Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reflections on Asia

I'm home now! I was so tired after traveling, that last night I slept from 9:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. It was a fantastic trip. And to wrap up, here are some of my reflections on my time there:
  • Filipinos really like donuts. I therefore really like Filipinos.
  • The writers I work with do a difficult and grueling job.
  • If rich, lonely American men want to marry beautiful, willing Filipino women, maybe it's OK. We had many interesting conversations on this, as old white dudes with young beautiful Filipinos were quite a common sight. My feeling was that the men were taking advantage of women in a disadvantaged situation. The Filipinos gut reaction seemed to be that these poor lonely men were being taken advantage of by wily women. So maybe everyone's just getting what they want.
  • The culture in the Philippines feels the least foreign of any country I've traveled to other than England, due to America's occupation and the Westernization of the Philippines. The culture seemed so laid back and friendly and open. I really enjoyed the people. If I were a rich dude, I'd probably move here and marry a beautiful Filipino woman.
  • Koreans are as polite as they are reputed to be. "Kamsahamnida" (Korean for "thank you") keeps running through my head.
  • Seoul is the most all-round modern city I've ever been to. At the Compassion office there, you get in with your fingerprint. I suspect they are all actually CIA (or the Korean equivalent).
  • I love Korean food. It's like light Chinese food. I even liked kimchi.
  • Korean women don't eat enough Korean food. They apparently aren't just naturally skinny, but were all on diets while I was there. I ate my meals with them, and I think they ate 30 calories in a given day. They look great, but man, how depressing. I'll keep my extra 20 pounds. One of the women I spent most my time with was keenly aware of her extra weight and is considered fat in her culture. She's basically my size. That could get to me after awhile, so I'm glad to be back where I'm OK eating a donut occasionally.
  • Wherever I go, people are always wonderful. There are so many beautiful, interesting, and different places in the world. Traveling is like a drug; you just want more of it. But I'm happy to stay at home with my sweetheart for a good long while now... At least until September.
And as a last remembrance, here is a short video of the tide in the Philippines - I just love the sound.
video

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In a Palace, On a Tower, In a Teahouse

I just have one full day in Seoul, so I had to pack a lot in. Min-A picked me up at the hotel and we went to this palace...which was closed.
No matter; we went to a different palace instead. One called Changboekgong. Or something. We had to wait to get in, so we had some traditional Korean snacks while we waited. This is persimmon punch. So delicious; it tastes like cinnamon. And traditional Korean rice puff cookie thingys.

Then we toured the palace. Very beautiful. The tour was in Korean, so I amused myself with taking pictures of doors.

Next, we headed to the Korea office, where I met various staff. The building was hyper-modern. In fact, everything here is hyper modern. I've taken pictures of various toilets to prove it. It's like a super-cool, super-clean, super-modern city. Very futuristic. I went to lunch with 4 of the communications staff at a super-modern restaurant. Delicious food! I had shrimp and porcini risotto. I don't know how Korean that is, but it was good. Then I had this drink (below) grape-ade - it was seltzer water with grapes and a scoop of sherbet. Fabulous. Here's Hye-Ri and SunYoung.
Then back to the office for meetings. Here's the communications team. I didn't know how to pose cool Asian-style like them.
After our meetings, we headed up to Namsan Tower, or Seoul Tower. It's big - 400 something meters. It was very cloudy and rainy, but the clouds lifted just long enough for us to see the city. It's crazy huge and encircles the entire tower. There is skyscraper after skyscraper, but the park surrounding the tower is beautiful - full of cherry blossoms.
Here is me and MyungHoon, in front of the signs saying how far various cities are. I am 9,937 km from Denver.
After looking at the view, we had dinner at the restaurant on the tower, which overlooks the city. It was traditional Korean food, and oh my, it was so good! I really like Korean food. I had fried beef, which I could have eaten a bucket of. Hye-Ri got barbecued beef, which I could have eaten another bucket of. I tried kimchee and liked it, though I don't need a bucket of it. After dinner and touristing, Hye-Ri took me shopping in Insa-dong, a famous traditional shopping area. I loved all their papers and art and tea sets for sale and wanted everything. We stopped at a traditional tea house. It smelled incredible and was so homey and warm. I never think of Asian places being homey, but this was. I had quince tea and more of the rice puff cookie thingys.
On the way walking home to the hotel, we happened by a Buddhist temple, where they were singing the Life of Buddha and bowing before the statues.
This was a really beautiful day. What a beautiful place with beautiful traditions, and most importantly, delicious food. Tomorrow I will go to another meeting in the morning, then fly my way back home!

