Thursday, November 8, 2012

Different culture, different traditions...

One thing that we have enjoyed here are the different traditions that a different culture offers. Growing up in middle class, mid-west America and only experiencing the things that a Methodist family in Nebraska would offer is the only thing we have experienced thus far in our lives. When we have traveled to different parts of our country, we have noticed distinct differences in local traditions and celebrations but we were never prepared for what we have found here in the Philippines. The differences are SO interesting...

I remember watching a movie one time [I think with my friend Kayleen] that depicted a Catholic family in Mexico if I remember correctly. They, for some reason, traveled as a family to the cemetery and celebrated for days, saying they could connect with the dead. I remember we both discussed how odd that seemed to us but guess what???? THAT REALLY HAPPENS!!!!!

November 1st is All Souls Day here in the Philippines. It follows their Halloween [which is NOT like ours...some shop workers might dress in costume but there is NO candy, etc. like we have] This year All Souls Day fell on a Thursday so starting on Wednesday, the buses from all over the island were PACKED with people coming home 'to the Provinces' for the holiday weekend. It is a huge family celebration weekend, one of the biggest in their cultural tradition. We had missionaries going home on Wednesday night and another batch coming on Thursday morning so they needed reservations weeks in advance for their seats on their respective buses. Anyway, families gather in the place of their birth to celebrate. 

Halloween night, as we drove past on our way home from Cauayan, it looked like the cemetery was on fire!!  Each family brings candles to light up the graves of their dear departed. It is a beautiful sight to see for sure. Later that evening, families arrive with tents, bedding, coolers, etc. and they sleep in the cemetery for 2-3 days. The family members use this time as a way to honor their dearly departed. They believe the souls of their dear family members are allowed to come back to interact with their living families during that time and they want to be there to see them or for their loved ones to know that they are not forgotten by their presence at their grave. I remember something like that from the movie I talked about previously but couldn't tell you the details until now. It is an amazing thing to see. On Thursday, ALL BUSINESS stops for 4 days for the celebration. Food vendors set up in the cemetery and on the street outside the gates, vendors are selling trinkets and other remembrances, some are selling kitchen wares [just in case you forgot to bring something you might need] is amazing to see. The cars [and remember most people do not own cars but come on jeepneys or trycies] were parked for a mile both directions all along the highway outside of the cemetery gates. It was almost impossible for us to get through to go home!
Tents and flowers

A vendor selling snacks
The above pictures were actually taken the day after the main celebration but still depict the mood of the event.

Every Tuesday we have our weekly District Meetings and we really enjoy seeing our missionaries interact, train, uplift and brainstorm together as they learn from each other. We have two districts in our Zone now so there are two different missionaries who are given the opportunity to prepare and teach. They are both amazing leaders and we are happy to serve with them.

Afterwards, the Elders and Sisters gather somewhere to have lunch before heading back to their areas. Last week we happened in on their lunch when we chose Chic Boy for our lunch. These are 12 of the finest the Lord has...

Being American this past week has been a hard thing for me...I was born a Republican and will die a Republican I think. I know many of you are probably Democrats so I am not trying to offend but coming from plain vanilla mid-west America, I have adopted the traditions of my parents. I did the research when we got married and made the choice at that time that if I needed to 'declare', I would declare Republican. However, that being said, I have voted, over the years, for MANY Democrats because I try to do my homework and vote for the candidate, not the party. Many times Randy says we 'cancel each other out' because of my voting history but I believe in the person, not the party. 

OK...this past week was the Presidential Election at home and because currently, we do not own property or have a residence, we were not given the chance to cast our vote however, we did have strong opinions to who we wanted to see win and have the opportunity to run out country...we were definitely wearing red on Wednesday morning when we all gathered at the Laker's apartment for our 'Results Party'! Sister Laker thought that would be fun to be together, bring snacks, have lunch and watch the voting results come in...the air of that morning was a little glum to say the least. 

America chose...

When President Obama was elected four years ago, he was not my candidate however, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and supported him. In my opinion, he has not done what we all thought he would do but if America chooses another four years of his leadership, I guess we will just do our best to support him again. I will continue to pray for our country because I personally felt a change would be so beneficial but apparently, my feelings were in the minority. It will be another four years of the same and again, I will do my best to do my part.

The Mills and the Gottfredsons watching the 'tv'...better known as Laker's computer..
One thing we really LOVE about our apartment responsibility is deliveries of things that these missionaries have waited so long to receive. In August, President Carlos opened a new area in Nueva Viczaya called Dupax del Sur. These missionaries moved in and did their best to adjust to the new surroundings. The area is gorgeous and  cooler than Isabela where we live. Each companionship should have two desks for their study use. These young men have been patient while we had new desks built and yesterday, they were finally delivered. Happy missionaries in Dupax for sure!!

Elder Landeen and Elder Pingol
You remember an earlier post with Balai Gloria, the resort? We were in that area yesterday and Elder Shaner NEEDED chocolate cake!!  Now those of you [my kids especially] know how their dad loves CHOCOLATE and especially cake with ice cream so he decided to stop and bring some home. I didn't eat any cake but enjoyed their gorgeous Christmas decorations!! These Filipino people know how to DECORATE!!!  and for Christmas, everything is exquisite!!

This tree outside is decorated year round..

I bet you have never seen a banana flower before...we have many banana trees [as well as coconut, avocado, mango] on our property and when I was looking up the other day, I spotted this banana flower. It may not look so large but it is probably 12" in length at least. It is a gorgeous color of mauve and will turn into a rack of bananas. We currently have three or four in the process of growing.

Our experience here in the Philippines reminds me a little of this flower...we are holding on, ready to open up the lives of those we work with and teach but like this flower, there are hazards [like the barbed wire] that we must avoid...hazards like complacency. We must never think we are doing all we can because that is just not true! The Lord will accept our offering of our time, our talents, and our financial means to support ourselves but if we, as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do not stretch ourselves every day to help, lift, teach, preach, lead, and serve Him, our 23 month mission is all in is OUR time to prove ourselves as servants of He who has given us everything!! 

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