Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Our first Halloween on the company compound just blew us away.  We were to discover that, when it came to keeping the kids happy, there were no limits to how far this community would go.  Whether they had kids in the school or not, everyone participated and contributed.

One of the mom's helps with the pumpkin toss, dressed for the part.
My first hint at how far they would go came when they asked us which activity at the carnival we wished to help with.  The list of options was huge, considering how few kids were in the school.  We volunteered to help with the "spook house", expecting they would take one of the classrooms over, set out bowls of spaghetti guts and peeled-grape-eyeballs, and turn out all the lights.  Not even close.  It turns out we had a most amazing local asset at our disposal -- carpenters and painters who could build almost anything these engineer dads could design, for a nominal fee, and tailors who could sew any costume a kid desired, if given a picture.  The carpenters built a full-blown Haunted House, the painters decorated it, and John and I were hidden behind a wall of its black-light-lit hallway.  They had drilled a bunch of holes in this wall, at various heights, and some of them had fake arms poking through them while others had real ones (ours!), which could grab hold of a kid as they tried to get through the passageway, or grab the cap right off of Mr. Danny's head and keep it behind the wall!  My kids refused to set foot in it, after hearing reports from the first kids to walk through, and to tell you the truth, I couldn't blame them!

The kids got to parade their costumes at school the day before the carnival  (that's our Austin, the Ninja, and Alexis, the witch below).  By the time they came back for the carnival, this basketball court had been completely transformed with painted backdrops for each game, a Gypsy Wagon, and a free-standing Haunted House!

The little Chiquita Banana from next door came by to show us his costume.
Lex in the Gypsy Wagon, getting her fortune told.
There were so many cakes contributed for the cake-walk, that every family there brought home at least one or two!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Wednesday, October 30

Dear George & Theda,

Thanks so much for the birthday card.  It got here in plenty of time.  I had a lovely birthday.  I happened to invite a bunch of ladies over to play Bunco that day.  One ended up bringing a cake, and several others brought gifts.  I guess Peggy Reeh had spread the word that it was my birthday!  

We had a blast at the kid's Halloween carnival Saturday.  I couldn't believe how elaborate it was, for such a small school.  John and I worked in the spook house, but our own kids wouldn't even come in!  The best thing about it was that everything was free, even the food!  Apparently they go all out on anything involving the kids here.

I took an all-day cake decorating class a couple of Saturdays ago.  It was really interesting.  I just wish I had done it about eight years ago, so I could have been making all the kid's birthday cakes myself!  John and I finally started taking Indonesian lessons together -- twice a week out at his office.  I think it's kind of fun, but as for your son?  Sheer torture!

They say our shipment should be on the next barge.  Yippee!  I'm a little worried, though, 'cause John is going to be at a school in Medan all next week.  Sure hope I don't have to deal with customs all by myself!  The following week the kids are out of school, so we are going to take a little R&R trip to Penang.  It's an island resort in Malaysia that's supposed to have great beaches and shopping.  Should be fun!

Well, take care.  Oh yeah, Theda, regarding your questions.  I don't remember ordering "Spark" magazine, but who knows?  Also, no, Chef D. was not in love with a man.  He was having an affair with another girl we worked with, even though they were both married and she has three children.  It's just so sad and stupid.

That's all for now.  Write soon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Dearest Friends,

As long as we're on the subject of "the Hash", I thought I might as well share a few photos with you.

We had a choice of riding two buses to wherever our trail of the day began: the family bus, or the bawdy bus.  Mr. Brad enjoyed being one of the song-leaders on the bawdy bus.
If you actually managed to find your way to the grog truck at the end of the trail a certain number of times, they held a ceremony in your honor. 
Here my hubby is being "christened" with his official hash name: Slick Lane! (that water was icy cold)
Later, little Austin became "Slow Lane" and I became "Lover's Lane" -- not for any particular reason, though.  They just couldn't resist using that play on words.  We ended up with quite the collection of hash t-shirts.
The local people who saw us trekking through the jungle thought we were very strange, and delighted in leading us astray.
A couple of times per year, we celebrated with an official Hash Dinner at the restaurant, complete with entertainment.  Here one of the teachers, Mr. D., demonstrates "The Amazing Bass-0-Matic"!
Anybody recognize the diva in the yellow hip-scarf?  The one who's channeling her inner Diana Ross?  That just happens to be our newest addition to "The Muses" here in Wimberley -- Painter Woman!
Looks like she even managed to get our oh-so-proper British physician to channel his inner diva as well!  Yep, I'm pretty sure that's Doc Connelly there in the middle. 

