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Saturday, February 14, 2009

In The Hearts And Minds Of All

I'm coming to my four month anniversary for being here in Cebu, Philippines.  I'll be leaving around the 1st of March.  The days have been flying by.  I'm sure this month will also pass very quickly. As the rest of the journey has.  I honestly do not feel like leaving, but this is what I need to do. I met Myra around October 15, when I arrived here in Cebu.  Myra has been my constant companion and girlfriend  every minute since that day.
She is a very sweet, caring, and wonderful woman.  Her companionship and understanding of me has made my trip here not only memorable, but forever life changing. Without her I would never have been able to meet the people I have met, and been witness to the lives and tragedies of many others.    Even with all the tragedy of this country there is something that draws you too it.  When I feel that I have seen enough, I blink my eyes and want more.  What it is that I want more of is hard to answer.  Maybe it's just the idea of being somewhere so different.  Maybe it is the view of a world that I have never seen, possibly a way life that I never imagined or witnessed until now. Stepping outside the door of my rented house,  I constantly look around me and see a land so foreign to me.
I have tried to comprehend all that is going on around me on this island called Mactan, and so far there is little comprehension.  It remains so puzzling to me.  So many questions.  The extremes are everywhere. Today I was waiting outside a store when I noticed a boy coming down the sidewalk towards me, he was eight or nine I think, dressed in a over sized t-shirt with sleeves, the shirt came down to his knees, and as is very common amongst much younger kids, her wore nothing under the shirt. He was barefoot.  I would almost bet he did not have a "home" to go to every night.  But I did see a big smile as he walked and daydreamed.  He stopped,  and was looking for something amongst some bushes.  At the same time a woman with her young son was standing at an outdoor ATM just a few steps from the sidewalk.  As the woman started to process her transaction her boy turned his attention on the other boy rummaging through the bushes,
undoubtedly looking for anything of value.  The little boy with his mother was eating  Fried Banana on  stick.  As the mother turned and took her son's arm to lead him down the stairs to the sidewalk the two boys met. The one boy reached out to ask for some Banana, the other boy started to reach out to give the Banana, and the mother saw this she yanked her son's arm and turned quickly away. Heading off down the sidewalk.  The other boy turned back to to the hedgerow and continued his search for survival.
While this memory of this child so hungry, burned in my mind, I was driving, the other day when I noticed two boys just leaning on the side of a little barbecue restaurant. Two girls were walking by and the one girl had some kind of food in her hand.  One of the boy's made a motion to ask for the food,  but this time the food was passed over to the hungry boy. With two hands the boy quickly raised the food to his mouth and tore into it!
At a very large intersection, that I drive thru almost daily, the "street" children always approach your car, asking for money.  At Christmas there were twice as many children begging for money.  Some of the children have made small instruments  from bottle caps that they will beat rhythmically on there hands and sing songs all of course hoping for any type of handout. Most of the children will come to either the driver side or the passenger side window and lean themselves against your window and will stare at you.  You can't imagine how hard you wish that light would turn.
At this intersection the other day I saw one of the regular boy's approach a SUV, the window rolled down and the boy reached up and was passed several slices of bread.  In as fast as the boy received the bread, he pushed the bread to his mouth again with both hands.  He turned away from the car and headed in another direction, but attracted the attention of the other kids who were quickly at his heels motioning and calling for some of the bounty he had just received.
These examples above are what I talk of when I say sometimes you feel you have seen enough, or even to much, but then again being part of the generosity, and certainly seeing it displayed by others is what makes you want and need more.

There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty.
-Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Just A Rainy Day Feeling #8

