Monday, August 4, 2014

Excuses!

So, I realize I haven't posted for awhile.  I have a pretty good excuse.



Being the very graceful person I am, I took a tumble when out for a walk with the kids.  First a disclaimer.  Walking in the Philippines is a risky proposition.  Mostly there aren't sidewalks and you just have to walk on the edge of VERY busy roads.  Every now and then there are sidewalks but they are SO rough.  There is NO way you could ride a wheeled vehicle of any sort (bicycle, wheelchair, scooter) on these.  They are very uneven.  Anyway, we were walking on one of these when I stumbled and then my sandal caught and I fell, hard.  I landed on my left arm which immediately dislocated and gave way.  I then hit the side of my head on the edge of the sidewalk and split it open.  Here is a picture of me after the kids loaded me on a tricycle and got me home.  This isn't actually accurate because we did wash the black dust off my face.  I ended with a couple of loose teeth and a fat lip, a split head, dislocated elbow, and skinned knees.  It was NOT fun!

The biggest problem was my elbow. I tried to get it to pop back in but it still felt VERY strange and hurt a lot.  We ended up going to the hospital to get it checked in case it was broken.  The initial x-ray did not show a break and the elbow seemed to have gone back into socket.  So they sent me home with my arm in a sling and told me to not use it for a couple of weeks.  However, it just became more and more painful.  I finally went into an orthopedic doctor who decided I had tendonitis. He put me on an anti-inflammatory and a pain pill. But after another week, I was in nearly constant pain.  Finally, I went back to the doctor.  It seemed that my nerve in the arm was trapped by all the inflammation and was very irritated.  He gave me 5 or 6 cortisone injections in my elbow.  That reduced the swelling which relieved the nerve.  It was such a relief to be out of most of the pain.  It's now been about 6 weeks and it's pretty much better. Still a little stiff and a bit weird but mostly well.  I still wonder if I might have broken it slightly.  I figure I'll get it checked out when I get back to the states to see if anything else needs to be done. (I'm not very comfortable with the medical care here)

This kind of set me back.  Firstly there were the initial weeks of serious pain.  I wasn't up for much those weeks.  Then when I started to get better, I was still kind of down.  It was hard to fight homesickness when I didn't feel well.  I'm glad to be getting back on my feet now.  I'll try to do better at keeping up my blog now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

By gum, we DO live on an island!

So that might seem like a funny title but it is really hard to tell that we live on an island.  There are buildings and roads and people everywhere we look.  All of the beach areas are owned by resorts.  These resorts are behind high walls and gates so us commoners can't see in.  We do cross the ocean each time we drive across the bridge to Cebu but it really just feels like a big river.  (no beaches in sight, nothing)  One of the big let-downs for the kids and I was not being near the ocean.  One of the things we really wanted to do was to live on an island by the ocean.  Well . . . as far as we could tell, we were just in the middle of a city.

We decided that we really needed to fix this.  We found out that many of the resorts would sell a day pass so that you could use their beach, pool, etc.  We found one that wasn't terribly expensive (600 pesos each (about $13) and decided to give it a try.  Russ had to work and so it was just the kids and me.



We agreed as we left that we weren't sure how this day would pan out but we were just going to roll with whatever came. 

We rode a tricycle out to the main highway. The first thing we needed to do was to get some cash from the ATM because we weren't sure if we could use a visa at the resort. So we went to a small strip mall that had 3 ATMs. I tried the first ATM but it wouldn't give me money. Hmmmm. Then I tried the second ATM. It wouldn't give me money either. Grr . . . Finally I tried the 3rd. It wouldn't give me any money. I told the kids that there might be something wrong with our bank accounts and I couldn't get cash. We just had enough money to get to the resort and to get home (barely). I told them we could try going to the resort and see if they would accept a visa so that we could still go in. If not we would head home. We decided to risk the resort. The resort took our visa and we got in!


Waiting at the strip mall while I try for cash.


Our first view of the beach.





However, when we walked down to the beach it was pretty disappointing. it was about 50 feet wide. (What you can see in the first picture is all that there was) The water that we could get to was filled with seaweed and rough rocks at the bottom. The "beach" was trucked in sand for the resort. When we waded out to the end of our resorts roped off area, it was about to my waist. I thought "man this is a total bust!) We splashed a little in the water and watched a parasailer in the distance and the kids just looked at me like "now what?"





