Monday, December 17, 2007

My Favorite Son...


Wanna hear something sweet?

A few days ago, Brayden crawled into my lap, kissed me, and then said "tan chew" which means thank you in his language. Then, he laid his head on my chest. Is that not one of the sweetest things you've ever heard. It makes me smile every time I think about it. I love my baby boy!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Sweetest Thing...

At church today, they had a Christmas Cantata to celebrate the current holiday season. It was wonderful. The singing was wonderful and melodic. The nicest part though was that they had invited a lot of poor people from the area. Probably around 100 or so of them. At the end of the program, they invited the children on stage to get a gift. It was so touching that a tear came to my eye. Those kids will never forget that. And, it wasn't like a pity party or anything. No one was gawking. There were a lot of other people on stage singing and acting and stuff. It was very nice y'all.

On another note, if I could I would be driving a Range Rover and sailing on a yacht. Not at the same time of course. I know at least one person is thinking "Is this the same girl who wrote that other post about the poor folks and not buying expensive things?" Yes, it's me. Here's the thing. It's not that I don't like things that cost a bit. It's not that I don't sometimes want them. I just convince myself to not spend the amount of money necessary to purchase one. But, for a Range Rover or yacht, I would be convincing myself to buy that sucka. And, I'm dead serious.

No, those two paragraphs have nothing to do with each other. It's just what was on my mind. I have a lot of stuff to talk about so there will be a lot of posts in the next few days.

Later...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Danae's New Pet

We have a pet monkey. I wish I had a picture to show you all but I don't. Honestly, I don't even know what he looks like because he exists in Danae's imagination. She only says "he's brown and little but he's kind of big too." But, he definitely lives with us and stays in her room all day. I don't think they have a very good relationship because she's always saying "the monkey's gonna get me" and she slams the door to her room to make sure he doesn't get out.

Dwayne says he never had any imaginary friends. I guess that's because he had brothers. I definitely had an imaginary. He was a boy named May-May. I don't know where that name came from but he was very REAL...just like Danae's monkey.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Coup D'etat

Yesterday, two men attempted a coup on the Philippine government. President Arroyo has been under fire for years now because of alleged corruption in her government. Of course, I don't know enough information to form my own opinion. But, it does seem that many Filipinos don't trust her or the government. Anyway, yesterday morning I got a call from Dwayne advising me to stay inside because something was going.

Four years ago, a man named Senator Trillanes attempted a coup. He and his supporters from the Philippine military laid siege to a hotel called The Oakwood. This hotel has been renamed and is the place where we currently reside. This was a tidbit of information they forgot to include in our expat counseling sessions. Anyway, he took over the hotel for a day and thankfully no one was hurt. He ended up surrendering and being arrested. Yesterday, Trillanes was on trial for this coup attempt when he and Brigadier General Lim (a witness at this trial) walked out of court with defected soldiers. They marched down Makati Avenue and barged into the Peninsula Hotel. They were calling for President Arroyo to step down as president. This, of course, did not happen. The Philippine military that did not defect eventually charged into the hotel with a tank and tear gas. Again, Trillanes and his sympathizers were arrested after a standoff that lasted around 6 to 7 hours.


The first picture is the exterior of the Peninsula Hotel and the second is the lobby. At least, this is what it used to look like before this mess happened. Here are a couple of pictures of the hotel during the standoff.



The next picture is of Trillanes. He's the guy in black.

And the last two pictures are of the Philippine military getting ready to take the rebels down.


The crazy thing is that most Filipinos were not at all alarmed by these events. They just went about business as usual because they are used to coup attempts. They happen almost yearly and especially around the holidays. Today is a national holiday, Bonifacio Day.

So, in the two months we've been here the following things have occurred: a bombing at Glorietta Mall which is attached to our building, a bombing at the House of Representatives building, an earthquake, a fire in a restaurant in our building, a couple of typhoons, and now a coup attempt. So far we haven't really been scared of anything. Well, the tanks rolling down the street yesterday was a little unsettling. But, for the most part, I still feel pretty safe. Just thought I would share what's going on in our neck of the woods.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Filipino Workers

The other day I was in SM Department Store which is around the corner from my house. They are trying to hire more employees and I decided to look at the ad. They are hiring cashiers, checkers, stock clerks, and sales clerks. To be a cashier or checker, you must be a college graduate. Checkers sit with the cashier and check their work to make sure the checker doesn't steal any merchandise or money. All candidates must be between 18 and 25 years old, at least 5'2" for females and 5'6" for males. To apply for a job, they must take their resume and a photo.

There is a lot of discrimination here. Most jobs require that you are physically attractive. Most people don't look like supermodels but you don't see overweight, disabled, or older people working in most of the service-industry jobs. The family structure here is one where the younger folks really take care of the older folks. For the uneducated people here who are older than 30, there aren't many opportunities. Everyone is young: the cashiers in the grocery store, the maids in the hotel, the waitresses, the janitors. If you are older than around 25-30, you don't have the opportunity to go back to school for an education and this includes post-graduate degrees. You have missed your chance. The older women are maids, cooks, and nannies in private homes. Our nanny is 35 years old and she is always lamenting about the fact that she's so old and has no children to care for her. The older men are drivers, handymen, and yard workers (I don't know the PC term for that...maybe landscape artists).

The other crazy thing is the contracts here. The maids in our building are on a 5 month contract. This means that they are out of a job after 5 months and can not renew the current contract. They must go somewhere else for a job. The current job gives them a letter of recommendation, of course, so this ensures that the employees do a good job while here. Most jobs are the same way: cashiers, factory workers, gas station attendants, whatever you can think of. This benefits the companies in a few ways. They don't give raises because the employee is not there long enough to prove themselves worthy of a raise. They don't offer any real benefits. The country has laws that state an employee can join a union after being on a job for more than a year. Guess how many people don't belong to unions? Most companies are owned by foreigners, an overwhelming majority being Chinese. The unemployment rate is so high that the Filipinos are just happy to have a job.

