Friday, March 30, 2012


Dearest Friends,

Easter of '93 was one jam-packed, fun-filled weekend! That Friday was when we finally got to see John Lane: Vampire Hunter in Out For The Count. Afterwards our friends Tom and Teri hosted a cast party for everyone involved in the production. Saturday was a pot luck and easter egg hunt up at the pool, and Sunday was the sunrise service on the beach, followed by Easter dinner with six other families at Danny and Peggy's house. The kids thought the egg hunt at the pool was a blast, even if they did have to outrun Mr. Danny to get any eggs.

Little Miss Easter Bunny ended up getting tossed into the drink! (Who would do such a thing?)

Boy, was she ever shocked when she discovered that her pink bunny skin became transparent when wet! Poor wittle Bunny.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Dearest Friends,

You know how my hubby swore he'd never set foot on a stage again? Well, that lasted maybe two or three weeks, until someone managed to convince him to participate in one of the skits for our annual Hash Dinner. If you recall, the Hash is that trek through the jungle, following a fickle paper trail, that most everyone in the community participated in each Sunday afternoon. The goal was to somehow find your way to the "grog" truck (loaded down with icy sodas and beer) so that you could catch a ride home on the bus, and not be left in the jungle. Once a year the Hash group held a nice dinner at the restaurant, where they passed out some funny awards, and entertained us with the aforementioned skits.

My hubby's the hottie on the right -- the one wearing dark socks with his plaid bermuda shorts!

I asked him if he remembered what his skit was about. He said no, just that it was a good opportunity to wear his favorite t-shirt -- the one I would not normally let him leave the house in (Captain Condom says "Wrap That Rascal!")

Monday, March 26, 2012


We just happened to arrive in Lake Toba on market day, which I thought was extremely fortunate. I'm not sure my sister agreed with me. I think the sights and smells were a bit much for her (that durian will get you every time). Even I, an hold pro by that time, was a bit disturbed by the stall where they were tossing live chickens into something akin to the spin cycle of an old washing machine, in order to kill and de-feather them in one fell swoop. Somewhat ingenious though, no? 
(click photos to enlarge)

The market area, seen from a distance.
Traditional Batak houses, with their peaked roofs.
Our hotel.

Hiking up to the ruins.
Hearing about the "good ol' days", when they still boiled intruders like us for dinner!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Sister Kathy in front of our rooms at the Golden Sands Resort

A snake charmer entertains the kids.
Our friend Peggy and her two kids happened to be there at the same time, which made it extra fun.
Taking a banana ride.

Choosing our dinner.
Lobster Fest!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


7th April, 1993

Dear Friends and Family,

Sorry it's been so long since my last letter, but I was just way too busy having fun, with visiting sister Kathy, to stop and sit at the computer! We really had a blast, but I guess you could say her agenda ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. We started off by picking her up in Singapore and going straight to Penang. We stayed at the same place we went to last year -- the one with all sorts of organized activities for the kids, the great rock slide into the pool, massages on the beach, little flags to raise when you wanted another drink, etc. (you get the picture!) Then we took her to Lake Toba back in Sumatra. Carolyn is the only one who can fully appreciate what you have to go through to get there, for she has now "experienced" travel in Indonesia!

Sister Kathy, a.k.a. Gus
First we had a one hour flight back to Medan -- not too bad, although you might not recognize any of the foods they serve on board. The Medan airport itself is the real adventure. No air-conditioning, lots of clove-scented smoke, millions of little porters in yellow jumpsuits who scramble for your bags, whether you want them to or not, and then head off in ten different directions, etc. Then there are the mobs of people, none of whom believe in queuing up for anything! Assertiveness goes first so, of course, we are always last.

We were met there by a very nice driver with a van who, unfortunately, spoke not one word of English.  (sad to say, our Indonesian isn't so hot either) He took us to lunch at Pizza Hut, and to the grocery store to stock up on "survival food." Then we embarked on the four hour trip up to Lake Toba, and this is where words fail me. All I can say is, thank heaven I had on my motion sickness patch, and was able to sit in back with my eyes closed the entire trip. I thought I had developed nerves of steel with regards to the local driving habits, but this was a true test! It was worth it though (easier to say, now that I've come out alive) for the lake truly is amazing. The island in the middle of it is larger than Singapore (so imagine the size of the lake itself!) and was originally the home of the Batak tribe, who were cannibals (we got to see some of their ancient stone tables, chairs and execution blocks) and they managed to withstand the influence of the Moslems by isolating themselves on the island and eating any strangers who ventured in. At least one intrepid missionary must have managed to infiltrate the island without being eaten, for now they are all Christians. They really love music and singing, and you see "Batak Singers" listed as entertainment at clubs all over Asia.  We stayed in some really neat cottages that resembled Batak houses, with roofs that are pointed on each end -- no A.C., but you don't really need it since it's nice and cool up in the mountains. Oh yeah, did I mention that this lake was formed in an ancient volcano crater?

