Monday, October 31, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Unbeknownst to me, the Mobil wives had a welcoming committee of sorts, led by a woman named Pat Baig.  Their mission was to ease the new wives into life on the compound as seamlessly as possible, 'cause, as everybody knows, "if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

So, instead of sitting alone in my sad empty house that first week, with nothing to do but feel sorry for myself, I had someone knocking on my door each morning, ready to escort me on another adventure!

Pat herself had made certain our house was spic and span before we arrived, and that it contained all the furniture, linens, dishes and cooking utensils it was supposed to have.  She also stocked our refrigerator with a casserole for that first night, and a few basics such as milk, bread, and eggs.  She then assigned six or seven different women to call on me, each with a different task.  Peggy volunteered for the first mission, that of meeting us at the airport.  Another lady came calling early Monday morning, and took the kids and I down to the school to show us around, introduce us to the principal and their teachers,  to remind me that the kids and dads would be coming home for lunch each day, and to make sure I volunteered to help out at the school!

Miss Becky teaches cooking to the younger classes.
Miss Patti showed up the next day, and introduced me to the three different grocery stores I'd be shopping from.  The one closest to us, near the school in Bukit Indah, was the one most likely to get American products, such as Philadelphia cream cheese, or the occasional Dr. Pepper!  The one in the Indonesian section of the compound carried more gift-like items which you could use as party favors, like little tea or glassware sets, and lots of crappy stuff the kids loved to spend their allowance on, such as cap guns and candy cigarettes.  The third one, where you had the best selection of plastic household stuff like dish drainers and storage crates, was out at Pioneer Camp.  Pioneer camp was a bunch of portable buildings and trailers where the very first people to come over were housed, but which was now used for things like the bank, the commissary, the beauty salon and the church.  The buildings left a lot to be desired, but they had the advantage of being near the beach, and there were even some boats that we were allowed to use.  Patti was the perfect one to show me the ropes of grocery shopping, since she and her hubby were serious foodies, and did more entertaining than anyone else on the compound!

Pioneer Camp
Another woman, though I don't remember which, drove me into Lhok Seumawe, showed me around the market, and introduced me to the fabric stalls.  It might have been my friend Crys, another of those we had known in Midland and Houston, and who's kids had played with ours a few times.  She was an avid seamstress, so she would have known her way around the fabric section and tailor shops.

A gal named Teresa came by one day, just to visit and share some home-baked cookies, and another one introduced me to the wonders of our "Beauty Parlor", which was housed in one of those trailers out at Pioneer Camp.  It may not have looked like much, but believe you me, it was everybody's favorite place to be!  Where else could you get a facial, a manicure or a haircut, for about $3 each!  Not to mention the fabulous head, neck and shoulder massage they threw in for free, each time they shampooed your hair (and the juicy tidbits of gossip you always picked up in the process).

The most memorable day was the one where Miss Melody escorted me around.  We had been warned never to wear shorts off the compound or to our husbands' office building, but in our own sections of the compound, we could wear whatever we pleased.  Since Melody was just going to show me the pool, tennis courts, golf course, clinic, lending library, etc., I wore my favorite new outfit -- a 2-piece cotton knit Liz Claiborne ensemble purchased just before we left.  It was a boat-necked top and matching culottes that hit just above my knees, made in a green and white pin stripe, and I even had green sandals that matched perfectly.  I thought I looked pretty spiffy!  Only problem was, Melody had an errand she needed to run while we were out and about, which involved stopping off at one of the administrative offices -- one where lots of Indonesian men were working.  As we walked down the long hallway, men started poking their heads out of the doorways, some coming out into the hall.  Suddenly there was lots of chattering and laughing going on, and I had the nasty feeling that it was directed at us!  "Um, Melody?  Do you have any idea what they are saying?"  "Well, not exactly, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with your exposed legs."  I don't think I ever wore that outfit again.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Dearest Friends,

The three people "lurking" around our house all day were our staff -- the ones we inherited from John's predecessor, Doug May.  You had to have a driver, since we expats weren't allowed to drive off-compound, and you had to have a gardener since there was a lot to care for, and we had no equipment. However, since I was still of the same mind about live-in help as I had been in those early days, the place where I dug my heels in was by not hiring a live-in housekeeper, a cook, and a nanny.  Instead, we had Asnah.  Asnah-the-Wonderful!

