Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back

Looking back I see that 2013 was a HUGE year for me! Sometimes I zero in on the day to day things or one month at a time and forget to look at the big picture. I was just scrolling through my instagrams and realized WHOA!  I finished a wonderful first job, lived in my first apartment, traveled to five new countries, enjoyed time spent with friends and family, and moved halfway across the world. 2013 gave me more than I could ever ask for - incredible adventures, life lessons, amazing friends, and more!

Like most people I’m not one to stick to specific New Year’s resolutions, especially once January is over. And as my brother always told me, “why should you have to wait for the New Year to change? If you want to make a change, just do it.” He’s right.

Instead I take this time of year to self-reflect on what I’ve taken away from this past year and what I want to focus on for the coming year. I’ve made a list of the Top 9 ( I was going to do ten but couldn’t think of a final one) from 2013 (in no particular order). It can be a place, person, group of people, or a thing that influenced my year:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tadian Farm

After Sagada on Sunday, December 1, Ata Becky and I headed to Tadian to see Andrew. It was a little out of the way, but I wanted to see his placement that I’d heard so much about. We took a 45 minute ride on a Jeepney back to Bontoc, got some lunch, then waited in a van as it filled up and finally we were off to Tadian, another 1 hour ride into the mountains. It’s beautiful! However, as we rode deeper and deeper into the rural moutains I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through Andrew’s head during his first trip up here. This is truly in the middle of nowhere.

Andrew's house which also doubles as a meeting space for the farm.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekend Reading

Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend after the holiday hullah-bah-loo!

I spent hours outside this afternoon reading and solving Sudoku puzzles under the shade of the tree. It was glorious! I even got some sun on my legs. I was wearing shorts (that's how warm it still is here). I'm headed to a neighbor's family home tomorrow for a couple of days to celebrate the New Year. Should be a fabulous time! Looking forward to getting off the compound.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Little Things

Christmas this year resulted in a lot less hustle and bustle than previous years. No last minute errands or gift shopping. No rushing to wrap presents. No moving from one party to another. I showed up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church services. I only needed to be present with friends and community. The focus was on celebrating together. I enjoyed the change of pace.

A slower pace allows you to take a moment and look around you. Soak up the little things.

{Staff Holiday Lunch at Sir Patrick's house}

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

I bring good tidings and cheer! I hope everyone had a wonderful, merry Christmas. This was definitely the warmest Christmas I’ve ever had.

This past Monday marked four months. It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from home in a foreign country. The first time was for study abroad. During the experience, I was more than ready to come home at the four month mark. While I miss my family and the holidays were hard to get through without them, I’m not quite ready to leave. There’s no sense of finality.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Weekend Reading

{image via}

Happy Weekend! 

I hope everyone has a fun filled weekend and isn't rushing around for last-minute gifts too much. I'm now off for Christmas and New Years break! I'm not exactly sure what I'll be doing during that whole time. While that would usually stress me out (well it still is), I'm trying to make "go with the flow" my new motto. I know it will all work out for the best even if I don't know the plan a week or a few days in advance.

The Filipinos have this saying, "bye and bye." It basically means, it will happen when it happens or he'll come when he comes. It'll happen at no certain time in the future. At first it drove me insane. But now I'm embracing it. So when will I know about my Christmas plans? Bye and bye.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Little Things

The post office is my new favorite place! I mentioned it last week but today was the best trip, yet. Not only did I receive a package from my Best Friend and my Aunt, but my Mom sent a padded envelope stuffed with cards, drawings, and well wishes from the St. James' Community!

I can't even put into words how much it filled my heart and overwhelmed me with love. This community has supported me throughout my entire spiritual journey starting at the age of 7. I couldn't imagine my life without them. Thanks for the love and support, St. James'!

In addition, this week is filled with last minute tasks before the office closes for two weeks and preschool Christmas parties which have been chaotic but hilarious. On Friday, the diocesan staff has its gift exchange and Christmas party. I cannot wait for fellowship, games, and karaoke!

{A cobra found by my building! They killed it and made a stew but I couldn't bring myself to eat it}

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sagada's Fear Factor

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I visited Sagada in Mountain Province two weekends ago. On Saturday morning after a cold, sleepless night, Ata Becky informed me we would be going to see the caves with our friend, Sarah. I pictured Luray Caverns style – a simple hike down into the caves to see cool stalactites and stalagmites. 

We walked down to the information shop to receive our guide. He turns to us and says, “Are you ready for Sagada’s Fear Factor? Repel down cave walls? Swim in water as deep as your chest? Slide through small holes?”

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sagada, Mountain Province

A few days before I left for Hong Kong, my co-worker asked if I would want to accompany her to Sagada for some meetings and R&R the weekend after I returned. Jumping at any opportunity to see somewhere new, I said “yes!”

When I returned from Hong Kong exhausted, I wasn’t sure if I was up to go away for another four days. But after an amazing week with friends, I knew I didn’t want to sit alone in my apartment all weekend in Santiago. Sagada ended up being quite the adventure I needed.

