Author Archives: mattmenger

A Different World

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So why was there a picture of a doorknob in our newsletter?

This post is all about things that were confusing for our girls when we got back. On the first day back in Houston, our girls wanted to go outside and started calling for help. Confused, I walked to the back door and asked what the problem was. “The door won’t open, Daddy!” I walked over, made sure it wasn’t locked, and then it hit me – they’ve never used a round doorknob before! Almost all doors in Indonesia have handles like this:

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When the girls were confronted with a round knob, they had no idea what to do! Of course, kids are quick learners and now they have it all figured out. Next:

White Eggs

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White eggs. Eggs in Indonesia are brown, not white. When I cooked eggs for breakfast one morning, the girls wanted to know what was wrong with the eggs, and they weren’t too excited about eating them. Thankfully, we’re used to that one now too!

Bathtub drain

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This is just a stock photo, but it demonstrates the issue. In Indonesia, we have a little rubber stopper that the girls can put in and pull out. In America, there’s some sort of lever, or something you twist. This one is still confusing Smile.

Toys!

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We haven’t been brave enough to take them to a Toys ‘R Us yet. The pink aisles at Target were overwhelming enough! On our first trip to Target, we let each of the girls pick out a new toy since we didn’t bring much back with us. One of them simply couldn’t do it – there were just too many choices.

Lawn Mowers

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This new-fangled device was fascinating for them to watch! They have just now started selling them where we live in Indonesia, but I’ve never seen one in use.

We love how our girls have adapted to life in Asia. We’re still working on liking hamburgers and hot dogs – they eat them now, but still prefer fish and rice Smile.

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Worship and Local Arts Workshop

In mid-September, I (Matt) had the opportunity to lead a workshop at a local church about worship and local arts.  This was in the Balinese community I’ve been working with recently, and I was excited to have the opportunity to run a workshop with them instead of just research. I am pleased to say that it went very well!  We all learned a lot about their culture and arts and what the Bible has to say about it, and I hope that this is not the end but rather the beginning of the development of Christian local arts there.

This was a short workshop, just 3 evenings.  The original plan was for 5 evenings (Mon.-Fri.) but that conflicted with some church services so we shortened it to just three.  That was a little shorter than I was hoping for, but we made the most of the time we had.  We covered topics such as:

  • Worship in the Bible (the beginning, Moses and the Tabernacle, the temple, in diaspora, Jesus, the early church, and Paul’s writings)
  • The Bible, Music, and Meaning
  • New Songs in the Bible
  • Borrowing Songs from other cultures/languages
  • Creating an Arts Profile for their community
  • making plans for the future
  • sharing the plans with the group

It was a packed schedule!  I was pleasantly surprised at how much everyone was interested in the theology of worship; I had expected those sessions to be somewhat dry, but they inspired some serious discussion.  We ended with making plans for the future, so participants grouped themselves by area of interest and chose something from the Arts Profile that they would like to encourage, use in church, etc.

At the end, participants presented plans for encouraging new music, reviving a food tradition, looking for someone to help with Balinese dance, using local clothing, and using storytelling for special occasions at church.  Overall, for an abbreviated workshop I was very pleased with the outcome. 

Now it is in their hands – one principle we work by is helping communities with their needs, but not forcing our ideas or programs on them.  This workshop was a great introduction to what this church could do with its amazing artistic and cultural capabilities, but it is now up to them to choose what to do.  There’s much more I can do there to help encourage local arts in church, but we will take it one step at a time and see what their needs and desires are.

I hope to hold another workshop like this in November for the churches here in the city, so we’ll keep you all posted!

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Filed under Dance, Ethnoarts, Food, language/culture, Music, religion, workshop

Hypermart!

