Friday, November 9, 2007

Virginia Gold Cup

My old roommate Shelley's boss invited us to attend the Virginia Gold Cup horse races a few weeks ago. He rented a private tent and catered the event. I know what you're thinking, "snotty, snotty". Well we kind of were. It was certainly fun to mix and mingle at the races. It was a beautiful fall day in Virginia, honestly those days are hard to beat! The colors of the trees are gorgeous and the air is just a little crisp. I love being in Virginia in the fall, especially when I get to go to such fancy pants events. Thanks for inviting all of us Shelley.

Boyz II Men

Ok so it's been way too long since I've blogged last. I can't believe that I haven't told you about the best night of my life! SO..... a few weeks ago my roommate got the brilliant idea to go to a Boyz II Men concert. Yes, the Boyz II Men that rocked our world in the early 90's. They were better than I remembered. They sang all the great songs we used to love and still remember every word to. I have to say, I think their dance moves have gotten better with time. They were such great entertainers and amazing singers. There's nothing like an old, familiar song to make you happy.

Friday, October 5, 2007


I don't think I've really talked about my roommates yet, so I thought I'd fill you in. My roommate Sarah and I have been friends for a little while now. We met at BYU, she was good friends with my cousin Brooke. She's from L.A. and is out here going to school to become an even planner. She's so cute, fun, and the tall, beautiful blonde type. Kate Fujikawa is my other roommate and she is actually from San Diego. We were in the same stake, but didn't really know each other. She's so funny and has the greatest laugh ever. She works in a law office here and is preparing to take the lsat herself. Katie McKinney is our other roommate and she is darling. She's from Alabama and recently moved here to work as an instructor at the Paul Mitchell Hair School. Some of our good guy friends recommended that we try to live together and I' m so glad they did. She's got that southern accent and hospitality that I love.
So basically I am really lucky to have such great roommates. I can tell fun times are coming! Here are some pictures of us (minus Katie) at Kate's B-day celebration at the Love Cafe.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Don't ever hesitate!

So the other day I was riding the metro and I was just minding my own business, when I kept getting this feeling to give the Book of Mormon I was reading to the guy sitting next to me. I took a few minutes to think about what I would say and to get my nerve up. Well as I was doing this the man next to me starts to get up. I panicked because I knew I needed to give him this book. So I said, "Have you read this book before?". He said no and I quickly asked him if he would like to. He said yes with a big smile as I handed him the book. He got off the train seconds later. Whew! I almost missed my chance because I hesitated. Since this experience I can't stop thinking about what things I've missed because I've hesitated. I certainly could have given him a better introduction to the Book of Mormon and even helped him feel the Spirit. I'm sure I've missed many other opportunities to share what I believe because I have hesitated. What friends or guys have I passed up? What new experiences or adventures did I hesitate on that could have been great? How much money have I lost on plane tickets because I was worried and so I procrastinated? (Thanksgiving)

It's something to think about: what have I missed because I've hesitated? Well I submit that we just don't hesitate. We should jump at opportunities to open our mouths, experience new adventures and learn new things. I'm in if you're in!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Hello everyone! Sorry I told you I would not be very good at keeping up on this blog. Life is good though and I thought I should let you know. I found a place to live! Yahoo! I am living with 3 other darling girls in a cute duplex. I live about two blocks from where I used to live. It's such a great location. We are two blocks from the metro, 1 block from the mall, great restaurants, etc. And I finally have my own room! Yes, I have officially upgraded to a big girl room, I even got a big girl bed (no more twins for me!). There is a darling yard and plenty of space on the main floor with a kitchen, dining room, family room, and sun room. It's so nice not to be homeless anymore.

Speaking of being a big girl.... I bought a car. Yep, a 2000 silver Honda CRV. It was a great deal and in great condition. So now I'm a car owner. No more depending on everyone else, riding the metro everywhere, struggling to carry my groceries home, etc. It's a great feeling.

My job is going well also. I am starting to pick up more and more responsibility and learning a lot. I am healthy and happy. So what else can you ask for? I hope all of you are doing well also. I will add pictures of my house and car soon.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Being Home

So being back from the Philippines has been different than I expected. I returned a few weeks ago and still am totally out of it. I spent the first week and a half just trying to catch up on my sleep and convert my time clock to the proper time. I spent a lot of time searching for jobs and housing (I’m trying to be grown up). I just feel so far removed from my life here in DC. I don’t have a place to live, I don’t see the same friends, etc. I just feel different and my perspective is different. I wish that I could explain it better, but I just can’t.

