Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Big 66 and a great gobble day...

If anyone would have told me last Thanksgiving that I would be eating turkey, dressing, mashed potato's, and all the trimmings except cranberry sauce IN THE PHILIPPINES for Thanksgiving this year with 8 of my favorite people, I probably would have said 'not possible'.  How could I ever expect to get Butterball Turkeys here but lo and behold, Sister Carlos did it!  We had a grand time eating, talking about our greatest blessings in our lives and sharing time together.  After we ate and cleaned up the kitchen, out came the boxes and the Mission Home turned into a Christmas wonderland.  Here, the Filipino people love Christmas and begin their celebration in September.  By Halloween, they are in full swing and because there is no holiday for them between October 31st and December 31st, they get busy and enjoy the decorations and music.  Sister Carlos was bound and determined NOT to get her Christmas out until after we digested the turkey so this past week, the mission compound has been transformed.  There is a member of the church who is hired to be the night watchman at the mission home and he is willing and very able in the night to put up lights, clean up things, whatever needs to be done.  The lighting there is good so he just buzzes around the area and does the transformation at holiday times.  
Such a beautiful table-notice the napkins, Annalee??

The chief cook and turkey carver

There was also a pumpkin pie [hardest thing to find was the pumpkin]

Relish tray, creamed corn, fruit salad, mashers, broccoli salad, and so much more!

We lacked for NO food and had a great feast.  You can get a good idea of the size of this kitchen area from these pictures-it is a lovely home and very roomy and comfortable.  It has a good feel...

We all pitched in and helped with the decorations...

Rudy with the AP's 'building the tree'

Sister Russell found a lonely guitar and sang us a toon...

The AP's putting the lights on the tree

Elder and Sister Breese putting the nativity together

Elder Katoa and Elder Hale, the current assistants

For those of you who read this blog and are not members of our church, let me explain a little about the assistants.  The mission president has a HUGE responsibility and is extremely busy.  His schedule is never-ending and gruesome at times.  Problems pop up now and then in the mission and the church has designated him the right to ask two of his most responsible and worthy missionaries to be his 'assistants'.  Currently, they are living in an apartment above the mission office and serve as his extended hands.  They travel with him to meetings, [usually driving for him] they call missionaries and set up appointments for them to come in for interviews, they assist in the training meetings, they transport injured or ill missionaries to health facilities, in short, they are his 'gofers' but really much more.  Because of the incredible amount of time they spend together, they become so endeared to the mission president and his wife, sometimes emotionally taking the role of their children to help the president and companion with the absence of their own family.  I have seen these two give up their own lives to help their dear mission president, not begrudging it one speck.  They will serve for usually 4-5 months together then one will move on to another assignment while the remaining assistant trains the new replacement.  Then a little while later, the original will be transferred and another will take his place.  They actually willingly give up a period of their own mission to change responsibilities and assist the president.  In two weeks, Elder Hale will be going home so tomorrow, at transfers, we will be getting a new assistant and the rotation will start anew.  It is a wonderful plan and works like a charm.
Friday morning we had the greatest time of our lives!!  It was Randy's 66th birthday and during the course of three hours, we were able to see and talk to all of our children, all of our 'in-law' children and 21 of our 24 grandchildren!!  That was a first for us here in the Philippines and we haven't stopped smiling yet!  The kids all sang to Grandpa then we visited with each one and really enjoyed the time we spent.  Our cup was filled that day for sure and one interesting phenomenon happened...KC's birthday is the 24th and Randy's is the 25th and they got to tell each other Happy Birthday on their own actual birthday because we are living across the International Date Line for the next two years-I told them it would be a twice in a lifetime experience!  They thought that was cool...

MY cookie monster with his cake...

A great little bakery here did the cake for me-it was PERFECT!!!
I mentioned earlier that tomorrow is transfers and we will be having lots of big changes in the mission. President Carlos is opening a new area up north and yesterday Randy and I traveled to Tabuk with the Russell's [the senior couple whose responsibility is the apartments for all 160 missionaries] and found the new apartment and offloaded some furniture and kitchen supplies to set up housekeeping for them.  After the transfer meeting tomorrow, Randy and I will drive back up there and deliver the new guys to their new area.  Transfer meeting is always fun-missionaries see each other and hug and cry [if they are ones wearing skirts] and lots of bedlam occurs.  Tomorrow morning we will be getting a new 'batch' of missionaries at 5:30 a.m.  The American ones will have been traveling for 24+ hours and the Filipino's will have just left the MTC in Manila.  They will ride a bus all night and arrive here tired but is such a high to finally arrive at the place you have dreamed about and planned for...I remember the feeling just like it was yesterday.

