Saturday, February 2, 2013

Apartments, training and water balloons...

 As I was teaching piano this morning I put the date on the student's new practice sheet and realized,  'It's Groundhog Day!' I exclaimed. She looked at me like I had just eaten a frog and said 'WHAT?'

Sometimes I don't think of the culture difference that we are experiencing here-it has all become 'normal' to me. I suffered from 'shock and awe' for about four months then settled in to realize this was my life for two years so I better get with it! I still am so amazed and awed with the beauty of this country. It is so tropical and that has not become 'old' so to speak but the cultural differences are SO mind boggling sometimes. Things that we accept and understand they have NO clue about. 

I tried to explain Groundhog Day to this morning's students that were at the church and found myself really needing to pull from my vocabulary to help them understand. I started by trying to explain about some crazy American holiday/traditions like February 2nd. They have never seen a ground hog, have never seen a squirrel, have never seen a mole or anything close to a groundhog. I started with a rat...A BIG RAT! This rat has a name-Phil. I couldn't remember how to pronounce Punxsutawney for a minute or two and am still not sure I got it correct but as I was explaining about Phil, his shadow, the hole in the ground, etc. I realized how stupid I sounded. Where did we ever get the idea that a groundhog can predict the future of the weather??? They just watched me with glazed over eyes as I tried not to make American's sound too idiotic but I am not sure I succeeded. Anyway, they don't know spring, snow, ice, blizzards, etc. so I just dropped it! I am watching Facebook to see if he saw his shadow or not...oh wait! It is not until TOMORROW...this International Date Line thing can be SO confusing.

This past few weeks we have been working SO hard trying to secure  apartments or upgrade existing ones in preparation for the INFLUX of new Elders and Sisters in March. I capitalize influx because up until now, we have normally only gotten maybe a 4 or 5 'net' increase of Elders or Sisters each batch. They arrive and it is fairly easy to plug them into the spots that were vacated the night before by the Elders and Sisters who went home. Up until now, it has been a wash for the most part however, with the age requirement change in October, more Elders and Sisters are applying for missions earlier and this next batch that will arrive the end of March will be our first experience with the increased numbers. We will send about 6  or 7 home and get in return 25 at last count. Now folks, that creates a lot of work in President Carlos' life, the lives of the Assistants and the housing couple...which, as you all know, just happen to be us. It is our responsibility, after President and the Assistants have made their assignments, to find and furnish acceptable housing for the new missionaries. Last batch we only had a net gain of two sisters and it was fairly easy to change a two missionary apartment into a four missionary apartment. Next month, he will be doing that for many of the assignments however, we had a few crisis' in our apartments and still needed to find new or upgrade existing housing. We always have the Elders or Sisters currently assigned to that particular area assist us in the search and this past two weeks, we have hit 'pay dirt'!
Baluarte needed a new apartment and Elder Proctor
and Elder Armoreda found a perfect one! Elder Shaner
normally does the negotiating and I take pictures.
The Sisters in Penablanca were living in a very small apartment up a VERY steep set of stairs and President visited with a friend who decided to build an apartment just for the Sisters. She and her husband are past Mission Presidents so they know the difficulty we sometimes have with securing appropriate housing. This building was in her family and she took a section at one end and has build a wonderful place for four sisters. Two will move in sometime soon and my guess is that they will be joined by two others in the near future. This apartment is awesome!!!!!

Elder Shaner with Sister Amistad checking
the window covering.
Our Elders in Ramon have been in the most glorious house for the past little while and just got notice that the owners have sold the home and want them out. This is a common occurrence here in the Philippines. We sign a contract, move in, find problems and issues with the house, fix them, them get ourselves booted out so they can either move family in or sell it now that everything is working. We felt the home they had was a great environment but alas, we are now on the search. Elder Rostedt and Elder Aguila have asked in their ward and found a family that might be willing to turn their home into 'missionary standard housing' and move to their farm. We were so happy to go see what they had found and sure enough, it may not be as beautiful as the one they are currently in but it will be adequate. We really appreciate the leg work of these young missionaries-it makes our job SO much easier. 

