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.