Photos from November

Bandung is a huge city, but there is beauty if you slow down and look. Here are some things that caught my eye in November.

A snail moves across our front porch. 


Moss covers hexagonal paving stones at IMLAC.


Sora’s homemade bread, shaped for Holy Communion.

Bandung under the clouds from a warung on Jalan Punclut.


The hem of a batik shirt:

Rainwater courses down a drainage ditch past ferns and stone walls:

Matt with IMLAC tutors Michael, Nelson, and Ricqi:

Photos from First Two Months in Bandung

We’ve been in Bandung since July 29th now, and we have our plates full with language learning. That’s our main task this year: get the language down well so that we can do the things God has prepared for us to do, both those we already have planned – teaching pastors Greek and Hebrew, pastoring a church – and those we can’t know yet, but which are all already known to God.

Here is a sort of medley of photos from the first two months, with captions. They’ll give you a flavor for what our life is like here.

Here’s a panorama shot of the IMLAC (Indonesian Multi-Language Acquisition Course) campus where we spend four hours every day working on Bahasa Indonesia with several different tutors.

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This shot is taken from the perspective of the ping pong table that Matt uses during our 20 minute break. As you can see, it’s a really lovely environment in which to study.

IMLAC has a sense of humor. Its classrooms are named after islands of Indonesia, and there is one called “Kalimantan” (Borneo). “Kali” also means “multiplied by” or “times” in arithmetic. So we get this label on the room:

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While driving in late August, we passed any number of roadside stands selling goats for the Idul Adha sacrifice (commemorating Ibrahim’s narrowly-averted sacrifice of Ismail):

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Here’s a typical view out our car’s windshield on the way to school. Our street is narrow, about 1.5 car widths across, so we have to “take turns” with other cars. But most traffic is not cars at all: motorcycles are ubiquitous in Bandung.

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The number on the dashboard is our carpool pick-up number for Cahaya Bangsa Classical school, where Ezekiel is enrolled in 9th grade. He has probably made the best adjustment of any of our kids, which is a welcome surprise given how hard a time he had when we moved to the Philippines almost 4 years ago. He’s doing great in his classes and enjoying playing on the basketball team, where his height serves him well. Here’s his team at an away game at another school:

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Speaking of height, here I am with Pastor Henry S., assistant pastor at St. Paul’s. This photo was taken at the reception for the wedding of another pastor in the GAI, Raphael B. Being 6’3″ is not an advantage off the basketball court: I have hit my head on low lintels and doorframes many times over the past two months.

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Here’s a wider view of the huge reception room at the Grand Pasundan hotel (Sora and fellow pastor’s wife Deborah G. are at the far right):

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This batik clergy shirt of mine has done duty for over a year now. I want to get some more made here, and we know a tailor who made the kids’ school uniforms for Cahaya Bangsa. But I’m shopping around for the right pattern. I liked this blue in one shop, but I’m hoping to find something even more colorful:

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We have spent more than one Sunday at each of the three GAI congregations – St. Paul’s, St. Peter’s, and St. John’s. This last is located on the campus of the military police barracks in nearby Cimahi, and is the smallest of the three congregations. They have given us a very warm welcome. I have preached through a translator twice (Ibu Ridha and her husband Pastor Denny K), and administered both sacraments in halting and mispronounced Bahasa Indonesia.

Baptizing the youngest member of St. John’s:

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Here I am with members of the congregation after one service, including both pastors (Pak Denny in grey jacket, Pak Yacob in suit) and the senior warden (Pak Dickie in purple and white batik):

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Here are our boys receiving communion from me and Pastor Yacob:

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Our family is making an effort to get out of the city once a month or so, to escape the noise and pollution and traffic and decompress in a more beautiful environment – something we didn’t do often enough in the Philippines. Most recently, that meant a trip to nearby Lembang, about 45 minutes away from Bandung proper. We passed this awesome house on the way:

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We went to Maribaya, where Sora and I had lunch and enjoyed the sound of the waterfalls while monkeys played in the trees beyond:

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Later, we took the kids to the hot springs, which were very relaxing:

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So that’s a slice of life for us here in (and out of) Bandung.

We won’t pretend this isn’t a harder cultural adjustment for us than the Philippines was. For one, the stakes of language acquisition are much higher: without the Bahasa Indonesia, I won’t be able to help the GAI with pastoral training in the ancient languages or the Scriptures. It’s not like the Philippines, where most men with sufficient education to benefit from my instruction had sufficient English as well. Here, the language is make-or-break for our ministry. We’re working hard at it, but we need to find more ways to get out and about in the city and strike up conversations with Indonesian folks whom we haven’t met before. We appreciate your prayers for our family as we continue to live and study in Bandung, West Java.

