Thursday, April 21, 2011

Di Rumah Lagi, Selamat Akhirnya!! (Home Again, Safe At Last)

Hey Family!!!

It is always so fun to read the emails I get from y'all each week and fun to try and think of things to write home and tell y'all about. I thought that saying would be a fun one to translate because it is definitely one that I say to myself each night when I come home after a long day of work and sweat. Because believe me, I am either wet from sweat or rain each day when I come home. Kind of gross, but it is becoming more and more normal to me. And it doesn't get too much better because most of our house is not air-conditioned, only our bedroom. So we love to go to bed early to get an extra couple minutes of the AC. The church is air conditioned so we enjoy teaching there as much as possible, even though most of the Indonesians think it is too cold when the AC is on, so we don't use it as much, which I think is crazy!! I love the AC!! Not many homes that we teach in have it, only if they are really, really wealthy, but most will have a fan which I am very thankful for. Technically it is supposed to becoming winter here, but you would never guess it in the least. It feels hot still.

This week I had my first baptism. I really don't know how much credit I can take for it, since he has been taught for a year, but I was thankful to be a witness to it. It was Michael, the 14-year-old boy. It was a sweet experience. It was fun to see all the youth of the branch stay after church and be there to welcome him to the branch. They all sang a song during the baptism. But is was really great because it brought his mom, Ibu Cynthia and two siblings Immanuel and Karen to church too. The Dad, Pak Paulus, was sick. We hope soon that the parents will get married officially so at least the Mom can get baptized. Pak Paulus has a long way to go before he gets baptized. Really, he just enjoys to Bible Bash and doesn't progress too much.

Pak Jusuf is hopefully going to get baptized this Sunday. He decided that he knew it was true and wanted to get baptized and receive the Priesthood. His wife, Ibu Yana, we are hoping will follow suit in a month or so. She still works on Sundays but says that she is seeing if she can take the day off each week. She also just needs more friends and church and we are trying harder to fellowship her with more of the ladies in the Branch. She has a testimony, but is kind of timid to do anything about it.

My favorite Investigator is Riyanti. She is a 24-year-old law student who is dating a member of the branch. She comes to church each week and has made good friends there. She has started reading the Book of Mormon and wants it to be true. She said that she would love it if there were prophets today, but for some reason she is scared to pray and ask for an answer. Hopefully soon she will make that jump. She's my favorite because she loves it when I try to speak Indonesian and giggles when I mess up. It is funny.

Our other main investigator is Allena. She has had quite the tough life. Her family has disowned her; she just lost her job, and is now kind of homeless. It is sad and has caused her to kind of be angry with God and not trust him. We know that she has felt the Spirit and has felt God's love for her, but she is still angry and doesn't understand why her life is so hard. It is a sad situation she is in and it pains me to know how much the Gospel will help her and bring happiness back into her life, but she just won't accept it. It is hard and we keep praying a lot for her, hopefully she will change her mind.

This week was a great one. I passed my 3-month mark for my mission, which is crazy. Things are getting more and more normal here, meaning that I am less and less surprised by the differences between here and America but it is still new and hard. I know all the prayers said at home for me are a main reason for that. Thanks so much.

This is for Malan really... So, you know how in movies you will see old men playing chess on the side of the streets and you think does that ever actually happen. In Indonesia it does, a lot!! I see old men playing chess all the time and for some reason each time I do I think of you Malan. I don't quite know why, but I just think that you would love that.

This is for Deborah... Ok, so I found what your new business endeavor should be: A Movable Clothing Mending Shop! So here in Indonesia people basically do whatever they can to earn money and sometimes they can get creative. A couple of days ago we were walking down the street and I saw this guy on a bike that had a sewing machine on the back of it. He rides around and people can bring out clothing to him and he will mend them. I thought it was Genius! I tried to get a picture of it, but wasn't quick enough. I'm hoping to see him again.

