Sunday, April 7, 2013

HOME AGAIN

My feelings just before leaving the Philippines:
It is with such mixed emotions that you leave your mission and return home. I have always heard this, but now I can confirm that it is true! These 18 months have just flown by! Randy and I have grown to love so many people here, that the thought of never seeing them again makes me just want to sob! As we began telling people "goodbye", I could only promise that we would again be reunited in the eternities. I look forward to that time when we will all pick up right where we left off with our wonderful friendships. At least I know that Haidi, our director, will be coming to Salt Lake City each year for training, and there are others that I feel quite sure we will see again in the U.S. How blessed Randy and I feel. We are both so grateful to our Father in Heaven for this experience. We told our dear friends in our Malaya Branch that we would return when the Morong District becomes the Morong Stake....I would also love to attend the open house when the Urdaneta Temple is completed. We shall see!

Arriving home:
It was the saddest feeling to walk out of our apartment for the last time, and lock the door. We both made sure we looked one last time out our living room window at the beautiful view of Manila and the bay. It was sad to say goodbye to the security workers there at the Pioneer Towers as we pulled our luggage through the foyer and out the door for the last time. The Dupaix's even got up at 4:30 a.m. to help us with our luggage and walk us down to the van waiting to take us to the airport. There stood Clem...now our good friend...the same man that picked us up at the airport 18 months ago when we arrived...and still with that happy smile on his face! Because of a very kind and unexpected act of a former student of Randy's, our flight on Delta Airlines had been upgraded to Business Class...so we flew home in style! 

Our Family Greeting Us at the Airport


Welcome Home!


Together With Our Family On the Day We Reported Our Mission


It was a beautiful morning and as we ascended into the clouds, I said goodbye to this island nation. Our lives had changed and we would never be the same.

Now we were in for another new experience...Business Class in a 747...Wow!!! I almost felt guilty...was it really okay to fly home from a mission in luxury???....AND I felt sad for those uncomfortable people in coach!! So I just laid my luxurious seat down flat into a bed, closed the cubicle around me, pulled the blanket up and went to sleep!!!  It was heavenly! We had a layover in Japan and then took off for the 8 hour flight to Seattle....I was now getting so excited that I couldn't sleep anymore! What a beautiful sight it was as we circled the Seattle area preparing to land...more tears came tumbling down as I felt so much joy and gratitude to be safely back in our beloved United States of America. We expected customs to be another test in patience, but they waved us right through...we didn't have to open ANYTHING!! We were so grateful that the last leg from Seattle to Salt Lake City was short, because we were getting giddy!! After landing in SLC, we were almost the first to get off our fight and we headed right for the escalators that would take us down to our family! As we rode down the escalator and the lower level came into view, we heard the biggest cheer with laughter and clapping...and there was our beautiful family...oh, how we love them! 
We met with President Gilleland, our Stake President, to be released, and at the same time he called us to teach the Stake Missionary Prep class...little did any of us know that a huge change would be announced that very weekend with regards to the age requirement for missionaries...so we were excited to be right back in the thick of things! We loved being able to share experiences from our mission as we spoke in our ward. We have done several firesides and are now on the "speaking circuit" through our Stake. As we look back on all the feelings (anxieties!!!) we had prior to our mission, we both agree that this is the best thing we could ever do to bless our children and grandchildren...serve the Lord!! Randy and I both love the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith found in Doctrine and Covenants 128:22
       "Brethren (Bird family), shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward.     Courage, brethren (family); and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad..."
Yes, we shall go on...for I know without a doubt that this is Christ's church and this gospel message is soooo true.  It will be a privilege to serve the Lord wherever we are needed...but for a moment, we will just enjoy being home. Then we will see what the Lord has in store for us next...it is sure to be an adventure!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

