Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Dear Papa,

How are you? I'm fine. I miss you a lot. I can't wate until summer so I can see you. This letter was written by a girl with lots of hope. How is Theda? I hope she is okay. I have lots of friends and a tutor. I think you have been thrugh enough alredy so this letter is full of love for Theda and you. Don't get mad, do as people say and you will get better. The whole family is woried about you. so pleas get well SOON! Give everyone hugs and kisses.

Alexis Lane

May 4, 1992

Dear Dad,

I hope you are doing much better by the time you get this letter. I have been thinking about you every day, wishing I could be back home with you. Mother will send me your schedule and I will try to give you a call. I tried calling you this weekend but you had already moved to the SNF section. The woman who answered in your old room didn't know where you had moved to. It's hard being so far away, not being able to do anything for you. I hope you work real hard on the therapy and are able to be at home when I come home June 12. We can still go out and play a little golf if you want. I thought I could rent a cart and you could ride around with me while I play 9 holes. I was also thinking we could go over to the doughnut shop each morning for coffee, to hang with your friends. Alexis and Austin are asking about you. They are looking forward to seeing you this summer. Don't worry too much about seeing them, they will be around all summer and will be able to come to Odessa a few times.

I won another golf trophy last weekend. Every time someone leaves here they hold a 9 hole scramble. We tied for 1st but ended up with 2nd place. Our team captain lost the putt-off. Oh well. That makes two trophies I've won this year. Keep this up and I will have to leave some furniture behind in order to make room for the trophies when I move home. I played with Becky's clubs this time. I decided I like her clubs better than mine.

Austin's good buddy is moving back to Alaska this summer. I don't know what he's going to do for a playmate next year. We pray that one of the new teachers coming in next year has a kid Austin's age. Several people are leaving this year and we are losing about 8 kids out of the school. That's quite a few considering how small the school is to begin with.

I guess that's about all the news for now. I'll write again later. There is a fellow going back to the US Wednesday, so I will get this letter to him to bring home with him. Anytime someone goes back to the States they usually end up with half a suitcase full of mail from everyone here. Take care, and I just want you to know we are thinking about you. Can't wait to get home to see you.

Your son John

Dear Papa,

how are you? I miss you. Sorry you have a stroke. get well soon I will see you very soon

Love Austin

Austin included a picture of a smashed snake he saw in the road because, well, what better to cheer people up? Right? (I think those are supposed to be tread marks going over the snake.)

Monday, January 30, 2012


Dearest Friends,

Of all our friends and relatives back home, the one who was most determined to come visit us in Indonesia was my 72-year-old mother-in-law, Theda. I think she had always dreamed of traveling to exotic places, but she made the mistake of marrying a salesman who was always on the road, covering his territory.  As you can well imagine, whenever vacation time rolled around, the last thing he wanted to do was travel!

She'd always assumed, though, that once he was retired, he would enjoy traveling to art exhibits and craft shows with her, helping her to hang her paintings and set up her booths. After a couple of those mini-strokes, he did indeed take early retirement, but never made it further than his easy chair, where he  spent his time traveling from one television station to the next, instead.

I guess Theda saw this trip to Indonesia as her last chance for a big hurrah, and she was determined to make it work. If George didn't want to come with her, well, they had great neighbors who would keep an eye on him, and she had a wonderful sister who was a professional caretaker, who might come stay with him for a while. She began making her plans.

In early May, just before John was to begin his plant shut-down, and the kids and I were to head off on our big Disney adventure, we got an emergency call from John's brother. George had had another stroke. A biggie this time -- one that left him paralyzed on one side. There wasn't anything more they could do for him at the hospital, so they were moving him to a rehab facility. The rest was up to him. If he was cooperative, and worked very hard, he could learn to walk again. If he was uncooperative, they wouldn't waste their time on him. He'd be sent home in a wheelchair, and there he would stay. I suspect everyone who knew him was asking themselves the same question right about then: Was George's hard-headed stubbornness going to be his salvation, or his ruin? And what about poor Theda?

Sunday, January 29, 2012


April 19, 1992

Dear George & Theda,

Hope you had a happy Easter. As usual, they overdid it here -- we had to go to three Easter egg hunts this year, not counting the one here at home! They had a sunrise service on the beach Easter morning, which was really nice. Unfortunately, the kids just had to search for eggs before we left for the church service, so we were out there wandering around in the dark, at 5:00 a.m.!

George, I'm afraid I don't have a golf handicap yet. I'm still so bad that there is no point in keeping score. However, my goal is to make myself go practice at least twice a week, so maybe I will get a little better before we get to Odessa.

Theda, I'm really excited about your sculpture workshop. Have you been working on anything? I'm still waiting to see if Alexis got a place at the Girl Scout Camp outside of Dallas (between Athens and Palestine). One of her friends from here is going with her, so I think she will enjoy that -- plus, it would just be so much easier to get her there. When we hear for sure, we can cancel the reservation at Mitre Peak.

P.S. From John: As I mentioned on the phone, just hang onto any mail or packages that come to you. We can pick them up this summer. Anything you mailed now wouldn't get here much sooner anyway. So far everything seems to have gotten here ok. As long as you keep it to a single brown envelope, it seems to come through customs without any problems.

We thought we might be moving into a little bit larger house, but that deal fell through. We were second on the list, but the couple ahead of us had turned down houses a couple of times before.  Wouldn't you know, this time they took it! The location would have been better for the kids. From the way things look, I doubt anyone else will be leaving anytime soon, so no more houses will become available. Guess we'll just have to make do.

It has really been hot over here the last week or so. We are going to have to pick up some bamboo shades to help keep the sun out. We have two rooms that get very uncomfortable during the day. The addition of another window unit AC might help too.

I'm not using all my vacation days this summer so that we will have a few days we can use to take some side trips next year, particularly if we can get anyone to come over for a visit. Maybe we can go up to Bali for 3 or 4 days, then swing back down through Java to Jogjakarta, where all the old temples are located. We have done pretty well this year with saving money, so next year I think we can afford to loosen up a little, and take some trips. Well, guess I'd better close now. Give everyone our regards.

Your Son,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


8th April, 1992

Greetings Friends and Relatives,

What's cookin'? I'm sure you will all feel sorry for me when I tell you that I have been without a maid or a driver for an entire week now (it's Lebaran -- the holiday at the end of Ramadan, when they finally get to quit fasting). I know you think I lead a disgustingly lazy life, and you're probably right, but the occasional week without staff keeps it all in the proper perspective -- i.e. no dishwasher, a clothes washer that doesn't work unless you stand right there the whole time and lift the lid every five minutes, no fresh fruit or vegetables unless you go to the deepest part of the market in Lhok Seumawe, where the smell of ripe durian is liable to have you tossing your cookies, and where we are not really supposed to go without our driver. Also, no frozen convenience foods, or even packaged mixes for that matter.  In fact, John and I were standing in the commissary the other day, and decided that there was not one single thing we could buy to make a quick, easy dinner with. It all has to be done from scratch, and that's providing you can even find all the ingredients you need. Right now one of our company planes is out of service, so they have cut out the weekly flights to Jakarta, and apparently that's where a lot of our groceries come from. So, the shelves are pretty bare right now. On top of all that, the kids have been on spring break this week, and it's been raining a lot, and most of their friends are away on trips. The moral of this story is, never stay home over spring break/Lebaran. Next year we are thinking New Zealand!

Mom, I got the packet of camp information you sent. Thanks so much. I think we will send Alexis for a week at Camp Betty Perot in mid-July. One of her buddies from here will probably go as well. The Hockaday and St. Marks day camps are just to #### expensive! Surely we will find something fun for Austin to do, there in town. I got a real nice letter from Prisi's parents this week. Alma included a little cookbook that some group there in Lafayette had done as a fundraiser, and it was called Tea Time Tasties. Looks like it's just our cup of tea! No kidding, the recipes really look great. It was sort of a neat coincidence too, because I had already decided to host a mother/daughter Christmas tea this year. It's still looking like John won't be able to go to Disney World with us, so we were very thankful when Kathy called and said she was game to take his place. I think we will all have a great time, except for poor John. Hopefully he will get to see Mike and Prisi though. I think he will arrive in Dallas on the 12th or 13th, and if I'm not mistaken, they will be there the week of the 14th.

