Christmas fun

January 13th, 2019

We just discovered this link on one of our friend’s Facebook page.  The pictures are from one of the Christmas parties at the university–described in a previous blog.  If you open the photos, you will see several photos of us, including a video of us dancing!!!  Enjoy and laugh!  We did!



Around Yogykarta

January 4th, 2019

One more blog of our own activities these last six weeks.  Three photos from around our neighborhood.

We visited Ullen Sentalu Museum, a Javanese culture and art museum.  It houses relics and artifacts from the royal houses of Central Java plus sculptures.  A beautiful setting.  (No photos allowed inside.)

We ate lunch one day at a mushroom (jamur) restaurant.  Everything on the menu was made with mushrooms.  They also sold many varieties of mushrooms.  It was interesting that several days later we visited a possible host family whose business is growing mushrooms—8000 logs!  We had not realized that mushrooms were so popular.

We took a walk down Malioboro Street.  This is one of the main tourist attractions and one of the busiest business districts of Yogyakarta.  It extends for one kilometer and apparently it is busy 24 hours a day. We went in the morning and by the time we left at noon, it was very crowded.  We actually had not been here since 2001 but not much has changed – just more crowded.  It was also interesting that during our several hours of walking around, we saw only 5 other Westerners.  The majority of tourists to Indonesia are from Malaysia, Singapore, Timor Leste, China, and Australia.

We probably will not post much – if any – blogs on our personal site for at least the next six weeks.  If you are interested in seeing what we are doing, follow us at

Christmas season (2)

December 30th, 2018

Sunday, the 23rd, we came to Drono for the week.  We are at a beautiful Javanese home owned by Reti and Duane.  (Duane died a little over 3 years ago.)  We had spent Christmas here in 2005 by ourselves and had visited for a short time in 2008.  Reti says it is available anytime we want to come!  Duane designed the house in traditional fashion and collected all kinds of Javanese art, music, craft.  It is located in a small village where Reti’s grandfather had once been the village head.

We were here by ourselves (along with 2 cooks, a driver, and 2 gardeners!) for several days.  It was lovely.  We walked around the village, read, and relaxed.  We did go out to eat Christmas day eve but were fed well here.  An MCC friend from Yogya joined us one night and Reti’s brother and family came on the 27th.  Reti arrived the 28th.  (We have many more photos of this place than what is included here!)

Yayok, Reti’s brother, is a contractor in Jakarta.  He also has a workshop here in Drono where he employs several men to build furniture for the houses he builds.  The first morning he was here he took us to his workshop in the early morning to have coffee on the balcony of his workshop which overlooks rice fields.  Lovely.  He also took us on a walk through the village.  Earlier we had discovered some places on our own (tofu-making and rice crackers) but he introduced us to other interesting spots, including the morning market.  In the photo of the tofu-making family, note the pile of bags of soy beans from the U.S.

Our cooks were Yusum and Tini.  We had met Yusum in 2005.  Suradi, whom we also met in 2005, was the driver but we forgot to take his photo!    Reti’s brother is Yayok and wife Indri.  They have two teenage daughters who were fun but were not yet up in the morning when we took a photo of that family!

Reti took us to Solo for a day.  There was nothing particularly remarkable about Solo, but the drive was beautiful.  Her driver took us along many small rural roads and through small villages.  Mt Merapi (near Yogya) and Mt Merabu (near Salatiga) were stunning, towering over the horizon in one direction.  After lunch we went to Nggone Mbahmu Coffee Roaster in nearby Klaten.  Very interesting.  The family started it only about 1 ½ years ago and already it has become very popular.  The owner, Purnama Sidi, learned how to roast and make coffee via YouTube and books!  He buys his beans from all over Indonesia–Sumatra, Flores, Papua, Sulawesi, Bali and different parts of Java, including Klaten.  He has bicycled through out the islands and has learned to know farmers and coffee everywhere.  He roasts only in small quantities.  He will personally make you an individualized cup of coffee.  (However, during holidays, when he is so busy, he only serves iced coffee.)  We hope to go back in April and get our individual cup of hot coffee.  He also collects antiques.  He demonstrated his grandfather’s “hand-turned” RCA gramophone with a 78-rpm record of 1930’s/40’s Christmas songs!


It was a very relaxing week but now back to Yogya and work!  We are hoping to bring our students here for a day to visit the village and to hear the gamelon.  On the way home we saw a number of Bike Fridays, including a group of about 10 riders.

This holiday season is about over for us.  We will most likely stay put New Year’s Eve and play games.  Our only other task is to sing a duet at church on the New Year’s Day morning service.  That should be quite an experience!

