Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hello Again! Long time no blog.

Hello Everybody! It’s been a while but I’m back and ready to update you guys. So this past weekend we went to an Ayta Village where we spent time hanging out and playing with the people of the village. I will never forget that experience just like I will never forget Inner Mongolia. It’s so beautiful and peaceful and just hanging with these people was soothing to the soul. To recap the time we spent there, we got there, watched them perform a courtship dance, had dinner on banana leaves (that’s right), had a bonfire while sharing stories and songs, then we set up mosquito nets so we could go to sleep. The next day, we woke up, played soccer, baseball, and basketball, then had breakfast. After that we went to a river where some of us took our shoes off and felt the gentle flow of cool water between our toes. Then we came back and had lunch with the whole village and then we played more games with the children. After mucho games, we sat and talked a lot about our lives and their lives. Then, as one would expect, we started to sing songs and then I got to teach them a children’s song that I learned in China and they loved it. We probably sang it at least five times. I think they liked the part in this song where I stick out my behind. After more fellowship, we gathered to say goodbye and gave each family of the village a bag (a kilo of rice I think) and some couldn’t say goodbye to our faces because they were crying. I’d have to tell you more about that experience later because I can’t contain all the details in one blog post.

After the village, we traveled to the church that helps support the village and stayed at an elementary school close by. It had A/C which is the first time the buys have had A/C on this entire trip. It was so cold that I had to escape underneath the blankets to keep myself even remotely warm. In the morning we had some breakfast which included some French fries, yummers! Then we attended the church’s morning service that we ended up being half an hour late to but it was alright I guess since we were the honored guests. After the service in which the sermon was half in Tagolog, we had lunch at the church where I was served an extra heaping of food since I finished my first plate off so fast. Then the vice mayor of the province took us to the monument of the beginning of the Bataan Death March. The Bataan Death March was a very important WWII event so google it if you want more info on it (I’m too lazy to explain it all right now). After the touring of that area, we came back to Manila (we were about three or four hours north of Manila). When we got back, we went back to the orphanage to play with the kids at the orphanage and help put them to bed.

The next day was spent shopping at the Greenhills shopping center where I used my bargaining skills to help out Sarah with some purchases. I bought some items too but the bargaining was vastly different here in the Philippines than in Beijing. They stick to a price here and won’t go down at all, even if you try to walk away sometimes. In Beijing, I could bargain down a price for at least half an hour. Anyways, we left Greenhills to get some lunch at Megamall and to get more money exchanged before our trip to Puerto Galera (so fun!). After that shopping filled day, we played with the children again and put them to sleep and then Charis, Mrs. Jones, Sarah, and I went to a spa. The girls got their nails done but I got an hour massage with oil. My first massage in the Philippines and oh what a fabulous massage it was. First off, it was the same price as a massage in China. Two, I could actually take off my clothes for getting an oil massage. Three, they could speak English and asked me whether the pressure was okay or not. It was just a great experience…almost. The lady then proceeded to massage my buttocks, but without the clothes. It might have been the most awkward thing I have experienced (okay, probably not the most awkward but it’s up there). I was just laying there enjoying my massage and before I knew it my towel was off and oil was being rubbed on my butt! It happened so fast that I didn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, the girls took about two or three hours to get their nails done and so we were out until 11:30 which is late considering we usually go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00.

The next day (Tuesday if you’re keeping track) was a normal day at the orphanage and at the school with teaching. That night we went out with the two ladies (Ate Grace and Ate Merci) who helped translate and organize our trip to the village. We went out to dinner and ate a ton of food at this restaurant called Max’s, which had chicken and traditional Filipino food. They even had a TV but all they showed were commercials for their restaurant, which were very entertaining since most of them were like mini soap operas. After dinner, destiny would rear its ugly head and we walked by a stand that said “Balut Express.” If you don’t know what balut is, google it. Just kidding, it’s a duck egg that has been fertilized for 16-21 days and steamed. I had told many people that I would take on the endeavor of devouring this Filipino delicacy and so I ordered one balut. My team was more than excited except Olivia, she couldn’t bear to watch it. The first part to eating balut is to drink the juice inside of the shell. I did this and to be honest, it wasn’t half bad. Then the moment came to bite into the actual egg. I closed my eyes and did it, only to spit it back out. The taste triggered my gag reflex and sent me into a whirlwind of emotions. But I couldn’t let the unborn duck to defeat me that easily. I had some of the yolk and then located the duckling and tried once more. And like before, it won the best of me and I spit it back out. All I can say for now is that there will be a second round. Maybe I won’t name him/ her next time (I named it Ralph).

Today Alex, Chris, and I helped out Uncle Jeff by pouring cement with about 20 other Filipino guys from the community. It was pretty exhausting work but a lot of fun and it was cool to see how we layered an entire floor of cement in one day. Now I am finishing packing for Puerto Galera so I hope to write sometime after that. Peace and love to you all!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Philippines, Thy name is Malls and Children

The past couple of days have been jam packed with new experiences so I decided to write now, even though I’m dead tired, so I won’t forget. On Sunday, we went to two different church services. The first service was at Charis’ old congregation and had a lively choir and kind staff. The one thing I noticed is that when I walked by a large crowd of people, they all wanted to shake my hand. It just goes to show the kindheartedness of Filipino culture. Then we went to an international church in downtown Manila that had a massive congregation. We were told that each service (four of them in all) had about 3000 attendees each. That’s like my church back home except multiplied by 12 for the whole day! The pastor was very good though, had a great sermon, and was very talented at speaking and getting everybody to laugh. After experiencing the big church, we headed to the Megamall for lunch and shopping. When I say that this was Megamall, I really mean it was a mega mall. I’ve never seen so many shops in my entire life. Take the biggest mall you’ve ever seen in your entire life and multiply it by 12 (just like the church). We had lunch at this Chinese food restaurant and went to a cultural shop that had Filipino souvenirs in it. As in many Asian countries, there were karaoke machines in the shop we were in and being the Asian that I am, couldn’t help but sing a little. You can ask Chris Reynolds later for videos since he videotaped me singing and the girl behind me singing with me. Oh the joys of being in the Philippines.

From Monday on, we have been helping with school and after school with the kids from the orphanage and from around the community. Basically, our days have consisted of waking up at 7:30 am, going to school and help teachers with class (I help with math), get a lunch break, teach some more, go to the orphanage after school to play basketball and hang out with the children, eat dinner, then do songs and devotions with the children before reading them bedtime stories and putting them to bed. To say the least, after every long day, I crash onto my bed and fall asleep, even though we are probably sleeping in about 82 degree weather with humidity. But these past days have been such a blessing. I absolutely love helping the children to learn different concepts and that it is actually sticking with them. I love playing basketball with the boys and having them laugh when I try to dunk on kiddy baskets. I love worshipping with all the children because they try to sing at the top of their little lungs to praise God. And most of all, I love hanging out with them before bed, reading them bedtime stories and talking about my faith and their lives before the lights are turned off.

Now we have one last day with them before we head off to the village where we will be experiencing totally new things and I know I will probably be out of my comfort zone but that will be just fine. This summer has been about me being out of my comfort zone and embracing that to experience God in a whole new way. I Love It!!!! I would just ask for prayers over out team’s safety and health as we go to the village and that it would be a blessed experience for everyone. Hopefully I won’t be so tired next time I write one of these blogs.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the Philippines...

I know that it’s been awhile since I have written but in case you guys didn’t know… I’M IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!! I had a little writer’s break between the last week in China and now. So here now it is everybody’s favorite part of these blogs… story time! To start things off, I had two ginormous Chipotle burritos as my last meal in the States before traveling. Then I headed to the airport and met with my awesome team who I haven’t seen in a very long time. It was good to talk and catch up with all of them and to share some stories about my experiences in China (if you want to know more about China and my last week there, just call or meet up with me in the States). Also, I found out at the airport from Charis that it was her parent’s anniversary. Unfortunately, Mr. Jones was in Orlando and Mrs. Jones was traveling with us to the Philippines. Luckily, I was there to help aid this situation ;). I found this guy in the airport who was playing the guitar if he could play a song for me to sing to Mrs. Jones. I then ran into the Hudson News airport shop to get some Seattle Truffle chocolates. With all of this in place, our group sang the “Happy Anniversary” song to Mrs. Jones with the guitar player (his name was Russ).

Then I had the special privilege to travel back to Asia yet again on another long and enjoyable plane ride (note the sarcasm). We arrived late at night but were warmly greeted by Jeff Long who took us to the guesthouse which we are now residing in. The house has wireless internet and feels like a normal home in the U.S. which is very comforting. Today, we were given tours of the community center by Jeff’s wife as well as the orphanage. I am very excited to work with these children and to get to know them. Even today they were extremely friendly and some of them were already asking for our names. I guess that it was just a shock to me since the migrant children in China were much more shy and it took a week or two for them to finally open up to us and to find out our names. Then we visited Faith Academy where Charis went to school in the Philippines. The school had very new facilities and a brand new auditorium which has been called one of the nicest auditorium’s in Manila. After we took some tours of the school, we went swimming in the school’s swimming pool and had a blast just swimming around and trying to work out the jet lag. As I am typing this now I can feel my body wanting to sleep and just crash but I am going to power through the rest of this.

After the school visit, we got some fruit from the local street vendors and it was delicious! The mango here is really tasty and has a slightly different flavor than that of the United States but still has a very good flavor. Then we climbed some old ruins of a military recreation center to get a cool view of the Manila skyline which we weren’t able to get because of overgrown plants of trees blocking our view. I’m glad to be back at the guesthouse and being able to meet other people staying here at the guesthouse who are traveling here in the Philippines. Anyways, we are having a team meeting right now so I will update all of you after tomorrow’s day of fun.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ketchup (on the blogs I've missed)

I know it’s been a while since my last blog/email and it’s simply because I’ve been chilling and relaxing with the team and doing stuff around the city and because I’ve been lazy. So I hope I can sum up all the days that I’ve missed but there has been a lot that has gone on since last Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday can be summed up as just regular days at camp with the children running around, kids hanging off my shoulders/arms, and some capture the flag which they turned into defend the country’s national treasure. Then came Friday, which was a very interesting day. First, some background information: CMC is getting a sports complex built by Barclays (a rich British bank) and Barclays wanted some publicity on their investment. So they brought in one of England’s most famous football coaches and a famous soccer player to the camp to play with the kids. Before Friday, it seemed like a cool idea and I thought that the kids would have some fun playing with soccer players. What it turned out to be was a typical publicity stunt for Barclays. The coach and player came in, said some words to the cameras, and watched as local soccer coaches taught the kids some basic football skills. Then they took numerous photos and gave the kids tons of gifts but did it without any real meaning. When we gave the kids gifts of candy and stickers, they ate their little hearts out and gave us some of their stickers. When Barclays gave the kids water bottles and pens, they had puzzled looks on their faces like, “What do we do with these?” Also, the British ladies who were running this little publicity stunt were not too thrilled to work at a dusty community center with migrant children. They complained soooooo much! Then, one of the local coaches gathered the children by saying, “Okay! All the migrants come over this way!” This would have been extremely offensive but luckily the kids could not understand what he was saying with his thick British accent. The one good thing that came out of that day of camp was meeting with Jonathan Hursh and at least having a brief conversation with him about CMC and how far they’ve come in only it’s three years of existence.

After the craziness of that day, we went to lunch and then were told that there were extra tickets to a football tournament in Beijing and wondered if we would like to go. We watched two football matches that night in a tournament that had three British teams and only one Chinese team, Team Beijing. I had a blast at the tournament and it was fun because one of the volunteers from the camp, Becky, came and watched with us (she’s British!). The Beijing team was not that good and got fourth place in the tournament. The second game was for first play and was a good game. Plus, there were tons of fans that came from England and I just loved cheering/yelling/singing with them. Most of my China team just ohhed and ahhed over the attractive and athletic footballers. That was such a fun night!!! The next day was just a lazy day for us and our team trying to figure out what to do the next week since our other camp was also canceled because of the swine flu. In hindsight, we were lucky to get in at least one camp since most other teams/organizations that came to China didn’t get to hold one camp or were quarantined because of swine flu. But as of now, we do have an option to run some English camps just outside of Beijing so please pray that we might get to do that. Sunday we went to church and the Pearl Market again so people could finish up some last minute shopping and I got some cool stuff too. And then I got one of my favorite things in the world… A FOOT MASSAGE!!! I should probably stop getting those since it’s eating into my pocket but they just feel soooooo good. Almost better than a head massage (wow, did I just say that?). Anyways, that’s all I have for now but I will give you another update as more stuff happens.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sickness (in a bad way)

I was trying to think of something really exciting to tell you all about from the last couple of days but I feel as though that I have started a routine. On Sunday, we went to church (the international one) and met some more amazing people. Then we just headed back to the hotel and rested for a couple of hours. A couple of us were restless (myself included) and so we went to the Silk Market which is kind’ve like the Pearl Market except it has a lot more clothes. I am not kidding you when I say this but I am freaking good at bargaining. My bargaining skills are modeled after my Jewish uncle and he knows how to bargain. I think every salesperson in the Silk Market hates me now because I have an idea of the actual price of the item they are trying to sell me so I bargain them down to that price. After a while, I even told them that they should just give me the actual price because we both know that I’m not gonna budge on my price. One lady wondered where I learned my skills and I told that I am half Chinese and half American. She laughed and then preceded to call a bunch a names that I won’t repeat in this update.

On Monday I taught the kids Red Light, Green Light and Duck, Duck, Goose. After touching all the kids’ heads, I caught some type of cold so if you guys could pray for that, I would appreciate it. Today (Tuesday), I did my best to play with the kids but afterwards I just felt the cold in my body and couldn’t do anything but sleep. For dinner, I went to a restaurant separate from the team so I could get a nice big bowl of wonton soup with dumplings on the side. I stuffed myself, which is a hard thing to do in itself, all for 24 yuan ($3.53)!!! Then I just walked down our alley, stopped at the local Australian bar to talk to Ned, the owner of the bar, and now I am back at our hotel, ready to get some rest so I can kick this cold out of my system.

Hopefully feeling better,


Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Typical Weekend

I think I’ve decided that I want to live here in China, or at least live here for a while and just chill in the Beijing lifestyle for a while. It is so cool! Or maybe I just want to travel. I’ve met so many cool travelers here and I want to be like them and travel the world for a while. Plus, I can’t get all the cheap massages that I want! So today we went to the zoo and had a blast seeing all the pandas. I do have to say I was a bit disappointed by the lack of care for the animals. The tiger exhibit was filled with water bottles that visitors had thrown in the area and the tigers just slept and didn’t care. I guess I have to say I’m also disgusted with the lack of care from the visitors as I saw most of them feed the animals human food like bread and chocolates. I will say that is was cool to be able to pet some zebras today but I think they only came up to me because they thought I would be feeding them something. While I was there, I had to take a look at the wolves because they are my favorite animal (hence my nicknames and email addresses are named after wolves). When I got there, the wolves looked malnourished and scraggly as hair was falling off and they were just not what I was expecting. The pandas were the only exciting part of the zoo and even they were sleepy. Oh the joys of going to a zoo where animals are mistreated.

On a lighter note, after the zoo we went to this clothing market right next to the zoo where it was packed with shoppers. Kyle and I looked at suits that could be custom made for about 500 kuai, which is about 75 US dollars. Then the next adventure happened to our team. We expected to meet at a designated place at 5:30 pm. What we didn’t know was that the shopping plaza/mall closed at 5:00 pm. When they started shutting off of 4:55 pm, most of us met at the designated area except Pauline and Sabrina, the two people we were most afraid of that would get lost. We searched for them all over the shopping mall and couldn’t find them. Then we went outside to look for them and we started to panic. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted them so Kyle and I dashed over to them before they caught a taxi back to the hotel. Turns out, they had been locked out of the plaza and couldn’t get back to the meeting area. Our whole team was freaking out for a while but I couldn’t help but think that crazy things like this happen in Beijing, and that’s why I love it so much.

Friday, July 24, 2009

4 New Entries Posted

This is Michael's sister, Klarrisa, and I am posting his blogs for him that he emails me since blog sites are blocked in China. I just posted 4 new entries. Sorry it took so long! I lost the password and it took awhile to hear back from him. He has some great stories to share. You can see he's learning so much! I'm so thankful for this little guy.