Not much else to tell on this end. John needs to see a dermatologist in Singapore this weekend, to get another spot frozen, and we were quite thrilled for an excuse to go there on the company's dime (isn't that terrible, to get excited over your hubby's possibly cancerous spot?)! Some friends have offered to keep the kids for us, and I think John is really looking forward to getting away by ourselves for the first time.  In closing, I would like to share with you another tidbit from the never dull "Life with Austin" saga. We were sitting at the dinner table this week when, out of the blue, our six year old son asked "Do I have any anbrothers?" "I don't know," John replies. "What's an anbrother?" "Well, you know how Mom and Granny are always talking about their ansisters?  I just wondered, since I'm a boy, does that mean I have anbrothers?"

Well, take care, and write lots of letters!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Dearest Friends,

I have a confession to make. It is something I am not very proud of. Maybe if I give you a bit of background, you will find it in your hearts to forgive me.

You see, though there was much to be said for working for a large corporation like Mobil Oil, and we certainly liked working for them a heck of a lot more than John's previous company, there were a few drawbacks, the primary one being the amount of control they had over almost every aspect of our lives.

Big Brother
 (image from tvacres.com)
It was bad enough back in the states, what with their telling us when to move and where, every couple of years, and with their having held an axe over our heads, with the constant threat of being laid off, since right around the birth of our first child. Also, I can't tell you how many times they'd screwed up vacation plans, no matter how much notice we gave them, and there must be something really critical about our anniversary date because, I swear, it was pretty much a given that John would absolutely have to be out of town on May 31st each and every year. (Hmmm, do you think my hubby might have had a hand in that?)

In Sumatra, however, we had the added bonus of their controlling the school, our medical facility, our transportation, our housing, and even which food was available in our commissary. Since the only people we had to socialize with all worked for them as well, perhaps you can understand how, after a while, and in such close quarters, it could all start to, well, chafe a bit -- maybe even start to feel a little like you were one of those miners they sing about, who "owed their soul to the company store." Please keep this in mind, when I tell you about the no-good, dirty rotten thing I once did to my poor, sweet hubby.

If you recall, we had decided to start this year's home-leave with a trip to Orlando, since none of us had ever been to Disney World, or even Disney Land, for that matter. It wasn't easy, but we had finally managed to piece together our jigsaw-puzzle-plans for the summer, even managing to get the flights we wanted and to get booked into our first-choice hotel on the Disney grounds, despite only planning three or four months in advance, rather than booking a year ahead, as was recommended. We lucked out because our kids got out of school slightly before most kids in the states, which meant we could get there the week before the hordes descended. The nearer we got to our departure date, the closer to fever-pitch our anticipation had become. John and I were every bit as giddy as the kids, because we couldn't wait to see it all through their eyes, to share the wonder of their very first Disney experience!

One day, just a few weeks before school was to let out, John came home with some news. Now, since most every decision made at the office could have such a profound effect on our personal lives, I had got into the habit of reading my hubby's face when he walked through the door each evening, and I knew this news was bad before he ever even opened his mouth. I followed him back to the bedroom, closing the the door behind us. "Uuhm, Beck? I really don't know how to tell you this, but, well, they've moved the plant shut-down back a few weeks...to the same week as our Disney trip. I have to be here for it."

That was it. That's all he said. That's all he needed to say. The rest was understood. If he couldn't go, none of us should go. After all, it certainly wasn't his fault. He too was crushed by the news. We should put it off a year, so we could all share the experience together, and I was the one who should convey this news to the kids, in a way that wouldn't break their hearts (like that was even possible!) and wouldn't make John out to be the bad guy. That was my job. I have always been the "bad cop" to John's good cop.  I mulled it all around in my head for a moment or two, and then I told him "I'm so very sorry to hear this. It won't be near as much fun without you."

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Wed. March 25, 1992

Dear George and Theda,

John has this new fancy-schmancy word-processing program that he wants me to learn how to use. I've spent the last hour reading the manual, still don't know what I'm doing, and I could have had 10 letters finished by now. Oh well, here goes.

