Back in the USA

Welp, I made it. I’m back home, now packing to move for grad school.  It feels weird to be back… I wish I were still in Dumaguete!  I miss the kids and the girls…and a had a dream about Gordo, the dog, last night!  I want to start planning a trip back already :)

If you have any questions about my trip, or want to see more specific pictures, message me!

A brief overview of my tour of Bohol!  It was really interesting, and an awesome day! 

We started with the Tarsiers.  Tarsiers are small animals that are endangered.  They live only on Bohol, and in a small area of Indonesia.  There are several conservatories on the island for them.  Tarsiers are nocturnal, so all but two of them were sleeping, but they are so cute!  Their story is sad though; their numbers are dwindling quickly.  They don’t survive well with humans around.  When people get too close, or touch them, they can become depressed and die.  One was found on a golf course in Manila last month, and died quickly because of all the human interaction.

Then we drove through the man-made forest.  The forest was planted in the mid-1950’s in order to stop the massive landslides that were decimating the towns at the bottom of the hills.  Driving through it is rather spooky, because all the trees are the same; it seems like you’re in a scary movie set!

The chocolate hills are what Bohol is most famous for (along with the tarsiers).  They are called so because in the summer when the grass dies, they are sorta brown!  It’s really interesting though, because the hills are made of limestone and coral, built up when the island was underwater long ago, and nothing but grass can grow on them.  There are similarly shaped hills all over the island, but only the hills that have only grass on them are actually the “chocolate hills.”  

There is also a butterfly conservatory on the island.  The butterfly most common during this season is the “lazy butterfly,” so it was really cool to be surrounded by all the lazy butterflies!  Since they are lazy, they live almost twice as long as other butterflies.

THEN! I had lunch on a floating restaurant on the Rio Verde.  Noni plants grow in the Rio Verde — Noni is the fibrous plant traditionally used for roofs and mats, and it only grows where fresh water and salt water meet.  The river cruise was very relaxing, although I’ve learned that this is the Korean vacation season, and Bohol is apparently the place to go!

Next, we went to the oldest Jesuit church in the Philippines, which was kinda cool. It was built in the mid-1500’s, and got the third organ every in the Philippines, after two metro-Manila churches.

And last, but certainly not least, we went to see the world’s largest captive python.  ”Prony” is 28 feet long, and weighs 218 pounds.  And you can go into his cage and pet him….. He is pretty :)  I was told he eats one 50 kilo pig per month, or two goats.  Yup.

Cebu

This morning, I boarded a boat for Cebu :(  I can’t believe my time at Rainbow is over for now.  I was so sad to say goodbye to the girls!

When I arrived in Cebu (and after finding and checking into my hotel and such), I went in search of the butterfly garden!  No one seemed to know quite where it was, but we found it eventually!  The garden is not only just butterflies, but also a whole Filippino cultural experience.  The guide showed me the different types of homes (now I know why there are two types of houses :) ), how to make the hanging rice sacks, and different types of plants used here.  She also showed me a “shy plant.”  I want to get one of those; it’s a plant, but when you touch it, it reacts to your touch and curls in on itself!  I also got to shoot an old Filippino blow dart.

Then, I went to the Taoist Temple, in Beverly Hills Cebu. Yes, you read that right.  The temple (really, temples, because there are several of them) are amazing.  They are beautiful, and tranquil, and just awesome to see.  

Then, I went up to the top of the mountains around the city, to a look out area.  There’s a large circle cut out of the jungle, with a semi-circle made of a concrete building with bars and restaurants.  The view was spectacular, and I’m really glad I got to go up there!

Then, in case you were wondering, I topped off my birthday with room service and cartoons :) Cause I’m an adult like that.

I left Rainbow this morning :(  I took the 7am boat to Cebu, and of course, my alarm got messed up, and I didn’t wake up intil 6, when our field director came to get me to leave!  So it was a hectic morning.  Luckily, the girls were ready and came with me to bid me farewell.  I was so sad to say goodbye.
On the plus side, I’ve made it to Hotel Pier Cuatro, where I’m staying tonight!  

I left Rainbow this morning :(  I took the 7am boat to Cebu, and of course, my alarm got messed up, and I didn’t wake up intil 6, when our field director came to get me to leave!  So it was a hectic morning.  Luckily, the girls were ready and came with me to bid me farewell.  I was so sad to say goodbye.

On the plus side, I’ve made it to Hotel Pier Cuatro, where I’m staying tonight!  