My funny story of the week: So we were visiting a less active woman's house. She wasn't too poor in that she had furniture and we weren't sitting on the floor, but apparently it wasn't too clean because we were in the middle of sharing a scripture with her (I was speaking at this point) and all of a sudden on the back wall I see the biggest rat known to man run across the wall. It was huge!! Literally I was for sure that he was going to stand up and with Charles 'Gonzo' Dickens tell me the story of The Christmas Carol. I couldn't believe it. Don't worry we left as soon as we could! But, just another experience that I don't think I would have anywhere else!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend in Atlanta this weekend. Enjoy that temple Hannah and Chris. I have been very humbled this past month, as I have seen such a desire and yen for a temple in Indonesia by the Saints here. It is prayed for in a lot of the prayers and talked about in church. I feel so blessed to help build up the church here so that one day they will get a temple in Indonesia. I know it will be a great day for the members here.

Oh and keep cheering for the Mavs. It is probably best that I am in Indonesia so that I never hear about American sports at all and don't think about missing the playoffs too much, because it is really sad. And if they go to the finals you better TiVo each game and save them for the next 15 months so I can watch them when I come home. Deal?

I love you all!! I know this church is true and that God lives and is our Heavenly Father. I have never been more sure of His existence and His love than I am now, because I feel it each day and I have to rely to on Him each day as I serve here. I know we have our Savior in Jesus Christ and that through Him all of our shortcomings are made up and that we can be made perfect as we try our hardest to follow the commandments and be obedient. I know these things are true. I love you and miss you. I hope you have a safe trip to Atlanta and enjoy trying to get another missionary out. What a task!! Thanks for being a wonderful family!

I love you!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Komodo Dragons

Komodo dragons have thrived in the harsh climate of Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years, although amazingly, their existence was unknown to humans until about 100 years ago.

Reaching 10 feet (3 meters) in length and more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms), Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards on Earth. They have long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge, muscular tails.

As the dominant predators on the handful of islands they inhabit, they will eat almost anything, including carrion, deer, pigs, smaller dragons, and even large water buffalo and humans. When hunting, Komodo dragons rely on camouflage and patience, lying in wait for passing prey. When a victim ambles by, the dragon springs, using its powerful legs, sharp claws and serrated, shark-like teeth to eviscerate its prey.

Animals that escape the jaws of a Komodo will only feel lucky briefly. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, the stricken creature usually dies of blood poisoning. Dragons calmly follow an escapee for miles as the bacteria takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to hone in on the corpse. A dragon can eat a whopping 80 percent of its body weight in a single feeding.

There is a stable population of about 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo, Gila Motang, Rinca, and Flores. However, a dearth of egg-laying females, poaching, human encroachment, and natural disasters has driven the species to endangered status.

Saya Suka Confrensi ... Dalam Bahasa Ingriss (I Love Confrence ... In English!)

Dear Family,

I hope everyone, especially Mom, was able to survive no letter yesterday. I'm sorry about that. No one in the whole mission could email so you weren't the only worried mother out there. But, thankfully we could take time out today to send you an email. As the subject references, We got to watch conference this past weekend, just one week behind the states. Fortunately, since I am in Jakarta and work a little bit with the English branch here I got to watch part of Conference in English, both of the Sunday Sessions, but had to watch the Saturday Sessions in Indonesian. It was definitely hard to understand fully but I could definitely understand the basic premise of most of the talks on Saturday, but let's just say that I am looking forward to the Conference Issue of the Liahona in English that I will get soon. But, the Sunday Sessions were amazing. Proud to report that I guessed the apostles speaking correctly in both sessions, and I didn’t even know who spoke in priesthood, so I'm sure I won! My favorite talk was Elder Christofferson's about how Heavenly Father is the gardener in our lives. I felt it really applied to me as I sometimes question how in the world did I end up in Jakarta, Indonesia. But I've learned so much about trusting Heavenly Father and that He knows exactly who I am becoming and what I will be able to accomplish here and in my life. It was a great talk! And... I guess all the other ones were really good too.