Christmas season (1)

December 29th, 2018


We experienced Christmas this year differently than usual.  We began with four parties at the university with various combinations of people—English students and department staff, International Partnerships department, department of languages (including English), and then the entire university staff and families.  Each party started with some carols, a sermon, and an offering.  After that the first three parties then included some entertainment, including games.  “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Feliz Navidad” seemed to be very popular songs.  K-Pop is also a fad among the students.  We were often given a gift as being “special” foreigners on campus.  Sally Jo won a prize in an unwrapping present contest.  At one party, groups were to sing Jingle Bells in a crazy way! The whole university party included a brief re-telling of the Christmas Story interspersed by songs from each department.  (It was one way to get everyone to come!)

The Sunday before Christmas was a special service at the Mennonite Church and included several baptisms and child dedications.  For two families the Mennonite pastor and a Catholic priest were able to conduct a child dedication/baptism jointly due to the parents being both Mennonite and Catholic.  It was a special event and made us wonder whether this has happened anywhere else.  Ron had more photos on Facebook of this service.  We actually had met the priest the previous week as a possible contact for service work for our students.

After the service, the church gave out bags of oil and rice to the neighbors (who are mostly Muslim).  They also held a “flee market” of clothes for the community.  What we didn’t take a photo of was the presence of police security.  There are sometimes threats at Christmas against Christian churches and so police offer security presence.

Season activities to be continued i next blog.

Recent Travels

December 13th, 2018

We made a couple of trips out of town to visit possible service locations for our students.  It also offered us an opportunity to get out of Jogjakarta and see the countryside.  We visited an area west/southwest of Jogja.  We really enjoyed the mountains and the green spaces!

The first trip was to visit a Catholic church and their activities in the Menoreh Hills.  The church and mission were started by Jesuit priest from Austria in the early 1900’s.  We visited the school, the weaving industry, and the memorial to Johannes Baptist Prennthaler.  It was a beautiful setting.  We had a good talk with the priest who talked about their various activities and told us about their villages in the mountains.

The weaving industry is non-mechanized using looms copied from the looms first brought to the area by the Dutch.  They produce fabric for school uniforms, blankets, linens, etc.  They even designed shoes!

They produce some of their own food.  For the first time we saw dragon fruit plants.

We had a great lunch of goat at a small warung along the way.

On our return to Jogja we stopped at a family water hyacinth industry.  They use the leaves for various kinds of weaving (baskets, handbags, stool covers, etc.) which are sold in shops around the country.

Our second trip was to visit three places in the Menoreh Hills that the priest had mentioned previously.  Our first stop was at an Early Learning Center.  The center runs three mornings a week with various activities for children ages 1-4.  On Saturdays, they have a program for all ages that teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and interpersonal relationships through play.  They have a small library for children to come and read.  In a beautiful setting.

We stopped by an area where the farmers grow chrysanthemums to sell in the markets.  People use the flowers for decoration and making a type of tea.  We were most enthralled with the scenery!

Our last stop was at a small impressive elementary school that includes organic farming in their curriculum.  Each class has their own plot of ground for growing vegetables, a small fish pond, and some rabbits.  Students spend time every day before formal lessons in duties around the school—cleaning classrooms, making tea, feeding rabbits, working in gardens, etc.

We held our meeting in a lovely bamboo stand overlooking the gardens and out towards the hills.  Students climbed the steps to bring us our snacks.

We ended our day with lunch (at 3:30 pm!) at a local fish restaurant.  We sat on the floor built over the fish ponds.  Had one of our favorite Indonesian dishes—ikan bakar (grilled gourami/fish).

Indonesia 2018/19

December 5th, 2018

We have returned to Indonesia; our fifth time here.  It feels familiar but there are also always changes.  We returned to Yogyakarta where we first spent time in 2001.

We had a 20-hour stay in Bali on the way to Java which gave us time to catch up on some needed sleep and a walk along the beach.  We stayed in the same hotel that we did in 2000; it was still very nice.

Here in Yogyakarta we are living in a small flat on a church compound.  The flat was furnished with basic furniture but we needed to outfit the kitchen and begin to make it feel like home.  We’ll take you on a quick tour.

On entering our flat is a small room, only big enough for a sofa and 2 stuffed chairs.  This is typical; it is the place you greet people.

The living/dining room includes a couch, a sink, a small bookshelf. and a table which we use for eating, working, and playing games.  There is also a TV – with all programs in Indonesian.  Off the living room are two bedrooms.  (There are only two sinks in the flat—the kitchen sink and one in the living room.  There are none in the bathrooms.)  We definitely need to put more things on our walls!

