Davao Diary, Collection of Miscellaney

Minor things that I just find interesting:
At restaurants and such, you can order half a fried chicken. When you get it, you remember that chickens in the states are over-processed, hormonally stuffed, cage fed mutants. Because half a chicken here has about as much mean as a leg quarter does in the states, if you are lucky, but it also has about three times more rich flavor.
Eggs: I buy them in the store. They are not always 100% clean.
This is puzzling to me: I make deviled eggs here a lot, and more than half of the time the yolk is not dead center of the egg, it’s more toward the end, which means the deviled eggs are not quite so pretty. But why would the yolks be all the way down at the narrow end of the egg so often? What makes them grow that way?
Vinegar: I have seen apple cider vinegar in the stores, but it’s kind of expensive. Vinegar is mostly white and made from cane sugar. I did not even know that was a thing. Whole 30, paleo eaters would have a hard time here. Everything is sweet.
On the other hand- as an assiduous label reader due to Cherub’s allergies (corn, wheat, eggs), I have been very happy with the things she can eat here that she could not at home. Corn, not being a government subsidized and thus artificially saturating the market ingredient, is *not* in everything. It’s not much in anything except products you would expect it to be in- corn nuts, corn chips.
It is in a couple things I would not expect it to be in, but it’s well labeled. It’s in some desserts- a kind of ice cream, a custard. Whole corn kernels. It’s rather shocking after coming from Indiana. I remember a Japanese friend telling me that the one American food she could not get used to and none of her friends from Japan could, either, was rice pudding. It was so wrong to her. This is how I feel about whole kernels of corn in a dessert. Culture does that to you- because why is that so weird? Fresh sweet corn is one of the sweetest things on earth, after all. But you eat it with butter and salt, not sugar and ice cream, because that is just how it is. (at Shakey’s pizza in Japan, they put corn on pizza, and this was also totally bizarre to me, although I did learn to enjoy cuttlefish on pizza, I never could handle corn pizza).
Likewise, due to my southern heritage, I eat my watermelon salted. My kids do find that weird, but I know they are wrong and I am right. Filipinos eat their jicama (singkamas) with salt, which I find weird. I tried it, and I still find it weird. But I can’t figure out why it should be. Watermelon and jicama are both sweet and juicy. I think watermelon is delicious lightly salted, and salted jicama just tastes like somebody had an accident with the salt shaker, but there’s no objective reason this should be so. Culture is that thing where you don’t even know you have it until it bumps up against somebody else’s different culture and both of you are wondering why on earth the other one could…. think that, eat that, enjoy that, be offended by that, not be offended by that, not see that, do things that way, not do things that way….
Traffic can be crazy busy, and drivers do what seem to me to be daring and risky things, but it mostly works. Somebody told us whenever there is a bad snarl and backed up traffic jam, that is almost always because there is somebody directing the traffic instead of leaving it alone and letting it work itself out. This fits with my own observation as well.

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An Exciting Discovery About Living In the Philippines

People!! My book friends in particular and especially!!!
Did you know there is an Australian Gutenberg? You probably did.
And did you know Australia’s copyright laws are different from the U.S? You very likely do know this.
But did you also know that here in the Philippines **I*can access Australia’s Project Gutenberg collection freely?
Do you know what this means?????
I don’t know the full extent myself, because I only just discovered it fifteen minutes ago, but I can download to my Kindle all
of Bess Streeter Aldrich books, Frederick Allen’s classic microhistories Only Yesterday and Since Yesterday, Austin Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke mysteries, several E. Nesbit books I didn’t even know she wrote, Willa CATHER, Rawlings (The Yearling and others), Thorne Smith (he wrote the funny Topper stories), Suicide Squad stories from the 30s and 40s, JOSEPHINE TEY!!!!!

If you don’t see me around, you know why.

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Nature Study As a Help In School Discipline

NATURE-STUDY AS A HELP IN SCHOOL DISCIPLINE

“Much of the naughtiness in school is a result of the child’s lack of interest in
his work, augmented by the physical inaction that results from an attempt to sit quietly. The best teachers try to obviate both of these causes of misbehaviour rather than to punish the naughtiness that results from them. Nature-study is an aid in both respects, since it keeps the child interested and also gives him something to do. ”

My two cents: Many adults simply do not understand how hard it is for children, small children and especially boys, to be still. It often actually takes more of their conscious effort to be still than to be moving.  It takes up so much energy they are exhausted and their attention quickly flags. They need to move.  Often they should be allowed to do their school work standing at their desks.

