Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Pleasures of the Day

*Wind moving through a Cauayan grove
*Water gurgling down a rocky streambed
*Being called to dinner
*More pictures than words in a blog entry

Jeepney of the week:

Kevin just wandered by and informed me that he already used this jeepney shot. Can't help it if I recognize a good one.

Hello from Cebu--it's hard to believe this blog entry started a month ago; if I was paid to keep a blog I'd have already been fired. Things being as they are, today's adventure entry is the exception not the rule.

We love poking around out in nature, just seeing what's out there that's interesting and pleasing, but keeping up on our office and teaching responsibilities is our top priority, so we fit these excursions in when we can. We usually have an outing on our radar screen; kind of helps us stay refreshed to get out and tromp around.

Saturday, February 13, 2010—Destination: Lukob Cave and Falls, Balamban, Cebu.

Kevin, Kaikai, Eduardo and I headed out at 5:45 this beautiful, tropical morning. Due to our office and apartment location nestled in the middle of the city, we rarely get to see the sun crest. This was my morning! It does my soul good to see that first diamond of light.

It takes about an hour to drive over the mountains to the west coast of Cebu. It is an easy drive in a good vehicle, though the road is steep and windy after you crest the mountain ridge.

“The very top” begs for a pause. Looking west you see the shipyard in Balamban where they build small ocean craft such as ferries. Our “pause” was Kaikai’s first opportunity to practice his craft. He’s actually quite an accomplished photographer but he had some things to practice in mind, such as fast shots. Here he’s shooting toward the east, our recent path.

The technicalities of the business were discussed and taught. I’ve already voiced a desire for a bigger camera, right?

This is Eduardo. He is a retired history teacher who also walks in Beverly Hills. He is very well read, very fit and adds to the lively conversation that makes our walking time fly by.

At this point I relinquished our point-and-shoot camera and Kevin became shooter #2. My job here on out was to be in the pictures. Eduardo helped shoulder this responsibility.

A welcome sign this significant seems like it ought to be at the entrance of a booming city; Balamban is a cozy town. The arch is actually a good way up the mountain. You know when you drive through the arch that you're over the top. Before you get to the top you pass fresh vegetable stands and live plant merchants like Jesusa. (I should have pictures of these—their plants are a fabulous live quilt bordering both sides of the highway.)

We arrived at the designated start point, having picked up Sister Fuller, (red t-shirt) one of the Senior Sister Missionaries serving in Balamban. We also had local guides, Nini, Jun & Bro. Saavedra, which seemed nice but we weren’t convinced until we arrived at the falls that we really needed them. Oh well—when in Cebu do as the Cebuanos do.

It’s a good idea to ask for angels to attend all explorations, whether they be urban or nature.

We started on a road that veered off onto a trail. Call it a rural sidewalk.

Now put that cell phone away! Just BE where you are.

Our first creature of note was a carabao (that’s pronounced CARE a bow) and its baby. They are used extensively for farming here—plow pulling (wait till you see the picts. at the end of the entry) in regular fields as well as rice paddies. The happiest carabao have a mud bath every day. They are mild-mannered, hard-working beasts of burden that I have a soft spot for. Maybe I’ll get to ride one before we come home…. Sorry this mamma's face is in the shadow--quite a look she gave us, though not as ferocious as the head position would indicate. Do I look like that when I’m looking over my glasses? Hmm. Middle-aged carabao?

Baby Beast of Burden

Our general path was up the riverbed, but Nini and Jun knew the faster way, which was sometimes in the riverbed and sometimes crossing it to a shortcut. As you can see, it wasn’t a roaring river at this point. Part of the water from the falls is dammed and diverted for irrigation.

There was quite a bit of picture taking of the one taking pictures.

Sister Fuller and I wore hats and Nini carried an umbrella that she put up every time we were in open meadows. Filipinas carry umbrellas for shade purposes as much as for rain protection.

This is the source of Day’s Pleasure #1. These bamboo stands dot the landscape, both in cultivated landscapes and nature. The arching canes are characteristic. The sound of the breeze through them—think of a pine forest in a breeze, then move it to the tropics. Ahhh.