Monday, November 21, 2011


Dearest Friends,

The American Girl dolls were just becoming popular when we moved to Indonesia with the kids, so we hid one in our shipment and surprised Alexis with it our first Christmas there.  A couple of years later, her Aunt Priscilla sent her a copy of American Girl magazine, along with a note saying "Check this out, Lex.  They want to hear from American girls living abroad!  Thought you might like to submit a story."

She sat down and wrote a little story about one of the first "hashes" we took her on, and here it is -- her very first published article!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Do you remember when I told you that our friend's tragic car accident in Indonesia, so many years before, was one of two events that haunted me to this day?  Well, the second event occurred just six weeks or so after we arrived in Sumatra.

It was a Sunday morning, and I had just gone over my lesson plan one last time (teaching Sunday School still made me extremely nervous), and was about to head out the door with the kids.  John always met us later for the church service, since there was no Sunday School class for adults.  Just then the phone rang.  It was my friend/boss from the catering company back in Texas!  I was so excited to hear from her, since she was one of those who just would not write letters.  I immediately started jabbering away and asking her a bunch of questions, so it took me a minute to realize she was crying.  Turns out, this wasn't a social call.  In fact, she had some earth-shaking news.

Remember the pregnant girl I worked with?  The one who sort of hijacked my going away party?  Well, I guess the rumors were true, for as it turned out, that third baby belonged, not to her husband, but to our French chef D. --  the one my kids adored so.  I might have been able to forgive her eventually, if B. hadn't told me that she actually changed the blood type on her daughter's birth records, endangering her child's very life, just to keep the secret from her husband.  All for nought, it would seem.  Apparently he asked the doctor if there was any way that little girl might not be his, and the doctor's reply was "Son, there's no way she is."

I guess Chef D. really fell hard for this woman.  I'd always thought he and his wife were crazy about each other, but he was willing to leave her to be with this girl and his new daughter.  Who knows what she felt?  Maybe she just craved his adoration.  All I know is that when push came to shove, and her hubby said he was willing to try and work things out, she decided to stay put.  Knowing how deeply he had hurt his wife and betrayed the trust of all his closest friends, and that it was all for nothing, was more than D. could handle.  He checked into a local hotel, and the next day they found him hanging from the light fixture.

I was shaking so hard by the end of the call, I could barely get the phone back in the cradle.  Not wanting my kids to see me fall apart, I went into my bedroom and shut the door.  Once I started sobbing, I just couldn't stop.  Now, I can't think of anything in the world that my husband would rather not do than teach a Sunday School class full of four-year-olds -- especially going in stone cold, without even having a chance to look at the materials first.  That's the day he proved, beyond all doubt, how very much he loves me.  He tucked me back into bed, explaining to our very frightened kids that Mom was just upset because their friend D. had been in a bad "accident", then he picked up my basket of materials and headed off with the kids to teach that class.  He's a keeper, that boy is!

Me?  I was a different girl after that.  I'd lost my wide-eyed innocence and willingness to believe the best about everyone.  When I heard rumors about married people on the compound having flings with other married people?  I believed them, and I was not very forgiving.  I knew just how badly these things could end.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Dearest Friends,

The area we now lived in was Aceh Province, reputed to be the most fanatically Muslim area in all of Indonesia. There had been more than a few periods of unrest here, over the years -- periods when the military took over and got out of hand, or when many Indonesians of Chinese descent had just been wiped out.  We, however, felt perfectly safe the entire time we lived here.  In fact, it was almost idyllic -- like being on the set of Mayberry R.F.D.!

Things had grown crazier and crazier back in the states, to the point where I was afraid to let the kids play out in our own front yard without me being right there beside them.  John used to get upset when he found them inside on the computer, instead of playing outside, on a pretty day.  He'd say, "When I was their age, I took off on my bike in the morning, and didn't come back until dinner time!"  I grew weary of having to remind him that our kids weren't living in the small-town Texas of the 50's!

Living on this company compound changed all that.  Suddenly we were able to turn the clock back.  Not only could the kids walk to school and to their friends houses, I could even turn them loose on their bikes, and let them go exploring!

Of course, events were to take a drastic turn for the worse a year or two after we left here, but that's a story for another time -- one that I will have to let Miss Peggy, and other friends who experienced it first hand, tell for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Dearest Friends,

I must have written hundreds of letters home during our time overseas -- long, newsy letters intended to give our friends and families a glimpse into our world, and to keep our parents from feeling like they had completely missed out on seeing our kids grow up.  Most of them ended up in the trash, I suppose, but we did find this one precious bundle of them, stashed away in my mother-in-law's desk, after she passed away.  I am forever indebted to her for saving those few, and will share them with you now and again, whenever the time is appropriate.  Following is one from those very early days.

