Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Street our apartment is on--lots of vegetation

Mower apartment in Bacolod

It is a beautiful day in Bacolod.  It has been sunny.  It is warm and the air is humid.  The birds have been singing and the roosters are crowing.  And then the rain came and dumped buckets of water and quit after about an hour.  Note to self, don’t leave your umbrella in the truck!

The rains bring the beautiful green colors which are beyond anything we've seen in America--beautiful green fields with lush vegetation (approaching jungle in many places) and hues of green we've never quite seen before.

Wednesday evening it rained more than I have ever before witnessed.  Some areas had water 6 to 8 inches and the motorcycles and sikads just kept moving.  Some sister missionaries told us they were walking that evening and the water rose to their knees.  It is the early start of the rainy season.  Next month the average rainfall is 10 inches.

They have what they call “brown outs” here which happen one or more times a week.  This is when the electricity turns off (with all the fans and our modern conveniences) and comes on at a later time.  This is mostly just annoying!
This has been the week where some missionaries are transferred to new areas (every six weeks; called transfers).  Some missionaries return home after their service and new ones come.  We have visited the airport several times this week to help transport missionaries to and from the Mission.  The exiting missionaries are excited to return home and see loved ones and the new missionaries are looking forward to starting their adventure serving their Heavenly Father.   This time all the incoming missionaries are from the Philippines.  They all speak Tagalog with some English.  In this part of the island they speak Illongo.  They spend 12-days in the Manila MTC before coming, but receive no language training.  The missionaries from the west get ~10-weeks in the Provo MTC with Illongo language training.

At the mission office, they have a night security guard.  We have become very fond of him. He and his wife have four young children.  He drives a 125cc motorbike.  He is saving money to buy a side car so he can take his family to church without relying on public transportation.  George felt kind of sheepish when he told Dino he rode a 1000cc bike in the U.S. (he asked).  Most motorcycles are in the 100cc range (including sikads that carry numerous people and cargo).

The reason we have only given out the mission home address is because mail delivery is a little iffy here.  We receive monthly bills from water, electric, and cable companies and they just attach them to the fence in the front of our place (no mail boxes or postmen).  We just hope the wind or rain is not happening on delivery day, so that we can find these documents.  If you happen to receive the bill before its due date, you can pay bill at one of the malls (our preference).  Otherwise you have to go to the electric or water company and pay it in person.  George did that for the mission home recently and it was not pretty—long lines, hot, crowded, etc.

We are thankful to have a nice, secure place to live.  We just met the owner, who lives down the street.  We had a plumbing problem and she sent a plumber over the next day with her housekeeper who dutifully stayed in our apartment to watch things until the plumber was finished and cleaned up the mess while we had to go take a missionary to the airport.
We have a housekeeper come in once a week to clean the apartment and wash some of our linens and generally spruce things up.  This nice convenience costs us $7/day, and is higher wages than the common wage of approx. $5/day.

As for preparation day (p-day):  When we came out, the President asked us to keep the office open on Mondays (the previous finance person was a young full-time missionary and they practiced p-day).  So we have tried to have p-day on Saturday, but it’s hit or miss—usually miss.  Even if we get an unscheduled day, Karen usually has missionaries to look after, so it isn’t too leisurely.  Who needs a p-day anyway?  We get out and find time to shop and eat in some nice western eateries.  We also hit McDonald's and Pizza Hut once a week or so.

We love you and hope you are doing well.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Update for 5/18/14

Ma-ayong gab-i (good evening). 

We traveled to Sagay, this morning.  Sagay is about 50 miles on the north of the island away from Bacolod (where we live), but with the roads, traveling time was over one and a half hours to get there.  We went to a ward (one of two meetings in this building) and were able to witness three confirmations.  One local (Filipina) sister missionary spoke in beautiful English; her message was on missionary work.  It was about the only thing we understood today.  (When they read from manuals or sing, it is in English.)  One US missionary was the pianist and he also did a great job!  Usually, they attempt to sing a cappella.  The sisters serving in this area say people come up to them and ask to know more about the Church and even ask to be baptized.  There is interest in the Gospel of Jesus Christ here.  We later drove them to their home on a narrow street.  Across the street from their home was a church; church was in session and the speaker using the microphone had it on extra loud.  The sisters say there is often church going on there and it is hard to study and rest. 

Wednesday we had an interesting experience!  We were looking to buy shoes for a missionary and were told an area of town where we could find them reasonably priced.   We literally became lost as we walked block after block with similar like vendors dotting the streets.  It was a mass of people and wall to wall vendors.  I wasn’t frightened (Karen says this, but she had a ‘deer in the headlights’ look on her face ;-).  I figured we could probably find the main street going through the city, until we asked a security guard where the main street was and we were on it.  Then we had to find the truck.  I think because George has a good sense of direction and listened to the still small voice, we found the truck right where we left it.  We had even briefly passed it and had walked further down the block, when George turned around and saw it under the only shade tree around.  We have been told that 90% of the people here have their own little business.  Meats and fish (unrefrigerated), trinkets, cups of nuts, fruits they cut while you watch, shoes, clothes, water for a peso in a plastic bag.  You name it, someone has it.