The highlight of the week was yesterday, when I pretty much completed the only thing I really wanted to do when I came to Indonesia ... I saw and petted a komodo dragon!!!! Yep, it is true! Me and my companion along with one of the senior couples here went to what is called Taman Mini and it is kind of the tourist attraction where you can go and learn about all the cultures of Indonesia. It was really fun. Part of it was about the animals of Indonesia. When we went to go see the komodo dragon the worker there told us we could touch it. I don't think I will ever get that opportunity again. Not only that, but then I held a 6 foot python!! The worker wanted to put it around my neck, but I wouldn't let him. Maybe at the end of my mission, I don't want to peek too soon!

The more exciting thing is that we have a baptism this Sunday. It is for a 14-year-old boy named Michael. The missionaries for about a year have taught his family now. The mom, Ibu Cynthia would get baptized also but she and her husband aren't legally married and they are too poor to get that done and too proud to let anyone help them. But the son Michael has a really sweet testimony. He is so excited to receive the Priesthood and pass the sacrament. And he has started saving money for a mission. It has been very exciting to help teach him in the weeks leading up to his baptism and hopefully his family will follow suit in the upcoming months. We were also supposed to have a family, a mom, dad, and two sons, get baptized also but they backed out last week. The wife doesn't want to give up working on Sundays, the husband doesn't want to get baptized without his wife, and the kids don't want to do it alone. Kind of frustrating, but we continue to work with them and pray for them and hopefully soon they will get baptized.

As for teaching Muslims, we have to get permission for the mission president to teach them. And we are teaching one Muslim lady, Sarah, but right now it is more informative about what is Christianity and what are Mormons, but last night she told us there were things about Islam that didn't make sense and that Christianity might answer those. So we are hopeful, but still have to be careful. But usually we just use them as references to find out if they know any Christians. But we can't talk about the gospel unless they ask us about it first so it takes awhile.

Actually, I do get to see my mission president at least once a week. Since I'm in Jakarta I go to the mission home once a week for District Meeting and he joins in for that. It has been nice to get to know him and his wife better. Definitely a blessing, but once I move from Jakarta it won't be like that. The smog is definitely pretty bad especially when we are on the road traveling. I hear it isn't bad at all in the rest of the country so I'll just have to endure it for a couple of months. The rain hasn't been too bad. It rains about every third day or so and usually it is the annoying light drizzle that makes it unbearably humid, so I don't like that. But we have had a few bad rainstorms which are really, really loud! But it is getting out of rainy season so it is just hot now. I have already started getting a nice tan line. It should be marvelous by the time I come home. The other cities sisters serve in are Malang, Solo, and then the other one can change but right now it is Jogjakarta. Solo and JogJa are kind of like the cities everyone wants to go to and love to serve in and Malang is the one where people dread going because it is so hard. Jakarta is the one no one really likes also because it is not truly Indonesia, but rather just an overcrowded, run down city. So I will be excited to end my mission is some of the other cities.

As for Mother's Day, I realized yesterday that that was coming up soon. Pretty exciting!! And I actually think I will be able to go to the Mission Home and use their computers to Skype. I'm not sure yet, but most likely I will be able to. But it will probably be Sunday night for me, so Sunday morning for you. Is your church still at 11? Make sure Dad doesn't have any meetings!! I'm pretty excited about it. And I think you should just move Bevan's temple trip to that weekend so everyone will be in town to talk to me. It seems perfect to me!

I'm glad things are doing to well at home. Congrats to Simon and his job!!! That is so exciting. I'm happy you will be in Provo when I come back. It will be a party with you, Malan, and me! Congrats to Bevan on passing your interview. I have been worried... Not really, but congrats that is awesome. I can't wait for you to go out on your mission. And I'm happy the Mavs and Rangers are doing well. All I hear about here is soccer, which I don't quite know or care about. I definitely miss American Sports!! How is Grandma doing? I haven't heard much about her in awhile. I hope she enjoys my emails. I miss you and love you Grandma!!

I'm going to try and share a funny story each week. So we went to go visit a less active lady who usually stands us up. So we just stopped by unannounced to visit her and she was home. We went into her house and I immediately started to sweat ... about 90 degrees in her house. It was bad. She goes to the kitchen to get something for us to drink and I am praying it is just some water. But instead she brings us each a cup of hot chocolate!! I couldn't believe it!! That was the last thing I needed! But I drank it not to be rude and I haven't been able to cool off since. All for the Lord and His work!!

