Sunday, October 25, 2009

Plant of the week: Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, aka ZZ plant.

Although this is definitely a landscape plant here in the tropics, it's a great, forgiving, tolerant houseplant. A potted version will be a miniature of this one; isn't it a beauty? And set off very well by the wall and gate.

It was quite a week in Lake Cebubegone, our temporary home town. The good news is we made it through with patience and humor, and now it's Sunday night, getting ready for another week.

It's a truth that when we're in the heat of the fire we usually don't stop to take pictures. Sorry about that--but just think on one of your very busy, challenging weeks and project it into the Philippines. You're probably close if not right on. I tried to put the events to words but it just came out sounding whiney, so here's a 30-second run-down and then we'll do some pictures of our morning walks.

--ZLC Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
--Fingerprinting for many of the foreign missionaries on Wednesday--a nice opportunity to see some of the missionaries from off-island who don't come in the office very often.
--Behind, behind, behind due to the above two items--work like mad on Thursday and Friday to bring some semblance of order to my realm

Wow! That brief report is much easier to handle than spewing out every gritty little detail. Maybe I should quit looking so closely at the events of life that frustrate or worry me and give minute attention to all that's beautiful and pleasing and inspiring. Hmmm. I thought this was going to be a week-processing blog entry and instead it's a little personal revelation. Nice.

We've talked quite a bit about our morning walks. We have considerable concern about our lifestyle change, going from active, physical jobs to desk jobs and having our back sides spread to the width of the Mississippi River. Kevin and I need outdoor time. It's more apparent since we get less of it here; we didn't really think about it before because we had it every day.

All these shots were taken yesterday morning--Saturday--when we slept until we awoke instead of getting up to the alarm clock at our week-day time of 4:40 and heading out the door by 5:10. It's completely light and bright at 6:30, and of course, warm. I usually don't wear a hat but thought my brain would fry if not covered this late in the morning.

This is one of the side streets of Beverely Hills Subdivision that makes a horse shoe around a nature area and goes out to a point overlooking the city. This lush, green, shady stretch is very appreciated by sweaty walkers.

Walk on for a few minutes and look to your left. Your ears will tell you that you've come to the home of the Roosternacle Choir. Oh my! Such a cacauphony of cock-a-doodle-do's living in all those houses up on the hillside! In my book, no fine view would make up for their incessant ruckus!

The end of the horse-shoe road has a few houses, including this one. As you can see, you can't see. All houses have walls and gates; this one is particularly pleasing. As we walk if we aren't discussing the affairs of the mission or world we talk architecture. If only these folks knew that there were free consultations happening about their homes every morning!

Many of the walls are functional only; then there are walls like this one--a work of art. Of course I approve of the planting beds built into the wall, but recommend something with a shiny green leaf and perhaps a good bloom--more contrast either way. See? A free landscape consultation.

There are "unclaimed coral walls that are perfect hosts to all kinds of interesting plants. Some are just "green plant things", others are recognized friends, like about 5 varieties of ferns. I harvested a handful and will see if I can get them to grow in my office entrance plant collection.

This is almost the end of the nature road. As you can see, still green and lush, and almost no cars. Well, this is proof that somebody drives down this road!

At least a frog a day doesn't make it across one of the streets we walk up; this morning we also saw a tuko (feisty lizard that you hear more than see--what was this shy fella doing in the street?) and a rat (good riddance).

Back on Woolbright Ave., we head to the top. This isn't a bad incline--well, not bad now. It was pretty challenging for me in the beginning, but now it's just fine. I don't think we do anything (in these walks) that challenges Kevin, my beloved mountain goat!

At the top guard station we loop around and walk to the bottom, turning left on 2nd to go back up--the most challenging section of our route. Mt. Borah has nothing on 2nd Ave., except for loose shale. Some days I go pretty slow, but it's all easier than a couple of months ago. I figure by the time we return to Idaho we'll have climbed Borah at least once, if not twice in this steep part of our walk.

This residence was the mission home at one time. There is a basketball court to one side, and it's reported that all the missionaries on the island would congregate there every Monday to play basketball. That, of course, was when the mission was smaller and the areas were less spread out.

As we approach the taoist temple (red on the right) I have to move into mental mode--recite something memorized in my mind. "It's killing me!" "What are we doing this for?" Just keep the Proclamation on the Family going in your head, Ann. By the time you're finished you'll be back on Woolbright. Again.

Back on Woolbright, the end is in sight. We've done almost 5k of serious up and down hilling. All that's left is a martial arts moment with Kaikai. Did you miss him? He has a Saturday schedule with other friends at the IT Park. We're always glad for Monday and Kaikai. And his martial arts routine feels good after the taoist temple hill.