Last week I went to California to visit my family and just relax. It was so great! I spent almost a week at a cabin in Lake Tahoe. It is such a beautiful place and I have so many great childhood memories there. I met my cousins and my parents there. It was so fun to water ski, swim, play tennis, go on bike rides, etc. I just love it there and I love being able to be with my family even more.
I even got to spent a couple days with my sister and play with my nieces a little. I sure missed them!
While I was at Lake Tahoe I actually got a job offer and I accepted. I am working for JBS International. We run the Child Welfare reviews in each state for the Federal Government. It will be great to be a part of conducting and analyzing the reviews. I will also gain a great perspective of how the Child Welfare System is working on so many different levels. I feel very lucky to have gotten a job so quickly. I'm actually still a little shocked at how quickly it all occurred, I thought I would be interviewing for weeks and weeks.

So even though I don't have as many exciting things to report, I will do my best to keep you all updated on my life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Goodbye Philippines

Jeanette and I took our final trip of the Philippines to Boracay. It is a small island with beautiful beaches. We spent the entire time laying out on the beach, drinking mango shakes, reading, and sleeping. It was a great relaxing time! Honestly it was so nice just to be able to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. I love those kinds of vacations.

It is sad to say but my time in the Philippines has ended. I arrived in the States just a few days ago. I am still working on trying to catch up on my sleep and adjust to life. There is much to do in order to find a job and a place to live. I had a great time in the Philippines; I experienced and learned so much there. I hope to never forget those lessons and amazing memories I shared there. Thanks to all who made it possible and for all of those that made it fun while I was there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I'm off again

I know I just returned from Thailand, but I am off again for another trip. We are headed to the island of Boracay for some R & R on the beach. I will be gone for about 5 days. Take care while I'm gone. I'll be thinking about you while laying on the beach sipping on my mango shake.


You must beware that this could possibly be the longest blog entry you have ever seen in your life. I am going to attempt to capture the last four AMAZING days I spent in Thailand. I have added more pictures to “My Pictures” as well for you to see. Perhaps they will do better justice portraying the beauty of what I saw.

Day 1:
We arrived at 3:00 in the morning to Bangkok. We had hired someone associated with our hotel to pick us up so we didn’t have to worry about anything at that hour. Well he pulls over on a street in the middle of Bangkok and says I can’t go any farther, but your hotel is that way. Ahh! So we walked aimlessly through dark alleys and past drunk people up and down the streets until we finally found our hotel. I kept thinking to myself, “what I am I doing?” It certainly was scary at the time, but funny now that I think about it. We stayed in a hotel on Khao San Road which is known as Backpacker Road. There are tons of foreigners that stay on that road when in Bangkok. It was amazing to me how many people were still out and about at 3:00 in the morning. We took a few hours of sleep and then headed off for some adventures. We took a two hour train ride out to Ayuthaya which is the ancient capital city of Thailand. Our train ride was fun. The man next to Jeanette kept talking to her and laughing, thinking she knew what he was saying. We were all cracking up because we had no idea what he was saying to her in Thai. Ayuthaya is really beautiful. There are old Buddhist Temples and Chedi’s (pointy pillar-like structures) all over. It was really neat to see the worn down architecture and the different representations of Buddha. We even got to ride elephants. Yep! We road huge elephants through the ancient capital city of Thailand, no big deal. Just kidding, it was a big deal, it was so cool. Unfortunately they have turned everything into tourist sites, so it’s not as exotic as it sounds, but still pretty cool. Then we ate a great Thai meal on a floating restaurant on the river before returning back to Bangkok. So in Thailand a popular mode of transportation is the Tuk Tuk. They are basically three wheelers that have been converted into little truck-like things. They target tourists around and of course tourists love them because they are cheap and fun. The catch is the tuk tuk driver will take you wherever you want to go, if you will go to a store and look around so they get a gas voucher. The local gem stores, clothing factories, and handicraft shops offer Tuk Tuk drivers vouchers if they bring tourists in to their stores. It’s a clever strategy, but kind of funny. That’s not the only funny things about Tuk Tuks, they tend to drive out of control. They drive so fast, dodging cars, and driving on the opposite side of the road when there is too much traffic. It’s really fun/funny! Every time we road one during our stay in Bangkok I just cracked up the whole time. Well our Tuk Tuk driver this night was by far the best. He paid no attention to the traffic signals, other cars, etc. Every time we were stopped and the light changed he popped a wheelie because he was taking off so fast. Oh man, it was too funny! You gotta love the Tuk Tuks. Day 2:
We woke up early and headed out of Bangkok to the famous floating market. There is the cutest little town with water canals instead of roads. On several of the canals there is what is called the floating market. Boats with various food items, clothing, etc travel up and down the canal selling their items to other boats passing by. It is really neat to see all the vendors passing up and down the canal. I had the most amazing coconut pancakes off one of the boats, oh man they were good. Later that day we went to the weekend market in Bangkok. It was so cool to see all the different vendors with the Thai souvenirs and beautiful handicrafts. This market is enormous, it is said that if you were to walk 8 hours a day for two months straight you would still not make it through the entire market. Yeah, it’s that big! I bought lots of cool Thai silk pillow cases and other fun stuff. I may have gone a little overboard on the purchases, but oh well.
That night we went to dinner and did lots of people watching. It really is so interesting watching all the people interact with each other and the hustle and bustle of the food and clothing vendors lining the streets. I also bought my first personally tailored, handmade suit. Yep, I’ve officially grown up! You can get business suits made really cheap in Thailand and since I will be looking for a job, I decided it to take advantage of it. I really struggled deciding though, I guess I just wasn’t ready to make such a grown up purchase, but I did, and it’s a beautiful suit.