Colvins in Bandung

If our kids are looking more colorful than usual, it is because they’re wearing batik to their first Indonesian worship service.   
It has been a mixed visit so far. For me, a fruitful week of ministry. For Sora and the kids, a painful time fighting the sort of digestive tract illness that we thought we would not experience, since we were coming already from the Philippines.

I preached on Psalm 42 & 43 for GAI St. Paul’s in Bandung, Indonesia this morning. Many thanks to Pr. Denny Kussoy for translating my sermon. 

  
Matt preaching with Pr. Denny Kussoy translating. 

The congregation on Sunday included many students from my week-long intensive class at the Bible College.

 
Above: Students at STT St Paul’s Bible College during Matt’s class. 

At lunch on Sunday, Rev. Yopie Buyung explained that he believes Biblical theology (in the technical sense) is greatly needed in Indonesian churches. I believe it. The delighted looks of the students as I explained how the New Testament claims Jesus to be God made it clear that they had not heard it put this (Jewish, Old Testamentish) way before, and that they will be USING these arguments in their own conversations with those who do not know the Lord, or deny that we should worship Him, or who think that “it is far from God’s glory to beget a son”.

Here are the essay assignment questions that I left for the students to write. (Pak Yopie translated them into Bahasa Indonesia.)

Essays:

In 10 pages or less, answer ONE of these questions:

1. Explain how the NT epistles and the book of Revelation identify Jesus as divine while still holding to monotheism.

2. Explain how Jesus and the four gospels use the Old Testament to claim that Jesus is identified with the God of Israel.

3. List and explain five main ways that the OT asserts monotheism and show how the NT used those ways to say that Jesus is included in the identity of Israel’s God.

Unfortunately, our family has been dealing with some sickness. Three kids came with me to church, wearing their new batik clothing. Sora stayed back at the guest house with Naomi, who is still recovering. Later, Isaiah and Hosanna also lost their lunches. Everyone is on the mend, however.

We have one more day in Bandung. Rev. Yopie and his wife Hertina and younger son Rexa have been taking very good care of us. Indonesian hospitality is justly famous, and Pak Yopie’s family has been amazing in that respect. 

Tuesday, we head to Jakarta for four days, then to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, en route to meet with our SAMS directors and other SAMS missionary families at a retreat in Kep.
Pray that:

– Our kids will recover quickly, and that we will have no more illness on this trip. 

– We may have a pleasant and uneventful train ride full of beautiful scenery from Bandung to Jakarta.

– The STT St. Paul’s students will continue to pursue the Biblical approaches to Christology and theology that I introduced them to in the lectures this week, and that the Lord may bless those methods with good fruit. 

– That our kids will continue to be good ambassadors for our family and the REC and ACNA. The boys especially have done a good job so far, even though they don’t like being the center of attention. (Hosanna on the other hand, loves being the center of attention, and is apparently in her element being greeted and photographed, whether by Filipinos or Indonesians.)

   
   Thanks to Natalina H for the pictures!

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.

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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.

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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:

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

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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.

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Truck on the Way to the Clinic

A truck has been parked on the street leading to the clinic for months now. It is a disabled dump truck parked with its box in an elevated position. Since it is a convenient distance from a concrete wall, an enterprising fellow stretched some tarps across the intervening space and turned the truck into a dwelling, complete with a refrigerator. To make it feel a bit more like home, he also painted various parts of the truck in brighter colors: purple, yellow, green. I say “he”, but I’m pretty sure there were multiple people living there. A family?

Well, someone evidently persuaded them to move out, for the truck is now no longer inhabited. It’s not running either. But that doesn’t mean its usefulness has been exhausted. Behold, what Pinoy ingenuity has devised:

 

Yes, that is a basketball hoop. And it is at a pretty good height, with what can only be called a very expansive backboard. You could hit all kinds of interesting bankshots off that box.

Shirts and Dresses

Most of my ministry in Davao City is teaching other Protestant Christians: Pentecostal, Baptist, Reformed, and non-denominational community church clergy and lay members are all among my students. The Philippines is a largely Roman Catholic country. Partly as a result of this, Protestant pastors do not wear clerical shirts or vestments. My own practice here is to eschew the trappings of Anglican clergy unless I’m actually functioning in an Anglican service (as, for instance, during the visit from our bishop, when we held a service of Holy Communion at Faith Academy). To walk around town dressed in a clerical collar would mean being mistaken for a Roman Catholic priest, with all the expectations that go with that.