In the past, we didn’t send five year olds to school and expect them to sit at their desks, hands folded, without moving.  Children walked to and from school, burning off energy. Sometimes they walked home for lunch. They played running games at recess twice a day and after lunch and now we cancel recess.  Before they ever got to school they had used a lot of large muscle energy doing chores, fetching water from the pump, cutting wood or carrying wood to the woodbox, feeding or watering any livestock (even families in town might have had a calf or a small flock of laying hens). They were not fed a breakfast of poptarts and sugarbombs before being driven to school and required to sit at a desk.

But since this is the way that it is, I do so wish teachers were able to take a nature break and bring the children outdoors to walk, skip, run, to look at clouds, flowers, trees.  I wish schools could maintain gardens, aquariums, a small arboretum, and let children observe.

Back to Comstock:

“In the nearest approach to an ideal  school that I have ever seen, for children of second grade, the pupils were allowed, as a reward of merit, to visit the aquaria or the terrarium for periods of five minutes, which time was given to the blissful observation of the fascinating prisoners.

The teacher also allowed the reading of stories about the plants and animals under observation to be regarded as a reward of merit. As I entered the schoolroom, eight or ten of the children were at the windows watching eagerly what was happening to the creatures confined there in the various cages. There was a mud aquarium for the frogs and salamanders, an aquarium for fish, many small aquaria for insects, and each had one or two absorbedly interested spectators who were quiet, well-behaved, and were getting their nature-study lessons in an ideal manner. The teacher told me that the problem of discipline was solved by this method, and that she was rarely obliged to rebuke or punish. In many other schools, watching the living creatures in the aquaria or terraria has been used as a reward for other work well done.”

What Comstock, Mason, and all the other Victorian and Edwardian proponents of nature study did not know was just how incredibly sound their insight was, how prescient.  We now know that time spent outdoors, observing nature, experiencing real things in real life, grass, flowers, trees, water, bugs, fish, insects, birds- all those sorts of things- lowers stress levels, increases happy hormones, reduces anxiety levels, and even increases a spirit of cooperation among those enjoying these things together.

As I have said before, those the most stressed by the idea of nature study, thinking it’s just one more thing they do not have time for in an already stressful day may be the very people who most should take the time for it.  Since that time out of doors makes your brain so happy and increases cooperation levels, making the rest of the day more cohesive and well oiled, they don’t have time not to spend out of doors together as a family.

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Read in February

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, amazing book.  I cried a lot. I have not seen the movie.  This is the true story of WW2 era track athlete, elite member of a bomb crew (by elite, I mean one of those most likely to die) and American POW in a Japanese internment camp, Louis Zamperini.  He experienced brutal treatment at the hands of one of the most notoriously sadistic Japanese prison camp guards, and the post-war PTSD and revenge fantasies nearly destroyed him, until he attended a Billy Graham rally .  It’s not just his story, though.  Through his experiences, Hillenbrand, a gifted writer, also teaches about some little known details of WW2 and America’s fighter pilots and their crews, the brutal glorification of sadism and eugenics beliefs in WW2 era Japan.

I read it on Kindle, and just in case you do too, or wish to consider it for your high school students, I thought I’d share a couple book-keeping style details. It is a long read, but via the Kindle, 75% is the actual story.  A significant chunk of the end is footnotes, index, and acknowledgements.  I would definitely read the epilogue and the Reader’s Guide, which includes an interview with Laura Hillenbrand and some letters the adult children and other relatives of survivors of Japanese POW camps wrote to her, and well worth your time.

I am hoping to have my teenaged son read it.  For those wondering, Hillenbrand never goes for salacious details, but she doesn’t avoid hard facts, either.  I think she does an admirable job, but if you have a highly sensitive student who will be traumatized by references to pin-up girls, brutal beatings probably prompted by sexual sadism and cruelty for the sake of cruelty, you may prefer the young readers version. There is a little more detail on some beatings, not really on the sexual sadism except the acknowledgement that for some of the worst, they derived a sensuous pleasure from torture (she does not delve more graphically into the how and why, that’s essentially what she says). I think the most horrific episode is where a small animal is violated by a Japanese guard in front of the whole POW camp and the animals subsequently dies of its injuries.  “…dropped his pants and violated…” is the phrase Hillenbrand uses, and the abuse is not further detailed than that.

