Photos from March and April 2015

I’m feeling a bit remiss about blogging. We keep to our deadline for publishing our monthly newsletter, but it’s easy to forget to write on this blog, and that for two reasons, both of which are good for missionary work, but not for missionary communication: first, life in the Philippines feels more “normal” for us than it did during our first two years; we encounter less that seems remarkable and needing to be photographed or shared. Second, we are both crazy busy with our respective ministries, and have a hard time carving out time to blog.

Here are some photos from March and April, which may be taken as fairly representative of what we’ve been up to:

On the way home from dropping the kids at school one morning, the words of the Psalmist came to mind: “Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.” OK, maybe just cows, and a calf that decided the middle of the road looked like a good place to enjoy sunbathing.


Sora continues to do outreach with other midwives from the birth clinic to bring prenatal care to the women of the Isla Verde. Here, laundry hangs on a line and bicycle taxis (pedicabs) ply the streets beneath the coconut palms, while the ubiquitous Coca-Cola ad serves as a silent missionary of Western consumerism even in this very poor neighborhood.


Of course, the birth clinic continues to welcome Filipino babies into the world, and Sora continues to supervise shifts and take care that they arrive safely. Here are three from the past few months:

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Sora continues to teach, too. Most recently, she’s been teaching statistics for this enthusiastic bunch of student midwives. Here, the students are lined up in a “living histogram” by height:


Water lillies from Sora’s visit to Thailand in March:


Matt’s ministry continues apace. Introductory Greek is finished now, so we have moved on to Hebrew, while continuing to read the Greek New Testament so that students don’t lose their skills. Here, Carl, one of Matt’s friends who has been with him from the beginning of his classes here in Davao, puts up answers to the second Hebrew homework assignment on the whiteboard.


Photos from August

The new school year started on August 5th. Here are some shots of our family and our surroundings.

Our girls after a long day of school.


I have never seen anyone move a refrigerator using a motorcycle. Granted, it was a smallish refrigerator.


The piano tuner (at right, in red shirt) and his band of movers. We bought a used piano from the departing Faith Academy music teacher, Nate Becker. Both the girls take lessons with Miss Wendy now. It was bought with some extra money given by my parents. Naomi is making it utter some pleasant sounds in our living room now.


Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. The kids are in bed, and I have a quiet hour or two before I need to pick Sora up from a 10-hour swing shift. She worked a little “overtime”, starting an hour and a half early to allow a Filipina midwife who was supervising the previous shift to leave early and attend Good Friday services.

In the morning I went to church to gave my talk on atonement in Luke at UCRC. The streets were impressively deserted by traffic; it almost seemed like North America at non-rush hour times. After my talk, I enjoyed a men’s group study on growth in godliness and the pitfalls of legalism and antinomianism, taught by Pastor Vic. Then I came home and took the girls to the clinic with their mother. They are quite an amusing sight in their kid-sized scrubs and backpacks, marching into the clinic like they know what they’re doing. (Don’t be fooled by their confidence: sure, they’ve been there before, and they know the drill, but they are not midwives, scrubs notwithstanding.)

Photos from the commute

Getting to school is sometimes a challenge. We live behind a schoolhouse (not the school our kids attend), and at 7:30 in the morning, everyone is trying to enter the alleyway. 20131014-162751.jpg

(Someone had to back up here.)

This particular morning, I was not driving, so the clogged alleyway was none of my concern. I blithely snapped a photo of the traffic jam and walked out to flag a taxi down. While heading up the street, this is what I saw:


(Yes, that particular jeepney passenger continued to ride standing on the back of the vehicle the entire way up the street. And yes, that white car is making a U-turn which would be quite illegal in the United States. It is not illegal here.)

After an swift and hair-raising journey, the taxi turned into the rear entrance of SIL and Faith Academy. This took it past the watering hole and grazing field of a family of carabao:



There were three in the hole this morning, looking more like three gray rhinos, all covered in mud.. (Don’t miss Junior there in between mom and dad. He is looking much bigger than he was last semester.) As always, there was no fence, just a couple of sleeping cowherds on the wall nearby, who I hope would have bestirred themselves if one of the carabaos tried to lift up its horn against a passing car.

