Life goes on as per usual here, so not much to say. Perhaps I'll just give you some random thoughts from the recesses of my largely unusual brain.
Why don't stores in the Philippines carry enough stock? They're always "out of stock". I went to 4 different stores today trying to buy ink for my printer. Everybody had the black and yellow ink, but there was no cyan or magenta. Naturally, I need magenta.
The one year anniversary of our arrival in the Phils passed by without much notice this week. We arrived in Davao City on July 9th, 2007. Time plays funny tricks on me. I think it feels longer than a year, but maybe not. I guess we've accomplished some good stuff. Bethany has delivered 26 babies and has done about 320 prenatal exams. Oh, and she's carried our baby for over seven months. The water project has had a decent start I guess. Tomorrow we will deliver filter numbers 152-156. We've trained about a dozen people from around Mindanao, and we're up to a capacity of 36 filters a week now.
I got to cut in line at the store yesterday. I'm not sure if it was because I'm an "Amerikano", or just because I was only buying a couple bottles of water.
Did you know that they bag each item individually at the grocery store? Buying a cucumber? It gets its own little bag inside the big bag. Batteries? You bet. They might leak all over your chocolate bars. Heck, better bag the chocolate bars too.
Sometimes I feel like a big fraud. We're supposed to be missionaries in this country, not rich white people. Ya, we bless people, but maybe we don't need all this nice stuff and this big apartment to do it. Did you know some of my employees only get about $5.60 a day? Sometimes that makes me feel like some sort of slave driver. The truth is, I pay them the appropriate amount of money for this country, and any more would just cause a whole lot of problems. It still makes me feel like a putz though (I say as I type on my fancy computer in my giant bedroom). Sadly, I don't know that I could live without some of these luxuries that I have come to depend on. So much for selling everything you have and giving it to the poor.
I helped my friend move today. Jimmy is my welder. Some people have a lawyer or a doctor. I have a welder. I like Jimmy. He's a Muslim guy, probably about 55 or 60 years old. He fabricates the steel molds that we use to make filters. He's actually an auto-body man, and general auto-mechanic. Anyways, he was told by his landlord that he has to move his shop by the 15th of July. He found a new property but he doesn't have a truck to move his stuff. I had a free morning so I was able to help him out with a load. It was nice being able to bless someone. I know that I get to bless people all week with the water filters, but that's getting to be routine, so it was nice to do something different to be a blessing.
I never know if the correct word to use is "Anyway" or "Anyways" with an "s". I don't know my grammar very well, but probably neither of those is an example of optimum word choice.
How's this random thought thing working for you? Those of you with ADD are in blogger heaven, aren't you? My apologies to the rest of you.
Speaking of being a blessing; several months ago I was talking with a young man who was visiting from the States. He happened to be with me while Toti and I were delivering a couple of filters. He said something that struck me as stupid at the time, and upon further reflection I have decided that it was, in fact, astonishingly so. We were talking about my work with the water filters when he said something to the effect of "It's nice to do something nice for the poor sometimes." What? It's nice? What the heck was he talking about? It's not nice. It's our job. Not just my job. It's your job too. We were called to this. Serving the poor is not something we get to do every once in a while just to make ourselves feel better. What a joke. What have we come to? I don't want this to sound preachy, but we may as well be honest with one another.
Wow, that came out of nowhere. Sorry. I'll attempt to lighten things up. I love my wife. I think she's beautiful.
I became enraged yesterday when Toti informed me of some trouble in Maguindanao. Apparently some of our filters were held for ransom. Some of the men that Toti has trained to install the filters were delivering them to a village in need. During their hike, they were confronted by Muslim rebels. The rebels inquired about the filters and informed our new friends that if they wanted to continue on the path, they would have to pay a "Reform Tax". I must confess that when I heard about the incident I shouted some choice words. Toti says that the problem was resolved when the rebels learned that the filters were destined for their own village, and quite possible their own families. Stupid men. So greedy. Toti thinks that by keeping me out of Maguindanao he is protecting me from these rebels. I think the opposite might be true.
You've probably read on these pages about the Badjao, a tribe of seafaring gypsies that has settled in many large coastal cities around Mindanao and shifted their occupation from fishing to begging. There are some intersections in Davao where I dread to tread because I know that I will be accosted by these beggars. Sometimes I ignore the poor mothers and their children entirely as they invade my space and roughly poke me or pull on my clothing. Is that Christian? Not likely. Is it human? You bet. When I first arrived in this city, my heart broke with compassion for these people. Somewhere along the way I became hard hearted and just plain mean. I justify my lack of compassion with rational thoughts such as, "They don't want to change" or "They choose to live this way." Those things are probably true, but do they relieve me of my duty to give to the poor? I don't know. I like the way Bethany does it. She carries small healthy snacks in her purse, such as fruit leather or whole wheat crackers. Instead of giving pocket change to the beggars, she gives them food to eat. Maybe I should start carrying a purse.
I've had two more requests for relief for flood victims. One of them came from a group of islands that are on the opposite side of Mindanao. I'm in no position to help them. The other came from Maguindanao, the same province we have been working with in the wake of Typhoon Fensheng.
One more thing about the Badjao, just to demonstrate that I'm not a total jerk. Last week I was in a taxi coming home from work when we stopped at a red light. We were at an intersection that is populated by Badjao children who knock on car windows, waiting for a big score. Naturally a big white guy like me is an obvious target. Whenever one of them gets a glimpse of me they shout "Amerikano!" and everybody rushes to my location. This time was no different. I was doing my best to ignore them when the taxi driver rolled down his window and handed one of them a peso. As I sat their in all my self-centered glory I reflected upon the fact that his generosity made me look like a jerk. Not wanting to look like a jerk, I reached into my pocket to see what I could produce for the grubby little faces that were peering through my window. As soon as they realized that I wasn't as cold hearted as I had led them to believe, they took matters into their own hands. Actually, they took my money into their own hands. If you can believe it, one of them opened my unlocked door and reached in and took two coins from my hand before I had a chance to find one of appropriate value. I glanced down in time to see that he had taken 15 pesos from me (a considerable sum compared to the customary gift of one peso). I tried to scold him and told him to share it with his friend. Instead, the boy crowed and gloated as he showed the coins to his chum. When I realized that he wasn't going to share, I became grumpy. "Ha, I'll show him," I thought to myself. I reached into my wallet and produced a crisp 20 peso bill. I quickly pressed it into the second boy's hand. "That'll teach 'im" I muttered under my breath. Naturally, the commotion had attracted additional children and they were all beginning to crowd around the open door, some of them practically climbing into the taxi. They were no doubt wondering if the stupid white man would start handing out 50 peso bills. Mercifully, the light turned green and I had no choice but to forcefully push the remaining children away from the car. I quickly closed and locked the door while the taxi driver cursed at me in Visayan. I know, I'm an idiot. But it did make for an amusing anecdote.
I think I used the word "chum" in the preceding paragraph. Too much Hardy Boys for Timmybomb.
I wonder what's going to happen with the escalating situation between Iran and Israel. The world is a scary place these days.
Well, I'm getting dangerously close to talking about politics, so I'd better finish this up. Thanks for being my friend.