There is an adaptation she wrote for young people which I also read this month.  It has a lot more photographs and direct quotes from Zamparini, and also an interview with him.  She said in an interview that she also added a bit more historical explanation of things she took for granted adult readers would know.  She has softened some details while still acknowledging some of the brutality of life in Japanese POW camps.  The brutal and bestial killing of the small animal is not in this version.

John Buchan: Power-House, only 9 chapters, a very quick read.  According to his into he either wrote this one, or published this older tale of his,  for men in the trenches in WW1, because he’d been told they particularly enjoyed his stories. He wanted to write something short and exciting so they could finish quickly and yet have some escapist reading that might, if only for a short time, take them mentally away from the strain.  I supposed he did that. I did enjoy it as escapist reading, but there were a couple of amazingly and inexplicably idiotic decisions on the part of the protagonist that kept ejecting me from my enjoyment.  For example, being in sole possession of vitally important information and knowing his apartment is surrounded by baddies who wish to stop his mouth, he sends to confederates out to attempt to deliver this information to the police.  He has a phone in the apartment at his disposal, but he does not use it to telephone his friend the police officer and share this info with him.  He makes other phone calls, though. Hours later it occurs to him to try to use the phone to pass on that information, only by then, the wire was cut. IT’s almost like somebody else previewed the story for Buchan and said, “I say, old chap, why doesn’t he use the phone to convey his vital information?” and Buchan quickly threw in the belated wire cutting as the simplest way to address it. So annoying.

Strawberry Acres- this is vintage Christian fiction around the same time as Grace Livingston Hill’s, maybe ever so slightly earlier.  It’s less heavy handed in the religious department, and not nearly as fun in the home-making details, but it was a charming read, none-the-less.  19 year old Sally and her 3 brothers (two older, one younger) and their bachelor uncle are trying to make a go of it in a small apartment after coming down in the world rather substantially because of the untimely death of their parents some three years prior to the opening of the novel. The two older boys quit college and are working as low income white collar jobs in the city.  Sally keeps house for them all, and the younger brother is still in high school but also has an after school job to help the family make ends meet.  At the start of the book, they’ve inherited a overly large, rambling old house in the country in somewhat awful shape.  What they do with the property and their various characters and how they develop (as well as some of their friends) is the theme of the rest of the book. Nothing earth shattering, but a pleasant and charming way to spend a couple hours when you want an elbow chair for the brain.

Indebted: A Suspense Novel ; I downloaded this for free earlier this month, but it’s 2.99 now. It is billed as Christian suspense. Here is what I didn’t like, followed by what I did:
The end was incredibly abrupt and left a major element’s projectory from point A to point D completely unexplained. Also, it had the only grammatical error in the story that I noticed, but it was kind of a big one. Now, you don’t really *need* to have it explained to appreciate the story, but I want to know. I’d be happy if there is a sequel about this part of the story.
There are also two rather large coincidences not explained well enough to my satisfaction.
A couple of the ‘Christian’ speeches seem stilted to me, and the easy acceptance of his fate by somebody horrifically wronged, with long ranging consequences to his innocent children, was a bit too easy to me, and too lightly glossed over.

What I liked: The characters, the plot, the story, the writing.

Some of the criticisms of the story in Amazon reviews were a bit weird. Somebody objects to a character in a Christian book referring to Karma, but the character in question is not a believer at the time the reference to Karma is made- it’s maybe the first chapter.

God, Robot- by Anthony Marchetta, John C. Wright, Vox Day, MJ Marzo, Steve Rzasa, Joshua M. Young, L. Jagi Lamplighter, EJ Shumak
It’s an interesting premise, one that has been done before- a single novel, with each author continuing the story in his or her own chapter. I mainly find these interesting for the exercise, not for the story itself, and this was no exception. I’m a little frustrated because I think I actually paid 4.99 for this one.
The premise of the story itself was interesting- theobots which initially are primed with Asimov’s three laws, but then two more are added – the greatest two commandments. What happens after that?
The first few chapters were the best. I just felt that by the end the story had really unraveled and was too disconnected from its beginning.