Day 3:
This day was one of our Temple days. There are over 440 Buddhist temples in Bangkok. All of which are decorated with such beautiful, extravagant details. It really is indescribable how ornate these buildings are. It was a Buddhist holiday and so there were many people at the various temples worshiping. I’m not sure of the symbolism of all of it, but people were praying at the feet of Buddha, lighting candles and incense, laying flowers and leis on various statues and figures, placing coins in special buckets, and donating items to the monks.

We saw the Standing Buddha (which is huge), the Lucky Buddha (which was one of my favorites, this is where many people go to get married) and then we went to the Marble Temple which houses the Black Buddha. There were about 30 different representations and poses of the Black Buddha surrounding this temple.
Then we went to the Golden Mountain. It too is a place of worship, built in the shape of a mountain that overlooks the city of Bangkok. We spent the evening at the night Bazaar in the city. I can’t even adequately explain the good food of Thailand available. I was in complete heaven smelling and tasting everything, especially the Kiwi shakes. This bazaar seemed to be more of a trendy market, there were local designers and artists selling the most beautiful clothing and art work. I may have spent a little too much here too.
Day 4:
We started off our day going to the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an American that helped to revive the silk industry in Thailand years ago. He is famous for his work in Thailand and all over the world now. His home was a beautiful traditional Thai home with amazing Asian art throughout.
We then went to the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. The Wat Phra Kaew is the largest and most ornate temple we saw by far. There were several different buildings and statues throughout the grounds of the temple. Inside the temple there is the famous Emerald Buddha; which isn’t really made of Emerald, but of Jade. Anyway this where many important religious ceremonies and events occur. It is also the temple where the King and his family go for worship. The Grand Palace is on the same grounds and was the residence of the royal family. One thing I really loved about Thailand is how proud the people seem to be of their country and especially their king.
The last temple we saw was the Wat Pho which houses the Reclining Buddha. The Reclining Buddha is absolutely huge and made of gold. You can’t really comprehend how beautiful these temples and various Buddhas are until you see them in person. Every inch of the temple walls were covered in gorgeous murals. As we were walking around the grounds we saw many of the monks heading for the temples. You see this night marks the end of the Buddhist holiday and the monks head into the temples to stay for three months of fasting and meditation. They do not leave the temples and only eat once a day for three months. It was very humbling to see these dedicated men seeking enlightenment head into the temples.
That concludes my amazing trip to Thailand. I saw so many different things while I was there, all of which I cannot describe in this blog. The colors, the feelings, and the smells cannot possibly be captured.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thailand here I come!

It's official, today was our last day in the office. I have completed my work with CFSI. So to celebrate, I'm off to Thailand tomorrow. I won't have access to the internet for a few days, so I'm sorry but you will have to wait a little longer than usual to read my updates. Take care.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Top 10 things I'll miss from the Philippines

Since mine time here is winding down I thought I would reflect on the top 10 things I will miss. (These are in no particular order.)

