Monday, September 28, 2009

All is Well

Jeepney of the week:

That's right--Bronco Nation exists in Cebu! Kevin reminded me when we saw this one that the Broncos are hard at it again. Yes, it's October even though we live with aircon 24/7. If someone will kindly report in on their season so far we'll be grateful. No TV--no radio--no newspapers--a smidgen of internet news. Sigh. We don't know what's happening with the economy or Boise State's football team either one.

Our neck of the woods is a mess thanks to the winter storm season! (That's "our neck"--world wide.) Metro Manila received 16 inches of rain in less than 24 hours earlier this week and as a result there have been 300 deaths including 24 church members. Many church buildings have been flooded but the temple complex is okay. Think of the distance between Cebu and Manila like the distance between Boise and Salt Lake. It's about an hour's flight, and of course you can't drive there in 5 1/2 hours. We could experience some backlash from their storms but it is less likely because Cebu is surrounded by other islands. Surrounded means you might see them on a clear day from the coast; they aren't that close. They take the hit for us.

Usually the Philippines handles its own disaster needs as far as church welfare goes. This time they've asked for help because this particular storm has left so many thousands homeless. If you want to contribute, the channel is through fast offerings. We will be having a special fast for the weather conditions and disaster victims this Sunday. You, of course, are invited to include us in your fast as well.

Another Signal 4 storm was due to hit Luzon on this morning. It veered a bit, going north enough to not clobber Manila again. The president declared today a day of prayer.

After our first taste of "a storm" about 6 weeks ago I watch the weather and discuss it almost every morning when we're walking with Kaikai. He is a keen observer and has lived in Cebu his whole life, which means next to nothing in terms of being able to predict what the weather will do. Today's weather, knowing that typhoons are swirling around out in the ocean, has been watched with increased interest, which I suppose still means nothing. The air was thick and the sky was leaden all day; it got dark early tonight--by just after 5:00. Rain in the night? Don't know and don't usually hear it thanks to ear plugs that keep the road noise at a distance.

Moving on to more manageable details, Kevin finished his first 8-week English Course last week. It included a final exam with written and spoken portions. All his students came to the office a week ago Monday evening and worked on the written portion, then we came upstairs for FHE. I did a lesson on the power of music in our lives and we sang some hymns.

Family Home Evening wouldn't be complete without a round of Fruit Basket Turnover, which the nine of us adults or near-adults squealed and giggled through. Pretty fun! Treats too. This was a first FHE experience for some of the students. A good time--they lingered for most of an hour after we were "finished". Most Filipinos live "less in a hurry" than Americans. We could take lessons; it would be beneficial to our relationships.

Going back a few weeks, we also took the class on a field trip to Museo Sugbo. This is a very nice developing museum housed in the old provincial prison with exhibits centered on Cebuano history. Kevin and I had been there in April and were totally amazed at how much more has been developed since then. We had a guided tour--in English of course, and then a photo shoot by the wishing well.

We took a jeepney

It rained on the way. This would be concerning except the shower goes on, then the shower goes off. We got off the jeepney and dashed for the building overhang across the street from the museum to wait it out.

This is the Provincial-Prison-turned-museum.

As you can see, photogenic and energetic students! We had a great time. Kevin has developed a very respectable road to improved English in these dear folks. Now he's on to another session, and as I walked by his class room tonight it looked like there were 6-8 students hard at it.

I wish for excellent English skills.

Piano is going well also. If you recall, I started out with 27 students and nearly sank with the ship until a few of them determined that they were too busy to take lessons.

It's fascinating to observe how each student takes in what's offered to them in their own way. I see myself in some of them; not a fast learner but intent. I think when we return home I'll take some lessons of some kind just to see if my teaching thought processes help my learning processes as well. I find myself telling my students things my teachers told me--some of it I "got" and some went over my head, but I get, now that I'm on the teaching end.

Our chapel instrument is a Kawai hybrid--can be a piano or organ. The Yamaha grand is relegated to the cultural hall which nearly kills me. I teach on either instrument so they have experience on whatever they might be called upon to play.

A handful of students are playing regularly in Relief Society or Sacrament Meeting and doing very well. They are coming along well enough to consider teaching organ technique to so they can utilize the organ portion of the hybrid, just no foot pedals, but a great bass coupler to help fill in the bottom end. They are sooooo eager! I'm working very hard with the beginning kids--four of them--very dear, but it's just plain hard work. The college student-age students are every piano teacher's dream come true. I make an assignment and they go home and do it.

