Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There and Back Again

We were looking for hotel accommodations on the internet for someone recently when we wandered onto a Cebuano website about a tropical rain forest. Hmmm. Most interesting, especially since 95% of the island has been deforested. (Don't panic--there's an ongoing reforestation effort; all may be well eventually.) We had to find this place. What is a tropical rain forest like? What is a tropical rain forest?

FYI, A tropical rain forest is usually found within 10 degrees of the equator either way, and Cebu is 12 degrees north. Minimum annual rainfall is between 69 and 79 inches, and the mean temperature is over 64*F. year round. Any forest on Cebu would definitely qualify as a tropical rain forest. In case you have something in mind like a deep dark, movie-set-looking place (The Jungle Book?), it really looks like a regular tropical forest. We walked on a trail the whole time and a machete was only used later in the day, but not to clear the trail.

Step one in this investigative adventure was finding the rain forest, which was within walking distance of a village called Catipla up in the mountain range that divides Cebu east to west. It was less than an hours drive from our apartment, so we struck out one Saturday to find out what was what. We wanted to know where the rain forest was, and hopefully hire someone to take us there on another Saturday.

All you do if you are interested in something near a village is go find the village barangay captain, who will gladly help you with whatever you need; it's part of his civic duty. In our case, a guide to the rain forest. He invited us to call when we were ready to go and he would be happy to take us.
The day of our actual adventure had the barangay captain elsewhere, but true to his word he found a couple of guides to take his place--Richard, a 20-year-old who had been to the cave before, and his 16-year-old cousin who hadn't been before, but was willing. And how about four more friends just because? Great! This is exactly the kind of adventure we like.

As you can see, they're all young and energetic-looking. We thought we were a match for them--oh pain to our egos when they skipped along, romping like mountain goats, never tiring, and had to stop and wait for us as we huffed up the steep hills. Sigh. They were a lot of fun to spend the day with.

We headed out into the countryside via a dirt road without any fuss or fanfare. Slippers? (That would be flip flops to you foreigners.) No water bottles? Hmmm. They did come prepared with flashlights though. This ought to be interesting.

We were greeted by an amazing flora as we rounded the first bend in the road:

Of course I had to stop and properly greet it; stroke it, study it a bit; photograph. I don't think our guides had anything like this in mind; "what are they looking at plants for when we've got to do a rain forest, a cave and a lake before dusk?!?"

The bloom--as big as a cantaloupe.

We trooped up hill and down through open countryside for most of an hour:

Are we there yet? Is that the rain forest ahead? (Remember, The Jungle Book.) There were old, gnarled trees, plus younger trees that had grown up in the past 20 years. Also, plenty of lush, tropical undergrowth and fabulous rock formations. (Sorry, no pictures of those.)

The girls that came along were bright and happy and cute. Sadly enough for me, they didn't think they knew much English so they mostly talked to each other. I would have liked to have known more about their lives--their thoughts--their dreams.

The did like having their picture taken!

In spite of the language barrier (not as bad as they thought it was) they acted very excited to be the experts, guiding two foreigners through their territory, yet shy at the same time. When we stopped to catch our breath I'd ask them questions and they'd giggle and give a short answer. Rats! I remember feeling that way when I was growing up; wanting to talk to adults but not knowing exactly what to say. I know you can't believe that now.

When the forest was deep and thick, we came to an opening in the ground--our cave. This was obviously not just a dished out spot, but a real cave. Here were our greeters:

We didn't know if this was one "room", or what, just that as soon as we were inside the flashlights came out and what a relief to be down in the cool earth.

That would be cool--literally and figuratively. Most plant people like rocks as well, me included. Oh this was a great spot to spend some time! There were very excellent ancient formations rising from the bottom and hanging from the top:

and bats!

I guess you know my day was made. We heard their clicking more than saw them--capturing their image was tricky. They swooped at our heads, I'm sure out of curiosity. We had invaded their territory and awakened them after all.

Cave venturing was where I was most curious to see how our guides would do in their slippers. Now mind you, we stopped and took pictures at the scenic, convenient places, but there were some places we were too busy paying attention to our movements to take pictures.

