Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Last Day :(

    Today is our last day in the Philippines and a we have a free day. We sleep in till about 7:30 a.m. Yes, this is sleeping in since we've been up at around 5 a.m the past 4 days. We go get breakfast at the hotel again. It will be the last time I get to eat the delicious pineapple here. It was nice having ripe pineapple every morning with my breakfast. We also get to say some of our last goodbyes to the brothers who were in charge of taking care of us there. 
    After breakfast, we go back to our room and go back to sleep. I wrote yesterday's blog- which took about an hour! Haha. Around 12 noon we get ready again. It was nice having a leisurely  day.
    Today we are going to the Mall of Asia. It is the 3rd biggest mall - in the WORLD! Or so we hear. We head to Starbucks for some coffee first, when we come back to the hotel we tell them we want a taxi to the mall. Then a sister comes up to us and asks us what our plans are. She says she can take us to the mall and it will be cheaper. Her husband and her own a taxi service for a living so she was taking care of the rides for the brothers to the airport and also to other things they were doing around town. 
    There was a lot of traffic so it took about an hour to get to the mall. On the way we talked with the sister about how things are in the Philippines compared to the U.S. For example, the cars they have, the prices of the cars, how their taxes work, how big the families are there (she had 6 kids!), how many divorces in the US compared to there, ect. It is very hard to get a divorce there. That is good, then less people get them. 
    We get to the mall and it is HUGE! It was overwhelming when we stepped inside. It is 2 stories high and they have stores inside and stores outside. I'm like - where do I start?! Haha. Though, partly what makes it so big is they have an ice skating rink, bounce houses, movie theatre, Science and Discovery Center, ect. It was still giant though. A lot of the Designer names and fancy shmancy places we know of at home plus more. I didn't end up buying anything (other than food) but it was something worth seeing. John got something from the toy store called Toy Kingdom, it was exactly like a Toys R Us. The colors of the letters were the same too. It was really hectic in there. All the kids were loud but also the workers were too. For example, there was an adult worker riding around on a tiny tricycle bike and honking the horn. And there were soo many workers. There was one per aisle and you couldn't get out of the aisle unless you went passed them. I don't know if they were there to help you or for security. I'm kind of the thinking the latter, but I don't know. 
    We ran into a lot of other witnesses at the mall- mostly delegates, but also locals. We stopped a few times and talked for a while. We also stopped and talked to people that worked at the mall for a while. For example, John went into an electronic store and was just curious about the price differences of things there compared with things in the U.S. The Tvs are a lot more money there. But the girl was asking us where we were from and everything. It seems like if you talk to workers at home in the malls, they are just interested in talking about the product they are trying to sell. But here, they seem like they also want to talk about other things. We also talked to a
guy at the Lego store. He was neat. He helped build the Legos on display. He said he really wanted to go to Lego Land and a asked us if we've been (unfortunately, we haven't). He was really into the Legos it seemed. He kind of reminded me of a Liam Partridge type. Really smart and excited about what he does.  
    Around 4 p.m we got lunch at this place called Tempura Grill. It was really good! I got sushi and John got tempura tiger prawns that were really good. Although they were fried, they didn't seem that greasy. I wish we had one back at home. At the mall we see a lot of older American men with their younger looking Filipino wives. I guess they're taking them back to their country for a visit. We saw a lot of this at Boracay also.
    Anyways, we were probably at the mall for about 4 hours and we call the sister and tell her we are about ready to be picked up. We had a fun time, but man, this shopping thing is exhausting. Towards the end of our visit we were just walking really fast through the mall, just because we wanted to see all the different stores they had. It seemed like a lot of the specific types of stores were grouped together. For example, they had around 5 baby clothing stores next to each other and next to those were the maternity clothes stores, ect. And the electronic stores seemed to all be next to each other. I don't know how that is for their competition, but it is smart if people want to go to the mall specifically for a certain thing, they don't have to walk all over but just have to go to that particular section of the mall. 
    So we head back over to where we need to meet the sister. Actually, she isn't there, but her husband was. We go back to the hotel, put our stuff in the room and then take another brief shuttle over to the mall 5 mins. away to get dinner. We went to Outback and a just got salads. We weren't that hungry. We went to Pinkberry (the frozen yogurt place) one last time before we left and called for our shuttle to come get us. 
    Back at the hotel, we packed and went to bed around 11 p.m. We have to be up at 2 a.m. to be at our taxi outside the hotel at 3 a.m. Sheesh! Not a lot of sleep. Haha. So maybe we will sleep a lot on the plane. It was a fun trip. We will miss the people here, but I also look forward to coming home. We will see you guys soon! Yay! 