Asnah, who didn't want to live in, because the Mays had built a nice little house in town before they left, just for Asnah and her mother to live in; Asnah, whom our kids adored, and who was more than happy to babysit whenever we needed something more than a teenager; Asnah, who claimed she wasn't a good cook, but who always fixed a lovely dinner for the kids when we were away, had one waiting for us whenever we came back from out of town, and who's recipes are still some of our favorites, to this very day; Asnah, who wasn't afraid of dogs; Asnah, who left by 4:00 every day, and took a day and a half off each weekend, leaving us in blissful solitude!

Of course, our Lexie had no way of knowing all this yet, as we had just arrived a couple of days before.  All she knew was that her parents had been told they needed to attend some afternoon event down at the restaurant, no kids were allowed, and she was not happy about it.  Not one little bit!  And she was going to make them regret leaving her with this stranger.

Danny Reeh drove past her about a block from our house, and something about her posture and the fiercely determined look on her face made him pull over.  A few moments later he came into the restaurant and made a beeline for us, grinning his head off.  Much to our surprise, he announced that we had a visitor outside.  We glanced over towards the windows, and there was Alexis, hands on hips, eyes shooting daggers at us.  I left John at the party, made my apologies, and went home with my daughter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Earlier, when I asked the kids about their memories of those first days abroad, Alexis said "I was really excited to start at the new school, and was pretty amazed with the compound. Everything was so green and lush, the exact opposite of Midland, Texas. It was like living out my own fairy tale."  That may have been true, once we got settled in. However, there were a few rough patches right at first!

Gone Native!  Our friends Danny and Peggy, with young Beth and Travis.
By the time the co-plane landed at the tiny, open-air airport nearest the compound, we were more than a little frazzled -- and still had at least an hour's drive to go, if I remember correctly.  Lucky for us, our friend Peggy knew exactly how we'd be feeling, and just what we would need.  She met us at the airport in her nice comfy van (not the pedi-cab, or becak, in the picture, thankfully), with the AC cranked up and a cooler full of sodas and snacks.  I can't tell you how good it was to be greeted by a familiar face!  Unfortunately, that  would be the last we'd see of her for a good long while, as both her parents were seriously ill, and she was heading back to the states to care for them.

Lexi's new bedroom.
I think it was walking into our new home on the compound -- the one with nothing in it but the company-provided basics, and which wasn't a thing like what they were accustomed to -- that brought Alexis down to earth with a jolt.  Neither of our shipments had arrived yet, and until they did, the kids had nothing with which to entertain themselves other than what was in their suitcase and backpack.  There were three strangers hanging about the house and garage all day, watching everything they did.  The only other kid on our street was just four years old, and we had arrived at the beginning of the weekend, so they wouldn't be going to school for a couple of days yet.  School itself was another concern for Lex, since we hadn't been able to get there until a week or two after the semester started.  I'm sure she thought everyone but her would already know the teachers and have friends.  Yep, it's easy to see why Lex might have been having a bit of an anxiety attack about then.  Still, I'm just not sure how she figured on running away.  From an island.  Halfway around the globe from where she wanted to be!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Dearest Friends,

The Singapore airport is one of the most beautiful, easily navigated airports in the world, and Singapore Airlines has always been the epitome of luxury to me, with it's serenely exotic attendants clad in full-length batik sarongs with fitted tops.  However, from that point on, each leg of our journey brought our kids just a bit further down from the stratosphere.  The closer we got to our final destination, the wider their eyes, and the more serious their expressions.  I knew exactly how they felt!
image from
It's all a bit hazy now, but I'm pretty sure we landed in Medan, the largest city on the island of Sumatra, and had to clear customs there.  The airport there is nothing like the one in Singapore!  I remember a large cavernous building, old and none too clean; sweltering heat; a small kiosk selling newspapers, candy, some bottled Fanta sodas, etc.; and the smell of those clove-scented cigarettes.  You know how I said the scent of Tiger Balm whisks me straight back to Singapore?  Well, it's clove-scented cigarettes that take me to Indonesia!  