Here's an organ APB: If you have organ technique material, would you consider sending me some copies of finger exercises--finger substitution--sustained playing--whatever seems good and useful. The music available here is purchased at National Book, which is sort of like a Borders or Barnes & Noble. They have a little section of piano method--John Thompson and Michael Aaron. It all looks like it's been around since the last war, which would be okay if there was a Davis organ book in the stack. I thought of bringing it--it's down in the storage room ready to come, but the weight! How about a few pages to start with. Mom? David Young? Other organists following the blog? I need you to help me! Thanks in advance. OR you could scan some stuff and send it as an attachment by email.

Some interesting Philippine snippets:

Flip flops are called slippers.

You will have either geckos or ants in your kitchen. Geckos are preferrable. Most of the ones around our apartment (we usually see them outside around the light fixtures in the stairwell, but they come in under our door) are well-mannered, smallish and shy. They prefer no human encounters, so they just going about their lizard business and leave us alone. It's not at all like living with Komodo Dragons.

Cocroaches and rats are seen on occasion but are not part of our daily round. Rat and mouse feces could be a grave concern when there's flooding because it carries bacteria, if introduced to the body through a cut could spell a quick death. Don't worry! We stay in if there's running water on the streets! And we wear closed shoes to protect our feet. Moms--that means you don't worry.

A practice run at setting Moroni--

We happened to be waiting in our car right across from the temple this week. Kevin noticed a man sitting on the sidewalk staring intently at the temple. No wonder! The crane was very carefully placing this replica of Moroni on top, then they took it down. When the granite is installed on the steeple we'll see the gold leafed version installed.

Last Saturday was a particularly satisfying day filled with spiritual direction. We had planned on leaving for Bogo by noon, but just couldn't get moving to get all our pre-leaving chores finsihed. When we were still grocery shopping at 2:00 Kevin suggested that we just drive up first thing in the morning. I agreed, relieved.

Then the sweetness started. A highly unlikely encounter in the mall parking lot with a fellow we met in our first couple of weeks here. Very friendly--a jewelry manufacturer--a husband and Dad. He renewed the invitation to come see his operation and visit some more. We will!

We attended a convert baptism that gave Kevin an opportunity to chat with one of his English students about the gospel. Couldn't have happened if we'd chased off to Bogo!

As we were leaving the baptism one of the ward members asked us if we'd like to attend the surprise birthday party for his wife. YES! A party isn't a party without people to celebrate with you. It turned out that it was for his wife and another gal in the ward--lovely women with birthdays the same week. To top it off, it was a catered sit-down dinner done by a fellow in the ward who is a wunnnnnderful chef--all kinds of culinary schooling--imagination--love of good food. I don't have to be asked twice to eat Rene's cooking!

A pretty table for us to enjoy.

The celebrants--Sister (R.S. President) and Brother Pua and Brother and Sister Lee(Primary President.

The most interesting details of our trip to Bogo were on our way home:

Pigs in trickle cabs

Scenic vistas including woven huts with thatched roofs

I2L's--Invitations to learn. This is a fellow we met at a restaurant in Bogo. He is a vegetable farmer who sells his produce at the Bogo Market. We saw him out planting in his field and stopped to say hello.

As we crept through the Lilo-an traffic we pulled up beside a trike, and there were two of our missionaries! Nice surprise. We captured the moment as the light turned green.

I am proving no good at frequent, short entries. Just save part of these looooong entries and call it chapter 2. We continue our labors, gratefully accepting the whisperings of heaven in what to do (not to do) in the many interesting situations that arise each day. The gospel is true! We're grateful to know that and help move the work forward here in Cebu. We treasure your friendship and support, and pray that your labors will also be sweet and spirit-filled each day.

Elder & Sister Reed
Kevin & Ann

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Down the Road a Ways

Take me home, country roads
To the place I belong

I know, I know. It's been more than three weeks since we posted. Dash those thoughts of us going AWOL and lounging around on a remote tropical beach! We've had missionaries leaving and missionaries coming (1st week), Zone Leader Council (2nd week), and Zone Conference (this week). It's not like we're in charge of these three big events, just involved, and that coupled with our regular duties of bill paying, apartment contract writing, supply ordering, trips to the post office, piano lessons, English classes--there's no time to tell you about it. I've got to start making a list of the life snippets that are interesting so they will resurface in my memory when the world finally simmers down and I can think of blogging.

