August 2016

August 19, 2016; Cebu, Philippines

My feelings after the first 8 hours of being in Cebu: A whole range! There was definitely some awe, wonder, and excitement. When at the mall and being stared at everywhere we went, I felt vulnerable and uncomfortable. Upon returning from the mall, I had some doubts as to what we were actually doing here. What did we just do to our family? I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious and excited. I needed to sleep.

[Child] has Jake and I very worried. [They] are struggling with anxiety and I don’t know how to help [them] other than the tips I’ve already given [them]. She was given a father’s blessing before we left and I hope it comforts her as we continue on our journey. I don’t think any of the children at this point are particularly thrilled with what we are doing. There is a lot of adjustment and culture to take in. It is overwhelming, but I am praying that at the end of it all they will be so glad we came. Averi was the most excited and now, I fear, she is the least excited to be here.

August 20, 2016: Cebu, Philippines

Goals for today:

  1. Figure out an internet solution
  2. Keep Tage up later so we are not up at 3am again
  3. Swim with friends
  4. Get some fresh fruit

We had a weird morning today. Tage was up again at 3am, but so was Jake and I because we all went to bed early again. Tage didn’t really eat much the day before so he was hungry. He ate Ramen noodles for breakfast. He proceeded to eat a bunch more things because the little guy was so hungry. Averi was also up in her bed reading, we encouraged her to fall asleep. She slept until 10am. In the meantime, Claire woke up at a decent hour, ate breakfast and played. I fell back asleep from 9-11. Jake napped from 11-12:15. This whole time change has really thrown us.

There is a very strange divide in this country. We were in this beautiful, modern mall with goods anyone from the states would be buying and putting in their homes. As you look out some of the large windows in the mall, you see the shacks and poverty just across the field. There is not a lot of in between in this country and I think that is one of the most heart breaking things about it.

We did accomplish the goal of keep Tage away much later than the previous nights, so fingers crossed that goes well.

August 21, 2016; Cebu, Philippines

It was a much more successful night! We all slept {mostly} through the night. I woke up at 3am because my body must be conditioned after 3 days to do that. I was just thinking at that time how great it is that Tage isn’t up yet, I didn’t expect him to be. Well, not more than 3 minutes later, Tage walks in saying he had a bad dream. He crawled in bed with me and fell asleep not too long after. Of, course I was awake, uncomfortable being squished between Jake and Tage and couldn’t fall asleep. Eventually I moved Tage into his bed and I willed myself back to sleep. It took a long time and was not easy, but waking up at 7am was so much better than being up in the wee hours of the morning.

Even though the area we were in had a woman bathing with a bucket on her front porch, some homes were scraps put together, and shops were at the front of their houses, it was a “richer” neighborhood than some of the others we had passed by. Children came out of their homes to see the Americans. They just run around the streets and the parents aren’t worried about them. It is a freeing feeling, actually. Jake and I have a very opposite parenting style, which we are working on. We stopped at a bakery and got fresh bread which tasted delicious. We wiped the couple of ants off the bread before partaking.

We walked down just a bit from the temple and found a little restaurant to eat at. Oh boy, I was really nervous to eat food from the street restaurant. We ended up with Pork Adobo, Beef of some sort, and Bangus (fish) that still had the head on and eye in the socket. The rice was delicious that came with it. Each plate also came with an egg. The sunny side up egg was very sunny, even the white was still runny. I wasn’t a super fan of that egg. The fish and beef were very good, I did not try the pork because it was mostly fat. I was surprised that even Tage tried a lot of the food. Claire was not a fan of the rice and I think eating there made Averi nervous as well.

We then went into the aviary and held a white bird named “Nigel”. That bird screamed in my face and laughed at me. I guess I’m going to have to get used to getting laughed at in these different countries. We stayed in the Aviary a long time, too long for Jake’s liking. Near the end of our stay in the Aviary Jake got pooped on by about 7 birds flying overhead. That was not his favorite experience. To make matter worse he was in his white church shirt. We had to pry the children out of that location. They loved it in there. The children fed a couple of monkeys some bananas and watched them play around the cage for a while. I was quite a random experience.

Each of these experiences are so unique for us and I’m loving them. These are the experiences I really want to have with my family and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Upon arriving home we were beat! The heat, the walking, the lack of water really makes for a long and tiring day. The excitement also takes a lot out of you. To be honest, I am looking forward to being in Dumaguette where we won’t be out sight seeing so much as living our lives. It is exhausting to be out everyday like this. We also need to do work. That, more than anything, keeps me up at night. We really have a problem with the internet here. We have now heard that the Philippines is one of the worst countries for internet. Singapore and Malaysia should be really good.