They look pretty bored and we've been there about 20 minutes.

A local man approached and said that for 2500 pesos he could take us out on his boat to a place where we could snorkel and see lots of fish and coral. He had all the equipment. Of course I had no cash with me. But the thought of spending our whole day at this dismal little beach was pretty discouraging. I kept saying "I don't think I can" and he kept dropping his price. Finally when he hit 1200 pesos, I told him that I didn't have any cash. He told me that he could take me to an ATM. I agreed to meet him at the front gate and he would take me to an ATM that was "very near". The kids just stayed and played in the pool. I put a t-shirt over my swimsuit and headed out. He met me at the gate of the resort and hailed a tricycle for us. He proceeded to take me to the same ATM that I had been to before. It still didn't work. I told him that I couldn't get any money. I had to pay the tricycle driver my last money. Yikes! Now we didn't even have cash to get back to our house. Mario (my new Filipino friend/escort) said he would take me to another ATM. I told him that I had NO money left. He said, "it's ok, I'll pay". He got us on another tricycle and we rode clear to the mall I usually shop at. I went in to the mall and the ATM there worked fine and I finally had some money. (I'm doing all this in my swimsuit with a t-shirt over it. Darling I'm sure!) We got back to the resort at last and I paid the tricycle driver. The kids were relieved to see me return. :-)



The small boat on the front left of the picture is the kind of boat we went on.

We got ready and went out on the boat. It was an outrigger canoe with a sun shade over us. They took us out about 200 yards to a dive dock. They had a roped off area for diving and snorkeling.


We are finally heading out!



We are all pretty excited.

They geared us up and we got in.




Isn't she so cute?

Snorkeling always blows my mind because you are sitting looking at ocean that seems pretty boring.  Then you put your mask on and see SO MUCH!




We had a underwater camera case for Hannah's camera and she took most of these photos.  It was SO cool.  Unfortunately, the camera can't pick up the colors under the water for lack of light.  So everything just looks blue and green.  Actually, the coral was all different colors (pink, blue, red, gray, tan)  The fish were also bright colored.




Hannah and Joshua taking a break.  That is our boat behind them.


Joshua while snorkeling.

It was hard to get Ammon's face mask tight enough to keep the water out.  He just kept going back for more though.  Here I'm sitting on the dive dock adjusting his mask.


A picture of the coral.  I wish you could see the colors!


There was a scuba diver feeding the fish below us.


Joshua and I snorkeling.



The diver got an extra air hose and offered to take Mattie down with him.  He swam around with her and let her touch coral and fish and see lots of things.  



She brought this starfish up with her!  Then he took Hannah down and did the same thing.


This picture captures the delicacy of the coral even if it doesn't capture the colors.


Hannah's facemask marks!  :-)  Mario (our guide) is behind Hannah.


They caught a small striped fish and put it in a pop bottle for the kids.  (We ended up releasing it before we went home)


They also found this cool starfish for the kids to hold.  It was amazing to hold these live starfishes.

After our snorkeling, we went back to the resort.  We were all starving.  We had a 200 peso credit each to spend at the restaurant (part of our admission price).  We enjoyed a nice lunch and then played in the pool for awhile.  Then we of course did the requisite "bury someone in the sand" part of playing on the beach.  



The boys loved it.


This is the resort pool looking out toward the ocean.


Finally it was time to head home.  We were all tired, sunburned, and satisfied.  We took one last look at the ocean and headed back to real life.  It surely is nice to know that we DO live on an island!


 Post script.  We got Mario's phone number because he says we can work with him directly to go snorkeling again.  (we don't have to pay the exorbitant fee for the resort) We would like to go again when Russ can go.  Mario also has a larger engine boat that he uses to go to a nearby island (Olongo island).  He will take us there to snorkel and says we will see more and bigger sea life.  We will definitely call him again!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Driving in the Philippines

I wish I had taken a video when we were driving around with our friend Br. Lauder, looking for housing.  He has since sold his car and just has a motorcycle and so we won't be driving with him anymore.