Okay, most of us were too busy to take pictures. And what about the gorges? I didn't look down into the bottom of them; just knew that if we didn't jump successfully it would be a wrecked outing. Kevin and I had sturdy light hikers on--grippy soles, etc. I think the kids did it as easily in their slippers as we in our hiking shoes. Now that's a marvel!

Finally it was time to go. We had traversed the deep dark crevasses and crawled through the small openings and walked with bats swooping and chirping at us. We had tested the echoability of the chambers--talked--laughed. What a great outing.

Our last cave shots--Kevin loves stretching his arm out there and getting everyone in. Sometimes he's too busy making the shot to make the smile. I know I can't do both.

Our guides seemed disappointed that we thought we should turn back (it was 3:30ish and it's dark by 6:00) instead of hiking on to the lake. Maybe another time...

It turned out our adventure wasn't over yet though, and this next experience was completely not-American-and-richly-Philippine. I think we could have similar experiences to our cave hike in the states, but not what was yet to come.

We walked along on a trail through several farmlets until Richard stopped at a hut and came out with a machete. Then he proceeded to climb a coconut tree. Wow! I mean wow, not so much out of excitement, but wow in great respect for his physical prowess. Granted, there were notches going up the tree, but still, to be able to climb it, harvest coconuts (one for each of us) and get back down without even being winded or falling or getting scraped was impressive. Man I sound old!

(Sorry--look sideways for a minute.)

It was very entertaining...

Back on the ground he proceeded to cut the tops off so we could drink the buko juice.

Now I know how they can go for an all-afternoon hike and not carry a water bottle!

While he was preparing our refreshments I asked him how old he was when he first started using a machete. "About five".

Fresh buko juice is very delicious and refreshing.

It's sweet, but not sticky; how can that be?

That wasn't the end of the refreshments though. More fine machete work -- a spoon created and we dug out the fresh coconut. Mmmm.

The finest hiking energy snack ever!

Geologists, this is your only rock formation picture other than the cave. Thinking of our beloved Idaho basalt, this was pretty familiar, but oh so rough! You'd leave skin on the rocks for sure here.

The drive home is satisfying after a good outing. We paid the kids for their time with us--probably an outrageous amount for them, but for us it was a great deal. A foreigner would never be able to go where we went without a guide. This was definitely a Philippine memory treasure.
See you in the next adventure!
Kevin & Ann
aka Elder & Sister Reed

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Silence Has Been Broken

Hi! Remember us? The two senior missionaries who used to blog on a somewhat regular basis? Yeah. We’re still alive, still serving, still thinking of you. It’s been since mid-March—I’ve been trying to piece together what’s kept us so occupied. Part of it is a blur and part of it follows.

It’s Sunday Morning; we’re up and dressed and into the day of peace and rest. Kevin’s upstairs studying the Sunday School lesson and I am here reconnecting with you dear ones. Most of our Sundays for the last 3½ months have been peaceful, but more recovery than rest. Rest is to be actively engaged in a different way than the labors of the week. Recovery has often been much needed sleep. Oh we could get up and moving on Sunday mornings, but we inevitably found ourselves returning to sleep until it was time for our 1:30 church schedule. This is my first opportunity in all this time to sit quietly and compose my thoughts. I haven’t been busy all this time, but haven’t had any mental room or physical strength to put words to our experiences. Life is so interesting.

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a couple of weeks now—hoping that things would actually simmer down as I got caught up on the pressing details of my mission assignment, plus have sufficient brain space to settle in to the business of writing. What does one say after so long?

There is an upside to this long blog silence. You didn’t have to experience another Cebuano summer with us, sweat drop by sweat drop. Remember how whiney we were last March through May? We weathered those hot, humid months much better this year; much less whining. Kevin is grateful; he was hot but I did most of the whining. This isn’t a Philippine thing—I think sticky weather could be editorialized on in many U.S. locations. Blissfully, we live in the west. This I know: I am a bona fide desert creature. Maybe I’ll feel differently when we return home and I wake up one day looking 10 years older because my skin is no longer being plumped by the moist air. Oh well!

Happy 4th of July to all of you! We took our neighbors, Elder & Sister Byram to our beloved Museo Sugbo yesterday afternoon and experienced again the American history of the Philippines. For whatever we can contribute to freedom, we are grateful. We treasure freedom for everyone.

Reeds & Byrams – Museo Sugbo, Cebu City. The Byrams are from Rigby. Elder Byram is the 2nd Counselor in the temple presidency. I feels like we've known them a long time.

Practically speaking, July means the rainy season is with us. There is a slight drop in temperature and more cloudy days than during March, April and May, and of course rain like the shower's been turned on. This is a phenomenon that still impresses me. If I hear “the shower on”, I stop and watch, or better yet, go outside or at least open a window. We had a magnificent lightening storm this week—our own 4th of July fireworks. The island has all but lost its dry, brownishness due to not much rain since March; all the fernlets growing out of the coral walls in our walking neighborhood are springing to life again. I never thought I’d be glad for overcast days, but they make the weather more bearable here; clear, cloudless days are like being under a magnifying glass.

Today we awoke to some of God’s finest art in the heavens; clouds and a sunrise that are only found in a coastal setting. Check this out, especially the clouds close to the horizon:

Good Morning Cebu

By now you’ve read all the inspiring reports of the Cebu City temple open house and dedication. A season like the last 6 weeks will never happen here again, for now the temple is functioning in its real purpose. Temple open houses have occurred since the Salt Lake Temple was preparing to be dedicated. What a glorious, spirit-filled time this has been for this whole area!!

We were in on the Boise temple open house and dedication 30 years ago, but admittedly were busy young parents with our focus on our little children. We left all the planning and preparation to others, folks probably more our present age. Oh we were very excited to have a temple in Boise—had our own little family service projects to contribute to the building fund—attended the open house, and even sang in the dedication choir. However, another 25 years of living and maturing and growing in spirit has made this experience rich almost to defy words. Our testimonies of the purpose of temples made us more eager to see this project through. Not that it was really our project; for most of it we just watched the 900+ construction workers at any given time come and go and perform their labors as the temple, patron house and stake center came into being.

One of our visits to the temple site. We could only be on the site with permission and a hard hat.

The building on the right is the Patron Housewhere our office is located now. Where exactly are those 900 workers? It’s probably the end of the day…

Finally it was done. Or maybe I should say, done enough. There were a few significant unknowns in the whole project that interrupted the schedule significantly. We’re not talking about an erector set project you know.

For example, the 11-acre complex has its own water purification system that reclaims all the drainage water, cleans it and recirculates it in the many toilets. I know our favorite engineers would love to see the inner workings of this place!

Unknown to everyone involved in the construction, there were WW II tunnels built by the Cebuanos and taken over by the Japanese throughout the property that had to be filled in for stability purposes. Oh they were down a good way--12 meters down, but still had to be filled in. This was temple construction standard after all. They drilled down till they found an open pocket, then pumped in cement--20+ truckloads of cement in all. This delayed construction for months. How would you like to have been the one answering everyone's "when" questions?

Very photogenic, wouldn’t you say?

"Done enough" allowed the series of open houses to begin the middle of May beginning with one for construction workers. We gladly helped on this special day and thanked the guests who came through for their contribution to the temple’s completion. It is so beautiful. Completely worthy to be dedicated as the house of the Lord.

Then there were more days of planning and preparing, cleaning and finishing, and it was time for the VIP open houses.

All the sister missionaries were brought into Cebu to help with the open house. Oh they are lovely women and added a gracious, gentle spirit to the proceedings!

The whole purpose of temple open houses is not to proselyte, but to give families understanding for why parents spend time there, and why live clean, worthy lives. They are also an opportunity to strengthen relationships in the community and create good will.

Amazingly, we had ample opportunity to help bring this goal to pass through the associations we have developed in the last 16 months, mostly through our morning walks. You know about Beverly Hills Subdivision (see previous posts). Through these walking associations we were able to share the temple with the Philippine ambassador to China, a furniture manufacturer who has stores spread all over the Philippines and China and employs 2000 people, and a merchant who heads a foundation promoting Chinese education in Cebu. These notables surprised even us, but more closer to our hearts, sharing the temple with Kaikai, Romy, Eduardo & Rosie’s family and Ron & Eva meant a lot to us.