1. Hearing the giggles of men and women alike.
2. The mangoes.
3. The beautiful beaches.
4. The kindness of the people. Often if we are looking for something or lost, instead of just telling
us where to go, they walk us there themselves. Everyone says hello and are very hospitable.
5. The prices of everything. You are able to purchase things very cheap here, it's great.
6. Of course I am going to miss my friend Kate. It has been so good to be able to spend time
with her, be taught about Filipino culture by her, and reminisce on old times. I have met so
many other great people here also, all of which I am grateful for and will miss.
7. I will miss having someone to clean our apartment, make our beds, and do our laundry. Yes,
our apartment provides those amenities. It has been fabulous.
8. I will miss the locals on the street that say hello to us every morning as we go to work.

9. The hard work ethic of so many Filipinos that I have met will be something that I will always admire and miss having that reminder around me.
10. I will miss the smiles of the people. There smiles are so beautiful and seem so genuine and unrestrained. No matter where we go or how difficult the lives of these people are, they are always smiling. They always have time to find the good things in life and laugh aboutthe other stuff. I hope their example sticks with me forever.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

tastes of the philippines

Those of you that really know me, know that I love food. It seems to bring joy and happiness to my heart and always has. So today I thought I would give a little shout out to my favorite tastes of the Philippines.
  • Mango Shakes- there is not much better than fresh mangoes blended into an icy delight.
  • Pancit- Its a small noodle dish with lots of veggies, soy sauce and pepper. It's just really good and a very popular Filipino dish. I learned how to make it too; this way I can treat myself whenever I want.
  • Pan de Coco- It's a roll with lots of coconut milk and coconut inside. The style is very similar to a cinnamon roll. I can't even tell you how good these are! I had to limit myself to one per week otherwise I would go crazy and eat them constantly.
  • Calamansi- it's a citrus fruit. It kind of tastes like a mix of limes and tangerines. It is so good! They use it in everything and I couldn't be happier about it. I use it on Pancit, in drinks, on pancakes, on rice, etc. They also make calamansi juice and calamansi soda which I am a big fan of also.
  • Philippine Peanut Butter- the peanut butter here is scrumptious. It is homemade and just really good. I don't know how else to describe it.
  • Garlic Rice- Yes, they cook rice and then mix it with chucks of garlic. I love it!
  • Squid- I have always been a seafood fan, but the squid here is better than I have tried anywhere else. It's not too tough or too bland. They even make squid balls out of the meat, I like those too.
  • Sinigang- is a really good soup. They usually put lots of vegetables and fish in it. It has a very citrus-like broth to it. You should try it.
  • Pork Adobo- adobo is one of the first things I think of when I think Filipino food. It is made with every kind of meat and at almost every restaurant. Different people make it different ways, but the adobo is basically a type of sauce. I think it has soy sauce, vinegar, coconut milk, and lots of different spices.
  • Siopao Asada- is a light rice bread-like thing filled with sweet pork and a delicious sauce.

I think that's it, those are my favorite Filipino foods. I'm sure going to miss them. I'll be honest though, I can't wait to have a good salad and Chevy's chips and salsa from the States.

Monday, July 23, 2007

last weekend in manila

I can't believe it, time has gone by so quickly. This last weekend was officially my last weekend in Manila...... and what a great weekend it was. Friday night I went to the Manila Temple with Kate. It was so great to be there and just take it all in. The scenery is absolutely beautiful at night. I ran into a couple that I knew from church back when I was 12 years old. It was so great to see them and even greater to see them in such an unsuspected place.The next day Kate, Jeanette and I went to see Harry Potter at the IMAX. I'm not the worlds biggest Harry Potter fan, but it was really good. About 20-30 minutes of the movie was in 3-D which was really fun. It was just fun to go out with some friends and have a normal Saturday. I was kind of sad thinking about how this last Sunday was my last Sunday here. I have really enjoyed going to church here and meeting the people I have. I will forever be impressed with how friendly and open everyone has been at church. Almost every person in the ward comes up to me to say hello every Sunday. It is so amazing! I will miss the non air conditioned chapel. I will miss straining my ears to decipher if they are speaking English or Tagalog. You see they speak mostly in Tagalog in my ward but they occasionally throw in an English word. So I try my hardest to follow what they are talking about. It's hard to even hear them sometimes because the fans are all going, the kids are playing, and we are located right on a busy street. It has certainly been an experience!

I was treated to two great meals this weekend. A co-worker at my internship last year has family here in the Philippines. Some of them took my to lunch this weekend and I had a great time. They are just so sweet and fun to be around. I even found myself a new crush, Noah.
Isn't he the cutest guy you have ever seen?The executive director from CFSI took the four of us to dinner last night. It was so great to just get to chat with him and recap on our experience here. I didn't mind the great Korean food or the mangoes dipped in chocolate fondue either. I suppose I will be doing lots of recapping this week over my many experience....... so you might need to bear with me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

a day in my life

So it occurred to me that many of you may not know what a typical day in the Philippines is like for me. I know that most of my entries are full of fun, adventurous vacations that I have taken to various places. That's not how my weeks are though. So here we go.

