Happy Independence Day, Republic of the Philippines--June 12, 2009
Hello dear friends--
It was transfer week, and most of our labors centered around preparations for this amazing movement within the mission. I realize we weren't moving--rounding up all our belongings, wrapping up our missionary labors in a given area, but we sure scurried around seeing that the business end of transfers would go smoothly. Kevin, handling the financial end of the new or different assignments, and me seeing that the various lists were updated to reflect the changes, setting up new email accounts, putting all things in order for "a smooth transfer dance." We both do a training segment for the incoming missionaries, and to the outgoing, farewell and warm wishes for their next life chapter.
It all began on Tuesday afternoon. They started arriving--the homebound missionaries. They are easily recognized because their countenances are even brighter than ordinary. (Haven't you noticed that missionaries are "bright"?) The departing missionaries have a look of victory about them, like they know they've accomplished something magnificent. They come in threes or fours; one will be staying--leaving--and the others returning to their area to await their new companion on Friday (transfers). The greetings and reunions! Do you ever wish to be a fly on the wall? I don't even have to pretend I'm not there! They greet me too, and my heart is warmed and strengthened and filled with rejoicing to see them hug and slap backs and share their feelings of victory.
Our Wednesday goes on, filled with preparations for Thursday (incoming and outgoing missionaries) and Friday (transfers). The outgoing missionaries come into the office late Wednesday after a day of training at the Employment Resource Center. Our final good-byes are throat-lump-happy as we wave them off to the mission home for the last night of their mission. Most of them, the Filipinos, we won't see again in mortality. This is a moment to ponder on enduring to the end so we can have a joyful reunion in heaven.
Thursday would be a gloomy mission let-down except that the new missionaries come as the old missionaries go, and their excitement and energy and testimony for their labor of inviting others to come to Christ fills the void from those we said good-bye to.
It won't be long until we have happy reports on the good work of the greenies.
Ideally there would be as many missionaries coming as going. This would make President Hansen's and the AP's job of arranging transfers fairly simple. We only gained three to our eight lost. Areas had to be closed. Oh my, the shuffle! But it occurred, and I know that good things are about to happen. In their diligent, thoughtful labor to create powerful companionships, they have the assistance of heaven. Sweet.
Friday--transfer day--everyone who moved to a new area was notified earlier in the week--enough time to wrap things up but not too much time to get all mushy and sentimental about the area they're leaving. Keep up the momentum! Keep working! They all meet at the chapel next to the mission office for a transfer meeting. When they arrive they leave their luggage in classrooms that are designated for the different areas--islands in our situation, then they head to the chapel for a one-hour meeting of instruction and inspiration. By now, Sunday evening, everyone is settled in and about "the business".
We'll do this again in six weeks. We have nine missionaries coming in July; eight Filipinos and one American.
We live on an interesting street. "Salinas Dr." sounds calm--sedate--almost pastoral. Maybe it was at one time, but now it's a busy thoroughfare. You never know what you'll see driving down Salinas, including pigs in trikes. I routinely travel with our camera in my lap.
In my mind, animal transportation is traumatic for the critters, but apparently not so. Most animals we see, in all kinds of situations, co-exist quite peacefully with their humans. One of these days Kevin is going to capture how dogs and occasionally goats lie and doze on the edge of the road, not the least bit jumpy about the traffic whizzing by.
Jeepneys of the week:
Kevin really likes these sporty little ones. One wasn't enough this time...
And for me--the guys on the back.
They're so casual about hanging on and balancing! Sometimes they hop off, then as the jeepney starts, they hop on, all the while looking to wave down the next rider.
Saturday morning--5:00. It was a perfect day for an exploratory outing. Remember two weeks ago, we drove up to our ward's youth camp-out on Mt. Manunggal? We were curious about the climb to the top--where you start, how long it takes to drive to the start point, etc. We'd talked about hiking it, in fact our stake president was very interested in going. It's the rainy season though, and we canceled the hike due to rain the last few days, but still wanted to take a look. Kaikai was interested too, and as a bonus his son Kyle came.
