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It’s a Wonderful Life!

September 17, 2015

As we were preparing for our trip to Hong Kong, I was stressing.  It was raining and the clothes were not drying.  I was trying to have clean school clothes for Angel, pesos set aside for her lunches and tricycle service, and just get her prepared physically and mentally for our time away from her.  I was trying to pack and clean and wash sheets for the visiting Pastor and company who were going to stay in our house, while already having visitors here with us.  But not only was my list not getting checked off, it was getting longer.  The more I tried to pack, and approve of the clothes my children chose to pack, the more I realized we didn’t have any nice clothes to wear!  The kids pants were like they were waiting for a flood, and Liam had at least one hole in each of his shirts. It was nuts!  John assured me that we would have plenty of time to shop in Manila before our flight.  So we left, having done as much as we could, with apologies and requests for things left undone before the Pastor arrived.  Angel seemed happy as I sent her off to school before we left, which made me feel better.  We loaded into the van with our mini suitcases mostly empty. But as we drove off, it was a relief just to not be rushing and double checking everything anymore.  I sat with the satisfaction of knowing that if I forgot something, it was too late now anyway, and there was nothing I could do about it.  Ah, what a relief!  In Manila we shopped and shopped and shopped. Even though, we were at what seemed like big stores that have it all… they did not! Kendall wears a 9 in shoes and no one… I mean no one had that size in any shoe that she wanted.  It is even hard to find my size… 8.  But we settled and found stuff that would work for her.  Neely was the easiest.  And Kendall had to pull me out of her department.  Everything was just so darn cute!  We shopped so long, my feet were killing me and it was nearing time to go but there were still things on my list!! It seems as though my lists never get completely checked off…  Then we rushed to throw the stuff in our bags and get taxis to take us to the airport.  We made it before the boys, as John, Kendall, Neely and I went in one taxi.  Lee, Riley, and Liam were in the other.  When they finally got there, we sped walked in, only to find that we were at the wrong terminal!  And the one we needed to be at, was at least 30 minutes away!!! This taxi driver heard and told us to all get in.  We were relieved to just be together because the traffic is outrageous and being split is just difficult in itself.  Okay, now picture this… night time…stuffy heat…people everywhere…a little taxi car… don’t ask me what kind… I don’t pay attention to these kind of things… It was just a small car (white…I do pay attention to color 😉 )…  John got crouched down in the front with the driver, while Liam and I slid in with Neely on one of his legs and on one of mine.  Then Kendall squeezed in next to me, and Riley beside her and we had to compress to shut the door.  Lee tried to get in front with John but it was not possible, so he came to the back with us.  At this point, Riley sat on my one free leg, and on one of Kendall’s, while holding most of his weight up, by grabbing the bar above Lee’s door and the seat in front of him.  It was hot.  There was no air conditioner.  I had to turn my head to the side to breathe and then someone… I won’t mention who, could not hold in his gas.  It could’t have been more well played out than any comedy movie.  We were laughing so hard we were crying, gasping for air.  Stressful situations tend to do that to me and it seems as though it was passed down to my kiddos.  What’s crazier is the driver slowed down in like an ally trying to negotiate a price!!  And promised to get us there in 10 minutes.  John was like What?!?!  It’s like 30 minutes away at least!  He said, “I get you there.  You give me 1,000 pesos. If no 10 minute, free.”  Insert thought:  (Is it okay for missionaries to bet with a taxi driver?)  Lee set his watch and literally started announcing the minutes.  We did some crazy leaning this way and that down some dark questionable streets.  Do you know that we were there in 8 minutes!!!  Seriously, it was unreal!  We all thanked God for the crazy taxi driver and the action-packed ride that brought us even closer together… 😉  We hurried through the baggage check and metal detectors… And when we finally got to the last window where we got stamped to go, they would not let Lee through.  The woman said that he needed more proof that he would return to the Philippines.  We showed his return ticket but she said that wasn’t enough.  (I am wondering… what other proof can one get?…) We said what about us?  We are his proof.  She told us to wait and took him on a hike across the airport.  We stood there dumbfounded and watching for a while, when John said, “Come on!”  We followed them and were stopped again, as only Filipinos could pass that certain point.  We waited and waited counting down the minutes to our flight.  Finally, a guard came and got us and we had to sit with an airport official and explain our reason for having Lee with us.  He asked if we were willing to vouch for his return.  I had to fill out a paper with all kinds of info and sign this and that saying that I believed he would return to the Philippines.  The clock was ticking but they let us go.  Our hearts were still racing from the rushing we did as we sat on the plane while it was taking off.  We gave thanks again to our awesome God!

