters. We almost had to cancel our plans because they didn’t want to spend too much time in the city for fear of being infected. Also one member of the party who was stopping for a brief holiday in Tokyo on the way home was informed that any passengers arriving from New York may be subject to quarantine upon arrival in Japan.
Being a math guy, I’m big on playing the odds, and couldn’t help but explain to them that with approximately 200 cases identified in the US and approximately 300 million citizens, this means that just under 0.00007% of the US population is actually affected. I’m no medical expert, but I’m pretty sure that this affliction rate is only slightly greater than that of being born with a 3rd ear in the middle of one’s forehead. Strangely, this didn't seem to make anyone feel better ;)

We all decided to go ahead with our plans, but just to calm them down a bit I did supply them with N95 masks and antiseptic wipes for the trip home. While waiting on our flight from Rochester to New York I excused myself momentarily to go to the bathroom. Upon my return to the gate I found one of the guys checking his temperature with a thermometer he had apparently bought the night before! Just making sure, I guess. And of course, at the end of our weekend in the city when we were saying our final goodbyes, I breathed in a small dust particle while shaking their hands at the security gate. I have never fought so hard to contain a sneeze as I did at that moment. These guys were really taking this seriously.

Contrast that with one of the guys in my office who had a quick sneezing fit at his desk. It was loud and drawn out enough that from across the room I heard someone ask him “What in the heck is going on over there?”
The reply was much funnier in his distinctly Greek New York accent than I can convey here. “I know. I keep waiting for the next sneeze to come out sounding like an oink!”