We got to Tobongon, the village at the base of Mt. Mannungal and things looked surprisingly dry. Why not just go a little ways up? We had to wade across the stream first.
It was a very pleasant tropical day for hiking, especially early on. The intermittant cloud cover helped us make it to the top.
We stopped often to rest and inspect our progress. Look down into the valley; look up to the top; look across the valley to the facing mountains.
It's pretty hard to stop once you start. The top is calling! That feeling of conquering the mountain--you can almost taste it. We kept going and going, asking each other often if we needed to turn back.
We had questions more than once about which way to go; this wasn't a National Forest Service trail after all. People live up on the mountain, and someone appeared each time we needed our direction confirmed. This woman was our final sherpa. At the point we met her, we were getting ready to turn back. The trail felt much steeper, narrower, and we weren't sure it was the right one anyway. Here's the magic of following a good leader: they make what you previously thought very hard, much easier. She carried a load on her back, plus 2 umbrellas. Her shoes were flip flops, and she moved along the trail with great sureness of foot. I wish she had felt more comfortable having her picture taken. I had great respect and appreciation for her strength and experience.
At one point the trail forked and we turned right when we should have turned left. A little way further was a house where the owner said it was a left turn at the pig.
Finally! The end of the trail! We saved the VERY top for another day--a drier day. We walked to the crash site, (see the blog 2 weeks ago) then down to Cruscrus instead of hiking back down the trail. The wet spots would have been problematic going down hill...
Cruscrus was another very interesting chapter. Kevin hired the only vehicle in town to take us back to Tobongan and Kaikai made weather report connections (for our next hike up the mountain) with one of the only cell phones in the village, and arranged some food for us. He got the store owner to boil us some eggs, then went across the street where ladies were making bibingka--bought some of those, and of course, water.
Bibingka is a wonderful Philippine dessert. We first had it in a restaurant; now we've had it in its original form, cooked in banana leaves in an outdoor oven.
Kaikai is a people magnet. He talks to everyone (look at us--now we're part of his huge circle of friends) and they enjoy him very much. This would have been a GREAT time to know Cebuano, then we could have been in on the chat while the eggs boiled and the bibingka baked.
That's about it for another Philippine chapter. All is well here; many thanks for your prayers, encouragement and support. We love hearing from you! Next week we'll report in on our mission tour with Elder Ko, a member of the area presidency.
Time for a new recipe--Steamed White Fish & Veggies
This is our favorite Sunday dinner; quick, nutritious, delicious!
In a large non-stick skillet layer the following: A thin layer of thick-slice onion rings and a few garlic cloves. This means you will still be able to see the bottom of the skillet but there are enough rings to hold your fillet off the direct heat.
Your fish fillet(s), rinsed. Give it a hearty lemon peppering, or use any other herbs or spices that suit you. Most white fish is mild so it will take on the flavors of what's cooked with it.
Sori sori to finish filling the skillet. Now don't run and hide because you don't have any idea what sori sori is! It' simply mixed vegetables that are stir fry compatible. You might be able to find it at your grocery store, a convenience item in the produce department, or you can cut up your own vegetables for these purposes, or those bags of frozen veggies would work too. Consider using bite-size anything, including winter squashes, eggplant, okra, celery, carrots, broccoli, more onions, mushrooms. Get the picture? Go ahead and fill up your skillet. It will be tasty.
Add a drizzle of olive oil or zesty Italian dressing, more seasoning if you wish, and you're ready for the burner. Start it on med-high until it's steaming then turn it to med-low. You didn't add any water, but the natural moisture in your fish and veggies should juice things up.
Check in 15-20 minutes. You want the veggies tender-crisp and the fish flakey.
Remove to a platter and serve with red or brown rice. Mmmm!
