Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When Pigs Fly

We had the opportunity to go to Negros Oriental a couple of weeks ago. Were we looking tired? Drawn? President and Sister Hansen assigned us to go and—hmmm. What was our assignment?

We buttoned up the office and headed out on a Thursday afternoon. The goal: Amlan before dark. If only there were sidewalks here so foot traffic wouldn’t be relegated to the road, raising the driver/navigator anxiety rate to an alarming level.

You know we enjoy our drives north along the Camotes Sea coast to Bogo; the drive to the Amlan ferry port took us along the coast around the southern tip of Cebu, then back north on the west side for a few kilometers.

There are two routes to this little port: along the coast or over the mountains. Neither is shorter or faster; what do you want to look at while you travel? Ocean or mountains. I think there are fewer buses on the coastal road. (See previous posts for bus editorials.)

Pleasant, relaxed sigh once out of town (a good hour’s worth of driving). The road widened a bit and we were blessed with the shade of large, old trees creating an alley to motor through. This was a hint of Northern Germany and we savored the sights and relaxed feeling of this beautiful, easier stretch of road.

Paradise doesn’t go on endlessly in this life; ours ended when we were overtaken by a double-decker truckload of pigs. Actually, paradise just put on a different face; we went from riding along blissfully, slurping up the tropical scenery to being entertained Sus scrofa-style.

I’m not sure why our whole life has been spent in the city when we love animals so much. Pigs. They’re very intelligent, you know. Why couldn’t they have been created to stink less? They’re an important part of life here, the Cebuano term being lechon baboy, which means BBQ’d pig. What can I say? These fellas were probably on their way to a number of celebrations via the BBQ spit. It’s quite an art, baboy preparation, but that’s for another story.

Initially it was just an interesting moment—a load of pigs--but the truck stayed right in front of us for a good long time which gave us opportunity for further observation.

Wiggily, squealy porkers! Snouts and tails poking out the sides and back! Watch out!! Slooow up for a moment or get a pig shower! (Eeeewww…) Where’s the sassy music when you need it? …Bodies swaying to the—no wait a minute, these aren’t dancing creatures, the truck is careening around another vehicle at high speed! Can’t the driver feel his conveyance lean heavily to the left? You’ve heard of pigs in blankets—how about pigs on blacktop when the truck tips over?

It didn’t tip over, but kept growling and groaning and squealing down the highway, the driver and one passenger in the cab, strategically in front of the pigs and two other fellows in back with the classic Philippine t-shirt mask covering their entire heads except for an eye slit. That load of lechon baboy was sure in a hurry; what was the date they were late for?

This was prime piggertainment as we watched wide-eyed, and laughed and joked about the scene before us. Our nice, tight, air conditioned car helped us laugh instead of respond like all the folks walking along the edges of the road. All that fresh air being perfumed by Pig-nel #5--oh my!

Can smells cause pain? I swear we witnessed pain as we saw walker after walker double over, run wildly ahead, cover their face with their shirt, skirt or hanky, grimace. If we could only have stayed in our Pig-nel #5-free car and heard their response…I think mankind would benefit from raw, unrestrained laughter like ours on a daily basis.

The changing face of paradise meant that we eventually passed them for good. We did notice the beauty of the coastline and small towns we scurried through but the shadows were long on the road by this time and we didn’t really know how much further we had to go, or how far our drive would be once we made the ferry passage.

“I think that’s it”—a left turn, then 20 yards to the ferry where there was only one spot left. A snug fit, so the crewmen signal left, left, left—a little right—stop. The ferry tailgate lifted and we pull away from the dock.

Just as the pig truck turned into the parking lot.

Imagine that—our good turn for the day was simply beating the pig truck to the port so all those passengers didn’t have to endure a Pig-nel #5 passage. They weren’t aware of their blessing; ours was a big, happy dose of renewal.

The 45-minute passage was another vision of paradise; calm water, moonlight for ambiance and piggy-thoughts to keep a grin on our faces. It was a fine weekend away before even arriving in Amlan.

Elder and Sister Brown’s 3-bedroom apartment was our final destination for the night. Talk about paradise! They live at a beach front resort, and if we didn’t know our assignment was an inspired call, we might have assignment envy. We have joked about their location—Amlan and the black sand beach—Paradise, and our location—Cebu and Salinas Drive—Purgatory. What does this mean? Are we in a character-building chapter? Don’t worry President & Sister Hansen—we are completely committed to our service, even on Salinas Drive.

For the next 2½ days we wandered around the island, poked in tourist shops (after a year?!?) visited missionaries, attended branch socials, helped with Primary and enjoyed the Browns. They are lovely folks from Canada with deep, abiding testimonies of the gospel. Too bad they have to live in paradise and we otherwise; we’d enjoy regular association with them. Anyway, this blog entry is already up to almost 1,000 words so I’ll shift into picture mode. Oh those sunrises! The interesting people! The refreshment of these two old office bodies!

Elder & Sister Brown, President (mission presidency) & Sister Wolf, and you recognize us. Don't the two fellas on the back row look like they could be brothers? President Wolf is from Germany.

On Friday we did a walkabout, seeing the southern coastline and up over the mountains. We found that not everything in the tropics is green and lush. In fact some of the terrain almost reminded us of our desert between Mountain Home and Twin Falls.

More BBB’s—beloved beasts of burden. They plow and they pull, and all they ask in return is a mud bath every day.

We whizzed by this fair-skinned fella and had to go back for a picture. An albino carrabao! Sunblock anyone? I didn’t see a mudhole…

We bumped back east through the mountains, coming to the coastal plain and a vista of rice fields. These are probably the prettiest one’s we’ve seen.

Back at the Brown’s house, Kevin made friends with the resort mascot, a monkey that lives on a cross-pole under a shade tree. Kevin was curious whether he’d interact with strangers; “cashews, little fella?” He was a sassy one, thumping Kevin on the head when he got too close.

The black sand beach got a piece of our attention every day. We walked as soon as the gates were open—about 6:00, which meant no sun crest experience. What? Locked in at the paradise resort? The dogs have the run of the place all night (no need to hire a guard) and they were to be respected unless you wanted teeth prints in your leg.

Beach connoisseurs pooh-pooh black sand beaches as being too hot. However, these two Idaho inlanders couldn’t get enough of walking and wading and visiting and shell collecting.

I was about my shell business with the neighborhood girls. I just wish they wanted to chat as much as they wanted to look at my white skin and blond hair! It’s refreshing to spend time with kids since most of our mission life is spent with adults. It’s the balance thing.

Kevin taught the boys how to play tic tac toe in the sand.

The local fishermen go out before sunrise, get their catch of the day and sell it right of their boats. Most caught tiny fish—less than 2” long which get fried and eaten whole.

I requested an early dog lock-up for Sunday morning so we’d get to supervise the sunrise at least once. Ahhh.

I hardly know how the sun manages every morning without our assistance.

We brought back a little black sand from paradise for the office. Need to mull? Pass a few minutes before your interview? Rearrange the ocean artifacts & comb designs in the sand.

Our next transfers take place on April 1st, making the next two weeks the lull before the storm. Need anything from us? Now is a good time to be in touch because it's highly likely you'll get a quick response. It's good to know the gospel is true. We love you and pray for you every day. Wouldn't life be lonely if we'd each gotten our own planet?