Dec
02

Philippines Pictures – Part 1

This is the sixth part in a series of posts.  If you haven’t read the first five yet, you can do so by clicking on the links below.  Thanks for following the story!

Part One – You Should Go

Part Two – It’s Okay

Part Three – Thursday

Part Four – God Is Spoiling Us

Part Five – Together

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I know that up until this point, the posts in this series have been pretty sparse picture wise.  And I’ll just apologize in advance for the photo dump situation that’s about to happen here!  Looking back at these images, my heart is just so full!  I still kind of can’t believe we got to go and be there, in the Philippines, with my family!  I’m so grateful our boys got to be there, experiencing the food and culture, the language, life in a beautiful, warm, third world country.  It really is one thing to hear and learn about a place, being told about it by others.  It’s something completely different to go there yourself.

And I’m thankful for technology.  When we were mad packing, trying to get to the airport, I picked up my “big” camera.  Batteries were dead.  Extra batteries were also dead.  I didn’t have time to charge anything and made a decision in the moment that my phone camera would have to suffice.  Not the greatest quality, but it ended up being really handy and easy to have in whatever situation we were in.

I’ve thought about how to share these pictures with you, and basically decided to just post little explanations as I go!  Hope this gives you a glimpse into our two weeks+ there…

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So the day after we landed was a Sunday.  After church and running a few errands, we all packed up, piled into a couple vans and drove for about thirteen hours to a house my parents had rented on a beach.  We stayed there about four days.  I’m showing you this picture first because I think it looks nice and calm and tropical.  While we were there, we got to go see some sights and eat amazing food (like a whole pig roasted and then served on fresh banana leaves with fruit in its mouth!).


What we didn’t plan on was the relatively minor but still present typhoon that hit the area the day after we arrived!  Of course we still had to go down to the beach :)


I really love this picture of my Mom and me.  It’s very similar to a super windy selfie we took when my parents came to visit us in Ireland last year.  Maybe we’ll take super windy selfies in every country we visit together!


The boys look really Filipino to me here!  When we went to buy replacement clothing (while we waited for our luggage to be found), I really only bought them shorts and t-shirts and flip flops, because that’s all they needed the entire time we were there!  This is literally what they looked like for the entire trip :)


Attempted group selfie.  My favorite is Ethan :)


I’m definitely a portrait person, so unfortunately I don’t do a great job of taking pictures of scenery or really much else other than people.  Also, my phone camera definitely doesn’t do this justice.


This is the front porch of the house we stayed in.  That gorgeous little princess is my niece Lydia.  She basically looks Puerto Rican, right?!  If you can believe it, she’s even more beautiful in real life, even with the chocolate on her face.

Also, when I say “we” stayed there, I mean more than twenty of us in the three bedrooms.  Filipinos don’t mind being close!  There were two bathrooms, but bathrooms in the Philippines are pretty different from ones we have in the States or in Ireland.  There is no hot water coming into the house.  Sometimes the toilets flush, but many times you have to flush them manually with a bucket of water, and you don’t flush toilet paper.

To bathe, you fill a large bucket with water that comes from a spigot in the wall.  If you want the water to be warm, you boil a kettle.  Then you use a smaller bucket with a handle, which we call a “tabo,” to scoop up the water and pour it over yourself.  The entire bathroom is one big wet room with a drain in the floor.

I’m so grateful my kids (and I!) got to experience that, learning to do things in a different way, seeing that different parts of the world are not as theirs is, and that there is much to be thankful for.


OH, THE FOOD!!


We spent quite a lot of time with a family from the church my Uncle and Aunt pastor.  They have three boys, two of them about the same age as ours.  Fast friends, here watching the typhoon over the beach in the distance!


And here, enjoying the fact that you don’t have to wear seat belts in the Philippines!


This picture is proof of two things:
1.  Boys under the age of 13 DO NOT know how to look at a camera and smile.  Literally, their faces malfunction if you are trying to take a picture!
2.  My uncle (far right in the hat and shades) can still pull off the “I’m so cool” pose!