Yet another play that Alexis wasn't too crazy about, because her costume wasn't "pretty" enough.
Tomorrow is the big performance of Pinocchio, and Alexis is playing a policewoman. Unlike the play that the lower grades put on in the fall, this one is being done by the 3rd through 8th graders. This morning was the dress rehearsal. Although I didn't see it, several people have told me that Alexis did pretty good (at least, she didn't forget any of her lines!). One of the moms is even hosting a cast party for them afterwards, so Lex is pretty excited. We plan to take the video camera tomorrow night, but this time I will make sure that John just tapes the important stuff (Lex) and not the whole darn play!

Arriving guests had to climb through the mouth of the whale to enter the "theatre."
I wouldn't say that I'm becoming a golf lover, but I did go practice my driving with John last weekend, and then went to the course with Peggy Reeh today and played about six holes. It was kind of fun, but I can't imagine ever playing a full 18 holes! About once a month they hold a golf scramble here, for one reason or another, where you are on a team of four and you just play the best ball each time. Everyone keeps trying to talk me into playing in one, but I will have to get a whole lot better before I have the nerve to try that. I'm a nervous wreck if someone is watching me, and can usually manage to swing at the ball 3 or 4 times and miss it altogether! Sure would enjoy having one of you to play a few rounds with me though. It's really nice during the week 'cause you have the whole course to yourself, just about.

One of the big mucky-mucks was here today to hold a meeting with all the guys and discuss what is going on with Mobil. The news is not good. They've decided to lay off almost 1,000 people, and they've totally shut down the Denver and Oklahoma offices. We are not totally immune to the cuts over here, but our odds are a little better since it would be so expensive to send us back home, then pay to move one of the "golden-haired-boys" back over here in our place, but anything's possible. I do worry about all our friends back home though.

Not much else to tell really, but I wanted to send you the kids' school photos, and give you Mrs. Nybakke's great recipe for frozen daiquiris. Watch out though -- this stuff is like drinking a slushy soda pop! It keeps well in your freezer for a long time, so I keep it on hand for unexpected guests. Just mix one can of frozen limeade, one can water, one can 7-Up, and one can light rum. Stir all together in a plastic container and stick it in your freezer. Stir once or twice, once it starts to freeze. When you are ready to serve it, give it a good stir, spoon it into a glass, then pour some more 7-Up or Sprite over it. YUM! (I would double or triple the recipe) Guess that's about it. Take care, and write soon!

P.S. Please let Uncle Noble know that I have reserved a room at the Adams Mark for the reunion. I asked for a room with two double beds, and I requested it for Fri. July 31 through Wed. Aug. 5th, in case I decide to stay on a few days. They should be sending our confirmation to your address.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Dearest Friends,

After the way our shopping trip to Jakarta ended, I'm pretty sure I said "Never again!", yet somehow Peggy managed to get me back on a plane just a month or two later.  This time we headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with our friends Jodi and AnnMarie.  We'd been told that KL was much the way Singapore had been about 20 years ago, before they started tearing down all the good stuff and replacing it with skyscrapers, and that everything there was much cheaper than in Singapore.  I can only assume that I must have felt the need to purchase more Christmas and birthday gifts for all my friends and family members, before we headed to the states on home leave.

The big draw here was the Royal Selangor Pewter factory.  John had gifted me with a beautiful tea set from there for Christmas, which he had purchased in Singapore, but we'd been told you could get much better prices by going straight to the factory (no, the added expense of plane flights and hotel rooms does not count).  Judging by the number of Selangor bags surrounding us, I guess we found that to be true.

As with so much these days, my memories of that trip are rather hazy.  I remember two minor tiffs during the trip. One was when we went to a Cold Storage shop (a mini-mart) a few blocks from our hotel one evening, after having dined at a fun Texas-style restaurant that served chicken-fried steak and such.  One lady who, granted, had a good bit more to carry than the rest, wanted to take a taxi back, but got out-voted by those who preferred to walk off their dinner.  After a block or so of grumbled mutterings such as "this is b.s...this is total b.s.", I think we relieved her of some of her bags.  The other was the next night, when two of the ladies wanted to go back to that very same Texan restaurant for dinner again, but the rest of us wanted to try some of the local fare.  We had an amicable parting of the ways on that one.