Elder Rostedt and Elder Phippen outside of the new apartment.
Once a quarter, President Carlos, Sister Carlos and the Assistants to the President provide a day of training for the missionaries in the mission. It is called a Zone Conference and includes classes taught by President, Sister and the Assistants. It is always amazing training. We have been to many of these gatherings and it is so fun to watch the missionaries enjoy the day with people they haven't seen in a while. Some have gotten transferred and are in totally different cities but they have such fun visiting and spending the day together.

This conference's theme was Come Follow Me and all of the talks were centered around how we can follow the Savior more fully in our lives through scripture study, prayer, obedience to the rules of the mission, etc. Each presentation was so full of great information and hearts were touched and changed as a result of their attendance.

Sister Carlos always has a fun activity associated with her training and this month she had the Elders and Sisters divide themselves into their Districts. Each companionship was to participate in the relay involving a towel, a water balloon and sheer muscles and luck! The day was bright and sunny and everyone had such fun!
Elder Woodruff with his new companion Elder Llorin

Elder Rostedt and Elder Amoreda barely missed!

President was adding his support wherever needed.

The tools...

Sister Diola and Sister Klein. Frequently the Sisters will come to these meetings
matching with their companions. Fabric and labor is cheap here so they have
custom made outfits made. It has become a tradition.
Where did it go? asked Elder Robertson while Elder Coleman giggles..
At the end of the training, lunch is served to all. Sister Carlos spends time and energy making the decorations follow the theme of the day. This month she gathered old shoes and boots, put a pot of artificial flowers in it and VOILA! Table centerpiece! Very clever lady indeed...

 Different members cater different food at all three locations. We have a conference in Tuguegarao, one in Cauayan and the third in Santiago. Brother Pete usually caters in Tuguegarao, Sister Uy in Cauayan and in Santiago, it is 'Nanay' [the word for mommy in Tagalog] who has served the missionaries for many years. She owns a little restaurant and they all eat there frequently.

What a yummy lunch!

For the birthdays of the missionaries, Sister Carlos always comes up with the most
creative gifts. Last year they all got a handmade cover for their planner and this
year's gift was unveiled this past week at Zone Conferences. Tell each missionary
they all need to cook their own nutritious food, she has had special aprons made the say:

One of the first things I noticed as we came to the Philippines was the poverty and the dirt. Everywhere you look you can see PEOPLE! There are more people on the island of Luzon than you can ever imagine. It is just a sea of beautiful brown faces everywhere and all of those gorgeous faces are surrounded by dirt...dirt alongside the road, dirt in the houses, dirt in the yards. It is indescribable. Interestingly enough however, the people are immaculate! Their homes are as clean as they can be, their clothes are spotless and pressed. There is some pride in ownership and occasionally you will see an area where someone has used paint and created an oasis for the eyes. The schoolyards are often artistic creations. The universe is painted on the side of a school building we often pass. These are colorful people who love to crawl out of their shell of poverty and enjoy beauty.

This picture below is one such area. It is directly across the street from the new Baluarte apartment and is actually a wall in front of a warehouse. I was amazed.

It is February second and in four short months we will be flying that brutal flight 'home' hearts tugs at the thought. I miss my family like crazy and want to meet my grandson Gavin who was born last September. I last saw Elliott when he was three months old and now, he is talking and probably thinking about being potty trained. While we will be SO thrilled to be on American soil again there will always be footprints on our hearts from so many wonderful people whom we call 'family' in the Philippines. We have all laughed, cried and learned together and will always be tied together with our love of the Savior. I feel SO blessed that he trusted ME...this weak American lady, to come to this glorious country and rub shoulders with this amazing culture of saints. My life will be forever changed and I will be forever grateful....


  1. Bill Rostedt commented on your link.
    Bill wrote: "Love the photo of the lunch & their new flat."


  2. Jana Klein commented on your link.
    Jana wrote: "Thanks for the post and the cute picture of Melanie!"

  3. One of my favorite missionaries, Elder Spencer Betker, would like for me to make a Blueberry Banana Cream Pie for him before he gets transferred. He told me that his grandmother makes it and it is his favorite pie. I am hoping you are his grandmother and you will share your recipe with me! Stephanie Smith