Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tropical Surprise

To our great surprise one day we found that the
pineapple plant in our yard was bearing a pineapple!

It's been fun to watch it grow from stage to stage.

We'll look forward to when it is ready to harvest!

Maybe I'll try to grow another pineapple plant from the top of this pineapple!

**note: Our pineapple plant was in the garden when we arrived. It has long, narrow, fleshy leaves with sharp spines along the edges. The pineapple is a short-lived perennial plant which grows up to 4.9" tall. Pineapples produce just one fruit before dying. The Spanish introduced it into the Philippines, and S.E. Asia dominates world-production of pineapples, but there's nothing like watching one grow in your own yard!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

pass the salt

Or can I get you a little mustard?

Something's been having a feast on our bathroom door frame.
(something termite-like, we think)
Someone before us patched it with a little duct tape, but it looks like I might need to go and find another roll.

One day there's a clean floor, the next, a pile of sawdust.

Somehow it's very freeing living in a rental house.

Landlords here are not overly concerned about issues like this one.
If it's bothering us as the renters somehow, we can pay to hire an exterminator, or a carpenter to do repairs.
If not, then no problem.
The landlord would rather not hear about it.

Shall I pass the salt?

Monday, September 27, 2010

look what grew

that's one big plant!

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:18

Saturday, September 25, 2010

in harmony

Last night was the first school concert of the year, and the music was beautiful.
(Elise at piano, Amy directly in front of the conductor on flute)

Elise was invited by the band teacher to play piano this year; a real honor since they've not had a piano in this band before.

Amy was sitting in the front row, so we could only see her when she stood to take a bow.
(See Amy in front row, 2nd from right.)

Mr. Becker makes this a fun band to play in with a wide range of music.
We're so grateful for the opportunity to participate!

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Psalm 95:2

***See the big Sousaphone in the back row on the right side of the last photo? The school administrator told the story of that instrument before the concert began.
It had been donated to the school a few years ago by someone back in the U.S. They packed it tight with clothing and cereal, and other things not easily found here in Davao, crated it up, and sent it via ship. After unpacking it, the band teacher tried it out, and it wouldn't work. So he sadly put it away in a closet.
This summer Mr. Becker got it out again, really wanting to use it in the band. He learned that you could fill it with water to see if there were any areas with leakage.
Nope. It held water with no problem.
But when he dumped out all the water, to his surprise, along with it came a soggy shirt that had been stuffed a little too far into the body of the instrument.
The administrator was wearing the shirt last night as he told the story, and the Sousaphone was played in public for the first time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Internet Cafe - Davao style

Well, I've seen internet cafes, but this is a little different ... an air-conditioned freight container turned into a mobile (or at least 'transportable') place to go and surf the web.

Not surprisingly, the clients seem to be mainly young men ... these guys were hanging out under the container trying to stay cool. They probably don't have internet access at home, so this is a place to come and hang out with friends too.

Notice the name ... "Clicks R Us" ...
I wonder what kind of download speeds they get ... maybe next time I'll get up the courage to go inside and check it out!

ordinary life

Life is not always full of colorful new experiences...
lots of our days are pretty ordinary black and white;

figuring out proofs in Geometry,

playing with friends,

doing homework assignments,

studying Cebuano vocabulary,

taking time to celebrate 17 years of marriage,

hanging out together,

studying ancient history,
(a mummified Michael)

game nights at the center or at the school,

helping to clean up afterward,
(Mark's getting pretty proficient with the Filipino skill
of sweeping with two brooms at one time!)

practicing band music together,

doing graphic design to help some of our co-workers,

and just goofing around.
(This is a map of the Philippines Michael built with Legos.)

"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

may we be full of gratitude for the gift of each ordinary day...

Monday, September 20, 2010

two is better than four

For someone who's allergic to cats, and honestly is not terribly fond of them, I'm sure spending a lot of time with them lately.

For a couple of days we fostered the four kitties. Then, one morning as we were feeding them, we heard the mother cat prowling in the attic, and sounding unhappy.
We rushed the kittens upstairs to the deck, where they continued to cry, and to our relief, the mother actually came and took the one we had named Sherlock.

She carried it across the hot tin roof behind Michael and Amy (below) to 'her' house, where she headed into THEIR attic. (Whew. I was a little worried she would put them right back into our attic again.)

We left the other three kittens on the deck, hoping that she would come back.
Sure enough, after an hour or so, she did! This time she took Poirot.

Michael waited sadly. He was pretty sure that Chesterton (below) would be the next to go, and Chesterton was his favorite.

But several more days have passed, and Momma Cat hasn't returned for the other two.
Looks like she's given Miss Marple and Chesterton up for adoption.

Though I'm not thrilled with being a parent to two helpless kittens, it has been an amazing process to nurse them and to see our kids join the effort to keep them alive.

As we sit feeding them and endlessly wiping their little crusty eyes (they seem to have colds, complete with tiny sneezes and goopy eyes) we can't help but be amazed at how these tiny bundles of flesh and bone (and claws!) are so fearfully and wonderfully made; little hearts beating, little lungs breathing, all body systems in perfect order. And it causes us to stand in even greater awe of our Creator.

"In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."

Job 12:10

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Another day, another litter.

A couple of weeks ago we started to hear
mewing in the attic again.
We sure wish the cat next door would find another nursery!

On Monday Michael came running in to tell me that he could hear kittens scrabbling around just above the attic access hole. He tried to reach it with our step ladder, but he just wasn't tall enough. So I turned off the stove burner under the beginnings of dinner, and with just a bit of a sigh, went to help.

We really don't want another kitten dying in the heat of the attic.
But I'm not sure that I really want to become owners of little kittens, either!
This is what practically fell out when I opened the hatch:

And I could hear another one up there, but the ladder was too short for me to locate it. Mark tried when he came home, too, but no success.

Michael had a ball playing with them that evening; even building a Lego vehicle to transport them in.
Tuesday afternoon Mark came home with a longer ladder he had borrowed. By now we could hear mewing again, but it was far from the access hole.

Michael volunteered to climb into the attic, and since no one else seemed eager to do it, up he went.

By the time Michael came back down again, dirty and dripping with sweat, this is what we had:

These kitties really need their mommy.
They are so tiny.

We are feeding them with a dropper, washing their crusty little eyes, and trying our best to mother them, but we know they are missing Mommy.

We left them outside on our deck overnight in a spot where the mother could find them, but they were still there this morning, looking weaker, and needing lots of cleaning.

As I look at their frail little bodies, I'm reminded again of how very weak I am - how in need of the constant care of my Father.

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

Kitten anyone? We'd be happy to share!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

permission denied

Remember our sweet friend, Mae, who was a helper in the next-door apartment, and who wrote us letters to help us learn Visayan?
I received a text from her a couple of weeks ago inviting our family to come to her village to attend Mae's wedding on the 28th!
We submitted a request to our director for permission to attend the wedding, but our request was denied. Though we'd love to be at Mae's wedding, we admit we were actually relieved when permission wasn't given.

These were some of the things we knew about the wedding's location:

*It's in a village by the name of Sitio Kanacan.

*In asking other Filipinos about the village, none we spoke to have heard of this village.

* The village is not on any map I have been able to locate, including Google and Mapquest maps.

*It is a 2-hour ride by horse back to the village from the spot where the road ends.

*Mae's two unmarried sisters would be our guides.

* Cell phone reception from the village is not always working.

*The water there may not be potable, so we would need to carry in our own.

*We've also been advised that if it rains we may be stuck in the village.

Sounds maybe like just a little TOO much adventure...

We'll just have to wait a little longer to experience a Filipino wedding!


Yesterday Mae's two older sisters, Joy and Anne, came for a visit, so we were happy to at least be able to send a gift with them on to Mae and her fiance, "Yok-Yok".

Friday, September 10, 2010

middle earth?

Rotisserie Chicken, Middle Earth-style.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

having a ball

Michael started after-school soccer this week.
It began with Coach Micah using Michael as a model to demonstrate which part of the foot to use in kicking the ball.

It's not your average U.S. Elementary soccer team.
Check out the coach's "cleats".
I'm wondering how long it will be before Michael asks to play barefoot too.
And talk about an ethnic mix!

It's pretty fun to have one of your best friends to do drills with.

You don't see many cleats at all on this field, and not even many shin guards.
It's a little more like sandlot soccer of 50 years ago.
And this soccer mom loves the style!

The coach even invites (barefoot) big sisters to come on the field to help the girl's team.
Have a ball, Michael!

Monday, September 6, 2010


Are we crazy?
Well, maybe.
(but then, most of you already knew that...)

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn once said, "If one is forever cautious, can one remain a human being?"

And General George Patton said, "Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash."

You may disagree with the 'calculated risk' we took, but do know that it was calculated. Our friend, "E," who has lived at this location for 20 years, has always traveled this way. She vouched personally for the drivers, and we knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So we rode Skylab.

No, I'm not referring to the first U.S. Space station, though this Skylab was actually named after it.

This is the Filipino version.

Skylab: n. a motorbike fitted with a horizontal board at back that can seat several passengers across.

That's the official definition.
We didn't ride this type of skylab - ours had no 'wings' - the part that everyone agrees is the most dangerous place to sit. Instead they had elongated seats to accommodate extra passengers.

We walked with "E" to the Skylab 'station' where we were the source of amusement for a bunch of people!

All of the guys piled on one bike while the ladies waited for our driver to fuel up. He bought a Coke bottle full of gas from a roadside stand... this one below.
(You can see the Coke bottles of gas in the top of the wooden stand on the right.)

Then we hopped on and took off with Elise bravely perched on the tank and Amy hanging on the back.

We wound up the road for 15 minutes or so, bouncing and jolting, amazed that this was typical transportation mode for lots of people all of the time. That poor motorcycle was working very hard!
Along the way people stopped and stared after us - I'm sure we were a real novelty.

We were all pretty relieved to reach our destination; a hot spring/lake, and resort. "E" knew the staff and got us in for a free whirlwind tour.
A thermodynamic plant was built nearby to tap into this natural resource, and the shrine below was erected in the woods as a place to make sacrifices to appease the spirits for intruding in their domain. Sacrifices are still made, at least yearly.

The lake was an eerie place with steam rising in great clouds.

The water was HOT to the touch. You wouldn't want to stick your feet in this one.

There were also beautiful gardens with a mysterious, Shangri-La aura.

Soon we headed back to the motorcycles, wanting to make sure to get back to the house before dusk.

Unfortunately, just at that point it began to rain. We decided to venture down anyway.
I'm still not quite sure how our drivers could see where they were going. The rain was blowing so hard into my eyes that I had to close them most of the way.
The kids all rode with "E" on one bike, and Mark and I agreed afterward that we each were praying all the way down for the safety of our children who were coming behind us.

It was a relief to see them round the bend in the road, soaked to the skin, and grinning from ear to ear.
It's an experience they'll never forget, and it remains Michael's favorite part of visiting a village.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye - to the high school girls who had been so friendly (one of them gave a bracelet to Elise and wanted her to fill out a sheet of questions about herself - including "What Tribe Are You From?" !)

And goodbyes to the team we had worked with. Thank you for all of your sweet hospitality, and for making us feel so welcome. We'll always remember our visit!