Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shopping, APRC Fun Day, & Palm Sunday

22 – 28 March, 2010

At lunch on Monday, Greg was telling us about the small Cokes that seem to be a Filipino favorite – they're called sakto, because it's “exact-o” the right size! It's less than 7 ounces and a cute little bottle but, often, Americans like to have 2, not just one...

We'd made plans to attend this month's American Women's Club of the Philippines Bazaar and asked Keith to come with us. It's held at the World Trade Center, a large convention center, and the hall is packed with vendors of all sorts – food, clothing, furniture, paintings, jewelry, baskets, quilts, shoes, woven goods, carved wood, coconut shell items. Starting a little later to avoid the early morning traffic, we arrived before 11 and started the hunt for gifts to take home. Food vendors feed the hungry shoppers (we had fried rice and pork skewers) and, by 1:30, we were pleased with our purchases, which included a string of lights for our screened porch made out of coconut shells! With much of the afternoon left, we decided to continue shopping at Greenhills Mall and shopped for and purchased pearls! After mango shakes and California rolls at Teriyaki Boy, we were ready to head for home... a successful shopping outing!

I fixed a light supper of tuna salad on crackers with fruit before heading back out to Faith Academy for Ballroom Dance class! We watched some dance competition video (beautiful!), then tried to learn Viennese Waltz and Mambo Line Dance. But, after a day of shopping, it was a little tough on the feet!

What a rewarding time we had at the Taylors' home Wednesday evening for missionary prayer night. Daniel led the group in praying for each family individually, after talking about praises and concerns. Our missionary friends are serious prayer warriors! All of us are facing transitions in our lives (all going back to the States during 2010 for some length of time) and it's a blessing to have prayer covering the changes and blessings we anticipate!

Thursday, we were all excited about Friday, the day of the APRC Outing! The rest of the staff had a morning meeting to discuss some new personnel matters; after a while, they asked Dan and me to join them to clarify the details for Friday!

Thursday night was a short one, as Dan and I got up at 3:15 AM Friday morning to get our gear in the car that we'd gathered the night before. We picked up Olive along the way and got to campus at 4:20... the others arrived soon after, along with the food that Grace Tia had prepared... Nanding, our driver, finally got the bus moving before 5 AM – we were on our way!
Part way, we stopped at one of the nice Filipino rest stops, complete with gas station and quite a few restaurants. Someone broke out the breakfasts – Grace had fixed each of us a styrofoam container with 2 large pancakes, 2 hotdogs, and a 2-egg omelet! By then, Dan and I just had to have some coffee too, so we walked over to the Starbucks and got a couple of “Americanos” to go. 
Back on the road, the scenery was great! We saw lots of rugged hills with rice crops and cows and goats in valleys between, people walking in the fields; everything was green.
Clark Air Force base was here; it's still a shipping port and trucking point, with a small airport. Up the hill we traveled to TreeTop Adventures for our morning activities! Gathering in their covered deck in the forest, we received our “training” from “Dudez” who explained what we could expect. After that, we were outfitted with harnesses and helmets and got Dudez to use our cameras for group photos. 
 Going 3 at a time (Joey joined us; he's a fun guy who's on the night shift in the Call Center), we went up the stairs to the first metal deck in a tree. There were expert guides in each tree stand who hooked us onto the railing before hooking our harnesses into the seats that ride together from tree to tree. It was quite tame (I think we'd been expecting zipline speeds) and peaceful riding in the seats and enjoying the forest. 
 We took turns being in the front seat and read the signs on the trees, learning the names and uses of each. The Lupang trees were the most interesting, as their seeds - from pods – could be ground and made into a caffeine-free coffee, and their root structure was really awesome (as we saw later and took lots of photos beside them). 
 When our ride was over, but our coworkers were still finishing, Dan and I decided to try the “Silver Surfer”, another ride for just 2 at a time. (It was fun, but definitely not speedy or scary.) When all of us had turned in our harnesses and helmets, we assembled in a gathering area on the floor of the forest (where we'd have lunch later) for their “10% Survival Training” where we learned about a bamboo vine that holds water for drinking, how to make things out of bamboo to eat with and cook with (and making fire with it too, after quite a few tries). Another guide was brought in to take us “trekking” on a walk in the forest/jungle; this was really interesting and fun, as we were told about the trees and bugs and took photos...
When we returned to our gathering area, out came all the containers of lunch that had been prepared for us by Grace and her helpers! We had rice, pork adobo, eggplant parmesan, banana bread – and there was lots left over! When we'd eaten and cleaned up, Dan led us in a time of devotions until it started to sprinkle! So we prayed together, then grabbed all the coolers and containers to return to the Coaster bus!