We crossed and recrossed the riverbed. Was it always the same riverbed? Hmmm. Don’t know. After about an hour of walking we came to this spot and knew we were getting close.

Do they shop at the store as well as wash their clothes on Saturday, getting ready for Sunday? In a shady spot like this laundry would be a pleasure.

Nature’s drying rack.

Leapin frogs! Look at this little guy! There were lots of them in the riverbed as we were approaching the cave.

This one really wanted to make friends with me. I caught it mid-jump in my hat, then forced it to have a photo moment with me before I turned it loose again.

This is the place. Most of us shifted a bit—shoes to sandals or pant legs up. It was a most pleasing spot to just sit:

Snacks, anyone?

Looking back down the river from the mouth of the cave.

Let’s check out the rock formations inside.

Now how are we going to get up there?

Big rocks. Very big rocks.

Sister Fullmer is a high energy missionary mom. Her youngest son is serving in Virginia right now.

The expedition crew: L to R—Nina, Jun, Sister Fullmer, Sister Reed, Bro. Saavedra, Kaikai, Eduardo & Kevin

For serving with 120 young missionaries, you've probably noticed that our adventures don't include them. Our preparation day is on Saturday and theirs is on Wednesday.

Time to head back.

We stopped for fried bananas and a visit at a little store.

Sister Fullmer is an avid camera clicker too.

A carabao spa. There were seven lounging on the banks or in the water.

The trail took us through this farmer’s field. Maybe this was my chance to ride a carabao. Yes? No. Rats. I’m ready when the opportunity presents itself.

“Can I try plowing?” Sure.

It’s harder than it looks.

The plowing duo on the return round. The carabau accepted this unskilled plowboy pretty well.

You’re still alive if you want to try new things.
See ya in the next adventure.
Kevin & Ann

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Take a Stand!

Look who Kevin found in the kitchen sink as he started doing the dishes this morning--one of our midnight warriors! Go little gecko! Patrol away! Lead out in ant warfare! (Actually he was kind of dazed, and after his photo shoot he might be blind...)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Inspectors Have Returned

Jeepneys of the week:

We saw these spiffy roadsters on our drive to Bogo today. We'll probably feature some trikes in the near future since they're also a common form of public transportation on the island.

Plant of the week:

Chlorophytum comasum, a.k.a. the common spider plant.
Think about every tropical plant you've ever tried to grow and put it out in the landscape. Actually, this guy lives in our bathroom, thriving under fluorescent lights. Studies have shown that spider plant is quite effective in cleaning indoor air by absorbing chemicals including formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and carbon monoxide in homes or offices. As you can see, the blooms are a miniature treasure.

When we arrived in Cebu last March and settled into our apartment, we became aware of an unexpected bonus to living above the mission office: free inspectors. These are individuals, zealous in the business of home inspection. Every morning in those early months we arose wondering what the inspectors had found. Were we neat and tidy? Were we diligent in wiping away every last crumb? They never said much one way or the other, but sent us resounding messages of success or failure. If we succeeded in our duty they left quietly. If we failed they called in their associates to assist them in home inspection. Without so much as a word we knew what the inspectors thought of our home maintenance.

I think we've gotten better at home keeping, which seems ironic after 30 years of practicing in Boise. But as I said, the inspectors were powerful without uttering a word.

We got so good at our tidy-business that the inspectors were called elsewhere; other homes that needed their services much more than ours.

Or did they leave because of their fear of the thugs in our neighborhood? I’m sure we’d hear the warfare in the night if we didn’t sleep with ear plugs and the air conditioner running. Warfare or not, even the thugs were tidy; no trace of anything unusual in the morning.

Recently though,--hmmm. Could it be the condition of our dear neighbor’s apartment which brought the inspectors back to the neighborhood? Our beloved neighbors have been sort of busy and distracted lately.

Inspectors are single-minded in their work. They don’t make an appointment, they just show up, usually at an odd time when you have your guard down. Their relentlessness begins immediately; no polite knocking or waiting patiently for you to make order. Your focus shifts from whatever you were previously doing to appeasing the inspectors. If you’re lucky they won’t bring their entire inspection force immediately, but give you time to repent and reorganize.

