Thursday, July 18, 2013

Falling in love with a city

[Please enjoy the pictures] "We just fell in love with a city," I post on FB Saturday, after a trip to Bandung. It's our first time to the city where we'd like to live and learn Bahasa Indonesia next year.

The language school in Bandung
We fly into Jakarta Thursday night. The Bramonos, our friends and the parents of two wonderful students who stayed with us a few years ago, meet us at the airport, dropping us at the All Seasons hotel. We're close to the International English Service (IES, where we will attend Sunday.) The hotel is a relaxing boutique hotel, full of modern surfaces, glass, lime greens, and browns. The complimentary breakfasts includes Indonesian as well as Western choices. We alternate between guava and orange juice, nasi goreng, rice porridge, and waffles. The view from the restaurant deck is spectacular, overlooking the city of trees, skyscrapers, and old neighborhoods.

Friday, W and I explore the area on foot, stopping at the IES office to say hi to Pastor Dave Kenney, an alum of NU. Turns out Dave graduated from our alma mater the year before we did, so we know a lot of the same people. (I got to know him when I was Alumni Director a few years ago.)

Window display of Pasta de Waraku
Afterwards, we pop into the Grand Indonesian Mall, a complex of big and small shops. We eat at a shop advertising "Japanese Pasta," where my supper of prawn and pesto spaghetti is fantastic! For my sore feet and tight neck, I splurge on an hour-long foot and back rub at the mall's massage shop @$11. Well worth it.

Meanwhile W is cruising the mall to find a bandage to ward off a blister (my sandal was rubbing). By the time I'm done and relaxed, he's done and exhausted. We head back to the hotel without shopping. I do find a Grade 6 Indonesian workbook. This write-in-text of math/science/language/grammar/social studies should be perfect for acquiring some commonly used vocabulary. W doesn't have the energy to cruise the mall for Indonesian videos as I'd hoped. But our friends send us links to some programs for listening to the language.

Saturday morning, Bramonos and Kristi (their oldest daughter) pick us up to head for Bandung. We've been drawn to the city since we first considered moving to Indonesia. Dave has set up a meeting with a couple who used to live in Jakarta and attend IES. An IES branch in Bandung would be a great asset for speakers of English, whether Christian or not. We're exploring what that might look like.

Bandung traffic
It's Ramadan, the annual month of fasting for Muslims. They eat a very early breakfast (before sun-up) and celebrate a late supper (after sundown). The driver doesn't eat during the day, but he drives the two hours to Bandung. Sometimes the ride takes 4 hours, say our hosts, depending on traffic. With everyone feasting and meeting families, traffic this weekend is amazingly light (moving, not congested as usual).

We meet up with a delightful couple, Alwin and Maria, friends of IES who moved back to Bandung to be with their families. They're great company and full of good ideas about living in Bandung. We encourage them to start a Life Group, like the one they miss since their relocation. After a cooling drink at Chatime (Ciwalk Mall), they scoot off to other obligations.

Alwin and Maria join the fun!
We browse a few of the outlet stores for which Bandung is famous. W buys a shirt; I find a blouse for myself and a handbag for Kirsten. For supper, we're headed to the Peak, a restaurant Bramonos enjoyed on their last trip. We follow a winding lane up the side of the mountain. Barely wide enough for two vehicles and in the pouring rain, we miss the unmarked turnoff.

Instead, we pull into the driveway of a place that looks like a modern retreat center. Indra goes in to get directions and comes back to wave us inside. "The place requires a reservation, but we have a table," he says. "Let's eat here."

We have arrived -- by happy "accident" -- at Lewangwangi, an art gallery and restaurant. We sit overlooking the city, lights sparkling below. Fireworks climb the sky from the houses on opposite hillsides, celebrating the end of the day's Ramadan fast.

The gallery-restaurant of Lawangwangi
The owner, of Lewangwangi, Dr. Andonowati, sits and chats with us. She tells us that she moved home after 10 years at McGill University in Montreal (yeah Canada!). She's a math professor at a local university in Bandung. Over the years, she has purchased student art at her institution. Her collection is varied and interesting. It's well worth a visit, to give a feel for the artistic side of the city.

It's a long drive back down the mountain and back to Jakarta. By the time we get home, it's 11:30pm. (Bramonos live another hour further away!)

Chinese food around a big table
The next morning W and I sleep in. We intend to attend both morning sessions at IES, but miss the first. We visit the 11 o'clock meeting. We enjoy the music and speaking. The group says goodbye to a family who is returning to South Africa. How touching to see the care for its members!

Over lunch, we visit with Pastor Dave, Gigi, their daughter, and the IES worship leader. The South African family, who join the feast, are great fun. Their daughter is moving to the USA to attend a community college.

"Where?" we ask. Wow - she'll be studying within a few miles of our home and church in Kenmore! It's a God-arrangement: we invite her to join us for Sunday lunches once she arrives. As we wrap up, the guys exchange jokes and stories that make everyone laugh.

Bakezin, alias 'Temptation Central,' with our friends
For dessert, the Bramonos pick us up to take us to the Bakezin, a dessert chain of culinary temptation. We get to see "our girls" Kristi and Daniela. They are happily married to nice guys who pursued them for years to win their hands. (Kristi is expecting a baby, whom we can't wait to meet!) We're so full we can't eat a thing, but our tea is good. We give and get hugs all around before we part.

Then Indra and Yayu are off to a traditional service, where he is speaking. Meanwhile, W and I pack up our things in the hotel for checkout at 7pm. Bramonos return to drive us to the airport. It's hard to say goodbye. Knowing we'll be back in a year makes it easier.

A teen sprayed silver,
soliciting funds for
a Bandung orphanage
It's one thing to hear about the hospitality and personal kindness of Indonesians. It's quite another to experience such generosity and friendship. This family, among all their obligations and long commutes, has helped us enjoy exploring Jakarta and Bandung in ways we never imagined. We are so grateful!

On the flight home, W and I talk about what stands out to us. What a weekend

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