Monday, October 31, 2011

Mama said there'd be days like this!!!

Many of you can probably remember the song that was popular in the 70's...'Mama said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this my mama said...' well, my friends, last Sunday was one of those days!

In the Philippines, the people are very thrifty and sometimes, that desire for thrift twists their thinking...take electricity for example.  When there is a storm, rain, wind, anything OR when it is very hot, they think they need to conserve energy so they produce a 'brown out'.....someone who is apparently in authority flips the big switch in the sky and the entire city is left in darkness for an undetermined amount of time.  Now if we had just had a typhoon, people, I can understand it but when there is a rainstorm?????  COME ON!!!!!!  Not only is it 'stinkin' thinkin'' it is so frustrating!  They haven't figured out yet that the people here will purchase the energy you buy so what is the big deal???   Just buy enough and then sell it to the customers...I think it must be a third world thing..but anyway, last Sunday was one of those days.  We arrived at church about 8:30 and were visiting with some of the members about the upcoming week's plans when all of a sudden...wham!  No electricity.  Not everyone panics immediately because occasionally, we will have a 5-10 minute brown-out and things will go on as planned but not this day!  We don't have any a/c in the building except in the chapel but because it was Roxas I Branches Primary Program, we thought we would just attend Sacrament Meeting in both of the branches as they are held back-to-back.
Cute little people all dressed for their program.
The Primary Presidency in Roxas I must have been planning for months.  Someone had purchased pink satiny fabric and created ties for each of the boys and corsages for each of the little girls.  They looked so darling and were so ready BUT...without power, we have no microphone or piano.  It was so sad-they all did their best to speak loudly for their parts and they only sang one song because there was no piano accompaniment.  Afterwards, I had them all assemble so you could all see how cute they looked.

Now I mentioned that it was raining, didn't I??  Well, my friends, it was not just raining, it was POURING!!!  When the meetings were over, Randy and I decided to go home.  We had a District Choir practice planned but Filipino's are afraid of the rain and if the weather is wet, they usually stay home.  They are all scared they will get sick so avoid getting wet.  As we went to the parking lot, through the pouring rain, someone noticed that we had a flat tire!!!  Last week Randy had just had that tire fixed and we were less than thrilled.  He and Elder Ward [one of the Zone Leaders] grabbed umbrella's and went to assess the situation.  Yes, it was flat but where is the spare and the tools????  One of the branch members also offered his help so the process began.  In the best of circumstances, changing a tire on an unfamiliar vehicle with unfamiliar equipment is a challenge, but IN THE POURING RAIN??  Well, thanks to these other two men who decided to play in the rain with Randy, the job was accomplished and we were ready to head home when a jeepney arrived in the parking lot and out climbed 14 members from another branch who had hired their way to the choir practice!!!  Was I ever thrilled.  We practiced for about an hour, decided on a time for the next three weeks and arrived home around 4 in the afternoon.   Yesterday, I had a few errands to run while Randy spent the day in bed with the stomach flu and the driver's seat was still damp!!!  What a day!!
Notice that he finally just took off his tie and shoes and got to work!

On a lighter note, we had a Family Home Evening with the Delphine Family last Monday night-I didn't attend as I had fallen the previous Sunday morning [those of you brave and curious minded people can ask Randy about how I fell..haha!] and in the process, hurt my back.  The Friday before I spent the day at the doctor's trying to ascertain that I had no serious problems as a result of the fall.  I hit our tile floor at full speed and was very concerned when my back pain was so severe.  He sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound of my back and innerds and all was fine.  Just a sprain that the elixer of time took care of [with the help of some muscle relaxers and pain pills]  Notice the 'guard' at attention with his gun in front of the hospital picture-there are guards at every door of every store and they are all armed.  What do they think we are going to steal????
This beautiful family is loving the discussions...we are hopeful!
Interior of the hospital-reminds me of a 1930's movie...

The local 'hospital'...can you see the guard at the door??
I need to tell you however that my doctor day with a doctor visit, urinalysis, body ultrasound, plus prescriptions total bill was less than $100 US!!!  There are a few perks...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Only in the Philippines!!

Rice truck set with plastic chairs to transport a group of people
The tractor of the Philippines
This Jeepney is a little overloaded, don't you think??

