The food from the Balikbyan box. (Below)
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The food from the Balikbyan box. (Below)
It has been a while since we have updated our blog. We have a lot to write about. Here are a variety of stories we hope you enjoy.
Last week was camp meeting here in Kemantian. Unfortunately, because of a lot of rain, we had to have the meetings inside the church instead of outside under a big tarp as planned. Despite being cramped in small quarters, everything worked out wonderfully. The meetings started on Wednesday night and ended Sunday morning. We were privileged to have a singing group from Mindinao (another Philippino island) sing for the meetings. People from all over the mountains came to listen to the singers and speakers. Everyone loved the experience. On Sabbath we had close to 200+ people and 22 baptisms (the largest number since opening the project over 15 yrs ago)! The baptisms were quite special. The natives rarely show their emotion, however, during the baptisms everyone was crying because they were so happy. It was awesome to see!
After the last meeting Sunday morning, we planned on doing some fun games with the Palawanos. The project owns a large tarp (approximately 70 yards long) which is normally used to dry rice, but this day we used it as a waterslide! None of the natives had ever experienced sliding down a slick plastic surface with soap all over their bodies! It was fantastic! It occupied most of the day followed by a swim at the Tamlang River. It was a great way to end camp meeting.
The end of March brought precious cargo from the States—a Balikbyan box full of veggie food and goodies from our parents. The eight cases of veggie food also serve as a good bargaining tool. For instance, we were almost out of toilet paper last week, so I proposed a trade to one of the other missionaries: a can of big franks for ten rolls of TP! It worked. That’s only one example. There are other times the food has come in handy for more than just eating.
The beginning of March found me in Emrang, a village about a two-hour hike away. Brian Glass, another missionary, has been there since 2009 teaching and nursing. He needed help building a new hut for the two missionaries who are taking his place (Shama Eller and Allie Westermeyer). The main frame of the hut had already been built by the time I arrived, but it still needed walls, more roofing, siding, doors, windows, beds, etc… The job needed to be finished within a week! We hoped the natives would help us finish the job, but they were reluctant to help for a while. The first day I went searching in the jungle for ‘lampungs’ (skinny straight trees). With the advice of a local, I avoided the areas where wild-pig spear-traps were set. It was quite tiring looking for trees in the jungle by myself and having to haul all fifteen trees a quarter-mile to the hut. After three days of minimal help from the locals, Brian and I were desperate. We offered them a big feast of pancit and rice if they would help us finish in two days. Amazingly, over 40 people came out to help and we finished the hut in 2 days! It was awesome to see what God and 30 kilos of rice can do! Also, while in Emrang, the village leader there taught me how to make an ‘ankep’ (machete sheath). It is made entirely out of bamboo. It isn’t very difficult, but making an ankep out of wood is much more difficult because of all the carving it requires. I will need to find bamboo when I get back to the States. It has become an essential part of life her—I don’t know how I have lived 23 years without it!
Believe it or not, Becca and I have become parents. We have adopted ‘mekansang duruy’ (many little chicks). Becca feeds the small chickens through the holes in our floor every day. Sometimes I think the little chickies eat better than the people around here because Becca feeds them so much. Also, because of her affection for the little chickies, Becca’s new nickname here is ‘duruy’ (chicky).
Last week Becca conquered coconut-tree climbing. She climbed to the top of a 60ft tree (with the safety of some webbing) and touched the coconuts! She is quite ‘mependey’ (skilled). She says it is much more difficult than it looks. She has some practicing to do before she can climb with ease like the locals. Sometimes they will gather all their coconuts (approx. 90 coconuts) in a single day and go to the lowlands to sell them as coconut oil.
Here, in the jungle, there lives a creature call an Ilupian. It is a poisonous centipede that can grow over 10 inches long. When it bites it causes the surrounding tissue to painfully swell, almost cutting off circulation. It has a cousin centipede whose bite is sometimes deadly. So far we have seen about four of these creatures. The picture above is of the largest we have seen (approximately 10 inches). The best way to deal with these is to burn them, because if you cut them you have two problems—one half goes one way, the other half the other way. Thankfully we have not been bitten by any of these.
Speaking of dangerous animals—Kebgen, a village about an eight-hour hike away, experienced food poisoning about a month ago from fish. Four people died from severe vomiting and diarrhea. Thankfully, two people were quickly flown to our clinic from there for IV rehydration. The father and son would have shortly died had they not come promptly.
Other dangers around here are propane ovens. There are two ovens in the whole region—one in our village and one at the George’s house. The one in our village has the bottom rusted out and is no longer working. And the George’s oven exploded on Becca the other day. When she went to light it there was already a build-up of propane inside it and a giant ball of fire filled the kitchen. Fortunately she was not injured—she only got the hairs of her arms and eyebrows singed.
Some cultural tidbits:
One of the natives’ favorite words here is ‘pesy’ (pronounced ‘pussy’). It can mean ‘Of course’ or ‘That’s what I said’ or ‘Duh’ or ‘That’s right.’ In the clinic, sometimes we will repeat what they said or ask the same questions twice and they say ‘pesy,’ like saying ‘uh, duh’. It’s actually pretty funny. We call it getting “pesy’d.”
The natives have a unique way of praying. It sometimes seems that their goal in praying is to see who can pray the longest and quietist. During church, when we have opening prayer, sometimes it lasts for a long time and all you hear is a quiet ‘shshshwhwhshwhsh.’ Some are learning and getting better at praying so that others can hear.
Amazingly, it seems like all the natives here have good voices. They all love singing and do a great job at it. Guys here don’t have low voices, so it seems like everyone is singing alto and soprano. Sometimes my voice sticks out like a sore thumb (especially early in the morning) because it’s a couple octaves lower than the guys beside me.
It is ‘mengririk’ (chop down the jungle) time around here. The natives go through their fields with a machete and cut down all the brush and trees and then burn it so that they can plant their begas (rice), kumbahang (roots), punti (bananas), etc…However, it has been difficult for natives to burn this year because of the unusually high amount of rainfall. Because of the flooding, natives have been forced to eat a lot of roots. Sometimes they will even eat snails, chickens, dogs, birds, snakes, and fish, basically anything except geckos. During a good year, they can plant rice three times.
Palawano men love to play volleyball. I would like to play with them, but unfortunately they use it to gamble. It also has a completely different technique than American volleyball. They also like to play cards for gambling. Market day—Sunday—is the time when everyone gets together to play volleyball, cards, and buy food from the lowlands. The people are slowly learning the negative influences of gambling here. Games which they don’t gamble with are basketball (dirt court with bamboo backboards and flat basketballs), kasing (spin tops carved from wood), and piakuy (like kick-ball but with someone’s sandal instead of a ball).
Huts here are made entirely out of things from the jungle—bamboo, small trees, grass, and vine lashings. Because of the high rate of decay, all the homes must be entirely rebuilt every 3-5 years. This somewhat accounts for their lack of making big homes. Most huts here are the size of someone’s small bedroom in the States; as many as 8-10 people can live in that size of a house.
In closing, we are enjoying our time more as we continue to learn the language and establish personal relationships with the natives. We miss family and friends tremendously, however, we will miss the people we have gotten to know here also. As time continues to fly, we think fondly of the memories we have made here and praise God for bringing us to this place and these people. It is definitely not as comfortable as being in America, but we have learned that comfort doesn’t build character as much as a challenge does. We thank you all for your love, prayers, and support. We look forward to seeing you all soon.
Until next time,
Jon & Becca