Monday, September 28, 2009

No Ark Needed

Many of you may have heard about the flooding in the Manila area. (Click here for Fox News article.) Fortunately, we are not directly impacted by the situation there. Manila is a 12 hour drive from our mountain home in Bontoc. (22 hours or more when things don't go well. Click here for that story.)

Because of our location in the mountains, we are well protected from such storms. Manila is on the coast.

When a typhoon comes through we can tell because of the steady rain. Normally, our mornings are pleasant and in the mid-afternoon we get a heavy downpour for a couple hours. It is incredible how much rain can fall in such a short time. When a typhoon comes through, it rains continuously for a few days. Usually it is not the heavy, monsoon rains. Sometimes we will also get some wind with a typhoon; enough to wreak havoc on umbrellas but not destructive otherwise.

The other day we did have strong winds and heavy rain as this typhoon came through. We thought we would lose electricity, but fortunately did not. Even though we are spared the destruction of the flood they have in Manila, the prolonged heavy rain can cause us some problems.

The biggest concern is landslides. There are only a few options for getting into Bontoc. All of them are narrow, winding mountain roads with steep mountains on one side and steep valleys on the other. The rains can loosen the soil and completely bury or collapse the road. Sometimes, though rarely, people are injured or killed. When a slide blocks one of the roads, the vendors are not able to get fresh stock. It is not as if we have anything resembling a Super Wal-Mart to begin with. The options get thinner and the produce grows older until the road is again open and deliveries can be made. Obviously, any travel plans would be affected in the same way.

Another problem is with our water supply. The water is not safe to drink, but indoor plumbing is still greatly appreciated. When the rains get too heavy, the water coming from the tap can literally be mud. Saturday, Lisa started a load of clothes in the washer before breakfast. After breakfast, I started to wash dishes. I discovered that the water color was somewhere between strong tea and coffee. The bowl I was filling with water had a layer of dirt in it. When we looked in the washing machine, the clothes looked as if the girls had been playing in a sandbox with wet clothes on. Fortunately, it was a load of dark clothes. Soon afterward, the municipal water supply was shut off throughout the town. It did not make much difference because of the poor water quality, but we had not had municipal water available for three days prior.

I understand that sometimes the Chico river will flood it banks and even the flood control walls. Our landlord said that our courtyard has been under water before, but not to the level of the house. In the time we have been here, we have not seen the river so high that it was anywhere near overwhelming the flood walls.

I guess the summary is... we are safe from the typhoons you may hear about on the news. We may be inconvenienced, but we are not harmed.


Sunday, September 27, 2009


Today we met with the members of the Bontoc Bureau of Fire Protection and watched the movie, Fireproof. If you haven't seen the movie, it has three themes: firemen, marriage, and Christ. We highly recommend it.

Lisa and I were both surprised at the openness of those who attended as we talked afterward. As we sat and talked over snacks after the movie, we had a good discussion about marriage and the importance of knowing Christ.

Our interest in sharing the movie was to open the discussion of our faith, encourage them in their marriages, and build relationships with these families. We are praying that God will use the truths they have heard through the movie and the discussion afterward to draw them closer to Him and strengthen their marriages. We also look forward to opened doors for deeper relationship.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Working Together

YWAM Mountain Province is currently facilitating a Tribal Discipleship Training School. It is designed for students who speak local dialects. You can read more about it at the YWAM blog. (

Last week I had the privilege of teaching for a few days. It was a fun topic, Team Building. So for a few days, I was playing games and talking about them. The students had a good time as they faced various challenges, all designed to help them explore a topic related to team work.

Facilitating the games was easy. They all were good sports and really engaged. Even in the goofy, embarrassing games everybody had a great attitude.

The challenge was in debriefing afterward. Unlike in America where most people want to express their thoughts. In most teaching situations, I have found the Filipino students much more reserved. It did not help that everything needed to be translated. (But I did understand a word here and there.) However, I found that when I had the students lead the debrief, the other students joined right in to the conversation. This also reduced the burden for the translator. All I had to do then was to ensure that the important aspects of the exercise were discussed.