Open air meat market

Common broom-small slivers of bamboo tied together.  These are used for everything!

This is called a 'waiting shed' where people will wait for a trycie or jeepney-found on almost every corner.
Just one???

Basketball is the national sport here but I don't ever remember seeing a baseball diamond in a cemetery in the US!!

Such a serious look...

This little piggy went to market...
It has been a little over two months now and we are beginning to settle in and feel more at home.  The house we live in is very is quite large and roomy so we are not feeling cramped but it does have it's a/c except in the bedrooms, it leakes like a colander when it rains, we are not here alone as many little and big creatures co-habitate with us, there is no hot water, just to mention a few however, we love the neighborhood, roosters and pigs and all, the neighbors are great, the water pressure is good, allowing for refreshing showers, and thanks to our great leadership here in the mission, it is well furnished and the kitchen is nicely appointed with the latest in appliances.  We think we will stay!!

Mission Highlights is the name of the official Philippines, Cauayan City Mission blog hosted by our mission.  I have kept up on it from the very beginning and if you are interested, you can find the link to your right.  From the beginning, Brenda has had an occasional post entitled 'Only in the Philippines' and has included items of interest and pictures of things that you would only see here.  I have loved those posts and decided to draw on that idea for an occasional entry on this blog.  Today you will find a variety of pictures of things that you won't see in the United States for sure and I hope you will find them enjoyable....
Only in the Philippines will you see this strange sight...
You will see hundreds of these basket men selling their wares

Rice being transported on a sidecar

I think this little guy is named George...
This funeral procession is being led by a band

Notice the banner on the front of this cart with the statistics of the deceased??

The mourners follow on their way to the cemetery...

Hope you all are having a great fall.  I do miss the colors and the smells as I have said before but life is good and with the 'BER' months, [SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER and DecemBER] comes Christmas decorations and music everywhere.  We even sang Away in a Manger on Sunday...these people do love their holidays!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Spiritual Feast...and clean teeth

Last weekend was such a spiritual feast for us.  Two General Authorities who are currently serving in the Area Presidency were here to divide a stake and spent extra time uplifting, training, sharing and interacting with the missionaries in the immediate Cauayan area.  We were invited to come and enjoyed our time with them so much.  I meant to get a picture of us with them and the time just flew by.  Elder Ian Ardern [who spoke in General Conference a few weeks ago-the talk on using time wisely with the reference to 'angry birds' crashing against brick walls] and Elder Brent Nielson were such a great tag team.  Their training was very enlightening and so informative.  We feel so fortunate to be taught at their feet.

Sunday night we had the invitation to come to the mission home for dinner with them and truly had a delightful time.  THEY ARE REAL PEOPLE!!!!!  I haven't laughed that hard in a long time and felt fed, both inside and out.  A true magic opportunity for us.

Monday I decided I would get my teeth cleaned.  Now let me preface this with a little background.  I have been going to my favorite dentist, Dr. DeFord since we moved to Omaha.  She is my dentist but also my good friend.  When we decided to serve this mission, she told me there was NO way I could go for 2 years without having my teeth cleaned.  I create plaque so badly so for Christmas last year, she gave me my own set of 'tools' and also gave me a lesson on how to scale my own teeth.  I have been vigilant in using them monthly but developed a paranoia that my teeth would need cleaning.  At home, I would get them done every 4 months so I thought I would search out a dentist here and get it done.

Now as I took my place in the chair, folks, I had immediate flashbacks of my days in the dentist office as a small child 55 years ago!!!  I took this picture for Kathy mainly...she would never believe this equipment!  And she even had a spit bowl!!!

The entire time I was in the chair, she was talking, asking me questions [and she had her hands in my mouth, expecting an answer!] telling me how white my teeth were, like black Americans, how most Filipino people and white American's have light yellow teeth, etc.  It was a hoot!  When we finished, she informed me that I didn't need to come back for a year and the only thing she actually did was give me an intense flouride treatment!    Cost???  400 Pesos  [a little over $8]    Amazing...