We wake up around 6:30 and get ready for work. Then we leave our apartment and pretend to speak in Tagalog to the employees at our apartment building. They usually just smile at us and probably whisper "bless their hearts" under their breath as we leave. Occasionally we stop at the bakery on our street for a little breakfast treat. Pan de Coco is the item to buy. It's similar to a cinnamon roll, but instead of the cinnamon and frosting, there is tons of coconut and coconut milk. Oh, they are so delicious. I had to limit myself to only one a week because otherwise I would probably go overboard.

Then we weasel our way on to the insanely crowded train. I'm serious these trains are crowded! It only takes us 20-30 minutes to get to work. The walk from the train to our office is interesting. As soon as I get off the train I trade my handheld fan for my handkerchief. The handkerchief has several purposes: to whip the sweat off my face as we walk, to protect me from the toxic fumes coming from the cars, and to block the awful smell of the local market. We travel past a market where they sell meats, clothes, fresh produce, charcoal, etc. It's interesting to watch the people and see what they are selling; but the smell of it.....whew!

I am working with the Park Avenue Initiative team at CFSI. It consists of Ruth, Arar, and then several volunteers from the community. I spend most of my day on the computer. I have done research on the issues of Pasay City and particularly out of school children and youth. You see, poverty, prostitution, trafficking, child labor, and the drug industry are prominent in this area and so many of the children do not attend school. We work to provide services that allow these children to get out of the streets and into school. We do this by providing a variety of services like livelihood assistance, educational scholarships, policy advocacy, training of local leaders, recreational activities, psychosocial care, etc. So I have been working with the team to redesign the program and to strategically plan the next 3-10 years of the program. Day to day its not the most exciting work, but the purpose of the work is amazing. I'm grateful to be able to make a small contribution.

One things I love about this organization is that everyone is friends with each other. At lunch we all sit in the conference room and eat together. I love it! Then around 6pm our work day is over and we head home. We usually make a little dinner, I shower, read, and then go to bed by 10. I love going to bed so early. And I love being able to read all of the time.

So that's a typical day. Of course there are always funny things that happen or things we see that make it interesting. Like the other day as I was walking down the street an older woman yelled at me "Hey sexy" in her raspy little voice. I couldn't help but laugh out loud immediately. Or another time we saw a family of five on one motorcycle. Or sometimes we will see little naked children just playing catch in the street. My least favorite is seeing grown adults going to the bathroom right in front of everyone on the sidewalk. The streets are lined with street vendors selling food to passers. You see everything: roasted nuts, coconut juice, squid balls, half developed duck eggs, and a plethora of menthol candies.

I hope this provided a little visual into my daily life. It really is a great life.

Things I've learned

So being away from your normal life and separated from almost everything that is familiar to you, can really open your eyes to a lot of things. I have learned a lot about myself these last few months. I'm not as friendly as I wish I was. I'm an emotional eater. I'm not as scared to stick up for myself as I used to be. I like lists and I like accomplishing the things on my lists. My prayers are sometimes weak and not very thoughtful. I like people who laugh at my jokes. I love going to be early. I judge a little too much. I don't know how to respond to passive-aggressive personalities. I love direct communication. I like productive, concise meetings. I have a strong sense of smell. I've also learned that mosquitoes are absolutely in love with me. They can't help themselves! I think I have attracted every mosquito in all of the Philippines. I'm not as computer savvy as I try to convince myself that I am. I'm more qualified for a lot of things that I don't give myself credit for.

Of course there are a million more things that I have learned that are good and not so good about myself. Luckily in life we get experiences like these to reflect and learn. I'm so grateful I get to keep learning and keep improving. I've got lots of it to do!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Say what? Say Boo! Yep, this weekends trip was to Cebu.

Day 1:
We flew into Cebu after work on Friday. There were threats of bad rains from a Typhoon in Japan so our flight was delayed forever. We finally arrived though and stayed at a darling little surfer-type hotel. Jeanette and I had our own beds and we thought we were in heaven.