Well, that's about all for this week. I'm doing better each day and am definitely beginning to love being a missionary here. This is a great work and I feel honored to take part in it! I love you all and miss you!! Till Next week!





Bright orange and noisy ... easily describes a bajaj. These traditional transportation vehicles became popular in India where they were developed with Vespa and later imported to and built in Indonesia. Similar vehicles are known as rickshaw in Africa, Tuk-Tuk in Thailand and MotoTaxi in Peru. With an estimated 20,000bajaj in Jakarta, it is evident they are very popular here too!

Bajaj seat two passengers comfortably and up to five passengers - depending on the size of the passenger of course. Their areas of operation are limited to one mayoralty in the city. On the side of the driver's doors you'll see a big circle in which the area is designated ... Jakarta Barat, Jakarta Pusat, etc., with a different color for each mayoralty. The drivers are not allowed to go out of their area and aren't allowed onto many main roads, so routes may be a bit circuitous.

Fare determination is by bargaining. It's always best to ask an Indonesian what they would pay for a trip to a particular destination from your point of departure, and then bargain and pay accordingly.

A ride in a bajaj is hot, utilizing AC alam - or nature's air conditioning. The ride will also be noisy, smelly (car and bus fumes), bumpy, harrowing, and a grand adventure. My favorite maneuver is when the bajajdriver decides to flip a u-turn in the middle of the road.

There is some protection from the rain, unless it's blowing hard. You'd think you'd have to be careful about robbery since the vehicle is so open - but it's not as common as robberies in buses. Having said all that ... bajaj are extremely convenient in many areas of Jakarta for a short drive.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nama Saya Sister Blake, Tidak Sister Black (My name is Sister Blake, not Sister Black)

Hey Family,

I hope everyone is doing well. I'm definitely doing better; I still have some hard times but am definitely feeling your prayers and love. Thanks so much for being such a support for me. As for me, I think I have said that sentence about a million times since I have gotten here. Apparently to Indonesians my name looks like Black the color, which most of them, especially the kids in school, and then they proceed to laugh and laugh at the irony that my name is black yet I am white. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone laugh so hard so when I met the Branch President in the branch I am in. He could not get over that fact. I, however, have yet to see the irony and hilarity in my name, but I guess that is one difference between Indonesians and Americans.

That is really only one of the many things I have had to adjust to with being an American in Indonesia. Luckily being in Jakarta, especially when we go downtown, you will see a couple other white people occasionally, but in the neighborhoods, or compons as they are called here, people always stare at me. The coolness of it has worn off and now it is weird, hopefully soon it will just feel normal. The kids love to run up to me and give me high fives and shake my hand. Most people on the buses love to try out their English on me, which unfortunately can sometimes be only swear words. I try to change the subject after that. I got my first proposal the other day. We were on the bus going home after a long, long day, I was pretty tired, and this guitar player came on the bus to play and get money. He noticed the only white girl on the bus, in his limited English dedicated his song to me, and then afterwards told me he loved me and he wanted to marry me. I tried to explain to him the mission rules and that I didn't think it would work out. He seemed crushed, but I think he will live. So that was exciting and definitely journal worthy.

I'm starting to teach more in lessons, which is exciting. Me and my companion have a good thing going where the investigator will ask a question, I will try to understand it, but usually can't, she will explain it to me in English and then I will try to answer it in Indonesian and then she will really answer it. It's getting better and I'm getting more and more confident in how much I can communicate. It can get frustrating at times when I can't say exactly what I want to say but I just keep telling myself that I am not meant to be a perfect missionary now, but this is a learning experience for me to. That usually helps me keep perspective.

The really exciting news here is that Elder Bednar is coming the middle of May to visit Indonesia, do leadership training, and then spend time with the missionaries. We get a three-hour meeting with him and maybe a lunch if things work out. All the missionaries are pretty excited about it. Part of the meeting will be a question and answer thing where he will answer whatever doctrinal questions we have, so if you have any burning doctrinal questions let me know and I’ll ask them for you.