Our first meal in the house (breakfast)—and yes, Ron is tired!  We had our familiar granola from home and had found some yogurt and milk in the grocery store!

The bedrooms are quite small but adequate.  At least they have air-conditioning!  We set up a charging station for our communication system – computer, 4 phones (2 US and 2 local), and portable internet port.

Our kitchen was furnished with a two-burner gas plate, small refrigerator, and a water stand.  The university thought we definitely needed a microwave (even though we don’t think so) so they got us one.  Indonesian kitchens seldom have regular ovens.  Off the kitchen at one end is a spare bedroom and at the other end are two toilets/showers.

The compound is fairly quiet and away from most traffic.  There are many trees and bushes; we hear birds in the morning; we see many butterflies.  The actual view from our front door is of the garbage collection area!

Sally Jo joined a group from the compound on Saturday morning for exercise.  It was a version of yoga with Chinese influence.  The photo is not good but is included anyway.


June 16th, 2018

Disembarkation.  We had a good time on the ship—friendly crew, excellent food.  Now for our last day.  Copenhagen.  How appropriate that the Royal Yacht which we saw in Ronne followed us to Copenhagen and moored not far from us.  On the pier were the two pavilions where the royals wait to board their yacht.  Also on the pier was a fascinating sculpture  but neither of us can remember the name!  And of course as we left the pier Neptune gave us his farewell.

We walked along the water and the edge of The Citadel, one of the best-preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe (1664).  In the shape of pentagram with windmill, King’s Gate, soldiers’ barracks and outside the embankments of the citadel, the Gefion fountain (named after the goddess Gefion who plowed Zealand out of Sweden with her oxen.)  Zealand is the island on which Copenhagen is located.

We visited another large market and always drool over the selections possible!  Coffee is also available everywhere!

Visited The Church of Our Lady, the cathedral of Copenhagen for Church of Denmark.   It is in the neoclassical style of 1829, so much plainer than many churches we have visited.  It is located next to the main building of the University of Copenhagen, outside of which is a statue of Neils Bohr.

We stopped in the Church of the Holy Trinity which is near the Round Tower.  This was in contrast to the previous church.

Other interesting spires or buildings which we saw.  The Church of Our Savior with its helix spire (spire completed in 1752).  The Old Stock Exchange (1625) with its dragon spire, is one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen.  The four intertwined dragon tails are topped with three crowns, symbolizing the Scandinavian empire (Denmark, Norway, Sweden).  The Royal Library was established in the 1660s and in 1999 the Black Diamond extension was opened.  The Black Diamond is covered in black marble and glass and tilted slightly to reflect the water.  The 8 metre tall fountain celebrates the written word.  The tower behind the current parliament building.  The spire of St. Nicholas Church – we had a nice lunch of open-faced sandwiches (typical of Denmark) in its plaza.  (There are warm blankets placed on all chairs in outdoor cafes.  I was using one!)

A few other views: former military housing now made in individual flats, bicycles everywhere!  The Stork Fountain was given to King Frederik VIII for his silver wedding anniversary in 1888.  In the same square are many old Dutch-styled buildings of the 1600s.

Nyhavn is a cobble-stoned street with colourful town houses and many cafes and restaurants

Our last morning we visited Amalienborg Palace, home of the Queen and Prince Consort, built in 18th century.    There are four mansions around an octagonal plaza.  Frederik’s Church (The Marble Church) with its green dome is outside the plaza.  It is Evangelical Lutheran.  While in the plaza we saw interesting sights!

We end with a photo of our hotel.  Built in 1787 the warehouse was constructed as  a granary with grain drying facilities.  The granary was at the heart of the bustling harbor in 1780s.





June 14th, 2018

Ronne is the largest town on the Danish island of Bornholm with a population of about 14,000.  The town began about 1000.  It was established by Danish but Germans gained control in 1525.  It later was returned to Denmark and then was ceded to Sweden and later returned to Denmark.  The town was bombed by the Soviets in 1945.  When we arrived  we saw three special ships — U.S. navy, Netherlands navy, and the Danish royal yacht.  We learned later that NATO was holding some sort of activity in the area.  We also learned that the royal Prince was on the island to open a special school.

The town has a number of timbered buildings.  Our first stop in the small town was at the ceramics museum.  Ronne developed because of the fishing industry but when that declined, ceramic industry grew and continues today.  The old factory was the leading producer of design and stoneware of Bornholm back to 1859.  (The pelicans are made for a Red Cross organization that gives them to people for donating a lot of blood.)

