Monday, December 23, 2013

LEAVING THE PHILIPPINES

As our time nears to a close in the Philippines, I cannot minimize the heaviness in my heart. Nor can I ignore the heaviness upon the hearts of my family-both here and back in the United States. As I was thinking about our situation, what happened to the people of the Philippines, my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins...I came up with a phrase-I know it's not original, but "the plight of a people", or more specific, the "plight of a family".
We heard my folks retell the story of that dark, wet, and terrifying day-how there was no indication that this weather was going to be of any consequence, significance, or magnitude. To this day I am still amazed at the fact that they had no idea, how no one knew, what was going to hit them. We now know of the situation for many though, those who took the opportunity to get on planes or helicopters and fled their region for the safety of Manila are now stranded. This story isn't isolated to a few, it included family members as well. While many, like my folks, have relocated to other areas near Manila, as they were able, many are still trying to find ways to get back home. Some of my aunts and uncles-along with cousins, need money to return to Tacloban, Samar, or Guiuan as the Philippine Government has said there is aide money to help them rebuild. While there has been that declaration by the government, there hasn't been any specifics-on how much will be offered to each family. In spite of that news my folks are hoping that someone will purchase the land. They plan to stay in Laguna and restart their lives. There has even been discussion between my mom and her younger sister about renting the apartment behind them so that they can live together/near each other.
The plan so far, for my family here in the Philippines is to gather in Laguna for a Christmas meal at my parent's apartment. Our plan, once we are in the U.S., December 25th, is to drive to Pocahontas, IA for Christmas with her family. I have no idea how much jet-lag will factor into our plans either as I know how wiped we were when we got here to the Philippines, but I am grateful for our time here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

SM AND CR

Just a short blurb...
Today we spent our day doing a little shopping at the Mall of Asia. Most of the shopping was for family as we hope to be back in the United States on Christmas Eve-if all goes well. The jet lag will likely keep us out of commission until Christmas Day, sometime late afternoon is my guess and our hope is to leave Christmas Day, if possible, for Pocahontas, IA. 
Now, in the title of this post you notice SM and CR. Here in the Philippines SM stands for SuperMarket and it's the place to purchase everything, it's the mall, the grocery store, and so much more. I chuckled once we got here because everyone told me we had to go to the "Super Market" to get the things we needed and I agreed not knowing they were literal-in location and the name of the place had to shop. If you clicked on the link for the Mall of Asia above, you will note the SM logo-that is it, the Super Market. To be clear, that's not just in Manila, it's also in Laguna, where my folks now live. 
And CR stands for "comfort room" and yet, whenever you're in the mall or super market the signs all say restroom. It's interesting yet, you learn to ask where the CR is as no one here understands restrooms. 
I know these tidbits haven't been as often as I had hoped, but I hope to have more tomorrow. 
Thanks everyone and Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

BIGAY (BIG-EYE)

Bigay, pronounced like big-eye, means share and I definitely have something to share with you. We spent a few days in Manila and went to the Mall of Asia-which is huge by the way, and even ordered in some KFC and Papa John's Pizza. We enjoyed the air-conditioned room and transportation and missed it as we transitioned from Manila to Laguna.
On our way to Laguna, where my parents live, she found out that her apartment doors had been changed without her knowledge. As mentioned awhile back, before we left, family was living with them and it turns out that when my parents left to pick us up from the Manila Airport, management changed the door knobs and keys so my mom's sisters couldn't gain access to it. The interesting thing is, mom had informed them they would be gone for a few days as they were picking us up and had plans to bring us to stay with them-they were told it was okay, yet while they were gone, they showed otherwise.
So a wrinkle was thrown into our plans as we neared Laguna without a place to stay. Enroute, my mother was busy making phone calls to family members who could help-one of them is Lezil, who is actually an agent, and she found a nearly new unit (remodeled). Once we go there, we found a single bedroom apartment, perfect for my folks, but not so great for everyone, it was a tight fit. *I hope to show some pictures of the living arrangements later.
The only issue with the apartment was that there was no air-conditioning and that became a problem for Noah. He wouldn't nap, wouldn't eat, and became quite irritable-we have since found a hotel with air-conditioning and all is well as his appetite has returned and he slept very well last night.
A couple of things I'd like to share in addition to the update (nutshell) above:
Here in the Philippines KFC, Burger King, and McDonald's all deliver meals-what would that look like in America? We already knew most pizza joints delivered, but we're talking fast food here. It's truly interesting and they also offer different items not found in the United States-for example: chicken and rice (native meal) along with other variations. You also get rice with your meals at all the above mentioned.
Air-conditioned vehicles are something you pay a premium for. One of the modes of transportation is a jeepney jeep but that leaves you open to elements, exhaust, and on a hot day...the heat. In Manila, most vehicles for hire are taxis that advertise, painted on their vehicle, whether they have "air con". Now, in Laguna, there aren't many taxis at all, but there are a lot of motorcycles with side carts and jeepney jeeps.
A final note, Holly and I are constantly amazed at the fact that there aren't more accidents. While there are lines drawn on the roads and lights to govern traffic, they are merely guidelines and rendered useless as all drivers, public or personal drive as they wish-especially those who haver personal motorcycles (they weave in and out of traffic and in between vehicles).
So we ask for continued prayers as venture out more and more with family to see some places and do some shopping. Thanks again for all your support.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