After spending a few days here, we had to do the whole tedious trip in reverse. Unfortunately, I had used up my last patch, so I was green most of the trip. We were convinced of our driver's excellence when he managed to find us a little minit mart type place to stop at on the way home that actually had a clean bathroom. No, the toilet was not western style, but at that point, we really didn't care. Hey! That reminds me! A friend in Jakarta found this in her book on culture shock:

You know you are beginning to adjust to Indonesia when...
  • you spend the night on the toilet, and don't bother mentioning it the next morning
  • you sleep through the 4:30 A.M. call to prayer from the mosque's loudspeaker
  • you don't flinch when faced with squatting over an Asian-style toilet
  • you are positive cars in American movies are driving on the wrong side of the road
  • you go on home leave, and try to bargain in the department store
I guess you could say we are very well-adjusted now!

Poor Kathy thought she was going to end her vacation by spending the week here at our house being waited on by our staff, lounging around the pool, and having facials and manicures at the salon. Unfortunately, she arrived right at the end of Ramadan (I swear I didn't know this when Bud bought her ticket last summer), which meant the help was on vacation the whole week, and the salon was closed. She's convinced I planned it that way so that I would have her help doing all those dishes by hand, and having to hang laundry out on the clothesline, since the dryer quit working the day she arrived! We still managed to have lots of fun and sun, then had a great couple of days in Singapore (hey Gus, remember eating Boober Cha Cha for tea at the Raffles, and almost wetting our pants, we got to giggling so hard?) before she had to head home. All in all, this has been a fantastic year for me, but next year will be rough. We are fairly certain we won't be having any more visitors from home, and the longer we are here, the more homesick we get. Also, the older Alexis gets, the harder it will be on her at school, since there will be less and less kids near her age.

Tonight is the dress rehearsal for John's play. He's done nothing but moan and groan about it from day one, so I was really shocked when I finally saw a rehearsal and discovered that he was great! The director says he is the most improved of all the cast members. His only problem is that he has trouble keeping a straight face when he says something funny, but I think the audience will love it all the more if he actually loses it during a performance! He swears he will never do this again, but maybe it will be like having babies, and he will forget about the agony after a while.

Not much else to tell, except to update you on our plans for the summer. Looks like we will be arriving in Cincinnati around 6:00am Sat., May 22, then in Dallas Sat., May 29, around 10:00 am. John will probably drive on out to Odessa the next day, but the kids and I will wait and fly out a week later. Luckily, we will be there to keep George company so that Theda can fly up to see Megan graduate from high school June 10th. Around June 28th we plan to head for the hills! (Texas Hill Country, that is) We hope to stop in and see the Reeh's ranch in Doss, meet up with the Sanfords in Fredericksburg, maybe take in Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, and finally end up by dropping Alexis off at camp in San Marcos on July 4th. We've discovered what appears to be a great one at Southwest Texas State University's Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center. It's called Aquatic Studies Summer Camp, and they combine learning about pond, river and aquifer life with doing fun things every afternoon like tubing, rafting, and going to Schlitterbahn, Aquarena Springs, Seaworld and Natural Bridge Caverns. She's really excited, and it looks like her friends Lizzie and Jennifer Newsome will be going too (same one she went to Scout camp with last year).

Anyway, as soon as we drop her off we will head up to Dallas, since John has to fly out late on July 8th. Then I will have to turn around and go back to get Alexis the next weekend. Anyone care to go along for the ride?  It looks like July 16th will be the best weekend for our family trip to New Orleans, to celebrate Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary. May 1st is the actual day, but they are sneaking away on a cruise by themselves, and waiting until we get home this summer for the family celebration.

That covers just about everything, except for a 3 or 4 week orgy of malls, movies and restaurants, before the kids and I head back home around August 11th. Y'all take care, and let me know if anyone hears of any great activities for Mr. Austin to participate in this summer. We can't wait to see you all, and are counting the days until we head in that direction -- 43 to be exact!

P.S. I've got lots of pictures I'll be posting over the next few days. In fact, we took so many on these trips that I will have to sort through them first, and just pick out the best of the best!

