Friday, January 25, 2008

We have finally arrived...

It is hard to believe we are finally in the Philippines! Currently, I am writing from Davao, a city near the southern end of the island of Mindanao (about 7 degrees above the equator - VERY WARM weather!) We have experienced nothing but the most gracious hospitality since we arrived here in the Philippine islands, and I find myself adjusting to life here rather easily after 10 days in this country. We say "Salamat" more than any other Tagalog word (meaning Thank you), and the people here are definitely my favorite part of our overseas tour so far.

Yesterday, we got back from a 3 day trip south to Banga and Malungon, the second destination being a small village in the mountains, where we road a bus and then piled 4 or 5 of us onto a motorcycle (along with our bags, guitars, drum, etc) and rode another 25 minutes up into the hills over the roads made out of dirt & rock. The trip was an adventure, but definitely a worthwhile one. Our program that night drew close to 200 people from the village (most of which were kids!) even at last minute notice, and the next day, one pastor walked 30 miles to hear us give a program for the church. Pretty incredible!

So far, just being here, so far from home (back in Portland, you are all 16 hours behind me!), continues to amaze me. I am learning lots about this culture, family values, and what it means to sacrifice and serve others. The language barrier can be hard (be praying that it will not be an obstacle), and the heat can become exhausting, but every day I wake up thankful to be here, and hoping that the time does not run too quickly.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hong Kong!

Whoa - I cannot believe it, but I am writing this from Hong Kong. I've been here just over 48 hours now, and I have learned and experienced SO much! This city is incredible, and in the last 7 meals I've eaten more "unusual" foods than I've eaten in my entire lifetime (from Pig's skin, Octopus, Chinese mushrooms that look like Octopus, chicken feet, Pig's tongue, fried whole baby fish - eyes and all, and several other things I can't remember.)

We've also taken in the last 48 hours a great many modes of transportation to traverse this very large city: double decker buses, light-rails, subways, trains, taxis, ferries, more double decker buses, and of course lots of walking. I think the only one we have not used is the ever popular bicycle. I have learned that here, all dining tables are round, and family style food is the only way to eat. The culture here could teach us much about sharing and serving others before ourselves - tea (of course) is very prevalent at each meal, and one always pours tea for their neighbors before themselves, even if their glass is only 1/2 empty. All food is shared, and no one orders for themselves alone.

I have loved these differences, and even though the food is quite different (noodles & soup for breakfast!?), I find I enjoy the variety of flavors and the rich traditions that accompany each meal. It is very overwhelming (and yet strangely calming at times) to be surrounded by a language for which I have no understanding, and for which I cannot even begin to pronounce the characters. We will soon be moving on to another culture and different customs as we travel to the Philippines on Monday, but our time here has been so full. We have been surrounded by wonderful people willing to teach us about the language and culture and city, and our instant bond in Christ has been a pretty incredible bridge across the barriers of our many differences.

To bed with me - the 16 hour time difference is still catching up with me!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

We live in a Beautiful Country...

In 3 months, my team and I traveled through 19 states during one of the most beautiful times of the year. We saw pretty amazing places, from the hills of Pennsylvania to the warm, green streets of Savannah, from the bustling Central Park to the rural Smoky Mountains of Kentucky, it was quite an adventure to get to see so many places, and the scenery was truly stunning. I wanted to share some of the more beautiful pictures we took just to give you a flavor of our journey and the beauty that lies all over this country.

God's creation never ceases to amaze me. I will say that returning home to the Northwest after being all over the East Coast & Midwest made me remember how much I love my little part of the country. Yesterday, Melissa and Andrew and I went up to Mt. Hood to ski, and it was a crystal clear day - you could see the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson from the top of the mountain - in fact, it seemed as if you could see the entire state. While I found beauty in nearly every place we traveled this fall, and I no doubt will continue to do so as we head further west this winter, I have yet to find a place I find more beautiful than home.