Friday, November 26, 2010
I'm talking to Michael about his recent proposal to Christina on the cell phone in one of the few "hot spots."
The pantry in our hut, outfitted with dozens of garbanzo bean cans!
A month has already passed since our arrival on Palawan. It’s difficult to believe that we’re already at Thanksgiving. A lot has happened since our coming here. Here are some stories:
Last week a ten-day-old baby was brought to the clinic. Her mother died a week after she was born. The ten-year-old sister was caring for the infant because the father was going to sell it in the lowlands. The sister, wanting to keep the child, brought it to us. The baby was surprisingly healthy-looking, considering the circumstances. Supposedly an aunt had been breastfeeding it for the last several days. It was difficult for Becca and I to comprehend a father wanting to sell his baby. After giving the baby a bath and food, we discussed with the sister and aunt of what to do. Apparently, this is not the first time this has happened here. Sometimes, mothers will die shortly after birth and leave a father with a new baby and multiple other children. Most of the time relatives will pitch in to raise the youngster, but, sometimes the family sells the baby. The end result of this experience was the aunt agreeing to take care of the infant. It was pretty much the easiest adoption process ever.
Another event that happened last week was our Sabbath hike to Kensuli. Our fellow missionaries assured us that the trek would only take about thirty minutes and was easy enough to do in sandals. Becca and I have climbed Mt. Rainier, tall cliffs, and done other difficult things, but this beats them all. It had rained shortly before our hike so the trails were extra slick. The others who went with us had not been on the particular route before because a new trail had been cut. It was shorter, but much steeper. Crampons and an ice-axe would have been helpful. When we reached the Kensuli village we looked like we had just taken a shower in sweat. Becca kept saying, “I would rather have climbed Mt. Rainier!” The recent bout of malaria didn’t help any, but, it was a challenge none-the-less.
This week I made my first batch of authentic sticky rice. For sweet-tooths, this is a great dish. First of all, you have to have a niyug (coconut, pronounced ‘nyoog’). You shave all the niyug meat into a bowl, add some water to the shavings, then squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. After this, you take out the pulp (squeezed niyug shaving), strain the coconut milk and put it on a frying pan. Then, you add some brown sugar, ginger, kalamansi (small lime-like citrus), and vanilla. Fry the mixture until becomes a little sticky, then add it to the cooked sticky-rice and tebes ne (finished)! I also made banana pancakes/flat bread, but the results were not quite as impressive. It would be more accurate to call them banana goo-cakes!
Becca has fully recovered from her first bout of malaria. She is now hard at work in the clinic saving lives! Her highlight this week was a hot bath! I boiled up a big pot of water for her and got our large laundry buckets. She marinated in the buckets while I doused her with the warm water. She kept saying, “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me! I want this every night!” to which I replied, “You will have to choose between food and bathing, there is not enough propane for both!” So, we agreed that once a week might be a reasonable amount of warm bathing time. For now, she’s gonna have to brave the cold shower.
Chickenpox spreads like crazy here. When one person gets it, the whole village gets it. Kensuli, the village Becca and I hiked to last Sabbath, came down with chickenpox this week. Becca treated 10 kids one morning! They all looked pretty miserable. The treatment here is somewhat conservative. The kids get some calamine lotion and a bag of oatmeal. Apparently, if you make oatmeal into a paste it helps temporarily relieve the irritation.
Well, that’s a few of the experiences we’ve had. Though time goes by quickly, its passing seems different here. In America it’s not uncommon for me to come to the end of a day and wonder what happened, how did the day end so quickly. Here, the days seem full, but I have yet to be surprised by the greeting of the night. This is probably because our lives here are quite simple. There’s no pressing appointments, no trips to Wal-Mart, no need to gas-up a car, no utility bills, etc. That doesn’t make it easier, just different. Time here not running errands is time spent preparing food, keeping the hut free of pests, washing/drying clothes, cleanup after eating, filtering water, seeing patients, etc. We have found a beauty in simplistic living. It seems to birth more gratitude for things often for-granted and also seems to generate more reflective thinking. Some of the insightful thoughts gleaned from this experience are the power of a positive attitude and refraining from complaining. I thought coming here was primarily to be of medical help to the natives. However, God has shown that the medical aspect of our mission was the lesser of lessons to be learned. The power of memorized scripture has topped the list of important things to learn. Being in a place with few distractions has given us the opportunity to sharpen our spiritual swords for life now, and forever. We thank God for leading us here. We also thank you for all your prayers, love, and support.
With love from a bamboo hut,
Jon & Becca
Monday, November 15, 2010
Our bed outfitted with mosquito netting.
Manungan Meniklem (Good Morning) from Kemantian!
We have been here about two weeks and have thoroughly enjoyed the new sites, foods, schedule, and especially the people. Our day starts at 0545 with roosters in chorus around the village. At that time we have prayer and singing with the other missionaries, then we have personal devotions followed by breakfast at 0700. Breakfast usually consists of leftover rice from supper that we fry up with an occasional egg or vege meat. Sometimes we are blessed with bananas or palmello’s (large grapefruit) for breakfast also. Then, it’s off to the klinik (clinic) at 0800.