Just another little something that makes me appreciate the good old USA.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Feeling the ground move

When we moved to California, my only real fear was of an earthquake. Yesterday, while sitting in my apartment, I felt the ground move. There was an earthquake in the Philippines. The epicenter was miles away so the experience wasn't frightening. It was weird though. I felt a little movement but it made me feel like maybe I was just lightheaded. Then, the building swayed. The light fixture over the dining table shook. The nanny came to me saying "ma'am it's an earthquake". And then, just as quickly as it began, it was over. Hopefully, I won't experience any more that what I felt yesterday. The only thing that made me nervous is that I didn't know if that was the precursor to the real thing. We live on the 22nd floor so I didn't know if I should go downstairs or stay in my room. Should I take the elevator or stairs. I decided to stay here which was a good decision because we didn't feel anything else. But, I can now say I have felt an earthquake...sorta.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Poor Man's Blues

I grew up poor. I used to be ashamed but I grew up to realize that it is what it is. My parents barely made it from check to check. I wore hand-me-down clothes. My aunt (a thrift store/flea market addict) would bring home clothes from, well, whatever thrift store she could find. They were often ugly. I remember this particular coat that was a fake fur. It was gray. It was ugly...so ugly in fact that I would often go to school freezing cold to avoid wearing that darn jacket. Or, I would go very early so I could hide it in my locker before my friends got there. I knew enough to always be grateful for those ugly things and to never complain. My parents had an ugly orange station wagon that I also hated. It was so raggedy that there was a hole in the floor in the backseat. You could see the road as we drove. Only one of my friends ever rode in that car. We had to live with my aunt for an extended period of time because my parents couldn't afford the rent on the house where we lived. I remember being sent into the bank to deposit $1 or some other small amount to avoid my parents being hit with NSF fees. I was sent because my mom was too embarrassed to make the deposit herself. She couldn't afford to deposit any more money and that $1 was usually in change found around the house or whatever. My parents were stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They made too much to qualify for any assistance but too little to live. Most of this happened while I was in elementary and middle school. They dug themselves out of this hole somehow. I don't know the specifics but I do know that life turned around for us. We were never very well off but my mom was able to buy a new minivan (my dad still has this 19 year old van). They bought a house and the thrift store clothes were a thing of the past. I know this experience shaped me into the woman I am today. I am the total opposite of materialistic. I could care less about designer clothing and purses. I can't make myself spend much money on stuff. I always think about those who could use the money to eat, pay rent, keep the lights on. I thought I was very familiar with the poor man's blues.

Lemme tell you, I didn't know a thing. Poor here is on a whole 'nother level. It's sad and utterly heartbreaking. We have never gone for a ride in the car without people, usually small children or very old people, knocking on the windows begging for money. There are street children everywhere. These babies are homeless and hungry, usually naked or close to it. A very large percentage of Filipinos live in squatter houses, which is little more than a tin roof covering 4 walls. Sometimes it's only tarp to protect them from the elements. Most people don't have electricity or running water. When we rode the ferry during our vacation, there were people begging. As we boarded the boat, small canoes came close with women and their naked babies begging for money. It's sad, y'all. It's enough to make you weep. The unemployment rate here is between 40 and 50%. Can you imagine the state of a country where almost half of its inhabitants can't find a job?

It's overwhelming for me. I want to help them all but can't. I want to wrap all the little babies up and bring them home with me, if only to give them a hot bath and a good meal. But then what about tomorrow? And the next day? I want to take the elderly and provide them with comfort in their final days. But how exactly can that be done with so many?

I thought I was poor but I now realize how well off we were. I never went hungry or naked. I may not have had the best but I was provided for. My childhood was happy and fun. I never had the empty, sad eyes of the Filipino street children. My parents never wore the permanent cloud of shame on their faces. I thank God for this opportunity to see the world, even the dark and ugly aspects. These experiences will also shape my future and that of my children. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own desires and not relish in the reality of having our needs met. I praise God for all of His wonderful blessings he has provided for my family. I extol His greatness because his word assures us that the righteous will not be forsaken and his seed will not beg for bread. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who choose to take time from your own lives to read my crazy ramblings.

Instead of turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, yams, sweet potato pie, and everything else y'all are eating.....we are eating, excuse me, drinking orange juice with plans to have a little soup this evening. Dwayne and I are transitioning back to eating food again after fasting for 10 days.

We decided to fast to detoxify our bodies and give our digestive systems a break. We also used this time to focus more on our personal relationships with Jesus and to especially pray for a very close relative who is faced with a serious medical issue. We have benefited tremendously from this fast, but most of all, we are waiting to hear from that family member that God has performed a miracle in his behalf. And, if that doesn't happen, we still praise the name of the Lord for all of His goodness towards us.

Anyway, I decided to post the things that I am thankful for today:
  1. God...because he loves me despite all of my shortcomings and failures. Because he thought enough of me (and you) to offer a plan of salvation. Because he protects me, comforts me, provides for me, forgives me, blesses me, and is in the process of perfecting me.
  2. Dwayne...because he loves me and is fulfilling his role as a wonderful husband in my life. He is the most fun person in the world and I love every minute that we spend together.
  3. Danae...because she is so much like me (sometimes I am not thankful for this). She is straight forward, very nurturing, lovable, mean, silly, annoying, and the cutest girl in the world (in my opinion). I love having a daughter. She notices things about people and compliments them. For example, she told the maid that her haircut was cute the other day and Dwayne didn't even notice the lady had gotten a haircut. She's all girl but has no problem getting dirty.
  4. Brayden...because he is a mama's boy. He's very friendly and lovable but definitely a boy. He's dangerous, loves to get dirty, climbs on everything, jumps off stuff. But, he's quick to say "tan chew" (thank you) and "duv you" (love you) which melts your heart. He's also a serious ladies man with his handsome little self (again, in my opinion)!
  5. The rest of our family...because of their unconditional love.
  6. All of my friends...because y'all are the best. I haven't seen some of you in a looonnngg time but you still stop by to read (and sometimes comment). I miss each and every one of you.
Alright, gotta go and I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving dinners.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vacation in Cebu Continued...

