Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Home Again, Home Again

I’ve been back for a week now, and I’m able to stay asleep all night. That’s always nice. I still have some kind of funky thing going on with my stomach, but I plan to bombard that with charcoal for a few days and see what happens. Maybe I just need to get back to my little home in College Place and return to my little routine. I’m currently on the bus with my sister on our way to the northwest.

The other day we were in a restaurant and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the large percentage of overweight people- something we just didn’t see in the Philippines. Some people were frighteningly skinny there, in fact. Oh, and I still get excited when I go into a public restroom and find toilet paper present. Otherwise, I think the culture shock is wearing off.

I think my wireless card has just died and I’m mourning that fact acutely.

Because of the Philippines and my experience there, I’m a little closer to identifying with my church the way I want to and need to. I understand now, when I stand under a hot shower each night, why most people in the world will always consider it a privilege- one they may never even experience. I’m beginning to really get why circumstance and possession don’t decide state of mind. I’ve been to Asia- check one off my life list! My faith is stronger. I know about 10 million things a sarong can be used for (I’d put it on my list of things to have on a deserted island). I made new friends (including one I can visit when I journey to Hong Kong). I’ve had more practice making life work in spite of some more difficult aspects of my personality. I have a tan. I’ve smiled so much my face hurt and I couldn’t change my expression. I’ve been humbled.

I’ll always be thankful that I listened when God said “Just say you’ll go”, and I’ll remember the generosity of the people who funded my trip. They made it possible for me to be really blessed and enriched.

Advertisements

September 11, 2007 Posted by | Philippines, United States | , , , | Leave a comment

Transitioning i.e. reverse culture shock ahead of time

Words can’t describe how I feel right now (but they can try). I’m sitting on a bed in a room that I’m not sharing with anyone. I’m in a real house. With nothing but a ceiling fan blowing, my environment is at a comfortable temperature and humidity. I’m eating coconut pie. It’s only 9:30PM and I don’t have to be anywhere until 10am tomorrow. There’s everything I need in the fridge to make pancakes. There are a bunch of mangos on the kitchen counter. I can’t really hear any sounds except for crickets and stuff outside. And, probably best of all, I just had a SHOWER, a WARM shower!

This morning, after a night that wasn’t really worthy of being called one, we got on a plane and left General Santos City to come to Manila. We immediately went to a humongous mall, ate Subway (and I didn’t feel like throwing up after I ate for the first time in a couple days. I think I have some bug.), and then wandered lost around the mall doing some shopping (somehow I’ve earned a rep with the group of being an obsessive shopper, but hey, the people I bought stuff for will be happy). After the mall we drove to an Adventist college, I guess. It’s dark out so we haven’t actually seen our surroundings yet. They put us up in guest houses that, especially compared to what we were in before, are extremely nice. There are only three of us in this whole house and I’m absolutely savoring the privacy! And the shower… I would be embarrassed to tell you just how thankful I got over the shower and the hot water. I’ve always taken that for granted. Two weeks without it seems like so much longer, and I found myself wondering how a person who lived in Mindanao for a year or so and then came back would feel. I guess I’m already experiencing some of my reverse culture shock. They say that this is the way to do it, though; take it in stages; do some sightseeing and shopping before returning. Manila is already so different from Gensan and the place we’re at now is even more different yet because it’s cooler here. No mosquitos!

Let me back up a little. The church service, baptism, and closing meeting last night were absolutely amazing and overwhelming. The gymnasium was so packed for church that I began to feel really claustrophobic. I ended up skipping Sabbath lunch, partly because of my eager gag reflex and partly because I just needed some space from people. I had about 40 glorious minutes lying on my bed with no one around, and I’m sure that was what kept me going to rest of the day. That and God’s mercy. And some seaweed stuff that Jane gave me. The baptism was like nothing I have ever experienced before. Eight hundred and sixty-two people were baptized yesterday. Sixty couldn’t make it and were baptized today, for a total of nine hundred and twenty-two. MANY of them were children. I loved that because I know that they have the rest of their lives that they’re deciding to give to Jesus. Sheila, one of my favorite girls, was baptized and I was so happy to see it! Twenty-something pastors were all in the pool at once and people waiting in front of them in lines. I don’t even know how to explain how I felt, but even though I was dying to escape people and stares and a spotlight feeling, I loved being at the baptism. There are a ton of pictures on Pedrito’s site, I’m guessing, because I took many many many. The baptism was right after church, then we had an hour for lunch, then we went back for a program that was supposed to go from 1:30 to 5. That whole afternoon was so exhausting. For one thing, our whole VBS group ending up on stage for pretty much forever. The whole time I’m chanting my mantra: “Don’t throw up on stage, don’t throw up on stage”. Besides that, everything laasted aaa loooooong tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime. By the time Pedrito got up to speak, it was already 5:45. Then he did something that shocked us all. After doing the quiz and the children’s portion, he simply summarized his sermon, showed us his slides, and was done. By then almost everyone had left anyway, in comparison to the numbers at the start. Left were a whole crowd of people crazy with grief that we were leaving. Several of us pretty much got mobbed for gifts, pictures, e-mails, hugs, handshake, rememberances. Security finally pulled us outa there and put us on the van. It was harder to leave than I thought it would be.