We had a bit of culture shock yesterday, and we didn’t even leave our little town, which isn’t quite so little any more.  We just got a Hypermart!  That may not mean much of anything to most of you, but to us here in the relative backwaters of Indonesia, a store like this means that many of those items we could only buy in Jakarta or Bali and ship home can now be found here!  We’re talking about stuff like:

  • Prego pasta sauce
  • large selection of dry pasta
  • FRESH MILK!!! (usually we only have powdered)
  • very, very large selection of meat (with the exception of “the other white meat,” which isn’t acceptable to the majority religion here)
  • good beef sausages
  • paper towels (we could always get them, but not very many at a time and frequently out of stock)
  • Lock & Lock (really good  Asian tupperware stuff)
  • pancake syrup
  • Hershey’s syrup
  • DECAF COFFEE (yes it’s only instant, but still…)
  • CHEESE!!!
  • peaches, grapes, plums, broccoli, lettuce, and much more produce
  • hamburger buns (you don’t know how much you will miss them until you can’t get them)

This was a seriously overwhelming shopping trip, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were here in our town, not in a big city.  Here’s a few pictures to summarize the trip.  For most of you used to Target and Costco, these pictures might seem pretty normal.  For us, this is a giant leap forward for what we can get locally, and grocery shopping will never be the same.  We might actually be able to get everything at one store now!

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Filed under daily life, Food, shopping

Balinese Dance

This post is long overdue! A while back I had the chance to attend a special service at a Balinese church a few hours away.  The opening and closing of the service featured Balinese dance, and I was asked to record it.  This was all part of my research and learning about this community so that I can better understand and help them.  In a few weeks, I’ll be hosting a three day seminar on music, worship, and culture there to encourage them to think about more ways that their Balinese culture can be a part of their worship.

These two videos were shared on Facebook a while back, but I’d like to post them here as well for those of you who missed them the first time around. Enjoy!

Opening:

 

Closing:

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Filed under Church Events, Dance, Ethnoarts, language/culture, Music, Research

…and more gamelan!

A few days ago I (Matt) went back to the Balinese community a few hours away to attend a gamelan rehearsal as well as learn a little more about the community and their needs.  It is utterly fascinating to study what they’re doing there, and to see such a rich artistic and cultural heritage still alive and well!  Sometime in the next few months, we plan to help this community by hosting a songwriting workshop to first discuss the theological basis for using local arts in church, and then encourage them to write some new songs using their language and music instead of old translated Western hymns.

About Western hymns – starting all the way back with the Dutch when Indonesia was still a colony, Western church and cultural influences came along for the ride.  The majority of the songs in the hymnbook here are German, Dutch, or English in origin, although there are some newer Indonesian hymns (written in a western-music style).  Because this has been church culture here for over a hundred years, it has become a normal part of Christian life so we’re not going to go around forcing people to change what they do in church – that’s just another form of imperialism!  What we do want to do is encourage them to bring their own language, culture, and arts into the church as well.  Many people groups here have a split in their lives – what you do inside church and what you do outside of church.  We want to help them incorporate these two halves into one using their arts and language.

I could go off on a tangent about the theology of this and the reason I believe it’s so important, but that might be the topic of a different blog post some other day.  For now, suffice it to say that if you believe that your language, culture and arts can’t be used in church, what does that say about who you are, your cultural identity, and your value to God? On the flip side, if you are welcome to worship in your heart language and heart music/arts, what message does that communicate?

Here are some videos to enjoy.  This first video is the tuning of this particular gamelan.  Although there are 10 keys played, it is a 5-tone (pentatonic) scale.  My personal opinion is that this scale, in solfege, is la ti do mi fa, or 6 7 1 3 4 but they call it re mi so la do or 2 3 5 6 1.  So far, I’m not totally convinced of which is the more accurate representation of their scale, but here’s a video clip.  For you music nerds out there, maybe you can help:

This second clip is usually accompanied by a dance, but since this was just a music rehearsal there wasn’t a dancer present.  Although it isn’t normal to play the music without the dancing, they decided to do it for me anyways:

This third clip is a bit of a contest.  It’s a hymn that I’m sure all of you Americans (and probably most other English-speakers) know, but the Balinese church has adapted it for the gamelan so it sounds just a little bit different.  Feel free to guess what hymn they are using in the comments below!  The first to guess correctly gets a prize…I have no idea what, but I’m sure I can come up with something!  (Again, my preference is always to help communities develop new music for worship that is in their language and musical style, but these kind of adaptations are common here and this is one they have been using for quite a while.)

Keep in mind that all of these videos are from a rehearsal, so these are not polished performances. All video has been obtained with informed consent, and is available to you here to give you a taste of the fun things we get to learn about. Hope you enjoy!