Day 2:
We woke up, ate a gigantic traditional Filipino breakfast, and jumped on the ferry to Bohol. Bohol is a nearby island with lots of tourist attractions. After arriving from a long ferry ride we took the craziest bus ride i have ever taken. We were crammed into this bus with a million other people and the bus driver was out of control. Seriously he was driving so fast and a lot of it was off-road. I felt like we were pre-running for a Baja race, but in a bus full of people and luggage. I couldn't stop laughing, even though I should have been terrified for my life.

We finally arrived safely to the Chocolate Hills. There are over a thousand small hills that look like mounds of chocolate. However, they were more like mint chocolate hills this time of year. It was still absolutely beautiful. We hired some motorcycles and some guides and road around to see the scenery. It was really cool to see the people out working in their rice fields and farms along the way. We even convinced one farmer to let us ride his Caribou (cow). Good times.

That night we stayed at the Chocolate Hills Resort up on a hill with a great view of the area. The next morning our guides with motorcycles picked us up and took us on a whirlwind tour. We visited the Butterfly Conservation Center, the local underground caves, the logos river, and the Tarzier monkeys. These monkeys are the smallest monkeys in the world. You can see, they are small enough to hold in your hand.

That night we headed back to Cebu.

Day 3:
We spent the day visiting the local markets and walking around the beautiful city. Cebu is the second largest city in the Philippine, next to Manila. We visited a Buddhist Temple, it wasn't the temple we thought we were visiting, but it was still beautiful. We got to the airport that night and saw a postcard of the Taoist Temple we thought we went to, it was definitely a differently temple! Oh well. We also visited the Santo Nino Church and the Magellan's Cross. Cebu is home to the earliest Christians in the Philippines. Magellan was a Spaniard that travelled and spread Christianity among the Philippines. He erected this cross after the conversion of 800 (I think) new Christians.
At last our crazy weekend came to an end. We saw lots of things and met lots of interesting people. I think my favorite thing is just driving around and looking at everything. It's entirely different from anything I've ever experienced in my small little world. It's too difficult to describe everything I saw and felt in this small little blog. There are additional pictures under "My Pictures" though.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

finding high ground

We've been told that the Philippines has two seasons; the dry season and the wet season. Well the wet season started just shortly after we arrived here and will continue for the next couple of months. We have had some rains and thunder storms that have been exciting. We've even been told that there will be flooding, electricity outages, and typhoon warnings while we are here. We have been anxiously awaiting these fun adventures. We purchased candles, watched the thunder and lightening storms from our house, and anxiously awaited the phone call telling us we don't have to work because there is just too much rain. Well none of this has happened yet, but last night was sure fun. Jeanette and I were heading home from dinner and our cab was stopped in traffic. Then our cab driver asked us if he could just drop up off here because there was flooding on the approaching road and cars could not get through. We laughed and then realized he was serious. Flooding there was! We had to cross the road to get to our apartment and so we walked through water well past our ankles. No I realize this seems like nothing to many of you (and I'm sure we will experience worse), but I couldn't help but chuckle as cockroaches floated by. I tried to divert my mind from previous images I've had of the pollution, mounds of trash, human feces and other bodily fluids that I see lining this street on a regular basis. Fun times!

Oh, I forgot to tell you about our adventure a few days previous. It was raining really hard and we had to go to the store, so we decided we would just get a cab. Well every other person in Metro Manila had the same thought and there were no cabs available. We stood in the pouring rain for some time waiting for a cab and just when we were about to give up............ a man with a horse and buggy showed up to save the day. Yes, in Metro Manila with something million people and traffic worse than New York City, we took a horse and buggy to the grocery store!

I'm sure there will be more fun stories to tell like these from our adventures in the rain. So stay tuned.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Jen's Book Club

I’ve turned into somewhat of a bookworm lately. Since being in school for the last one hundred years of my life, I have craved reading books for pleasure as I snuggle up in my bed. So, this is exactly what I have done since I have been here. I have actually gone through all of the books I brought already. I am loving it! I have learned some great things, some of which I want to share with you today.

First, is from the book, To Draw Closer to God by Henry B. Eyring. This book has many great reminders of how we can improve our relationships with God and our ability to be directed by Him. I have often struggled with feeling like I can be everything that I want to be and accomplish everything I desire. It just seems to be overwhelming sometimes. In the end of this book there was a much needed reminder for me. It says, “All of that will come naturally, in time, from the covenants you make and keep as you follow him. And in the process you will experience a mighty change of heart. You may not have seen that mighty change in yourself yet. But it will come as you continue to follow him. You can trust that he will qualify you…..”