Okay, so where did I leave off? I covered Day 1 so on to Day 2, November 2nd.

This was All Souls Day. On both All Saints Day and All Souls Day, Filipinos have a family reunion at the graves of their loved ones. They spend most of the day there eating food, cleaning off the graves, and socializing. It's so serious that several streets around the cemeteries are cordoned off to help control the amount of people there. This is a serious religious event and we gave our yaya the day off so she could spend the time with her family as well.

We went to Bohol for the day. This is on an island near Cebu. We took the hour long ferry over. Again, we took a tour. The Cebu tour was private so it was only us and the guide. The Bohol tour was with a group. So, the ferry dropped us off in Tagbilaran, Bohol. We boarded a bus and went off. Our first activity was the Loboc River Cruise. We floated down the river eating lunch and listening to music. There was a man on board playing his guitar and singing. He was really good. He sang a lot of old 70's Soul music and sounded good. When I closed my eyes, I was instantly transported to my childhood when my dad would play his records and we would dance together. He was good, y'all. The lunch was okay. I almost fed my children squid though. It was mixed in with bok choy and I didn't see them. Ugh! They had other things that we could eat though. The river was beautiful and we made a stop to visit the Abi tribe. They are an indigenous tribe in Bohol. They played music and performed dances and otherwise entertained us. It was good though. Dwayne and the kids joined in with the little drummers. They were playing on strategically placed bamboo. Dwayne was good too...much better than the others on this cruise. Here's pictures:









After the cruise, we headed to visit the tarsiers. This is the smallest primate in the world. It's status as a primate has been debated quite a bit because it is quite unlike the monkey. We thought it was such a cute little animal though. An interesting thing to note is that they don't handle captivity well. In fact, in this enclosure, there is no top so they do leave at night (they're nocturnal animals) to go hunt. They return to the enclosure because the owners have made it extremely suitable to their needs. Anyway, when captive, they basically commit suicide. Tarsiers have fontanels (soft spots) on the back of their heads. When captive, they continuously bang their heads until they die. Sad, huh? Here are pictures of them though. I saved the cutest tarsiers for last ;)







After visiting the tarsiers, we headed to Chocolate Hills. This is an unusual area composed of over 1,200 hills. During the dry season, the grass turns brown which is where the name comes from. Unfortunately, it was raining when we got there and the kids were napping. And, we would have to climb over 200 steps to get the best view. So, Dwayne and the others went up while the kids and I waited. We still got to see the hills though. Here are just a couple of pics to give you an idea.

We also visited a Catholic church in Bohol named Immaculate Concepcion but no pictures. It was built in 1595 and much of the original church, and its furnishings, are still intact. The inside was made of coral stone. There were quite a few people worshiping inside so we didn't stay very long. The next site was to see a sculpture called The Blood Compact. It commemorates a compact between Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna, the chieftain of Bohol in 1565. This was a treaty of friendship between the two where they each made a cut in their arms and mixed a few drops of their blood with wine. Each man drank the blood of the other.
This was the last stop on the tour before heading back to the ferry and over to Cebu. On Saturday, we just hung out at the resort. We finally swam that evening and just relaxed. We came back to Manila on Sunday afternoon. It was a very nice vacation and, as you can see, very educational.

Filipino culture reminds me of American culture in that it is a mixture of cultures of other countries. They will proudly tell you that they speak like Americans, eat like Chinese, and worship like Spaniards.

Until later...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vacation in Cebu

This post is a little late. For some reason, I just haven't felt like blogging. I have a lot to write about but just not motivated to do so. I'm going to try to get back in the swing of things.

We took a trip November 1-4 to Cebu. This City is about an hour's flight away. It's south of Manila in the Visayas Region. Manila is divided into three regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. We live in Luzon. Mindanao is where a lot of terrorist regimes thrive and do their damage. Actually, it's only a small part of Mindanao. Anyway, we went to Cebu. This was a holiday weekend. November 1st is All Saints Day and November 2nd is All Souls Day. So, Dwayne had those days off from work. As I may have stated before, about 85% of Filipinos are Catholic. There is no separation of church and state here so a lot of religious days are considered national holidays.

In Cebu, we stayed at the Plantation Bay Resort. A few pictures:




On November 1st, we took a tour of Cebu. We visited Allegre, a guitar factory. It was kind of interesting to hear about the process of making guitars. They use different types of wood to get different sounds and they have to age the wood to get richer tones. The guy in the picture convinced us to but a cocolele, a ukulele made out of coconuts. We thought it would be cool to have. It even came with instructions written in Japanese. A couple of pics:

Our next stop was to see Magellan's Cross. Ferdinand Magellan 'discovered' the Philippines and planted a cross here. This is how Catholicism was introduced to this area. The actual cross is encased inside the wooden cross. They had to cover it because the Filipinos would scrape some of the wood off, grind it, and mix it in their drinks for good luck. Again, a few pics:

Next stop was the Basilica del Santo Nino. This church was built in 1735. The original was constructed in 1566 but destroyed by fire. This church houses the image of the Santo Nino, or baby Jesus. This image is over 400 years old and is encased in glass. The parishioners must knock on the glass 3 times before making their request known. Because we visited on All Saints Day, there were more people there than usual. They stood in a line outside the church waiting to pray to the Santo Nino. The people believe that if they pray to this image, the prayer will be answered. There were also a lot of historic paintings and other sculptures of Jesus and saints in and just outside this church. For some reason, Dwayne didn't take a picture of the Santo Nino but he got some other shots there. An interesting thing to see is the parishioners wave when they walk in the church. We asked Tony, the tour guide, what that was about. They wave to the saints when they walk in and leave just as we wave hello and goodbye to one another. Pictures follow:







The next stop was to the Taoist Temple in a neighborhood called

There were people worshiping in this temple but you're not allowed to take pictures inside. To get to the temple we had to climb 9 sets of stairs that each had 9 steps for a total of 81 steps. That can be very tiring when you're holding a little one. The last picture is one that Dwayne took of us after he climbed even more steps to look at other temples. There were several temples there, each dedicated to a different god. Here are a few pictures:



We also went to see a huge sculpture in Cebu. It tells the history of the country. Dwayne got it on video because pictures wouldn't have done any justice. It was nice though. Then, we went to a place to buy souvenirs. It was a bit expensive so I just bought a fan and Dwayne bought a t-shirt for his coworker who set up this trip.

