Monday, February 25, 2013

Chic Boy and more apartment checks...two necessities!

Every Tuesday we meet with our Zone for either District or Zone training. The missionaries in charge pray about, plan and execute wonderful lessons on different gospel subjects, all which are intended to help us as missionaries become the very best we can be. Our Zone is divided into two Districts with Elder Guevarra and Elder Reher as our two district leaders. Our Zone Leaders are Elder Landeen [in OUR batch at the MTC] and Elder Ballentos. All four are amazing teachers and the two hours we spend with them on Tuesday mornings are always well worth our time. This past week was a Zone meeting and the Zone Leaders talked about accountability. It was an incredible lesson and so well thought out-they are fantastic teachers!

Following our meeting we always go to lunch and often end up in the same restaurant as the other missionaries. Chic Boy is one of our favorites and the Elders and Sisters always like it because they give 'unlimited' rice. We found them all gathered around and we enjoyed a lunch with our favorite Zone!!

Elder Reher, Elder Ballentos and Elder Landeed

We had to tease Elder Dagal who is always counting his money!

Elder Shaner was finishing his Sinegang-one of his favorite Filipino dishes.
This was also our apartment check week for Santiago North and Santiago South Stakes. We have 24 missionaries between these two stakes and we love visiting them, checking their housing situation, bringing them requested supplies, taking them some of my traditional apartment check treat-homemade banana bread and in short, making sure they are safe and the spirit can dwell in their surroundings. One of these companionships are in a new apartment and two companionships who live in the same house are in the process of watching their new home built. When we arrived in Ramon to check on them, we found this on their front door-they must love us..or is it the banana bread???

Elder Roy and Elder Gloria are serving in Diffun and have a 'divine companionship'. Elder Gloria is Elder Roy's 'trainer' or tatay as they say here. That means 'daddy'...

Elder Kaloni and Elder Andaya are in Santiago and will soon be moving to a new apartment also.

These are the 'masters of the sign' that welcomed us to Ramon. Elder Ronstedt, Elder Aguila, Elder Phippen and Elder Coronel are very hard working Elders. Elder Ronstedt is their District Leader.

 We recently moved Elder Proctor and Elder Amoreda, who are the Zone Leaders for their Zone to a new apartment. You might remember the one on a previous post with the cute painted rock wall across the street. They are settled in and doing great work in their responsibilities. 

Isn't it so sad the Elder Fry is so unhappy?? This darling red-headed Elder is ALWAYS grinning-a true sign of a happy and hard working Elder. His companion, Elder Hawlader, the Elder from Bangladesh, is settling into the work and doing an amazing job with his Tagalog. He came here knowing NO Tagalog and very little English. What a testament to the power of the Lord and the gift of tongues.

I probably could save this for an 'Only in the Philippines' post but the colors are so amazing and the costumes were stunning. Each little city has a street dance festival in the spring and as we passed through a neighboring city, we passed a parade of the participants in the upcoming festival. What a great looking group of young people!

Sometimes I am still mesmerized with my surroundings. We have been here almost 20 months and I am still awed by what I see every day. These are beautiful people in a glorious land filled with amazing experiences. Wouldn't trade a second!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Girls will be girls...

Roxas is the shoe capitol of the Province of least that is MY opinion. We have been here for 18 months and have continually marveled at the Young Adults and their shoes! I have no idea how they walk in them, where they purchase them but they have the cutest shoes I have ever seen. I have often thought of my oldest daughter Cristin as I have seen these tiny little gals strutting around in these incredibly tall heels and never missing a beat. Cristin has those moves down to a fine art. Last Sunday Elder Shaner was asked to participate in a fireside for the Young Adults and Single Adults in the Roxas district and I spent a few minutes capturing a few pictures to share. Now you must remember that most of these shoes are being worn by young women who are close to 5' tall and with a shoe size of maybe 5. They are very small women indeed...

Her matching outfit was adorable!

These were actually a little gilttery...

Maryann always looks like a million!

Her matching shoes

Even the toes matched her outfit

A cute little bow on the backside

We love to see the sisters as they gather at different meetings. Some have been 'batch mates' like Sister Wilkins and Sister Peckham. That means they were in the MTC together for 9 weeks...traveled the 10,000 miles together, and then rode the 12 hours overnight bus ride together to arrive here in Cauayan. They do become close friends.

Sister Wilkins is now our 'neighbor'...she lives in the sister cottage on our property so we see her everyday. Just this morning, I took a plate of cookies to the sisters and there she sat, on the screened in porch, reading her scriptures. These are incredible young women.

Sister Klein and Sister Tulikihihifu loved seeing each other again..

We did apartment checks this past week and visited the Rizal sisters. They all love posing for a quick picture. After all, they are girls and girls will be girls...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


 Resiliency...Webster says it is:

"the capability of a strained body to recover it's size and shape after a deformation caused especially by compressive stress"

Well, my friend, this is MY LIFE the past 10 days. Immediately after 'the occurrence of compressive stress' last Monday the 4th of February, I wrote an email to my friends and family. Many of you have already received this but for those who have on:

Good morning my friends-

If you are reading this email, you are a close friend, family or are one of my kids and I just wanted to share with you pictures and the event surrounding my 'new look'!!