Our weather today was in the 90's and tomorrow is December 1st!  I still can't get used to that.  I hung our laundry out this morning and gathered it in this afternoon, all in my undies because of the heat.....yes, our back yard is VERY private-walled all around and NOBODY can peek in..haha!  Randy is gone until later tonight and I am just 3 hours away from being completely finished with my pillowcase project!  When done, I will have put in over 250 hours and will have 200 great pillowcases to use as gifts for the missionaries this year and have enough to allow the new ones coming in the next year to choose one also.  My hope is that they will use them and be able to identify their own pillow by the unique case-there are no two alike so they should be able to keep them straight.  That is the hope anyway..

Christmas is around the corner...we are building new memories and traditions here in this part of the world..what are you doing with your traditions this year??

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Truly thankful...

In America, this is the week we celebrate Thanksgiving and it always makes me reflect on the blessings in MY life.  Above you will see 27 of the 36 biggest blessings that are mine.  What a wonderful thing a family is...these people have unconditional love for me and for each other and what a great blessing that is for me, being 10,000 miles [16,000 KM] away from them for two years.

My friend Kathy has a blog that I follow and this past week she has been posting daily on the blessings in her life.  I loved that idea but not having her technology [IPhone] and with our current responsibilities and such, that would be unmanageable for me so pondered and decided to use her example for my weekly visit with you all.

I try to walk most mornings and as I do, I usually talk to my Father in Heaven, getting His input on my day, my problems, my assignments, etc.  This morning as I walked, I was just SO thankful for the wonderful experiences we are having, the fantastic and beautiful people of the Philippines, etc. and thought I would just share with YOU my blessing list:

     *First and foremost I am grateful for my family.  They have stuck with this crazy mom/Meemaw through many difficult trials and they all still seem to love me!  That love sustains me here where I have NO family to hug, snuggle, sniff, and hold.
      *My membership in the church and the knowledge I have of it's truthfulness.
      *My Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ who died for me that when I mess up, [and I do often] I can be forgiven and continue to grow and learn.
      *I am grateful for my parents.  I had a good mom who loved me and tried her best to teach me the things she felt were important for my life.  From her I learned forgiveness, how to laugh, what was important in my world around me, how to notice the little things in life, how to play and love cards, how competition is a good thing, how winning is also a good thing and losing is not the end of the world, the value of education, that being a mom was going to be the best thing in my life and probably the most important thing she taught me was how to be a good grandma.  She was the BEST grandma I have ever known.  From my father I learned the value of hard work, charity, generosity, service to his fellowmen how to sense people's needs and moods, how to fish [but I refused to clean them!] and a true love of the outdoors.  He also taught me the importance of family stories.
     *for Randy's parents who raised him to be the man he is, thoughtful, forgiving, spiritual, loving, family oriented, loyal, talented, always finding the good in people, thrifty, compassionate, responsible, dependable, and I could go ON and ON...after all, I have loved this man more than breath for over 45 years!!!
     *music-I love music and until about 15 years ago, my voice was my identity.  I sang from the time I was a little child and loved to perform.  I truly miss my singing voice.  I am also grateful my mom sacrificed to give me the gift of music.  She scrimped and saved so that I could have a piano and lessons.  I am now using that skill here to bless the lives of others as I open that opportunity for them when I teach.
     *clean water
     *hot showers
     *nutritious and delicious food
     *my education
     *indoor plumbing
     *paved roads
     *to live in a free country where we don't need gates and walls to keep us safe.
     *great friends who love me unconditionally even when they know my weaknesses
     *fresh ice and cold water to drink
     *my health...probably should be higher on this list
     *my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ...also higher on the list
     *my hearing, taste, touch, good vision and my sense of smell
     *my sense of humor
     *the skills and talents the Lord has blessed me with, specifically my ability to work with my hands and my 'out of the box' ability to problem solve and be creative
     *good teeth
     *strong body that has taken me many miles in it's life
     *my ability to forgive others and love them in spite of their shortcomings
     *my two amazing grandmothers that each helped mold me to be the person I am today
     *aunts and uncles, cousins and other relatives who make me laugh
     *my brother and his family...
     *a bed to sleep in and the ability I have to sleep well and sound most nights
     *my ability to sign and communicate with the deaf
     *these amazingly wonderful Filipino people that our loving Father in Heaven has allowed us to rub shoulders with for the next two years and their patience with these silly Americans...US!!
     *the wonderful full-time missionaries we have had the privilege to work with here in the Philippines.
Our crazy, nutty group!!
I am sure there are things I will think of as I close this post but first and foremost, I stopped this week to think of the blessings in my life and to thank the One who loved me enough to give them to me.  Have you???

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Music, priesthood, family home evening and CHRISTMAS!!!

