2009 in Review

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: amy's year at a glance
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Kinder Graduation

When I looked out over the crowd, I saw mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, grandparents and neighbors all waiting for the program to begin. We were still waiting for two of the kinder children to arrive. The program began and the excitement grew as the children sang some of their favorite songs. Some of them even did an ethnic dance. They were so adorable.

Our speaker, a friend of mine that I took TESOL with, came with her husband and son, equipped with puppets, and talked about the importance of education. She asked if any of the children wanted to be doctors when they grew up, one brave girl raised her hand. Then she asked if anyone wanted to be an attorney, the same girl raised her hand! Finally the others got over their shyness and raised their hands when they heard something they liked. They got to wear the hat that fit that profession. At the end she put all the hats in a box and put a bow on the top. She shared with the parents that education is a gift that we can give our children that cannot be taken away from them.
The morning continued with the highlight of the giving of certificates and special awards. As each mother came up to accept the award with their child, we noticed one little boy was missing. His mother came up and shared how her son was too sick to come. We were all teary-eyed with her knowing how much this day meant for him and her!

Overall it was a wonderful day and then to top it off one of the mother’s invited us to their home for a special graduation lunch! It was more like a feast!

Elementary Tutorial Closing Program

For several days you could hear the excitement of the children in the community as they talked about their upcoming closing program for their Tutorial Classes with us. The day finally came and things were all set to go. The children had taken baths and gotten dressed up in their best clothes. The girls wore malongs (a traditional “tube skirt” made of handwoven or machine-made multi-colored cotton cloth) and head coverings. They were so excited. It rained and then the power went out. But just as we were to begin the program the sun came out and the power returned.
The children had been practicing for weeks. They rehearsed their special numbers (singing and an ethnic dance) and practiced reciting the poems and multiplication tables they had memorized. The program ran smoothly and they did not forget a thing. They even said “bow” when they were suppose to bow before and after their recitation. It was so cute!!!!
They were so proud to receive the certificate of participation in our program. It was because of their interest that these classes began and so they were the first batch to be recognized. They are excited to study again next year. One young girl will be starting high school and told us that she hopes that we will also start high school tutorial classes. We will just have to wait and see next year!

Christmas in the Philippines

Every year my Christmas is a little different. Last year at this time I was on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam enjoying a Christmas getaway with some friends. This is only the second time that I have stayed put here at the Bay for Christmas. Normally I travel to Manila to be with friends before our annual meetings. So this year was different that I was alone (not staying with friends). I was feeling homesick and hadn’t had time to bake much and it wasn’t quite feeling like Christmas.

Christmas Eve morning I made myself chocolate chip pancakes and sat down with a cup of coffee to read my devotions. I was on Psalm 136. It was God’s perfect timing reminding me of His love for me and that I am not alone. (this is the chapter that reflects on the Israelites’ history and repeats “His faithful love endures forever” after each line.

After this nice breakfast and reminder that I am dearly loved, I started baking a few essentials like peanut butter blossoms (those cookies with the Hershey kisses in the middle) and the cupcakes with the cream cheese filling. I handed out some baked goods to neighbors (a great time to meet some of them) and headed off to my team leader’s house for dinner. We enjoyed a snack of cookies and homemade fudge! Yum! and were about to play some games on Wii when the power went out. So we opted to play Apples to Apples by candlelight. Finally the electricity came back on only to go off about 10 minutes later. We got the candles back out and finished the game. We had a wonderful feast complete with pickled hearing (not my choice but Craig and the kids loved it). I loved that cheese ball with the nuts (good cheese is a rarity here). After relaxing some and having some home-made peppermint ice cream. I headed back to my house.

Playing games by candlelight My Christmas Photo!

The roads were mostly bare it was almost 11pm. I went to the neighbors house to celebrate Noche Buena. I ate once again (I was so stuffed but didn’t want to hurt their feelings). Their cousins were there playing games and filling the porch with laughter. At midnight, we exchanged gifts and heard the many fireworks going off in the background. Around 1am I said goodbye and headed back home. It is so common for Filipinos to stay up until midnight to bring in Christmas. Christmas day is spent sleeping or with family.

This morning I was able to watch the Christmas Eve Service at my home church! It was so neat to watch and greet everyone.

Christmas Eve Service in PA

I then headed over to my old house to have Christmas breakfast with my new teammates. As we were washing dishes the room began to shake. At first we thought we were dizzy only to realize it was an earthquake. CNN said it was a 6.2 magnitude and the epicenter was only 35 miles away from us. Thankfully everyone is okay and no damage done that we know of.

Christmas here is always different. This year there were power outages, tons of fireworks, an earthquake and the neighbors constant loud singing on their rented Karaoke machine, but God always provides other families for me to celebrate with and an enjoyable time.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

Who is ringing the doorbell at this time of night?

Last night we were just finishing up a movie and about to turn off the TV when the doorbell rang. It was 10:30pm. We were two single females in a new neighborhood. We thought who would be ringing the bell at this time of night. Instead of going out to the gate of our compound we shouted “Who is there?” No one replied. Then it rang again several more times. We went out to the porch and asked again. Still no answer. We went inside the house and again it rang. We didn’t want to go out especially when there was no answer. Then Tata, the woman who lives with me, went into her room to look out her window to make sure no one was  the back of our compound. Then I heard a loud buzzing and I looked up at where the doorbell box was. Then there was a big spark and it smelt like something was burning. I sent a text message through my cell phone to  Steve and his wife, my new teammates living where I use to live. He called me right away and said that I could disconnect the wires to make it safer. I climbed up the metal ladder (with rubber shoes on) and clipped the wires. Again there was a loud spark and a burnt smell, but thankfully we could go to bed and not worry about a fire starting.

Moving Tragedy Turned Into Blessing

Where do I begin? I knew that I would be moving sometime this year when a new couple would join our NGO. The catch however was we did not know when they would arrive. In August or September I was told they would likely arrive the end of November. So I began to hunt for houses. Either the house was extremely small, completely furnished or not in good condition. There was an American family who lived in a beautiful house that returned to the States back in June. I thought maybe that house would work but it was kind of big for two people. But as we realized there were no other options I decided to see if it was still available.

I spoke to the owner and she said that a family had rented it temporarily while they were building their own house and it would be available in October or November. It was perfect. My team leader and his wife saw the place and thought it would be a great place of rest for me.

I was told that the family renting the house would move out on November 16th; which was perfect since the couple that would take over my current house was arriving on the 21st. I received an text message on my cellphone on the 11th that it would now NOT be available until the 27th. That was my first big disappointment. I had been packing for months and had my mind set on moving.

The couple arrived along with their 20ft container. We managed fine but a house with two sets of furniture made it a little tight, but manageable. They could not unpack their things until I moved out. The contract was signed and I was told that the house would be available on the 28th. The family renting the house could not move out on the 27th since it is bad luck for Chinese to move on a day with a number that is written with the stroke going down (their son-in-law I believe is Chinese Filipino). It is better luck to move on a day with a number written with the stroke going up like “8.” They were going to move out at 3am and I could be there as early as 5am, but I told the owner I would meet here at 8am. We were so excited as we drove over only to arrive and find the family alon

g with all their things still occupying the house. They had not even started packing. The owner said she now wouldn’t meet me until 10am but for me to wait. It was as if she wanted me there to give the family pressure to get a move on it. Needless to say I was frustrated. My friends arranged their schedule to help me clean and move in. All four of us were sitting in a little storage room outside waiting and waiting. The owner still didn’t come at 10:30 so I called her. She said it was the last day to enroll her niece in school. I told her no way and that she needed to come. It was not fair that she kept changing what she said. When she arrived she was also in shock with what she saw.

The family wanted to leave their furniture and things hanging on the wall until their house was finished being built. I understood that their house was not yet livable, but I felt that they knew for several months that I would be

moving in and they should have figured out what to by this time. It took them until 7pm that night to get all of their things including a rottwieler dog in a cage off of the compound. They filled the small storage room with some of their other things.

When we entered the house after lunch (all of their things cluttered the patio and driveway) we saw how filthy the house was. As if they had not cleaned the house the four months they were living here. The grass was up t

o our knees and the water drainage around the house was filled with black water. It smelled so bad we thought the sewage tank overflowed. (Most houses here have drainage around the house leading the street. Not underground pipes for sinks and washing machines.)

The owner cleaned the house with her mother and sister, while the brother cleaned up the drainage problem. We noticed there are many repairs to be done. The owner promised to be back the next day to help with her 3 nieces and get the yard cleaned up. They never came but promised to come Monday. It is now Monday night and they never

came.

That night (Friday) two friends and I stayed up until midnight cleaning the kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom that we could sleep in to our standards. The kitchen walls were so dirty when I mopped them you could clearly see where I had mopped. There was coke sprayed on some of the walls and the cabinets and floor filled with grease from them frying food and boy what a bad stench. When we were finished cleaning it smelled nice and clean and like bleach!

The next day some of my teammates helped me get all the furniture moved over and some of the rooms set up. It was

such a blessing that night to relax in the living room and feel a little bit more settled. There are still many repairs to be made and boxes to be unpacked but I already feel that this house is going to be a place of refuge and rest for me! As I sat and had my breakfast this morning feeling the cool breeze and hearing the birds chirping I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and blessings!

Soon I will post some pictures of this beautiful place. I wish I would have thought to take pictures of what it looked like while they were moving out and how dirty it was. I was in so much shock and frustration I didn’t even think of it.

Kids and Projects

I just arrived home from another busy weekend in the community. I am feeling very tired but blessed all the same. Last night about eight students came to our Community Center to do some research for their papers that are due on Monday! They have much to learn when it comes to researching (it takes longer than thirty minutes), but I am so thankful that they are starting to feel comfortable to ask for help. I am learning a lot about Radiation, Peace & Freedom and Figures of Speech. I am also seeing the need we have for the Internet. We have World Book Encyclopedia on CD Rom but it lacks a lot of the things we can now find on the Internet. Only the municipal building as Internet in the entire Municipality where we have our community work. Often times I do research during the few days I am in the city and save the information and take it for them to read. I would love for them to be able to learn how to research on the Internet. We are looking into what slight possibilities there might be for us to get Internet access at our center.

This morning I went swimming with the elementary kids. They had such a great time. I didn’t know who all was coming and it was a spur of the moment thing; so I didn’t have enough food but we enjoyed our time anyway! We came back and made lunch. Then the students came back to finish their papers.

Right as I was packing up to return to the city one of the students came bearing me a gift from his mother, a bowl of hot binignit (a warm root crop and fruit stew made with coconut milk and sugar). This is one of my favorite snacks, which we had every night during the month of Ramadan.

Again I am amazed at the relationships that our growing with the children and the parents within the community. They are entrusting their kids to me and showing their gratefulness to me.


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