Day 53

Waking up at 6:00 am to sunlight and frantic mad church-bell ringing ushering in the sun as if the sun were waiting for the bells to come.

Turn off the a/c and lie back down to sleep until my wrist vibrated warning me it was 7  am.

Turn if off and lie awake until I wake again at 8:35 am. Late…but not too late. Walked from the hot room to the hot hallway and into the hot bathroom. 

Cold water. Cold bucket full of water using a tabo  to douse myself with cold water. Cold at first, then soap and shampoo and suddenly the water isn’t all that cold.  Refreshingly not-so-cold.

Get out, shave, walk out into the not-so-hot hallway, back into the not-so-hot bedroom and get dressed.  Walk out into the not-so-hot kitchen, cleaning up the dishes from the night before.

Open the fridge and pull out my cold brew, walk to the stove and grab the sieve and a pot.  Return to the sink, and start to pour the brew through the sieve and into the pot.  Where is the oil skimmer?  Grab it, then pour the brew out of the pot and back into the glass jug through the oil skimmer, fine sieving it.  Repeat again for second jug.

Walk to the freezer, retrieve the ice. Turn around to face the sink, extract the ice from the jealous guardian of the cubes. Retrieve pink cup. “Everyday is Coffee Day”  So true so true.  Pour the brew over the ice and stir. Add nothing, just the infusion of cold refreshment.

Pack up the work bag, wipe the counter and the sink. Grab sunglasses, wallet, coin purse, sun hat and keys. Lock the door and close it behind me – find the electric bill.

Put on the sandals. Wrist vibrates reminding me to step 124 times for my hourly goal. Smile. Descend the stairs, whistle. Open the gate. There’s a bird. “Heyyy birdie!”  I would rather see a bird than another rat.

Walk around the corner past the honks of Taxis trying to catch my ear and eye. Round the corner in the sun, feeling the hot heat test the resiliency of my cold bath – who will win? Approach the bakery, remember my growling stomach – step inside the shady indent.

The bakery lady seems more friendly than the previous 6 times…perhaps I have achieved local bakery status. She smiles at my local language skills of counting what I want, sale over. “Salamat” I say and whistle on my way.

Look before I cross the street and turn the corner.  The construction workers wave as they wave every morning. “Hey Joe!” they say. “Maayung Buntag” says I and they reply laughing, “Maayung Buntag sab”

I smile even in the heat of the sun cooking off my cold shower and walk on my way turning the last corner, avoiding the tricycles and the dogs walking until I see the office.  No van outside – I wonder if anyone is there.  I ring the doorbell. “Hmm, I should get a key sometime…” I crouch behind the door, feeling playful, so my head doesn’t peak over the gate.  “Taas kaayo ka Adam!” Ate Cecil says laughing.

Standing up, peak through the bars. “Yea – I was trying to hide” She chuckles and lets me in.

Walk to the office kitchen. Ugh that dead rat smell persists still. Place the bread on the table outside, take a roll.  Greet colleagues. Head toward the work room. “Maayung Buntag Adam, komusta?”  “Okay lang” I reply, ” Just running late today”  “Okay lang kaayo” The boss says. “I like your cup! Is there a new coffee shop around?”

“Yea…’ I say grinning: “Cafe Adam”

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March is here!

March is already here.  I’ve been here just over a month.  This past weekend I had an opportunity to reflect, interestingly enough it was initiated by going to church.

Tri-lingual church is a special place to be.  I don’t fully understand what all is said, likewise it is hard to keep up with a sermon that transitions from Tagalog to English to Bisaya and back again.  In general my understanding of the sermon comes in waves:  I concentrate trying to distinguish the fast flowing Tagalog from Bisaya before just spacing out wrapped in my own thoughts.  Then I hear English, and I perk up and sit straighter, listening carefully and often, Bisaya comes right after the English so I can follow along then…and sooner or later back to Tagalog we descend, and I am lost again, lost also in my own thoughts and reflecting on the part of the sermon I understood.  The application of that sermon in my own life.

Church then has become a place of reflection and guided instropection although I am missing large chunks of the message, I have to make do for now with what I am given to understand.

I have now almost fully settled here:  I have a place to live, I have a bed. I have a place to sit, a kitchen.  My budget was approved (YAY.)  I already have a church home.  Today I am having another meeting with InPeace to get a clearer understanding of my portfolio.  Tomorrow I am going to finally drop off my Missionary 9G visa which, if all goes well, will get me a 3 year visa to work and live in the Philippines.

March is a busy month around here.  Schools finish this month, beginning summer vacation.  We have a big conference next week that many people are busy preparing for = I am throwing in wherever I can.  It is also the 80th celebration of “Araw Ng Davao” translated to Day of Davao which is a weekend celebration of Davao City.

I find myself getting weird deja vu feelings as I walk around town.  I get confused sometimes what year it is as many places have many memories for me.  All in all this time adjusting has been different, and in many ways will continue to be different.  I am glad that so far is hasn’t included debilitating sickness or overwhelming sadness.

Yes I still miss places and people from previous lives elsewhere.  Yet overall, I am feeling extremely lucky to be back here.  Here’s to March, and the beginning of something new.

16, 601, 997 Compelling Reasons for Peace

For those unfamiliar with the current state of affairs, the Philippines has been in a state of civil war for almost 50 years.  Each presidential administration since the 1990s has tried to forge some measure of peace, but always abandoned those attempts quite early on.  After all, peace is much harder to achieve than war.

Current president of the Philippines ran on the promise of being dedicated and serious in addressing the root causes of the nigh on 50 yr conflict between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GRP)  After his election, the peace talks that had stalled under the Aquino administration were resumed along with a 150 day cease fire.

Three rounds of peace talks concluded with promises of a fourth round in February, when miscommunications between the negotiation panels and the forces on the ground ruptured the cease-fire.  Duterte then pulled out of the peace talks, threatening at all out war and not returning unless he had a “compelling reason” to.

This past Feb. 18th I attended a Peace Consultation for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP held at a university downtown.  It was heartening to see a large conference room overflowing with people representing all strata of Filipino society: lawyers, clergy, nuns, bishops, missionaries, community organizers, students, journalists, labor unions, farmers, indigenous peoples, former political prisoners, artists, writers, politicians, government officials and many more.  Notably, it was very heartening to see negotiating panel members of both the NDFP and the GRP.

For four hours we discussed the progress made, the peace process so far and disappointment in the Duterte administration backing out of the peace process.  We finished with a consultation on coming up with compelling reasons to resume the peace process.  There were many.  The one that made me perk up the most is when a participant stood up and said:

There are “16, 601, 997 compelling reasons for peace” representing each Filipino who voted for Duterte and his promise to bring peace and address the root causes of social injustice that plague the Philippines.

I think there are really more like 102,250,133+ compelling reasons for peace.  Every Filipino deserves genuine peace based on social justice, human rights and dignity.

So Mr. President, instead of focusing so much on your War on Drugs and War on NDFP…Focus on Peace.  102,250,133+ Reasons for peace, the present and future of the Filipino people.

Sowing Love, not Fear.

The question I get asked the most is:  Does he understand Bisaya?

Okay so that question isn’t directed to me, nevertheless it is about me.  The question I then get asked is “How long will you be staying here?”

The third most asked question to me is:  “What do you think about the President?”

The President in this case is the new POTUS.  I answer this question with a shrug and reply that I do not like him.  People then ask me if I voted for him to which I answer “No, I did not.”

I then get a why not?  Why don’t I like the  new Potus and why didn’t I vote for him?

In Bisaya, while I can understand and speak, I am still limited so the answer I give the questions is simple.  I do not like him and did not vote for him because I am a Christian.

I believe in planting seeds of hope, faith,love and truth.  Living my life walking in the light, following the light.  The new Potus plants fear, deceit and hate.

Yes I understand Bisaya, and I can communicate through gestures and pointing that which I have no words for.  More importantly I can speak from my christian heart which says these things happening to our neighbors in the US, these Executive Orders are wrong, and are incompatible with my beliefs as a Christian: they are incompatible with the Old Testament and the New.

This is not theology or interpretation that can be understood differently.  Leviticus 19:33-34 says:

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

First I am a Christian. Then I am an Earthling. A Neighbor, a brother, a son, a man, a millennial, a wanderer, an activist, a musician, a geologist. And way down the line somewhere I am a United States citizen.  My identity is in Christ first, followed by the community of Creation.  Identifying myself as part of organization and state of an exclusive nation is not high up on my list.