Where this kind of book is  really useful for is getting some insight into which of the authors you’d like to read more of, and which you’ll probably pass on next time.  I found several I’ll read more of, and one or two that aren’t really my style so if that’s what you’re looking for, one book instead of eight, to give you a taste of 8 current sci-fi and fantasy writers so you can narrow down your future selections, than it’s worth the five dollars.

I forget the title, but I read a Suicide Squad short story from the pulp fiction, thirties or forties era. Thee Suicide Squad are a group of G-men known to taken any assignment, but they break the rules (and other people heads and appendages) quite frequently, often with a sardonic grin or other machismo demonstration. Not really my cuppa.

Short Story by E. Nesbit in the horror genre.  Typical of the time, and I hope she was able to buy something she needed with the profits.

Partners, by Grace Livingston Hill, you get what you expect to get from this one.  It’s the first GLH I ever read.   In this one, the poor orphaned girl making do with milk and crackers in the upstairs back room of a not very friendly and congenial boarding house in between jobs helps the energetic orphaned reporter save the life of an abandoned baby with predictable results.  One of the things I love about this one all over again when I read it is that it is refreshingly free, and even, for the times, dismissive of the eugenics usual for the era (and quite openly promulgated in Gene Stratton Porter’s books).  Nothing is known of the parentage of the baby- his dead mother is found starved to death, and she wore a wedding band and there are reasons to believe she was a widow, but at the time, that would not have been enough to justify taking in a stranger baby. In the story, several characters bring up this point of view- how could you do this? You don’t know his background.  What if he grows up to be a bad man? And their answer is basically ‘we know he is a baby who needs to be loved and we will teach him and we are praying that if he’s going to grow up to be a bad man, God takes Him home now, but we’d rather help him grow up to be a good man.’  When I first read this back in 1980, I had no idea how prevalent Eugenics was at the time, so this didn’t really stand out to me as refreshing, it was more  of a series of repeated, ‘Duh, every body knows this’ speed bumps in the story. Having a more informed historical context this time through, the story is a bit more labored, but the ‘save the baby, who cares about his background’ message was a delight.  God bless GLH.

I had a room-mate in college who loved these and owned several.  She could not believe I had never even heard of them, (my lovely mother did not care for Christian fiction, finding it theologically muddleheaded, wrong, and she objected to the generally sappy and not very polished writing).  My mother is pretty much right about all of it, but GLH hits my sweet spot in certain ways that I just can’t ignore- as I have mentioned before, the slice of life in the time, like reading historical fiction, except it’s written at the time. I love the little pieces, like the girl fleeing from a man who wants to kidnap her, but who has to stop and make herself a natty little hat by folding a handkerchief on the train so she won’t stand out to bystanders- from this you see train travel, that girls had to wear a hat in public, and something of styles of the time (her handkerchief hat is folded much like a captain’s hat, and perched on the side of her head.  That’s not this story, it’s from another one but it’s an example of the kind of thing I mean.  I also love the little details of housekeeping and cooking spread throughout the books.

Partners actually doesn’t have as much of that as many others. But there was this:

“Then she made a game of getting an interesting supper out of the odds and ends she had in her little tin box out the window, which she called her refrigerator. A stalk of celery, too tough to enjoy raw, nearly a cup of stewed tomatoes left over from yesterday, a lump of baked beans, the last of a can she had opened a week ago, a scrap of hamburg.
She put them all in her little tin saucepan, and watched over them carefully, till there came out a very tasty dish of soup- was it bean or beef? At any rate, it had a delicious flavor.
There was also a lettuce leaf, two leaves of spinach, one radish, and a half a tiny onion, besides the little white leaf top of the celery stalk. Minced fine they made a very attractive salad with the last cracker from the box and a tiny wedge of cheese. It was a good dinner and she really enjoyed it. And then as she nibbled at a single chocolate peppermint left over from some that had been passed around in the office that day, and now serving as desert, she got to thinking that she really ought to go out somewhere and get a brighter outlook on life.”

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Why We’re Here

I have shared a lot about the fun, cool things we see and do, the things we learn, and how much we love living in the Philippines.  I have shared a few tidbits, surface information, about the work we do, the work my husband primarily does, at the school.  The reason for that is that these are real people and if I share enough to show you a picture of just how needed my husband’s work here is, the children who are getting a necessary hand to help them overcome some challenges, the children who can now come to this school because a system is in place to meet their needs, the parents and teachers who have been clutching at straws and struggling to know what to do for and with these precious, and sometimes frustrating, children- well, then, I have shared too much.