That cool looking building is just a parking garage

They had these giant touch screen kiosks as Directories
Directions to where you wanted to go on the directories

They had security checks every time you went into the mall. Even if you walked out and came back 2 mins. Later you needed to go through it. They checked your bags and you went through the scanner. 

By the way, these are all the newspapers we accumulated by the end of the trip. They put one outside our room every day. We don't even read the news. We just put it in a big pile.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Corregidor and Las Casas Tour

    Today we woke up, got breakfast and we went to Starbucks before getting on our bus. Yay! They were open today! Haha. The barista asked us how the convention was. I guess he got witnessed to a lot by the brothers. I guess us witnesses like to get our coffee and witness at the same time. Haha. The people are pretty favorable to the witnesses here. More than at home, it seems. 
    We get to our bus on time. And when they said they leave at 6:45 am on the dot - they are NOT exaggerating this time. I guess if they were late to one thing, all of the days plans would be off. They pulled out at the exact time. Some people were even left behind. They read the roster and with some names- no one answered. Two people we saw at breakfast and we felt really bad they got left. Fortunately we saw them on the boat later and they told us they took a cab so they would make it in time. Good thing!
    After about an hour bus ride we get to the port and hop onto a chartered ferry. It held A LOT of witnesses. Maybe about 5 bus loads. They were handing out over the counter pills to people who get motion sickness. They said they wanted us to enjoy the trip and not be sick during it. The brothers are really really sweet here. So considerate. Anyways, the pill was similar to Dramamine, but it started with a 'V' and it didn't have a drowsy effect. I took 1 then and a few more for later. Can you tell I didn't want to be sick again? Well I didn't get sick, thankfully.
    We took a 26 mile trip on the ferry (it took about an hour) to Corregidor Island. We get off the boat and they hand us all bottled waters and we get to our trolleys (there were probably about 7 of them). We only have an hour to go around the island and get our tour. This is a tour that usually takes 4 hours so it was fast paced and my brain had a hard time focusing on all the facts. I didn't get much out of it except for the fact that war is bad and
now it is a pretty place. Haha. Certain parts were interesting though- if you like history. Corregidor was used for a number of things in the past, but mainly as a military fortress. Under the Spanish rule, Corregidor served not only as a fortress of defense, a penal institution, and a station for Customs inspection, but also as a signal outpost to warn Manila of the approach of hostile ships. That is why it is named what it is. Corregidor means "The Island of the Corrector". And the Japanese occupied it sometime during WW2 and tried to capture the Philippines, but they couldn't. And the Americans came to the Filipino's aid. So I guess that is one reason they like Americans today. Another interesting point of interest was a smaller island that was a ways off the coast. The Americans carved the island out to look like a battleship. When the Japanese approached and fired at it again and again it wouldn't sink. It really did look like a ship from a distance. Pretty cool. They also made bamboo planes as decoys to trick them.
    There was a lot of pretty views and vegetation on the island. There were even MONKEYS!!! That was really neat to see. I've seen monkeys but only in zoos. Not in the wild like that. No humans live on the island.  Only workers. So the monkeys have free range basically. They told us to watch our bags/purses because the monkeys like to take them. Our tour guide said one day she saw a monkey sitting on a rock drinking coke out of a can with a straw. Haha. They are pretty smart. I also got to see a long lizard briefly but I didn't get to take a picture of that, sadly. And I got video of this plant (it looked like it was in the fern family). When you touch it, it closed up. I will have to post the video separately because I can't upload video to the blog. Jehovah created so many neat things, we have no idea even the half of them!
    So after our quick tour, we get back on the ferry and they have 'snacks' prepared for us. It was speghetti and some bread and drinks. It seemed like lunch but they called it a snack. They eat a lot here. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack,dinner.... It is surprising they aren't fatter here.  (Actually, there doesn't seem to be a lot of overweight people here. Maybe they walk more?). Anyways, we have been given sooo much special treatment on this trip. We feel bad. With the rides, food, ect. We feel so spoiled, we don't know what we are going to do when we get home. Haha. The hospitality is amazing! 
    So as we eat our snacks we are sailing to another island called Bataan. It takes another 30-45 minutes. When we get there we get to ride the Jeepneys!! This will be our 1st (and probably only) time riding them. There are 14 people packed into each. All with our brothers and sisters of course. So you feel safe. It is really hot in them until you get moving and have some wind coming through the small windows. This is another hour ride to our destination. Surprisingly though, these don't feel like long trips because you are so busy conversing with your brothers and sisters. In the Jeepney we had a neat conversation with 2 locals and a couple who are serving in Taiwan (originally from SC). We were talking about the cultural differences and similarities. I liked that. One example was why we don't see many brothers here with mustaches. Apparently, it is because they are viewed as 'seductive' here. Haha. Yeah right! Gross! But seriously, if brothers have  a mustache they won't be able to be considered to have special privileges here (like elders, servants, ect). The couple talked about what it was like in Taiwan as well. Interesting stuff. 
    When we get to our destination we get out of the Jeepneys and are all handed this cold sweet tea. It tasted good. It is hard to decribe. Like tea with lime and mint flavor and it had actual pieces of gelatin (Jello) in it. It could scare you if you didn't know they were in there, you'd think a bug was in your drink (thankfully Christa warned us). We drank them as we walked down cobble stone streets as Filipinos played on the guitar to welcome us (these people were working there so they weren't our brothers , but super super nice). They'd say 'Welcome ma'am , welcome sir'. Along the way we pass old Spanish looking houses from the 18-20th centuries and pretty greenery. We all want to take so many pictures but they tell us to keep walking so we can get our lunch 1st. 
    We go inside this house and upstairs they have tables all set up for us and food set up (buffet style again). They had bottled waters and sweet teas on all of the tables. By the way, you think our sweet tea in the south is sweet? Well the Filipinos sweet tea is even sweeter! Once we all get in they say a prayer and invite us to get our food. As we eat there are more dancers from the resort that perform for us. It was hard to eat because we were so distracted with the dances. We have seen most of these dances by the brothers already, but these people do this for a living so they are faster and better at it. No offense to the brothers 😁 We appreciated all their hard work for us. If they brothers tried to do these dances they would probably have had a lot of injuries in the practice sessions. I tried to get some video but everyone else wanted video too, so we were getting in each others ways. I backed off so we wouldn't lose our Christian personalities. Haha. So we will see later if we got any good footage. I want Kathy Long to use some of the dances in her Zumba routine. They looked like fun moves. Haha. 
    After lunch we are split up into large groups and had a guide that works there give us a tour. Again it was so fast paced. Imagine only having an hour to tour Biltmore House. It would be neat, but you miss out on a lot of details. These houses were so big. We had to take our shoes off when we entered the houses out of respect to the owners they said. It was neat to see how they lived and all the extravagant decorations- same as why it is neat seeing the Biltmore house. Apparently you can stay here in certain houses. But it is crazy expensive, like 150,000 Pesos a night. That is like $3,450 a night !! But you get the whole house and there are a lot of rooms. Still- crazy! Anyways, the tour flies by and it is already time to load into the Jeepneys again and head to our ferry. 
    On the ferry we get MORE snacks. Free Sabrett hotdogs and pineapple or orange juice and dessert (although I just took a taste because it was weird and not the greatest)  Sooo much food. Haha. They're trying to fatten us up! On the way back, we get to see the sun set on the Manila bay. John saw it all, but I missed most of it because I was eating inside the boat. It was nice being outside on the back of the boat with the breeze on your face. :) awesome feeling.  After the sun set I went back inside and talked to a local sister the rest of the trip. We talked about service- the challenges, our current bible studies, the support of the pioneers in the hall, ect. Again our trip flew by and it was time to get off the boat and hop on the bus back to our hotel.
    Everyone was tired. They turned the majority of the lights off. Some were sleeping on the bus. Part of the trip we shared very cheesy bible jokes with a brother 2 seats up from us. And another part a local sister was going down the aisles and taking pictures of us sitting in our seats, holding the badges with our names on it. But this was funny because she had to take about 3 or 4 shots a person (or couple) to get a picture that wasn't too dark or too blurry (because of the bus starting and stopping in traffic). We laughed a lot! 
    JnWe get back to our hotel and John and I don't want to go up to our room because it's hard to say goodbye to people knowing we may not see them again. One example is some of our buddies that we have been on most of the tours together are leaving tomorrow morning. So sad. Also, it is sad because the welcome desk at our hotel is now all broken down and packed up. The locals are almost done volunteering and helping us and have to go back to their lives at home. We have one more day left though. At this point we finally have to go to our room and say goodbye :( . John and I feel like we are rocking from being on the boat a lot of the day. (You know that feeling you get when you have been riding rides at a theme park all day? - kind of like that). So we go back to our room and since we weren't that hungry, we just ended up going to bed at around 8:30 pm. 

Most we have ever spent at Starbucks. $480.  Haha jk . It actually was only about $11 US money and we got a lot of stuff there. Weird how some things are cheaper than the US here and some are the same. 

Our ferry 

Pulling into Corregidor Island 

At Corregidor 
Longest gun. It could shoot as far as 17 miles away. 


The tea with jello in it
Amazing view of the rice fields 
Touring Las Casas

He is showing us their peep hole on the 2nd floor. You open a square opening and look down at the front door. You pull a string to open the door if you want them in. If you don't- you pour water on their heads to go away. Haha
Peep hole

Art work
This was a mosaic on the ceiling of one house. Intricate details. Amazing work. 

There were these kids there from a school and they were all amazed to see a blonde from another country. They all screamed in excitement when they saw come out of the house and wanted to take a picture with her. The boys were saying her name ' Naomi, Naomi' (they knew it from her badge).  It was hilarious. I was just glad I wasn't blonde at that moment. 

On the bus back

Special Convention Day 3- Sunday & Evening Gathering

Wow !!!  That's all I can say.  

   Well I guess I will say more for you guys.  Haha. Today we woke up and ate breakfast and planned enough time for Starbucks. BUT, when we got there at 6:20 am they were closed. It is suppose to be open 24 hrs. What?! There were people all around us with Starbucks cups in their hands. How did they get it? Well apparently they close at 6 am on Sunday. Kind of weird. Maybe tomorrow. Haha.
    We get on our bus and head to the convention and it is like all of the other convention days. Today though, more people were walking around handing out their goodies. The kids were so cute. It was like they were trick or treating almost. I say that because they had their little baggies opened and they would look up at you with their big brown eyes. They didn't even need to say anything, they knew which ones had the candy. Hehe.  One little girl made an impression on us. She was only 13 months and she was sooo tiny. She put her hand out to shake ours (with her grandma's prodding of course) and she waved. Her grandma asked "Where does Jehovah live?" And she raised her hand and pointed up.  So adorable. I have a picture of her so I'll have to include it. Although the picture doesn't do it justice.  Actually - ALL the pictures today don't do it justice. Words cant even describe either- so everyone needs to come to a Special / International Convention and experience it themselves. 
    In the morning when we got up to walk around to talk to people we only got about 10 feet, since it was so crowded and people could barely move past each other. I had an older Filipino sister actually pull on my arm to try to meet me. Crazy. And an older brother, when he met me, instead of shaking my hand, he took it and kissed it. Hahaha. You really feel like you're famous here. People trying to meet you and a million pictures (like paparazzi).  I'm pretty sure I had more pictures today that on my wedding day. LoL. Lunch break was the same way.
    Then the afternoon session started again and we got to see the drama again. That was neat to see here. It was the same, but I got more out of it this time. Maybe because I wasn't aweing over the costumes and wondering which brothers were playing the characters. They also fit the costumes better here. :)
    The last talk was by Brother Splane again. It was really good. We had the same one of course, but he used some different experiences that really touched home. He thanked all the Filipinos for their hard work over the last year, and also all the delegates for their hard work. He commended us for saving our money  for a long time and choosing to come here rather than take a fancy cruise somewhere. Awww how sweet. That almost made me cry. Like direct commendation from the Governing Body.
    Then he told us the stats about the convention attendances. I pluralized that because the program was tied in to local islands. At the actual convention we had about 7,460 people. But over all 49,000 people heard the program. Wow! And 71 people baptized at ours !!!! A total of 493 baptized overall (including the other places tied in). So after the session ended they clapped for such a long time. Some said they didn't want to stop because they didn't want it to end. But, unfortunately, we had to go. So so sad. 
    It was really packed on the way out and the Filipinos held up signs that said "See you in Paradise", "We will Miss You", and "See you on our Next Special Convetion". They were holding those signs up for a long time. And lined up to say goodbye. Some were crying. And they kept thanking us for coming. We had to find our good friends Toti Manny and give them big hugs before we left.
    We take our bus back to the hotel again and rest a little bit. In about an hour we have our evening gathering in a ballroom at our hotel. It is with the delegates from our hotel and some of the locals. 
    Everyone is dressed in formal attire and looked really nice. There were a lot of Filipinos in traditional dress. They start with a prayer and they had everyone from certain locations stand up when they announced their country. Example- Indonesia (a handful of people stood up), Vietnam (only a few people), Taiwan (a little bit more), and then USA (probably about 85% of the delegates) and Filipinos ! (About the same amount of  those from USA).  It was nice to see the break down of it all. 
    Then they interviewed a person from each country and they shared some stats about their congregations. The publisher count, amount of elders, pioneers , ect. and then shared an experience from the ministry. Then we ate dinner which was buffet style. And afterward they had a show planned for us. 
    They had around 5 songs and dances from the local culture. Oooooh, That is why they were dressed up! I get it now. Haha. After that they had us all sing the song 'Just see yourself , just see me too...' That was the tearjerker for the majority of them. (I actually didn't cry- guess I'm heartless. haha . But close! I just thought it was really really sweet and exciting and I can't wait to see them again in the new system and pictures myself being there and reuniting). After the song they said a prayer and it was time to say goodbye. 
    So many were really emotional and huggy and wanting to take more pictures. Lots of pictures! An hour after it ended people were still taking pictures - hilarious! It was really hard to leave though. Even though we have more time here it will be the last time seeing most of those people. Some of the tour guides we were used to seeing had to go back to work and pioneering (they took a week off for this). Also, some were from different provinces (or islands nearby). Some had to travel 2 hours to get back home that night. At about 10:40 pm we knew we should probably go upstairs to our room. Tomorrow we have to get up early again for a day trip with the group to a place called Corrigedor & Las Casas. 

From Indonesia. 

The 13 month old girl


Saying goodbye 

Evening gathering