Saturday, January 30, 2010

Plant of the week:

Saccharum officinarum, or sugarcane. Plant family: POACEAE

Sugarcane is a giant, tropical, perennial grass that grows up to six metres high. Its stalk contains sweet juice from which sugar can be extracted. It is a principle crop on Cebu, particularly in the north end of the island where we visit branches a couple of times a month.

Sugarcane harvest has been going on for a couple of months now. Pregnant elephants have nothing on these heavily laden trucks that lumber down the highway to deliver the cut stalks to the sugar refinery.

Question: How long does it take after moving to a new place to feel like it's not new any more?

Answer: About 10 months for us. Our daily round seems normal--ordinary--regular. We've been scratching our heads for the last couple of weeks over what to blog about. Hmmm. Thank goodness we have a close relationship with our point and shoot which goes everywhere with us. (And hopefully the battery is charged.) Visual folks (Ann in particular) do better at describing an image. It's probably more interesting for you, too.

It was Sinulog ( seen-nu-lowg) a couple of weekends ago here in Cebu. This is the Catholic festival to celebrate their patron saint Santo Nino. There was an amazing influx of visitors to the city for this celebration; we stayed home so we wouldn't add to the traffic mess. I think it has some similarities to Mardi Gras, including bright costumes and dancing. Following that weekend celebration, the provinces have their own version of Sinulod, including one last weekend in one of the communities we drive through to get to Bogo.

Traffic was routed through the parade staging area, which offered us some rich Kodak moments. Or was it these blue and orange costumes that caught my eye? Could have popped these girls out of Danao into Boise and they would have fit right into Bronco fever.

Every once in a while you find yourself in "the harvest position". You know--in many life experiences, there are those who plant, those who weed and tend, and those who harvest. Well, we didn't really harvest, but enjoyed watching the harvest. Marlon and Janet, a young couple in the Pulambato branch were finally able to be baptized last weekend. "Yeah? And?" You might be asking? They met the missionaries a year ago. If you think of the parable of the sower and where the seeds fell, Marlon and Janet were definitely fertile soil. They received the principles of the gospel with humble, teachable hearts, even the ones that they didn't know how to implement into their lives, such as getting married so they could be baptized. Sigh. For such a family-oriented culture, the Philippine laws make marriage a difficult and expensive endeavor, which encourages those in humble circumstances to simply live together.

Marlon and Janet have been practicing the principle of enduring to the end--being faithful--for the past year. In spite of not being baptized members of the church, they have lived like they already made that sacred covenant. They attend their church meetings and participate fully. They contribute to the health and vitality of the Pulambato Branch. Their home reflects their love of the Lord. With the help of Elder Dizon and Elder Elmer (and all the other missionaries who taught and encouraged them, and worked on the whole marriage project) Marlon and Janet were married on Wednesday and baptized on Saturday.

While they were changing after their baptisms the branch members sang "Come, Come Ye Saints, and the 2nd verse became a tutorial for me in a whole new way. From now on I will always think of Janet and Marlon's faithfulness in trying circumstances when I sing this hymn. "Why should we mourn (is it "moan" for most of us?) or think our lot is hard? Hard is not having enough to eat and walking more than an hour each way to church. And being pregnant and doing the above.

After they were baptized they each shared their testimonies, which reflected a whole year of gospel commitment and living. Very inspiring!

L to R: Elder Dizon--a very intelligent, organized, shaker-mover missionary. Janet, Marlon, Brother Richerd, who baptized them, Elder Elmer, a brand new missionary out from California--upbeat, learning as fast as he can--a very fine fellow.

Watching this whole process take place since we started attending the Polumbato Branch 6 months ago reminds us to be patient and contribute all we can in whatever way possible, knowing that sometimes we'll be a planter and sometimes we'll be a harvester, or maybe a weeder/waterer. ALL are important in a myriad of different planting/harvesting life experiences.

We keep walking. We keep watching ourselves sitting at desks all day, wondering if our backsides will fit into airline seats when it's time to go home. Add to our sitting, our advancing years (what's up with this latest decade body change?!?!?), and we keep walking.