Another great book I read was, A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier. This book was a gut wrenching story of a young boy who was forced from his family and home, eventually forced into war as a soldier. If you have not read this book, you must. It is unbelievable the things that occurred in this young mans life, and even more unbelievable, who this young man has become. This book opened my mind to several different lessons. Where much is given, much is required. In this situation, this boy was given lots, lots of horrible, life changing, gut wrenching, inhuman experiences that no one should ever have to deal with. He used all that was given to him and has tried to make a difference in the world. We must give what we can. We must share the experiences we have had and the things we have learned with one another. How else are we going to figure out life if we don’t have tales of great triumph and tales of great sorrow. I have much to be grateful for and much to give others.

Another book I read was, Scars That Can Heal by David Louis. This book was given to me by the author at the 16th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect that I attended with my internship this last spring. He knew of my interest in child welfare and wanted me to read this book and share it with others. This book is four hundred pages of this young mans’ experiences in the child welfare system. He was abandoned by his mother, forced in and out of various abusive foster homes and group homes. This book reminded me of how grateful I should be to have been raised by such wonderful parents. My parents have raised me with love and taught me correct principles and values that have greatly influenced my life. This book also reminded me of the work I must do. I set out to be a social worker to change the world, to change the child welfare system and make it better for thousands of children. And that’s what I’m going to do!

So there you go, there are some of the great reads I’ve read this summer. Love you all.

Happy 4th of July!

I just wanted to give a little shout out to the U.S. of A. (I realize this is late for the 4th, but our internet was out all week) Since living in another country for the last few weeks, my gratitude for the United States has grown greatly. I am so grateful for the many freedoms I am provided and the splendor of opportunities available to me. As I study the environment and the people I work with, I am saddened by the many hardships they endure and the politics that often hinder them further. I am grateful to be from a country where I can be anything I want to be.

Our work knew it was a special day for us and so they bought a cake for all of us to celebrate together. The butter cake was not quite the same as watermelon, potato salad, and BBQ, but it certainly did make us happy.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Puerto Gallera

Yes, I am reporting about another amazing weekend vacation. I'm sorry, I can't help it. This place is just too amazing to not share with everyone.
This weekend we went to the island of Mindoro. There is a famous tourist spot Puerto Gallera, with many surrounding beach towns. We got on the 3:30 am bus and headed down to Batangas to catch the ferry. We being, Jeanette, Fatoumata, and my friend Kate. The ferry took us to White Beach. It's a darling beach town with beautiful scenery and plenty of tourists. The second we stepped off the boat we were smothered by people selling trickets and such. I'm not kidding when I say smothered. They hounded us and followed us. Even after we said no, they continued to follow us. Some waited while we ate, others walked far, just to try and convince us. Some of the kids thought it was funny that we kept saying "no thank you" that they started saying it too. So soon we had at least five people following us trying to sell us something and five kids following us saying, "no thank you" every few seconds. We couldn't stop laughing at how they would just not give up.After finally breaking free and placing our stuff in our beach front hotel room (yeah, only $20 for 4 people), we headed out snorkeling. We hired a boat to take us to a popular cove to snorkel. Once there we hired a boat to take us in closer on the reefs. The current is really strong and so you just hold onto a rope and watch the fish as the boat takes you all over. It was the best! It's amazing to me how different and even more beautiful these reefs were compared to others we have seen.
We spent the rest of our day eating great seafood and traveling to the different beach towns on the island. This island is famous for the diving and the pearls. We didn't go diving, but I certainly spent plenty of money on pearls. (So if you want some, you might want to start being extra nice.) We even went to get some mango shakes at a popular restaurant and had some quality entertainment from some hilarious Drag Queens. I was dying at how funny they were, and how talented too.
As if our day wasn't good enough, we ended it by getting an hour, full body massage. Yeap! In our beach front hotel, we laid down, listening to the waves, and got full body massages with homemade coconut oil. I'm telling you, this is the life!

The next day we just spent relaxing on the gorgeous beaches and watching other people be followed by the people selling their goodies. It was a great weekend.

a bit of perspective

On Friday our French friends came to visit our organization and to discuss some volunteer opportunities. We had a fun time catching up with them and giving each other new travel tips. We decided to show them around the Barangays we work with. As we walked the streets I was reminded of the importance of the work I am doing here. These people are humble and hard working individuals. As I look into the faces of the children I want so badly to be able to offer them everything I have. I want so badly to whisper in their ear that everything will be okay and then bundle them up and take them home with me. Many of these children do not have an opportunity to obtain an education. Many of them work 16 hour days in order to survive. Other children, walk the streets begging or stealing whatever they can, sleeping in the train station, and sniffing glue to get a high. Many of the children you see in these pictures will be forced into the sex or drug industry, because that's all they know.