What's on the docket this week? A newsletter tomorrow, as well as sending out a bunch of correspondence. Kevin has bills to pay which means at least one trip to the mall. We've just about got our Christmas goodies ready to send home to the grandkids, and we're making plans for Christmas on Bohol with two other senior couples.

Life is good in the mission field, and I know we would say that no matter where we had the opportunity to serve. The gospel is true. We know that in the depth of our beings, and that is what has us out here doing what we're doing. Love you all--pray for you--thank you for your love and prayers. Don't hesitate to drop a line. It's a great comfort to us.

Kevin and Ann in Cebu

PS--Still not short.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Legend of the Lion

Plant of the week: Yes, it's a repeat--the traveler palm, aka Raveala madagascarensis. We like them very much even though there aren't many that reside in full glory like this one. I wonder if one of my horticulture associates would be so good as to send a plant list from Floriculture? It would give me great pleasure to know (remember) the names of everything I look at every day.

Jeepney of the week:

As you can see, it's not a jeepney at all, but a multi-cab. This is also a popular vehicle on Cebu, and this spunky little pink bomb grabbed our attention!

Now for a story...

In a far away land, in another time, a husband and wife were blessed with their first child. A boy--an answer to prayer--perfect in his mother's eyes, as he ate and slept and rarely fussed. As he grew the mother delighted in his toddler antics; he was a happy child, and tidy too!

One evening as bedtime approached, when day was not yet finished, but happy playtime had passed, mother and child longed for a car ride to help the boychild prepare for sleep. Wise father knew just the place: the Utah Stake Capitol to see the giant cement lions, and maybe a song or two on the way.

Such delight for a little boy! Daddy's singing and those giant lions. Again, Daddy? Maybe tomorrow.

The tomorrows came and came, and for many months this was the going-to-sleep ritual--drive up to the capitol to see the lions; sing 76 Trombones from "The Music Man".

The years passed. The little boy grew into a fine man who married and had sons of his own. He never lost his love of cement lions and has his own gracing his castle stoop today. He watches for them as he travels the world over and stops to acquainted. Sitting on a lion for a picture brings out a boyish remembrance of his toddler days.

Every boy should have a lion to call his friend.

Lions that live in hot, humid cllimates have their own beauty challenges.

We learned about a place of historical significance on our last trip to Museo Sugbo with Kevin's English Class. It is Argao (pronounced ar-gow, like ar-cow) about 2 hours south of Cebu City. It's the only town with a Spanish layout that survived WWII, and that because the railroad didn't go there, which meant it wasn't distroyed by bombing.

Planning an outing is about half the fun. (Parents: are you chuckling at this, knowing that my planning pleasure began when I was 5?) We started talking about driving down to Argao at our Friday night dinner with Elder and Sister Watkins a couple of week ago. At the last minute we decided to include a stop at Carbon Market, and found a willing and able market ambassador in Evelyn, one of Kevin's English students. She is a lovely woman, a fine student, and of course, a speaker of Cebuano, which meant shopping success for us in that mystical retail setting. (See a previous posting for more Carbon details.) We didn't want to monopolize her entire day, but she was delighted with the idea of a field trip to a part of her island she had never seen before.

We headed out at about 8:00; 2 fellas in the front seat, three gals in back. It only took a few minutes to get to Carbon on Saturday morning (remember--it's close to the post office which has been inspiration for more than one mournful blog entry), and Evelyn knew exactly where to park (right here is fine for a few minutes) and which "store" had our desired items. What a different shopping experience with a Filipina guide! We had a great time, mostly because of Evelyn. She put the merchants at ease for us foreigners; they were friendly and chatty--as chatty as one can be when there's a language barrier.

It sprinkled on us, which wouldn't have been bad, except that the road grime turned to road slurry, a mysterious layer of black slime on the bottoms of our shoes. Just let your imagination go wild about the slurry ingredients and you will probably be correct.

Drizzle or no drizzle, it was a lot of fun, and we will return! Carbon market carries most things if you know where to look. Thanks, Evelyn.

Sorry, no picts of Carbon this time. I feel sensitively about this kind of place being people's LIVES, not a Disneyland experience. If you've been to a developing country, you can imagine it. If not, still imagine it. Sort of Indiana Jones-ish.

Kevin's getting pretty good at holding the camera out and getting a good shot! That's Elder and Sister Watkins in the back and Evelyn next to me, then our photographer.

On to Argao. Our drive was very much like going to Bogo, with beautiful vistas once we got out of the city traffic. No sugar cane fields going south though, just jungle forest, mountains, and of course, the ocean. It was a beautiful day with an ever-changing ceiling of interesting cloud formations, which kept us from overheating. For being a sunshine person, I've grown to appreciate cloudy days; straight sun with high humidity is almost suffocating.

