* This and That (SK)

We had a good Bible Study last week. We listened to the lecture on predestination from the Calvin Conference in Grand Rapids. There was an interesting discussion afterwards. The members often bring up their experiences in the World Wide Church of God and that is always interesting. They said predestination was talked about there but only in limited ways. There was predestination in the sense of being pre-ordained for an office. And as far as predestination in salvation, they were taught that predestination would reach only as far as our calling, but go no further. In other words, God decides whom He will call, but then it is up to man to decide how he answers the call. And thus there is no preservation of the saints either, no predestination to heaven. You have to keep yourself in the faith.

Berean PRC Bible Study

We've started a Tagalog grammar class. We go with Rev. Smit every Wednesday afternoon to the guest house, where we have stayed before and where other of our ministers have stayed. The lady who runs the guest house is a teacher and is willing to take the time to teach us. So for three hours every Wednesday we have our brains tested. Last week we did a lot with the pronunciation and the word order in the sentences. We have a workbook that has exercises in it that we have to work on during the week. It is going to be a challenge. The verbs are the biggest challenge I think. We were told that there can be as many as 70 different forms of one verb!! Not only do the different tenses change the verb form, but there are 8 different focuses which change the form as well.

We are still learning about the creatures here. Here's one thing we learned. All the things I thought were lizard droppings (dry ones) are actually tiny worms in a cocoon that hatch into a moth. (Okay, so I'm ignorant.) Someone said they come from all the trees in this area. I couldn't figure out why some droppings were dry and some were runny. Now I know - the dry ones aren't droppings. The moral of the story is that we don't have as many house lizards as I thought we did, but we do have worms/moths.

We were in the mall the other day looking for a fly swatter. Couldn't find one, so Daniel asked one of the clerks. The clerk seemed a little puzzled as to what we actually wanted so Daniel thought he better demonstrate. He's wiggling his fingers in the air (the flies buzzing around) and then he gives a mighty swing with his arm (killing them with the swatter). I was standing in the background just giggling away, cause it looked so funny.

A few days ago we dropped off our car for a wheel alignment, so were walking in Antipolo while waiting for it to be done. A tricycle driver was trying to get our attention to give us a ride. Daniel shook his head and then patted his legs (as if to say, "These work fine"). The guy got a huge grin and gave him the thumbs up. You can have some good fun with the Filipinos. They are almost always pleasant and friendly and ready for a laugh.

Our Vehicle - a Toyota Revo

I have driven here twice now. About five miles each time. Before you laugh that I am reporting that as an accomplishment, let me say that I had to cross oncoming traffic (3 lanes) to pull into traffic going the other way. And I had to do a u-turn (kind of like those crazy Michigan left turns). All of this without traffic lights or stop signs, mind you, and with trucks and buses and jeepneys coming from all directions. I managed it without adding to the scratches and dents already on our vehicle. :-)

Just thought I would add here that we see quite a bit of the Smits. Tricia and I often visit or go shopping together. The men often meet for business they have to take care of. And we often carpool with various ones of the family to church, Bible study, grammar class, etc. We are very thankful that they are here and that we can work with them.

A final note.  We've cooked a couple recipes now out of the Philippine cookbook we bought. We have made Pork Adobo (Adobong Baboy) twice, which is a very popular dish here. I still have to perfect that recipe though, as ours wasn't as good as some of the ones we have had made by native Filipinos. I also made Beef Steak with Onions and Potatoes (Bistek), another type of stir fry with onion and potatoes and beef. Delicious!

* To Market, To Market ... (SK)

Our Ride

I had a fun experience last Friday. Daniel took me to meet Delia Villegas from church so that she and I could travel to the market together. We were going to buy fabric for the curtains in our bedrooms. We met her at the corner near her house at about 9. Delia and I caught a jeepney to the LRT station at Cubao. The noise, crowdedness, heat and traffic were something to experience again. We got off the jeepney at Cubao and walked several blocks to catch the LRT (train) in the Araneta Center, a big mall and shopping complex. After the train we caught another jeepney to take us to the Divisoria market.