THE UPDATE

The Nutshell: We arrived at the Manila Airport among chaos and confusion. The lines were long through customs for both visitors and natives (Filipinos and non-Filippinos). We had a 2 year old with us and he was champ throughout the process-flying and customs. He was tired and hot, but he didn't complain much at all. All of us were tired but we managed to survive the worst of it. 
Once we got our bags we spent a while trying to locate my folks. Turns out, we were on two different levels-the confusion got sorted out and we went down the ramp and found them through the crowds. There were hugs and tears in the reunion and thankfully, they had brought some help from the hotel and they helped load up the van. The welcomed relief actually came once we got into the vehicle though-as it had air conditioning. In the short time we were outside we had already broken a sweat-as it was over 90 degrees plus humidity (we had four large and heavy bags along with smaller bags and two backpacks). Once we got to the hotel, we had some munchies, chatted some, and then we all went to bed. We all slept in and then enjoyed a late breakfast (10:30am). Our first day here we went to the Mall of Asia-it is huge! We did some shopping-we purchased a transformer (to convert their 220-240 to 110 for our equipment-cellphones, laptop, camera, and leap pad). Once we got back, I decided to read the plugs and found out that we have dual voltage chargers-that can handle 110-240. So I felt silly, but soon realized that Noah's leap pad isn't able to be charged on anything over 110. So all is not lost as we still have a need for it. 
Finally, we are grateful for everyone who helped get us there-through donations, thoughts, and prayers. On behalf of my parents and my family...thank you all! So far in our reunion we have had conversations about the future and my parents have a couple of options. We hope to help them solidify their decision/next step in the coming days. We were also made aware that many people are stuck here in Manila with no way to get home-as they don't have any money to return home (whether it be Cebu, Tacloban, Samar, or Guiian). Some of those folks are actually family members and we're currently trying to  figure out and coordinate how to get them back home to rebuild (many of them are here as they took safety to escape the destruction). 
There is still a lot of work to be done here-everywhere you go, there are folks asking for money (some on behalf of organizations like the Red Cross and others as individuals). Continue to pray for the people of the Philippines as they have a long road ahead of them-some more than others, especially those who aren't from Manila or any of it's suburbs. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

FRUSTRATED AND WAITING

I won't lie...I am frustrated. The passports we had hoped would be here on Wednesday or Thursday haven't come. I plan to make a phone call to the passport agency to ask, again, what the hold up is. Last we knew it was court documents-official documents to be specific and now that those have been sent, priority mail, to the passport agency...we haven't heard boo. Which begs the question-why did we pay the extra money to expedite our passports when we wouldn't really receive any benefit from it? 
I know the postal service has had issues, particularly in smaller, more rural areas, for whatever reason and I'm sure the nasty weather hasn't helped any, but I can't shake this ugly feeling that I'm not going to like what I hear tomorrow when I call or like what I see when I check the mail. As time passes, ticket prices jump and our chances of returning on Christmas gets slimmer and slimmer. 
As we wait and send our prayers to God, we ask that you continue to join us in prayer-prayers of strength, sanity, and patience. Thank you to everyone who has prayed and continues to pray, not just for safe travels, or for my family, but for prayers for the people of the Philippines who lost more than a home. There will be those who will be celebrating Christmas without family members this year, another painful reminder of loss and of perspective. I often hear it called "first world problems" and I think it's time that we refocus our sights on that which we are blessed with-healthy, family, and a roof over our heads-especially in light of those who go without that and so much more on a day to day basis...here and abroad. 
I am anxious to see my parents and reunite with family abroad and my hope is that as we gather, you might gather with those you hold dear and remember what's important this Christmas-the love of family and the love of God in Christ. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

THE FINAL BIG PUSH

Friends,
We are making one last push and plea for your support as we seem to have come to a crossroad. Currently, we have raised nearly $5,000 but the cost of our plane tickets alone will cost upwards of $6,000 and that doesn't include the cost of hotel, food, and other travel expenses while we're there. It is with a heavy heart that I write this in that it seems as though we may have to postpone our reunion until we raise enough funds. To be clear this isn't just about sending Holly, Noah, and I to the Philippines for a reunion it's about bringing some relief too. We have already sent over $1,000-which has hurt our efforts to purchase plane tickets, but considering the needs over there, at the time, it was the right choice.
Currently, Holly and I are planning to use our savings to make up for the ticket prices but aren't confident about what will be left to cover bills while we are gone. So we are asking for prayers that God will provide and that folks might come through-especially those who might be considering it or maybe haven't heard.
As an update on my folks, they are doing well considering and my mom has heard from all of her siblings! Now we turn our attention to the rest of the family and the people of the Philippines. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers-it has been a stressful time for us, both emotionally, professionally, and spiritually.
Finally, please know that we are grateful for everyone who has already given and for those who have gone above and beyond and continue to contribute as they are able. We give thanks for those who have and continue to raise awareness by sharing our story and our request for funds. We are blessed and appreciate all your efforts.
If you know someone who might be willing please share the link below. And if you haven't already donated prayerfully consider it. Simply click:






Saturday, November 30, 2013

FAMILY TYPHOON COVERAGE

While I know that we aren't the only ones in America, let alone South Dakota that have family and friends in the Philippines. I thought I would share some links to articles that have been shared or posted in regards to my family. You will find a link from the Dakotas United Methodist Conference, Sioux Falls Seminary, and the Argus Leader-the Sioux Falls Newspaper.
I am grateful for the coverage and awareness. And while I would selfishly want folks to support my efforts concerning my family, I know that I am not the only one with family who have lost everything. Please know that any money that is sent goes directly towards sending my family (myself, Holly, and Noah) to the Philippines and that anything else above and beyond goes directly to my extended family-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Simply click on the pictures below to be taken to the articles. Again, thank you for your support, your thoughts, and prayers.