Rosie (next to me) is one of our walking buddies. She and Arnold brought their two children, along with her mother, 2 sisters and niece.

The Daily Walkers – You already know Kaikai; Romy Batucan is in the brown shirt. We keep talking about when, not if they come to see us in Boise.

You never know whose path the Lord will place you in. I know he is mindful of all his children, everywhere.

Beyond our own little scope, the open house was a fabulous success. The media was gracious beyond “our American media imagination” about this “Mormon temple” and gave the open house very nice coverage. No snottiness, sarcasm, cutting jabs—just gracious reporting of what they experienced. It was so refreshing! It was easy to extend invitations to all kinds of people we met in passing, and almost to our surprise, they came. All in all 45,000 people toured the temple in that 3 week span.

Temple Open House – Lots of white umbrellas meant lots of guests. The youth were in charge of foot covers at the temple door and seeing that the umbrellas were available at critical points. Only uncivilized foreigners (like me) wander around out in the sun...

All the June Zone Conferences were held in Cebu so that all the missionaries would have the opportunity to tour the temple. This is the Bogo Zone—the missionaries we cheer and support a little extra because they serve where we go every couple of weeks.

We thought we’d be heavily involved with the open house, but after the VIP week things were pretty quiet for us. We did have a mission office to keep running after all. We were a little disappointed that we weren’t in the vortex of the open house, but in reality we had our own vortex. Somewhere in that span of time we received the assignment to oversee feeding the prophet and general authorities who would come to the dedication. I know my family’s response was something like “that’s our planning, organizing Mom.” And our parents, “Ann the planner since she was a little girl.” I have to say this was my planning magnum opus.

Those who gave us the assignment were very interested in providing food for the visiting authorities that would be familiar and carefully prepared to avoid any kind of GI tract disturbance, served in a timely way with understatement that would allow them to rest and relax, not be on display. We would deliver each meal to two private homes in the temple complex, plus set up a buffet for 12 on the 3rd floor of the patron house, plus feed the temple missionaries who were displaced from their apartments by most of the visiting authorities, and who cooked the food, plus the technical support crew on dedication Sunday. Even for a planner this was a mental stretch! However, thanks to the willing and very able support of the temple missionaries, plus a few others who we called into action, including 2 of our own ward members from home, we pulled the whole weekend off quite well. I say “quite well” with great humility and thankfulness. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard or wondered if we’d be ready for the next meal. It wasn’t like throwing together a few PBJ’s to serve on paper plates. Sigh.

I have great respect for caterers and declare emphatically that I am NOT a caterer. I am a Kevin’s wife and the mother of our family, who knows that good food gathers loved ones, and time together is how we can bless and influence each other. Anyone who has been drawn into our food affairs knows that we eat when it’s ready and everyone arrives. All together. Having food ready to deliver to the proper place at just the right time looking extra pretty was a stretch that we accomplished somehow. Kevin and I oversaw the buffet on the 3rd floor, simply seeing that the food was all there, starting the meal, then waiting out of the way to clear the dishes. Our daily guests were Elder & Sister Oaks, Bishop and Sister Burton, President & Sister Edwards (Area President), Elder & Sister Walker (Quorum of Seventy & head of the temple department), Brother Dunford and Brother Coburn, both very important but not general authorities. Oh and don't forget Sister Moritson, President Monson's personal health specialist.

I’m sorry to say I have no pictures of my amazing kitchen staff, nor the buffet area, which was very suitable and pleasing. It was definitely a busy time beyond my mental and physical wherewithal for picture taking. I have pondered this experience for three weeks now, received many kind comments on our success, yet felt no overwhelming, ecstatic happiness or joy at having had this experience. Yesterday I came upon these lines as I read the Book of Mormon: "...for thou shalt feed a prophet of the Lord; yea, a holy man, who is a chosen man of God...and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house." Okay then. I don't need to feel ecstatic happiness or joy, just be like Amulek of old. That is enough.