On the jeepney ride, there was a mother across from us holding an adorable little girl of a few months old. The girl had a red cross painted on her forehead. Delia explained to me that that was a superstitious thing. Some people believe that if a stranger would talk to their baby evil spirits would make the baby sick. So they put the cross on the forehead to keep the evil spirits away. Sad that such superstitions control some people. Delia asked if there were those kinds of things in America. I said maybe not as much, but people there are superstitious too. And it is probably getting worse with all the new age stuff, etc.

Sellers Along the Main Street

We were dropped off in the main street that runs through the market. The street is very wide, but it has very little traffic.  The smells and the sights were fascinating. There were people selling every possible thing you could possibly want, from veggies, to fabric, to household goods, to clothing, toys, and trinkets. And very cheaply. People were carrying their goods to their stores, either on bicycles, small carts, or just walking - bolts of fabrics, ironing boards, etc.

Ironing Boards and Oranges For Sale

Hats anyone?

We walked a ways along the main road, until Delia found the side street that she wanted. Not far down the side street was an alley with a lot of fabric venders.  One of the vendors there is the one Delia always goes to. His shop was narrow, but had a tile floor and was fairly cool. The fabrics were piled along the walls all the way to the ceiling. The owner had a helper who would climb up and get different bolts. He also unraveled the bolt while the owner measured and cut and then rolled it up again and put it away. They have no cutting table (there is no room), so do it all on the floor, but have it down to a science and are very efficient at it. They stand the bolt upright on the floor and unravel, measure and cut it that way. They had a nice bench for customers to sit on and from which you could see most of their goods and tell them what you want. They were out of the lace that I had chosen from Delia’s samples, so the man asked me about another one. I should have deferred to Delia, because as soon as I said it was fine, he stated the price and I think it was higher than normal. Delia tried to dicker with him, but he said it was a new one and that was the price. (At least that is what I gathered.) Oops. It was still a reasonable price - 40P a yard, so less than a dollar.

While Delia was paying I wandered a little to feel the fabrics to see what content they were. A lot of them were polyester, but there were cottons as well, and some heavier drapery fabrics. I found a cotton print that would work well for curtains in the living area of the house, so I pointed it out to Delia. She will go back to get it once she has taken measurements of our windows. There were a lot of nice prints and some quite similar to what you find in the states, but some different as well. Other vendors had a lot of sheer fabrics (beautiful) and Delia pointed one out to me that they would use for the very formal barongs the men wear. I should have asked her what it was made of, because I know some of them are made from leaves or bark from different plants or trees.

Before we went Delia had warned me not to wear any jewelry. She said to wear old clothes and carry my money in the front, because the pickpockets are bad, and white people tend to stand out and attract attention. I followed instructions, but we didn’t have any problems.  Because of her warning, I laughed when I saw the t-shirt one girl was wearing. It said across the back in big letters "Walang ang wallet ko." Translated that is "I don’t have a wallet." May as well let the pickpockets know!

Walking down the side streets was quite an experience. The vendors have their wares out into the road on both sides. There is just enough room for a jeepney to squeeze through. So the people walking have to get into the stalls to get out of the way. At one point as we were walking the street was suddenly cleared of vendors. In a matter of minutes, tables, wares, umbrellas, everything was gone. Delia said something about the police, and sure enough there was a police car driving down the road. I guess it was something to do with not having the proper license to sell. Where the vendors went with all their things I don’t know. I’d like to see that again sometime to see how they actually do it. It reminded me a little bit of when we walked the streets in New York City and there would be guys trying to scam people by getting them to gamble on a little game they had set up. There too, when the police come along, suddenly they are packed up and gone.

Coming Through

Okay, the ride there was crowded - 20 or so people in the jeepney. Now picture the same thing, only with boxes and packages thrown in as well. Delia explained that some people buy bulk, and I guess they do! The aisle of the jeepney was as full as the seats. :-) I was taking a few pictures with my small camera. The lady next to me asked if I was from the press. Well no, not quite. :-) Unless you want to call the blog that. :-) I chatted with her a little bit. One thing she said was that she admired missionaries for the sacrifices they make to help people. I told her we felt it was a privilege. She liked that way of looking at it

We did our trip in reverse. When we reached Delia’s area we stopped at her house to drop the fabric off. After a merienda of ice tea and crackers we headed off again so she could take me home.

We took one Jeepney ride up Ortigas to the mall, then caught another to take us the rest of the way to the gate of Beverly Hills subdivision. On our second jeepney, we somehow got crowded up close with a taxi van next to us. We were as close as two vehicles could get without actually hitting each other! The side mirrors of the vehicles were overlapped. If we had pulled ahead a couple inches our mirror would have hit his.  Our jeepney driver was discussing with the passenger on our side how close he was. He just stayed put until the taxi van pulled away.

Too Close For Comfort

A Jeepney Driver's View

We walked from the gate of the subdivision to home. I showed her our family albums while we had a little snack. We measured the windows and then she had to go to someone else in the neighborhood who had sewing for her to do.  Thus ended my day at the market.  If you come to visit we'll take you there.

* Cats & Frogs, & Things that go Bump in the Night (DK)

I thought I would introduce you to some animals and sounds we are experiencing in this tropical land.  Although this has been an enjoyable aspect of our move here, at times the night sounds keep us awake.  Other than the barking dogs and mewling cats, not one of them is familiar.  There are rustlings, and bangings, and strange animal noises.  In the darkness of night, these can make us feel like strangers in a strange land.

Here are some of the creatures we've seen in our house and yard.  I'll leave it to you to figure where we've seen them - inside or out.

One of 3 stray cats that seem to like us

A Toad - See his lunch below

A Grasshopper - at least 6 inches long

A Collared Kingfisher

A Grey Wagtail

A House Lizard

The house lizard, by the way, is not a quiet creature - it often makes a chirping noise.  In addition to the one that visited Sharon at the kitchen sink, we have one who keeps an eye on us from the window while we're eating supper (he's behind the screen).  There are also geckoes around.  The noise they make sounds like their name.  Haven't seen any yet, though.

And then there are things that go bump in the night.  Well, some things howl actually, such as the dogs.  They have a knack for getting each other going and producing quite a chorus.  Planes contribute their share.  In certain wind and weather conditions they fly right overhead on their way to or from the Manila airport.  It's quite a roar when a 747 is only (it seems) a couple hundred feet overhead.  That will wake anyone up at night!

But sometimes there really are bumps in the night - and loud ones at that.  The last few nights have been rather windy, and large bangs on our metal roof have often startled us at unearthly hours.  We couldn't figure out what it was at first, attributing it to some noise at a neighbor's house (after all, we did just pass through the noisy new year's season of fireworks, fireworks, and more fireworks).  But we eventually discovered the reason from evidence in our back yard.  Here it is:

Mangoes from our Mango Tree

As you can tell, most of them are cracked.  I did however pick out one the other day and ate it.  Delicious!  I'm keeing my eyes open for another keeper.

We've enjoyed getting to see and know this part of God's creation.

* Shopping and Sundry Things (SK)

New Year's night we went to the Smits along with the Baatenburgs. We sang some Psalter numbers and really enjoyed our time there. We had a chance to do our style of music in the subdivision. I wonder if we sounded any better than all the karaoke concerts we often hear? :-)

We have done some more shopping this past week. We have ordered our mattress for the bed - it's coming next Wednesday. We ordered a frame for the bed. And we also looked for living room furniture (new and used).

One Way of Buying Groceries - An Open Market

So I have some things to write about the shopping here. Returns are almost impossible, although they will exchange an item under certain circumstances. The grocery stores are also interesting. Many of the ones we have been in have many American/western foods. I think the biggest difference is the meat department. Most of the meat is not individually wrapped or kept behind glass (although some of it is in some of the stores), so it is sitting out in the open. One handy thing with the meat is that you can buy it chopped up into pieces for stir fry or other types of dishes. The grocery stores are as big as in the states and many are like a Walmart with other items for sale as well.

Rice Being Dried on the Road

The malls are huge. One we've been in is called Mega Mall (it's the 3rd largest in Manila), and it has six floors and is absolutely massive. I think Rivertown would fit inside it maybe 10 times over.

An Idea of What the Large Malls Look Like

The malls don't have very many sitting places, so no place to rest your legs weary from walking those huge halls. :-) They are often arranged by type of store - one floor or wing is all the department stores or clothing, another all furniture, another everything to do with cell phones. It is very convenient when you are looking for a specific item. In Mega Mall, we were impressed with the parking ramp. They have a sensor over every parking spot. If the spot is empty there is a green light. If it's full, there's a red one. So you can see at a glance if there are any open parking spaces on any particular level. Another thing: there are men in the parking ramps that will wash and wax your car for a very reasonable price while you are doing your shopping. You pay them before you go in and you come out to a sparkling car. Very handy. One other thing is that in the malls, buildings and the city in general, there are very few trash cans around. So maybe that is why there is so much trash in the streets.

Many of the restaurants are the same as you would find in the states - Pizza Hut, McDonalds (is there anywhere in the world where there aren't McDonalds??), Burger King, TGI Fridays, and Outback. But then there are also a lot that are Asian. Like we have said before, Manila is a curious mix of Philippine and western culture.

Yes, KFC too!

At each mall, store, bank, etc there is a security guard or two equipped with a pretty serious gun. At first I thought they didn't do much more than let people in and out of the store, but I've learned differently. Going into the malls they do a brief search of your person and bags (a woman one for the women and a man for the men). At the single store establishments they keep a pretty sharp eye on the parking lot and remember who has parked what vehicle, and they may ask you to move yours if someone needs to get in or out. They will also help you back out of a parking lot into a busy street. And we've had it where they have signed our receipt before we go out the door of the shop.

Daniel has had the vehicle serviced. He brought it in to Antipolo and took a tricycle back. The mechanic shop texted him (the main means of communication here) when it was finished and he had to take a trike back again to pick it up. There are a whole bunch of trikes parked at the gate of the subdivision waiting for passengers, so he walked there and caught one of those. They did a good job on the car - at least it is running better - and it was cheap.

In our shopping I had one very cultural experience. From the National Bookstore I bought a Philippine cook book and a Philippine bird book. :-) We have made one of the recipes from the cookbook - Pork Adobo.

We had an interesting morning on Monday. The Bastion of Truth men came here to meet with Rev. Smit and Daniel. We thought there would be three or four of them, but there were 7, so 9 altogether. That gave us a challenge as far as chairs go. We had the six dining ones, and Daniel’s office chair. I was just about to go to Tricia’s to get some of theirs when I spotted our park bench outside. We carried that in and that did it.

Meeting with the Bastion of Truth Pastors

I ended up sitting and lying on the bed in the bedroom while they were meeting, but that worked fine. I did my email and worked on the blog, so I had enough to keep me busy. They stayed for about 2 hours and had a good meeting.

* Our Last Week of 2009 (SK)

December 27, 2009

Sunday morning. Haven’t had my shower yet. It takes a while to work up to those cold showers. Brrrr. We have the hot water heater box for the shower now, but Daniel still needs some parts. So it will be a couple days yet before it is installed. We did get the washer going and I did my first load last night. It worked!

Friday morning (Christmas day) Tricia and Katie and I were going to go shopping. But Tricia couldn’t get out of her house to pick us up. They had 100s of people in their road waiting for handouts from the neighbor. I think Smit's neighbor had advertised that they would hand out free rice that day. The people must have heard about it and walked in from outside our subdivision. By 10:30 or so Tricia made it out even though there were a few people there still. Worked out okay, because the big stores were not open until noon anyway. I got a bunch more things for the house - odds and ends. And we had lunch together at Macs. We had fun together. Tricia just had her three girls along.

Got home about 2:30 and had time to clean the tops of the walls. Feels good to be rid of the last of the lizard droppings, although I’m sure there is more to come. We had a lizard running around the house last night. Went into our bedroom. Yikes. Not sure I like this. I’ve also seen one in the laundry and one in the extra bathroom.

The Smits and Baatenburgs came about 6 for games that night. The guys played chess with some of the boys. We girls played fast scrabble. The other kids played with the dominoes, building lines and towers.

So that was how our Christmas day was spent.

Saturday morning, Daniel left about 8 for the consistory meeting. I got the whole house mopped. Trish texted me to go swimming at Faith so we left for that about noonish. By that time a swim sounded great. The guys finished their consistory meeting and joined us at the pool afterwards. It was very refreshing to swim and soak in some sunshine. The lifeguard and grounds keeper caught a big lizard at the pool. With his tail he was probably 2 feet long. They said that kind can get up to 7 feet! They will eat chickens, but they won’t bite people. They got a rope and tied him to the fence. Not sure what they were going to do with him from there. They asked Tricia if she wanted it as a pet, but she graciously declined. :-)

December 28, 2009

Sunday morning Rev. Smit preached in Bulacan, so we picked up Tricia and the kids. We made it to church with only one wrong turn, but a u-turn sorted that out. Rev. Smit and the elders came straight to church from Bulacan and got there just before we started. Daniel preached the morning (we always still call it the morning even though it starts at 1 - old habits die hard, I guess) sermon and Rev. Smit the second one.

Well, we accomplished a lot again today. I did three loads of wash. We got my wash line hung up, so the laundry is drying there in the spare room with the help of a fan. I think I'm learning already that it's best to do the laundry right away in the morning, so it has the heat of the day in which to dry. An interesting side note about laundry here. You see people’s laundry hanging out to dry just anywhere, along the busy highways and wherever, and you wonder how they keep it clean. I think I have learned one of their tricks. It looks like they hang it up inside out, so if it does get dirty while drying, at least it’s the inside.

At 10 (when our car's license plates were off restriction) we headed off to Mega Mall and a few other places. We found everything okay with Daniel’s sense of direction and my (very) slight ability at reading the map. We bought a desk and chair for Daniel’s office, a paper shredder, and a saw and violin bow (which we were not necessarily looking for, but found anyway). Daniel didn't bring his from the states, since they were too big to fit in the case and we didn't think they would allow it as hand luggage! We made it out of the city in time (3:00) for our plate restrictions. When we got home we got everything set up and the water heater installed. No more cold showers – YAY!!!


December 29, 2009

Had a warm shower this morning. What luxury!

Well, I just had a fun experience. I was pouring some water down the kitchen sink and out popped a lizard. I guess I got to contribute my share to the noise level in the Beverly Hills subdivision. I screamed. The neighbors probably heard it three doors down. What really worries me is when you go back and it is not there. WHERE DID IT GO? I was a little tentative by the kitchen sink for a while.

At night I stayed at the Smit’s to babysit the kids while the rest went to Bible Study. It was Tricia's first chance to go to Bible study here, since usually she stays home with the kids. They watched Rev. Stewart’s lecture on justification from the Calvin conference (which I had heard already) and had a discussion afterwards for about an hour.

December 31, 2009

New Year’s Eve. Looks like we will have a quiet day. I don’t think there has been a day yet that we haven’t been out, so a day at home doesn’t sound too bad. We do have to run to the bank to get the money to pay our rent for next month.

Well, we had another fun experience. We went into Antipolo to go to the bank. Daniel ran across the street to the bank while I waited to park the car in Shopwise (I guess we decided we needed to buy a few groceries too). There was a line of about 6 cars waiting to park. Daniel got back from the bank across the street before I was parked, so he went into Shopwise to get water and a couple other things. I eventually got parked and went to join him. I don’t think it was worth it. For the few items we got we stood in line for 50 minutes. We had been warned not to go to the stores on the holidays. Well, now we know why. The traffic was horrendous too. On the way back we saw the remains of an accident – a smashed car and a motorcycle lying in the street. Didn’t see any injured people though, so maybe they were okay.

Jeff and Katie had asked us to come over after supper. We were wondering if we should go out or not. When Daniel talked to our landlady she advised us to stay home. Others have said that too, just because of the amount of firecrackers going off, and because people let off their guns, and sometime throw crackers at your car. We did decide to go. Got there before 9 and stayed a couple hours. Had a nice time visiting with them. We could see some fireworks from their apartment window. Overlooking Manila we could see flashing lights everywhere and some big ones getting let off and people were setting off some smaller ones below us, near the pool.

Old Year's Night at Jeff & Katie's

We left around 11 just in case things got too crazy. I was a little bit on edge coming home because of what people had said. Also because there were bottles set up all over along the streets – people getting ready to shoot stuff off. But we made it home without incident. For about an hour around midnight there was a barrage of fireworks all around us and as close as across the street. And these are major fireworks, not just little ones. Wow! Daniel tried to record it on his phone, but it doesn’t really give the idea. The New Year came in with a bang – or more like a whole bunch of bangs! It was like a lifetime of July 4s all in one night. We stood outside for a while and watched some of it. It started to slow down after 12:30 or so, but went late into the night and is still going sporadically today. I think tonight and the weekend will still be noisy, but then maybe things will settle down a bit.

We have since learned that some people do it for good luck. The more noise you make the more bad spirits you scare away, and the better year you will have. Someone at church told me that many Filipinos are very superstitious.

This morning I cut labels off a bunch of our boxes and brought them out to the curb. They were all gone within an hour or so. That has happened several times already. Local people come by and pick them up and recycle them for a bit of money. We try to keep the things people might want (plastics, metals, cardboard) separate, so that they can get it without digging through all the trash. So that is our recycle service, and it's free. :-)

Yesterday (December 30) was the youth camp. A long day, but a good one. We left here about 7:30, picked up three of the Smits and then headed to Bongats where we picked up 7 more people from Gabaldon. So I think we can say we were riding true Philipino style with 12 of us packed into our vehicle.

They started the day with a get to know you activity where everyone was supposed to meet someone new and get some facts about them. They also had an activity where everyone had to go to the mike and introduce himself/herself. Each person was given a word and then had to say something about himself using the word. It was all in Tagalog, so it took me some time to figure out what they were doing. When they said their name, they had to do some funny action with it and then everyone would imitate them. There was a lot of laughing at people and embarassment, but everyone took part and seemed to have fun. They encouraged and helped the ones who were more shy, which was nice.

The ladies "supervising" :-)

Another game was to divide into teams and to build towers out of straws and straight pins. Daniel’s team was the first one done and had the tallest, but they were disqualified because they tied it to the light to hold it up. They had fun building it anyway. :-)

Tower - (supported by the light!)

The theme of the day was "Walking as Children of Light" from I Thessalonians 5. There were two speeches that Daniel did. The first one was on "The Identity of the Children of Light" and the second on "The Activity of the Children of Light." After the second speech there was a question time. There were probably six to eight questions. A lot of good ones. A couple about movies - are we allowed to watch them, which ones may we watch, why or why not.

In addition to the speeches, Rev. Smit led two discussion groups.  The first one was on "The Children of Light and Technology," and the second on "The Children of Light and Entertainment."  There was good participation and the young people seemed attentive.

All in all it was a good day and I think they all enjoyed themselves. It was good for them to meet other Christian young people. The general consensus was that we will have to do these things more often.

The Winning Team for Games

We cleaned up a bit and left about 5. We dropped off all the Gabaldon people at the Bongats again and got home ourselves around 6:15. I think the Gabaldon people were heading back home on a bus at about 6 this morning. They had come in Tuesday night on the bus and were all at Bible study.

* Our First Youth Camp (DK)

We just came home a short while ago (Wednesday evening) from our first YP camp. Youth came from 4 different places/groups - the Berean PRC, The All of Grace PR Fellowship in Gabaldon, The Christian Faith Ministry in Batasan Hills, and the First Reformed Church in Bulacan.

First Reformed Church in Bulacan

All of Grace PR Fellowship of Gabaldon

Christian Faith Ministry of Batasan Hills

Berean PRC

Around 40 young people and young adults were there. Rev. Smit and I did the speaking - I gave two lectures, and Rev. Smit led two discussions. The theme was "Walking as Children of Light."

The day went very well, and is hopefully a promise of future days like this for the young people and young adults. They were very attentive, and every indication was that they thoroughly enjoyed the day with each other.

An interesting aside is that for quite a few of the young people from Gabaldon (which is about 5 hours from here), this was their very first time in Manila. We picked them up from where they were staying, and it was interesting to hear their reactions to Manila driving/traffic. A little culture shock for them, perhaps - or was it shock from my driving? :-)