But if we go to another country, I will probably dress like an Anglican clergyman 7 days a week. And for that purpose, it is nice to know where to get vestments and clerical clothing made. Just down the street from Faith International Academy, in a building I drive past every day, is Colors Crew, a tailor shop specializing in vestments. I showed the seamstress one of my Anglican dog-collar shirts and asked her to make four like it, but with long sleeves for next year when we are in the States.

On the same visit, I showed the seamstress the purple batik cloth I had bought in Jakarta last October. She was delighted to measure both our daughters for sundresses, to be made with the batik I provided. I’ll post the results in the third week of February when the dresses are done.

Below: Hosanna getting measured, next to a picture of the Theotokos.
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New in 2015!

We’re now in our third year as missionaries in the Philippines. We just returned from Cebu, where we went to apply for new passports at the American consulate. Mine is only four pages from being full, bearing visa stamps from Canada, Indonesia, Singapore, and China, as well as six pages eaten up by coming in and out of the Philippines. Hosanna and Isaiah applied for new passports as well, since theirs are due to expire in 2015. So we will have new passports in about six weeks. Then we will hope that our agents in Manila can get all our missionary visa stamps transferred into them.

A year ago, we went to Cebu to vacation with Sora’s parents Mickey and Robin. This year, finding ourselves in the city again, we decided to turn a once-in-a-lifetime experience into a twice-in-a-lifetime experience: we went to nearby Oslob to swim with the whale sharks again. The seas were high with swelling waves, and the younger three kids mostly clung to the outriggers of the boat. But I was able to swim around, and the whale sharks came right up to us. There must have been six in five minutes. Sora got bumped by a tail. The water was a bit murky, and the whale sharks’ camouflage was all too effective. The result was that they frequently appeared out of nowhere, and I had to scoot to get out of the way.

Today is our first day back in Davao, and I returned to more ordinary life: reading Latin with my homeschooled students (a prose retelling of Aeneid I in Ørberg’s Lingua Latina: Roma Aeterna) resuming my classes at Faith Academy. On arriving on campus, I found that the new high school building, under construction since early last year, had at last been opened for use. I have a new classroom! And what a room it is: big, spacious, beautifully well lit with skylights, and a view of the SIL campus out the corner window.

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It will be a joy to teach in this space for the coming year. We appreciate your prayers and support in 2015!

A Visit and Holy Communion

Last week, we enjoyed a visit from Canon Bill Jerdan (REC Board of Foreign Missions) and Bp. Peter Manto, the rector of  Trinity Church, our home parish in Mason, OH. 

They arrived around 12:00 on Saturday, but we had trouble getting to the airport in time to pick them up: an accident on he Pan-Philippine Highway had caused traffic to stop about half a kilometer from the airport entrance. Out came Sora’s iPhone, and we ducked across two lanes of traffic into a subdivision full of tiny one-lane streets arranged in a veritable labyrinth. I wish we had taken video of it: we had to fold in our mirrors to get past a few awkwardly parked vehicles, and at one point, a suprising dead end (construction) forced us to back up for two blocks and retrace our steps. But we did emerge, and past the accident.

This put us at the airport nearly half an hour past the time when we should have been there to pick up Bp. Manto and Canon Jerdan, but fortunately they had only recently emerged from customs and immigration, and had not been waiting long.

After depositing their bags, they went with me to buy albs at Colors Crew on Mabini St. in Marfori Heights, since the airline baggage weight limit had prevented them from bringing any (and vestments are very affordable here):

It was a short order, since we had planned a service of Holy Communion for our family and friends on Tuesday night. This would give only two and a half working days.

On Sunday, Bp. Manto and Canon Jerdan accompanied us to United Covenant Reformed Church of Davao, where they met Pastor Vic Bernales, Elders Allan Ostique and Ojie Bicaldo, and the rest of our friends from church. This was a meeting I was very glad to see, for I have always considered Anglicanism a way of being Protestant. (The Church of England historically has simply received, not reordained, continental Reformed ministers; and even such high churchmen as Laud and Cosin instructed Englishmen sojourning on the continent to partake of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed churches, not at the Roman altars; and of course, the Church of England sent a delegation to the Synod of Dort.) I have been quite blessed by the ministry of Pastor Vic, and I could wish that Anglican churches had more cooperation with Reformed churches.

