Friday, January 25, 2013

HyVee? Smith's? Bowman's?...NOT!!!

My question of the day....

Could you get this fresh picked 12 hours ago and under $10 in the US???

Today's features are:
       *green pepper
       *red peppers
       *red onion
       *iceberg lettuce [they didn't have romaine-gggrrrr]
       *fresh spinach
       *sweet navel oranges
       *cutie oranges
       *mango I will MISS the fresh produce in the Philippines. You are all freezing, slipping and sliding all over your worlds and I am just enjoying the sunny days with blue skies, a nice breeze and temperatures in the 70's. I think I got the better end of January 2013 for sure!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Only in the Phillipines, a fond farewell and a little basketball...

I know I have told you before but there are things that only happen in the Philippines...or maybe I should say, there are only things I HAVE EVER WITNESSED only in the Philippines. That is probably a more accurate statement. Some things make us laugh, some make us cry but we are always entertained and SO thrilled to be serving in this little corner of our Heavenly Father's world. Enjoy!

Filipino's are not vain...they are a humble people but I have yet to see ANY Filipino pass a mirror or window without 'checkin' has gotten to be funny and it is always the same. A little head flick, hair 'fix' and then they walk on. Our congregation meets in a little old house and it has a front porch. There are stone pillars that support the roof of the porch and attached to two of the pillars are pieces of broken mirrors, probably 7-8" in diameter...just a place for all to check before they go to church. Now in their defense, they do come to church on motorcycles, trycies, or walking so I can see where they might get a little disheveled but it is funny to watch...they are all also camera hogs! If there is a camera taken out of a pocket, purse, or backpack, I have seen them almost break a leg running to get into the picture, always posing. It is very hard for me to get candid shots of anything! Recently I passed a rice field being planted and when we stopped the truck, I got out, someone noticed me and WORK STOPPED SO THEY COULD ALL WAVE!! That would never happen on the other side of the pond..

One of our favorite restaurants is Hotel Andrea...last time we went they added a new item to the menu and I needed to share with you.

Roasted Duck is now an option at our favorite restaurant...YUCK!! BEAK AND ALL...
I know you have seen the many strange vehicles we navigate around here but this one gave us a giggle-

Bananas, bananas, bananas...
Nobody celebrates Christmas like the Filipino people-they have branch/ward parties that always include lots of entertainment. They are usually working with little or NO budget money so their creativity always is amazing!!

Sheep made of a footstool that has been embellished with newspaper and such.

Manger scene-notice the 'sleeping' sheep beside? The manger itself is
an upturned basket with grasses for hay.

Their trees are gorgeous-maybe a little gawdy but gorgeous never-the-less.
This one is in a central round-about.

This tree was in the lobby of a hotel.
OSHA does not exist in the Philippines and we can definitely see that with the scaffolding we see. This one is made of steel poles and bamboo. We watched the worker climb down like a and accurate in his placement of hands and feet. They all have such core strength...

We both laugh as we see the way the Filipino's warn us of impending road danger-we oft times see a leaf, a branch, a bamboo pole with an empty rice bag flying on it stuck in a pile of dirt or an entire limb like the one below-it means there is some kind of trouble on the road ahead...clever...

A few more random shots of vehicles and their cargo...

This is a load of bamboo.

We think this was the biggest pig either of us had ever seen in our lives!
Probably as a result of the martial law of the past, we find policemen, policewomen, security guards, etc. EVERYWHERE! No other place on the earth are the local fast food restaurants 'guarded' by an armed guard...who also opens the door, walks you to your car with an umbrella....and does it with a smile. As we shop, we are always accompanied by a clerk everywhere we go in the we are going to steal something or whatever. It is frustrating but because they do not have shopping carts except in the large grocery stores, the little shadows come in handy to carry stuff if we find something we want to buy. Elder and I wondered one time where all these people are trained??? It would be a huge task and recently, I passed an Academy that was gathering for their morning exercises in the yard. What a sight!

Bugs, spiders, roaches, rats....many new experiences serving in this country but nothing could have prepared me for my shower companion last week! I screamed for EEELLLLLDDDDEEEERRR. He came running and found this! 
Look behind me on the wall

My shower buddy-probably 5" in diameter

Friday night the Cabatuan branch held a farewell for one of our favorite young people. When I first started teaching piano in Cabatuan, this very 'guwapo' [handsome] young man came into the room and sat down. I thought 'what a cutie' and at that point a year ago, I never would have guessed what an impact he would make in our lives. His family was poor and was pinning their hopes on him and his intelligence to help support the family. His English is impeccable and he just finished four years of college, planning to become an attorney. He will be an excellent one.

When the Russell's were here, they became especially close to Klay and did everything they could to help him come to the decision to serve a mission. He is 21 years old, a little older than the normal missionaries, and has an amazing testimony. When the Russell's left in July, we moved into their home across the street from our first home here and with this home came friendships...Klay was one of those friendships. He decided to submit his mission application last spring and received a call....TO SAN DIEGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He was so shocked as was most of the people in this area but we were SO thrilled for him to have that opportunity in his life. He was slated to leave in October which should have given them plenty of time to get is passport, visa, and all the required paperwork. His passport came quickly but not the visa. Occasionally in the US, missionaries need to have their assignment changed for want of a visa approval. We all held our breath. President Carlos put him to work and he served almost five months here [in 3-6 week stints] as a 'part-timer'. When we have an uneven number of Elders or Sisters, President asks one of the recently called missionaries to serve in our mission while they wait for their visa, their MTC date to come, etc. Brother Galiza became a favorite companion to many of our full-time missionaries. He is an amazing young man. His interview date was set with the consulate, his visa arrived and as I am typing this on Monday morning, he is on the way to the airport to begin his journey. We are so excited for him and we know he will bless the lives of many people in California while he serves them for two years. Also, we hope and pray this service will bring blessings to his family. He, his mom and one sister are active while the others were not happy about his choice to serve. His father did come to the farewell party however and we hope this will help his family come back to the fold.

Part of the party animals at the farewell.
In our branch in Mallig we have a family that we love, the Orzame family. They lost their dad a few years ago and the mom is doing her very best to raise her family to love and serve the Lord. Her oldest daughter is very active and involved in the branch, the little guy is active and the mom was just made the YW President yesterday. They have one other son, Danilo. He is about 13 and always seems to be so sullen and sad.  He is just a very unhappy young man and Elder Shaner has tried and tried to find a way to break through that wall of sadness. I am certain he misses his dad and doesn't understand why he is alone.

At Christmastime, Elder felt a need to purchase a basketball for this young man. We tried to deliver it at Christmas and they were always gone. The mom is a school teacher [a blessing for sure] and he was just never around. A few days after Christmas we found him home and when we walked in, and Elder handed him the basketball, HE SMILED......the first time we had ever seen his smile.

Elder was still trying to find a way to 'connect' with this young man and on Saturday, we were driving down a dirt road on the way to their barangay [neighborhood] when who would we spot walking along the road but Danilo. We pulled over and Elder leaned out...

Elder: 'Hi...just wonderin' wanna shoot hoops?'
Danilo: eyebrow raised and head nod
Elder: 'Now?'
Danilo: eyebrow raised and head nod
Elder: 'at the school?'
Danilo: eyebrow raised and head nod'..and a smile

I leaned over and told him to bring his friend with him. The friend high-fived the air.

Five minutes later he showed up at the school with his friend and three others..a fourth friend came by shortly and they had an hour of fun. We resolved to put Elder's tennis shoes and some socks in the car and just leave them there in case a game pops up. They all decided to make it a weekly Saturday thing...this old white grandpa and any young people who would care to play. Oh, and if you are curious, he DID get out of bed on Sunday...slowly but he got out!

Not a great picture of Danilo but the only close up I had.
Sometimes in life, the world hands us lemons. I have gotten many in my life and some have really gotten me down but with the help of our Heavenly Father, we can turn those lemons into lemonade. This young man has gotten a HUGE lemon and it is our prayer that someway, somehow, we can help him feel the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Elder Shaner has always been so 'in tune' in his life...he has a direct line to inspiration and again, his inspiration paid off. Saturday was a huge success and next week, the building will continue...we will bring with us our love, our time, our limited skills in the sport and....plenty of water!!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nov 26, 1964-January 7, 2013

If you are a follower of this blog on a regular basis, you will recognize the name Mina. She was an amazing person and is the second friend I have loved and lost here in the Philippines. Death here comes creeping up often and to many who are way too young to meet it. When Imelda died in June and now Mina in January, it gave me a time to reflect on the blessings of my life. Since arriving here, I have thanked my Heavenly Father EVERY day for my good health. I am ashamed to say that this experience and time frame is the only time in my life I have thanked Him for my health or probably even recognized the blessing that it is to me. I will never, ever again neglect to thank Him for it-we have many friends back home who are our age or close who, and because of health issues, would never be able to manage the experiences we have had this past 18 months. How lucky we are!!!

Mina was a great friend. Our first week here in the Philippines, we were assigned to the Roxas District and within a few days, attended our first funeral. It was the funeral of Mina's husband. That was the first time I met her and at that time, I had NO idea how our friendship would change my life.

Now I have mentioned before how different the funerals are here-the funerals are held in the homes and the person lies 'in state' for normally 9 days. There is no embalming here so they are preserved as best they can be and the casket is sealed with a transparent dome. [with this heat, all who come to pay their respects are grateful for that dome!] People will come to the home of the person and there will be a 'setup' by a local funeral home. Lights, candles, pictures, flowers, a carpet, etc. will occupy a part of one room. A tent outside will hold the overflow visitors. People come to pay their respects but to also help pay for the cost to the family by gambling in the yard-they have tables set up and many poker games are being played with the winnings going to the family. 

Funeral services are held each night-our church had two services for Mina while the other nights were attended by the Catholics, the Methodists, etc. The day of the burial, all of the family and friends will walk to the cemetery and show their respect by bringing flowers to put in the 'crypt' with the casket. It is very different but then, this culture is different. 

Mina was the one who was injured in a typhoon in the 90's and had been in a wheelchair or bedridden for 14 years. She was a young mom when the accident occurred and she raised four sons with the help of her husband, being paralyzed from her ribcage down, from the storm. She was in the CR and it caved in on her, trapping her and crushing her vertebra.

Once Mina and I connected over a year ago, we became good friends. I brought her Tagalog copies of the Liahona [our church magazine], brought my computer and we watched conference sessions that I had downloaded in Tagalog while Randy met with his District Presidency for training. We spent the better part of each Friday afternoon talking, watching the computer, building a friendship. Sometime that winter, I became close friends with Sister Russell, another senior sister here in our mission. Now Sister Russell was and still is one of the craftiest people I know-she decided she was going to recycle the plastic grocery bags and found patterns to turn the bags into 'plarn' by cutting the bags and joining the loops. Plarn is plastic yarn and it is really a word-google it if you doubt me. Anyway, she started teaching the ladies in her district and being one who like crafts and crocheting, I thought I would give it a try. I enjoyed teaching and creating the purses but was not nearly as crazy as Sister Russell-while she was here, she created over 75 purses!

I thought about my friend Mina and asked her if she knew how to crochet. She did not. When I approached her with the idea of teaching her, she was willing. For the first month, she would crochet and I would visit every couple of days, telling her to rip it out and do it again-I know she got so frustrated with me but in her quiet, shy temperment, never let on that she was 'ticked'...she only told me that later. We laughed about it but by forcing her to focus on her technique, she became a star student for me. I brought her purses for her to see, taught her the different stitches and she took off! At her funeral, her son Bryan shared with me:

'Thank you Sister so much for teaching my mom how to crochet. It gave her a purpose and a project. It gave her a reason to get up in the morning. It gave her pride'

Never did I think that she would die. She was a healthy person who just caught a bum wrap! I was devastated when I heard she was in the hospital last Sunday night and on Monday afternoon, when we completed our moving task for a set of missionaries, we stopped at the hospital for me to visit her-it was too late. She had died that afternoon.

Her legacy will live on however. She had created about 15 purses that will now go to her cousin who she had also taught to crochet. 

Sister Russell teaching Mina to make embellishments in June
before she went home to Oregon.

Sister Russell is an amazing teacher-very patient and extremely
creative-just the perfect one for Mina.
After the funeral on Friday evening, Vickie, her sister-in-law and caregiver for the past years, took me aside and asked me if I wanted to see the purses. I had not seen Mina for some time and had NO idea she had accomplished so much. I was SO pleased. Her cousins and sister-in-laws modeled them for me. They will be lined and become treasures of a legacy of a wonderful woman who is now dancing with her husband on the other side of the veil.

The legacy of an amazing woman!!
The moral of the story is this: we never know when our Father in Heaven will call us home. His time is not always our time but when that time comes, will we be ready? Probably not. Nobody ever is but MY wish is that I can live my life, however many weeks, months or years He has yet for me to experience in preparation for meeting Him. My goal is to have him tell me 'well done, my good and faithful servant...enter into My rest.'  And for my friend Mina, thank you for showing me true love my friend...we will meet again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome 2013!!!!

 Another year...wowee.  It seems like just a few months ago we arrived in this glorious country to work amid some of the Lord's choicest people and now, it is 2013, the year that marks our return to the US and our lives...our lives...hhhhmmmm..what does that mean exactly? What will 2013 offer us? NOTHING can ever, even if we live to be 100, EVER compare with the experiences we have been able to share as a couple. This time together has strengthened my testimony of our Savior and His restored gospel, it has changed who we are and the people we are becoming but for me, the best thing that has happened is the change in our relationship, the two of us. We have been married almost 45 years and in the past two years, we have had the opportunity to become best friends again. Life sometimes gets in the way of marriage, jobs, houses and the minutia of keeping all the balls in the air but being here 24/7 with no distractions except the work is great!! I have found my best friend again...priceless!!!!!

Last week I told you about our 'last full cycle' season of the rice planting and harvest. This past week 'we' [my master gardener, President Quitola] and I decided to move the tomatoes and plant another group. He had started the seeds and when the plants were about 8" high, he transplanted them to their new home...this will be our final planting of the tomatoes also. We have enjoyed the flavorful US tomatoes-the ones that are native to the Philippines are similar to our Roma tomatoes at home. Thanks again for the seeds, Chip.

The day that was set aside for transplanting we woke up to a constant drizzle. Now I am here to tell you that the Filipino's DO NOT like rain...funny, because they live in a tropical climate but there is some 'legend' that if they get their heads wet, they will be sick. I remember my mom always saying 'if I get a chill and get my feet wet, I will get sick'...maybe we are part Filipino...ha ha ha.. Anyway, when I heard something outside last week on the day we planned to do the planting, I looked out and this is what I saw!!!!!!

Pres Q working in the drizzle with a plastic grocery sack on his head.
He looked like a baker working in the garden...
All of you probably remember Virgo and Judith. We knew both of them and encouraged this relationship so we feel a little 'ownership' to this union. They were sealed in the Manila Temple on 2 November and last Friday, had a friend and family wedding celebration. Neither of their families were able to go into the temple so they had a celebration with a 'ring ceremony', similar to the ones we had for our children. It was a lovely party and they looked wonderful.

One tradition here [and maybe in the US also but we haven't been to many receptions outside of our church in the recent past] is for the couple to dance. As they dance around the dance floor, friends and family come up behind them and pin money onto their clothes. One family friend walks around with straight pins to facilitate this. It is a fun way to help the couple 'get started'...
The happy couple.

Adding our 100 peso note to Virgo's shirt.
You know how these folks like to party! They are definitely the 'partyingest' culture of folks I have ever met. Anything can be an excuse to celebrate and Christmas brings out the best of the best. Last Saturday afternoon, the Roxas District has a Priesthood/Relief Society Celebration. That is intended to include only adults but normally, a few children sneak in with their parents. Part of every large celebration of this kind is 'the presentations'. Each Branch will have the opportunity to give a presentation. It can be anything from a vocal solo to a dramatic interpretation to a dance. Now these people like to dance! I have never seen a culture of people with such rhythm. Not all can carry a tune but they do have 'the moves'.

Part of our district is in a different province, the Kalinga province. That area is just over the mountain from Banaue and is the home of many native kalinga people. They are decendents of the Ifagao people, the ones who migrated to Banaue and settled there. The Ifagao are very small people, very industrious, very clever and extremely musical. Likewise, the Kalinga people are also musical and actually use the same kind of native dress as the Ifagao. For the presentation of the Tabuk Branch, they performed a native dance.

After they were done, they grabbed some of the other members to join them and guess who was on the top of their list??

New Year's Eve in the Philippines is a dangerous time-there are NO rules and everything is legal and available to purchase on every street so the mission has set a policy that ALL missionaries must be in lock-down by 6:00 p.m. on that evening. Those that live close to the mission home are invited to come and play games, watch movies, socialize and eat together. Every year President and Sister invite some of the missionaries to cook and this year, Sister Khushi [from Pakistan] and Elder Lacambra [Philippines]both shared their favorite recipes with us. President and Sister also invite us 'oldies' to contribute food if we want to and the spread is always amazing. I always love to watch the confidence of some of the missionaries as they comfortably work in the kitchen, preparing a dish to share.

Brother Galiza, Sister Khushi and Sister Saez.

President Carlos supervising Elder Lacambra's banana flower recipe.

The group who shared New Year's Eve with us.
Our home is owned by a family whose last name is Ramos. They live on a farm about an hour's drive from here and we see them occasionally as they come to harvest something that is planted on 'our'/their property. New Years is a huge holiday in the Philippines where families get together and most often serve Lechon Baboy. That is a pit roasted pig and is a very popular dish. Along with the pork, they serve a many other traditional dishes and one that is very popular uses fresh coconut. We have coconut trees and so on Monday morning, the gate opened and in came the Ramos' son with a hired worker from the farm. That young man took off his flip flops and immediately scaled the coconut tree in search of the perfect coconut for their dish-it was a sight to see...a man climbing a tree like a monkey. That is an Only In The Philippines moment for sure.

See him in the tree, climbing his way to the coconuts.
It is hard for me to digest the fact that our time here is beginning to come to a close. 2013 was a shocker for me. I always thought of it as far in the future but all of a sudden, BAM!!!  It is upon us. I have such mixed feelings...I have missed my family more than I could have ever imagined. Many important events have transpired and we have been on the other side of the world. It was our choice and I wouldn't trade a second of our time here but I don't feel like I am ready to be done or finished with the work the Lord sent me here to do. Probably because I am not...I have another five months and plan to make them the most productive ever.

One of the former senior sisters purchased a beautiful orchid about 2 years ago and planted it on a palm tree in the mission compound. It is the most gorgeous color of purple and I have loved watching it cycle. At first, when we arrived, it was very small and on it's second bloom cycle. I have watched it bloom, rest, bloom, rest, bloom...the cycle is like our lives. We all bloom. I bloomed when I was married...and again when I had babies...and again as we moved...and again as I took my first job after having a family...and again as I returned to college along with my oldest daughter...and again as my children grew up, married and flew from the nest. I then bloomed again as I became a Meemaw and then a temple worker in two different temples, started my own business, dissolved that business to come 10,000 miles to serve my Heavenly Father on a full-time mission, something I never thought we would be able to do. Our lives are full of cycles and opportunities for us to bloom. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father that I heard His call, gave up my life to come here for two years to help these people find their own bloom...oh, wait, I am the one who found MY own bloom. What a treasure!!!!!!