Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Dearest Friends,

To reach Bukittinggi by road was a 90 km trip, with a gradual climb to about 930 meters above sea level. It lies near Mount Marapi, which was formed by a still-active volcano. After leaving Singapore during WWII, the Japanese made this their headquarters, and left behind quite a network of underground bunkers and tunnels. The town had its origins in five villages that served as the basis for a marketplace, which might account for the many artists and craftsmen in the area. These are just a few of those we visited.

Here you are probably seeing the seeds of what was to become this blogging obsession of mine, for I seem to remember that while all my friends were busy collecting souvenirs, I was more concerned with collecting memories -- taking photos and trying to remember as much as I could, so that I could share it all in my letters home. Kind of funny when you think about it, seeing as I probably have just about the only hubby in the world who is actually disappointed, if not down-right irritated, when I come home from a shopping excursion empty-handed!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Dearest Friends,

In order to reach W. Sumatra, we had to first take the company plane to Medan, and from there we took a commercial flight to Padang. My friend Jane, who is British, brought "sticky buns" for the journey, Carol brought rugelach, and of course, we all brought our Shanghai bags -- little purses holding the coins we used to play our favorite card game.

Being the capital city of the province, Padang was fairly cosmopolitan, and our hotel surprisingly luxurious. Have I ever mentioned how much I adore hotels with open-air lobbies in tropical surroundings?

They should have called us The Belly Bag Gang!
I'm guessing the hotel gave us those pretty drinks upon our arrival, for the odds are slim that everyone would have ordered the exact same thing.

Here we are, ready for a rousing game of Shanghai, all wearing the matching nightshirts that our wonderful tour organizer had made for us. Did the hotel provide those beverages as well, or did someone bring along wine? Can't remember. I do remember two girls lugging a big ol' desk down the hallway in their nighties though -- one of the highlights of the trip! Hey, when it comes to playing Shanghai, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

We spent a couple of days there, and then it was time to load up into a motorcoach and head for the W. Sumatran Highlands, where we'd heard that each village has it's own specialty or craft, and that time-honored techniques and secrets of the trade have been passed down from one generation to the next.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Dearest Friends,

There had been lots of opportunities for travel since we had arrived in Indonesia. Groups of women were always going somewhere -- especially those who were there without children and didn't have much to do. Mostly I had declined their invitations, thinking my kids were too young to be left, we needed to save our money, there'd be plenty of time for that later, etc. However, as I slowly came to realize that this might well be our last year in Sumatra, a sense of panic set in. There was so much I still hadn't seen or done! What if I never got the chance to visit this part of the world again? It was right around then that one of my friends (I think it was Carol) announced that she was organizing a ladies' trip to West Sumatra. Traveling to such remote places without my hubby involved stepping waaaaay outside my comfort zone, but hey, it was now, or never. I took the leap. Oh my, my, am I ever so glad I did.

The Rumah Gadang, or big house, wit pointed roof tips resembling water buffalo horns.
West Sumatra is home to the Minangkabau people, a matrilineal culture where property and land passes down from mother to daughter. Men don't have much say in village activities, concerning themselves mostly with religious and political affairs. Padang, the capital and largest city of W. Sumatra province, was to be our first destination. It is a common transit point for surfers traveling to nearby islands, and for tourists, such as ourselves, headed for the W. Sumatran Highlands, including Bukittinggi (High Hill) and Lake Maninjau. I knew next to nothing about any of the places we were headed, but one thing I knew for sure -- I was headed for a grand adventure!

Monday, May 21, 2012


The Coneheads/Three Stooges host a pre-carnival gathering at our place.
November 1, 1993

Dear Mom & Dad,

Can't believe it's November again already. Fall is passing so fast, with all the activities going on this year. In fact, everyone around here is about sick to death of functions and parties. I'd like to have a nice quiet weekend for once, nothing to do, nowhere to go. We leave for Perth, Australia on Nov. 12, and will be gone one week. We're really looking forward to the trip. Since it's late spring for them, we're hoping the weather will be pretty nice. Speaking of weather, it's been raining a lot here lately. We've had some real downpours this last week!

Heading down to the carnival with the coneheads and Robocop
The costume parade -- Austin used the clothes from his Headless Horseman costume of the previous year, then added a creepy mask, bandana, and earring to create a Zombie Pirate. I think this was pre-Pirates of the Caribbean, so they must've stolen the idea from him!
Looks like Lexie won a prize for her costume. Should've gone to the seamstress.
The kids had their Halloween Carnival this past weekend. Both of them brought home gold fish they had won. Sunday I went out and bought a couple of more fish along with a couple of fish bowls. Unfortunately, this morning we found one of Austin's swimming upside down. Guess that one isn't going to make it. Not really sure what happened -- if it was the rocks we bought to put in the bottom clouding up the water, or if maybe Austin overfed his. I'll probably have to go out and buy a replacement. Not too bad, as they only cost about 75 cents each.

Lex found this costume in Jane Asher's Costume Book, and pestered me for weeks to make it. I finally caved in, but vetoed the buns in the blouse.
See any resemblance between her skirt in the photo above, and this sofa? One of our lace curtain panels gave up it's life for this costume as well. She was one happy girl!
Dig that gorgeous backdrop! Probably painted by the same carpenter who did their bedroom murals. Is that pirate carrying a light saber?
Becky went off on another trip this week with the ladies. They went up to some place near Lake Toba and will be gone a week. She's been having a lot of fun on these trips. Not really sure what is up there, as far as crafts and all. Guess we'll find out when she gets back.

Hope Mike got that computer stuff sent off. If so, I'll be getting it in a few weeks. There are several people scheduled to be heading this way in November. I forgot to mention to him and to you, if you ever want to send a package over here, the best way is to send it via DHL. They are like United Parcel, etc. DHL makes deliveries in this area and, apparently, has a fairly good system of working with the Indonesian customs agents. I don't know if they have an office in the Midland/Odessa area or not, but there is a chance they do. I think you would use the same address as you would on a letter. The local DHL branch knows this place fairly well.

How are you both feeling these days? I didn't realize Mom went into the hospital. No one told us a thing. I wasn't really too clear from our conversation, but I take it the vertigo is more stress related than anything else. Is that right? I had a little bit of that several years ago, but nothing to the extent you have been suffering. How is the new help working out? I'm sure it helps a lot to have the live-in help. As Mike said, just let us know if we can pitch in towards that. It's really no problem.

How are Milton and Lucille doing these days? They weren't doing too good when we left last summer. Nub and Winona were doing fairly well -- maybe he is a little more deaf. Becky hasn't heard from Paula lately and is getting pretty concerned. She has always been good about writing in the past.

Well, guess that's about it for now. I imagine Becky will add something after she gets back from her trip.


Thursday, May 17, 2012


The Star-Trek-themed murder mystery party we hosted
A party only the brave attended, as it was held at a restaurant in Lhok Seumawe

Miss Becky heads over the hill

Three nuns on their way to a Halloween Shanghai luncheon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Dearest Friends,

I think Melody, Rich and their two kids were the first of our close friends to transfer out of Sumatra. Fortunately, they only went as far as Jakarta, so it wasn't too bad. We could actually go visit them if we really wanted to. When friend Patti found out that she, Brad, and their three littles would soon be heading to the States, she started to panic over whether she had seen everything she needed to see, and bought everything she needed to buy.

There was a whole lot of stuff you could buy in Jakarta that we never even saw out in the middle of the jungle, so that's exactly what she did -- she went to visit Mel! And, being such a good friend and all, I offered to go along -- just for moral support of course.

If there was anything left in Jakarta when we finished there, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying!

Once Patti and her family departed, it was as if someone had left the stopper out of the drain, for there seemed to be a slow but steady exodus from that point on.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


 Dearest Friends,

In case you are worried that our kids were missing out on too much -- being torn from the wonderful U.S. schools, with all the enrichment and socialization they had to offer, and hauled off to this tiny little school out in the middle of a jungle -- here is just a sampling of what was going on in their lives those first few weeks of fall:

  • there was the annual family beach party, where letting your friends bury you was a favorite activity
  • Austin had after-school-sports Mon. and Wed., and both had swimming class every Friday
  • there was family sports night every Wed. evening
  • Lex had craft club on Wed. afternoons, which I taught

  • they had an all school skating party, and a trip out to the elephant farm

  • Austin had baking club
  • they had Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts
  • there were school trips to a rice mill and a coffee mill
  • Lex had her school trip to Lake Toba, and Austin had his trip to Medan
  • there was Batik Week, with its guest artist, a bake sale, and an art show

  • we celebrated Austin's eighth birthday, and they both attended friend's parties
  • they both hosted and attended numerous sleepovers
  • Austin and I made costumes, attended play rehearsals, and practiced lines

Meanwhile, in the background, Mom and Dad had also joined the school carnival committee, Dad was on the school board, and Mom was teaching Sunday School again. And all of this was just in the first quarter -- a mere six weeks or so!