Thursday, Oct. 10, 1991

Dear George & Theda,

Just got your letter yesterday.  Guess it took right at 2 weeks to get here. Munchkin is doing just fine, although she suffered a little from jet lag at first.

Miss Munchkin
The kids are getting excited about the school play (Elephant Child) -- next Wednesday is the big day.  I still can't get over the wonderful costumes I was able to have made, for less than $15 each, including fabric!  They turned out great.

That's Austin, 2nd from right.  Can't find any photos of Lexi's python outfit.  She probably hid them because  the costume "wasn't pretty!"
As we had anticipated, the social life here is wonderful.  There's always something going on.  This Monday we went to a big Cajun-style shrimp boil to celebrate a friend's 40th, and on Saturday we have a plant tour to go on, then a tea that afternoon, and a dinner that night!

Brad's Birthday Boil
The dinner is being put on by the "Hash" group, and they will have skits, etc. I'm really surprised at how much we have all enjoyed going on the hash each Sunday, even Austin (who always hated walking!).  

Last week was especially fun because the walk ended up at the elephant training grounds, and we all got to see them do tricks and go for rides.

They also had a baby bear cub there, and the kids got to hold it!

Don't laugh!  It's a lot harder to climb up on one of those things than you'd expect!
In December the Canadians here will be hosting "Trappers' Day" festivities, complete with dog sled and snow-shoe races.  John quit shaving on October first, so he could participate in their beard-growing contest.  I think it all sounds like a lot of fun.

Peggy Reeh is due home today, finally.  She's been in the states since we got here.  Both her mother and her father passed away, just one week apart, from cancer.  I can't even imagine what she's been through.

One of the families here brought their college-age goddaughter over to stay for a while, and she just happens to be an expert swimming instructor.  I signed Austin up to take private lessons with her twice a week, and he is just loving it!  She said he is already at "level 3", whereas the average six year old is still at level 1.

Our original, screened-in porch.
The workers are in the process of enclosing our patio room right now, and Alexis is making plans for redecorating her bedroom.  We are letting her choose the color to paint it, and thought we might order her some wicker furniture.  It can go in our guest room when we move back home.

An "after" photo of our glassed-in porch.  It's like night and day, isn't it? (teehee)
Well, guess that's all for now.  Take care, and write soon.

Love, Becky

P.S. If you ever feel like calling, the best time to be sure of catching us all in is 8-10 a.m. Sunday morning, your time.  If you keep getting busy signals, try dialing VERY S-L-O-W-L-Y.  Apparently their telephone system here can't keep up with you if you dial too quickly, so you just get a busy signal.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Dearest Friends,

It didn't take long for Alexis' teacher to glom onto the fact that she was capable of much more than she was letting on.  Soooo, the next time she spotted John and I in the yard, she came over and chatted with us about it.  She wanted to warn us that she was fixing to put some pressure on Miss Alexis, now that she had settled in, and things were likely to get, well, a bit dramatic let's say.  No joke!

Mrs. Nybakke's class has a going away luncheon for Lexi's friend Melitta, there in the center.
Oh my, how I felt for my poor daughter, for I had gone through just the same thing when I was about three years older than her.  (If only they had caught it this soon!) Towards the end of sixth grade I had a ruptured appendix, and missed several weeks of school, during which the other kids had all taken those standardized aptitude tests. When I got back I wasn't supposed to go to P.E. for a while, so I stayed in with my homeroom teacher to get caught up on all the work I had missed, and to take that aptitude test.  I guess, in working with me one-on-one, she spotted something she wasn't able to see in a classroom of thirty, and that, combined with my aptitude test scores, convinced her that I needed to be moved into the accelerated class for seventh grade -- the year that ended up being one of the worst of my life! (old habits die hard)  Now, I would get to go through it all again with my daughter. Lucky me.  Within a few days, Lex had taken to referring to her teacher (only at home of course) as The Dragon Lady.

A few weeks later the kids and I were driving back from the pool or somewhere, when we happened to pass Mrs. Nybakke walking home, her arms loaded with bags.  We stopped and offered her a ride.  Lex slid to the very back seat, barely saying a word, while the rest of us chattered away cheerfully.  Then, out of the blue, my son turns to Mrs. Nybakke and asks "Why does my sister call you The Dragon Lady?"  I could have died.  I could have throttled him!  Grinning slyly over her shoulder towards my slack-jawed daughter, she replied "Your sister calls me that, does she?  Well, you can tell her for me, she ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Who me?  What did I do?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Bukit Indah -- Beautiful Hill
Dearest Friends,

When we'd been there a week or two, and were as settled in as we could be until our stuff arrived, my hubby woke up one Saturday and came to a most startling realization.  For the very first time, in as long as he could remember, he was a free man.  He had no car to wash (the driver did that for us -- every day!), no lawn to mow, no household maintenance or repairs to do, no packing or unpacking for business trips to be done, no parents to check in on, no soccer or t-ball games to coach or!  Nothing more important than just relaxing and hanging with his family.  It was difficult to wrap his head around the notion.

So, after lazing in bed for as long as he wished, he decided we should don our swimsuits, then mosey down to the pool and snackbar, to check them out more thoroughly.

We couldn't believe our luck!  What with the blue skies, the palm trees, the lounge chairs and umbrellaed tables, and the waiters who seemed happy to bring you whatever you desired, be it ice cream, a diet coke with a twist of lime, or a cold Bintang beer, it was as if we'd been sent to live at one of those fancy-schmancy vacation resorts -- the kind we'd always longed to visit, but never could afford.

If I had to compare our facilities in Indonesia the first time, with this here?  Well, I'd tell you that the first time we were staying at Motel 6, but for some unknown reason, this time we'd been bumped up to the Ritz Carlton!  Which is why I would never have much patience for all the moaning, groaning and complaining that a few of the women were prone to.  I just wanted to grab them by the shoulders and give them a good shake, yelling "Have you no clue how fortunate you are?  You're living at Club Med, getting to travel the world, the company is covering all your living expenses, and you are able to stash your entire paycheck in the bank each month!  What's wrong with you?"  Instead, I bit my tongue.  A lot.

Anyhoo, we ran into Dan Reeh and his kids at the pool that day.  We floated and visited with him, while watching the kids play together, and after a while he said "Mark my words.  One of these days we're gonna look back on this time and say 'Ah, those were the days!'."  He was dead right.  I think even the whiners would agree with him now. Well, except maybe for that one terribly rigid, humorless woman, whom I will not name.  You see, if there's one thing I learned in hosting three exchange students and those years of volunteering with AFS, it's that you've just gotta be flexible and have a sense of humor, when it comes to dealing with other cultures.  Whenever I interviewed a prospective host family and found someone who just couldn't wait to teach these poor kids about the American way, the right way, of doing things, I saw a disaster waiting to happen.  What we needed, in both the students and the host families, was someone who couldn't wait to learn -- about other cultures and other ways of doing things.  Someone who could laugh when things didn't go as planned.  This poor, inflexible woman was not one of those, and did not last very long here.  But those of us who were able to bend and laugh and learn?  Why, we did just fine!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Our little Austin celebrated his 6th birthday shortly after we arrived in Indonesia.  Sort of.  I knew this would be a tough one for us, which is why I threw that "Pre-Party" at the roller rink before we left.  Still, I never thought it would be that tough!  If not for that pre-party, I'd probably be wracked with guilt whenever someone brought this birthday up.

To start with, the kid was halfway around the world from his family and friends, and hadn't yet had time to make any new ones.  Also, our shipments hadn't arrived yet, so it was a struggle for me to come up with the most pitiful of cakes, for a kid who always demanded "one of those giant cookie cakes from the mall!"  Of course, he always wanted his parties to be held at a pizza restaurant with an arcade -- also out of the question.  Was this enough disappointment for one little kid?  Apparently not.

This year, the birthday fairies decided to add insult to injury.  Perhaps they thought these spoiled American children (and their spoiled momma) needed to be taught a lesson -- brought down to earth a bit, made to appreciate things more and to understand just how lucky they were, compared to most of the kids in the world.  Maybe Momma needed to be taught that creativity counted way more than money and stuff.

Anyhoo, I don't remember exactly who we invited, but there were very few guests (probably just the Reeh and Freels kids, whom we knew back in Midland, and maybe 4-year-old Bryce from next door). Which meant there were very few packages to open.  Two of those packages contained toy guns, and before the party had ended, one guest had broken one of them, and another had tossed one down into a drainage ditch where we couldn't reach it.  Our son was not a happy camper, and declared it to be "The Worst Birthday Party EVER!!!"

The 50's Party, with soda fountain and hula hoops
The Faeries, Elves and Leprechaun Party
I don't feel one bit guilty, though.  In fact, it might be one of the best things that ever happened to us.  From that point on, utilizing every ounce of creativity I possessed to make the rest of their Indonesian birthdays memorable became something of an obsession for me -- my mission, if you will -- and I don't think they'd trade a single one of the parties that followed for any arcade/fast-food/roller rink party, even if it came with the biggest ice cream or cookie cake ever!  Which is why, these days, whenever someone mentions "the worst birthday ever", we all get a good laugh.  Even me.

The Batman Pool Party
The Japanese Dinner Party