Saturday night was not hard at all compared to this morning. The love the people had for us was overwhelming. I couldn’t even comprehend it. Their send-off was just as heartfelt and grand as their welcome, and it made such a huge impression on me. I surely did not feel worthy of it. Some of them cried and lots of them drove with us to the airport to see us off.

It was harder still to say goodbye to Jane. She was the only student who didn’t come from Walla Walla. She goes to Hong Kong Adventist College. I haven’t mentioned her in my blogs yet, but she was completely wonderful. I had a really fun time with her. She is one of the most patient and good-natured people I have ever met. I started teasing her within a couple days, making fun of her pronunciation of English words, but she always just laughed with me. This week the guys started teasing her. They were so unmerciful, but she just took it in stride and they thought she was amazingly cool for it. She taught me a couple of words in Chinese, told me about her childhood in rural China, and gave me one of the most amazing back massages I’ve ever had. I’ll definitely miss Jane.

September 2, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anonymity, I’ll never take you for granted again!

Today I became a part of the first graduates of Walla Walla University as I joined fifty others completing our field school of evangelist and church growth. It was a long graduation, but delightfully punctuated by performances from a really wonderfully talented group called the Asidors. Their music is beautiful and I believe they are true Christians in their hearts. I bought their CD.

Today while out and about we found some baby goats in a field. I picked one up and it licked my nose! That kid was so cute I wanted to take it home as my souvenir. Alas, I doubt I could successfully pull it off. Maybe I’ll just get a baby goat instead of a kitten.

Bugs have discovered me. I run but I can’t hide, and I scratch but I still itch. Argh!

I’m totally ready to be anonymous. We went to an absolutely beautiful garden today with rambutan, bananas, coconuts, and mangos growing. I tried to sneak away down a little path without anyone following me, but still it was only a couple seconds before I heard “Lydia, Lydia! Where are you, Lydia!” And when I came down to join the others, there were people there waiting, “Oh, Lydia, please let us take a picture with you!” Soon and very soon people whom I’ve never laid eyes on before will not know my name. I was very happy to see the Asidors signing autographs too, and when we had them sign our CD covers, I reminded myself how important it is to be kind and courteous to your fans.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, so tuna are huge and pineapple doesn’t grow in trees…

We had a really full day today. It started at 7:45 am when we left for the international fish market here in Gensan (General Santos City) to attend the annual Tuna Festival. There were paddling races and swimming races. That part was really hot even though we were sitting under shade. I took some video of the racing, but most of the time I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then we moved to another location for the other contests. That part smelled strongly of fish and was much cooler. Our celebrity status got us front-row seats of course. First they had a contest to see who had the biggest tuna for the day. Those fish were so huge! I think of tuna squeezed into little cans, but those suckers are some big fish! The winner was 69 kilograms, about 152 pounds. (That’s only 1/3 of the size of the biggest one they’ve ever had at the port) Then they had a contest to see which man could hold up a 35 kilo tuna the longest. Very entertaining. Lots of men with big muscles. At the last of the contestants, two of our guys jumped in and joined the contest, and they didn’t do half bad! Of course, it got them onto international Philippine news for the second time. Sheesh!

Lunch was at a church school, where we received a spectacular welcome by a live band. They continued to serenade us throughout our meal. While eating, I was excited to discover beans that tasted almost familiar. I had a lot of them, while also appreciating the mangosteen some woman plopped onto my plate (that was for you, Keri).