Yet if I stand by and am silent while these things are done in my name, I am still complicit.

I will not be silent. Even though I do not reside in my passportland.  Even though I may not be fluent in their language, I will not be idle.

Back in the Pilipinas

If you say it just right it almost sounds like a Beatles’ song.

Four flights or 5,698 miles later I arrived in Davao City after a grand total of just under 36hrs of transit time.  That’s 158 miles per hour which is pretty good considering had some nice 4 hr layovers on two occasions.

The past weekend was a lull in scheduled activities for InPeace, so I’ve had time to begin re-adjusting.

It has been as challenging as I recall.  Bugs everywhere – the office is old so there are tiny ants that invade all the spaces.  The heat – and it’s not even summer yet.  I have drunk so many liters of water! Thank goodness the tap water is potable here.

I had to go visit the doctor the other day – flying with a cold and having the different air pressures wreak havoc on my Eustachian tubes didn’t make my ears happy campers.  I am taking a huge antibiotic pill twice a day!  Luckily as my doctor happily pointed out to me:  I’m in Asia now and I could see a specialist right away.

And it was way cheaper.

Another adjustment for me has been the commitment to speaking no English.  Bisaya is my primary mode of communication.  Sure, I throw in connector words, but for the most part my english is reserved for my thoughts only.

I went to church on Sunday and immediately was greeted wth a hug by an old bible study mate and was promptly invited to rejoin the choir.  It’s true in the Philippines there is no meeting without eating!  I was very happy to reconnect with long lost friends.

I am still looking for a place to call my own.  It has been challenging as I don’t know exactly where to look – and not everyone posts classifieds online.  On Thursday, some folks from the office are going to drive around with me and see what we can find.  Until then I will continue to sit tight and see what I can see online, whilst recovering from my ear infection and drinking lots of Bisaya and learning many ways of water.

I mean, drinking lots of water and learning more Bisaya.

DO IT TODAY FOR TOMORROW’S OUTCOME!

The Book of Fellows

I need to give affection and love, because without that, I wither. I need to give that love to someone. Without that, I’m rudderless.

My heart sobs!

Flower, my beautiful flower, my very precious flower.The mother flower in my garden which gave out many flowers including me.You were my flower, but now the flower that has withered without being sick.

Yes, I once thought of this, that one day we might depart; you first or me. But I never thought of you just departing so fast, so easily, so silently without a goodbye! My flower, you were matronly beautiful. Daily, you marked the beauty of my world and made the scent of my garden. Whenever I saw you while watering you, I always prayed for you to wait a little so as to see me grow too

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Looking back

Today I am sitting in a cafe once again, reading Global Mission Fellows applications and taking in the stories of the young people who are applying this year.  Then it hit me- and I had to write it down quick.   I am content.

It has been almost 6 months since I finished my assignment as Mission Advocate at Global Ministries.  In reading these applications I was reminded of what I wrote on my cover letter when I applied to be Mission Advocate.

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To speak Good news to the greater church…

My exit interview as Mission Advocate went pretty poorly. Perhaps it was that I had lost sight of my reasons for wanting to serve in that capacity, perhaps it was the knowledge that I had fallen short of  my superiors’ expectations – goals that exponentially changed as those of a thriving product tend to do.  Perhaps it is that I take failure hard, and am predisposed to gloss over small victories and judge my work as failed.  Whatever the reason it took me until now, in catching sight of my own personal goal as Mission Advocate, to remember who I am, and why I am so convinced in the vitalness of serving as a Mission Advocate, and serving as a missionary.

There are two new Mission Advocate positions that will be filled this year. I can only hope that the two people who fill them will not lose sight, as I did, of the real reason they want to serve in that capacity.

Spreading the Good News,

A.

 

One, two, three, four, five…

Five months of waiting and I finally have a departure date!

Finished with all my medical work, counseling and therapy I am now ready to depart for the Philippines.  It is strange – I went through being very eager to resolvedly patient to grudging acceptance of delays and finally to acceptance that I might be grounded for some time.  And finally I am all cleared to go!