Four of Denmark’s seven medieval round churches are located on Bornholm.  Originally built around 1150, these churches were used as places of worship, storage for passing ships, and fortresses to protect against attacks.  We visited Ny Kirke (New Church) in the village of Nyker.  The round pillar in the centre of the church is about 3 ½ yards wide and has an interesting frieze around the top with paintings of the Passion of Christ.

Nearby was Bente Hammer, a Danish textile artist and fashion designer, who has designed dresses for Queen Margrethe and a Danish actress, Ghita Norby  She demonstrated screen printing on silk fabric and showed us her workshop.  There are only three crafts people working with her.  Beautiful clothing!  She allowed us to visit her home which was originally an old smithy workshop.

We visited The Church of St Nicolai, the first church built in Ronne, dedicated in 1275.  It was renovated after the Reformation and thoroughly restored in 1982 and again in 2012.  The large ship in the center of the church is from 1873 and the altarpiece was painted in 1990.  The scene is Jesus calming the storm at sea—very appropriate for an island.

A refugee Syrian family came on board and told us their story of escape from Syria and journey to reach Bornholm.  They have been here about 2 years, are learning Danish, and trying to find work.

This was our last night on the MV Clio so there were many farewell activities.  We did not get pictures of the crew but did get one of our four tour leaders.  (Not a great photo, though!)  There were about 85 on the tour, divided into four groups each with a tour leader.  The housekeeping staff had a display of their “zoo” which often appeared on our beds at night.  Our cabin attendant was Jabir from Indonesia.  In fact, 12 members of the ship’s crew were from Indonesia!

And we needed to end our time on the ship with a sunset!


June 13th, 2018

Gdansk, an old Hanseatic port city, was heavily bombed in World War II, and known for the shipbuilders’ strike in 1980s.  Its history is complex (like many of the places we have recently visited) with times of self-autonomy but also domination by Poland, Prussia, and USSR.  On our bus ride into town we passed by older Soviet era apartment buildings and the shipbuilding areas for which Gdansk used to be known.

We took at walking tour around the old town.  We passed the Upland Gate (1588), the main city gate.  It was used for welcoming ceremonies for monarchs who came to visit.  The next gate/tower we passed through was at one time used as a jail with visible evidence of implements of torture.

Golden Gate is the second gate of the “Royal Walk” or Long Lane which ends at the Green Gate.  (The story our guide told was that this last gate was named Green because on the other side was where all the garbage and sewage went and the smell was so bad that one turned green!)  (No photos of the Green Gate.)  We were impressed with all the reconstruction that has happened since the War.  Much has been returned to the old style.

Neptune’s Fountain was constructed in early 1600s.  It was constructed in front of the Artus Court or the meeting place for merchants and the centre of social life.  It is topped by a statue of the sea god.  Many school children were also touring the city near the end of their school year!

Amber is one of Baltic Sea’s most prized souvenirs.  Gdansk has been one of the centers of the amber arts.  Amber is fossilized tree resin.  There are several colors of amber but it seemed as though the yellow/brown was the main color found here.  As our guide said—there are two types of amber – real and fake!  Fake amber sinks in salt water and real amber floats.

We had a lovely lunch in a Polish home.  The woman was an excellent cook but was unsure of her English.  Her father-in-law was there to do the talking.  He had worked with the Polish government and with the UN and had excellent English.  He also wanted to talk a lot of politics!

We ended our day at the Solidarity Museum, devoted to the Polish trade union and civil resistance movement.  It opened in 2014.  The walls remind one of the hulls of ships built at the Shipyard.  It provides a wonderful history of the movement and what it meant.



Visby, Gotland

June 12th, 2018

Gotland—the island of a hundred churches!  No, we didn’t see all of them!  Many were built on Gotland, a part of Sweden, during the Middle Ages due to the prosperity of the island.  Visby was the centre of the Hanseatic League from the 12th to the 14th centuries.  It also has a well-preserved town wall, almost completely surrounding the city.  We entered one of the defensive towers which served as a jail.  The ram is the symbol of Gotland island.

Narrow streets and lovely old houses.  St Lars (Lawrence) Church, built in the 13th century resembles the Byzantine style.  St Clements Church was also built in the 13th century.

We visited a museum which showed what the town was like during the Hanseatic League period.  But it also had some rune stones from the Viking age.

On our own, we visited a lovely botanical garden and St Maria Cathedral, built 1225 but still active today.  Near the altar was a stone shaped boat ready to carry our joys, our sorrows, and our wishes.

Off to Gdansk, Poland.  We had a visit to the bridge with the captain of the ship.  Fascinating.