Lunch reminds me of yesterday when we went to visit an elementary school. We received that most amazing welcome and treatment I’ve ever experienced. A band and baton team formed from students put on the most incredible performance for us. It must have lasted 20 minutes. They were SO good! Then they had us sit on the stage during their assembly. Nearly 500 elementary-school kids singing songs at the top of their lungs is not an experience I will soon forget. It’s not talent we lack in the States, just enthusiasm. There’s wasn’t a single child who didn’t sing his or her heart out and I was completely inspired. Then, when a very young boy got up and revealed his absolutely incredible voice, my mouth dropped open. The only time I’ve heard a kid sing like that was on TV on some kind of contest. I got some video of that too, but I doubt it will do it justice. The excitement and welcome we got from the students and teachers was almost overwhelming. My jaw actually started to hurt very badly from smiling, but I couldn’t really stop- OUCH!

Next we toured Dole Philippines. I found out how pineapples grow- yes, I am ashamed to say that I really hadn’t known before. Now I do and I have pictures in case I forget. At the place where the, I guess, owners live, it almost felt like the US.

Me- Why does it almost feel like we’re back in the States?

Ken- because it’s nice, it’s clean, and there’s a golf course.

Me- Oh, yeah, you’re right.

It was also less humid, which felt veeeery strange. And the bathroom had soap in it, and hadn’t dryers. Still no toilet seats, but…

Immediately after returning to the compound, a few of us set out again for a little rushed shopping. I’ve officially bought all the souvenirs now that I need. Oh, and Andi, you got the really cool gift. I hope you like it as much as I do! I was pretty worried at first that I wouldn’t get enough time to shop because of our tight security. The bodyguards have been totally cool, though, about arranging times for us to get to the mall and other places. Once I got to know those guys, I feel more amiable about their constant presence.

I think I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that it’s not that safe here. A personal search on the internet went a long way in convincing me that we’re right to be so careful. Sometimes I still hate it though, like when Zach and I couldn’t go SCUBA diving because the location wasn’t secure enough. I really wanted to go! Tonight we got two police escorts home from the meetings because of the Tuna Festival.

The meetings are going so well. Sabbath we’ll have a huge baptism. I have no idea how many there will be, but judging from the crowd that responds every night at just the site I attend, there will be hundreds. I love seeing people’s enthusiasm for the meetings and for God. They’re also very enthusiastic about us, and sometimes I worry that my very presence is a distraction. That’s kind of frustrating. I’ve gotten some crazy letters from people, particularly young girls in their late teens, that make it sound like I’m the most significant person in their lives, have impacted them so strongly, have been such a wonderful friend to them… and we just met, like just that very minute. I appreciate the fervor, but often I just really don’t get it. They also seem to be unable to refrain from blurting out how beautiful they think I am (like everyone, everywhere, whether or not they know me, does it) and I just wonder how they can’t see how beautiful they are. They think their skin is inferior and their eyes and their hair and I’m just thinking, “Man, they are all so gorgeous!” The kids also are all so adorable and photogenic and I just can’t stop snapping their pictures. I got a couple of very cute kid pictures tonight that you can see on Pedrito’s site.

The most common questions you will be asked if you come to the Philippines, in conversation form:

– Excuse me, where is your place?

– United States.

– How old are you?

– 26.

– Do you have a husband?

– No.

– Oh…

Most of my pictures are now online. Go to my folder on Pedrito’s site and there they are!

There is so much more to say, but honestly, I’m super tired right now. This trip has been so good for me already. It’s almost over, I guess, but the next couple of days will be really full. More autographs, more gifts to give away and receive, more fruit to be offered, more durian to be tasted, more meetings to attend, more hands to shake, more questions to answer, more bug bites to get, and more bucket showers to take.

August 30, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Impromptu Sermon Receives Rave Reviews

I had a wonderful Sabbath! After changing my mind several times, I ended up going to the town of Malandag, where our teammate Emmanuel preaches every night. On the way there, he was like, so do you know who is preaching at this church today? You are, they said. Oh, that’s funny! He replied, and started preparing his sermon. He ended up basically telling his personal story, and let me tell you, it was the best sermon I’ve heard in a long time. For about the last half of it I had to go to the bathroom really badly, but I stayed and waited it out because I didn’t want to miss anything!