See the tall blonde in the back??  She loves these people..
Do you see this gorgeous group of people???  Allow me to introduce you all to my FIRST piano class!  Originally, we had 11 sign up but by the second week [my cut-off time for any new enrollees] the class had grown to 14 and there it will stay.  I think the number is more manageable, especially once we finish with the theory foundation and start the performance part of the training.  I am planning a 15 minute performance lesson weekly once we get to that point and with that said, my basic math tells me it will take 3.5 hours to accomplish.  Hopefully I can find 4 students who can start their individual lessons at 4 and then we would finish for the day at 7:30 p.m.  School in the Philippines starts at 7 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m. so it will have to be the adults who come at 4.  They are all bright but there are a few who stand out as motivated musicians.  Time will tell...

I think I have mentioned before how the Filipino's LOVE Christmas.  Well, there are lights everywhere, music in every possible venue [even our neighbor has it blaring night and day so we don't need to play ours at all!] Christmas trees with lights, yard trees that have been lit, etc.  We in America think WE love this season...we would lose in an 'enthusiasm for Christmas' contest with the Filipinos!
A tree in a yard on my walk..

My neighbor's front porch...

I have a hard time thinking that NEXT week is Thanksgiving!  It seems like we have been here such a short time and it is turkey time...Brenda did a 'formal' invitation to a gobble-day dinner at the mission home and afterwards, we will decorate the house with her Christmas decorations.  Last year, their housekeeper tried to get the Christmas thing going in October and tried again a couple of week ago.  These people love their holidays!

Monday night we went to Family Home Evening at the Munoz home.  He is our Branch President, a single dad to three marvelously talented children [his wife died in 2009] and we are so impressed with the way he has just given up HIS needs to serve his family.  He only works when the children are in school because the most important thing in his world is them!  We love this family and feel SO blessed to have them in our lives. 

You may recognize two of those boys in the piano picture seated here with us-these children are so talented.  Alyssa, who is 8, is the one Randy and I call 'Filipino Cora' because she reminds us in build and personality of Cristin's daughter.  Mark Jay [red shirt] and Mark Prince are both fine young men.  Their daddy is definitely doing something right!!  Randy took his violin and accompanied the hymns as well as did a special number for them.  A wonderful evening for us!

For some reason I can't caption today so will explain the above pictures-this is Sister Remmie and her son John.  You might remember Sister Ulep who was our first baptism?   Sister Remmie is her niece [pamumpkin] and lives across the road from her.  She has been taking the discussions and has set a date for baptism.  Her hubby was involved in one lesson and we hope will also join her in the waters of baptism.  The broken chair was the one I was sitting on and all was well until I tried to change position and cross my legs...thump!  Down I went.  I was more embarrassed than hurt and vowed to get back on my diet immediately!!!  Side note-the chair was very rotted because of the sun and weather but we went to the store and replaced it twofold, none the less.  NOW there will be two chairs there that will support Randy and me!

In our church, once a year the young boys who will be turning 12 gather for what we call a 'Priesthood Preview'.  Each of the boys will be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood in the near future and this is a time for them to learn the responsibilities, duties, and history of the priesthood they will soon hold.   It is always done on a Stake/District level so many come from all over to attend.  Some of these families traveled 2-3 hours to support their sons.  Randy was asked to be the guest speaker and did a great job.  He also was asked to do a special musical number and played a few Primary [the organization for the children ages 3-11] songs that everyone enjoyed.  He is really polishing his skill, another blessing of extra time on his hands.

Monday as I was walking my normal route, I heard what appeared to be a chorus of children's voices down one road that I don't normally take.  I followed it and low and behold, there was a school and the yard was filled with children singing the national anthem and raising the flag!  I remembered doing that as a child and it brought to my remembrance so many fond memories.  It also made me realize something.  If you think of America about 150 years ago, that is where much of the country is stuck.  They have some modern technology [like cell phones and a few computers] but most of the homes we visit have dirt floors, no electricity or plumbing, no refrigeration, and none have an oven.  All the homes are made of cinder blocks [even the one we live in however, our walls are plastered over and painted to look like wallboard] and most have dirt or rock floors.   President Munoz has the nicest home we have been in-it is very warm and inviting and very secure.  He keeps it clean and orderly as do all of the people here-I am amazed!   They are very clean people in their manner, dress, bodies, etc.

Anyway, when the children spotted me standing there peering over the wall, they all turned around and waved.  The principal came over and invited me in to speak to the children!  They had a teacher sick and no teacher for one class and she suggested I stay and teach!  I assured her that with the language barrier, I would not be a successful educator.  Anyway, before we came here, I went shopping with Kayleen and while we were at the Gateway in Salt Lake, I bought a new pair of walking shoes-they are wonderfully comfortable and I love them and they are HUNTER ORANGE!!!   You should have seen the schoolyard erupt in giggles and pointing when I stepped through the gate.  It was worth the detour!
Notice the uniforms?  Every school has a different one and they all look so great!