As soon we had cleared customs, a swarm of little men in bright yellow or orange jumpsuits descended upon us and began grabbing our bags. They each insisted that they should be the one to help us, and that we should follow them, then they all headed off in different directions!  You always ended up having to tip five or six different people just to get them all back.  It was very disconcerting, and I never quite got the hang of keeping things under control.  My friend Crys always referred to them as "the bumblebees."  Of course, I should add that, in all that time, we never actually lost anything, and the total of what we paid those five or six was still probably less than what you would tip a single porter here in the states.  So, as they say, it's all relative.  It was pretty overwhelming to the kids though, especially since they were both very blonde when they were young, which made all the Indonesians want to touch their hair.

Since the company plane wouldn't be leaving for several more hours, we'd been instructed to take a cab to Mobil Oil's guest house, where we sat in a daze, along with several other Mobil employees, until it was time to head back to the airport.  At least it had A.C.!

The next leg of the journey was the part I'd been dreading the most.  Thanks to my propensity for motion-sickness, I was very leery of small planes.  Thankfully though, the company plane (or co-plane, as everyone called it) was a small jet with a very smooth ride, and I am happy to report that I never once got sick on it!  The planes were primarily for moving cargo to and from the plant sight, and the number of passengers allowed on depended upon how many rows of seats had to be removed to make room for all the cargo.  There was usually a huge pile of it, strapped down and covered with a net, right there in the cabin with us!  Finally, we took off.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Dearest Friends,

I thought those backpacks were a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself, and they did, in fact, keep the kids quite entertained.  For an hour or two.  Then we only had to put up with another 18 or 20 hours of "Are we there yet?"  You think long car trips with small kids are tough?  Try being cooped up on a plane for two days, with no way to "pull over" and let them run off some of that pent up energy!  In Alexis' own words, "The plane trip was exciting at first, with our new backpacks full of goodies that I couldn't wait to take out and play with, but it got pretty tedious, pretty quick.  I couldn't seem to sleep on the plane, and the food was really nasty!" (she ate nothing but rolls the entire flight, and most every flight for the next three years)

In order to break up some of that flying time, and to ease them into Indonesia gradually, as he had done with me that first time, John arranged for us to stop in Singapore for a few days, on the way over.  Woohoo!  Have I ever mentioned how much I looooooove Singapore?  Here's what Lex had to say about it: "Singapore was amazing.  I remember us taking a cab to our hotel in the middle of the night, and just staring out the window the entire time.  The next day, I saw that it was green everywhere, even though we were in the middle of a huge city.  I couldn't get over how different everything was!"

We made many trips to Singapore over the next three years, so it's hard for the kids to pinpoint which memories are from which visit.  Also, Austin wasn't quite six yet, so his memories are a bit more hazy than Alexis', and, as with all siblings, their memories of the same events can be vastly different!  I asked if either of them remembered our trip to Tiger Balm Gardens, one of three mythological theme parks in Asia that were created by the Aw family, to promote their line of analgesic salves, Tiger Balm.  Asians think it's almost a miracle salve.  The ads say "It works where it hurts!", and they believe it.  They don't just put it on sore muscles, they put it on everything.  If you have a migraine, just dab some on your temples!

image from
Alexis replied to that question with, "Was Tiger Balm Gardens the place with the boat ride showing all the levels of hell, and that horrible stage show about the spirits of the four elements?", while Austin remembered it as the cool place "with the really funny stage show, where they pulled a guy out of the audience and made him pretend to climb something, then squashed him down into a squatting position, then made him try to climb up, then squashed him down again, over and over until the poor guy was about to collapse."  I don't remember a boat ride (she may be confusing that with another place that came later) but I do remember some pretty disturbing statues and dioramas, including the Ten Courts of Hell, which was set into the 60 meter tail of that huge dragon.

image from
What John and I remember most about the trip, while the kids barely remember this at all, is hooking up with old friends SS and SM, from our first stint in Indonesia, who just happened to be living in Singapore at the time.  SS was now married to a lovely woman (German or Dutch?) who was quite happy to spend her life hopping from one place to another, and they had just adopted a baby girl (from Romania, if I remember correctly).  SM and his auburn-haired beauty now had two sons who were around the same age as our kids, so they invited us to leave the kids with their housekeeper/babysitter, ordered pizza for them all, then the three couples went to one of the open-air seafood restaurants that overlook the ocean, gorged on chili crab and pepper crab, and caught up on all the news of friends from back in the good ol' days.  A magical evening for us, but all Austin remembers is "playing Samicon (the Japanese version of Nintendo) and watching a Stephen King movie (Yikes!) called Stand By Me, or something like that." (The Stand?)

The one place where all our memories are in sync, is on the upper floors of a building called Shaw Centre.  Shaw Centre was one of those ubiquitous Asian shopping centers that looks more like a tall office building than a mall.  In the basement was a Japanese supermarket and a food court (which sold foods our kids had never seen before), then there were several stories filled with shops, mostly selling electronics and video games.  One day we decided to keep going on the escalator, just for the fun of it, to see what was on the uppermost floors.  They were primarily filled with offices, with a few masseuses, acupuncturists, and clinics mixed in.  Several of the clinics had their windows plastered with photographs, a way to advertise the various problems they could relieve you of.  The kids ran over to take a closer look, and John and I couldn't help but follow.  The photo of someone's behind?  Someone with the worst case of hemorrhoids ever?  That is a memory we all share quite clearly, as much as we'd like to forget it!

As I was surfing the internet for info about Tiger Balm Gardens, I suddenly had the urge to go rummaging around in our medicine cabinet.  You'll never guess what I found!

A jar of Tiger Balm!  It has to be at least 20 years old, and neither of us ever uses it anymore.  So why have we never thrown it away?  Well, probably because, each time we remove the lid and take a sniff, as I did just now, it whisks us straight back to Singapore!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Dearest Friends,

I almost forgot!  There's one more little fete I should probably tell you about, before we board that plane -- the going away pool party that my boss at Chez Vous gave for me.  Not that it's any more important than all the others.  Just that it provides a bit of background for events to come.

You see, I worked with this one girl whom we shall call Aerobics Queen.  She had the personality type I refer to as "the perpetual cheerleader."  She was cute and perky and could be a lot of fun to be around, but she really liked being the center of attention.  In fact, it was more than a like.  It was a need. A need to be adored.  She actually was a cheerleader in high school, but now, in addition to working evening and weekend catering gigs, where she loved to flirt with our cute French chef while her engineer hubby took care of their two babies at home, she taught a bazillian aerobics classes at the Y, since her kids could stay in the nursery there for free while she taught.

Anyhoo, at the time of my going away party, AQ was pregnant with her third child, and I don't think her oldest was even four yet.  She loved being pregnant more than anyone I had ever met.  She just ate it up when people went on and on about the fact that she was still teaching aerobics right up to the very end, and telling her what amazing shape she was in.  It was just that bit about taking care of the kids after they were born that she was none too crazy about.  So, at this party, I got the feeling that AQ must not have been getting her due attention, because it wasn't long before she started making funny little noises and rubbing her belly.  She said she thought she might be having contractions.  Not enough of a concern to necessitate leaving the party mind you.  Just enough for her to feel she needed to go lie down in the master bedroom, and have everyone hover around, giving her back rubs and what-have-you, for the rest of the party.  Of course, the baby didn't come until weeks later, after we were settled in Indonesia.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Here are a few of the photos Dear Hubby sent home to us, of the vacant house we would be moving into:

The bathroom
One of the kids' bedrooms
Our cul-de-sac, which we would share with the Pulsifers, a young Canadian family,
 and the Nybakes, two of the teachers
Our dining area, with a door into the kitchen on the right, and the garage ahead
Our Kitchen
Our living area and entry hall.  DH explained that it was one room divided, by that shelving unit, into  a guest space and a family space, which was the Indonesian way.  However, most of the expats put the divider flat against the wall, making it one large living area.
The back porch room
Our hallway study and storage area
The back yard

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The Reeh's at the company beach
Dearest Friends,

John spent about a month in Indonesia, shadowing a guy named DM (who, almost 20 years later, would come to work with John at the company he helped start in Houston).  When DM and his family left, not only did John step into his position, we pretty much stepped into their lives, inheriting most of their staff, and possibly even their house (can't remember for sure).

A beach picnic
Not only were there different kinds of houses for Mobil families and P.T. Arun families (P.T. Arun being the Indonesian company that Mobil was partnering with for this LNG plant), there were different styles of housing in each side of the compound, depending upon a person's pay grade.  Since none of those for John's "class" were vacant at the time, we were to take a different one, with the option of moving when a better one came available.  John met and had dinner with a family who would be living next door to us, so was able to send pictures, not only of what our house looked like empty (not a speck of color anywhere!), but also of what it could become with a little TLC (whew!).

The clinic.  I believe the supermarket was right next door, in a similar building.
Our side of the compound was called Balik Poppin, and the Mobil side, where the Reeh's lived, was known as Bukit Indah.  Their  houses were a bit more Americanized than ours, with central air and some carpeting, which I was a little envious of at first.  But, as it turned out, ours were better suited to the climate, and would end up having less problems with mold and mildew.  So, as they say, "When in Rome..."!  Anyhoo, Peggy was kind enough to go around and take lots of pictures of the compound for us (the ones you see here) as soon as I sent that first letter to her, and they went a long way towards easing our concerns and helping us make up our minds.  I had purchased a new backpack for each of the kids, and had gradually been filling them with anything I could find that might entertain them on the long trip over, plus a few wrapped "very special" gifts (their first Gameboys?).  They were allowed to peek, but not touch, until we were actually on the airplane, so they were both rarin' to go!  We no longer feared what lay ahead, but we did have a few concerns about what we were leaving behind.

The School Yard
The Pool
John did indeed make it home in time for the final pack-up; in time for a slew of final weight-adding-get-togethers hosted by friends (we'd surely lose it all as soon as we got to Indonesia, right?  What with all that outdoor activity, and no fast food anywhere?); in time to help me host a giant pre-birthday/going-away bash for our kids and all their friends at the roller rink; and most importantly, in time for one final Hill Country fling with the Sanfords!

Rafting in New Braunfels
Our main worries now were our families, and our dog Munchkin.  Taking a dog to Indonesia was probably not the best idea in the world.  Indonesians do not keep dogs as pets, and are mostly afraid of them.  There was a vet there, but dogs were definitely not her specialty.  Plus, your dog could not fly over with you.  They must be shipped over after you have arrived and are there to accept them on the other side.  Our Munchkin was no spring chicken.  She was at least 12 or 13 by then, so the question was, which would be harder on her?  To make that long journey alone?  Or to be deserted by the only family she had ever known?  We opted for the journey.

My sisters were already planning their trips over to see us, but our parents were no spring chickens either.  My folks couldn't believe we were taking their grand-babies away to some godforsaken country that they had no intention of ever setting foot in, and John's parents, well, that was our biggest concern of all.  Over the past several years, John's dad had been having some episodes where he just wasn't himself -- hiding stuff from us all, forgetting how to do things that used to be second nature to him, getting lost, etc. -- but he refused to admit anything was wrong or to see a doctor.  Finally we had to force the issue, and found that he'd been having "mini-strokes".  He had a more serious one, that caused temporary paralysis on one side, the year before.  Though he was mostly recovered from that, our biggest fear was that he'd have another while we were gone, and Theda would be left to handle it all alone, since John's only sibling lived halfway across the country.  But, amazing person that she was, Theda insisted that we go.  She knew that if John passed up this opportunity, he might well end up out of a job.  "Besides," she said.  "I've always dreamed of traveling to exotic places, and I can't wait to come visit you and the kids!"  So, we went.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Writing about this era of our lives will be quite a bit different from writing about that first stint overseas.  There are no journals to help me along, but many more friends whom I have stayed in touch with, and whom I am hoping will contribute "their side" of the story, either in the comments or with guest posts.  We also have many, many more photos from this period (you know how it is when you have kids!) -- photos which have taken me days to pull together into any semblance of order, since most were tossed into boxes without any dates or labels.  I'm still working on that, in fact, and I'm hoping these photos will take the place of my journals, as memory joggers and story inducers.  And then there are my two kids, whom I thought would be the best resource of all.  This is how that's going so far:

Mom: Hey kids, I need your help with something -- not too difficult, I promise! I'm fixing to start writing about our time in Indonesia when you guys were little, and I'd love to start off with a "guest post" from you two.  Doesn't have to be very long -- mainly I just want to hear, in your own words, how you felt when we told you where we were moving, what you were most looking forward to about the move, what scared you the most, how you pictured this unknown place in your head, and how the reality compared to this mental image.  Easy, right?  Only I need it as soon as possible, so JEPAT! JEPAT! (can't remember how to spell that)
Alexis:  Unfortunately, I don't remember much about your announcement that we would be moving. Actually, I don't remember it at all. I do remember sitting in P.E. We were going around the circle, and everybody was saying something good that happened. When it was my turn, I said that I was moving to Indonesia. The teacher looked at me kind of funny, then said "That's not a good thing, that's a sad thing!" (Lex did add some good memories about the trip over and her first impressions, but I'm saving those for later)
Austin: no reply yet
Mom: I'm trying to get all our photos from Indonesia put into chronological order before I start writing, and it's much harder than I expected!  I may need your help now and then.  For now, lets just get your birthday parties, Halloween costumes, and our vacations straight, which will then help me group some of the other photos.
First year: Austin had "the worst birthday ever" at our house, almost as soon as we got there, and Lex had her fairy party that January.  Halloween, I remember helping out with that great spook house (that you guys wouldn't go in), but I don't remember what either of you wore that year.  Could it have been a witch costume and ninja pj's that we brought with us? For vacation, I think we just went to Penang on our own, but a bunch of other Mobil families were there at the same time.
Second Year -- Austin had a Batman pool party I think, and Lex had her 50's birthday party, with the car out front and candy cigarettes.  For Halloween I think maybe Lex had the pink and black satin cancan-dancer outfit, and Austin was the headless horseman.  Does that sound right?  For vacation we went to Phuket and Phi Phi Island, plus, when Aunt Kathy came to visit, we took her to Lake Toba and Penang.
The last year we were there, Lex had her Japanese restaurant birthday party, but I have no idea what we did for Austin's birthday.  Do either of you remember?  For Halloween, I think Lex had that old-timey outfit I made out of lace curtains and flowered cushion cover fabric, and I think Austin used part of his headless-horseman costume with a grodie mask to be a pirate.  Our vacation that year was going to Australia with the Halls and Hunts.  Right?
Austin: I've just realized that I barely remember anything. I remember the headless horseman outfit but I have zero recollection of being a ninja. I don't think I'm going to be a ton of help on this. I do remember the worst birthday ever, though =P Also, you sent an email earlier asking us to write something about moving there. I really don't remember anything from that time. I have a fuzzy memory of watching dad's home video showing off square toilets, and I remember the first day of kindergarten at I.S.O.L, because Chaz and Jordan both had red hair and I automatically assumed they were brothers. But beyond that it's just weird out of order events. I think I was just too young to be really analyzing anything that was going on. I definitely don't remember being particularly upset about moving to the other side of the world. I guess I was always pretty open minded about it. 

Chaz, Jordan and Austin
Mom: One more thing, which teachers did you have each year?
Lex: It all sounds correct to me, but I don't remember what Austin's birthdays were.  Third grade I had Mrs. Nybake, the dragon lady.  Fourth was Mrs. Poulin, and the last year it was Mr. Jacoby.
Austin: Kindergarten was Mrs. Poulin?  1st grade was Mr. Zavala (they mixed in 1st and 2nd grade that year, possibly 3rd), and then 2nd grade I had Mrs. Zavala. That was the year that started out with 5 kids, but then Nikki and Emily moved and it was just me, Ryan, and Trent for the rest of the year. That was pretty neat. 

Monday, October 3, 2011


Passport Photos
(hubby must have done his
separately, in a hurry!)
Dearest Friends,

OK, I'm sure you must have realized that, though I ended my last post with a blithe "so we loaded up our trunks and we moved to Indonesia", it was a bit more complicated than that!  There were passports to be obtained, physicals and immunizations to be had, inventories to be taken, packing to be done, a house to be sold, stuff to be put into storage, stuff to be purchased, a dog who had to travel separately from us, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!  I dreaded all those shots and blood-work more than anything -- not for myself this time, but for the sake of my poor kids.  I fully expected screaming hissy fits, but neither of them even cried!

They needed my husband in Indonesia a.s.a.p., to train with the fellow he'd be replacing.  So, he went on ahead of us, but swore he would be back for the final pack-up, and to make the journey over with the kids and I.  I wasn't crazy about having to deal with everything else on my own, but at least this way he could be my eyes and ears, send photos, and give me a better idea of what to expect.  If only we'd had e-mail and Skype back then!

Despite its teal blue walls, that house sold faster than any before or since.  It was gone in three days.  The houses in Indonesia came with furniture, so a lot of our stuff would go into storage.  My job was to figure out what needed to go into our small air freight shipment, what could go by sea, and what needed to go with us on the plane.  Plus, I needed separate inventories for each part, including all the stuff going into storage, with estimated values for every single item.  I thought it was a nightmare the first time we went over, when we hardly had any possessions.  Imagine it fifteen years later, with two kids, and a four-bedroom-houseful of toys and gee-gaws.  It was enough to make you change your mind about going!

John was calling constantly with his ideas for things I should buy and add to the shipments, and our friends who were already there sent suggestions as well: Christmas and birthday presents for my own kids, plus extra gifts to take to any birthday parties they might be invited to (it was such a small school, they were friends with kids of all ages, and got invited to just about all the parties); gift wrap and party decorations; birthday, Christmas, and greeting cards for all occasions; cake pans for making birthday cakes; school and craft supplies; clothes and underwear to last all of us for a year, etc.  It was mind boggling!  One lady even suggested that I should bring a year's worth of toilet paper, but I chose to ignore that recommendation.  My hiney's just not all that picky.

My friend Karen thought I'd lost my mind, and could not for the life of her understand why I would leave my great friends, job, church, and neighborhood to go off and live in the jungle somewhere, but she showed up at the house early one morning, and spent the whole day helping me take inventory.  Her hubby had enough frequent flier miles accumulated for them to take a trip to Europe or anywhere they wanted, but she wasn't stepping foot out of the good ol' U.S. of A!  "Why would I want to go someplace where they don't even like Americans?"  I told her I would miss them all terribly, "but just think of all of the great places we can travel to from Indonesia, and the things we will be able to introduce our kids to!"  The only thing I hadn't really liked about Midland was how lily white our school, church and neighborhood had been.  Now we could finally expose our kids to the wondrous diversity that is our amazing planet.  What an education they would receive!  She still didn't get it, but then, she was adventurous in many ways that I was not.  You're sure never gonna catch me skiing down a mountain, or rollerblading off of ramps with all the teen boys in the neighborhood!