Oh, and also I gave an unplanned talk up front. Ahem. We all did. Then I had to teach a Sabbath School of kindergarteners a new song all by myself. It wasn’t hard, though. They were soooooo cute! I got some video of them singing this song and it’s just adorable. If you saw it, you’d… you’d… probably say “Awwwwww!” just like I did. Also, my 100 peso offering in the kindergarten SS put them over their goal so they got to go for a plane ride or something? I don’t know what their goal was, but I was totally humbled that my $2 equivalent was able to push them over the mark.

I’m so proud of myself because I finally figured out a certain type of toilet. You have to pour water into it and everything goes down! I figured that out all by myself, cleverly clued in when the toilets at church had absolutely no flusher (but there was a trash can full of water sitting under a spigot). I hit my head going into that bathroom and going out of it. That was the second time. The first time I accidentally used the men’s. Well, they were exactly the same- how should I know?

This afternoon those of us who went to Malandag actually got to get out and walk around in a rural area among some dwellings. There were fruit trees everywhere and a beautiful view of mountains close by. They showed us a very sub-par church on the top of a steep hill and then the site where they’ve been given some land and want to build a new church. There are lots of Adventists in the area that need a church to go to. I took tons of pictures and I’d like to invite churches to sponsor them. The facility they’re using now is on the verge of crumbling and falling down the mountain. And the toilet facilities are- ech- just barbaric. You’d have to see it to know.

Tomorrow we hit the beach!

I have to mention how the meetings are going. We’ve been having over a thousand people attend each night. Tonight was definitely less in attendance. It might have been the rain. Last night Pedrito talked about the Sabbath. A large group decided they wanted to keep Sabbath, including a thirteen-year-old girl I’ve made friends with. I was so proud to see her up there. In Pedrito’s pictures, she’s the girl wearing a pink skirt Friday night. She wasn’t there tonight, so I hope everything’s ok.

I wish I could just comment on every picture on Pedrito’s site now, because so many of them have a little story to go with them. I usually take pictures with a purpose.

Today our van got rear-ended. It’s got significant damage, but no one was seriously injured and it’s still drivable. I wasn’t in it when it happened because I decided to go to a different church.

August 25, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are we in danger yet?

There’s so much I didn’t even say about yesterday!

You may be inquiring as to why we’re under such close scrutiny, such protective security. Evidently, or so I’ve been told, the people are rebelling against the government, and we know rebellions are generally not safe, even for locals. According to the government travel website, communist and terrorist groups here have made threats and acts of violence against westerners. They say it’s best for Americans to maintain a low profile (kind of difficult when we get treated like we did yesterday at the festival!). Yes, people are super happy to see us, but that’s because Americans are so rarely seen here. And why are they so rarely seen? Because it’s so particularly unsafe the United States government is recommending that its citizens do not travel to this country, especially this particular part. The average citizen absolutely loves westerners, particularly Americans, but it’s those pesky terrorists and political insurgents we’re concerned with.

I really don’t want any of you to worry about my safety, though. I have to say that I’ve felt particularly safe here, more so than I have in other countries. That’s probably due in part to the fact that our security detail is taking their job so seriously. It makes me want to rebel, in fact, but I probably need to simmer down and thank God that we have such good protection. One of the head honchos in city security is a head deacon here and he’s in charge. If anything happened to us on this trip, it would effectively cut off opportunities for evangelism from the United States to this country. As it was, we had a difficult time convincing the conference it was safe enough to come here.

Oh, and also, I plan to prepare I slide show of all the different fruits I’ve eaten here. I’ll show the inside and outside and tell you how to get into them. A website someone showed me after reading yesterday’s blog talked about cutting rhambutans or biting them to open them. Haha! I would never bite a rhambutan open. Not here. They’re usually covered in ants. You have to open it quick and pop out that fruit. Thankfully, the ants don’t bite. Like most fruits here, I’ve discovered that the easiest way to open a good rhambutan is by squeezing it. That produces a nice crack and you can just open the thing right up. You can squeeze mangosteens too after you pull off the stem. All of the fruits that are most common right now are “squeeze to open” affairs.

Yesterday as I was sitting there absolutely surrounded by kids, it came to me that it must have been how it was when children came to Jesus. Not that I want to put myself up there with Him by any means, but maybe we’re acting as representatives of Him in that way. My energy for the children has to be coming from outside myself anyway.