Hong Kong was nice.  I allowed myself to sit and contemplate … ‘Mandi you are in Hong Kong!  Hong Kong!!!  Jackie Chan… Kong Fu… This time I decided I was going to experience it.  We rode the subway, which was just cool in itself… also totally movie like.  We rode a cable car to see the giant statue of a buddha on a small mountain.  It was interesting and kind of erie.  Several people, like us, were simply there to see a piece of history and a work of art created at human hands.  It was really a stunning sight, this giant statue poised up so high, literally among the clouds.  Along the path leading to the buddha were twelve life size statues up on pedestals that were guards.  Each guard held a different weapon and represented a different kind of animal.  Once we got past the guards, it took over 200 steps up a steep stairway leading to the buddha. At its base were a circle of smaller statues, still much larger than us.  These statues appeared to be making different offerings as they knelt down before the buddha.  There were signs that read, “Please do not throw coins.”  Yet there were coins on the ground all around them.  As we continued on along another path, it led to a large area where incense was being burned.  There were people at different sections burning them, some with their children in tow.  John saw one girl burn a bag of some kind of clothes in the main big fire in the middle.  It tugged at my heart to see people placing hope in this false god.  I mean, in my life I have seen people serving false gods such as money, most of the time unknowingly, but to see actual idol worshipping, was unsettling.  It made me super uneasy.  After we passed through all of that, we stopped and John wanted to pray.  (I guess I wasn’t the only one.)  So all 7 of us join hands off to the side but within sight of anyone walking by, and we prayed.  The rest of our experience was nice.  We visited a museum, a roller coaster / sea animals park.  It was the first time for any of us to see dolphins and sea lions doing tricks, which was really neat!  I froze from the air conditioners everywhere we went, taxis, subway, hotel, stores… It was great to just drink a hot cup of coffee as I curled up under a big, thick comforter…which completely lived up to its name…  It was funny because one night, in the hotel room, the kids started talking about how clean their feet were.  I heard a series of “Look how clean mine are,” as I saw feet raised in the air.  “I don’t remember who, but someone said, “I don’t think my feet have ever been this clean!”  Ha!  We had Bible study in our room and John talked about Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego, and how they stood up for their faith even though it meant them being sentenced to die.  He talked about how not far from us, Christians have to do just that.  When we prayed, we asked for opportunities to be bold, trusting God with the outcome.  Later that day, I sat next to a woman, by the pool, watching my kids play and have fun together.  Neely and Liam started playing with her son and I asked her how old he was and his name and stuff like.  She asked how many children I have, which got me on Angel, and before I knew it, I was sharing my whole testimony with her.  She was very inquisitive and never ended up stating what her faith was, but I trusted God to do His thing with that, and I felt good that I didn’t hold back how merciful God has been to me.  And last but not least to our trip… our stomachs… They are thoroughly satisfied with all the American food chains we found to eat at… I can still hear my son excitedly exclaiming… “There is a baked potato on my plate!”  And can I just say thanks a million to the people whom God used to make this possible!  Really, I am so overwhelmed by your love and generosity… My mind swells with thoughts of you that cannot form their way into words for the love you have poured out onto my family.  We are so blessed by you!

Going through the airport on the Hong Kong side was much easier and we had a few hours to use their wifi and eat some last minute burgers.  The flight back was as before, a little over an hour and a half.  Once we reached the Philippines, the negotiating began, first with the taxi to the bus station…  which actually, because of the traffic, took longer than our flight.  The driver was trying to avoid the horrific traffic and took all kinds of side streets, had to make a few turnarounds, and fit through some tight squeezes, as children, vendors, etc. filled the streets… some clearly living there.  A tinge of guilt made its way into my thoughts, though I fought it back down by remembering the laughter and joy on my children’s faces, but still… I couldn’t help it.  All these people never knowing anything but this… scrounging and scraping for the basic necessities of survival… all too easy to forget when I am away, even if only for a few days…

A six hour bus ride later, we were in Bolinao with just an hour tricycle ride to go…  If you have never ridden in a tricycle, it should be on your bucket list… It always makes me smile just because it is like the coolest thing ever… a motorcycle with a side mini carriage. I mean really… The rain had ceased, thank the Lord, otherwise we would have had a wet ride home.  But I sat, and felt the salty air blowing against my face and through my hair, which I knew would be hopelessly tangled once it was all said and done, but not really caring… and I thought about how wonderful my life really is…  It’s a Wonderful Life… my favorite Christmas movie ever…  You know when George Bailey gets his life back, and he’s running joyfully exclaiming aloud that he loves everything and everyone… even though everything still remains the same as it was before… He even kisses the lose knob on the handrail that always drove him nuts before.  Well, that is how I felt in that moment.. I love you you silly tiny unusual vehicle!  I love you unavoidable potholes!  I love you toilets that flush with a bucket of water!  I love you filthy public restrooms that never have toilet paper and charge based on the nature of my bathroom visit!  I love you double dead fish smell!  I love that my family escaped such luxuries, that we got to relive in Hong Kong, to really see life… and how wonderful it really is!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 24, 2015 3:19 am

    love the blog, Mandi! What an awesome experience, HongKong, Bolinao, tricycles, taxis, etc. Love you sweet sister – we pray for you more than you’ll ever know…blessed!

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