Since this post is a little long, I'll post about the trip later. Yes, I realize the date on the pictures is 10/31. For some reason, the date is off. Let me know if you like having a post with pictures and maybe I'll continue it that way (when I feel like it).

Until later,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Yes, we found a church

It's so nice to have so many friends concerned about our spiritual life here. Yes, we do attend church on Sabbath. The Seventh Day Adventist movement is really picking up momentum here. I've read that the Philippines is the second fastest growing country in the Adventist church. We did not attend church our first sabbath here because we had just arrived at about 10 pm the night before and jet lag ain't nothing nice. But, since then we have attended church.

There are only two English speaking churches in this area. Our first visit was to the church connected with the Manila Adventist Medical Center. The church is actually called MAMC. The children's sabbath school was really good. But, they don't have air conditioning in the sanctuary so it was rather hot in there. There is a small room with a window unit for families with small children. This room was so packed and noisy that Dwayne left us in there and stood in the back of the sanctuary to hear the service. I would have left too but there were no empty seats inside and I had absolutely no intentions of holding the kids while standing in heels.

The next Sabbath we attend Pasay Adventist Church. They have air conditioning! This church is actually really nice too. The choir is amazing; they sound so good. Even the children's choir is one of the best I've ever heard. We even heard a little boy preach for children's day. He was no older than 10 years old but I will admit it was one of the best sermons I've heard in a minute. And, he was funny. This church has two services each Sabbath and the church is packed for both services. It's a fairly large church that probably seats about 1,000 people. Yep, it's pretty large.

Most Adventists meet in each others homes where they only speak Tagalog. You know how during mission stories they say "your money will go to build a church in..." Well, there are several groups of people here who could also use a church home. In the meantime, they just rotate between private homes.

Here's a couple of pictures from Pasay Adventist Church. At this time, it's all we have. Maybe one day I'll add a video so you can hear the choir sing.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Pamper Me

I finally decided to pamper myself today. I've gone to the steam room in our fitness area already. To me, that is very relaxing and just makes me feel good. But today, I thought I would splurge a little. I went to The Lotus and got a 1 hour combination of Swedish and Shiatsu massages. That was the best massage I have ever received. Not that I've had many but it was still the best. That lady covered every inch of my body from the top of my head to the sole of my feet. Well, almost every inch. She did skip a couple of spots. It was good though, y'all. And it only cost a whopping 350 pesos plus her 50 peso tip. 400 pesos equals $8.96. Not bad, huh? Before the massage I went to Fresh Air Salon and got a pedicure for 100 pesos or $2.24. Okay, you can stop hating on me right about now. The pedi was not the best I've had but it was good for the price. I'm trying to catch up with my husband who has had 2 massages and a manicure already. Between the two of us, we're going to try every joint around here.

I've been working out lately so I can finally lose all my baby belly bulge. I attend the two free aerobic classes here. One is powerkicking and the other is just a regular aerobics class. I also go to the gym and work out on my own. I am so sore! That's why I got a massage today. Hopefully, by the time we leave here I'll be in tip-top shape.

Okay, that's all I got for today. It's time to go to sleep. I have to wake up early tomorrow so I can go to church.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Crazy Conversations

Conversation yesterday with Alex, the driver:
Alex: Ma'am do you know Saddam Hussein?
Me: No, not personally but I know of him.
Alex: I don't understand what you mean. You don't know Saddam Hussein?
Me: Yes, I know who you're talking about.
Alex: Do you know his cousin?
Me: No
Alex: He's a very rich man and he's staying in your building. My co-driver drives for him.
Me: Really. Are you sure?
Alex: Yes ma'am, he has a penthouse on the 26th floor. Have you seen him?
Me: No, I don't know who he is.
Alex: Okay, ma'am.

We took a day trip to Tagaytay which is about an hour and a half. They are known for having the world's smallest active volcano. It's in Taal Lake. While there, Dwayne and Danae rode on a horse. Because Danae is so small, a young man helped lead the horse to ensure there were no accidents. The following is a conversation between Dwayne and that boy:
Horse Boy: What is your name sir?
Dwayne: My name is Dwyane.
Horse Boy: Dwayne?
Dwayne: Yeah like Dwyane Wade. (He used this example because Filipinos are crazy about basketball)
The horse boy then started to tell all of his friends that Dwayne was Dwyane Wade. So, the boy's friends greeted Dwayne as Dwyane Wade.
Horse Boy's Friend: Do you know Kevin Garnett? Do you know other basketball players?
Dwayne: No, my name is not Dwayne Wade. My name is Dwayne G-----.
HB's Friend: Oh, Dwayne G-----. I bet I can beat you in basketball.