Hopefully the ideas they experienced in the games, discussed during the debriefings, and listened to during the lectures will help them as they work together in the school and in their outreach once the lectures are complete.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12


Monday, September 21, 2009

Walking to School

Alexie working on math.

While those back at home have just made their way back to school, we just finished the tenth week of ours. Mostly, we are following the plans we made at the beginning. While our girls have spent many, many hours traveling on buses in the last 16 months, they have never ever ridden a bus to school. Some children, during several months of the long winter, must stand in the cold snow drifts waiting at the bus stop for the big yellow school bus to take them to their place of learning. Just ordinary buses. Absolutely nothing magical about them. But I remind our girls of the luxury they have to learn sitting around the kitchen table or relaxing with a book on their bed.


We are using many books in our study of the early church and the Middle Ages. Here are the main ones: Mystery of History Vol. 2, Our Island Story, Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Trial and Triumph, and Fifty Famous Stories. We study history together with the girls doing oral or written narrations after each lesson. Adriana is also doing some history reading on her own including : Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, William of Malmesbury's account of the Battle of Hastings and The Life of King Alfred.

Besides the map work that coordinates with our history studies, the girls are learning geography as they read another book. I am reading Seabird to Annalise and Alayna. Alexie is reading Kon Tiki, while Adriana is reading The Brendan Voyage.
Alayna and Thomas doing some map work.

Annalise and Alayna- The Burgess Animal Book
Alexie- Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science
Adriana- Apologia's Exploring Creation with Biology and The Lay of the Land
Adriana collecting samples from a rice field

Investigating those samples

We plan to do some nature study of the plants and animals of the Philippines as well but so far haven't done much; the biggest excuse being the rainy season.
Annalise and Lisa exploring what can be found in a rice field

Alayna after nature study

Read-alouds have always been a family favorite. This school year we have already enjoyed Just So Stories, Robin Hood, and Peter Pan. We are listening to an audio dramatization of Pilgrim's Progress but this we are spreading it out; doing just a small portion each week so we won't finish until the end of the school year. This helps us gather more meaning from the allegory told in Old English.
Other literature selections:
Annalise is following Sonlight's Core 2 for her reading books. Last week she finished reading to me the Old Testament stories of The Beginner's Bible.
Annalise and Alayna have The Blue Fairy Book and Parables from Nature.
Alayna is also reading Little Duke and King Arthur and His Knights (along with her older sisters.)
Alexie and Adriana are reading Age of Chivalry.
Adriana's books include: The Once and Future King, Watership Down, Ivanhoe, and The History of English Literature for Girls and Boys.
These are the books scheduled for them along with a number more on their free reading list.
Annalise and The Beginner's Bible.

Grammarland for Annalise and Alayna.
Daily grammar lessons on the internet for Alexie.
Our Mother Tongue and The Grammar of Poetry for Adriana.

Foreign Language
This is one area we are not following the recommendations of the AmblesideOnline curriculum. The girls are NOT studying Latin. They are not learning several languages. Our focus is on learning Ilocano. This is an area we hope to do better in as the year progresses. Since resources for learning Ilocano are very limited, Thomas has put together a computer program for us to use. The girls study four times a week. They are familiar with a growing amount of vocabulary but still don't speak it much. Although they do speak more than Thomas and I.

Besides our hymns, folksongs, and composer studies, each of the girls practice the piano daily.

Adriana being a freshman this year has some additional studies. She is learning economics as she reads Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? For logic, she reads and discusses with me How to Read a Book. She has been reading chapter books since she was in kindergarten. She has the amazing ability to read lengthy books such as Lord of the Rings in a matter of hours. One of my goals is for her to slow down and meditate on what she is reading so she grasps the deeper meanings of what she reads.

Plutarch is a subject we attempted to add to our school studies for the older three girls. But after struggling with it for eight weeks, we decided to drop it from the schedule. The ability to provide education tailored to best meet the needs of our daughters is one of the reasons we homeschool. Any curriculum or book is meant to be a tool to help us. Our homeschool varies from the many other families that choose to homeschool but no one else is homeschooling our Adriana, Alexie, Alayna, and Annalise.