Bean and Bacon Soup
It's September tomorrow so you can reasonably think about cooking up a nice, cozy pot of soup--at least soon! We've done it from time to time also--just turned down the air conditioner and pretended it's was chilly autumn day!
This recipe is like delux Campbell's Bean & Bacon Soup. The dash of liquid smoke (find it in the spice aisle) it what makes it. We add a little milk for a creamy version, and make sure your beans are cooked until they're tender.
2 c. small white beans - soaked overnight 6 strips crispy fried bacon - minced 3 med. carrots - minced 3 med. stalks celery - minced 1/2 t. thyme 2 cloves minced garlic 4 oz. tomato paste 1 dash red pepper flakes 6 c. water, more if needed 1 T. wine vinegar few drops Liquid Smoke salt & peper to taste
Soak beans overnight and discard water. Place beans, water & bacon in a large kettle and simmer until beans are tender. Add remaining ingredients except for the salt and vinegar and simmer 30-60 minutes more. Add salt & vinegar. Puree 1-2 cups of soup and return to the pot. Mmmmm.
You need good bread to go with your Bean and Bacon Soup! This is a recipe for artisan bread that a good friend gave me. It is OUR bread here--there is no such thing as Philippine bread with substance, especially not whole grain. I bake it a couple of times a week and usually share part of the 12" round with missionaries.
You can use all white flour, all whole wheat, (I do 5 c. wheat, 1 c. white) or be creative and add some rye flour. Herbs are also very good--about 2 T. per batch. Italian Blend is good, dill seeds would be good (can't get them here--maybe I'll ask for some for Christmas), cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg would give this recipe a completely different face.
6 c. flour 1 t. yeast 2 t. salt 3 c. water
Mix these four ingredients together in a bowl with a lid. This part takes about 5 minutes. You don't knead it--just mix with a spoon or paddle until the flour is all incorporated. Cover and let rise for 10-12 hours. I usually mix it up first thing in the morning then bake it when we return from the office.
When it has risen for whatever time you allow (sometimes more, sometimes less--very flexible) dump it out onto a floured surface, coat it with flour and shape into a round. Put it on a tray or large plate and let it rise for 45-60 minutes. This step also takes 5 minutes or less. Once again, the rise time is flexible. I haven't made a single loaf that wasn't good, except for the one that I cremated because I forgot it.
When the 2nd rise time is approaching done, turn on the oven to 450. Put a large covered cassarole (I use a wok) in the oven to heat, including the lid. No need to grease. When it's good and hot (be careful now!) take it out of the oven and invert your bread loaf into it. You might think, ack! the pretty side is on the bottom! Don't worry. It will bake out just fine. Put the lid on and bake for 40-45 minutes. When you take it out of the oven it will slide easily onto a cooling rack.
Bean soup and whole wheat bread. You've just created a complete protein. Good job.
Asparagas, Red Pepper & Potato Salad
This is a GREAT recipe--a fresh, healthy twist to veggies! You can double it and use a single recipe of the dressing. 1 # new red potatoes 1 # asparagus pieces 1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded 1/2 c. slivered red onion
Dressing: 5 T. spicy brown mustard 6 T. balsamic vinegar 1 1/2 T. brown sugar 3/4 t. kosher salt 1/4 t. black pepper 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced 6 T. olive oil Tabasco sauce
Scrub potatoes and cook in boiling salted water till tender. Cut into 3/4" cubes and put in a bowl. Steam asparagas (no tough pieces please!) until tender-crisp. Shock in cold water and add to potatoes. Cut red pepper into bite-size sticks and add to rest. Add red onion.
Mix up dressing by stirring all ingredients together, drizzling oil while you whisk constantly to make a creamy dressing. Add Tobasco sauce to your liking.
Drizzle dressing onto vegetables and stir to coat. Serve right away for best asparagas color.
Fresh green beans or broccoli work great in this salad also.