Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tooth Fairy Fly to the Philippines

Annalise has a new smile

Admiring her new look

Not only does the tooth fairy need to fly to the Philippines, she better have some pesos ready...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stairways to Heaven

Yesterday, was an incredible day of sightseeing! Our friends Rudy and Bridget along with their son, Nigel, took us to Bridget's home village, Maligcong. You will see in the pictures below that the camera is just not big enough to capture the scale of what we saw.

After breakfast Rudy and Bridget picked us up in their pick-up. The girls were so excited to be able to ride in the bed of the truck. I know in the US you can get ticketed for that. But here things are done a little differently - for instance, we were rarely going more than 12 miles per hour.
Once you get to the first sitio (sub-part) of Maligcong, you have to abandon your vehicle and put your feet to work. To get to Maligcong proper, there is a 30-40 minute walk on the walls of the terraces through the fields. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. As I said before, the view was absolutely incredible!

As you look at the pictures, keep in mind that this was all done by hand. Each rock was carried up the mountain and set in place. Each field was carved out of the side of the mountain and made level using nothing more than a shovel.

Each generation passes along the fields to their children. Unfortunately, even with all of the work to carve these great stairways and work the fields, few of the people are able to get enough rice from them to feed their families.

While we were there we also went to the high place and prayed that God would reveal Himself to the people of this community who still live in fear of the spirits and their demands. We pray that they will understand that it is God who provides the harvest, not the sacrifices to the spirits.

When we began our walk through the village, we saw one of the midwives that we had met at our YWAM Health Clinic in Bontoc. She invited us to join her for lunch but since all the girls had continued on the path and were beyond our view we told her we needed to catch up with them. Shortly thereafter, Lisa slipped on some gravel as she was climbing a very steep path in the attempt to follow our 6-year old Filipino guide as he took a shortcut to the high place. She cut and bruised her foot in the process. So since our friends insisted she get the midwife to care for her, we did get to visit the midwife at the clinic after all.
During lunch at the home of Bridget's parents, it began to pour! The rain was intense. We were surprised to see that it was even hailing!
We began to wonder if we would need to accept the offer of staying the night, but after a couple of hours the rain looked like it was over. We said good-bye and began the long walk back to where the truck was parked.
The clouds gave the mountains a new look. It was fascinating to look down on the clouds as they veiled the mountains.
On the walk back to the truck, we passed several who had just arrived on the scheduled jeepney. It was not until then that I really appreciated the work of living in the village. People have to carry their goods the 30-40 minute hike all the way to their homes. Few places along the way are even wide enough for a cart and the stairways are much too steep for even a wheelbarrow.

We were all tired when we got home. It was a real blessing that we had just received a care package from Lisa's parents. A simple dinner of some green beans and Kraft macaroni and cheese was just right!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Adventures in Baguio

The past several days were a blur of activity. We had hoped to leave soon after breakfast Monday morning. But Friday the police delivered an invitation for me to provide the invocation for their Badge Ceremony at the Municipal Plaza. I had arranged for someone else to present for the Moral Recovery Program this week so we could leave early. But it did not seem best for me to turn down this honor. After the ceremony and the MRP presentation, my companion and I were invited to have coffee with the officers. All of this to say that we left a couple hours later than we had originally planned.

Fortunately, the bus ride was uneventful. It was also nice that on both the trip to Baguio and the return trip there were children sick however it was not one of the Americans on board. A nice change - and we did not even use Dramamine this time. It may be an uncomfortable trip, but the scenery makes up for it. (Unless you are so sick you cannot take in the scenery, I suppose.) The mountains are incredible! I am always amazed at the terraces which make whole mountains look like a stairway; knowing all of that was done by hand - wow!

When we arrived in Baguio, we made our traditional stop at McDonald's. No spaghetti or fried chicken and rice value meal for this crew. We went for the more familiar cheeseburgers, McNuggets, fries, and Cokes. I am not sure which will take longer to recover from our trip to the city: our lungs from the smog and exhaust or our arteries from the bad-for-you food.

As part of our adventure on this trip, we explored a little bit of the recreational scene in town. Camp John Hay was the first place we wanted to explore. First we looked into the zip-line and rappelling wall. We did not do it this time, but it certainly is not as intense as what we experienced during our CDTS in Salem, Oregon. (You can check it out by clicking here.) We also found that they have a paintball course. While Jordan would probably really enjoy either, Mom and Dad may not find it quite so enjoyable when they come next month.

But we did try the miniature golf course. At one time, it was a nice course. Later, it was an okay course. Now it is an old, worn out course. But fun is what you make of it. We had fun as we made our way around the course.

No miniature golf match is complete however, without somebody forgetting that it is a game of putting - not driving and chipping. So over the fence Alayna went to retrieve her errant shot.

We did enjoy the natural beauty of Camp John Hay. It was nice to walk surrounded by trees, with grass under our feet.

Because it was a working vacation, we still had a long list of errands that needed to be taken care of. For the most part, that meant time at the mall. Adriana and Alexie got new glasses. The eye exams here are different. Once you read the chart wearing some adjustable glasses, they "fine tune" the prescription by having the patient walk and see if the floor is flat. Hmmm...

Anyway, we found a new diversion at the mall. Somebody has taken the warning on plastic bags to a new level. For 50 pesos, you can put your kid in a bubble and have them run around like gerbils on a shallow pool of water. We first saw them doing it with a clear, sunny sky. So not only can you deprive your progeny of oxygen as they run their little hearts out going nowhere, you can also bake them with the greenhouse effect in their bubble. I am only taking the overprotective parental view because I am too old to do it. As a kid, I would have pleaded relentlessly for the opportunity to be sealed, baked, and suffocated in such a bubble - it looked like a blast!
After closing down the mall, we stood with our new glasses, plumbing supplies, curtains, groceries (yes, they have a grocery store in the mall), and other whatnot, in line for a taxi. We were accompanied by a line of about 50 yards worth of other people - for about an hour. We ended up doing this two nights in a row. The second night we realized what was about to happen, so when we got in line, Lisa went and got McDonald's take-out and we ate dinner standing in line for a taxi. I think we spent an hour and a half waiting that night.

On Tuesday night, Alayna made friends with a little boy as we stood in line. He would smile and giggle at her. Wednesday as we ate our dinner, guess who showed up in line right behind us - the same family. Alayna had a great time playing with him, walking up and down the stairs nearby, and so forth. When we finally neared the front of the line, Alayna came and stood by us. We felt bad as the little boy cried because she wasn't playing with him any more.
That night on the trip to the base, we did have a little bit of adventure. The two roads between the YWAM base and anywhere in town are under construction. This makes the drive slow and full of bumps. As we were driving, the driver hit one of those bumps. This was followed by the sound of something breaking, then something dragging underneath the vehicle. I am not much of a mechanic, but I do know the driveshaft is supposed to be hooked up to something at the rear, not just dragging on the ground. So we hailed another taxi (at least this time there was not a 90 minute wait). Then we moved our stuff and all of us to the new ride and were back at the base in a few minutes.

Before returning home, Lisa and Alexie went on a quest for cheese. The grocery store at the mall does have some but they sell it at such a premium that it is not a good option for us. Our Canadian friends who spent nearly a year in Baguio, and also like cheese, had told us of a little store before they moved back. So to San Rose they went. There is road construction (remember the bump) and that combined with traffic turnedwhat should be a 10 minute cab ride into 45. They arrived just in time for the store to close for lunch. But the storekeepers graciously opened the doors and in 10 minutes Lisa and Alexie had some precious cheese in hand. I think all the family would vote for this being the most important errand of the trip.

On the trip back to Bontoc, we were treated to a beautiful sight. Not only were the mountains and clouds breathtaking. There were also rainbows. In one place, we were looking down on clouds and a pair of rainbows. That was unbelievable!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Working Vacation

Lisa said I had to make this good so close your eyes and pretend it is a literary classic.

If you are reading now, it means you gave up on it being good and decided to read on. I told you to close your eyes and pretend and you chose to read on. Now you just need to take what comes.

Tomorrow morning we are taking a working vacation in Baguio. It is a vacation because we plan to investigate some of the parks and scenery while we are there.

Usually we go to Baguio with the sole purpose of rushing through the many errands we need to do before rushing back to Bontoc. In fact, the last two times, I have gone alone. I catch the 5 am bus for the 6 hour ride there, do as many errands as I can, then catch the 3 or 4 pm bus for the 6 hour ride back to Bontoc.

It will be work because we still have a number of errands we need to do. Even our leisure activities are for a purpose beyond just our present enjoyment. My parents and niece are coming in a few weeks. We intend to do some sightseeing with them in Baguio. Before they come, we want to have some idea of what to plan for and what to skip.