But, oh, my heart.  There is one child, one family, that particularly squeeze my heart.  I wish I could tell you all the reasons why.  There is a child who is much like one of that child’s parents, distracted, intense, at times incredibly unfocused, easily distracted, constantly in trouble not because of ill will in the child, but because this sweet, always distracted youngster is just is a star-shaped peg living in a very square shaped world. Incidentally, all those struggles the parent has precisely what has helped that parent create a truly unique ministry here.

The parents love this child with all their heart and they are doing their best.  The teachers are overwhelmed, not so much, or at least, not only, by the child, but by the fact that they cannot focus on just one child, they have other students and a curriculum and a schedule and multiple cultures to flex and mesh together.  The child is from two cultures, the child’s classmates are largely from another culture that doesn’t mesh well with this star shaped child and doesn’t accept or understand differences deeply, and, well, they are also children. The child is lonely.

My husband works with this one, and nearly a dozen others, one on one.  He also shows up in the classroom or during recess and lunch or merienda time,   to help the child be aware, to help the little one integrate,  stay out of trouble, remember to keep walking to the picnic tables at lunch time instead of falling woefully behind because of the interesting bugs, flowers, ideas that are so deliciously distracting.   The child’s parents come to the school often, to help, to watch with hungry, aching eyes.  And day after day, my husband says, one or the other mouths to my husband, across the playground, across the gym, across the classroom, ‘Thank-you!’  It is only those two words, but it is an intense, deep from the heart expression of gratitude.

I have had the child and a sibling in one or the other classes I substitute for. Before I knew that the child was one of my husband’s particular cases, I was in love.    Delightful.

In case you are asking, “Why don’t they homeschool?”  Well, that’s one of the things I cannot tell you.  What I can tell you is they are going through a massive, live-changing crisis outside of anybody’s control, something they neither asked for or caused, and they cannot make it go away.  They cannot homeschool.  It is incredible that they find the emotional stamina to continue to love and support each other and their children and make things seem normal and show up at the school to help out and be involved.  Amazing, in fact, that they get out of bed every day and put one foot in front of the other.

My husband came home a few weeks ago and said, “I need to tell you something.  They said I could tell the other teachers, and since you have had their kids in classes when you substitute I am going to consider you one of the teachers they meant. ”  He told me.

I went in my room and shut the door and cried.

Last week  after a bout of subbing I was on my way to find a cab to do some grocery shopping, and I passed one of these children, a cheerful, adorable, gap-toothed charmer, playing on the corner sidewalk of a small family restaurant where one of the parents was visiting friends and eating.  I waved at the little one, and received a wave back, as well as a flood of conversation.

I was enthusiastically told about the work one of the parents does, and how the children help with that work, and how much they enjoy it, and then I heard about where they live and I was invited to hurry up and come visit them (the parents have also invited us, and we intend to go, we just haven’t had time).  On and on went the artless, enthusiastic, friendly, charming, chatter.  It was music to my ears, but bruises to my heart, because of what I know, and what the child does not.

My cab came, and I took my leave, “Are you going to my house now?” the charmer asked, pleading for that visit.   The children are so proud of the work their parents have been involved in, and the proofs of it around their domicile.   “Not now,” I said.  “But soon.  I will come visit when you are all at home and my husband can come with me.”

“And the Cherub,” the wretched charmer said, never realizing how deep into my heart this went.   “She goes everywhere with you and she can come to my house too!” Only because of that delightful gap-toothed grin,  it was more like “sthee goeth everywhere with you and sthee can come to my houth, too!”

I agreed, and hurried to the waiting cab, waving enthusiastically back as the cab left.  I wanted to scoop up this little one and race to the mall and buy all the chocolate and ice-cream that could be managed.  But I limited myself to waving.   As soon as we were out of sight, I let my hand fall, held the Cherub’s hand with one hand, and surreptitiously wiped away my tears with the other hand, thinking of what I know, and what they are dealing with and how they can be managing.

“Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you,” the parents tell my husband every day.  The dad sometimes emails, “I don’t know what we’d be doing without you here this year,” and we are so deeply humbled and so grateful to be part of this precious family’s support in this small, temporary way.

Please pray for all of them.  The crisis is immense.   The child would also like a friend, and a good friend is going to be very important.

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