Monday, March 19, 2012


Dearest Friends,

In some ways my hubby and I are a lot alike. For one thing, we are both extremely non-confrontational. We'd do just about anything to avoid an argument -- our own, or anyone else's. In my case it was so extreme that just watching things like the Three Stooges or Abbot and Costello could make me twitchy. Part of this, I'm sure, is that neither of us has a glib tongue. John is a good listener, a great audience. I'm the one who thinks of brilliant rejoinders -- hours after the fact when it's too late to do me any good! Hence, we would surely lose in a battle of words, especially with someone who could think on the fly. Anyhoo, since we both hated arguing, and had not yet been taught how to handle disagreements productively, a lot of stuff was still getting swept under the rug in those days.

In other ways we were polar opposites. It was that classic half-empty/half-full scenario. No matter how bad things got, I usually managed to stay fairly cheerful. No matter how good things got, John still managed to stay fairly glum -- which created a nice balance, for the most part. While living the ex-pat life, however, it actually led to one of our biggest fights.

Miss Becky's nest in the Indo-house, where she did her thinking and writing.
You see, I did such a good job of making the best of things that, eventually, John would always forget that there was any down-side to my situation -- that I had given anything up, or made any trade-offs to be there. All he saw was that he had to go to work every day, while I stayed home with a maid and a driver. As if that weren't bad enough, I had the nerve to be all chipper when he got home each day, wanting to tell him about all the fun things the kids and I did while he was at work! Anyway, things finally came to a head one weekend when John went to make a peanut butter sandwich, and discovered we were out of bread. He blurted out something rather hurtful, on the order of "You'd think a woman who didn't have a damn thing to do all day could at least manage to keep bread in the house!", then grabbed the kids and headed off to the snack bar, leaving me standing there with my mouth agape.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, words finally came to me, but of course, I had no one to say them to. They didn't come in a gentle way, either. It was more of an eruption. I had no choice but to grab a pen and start writing a letter to my hubby. I don't remember exactly what was in that one, but I do recall it as one of my better letters -- one where I was able to open his eyes to a few truths, but in a humorous way. I think I started out apologizing for the error of my ways, and telling him he deserved much better. Perhaps he deserved one of the wives we knew who stayed drunk all day long, because it was the only way they could deal with the tedious monotony of their lives here. Or perhaps he should be with the one who was sneaking off to sleep with her hubby's best friend while he was at work. Then again, maybe he would prefer one of those who seemed to be back in the states or away on trips more than they were ever here on the compound, or, better yet, one who refused to come to Indonesia in the first place, even if it meant death to her hubby's career. Oh wait, here's an idea! Maybe I should trade in my part-time maid and the ordeal of fixing my whole family three meals a day, from scratch, almost every darn day, and get not only a live-in maid and a cook, like most everyone we knew, but also a nanny for the kids, like a few others had. That way I could devote every waking minute to his needs.

OK, maybe I didn't really say all that. I think I got a bit carried away there towards the end. Skip that last part and jump ahead to where I closed by saying something like "Silly me! I never knew I actually had a choice in any of this. I thought I had to quit my job at Chez Vous, say goodbye to my friends and family, and a home and a church I adored, to follow you to the ends of the earth. I thought it was my duty to make the most of the situation, and to stay as busy and cheerful as possible. I thought that was what you wanted! Was I wrong? If so, there is a simple solution. Book those tickets and we can be on the next plane outta here!"

His reply? "Damn, Becky! Did you have to go and make me laugh? Couldn't you let me enjoy my righteous indignation a little bit longer,  just this once?"

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Thursday, 4th March, 1993

Hi Gang,

Well, we are all counting the days, if not minutes, until next Friday when Spring Break begins, and we leave for Singapore to go get Kathy. Things seem to have gotten really hectic around here lately, and everyone is ready for a break. John is caught up in play rehearsals and school board meetings, and I've been busy with the scouts and with trying to get costumes for the play squared away before everyone leaves on holiday. We thought John would have one of the easiest costumes because the script just called for him to wear a trenchcoat, but then Julie saw an old Dracula movie where they were all dressed in period costumes. Now we are having to come up with a three piece suit with a long, Wyatt-Earp-style jacket, in green. It's worth it, I suppose, just to have this opportunity to see him on a stage. Can't wait!

The kids seem to be inundated with after-school activities right now. Alexis has mandatory sports activities after school two days a week (right now it's bicycling) and they have family sports night once a week, where she is playing water polo. Also, she has scouts and computer club every week. Austin has Cub Scouts, Newcomb (like volleyball) and soccer, which is great fun, but probably not any kind of preparation for what kids in the states are doing, since we have to clump everyone from 3 yrs. on up together. On top of all this, we found out that there is a tennis instructor available for free, so the kids both wanted to go to tennis lessons each Friday. I hope Austin keeps his interest up in that, because that is something he could play anywhere we moved. He may not always hit the ball, but when he does, he whacks the living daylights out of it! Now if only the kids had a little free time. I think maybe the school has gone a bit overboard, for fear the kids don't have enough to do here. The good news is that I trade off with Peggy Reeh each month, as Sunday School teacher for the 4 and 5 years olds, and I just started my month off. YABBA-DABBA-DOO!!!

