Monthly Archives: December 2009

RIO – trucks

Another Random Indonesian Object today: the typical truck.  I took this picture from our front porch.  There’s a recycling business of sorts right across the street, and this is their truck being loaded up to cart all of the stuff away.  Almost everything about this is different from America!  Here’s just some of the differences:

  • Size of the engine/truck: here, a 1.5 liter 4-cylinder engine is plenty for a work truck (in America it’s at least a V-8, usually over 4 liters, if not a big diesel engine!).  This truck does the work of the typical F-150 in the US.
  • How to load: pile on as much as possible
  • Maintenance: if the truck doesn’t start, try, try again!  If you can’t start it at all, it might be time to see a mechanic.  Don’t fix it unless it is totally and utterly dead.


This is completely typical here.  The object is always to be as efficient as possible – how much can you fit on one truck/motorbike/cart?  And generally, this works pretty well.  This is just a completely opposite mindset from the one we have in America.  Oftentimes, we use a big V-8 powered F-150 to lug a few bags of mulch, but here they will absolutely maximize the load whenever possible.  Trucks like this one are the workhorse of the country. We enjoy watching this unique type of efficiency!


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A Little Like Christmas

As we get close to Christmas, it is strange to be wearing shorts and t-shirts (although I hear it will be 70 degrees in Houston on Christmas day!), watching “orange and palm-trees sway….”

So I thought I would share some of the things that we miss about Christmas in America. Most of these are just little things that we didn’t really notice when in America, until they don’t exist here!

  • Christmas lights EVERYWHERE, especially on houses.
  • Christmas music playing in all the stores and on the radio.
  • Christmas “specialty” drinks at Starbucks.
  • Chilly weather.
  • Holiday parties.
  • Get-togethers with friends and family.
  • Christmas concerts and recitals.
  • Funky Christmas sweaters and clothes (although I never liked them in America, but somehow now I miss seeing them!).
  • Santa in the malls.
  • Saying “Merry Christmas!” to everyone.

Even though all these things are very different here in Indonesia, we have done our best to make our home feel Christmas-y. I have jingle bells on the front door, an apple spice candle on the end table, a poinsettia on the kitchen table, stockings and Christmas lights hung on the window (no fireplace here). And here is a picture of our tree with WAY too many presents underneath:

We are planning to get together with our friends Paul and Krisanne for a big turkey meal on Christmas Eve around noon. I think the menu that we have planned would make some Americans jealous! We try really hard to make it as “homey” as we can. We’re going to have turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, veggies, eggplant dip, rolls, gravy, cut-out cookies, chocolate revel bars, pecan pie, chocolate mousse, and cider. YUM!

After that we are going to a soup get-together with other people from our org here in Bandung for dinner followed by a Candlelight Service at church. We are really excited about going to that – there is nothing like singing “Silent Night” with fellow believers to candlelight to make it feel like Christmas!

On Christmas day we’re making our own new traditions as a family of three and taking the whole day to relax and celebrate Jesus’ birth together. And then we need to pack, because the next day we head to the beach!

Since it’s been a while, I thought I would put up some recent pictures of our adorable little girl. She’s growing up so fast!

Decorating the tree together.

Learning “up!”

“Learning to use a spoon” a.k.a. “not much ends up on the spoon or in the mouth” (hence no shirt).

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R. I. O. – Random Indonesian Objects

I (Matt) have decided to start posting some RIOs.  I’ll try to throw a new one here and there for an interesting taste of life here.  We quickly become used to things here, but so much is very different!  Even when we have an equivalent item in America, it can look very different here. 


This is our oven.  While we can get a more traditional 4-burner stove and oven here, we are waiting until next year because our home right now doesn’t have room in the kitchen.  These are by far more common here, since they are so inexpensive.  Made out of aluminum, you just set it on top of a gas burner.  They are surprisingly effective and easy to use, though the entire room gets pretty hot.  So far we’ve made a cake, roasted vegetables, and this week we’ll be making a pecan pie (thanks for the pecans, Grandma and Grandpa!) and some muffins.  I’ll let you know how they turn out!