Yesterday we had a despidata for me… We all went to Inasal, a chicken place, and all the Agape girls, most of the older girls, and four of the little kids came with us.  It was such a good time — Philippino “fast food” that you eat with your hands!  I was smiling and tearing up at the same time.  The little ones LOVED our outing!  We went to the Inasal at the mall, so the kids were running around and sliding on the waxed floors (floors here are much more slippery…)

Afterwards the Agape girls and I went to youth group!  I am going to miss them so much…I don’t want to leave! After youth group a visiting couple took us out for ice cream at McDonalds (why are the McDonalds in other countries so much better than the ones in the US?!).

It was a really good day…I got a lot done, and I was so glad to be able to hang out with the kids and the girls.  I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow morning — I don’t want to!

Welp, I’ve begun packing :(   I’m taking on the challenge of fitting almost three months worth of souvenirs and clothes into the same luggage I came in.  Go go gadget packing skills!! 

Nicole, the other short term volunteer here right now, brought a parachute for the kids! Remember parachutes? Like, the best day of gym class ever!? (Along with the boards with the wheels…)  Anyhoo, the kids really like it!  The little ones were tentative at first, but they caught on, and really liked the colors underneath it while the adults put it down over them :)  One little girl especially loves it — she was really cautious at first, but then started walking under it with her arms up and this HUGE smile!! She’s precious :)

The past couple of days have been fairly eventful!  Our field director was still under the weather, so on Friday we made play doh with the Agape girls for the kids to play with — which was fun all in itself!  In addition, Friday night at youth group was back to school worship night!  It was a great night :)

Yesterday Nicole (the other short term volunteer) and I took the Agape girls to see Monster’s University.  Not only was it an awesome movie, but we had a great time trying to catch a pedi for 6 people and taking on the mall with 4 teenage girls.

Today we had lunch at a great little place called Gabby’s with our field director, two other local missionaries, and one of their friends.  It was a great time of fellowship, and great food!  After, Nicole and I went with the other missionary couple to get hot stone massages, which was very relaxing!  Our field director is getting much better, and the kids are getting healthier, so hopefully we’ll be back to normal (whatever “normal” is around here) soon!

This has been a busy week!  The kids are coming down with foot, hand, and mouth disease, which is virtually non-existent in Western countries but isn’t uncommon here.  It’s mostly an issue with children, and adults don’t often get it, although it’s pretty highly contagious.  So, of course, the adults are getting it… So far, two yayas and our field director are down with it! :(  So it’s been a bit crazy around here.

I’ve made my plans to leave in the next couple of weeks… I can’t believe it’s almost time to leave.  To put it out there, I want to stay!  I’m going to miss the girls and the kids here… A LOT!! I foresee another trip here in the semi-near future :)

Moving an ex-Agape girl and her family!

Today I helped Alyn, an ex-agape girl, and her family move.  I wanted to write about it because I feel like I got a really good look at how the average family lives here, and I think it’s important to share that.

Alyn and her husband have two little boys, one 3 and one 15 months.  Before, they lived down a very rough un-paved road, and shared a piece of land with several other families (including the family that owns the land);  and paid 950php (almost $25) for rent — plus all utilities, and there was no running water.  The “house” was about 4 1/2 feet by 9 feet or so, and the CR was in a little alcove on the side of the home.  There was no kitchen, and it was in a lowland area, so it floods often, and has a lot of mosquitoes and other bugs.  Their house was at the front of the property, so all the other families had to walk through their area to get to the other houses.  All together, I would estimate that the total space they had to themselves was perhaps a 20 by 20 foot square… 

We moved them to a house on the South side of Dumaguete.  There is a property off the highway that is completely gated.  No one lives in the big house right now, but the owner needed someone to take care of the property, so Alyn and her family took the opportunity!  Their new house is easily 3x the size of their old one, and had electricity and running water.  The property is really nice, and has all sorts of fruit trees already there, and Alyn will be able to grow a lot of food for them there!  With the whole property gated, the boys can run around and play, and it’s still on the main road, so Alyn’s husband can still get to work easily.  Their rent there is 150php.  So, this is a pretty great place for them to live!  It’s still a huge eye-opener, though, because the CR is in the middle of the house, and even though there is running water on the property, it’s not into the house… there is a “kitchen,” but you still have to cook over a fire outside the structure, and there’s no cover for the rain.  Refrigerators aren’t common for most families here (electricity is SUPER expensive), so there’s no way to keep food fresh or cold, which definitely contributes to the average diet of rice and veggies.

To give you some perspective, the minimum wage here is technically 37php/hour, which is less than a dollar.  Most businesses don’t follow that though — there is a HUGE amount of worker exploitation here — and workers may get that much a day, or not get paid at all… So, 950php is a huge amount (and really, that’s a lot to pay for rent here in general…)

It was a blessing to see Alyn and her family to a much better home, and I think it will really suit their needs.  It was also definitely an eye opener for me though — growing up would be very different living in one room that barely fit everyone in it to sleep.