FIVE FOUR SIX PARTIES, AND TRANSFERS??? WHEWWWWW!
CHRISTMAS is no less busy in the Philippines, and everything is just harder to accomplish. Did you have to go to several stores to find wrapping ribbon? Do you have to carry your purchases home on a motorcycle or a jeepney? How about Santa Claus with the entire family sleeping in the same room? Not many secrets here, I guess. But they still have a wonderful time, and the malls and traffic are just like at home---terrible! By Christmas Eve, we are tired, and staying HOME!
Another creative Christmas Tree, this one in the shopping center downtown. It is made of empty soda bottles!
Monday night, we took the Jensen's to the city for dinner, to thank them for all they have done to make our lives easier since we came. They have been the very best trainers, and also become dear and valued friends. We will miss them so much, and hope to be able to carry on with the work here in their excellent tradition. Some of the other seniors met us there, at TGI Friday's, in Eastwood. That was his choice. We had not been there before, and WOW. It is a very nice shopping center, and where many of the seniors live as well, in the city.
Here is one funny story for you:
Elder Jensen is a tease. He has teased me unmercifully about how I kept whining, "I want to be in the ooooofffffffice"! Not true!! After about a week of shell shock, I just went to work, and I love what we are doing.
As we were leaving after an excellent dinner, in one of about 50 fine restaurants there, walking through the open market all decorated for Christmas, I said to him, "Well, Elder Jensen, if I was living in the city, WHERE I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE, This would be my environment, not cow pies."
He said, "Yes, but you wouldn't have any fun."
Me, "I think this is pretty fun!"
Sister Jensen, "I think this is pretty fun, TOO!"
Of course, we wouldn't have THIS kind of fun!
TUESDAY night, we attended the branch Christmas Party in Malaya. This is Faith Alvarez, working hard to help set things up. She is the oldest of 6 children, and they live down the street. The party was held in the parking lot, and the weather was wonderful.
Sister Grace, in yellow here, dragged out the "sound system", and hooked up and used her cell phone to play music and as people arrived all the children began to dance. They were adorable. She was the "master of ceremonies", the director, the whole show. She is in her last year of high school. Her sister was married last month to a returned missionary in the Salt Lake Temple, but none of them were able to go. Her mother is the RS President, and was busy preparing to feed the crowd from this kitchen:
Of course, there was lots of rice, plus a Menudo, which is more like stew here. We did not stay to eat, they partied first, and it is 90 minutes home for us!
We did, however, stay long enough for most of the show, and they do such a good job having fun with so little! The women danced for the men. Then the men danced for the women! Then a few of them danced for all of us. The children danced and danced.
The teenagers played musical chairs.
And Sister Grace led the primary in a game of "Bring Me".
This is how it goes: She stood with the
mic with all the primary in front of her, about 25 of them, waiting. She then said,
Bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,
The first child to get a peso and bring it to her got a lollipop.
Then they lined up again, and she said,
Bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,
a black shoe! Again, a riotous rush to her. This was so much fun, and we all had a great time, waiting for her to decide what to ask for. A comb, a tissue, etc. Finally she said:
Bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bring me
Well, I have not really introduced you to Elder Tipene yet. He is from New Zealand, but his parents moved to Australia while he is on his mission. He jokes that they said, "Hi, son, we moved to Australia. Good luck finding us."
He is a Maori, big and strong and a rugby player. So, when they were told to "bring him", he jumped up and ran all over the grounds, with 25 little children chasing him and yelling. They finally caught him, and came dragging him back to Sister Grace! Here he is, exhausted from being chased!
And then, on Wednesday, Transfers.
Here we are, waiting for the new companions to arrive. These days are hard, saying goodbye, and lots of waiting. Then, we load the car and drive them home. Lots of driving. Usually involves at least one trip to McDonald's for sustenance.
Yes, that is a Santa Claus on my head. Just ignore him! Maybe he will go away.
We got a lot of new missionaries in our zone this time, and also a young woman, Sister Franks, so we lost Sister Kahui. Also several of our favorites, but we are already learning to love these guys, too!
Thursday we worked in Tanay, and Friday we shopped in the city for Christmas. We were supposed to attend the Tanay Branch Party that night, but Jensen's needed an errand in the city, and we got our first taste of Filipino Holiday Rush!
We got home about 30 minutes after the party started, so no time to drive another hour to Tanay. Too bad!
SATURDAY the missionaries had their zone Christmas party, and they asked us to cook something. So we made Sloppy Joes. They made Filipino food. More games, more gifts, more fun. The American kids LOVED the Sloppy Joes, which were not exactly as I make at home, since the ingredients are hard to find. The others, most of them, didn't know what it was. We made the sandwiches for them, but they liked it better as ulam on the rice! We also had Bulalo, which is soup with beef knees in it, mostly bones, and a few veggies, and lots of cabbage. And Caldereta, which is done with pork or chicken or beef, in a spicy stew with peppers. This one I intend to make myself soon. Recipes all over the place, or you can buy the seasoning mix.
Here is Sister Medina organizing the games, and stomping her foot, telling the elders: "listen to me"!
AND SUNDAY it was time to say goodbye to the Jensens. Here they are in our house, after spending the day running all over the mission still taking care of people.
We had a FHE for them, with the Kandara family, (Vanessa and Dexter) and the Peralta family, (Marivic and Juhn) and the missionaries from Teresa. It was just like at home. Elder read from Luke 2, with Christmas carols in between the verses, then the "Nativity" Video the church produced, then hot chocolate and donuts and candy, with gifts. Lots of tears, too.
TWO more parties on Monday!!
Sampaloc Branch had their party all day long, from 9-3. This little branch is less than one year old; just a baby. But they are doing so well. Here they are on the patio, playing games and dancing: The house in the back is the guest house where we could live, and below the patio is the swimming pool used for baptisms.
Here we have Sister Rowena in front right, with Sister Doletti behind her, Sister AJ next with Sister Aguilar (Primary Pres) behind, then Sister Dong, a new convert with Sister Zanaida, YW Pres behind, and I don't know the one on the left front, but hehind her is Sister Tapiador, RS Pres. They were pretty fabulous!
Sister Esponilla, just baptized and already doing missionary work as fast as she can. Her investigator is next to her.
This is Sister Agnes, with most of her children. We have been teaching them ever since we came, but they are not able to be baptized yet. They are very faithful, though, and the children come to Primary. Next to her is Janene. Her husband, Juhn, helped with the food:
Yep, that's a pig. Cooked on a spit and then chopped up with a machete to serve it. Those are banana leaves, the universal table cover. Pres Doletti is signaling that it is ready to eat.
And the ice cream man, with Elder Purificacion as his Assistant.
Our holiday treats are a little different!
And then, we delivered a package to a widowed sister and came home, and drove into the city for the senior zone party. A nice ham dinner, but the entertainment was not nearly so good. Wonder why??
Because most of us are about 1 dance step away from a broken hip and the old folks home! But they are good people, and they work so hard, you wouldn't believe it. Did a nice gift exchange. We brought home a big box of Hazel Nut Chocolates. Elder is very happy. I wanted the polished bowl made from a coconut shell. So did everybody else!