They do need to be baby-sat more than our oven back in the US, since the temperature can vary and food cooks a little differently in it.  Also, they are small, so we’ll be making 6 muffins at a time, not 12.  And our casserole dish is about half-size. 

Because this is the first in my very long and extensive series of lectures on RIOs, here’s a second object:


The are our LPG (Liquid Propane Gas, or in Indonesian, elpiji) tanks, which power our water heater and stove.  LPG is hugely popular here, and we’re thrilled because it is cheap and clean-burning (fewer wood fires smoking up the neighborhood).  LPG is sold on an exchange system here, very similar to the ones in the US for your tank you use on your grill. 

The big blue ones are 15 kg (33 lbs) and the small green one is 3 kg (6.6 lbs) of LPG.  We normally use the two large blue tanks and keep the small green one as a spare.  Our pembantu (house helper) told us that LPG is a relatively new development here that was encouraged by the current President, now in his second term.  Before that she says she burned oil for cooking, but it made a lot more smoke.  The prices of LPG, gasoline, rice, and other basic staples here are regulated by the government to keep the price affordable for everyone.

Hope you enjoyed the first of many RIOs!

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A Great (BIG) 1st Birthday Party

(If you want the live version of some of my narrations, scroll down a bit and there is a video compilation of the party events!)

Wednesday, December 9th is Elizabeth’s first birthday, and we had planned for a while to do a party for the kids in the neighborhood. Originally I thought we would just do something small for the little girls that come play with her in the afternoon. Well…. once word got out that we would have a party for her I got asked every day by a different child in the area, “Her Birthday is in December and there will be a party, right?” So we ended up doing some cultural enquiries with our teachers to find out the best way to have a party here.

We ordered food for 60 at first, but then after handing out 56 invitations (one per family), we figured out that it probably wouldn’t be enough. So we switched the order to 90 people, and the lady across the street who usually makes food for big events said that would be no problem.  We ordered a cake, got balloons, decorated and moved some furniture around. But none of this prepared us for the actual party. It was crazy but it was so fun!

Here is the cake:


And here is some of the food, traditional food here is yellow rice with several side dishes (all very fancy and very yummy):



And here’s the birthday girl!


The party started at 3:30, but a crowd of kids started gathering outside at about 2:30. They were all dressed up and all carried a gift. It was so sweet! It ended up that about 130 people came, including about 90 kids.  There were no men that came, only kids and their moms.  The house was completely packed!


The usual order of events is that first someone important officially opens the festivities – Matt gave a speech. Then we lit the candles on Elizabeth’s cake and sang the Indonesian version of “Happy Birthday” followed by the English version. After that everyone ate and it was a madhouse, but praise the Lord we had enough food! Here is a video that Matt put together from the footage from the day that takes you through the craziness. Even though there were SO MANY people, they came at 3:30 and had left by 4:30, so it was over really quickly! This is totally normal and expected culturally here – it’s called “SMP” which stands for "sudah makan pulang” (as soon as you finish eating you go home)! Thanks to Paul and Krisanne for being our photo-video team for the party!

Elizabeth’s Birthday from Matt Menger on Vimeo.

The women that you can see in the video taking care of all the food were such an amazing help. I could not have done this event successfully without the help of Ibu Yeti, Ibu Ina (both neighbors), and my house helper Ibu Ida. They filled in the gaps where I lacked necessary cultural information and kept all the food coming!

Even though most people had left an hour after the party started, we still had people showing up to bring a gift and get their food and piece of cake until about 7:00. And then there was the inevitable clean-up, but it was all worth it! We really feel that it was an important thing for us to open our home to our neighbors and to feed them. Hopefully this will help us get to know them even better! Thanks for all of you that prayed for the party to go well – it was a big success!


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