Well, after leaving Mindanao and spending some time in Metro-Manila, we have made the long trek through the north to the tip of the north-most island of Luzon (still in the Philippines). Its been pretty incredible to have the opportunity to see so much of this country.
While there is still much the same here in this part of the country, we've definitely noticed some key differences: the people here seem even more intent upon feeding us vast amounts of food! We eat 6, 7 sometimes 8 times a day, and it almost always includes some form of rice (which does grow everywhere here - there are rice patties all over the place and they are SO green and beautiful!) While we sometimes end up eating when we are already full, the hospitality and generosity that is evident in these crazy amounts of food more than makes up for our discomfort. I continue to be amazed by the way people who don't know us wish to make us feel at home, and give up their beds, their food, their time and energy, etc. to us strangers. Do you know that when our hosts serve us, they almost never actually eat with us? They set the table just for our team and then eat our leftovers when we have finished. This has definitely taken some getting used to, as we would rather spend the meal with our hosts, but its their way of serving us, and denying them that would be insulting in most circumstances.
Another thing about the north: its cold here! We are dressed in fleeces and jackets to brace the 75 degree days (apparently our bodies were more used to 90 degrees and humid than we thought!) There is still a bountiful amount of fruit and vegetables, and yesterday we got to eat "buko" (coconut) from the tree for the 2nd or 3rd time, drinking the juice and then scraping the meat from the coconuts. They seem to taste even better here than in the south, so sweet and filling.
Finally, we have noticed that here in the North, our schedule has been much busier. We have been waking up most days between 5 and 6 am, (sometimes earlier), and we seem to average 1-3 programs each day. There are lots of small churches to visit, and the people speak different languages here than they did in the south (Ilokano mainly). We've translated our closing song "Unify Us" into six different dialects now, and it is incredibly fun to sing with the people. Its been fun to try to figure out how to fit the many many syllables into the tune of the song (Unify Us, for example, translates into "Pag-ma-y-ma-y-sa-em" in Ilokano, crazy!)
So, life on team is still wonderful. I miss my family and friends, and definitely miss the familiarity of the place called home, but I also find I'm increasingly feeling at home in this country. It helps a lot to feel like my team is a second family, and I no longer cringe at the thought of using the "CR" (comfort room/bathrooM) here as my leg muscles are much stronger. We only have about six weeks or less left here in the Philippines, and I find that I am already dreading having to leave.