On Monday, Bp. Peter and Canon Bill toured the birth clinic. Clinic director Matt McNeil gave them a tour and explained the workings of the clinic and its vision for training missionary midwives. Sora happened to be supervising a birth room shift that morning.

I had left my car at a carwash, so we took two pedicabs to Victoria Plaza.

 

At noon, we headed to Faith Academy so Bp. Manto and Cn. Jerdan could see the campus and watch me teach my classes. Head of School Alan Farlin gave them a tour.

  

In the evening, we joined Pastor Bernales’ family and my Greek students for a meal of Filipino food at the Probinsya Buffet:

The following day, Tuesday, we received a visit from Abp. Frederick Luis Belmonte of the Anglican Church in the Philippines (Traditional). It was a very cordial visit. We discussed our respective ministries, prayed together, and exchanged presents —  Canon Jerdan gave a presentation edition of the Reformed Episcopal Book of Common Prayer to the Archbishop, while he presented us with new stoles, which we wore later that day.

We took the Archbishop out for dinner at the Tiny Kitchen. When dinner was over, Sora took Bp. Manto and Canon Jerdan to pick up their just-finished albs while the Archbishop and I set up my Faith Academy classroom for the service of Holy Communion. Here’s a photo from dinner, which I include because all of our children managed to cooperate for the camera at the same time:

 

We then headed to Faith Academy again to worship God. All my Greek students showed up, along with the Bernales family and Elder Ojie and Jenette Camporedondo from our UCRC family. With help from Pr. Vic’s son Yuri on the piano, the congregation sang out and got a fair taste of an Anglican service. It was a true joy to serve the common cup to so many who have blessed us with their friendship and have ministered to and with us over the last two years. Our family was especially blessed to have Bp. Manto, our pastor for ten years, here to celebrate Holy Communion with us. It felt like Trinity Church had been magically transported to Davao City for an evening.

 

Thank you, Canon Jerdan and Bp. Manto, for taking the time to come visit our family. Your advice and sympathetic ears were very valuable, and your presence with us was a great encouragement to our whole family.

Matt’s Trip to Indonesia and Singapore

In October, I spent 10 days visiting Indonesia and Singapore. The purpose of that trip was to meet clergy in the diocese of Singapore, especially its deanery of Indonesia. Chief among these is the Rev. Dr. Timothy Chong, who is the dean of Indonesia, and has been tasked with setting up a seminary to train clergy there. My visit was a first step toward discerning whether the Lord may be calling our family to join in this work.

Dean Chong picked me up from the airport in Jakarta, put me up in hotels for nine nights, fed me royally in his own home and in restaurants, introduced me to his colleagues and parishioners, and showed me the greatest kindness and hospitality. It was a pleasure to talk with him, especially about the future of the Anglican church in Indonesia (Gereja Anglikan Indonesia, or GAI). We shared our views of the goals and methods of seminary education. Teaching Greek and biblical studies is my passion as a missionary, and the work of equipping pastors in the GAI would be a very exciting and fulfilling calling.

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Being in Anglican circles meant dressing as an Anglican clergyman for a few days. (I do not generally wear clericals in the Philippines.) My fellow SAMS missionary, Gregory Whitaker, was the other American present at the consecration service in Singapore. I observed that he was the only priest wearing a black shirt, and I was the only one wearing a round collar.

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By contrast, I was impressed by the beautiful batik clergy shirts that Dean Timothy Chong was wearing:

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Dr. Chong took me to visit GAI churches in Jakarta and Bandung, plus a service of Holy Communion at a medium-security prison. The language barrier was a frustration, of course — I did not have a chance to acquire even the most basic Bahasa Indonesia before my visit — but a cheerful welcome and warm hospitality was the unfailing experience. (I’ll be sure to put some time into language study before my trip next June.) Here’s the bright purple hand-stamp we each received on entering. Mine stayed with me for five days!

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At St. Paul’s Bible College in Bandung, I sat in on an Old Testament class and saw some lively student interaction with Dr. Gideon Limandibrata.

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Hosting me for meals in Bandung and Singapore was the Rev. Yopie Buyung, also of St. Paul’s Bible College, who engaged me in a spirited discussion of whether we ought to see any Greek philosophy behind the Logos of John 1:1.

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From Bandung, we went to Singapore for the consecration of two new assistant Bishops, the Rt. Rev. Kuan Kim Seng and the Rt. Rev. Low Jee King. I vested and processed with the other clergy. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is a most impressive structure. I imagine it was one of the tallest structures in Singapore when it was first built. It now occupies a serene area in the middle of bustling skyscrapers.