We didn't know exactly where we were going once we got to Argao, but that's part of the fun of adventuring. We drove around for a bit and found a nature park that we wandered through. It was completely under a canopy of trees, so it was comfortable as long as we didn't move too fast.

There was also good sitting for two duffers whose first missions were to the England Birmingham Mission, only about 10 years apart. They break into Britishtalk on a regular basis!

Across the street from the nature park was this lush rice field. Rice is GREEN. It looks cool and inviting, and apparently the birds do all they can to help harvest the rice grains as they develop. Some rice farmers have huts out in the middle of their fields with a cord connected to all those strings that you see with little flags attached. When the birds are particularly bothersome they sleep in their hut and just yank the cord from time to time, which wiggles all the strings, which scares the birds away. Scarecrows take on new meaning in the rice field setting. I'll probably have to do a photo shoot on them in the future.

Grandpa and Grammi in the nature park by a ficus tree. You all know them as weeping figs. Note my flat hair, Mom. Does it look like a problem? You really can't decide on activity by its effect on your dead protein cells. Whatever! Sister Watkins, on the other hand, who has beautiful curly hair...the effect on her dead protein cells was quite the opposite. Do guys ever think twice about their hair? Twice is about all anyone should have to think about their hair.

Finally we found the town square. The rest of Argao had grown up out toward the main road, and the town square was down toward the ocean. We had a guided tour, which was most informative and enjoyed walking through the square--beautiful pastoral gardens--and through the church, which was built in the early 1800's.

The walls were easily two feet thick, which made it cool and refreshing inside. Birds darted and swooped through the open windows.

I get a sore neck just thinking about painting on a ceiling. The whole church took longer to build than the Salt Lake Temple.

A PIPE ORGAN SITING! Be still my heart! We learned that there are three pipe organs on Cebu. I wonder if the other two are playable. This little gem--heartbreaking to see it in complete disrepair. They use a little electronic console instrument for their services now. A wealthy benefactor?

The bell tower was magnificent--all 158 steps begged to be climbed, but unfortunately the person with the bell tower key was away for the day. We were informed that the bells ring to announce daily mass, plus funerals and marriages. Too bad--we had to be back in Cebu before we could hear the bells ring at 5:00. Church bells ringing is one of the items in my what-makes-me-happy book. We hear them often when we're walking early in the morning, but they are far away.

Evelyn and I enjoying our wait to see if we would be able to climb the bell tower.

Our outing took place the first Saturday of October while many of you were eagerly anticipating General Conference. When you're far from home you can actually adjust your inner General Conference clock by a week and feel just fine about it. Of course we could watch it over the internet, but the pleasure of listening to the words of the prophets with the other members of the Cebu Stake would have been missed.

And it was all pleasure yesterday and today. I know, I know, you've all already discussed their messages and resolved to live more Christ-like lives. Our resolve is only hours old instead of days old but much the same as yours.

I had dear, remeniscent thoughts about the Boise North Stake Choir as the Tabernacle Choir san "O Divine Redeemer" this afternoon. I all but sang with them--knew every word and where the altos come in--thanks to 30 years of really fine musical experiences with Dale Ball, Doug Lemman, Marion Reed, David Young--and these are just the directors and organists. I have learned from--with--so many of you and am rich because of it. Thanks.

I also thought back to the days of gathering as a stake to watch the live broadcasts before General Conference was on TV. I confess I like "lazy feasting" too, where you don't have to get up and hurry on those two Sundays a year. BUT--we sure miss out on the spirit of our stake by being separate in our own homes! Greeting our friends here, sitting with them to hear the words of the prophets, singing with them--it was was a joy! It filled my soul in a whole different way than general conference itself.

The hymns of General Conference were another testimony of the power of music in our lives. They invited the Spirit immediately--I mark my hymnal like I mark my scriptures when the Spirit testifies of eternal truths to me, and I have several new markings, including cross references to other hymns and scriptures.

Dear friends and family--we know the gospel is true. We know it is God's map for us, his children, that we may have a successful mortal experience and return to Him, having learned and grown, and prepared to live with him eternally. We think of you regularly--sometimes even dream about you! We pray for your health and happiness. If you have a worry that we know about, we are praying for that worry. If you have a joy we know about, we are giving thanks for it. It isn't chance that we share this mortal trek; if we didn't need to help each other along the way, we could have each received our own planet, or at the very least, our own continent. As it is, we are greatly blessed and enriched by you and hope we can add to your life in some small way also.

Bye for now,
Kevin and Ann

PS--No short blog entry yet.