I haven't done a blog in awhile.  No longer really a tourist, I have fallen into a very comfortable lifestyle.  To hot to be outside for any amount of time, so I've been spending most of my time inside.  People here hide from the blistering sun, with real reason, it is intense!  At stop lights, vendors come to your car, and sell all kind of things. Water, peanuts, popcorn, cigarettes which you can buy single, candy, steering wheel covers, newspapers, and the one I really like is arm and hand covers to protect from the sun.  They are long, thin knit arm covers with fingerless covers on the hands.  All for the sun!! So being inside is both for comfort and necessity.  Of course when something is needed, or there is something interesting there is no hesitation to venture out into the oven.  
I have been cooking almost every night.  Mira has decided my food is much better than any restaurant we have gone too.
I have taken a few Asian ingredients and turned them into some really interesting dishes.  Even surprising myself.  Cooking a lot with Shrimp and Squid, also oyster sauce, the juice of Calamansi which looks like the little brother of a lime.  It is tart in flavor, but damn good. Soy Sauce, roasting a lot of red peppers, lots of garlic, and a few other special ingredients.
Last week I found myself sitting in the waiting room of a small private hospital.  I had brought a book and was trying hard to concentrate but the distractions of being somewhere new were to much to handle.  I have to see how things are working,  see the people, just see what drives the wheels, so to speak.  At one point as I put the book down, a little girl probably about 5 years old was staring at me.  I smiled and gave her the littlest wave.  She turned quickly and buried her face against her mother.  But within a couple seconds her face turned and she was looking at me again.
I waved again and she lifted her hand and waved with her finger.  A couple of people were looking at me, I wondered if they thought I was crazy.
The floor of the waiting room was small tiles, and the little girl counted and stepped 6 squares towards me and stopped.  She was just staring and smiling, and when I smiled back she ran behind the pillar I was sitting next to.  She hid behind it, and we started playing a little game where I sat.  She asked me what my name was in Cebuano, and went on with some fast talking that I had no idea of.  Mira told me she was telling me her sister was sick and she was waiting for her.  
We kept playing boo and her running away and talking to her mother and then she would come running back.  A couple of the people had turned there fear of the bad man into smiles, and were just watching.  As I sat there amusing this little girl her sister appeared next to her mother.  She was a tiny little thing,  probably around 3 or 4 and had what I think is called a "cleft lip", it is not a nice thing for someone so innocent to have to suffer.  She had the brightest dark eyes you could ever imagine!  When she saw her sister laughing with me, she came right over to me and stood about 6 inches in front of me.  Just staring at me.  Her father called out to her, but she didn't move.  The first sister came next to her and whispered in her ear.
  The little sister came close to me and was touching my arm and touching my freckles.  The father called out to them again, and as I looked over and smiled, the mother held his arm as if to say, "it's ok." Someone from the hospital then approached the parents and started talking.
One of the girls reached up and started touching the hair on my chest. Then the other one also started to do it.  Mira started laughing, and I was also laughing.  The girls looked at us laughing and weren't quite sure as to our laughter.  Then the older of the two girls took my finger and pulled me, I was a little unsure what to do but Mira pushed me out of the chair, and the other girl took my other hand and pulled me across the waiting room.  The girls seemed to know the layout of the place, and took me on a little tour.  
Mira called my name, and I turned to see that a couple of nurses and the Doctor were all standing with her smiling and looking at me the fool.  She motioned me to come over, and we were ready to leave.  The girls had followed me over and were standing a few feet away.  I motioned to them, waved and said goodbye.  They ran over and spoke some words.  "Do you have to leave?"  Was the Cebuano translation.  "I'm sorry girl's, nice to meet you, bye bye." I said to them.  I looked over at the parents to make sure they would stop the girls from following me out.  It was funny as they pressed there faces to the glass doors and waved.  We waved back!! 
Our prime purpose in life is to help others.  And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Can you imagine children being so excited for there Christmas gifts that they can't sleep.  Then within a week the opened gifts are mostly shoved next to other forgotten gifts from last week, last month or last year.  Happens all the time, your thinking.  Imagine children being so excited to receive a gift they can't sleep for days.  But wait, these children are getting there first gifts ever when celebrating Christmas. One little girl opened her gift and it was nothing more than a small change purse, with a tiny mirror and plastic comb.  Her eyes and smile were as wide as I had ever seen on a child.  When she was passed another gift, her eyes told me she thought it was wrong and any minute they would pull it from her hands and give it to another.  She glanced around and nobody was coming for her gift, so she started to rip open the wrapping, and both her eyes and mouth opened to the fullest.  "A real doll, look" she said, to one of her cousins. Nobody wanted to look, they were looking at there own gifts.  There was a pile of gifts under the table for Christmas this year.  Hopefully there will be next year, and the year after that.  I had thought with my friend Mira about having a Christmas party, doing the tree, decorations, and whatever goes along with that.  But in the end I made the decision to not do it.   The reason which I didn't do it was simple to me.  I didn't want to put myself in between the kids and there family.  For whatever they had or didn't have to celebrate there Christmas with there kids, that was how they would celebrate and that was what there children would remember.  For sure I am guilty of giving gifts before the holiday itself, but somehow I didn't feel there parents would begrudge me for giving a few gifts for there Christmas.  A party before Christmas day or eve somehow just didn't seem right.  I guess I just didn't want these kids to remember my party more than they would remember anything there parents did for them.  I don't know if my thinking was correct, but I sure felt it at the time, and still feel I would do the same thing again.
New Years was as mellow as could be expected.  The one thing that did impress me was the fireworks.  About a week before Christmas, stands along the roads started popping up.  It seemed every time u drove down one road there would be another stand. 
Funny thing was that every stand, some as close as arm length away from the next all sold exactly the same thing.  I was told Christmas Eve would be a big show of fireworks which it was, but you can't imagine New Years. 
About 11:50 the sound of popping and explosions started.  Like gun shots, but hopefully not. More and more explosions erupted in the air.  At one time the smell of gun powder was so strong, you waved your hand in front of your face to clear the air.  We were on my second floor terrace watching out over the whole island.  At a couple minutes before 12 the colors started showing all over the island.  Just at midnight a couple of the hotels along the beach erupted in such an amazing show of fireworks, I was very impressed.  Usually it's the same oooohhh and ahhhh, but this really was brilliant.  It lasted for good five minutes.
But what was also very cool was when you looked away for a second, there were other firework shows going on everywhere.  The sky was literally lit up with colors for a very long time.  When the main shows ended, small fireworks danced across the sky for most of the night.  
The Christmas, News Years season was a little different than any of the other I had had in forty years, but that was to be expected.   Every special event or holiday that comes along seems to make you think of not only how it is celebrated back home, but how it affects the people that you have surrounded yourself at the present time.  
Holidays year after year are like driving down the same road over and over.  Eventually you know every bump and stone along the road.   The first time I drove to Maine, boy was it beautiful.  Many years later, unless I make a concerted effort to notice, I forget the beauty of Maine.  
I am a self proclaimed non-religious person.  I respect others for there beliefs.  I don't know enough about any religion to proclaim it better than another and I never will.  I will say that spending this holiday season here in the Philippines has taught me another lesson.  But also I ask myself a question, and that is why it took me to as far away place as I can get, to notice the world around me.... 

Because we all share this planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature.  This is not just a dream, but a necessity.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama