We made it, FINALLY! We left early on Monday morning and got to LA by 7:30 am. Our flight was supposed to leave at 11:00am, but it was delayed until 10:00pm. Mike told me that was our first taste of the Philippines right there- haha! That delay came with a great treat though- we rented a car and drove up to Camarillo to see Stephen, Jana and Hazel for the day. What fun!!
We completely skipped Tuesday as we flew forward in time and arrived in Manila on Wednesday at 4:00am. We were picked up by a driver and taken to our hotel where we had a half hour nap and then had to get the visa process started. We did get to have breakfast and walk around before we got fingerprinted. Our hotel was in a very nice part of Manila. There are guards with M16's and sawed off shotguns everywhere. Here are 2 guards that were happy to be in a picture.
With the visa process done, our driver took us to a church compound where the Manila Temple and the Philippine MTC are located. We waited there for the Dahle's (Our mission president and his wife), to pick us up and take us to our mission.
Here we are at the Manila Temple.
I should probably include some pictures we took along our way to Olongapo. There is such poverty! Just squater huts that are constructed with plywood boards or corrugated tin. Sometime people just put a hammock between 2 trees and have their possessions in plastic garbage bags in their area of ground. We saw them cooking with 2 coffee cans- one with the fuel and the other was their pot. Also, take a look at the electric wiring between the poles. Who knows how it all works! There is also a picture of a rice field. I didn't get the caribou in the picture- missed it! Also included is a picture of a tricycle- a favourite mode of transportation for the people.
When we arrived at the mission home we were greeted by Othello Rico! What a nice, warm surprise! He is here visiting friends and family and was nice enough to stop by to see us. He waited for us for 2 hours and only stayed for a quick visit. We hated to see him go and wish we could have visited longer!
We were exhausted! I slept like a log, but Mike had trouble sleeping that night. We were up at about 5:00 the next morning with our jet lag. We started the day with a meeting over at the mission office and then went out with the missionaries to get our cell phone set up and to get our driver's licenses. That literally took almost all day. Things that should take about 1 hour here, take 10 times that long to do. Driver's license place was closed for Holy Week. The traffic is unbelievable and the driving is insane. We have a brand new Toyota that we wish we didn't have to drive! We'll have to get our license on Monday since they don't open again until then, but we can (unfortunately), drive with our US license until then. Drivers make 8 lanes out of 2 and I'm not kidding! We got our cell phone set up and it only took about 3 hours at the cell phone store- I'm not kidding!
Next day we had a missionary conference for all the newer missionaries and their trainers. We got to meet so many wonderful missionaries and since there was a branch activity going on outside, we met many great people. It was such a fun day! I got to play the piano for the meeting and then after the meeting I had a bunch of people who wanted to sing around the piano. Filipino's love to sing! One little 13 year old girl sang some pop songs for us, including a local favorite, Mahal Kita Pero.
Here are some pictures of some of the members. The little woman that Mike is standing next to was baptized in 1973 and swears she remembers his from when he was here. She would have been baptized just a few months before he got here. Mike doesn't remember her, but he remembers some of the missionaries she mentioned.
We are loving the Dahle's. They are so good to us! We have been staying with them in the mission home until our apartment is ready to move into and it has been such fun! Mike played some basketball with President Dahle, some missionaries and boys from the branch, this morning. I did a great workout with Sister Dahle. It is SO hot here! We sweat all day long, so add some exercise to that and it is hotter than hot yoga at home. It felt so good to get some exercise though.
I forgot to mention something so exciting. We were shopping at the gorcery store and ran into some church members. When I saw the mom of the family I kept thinking how much she looked like Mercy Cardona. They looked like twins! When she found out we were from Canada she said she had a sister living in Winnipeg. I said, "Mercy Cardona!" She said yes, that was her sister! We could not believe that! What are the chances?? Here is a picture of their family with us.
Well, it is going to be while before I really figure out how these blogs work. I haven't written about everything, but just know that life is good and we are adjusting thanks to wonderful people around us. We are happy to be here and thankful for this opportunity! By the next time we write we should be in our apartment and full of other kinds of adventures.
Mahal ko kayo! Paalam!