In addition to just being too busy, this is also the "BAD" time of year. The closer you get to Home Leave, the more frayed everyone's nerves get. I thought this wasn't supposed to happen until late April, but there are several feuds going on already (no, none involving me!). The kids are all really sad because the Freels family is leaving. Their two daughters are Alexis' best friends and make up half of her class and half of my scout troop, and their son is one of Austin's buddies. Also, one other family and one bachelor have left this month, so we're all breaking our necks trying to do farewell parties, etc. So far there is no news of any replacement families coming, and that makes us all nervous as well, since the school seems to be dwindling away before our eyes!

Of course, add to all this the fact that it's Ramadan, and you will understand why everyone feels a bit frazzled. This is the month when all the Moslems must fast from sunup until sundown -- not even a sip of water is allowed. (It makes them more empathetic to the poor and starving, which is why, unlike we Americans, they always have pockets full of change --year round, not just at Ramadan -- and would never even think about ignoring someone with their hand out!) They stay up most of the night eating and visiting, so they are absolutely exhausted during the day. Also, the loudspeakers on the mosques go off around 3:30 each morning, to remind them that it's their last chance to eat before sunrise, so there are a few tired expats as well. I don't like to eat or drink in front of our help while they are fasting, so I have to hide in the bathroom if I want a soda or something! Needless to say, we can hardly wait for Kathy to arrive and to head out for Penang.

Guess that's about all for now. Take care, and we will see you all before you know it!

Monday, March 12, 2012


10th February, 1993

Dear George and Theda,

It's me again. Well, you won't believe the latest news. John A. Lane (Mr. I-Hate-Getting-Up-In-Front-Of-People) has agreed to be in a play! Our Little Theatre group here, headed by my friend Julie, is doing a vampire spoof this spring called Out For The Count, and they called and begged John to take the part of the professor, Hertz Van Hyer. He started getting queasy about five minutes after he said yes, and I'm sure it's only going to get worse as we get closer and closer to showtime. I will be helping with costumes and make-up, and you can be sure I will record this monumental occasion!

Austin's teacher was in the play as well, which Austin thought was a hoot!
Herr Van Hyer seems to be grinning in most of the pictures. Not sure that's what Director Julie had in mind.
The Cast
The Crew
The other exciting news is that John managed to win first place out of 18 entries in this year's Super Bowl Chili Cook-Off (last year he came in second). He named his recipe "Three Fingers Chili" and went to the party with his hand wrapped up in an ace bandage, with three of his fingers hidden, just as a joke. Well, it's a week later, and people are still coming up to me wanting to know how John's poor hand is! (It was a blind taste test, so none of this had any influence on who won.) What I want to know is, if he's such a fabulous cook, why can't I get him to set foot in the kitchen the other 364 days of the year? He's decided that next year, to be fair to everyone else, he will just make something funny or unusual -- like maybe using squid sliced into little rings and calling it @$$-hole Chili. (Hey, you raised him, not me!)

We did something very brave and adventurous last week, but Carolyn is the only one who will fully appreciate it, since she is the only one who has been here and seen it for herself. We actually went with three other couples and ate dinner at a restaurant in Lhok Seumawe!!! The amazing thing is that it was a Chinese restaurant, and the food was quite good. Even more amazing? Not one of us got sick afterwards! We also discovered that Lhok Seumawe is a much nicer place after dark -- you can't see all the dirt and grime, and it looks almost festive with all the twinkle lights and lots of tables set up out on the sidewalks. We had a surprisingly good time.

This morning John left for a school in, of all places, Bali. Talk about a boondoggle! I was tempted to go with him, but it is only a two day school, and it takes two days to get home with an overnight layover in Medan. Also, only Indonesian engineers were going with him, and none of them were taking their wives. But I WILL get there some day! I can hardly complain though, after getting to go to Hong Kong with Carolyn in January. We're all getting pretty excited about going back to Penang in a few weeks when Kathy gets here. This weekend Alexis is going back to Medan, with all the older kids from her school, for an exchange weekend with the International School there. They always have a great time, mainly because they get to eat at Pizza Hut and go to a movie or go bowling, which is a really big deal for kids living on a compound in the middle of the jungle!

Well, guess that's all for now. Only 14 more weeks 'til we hit the states! But then, who's counting?