Dr. Luz Belinda Yap

We got two new missionaries this morning so we are off to Cauayan to help with breakfast and deliver the newbies to get them settled.  I have been feeling puny this week so will lay low for a day or two.  Sunday morning I fell in our kitchen and crashed onto the tile on my elbow and have been limping around.  Bodies of old people hurt when they fall...I think I pulled every muscle in my body but I am SO grateful nothing broke!  As I laid there, I could imagine so much worse-old people break when they fall and I surely don't want to end up with a broken anything in a third world country!!!  I also laughed thinking of Kathy's latest ouch [she ran into a door and thought she broke her nose] and knowing we may be 9000 miles apart, we suffer together!!

My owie bruised elbow that didn't break!!

I am still missing fall and the smells of autumn, the changing colors on the leaves, the crisp mornings, the football games and such but am so grateful that we are here serving these wonderful people.  Our mission has been such a blessing to us and we are only 10 weeks into it!!!!!  YIPEE!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Carabou's, families and some good eats!!

Have you ever wondered what a carabou does to cool off?  That probably wasn't on the top of my 'info to find out' list until a month fact, I had NEVER even seen a carabou until we came to the Philippines in August.  We studied about different countries, cultures, foods, geography, weather, etc. in World Geography in the 11th grade but people, THAT WAS CENTURIES AGO!!!  The carabou is the tractor of the Philippines.  We are constantly amazed at their size and strength.  Every family [at least in this part of the country] own or have access to a carabou.  One sweet sister we were teaching asked me in broken English, ' have carabou's in America?'  When I responded no, she was visibly shocked and said 'then how do you get your work done?'  You see, here in this farming area of the Philippines, everyone and I mean EVERYONE uses carabou's.  They pull carts filled with rice bags, carts filled with building parts, carts filled with car parts, carts filled with people and plows just to name a few.  Randy is fascinated to watch the 'handler' drive the carabou-there is a wire threaded through it's nostrils and it is 'steered' similar to a horse in America.  His contention is 'I would turn my head also if someone put a wire in MY nose'...they are really interesting creatures and today as we were teaching in 'the bukid', Randy took this little video showing how they cool themselves in this heat.

     This has been a great week and it is only Tuesday!!  Last night we had a family home evening at a home that has a 'bahay kubo' which is, in our language, a gazebo!  These are not as grand as ours in America but instead are made from bamboo.  In this one, we are sitting elevated about 3 feet.  It was a great evening and ended with chocolate chip cookies [thanks to Annalee for the chips]!!!  Everything is better with cookies...
Family Home Evening in the Bahay Kubo
Out in the bukid today, we had a referral that took us to a new investigator.  I am pretty brave and have done many new things in the past month [cue the toilet flush] but walking the plank was not one I had ever planned!!  To access this woman's home, we needed to cross over the canal that runs between the road and her property.  Their family has built a plank that made me think I should have paid better attention in high school gymnastics-I felt like I was on the beam!  It was a little wider but I handed Randy the camera just in case I ended up in the canal with the carabou!!!  Hence, the picture...thanks, hon!  This home also had an outside seating area called a 'terrace'...not pronounced like you just read it but rather 'tear-ass' with the emphasis on the second syllable.  It also had bamboo seating and thatched roof.  The air was cool and there was a breeze so we were quite comfortable.
Walking the plank!!

Sister Janette Ortega in her terrace
After our District Training today [which Randy and I did by the way] the brother from the family home evening came by with his ice cream truck and we had 'dirty ice cream'.  I know, I know...YOU ATE WHAT??  It is really quite delicious.  He get's up every morning at 3 a.m. and makes two freezers of ice cream-today's flavors were strawberry and something that he called peanut.  You can have it one of three a cone, in a cup or with bread.  It is called dirty when you choose the bread...not sure why.  He purchases rolls individually wrapped in cellophane and slices them, opens and fills the bread with little scoops of ice cream.  When I first heard about dirty ice cream, it sounded gross but if you think about it, a cone is a bread product so this is just like having a big cone.  Anyway, he came to the church after our training and I bought all 20 of us dirty ice cream.  He gets up, makes the ice cream, purchases the bread and sells them for 10 peso's each...that is the equivalent of 20 cents apiece!   Living in a third world country does have its advantages!