I think that covers the basic snapshot of our official studies for this year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coming Soon

I've noticed that when we don't have anything going on we have plenty of time to post about it. But when there is something worth sharing, we haven't the time to put it together. Usually because there are a number of things in rapid succession.

Don't give up on us yet. We will get up to date soon.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baguio and Back Again

Sunday morning we made the trip to Baguio. When we arrived, it was pouring! Fortunately, the trip itself was uneventful.

In some ways it was typical of our trips to Baguio: get cash from the ATM so we can buy food in Bontoc, look for clothes for our growing girls, buy things we need (or want, like cheese) that are not available in Bontoc, and eat at McDonald's. The ATM/cash business did not go as well as expected. For unknown reasons, I was able to get our August cash allotment, but then my card stopped working. I could not use it to purchase at the store and the ATM just spit it right back out at me when I tried to get our September allotment. Lisa's card did a little better, working at a few stores before being rejected. But the problems will mean another trip to Baguio later this month after we determine the source of the problem and get it resolved.

Something new for this trip was the girls getting their haircut. Since I cut my own at home, I have no communication problems with the stylist. Also, if I get it wrong, shaving my head would not be out of the question. But my long-haired beauties must be more careful. Clear communication becomes much more of an issue for them and their stylist. This is only the second time they have had their haircut since we have been in the country. The last time we were in Manila and all of the stylists gathered around as each of the girls got their hair cut.

Lately, I have been making a monthly trip to Baguio and back in a day while the girls stay at home. This time our whole family went and we spent a few days. The DTS team that had just visited Bontoc (click here for Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of that story) was there, back at their studies. In the evenings we were able to spend time talking and playing games with them. We also enjoyed watching them rehearse their dances and joining them for worship. Annalise and another missionary kid her age had a lot of fun playing together. Because we were there for a longer period of time, we not only got to eat a McLunch, we also found a restaurant that serves tacos - a treat!

The trip home was not a treat. The driver was qualifying for the bus version of the Brickyard 500. Although a grand prix is more descriptive of the trip. We were on schedule to make record time. Normally we make two stops for bio-relief. This time, the driver stopped only at the first. At the second stop, he only paused long enough for a couple passengers to board. A couple of us could have made use of the CR (bathroom), but we thought at the rate we were going, it would be okay. Shortly thereafter, the amusement park ride feeling of the bus took effect on one of the girls and without warning, she erupted. There was no time for getting a bag or opening a window. Afterward I tried to open a window for her to feel fresh air on her face and to abate the smell. But because it was raining so hard, when the bus tilted a certain way a sheet of water poured off the roof, hit the window sash and gave a good dousing. So for a while, it had to remain closed.

About 30 minutes from Bontoc, the bus stopped. This is never a good feeling. But when you need to pee, you are trying to keep your feet out of vomit, and the smell of it out of your nose it is particularly annoying. Remember the rain I just mentioned? Well, it had loosened up the soil on the side of the mountain. Gravity took effect and the road was temporarily reclaimed by the mountain. Fortunately, we were only held up for about 1.5 hours. On the good side, the tumbly-tummy was settled during that time. Also darkness had fallen so that even though there was a string of vehicles and several people out walking in the rain to investigate and chat, it was possible for my ladies to find a spot alongside a truck that provided a little bit of privacy for taking care of other biological needs. (It's good to be a guy!)

At my previous workplace, someone may have shouted out TMI (Too Much Information - not referring to the nuclear meltdown in the late 70s). But hey, that will one day be a family story we will laugh about. It may take us another week or so, but since you did not live it, you can begin laughing now. And besides, I didn't post any pictures so you can be glad about that.

We made it to Bontoc, finally. The rain had picked up so we unloaded in a downpour. But at least it was dark out too! :0) The driver did drop us off very close to our place though. So that was nice. Not quite as nice as pulling the van into the garage, sending the kids to bed, and dealing with the unpacking in the morning. I had to leave Alexie and Paeope (a fellow staff member who traveled with us) under an awning up on the street while I ran the luggage across the street, down the stairs, around the rice field, and through our courtyard to shelter. It took me a few trips but I was glad to find the contents of the luggage and cardboard boxes remained mostly dry.

Overall it was a good trip. The bus ride is always an adventure. But we are safely home now and that is nice.