August 22, 2016; Cebu, Philippines

What a rough morning we had. My body is slowly waking up later and later and being able to slowly stay up later and later. I got out of bed at 5:30am this morning and I believe Averi was up as well. I went around checking the laundry and folding what was dry and arranging the still damp clothes in an area where they could dry.

Claire, Jake and Tage also got up right around 6am. I was hoping they would sleep a bit longer, but this time adjustment is still just a killer. I tried heading to the gym, but it does not open until 8am. We did morning scripture study and some school work. The children complained relentlessly this morning. First it was complaints about the scripture reading, then about the school work, then about having oatmeal for breakfast, then about our activity for the day. It was just one thing after another. I don’t understand how I raised such spoiled rotten children who love to complain. I told them we would not end this journey abroad until they stopped complaining. I was not a happy camper this morning with regards to their sassy attitudes.

At 8am I was out the door to the gym and it felt wonderful to do intervals on the treadmill. It was definitely what I was missing in my life. It is really hard to be in a two bedroom, tiny (I mean really tiny) apartment with 4 of your closest friends for days on end. I knew that going in to this and we are working on getting better at working through our problems with one another, but we still need our time apart from one another.

The wind was blowing this morning so the smell of sitting garbage was not wafting into our sensitive noses. We have to walk about a quarter of a mile to get to the main road where, if we are really lucky, we can get a taxi. The road we walk down is potholed, lined with garbage, and the sewer holes are wide open on the sidewalk so if you are not paying attention you could fall right in. We walk in the street where we walk around sitting water and trash. We are pretty far away from any market, the city center, and basically anything.

I really enjoy seeing the way people live here. I am in awe of all the effort it must be to keep a house here. The laundry needs to be done by hand, the cooking over a heating source-quite possibly a fire pit, bathing with a bucket of cold water, walking to the market each day for the food you will need and back, getting children off to school in washed and pressed school uniforms, and just normal home maintenance without the cleaners that we have in America. The homes are just one room huts made from corrugated sheet metal and ply wood. I was complaining about a few months in the summer not having air conditioning and how hot it got in our house. My pathetic complaints for sweat dripping off of my nose in my house for a few days out of the year makes me feel ashamed. These people live on dirt floors, scrape pesos together for meals to eat and school supplies to send to school with the children, and it is hot and humid every day all year long and they do not have the luxury of air conditioning. Yet, they are happy, they love where they live.

August 23, 2016; Cebu, Philippines

Happy Anniversary to Jake and me. Thirteen years of marriage and still in love. We had a big day today.

On the way to Pier 4, our original destination, we encountered an accident where a mini van ran over a motorcycle. Thankfully the driver appeared to be okay. As we drove along our taxi driver began breathing really heavy. I really thought he was going to die on us.

Let me just insert a little part about my detest for riding on boats. I get the worst anxiety even thinking about having to go on a boat ride. Waterski boats, canoes, and kayaks are perfectly fine. Cruise ships, ferries, and these jet boats we take here in the Philippines make me all sorts of anxious. When I get anxious I feel nauseous and I cannot think straight. I haven’t had a particularly awful boat experience, but the thought of potentially having one is what makes me feel sick. We’ve all heard about norovirus on cruise ships and people getting seasick all of which make my anxiety rise. So, I had about a 15 minute taxi ride to get worked up about this boat ride that I had heard was two hours long.

Enroute to Pier 4 we made a last minute decision to go to Pier 1 and that turned out to be a blessing. There was a gale warning and all boats we had originally planned on taking were not going to make it to Bohol. Pier 1 was a bit chaotic for my liking, but that also was a blessing in that I didn’t have too much time to sit and fret about being on a boat, on the ocean, for two hours. We ended up sitting in the open air seats. All my prayers were answered in mysterious ways this morning. Many prayers of gratitude were offered afterward. I was so thankful that we were not able to get air conditioned seating that was in an enclosed space on the deck below. Enclosed spaces make my anxiety rise to new levels. Being among several other people who are also enclosed in the space makes it worse. It reminds me of going on the Finding Nemo submarine ride at Disneyland. I have only gone on that ride once and it was more than I would have liked.

The most beautiful part of the tour was the Chocolate Hills. I was so excited to see this majestic wonder. It did not disappoint. We climbed to the top of one of the hills to see out to the rest of the hilly landscape. The different colors of greens were astounding. Bright greens and deep green together created a lush landscape. The hills popped out of all places while fields of rice nestled in between each one. Small homes with animals dotted the land. It was so magnificent. I took so many pictures trying to capture it best. Some of the hills were grassy and some were covered in a variety of trees. It is definitely something to experience in this lifetime.

As we made our way back down the hill to our place of residence for the next two nights, I couldn’t help but express my gratitude to be able to see the wonders in the world. This is a magnificent world with fascinating people and places to experience. It is a pleasure and privilege that we are out here getting to do all of the marvelous activities.

August 24, 2016; Bohol, Philippines

We survived another night in a new location. This is definitely more living like the locals. We walk down a dirt path past locals homes who live the Filipino lifestyle. The place is so tiny, but accommodates all of us in our own beds in two sets of bunk beds with the bottom bunk being a double bed. At 6am I could hear children heading off to school saying it was a beautiful day. I thought, how amazing is it that these children who live in near poverty, as far as I can tell, still look at the day and say it is beautiful. They are happy, healthy, and able to get to school for the day. What a great example of being content with your lot.

August 25, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

I wasn’t particularly sad to leave that apartment as it was very tiny, the bathroom grossed me out (as do all the bathrooms in this country), and I did not sleep well there. It was at this spot that I truly missed the luxury of American bathrooms. There is something so disgusting to me about showering and toilet being in one tiled area. Also wearing flip flops to shower is a bit of a nuisance. I also can’t stand the fact that when you shower, the shower head sprays the entire bathroom making everything wet which in turn makes it smell because nothing dries out. America, you do bathroom right.

Leaving Bohol, such a beautiful island was more difficult. I do love Bohol. The prospect of staying in one place for a month was enough to get me out of there as fast as possible. We have officially been living out of suitcase for six weeks and 3 days. Unpacking our bags to stay for a month sounds delightful.

One hour into the boat ride the boat all of a sudden stops. [Child] began losing it and panicking that something was terribly wrong. I had prayed that morning for a good boat ride and was comforted to know that we would be fine. We were stopped for what seemed like forever, but was in actuality maybe five minutes. Sitting there in the middle of blue ocean rocking and swaying made my anxiety shoot through the roof. I had to keep my cool for [child]. If she knew I was no doing well, she would not be able to calm herself down. Thankfully she cooled her jets. When [child] gets anxious like that she gets loud and sounds very angry. We were able to get her calm down enough that she wasn’t talking anymore. People were staring at us like we were an anomaly and it was embarrassing for me. I was so grateful when the engine started up again and we were able to be on our way again. I knew all we had left was about one hour and I could make it. Tage was starting to get bored, but thankfully I was able to find a sucker in my backpack for him to occupy himself with. Claire, Tage, and Averi overall did really well on the boat ride. That stop in the middle created a bit of a stressful situation but we persevered.

Upon disembarking the ship we had to go upstairs to where we really wanted to sit. It was apparent that the entire upper floor had gotten soaked and I grew incredibly thankful for the mix up in language.

Our neighborhood is very nice compared to the makeshift houses we have been seeing everyone else live in. This subdivision is made up of rows and rows of townhouses which appear to built within the last 10 years. There is a small seating area on the porch we can use in the evenings. The bathroom is the best one we’ve had, but I haven’t showered in it yet. The hosts’ niece takes care of the place and will come every four days to change sheets, clean the house, and replenish the water. Jake and I have full confidence we will enjoy living here.

I was so excited with our first experience at the market. Jake was in search of flip flops to shower in and we found success. I also purchased a pair of flip flops that I could shower in that will dry fast. All we had were cloth flip flops that took all day to dry. Tage found some spiderman flip flops he was really excited about and Jake turned soft and bought them for him. He was a super happy camper especially excuse we lost one of his flip flops on day 2 or 3 of being in the Philippines. We were able to find the food in the market to buy vegetables for soup. Unfortunately, no fresh fruit was to be had this time around.

Tage fell asleep in both of the tricycles today. Something about the air blowing on his face, the vibration of the engine on the seat, and the heat make the little kids fall right asleep. It was darling to watch.

Claire had another breakdown tonight about wanting to go home. These outbursts come out at the most unexpected moments. It is really hard to deal with when we are all tired. I should be more patient with the outbursts. It is a hard transition for all of us, but we need to remember that we are all together safe and healthy. Reflecting back, I would say the times that Claire has most of her breakdowns when it is time to write in her journal. One of the hardest things about her outbursts is that she will be so excited one minute and then sobbing the next. It is a constant surprise with her.

August 26, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

It felt wonderful to just fill up cups of clean water this morning to drink. My body is not used to drinking so little water, this is  a blessing for me. The bread was mostly good. I enjoy it the same day rather than in the refrigerator overnight. We have lots of ants in this location, so we keep almost everything in the fridge. The refrigerators are very small and there is a little section in there for freezing food. I kind of like it that way.

The bathrooms in this country give me the creeps, so I was hesitant to try it out other than the fact I knew I would feel better once I showered. To be honest, it was the best shower I had since being here. There were a couple of crickets that joined me, but it only reminded me of being in Arizona. Then came time to move the shower curtain and I spotted it: a giant spider. It was just sitting there the whole time. I only saw long, long legs and I was done. I got out as quick as I could and decided to change in my room instead of the bathroom. Jake got the spider out and it was huge. It also had babies on its back. Lovely. I hope it doesn’t come back. While in my room I had a good cry. This country is hard to get used to. Jake came in to check on me. I told him I was trying hard, but it’s not easy being here with all the inconveniences of this country. All I could think about was that Sister missionaries do this all the time and survive.

We end each night with journal writing, prayers, and reading. We really wear the children out during the day. It is exhausting living this way. We hope things will slow down being in one place for a month. I don’t feel the need to run all over town everyday trying to see and do everything. I hope that will help with the exhaustion at night.

August 27, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

Today was a glorious day. We all slept in nice and late (8am) and those who may have woken up earlier were quiet and let the rest of wake up slowly. Going to sleep here is not hard, but I always get a little creeped out by the fact that there is most likely a lizard lurking somewhere in our bedroom. There are also a billion ants roaming all throughout this house and I don’t want to wake up covered in them. I also am afraid of spiders crawling on me. Other than that, we are so exhausted at night all of us fall asleep pretty quickly.

Once he came back we began doing laundry. This was one experience I knew I would have, but I didn’t quite know how to approach it. We had bought a laundry soap bar the day before. We paid Php9 for a Tide bar. We paid Php1 more for the Tide so it would remind us of home. We filled one bucket with dirty clothes and water. We filled another bucket with rinsing water. Another container looked like a giant colander we put the scrubbed and wrung out clothes into until we were ready to hang them. Scrubbing the clothes took about an hour or more. We had a weeks worth of laundry. Most people here do laundry every morning. That might be a better way of doing it for us. Having 5 people times a weeks worth of clothing is a lot of hand washing. We then went to the roof of our town home to the drying line. We hung all the clothes as best we could, but we realized we would need to get some clothes pins so our clothes wouldn’t blow away.

Any new place we walk in this country is always interesting and exciting to me. We spotted the market and we were instantly hit with the disgusting smell of fish. There had to be fish in this market. The first stall we went had the clothes pins we were looking for. We purchased two bags for a total of Php30. It is hard to tell how often we get ripped off or if we are given a fair price. We opted to go further into the market to see if they had fresh fruit. I was really looking forward to fresh fruit here and I have not found it yet. I was so excited when we came across bananas. We got baby yellow bananas and green bananas. Jake was excited for us to try rambutan. It is a beautiful color of purple-red and has spikes all over it. The spikes are flexible and soft. To eat the fruit you peel the outer layer off and reveal a white fleshy oval of fruit. Pop that fruit in your mouth and chew it being careful not to swallow the large seed in the middle. Averi and Jake like it. Tage spit his out without even chewing it. I chewed it, but couldn’t get past the texture which reminded me slightly of jell-o; I do not like jell-o at all.

The market was a farmers market fanatic dream come true. Many stalls of beautiful fresh vegetables and a few stalls of fresh fruit blanketed a large area of land. Towards the back of the market was the fresh fish laying on the counter and opposite the fish was hanging meat, mostly pig. It was a germaphobes worst nightmare. I implored the children to not touch the counters or brush up against them. Claire tends to lean on anything she is close to regardless of what it is. The whole experience was exhilarating and disgusting all at once.

The internet was down all day. Not even our brand new pocket wifi would work. We do not know if it is network overload or if they turn it off on the weekends, but the internet situation in this country is frustrating. We are hoping Monday will be better. That will be the day children and adults are back at work. The internet has appeared to work better during the week and not great on the weekends.

August 28, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

We had pancakes for breakfast this morning. I think it helps the kids feel like they can make it here when we do little things that remind them of home. They were boxed from the supermarket, so they weren’t the best, but they were good enough. Averi misses my homemade pancakes. I don’t blame her. We did have green bananas this morning as well. They are so good, I prefer them over the yellow bananas.

Water, water, water: a constant conversation in the home. We are running low, so Monday we will need to replenish the supply.

My feelings about this whole situation today range from frustration to the coolness of our reality. I’m still all over the map. It is exhausting to think about doing dishes and laundry by hand, but that is the way of life here. The creatures living in and around our house makes me feel uneasy and on edge most of the time. I’m sure after a month it won’t be a thing (here’s to hoping!). My sunburn and the children’s is still concerning in that we are all blistered and peeling. I am fearful of skin cancer and I know that these burns are not good for our skin. The internet, or lack thereof, is a point of frustration. We are so dependent on it for our livelihood.

Homeschool is going well so far. The children seem to like their lessons and I think they are learning lots of useful tools for life. Not only living in a new culture, but also their spelling, grammar, and handwriting are being paid close attention to.

We have made good memories, the children are getting along well and I think they are learning to relate and take care of one another. They know how each other feels being out of their comfort zone. I am glad they have each other.

August 29, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

After taking two Excedrin right before bed I was able to sleep solidly for the first time in four days. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I did get up early and  went for a short mile run. It was already pretty warm outside. No one here exercises the way Americans do; they look at us like we are a strange anomaly. Jake has even gotten out and run for two of the days. Averi went with Jake this morning for a walk/run.

August 30, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

Trying to work on the blog is a frustrating venture. I get frustrated and head upstairs to escape with “Anne of Green Gables” in her picturesque Avonlea. Part of me really wants to go to Avonlea and leave Asia behind. Asia is a world away from America.

While I was in Avonlea a lizard stirred scurrying up the wall quickly brought me back to reality. I am not in Avonlea and I am not going to Avonlea. Instead I am learning to appreciate gross bathrooms with no toilet paper, washing clothes by hand that destroys my skin, constantly sweating, and having dirty feet. Going to Avonlea helps me forget the living conditions I currently experience.

The truth of the matter is that I do want to experience what Asia has to offer.

As I was washing dishes by hand after dinner tonight (which, surprisingly, I would do everyday if it meant I didn’t have to deal with the other stuff) I thought, the people that live here are way tougher than I am. Sure, they don’t know any other way. I do, and I know they are tougher than I am. Perhaps that is why they do not age well here. They are very hard workers. They are doing laundry on their porches for hours. They have bucket showers in cold water. They are constantly in the sun working manual labor. It takes a toll on a person much too early in life.

Missing the luxuries of America is one aspect of living abroad. The other aspect is the severe loneliness you feel being separated from friends. Jake is, of course, my best friend and I am beyond thrilled to be here with him and the children. Having girlfriends to chat with and plan activities with is a part of my life that I am all of a sudden really missing. The other women here just stare at me instead of try to carry on a conversation with me.

The children are doing mostly well. Averi is still not thrilled we are here. She is just biding the time. She is a bit angry at Jake and I for taking her here. Claire will be fine and then all of a sudden break down saying how much she wants to go back to San Jose. Tage says he’s never coming back to the Philippines ever again. I am glad we are on this journey, it is not easy. I keep telling Averi that “beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, it’s the middle that counts.” Beginnings can also be messy. We are still fresh off the boat. We jumped into a very different culture and it was not a gradual change of culture, it was full on different. There is nothing we can do about other than make the best of it. It will get easier as we move on through the countries and get an idea for what we are doing. There is no question in my mind we will be thrilled to head back to America, but I think it will be a little sad at the same time. I know we will grow to enjoy seeing different countries.

August 31, 2016; Dumaguete, Philippines

The windows are constantly covered here. I look forward to when we go outside because the air, the sun, and the heat make me feel alive. We are cooped up inside today and it is proving to be a long afternoon. We need to do some scheduling of activities so we make sure to get outside at least once a day, even if it for an evening walk. The children have made toys out of plastic stools and toys they have on hand to create towers in the kitchen. It is fun to see their imaginations blossom in a small space and with limited resources. This is the part of childhood that children need more of. I am glad that mine are getting it.

I had a new experience today that was somewhat thrilling and somewhat scary. We needed vegetables for tonight and tomorrow nights dinner to help fill us up. I was dying to get out of the house, so we decided I would head to the market to get some food, all by myself. The prospect of this was just as much freeing and thrilling as terrifying. Averi wanted to come with me, so off we ventured.

Like I mentioned previously, it is quite lonely here without another person to talk with about the world, the happenings of the ward, the local events, etc. It dawned on me that they are probably more timid to talk to me than I am of them. This will definitely push me out of my comfort zone, but will help my conversation skills and help me learn to communicate better. Those are two traits I would like to work on and develop more fully in my life.