Today I had a devotional talk in our training seminar. It was only a 5-minute deal, but I still woke up pretty nervous about it this morning. I just talked about a topic that I really cared about, though, and was able to share a really great personal story. It was awesome. And over quickly, too.

August 24, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , | 1 Comment

On being famous, and other stories.

I had so many ups and downs today. Right now I’m so tired that I feel like my eyeballs are going to pop and my back is going to crumble, but I just have to write about today.

We went to the fruit festival in another town called Kidapowan about 2 ½ hours from here. There was a record 3 km of free fruit. We found out that the fruit wasn’t to eat, really, but to throw at passing traffic when a siren sounded. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to throw any (or eat it) because we had to stay behind a fence and not mingle with the crowd. As steaming mad as that made me, I was successfully distracted by the fact that we were treated like celebrities, wait- we were celebrities in that town. People gathered around in large crowds to watch us. All kinds of people asked to have their picture taken with me. I signed an autograph or two. When we walked as a group, our fans followed along with us. We had a personal meeting and photo with the mayor and city councilman. We all had spots on Pilipino national television, while people crowded at the open windows to look in at us. My interview was the worst ever. I had just stuffed my mouth full of a fruit when they shoved the mike into my hand, and my statement went something like this: “Hewo, I’ve got a rhabutan in my mouf right now. I luf it here in the Philippines and I’f discovered I luuuuuuuf passion fruit! The people are really nice here and…. Um…Yeah.” They’d be wise to cut that out.

Outside the building we were in to meet the mayor, a group of girls gathered around two of our guys and had them sign millions of autographs and take dozens of pictures. They actually screamed and jumped up and down like girls do for movie stars. They kept saying one of them looked like Tom Cruise. I think the guys secretly loved it. I think if I were famous I’d love the crowds. I’d do crazy things for them. I’d talk to them all. I’d try to ditch my security guards (kind of like I do now, j/k). Then I’d want to get away, though, or I might go insane. Actually, though, I was able to handle some of the same treatment at the evening meeting and it wasn’t too much. Now, however, I’m absolutely exhausted.

I’ve never missed American food so much in life, nor have I imagined that I would. I spent the entire day fantasizing about mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and hashbrowns, ice cream sandwiches. The food here is very different than what I’m used to. And we’ve had some delicious stuff, don’t get me wrong, but I just miss familiar tastes. I told you about all the fruit. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much fruit in my life. Everywhere we go they give us fruit. I like it, but I think I’ve been overwhelmed by it. I realized today, though, that they just want to share with us the things they’re proud of, and their food is one major point of pride for their culture. And I eat another rhambutan. I’ve also realized that it would be very difficult to live here and remain a vegetarian. I couldn’t believe how tempted I was to dive into some chicken today. The mission makes good vegetarian food for us, but often the need for variety frustrates me. We ate at two different places today on our mini-trip, and both times almost aaaaaaaall of the food was meat, specifically chicken and fish. For breakfast I had fruit, some bitter vegetable with some egg cooked into it (oh why couldn’t we just have the eggs by themselves!), a few small slices of tomatoe and onion, and rice. Always rice. For lunch only the rice and some soup was vege. And the cake, and boy were we happy to see cake!

Today it hit me how different a place I really am in. I’ve known I’m in a third-world country, but I didn’t really see it until today. We passed through so many small little villages with grass and bamboo huts. Dirt floors, rotting walls. I wish I could stop and meet the people and see where they live. I can imagine what it looks like inside, but I still want to see for myself. I don’t think they could even comprehend the life I live. Some of the guys and I were talking tonight about our consumerist lives. All of us, whether we’re kind of poor like me or used to a more upper-class lifestyle, are wealthy in comparison to so many of the people here. It’s an awakening. And yet, we asked each other, have we ever seen people who are so happy? I can’t say my way of life is better than theirs. It’s definitely more advanced, but so many Americans are extremely unhappy. And I want to know. Are they really happy here or are they hiding their sadness? Do they really feel fulfilled or are they just so focused on providing basic needs that happiness for them is seeing that taken care of?

Pedrito has been letting me take pictures for him during the evening meetings with his camera and I’m loving it! He likes the pictures I take and I love doing it. You can see the pictures at this website. I hope I can soon put up all the pictures I’ve taken with my camera as well.