Friday started out really rough for me. I seemed to be frustrated by many things and found lots to complain about. But sure enough, God knew I needed a little lesson. As I walked around these Barangays He was able to gently show me that I needed to change my perspective. It's amazing to me how God (or whatever higher power or force you believe in) knows exactly what we need and then shows us. Gently or powerfully, He shows us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thank the French

So there is a great story that I forgot to share earlier. When we were in Banaue sitting around the table with our new found French friends, we started talking about stereotypes Americans put of French people and vice versa. We even had a discussion about why after people curse they say, "excuse my french". Then Dan (our friend from work) said, "Let's thank the french for the kiss" and then proceeded to giggle uncontrollably. We all lost it and joined him in his giggling. Throughout the day we kept recalling the conversation and laughed some more. Now perhaps this is one of those stories that is only funny if you were there, or one of those things that you think is funny, but you're kind of isolated so you think everything is funny stories (like on the mission); if so, I'm sorry you all had to hear that, but perhaps we should thank the french for the kiss.

Monday, June 25, 2007


This is my great friend, Sister (SPEEDY) Gonzales. Her real name is Kate, even though we called her Speedy on the mission. We met in the mtc years ago and since that day she has been one of my most favorite people. She's full of fun and lots of spunk! I can't help but smile thinking of the fun we had together on the mission. And those smiles all came back since we reunited this weekend. She is from the Philippines and we finally met up with each other. We went and visited the Temple together. The Temple is so pretty here (as if the others aren't). It is set up on a hill just outside of the city. The grounds are covered with beautiful tropical plants and my new favorite Fire Tree. It was so refreshing to walk around and count my many blessings.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I've added pictures from Palawan and Banaue. Just go to "Pictures" on the left of my blog.

Banaue & Batad

We went on yet another amazing trip this weekend. We headed toward the Rice Terraces up North. Some consider the rice terraces in the Banaue area to be the "8th wonder of the world". I might have to concur, it is incredible. We took an overnight bus from Manila to the town of Banaue (not a fun ride). We had great pineapple pancakes as we overlooked the city of Banaue. This city is situated in the middle of mountains. The houses are built on tall stilts, that barely look like they can support anything. The rice terraces are built into the sides of the mountains. It is so interesting and so beautiful. We met some french students at the bus station and decided to share our fun with each other for the weekend. We hired a jeepney and headed to the hills. The jeepney took us off road up high into the mountains. We sat on top of course and saw amazing landscape. When we reached the farthest point that cars can go, we started to hike. We hiked over an hour into the village of Batad. It was the steepest/craziest hike I have ever been on! The only way to get in and out of this village is by hiking in. The townspeople make the trek daily, bringing in goods they have purchased or guiding tourists. They also have to carry up whatever goods they hope to sell in Banaue. I could barely get myself through that hike! I was getting passed by locals carrying bags of coal, boxes of bottles, and bags of rice on top of their heads. Amazing!
The view as we walked into the village is unbelievable. There are miles of rice terraces, covering the sides of several mountains. The terraces are large too, the step looking things look small, but they are at least 6 feet high. These terraces were built hundreds of years ago by these people's ancestors. The terraces have been passed on from generation to generation.
Later that afternoon we thought it would be fun to hike to a nearby waterfall. Remember how I said our last hike was the steepest/craziest I'd ever been on? Yeah, change that, this one definitely wins. We hike up the side of a mountain, through the rice terraces, and then down the other side of a mountain. In many parts the trail is steps, these aren't your ordinary steps, most of them came higher than my knee, and they were one after another. The waterfall was beautiful though! We even went for a swim in the cool water. I floated on my back and looked up at the rushing water and the mountains on every side, and was just in awe.
That night we had fun just hanging out. There were the four of us, our friend from work, and the 5 french students. We ate some local food, made jokes, learned native songs, and STUFF. Our hotel was located just opposite the rice terraces and so we had the most amazing view.

The next morning we headed back to Banaue. It was pretty funny, all of us were so sore from our hikes the day before that we were dying as we hiked out of the village. Oh man! I'm still feeling the pain now. We spent the afternoon visiting other terraces and spending lots of money of souvenirs. Wood carving is very popular there. The men sit in the open shops of the street carving while the women sit outside staining the wood. That's it! That's our amazing trip! Of course there are a million more details, but I can't possibly share everything.