Back in the Minority Again

(Racially, I was a member of a distinct minority in high school (perhaps 15% caucasian). For five years we lived in Japan. And now we are in the Philippines.

There is a medical school in our area, and it is attended by lots of students from India. There is a street of authentic Indian food along side it. There are also a lot of Korean missionaries here, and Korean businessmen as well, and many of them put their children in the school where my husband teaches. Not too long ago I got to do some of my little bit and help out the librarian who also teaches language arts to Kindergarteners and combined grades 4 and 5. The children were adorable, and I thought they were sweet, even the boys who climbed into an empty cupboard while I was reading (I let them, because they are children, and I could tell they were still listening).
They were reading stories about winter, which is interesting, since all of them talked about how in the winter it snows and we build snowmen and make snow-angels, and of course, here it gets ‘cold’ which might me on a very chilly night it gets down to perhaps 80 F. but mostly not even close. But as it turned out, the majority of the children are Korean and they had gone home for the holidays, since it’s only a half day’s flight, so they had seen snow, and made snow angels and ice cream, and one enthusiastically told me, had even eaten the snow. I have been reading that there are almost as many Korean missionaries as American these days, and perhaps my view is skewed since we are much closer to Korea here than America, both geographically and culturally, but just based on what I see and here in this area, Korea is outstripping the Americans on the mission field.
The American children were even more outnumbered than I realized. I had assumed one little girl was American, based largely on the fact that looked so much like one of my one little girls, very blonde, almost tow-headed, with large, limpid brown eyes and an adorably expressive face (my own little one practically spoke a third language with her eye brows alone). I nearly laughed aloud at myself when she spoke in answer to a question and I realized she’s more likely Austrian than American.
I knew we would be a minority. I am just amused at how much of a minority we are. I don’t even think Americans are a close 4thrd if we were ranking the ethnic groups I see, and that’s even with me mistakenly including random Europeans.

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A life that seizes on content

My mom found this and sent it to me:


To Daughters, Growing Up

by Elizabeth Coatsworth

My little girls,
When you are grown,
You may go to some land
That is not your own.

If your roots of life
Are strong and sound,
You will grapple deep
In that unknown ground,

You will leaf and flower
And not complain
Of too much sun
Or of too much rain.

Wherever you are
The seasons will follow;
The frugal autumn
And spring like a swallow.

Day and night will be there,
For action and dream,
And the rippling of Time,
That terrestrial stream.

If love is there, too,
You should scarce be aware
Of an alien earth,
Unfamiliar air.

To a life that seizes
Upon content,
Locality seems
But accident.

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Davao Diary- The Comfort Room

This is something I remembered from when we lived in Okinawa, which is also a coral island in the China sea, so many of the construction resources and materials are similar, and the climate needs are nearly identical (except Okinawa gets typhoons regularly and Mindano doesn’t, especially Southern Mindanao). It’s the pleasure of feeling cold tile against your bare feet on a hot, humid day. There are throw rugs outside the bathroom doors and mats to wipe your feet near the entrances (removing shoes is not as mandatory as it is in other parts of Asia, but it’s still quite common and you should always ask). But within the house the floors are generally tile, so far as I know. I haven’t been in many, but of those dozen or so I have seen, and those I’ve seen on the two Filipino dramas I’ve watched, I don’t recall seeing carpet anywhere, which makes perfect sense.

About the bathrooms – You don’t have hot water on tap anywhere. It’s all one tap, and only cold water comes out. In the guest house the water was slightly warmer than room temperature. Here in our house, the water from the shower was brisk and cold as a mountain stream. My son said he couldn’t breathe when he took a shower in it. I usually take cooler showers than most, and I found it a painful experience to contemplate, and it took me ten minutes of agonizing outside the shower before I grew brave enough to inch my way in, whimpering and gasping. It’s not that cold out of the kitchen tap, sadly.
Anyway, you buy a special hot water heater for your shower if you want to take hot showers. The one at the guest house turned the tepid water from mildly tepid to downright lukewarm but that was the best it did. Ours makes the water hot enough to turn the HM’s skin red. It doesn’t turn mine that shade, because I wouldn’t use that setting unless I wished to cook rather than clean myself.

The shower is just part of the bathroom, not separate. If you want a shower curtain, you get a tension rod and a curtain and create the partition yourself. Our shower has about a two inch rise dividing the floor of the shower from the rest of the bathroom, but it is largely for psychological purposes, as there is a deliberate opening in one section and a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor as well as the floor of the shower. There is a hose for showering, and one for spraying down the bathroom when you (or your helper) scrub it) Basically, the bathroom is a wet room. That is why, in a well ordered household, there will be a rug or mat outside the bathroom door and at least one pair of slippers or shower shoes or flip flops or *something* you can wear on your feet if you want to keep them dry. It’s one thing if you’re barefoot- it’s just clean water, at least in my house, where the menfolk think a male who can’t aim and dribbles on the floor like a child instead of a responsible toilet trained adult is something to be ashamed of. Ahem. Sorry. Soapbox set aside for now. But if you are in socks or regular soft slippers, you don’t want to step on the wet floor. So you have slip on shoes outside the bathroom door, because if the bathroom has been cleaned in the last few hours or somebody has taken a shower in the last few hours, the floor is going to be wet.

I can’t explain why it is, but this photograph, and the real life image makes me indescribably happy. Everytime I see our rack of shoes outside the front door or this tidily arranged group of shoes on the mat outside my comfort room door, all my insides just smile and smile and smile.

*It will be a shower, and not a bath, most likely. Our house doesn’t have a bathtub and we were told not to expect to find one that would.

**Understand that these observations are made from the perspective of somebody living on the charity of others for these two years, not a business person. If you were to come here via something like a company transfer or because you inherited a huge chunk of change and wished to spend it living in Paradise, well, your perspective would be quite different.

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where’s your water buffalo?

across the street from me

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Fish Bones

What do you see?
I see beauty.

I see and taste, and smell, the flavor and scent of good, very good, charcoal grilled fresh fish.

I see food. Nourishment, sustenance, life.
Let food be food. Real food flavored by other real foods- garlic, calamansi, locally grown pepper, oil.

I see a livelihood. Somebody worked hard to bring this and other bounty up from the sea, to bring it to market, to sell it to our friend.

I see friendship. Our friend bought it and a companion or two, borrowed a grill (it seems to have been home made) from a neighbor, and prepared tge fish as our first real food we had here in our new house.

I see design. Those bones are so perfectly designed for what they do, in both form and function. Look at the symmetry, the marvelous way they curve, a tiny set of slender buttresses, formerly housing an ichthyological cathedral within.

I see reminders of fisherman of old, Peter, James, John, and a boy with two fish he wanted to share.

I see abundance in the scant remains of these bones.


Job:  But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?

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