Now I will try to answer Mom's questions ... Yes, our house is big and I get the impression a lot of the missionaries places are pretty big, but we usually have 4 sisters living in it, so I think that is why it is big, but right now we just have two. No, none of the houses are really that big here. Some of them are one-room houses that share a community bathroom with the neighbors. Those are pretty sad to see. But most are a living room, with a bedroom and a bathroom. Nothing too large but enough for them. The food is getting better. I have definitely had some things I’ve liked and some I haven't. Everything always has rice. I don't think I will ever want to it eat again when I come home. The best is the fried rice that you can get. I want to learn how to make it. People always feed us here. Depending on their wealth, it can be a full meal or just some snack, but we are always fed. About once a week members will feed us. I think my favorite thing so far has been to get to know the members. While there aren't very many, at least in Jakarta they are very willing to serve and help the missionaries. We use a lot of public transportation. The bus usually, or ankots, bajais, or sometimes we will walk. I don't think I can describe adequately what those are, so you will have to wait till I come home. In two of the four cities where sisters are they have bikes. So that's something to look forward to. We contact people mostly through the public transportation. But we can't talk to them about the church until they ask us, so it can be hard at times to get peoples name and number, especially since they aren't too willing to listen if they are Muslim, which a lot of them are. But more and more the members are willing to give us referrals and we do a lot in training them how to talk to their friends about the church, since they can talk more openly initially. It is definitely a challenge for the missionary work here, but we get creative and try to meet as many people as we can. I have gotten a couple of the dear elders, it takes a while to get here also, but I do enjoy getting the mail at other times during the week. Because I live so close to the mission home, at least for now I get the mail y'all send pretty regularly. Thanks so much. I can't remember what other questions you had, asked them again next week and I will try to answer them.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TAYLOR BLUTH!!!! I hope you read these letters also. And I hope you have a marvelous 21st! Sorry I’m not there with you, but we will celebrate when I come home.

I'm glad things are still going well at home. It makes it a little easier here to know that y'all are all taken care of. I'm sure the house it very quiet now, which is really weird. But that's good too. And I'm glad the Rangers are back in season, hopefully they will have another great year. Cheer for me! And keep cheering for the Mavs for me also!! Congrats Malan for your computer science triumph. I've never been prouder of you!!!

Thanks again for all the prayers that have been said for me. This definitely hasn't been the easiest transition for me but knowing all the support and love that I have at home has made my life here a little bit easier. Thanks so much Mom and Dad for always being there for me. I was reading this week about the Sons of Mosiah and their mission to the Lamanites and I noticed there were a couple of references of how Mosiah had to entrust his sons to the Lord and how much faith he had to have to let them go. And while Indonesia isn't quite as dangerous as the going to the Lamanites, it definitely is a different world. I have very impressed with the faith that both of you have to let your timid, kind of sheltered, American daughter go to this unknown world to do the Lord's work. Thanks so much for your faith and support. (Are you crying Mom and Dad, because that was my goal?) I know this church is true and I know that Heavenly Father lives and loves us. I know He is watching over me and I will be taken care of. I love you all and love the Lord. I miss you and will email again next week!!! Keep praying for me!

Love, Leah

More about Jakarta

Finding places in Jakarta, especially smaller buildings not on the main arteries, tends to be difficult due to poor signage and chaotic street names. Sometimes, the same name is used for different streets in different parts of the city, and it's often difficult to find the correct street/address without the postal code/region. A sign with a street name facing you indicates the name of the street you are about to enter, not that of the cross street.

Alleys off a main road are often simply numbered, in a sequence that may not be logical, so a street address like "Jl. Mangga Besar VIII/21" means house number 21 on alley number 8 (VIII) off or near the main road of Jl. Mangga Besar.

If you don't want to waste time, ask for the descriptions/name of nearby buildings, billboards, color of the building/fence and the postal code of the address. If you still cannot find the address, start asking people in the street, especially ojek (motorcyle taxi drivers).