Driving in the Philippines is crazy!  Although there are lanes painted on the roads (sometimes), they are rarely followed.  If there are supposed to be 2 lanes, there will almost always be 3 or 4 lanes driving.  Each car is literally inches from the other cars.  Cars drive right out in front of other cars all the time.  Br. Lauder told us what the first part to go out on a Filipino car is:  the horn.  People honk all the time to warn people that they are coming, to warn someone else not to hit them, etc.  We haven't seen many accidents and evidently they usually aren't too serious when they happen. This is because the traffic never gets going more than 5 to 10 mph.  :-)

I will try to get a video of it sometimes to share here.

I did take some pictures and videos of what the streets look like as we drive.  I'll put them here:


When you stop at a stoplight, there are people who sell stuff to the cars.  This guy is selling cold water. ( They also sell food, gum, candy, cigarettes.)


A definite problem in the Philippines is the trash.  As you can see, the open places are very green.  Plants and trees everywhere.  But there is also trash EVERYWHERE.  It is so sad.  


There are buildings going up everywhere.




video

Anyway,  there's just a flavor of a drive in the Philippines.


Good Friday

We found out that of all the holidays in the Philippines, Easter week is the biggest.  The Philippines are about 92% Catholic and so the observance of Holy week is HUGE.  Some of the stuff we read about was disturbing.  We found out that there is a practice of crucifixion here.  Boys or men choose to be crucified in remembrance of Christ.  They actually nail them to a cross and hang them for a time.  Another practice is self flagellation.  It is considered a step in repentance during Holy Week and people will walk around and whip themselves in public with whips, ropes, or chains.  I wasn't very excited to expose my kids to these practices.  However, a friend recommended that we really ought to go see an Easter procession.  They happen at most of the Catholic churches but we were told that there would be a cool one at the Cathedral near Magellans Cross.  Megellans Cross is the site where Magellan first planted a cross when he "discovered" the Philippines in the 1500's. 

So, we decided to be brave and headed out.  We called a taxi to take us from our house to the Cathedral on the island of Cebu.


It's interesting to put our family of 6 and 1 taxi driver in a 5 passenger taxi!  :-)



Joshua just ended up on the floor by my feet.


Here is the cross.  The actual original cross is encased in this cross that you see to protect it.  The scaffolding usually isn't there but repair work is going on.


There are murals of the event painted on the ceiling.



Here's the crew in front of some doors at the Cathedral.  This cathedral sustained some damage last fall when the earthquake happened.  There is still scaffolding and other repair stuff around.


There is a courtyard with bank after bank of these candle holders.  I think for a peso or two, you can buy a candle and light it for someone.



This mural shows the travels of Magellan.  From Spain to Mexico to the Philippines.


After Mass, there is a large procession that happens near dusk.  The statue of the body of Christ is taken down from the cross and placed in an ornate bed-like thing.  This is on a cart that can be pulled and surrounded by fresh flowers.  This leads the procession.



Here you can see the statue wrapped in while satin and placed in the "coffin".  Following this float are others with statues of the apostles and of Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and others.  These are all really ornate floats with real cloth and fresh flowers.




There were probably a dozen or more floats.  After these go, people join the procession with hand held candles.  We took more pictures on Hannah's camera but we currently have lost her charger and can't download the pics.  :-(

Overall it was an interesting day.  It was VERY hot in the sun.  There were thousands of people gathered for this and so it was crazy.  It was kind of disconcerting to try to keep track of us all and not get separated.  There were street venders selling a bit of everything!  We ate lunch on the street and it was interesting.  I had fish that had been fried and cut into cubes.  It was served in a cup with a sweet and sour sauce and cut fresh cucumbers on top.  It was yummy.  Russ had quail eggs which were hard boiled, dipped in batter and deep fried.  They were served in a cup with a sauce and cucumbers.  The kids voted for something a little less adventuresome: fried chicken and rice and soy sauce.  We ended with fresh corn on the cob on a stick (very old and chewy) and fresh pineapple (delicious!)  We enjoyed all the adventures and were also relieved to get back in a taxi and come home to our quiet home.