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Seoul

I made it. To Seoul that is. Traffic was so bad it took 2 hours to get to the hotel. There's a Starbuck's in this lobby and a "Life of Buddha" in the desk drawer.

I had dinner with 3 of the communication staff at Tony Roma's - they didn't want to scare me with Korean food on the first night. I learned why they always say not to eat difficult food like ribs on a first meeting. Because you might fumble a rib and drop it onto your hand, then have it bounce onto the table then onto your dress. You just might.

I'm exhausted now and going to sleep. Here's my view.

Annyheong!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In a Starbucks, On a Beach, In a KFC

Today, I went to the beach with Edwin, his wife Daisy and their new family of 3 children (more on that later), Wendy and her brother (Joel) and niece (Baya). We went to a private beach club that Joel belongs to, and generously let us visit.

We left at 7 for the 3-hour drive. We stopped at - where else? - Jollibee! I didn't want rice or a hot dog for breakfast like they had, so I got Starbucks across the street. When Baya saw me with the Starbucks in my hand, she said, "Do you have that in America too?" I said, "Yes." "Is it popular? Here, there's one on every corner." I've realized that the most Filipino thing I can do here is to eat at Starbucks and KFC and McDonald's and enjoy it. :)

To start off my beach slideshow extravaganza, here's a short video of the beach, so you can hear the surf. At the end you'll see Wendy and her niece.

video

Here is the approach to the pools at the club. Oh my goodness. It was stunning. There were about 6 pools all interconnected.
First thing, we got some drinks. I had a mango-buko shake. I'm moving here.
Then we went swimming. Edwin threw the kids around and I dodged jelly fish.
I took a walk with Wendy and Baya down the beach. It was hot. Here's Wendy calculating the Fahrenheit for me - 98 degrees. So hot that I burned the bottom of my feet on the sand and had a hard time walking.
Then we had a lunch buffet that ended with Halo Halo - Tagalog for "mix, mix." It's shave ice with other odd ingredients, like taro, corn, mung beans, coconut, and plantains, topped with sweetened condensed milk. That's my Haole Halo Halo below. I left out the corn and beans.
Then we went for a swim in the pools.
Edwin and Daisy took millions of pictures with his sweet camera.
Wendy napped.
But the highlight of the day for me was meeting this beautiful family. Edwin and Daisy had been trying for 13 years to have children, unsuccessfully. Then they decided to sponsor a little girl in the Philippines, Shan (in the back).
They met her and wrote her letters and loved her. But then their uncle offered to pay for Shan's school in Manila so she moved, and left the Compassion project. But after a short while, the uncle backed out, so they were in Manila with no help. At this point, Daisy and Edwin decided to take Shan and her family in - her mother and two siblings, Andre and Baya, and now they are family. These children who look like models and could have grown up in the slums with no opportunities now will have loving parents and a safe home.

They are all about the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The joy on Edwin and Daisy's faces - having children after going through so much pain - was wonderful. They are good and loving parents. The children call them mommy and daddy. It is a poignant story of how God provides - not always how we think he will or should - but in wonderful ways.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In a Jungle, On a Tricycle, In a Plane

Today, we took a tricycle ride. Doesn't that sound tame? This is a tricycle:

It's a motorcycle, pulling a little car that seats 2 Filipinos (or 1 American) in the front, 2 Filipinos in the back, and one on the back of the motorcycle. Here's a short video of our ride:

video

Rick somehow got stuck on the motorcycle. I got to ride in the front the way there, and the back on the way back. We took it up a hill into the jungle to visit a home. It could barely get up the hill with 2 of us Americans and 4 Filipinos on it! I guess I had too many fried hot dogs for breakfast (fried hot dogs are what Edwin cooks for his family for breakfast on Sundays. Yum.)