One thing we could all agree upon (well, except maybe for AM) was that this taxi ride, where the driver took an uncommon shine to her, and couldn't seem to keep his hands off of her, causing her friends in the back seat to laugh so hard they probably left a few wet spots on the seat, was one of the highlights of the trip...

second only to stumbling upon a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor!  Oh yeah, and one more thing.  I think we all agreed that these shopping trips with the girls, no matter how brief...well, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Dearest Friends,

My Indo-bud Mel moved back to Jakarta not long ago.  I keep track of her via facebook, and she recently posted something there about taking her college-aged kids on a sentimental journey back to Singapore over the holidays, the place where her son was born.  When she mentioned an excursion out to Sentosa Island, I quickly typed a reply, saying something like "Ooh!  We spent a whole weekend there with the kids once.  Had a blast!"  It wasn't until much later, as I sat sifting through memories from that weekend, that I dredged up one that wasn't really fun at all. In fact, it was pretty much a nightmare, and if it had happened anyplace other than Singapore, the least "seedy" city I've ever been to... well, I don't even want to go there.

It all started when I was flipping through one of those "what's going on" magazines that had been left in our hotel room, and discovered that the broadway hit Les Miserables -- the musical I had heard so much about but never seen -- was playing in Singapore that very weekend.  Oh how I longed to see it, but tickets would be expensive, if we could get them at all, the kids were too young to appreciate it, transportation from the island would be a problem, etc.  My reasons for not going were numerous, but one by one, John shot them down, securing tickets, suggesting pizza delivery and a hotel sitter for the kids (my friends used them all the time, though I never had), and even placing a request for a taxi to come out to the island (via a causeway) to pick us up.  So off we went.

It was fabulous.  It was magical.  It was everything I had imagined, and more -- until about 3/4 of the way through the play, when it started to rain.  And thunder.  The rain turned into a roaring deluge that went on and on, drowning out the singers' voices, and making us extremely nervous over the odds of our taxi driver's having come back just to fetch us, as we had requested.  We were right to have worried, for as in any huge city where few people own cars, the harder it rains, the more scarce the taxis become. By the time we made our way out of the the theatre, there wasn't a one to be had.

We wandered the streets for a good long while, doing our best not to get lost, hoping we'd find a stray taxi once we got away from the crowd at the music hall.  No such luck.  Of course, we had no cell phones back then, so we couldn't call for one, or even call our sitter to warn her that we might be late.  Very, very late.  Eventually we managed to find a bus that was still running, despite the hour, and it got us a lot closer to the start of the causeway, but then we had to cross it on foot -- a rather risky thing to do even at the best of times, but especially in blackest night, during a thunder storm!  Our only saving grace was the lack of traffic at that hour.  It was probably only a mile or two across, but without umbrellas or raincoats, wearing high heels, and worrying with the sound of each approaching car whether we might get clipped, well, it felt more like fifty. We eventually made it safely across, but then had to hike up a long, climbing driveway to reach the hotel.  It must have been well after 2:00 a.m. before we finally made it back to our room, looking like drowned rats.  The sitter looked ready to burst into tears when she saw us.  No telling what she'd been imagining.  Knowing my hubby, I'm sure he made it worth her while, and got the concierge to order a taxi for her trip home.  As for our kids?  Well, they had konked out shortly after we departed (they'd had a very busy day!), and woke up a few hours after our return, as cheerful as could be and rarin' to go, completely oblivious to their parents' mad escapade.

You know, most of our misadventures have made for the very best, most humorous stories in years to come.  But this one?  This one still just gives me the creeps.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Dearest Friends,

When my oldest sister lived in Saudi Arabia for five years, she got into the habit of bringing really nice gifts home to everyone in the family, each time she came to the States.  As our first home-leave grew ever closer, it suddenly occurred to me that my relatives were probably expecting the same from me.  Well, shee-yutt!!  That was not a happy realization, for 1) unlike my sister, who loved/lived to shop, I pretty much hated it, and 2) even if I didn't, where was I supposed to find all these treasures?  We were living on a company compound, in the middle of the jungle!

So, when my friend Peggy, the most organized, efficient person I know, invited me to go shopping in Jakarta with her, and said she even had a friend we could stay with, who would loan us her car and driver for the day, how could I say no?  To tell you the truth, I don't remember much of anything about our time in Jakarta, or what we bought while there.  I do, however, have vivid memories of the trip home.  I bet Peggy does too.