I’ll be moving to the Philippines on Jan. 25th 2017.  Now that my departure date is imminent, I find myself really enjoying the cold mornings.  It might be silly but I used to dream about the cold when ensconced in the heat of the Philippine days and nights.  So, walking outside for an hour and appreciating nature and weather I won’t have for the next 2.5 years is something I relish.

Also on my mind is mobilizing myself to go. I used this word with a good friend to describe what my preparations entailed because I raring to go for so long – and then decided to be unready while I waited for my medical.  Now I need to find my boxes, sort through clothes and fit the foundations of my life into 2 suitcases.  I can technically bring 2 suitcases, a carry-on and a personal item but in this case my carry on will  be my ukulele.

I watched the documentary ‘Minimalists’ on Netflix which has me thinking about what I am bringing and how much I am bringing.  I know I won’t need things that are readily available for purchase in the Philippines.  I did buy a bunch of summer weather clothes in anticipation – and then was scrambling the past few months to find clothes to wear during the winter freeze.

Now that I’m finally going – it’s like a dream come true.  Yet, I know I will miss the convenience of living in the US.  I’ll miss family and friends. Still, I am glad to finally have a purpose and something to work for again.

So here’s to a new adventure.  One that took sometime to get here, but is finally happening. Ready or not Here I come!

 

 

 

Fall colors the Eye

fallThis past weekend I engaged in an activity I have not done on a regular bases since I was in my early 20s. I got to mow the lawn.

If you can picture it in your head – my parent’s front lawn is full and thick with grass. So thick in fact that when mowing every 10 days there are always leftover grass cuttings that do not evaporate into the wind like the our neighbors’ do. We must grass of the ‘devoted’ planted, the variety that sticks around even after it gets cut. The front lawn also has a nice flower and bush bed in the front of the house that helps hide the foundation. I can’t describe it for I have never seen the mythical foundation of our house but I know it’s there…Somewhere.

The rear lawn can be found by entering a leaning wooden gate set between the split rail fence and the wall. Unlike the front, the rear lawn is rather bumpy. Here we find the pine cones, the strange mushy fruit that seems perpetually rotten, the odd lack of grass around the two trees. In the backyard there is also a working garden- I say working because it is beautiful and a testament to the hard work of the gardener who cares for it. Garden utensils like hoses, hose guides and diggers are found scattered around. This garden is for beauty and for play.

The rear lawn despite not being of the same thickness nor fullness is more welcoming than the front. This is clear from the animal visitors that think of the lawn as their local cafe. The bird bath is open to birds and inclusive of squirrels. The neighborhood cat roamers also pay a visit and leave many ‘gifts’ that assail the nostrils.

So it was this lawn I was mowing, the front: an easy ride and the back more of a challenge. I finished the front in a breeze. A strong breeze that blew all the cuttings in my face. I rather prefer the scent of freshly cut grass in my face than the freshly pooped crap I got in the backyard, as I rolled right over the unavoidable hidden cat poop deposited liberally in the rear yard.

There is zen in mowing the lawn. To the uninitiated, the complex odors of pine, grass, poop, compost, flowers and gasoline might be a deterrent to engaging in this fall activity. Yet to me, there is zen in bumping around the lawn with the roar or the engine and the whirr of the blades as my companions.

Zen.  The way the grass looks different when still or windswept. The patterns of the blades cutting the grass. The colors of the leaves in the trees and on the ground. The different sizes and textures of the cuttings blowing back to mess in my hair and in my clothes – giving me a ‘wild mower man’ look.  Zen in the respite from offensive political rhetoric and gospels full of hate.

Zen mower moments breeze to mowing thoughts. Fall mowing thoughts that color my eye and assail my senses, heralding tomorrow’s tasks.

Wayiqra – And YaHWeH called.

“You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories” -Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

October 2016 finds in a place I didn’t expect or hope to be.  I moved back under the same roof as my parents after having lived in my own household for essentially 9 years.  Readjustment has been difficult for all of us. My parents have been gracious and hospitable enough to welcome me back. The struggle is when parenthood accountability demands meets my independent 28yr old reality.  This is compounded by the open ended nature of my wait for medical clearance and clarity on assignment.

And yet we coexist, we cohabitate.  Fall is a season of Change. Waiting for the world to change, waiting for my world to change.

 

But, all this time means I am looking to visit! Click to the “Invite Me” page and invite me to your event.  I’d be happy to come as I am able.