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Choir Practice

During our most recent village trip, Kara was asked to help the local choir learn some new songs to prepare for an upcoming competition.  It was a challenge considering the notation system is different, they have changed the names for the solfege (ti is now si) and the songs had some very difficult parts.  However, Kara did great and the choir loved it!  We also just made them some “practice tapes,” actually mp3s these days, so they can continue to learn their parts well. 

Here’s some pictures below from the trip, in no particular order:

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Drawing in the sand with Grandma

 

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One of our helpers, Hisma, and Charlotte

 

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The road through town

 

 

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Charlotte eating a fried whole fish, tail first (her favorite part!)

 

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Elizabeth doing the same, and Grandma getting the photographic evidence.

 

 

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Our girls and some friends.  Our tablet is a big hit…

 

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Elizabeth and her friends.

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Kara leading choir practice

 

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A panorama of the inside of the church there.

 

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Charlotte and a friend.

 

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Soprano and Alto practice at our house.

 

These photos are from an older trip, but they’ve never been posted so I’m putting them in here:

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All the kids out swimming.

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Our girls wading in.

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Balinese gamelan…on Sulawesi

In our area there are numerous Balinese immigrants, especially on the east coast of our island.  Many of them are Hindu, but there’s a significant Christian population too and many of them belong to our church denomination.

One of the most exciting things for us to see is that although they are Christians, they have not abandoned their Balinese culture and language.  The church building is in a Balinese style, and they use the gamelan for some of their music.  Gamelan is an Indonesian musical ensemble from the islands of Java and Bali. They have asked us to help them adapt more existing songs so that they can be used with the gamelan and to help them write new songs that they can use in church along with their traditional Balinese music.  We are thrilled to help since this is what we are passionate about!

I visited this church about a year ago and was completely unprepared for what I found.  At that point, we didn’t know we’d be working with them so I was just there attending a special church service.  I shot some video, but all I had was my point-and-shoot camera so the quality isn’t very good.  Now that we’re working with them on developing new music, I’ll be there a lot more and will have much more (and hopefully better) media to share in the future.

In the meantime, here’s their rendition of Kidung Jemaat No. 1 “Haleluya, Pujilah” (number 1 in the hymbook) using gamelan:

This is one of four or five songs that they currently have that use the gamelan.  They are eager for more, because the same songs over and over again get old very quickly!

For you music nerds out there, this particular gamelan is based on a Balinese variation of the slendro pentatonic scale.  In solfege it would be notated la ti do mi fa (in Indonesia,  la si do mi fa) or using cipher notation (kepatihan), 12356 67134 (12356 is how many people casually notate it here, but technically because it is minor you start on la, or 6).  Gamelan is typically tuned to the 7-tone pelog scale or the 5-tone slendro scale, and this Balinese gamelan is of the 5-tone variety but the tuning is slightly different than a Javanese gamelan.

More to come about all this later!  I should be heading out to visit them again next week.

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Our church

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by | April 7, 2013 · 10:21 am

Daddy-daughter date!

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Today daddy and Elizabeth went to Royal Chocolate Donuts 🙂

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Batunjuk

During our last village trip, there was a huge church service and celebration to mark the end of the Christmas season.  Everyone from all over the area was invited and there was a big potluck meal afterwards.  Following that, there was batunjuk.  This is a tradition from North Sulawesi that immigrants brought with them to our area, and the best way to describe it is a good old-fashioned hymn sing.  Everyone sits in a circle inside the church and two people are chosen to start and are given flowers to hold.  They choose the first song and as everyone sings they walk around the circle in opposite directions.  When the song is over, the flowers are given to the person where they stop and those two new people pick the next song.  This continues for several hours, sometimes even all night!  The songs are chosen only from the old, traditional Christian songs that are rarely sung anymore, so it has a nostalgic feel to it.  Even though they were old songs, it was encouraging to see  people of all ages participating.  Coffee, tea, and snacks are served and everyone relaxes and enjoys the singing; occasionally there’s dancing as well.  I shot some video of the festivities to give you an idea of what it’s all about.  The singing went on for hours and hours and hours . . . but it was great fun!

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Filed under Church Events, Ethnoarts, language/culture, Music, religion, Village life