Sigh. Where are those thugs when you need them? They are usually persistent in their own right. On vacation? Napping? One can only hope they get word about the return of the inspectors and return themselves.

In case you’ve got a knot in the pit of your stomach thinking we really live in a dangerous, horrible place, we’re talking about ants and geckos. The locals have mixed reviews on these two characters; some shrug their shoulders at the ants and accept them as a normal part of life. Others cheer for the geckos who eat the ants but leave gecko poops. C’mon now. How big can a gecko poop really be? We favor the thugs, poop and all. (Compostable? Their food source is very clean.) At least the geckos are shy and retiring and wouldn’t dream of inspecting a batch of newly-baked cookies that need to cool before being put away. The ant’s though—grrr. We wonder if our restless nights have something to do with tiny squeals we almost hear (remember the ear plugs) while warfare is taking place in our kitchen.

It’s an uncommonly beautiful Saturday and we are on our way to Bogo. For being a tropical paradise, most days aren’t drop-dead beautiful like today. It’s warm but not blistering hot, the sky is bright blue and there are big, puffy ocean clouds giving us something interesting to look at in case the road traffic isn’t interesting enough.

Kevin is very good at this drive. Think of the last time you played a driving video game. That’s what he does for 3 hours at a time on these drives to Bogo. We just passed a funeral procession (2nd one today—sometimes they proceed down the middle of the road, sometimes to the right) and you would have been proud of his quick reflexes swerving around a road sign in the middle of the street while avoiding the funeral procession on the right. Sometimes he’s having so much video driving fun that I can’t bare it and just go to sleep…

We enjoyed a vigorous walk this morning with Eduardo, who we will properly introduce you to in the near future, came home to our “tidy” apartment (no ants that we could see), cleaned, breakfasted, and now this stimulating drive out of the city. It wasn’t bad getting beyond Mandaue today. We’re on deck for piano class at 4:00, branch choir practice at 5:00, then dinner with Ron and Eva, who we will also introduce you to in the near future.

Kevin is remarkably steady in how he responds to the busyness of our life here. I, on the other hand, get weary. Sometimes I just need to lie quietly and read a book for a few hours. Conversely, he keeps going like the energizer bunny. I guess we’re a good combination because he can take up my slack when I’m weary, and I'm sure I do something worthwhile for him.

We are almost to Las Flores and have decided to stop in and say hello to Ian and Virgie and get Janice to make us a sandwich for the road. The ocean is a good match for the sky today; pleasing to say the least. We will enjoy it from the car so that we don't create anxious hurry in getting to our piano class on time.

This is the little hotel we stay at in Bogo. The rooms are cozy but clean, and it's a quiet night's sleep even though we are in a double bed instead of a queen or king.

Sunday afternoon--We've returned, having taught and socialized and worshipped and taught some more. The piano classes are good because the students want to learn. How can you be unhappy with students who are happy to be with you? The two-week span between lessons is a little troubling to me; I like the idea of a weekly lesson, and preferably one-on-one. We do what we can, right?

Kevin is proving a very capable piano class assistant. He has studied the course I teach from and knows enough to take the students through their paces on note recognition. If we team teach we can divide the class and have them rotate through both our sections, giving them almost individual attention. I really believe in private piano lessons, and the success of my Cebu students proves the point. We'll do all we can for these Bogo & Polambato students in the very limited time we have.

Kevin studying his flashcards before the Bogo class.

Today we are both in good form and grateful for the labors of the day. We hope you are too. Our dear friends Lex and Karen Cranney are in the middle of their own life chapter at the moment. Just send your faith heavenward for them, as Lex (85) just had new heart valves installed and there are interesting twists in that recovery process. Our completely selfish thoughts are, “not yet, Lord. Lex is still so young and full of life.”

Our love and blessings and THANKS for your prayers and cheery emails. They mean a lot to us, and we enjoy sending you a personal hello back as time permits. Have a great week.

Kevin & Ann in Cebu