Conversation yesterday with Lucy, the Yaya:
Lucy: Ma'am, can I ask you a question. Why do you use cocaine?
Me: (blank stare) Excuse me.
Lucy: I read somewhere that all Americans use cocaine and I was wondering why.
Me: Lucy, all Americans do NOT use cocaine. I've never used it or even seen it outside of drug prevention days in school.
Lucy: But ma'am I heard that all Americans use drugs.
Me: Lucy, that's not true. Trust me. There are some people in America who use cocaine but most people don't.
Lucy: Do you know anyone who uses cocaine?
Me: I know someone who used to but he's clean now.
Lucy: Ma'am, is he crazy now?
Me: No, he's quite normal. Thankfully, he was able to kick that habit.
Lucy: I also heard that when people smoke marijuana they go crazy too.
Me: No, that's not true. I know a lot of people who smoked weed (yeah I said weed but I'm going to omit the part where I had to explain that terminology) and they're normal people now. It was just something they tried in their youth.
Lucy: Ma'am, why would they try something that would make them go crazy.
Me: Lucy, they are NOT crazy now. They're okay.
Lucy: But ma'am, I know a man who smoked marijuana and now he's crazy.
Me: He got a hold of some bad stuff.
Lucy: But ma'am, I still don't understand why all Americans use cocaine.
Me: We don't Lucy. Let's change the subject.

These folks can give you a straight up headache. They are crazy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wild Children and Other Stuff...

Well, the death toll from the explosion at Glorietta mall is now 11 and over 100 people were injured. The authorities haven't figured out the cause yet. The three theories are:
  1. an LPG tank exploded
  2. terrorist attack
  3. this is the funniest theory to me and Dwayne. They said the septic tanks weren't working properly and haven't been maintained well. So, the explosion could have been caused by a combination of diesel fuel (from delivery trucks below the mall) and poop.
I guess we'll just wait and see what the final verdict is. The mall was open Saturday through Tuesday. Then, the authorities closed it today (Wednesday) so they can investigate the structure and ensure that it's safe for people to walk in. Um, shouldn't that have taken place before the place opened again? Whatever...

In Manila, there are always people selling stuff on the streets, between cars, wherever they can fit. Today I saw a man selling odd things. He had about 5 bicycle tires, some headlights, and one fishing rod. What? Hey, if crackheads can sell one t-shirt out the pack or one roll of toilet paper just to get a hit, these poor people can sell whatever will make a buck.

I took the kids to the children's museum today. It's called Museo Pambata and was pretty nice. The problem was that children from a nearby school were there for a field trip. Those kids were nuts. When I was little, my mama always had that talk with me. You know the one. "Don't you go in here acting like you ain't never been no where. You betta act like you got some sense." Apparently, these children's mamas didn't have that talk because they were definitely acting like they ain't never been no where. They were so wild that they made my poor babies nervous. We tried to stay away from them but they were split up into groups. So, while we were in one part of an exhibit calmly enjoying ourselves a herd of children would explode into the room. And, what did the parents do? Absolutely nothing.

After the museum, I told the driver we needed to get lunch. I decided to treat the yaya and the driver to a little lunch. Why did these fools start naming the more costly restaurants when I asked what was nearby. On their dime, they go to Jollibee (Like McD's), McDonald's, Chowking, or some other fast food joint. On my dime, they start talking about T.G.I.Friday's, Italianni's, and other nicer restaurants. So, um, we went to McDonald's. We're already employing them and helping them earn a salary. I am not trying to spend a lot of money on lunch. Was that wrong?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Makati Mall Blast Kills 3...

So, I got a phone call today from Dwayne asking if I felt the ground shake. I didn't but then asked if it was an earthquake. He said there was an explosion or something in Glorietta Mall. This is the mall that's connected to our building. The mall he walks through every day to come home from work. The mall we stood in last night to watch Anna Wintour's Mango fashion show. The mall the kids and I go in a few times a week because it leads to grocery stores and a play area. The mall we've enjoyed dinner in at Hard Rock and T.G.I.Friday's and a few other restaurants.

Sadly, at least 3 people lost their lives. Here's an excerpt from GMA News

(Updated 2:30 p.m.) At least three people were killed while several others were hospitalized after an explosion of still undetermined origin rocked a Makati City shopping mall on Friday afternoon, initial reports said.

Police Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said initial information showed that the explosion emanated from the Luk Yuen Noodle House at the first level of the Glorietta 2 shopping mall.

Metro Manila police spokesman Supt. Rodel Sermonia said the three fatalities, who were not immediately identified, were killed on the spot.

"Initial reports show we have three dead on the spot and several wounded. We don't have the exact number of wounded people," he told dzBB radio.

Radio dzMM said the fatalities were a male and two females.

An eyewitness told GMANews.TV that it sounded like a powerful firecracker blast, and then a thudding sound was heard, like that of a ceiling that had collapsed. Shoppers scampered out of the mall, some of them crying, while police agents rushed in.

The explosion was heard near the Glorietta 2 mall, from across the Landmark shopping center, near Ayala Avenue, in the financial district of Makati City. There were unconfirmed reports of injured persons.

There may be more casualties since this just happened about an hour ago. We were advised to stay in our apartment for now. Dwayne is still at work.

We thought we had traveled to somewhere safe. But, there is no safe place except in Jesus' arms. Because of that, I do not feel uneasy even with my babies napping soundly in their beds. I know in whom I trust. I know that God can and does always protect us. And, even if he chooses not to, blessed be His name.

But for now, we are all okay. Keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What can you do for less than $250 a month...


Okay everyone, say "Hi Miss Lucy". She's sitting by Brayden. Miss Lucy is the kids' yaya (nanny). She's been working for us for a week. She doesn't live with us though. She works from 8 to 5 Monday - Friday and is available other times if needed.

What does she do? Glad you asked. Her primary responsibility is to assist me in caring for the kids. She prepares lunch for all of us and sometimes dinner too. She irons our clothes (including undies) which is Dwayne's favorite thing. Basically she does anything needed around the house. In my opinion, she babies Brayden too much. He is very independent and doesn't really want to be held and protected but she does it anyway. So, he's somewhat annoyed with her most of the time. She's learning to leave him alone though. She's also somewhat of a tour guide for us in this area of Metro Manila. She's introduced us to very nice, and not very crowded, parks. She also clues me in on where to buy the best veggies, fruit, etc.
**Sidenote: We actually live in Makati City, not Manila but it's considered Metro Manila.

Do the kids like her? Yes, actually. She does (and lets them do) whatever they want. I'm trying to change this attribute but Filipinos love small children and tend to seriously spoil them.

How much do we pay her? 9,000 pesos a month. That's just over US$200. Most yaya's are paid roughly 3000-4000 pesos so she's getting paid well. She has worked for other expatriates and comes highly recommended. And, so far she's worth every penny.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Desperate Housewives...

don't know nothing 'bout healthcare in the Philippines. At least, I hope not because we had to take Danae to the doctor yesterday. Why? Because she woke up with rashes and blisters on her arms and legs. We had absolutely no idea of what was going on. The only thing we could think was bug bites. Only, the rest of us were untouched. But then we remembered. On Friday, we went to a couple of preschools to find something for Danae to do. She ran off playing with the other kids. Had to happen there. We still took her to the doctor though because Dengue Fever is common 'round these parts. And, we've only been here a week and she kept complaining that her legs were hurting and acting like she couldn't walk. So, to the doctor we went.

The doctor we were referred to by ARM (Asian Relocation Management) is actually an American woman named Carolyn Butler. She practiced in NY and NJ and went to school in the US. She's a blond white woman. Only, she says she was born and raised in the Philippines. She has absolutely no accent but I'll believe whatever she wants us to. The diagnosis is that Danae is seriously allergic to Filipino mosquitoes. She prescribed an antibiotic cream for her and that was the end.

Now on to pharmacies. I must give props to American pharmacists (esp Keisha, Marcus, and Lonna 'cause they're my friends). At these pharmacies, they don't say anything. They hand you your medicine and that's it. No instructions on how to use it. So, you basically have to remember what the doctor says. Or try to read the prescription since they give that back to you too. One of Dwayne's coworkers got a prescription for something. He didn't realize until he got home that they just put the pills in a ziploc bag until he got home. He had to wait until the next morning to call the doctor to find out how many pills he should take and how often. Let's hope none of us have to visit the doctors or hospitals anymore while we're here...just in case Desperate Housewives was telling the truth.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hair and Yayas

Yesterday, the kids and I ventured out a bit. We went to the grocery store where three ladies stared at our hair and kept talking to one another in Tagalog. Finally, the older lady asked if she could touch my hair. I said yes but she couldn't reach me because the stroller was in the way and I wasn't trying to move it. Then, she asked Danae if she could touch hers. Danae said "no, you cannot touch my hair". That was too funny but I told the lady she could if she wanted to. The lady said "no ma'am she doesn't want me to". Then she asked if she could touch Brayden's hair and I said yes. So she started massaging my baby's head until he knocked her hand down. I had heard before I came here that people would do that because they've never seen black folks hair before.

We ate lunch at Wendy's. They have about 4 of the same meals as the US. But, they also sell shrimp sandwiches, fried chicken, and rice of course. The kids ate fried chicken and rice. I ate a chicken sandwich meal. My kids tore that rice up too. An older lady asked me what was my nationality. I told her I'm American. She then stared at the kids for a while. Then she asked "what about their father's nationality". I said he's American too. She looked so shocked. I told her there are black people in America. She said "really I didn't know that". LOL!

Filipinos have no concept of personal space and will ask anything that comes to their mind. It's nothing to be asked your age, clothing size, family info, etc.

It's very common here to have some kind of domestic helper: driver, maid, cook, nanny. We don't need a maid because this building has people come to straighten up the apartment every day. We're being assigned a driver because Dwayne's company doesn't allow their employees to driver over here. But we are thinking of hiring a nanny or yaya as their called here. We interviewed a lady named Betty yesterday. She seems nice and the kids liked her. I've scheduled another lady name Lucy to come today as well. We'll see how that goes. Although we have a maid's quarters in our apartment, I really don't want anyone living here. We Americans like our privacy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Duck Embryo, Anyone?

We have seen exactly 5 black people since arriving in Manila. We didn't expect to see a gang of black folks so it's not a big deal. But because there are so few people of color around these parts, every time we go out we're treated like celebrities. People stare at us and point us out to their unsuspecting friends. We're allowed in the mall without our bags being searched. We never have to open our own doors or anything. We just have to deal with being stared at...intently. Because we do get MTV our here and have to listen to 50 Cent in between the Christmas songs at the store, even the Filipinos have stereotyped black folks. For instance, the waiter in our building asked Brayden where his bling-bling was. We didn't even know how to respond. A waiter at Hard Rock Cafe proceeded to tell us he visited Miami before and the black people were so nice much to his surprise. Crazy!

A few interesting things about Filipinos:
They will get all in your business. It's not uncommon to be asked personal questions upon first meeting each other.
Even out here, the color of your skin is a big deal. They prefer to be as pale as possible and are treated better because of it. So, in the stores there is a plethora of skin whitening creams and lotions. Pretty sad, huh?
They really admire Americans (for whatever reason) and will go out of their way to make you happy or to help you. We're always greeted as "sir" and "mum" (ma'am) and by everyone. They think all Americans are rich. I'm sure this is fueled by all the Hollywood images here. Yes, we still have to listen to stories about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. No escaping it.

A Filipino delicacy is balut. This is a "fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell." We've been told that we have to try it but that's not happening. Supposedly, it's an aphrodisiac. They warn you to eat it outside at night so you can't actually see what it is you're eating and to not consume this on an empty stomach. I was going to post a picture but instead just click here and you'll see and learn all you want to. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Christmas in September?

Apparently, living in Manila is going to provide plenty of material for me to write about. Here goes:

We have been provided several books to help us adapt to life in the Philippines. Something we read was very beneficial for us yesterday. We went to SM which is a department store, furniture store, grocery store, and several restaurants all in one. Danae had to use the bathroom and guess what? There was no toilet tissue. No, they didn't run out. They don't put tissue in the bathrooms at all. No empty tissue holder or anything. Because I read about that, I had a little tissue stowed in my bag to use.

In the grocery store, the most overwhelming shock was the stench. The entire back of the store is basically a butcher shop. Surprisingly, there were no flies or anything. But, the smell was gross. Danae held her nose while we looked around in there. I wasn't bold enough to purchase any meat yet. One day, maybe. Or, we'll just become vegetarians while we're here.

In the clothes section, we were pleasantly surprised by the low prices. Dwayne saw a pair of very nice linen shorts for P300 which is roughly about US$7. Ralph Lauren Polo shirts were around $17 for men and $12 for women. A lot of kids clothing for less than $10. We just might come back to the states broke but with a fabulous wardrobe. Speaking of that, I have yet to see a Philipino looking raggedy or with just a t-shirt and jeans thrown on. These people are always well put together from the makeup to the clothing to the shoes.

Now, in reference to the title for this post. These folks are SERIOUS about Christmas. Our driver from the airport told us it's the biggest holiday. But while we were out, we saw Christmas trees and fake Santas for sale already. And, the craziest thing is that they are playing christmas music in the stores. Yep, we heard "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" and "The Little Drummer Boy". For real, y'all! It was September 30th but felt like it was at least December 20th. Crazy!

That's enough about this place for today. If you're interested, I'm attaching a couple of little videos of the kids playing with each other. Just so you know they aren't sad or anything. By the way, Brayden smells like a Philipino already. I think it's because all of the ladies like to play with him so their smells have rubbed off.

video video

Manila

We have survived our first 24 hours in Manila. I don't have much to tell though because we slept a lot of it away. We ate breakfast in our hotel and it was pretty good. We ate dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Yeah, we needed a little American food before we experiment on our digestive systems. Everyone is wide awake right now and it's after midnight here. Of course it's midday in the US. We stick out here like a sore thumb and everyone stares at us as we pass them. Tomorrow we're going exploring in this area. Just downstairs is a shopping mall and a lot of restaurants. It seems that a lot is within walking distance so the location is nice. We're in a 2 bedroom apartment in the Ascott Makati and it's really nice. These people here are serious about their customer service.

I'll write more when I have more to tell. I'm going to try to go to sleep for a bit.

Later...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Almost There

At this moment, we're sitting in the Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan. We are dead tired because we didn't sleep much on the flight here. We left Houston at 10:50 am on Thursday and arrived in Tokyo at 2:15 pm on Friday. But, it was about 12:15 am in Houston so right when we got tired on the plane it was time to land. Now we're sitting in an unfamiliar place fighting sleep until our flight to Manila at 7:15 pm or something like that.

I feel like I'm in a dream. Surely I'm not really in Japan. Although, all the signs written in Japanese and the people walking around speaking Japanese keeps reminding me that I am. I've seen 2 black people so far. I know that's not really news but it was still something noticeable.

What else? Oh, we went to the bathroom. And, of course, they have the whole in the ground toilets. But they also have regular toilets too. The funny thing here is that they have 4 controls on the toilet. 1) music to play while you're doing the do 2) bidet 3) spray - that's the label but it's too spray the frontal feminine parts or vajayjay as Oprah calls it. I don't remember the fourth but it wasn't that big of a deal I guess.

Okay, I gotta go because I am dead tired and don't really feel like writing more. Before I go, the kids did exceptionally well on the plane ride. I was stunned!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh My Goodness...We're Moving

For real, y'all...

I knew we were moving. Didn't come as much of a surprise. I mean, I had to get gazillion shots (actually 6, I think). We've all gotten complete physicals, passports, made living arrangements, and everything else that goes along with a move. But today, as the movers are here packing up our stuff, it's finally real. We're moving to the other side of the world.........Manila.

In our expatriate orientation classes last week we learned what to expect, about culture differences, how to act and dress, about safety issues, and most importantly about the profile of adaptation. This was most beneficial as I realized there is a name for the highs and lows of moving to another place, another culture, a new set of friends.

When I left home for college, I don't remember feeling sad or anything. Maybe it's because I was only a 2 1/2 hour drive away. The only thing that bothered me was that my family just dropped me off and left. Didn't even take me out for lunch. My friend's aunt did that instead. I was just happy to be free...of rules. When I moved to Houston it was quite an adjustment. I didn't really love living in Houston until a year after we arrived. I think it was a combination of being farther away from family and the traffic. Boy, I had never lived in a place where it took more than 20 minutes to cross town. Houston was on a whole 'nother level! Then leaving Houston for California was, well, let's just say I haven't adjusted yet. Now, I get to move to Asia. And, I am so excited!

I still can't wrap my head around the 17 hours on a plane but I can't wait to get there and experience life there. I don't expect everything to go perfectly but I do hope there are no major bumps along the road.

Until later...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Viva Las Vegas...The Recap

Las Vegas was great! We stayed with Dwayne's aunt and uncle. They live about 10 minutes away from the strip which was perfect. Dwayne's dad also came out so we were able to leave the kids and enjoy time alone. Here's what we did:

Sunday - arrived in Vegas around 10 pm.
Monday - went to Silverton Casino. They have a small aquarium and Danae got to see them feed the stingrays and sharks. We also rode down the Strip and past Fremont Street. Also went to the Fashion Show Mall. Dwayne's dad arrived Monday evening.
Tuesday - went to Mandalay Bay and enjoyed their aquarium. It was very, very nice. We saw all kinds of animals...except the turtles because they were removed for their feeding. The kids had a blast! We ate at Green Valley Ranch Casino. Dwayne and I watch "Hell's Kitchen". This year's winner, Rock, got a job there. But, we went to the wrong side and his dad really wanted to eat at the buffet instead. Plus, the buffet was cheaper and you get more food. Initially, we were disappointed. But, the chicken marsala, salmon, and other goodies helped us get over the disappointment. Daddy took the kids swimming that evening.
Wednesday - We went to Hoover Dam. I must admit it was more than I actually expected. It was so HOT out there though. Horrible. Brayden ended up getting a fever by the time we got home. I guess he overheated. Some good old Tylenol did the trick. He felt and acted fine by that evening. Dwayne and I went out to the strip that night. We watched the fountains at the Bellagio, the pirate show at Treasure Island, and the volcano at The Mirage. We also walked around looking in the other hotels/casinos.
Thursday - We didn't do much during the day. That evening we went out so the kids could see the evening shows. Danae enjoyed the fountain show at the Bellagio until the finale started. I guess the water was so loud and shooting up so fast that it scared her. She wouldn't even stay with her grandfather so I had to hold her big 30+ pound self until she calmed down. She is such a scaredy-cat. We walked around on the strip a bit. Went into Caesar's Palace where it looks like you're outside because the ceiling is painted to look like the sky. Also, went in some of the other hotels there to marvel at the excessiveness of it all. Danae got a jack-in-the-box and Brayden got drums...both gifts from granddaddy.
Friday - We spent the day at Circus Circus where Danae got to play in the arcade. Unfortunately, ate at another buffet there and it was not good at all.
Saturday - we went to church during the day where Danae decided to use the bathroom in her clothes instead of telling me she needed to use the bathroom. I was so upset. Saturday evening, Dwayne and I went to the Bellagio to see Cirque du Soleil's "O". This show was soooo good. They had a pool in the middle of the stage that the people were diving into, synchronized swimming, funny clowns, and anything else you could think of. The tickets said there was a possibility of getting a little wet but we didn't get splashed at all, just a couple of near misses. The funny thing was these two black women who sat on the front row. They had on ponchos and shower caps. You know black women do not like to get their hair wet. We were rolling with laughter at them! It's not like anyone got drenched, just a couple of splashes.
Sunday - we went to an outlet mall and walked around. Also, went to Circus Circus to redeem all the tickets we won. Flew back to Cali that evening.

We had a wonderful vacation and now we're ready to get ready for our next move to Manila.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My little baby is walking

This is both good and bad. Good because he's a little more independent and won't have to be carried around. He can follow his sis around the house easier. Bad because he already gets into everything so now it's only going to be worse.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Anniversary...

...to my and my husband. We made it to 7 years today. What are we doing today to celebrate? Nothing. He's out of town on a business trip.

When we got married, we decided that instead of giving gifts, we would go on a trip every year to celebrate another year of survival as Mr and Mrs. Here's what we've done so far:

Honeymoon - The Poconos in Pennsylvania. We had a fabulous time there and said we would go back for our 5th...butta...we didn't.

1st Anniv - Orlando, Fl. We went to Wet n' Wild and Universal Studios. My husband and I love water parks so this was perfect. We stayed in a resort for a week and had a ball.

2nd Anniv - We had just moved to Texas so we went to San Antonio for an extended weekend. We took the riverboat cruise, went to Natural Bridge Caverns and a wildlife park. We fell in love with San Antonio during that time.

3rd Anniv - We went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico a couple of weeks before the big day with friends so that served as our trip that year. On our actual day, we went a wonderful little Italian restaurant called La Mora. I love Italian food...it's my favorite.

4th Anniv - My father-in-law had a brain tumor removed on August 11th of that year so I used the time I had taken off work for my anniversary to go to FL and help take care of him. Dwayne went for the surgery and I met him there a couple of days later and stayed longer to help out. I returned to Houston the day before our anniversary. We just went to Galveston to hang out for the day. We went to Moody Gardens and had a fun day.

5th Anniv - We went to Cozumel, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen in Mexico for a week. We had a blast. This time we had company on our trip in the form of our 7 month old daughter. I was nursing her so I didn't want to be gone for that long. She proved to be a wonderful traveling companion.

6th Anniv - I was almost 9 months pregnant with our son so we didn't go on a trip then. We had a low key celebration that just included dinner. In December of that year, we went on a weekend getaway to NY. The grandparents came to Houston and kept the kids.

7th Anniv - We're going to Vegas, baby. We leave this weekend and we're going for a week. Dwayne has family there and his dad is coming to help with the kids and give us a much needed night out (or two). I've never been to Vegas and can't wait to go on this trip.

I can't believe it's already been 7 years since our wedding. I'm still as sure today (if not more so) that I made the best decision when I married that man. Even with his shortcomings and little mess ups, he's the one...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fun Times

The Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose is the best children's museum I've ever been to. Now, I don't have a whole lot of experience here but I enjoyed it. My daughter and I had a girls day out on Sunday and that's where we went. It was wonderful.

I already knew this but my daughter is a trip. In one area, she was playing with a little girl. That girl's mom was amazed at how well Danae talks and that she's potty trained (I guess she could see her panties to tell that). So, the lady kept asking us both questions. My girl said "can you stop asking questions". I was a little embarrassed and reprimanded her for talking that way to an adult. But, the Lord knows I was thinking the same thing. Later, in the bubble area, a little Asian boy tried to take the bubble wand that she was playing with. Actually, he did snatch it out of her hand but she grabbed his arm and squeezed it until he let go. At the same time, she said "don't take it from me, it's mine". He politely gave it back. He had to be at least 7 years old. Hilarious! My girl handles her business!

I absolutely love being a parent! I try to treasure every moment because time passes ever so quickly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

We're moving...

I knew our stay in Cali was going to be brief. I knew we would endure another life-changing move. We found out on Friday that we'll be heading to Manila, Philippines in mid-September or a little later. I am trying to find out everything I can about this place. We are very excited!!! Now, we can visit so many places close to the Philippines like China, Japan, Australia, Thailand.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm a big kid now...



Guess who's wearing panties now???


That's right. My baby girl is now completely out of diapers or pull ups or anything else. She has completed her second week and I'm so excited!

Why does she wear a 4T panty? Because she has a "big ole dooby". Those are her words to describe her rear end. The 2T/3T panties are always getting sucked in. Okay, okay...TMI. But seriously, why do they have "low-rise" and "bikini cut" panties for a toddler? For real...