A few weekends ago we decided to walk to the top of a "foothills" mountain a little south of our daily walking spot. Kevin. I will never have a dull, boring life with him. He's always thinking and figuring and planning and arranging and coming up with more ideas than most people have in a year--just for the pleasure of it. Anyway, he was pretty sure we could walk to the top of this hill on a road cut we could see from our daily walking spot. Kaikai was game; we've introduced him to some interesting spots in his home town in the last 10 months. We headed out at about 5:30 on a Saturday morning and had the pleasure of walking up for about an hour and a half. It wasn't difficult or treacherous (treacherous around here can be as simple as a trail with coral chunks sticking out after a light rain. Talk about slick--I've got a "souvineer" from a prevous hiking condition.)

We had pavement part of the way up, as you can see. This definitely wasn't a wilderness adventure, although we didn't see anybody else for 3 hours. Kaikai is very fit and Kevin has long legs. They match pace easily, and I just try to keep up. Sometimes I don't try very hard. There are plants and cloud formations to study afterall. We are a comfortable trio on these outings (we always invite the other walking regulars to join us--maybe one of these days they will be adventurous...) and no one is fussy about pace. Sometimes they are ahead and sometimes I am behind. Sometimes we group up for a picture. (How else am I going to catch up?)

There we are on the top of the mountain. It will be someone's building lot someday. Such a view--city and ocean to the east and south with tropical mountains to the north and west. It was our lot for an hour...

I think we've written about the wide availability of most things here. It is true. We lack nothing, except hugs from our grandkids and cottage cheese. Oh and shoes to fit our big boat American feet. It became a necessity when we realized we'd walked our soles off. Literally.

There are plenty of shoes available here, but BIG shoes? Not so many. We made the rounds of the athletic shoe stores in the mall. After 4-5 stores we quit looking at the particulars of shoes and just asked if they had our sizes. Looking for ready-made clothes is about the same. We American girls have big bones. It's very humbling to try on clothes and have everything be too small...

We could be an advertisement for New Balance shoes I guess. We hope these will get us to the top of Mt. Manungal again.

We had an interesting opportunity to give service last weekend. Actually, what we gave was blood. A young fellow on the other side of the island who had had a 6-year foot problem (BIG problem) that ended in amputation. We could each donate a pint (this one's for you, Dad) and reduce his hospital bill by $200. Nice! We didn't mind at all.

Here is my jokester Kevin after his blood draw. Actually, it was a victory for him. Last time he donated he passed out.

Yesterday was another walk about over on the west side of the island. We had hopes of hiking to a cave with waterfalls in it, but got a late start so just drove over and figured out the particulars so we will know what's what when we do it for real. We met the people who will be our guides next time, including their 4-year-old grandson and his friend. Their hands indicate "handsome or beautiful--guwapo or guwapa. Now you just try to tell us that little kids aren't watching their oldsters and immitating everything they do!

These kids immediately jumped into photo pose when I got out the camera.

Our drive back over the mountains was misty moisty foggy. We kept saying saying to each other (over the noise of the engine and air conditioner) "it's so quiet--listen to that quiet". Maybe we'll move to Challis when we're finished with our mission assignment. Just kidding.

And finally, our digital photo frame died on us a while back. We were getting a little mopey without our friends and loved ones in plain sight, so we created a photo board, sort of like the one in our back hall at home. Now we eat our meals with our friends and loved ones! Do you see yourself here? If not it's because we didn't have a picture of you in our computer file. PLEASE email us one; we'd love to have dinner with you, too. It needs to be a picture with high enough resolution to print well or you will look like you've had a poorly done facelift. OR, you can make our day in another away and snail mail prints! Either way we will be grateful and happy.

Ya know what? Maybe I need to just designate a time to sit and blog and trust that something reasonable will come out of my brain. You are always on our minds and in our hearts as we go about our days. A mission--time away from family and friends--full-time service--enlarges us in ways we couldn't have imagined. It's a delight to be here even as we are challenged. Isn't that God's way? We don't become like him by sitting on the sidelines. Love and blessings, Kevin & Ann