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Here’s What’s Been Going On…

April 4, 2015

Our little hill proved to be just that bit of umpf we needed to get an internet signal and it worked so great that first day we got it, but since then, it changes with the wind. John is still working with the internet guy for a better solution, but praise God for what we have!
Here’s what’s been going on here… We moved into an unfinished house, without electricity or water but we were all so happy to call this place our own. It was rough, but do-able. We went through many candles. (I don’t know what the fascination is with kids sticking their little fingers in hot wax and letting it dry.) Riley and Lee would go each day, to the well down the hill, to pull up a bucket several times and fill the containers with water, then haul it back up on their shoulders. I was expressing my gratitude because I know just carrying up a few hollow blocks of cement is completely exhausting, and here they were, carrying five gallon containers of water up the hill, and not just any ol’ hill… but a hill with sharp stones, spikey twigs, and uneven levels.
Riley expressed that the hard part was not carrying it up the hill, but pulling the bucket up the well with the water inside. Then he showed us the large biceps the extra work was giving him, just like he used to do when he was little. He makes us all laugh and never complains. We have lights and running water now, and boy do I love having these two luxuries. Our home is simple but sturdy. Everything… the floor, the walls, the counters… are concrete. But the roof is tin. Our toilets are typical Philippine toilets… no seats or lids, with a bucket of water and a smaller pail, for flushing purposes, beside it. The portion where the walls meet the roof is open, all the way around, so the house can have air flow. It is not yet bug proof, but they are planning to put some screening around that part to control the bugs, especially their attraction to the lights. (If it gets to be too much, I turn off the lights inside and turn on the light outside for a while, until they all swarm out there. Then I do it again if need be. John, Riley, and Lee made all our beds out of some scrap wood. (Sure am glad those are not made out of concrete.) I laughed when they put a headboard on mine. “It has a headboard!” I exclaimed. I guess it has been a while since I have had a bed with a headboard. I hadn’t really noticed until I had one again. The tin roof is super loud when the rain hits it, but it hasn’t rained all that much yet, not enough to call it rainy season. Let’s just call it super hot season. The technique here is to get up with the sun and do everything… all your cleaning in the morning, then you rest for the middle part of the day, because just breathing will make you sweat. Then, you resume your work as the sun begins to descend.

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One of the little girls I teach in Sunday School, who is two or three years old, was sick the other day. She had bolate, which means worms. Her mom told me that she kept vomiting and that four long worms came out, so they took her to the doctor and got deworming medicine, something for the dehydration, and pain reliever. I spent time with her as she lay their on a bamboo table, atop a comforter I had given her. Her mother expressed to me, “She likes so much this blanket you give.” The little girl kept crying out every so often in pain. They were trying to get her to eat or drink but she wasn’t very interested. After talking for a while, I learned that the mother also has worms sometimes in her stools. I told her that she needs to get rid of them, that they are only becoming more, and getting bigger, and that it is not healthy. Then a few of the other mothers there, said that they also have worms. I was telling them the medicine they need to take and that I can get some when I go to town next time. They asked if the worms come out dead or alive. When I told them that the worms are still alive, having had the unforgettable experience with Angel, they all screamed and said, “Oh I don’t like!” I said, “But they need to come out!” They are afraid… for one, because, well I imagine having something wiggle its way out of you, is probably the strangest of feelings, and two, because many of them have seen or have heard horror stories of these worms coming out of the mouth, ears, and even the eyes. I am sure, many of you remember the story of the worm coming out of Neely’s throat. That was quite an experience I must say, and I wasn’t the one it was happening to… Just thinking about what that must have felt like is a horrible thought. So I can understand their concern, but I don’t think I could sleep at night knowing that I had worms inside of me. Since then, the littIe girl has recovered and is doing just fine, and her mom jokes that when she eats, she shares her food with her intestinal friends. I jokingly told her I was going to pour the medicine into her drink when she wasn’t looking… Really though, I am going to get some medicine… and I am going to try my darnedest to convince them to swallow it down. And once they do, three days later… there is no turning back. 🙂

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Our dogs… oh my word our dogs… One Sunday, our oldest dog, about a year old, named GusGus, and perfectly healthy, kept throwing up. The next day, he didn’t want to eat much, but still seemed pretty sturdy. By Wednesday, he was dead, found by one of the kids behind the boys kubo. “Sister Mandi, Sister Mandi, natay ni GuGus,” the boy shouted. It was always hard for the children to pronounce the first ’s’ in GusGus. Riley had to lift him onto a board and put him into the fresh hole he dug, and when he lifted him, all kinds of grotesque liquids spilled from his body. It was like he was liquified from the inside out. It was strange. I asked around about it and they were saying maybe bolate. John got some worm medicine in town and we gave it to the other dogs. Soon after, our other dog, about five months old, named Jandi, began showing signs of illness, with snotty eyes and vomiting, but she kept eating and kept walking, unlike our two little puppies, that belonged to Neely and Angel. They got sick too. They were cute, fat, and so playful, until I found one of them lying in its own vomit. He didn’t make it much longer after that. Its eyes turned a glazed over blue and then it wouldn’t eat, only laid there to die, whining on and off. After the first puppy died, and the next was obviously headed that way, John hit the other in the head, rather than let it lay there and suffer. He said he didn’t want to do that again. He has had to put animals down before, but he always had a gun for that. Jandi kept hanging on, and seemed to be recovering. She never quit eating and was such a fighter. But her eyes kept snotting for about a month, and then, she became blind, with that blue look to her eyes as well. But she kept wagging her tail, and kept eating. Then she got this big knot under her chin that somehow opened and kept leaking, and then one under her arm. She seemed to be getting weaker and weaker, but she kept eating and wagging her tail. One day, she finally laid down, and started whimpering, and we thought okay, she is showing signs of pain now, so John and Lee prepared to do the deed, but she stood up and wagged her tail and began to walk again. She was fighting so hard and Lee said she doesn’t want to die. John couldn’t do it. Kendall followed Jandi wherever she went throughout the day and would give us updates, but as night fell, she lay there whimpering, refusing to eat. I gathered the girls inside to prepare for bed. They hadn’t known that Daddy had to put the puppy down, and he didn’t want them to know about this one either. I told John I don’t want anymore dogs. All we do is bury them. I think he is in agreement as he has had his fill of being the man… the husband, the father, the leader who has to, not only make such decisions, but carry them out. It’s not like in the U.S., where we can just take it to the vet, and our human meds proved to be of no aide. Our cat, named Uging, which means Charcoal, is still healthy, and our chickens are doing good. Only one died from an illness, like a cold, maybe similar to what the dogs had. But that was a while back, and the others appear to be just fine… that is, if they aren’t being squeezed to death by a snake. I don’t think I ever wrote about that, but we lost two chickens back a few months ago, before we moved, to a snake… a python, presumably. There were tracks and a half wet, squeezed chicken. The snake was never found.

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The other day, a man hollered up the trail to our house for Lee, carrying a dead rooster. It looked grand, full of bright colors, and very large. It appeared to be the fighting kind, that people raise around here for gambling purposes. Lee carried the rooster up to the door, as the man left, and explained that our rooster had killed this one, and so it now belonged to him. Apparently, ours got bored here because the hen is sitting on her eggs and not much else, so he wandered off and got himself into trouble. We were all pretty impressed that our little ol’ rooster could take down this big guy… Anyhow, Lee proceeded to pluck and clean it. And it was obviously a fighting one, as it had been sewn up in two places before… a rooster for a rooster… I just hope our little guy is not a fighter now.

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Can you imagine, first of all, being pregnant in your early forties… being a grandmother already… having had 12 children before this pregnancy… Not to mention, this is the woman whose husband was murdered a few years back, down the road from here. Though she seemed healthy, I was concerned for her, because I know that in the U.S., just her age alone, makes it a risky pregnancy. She had no doctor, no ultrasounds, no vitamins, nothing but experience. When her time came, just a few weeks ago, she had a surprise… twin girls. She had them in the heat, on the floor of her bamboo hut. Yep, that makes it fourteen now… Like I said… Can you imagine?? They are two cuties, both healthy, and a good weight. She had the two of them all bundled up, and I was thinking how hot they must have been. But they were sleeping peacefully, there beside their mother, right on the bamboo slat floor where they were born.

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Tourist season is well underway, which means that our church members are busy busy. Some have little kubos, that they rent out, some with just a roof and a bamboo table inside. Others catch fish, eels, octopus, and sea urchins, to sell. There are those who clean sheets, and pick up trash. Still others have little makeshift stores they sell various items in. Many of the men are building more kubos. The people here are quite the entrepreneurs… anything they can think of to sell to the tourists, they do it. Even nearby villagers come to try to earn money, sleeping in simple lean-tos or just on a bamboo bench. All of the children that are old enough to walk and talk, are walking along the beach selling shells. This is their livelihood, and they have only these three months to make most of their money for the remainder of the year. It is really a different life here and our own children are getting to experience it. They like for Kendall to sell with them, and for them, because she can speak the language and the people are so shocked, first of all, to see her selling, and second, because she can understand them and communicate with them… a sure winner for getting some shells sold. They give her a cut of the money for doing so, even though, at first, she refused, but they insisted because they said it is only fair. She takes it now because it is really like an insult not to. They feel better when she does. But she spends it at their stores and buys snacks for the little kids and all are happy. Neely, Angel, and Liam get in on the action too. The kids like for them to, and always come and ask me if they can. Neely has become quite good at the language as well. That girl is not scared of anything, which is worrisome. I was walking home with her today and she stopped at this man with a styrofoam attached to his bike and spoke to him in Tagalog, “Magkanu po (How much Sir)?” He smiled and answered her, and she searched in her wallet for ten pesos. As she searched she switched from Tagalog to Ilocano, “Adda chocolate (Is there chocolate)?” “Awan(none),” he continued in Ilocano. He gave her another flavored popsicle and she gave him the ten pesos and said, “Salamat Uncle.” ‘Salamat’ means ‘thank you’ and ‘Uncle’ is said to show respect in Ilocano, like ‘po’ means ‘sir’ in Tagalog. I just stood there and watched her in awe. I always talk to her about talking to strangers and what can happen to children, and the tricks someone might use to lure a child… and I almost got onto her for doing what she had just done… but I thought otherwise, as it is simply a different life here, where children are anywhere and everywhere they want to be, working to have money to go to school, only coming in when they are hungry… and often cooking for the whole family. I have heard, on several occasions, a parent telling his or her child to go home and cook, and the children are only like nine and ten years old.

While tourist season is good on income, it is not good on church attendance. We moved our Saturday night Bible studies to Wednesday nights. They wanted Saturday before, but now it is just not feasible, so we voted to move it to Wednesday. And Sundays are just so busy for them. One Sunday, we were waiting and waiting and we had one man show up, a man who is faithfully here every chance he gets. I knew John was disappointed but he said, “Well let’s get started. God’s got a plan and if it’s only one today, it’s only one.” We pulled all of chairs together in a circle and began. About twenty minutes later I saw a woman walking up the hill with two kids in tow. I recognized her as the one who came right at the beginning, but she was shy and never came back… and here she was, trudging up our hill, unexpectedly, to join us for Sunday Service. I felt such enormous joy leaping inside to see her again. She sat and joined us and spoke often, affirming what she understood. All in all, we only had one other woman come that day with her baby. We had a good time learning together and prayed together for those who were not with us. We also, at their request, gave thanks to God for all of the work being given to the people.

One day, I was visiting some of the members, when I saw one of the men, who comes on and off, drunk and staggering down the road. His wife got up to fetch him and was pulling his arm. I think she was telling him to go home and pointing out to him that I was there, because he kept looking at me after that, with a sort of regret in his eyes. But he kept having to stop and sit down, until at last, he laid down and passed out… right in the road. His wife kept pulling at him. Many kids were standing around him and pulling him as well. These are all children that come on Sundays. One girl, the same age as Neely, kept stomping her feet at him, shouting, “Uncle, aggawid kan (Go home)!” The wife just sat there in front of him, waiting. His daughter looked on from a distance but mostly ignored the situation. The kids successfully pulled him off the road and he woke up, threw up a few times, and then his wife helped him home. It was really quite strange to witness. Not long after that, this man came to our house and asked for a ride to the hospital because his daughter, who is 12 or 13 was sick. John has taken several people to the hospital before this, but I don’t know if I have written about any of them. Anyway, his daughter is now fine and he and his wife came the last service we had.

Things like these are hard, and sometimes we wonder if anything we are doing here is taking effect, or not. I have asked John, and he has asked me, on separate occasions, “What are we doing here?” And both of us have to reassure one another… We take turns giving in to our weaknesses, like when John can’t be there for this father, who is about to undergo bypass surgery, with major blockage. Please keep him in your prayers. But there are times when we know that people are getting it… like when one man who comes, more often than not, and has many questions regarding the Jehovah Witness beliefs, personalizes the lesson we are trying to teach, revealing his own enlightenment. We still don’t have a church building to call home, but for now, we hold the services on our porch, not completely screened in yet, but enough to keep chickens and other animals out… And we are not right by the road anymore, so it is much less noisy. We thank God for that, and for all the people who have blessed us with constant prayers and donations. May God bless you abundantly. Though times get rough and hard to bare, we turn to God, who never fails to console us and push us on. My devotion brought me to Jesus and what he did, as we are about to celebrate Easter. This verse really stuck out to me and comes to mind time and time again her lately…

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify you name!”
John 12: 27-28

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 13, 2015 1:36 am

    We need MORE of what’s going on!
    Love you Mandi! 😘

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