UNIQUELY FILIPINO


There are many things in the Philippines that are just simply "unique" to them...or perhaps to much of Asia...but, basically, different from what we are used to in the western part of the United States. I am going to list those that we especially noticed. Some will have photos and some I will just tell about.
1. Free Size...interpretation: One Size Fits All
2. Buy One Take One...interpretation: Buy One Get One Free
3. Isles and isles of boxed milk (not in a cooler) in every supermarket...it lasts for months!
4. Many shelves of Vienna Sausages, Spam, and Sardines.
5. "Batch of 2012"...interpretation: "Class of 2012"
6. The need to build a new chapel anywhere is determined, in part, by how many jeepney rides a member must pay for to arrive at the chapel...if over 2, then they start to consider a new building.
7. Cigarettes...MANY Filipinos smoke and they buy one cigarette at a time, not a package. Vendors sell them along the street and walk out into traffic to sell them also. If someone stops in their vehicle to buy one, then the vendor also lights the cigarette for them.
8. Eggs are in cartons on shelves in supermarkets...not kept in coolers.
9. Security guards are in every store or business (usually at the door) with loaded guns.
10. Workers in the Philippines work very long hours 6 days a week, and sometimes 7.
11. When shopping in a department store or clothing store, a sales clerk tries to stay right by you. If you want to try something on, they are more than happy to come right in the fitting room to help you.
12. Every grocery, department, or clothing store has soooo many employees...and they all have their college degrees to get these jobs!
13. The Philippines is quite the "shoe capitol" of the world. 
14. Even though many people are very poor, they will be dressed very stylish.
15. In many of the "wet markets" you pick out the chicken you want and they kill and prepare it right there before your eyes!
16. The pigs are truly "pink"....just like a crayon!
17. The nice malls have beautiful movie theaters and the concessions are very inexpensive.
18. Every supermarket has a "senior citizens" line and they are so quick to assist you.
19. The most popular thing for tweens and teens to do when they hang out is karaoke...they ALL love to sing!!
20. Nannies are EVERYWHERE!!! If you are even middle class, you have a nanny. Labor is so cheap, but goods are not!
21. Restrooms....you must always carry your own toilet paper, it is rarely supplied because people steal it. Used toilet paper goes in a waste basket...not down the toilet! Many times there will be no toilet seat...just the bowl!
22. Male Urinals....yes, there are quite a few of them on the sidewalks in large cities...but, most often, you see men relieving themselves everywhere and anywhere!!!
23. Everything that grows in warm humid climates, grows extra big...including the bugs! The cockroaches are SUPER-SIZED!!!
24. When you lead the singing in church (if there is no piano), the chorister sings the first line to the congregation and then says, "Okay, sing" and she leads away.
25. Christmas music starts being played on September 1. Decorations may be up until February.
26. There are no "heaters" in the cars, or businesses, or homes, or our apartment....just air-conditioners, if you are very lucky.


A Majority of the Homes are Made of Cement and Cinderblocks, with Pieces of Metal for the Roof

Much of the Cooking is Done Outside

The Caribou is the Most Valued Work Animal

The Wiring for Phones and Electricity is Just the Craziest Ever

A Good Place to Buy Fish...S&R (like Costco)...the Fish are on Ice

The More Common Way of Finding Fish for Sale

Typical Morning Meat Market

Mowing a Lawn

Fun Shopping at a Flea Market

Monday, February 18, 2013

DRIVING AND TRANSPORTATION

This was the first and greatest adjustment to the Philippines. Upon our arrival and being driven from the airport to the administration office and then to our apartment, my husband, who feels right at home driving in any large city in the U.S., said, "I can never drive here!!"  I totally agreed!!  The driver that picked us up reassured us that traffic rules are only a "suggestion" as he made a left turn from the far right lane! The very next morning we went  to get our drivers licenses...what a relief when we didn't have to drive for them or take a driving test (is that really a GOOD thing???) but just give a urine sample and money...what an experience that was! Long story short....after a month or so my husband could get a job as a taxi driver here...yes, he has progressed (regressed!!!) to that point and can drive like a true Filipino.

