My US Chronicles Issue 1 : The one that made me go “Wow! Really?”

So, 2014 was a surprise!

I was given the chance to be sent to another short term assignment. This time to the US, as in the United States of America.

This is my second STA, the first was in Japan, 10 years ago. This will take me away from home 6 to 9 months tops, away from my 2 beautiful girls and my husband. But to be sent to the company’s headquarters and to be able to support a program on-site, is just something hard to pass up. Thus, our decision, that I take it.

So it’s been close to 4 months now, it is a constant learning, wonderful experience still. Both at the work front and living here in Michigan, in the United States generally. I’ve always wanted to keep something of a journal and I am trying to do it now with this post. So join me as I give you a glimpse of how I am seeing and processing these new things! The funny, the perplexing, the educating and the amazing.

Here’s 10 things that just blew me/floored me, in no particular order.

1. The word rest room. Yes, Rest room.

Back home it is, comfort rooms or CRs. So yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of furrowed brows, a blank stare sometimes or a polite “excuse me?” when I used CR the first couple of weeks. I still sometimes forget but yes, rest room it is, and not comfort room or CR.

Now, since we are talking about REST ROOMs, number 2 on my list is,

2. Disposable paper toilet seat covers/sheets!

Wow! I am used to navigating a tricky public toilet and by tricky you might just get the bare toilet bowl and or some running water and or no tissue paper, you get the picture, disposable paper toilet seat covers, just rock!

And then there’s the

3. Family rest rooms! Hands down, this has got to be one of the best ideas there are. I’ve had had my share of “rest room” mishaps with my 2 girls, that involves well, whisper-shouting instructions to “do not touch that!”, “don’t peek on the other stall!”, “stay put!” “do not move!”, etc. Here, it would mean, dear husband can come in with us and then we can each take one kid, thus minimizing stress, maximizing the day’s excursion’s enjoyment. And the family rest rooms are for those people with special needs too! Neat.

4. Dishwasher. It took me awhile to get used to the dishwasher but it’s one mechanical/electrical wonder.

5. The eye colors! Baby blues, blue as the sky, green, gray, grey/green, hazel, brown, just fascinating!

6. Granola bars. Yes. Filling and lightweight!

7. The drinking age and the driving age! 21 and 14-17 (Varies by state), respectively. This is something surprising to me probably, because one, the drinking age back home is more of like a guideline really but I believe it is 18, and I had this vague recollection that one of my uncles gave me my first beer when I was probably 8 years old; and two, driving back home is really for those who could afford to buy a car, so yes, it is kind of flipped here. You get to drive early on than drink. So yep, this is making the list definitely.

8.  Plaid. I mean how it is actually pronounced! Ha! I always thought it is pronounced same with “played”. The shock? It is still not wearing off. Flabbergasted! 🙂

9. The American slang! There are just so many! It’s like discovering a treasure trove!  I even started listing those I’ve had the chance to use. True. 🙂

10. The tv commercials. I’ve never seen so much insurance, dating sites and pharmaceutical commercials before. It’s disconcerting and equally fascinating.

And so, I’ll leave you with these for now. And hopefully, I get to bring some of my experiences here especially for my friends and family back home. 🙂 I gotta go get me some gas, and that means pumping my own gas. 😉

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Bohol

Yesterday was truly a fulfilling day.
First and foremost, to those who have moved this drive from start to finish, donated and given their time, their efforts and their financial help, to making this relief operation, thank you!
Thank you!
May you be blessed a thousand fold!

I’d like to share some of the highlights from our experience from my point of view.

We started early. Meeting time 4:45am and surprisingly most were early. Tiffany aka Panyang, yes the Mrs. Santa Claus,  she’s a quite regular character on this blog, she appeared here and here, was the main person/coordinator/mover for this relief good operations, together with the Boholanos and Boholanas, who worked at Lear, they were all sorts of amazing.

We hired 2  pumpboats with a capacity of 30pax. We were 2 groups, our group is bound to Catigbian and the other group bound for Loon.

The sea was very calm, the waters clear and the early morning breeze and the sunrise made for a relaxing 1.5hr boat ride. If you will not take into account the sacks of relief goods and bottles of water and boxes, it is a scene reminiscent of an island hopping adventure!

Our early start paid off. We were able to dock at the minipier in Inabanga without worrying about the pumpboats’ propeller getting dinged.

The challenge begun when we realized we have to walk a kilometer to meet the truck that will take us to the area where we’re giving out the goods. The pier road is very narrow and yes “roughed” up from the October 15 earthquake. Good thing the tricycle drivers were willing to ferry our stuff not for free but for any amount we would like to give them.

The men had it bad since they have to carry some items themselves and walk the kilometer walk and it’s about the same time the wind got pissy and left us. =)

The earthquake was kind to some houses but for others, it is devastating.  We finally were able to put down our bags and looked around the public market and to have some breakfast. The locals were telling us how the aftershocks can be heard from the mountains first and then after a few seconds the tremors reaches them. They were telling us how some “katiguwangan”/old people believe in countering the earth’s wrath by uttering “bua/bwa/bwah!” which made for an interesting topic over breakfast. And of course, the very cute Sprite bottle that I have only seen in Bohol.

The truck finally arrived, by truck it means an open truck with railings on the sides, no seats. The group bound for Loon have yet to arrange for transport to take them to Tubigon and then to Loon. And since we were to hit Tubigon first to check for boat schedules later in the afternoon to take us back to Cebu, we decided to have their goods transported with us to Tubigon. I mentioned no seat, right? So we have to make do and be creative in the seating or should I say standing arrangements. The goods took up more than 50% (I think) of the space. So, I was perched on the top of the sacks together with 3 more persons, facing our standing co-passengers and relying on them to tell us if we need to duck or cover from branches and leaves.

The ride was relatively smooth, we’ve seen cracks on the roads, on houses, buildings, big and small. I did a pretty darn good spine twist to the left so that I’ll be able to see forwards. Most of the people have a make-do tent outside their houses for fear of another strong aftershock.  About the time I can feel the sun burning my feet, we arrived in Tubigon. We were able to list our names which serves as booking reservations for the 5pm trip. And no, they are not issuing tickets yet until later in the day.

So, we parted ways with the second group and then we are bound to Catigbian finally. The ride was a roller-coaster ride. Some roads were paved and smooth, some parts, rough with dust flying the moment our tires hit it. Uphill, the views are scenic marred occasionally by the ruins of earthquake. You have to make sure you are standing firmly, with both feet firmly planted, angled for maximum stability and balance during quick unplanned stops with one arm extended and grasping the side truck railings.  The fun part started when Tiffany started giving out “goody’ bags for kids we see on the road. The first time she tried throwing, she nearly hit the girl on the neck. From then on, we started egging her to be more accurate which is funny because she became more ‘off’ the targets. I am happy to say, no actual child was hurt physically. A bit stunned and confused perhaps, yes.  And then during one stop we met another truck full of boxes with the passengers, telling us, “it’s raining!”. Huh? After a few meters we were pelted with rain!  One umbrella for two persons, I really thought we are sure going to be soaked. Thankfully, it was a quick shower.

After the twists, turns, sharp bends, uphill and downhill, we’ve arrived. We have to go down a small hill to the house of our lunch host. We have to be quick about our business. Then the actual distribution began. We made 4 stops in all. Thankfully, the recipients were very orderly. On our 2nd stop, I was able to ask some of the small kids (2-6 yo) what their experience was like and if they are still scared of the aftershocks, one brave boy named Lokoy said he didn’t cry when the earthquake was happening and that they went outside immediately. A girl named Sharmane shyly told me, she cried and she is still afraid and that they also went immediately outside.

Some locals are very forthright in telling and sharing their stories but what was truly amazing for me was the snippets of the mundane things I saw. The farmers who were busy working on their rice fields, the father who was frying fish, fresh catch for breakfast. The little boy trying on his bike on a soft rolling hill, the kids playing and the very “bulingit” carabao under the shade of a big mango tree. The mother sweeping the yard, and the kids singing a pop song. This for me was a testimony that life goes on and that they have chosen to move on and make do with what they have and what is given to them. And what moved me to tears although I have to push it back in, was the random “THANK YOUs” we get. I mean those while we are on the road. Of course those people we have extended help were indeed very thankful and very warm in their “thank you’s”, but what got to me most especially, was the random “THANK YOU’s” from people we passed by on the road! They didn’t received anything from us personally but they said “Salamat!”. It means they are thanking us in behalf of their fellow Boholanos. What a sense of community and of faith. I just hope that no more politicking, I hope that help will be distributed and reached to those far-flung barrios. I hope that a lot will be touched and be instruments for the good rather than the bad. Bangon Bohol!

 

P.S.

There were random people asking for a cut on the goods, although there were only a few of them, most were just happy that there are people who are helping from other places. So, if you have access to those who have their own big relief drives or those small groups willing to get down and dirty to deliver help to those who need them the most, please do help. We can never go wrong with UNLIMITED HELP. And also, base on our experience, since we brought some over the counter medicines for the kids with us (for fever, cough and colds), most of the adults were asking for medicines for cough also which we didn’t have. The handful efficascent oil we brought was a hit.  So, it’s a safe bet to bring this if ever you’ll be there to help. We saw an IPI sponsored mobile water treatment facility on the road, I hope they get to sponsor and give some of their products too.  Bangon Bohol!

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10 PICTURES

I’ve been missing on my Monday Listicles post. But most specially, I missed my dear friend Stasha.

So after a long while, I’m getting on the wagon again. 🙂

This week’s topic is submitted by Jessica 10 PHOTOS FROM OUR PHONE or 10 NAMES YOU CONSIDERED FOR YOUR KIDS.

I chose 10 photos. Easy peasy.

1.  Proud Dads.

2.  My favorite waterform aside from the beach.

3.  Road trip. We passed by this scenic coastal town and what a refreshing view.

4.  Me. Trying on my red lipstick, very seldom used.

5.  These poor crabs are going to be cooked, soon. Samu’s going to hate me Nami.

6.  Totemo oishii desu! Love!

7.  Little helpers. Or. Not.

8.  Good. Very good Papa.

9.  Coconuts and the yummy coconut milk.

10.  The part-time cat and or sometimes dog, loves reading about animals (Dinosaurs, Insect World and Wild Animals)! Figures! And yes, she’s got a new “do” too! 😉

Waterfalls and Zumba

Hello back to me! 🙂

I’m hoping my writing funk ends with this post. Let’s wait and see. I missed my bloggy friends all over the interwebz. And I hope my silent readers will find reason to visit me again now that I’ve managed to shake the blues away. I hope. Fingers-crossed.

So.

This April, the family went for a quick vacation to dear husband’s hometown, the week after the Holy Week. The highlight was the waterfalls adventure. We scaled around 500 steps going down and another 500 steps going right back up,  to see this. Yes, approximately 1000 steep narrow winding steps. What were we thinking! But it was a very rewarding sight!

 

Tinago Falls (main falls)

 

Side falls.

  

Yes, Mikaela is still wearing leggings.

 

Michael II on the left and Michael I on the right. The one on the right holding Ayana Rhys is dear husband.

 

Just have to include this pic. This one is not from Tinago Falls. This was taken way back 2007. The triplets with their brother-in-law Sergie. Michael II wearing the black t-shirt. Michael III on right most and the one on the center’s my dear husband, Michael I.

 

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On the office front, Zumba is the new IN thing now.  We still do have volleyball, basketball, table tennis and darts activities and tournaments.

 

 

Zumba

 

This picture is not of my office mates or of me. But what joy it would be to have a stomach as sculpted as this and moves as groovy as this!

 

It was disconcerting though to have no verbal cues or step by step instructions on the basic moves during my first session. It is a watch and learn, touch and go, show.

 

But what is so nice about Zumba every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at the volleyball/tennis court, at the back of the office is, the sense of community while doing the easy beats and the fun on keeping up with the faster tunes. Although I have to tell you that the “spectators” are present all the time, and yes, they do comment. 🙂 But it’s all in the spirit of fun and good workout.

 

Even without the formal instructions on the “moves”, which some others might find a turn-off, I still love the exhilarating workout I get from these TTH sessions. To the IMDS people, especially to Francis our main instructor/guide, thanks!

 

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The scenery, the fresh air, the simple life.

I am not so good in keeping traditions, thank God dear husband is big on it, be it, putting up the Christmas tree or the annual family vacation.

I’m not so into the Christmas tree and decors, come to think of it, I’m not so into anything house beautification or cooking or any household stuff! Again, thank God, I married someone, who is mindful of these things. The annual family vacation however is something I look forward to every year.

Not only the children get to know dear husband’s sleepy coastal hometown and families and relatives, I get to enjoy the simple life, de-stress and just soak and get lost on the beauty of simple things, the green scenery, the sea and the fresh air.

Hello dear sun!

Sky blues, a boat and the gentle lapping of the waves. I'm blessed.

Another postcard scene. Grace, Nami, I'm meditating here already.

I like these happy coconuts. Happy soaking up the sun.

I love green rice fields. This one is taken while riding a trike, a bicycle with 3-wheels on a road with the most craters and potholes, that can rival the moon's. And yes, that's a part of the yellow t-shirt our "trisikad" driver wore.

A cloudy sunset. This signals our (dear husband's and my) dusk swims which eventually was curtailed due to the cadavers and drift woods floating on Christmas day and 3 days more after.

While packing on the night of Dec. 16 and on the morning of Dec. 17, I was not aware of the tragedy that hit the Northern Mindanao provinces. Typhoon Sendong (international name Washi) made its presence known by flooding a lot of the Mindanao provinces which coincidentally is where we are headed. It was on the morning of Dec. 18, when we arrived at Maigo, that we knew of the calamity. It is a sobering experience to be near where the calamity struck. I will post something about this later on. For the meantime, I hope you’ll find some peace on the pictures I’ve shared. Glad to be back.

Home At Last

Hello everyone!

I’m home!

The 12-day vacation is an annual thing for the family. At the end of the each year, we look forward to unwinding in the province. This year was eventful. I’ll try to organize some of the highlights to share with my friends here and everywhere.

I hope everyone had a very meaningful Christmas.

Love,

Ava

Christmas Vacation 2011 : Day 1 & 2.

Hello friends. We are now at Michael’s hometown for our family’s annual vacation. I’m blogging using my mobile phone.  The internet is not so good here. So far these are the views I am enjoying.  When I get back to Cebu on December 30, I’ll organize some of the highlights. I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays.

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