After this, we had lunch. And I had my first fresh mangoes! The Filipinos seem to have picked up our penchant for processed foods, so this was the first fresh mango I encountered (though I have had mango shakes and juice). Cebu Island is known for having the best mangoes in the world, and they were delicious. We had roast pork with the mangoes for lunch. (OK, the adults ate things other than this, like squid fried rice, but I just focused on what was important.)

We took the plane back to Manila tonight. Rick and I had mango shakes for dinner. Then I bought some preserved durian just to try. Have you heard of durian? It's notorious for being vile. It's illegal to have in some places because it smells so bad. It reminded me of a medicine I took when I was a child, but I can't put my finger on what. It also reminded me of vomiting. Now the taste is in my mouth and nothing will get rid of it. I'm eating dried mangoes, but they aren't helping yet. Blech! Edwin loves Durian, so I'll be bringing the extra to him and his family tomorrow.

As a treat, I thought you might like to see my non-motorized tricycle ride from Thursday on Lapu Lapu. Rick is sitting next to me in the "car," and Edwin is on the back.
video

And as an extra, extra treat, I thought you might want to see some photos from today. We were in the town of Talisay today, which was a beautiful tropical island setting. I loaded this pic, so my dear husband could see me, but I'm afraid I'm blocking the slum homes in the background.

Here is Rick "working." Actually, he walks away a lot from the interviews, most likely because there are breasts coming out right and left with no warning. At this particular visit, there were about 6 nursing mothers sitting around.

Here is one of the mothers who has been in the CSP for 3 months. When the baby was first registered, he didn't lift his head or do anything other than lie there. Now he can lift his head and move around, though he's still very malnourished. He's 1 year and 2 months old. I thought this was a mistake when I heard it first. He's the size of a very frail 6 month old.
Here's another little baby in the CSP, happily chubby. I think this is his father. So nice to see fathers. This one seemed very loving and attentive.
This little girl is also in the CSP. There is a home leaning against hers, because it has fallen onto it (the home of the malnourished baby). Then between the two homes is a treacherous drop off into the river/garbage heap. The older kids seem pretty adept at climbing around it, but it's scary with the babies.


I love to see all their sweet faces. There is so much need. It's very hard to mentally or emotionally even take in. I have no idea how Edwin does this week in and week out with such tender care and without hardening himself. But though the needs are staggering, there are stories of babies being helped and getting healthy and fathers committing to marry the mothers and families coming to know God. And that is worth it all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Under a Bridge, In a Refuge, In a Dunkin Donuts

Today we visited another CSP, within walking distance of our hotel. We interviewed three more mothers. These homes were more in the city center than those in Lapu Lapu, so they were much more oppressive. But this sweet little boy was still enjoying his cat, playing in the neighborhoods.
One of the homes we visited was under a bridge, where they've built up huge squatter communities like this. It's hard to breathe here.
The home we visited was smaller than Rick's walk-in closet, and about 8 people slept there - a mother whose husband (and provider for the family) died, their six children, and one of the daughter's husband. The heat was oppressive. It's hard to think or formulate sensical sentences in the conditions. The young mother of a newborn baby was stunning. Supermodel stunning. But there she was in a row of sheet metal homes over a smelly river strewn with trash, on an alley filled with injured dogs and disabled people and fighting cocks tied up outside the homes. (One of which bit Rick.)

We had Jollibee for lunch. Did I talk about this yet? We've gone a couple times. It's the Philippines McDonald's. Edwin said it's the best burger in the whole world. No comment. But it is fun, with a big jolly bee mascot, another mascot that looks suspiciously like the Hamburlgar, and cheap food.

After we finished all the interviews, we went to the church in Lorega, notorious for its red-light district, drug dealers, and homes built in the cemetery, where children play on top of sarcophagi, like park benches. We didn't actually visit the community, but only the church and project. It was amazing. A real refuge. One of the girls in this photo lost her mother in childbirth. The father was trafficking children, so now he's in jail. Relatives take care of the girl, but treat her poorly. Another of these girl's mother is a prostitute. These girls grow up surrounded by drug dealers, prostitution, alcoholism, child trafficking. But in the project, they have a safe place to play and people who tell them that there is another way, that they matter and that God loves them.
At night, we went to the mall for dinner. The mall was crazy. Super opulent--nicer than any mall in Colorado by far. Rick and Edwin "cleansed their palace" as Rick says it, with Dunkin Donuts, which are ubiquitous here. I cleansed my palace with delicious passionfruit and coconut gelato. I love tropical fruits and foods. For dinner, we went to "Banana Leaf," where your plate is a banana leaf. I got a "fresh buko" for my drink (coconut) and Edwin got lemongrass with honey, which was delicious. There was no Filipino food at the mall, only other Asian foods. Filipinos love to experience (or as Edwin would say, "copy") other cultures. I can appreciate that. (Edwin had wanted to take me to a Filipino fried-chicken-head place for dinner, so copycat banana leaf was just fine with me.)
Now I'm so tired that my eyelids are dragging on the floor. Off to try to sleep in a 90 degree bed! (We're roughing it in $15 a night rooms, so they aren't air conditioned except when you go to your room at night - but only once you've put the key in the slot. My key is still with me here in the lobby, so it's still about 90 in the room!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In a Jeepney, in a Ferry, in a Taxi

Today, we got to experience a jeepney firsthand. Usually, they don't have us foreigners take the local mode of transport, but I asked Edwin to give us the "echte" experience (Dutch for real/authentic). We took three of these to get to our first location, the island of Lapu Lapu. The jeepneys actually aren't scary at all, but a nice way of getting a breeze on a hot day.


Then we interviewed three mothers at their homes with their babies.



Then we ate a big seafood lunch on the pier. I ate a big crab pincher (once I figured out how to get the meat out with my bare hands) and some fish (with its mouth gaping open at me), but I declined the big squiggly squid and the shrimp staring at me with big black eyeballs and the mussels and the clams. My small meals have been OK, as I'm too busy fainting of heat stroke to really be hungry. (Yesterday, they tried to feed me pigs blood soup, which I also politely declined.)


Then we ran into a dress rehearsal for the holiday celebrating of the killing of Magellan. Lapu Lapu is named after the great hero who killed Magellan. They were staging a huge reenactment of the battle on the beach, which we watched while children greeted me with, "Give me money!" (I think this is Filipino for "hello." At least that's how the kids keep greeting me.) Here is me in the obligatory white person standing next to some tribal looking thing picture.


Last we took a ferry ride back to Cebu. This is the official Filipino hand sign. I enjoyed the posters of politicians making this sign with their right hand, smiling big. (Looks like the "Loser" sign.)


I took pictures on the ferry after saying my prayers and instead of remembering the many news reports I've read about hundreds of people dying in ferry sinkings in the Philippines. (I was already worried before getting on the ferry, then Edwin asked me, "Can you swim?" and I knew my fears were founded.) But God decided to let me live another day.

On the ferry and in the jeepneys and in the taxis and in the lobbies, they are always playing American pop music from the 80s and 90s. We've enjoyed the musical sounds of the Cure, Wham, The Carpenters, Michael Bolton and many more.

Now it's late, and I'm hot, tired, sticky, and icky. It's still 88 degrees at about 10. My room is, however, approximately 98 degrees. Magadang Gabi!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In a Starbucks

I am now in the far, faraway city of Manila, 14 hours ahead of my home and 10,000 miles away. And what am I doing? Eating fried rice from a roadway food stand? Riding a jeepney? Patting a water buffalo? No, I'm sitting in Starbucks, where the barista is singing, "Amber is the color of your energy" to me. Welcome to globalization.

Last night my flight got in at midnight, and it was 85 degrees. Erk. Luckily, Rick (my coworker who lives in China) was waiting for me, so I didn't have to figure out the whole driving thing. On the deembarkation forms I had to fill out, it had several warnings about child sex tourism and trafficking. Sobering. Got to my hotel room at 1:30 am and slept like one can sleep who has been up 28 hours.

Did I mention it's hot? And humid? My plug adaptors seem to be the wrong kind, and I tried just plugging my hairdryer right into the wall, which was met with sparks and smoke. What this means is that my hair is going to look like an 80s hair band. Really. Tara, you understand.

So far, the Filipino people are so welcoming. The Filipino culture seems much more Americanized to me (due to our occupation), and of all the offices I work with (26), I have the least miscommunication with them. It seems to me, based on my limited experience, like Hawaii. Men wearing tropical shirts, palm trees, ridiculous humidity, and an accent that sounds very Hawaiian to me.

Today I will go into our country office here and do the meet and greet thing. Then lunch. Then fly to Cebu. I found out I will be visiting the community of Lorega while here. Mike, this is the community I told you about where they live in the cemetery. Rick says it's about the worst place he's ever been. (I'll be safe, mom.) But so far, where I've been in Manila looks the most modern of any city in the developing world I've been to, except for Bangalore (the "Silicon Valley" of India), which doesn't really count.

My computer is now out of power, so I'll hopefully be able to steal Rick's power and recharge at some point!

In Another Airport, or "Man, These Chicks Are Skinny"

Now I sit waiting in the Seoul airport. And did I mention it's 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, but I never went to bed yesterday? In fact, right now marks my 24-hour mark for being up. Read this post in that light.

Korean culture has endeared me already. They are famous for being polite, and to start off the politeness, the woman sitting two seats away from me leaned over at the beginning of the flight and offered me some of her peanut butter pretzels. I was then afraid to eat any of my own snacks, not sure if I was expected to share with the row.

International flights rock - that is non-American based flights. They seem to be constantly giving you orange juice and guava juice and tea and hot towels. I like. And the movies. Man, at least 20 movies to choose from and all good ones. I watched the Blindside, got bored with Avatar, started Whip It and watched It's Complicated. I was in stimulation overdrive. I was so tempted to stay awake the whole 13 hours to watch all the good movies, but I did manage to squeeze some sleep in.

For my first meal on the plane, I got a Korean bowl. It was delicious, and came with instructions for whiteys like me. It was a bowl with spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts and some other unidentifiable vegetables in it. Then there was a tube of chili paste and a pouch of sesame seed oil that you mixed in and add rice. It was delicious! Not so much the seaweed soup though. I left that.

Everyone in Korea is a celebrity (take it from the Onion) and so I got a real kick out of the mob of newspeople with cameras and video cameras waiting outside our flight. Some old guy came out, and they mobbed him, when I was right behind him, clicking pictures and shouting questions. So I'm pretty sure I'll be on the Korean news tonight.

This airport is stinking nice. There are several "Traditional Korean Cultural Experience Zones" where Australians are trying their hands at traditional Korean painting. And Koreans drinking delicious looking fruit juices. And millions of tiny ladies in skinny jeans. These women are so small. I feel like putting out my arms and stomping towards them like Godzilla. But maybe that's the lack of sleep talking.

Well, I suppose I'll go wander around for several more hours now...Today, tonight, tomorrow, whatever, I'll arrive at Manilla and go straight to the hotel for some sleep.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In an Airport

Dum de dum de dum. Waiting. Waiting.

I'm in LAX right now, waiting for my flight to Korea. I got up this morning at 3:45 a.m. after a very restless night (I was trying to bring bushes into Seoul all night, and worrying they wouldn't get planted properly.) I flew from Colorado Springs to LA and now have a 4 hour layover.

It's good I had that long, as it took me about 1 hour to find my gate! Several people misdirected me; I can't imagine how hard of a time I'd have if I didn't speak English. There were no labeled signs, and there is apparently a separate terminal for the Asian/South Pacific flights. But now I'm here.

The Korean Air staff who checked me in were by far the prettiest and friendliest I've seen. (Well, Dutch stewardesses are perhaps prettier, but not friendlier.) They had very fun futuristic looking uniforms with bows that looked like chopsticks. I get a kick out of the small things.

My next flight will be 13 hours long. As Mike puts it, he doesn't even like to be awake that long in any given day. I'm interested to see what lunch and dinner on a Korean flight are like. After this killer flight, I have a 2-hour layover in Seoul, then another 4 hour flight to Manilla. I'll get in Manilla at 11 pm.

Manila is 14 hours ahead, so I will have been traveling about 28 hours. Yay! Well, there's not much to say. I'm just sitting here. Sitting. Sitting.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dandelion Park


I've been brainstorming away at home names and come up with some I like, such as The Fox Burrow or Aspen Hill House or Lilac Corner. But it's hard to find a name, as Mike has called many of my ideas, and I quote, "put-on," "poser-ish," "inaccurate," and "a name for a maiden aunt's house."