I spent the entire evening talking to kids and taking pictures. I did sit down for part of the meeting and write out my worship talk for tomorrow morning, but the whole time kids stood around me and just watched me write. They played with my hair, they came up with pieces of paper for me to write on for them, they just looked. Kids crowded around us the entire evening just wanting to make friends, know our name, our age, our address, or hobbies, teach us some Tagolog (I now have a list I need to memorize).

One of the highlights of my day was jumping into a river and swimming with some kids. David was the first to jump in. I borrowed some pants from Brittney and jumped in too. It felt sooooo good! Brittney and a few of the other guys joined us. About twenty little brown-skinned boys were in the water with us. I felt really free and happy.

I think I ought to go to bed now…

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Observations in the Philippines

Food:

In addition to strange dishes that I’ve never tasted before (like the seaweed on Sabbath), the different fruits are just overwhelming. So far we’ve had at least one or two new kinds of fruit at every meal. And most of these are fruits that I’ve never heard of before and most of us don’t know that names of. We’ve had Jack fruit and mangosteen, bananas and papaya, passion fruit and guava, pineapple and durian. Plus tons more new ones that I can’t name. I’ve tried every single new thing and I honestly have to say that there isn’t anything so far that I really don’t like. There are some that I couldn’t eat a lot of at one time, like the fruit that’s white and squishy like a banana, but is sweeter, filled with seeds, and encased by a knobby shell that comes off in small sections. My favorites so far are (in this order) passion fruit, mango, mangosteen, and Jack fruit. My sorrow is that I can’t bring everyone fruit as the perfect souvenir.

Being stared at:

We, especially I, look so different from the people here that we get stared at a lot wherever we go. When we went to the mall, I think the people we were with got a little weirded out by it, but I just kind of ignored it. I mean, I’d stare at someone strange, too! Besides, it’s a friendly stare. They just want to shake your hand and meet you. Tonight at the meeting two little boys, ages 9 and 10, developed a huge infatuation with me. They alternately dogged my footsteps and fought each other. That hasn’t happened since I was ten.

The kids:

Wow. They are so attentive here. And friendly. Sunday night when we did a little skit for them during the meeting, they sat in a perfect semi-circle and every little face was glued to ours in rapt attention. Some say it’s just because we are foreigners, but in Poland I was a foreigner and those kids were real brats sometimes!

They all look small for their age. Most of them are skinny and lots of them are dirty. They have crazy little names like Lin-Lin, Mi-Mi, and Ep-Ep, and then normal ones too like Julius and Carlos.

They all want us to write down all kinds of information about ourselves. They always ask our age and if we’re married. They’re all so happy. I guess that’s the biggest thing I notice about them. They have nothing and they’re so happy. They can play with sticks and have so much fun. People here work hard but they also really enjoy life.

No electricity:

Well, today I survived an 8-hour “brown out”. It was really hot and for awhile there was no breeze and I thought I was going to die. Until today I thought I was acclimating really well because in the meetings at night the guys think it’s hot and I’m almost chilly. I ended up taking a shower to cool down. The women here wash our clothes for us and they do it by hand, too. I decided today to do some of mine myself in the shower, just because I had the time and because it felt good to stay wet. That’s hard work. I saw how they do it and took a short video. I almost feel too guilty to let them wash my clothes like that, but I’m sure I’ll break sooner or later. I am a lazy American, after all.

Sabbath, August 18, 2007

I was so tired last night that I went to bed before 8. And that’s after forcing myself to stay up as long as possible. I slept a grateful sleep until being woken up around 5:30 this morning by a rooster crowing outside my window. I just went back to sleep.

Church:

It was a partially open-air affair. The doors are metal gates that they can lock. I guess they never have to close up because it doesn’t freeze or anything. The temperature was quite comfortable because they had ceiling fans going, whereas the benches were not. Hard wood and my rear do not get along. Thankfully I had an extra sarong in my purse that I used as a cushion, but it still hurt. The people were all super happy to see us and introduced us from up front with pride. At least three pieces of paper were passed to us during the service for us to write our names on. Two girls sat at the end of my pew and gazed at me, giggling whenever I looked over at them. I think my blond hair is super fascinating. After the service, while all the members went through a hot potluck line under a small shade, we were all ushered into an air conditioned room and presented with what can be described as nothing other than a feast. Two large tables were covered with about twenty dishes each of traditional Philippino dishes, some meat, some vegetarian. When I saw what they had done for us I felt extremely unworthy. That feeling was soon replaced with a feeling of incapability as we were expected to sit around the table and consume it all. That was physically impossible, but I ate as much as I could. I had seaweed, eggplant that tasted nothing like it, excellent gluten, something really bitter, and the most flavorful, colorful bananas I’ve ever dreamed of!

August 20, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally in General Santos City

If you’ve ever heard stories of Philipino hospitality, it’s all true. If you’ve never heard of it, let me tell you. These people are so happy to see us that it’s… crazy! It’s like we’re celebrities. When we got off the plane in GeneralSantos, pretty much everyone in the church was there to see us. Someone said it was like Old Testament times when Paul came off the ship and every single Christian went down to meet him. They put beaded necklaces around our necks and shook our hands and told us a million times welcome and that they were so glad we were there. They had a huge banner and took our picture with it. They got all of our luggage for us and loaded it up.

I guess because of violence in some parts of the country, the United States government is currently recommending that Americans not travel to the Philippines. If you do, they say, just don’t go to Mindanao. And if you go to Mindanao, don’t go to General Santos City. The people here say it’s perfectly safe, but we were so unsure that the major wrote us a letter of person invitation. And when we arrived, we were given a personal police escort through town to the mission compound. It turned out to be more like a parade. Five motorcycles went ahead of us and a long line of cars of the people who came to greet us went behind. People along the road stood there watching us pass by. The cutest thing I saw was a very little boy jumping up and down because he was so excited!

What I saw shocked me. There were actually houses made of bamboo or sticks with grass roofs and dirt floors that people were living in! I guess I’d never ever seen that before in real life and I was extremely excited. The ride from the airport was long, and slow because of our “parade”, but I enjoyed every minute of it. It took a lot of driving to get to a part of the city with houses made of brick or wood. Shops that looked like shacks lined the road and people sat out in front waiting for business. We joked that all other Americans were dutifully following the government’s recommendations because we saw absolutely no other Caucasians. Eateries that looked like the kind where you might unwittingly be served dog had us fascinated. And THEN, we passed this one place and there it was. Two spits. On one was a very large pig and on the other was a big white dog! We weren’t sure we’d seen it right at first, but that’s what it was.

At the mission compound, a bunch more people were there to greet us. They sang to us and took a lot of pictures of the speakers with their individual banners for the meetings. The fact that I had to go to the bathroom really badly didn’t keep me from appreciating their joy over our arrival.

We had “breakfast” right away, but to me it felt like supper. There were dishes of stuff to go over rice that were super delicious, homemade breads, rice milk, and some of the most amazing fruits I’ve ever seen or tasted! I wish I could tell you what they were, but I can’t remember all the names. I can tell you that I had the most awesome mango of my life!

The highlight of the rest of this day was my nap and discovering that I have really great wireless internet access here. Our room is air conditioned, thankfully, because the weather is very hot! I must say, though, that it’s really no worse than Texas when I left. In fact, I think it’s a little less humid! The sun is really hot though because- dun, dun duh- we’re really close to the equator! Yay! I just realized today that I’ve never been this far south before and that the equator is, like, right there!

Before I end this account, let me talk about our living and bathing arrangements, especially the bathing ones. Three other ladies and I are sleeping in a dormitory room with bunk beds. It’s clean and comfortable and air-conditioned (thank you, God!). We have a toilet room, complete with a toilet with no seat and a bucket and spigot to wash our hands in. The shower room is quite reminiscent of the toilet room- we bathe using a bucket and ladle and some coooooool water! Bath time is one time when I’m glad it’s a very hot climate. It takes my breath away. We also have to use bottled water always, even for brushing our teeth. I’m afraid I’m going to forget one day because I’m so used to just using any old water for that.

August 18, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , | 1 Comment

Texas or Bust- Day 1

I’m on the bus to Texas, from where I will leave for the Philippines on August 15.

I just have to say that Greyhound transports some of the most interesting passengers. Interesting here is not supposed to conjure up an image of persons you’d delight to converse with for hours, mesmerized by their wit and class. No, rather, it is meant to be in connotation with people who talk about their drug addictions and arrests with complete strangers while they wait to board. People who are running away from death threats of angry relatives. People who used to be a different gender (oh, wait, that was last time)…

Unfortunately, my laptop battery is going dead already, but oh man do I love my computer! During a boring layover, I happily checked my e-mail.

August 1, 2007 Posted by | United States | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: