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 relationships...kids, 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!!!!!!

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