First on Friday morning, we arrived at 6:30am to catch the bus to Bontoc. Now I had just ridded the Super Deluxe Florida bus from Manila to Santiago a couple days ago. That was a five star resort compared to this crappy motel on the side of road bus we took on Friday. This rickety, old metal bus pulled up and I thought, “that is going to drive us 7 hours up steep mountainous roads?!”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Weekend Reading

Happy Weekend!

I hope everyone back home in Virginia is staying warm in the snow! I'm not jealous. Actually, I was complaining alongside all the Filipinos about how hot and humid it was today! After a quick trip to Manila to accompany a visitor from ERD, I'm ready to do some weekend reading and relax. Also, only five days of work until it is Christmas break! Crazy! Can't believe the New Year is right around the corner.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Beauty of the Philippines

On Wednesday, Sara Delaney of ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development) came up to Santiago City to check out the Processing Center here. Then on Thursday, yesterday, she was headed back to Manila with a pitstop at a community which was greatly affected by Typhoon Santi (more on that next week). I accompanied her on the long over 12 hour day. Then this morning it was back to Santiago City, another 9 hour trip! Hence the lack of a blog post, yesterday.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Little Things

In my mind I know it’s December. Two Sundays of Advent have passed. Christmas decorations are out and I’m on the hunt for great gifts. However, it’s still strange for me to realize it is the Holiday Season. While it has gotten cooler, I’m still sweating every other day and blasting my A/C.

Christmas for me is baking in the kitchen, sipping hot cocoa underneath cozy blankets and snuggling up by a warm fire. I hate the cold but for me that is the Holiday Season.

One thing that’s helped me cope about not being around close family during this time of year is the love I’ve been receiving from home! I’ve been making quite a few trips to the Post Office recently. It’s gotten to the point where Michelle who handles the packages knows my name and got my cell number so she can text me when I get mail!

Not only is it wonderful to hear from my parents and other family members, but also a recent package was full of Christmas cards from family friends from Church and former co-workers. It’s incredible that I can receive their love halfway across the world. I almost cried when flooded with such love and support while reading the notes! I now have them hanging on my wall as a constant reminder.

{My new weekly stop}

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hong Kong - Reflection

My last day in Hong Kong was spent at Lantau Island, again. There was one destination I read about prior to coming and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it. Fortunately, Katie and Caroline were heading out that way on Monday. I tagged along with them. Upon arriving they wanted to ride the Cable Car, see Big Buddha, the Monastery and do some shopping in the village. I’d already done all that. My main goal of the day was to explore the Tai O Fishing Village.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weekend Reading

Happy Second Sunday in Advent!

I cannot believe the first week in December is almost over! Sorry for the delay in this week's installment of "Weekend Reading." I got distracted by a wonderful skype call with Grace and enthusiastically delving into new packages on Friday night. Then, a successful but exhausting half-day trip to the market with my neighbor and a fun dinner with coworkers on Saturday. Today, Sunday, I finally have time to just relax, do menial tasks such as laundry and cleaning, and catch up on YASCers' blogs!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Little Things

My life has been so crazy busy lately that I forgot to share about my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! Actually, it probably helped that I was busy. I didn't have time to dwell on missing sweet potatoes, pineapple casserole, Grandpap's homemade stuffing, pecan pie, and of course, being with my large family!

I returned to Santiago City at 3am on Wednesday morning last week from Hong Kong. Recovered a little bit during the day before going back to work. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, celebrated a co-worker's civil wedding followed by a huge lunch, which I took as my big "thanksgiving meal." Then, Friday got up at 6am to catch a bus for a weekend in Mountain Province! Phew!

{Penny, Me, Rebecca, Charity, the bride, Dex, the groom, and Sandra together after the marriage}

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hong Kong - Wandering Around

My fourth day of my visit to Hong Kong was a Sunday. Naturally, the day the started off by attending church at St. John’s Cathedral. With the congregation consisting of Filipinos, British, Americans, Chinese and most likely other nationalities, it was the most diverse church service I’ve ever attended. The Reverend Nadim Nassar, who is originally form Syria and has an impressive list of achievements, also graced us with a wonderful sermon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hong Kong - Big Buddha

After traveling for 24 hours and going without stopping for two days, I decided I needed to sleep in and not have a jam-packed day. Sara and I took it easy in the morning with a delicious brunch at Waygnu Lounge with her friend, Chris. I forgot just how good smoked salmon, with a mound of cream cheese on a warm bagel is!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hong Kong - Birthday Celebrations

Day 2 of Hong Kong was Sara’s 23rd Birthday! It was a day full of celebration, friend time, delicious food and more sightseeing. There was only one mission for the day – giving Sara a wonderful birthday celebration!

Katie’s older sister, Caroline, arrived late Thursday night for a 10 day trip. They joined Sara and I for our tourist excursion of the day, Victoria Peak. The plan was originally to hike the 2-hour trail up to the peak, but after a late start and laziness we took the peak tram, a very steep vertical ascent up the mountain.