The dedication itself was a rich spiritual feast and celebration. We were delighted to be able to experience it first hand in spite of our food responsibilities. Everything was just right; the speakers, including Pres. & Sister Byram, of course the Prophet and a choir straight from heaven. I'm just fine saying that our choir for the Boise temple dedication didn't hold a candle to the Cagayan de Oro stake's choir. I could almost sit and relax in this very special setting, knowing that the food prep crew would continue on without us for an hour and a half and have athe evening meal ready to go almost the second we returned.

Monday, June 14 came with a great sigh of relief. Most folks were off to their next assignment, so their lingering over meals was done. We had labors to return to also, which meant we got to quit thinking about food and meals and presentation timing and return to thinking about the mission office. Someone joked about us returning to our work at the mission office so we could rest—so true!

Since the dedication weekend the mission home and mission office have been moved. Our office replacements will arrive August 3rd (?) and we will train them furiously for one month (we were trained for 3 months) before we head for home. Kevin is in his last session of English classes, and I am thinking about my piano students in terms of their continued progress after I leave. Some of them are ready to begin teaching beginners themselves—resounding success for my labors here.

Looking into our new office from the doorway.

Did we tell you we moved in early May? This is our new neighbor:

He’s kind of quiet but adds a good spirit to the neighborhood.

It’s our good fortune to live these last few months of our mission in the temple complex. We share the 3rd floor of the patron house with 10 other couples, all of whom are temple missionaries. We will find our replacements an apartment close by but not in the complex, as our apartment will be occupied by temple missionaries who will come in September after we leave.

It’s sort of like a college experience—apartments lined up in a long hall—only we’re all grandparents, and instead of the floor coming to life at 10 PM we all creep off to bed. Our new office is in the same building on the ground floor at the opposite end. It’s a very nice arrangement that we accept gratefully. Our apartment faces the back, considered the lesser view by many (the better view being temple side), but our pleasure is observing the light and shadows on the mountains as well as the amazing oceanic clouds through big, windows that we can leave mostly uncurtained due to our height and distance from the neighbors. It’s a quiet, renewing place to come home to every evening.

It's our neighbor again. I just can't help looking at him. Does this mean I have a crush on him? Maybe I need an interview with President Hansen...

So far this entry has been general and one sided since I am the blog master (Kevin’s designation). I’d like to fill you in on Kevin’s labors these last few months. His office works continues steadily with interesting twists that he handles very capably. His talent for new ideas means he’s also a good problem solver. I might be able to plan food events, but Kevin can plan life.

An example of this great talent was at the beginning of the open houses. All the sister missionaries had come in to Cebu and were at the (old) office needing to go to the temple complex. Kevin just went out to the street, flagged down an empty jeepney and directed the driver to pull into the parking lot. the driver was skeptical, but Kevin convinced him that pulling into our parking lot would be a great deal for him as well as the sister missionaries.

The sisters were pretty thrilled with Elder Reeds slick travel arrangements. Aren't they lovely?

Kevin’s last round of English classes was a resounding success, with so many students he had to divide the class. All those ideas that spring out of his brain are very useful in being a successful teacher. He keeps figuring out new, interesting learning activities, then implements them with ease. His students have great regard for him. Let’s face it—I’m married to a cool guy. (He’ll want to edit this part—no! no! I’m the blog master, remember?)

My very own Mr. Chips!

Divide the class or some of them will sit silently and not improve their English.

It didn't take Kevin long to get his students out of their seats and interacting with one another. Talk, talk, talk is the name of the game!

I took these pictures over a couple of weeks through the classroom windows I passed as I walked to my piano lessons. The students were on to me by this time so there were no more candid shots to be had, but plenty of smiles and happiness for their class experience.

How do we feel at this stage of our mission? Kind of tired, but happy; thinking eagerly of getting to know three grandchildren who were infants or not born when we left. Tearful when we think about saying good-bye to our many Filipino friends. It’s a good thing, you know, weeping when you part. It means you have loved and are loved. What’s the point if you haven’t connected with other human beings? I hope we have blessed them; they have certainly blessed us.

