Down Under

Does it seem completely wild to everyone that we are already in Lent? I simply cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. I have been here 7 months, and it feels like I arrived just yesterday. I suppose that’s how life goes when you stay busy. But, I swear, the years are going by faster as I get older. This past month and a half has been especially busy due to the amount of traveling I’ve done-both domestic and abroad.

The first bit of traveling was done with a delegation from The Episcopal Church, which included Sam McDonald, David Copley, Peter Ng and Mary Brennan-all of which work at 815, in NYC. I was also able to see Grace Flint, another YASCer, who is placed in Hong Kong. Even though she is working in Hong Kong, she has daily interaction with Filipino Overseas Workers; so, not only was it a blessing for me to see a good friend-but I think it will help her, too, in her daily works.  Anyways, I traveled down to Manila to meet them, and we then wound our way back up the mountains. We first stopped in Baguio City, which is fondly known as the ‘Summer Capital of the Philippines’ because of its pleasant climate and tourist attractions during the hot months, which drive people out of Manila. While in Baguio, we had a meeting with Bishop Joel Pachao, and his development staff, to get a feel for the growth and community of his diocese.  We then made our way to Bontoc and Bishop Brent. The group was able to have supper and then breakfast with the Bishop and had the opportunity to stretch their legs a little, while on a stroll through the bustling metropolis that is Bontoc. I think this was very important, the walk I mean. It allowed them to compare and contrast Baguio to Bontoc, and later to Tadian. Not only are they different in size-but in language and food and development. This is something that shocked me. The three places are only separated by a total of 6 hours; yet, somehow, they have developed and changed and morphed at, and in, completely different paces and ways.  From Bontoc, we traveled to Tadian, my home. This was fantastic-I wish they could have stayed longer. I was happy they were able to see what I’m doing, in regards to work, but I wish they could have been able to stay and interact with the people more. It is the people, the community, which has made me fall in love with the Philippines. I think in just the few days they were here, they were able to experience that as well. They also had the opportunity to partake of some of the local food and traditional dances, which I was very happy about, as the parish held a program and welcome dinner for them.  When we left Tadian, we proceeded back down to Manila and onto a plane for the Southern Philippines. We flew into Cotabato, which is on the island of Mindinao, and then proceeded to Upi, to visit a potential YASC placement for future years. The placement would be at St. Francis-an Episcopal funded and run high school. It’s a neat place. It’s a happy place. All you have to do is walk into the grounds and you can sense that you’re in a wonderful, welcoming and safe place. It seemed like it was everything that a school is supposed to be. The children were laughing and singing, playing and learning, and you could tell that they were actually glad to be there, at school; which, to me, is not a small accomplishment. I don’t really know how to describe it, but, it felt good. I think it will be a wonderful, fulfilling placement. Upi was the final leg of my journey with the Americans. We returned back to Manila and parted ways.

I then had a few days of recuperation before I was forced to climb into a plane, yet again, and jet set of to Australia. My life is tough, I know. It’s tragic. NOT.

Australia was phenomenal. Not only have I longed to go to Australia, it was actually all it is cracked up to be. It isn’t really very often that things meet or exceed my expectations; so, I was more than pleased with my time in Australia.

I did have a purpose for going, though. An organization called ABM (Anglican Board of Mission) is looking to develop a program like YASC. I was lucky enough to meet their Executive Director at an event earlier in the year; and we had several good conversations, about the YASC program. Because of those conversations, I suppose, he tendered the invitation to come and speak to their development committee and, to the ABM staff, as a whole. So, it wasn’t all leisure time. Although, to be frank, none of it felt like work; I was on cloud nine the whole time.  I was able to see the Sydney Opera house, at sunset, on a racing yacht, in Sydney Harbor. It was right out of a novel. We also visited vineyards and had tastings one day, we had fresh-harvested that morning- oysters, and I sampled the local night life with the younger members of the ABM staff. Needless to say, I could easily see myself residing in a place like Sydney. Top Notch I tell you, Top Notch.

It has been no less exciting in Tadian, either. We have been experiencing raging forest fires as of late. In fact, the fires last week came within 100 yards of my home. They burned some of my garden, which I’m pretty salty about. But, I reckon I am thankful my house didn’t burn down. I know common sense says, “You stayed away from the fire, right?” Of course I did not, in this situation that wasn’t applicable. The town of Tadian only has three “firemen”; so, it is left to the citizens to fight the fire. Since water is a rarity, at this time of year, our weapons of combat are green boughs of trees and shovels. If you weren’t swatting out the smaller flames to try and keep the fire from spreading-you were digging fire lines, which are both surprisingly tiring. Fire is an interesting thing. I, all at the same time, was absolutely terrified, mesmerized, enthralled and in awe. The power and heat of the fire were unlike anything I have ever experienced. Looking down at the fire, from the top of an unburned ridge, I imagine the inferno I saw-all hazy, hot and hard to breathe-is what hell must be like. Even the noise was new to me. Of course, we all know the sound of a crackling fire place; it allows us to reminisce of romances and holidays and happy things. Now, envision that small fire multiplied to an exponentially larger level, that soft cracking and popping becomes a menacing and frightening groaning and crashing. I’m more than a little bit happy that the fires have subsided; I don’t really want to deal with them again, nor anytime soon.

In other news, I may be looking at some more international travel in the near future. If it is given the final green light, I’ll be accompanying a delegation from the ECP to Myanmar (Burma), during the first week of April. I’ll keep you updated on that as I learn more. But seriously, Myanmar; how cool is that?! We have also added 6 new members to the family in Tadian. Four of them are human- they are men from Manila who have come to work on the farm with me. Thus far they have been nothing but a great help, I hope it continues that way. The other two members just so happen to be two baby goats. I am less than enthused about their arrival. I will admit and grant that they are ridiculously cute; but, it doesn’t change the fact that I dislike goats with a passion. You could even say that I loathe them-abhor them if you will.

I’ve babbled on now for too long, and you’ve probably already begun to just skim the entry. I don’t blame you. I hope you’re all being very penitent and pious this Lent- and that you’ve stopped saying alleluia during the services. Be good, Ya’ll!