It was a short ride to All Hands Beach Resort where it continued to sprinkle on us for a while longer before giving way to just clouds and gray water. All Hands has very cute cottages for rent and nipa huts for eating together. We brought the coolers to 2 huts and went into the shower rooms to change clothes. Some changed into shorts and t-shirts for swimming; others wore swimsuits, and we tested the water – cold! But after plunging in, it was easy to adjust to. 
The beach was black sand with a layer of light sand on top, with lots of rocks and only a few pieces of shells. But the sun came out and Dan and I got out the sun screen and snorkel gear to paddle around with. We shared it too, as others wanted to give it a try. It was fun to stop for a snack after a while – green mango slices with shrimp paste is a great combination that you must try! A couple of watermelons were cut up and distributed too; feels like summer! Dan rented a 2-person kayak too, since that was something we'd been wanting to try! By 4:30, we were being urged to shower and change so we could go to Puregold Duty-Free store, a warehouse food store that had just opened that day! Much like Sam's Club, there was a great variety of food, housewares, school supplies, and clothing. We all enjoyed the time there, but needed to get some dinner and get back on the road to Manila! So we went across the street and, finding that there was enough left in the outing budget to cover dinner, we all ordered a meal from either ChowKing or Reyes BBQ (we got the barbecue) and enjoyed it outside!

Nanding is a very good driver and, after a stop similar to our morning break, we finally arrived back on campus a little after 11:30. The trip back had us all talking, snacking, and there was even some singing. What a great day with our coworkers! We were back home and in bed as soon as we could be – a little after midnight!

Saturday morning, we were committed to attend an NYI event, a District Literary Festival at Metro Manila First Church, so there was no chance to sleep in this day! We arrived around 9 AM and were treated like visiting royalty! 
 Dan was called up the platform to tell a little about us, then the schedule was given for the day – and we attended a round of Bible Quizzing with five 2-person teams, 1 from each zone. They wrote their answers on small blackboards and showed their knowledge of scripture within some of Paul's letters. Going back upstairs (sanctuary on second floor, school on ground floor), we watched 3 zones perform in their “speech choir” - an interpretive reading of Genesis 1. One was definitely outstanding, having memorized the chapter and acted it out with great props!
We were asked to judge 5 drawings, artwork that would be used for this year's Metro Manila NYI theme. Some of the groups had brought their own lunches; we were treated with lunch from McDonald's after some great conversation time in the pastor's office, talking with Pastor Sid and Pastora Carol (who we'd met last fall in BQM training). At 1 PM, the awards ceremony started and, to our surprise, we were asked to be the ones to hand out the medals, in all categories! What fun, as we posed for photos with each group as well! True to their promise, the day's activities were over at 2 PM, and we were asked if we could take 7 girls back to our subdivision so they'd be closer to home – no problem!!

We had thought maybe we'd do some shopping that afternoon, but both of us were still tired from 2 short nights of sleep, so we took a nap. That really helped! Then, we drove to SM Taytay where (we'd forgotten) there was a huge sale going on, so it was really crowded and loud music was playing in each store and in the halls! We did wander around for a while, purchased a couple of shirts for Dan, then went to the Hypermarket for a few groceries. Running into our Indian friend Girish (adult pastor, student at APNTS with his wife and 2 children) at the store, we offered him a ride back to campus so he didn't need to pay for a jeepney.

After heating up some leftover fried rice around 8:30, we went to bed early!

Sunday morning, after having tried last night to get good directions to (Pastora Carol's) 'Glorious Church', we picked up Bev (APNTS Dean of Students) and Elis (a female pastor from Papua New Guinea currently a student at APNTS) to go too. It was Glorious's youth group that won first place in the speech choir competition yesterday and it was great to see them repeat the performance for their congregation as part of the worship service! We sang several worship songs that we knew and it was especially fun to sing “How Great Thou Art” in Tagalog (words provided)! Carol's sermon about Palm Sunday was mostly in Tagalog too, but with enough English for us to understand the different spin she used - about being used by God, as even an ordinary colt/donkey was used for God's purposes. Everyone wanted to greet us afterward (even after the great greeting time during the service), even the children! They're a very friendly congregation! After taking Elis back to campus, we took Bev with us to French Bakery at SM Taytay (still very crowded with that sale!) and we all enjoyed a delicious Quiche Lorraine with corn soup and a salad.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty quiet. Pastor Orlan arrived for the Sunday afternoon youth group time, but no one came this week (probably too many family things going on with the Palm Sunday services), so he left as well.

We have only 2 weeks left here...

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