What we do is so ordinary most days, but it's never dull. If we ever experience a hint of boredom we can always venture out into the city to liven things up. (Surely thoughts from a twisted mind.) It happened today though; we'd worked all morning--watched a shower-is-on rain storm, visited with a few people who stopped in, went upstairs for lunch. We needed to get out for a bit, so why not make our post office run today instead of tomorrow?

Sometimes it's an easy trip.

I sat there enjoying Kevin's company (remember--we can see each other while we work in the office if we crane our necks, and the easiest way to get his attention is to pick up the phone and dial 15) for the first 15 minutes. Then it was big traffic and car-to-car salesmen at the stop lights. Our easy chat was over and we were both on high alert for weaving motorcycles and darting pedestrians. At the post office we found no line for the metered mail and a looong line for the packages. We go to three different windows to take care of our postal needs. I only had to get firm with one fellow who stood and watched me take postage money out of the little bag, then approached me in case I wanted to share what was left with him. DILI! And an firm look.

Kevin on the other hand was cooling his heals in the package line with six package cards. If only they were interested in his innovative ideas for increased efficiency! Really, his brain never quits, and most of the time his ideas are very good. Anyway, I took half the cards and went to the sub-line for small packages, a divide and conquer efficiency measure. He got his packages fast, and my part really needed his efficiency ideas.

The line compressed. I think the Filipinos were even uncomfortable at how close we were all standing, but nobody budged. It's an open air post office you know; no air conditioning to keep us all calm during our wait. Kevin took his packages to the car, then came back to wait for me. Our eyes met across the crowd. I have no doubt that mine rolled, (this is NOT a Filipino thing like raising your eyebrows is) and I mouthed, "I must be crazy", thinking that this little outing was my idea.

Back at the office we were greeted by the assistants and President and Sister Hansen who were finishing the last details to get out the door to Zone Conferences off island. Oh they are such fine folks! Those Assistants--Elder Curtis and Elder Deiparine are joys to work with. We couldn't ask for better neighbors, and they are kind, thoughtful and patient with us old folks in all our office details. President and Sister Hansen scurry around at such a rate that I don't even have a picture of them. Soon.

Elder Curtis and Elder Deiparine on the right, with Elder Nicoleta and Elder--oh dear--I can't think of his name. You know--the one with dark hair and eyes?

We spent last weekend in Bogo, but before we left town we hiked up to a new place. It's a left turn up the mountain a ways, then drive slowly, twisting and turning. Park, and you are ready for a magnificent walk. Our current hiking criteria is anything on a road, and please give us some elevation so we won't sauna to death. This one fit the bill to a tee. There was wind that almost made the air feel dry. What a sensory feast! Feel it on your skin, and hear it. Ahhh.

There are stands of giant bamboo that are nature's wind chimes. They creak and clack in a most musical way.

It was Kevin, Kaikai and me. Our walk took us up the mountain to a beautiful visita that we've promised to return to when we have time to sit and eat a little good food and not worry about what else has to be done that day.

On our way back down we met this goat named Fran. We've met plenty of goats since we got here, and I'm sorry to say that goats are the next feast or celebration. They are very easy to live with and care for since they will eat almost anything. Just tie them up where there are weeds or grass and they will be content until you return for them. Anyway, Fran. It was like she had a sense of us as human beings, and if she could talk she would have had something to say to us. Odd to have thoughts like this about a goat. Wouldn't you say she "wanted" her picture taken? There were two other goats who tried to join her, but she head butted them away and posed for me.

I swear she's smiling!

This is just a pier shot at 5:30 in the morning last weekend in Bogo. Looks like a lake, doesn't it? The water was so still it made us drool for thoughts of water skiing. None of that here though, just fishing.

Kevin and I have been mulling over the concept of balance lately. We keep seeking it--practicing it, having to practice it more. There is so much interesting stuff to do and experience here. Unfortunately our middle-aged bodies need enough rest. Gone are the days of burning the candle at both ends. I have balance thoughts about blogging too. I'd like to blog more often and shorter. I look at my entries and wonder if anyone reads something so long. Well, pick and choose and I'll see what I can do. No promises, but it might be like nibbling on the Philippines instead of huge meals.

Bye for now. We pray for you every day, and are grateful for your prayers in our behalf.