Were they deprived in any way? Not hardly. I think they were just about the luckiest kids in the world!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Thursday, October 14th, 1993

Dear Gang,

Well, I knew that new red wig I bought this summer would really knock 'em dead, but I never guessed that John would be the one wearing it! Last Friday Carol Silverman had a 50th birthday party for her husband, and she got John to come "in drag" for entertainment. Coming so close on the heels of his dropping to the floor and performing the 'Gator at a recent dance, well, people are finally getting to see the real John -- the crazy, fun-loving guy that only his closest friends get to see. Guys he works with have been coming up to me all week, wanting to know what we did to "force" him into doing this. They just don't believe me when I say "not a dang thing!" I must admit, it was kind of fun dressing him up. I dug through our dress-up trunk and found an old slinky black jersey one-shouldered mini dress of mine, and he wore it with thigh high stockings and lots of jewels. Of course, his bushy red beard went great with the curly red wig!

Check out those gorgeous gams!
The kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed our batik workshop with Azziz this week, although I doubt if my "masterpiece" will ever be hung. It's such a fascinating art, but it involves so many complicated (and somewhat caustic) chemical processes, that I doubt if it would be very practical as a hobby. We were forced to take the whole week off from quilting because this was so time consuming, and I can hardly wait to get back to it. I want to get this first sampler quilt out of the way so I can start on my Christmas fabrics that I brought back from Singapore.

Alexis has been on many school trips and exchanges since moving here, but today it was finally Austin's turn. Mr. and Mrs. Zavala flew up to Medan with all the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders for just a one day exchange with the Medan International School and the Medan Japanese School. He was so excited last night that he just couldn't get to sleep. I thought I would be dragging him out of bed by his toenails this morning (they had to be at the school by 6:15) but he had me walking down there in the dark and we arrived by 6:00! They get back this evening around 6:00, and I bet he will be one pooped puppy.

These kids look Indonesian to me, but it's the only school-visit photo of Austin I could find.
This week was probably the best in two years, as far as mail goes. The Southern Living magazine that I asked Theda for, and the three lace doilies that I asked Carolyn for, all made it here safe and sound. It's just amazing how much little things like that mean to us. I was on cloud nine all week! I enjoyed the magazine so much that I went ahead and subscribed. A full year's overseas subscription is only $26.95, and since Theda spends close to that every time she sends a little packet of magazines and computer junk, I figure that even if only half of them make it here, we'll still come out ahead. Another big hit that came in the mail was an article, from Kathy and Bud, about the recent sightings of some Blue Footed Boobies in Texas. For those of you who don't know, that is the silly secret "magic word" that I have used with the kids since they were tiny, but until they saw this article, I don't think they ever actually believed me when I told them that there really was such a bird!

Guess that's all for now, and as always, PLEASE WRITE!!!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Back to School Open House
Dearest Friends,

Know what I love about this picture? Check out the two boys center front. Look at the way little Travis, one of the youngest kids in the school, has his arm draped over older boy Jamie's, as if they were brothers. In a community this small, our kids made friends with everyone, and they soon learned that friends were not a disposable commodity. If you ditched your friends whenever they pissed you off, you'd end up very, very lonely, so they learned how to compromise. They learned that they could have friends of all ages and nationalities, and of both sexes -- kids whose interests and beliefs weren't necessarily the same as theirs, and who wouldn't always agree with them on every little thing. They learned that people could like them just as they were, even if they didn't have the "in" toys and clothes. Heck, they no longer had any way of knowing what was in! They learned that it's actually far better to have a teacher who makes you work hard, but stimulates your imagination, than it is to coast along in utter boredom. They also learned that it was important to balance that hard work with plenty of physical activity and creative opportunities. They thrived on being able to move about the classroom, and interact with the other students, including those in different grades. Most importantly, they learned that the universe was a very, very big place, and they were not the center of it -- that our way of doing things was not the only way, or even necessarily the right way. All this was the best thing about growing up overseas -- and it was the worst thing too, for it was going to make it very, very difficult to go back to the old way of doing things, and all but impossible to go back to the old way of seeing things!