So tomorrow we will take that luxury liner down the smooth, expressway to Baguio. Errr, the worn out bus over the bumpy, dusty, and twisting two lane (except where it is only one lane) road to Baguio. All the while, wishing I was only 5' 4" with knees that fit behind the seat in front of me. Of course, with the oncoming rainy season visibility may be more of an issue than the dust. The good thing is that these drivers make this run every day and know where there is no shoulder, just a 1000' drop down the side of the mountain. Mom and Dad, I am just making all that stuff after the first sentence of this paragraph up. You'll love it, really!

I know you are not supposed to announce your travel plans on your blog. It is a real possibility that thieves may monitor your blog and use that opportunity to visit while you are away. We have considered this potential and are not too concerned for a few reasons...
  1. We live in a gated community. At least there is a gate at the entrance to our yard. Our building also has a gate. But gated community sounds so upscale I made this list up just so I could say it.
  2. Our landlords now have a vicious guard dog. He is several months old now and about the size of a football when his hair is fluffed out. But he does have a nasty growl... which usually proceeds him running away and hiding under something.
  3. 98% of the people who read this blog are so far away that the cost of traveling here far exceeds that cumulative value of everything in our apartment.
So now you have reached the end of this post. Perhaps you are thoroughly impressed with the deep, inspiring thoughts and the witty narrative. If not, I refer to my first line, "close your eyes and pretend". I gave you the opportunity to escape.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Water, Water, Where Art Thou?

This is what we have been saying for the last several days. Truly, there has been some water in the form of rain falling from the sky many of those days. Yet there has been none coming from our faucets. We had been without water long enough that the water tank in the courtyard was empty. We keep two forty gallon tubs filled for use when we have no other source of water. We used all of one of these tubs and were very close to using all of the second. Definitely, we treated each drop of water as precious. Laundry remained in a mountain threatening to fill our porch and start taking over our apartment. The prospect of skipping showers in the warm climate of the Philippines and the six of us being in our cozy apartment was not too appealing. We started thinking of ways to collect the rain and then the skies seemed to be remarkingly sunny.

Water is not something we gave much thought to while living in the States. We had a well and when we turned on any faucet, water freely flowed. Because of our huge water heater, we did not even worry about running out of hot water. If we were thirsty, we filled a glass right from the tap.

Here we are conscious of water every day, all day long. We use purified water to drink and even brush our teeth. We need to be careful to keep a supply on hand. There is a place that purifies water about a five minute walk away but they are not always open. Random is the word and that applies to the businesses here. No set schedule of 9 to 5 Monday through Friday to plan by. Everytime we turn on the faucets and water actually comes out we are thankful. The only time we have hot water is from heating it on the stove, putting one of the small heaters in a bucket, or when the conditions are precisely right, for the heaters on our shower heads to work.

This week was the closest we had come to not having any water but before it got to the point of skipping showers we had water most of today. I did a few loads of laundry. We hurried to fill up the tubs on the porch and made sure the buckets in the bathrooms were full. You see a family of six uses a large amount of water in a day. There is laundry, washing vegetables, dishes and our bodies and tomorrow may be another time we are saying "Water, water, where art thou?"


Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Box of Blessings

Thanks Nancy!

When I was planning and preparing for this coming school year, I asked the advice of some other homeschool mothers. I belong to many Yahoo groups that assist by providing resources that coordinate with the different curriculums I use and lots of helpful suggestions. Since we do not have a library, the nearest bookstore is more than 6 hours away, and the cost to ship to the Philippines is very expensive, I needed to make wise decisions on what books to order. While I wanted to make sure to get the books we really needed, I did not want to waste resources on any unnecessary ones. The homeschooling community is great about helping each other and many mothers sent suggestions to guide me in my selections. But God blessed us way beyond that when He put it on one of the mother's hearts to send us some books. When she first offered, I was so touched by her kindness. Here was a complete stranger offering to send us items we needed for school. She asked for me to send her a list of resources I needed and she would send as many as she could. I told her when she found out how expensive it is to ship to us, she might change her mind. She did not and searched her bookshelves and other places and sent us 10 books plus a CD of medieval music! I am continually amazed at God's faithfulness to us to provide just what we need. He oftens does so in such surprising ways.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back to Can-eo

Saturday we took the YWAM Perth DTS team to the village of Can-eo. We had planned on making the trip on Friday afternoon, but a mudslide had closed the road. Because of the delay, the team decided to wait until Saturday morning to make the trip. We spent the evening playing games at the base. It was nice to be able to relax with them and talk without the challenge of language differences. Although the team came to us from Australia, none of them are originally from Australia. Six are from the USA. One is from Canada. The other one is from Switzerland.