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Please pray for the Diocese of Singapore and for the GAI, both for its present ministers and its future. There is immense potential for the gospel to be proclaimed and embodied in Indonesia.

Closing photo: the Prayer Book of the GAI, translated by a committee headed by Dean Timothy Chong.

 

 

Return to Leyte Part 2: In Imelda’s Bedroom

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Waiting for breakfast at the Haiyan Food Stop, refreshed after a good night’s sleep and ready for another day!

After our two long days of driving, we slept late on Tuesday morning. The grand opening of Cumpio Midwife Clinic was not taking place until evening. We ate a delicious breakfast and set out for Tacloban, about half an hour away. Our delays the previous day meant that we would not have time to see all the places that I’d hoped to visit with Naomi and Gabriela, but we meant to make the most of the time we had. Driving to Tacloban, I was amazed at how many changes there had been in the 5 months since I had left. It was so encouraging and heartwarming to see shiny new roofs where six months ago there were weather-beaten tarps. The recovery and rebuilding had clearly come a long way!

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Morning refreshment — fresh buko juice (coconut water) and tiny single-serving pineapples, eaten off the stem like a lollipop.

Naomi and Gabriela agreed that of the various landmarks that we could visit (the scenic Leyte-Samar bridge, the MacArthur Landing Monument, the several large ships that had been washed into town by typhoon Yolanda) they were most interested in the Sto. Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum, built as both a museum and one of the 29 residences of President Marcos and taken over by the Philippine government in the 1980s after Marcos was ousted. Tacloban is former first lady Imelda Marcos’ hometown, and the museum was built on her family’s property. The mansion suffered extensive flooding and damage during Yolanda (link goes to a news site photo slide show) but has since re-opened. Our tour guide, who told us she was already part of the staff in the days when the Marcos family still used the residence on their visits to Leyte, was clearly devoted to the building and grieved over the damage caused by the typhoon. Despite the storm damage, the girls were impressed by the grandeur and opulence.

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The ballroom with its enormous, octopus-like chandeliers.

Naomi was particularly fascinated by the dioramas depicting Imelda Marcos’ life, from her childhood in Leyte to her benevolent good works as First Lady of the Philippines, in each of the downstairs guest bedrooms.

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Example of one of the dioramas: a youthful Imelda is crowned beauty queen.

The second-floor rooms had sustained less damage than those on the ground floor, as they had not been flooded (apparently the mud was knee-deep after the waters receded.) These included the ballroom, the larger of the two dining rooms, and the family bedroom. Our guide insisted I take a picture of the girls sitting on Imelda’s bed:

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This picture does not do justice to the size of the room. The luxurious ensuite bath was quite a big larger than my bedroom.

Our tour complete, we left Tacloban and headed south to Dulag, where I had spent four weeks in the spring volunteering at Bumi Wadah’s “birth camp” clinic, which at the time was located in San Jose elementary school. We drove past the school, which is in session but still under construction (a Japanese NGO began repairs to the school shortly after I left Dulag.) Bumi Wadah has a lovely clinic building now which they share with the rural health unit. We visited there and were treated to a delicious lunch (eggplant salad, pumpkin soup, rice, vegetable lumpia, and fruit salad – yummy!) Because our lunch visit was a day later than planned, most of the midwives were attending a seminar and I would not get to see them until later that day at Nerissa’s opening, but it was great to see the new clinic building and see old friends again.

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Lunch at Bumi Wadah.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my time in Dulag was the beach right across the street, where I went walking almost every day unless it was pouring rain or we were extremely busy with patients. In Davao, it’s easy to forget we’re on a tropical island since the city is so built up and the water so polluted — to get to a beach from Davao we have to drive a long way down the coast, or first drive and then take a boat to Samal Island. So after lunch we walked across the street to enjoy the fresh ocean breezes and the lapping waves.

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Naomi enjoying the beach in Dulag.

On the beach, as well, signs of recovery were evident. Though the debris of ruined houses remained in many places, the surviving coconut trees, which had been almost bare of leaves in March, were green again and new fishing boats lined the beach. Naomi splashed in the waves while Gabriela and I visited with a new Bumi Wadah midwife volunteer who had just arrived from Australia. All too soon, it was time to head back toward Tanuan, for the most important event of our trip: the grand re-opening of Cumpio Midwife Clinic.