Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's almost June...

Welcome to ReedsinCebu with the jeepney of the week. We saw this one coming down the mountain toward Cebu City. The man on the hood--the load of produce going to market on top--stuffed full of riders, a steep, windy road. Amazingly, there are very few accidents considering the conditions, which we highly-cautious Americans see as alarmingly dangerous. Well, the guy on the hood seems a little risky...

50 -year-old thoughts on May 27th—

This morning my prayer was one of thanksgiving—
For another year—another decade
This magnificent body—one of God’s greatest creations
This whole mortal experience
For knowing who I am and my purpose here on earth
For opportunities to learn and grow and serve and lift
For opportunities to walk by faith
For talents given to bless the lives of others
For generations who came before, forging the way for me
For beloved Kevin--all boyz--boyzwives--little folks who call me Grammi
For boundless support from our loved ones (that would be you) for this present adventure
For a wonder-filled world, meant to sustain us and enliven our souls with its beauty and functionality

Ahh! I am blessed indeed.

The 27th was an uncommonly fine day in all its ordinary-ness. We performed our office duties then taught our piano and English classes. Then it was time to go to bed.

Happiness has very little to do with glitz and glitter. It has to do with being settled in yourself, knowing you are known by God, wanting to please Him, and seeing his hand in your life.

Of course you know that as long as you're celebrating, it's still your birthday.

We celebrated for 5 days; pretty fun! As in other life details, the people here are very thoughtful about birthdays. Today at church I received birthday greetings from a half dozen people, and a spray of orchids.

Yesterday, our preparation day, was the designated celebration day where I got to choose whatever I wanted to do. (Yes, you can still have kid-privileges at 50. Kevin was a great sport!)

We opened the day with a trip to the highest mountain on Cebu, Mt. Manunggal, where the youth of the ward were having an encampment. We read about this mountain before coming on our mission; unfortunately an airplane carrying a former Philippine president crashed into Mt. Manunggal in the 70's and everyone on board was killed. It is somewhat famous, complete with a memorial marker and an annual commemoration day that draws a lot of hikers and campers, which draw a lot of roadside merchants. We will hike to the top soon, and make sure it isn't on the commemoration day.

Imagine this, you western North America dwellers--pine trees co-existing with banana trees. Hmmm. That's kind of a mind bender isn't it? I wish I could identify this one--long, supple needs in fasicles of three. At one point of our drive we could see two different oceans looking to the east and west.

Here's the heart warmer of the trip: when we arrived in camp (we'd told them we were coming up first thing in the morning but they didn't REALLY think we'd come...) the girls, who were all in one tent squealed & welcomed us just like the 11th ward girls at home would! And then we proceeded to have a tent girl-gathering just like any American girls camp. We are more alike than different.

Girl gathering 2009, including the one very white, old lady. Oh it's GREAT to be loved by the young women!

Here's the different part of camping in the Philippines: no sleeping bags or pads, and I think most of the kids hiked in in flip flops. What can I say--flip flops are the national shoe. The girls all had a mat, then slept in a cotton fabric tube about the size of a sleeping bag, only no fat, fluffy stuffing for warmth. One of the girls said her bones talked to her all night..."ouch", "this ground sure is hard".

Hanging out and working on YW stuff in the tent.

Their focus for the encampment was ecology, so when we'd had a little breakfast of dried fish, rice and fried SPAM we hiked to a tree-planting site where we all planted Philippine Mahogany seedlings as part of a reforestation effort. Ninety-nine percent of the island has been deforested. It isn't bare and ugly, but the lack of rain forest definitely affects the water situation on the island.

Jeanette and Vernadette planting a seedling.

They would have had us stay for the rest of their activities, but we had other birthday plans and had to get going.

Item two on the birthday list: a visit to my horticulture friend Jesusa (pronounced Heysousa). We met her the first time we ventured up the mountain back in March. She is a nurserywoman with a small growing operation on the side of the highway about 45 minutes out of Cebu City. We have since passed many bigger growing operations further along the road (with much better parking--Kevin's focus), but Jesusa is a friend and part of my birthday pleasure was to see her.

Although Jesusa's English is limited we communicate just fine, and our hearts are very much united in our love for all that grows. This was the first time we stopped to see her that I wasn't in a skirt and blouse, but pants, which made it a little more believable that I really enjoy working the soil and don't mind getting dirty. On other trips I have had to beg her to let me plant what I've purchased. Otherwise she insists on planting them for me.

Discussing plant possibilities for our bathroom where there is only artificial light, or in front of the mission office/entrance to our apartment--morning sun.

Part of my pleasure in visiting Jesusa is walking up and down with her, looking at all that she grows and wondering how many of them I can reasonably take home. There are pots all around the church/office complex--this is a common outdoor planting practice here, and if I find one that has a dead plant in it I adopt it and put one of Jesusa's plants in it. The office entry is looking very nice.

What else in my birthday play day?

A pedicure, a little fabric shopping, and dinner out. My comment to Kevin as we partook of the fabulous buffet at the Marco Polo hotel, "boy I'm glad I turned 50 so we could come here for dinner!" If any of you come visit us, we will recommend you stay there. In fact we might go there for our anniversary, etc. It is the nicest hotel in Cebu, and by American standards, not that expensive.

And of course, warm birthday remembrances from you dear friends and family. We love you! We miss you in the sweetest way. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, for your life success and happiness. Hearing from you is like being showered with sparkles through our week. I remember thinking when others were serving missions, "I'm just home in my ordinary life--what in the world could I write to them, out in a very interesting setting?" Here's the scoop. You don't need to write an epistle to shower us with sparkles. Just two or three sentences are great--"thinking of you--hope all is going well--just did......" Do you get it? Don't wait for "big happenings!" Just say "hi", and there's a good chance we'll "hi" back. Isn't modern technology great?

Blessings from the Philippines. We're so grateful to be here serving in the Cebu Mission. The gospel is true everywhere, even here on the other side of the earth.