Later that afternoon, I took our car to get washed. This really ought to be done once a week here, or more often, with all the dust in the city. But we are so busy, but we rarely get around to it that often; as a result, our car is usually filthy. The average car wash is also an astonishingly long process, taking half an hour or more (but it costs only P80 = $2). I usually leave the car, and ride a tricycle to the mall to get some groceries or do other shopping while the car washers finish.

This time, I took a pedicab. It is quieter than a standard, motorcycle based tricycab, and almost just as fast if you have an athletic driver. Here’s the view from the front seat.


Indian Food

Sora and I have found a favorite restaurant: “Singh is King”, located near the Medical School Foundation Hospital, conveniently on the way to Faith Academy from our house. The food is very good, if a bit spicy for my palate. The proprietors are from India, so they’re keeping it authentic.

It’s not a fancy building, without even a front wall, just an open air roof, with the usual plastic chairs:


Note the motorcycles parked out front. Singh is King also delivers if you order more than P200 of food (=$5), though we haven’t tried that. Portions are quite generous, and you can get a good lunch for two people for that price or less.

Inside, a flat-screen TV shows Indian soap operas. These are hilarious. Although we Americans can understand none of the words, the shots of the characters’ faces convey all we need to know about the plot:


We always end up draining the provided pitcher of water (orange lid, above) in a futile effort to quell the fire of the spices. I love eating spicy food, but I’m not good at it.


Since the island we live on is inclined by nature to be a tropical rainforest, teeming with life, it has considerable powers that war against the ephemeral structures which humans erect against the elements. Buildings are eroded by rain and humidity, despite being constructed almost invariably of concrete. A North American stick frame house wouldn’t last long very long here. If the moisture didn’t destroy the wood, the insects would. They are nature’s army, dedicated to the relentless return of wood to the rich soil of what ought to be the forest floor.

Since we moved into our apartment in January, we have fought a ceaseless battle against wood-boring beetles, which produce detritus known as bok-bok. It looks like this:


(Bok-bok on the stairs of our apartment.)

More aggravating is when it falls from the crown molding at the wall-to-ceiling seam, landing in a layer of little beetle pellets on the counters of the kitchen; or when the beetles eat away so much of the back door of the house that a little shower of bok-bok coats the arm of anyone who shuts it too hard; or when one of the stairs becomes so rotten that it isnt really safe anymore. We finally persuaded our landlord to send the carpenter (Cebuano: “panday”) to replace the bad wood.

The panday – I called him the Kung Fu Panday – arrived to do what most American carpenters could never do: install a new door, a new stair step, and new crown molding with nothing but hand tools. Here he is using a plane on the edges of the door:


The new door ready to install:


We are told that this is a fairly good door, not made out of low-grade coco lumber like so much of the wood in this city. So our door should last probably…5 years!

Cabinets have been repainted in the kitchen and we haven’t seen any more bok-bok on the counters. It just makes life a little bit nicer.

A Dog’s Life

Riding home from school yesterday, I looked up as the taxi slowed. A dog, paralyzed from the hips down, was slowly pulling its body across the road by its front legs. This is a very hard city in which to be a dog. Many are without owners, and they look miserable in ways that North American dogs rarely do. It is a visible reminder that Davao City, despite its bright new malls and rapid development, despite its pursuit of Western consumer culture, still has many needs that are higher priorities than the spaying and euthanizing of strays.

The two guards of our apartment complex also have a dog. He was a little puppy in January, and the many cats used to boss him around. Now he’s bigger, but still cute and friendly. He seems to have a pretty good life. But then, he would: he has owners who are employed by the rich landlord.


(Note the guard’s gleaming shoes leaning against the wall. He was wearing his tsinelas, flipflops, at the time.)

I’m about to start reading Richard Adams’ The Plague Dogs with Ezekiel. I enjoyed it greatly when I was about his age or a little older. It will be a little more vivid this time around, thanks to some of the dogs I’ve seen around the city lately.

On another topic: When I got home and exited the taxi, I saw a small boy a about twenty feet up in a coconut tree, so I had to take a picture.


In the USA, some officious busybody would have enacted a law prohibiting boys from climbing coconut trees. Clearly unsafe. OSHA and all that.