This has sort of been a deserty blog posting; not many pictures to rest the eye from all the words. I'd hate to go on endlessly this intensely, but we made it through in good condition. I will always remember our beloved Stake President Ron Rock's motto: "It's better to wear out than rust out."

Our Philippine clock is ticking. We are warned regularly by the young missionaries about not getting trunky. Finally I asked them exactly what it meant to be trunky. Basically it's that you think so much about going home that you quit working. Not a chance here! I hope we can get it all done in our limited remaining time.

We hope you are well and happy and recognize what you’re grateful for every day. We are grateful for you, and when you write and share your doings, we are nourished by your home thoughts and love.

We know the gospel is true, that our service here was inspired by prophets of God. The missionaries whose work we support have a message of great peace and happiness and eternal worth. This beautiful temple that greets us each day is part of God’s plan for our mortal success. See you in the next round.

Love and blessings, Kevin and Ann, Elder & Sister Reed

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When Pigs Fly

We had the opportunity to go to Negros Oriental a couple of weeks ago. Were we looking tired? Drawn? President and Sister Hansen assigned us to go and—hmmm. What was our assignment?

We buttoned up the office and headed out on a Thursday afternoon. The goal: Amlan before dark. If only there were sidewalks here so foot traffic wouldn’t be relegated to the road, raising the driver/navigator anxiety rate to an alarming level.

You know we enjoy our drives north along the Camotes Sea coast to Bogo; the drive to the Amlan ferry port took us along the coast around the southern tip of Cebu, then back north on the west side for a few kilometers.

There are two routes to this little port: along the coast or over the mountains. Neither is shorter or faster; what do you want to look at while you travel? Ocean or mountains. I think there are fewer buses on the coastal road. (See previous posts for bus editorials.)

Pleasant, relaxed sigh once out of town (a good hour’s worth of driving). The road widened a bit and we were blessed with the shade of large, old trees creating an alley to motor through. This was a hint of Northern Germany and we savored the sights and relaxed feeling of this beautiful, easier stretch of road.

Paradise doesn’t go on endlessly in this life; ours ended when we were overtaken by a double-decker truckload of pigs. Actually, paradise just put on a different face; we went from riding along blissfully, slurping up the tropical scenery to being entertained Sus scrofa-style.

I’m not sure why our whole life has been spent in the city when we love animals so much. Pigs. They’re very intelligent, you know. Why couldn’t they have been created to stink less? They’re an important part of life here, the Cebuano term being lechon baboy, which means BBQ’d pig. What can I say? These fellas were probably on their way to a number of celebrations via the BBQ spit. It’s quite an art, baboy preparation, but that’s for another story.

Initially it was just an interesting moment—a load of pigs--but the truck stayed right in front of us for a good long time which gave us opportunity for further observation.

Wiggily, squealy porkers! Snouts and tails poking out the sides and back! Watch out!! Slooow up for a moment or get a pig shower! (Eeeewww…) Where’s the sassy music when you need it? …Bodies swaying to the—no wait a minute, these aren’t dancing creatures, the truck is careening around another vehicle at high speed! Can’t the driver feel his conveyance lean heavily to the left? You’ve heard of pigs in blankets—how about pigs on blacktop when the truck tips over?

It didn’t tip over, but kept growling and groaning and squealing down the highway, the driver and one passenger in the cab, strategically in front of the pigs and two other fellows in back with the classic Philippine t-shirt mask covering their entire heads except for an eye slit. That load of lechon baboy was sure in a hurry; what was the date they were late for?

This was prime piggertainment as we watched wide-eyed, and laughed and joked about the scene before us. Our nice, tight, air conditioned car helped us laugh instead of respond like all the folks walking along the edges of the road. All that fresh air being perfumed by Pig-nel #5--oh my!

Can smells cause pain? I swear we witnessed pain as we saw walker after walker double over, run wildly ahead, cover their face with their shirt, skirt or hanky, grimace. If we could only have stayed in our Pig-nel #5-free car and heard their response…I think mankind would benefit from raw, unrestrained laughter like ours on a daily basis.

The changing face of paradise meant that we eventually passed them for good. We did notice the beauty of the coastline and small towns we scurried through but the shadows were long on the road by this time and we didn’t really know how much further we had to go, or how far our drive would be once we made the ferry passage.

“I think that’s it”—a left turn, then 20 yards to the ferry where there was only one spot left. A snug fit, so the crewmen signal left, left, left—a little right—stop. The ferry tailgate lifted and we pull away from the dock.

Just as the pig truck turned into the parking lot.

Imagine that—our good turn for the day was simply beating the pig truck to the port so all those passengers didn’t have to endure a Pig-nel #5 passage. They weren’t aware of their blessing; ours was a big, happy dose of renewal.

The 45-minute passage was another vision of paradise; calm water, moonlight for ambiance and piggy-thoughts to keep a grin on our faces. It was a fine weekend away before even arriving in Amlan.

Elder and Sister Brown’s 3-bedroom apartment was our final destination for the night. Talk about paradise! They live at a beach front resort, and if we didn’t know our assignment was an inspired call, we might have assignment envy. We have joked about their location—Amlan and the black sand beach—Paradise, and our location—Cebu and Salinas Drive—Purgatory. What does this mean? Are we in a character-building chapter? Don’t worry President & Sister Hansen—we are completely committed to our service, even on Salinas Drive.

For the next 2½ days we wandered around the island, poked in tourist shops (after a year?!?) visited missionaries, attended branch socials, helped with Primary and enjoyed the Browns. They are lovely folks from Canada with deep, abiding testimonies of the gospel. Too bad they have to live in paradise and we otherwise; we’d enjoy regular association with them. Anyway, this blog entry is already up to almost 1,000 words so I’ll shift into picture mode. Oh those sunrises! The interesting people! The refreshment of these two old office bodies!

Elder & Sister Brown, President (mission presidency) & Sister Wolf, and you recognize us. Don't the two fellas on the back row look like they could be brothers? President Wolf is from Germany.

On Friday we did a walkabout, seeing the southern coastline and up over the mountains. We found that not everything in the tropics is green and lush. In fact some of the terrain almost reminded us of our desert between Mountain Home and Twin Falls.

More BBB’s—beloved beasts of burden. They plow and they pull, and all they ask in return is a mud bath every day.

We whizzed by this fair-skinned fella and had to go back for a picture. An albino carrabao! Sunblock anyone? I didn’t see a mudhole…

We bumped back east through the mountains, coming to the coastal plain and a vista of rice fields. These are probably the prettiest one’s we’ve seen.

Back at the Brown’s house, Kevin made friends with the resort mascot, a monkey that lives on a cross-pole under a shade tree. Kevin was curious whether he’d interact with strangers; “cashews, little fella?” He was a sassy one, thumping Kevin on the head when he got too close.

The black sand beach got a piece of our attention every day. We walked as soon as the gates were open—about 6:00, which meant no sun crest experience. What? Locked in at the paradise resort? The dogs have the run of the place all night (no need to hire a guard) and they were to be respected unless you wanted teeth prints in your leg.

Beach connoisseurs pooh-pooh black sand beaches as being too hot. However, these two Idaho inlanders couldn’t get enough of walking and wading and visiting and shell collecting.

I was about my shell business with the neighborhood girls. I just wish they wanted to chat as much as they wanted to look at my white skin and blond hair! It’s refreshing to spend time with kids since most of our mission life is spent with adults. It’s the balance thing.

Kevin taught the boys how to play tic tac toe in the sand.

The local fishermen go out before sunrise, get their catch of the day and sell it right of their boats. Most caught tiny fish—less than 2” long which get fried and eaten whole.

I requested an early dog lock-up for Sunday morning so we’d get to supervise the sunrise at least once. Ahhh.

I hardly know how the sun manages every morning without our assistance.

We brought back a little black sand from paradise for the office. Need to mull? Pass a few minutes before your interview? Rearrange the ocean artifacts & comb designs in the sand.

Our next transfers take place on April 1st, making the next two weeks the lull before the storm. Need anything from us? Now is a good time to be in touch because it's highly likely you'll get a quick response. It's good to know the gospel is true. We love you and pray for you every day. Wouldn't life be lonely if we'd each gotten our own planet?