We got to experience so many cool things while we were there.  For a long time, the boys have wanted to open a fresh coconut and drink from it.  Well, you see that seventy year old woman in the picture below?  She has this stand on the side of the road where she has hundreds of coconuts and opens them for you with a giant machete on a tree stump.  6 coconuts for less than $2.  She literally hacks away at the tough green exterior until she gets to the center, sticks a straw into it, and hands it to you to drink.  Once all the water is gone, she cuts it in half, makes a spoon out of part of the shell, and gives it back to you to eat the meat.  Authentic experiences we’ll never forget!


We got to visit the house my Dad’s mother grew up in.  There were a few different times while we were there, when we got to drive through different areas each of my parents grew up in.  Lots of things have changed, but there were certain stores and buildings that had stayed the same.  Listening to them tell stories about those places, about walking those streets on their way to school or going to the market, seeing where they grew up, was a treasure.


My Dad with his youngest grandson, my handsome nephew Liam.  He’s sweet and funny and clung to my Dad for so much of this trip.  Which of course made my Dad the happiest!


Ethan got a real taste for one of my favorite Filipino desserts, a treat called Halo Halo, which means “mix mix.”  It’s shaved ice and sweetened milk, with a variety of toppings mixed in.  We ate it every chance we got!


Okay, if you made it to the end of this post – congratulations!  If you’re up for it, there is one more post in the series, also full of pictures!  And at the end of it, there’s a special announcement.  Hope to see you here tomorrow!

Dec
01

Together

This is the fifth part in a blog series.  If you haven’t read the other posts, please do so at the links below before continuing on.  It’ll be a lot less confusing, I promise!

Part One – You Should Go

Part Two – It’s Okay

Part Three – Thursday

Part Four -God Is Spoiling Us

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The airline losing our luggage seemed almost comical at this point.  In the moment, I panicked slightly.  The boys and I had just landed in Manila after a whirlwind trip and over 36 hours of traveling.  We weren’t supposed to be able to go on this trip because of our visas being up in the air.  Then, all of a sudden, four hours before we were meant to get on the plane, immigration called us and our visas got sorted!  A delay on our first flight caused us to miss our connections.  After an unexpected night in London and a couple of new flights, we had finally made it to the Philippines, but now we had a two and a half week trip in front of us and didn’t have any clothes or toiletries!

My priority at that point was to contact my Aunt.  My Uncle was somewhere in the airport waiting for us.  In a couple hours, we would be surprising my parents and sisters with even being in the Philippines!  I filled out the necessary paperwork with the ladies at the luggage counter.  They would try to locate our bags and promised to get them to us as soon as possible, which in the end was nearly a week later!  One of the ladies allowed me to use her cell phone to call my Aunt at the house.

“Auntie, we’re here at the airport, but they’ve lost our luggage!”

“That’s okay, we can go to the shop.”  She was calm, and I could hear my Mom talking to someone in the background.   They didn’t seem to suspect anything.  My Uncle was at the airport and had been waiting for us.   We just needed to walk outside to meet him.

The boys and I picked up our backpacks and made our way out of the baggage area.  There was my Uncle.  I apologized for the long wait.

“It’s okay.  I could actually see you the whole time.  I thought, ‘There’s two boys with a short lady.  That must be them!'”  Thanks Uncle!

We got in the van and started the two hour drive back to their place.

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There’s something that seems to happen, at least to me, when I’m away from my family for a long time.  Like part of me goes to sleep.  Life goes on in the day to day, being a wife and mom, doing ministry and enjoying the community we have in Cork, but part of me isn’t really part of that.  Then, when I’m with my sisters and parents again, that part wakes up.  There’s an ease, and a joy, and it feels like home, even if you’re not at home.

