Friday, October 22, 2010

Just Living Life

I have been trying to think of something to blog about and I just haven't been able to think of anything. I think that means we are actually feeling at home here because I don't feel like everything we see and experience we have is totally blog-worthy. The funny thing is, they probably are but I am just getting used to my surroundings so I don't see things as so different anymore. I am going to do a post soon of just the crazy things that we see in Cebu. I have lots of pictures for that. Today, I just wanted to say how happy I am to really be feeling like we are at home here. It has been a long 10 weeks to get to this point.

I know some people just talk about the good stuff on their blog and I am not really like that. Moving here has been very hard, much harder than I ever expected. Living in Asia has been on my list of things I have to do before I die since I was 16 years old. When we got the opportunity to do so, and we were in a position where we could easily (no kids) we jumped at the chance. But no matter how much I wanted this, it has been very very hard. I sometimes think China wouldn't be AS hard for me because I have a weird obsessive love of China, the Chinese people, the Chinese culture and the Chinese language. I have not yet developed the same love for the Philippines. But, that being said, I am learning to love it. Ben asked me the other day at lunch what I like about the Philippiness so far, and here is part of my list:

1. The beach

2. Movies are very cheap (Ben and I can go to a new movie in a nice theater for like $5 total)

3. I found this wheatgrass drink that is yummy (it's sweetened with honey). I can buy it anywhere and it makes me feel like I am being healthy! The picture is of my healthy Sunday morning breakfast: egg, rice (no comments about it being white, we usually have brown), mango and wheatgrass.

4. My team at work. I am pretty lucky to have these people to work with. They make my life easy. (2 of them are missing from this picture)

5. The chance to work at the Cebu Temple and just the fact that we have a Temple so close.

6. The simple faith and obedience of the members of the church here. The Stake President told us on Sunday that when President Monson was here in Cebu to dedicate the Temple, he reminded the saints to remember those Filipino soldiers who fought and died in WWII. When he mentioned this I thought, "hmm, that's a long time ago, I wonder why he talked about that". The Stake President proceeded to tell us that a member of the stake has now collected over 3000 names of deceased soldiers whose names can now be added to family search and whose Temple work can be done for them. 3000 names! Now that is taking the words of the prophet and running with it.

7. The Shangri La click here to see my whole album dedicated to this place. We work out there, we lay out there, we swim there, we eat there, it is just beautiful! This place keeps me sane.

8. Time to spend with Ben. Right now, we really only have each other. Most married people never have a chance like this and I am grateful.

There are more things I could add, but the point is that I am finding things I like about this experience. When we first got here, I thought I was going to hate it forever. I have never experienced culture shock, not when I lived in China teaching English, not when I served my mission, but I experienced it here and I am finally getting out of it and learning to love where I am.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A New Home

So, it's been 8 weeks that we have been here in Cebu and right about now we are starting to actually feel settled. I think the biggest contributor to that fact is that we have moved into our new apartment. We love being able to sleep, watch t.v., get online at home, skype with family and friends, not having to drive into the office to call people, etc etc etc. It has been great and we are really loving every minute of it. Having somewhere we feel comfortable really has made all the difference. The landlord is very responsive and has already fixed the A/C in the master bedroom and installed a new A/C in the living room. When there are "brownouts", the electricity goes out for an hour or two, the apartment complex has a generator and we get our power back on in just a few minutes. So great! We are having to get used to living in an apartment complex again, with the noises of neighbors close by, but we would take that vs. karaoke any day! Below are some pictures of the house, just so you have a reference for where and how we live. It's a little different than home.

This is our master bedroom at the beach house, the ONLY place we spent any time.

This is the living room/dining room of our new place. We JUST moved, it's messy! And look, we still have a GREAT view!

The new master bedroom. It's empty and quite big, but comfy.

Master Bathroom

The spare bedroom/computer room. Remember, we just moved, it's messy!

The kitchen (notice the number of cupboards...yikes)

A little friend in the kitchen. We get these guys all over the house, but I like them cause they eat bugs:). (I know, I need to clean out my sink)

The spare bathroom and yes, we did pick out the rubber ducky shower curtain:)

We are happy to be settling in and feeling at home. Maybe some of you can visit us soon!

Friday, October 1, 2010


As I mentioned in my last post, Ben's Lolo passed away on September 19th. We are lucky that we live here, close enough to be able to attend his funeral. We were able to represent Ben's dad and his family since they are so far away and unable to attend themselves. It was a great chance for me to meet Ben's cousins and aunts and uncles on both the Crisanto and the Bugar side. I was greeted with welcome arms by everyone and treated so well! I don't know if I ever believed I would really meet his Filipino family, never guessing we would be living in the Philippines, but here we are. We will definitely be visiting them again.

Laguna, the area of the Philippines where his family is from, is up in the Northern part of the Philippines. We flew into Manila on Wednesday morning and were greeted by his Uncle Max, who is Tatay's (dad's) oldest brother. Honestly, the similarities between the two of them was almost startling. He walks, talks, stands, acts just like Ben's dad. It was kind of comforting in a way, made us feel closer to home. Ben's other uncle, Carlo, also flew in just a few hours after us along with 4 of his 6 sons. We then drove the 3.5 hours to Laguna to meet the rest of the family. Ben's Lolo and Lola had 11 children and therefore there were a lot of people to meet. The time we were there was also the viewing at Max's house where people come and pay their respects in the days leading up to the funeral, therefore I met more people that I can even remember. Ben met siblings of his Lolo and his Lola. He met aunts, cousins, friends of the family, etc. It was crazy in a good way. I do have to say though, being there reminded me of my trips to China, driving through the countryside, looking at these homes and wondering "I wonder who lives there, what is their life like?". I never, in a million years, thought I would be part of a family that lived just like that, in a place just like that. What a strange, but amazing sensation. The world is a small place.

Laguna is beautiful. We went between the two towns of Pakil (sp?) where Max lives and the funeral "activities" were taking place and Pangil which is where Ben's mom's family lives. The towns are just a few minutes from each other via trike or jeepney so we got to spend plenty of time with both sides of the family. It is very beautiful there with rice fields, a lake, hills and mountains and just a lot of breezy, fresh air. It was a nice change from the city and truly reminded me a lot of parts of my mission. We spent time with the family, but also got to spend time just walking through the town, taking pictures of the landscape and just relaxing. We spent the nights at the home where Ben was actually born (forgot to take a picture of the room where his mom gave birth to him). They have a great room upstairs with air conditioning and I was so grateful for that. The toilet didn't have running water, so we would have to take a bucket and dump water into the toilet to "flush" it. That was fun:). There was also no hot water, so cold showers it was. The funny thing was, with all the sweating I did over those few days, a cold shower felt great. We did see a few critters inside and outside of the house, but for the most part is was very comfortable and we very much enjoyed our stay.

The funeral took place on Friday morning. It was an interesting experience for me since it was all in Tagalog. I have learned a few words here and there, but 2 hours of straining to hear a word here and there that I understood was difficult. Ben's dad actually "attended" the funeral and even shared a few words through skype. What a long way we have come to have someone in Oregon literally watch live a funeral going on in a small provincial town in the Philippines. I did find out that Ben's grandpa had been a huge part of the growth of the church in that area. The church building where the funeral took place was beautiful, up to date, air conditioned and proof of the strength of the church there. After the funeral we left the church and followed the hearse to the cemetary. The "best" part was that the hearse was blaring top 40 music as it drove up to the church. Filipinos like their loud music. Luckily, Ben's uncles were able to convince them that it wasn't really appropriate for the occasion and they turned it off for the walk to the cemetary. It was very hot and the cemetary is on the top of a huge hill, so by the time we got up to his "plot" I thought I was going to pass out. This poor little white girl is just not used to that. The best part was there were old women there (like in the 80's) practically running up the hill ahead of me. There are definitely perks to the hard lifestyle they live here, they are tough and in great shape! Ben was honored to be able to dedicate the grave, a service that both his dad and his brother Cowdery were able to witness via skype. He did a wonderful job. Part of what we know as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that because of our Savior we will each be resurrected and our spirits will be reunited with our bodies at the resurrection. Because of this, a special part of the funeral and burial process is the dedication of the grave. The purpose of this is to dedicate and consecrate the burial plot as the resting place for the body of the deceased and also to pray that the place may be hallowed and protected until the resurrection. Ben was nervous about this part because in the Philippines you don't necessarily "own" your burial plot, but in a lot of cases you "rent" it so he wasn't sure he really could ask that the place be hallowed and protected. But, when he said his prayer he included everything and afterwards he came over to me and said "He will be protected and his body will be fine". I could tell he felt very strongly when he said those words, that the place would be hollowed and protected that it really would be. If I could explain to you the state of the graves and the cemetary and how they were just not well take care of, stones and rocks overturned, grass growing over everything, people eating their lunch on top of peoples graves, etc I think it was a great comfort to everyone there to feel that comfort that came from his prayer.

On Saturday we left Laguna and drove into Manila. It was a beautiful mountain drive, but the road was way too twisty and turny for me. I am not one to get motion sickness, but I really was so close to being sick by the time we arrived. There was a lot of traffic in Manila and we didn't get to see a lot of the city. But our hotel was close to Manila Bay and most importantly we spent time at the Mall of Asia (haha). It is the BIGGEST mall ever. We even got a lost a couple of times. It was a fun night because we got Wendy's, Dairy Queen, Krispy Kreme and Red Mango and went to see an IMAX movie. We also thoroughly enjoyed the hot shower and flushing toilet in our hotel. We were happy to come home on Sunday but so glad for the experience we had in Laguna and looking forward to our next visit.

I posted all of my pictures on facebook, go check them out here. I really don't want to post more pictures, this post is already VERY long!