Randy enjoying his dirty ice cream

Brother DeGuzman and his ice cream truck
Chow King is a popular eating place here in the Philippines-they are one of the few 'fast food' places around and serve Asian cuisine.  They popular dessert is called Halo Halo which translated means 'mix it up good'.  The first time we went there was with Elder Naylor and Elder Lucernes in August and I really enjoyed the eats-their Orange Chicken is pretty good and I loved the Halo Halo-it is made with cream, ice, sugar, jello, custard, ube ice cream, corn, beans and anything else the chef decides to throw in.  It sounds awful but it was surprisingly tasty.  I guess I am more adventurous than some of the other senior couples because I don't think Brenda or Gloria have tried some of the stuff I have...I figure, I will probably only be in this country once in my life and I want ALL the experiences, EXCEPT BALUT!!!   That is one thing I will pass on...

Halo Halo before it is mixed up

When Sister Carlos called today to ask me if I needed anything from Manila, anything I just am wanting [she had a friend going who was willing to bring things back for us] I honestly thought and thought about it...there is not really anything I can't find here or haven't learned how to do without except maybe fresh mushrooms...I did request some cheese however if there was room.  We cannot buy cheese here and I do miss that.  She found a gold mine last week...walked into a local store and found three packages which, when she called me, I promptly purchased and have enjoyed with crackers and a Coke Zero.  Yes, I can get my Coke Zero so what else could I want????  Oh and incidently, Rob...our toilet flushes counter clockwise!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pedring, Quiel and now Raymond!!!!

As a small child growing up in Nebraska, I was very acquainted with tornado's and the impact one could have on my environment but NOTHING I have ever experienced could have prepared me for the wind, rain, flying debris, damage and loss of electricity that accompanies a typhoon.  Last week we had two roll though here, the first, Typhoon Pedring rolled in sometime in the middle of the night on Monday night/Tuesday morning.  We lost our electricity around 2 and that is what awakened us-the sound of the fan and A/C in the bedroom produces a 'white noise' and when it is gone, it is noticed.  Our power was out from then until Friday evening.  We went to Cauayan to help the Carlo's with their busy week and because the mission home/office compound has a generator, we had minimal lights and fans but no A/C or power to unnecessary appliances or plugs.  The fun thing was this was transfer week!!  That means we had elders and sisters going home on Wednesday and a new batch coming in on Thursday.  Because of the storm, the incoming ones didn't arrive until Friday morning so the transfer meeting needed to be changed as the newbies were getting absorbed into the mix and having the meeting without them was pointless.  Picture the cooking, the cleaning, the dishes, the laundry, etc. WITHOUT POWER!!!  I have not washed that many dishes by hand in many moons but was glad to be here to be able to help out.

Our street.
Randy on the corner of our street...notice the trees stripped clean of their foliage.

These cute entrepreneurs were finding fallen coconuts to sell-see the home behind them that was totally destroyed.
The sad thing was that with all the storm and transfer stuff, the work stopped!  This is the first weekend since we have been here that one of our branches didn't have a baptism.  We thought about that on the way home from church today...our branches only held Sacrament Meeting so we attended two today, neither of which experienced much damage.  Our new convert Sister Ulep told us today that when the rain and wind got bad, she just sat down and read her Book of Mormon.  Now that, my friends, is pure faith!!

Getting ready for church without a blow dryer-no power but this worked!  This battery operated fan that Randy bought is great!
A week ago, before the storms started raging, we had the opportunity to go visit the Agustin family and help them welcome their new little Dion Youone to their family.  Like our Kimberly, they lost their first little girl as a baby and have waited and waited for this little angel.  I took dinner to them [don't think anyone here has ever done that before] and made her two crochet-edged burp cloths.  They are such a great family and are so happy.  They blessed her today and thought you would like a happy thought.

They tell me we can expect Raymond to come rolling in around Wednesday of this next week-we certainly did pick a great time of year to come, don't you think?  Never fear, we are all fine, a little hot, wet, tired and dirty but our faith is strong and our commitment to this work is unfailing.  My prayer is that we could somehow, obtain the attitude of these wonderful hour after the storm was over, they were all outside, sweeping, smiling, visiting and moving on.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all be that optimistic about our futures???  Just clean it up, put it away and look forward.  What a  great culture of people who are motivated by the future and the possibilities, not tethered to the past and the mistakes.  They just don't look back...