The rules of driving are basically this: FLOW--It doesn't matter if lines are painted on a road...it's best to pretend there are none...there may be 3 lanes painted but 5 lanes of traffic in those...someone suggested to think of it as bumper cars...that helps...just flow with the traffic.  BIG--This principle is easy to remember without difficulty.  The bigger the vehicle, the higher the priority for occupying traffic space and being granted the right of way. PICK--This principle is also simple.  Whichever vehicle has any portion of it in front of another vehicle...it gets the right of way.  NO-SEE CHICKEN--When entering an intersection, with traffic on your left or your right, you must look straight ahead and maintain your speed as you cut them off.  If you slow down or glance to the left or right, that  may be spotted by the oncoming driver and then he will challenge you to the right of way. I know...it sounds simple!

There are a few road/traffic signs that we had to come to understand....or not! U-turn Slot: On the main highway in metro-Manila (EDSA) you could almost never make a left hand turn...you would have to drive in the opposite direction until you came to a U-turn Slot and you would turn around there and go the direction you needed. Going to the Manila Administration Office (MPAO) each day to work was an entirely different experience than coming back home to our apartment. Street Names: Frequently you could not FIND the name or after being lost you would discover the name of that street had been changed to some other name....political leaders were always doing that! Stay On Lane: We never figured out if you were supposed to drive on the lines that suggested a lane or between the lines since cars were everywhere!! Fly Over: We call that an Over Pass. No Swerving: Suggesting you are to not wander between multiple lanes...this is completely disregarded! Counter Flow: This is when you find that your lanes going one direction are all backed up and there may not be as much traffic in the lanes coming the opposite way, so someone decides to make a new lane out of the ones going the opposite direction (basically the wrong way on a one way street...) and a whole bunch of cars follow suit and soon you have a complete gridlock and no one can move in any lane....it is infuriating!!!!!...and happened many times to us. Lay By: A place up ahead to pull over. No Over Taking: No passing...definitely disregarded.

 Besides the "rules" of traffic, I must add to the equation a list of everything that can legally occupy road space: cars, trucks, buses, tricycles (motorbike with side car attached), jeepnies (elongated jeep that carries 20 to 30 passengers), pedestrians, funerals, bicycles, kalesa (horse drawn cart), caribao (water buffalo), children, family parties, and rice drying....just to name a few!!

Traffic on EDSA by Our Apartment

Typical of Metro-Manila Traffic

 Drivers Don't Always Obey Traffic Signs

Jeepney Terminal

Randy After Our Tricycle Ride From the Church in Laoag

Motorcycle with Couple Holding an Umbrella to Protect From the Sun

Filipino Father and Daughter on Bicycle with Bag of Food from LDS Charities

Tricycle From the Back on Our Way to Malaya for Church

Because there are several modes of transportation mainly used in the Philippines, I will list them from the least expensive to the most expensive: Walking, Bicycle, Tricycle...very widely used,  Jeepney ....along with the tricycle this is the most common mode, Bus, Taxi, Own a motorcycle, Own a Car...usually have a hired driver, Boat...necessary for travel between islands that do not have airports close by, Airplane...because of so many islands to go between, the airports are very busy and quite inexpensive.

Although there is so much congested traffic, a very small percentage of Filipinos own their own car....there are just millions of people all going somewhere each day.

I must add that some of our funniest experiences in the Philippines were the times we were lost while driving. Usually we were with Elder and Sister Goss. Some that stand out are: trying to find the location in Caloocan (it was behind a certain Catholic church) for the kick-off event for National Family Week, the trip to Cavite for Leni's internment, and a particular trip to the airport 

I drove exactly three times! All were on holidays when the traffic was much less congested because most of the people go to the provinces to be with family on these days. However, I did PRAY alot, as did our family, for our safety each day....and yes, we actually made it the entire 18 months without a single fender bender!