After a stint of weeding this afternoon, I'm afraid the most apt name would be "Dandelion Park." We have dandelions coming out of our foxholes.

But Mike and I visited several garden centers and the xeriscape demonstration garden today, and I am all atwitter with ideas. The second garden center, Colorado Tree Farm Nursery, has won us as lifelong customers. 98% of the plants they sell are Colorado grown, and they focus on hardy, low water plants that grow well here. (No more ladies from Alabama trying to sell me magnolias.) It's the family-owned business that sold us our Christmas tree, and they just seem so homey (they even invited us to a BBQ on Friday).

I discovered a bush there, called the Buffaloberry Bush. Isn't that a delicious name? It marries Colorado (buffalo) with cute (berry). Whether or not I like the plant (which I can't tell, as they're not leafing yet), I've decided to plant them all over our yard and make jams and pies from their berries and call our home "Buffaloberry Ranch." Mike can't say this is too girly, because buffalo are very manly. And ranches, they're manly too. (Though our home isn't a ranch, cattle do graze on the land behind our home.)

The nursery also sold so many varieties of lilacs and fruit trees, that I want to buy 27 right now. I foresee my fence with a long row of flowering lilacs along it. And a small orchard bearing Montmorency cherries and Royal Plums and Reliance Peaches. (Though "Reliance" is just about the least romantic name for a peach.) I have faith my orchard can grow in this forsaken montane land, and my new friend at the nursery has bolstered my hope.

Now comes the hard part of choosing what to do where in our yard when. I don't like doing things in moderation. And as it turns out, trees are not free. But Mike is. Next time you see him, his hands are going to be cracked and bleeding with the blood of buffalo berries and royal plums and sour pie cherries.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ingleside and Netherfield and...

Last night I was reading Anne of Ingleside, and dreamy Anne was talking about how she chose to name her home "Ingleside." Then on our drive home from Redbox tonight, Mike said, "Here we are at the little blue house," and it struck me, we must name our house!

Naming your home is horribly pretentious, but I like pretension. All of my heroines lived in named homes, like Thornfield or Netherfield. Of course, those were grand English manors, and I live in a cookie-cutter suburbanite home with neighbors 7 feet away in all directions. But wouldn't this world be a sad place to live in if only rich British cats had named homes? And most of all, I feel that Liz, if no one else, would approve.

So now, please help me to name my home. I have no idea where to start, but let's brainstorm. Mike's first suggestion is, "Netherparts." Hmm...Let's keep trying.

Here are some features of our area to keep in mind while you suggest names:
  • We have a lot of fox, deer, bunnies, and some black bear and mountain lions.
  • We have approximately one billion magpies.
  • For trees/bushes, we have scrub oaks, mountain mahogany, aspens, ponderosa pines, junipers, evergreens, firs, and some crab apples.
  • For bushes, our neighbors have lilacs, and I want to plant dozens of lilac bushes.
  • We don't have any water features, other than a rocky ditch thingy.
  • For flowers, there are lots of wildflowers in the forest up the hill from us--wild iris, daisies, columbine, lupine, Indian paintbrush, and many yuccas.
  • We live at the foot of a red rock quarry, nuzzled at the base of a mountain and forest.
  • Our house is blue.
  • We live close to Ute Valley Park.
  • This area used to be a sanitarium for TB patients. (So maybe, like, "Consumption Glen.")
  • We live on "Hanovertown Dr." (So Bryan suggests, Hangovertown.)
OK, now help! If I pick your idea, I'll give you something incredible.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Outside My Window

I've grown to like doing this "Outside My Window" thing. Sometimes I feel as though I can only do it if my day consists of something deliciously domestic and poetic. But such is not everyday life. So I am choosing to find poetry in a cubicle. (Oh, I like that! I think I'll entitle a book that. No one steal it.)

Outside my window: A clear blue day, stretching from Monument to Cheyenne Mountain. One thing I can find poetry in is the audacious view from my cubicle. I feel very like the weatherman watching the daily mutations of the clouds above the Air Force Academy.