Yesterday while Elder Shaner and I were travelling to a nearby area to help move some Elders to their new apartment, we decided to stop at a little city on the way to pick up some sweet rolls for their 'merienda'...this bakery makes the most amazing rolls [we stop there frequently and Elder buys a couple for his 'breakfast']. He pulled off the road and I got out to cross the street and purchase the rolls. Here in the Philippines, things are very different...there are asphalt or cement roads, curbs and at the curb, there are normally a cemented gutter that contains water, runoff from who know what! I stepped out of the car and noticed the curb, the gutter and water and stepped on top of the incline, not realizing it was slimy. I started to slide and picked up my foot,deciding in a split second to just step into the little water [which is normally only 1"-2" deep] because I was wearing my Crocs. WWEELLLLL..unseen to me was a hold in the cement, under the water that was probably 8-10" deep and my foot went into the hole. Now what are the chances that he would park there, I would get out and find that stupid hole???? Anyway, as I tried to pull my foot out, it got stuck and in the melee of getting myself free, I lost my balance and went FACE FIRST into the road!! I didn't even have time to break my fall with my hands it was SO fast! I hit my nose full force with my weight, also banging up my knee and as I dislodged my foot from the culprit hole, I scraped it quite badly. My elbows also took a little of the excitement and to say the least, I was hurting. My glasses are destroyed as well as my pride!

Immediately, I had the 'help' of 4-5 women who were bystanders at a nearby roadside eatery. They were trying to get me up and I kept telling them to leave me..blood was pouring out of my face and I knew I needed to get it stopped before I got up. Randy asked one of them for some ice and within 15 seconds a bag of crushed ice appeared. I pressed my face into the ice and about 5-8 minutes later the gushing had stopped and I got myself up. They all insisted I go to the doctor across the street and I declined, telling Randy I needed to go onto Santiago. We had a missionary there last summer who had been hit by a motorcycle and needed surgery-it is one of three hospitals in the mission that the Mission Doctor approved for our care. It is a 7th Day Adventist hospital and it was very good. The Emergency Room was clean and the staff were very professional. I was cleaned up, stitched up [my glasses had been destroyed but in the impact the cross nose piece pierced the bridge of my nose and the nose piece itself gouged into my eye socket]. I had two stitches on the bridge of my nose.

Two TENDER MERCIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
             #1---NOTHING BROKE EXCEPT MY GLASSES AND THE NECKLACE I WAS WEARING. One fear I had when we came here was breaking something and needing to go home early. That would have been so horrible for me!! A hip would have been devastating!!
             #2---I STILL HAVE ALL MY TEETH!!! As I laid there in the street, the very FIRST thing I did when I saw the blood pouring out of my face was to run my tongue over my teeth! Noses and skin will heal but teeth, here in the Philippines??? Whoa baby!!!

As I laid on the table in the Emergency Room, I started to giggle. The doctor was a little puzzled and asked me 'what is so funny?' I told her 'if my mom was alive and she was here, we would be laughing our buns off!! We both had a very odd sense of humor and found humor in so many things.' Hope she was watching from above and got a good laugh out of it!!

We continue to motor on but for the next two weeks, I will probably download many books [thanks again Claudia-I never thought I would love this Kindle much or think of you every day as I read] or watch a few movies. We are going to Baguio in March for a senior retreat and I have to plan our training session so will also work on that also. Randy will be a 'senior single' and will do just fine.

Now you all are caught up on MY the title to this email says, 'I have always wanted to have a black eye' and got my wish...X2!!!!!!!!

loveyouall-cheri/mom/Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

I am constantly amazed at the resilience of this old body of mine! I will be 65 years old in June and who would ever have guessed this old body would heal as quickly as it has. I am now on day 10 and am back to 'normal'...well as normal as I ever am! haha!

Here are some visuals to see-enjoy!

In the Emergency room

Me with my doctor Sarah Vallientos

Stitchin up the nose

This is how I feel about the whole a real stoop!!
Then comes the resiliency factor...

Today as the sun shines...still a few little 'owies' but relatively better.
This one is for those of you freezing your buns is a balmy 80* here today and we are loving it!

I guess one thing that I realized throughout this past two weeks is that I might just have a touch of pride...I was very embarrassed by the entire event and come to realize it was just my pride. I remember a great talk years ago on that very subject by President Ezra Taft Benson and the dangers that it can bring. I have read and reread that talk many times over the years and in it he says 'pride is a very misunderstood sin and many are sinning in ignorance'. Before our mission, I don't remember ever falling down. Here, I have fallen numerous times and probably because of that, I am a little self-conscious and sensitive about it. Old people fall. I am NOT old...I am not clumsy. I am not awkward. Well, that is what I have been telling myself for many years but the conditions are different is a dangerous place to be...etc. 

There are times when our spirits and hearts become injured and we think 'I will never be the same' or 'I cannot ever recover from this hurt.'  In the Philippines, I would guess that probably 90% of the inactivity in the church is due to 'being offended'. That is nothing more than pride and an unwillingness to forgive. I will forgive my body. It let me down. My core was not strong enough to keep myself from ending up in the street but bodies so also with hearts and spirits and how do we do that? As my children's pediatrician always told me..."Mrs Shaner. You just need the elixir of time" Time has healed my external wounds and the same with our unseen wounds...time will heal if we will allow Him to help us and give it 'the elixir of time'

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....