When we returned home later that evening, we experienced our first earthquake.  The earthquake was centered about 50 miles away, 6.3; but we definitely felt the earth move and saw the walls sway.  The epicenter was below the island we live on.

Across the street from us is a chungee (a little store in front of a house).   These little stores are everywhere.   We buy fresh eggs from our neighbors about once a week.  Early in the mornings, the bun man comes to sell some of his products to our enterprising neighbor—all outside our bedroom window (where this picture is taken from).  By the way, he usually comes about 6 a.m.
Here's the bun man (on a trike)

As we come and go to the area where we live, there is a canopy of beautiful trees.  People care about the neighborhood and even sweep the streets with very small brooms and keep the trees trimmed.

Yes, and we also dodge these sikads on the main roads and highways!

Here’s one way to protect your home;  broken glass on top of the fence.
Low cost security

They use what the have—very ingenious and industrious people.  Karen’s ‘retirement’ bracelet broke—similar to when she  first got it.  At that time we returned it and it took weeks for the company to send it to a jeweler for repair.  We happened to notice this little jewelry repair stand outside a market where we shop.  We took it there a few days ago.  He couldn’t speak a lick of English, but he understood we wanted it repaired.  While Karen picked up the laundry, this guy had it repaired as good as new; in under 15-minutes and for $2.  Go figure.

This is a great place and is growing on us!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Whew—Busy, interesting week!

Karen & I worked the last few weeks with local leaders to schedule screenings for a private charitable LDS children’s foundation to fight hunger (Liahona), we mentioned a week or so ago.  Well, volunteers from the U.S. flew into town on Monday and we had them jam packed scheduled for 4, 2-hour screenings on Tuesday-Saturday + travel (we wanted to get as much exposure to this program within the Mission as possible).  We worked with them on Tuesday—we started at 6am and got home Tuesday night at 10pm and Saturday—started at 6:30 am and got home at 8pm.  Anyway, it went very well—the good news is that we had way more children show up than we anticipated.  Problem was, there were more non-LDS children (73% were non-LDS) and the foundation funds the areas for 1:1 LDS to non-LDS (this is a pretty amazing story in and of itself because the members did most of outreach to their communities).  That’s why the missionaries don’t knock on many doors here; the members provide referrals.

Children Waiting to be Screened

Here’s one of the Cultural Halls filled with children waiting to be screened.

Over 1,900 children ages 6-Mo. to 5.5 Years old were screened over five days across the mission and 1,250; or 65% were found to be malnourished, or below the lowest 1/3 of the malnutrition standards from the World Health Organization.  The President of the Foundation told us that it was the worst malnutrition rate than what they experienced in Guatemala (apparently bad).  It was very humbling to be there; some children were obviously malnourished—very thin, small for their age (weight and height) or their hair was very thin.  Often we saw sores on these young children and rotting teeth.  These are children  who survive  on breast milk and a diet of largely rice broth.  For $100/year, the Foundation can put children on a daily, high-density, caloric supplement (200-300 calories) per day until they reach six years old.

Our wonderful member Doctor

Here’s the process of screening a child.  First they are measured for height and weight.  Here’s a picture of the wonderful member Doctor Mom works with to help the missionaries (for free).  She and her husband donated their time/travel expenses for the first 3-days of screenings.  Once measured, Karen & I (and others) then calculated how the child compared to the WHO standards for their age.  We then scored them for qualification in the program.  We would have more pictures, but we were literally slammed and often sat for hours to score the measurements so people wouldn’t have to wait and we could move on to the next screening.

Waiting for Results

Some of the participants were cheering when they heard their children were “qualified for the program”.  In essence, they were cheering that their child was found to be in the lowest percentile for malnourishment.  Of course, it meant free food supplements for their child, and they thought that was good.  Instead they should have cheered when a child was found to be healthy.

Anyway, two other couples in the Mission went out and helped with the screening on three of the days.  In addition, the members in the wards/branches were marvelous.  They welcomed everyone who came, provided free snacks for the children, etc.  The missionaries were there and brought their investigators and helped in various ways.  It was marvelous exposure to the Church; many were in these beautiful Church buildings across the island for the first time and could see Christian outreach at its best.

We feel very fortunate to have been involved in this effort and were blessed for the two days of screenings that will help the lives of many children.  We don’t see much in the way of government helping people here, but several of the local municipalities came and brought children in buses to take advantage of the program—and of course they were welcome!  We felt the Lord’s hand in shaping and blessing this effort.  The effort was capped by a luncheon at the Mission Home today attended by an Area Authority and other leaders who helped organize the effort, hosted by President and Sister Lopez.

Pineapple Growing on Side of Road

We attended Church at the Manta-agan Branch. When we parked today, there were pineapples growing along the side of the road.

We walked in and the primary children were practicing, the song, Mother, I Love You.  They sang it over and over and I caused quite a stir when I looked in and smiled.  They were waiting outside the Sunday School class we attended, and presented me with a beautiful flower they had picked. 

Today is Mother’s Day and I have received many thoughtful texts from missionaries.  It is amazing how much we love our young Elders and Sisters.  They are in our prayers.  We have felt the love our Heavenly Father has for them.  They are looking forward to calling their mothers today and tomorrow (depending on time zones).