I am thinking: A mile a minute, of to-do lists and emails I forgot to send. Boring, but true. But I'm also wondering why I've been seeing larger herds of deer lately. Rather than the 4 to 6, I've been seeing groups of about 15 deer by the road. Anyone know why?

I am thankful for: My husband, who can wrinkle his nose like a bunny.

From the kitchen: Oh my, my eating hasn't been poetic. Yesterday, I saw a friend walking down the hall with half a sandwich, and asked, "Are you gonna eat that?" It was my meal of the day. But tonight, I'm going to happy hour with friends and fully intend to take advantage of the free piece of ice cream pizza at Maggie Moos for tax day.

I am wearing: A lime green necklace my new coworker brought me home from Peru. (With a maroon dress that makes it pop, and a cropped jean jacket that I'm afraid is horribly out of style by now.)

I am reading: I'm more stalling than reading. I have a stack of 15 books on my dresser and am having a hard time deciding which to delve into.

I am hoping: I don't get abducted by crazies on my way to the Philippines. My Korean coworkers don't think I'm dumb. I decide to convert the right amount of cash so I don't run out in the Philippines. Hey, I'm a worrier.

I am hearing: Patrick and Sathy discussing how to automate quarterly data calculations. Can one possibly find poetry in that? Yes! It's them and not me! Mwa ha ha ha.

I am creating: Mock-up magazine pages with the stories I gather from the field to give to the Korea communications team.

Around the house: Mike is staining baseboard trim to adorn the bottom of the kitchen island. Last night, we finished digging up the pink rocks from the base of every tree and replaced it with mulch. Big sigh of relief.

One of my favorite things: That my coworker in Peru sent me espresso, which I am currently savoring. A constant influx of caffeine form remote places is a perk of my job.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Get a cavity filled, buy gifts for Korean coworkers, decide what to pack (no matter how much I travel, I obsess over this), go for a long bike ride if the rain will hold out long enough, hug Mike a lot, finish a gabillion work projects before leaving.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you. Since I showed you the beach I will be going to one day, I thought it would only be fair to show pictures of where I will be the other days. These are homes of young mothers in Cebu, taken by Edwin. This is what I'll be doing with him--interviewing and photographing mothers and babies in Cebu.

A mother cradling her newborn baby in her home in Cebu.

Some typical homes built on stilts over waterways. One must cross from home to home over these rubbish-choked waterways on precarious planks perched between buildings.

This is her home, where she cares for her new baby. All my mommy friends - appreciate your baby bouncers and strollers and carpeted floors and onesies!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Walk to Beautiful

We just watched this beautiful show for our devotions at work this morning. It's 53 minutes, but I recommend it. You can watch it on YouTube or on PBS (the video below is cutting off the side of the movie. Another reminder of the need for advocacy for women worldwide and the education of women!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Turning Back

Well, I paid the $95 to do the Courage Classic, so now there is no turning back. It's July 31 to August 2nd.

And, look, I even have my own page: www.couragetours.com/2010/ambervan. Cool, huh? Do you want to give lots of money to Children's Hospital in my name because you're so inspired by my foolhardy bravery? If so, you can do so at that link. I think I have to raise $300.

I'm on "Team Compassion," which now consists of me and 3 intimidating male exec types. Here's hoping more women will commit. (Any takers?)

The ride itself is 157 miles, 3 days in Leadville and Summit County. Day 1: 58 miles, 3985 feet elevation gain. Eek. Day 2: 54 miles, 2230 feet elevation gain. Urk. Day 3: 45 miles, 3985 feet elevation gain. Ugh.

Although I just discovered that on day 2 you can opt to do a "family ride" of just 35 miles, making the total 138 miles. I might do that in the interest of not dying. ("Family ride?" Hah! I never biked no 35 miles with my family.)

So now I'm very excited, if scared, to start my summer training!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend Update

Since Mike and I bought a house, we've been more yuppy lawn-mowers than the tough weekend adventurers we truly are, but this weekend we got back into our groove. (OK, Friday night we did spend on the yard, but we've always done lame stuff on Friday nights, and we rid one more patch of our back yard of the hideous pink rocks ubiquitous to our landscaping.)