Walking into my Aunt and Uncle’s house, surprising my family, was incredible.  The boys walked in first, which elicited some genuinely surprised and excited yelling!  When I walked in, my sister Robin ran full force and nearly knocked me to the ground!  Next was my younger sister, Priscilla.  Hugging and crying and smiling and laughing!  I looked over to see my Mom, standing with her hands on the table she’d been sitting at.

“I’m not surprised,” she said, emotions in her voice.  “I knew you’d be coming.  I didn’t know how, but I knew you’d be coming.”

I walked over and hugged her.  We were there, together.


This isn’t the end of the story!  I have SO MANY pictures to share!  So please come back tomorrow :)

God Is Spoiling Us
Nov
30

God Is Spoiling Us

This is the fourth part in a blog post series.  If you haven’t read the first three parts yet, please do so at the links below before continuing.  Thanks so much for following the story!

Part One – You Should Go

Part Two – It’s Okay

Part Three – Thursday

……………………………………………………..

“Ladies and gentlemen, just a small delay here.”  The captain explained that the engineers were looking at something, and that we’d be on our way soon.  We were about 15 minutes behind schedule already.

10 minutes went by.  Another announcement.  The situation seemed a bit more serious.  The captain apologized; it would be another 30 minutes.

Poor Ethan started crying again.  “Mom?  Are we not going to be able to go to the Philippines now?!”

“You know what I think?  I think that nothing can keep us from going to the Philippines!  Look at everything that happened today.  We shouldn’t even be on this plane!  We just need to relax and see what the Lord has in store.  We’re on an adventure with Jesus!”

I motioned to a stewardesses walking by.  “Hi, we’re connecting in London to Beijing, then to Manila.  I think we’ll probably miss our connection.  Do you know what will happen to us when we land?”  She couldn’t tell me for sure.  They could put us on the next flight or book us into a hotel.  Or we could end up sleeping at the airport, waiting for the next flight.

Still in shock that we were even sitting on that plane, I actually had complete peace.  If God wanted us in the Philippines, we’d get there!

Finally another announcement was made, and a few minutes later, we were taking off.

Just over an hour later, we landed in London.  As we were taxiing to the gate, the same stewardess come over.  “So, we’ve just received a call.  Unfortunately you have missed your connection.  But there’s a lady waiting to meet you when you get off the plane.  The airline has already booked you and your children into a hotel.  She’ll have shuttle vouchers and be able to give you instructions for the new flight that they’ve booked you on for tomorrow.”

The lady was waiting for us as we stepped off the plane.  She explained everything as she walked us to the door to catch the shuttle.  It was almost 11pm.  Our next flight would leave the following day at noon and take us through Hong Kong instead of Beijing.  The voucher for the hotel included dinner and breakfast.

“Get a good night’s rest tonight, and come back around ten in the morning.  If the restaurant at the hotel is still open, you could even have a bite to eat!”

I thanked her, and the boys and I walked out to wait for the shuttle.  I messaged Branden and let him know what was going on.  A fifteen minute shuttle ride later, we pulled up to the hotel and got checked in.  Our room had a double bed as well as a funny little Murphy bed they had to pull out of the wall for us.  We dropped our bags and went down to have a midnight snack.  The kitchen was closed, but the lady behind the counter said we could order pizza, Caesar salad or curry.  It was really late, but we hadn’t had a proper dinner, and I think we were all just buzzing a bit.  One pepperoni pizza and two salads please.

When the food came out, we were surprised to see Ethan’s pizza was ten inches wide!  And each of our salads could have fed 2-3 people easily!

“Mom, God is spoiling us!” Silas exclaimed.

I couldn’t argue with that!  We ate our dinner, went back to the room, took showers, and tucked in.  It was after 1am.  What a day!

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The next morning, we went downstairs to a giant continental breakfast.  I don’t know why, but I LOVE hotel breakfast.  So does Ethan.  Like, it’s pretty much his favorite thing about staying at a hotel!  I think it’s all the options and the unlimited quantities!  This spread was no exception.  It really did feel like God was spoiling us!