At the clinic we try to say things like “Enu sakit mu?” (What is your sickness?). I have noticed that Jon takes a more aggressive approach to speaking the native language. He speaks loudly with confidence, knowing he is mispronouncing every other word. Many of the native women will refuse to answer him when they are visiting the clinic for birth control pills. This is most likely because of the shy, soft-spoken nature of the locals and Jon’s straight-forward approach with mispronounced words. My approach to speaking the language has not been as persevering, but I usually get the information I need too. God is blessing us with wisdom and the ability to learn the language. The more our language skills have improved the greater help we have been in the clinic. Jon did 20 History and Physicals today and is learning how to diagnose and treat malaria, meanwhile, I have been stuck in the benwa (hut) experiencing malaria personally. The mosquitoes must have known I was coming and bit me as soon as I stepped off the plane! Jon says it’s because I’m so sweet. This is one time I wish I wasn’t sweet! My case has been fairly tolerable; just three days of sakit ulu (headache), liglinugen (dizziness), sukusu (nausea), pegegnewan (fever), and iked iked (cough). Though the week has been trying with malaria, wonderful things have also happened. The news of Julie (Jon’s sister) and Tyler’s engagement has been very exciting for us! Also, we have been quite joyous over the discovery that Jon has been accepted into medical school! These awesome events have helped make the week with malaria much better.
Back to the schedule. At noon we break for lunch (fresh rice and a topping; usually siutey, a potato-like vegetable) and then we do language learning from 1300 – 1500. Language learning is an interesting process when you don’t know how to say anything. We have learned to say “Enu atin?” (What is that?) and then point to an object. The patient locals then say what the object is and we try to repeat the foreign word. Many children gather around to listen and laugh at our kindergarten attempts at pronunciations. You have to go about the whole ordeal with a light heart because it is very humbling and humorous all at the same time.
Supper is around 1700 (Rice or pasta). That is the majority of our daily routine. Tuesday night is team meeting and Wednesday night is prayer meeting. My bedtime is usually around 1900 because we don’t have any electricity after the sun sets at 1800 (6:00pm). Jon usually stays up a little later to exercise and read. Life has a wonderful simplicity here that I really appreciate. Though we are usually busy here, it is a different busy when compared with the race we know in the states. We thank God daily for this opportunity and also thank all our friends and family for your prayers.
With love from the jungle,
Becca & Jon
(The high humidity makes it very difficult to take a focused picture.)
(The high humidity makes it very difficult to take a focused picture.)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Dear family and friends,
We are officially jungle missionaries! Our blog is just now getting updated because solar electricity and satellite internet are inconsistent here. I was unable to upload photos with this update; however, I will try to do so in the next update. I can imagine few places more remote and beautiful than this mission project. Here is a brief synopsis of our activities since departing America:
The trip started with our departure flight on Monday (Oct. 25) from Nashville and ended 40 hours later when we landed in Puerto Princesa (capitol of the island of Palawan, Philippines). Thankfully our history as night nurses made the jetlag tolerable. As soon as we arrived on the island, we knew we were in for a cultural treat—native food, foreign driving methods, many smiles, and 200% humidity.
The first two days were spent with Kent & Leonda George in the capitol; buying and organizing needed supplies for the mission compound. It was difficult trying to choose all the food we would need for nine months! Four grocery cart-fulls of food will hopefully see us through until June. Produce (mangos, bananas, pineapples, rice, and native foods) are available in the mountains, however, everything else we had to buy for the whole time.
While shopping in Puerto, it was amusing watching the locals drive around in tricycles—a motorcycle with a side car and roof. The Filipinos are quite efficient at packing lots of people and stuff into small spaces. These vehicles fit about three of us Americans, however, can fit up to 14 locals or a literal ton of rice (that is if the tires don’t pop)!
After our stay in Puerto, Becca and I journeyed to Brooke’s Point (city closest to the mountains of Kemantian—mission project) via bus. The five-hour bus ride was complete with chickens, pig feed, 70 people in a 40-passenger bus, and no A/C! Though our backsides were certainly sore, we enjoyed the trip and count it a blessing to have spent such “bonding” time with the locals.
Following our safe arrival in Brooke’s Point, we spent our first Sabbath witnessing a baptism in a nearby stream. It was awesome to see people of completely different culture and background than us experience the same emotions and peace when they give their hearts to God. Also, we have been amazed at the dedication and love the George’s (AFM missionaries) have shown the Palawano people for 15 years. Truly amazing.
On Sunday, we made the three-hour trek into the mountain village where the clinic and school are located. This hike was far different than taking a stroll on the Appalachian Trail. Cleats are needed to maintain grip on the steep, muddy trail. Also, water shoes are needed for slippery river-walking, and a keen sense of direction is needed to avoid getting lost in the dense jungle. Despite the treacherous conditions, the natives walk these trails barefoot carrying up to a hundred pounds of supplies on their heads! They are very gracious people and carried most of our gear for a couple dollars. The rest of the gear was flown in via helicopter.
Now that we are finally here at the mission project, Becca and I have spent time settling into our hut, getting acquainted with other missionaries and natives, and familiarizing ourselves with the clinic. It will still take some time for us to get used to the language barrier, living with unwanted critters in the hut, time-consuming meal preparation, cold showers, muddy feet, sleeping in mosquito netting, and damp clothes. Though these things are out of the ordinary for us, it has been enjoyable; almost like an extended camping trip. The surrounding mountains are beautiful and dotted with native huts making for a quaint picture. Becca thinks of it like a Swiss-Family Robinson adventure, except with more bugs. It truly is a blessing to be here, and we look forward to being able to help the Palawano people. Thank you for all your prayers and support. Take care!