Can-eo lies in a river valley, literally at the end of the road. It is a breath-taking 45 minute ride through the mountains. Alexie was excited as it was her first time to ride on top of the Jeepney as we traveled. It really is an incredible trip from such a vantage point.

We were all excited about this trip. During our outreach to the Philippines in 2007, we had spent 5 days in Can-eo and really fell in love with the people and the beauty of the area. I visited in January when I hosted another team, but the rest of my family had not been back yet.

When we arrived, Pastor Rudy, a fellow YWAM staffer, gave us a description of the people and customs of Can-eo. Then he took us on a tour of the three main sitios (sub-parts) of Can-eo. Along the way, we stopped to pray for God to work in the hearts of the people and overcome the bondage they live under the spirits they work to appease.
Many people fear being in the area of this bridge and claim to hear voices from the spirits.

At this high place, the people still offer sacrifices to please the spirits.

During our walk we were invited a couple of times to share in some freshly harvested honeycomb. It was deliciously sticky!
Lisa talked with many of the children along the way, taking a few minutes to try to learn their names and something about each of them.
During our visit to Can-eo in 2007, we learned that may of the ladies here are talented weavers. Here we met Leslie. She is 10 years old and working on her first weaving project using a backstrap loom. Although we tried to talk with her, she stayed very focused on her work.
Each sitio has an ato. The elders gather at the ato to discuss issues that affect the community. During tribal wars, it is at the ato that decisions are made as to retaliation toward their rivals.
Mel talks with one of the kids.

On Saturday afternoon, the DTS group facilitated Bible studies in homes of some of the residents. When it was time for the first group to go, there was a downpour going on outside. Only a few of the people had raincoats and there was only one umbrella at the church. Making the best of things, we cut a few banana tree leaves for makeshift umbrellas and made our way to the Bible study.
A great way to keep your hair dry in a heavy rain - but that's about it.

As Saturday drew to a close, we were all getting tired. The DTS students held an evening Bible study at the church. By then the rain had subsided and a fair number of people showed up.
Annalise at the end of a long day with Lorna, one of our SSM students who lives in Can-eo.

Sunday morning, I woke up early as I could not sleep well. Not wanting to make any extra noise and wake up the others, I quietly went out to pray along the bluff overlooking the river. It was a beautiful setting in which to talk with the Creator.

As people began to wake, people began to pass along the narrow path along the rice field on which I was standing. After a while, a lady, Lucinda, waded into a nearby rice field to continue planting it. It wasn't long before curiosity got the best of me and I asked if she would show me how to plant rice. I doubt she understood why I would bother, but she graciously showed me the process.

Later I headed back to the church to see who was up. Basically it was just my family. When I told them of planting rice, they were all interested and we went back to see if Lucinda would teach us all.

We had a good time learning. Hopefully, Lucinda did not need to follow-up and correct our work. Everybody gave it a try, though some enjoyed the mud much less than others.

Then it was back to the church to make breakfast so we could be prepared for Children's Church. The students did a great job with the kids. They played games and taught about how God does incredible things. They even had a drama about God parting the Red Sea.

One of the things the girls were really excited about as we prepared to return to Can-eo was the waterfall we had bathed at when we were here before. They kept looking for an opportunity to make the trek up the creek and play at the base of the waterfall. The three guys from the team and one of the ladies joined us, as well as Pastor Rudy's two youngest boys. Rebekka actually made the trek wearing a skirt.

It takes your breath away as you get into it, but once you make it in it is not too bad. Alexie was the only one of our girls that actually went under the falls. Everybody else enjoyed wading and playing at the smaller falls just downstream.

The trip home Sunday afternoon was slow. The Jeepney had returned to Bontoc to get tires repaired so we left later than we had planned. In the meantime, a storm had begun. As we drove along, we had to stop several times to make sure the road was passable. There were no big mudslides, but we did need to move some rocks and fill in some ravines that the rushing water had made in the road.

We look forward to the opportunity to return to Can-eo. Perhaps we can make it back in November to help harvest the rice field.