After breakfast, we waited for the shuttle and made our way back to the airport.  A couple hours later, we were on a plane to Hong Kong.  The airline actually booked us in a higher class for seating than we had for our original flight.

“Mom what’s the difference between Economy and Economy Plus?”  Just then a stewardess walked by and handed me a menu for the in-flight meals.

“Well, in Economy, they just walk by with the cart and say, ‘Chicken or beef?’  In Economy Plus, you get a menu!”  The boys chuckled a little, but in my head, I thought, “Wow, even in the seating, God is blessing us!”

Hong Kong airport was beautiful.  Mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.  Flying in, we could see dozens of islands and ships all around.  Everyone seemed friendly and able to help you.  We walked into a few shops.  There were tons of options for everything.  The shelves were lined with colorful packages of all shapes and sizes, in so many different languages.  We walked by a massive sign that had a giant cartoon cat surrounded by several happy children, an advertisement for some kids product.  We were in Asian now!

We found our new gate, and I sent Branden an update.  Half an hour later, we were boarding our last flight.  Next stop – the Philippines!

The flight was only about an hour and a half long.  Getting ready to land, I was thinking about my family, my Mom and what her reaction would be.  My Aunt still hadn’t told her we were coming.  The airport was a two hour drive from their house, and she had sent my Uncle to “run an errand.”  The last time I was in the Philippines, I came through that exact airport.  I was fifteen and obviously in a very different stage of life.  I remember a few things from that trip – the heat, the busy-ness of the city crowds and traffic, the people, some of the amazing places we went.  Landing there now, I was aware that my children would be taking things in.  This was their first time in a country of their heritage.  Of course they knew bits and pieces of the culture, but being there on the ground, surrounded by the language and the people, the food and the day to day life, I was just aware how important this trip really was.

We followed the crowd to the baggage claim area.  My phone didn’t seem to be able to log on to the airport wifi.  I needed to send Branden a message to tell him we’d made it.  I needed to send my Aunt the same message.  I didn’t have a phone number for my Uncle, and had no real way of communicating with him. I finally stopped and asked someone to help me sign on.

Almost everyone in Manila speaks both Tagalog (the main dialect) and English.  Actually, most everyone speaks a combination we call Taglish, which is probably 80% Tagalog, 20% English.  Asking this store salesman about hooking up to the wifi, I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t really spoken Tagalog to anyone for quite some time.  My parents would speak it to each other when I was growing up, and occasionally to us, but nothing really conversational.  I definitely understood more than I spoke.  I got through enough to ask my question and understand that I would need to purchase and load a SIM card if I wanted to even log on.  That wasn’t going to happen right then.   Just keep walking.

We got to the baggage carousel and joined the crowd standing around the metal conveyor belt.  Bags appeared from behind the heavy plastic flaps that covered the opening and slowly made their way around the loop.  2 – 3 minutes went by, bags being taken off, new bags being added.  There was an American man standing next to us.

“It always takes so long to get your bags in this airport,” he said.  He talked about a couple of the other Asian airports he’d flown into several times and how Manila always seemed exceptionally slow.

“Well, you just don’t want to be the last one standing around waiting, you know?” I said jokingly.  We both chuckled, almost nervously.

Another 2 -3 minutes went by.  The American man pulled a bag off and waited for another.  A group of Japanese business men in suits all helped each other pull suitcases off the belt, loudly pointing and hoisting them onto carts.  Another 5 minutes.  The boys were bored and tired.

“Where are our bags, Mom?”  I didn’t have an answer, but it wasn’t looking good.

Finally, we were the last ones standing there.  Two men came over and started pulling the left over bags off and standing them all together.  I went over and told them our bags weren’t there.  They directed me to a small counter nearby.

Two ladies in emerald green jackets and pencil skirts greeted me.  I explained (again in broken Tagalog) about our bags, and one of them asked for our luggage tags.  I found them and handed them to her; she asked me a couple questions about our flights and started typing information onto her computer.

“So the system is showing that the airline actually doesn’t know where you bags are right now.”

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