One last treat this week was meeting Oyeen Dy Valcos.  He is a friend of Marcie Nielson who we knew in Omaha in the 70's when she was just a little girl.  We are facebook friends and I had actually visited with Oyeen a few times so it was nice to finally put a face with the name.  President and Sister Carlos met him shortly after arriving in 2010 and had him to dinner last week.  We were invited to join them and had a great evening.  He is such an interesting person...a world traveler for sure!!

It has rained since noon on Monday and I am getting ready to go purchase some lumber to start building our ark!!  Wish you were all here to see the umbrella parade!  Until next week...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Music and a little more...

Hey Cris, Chip, Todd, Kim and Rob...remember these and look at the name!  Co-inkidink???
District Choir is officially formed and going and what a group!!!  These Filipino people LOVE music and LOVE to sing.  As you recall, the first week's practice brought me around 15 people.  They came from a branch about 10 miles away in a Jeepney and a few local members from the two local units showed up but they were all at least 30-60 minutes late!!  Now, my friends, those of you who have known me for a while know that I am an 'on-time' person and the 'Filipino time' mindset would not work for me ssssssssoooooooooo...................these people LOVE to eat and their treats are called 'marienda'.  I asked them what time THEY wanted to start practice for the next few weeks and when 1:30 was decided, I said...'ok people...I will make marienda for those people who would like it and it will be served at 1:15.  At 1:30, the lid of the cooler will be replaced and practice will begin.  [a little bribery always worked on my kids..]

Cue the drum noon, 15 people 1:00, we had about 40 people there and there were only 4 or 5 who missed the marienda!!  American brownies [the natives here do not have ovens and really appreciate baked goods]  We had a great practice!  One of our sister missionaries from SLC is going to accompany us so I won't have to play and conduct the choir with my head..haha!

On the way home, we offered rides to the group from Aurora, a city close to where we live.   Randy and I drive right through there and so they all piled in, 6 in the back and another 7 in the back seat of the cab.   When they were loading and hesitant, I reminded them all that I have seen 15 people in a trycie so they can certainly fit in this truck was a free ride!  They were paying 60 pesos [about $1.50] to come to choir practice and for most of them, that is half of a days wages.  They appreciated the free ride home...
The cargo area group
The backseat group
Saturday we attended a great baptism of two sisters and a brother in a family.  Their mother had recently died in a tragic motorcycle accident, their father went off the deep end [he was driving the motorcycle] and the three children found the gospel.  They are 12, 13 and 21.  The building in San Pedro is the one I showed you earlier-they have done a grand job of landscaping and as I was admiring the scenery after the baptism, I noticed what appeared to be a sculpture of a moth on the side of the building.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a real moth!!!!!!!!!!  They do grow critters big here...

Hazel, Karon and Haymie

Two weeks ago we had that horrible Sunday storm and the flat tire..well, there was a young father from one of our Branches who, unasked, took off his shoes and got busy helping us with our debaukle.  He speaks very little English so relied on others to interpret for him.  Well, Randy and I decided to take his family to a nice restaurant we have found in Roxas for dinner as a thank you.  When I approached him last Sunday and asked him if they would enjoy that, he wasn't sure he understood correctly so went to get his wife who speaks very good English.  These people are so very humble and poor and had NEVER been to a restaurant before.  When we pulled up in front, his little son Russell looked at his daddy and asked 'what are we going to do here, tatay?'

We told them to order anything they wanted and as much as they wanted.  It didn't take long for them to get the idea as Randy as I ordered our dinner.  It was such a sweet experience.  They are both return missionaries, have been married for 9 years and have two children Russell [6] and Audrey [11 months].   I was sitting next to Russell and when we were finished and the doggie bags packed, I asked Russell if he was going to serve a mission?  He responded positively so I emptied my change, had him put it in his pocket with the instructions to put it in his missionary piggy bank.  He was so thrilled.  I probably had 75 pesos in change [$1.50] and he loaded that little pocket to the brim.

The father of this family is a trycie driver and normally works 15 hours a day probably earns 200-300 pesos a day which is the equivalent of $5-$7 a many of you could survive and support your family on that amount?  No wonder they have only dreamed about a night like last night!!

My new buddy Russell

The beautiful Amaro family

I also visited two of my favorite places on Monday, Sharon at David's Salon for a haircut and my friends at Medi-spa, my massage treat.  A haircut costs me 150 pesos [about $4.00] and a one hour full body Swedish massage is 350 pesos [about $8.00]  I try to enjoy it as much as possible because when I come home, I will NOT have that luxury I am certain.  Monday's are our 'P' day and I often go with Gloria or Brenda and have a relaxing start to the week.
President Carlos getting his haircut by Sharon
Gloria with 'our girls' at MediSpa

The weather is getting cooler, Christmas music fills the air [there is no Thanksgiving here so Christmas comes early], homes are being decorated and the temperature is still in the 80's or 90's...WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE!!