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Meeting with in-laws

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Meeting with in-laws

Post by MrMan » January 29th, 2018, 5:16 am

Recently, I spent some time with in-laws. Over the holiday season, I visited my father-in-law and other in-laws. I went up to the ancestrial village way up in the mountains, where there are water buffalo and coffee farms. It's kind of an adventure, but also kind of rough. We ended up sleeping on the floor at a relatives house. The village house had finished the ceiling and bought mattresses for guests to sleep on, but one of my kids was allergic to the cats in the room, so we stayed at another relatives house. I slept on the floor, and my youngest children got the bed. This house was in town, but behind it were rice paddies and fish ponds and ducks. It was really beautiful.

Food in the village is super spicy. The fish was pretty good. I passed up on the dog meat for one family gathering, but had the soup without realizing that it came from the dog dish until I was done. I had a bought with diarrhea, which cleaned out half a week of hardly going at all. Squat toilets cause my system to shut down. Jakarta has plenty of sit-down toilets. They tend to have plastic rather than porcelain, with scratched in footprints from people using them wrongly unless you are somewhere upscale like a hotel or an office building. Outside of Jakarta, they seem to be rather rare.

Those villagers drink cup after cup of coffee. It's coarse ground with lots and lots of sugar and no cream. They don't filter the grounds. You just drink till you get to the grounds at the bottom and leave them there. That's pretty common in Indonesia. If they'd roast it well, filter out the grounds, and put less sugar in it, the coffee would be really high end stuff.

One thing about these extended family networks is if you talk to them about your plans for what you are going to do, they will try to plan out your whole trip for you. The people in the village are really friendly. There weren't many who spoke English, but a couple did. I speak Indonesian fluently, but at any large family gathering, they eventually start speaking their people-group's language, so I only get bits and pieces, family terminology and words that are cognate with Indonesian and a few words here and there that I know. Their language has different vocabulary depending on the level of formality used, so it can be difficult. I assume the grammar is probably pretty simple like Indonesian. Indonesian doesn't have a whole set of different vocabulary to use when talking to higher level people like some of the other languages do.

One little boy, about three, would come up to me and hug me from behind or sit on my lap. I visited a second night, and he took my hand and walked me into the other room. He was a really friendly little kid. I spoke Indonesian a lot better this time than the last time I went up there to visit, so I was able to talk with relatives about all sorts of things. One of the other cousins, probably in her 30's at the time, got married to an Aussie farmer. He's been there. That happened after I'd moved away from Indonesia, so I've never actually met him outside of Facebook. If there is a big reunion again like the first time I went to the village, the one women walk around lined up with the bags of rice on their heads before we eat, I may not be the only white guy.

My wife and I were able to share some ideas for economic development for the village. They latched on to one suggestion. We'll see how they work together and what comes of it.

I went to another family gathering of in-laws. We had a family church service/devotion together. I did that a bit over the New Year as well. They also ended up speaking in their people-groups' language when they get to talking. But they used a lot more Indonesian. This group of relatives borrowed a mountain villa used for retreats on a little farm. It was a nice place in a less rural area with nicer facilities, a slide, swing, and pool table. We had chicken gulai and grilled corn and my wife made spaghetti. We could cut down bananas and buy them from the owner and eat them, so we had a branch full of fresh tree-ripened bananas. The grilled sweet corn tasted really fresh, too. It's good to have food like that for the kids. I lost weight on the trip to the village. I can eat a little hot food, but their food was really, really hot, and my kids couldn't eat it, but their little kids grow up eating it.

During this retreat for her city-dwelling relatives, some of the family sang karaoke and we also discussed what we could do to help the village out economically.

My grandmother's relatives did have a group who would gather around a piano and sing gospel songs. A group of brother's put out a gospel album many years ago as a hobby. But none of my relatives would pull out a karaoke/speaker out of the back of a van and start singing karaoke.

If you marry a foreign girl, spending time with in-laws can be a very different experience. Trips to the village are exhausting, the kind of vacation where you look forward to go back to your normal working life so you can get some rest, but the kind of thing that leaves you with a lot of interesting memories.

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