This weekend was a warm weekend. I love the sun, and I have a flip-flop necklace-shaped tanline to prove it. Mike's parents came down from Sterling. For lunch we introduced them to Mollica's and their delicious coconut macaroons. Then we decided to leave the sunny warmth for the tundra, and drove to the top of Pike's Peak. But thanks to several feet of snow and avalanche danger, we couldn't go the whole way. At some point, we really need to drive up there when there isn't an imminent weather disaster waiting for us. It was 19 degrees on the top. Brr. Then we found a little foxy who seemed oddly friendly, until we found his pile of foxy-food the Glen Cove storekeeper puts out for "Gilbert."

Mike then bonded with an oddly friendly bear.
After Pikes, we drove down to Manitou. Did I mention I was trying to eat healthy this weekend? After my muffaletta (of all things) at Mollica's, I knew I needed to be "good" the rest of the day, so we made for the candy shops and custard store in Manitou. There's nothing to make you feel more like a kid than a candy shop in a tourist town on the first really warm day of the year.

Mike's parents sadly don't have 3D theaters in Sterling, so we were forced to see How to Train Your Dragon for the second time. It was just as good as we remembered it, and I cried three times. A truly good movie. Famished after such hard work and two hours since custard, we headed to Marigold's, for some of their fabulous bread and soup.

Mike's parents had to leave after church today, so I convinced Mike to head for even warmer climes. We drove down to Canon City and went hiking at Red Canyon Park. It was like a wetter Moab, with huge red-rock slabs. We didn't quite know where we were going, so we hoofed it straight up, over cactus, through arroyos, and up cliffs.
Then we heard loud talking below us and discovered the incredibly obvious and incredibly wide walking trail that the normal people take. But we had gotten ourselves stuck on top of the rock, with 60-foot-cliffs on all sides and no way down. Fearless Mike trailblazed our way to a steep crack in the rock that we shimmied down on our butts. It was very impressive, you should have seen us. (Here is the actual trail.)After several hours of hiking in the glorious sun, we headed back down to town. On the way, we took a short hiking trail to one of the more productive dinosaur quarries in the country. After such hard work, we rewarded ourselves with "Ooey Gooey Caramel Brownie" Blizzards at our now obligatory DQ stop in Canon City.

We drove home into the sunset as I read "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" to Mike. The end.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Last-Minute Prayer Plea


As you may know, Mike and I are trying to open the tastiest gelato and ice cream shop in town. (If this is news to you, you can read more here.)

Mike has done an incredible job raising funds...but we're still about a quarter away from the total amount we need.

The real estate developers of the new University Village, where the retail store will be located (where the new Lowes and Kohls are), have been incredible to us. They have really bought into the vision of having a local shop that can be a gathering place for the community. The owner wants to have apple festivals there in the fall, and in the winter, he wants the pavilion of our shop to be where he puts the huge Christmas tree, while we serve hot cocoa and peppermint ice cream. Can't you just picture it?

They've been so supportive, they've kicked in an unheard of amount to finish the space. Knowing that we are still short, big wigs that they are, they're going to talk to their various big wig cronies at the banks to see if they can't convince them to give us an equipment or small business loan.

Therein lies the prayer request. Would you pray some smart bank out there would realize what a fabulous opportunity this is?

While we're on the topic, if you are interested in becoming an investor in the best ice cream and gelato business in town, with great growth potential, let us know! :)

Gimme Ideas!

I'm going to be going on a long plane adventure in a little more than a week, so please tell me: What should I read? I need good ideas to weather the 13-hour plane ride and day and a half of travel. I have kind of eclectic tastes. I don't like most popular fiction, but I love history or comedy or adolescent lit that isn't filthy or just plain vapid. Ideas?

OK, next question, I need to figure out gifts for my coworkers in Korea. Here's the rub: I don't know with whom I'm meeting (how many people), I don't know their ages or their gender. (Unless one can tell me how to figure this out with Korean names, which at this point in my ignorance all sound pretty much interchangeable.) It has to fit in my suitcase for about 10 people! (And this isn't counting the gifts for my coworkers in the Philippines, but I already have theirs.) This will be tricky considering I usually have 10 pounds of shoes in my suitcase.