You see, we had to get up around 4:00 a.m. that last day, in order to get to the airport and catch the co-plane back to Lhok Seumawe.  There was no time to eat breakfast before we left, but I did remember to take one of the pills I had just been prescribed (I non't remember what for).  John had picked them up for me on his way home from work Friday, and thrust them into my hand as I headed off to the airport.  Anyhoo, on Sunday morning as we stood on the porch, saying goodbye to our dear hostess, I suddenly caught a whiff of dog-poo from somewhere in the garden, and that was all she wrote.  A wave of nausea hit me so hard, it almost knocked me over!  I ran around the corner of the house and barfed.  My two friends were very concerned, and tried to usher me back into the house.  "No, no.  I'm fine.  I always get a little queasy if I don't eat breakfast.  It was just the smell.  Besides, we've got a plane to catch!"

The traffic in Jakarta is just what you'd imagine it to be in most ginormous, third world cities.  There is a lot of speeding up for a few seconds, only to slam on the brakes again, with continual whipping back and forth between lanes.  In no time at all I was pretty sure I was going be sick again, but there was no way for our driver to pull off the road.  Lucky for us all, the ever-prepared Miss Peggy whipped a giant zip-lock baggie out of her purse.  By the time we reached the airport, I had filled it up.

Once inside, Peggy took care of checking us in, and I headed straight to the restroom, such as it was.  Every time I'd think it was safe to come out, the nausea would hit me again.  Peggy came to check on me, asking if I was certain I didn't want to return to her friend's house.  "No!  I just want to go home.  Leave me here until they start boarding the plane, then come get me."  By then there was nothing left for me to hurl, except maybe my intestines, and I was so exhausted that I just passed out on the plane, barf-bag clutched tightly in my hands.

When I finally made it to my house, I stumbled past my family and fell into bed.  The next morning I felt much, much better, though I looked as if I had been in a bar-room brawl.  Apparently, all that heaving had caused some blood vessels in my eyes to rupture, and the whites were now ruby-red.  As I was telling John what I had been through, he began to get a very strange look on his face.  "Uh, Beck? You didn't, by any chance, take one of those pills on an empty stomach, did you?"  "Why yes, I did.  Right before we left the house.  Why do you ask?"  "Well, I guess maybe I forgot to tell you what they said, about how important it was to only take them on a full stomach, huh?"  I probably didn't speak to him for a week.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


20th February, 1992

Dear George and Theda,

Greetings from beautiful Lhok Seumawe!  I'm so sorry that we were late in making George's birthday call.  John was just sick about it.  The kids sure did enjoy the Valentine cards you sent.  As for those catalogs, I would love it if you sent the Spiegel and the Hearth Song (if they're not too big), but the rest can wait.  We're still trying to get things straightened out for home leave and our first trip to Disney World.  I don't know who's more excited, the kids or the parents!  We thought we would have to fly from Singapore to Tokyo to Dallas to Orlando, but the travel agent found a direct flight from Tokyo to Orlando, which will put us in around 9:00 p.m. Saturday the 30th.  We will leave there on June 6 and go to Dallas (provided this fits in with Mike and Prisi's plans -- we still haven't checked dates with them).  John will stay for just a few days, then drive our car on out to Odessa to see you guys, and the kids and I will probably fly out the next Sunday evening, the 14th.  We should be there about two weeks.

There are several doctors we need to see while there, and I would really appreciate it if you could line up a few appointments for us.  I guess the kids both need to see their pedodontist in Midland (Walter Taylor) and John and I need to see our dentist, Vincent Bash.  Also, I would like to get a mammogram, since I've never had one.  Wherever you get yours would be fine.  I will probably need to go see a dermatologist as well.  I was doing fine in nice, dry west Texas, but something about Indonesia has set me off.  Imagine, getting zits again at almost 40! (Note from the future: turns out it wasn't really zits, but some kind of creepy infection!)

I guess all of us will drive back to Dallas around Friday, June 26th.  John has to leave for Indonesia on July 1st, but the kids and I will stay in Dallas for that whole month.  Hopefully Alexis will be able to go to Girl Scout camp during that time, and we can get Austin signed up for something too.  Mom's checking to see what the Science Place and Children's Museum have to offer.  I may even send him back to Midland if Karen and Linda sign their boys up for baseball camp or something.  On July 31st the kids and I hope to meet you two down in Houston for the Lane family reunion.  Then, if you wouldn't mind, I thought I would let the kids fly back to Odessa with you, but that I would try to stay in Houston two or three days longer, so I could try and meet up with Paula and Charlene.  I will go on to Odessa Tuesday or Wednesday, the kids and I will fly back to Dallas on the 7th, then we head back to Indonesia August 12th.  Whew!  All this is very tentative though -- who knows what will actually happen!

I went with Peggy Reeh on a lightening quick trip to Jakarta this week.  Basically, we only had one day there, so we started out at 8:00 a.m. and didn't get to eat dinner until 10:00 p.m.  Fun, but tiring!  Found lots of good Christmas and birthday presents to bring home for everyone in the States.  John doesn't want to go anywhere over spring break.  He can't stand to use up any vacation days that could be used on Home Leave, and I don't blame him!  Next month I'm supposed to go with 3 other ladies to spend 3 or 4 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I don't know much about it, but they say it's kind of like Singapore 10 or 20 years ago, before they tore everything down to build high-rises, and much cheaper.

I finally got my nerve up and made a trip out to the golf course.  Much to my surprise, I actually had a pretty good time.  Of course, I had no idea what I was doing, and the girl who was trying to show me how wasn't much better.  If we could just find a really good teacher, who knows?  I might finally learn to like a sport (don't faint!).  I'm sure I hit less than 100, though we didn't keep score.  Of course, we only played four holes.  You'd love the naked little boys that dive for your balls when they land in water, then sell them back to you!

Tomorrow night one of the girls here is having eight couples for dinner and Bunco.  I'm really looking forward to it.  Did I tell you about meeting Julie Underriner, the one having the party?  I was just chatting with her one day, and discovered that her sister lives in Midland, and is good friends with my old boss Barb!  We used to cater stuff for her all the time, but I never had a clue she had a sister in Indonesia.  It really is a small world, isn't it?

Next weekend the 3rd through 8th graders get to fly to Medan for an exchange weekend with the International School there.  Alexis is so excited about getting to go off by herself with all the big kids!  It should be a great adventure for her.  They are even taking them out to visit some kind of Orangutan Preserve.  They held auditions for the spring play this week.  This one is just for the older kids.  They're doing Pinnochio, but we are almost hoping that Alexis doesn't get much of a part.  She has enough trouble keeping up with all the homework they pile on her as it is, without having to memorize a million lines as well!

Not much else to tell.  I was certainly startled to see the town of Bogata, Texas in the headlines  today, for having six cases of AIDS in their itty bitty high school.  That's where my uncle's ranch is, and where all my cousins went to high school.  Good thing they've already graduated!  Well, take care, and write soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Dearest Friends,

Although the temps in Indonesia stay the same year-round, we most definitely had seasons on our Sumatran compound.  And, though I wasn't aware of it at the time, we were heading into the "stormy" season.

Even our easy-going Mr. Austin got his grump on this time of year -- especially when momma was forced to take away game privileges.
I suppose it is inevitable, when you take a disparate group of people, toss them into an enclosure (no matter how luxurious) and lock the gate on them, that, sooner or later, nerves are gonna fray.  Add to this that you have mixed together people from different countries, with different beliefs and customs; that we had no one else to socialize with other than the same people we worked with everyday, so it was impossible to get away from shop talk and rumors; that the teachers and doctor had no choice but to fraternize with their students' families and their patients, so they were never off duty; that gossip spread faster than the slash-and-burn fires which the farmers set, up on the hillsides above us, and that there was always lots going on to gossip about, and, well, it's easy to see how stress could build up after seven or eight months, and tempers would be lost.

On top of all that, we were all very homesick by then, and desperately looking forward to taking our annual home-leave as soon as school was out, but sad because we knew that some of the families would not be returning, and our kids might well end up in a class the following year with no one even close to their own age.  Most stressful of all was trying to work out the details of one's home-leave, and making all the arrangements.  In fact, as you will see in upcoming letters home, it was a bit of a nightmare!

Though we had nothing to compare it to at the time, our first spring on the compound was even more stressful than usual.  It turns out that the new school principal had actually be brought on board that year to "clean house"-- to make sure that the school received the desired accreditations -- and word had just leaked out that two of the current teaching couples (they hired only married couples) were to be let go at the end of the school year, and be replaced over the summer.  People who were good buddies with these teachers were livid at the news, and declared war on the principal and his wife.

I did my best to stay neutral, but was actually reduced to tears on one occasion.  I had planned a nice spring luncheon for everyone, before I even knew what was going on, and it turned into a major fiasco.  Half my guests refused to come if certain others were going to be there, and those who did come ended up arguing with one another.  By the time it was all over with, I was ready to be rid of the lot of them, and home leave couldn't possibly get there fast enough for me!

What I didn't know at the time was that this happened every year, and that after two or three months of me and my kids schlepping from one relative's house to another, trying not to overstay our welcome or get on their nerves; my trying to get the kids enrolled in camps and activities that they couldn't get overseas, and then having to figure out how to get them there; trying to shop for all the clothes, gifts, household items, etc. that we would need for the entire year, while staying within budget, and then managing to fit it all in our luggage; and trying to see everybody we needed to see, while balancing the amount of time we spent with each, so that no one got their feelings hurt, why, by August, I 'd be feeling pretty much the same way about all my kin folks as I had about my Indo-friends before we left, and I'd be running back to that compound with open arms!

Monday, January 2, 2012


11th February, 1992

Dear George and Theda,

How is everything in Odessa?  The kids and I just got back from Singapore Sunday evening, and John comes back tonight (Tuesday).  It's pretty grueling to try and do everything you need to do in one weekend, because you don't get there until 8:00 p.m. Friday, and we had the orthodontist appointment Sunday morning, then left at 1:00.  But we still managed to get a lot of shopping done and eat at all of our favorite restaurants (Hard Rock Cafe, and a Mexican place)!  You can tell what everyone's priorities are by what we each chose to buy in Singapore -- John came back with a fancy new camera, Alexis got clothes and make-up, Austin got Nintendo games, and I got 20 boxes of cereal and paperback books!

Believe it or not, this giant waterfall was actually inside our hotel.  Unfortunately, I can't remember which hotel that was.
We just happened to hit Singapore on the tail end of their Chinese New Year celebration, and it was really something to behold.  I think it even exceeds the Christmas frenzy in the states, and it lasts for 15 days!  They had a big parade Saturday night that went right by our hotel, and the kids really enjoyed the dragon dancers, but it made it almost impossible to go anywhere, since they started closing off the streets two hours early, making it impossible to take a taxi anywhere.  We got really excited when we discovered that the new movie Hook was playing, and ran 30 minutes through the rain and the parade crowds to get there, only to discover that the tickets were sold out.  Talk about a disappointment!  Come to find out, they sell reserved seat tickets in advance for their movies here, just like we do for live theatre performances.

Austin and his new friend Trent.
A new Mobil family was staying at our hotel, and we were able to show them around a bit and assist them on the trip back to Lhok Seumawe.  You could tell they were just in a state of total shock.  I'm glad we're not the new people anymore!  They have a little boy who's five, and will be in Austin's class at school, so they had a great time together.  He arrived just in time, since Austin's only other friend close to his age will be moving back to Alaska in June.  The only bad part of the trip was finding out that the orthodontist doesn't need to see Alexis again for four more months! (I was hoping for frequent trips to Singapore.)

Not much else to tell right now.  I'm busy preparing for a Valentines dinner party that I'm giving for six couples this Friday.  Since John got me a pasta machine for Christmas, I thought it might be fun to have everyone come help cook a big pasta dinner together.  The only problem will be fitting them all into my minuscule kitchen!  Oh, by the way, did I tell you about the Chili Cook-Off/Superbowl party they had a couple of weeks ago?  John's chili placed 3rd out of 16!  He was really thrilled.  His friend Danny Reeh won 1st place.  The kids sure have enjoyed the books you sent, and Alexis just adores the dangle earrings and rings.  The folding table and chairs you gave us are probably the most useful things we brought with us.  The only trouble is, people are always wanting to borrow them!  Guess that's about it.  Take care, and write soon.