Sunday, July 6, 2014

David in the Philippines - Highlights From Month #5 (June)

5 months in the land of the Philippines. I am humbled how God is using me to have such an impact on many lives, and I have learned so much about myself - some good things and some things I definitely need improving on.

I have my drivers license, Alien Card and bank account. I own a tricycle. I have experienced the mixed emotions of seeing three kids go to their "forever families."

I certainly miss my family (like crazy!) and the other people in my life, but as for the lifestyle, busyness and stress that comes with living in Australia, you can keep it! Such a focus on self and stuff. Life is so simple and uncomplicated here. It hasn't been without its struggles and challenges but overall I am feeling peace, contentment and quiet joy.

One thing I enjoyed immensely was having a Queens Birthday holiday (Australia reference) where the weather was warm and I wasn't stressing about school reports. Quite unusual.

Some reflections from this month:
* Many of the kids at Ruel speak pretty good English, but they're still very literal in some things. Sometimes when they ask to go to the bathroom I say "No, you'll just have to hold it." Since they only have one concept of what 'holding it' is, much laughter follows as they imagine themselves holding their...well, you know. I really must watch what I say.

* Today I narrowly avoided getting hit in the head by a live frog thrown by a four-year old. He then tried to put those same hands all over my face. I then provided a spectacle by giving a bunch of Filipino schoolkids something they'd likely never seen before: a white guy pushing a baby in a stroller. Just another day.

* Another cultural lesson learned from the saga of the tricycle. So, it's been...I don't know...a few weeks since I sent my new bike off with a trusted friend to get it converted into a tricycle with a sidecar and a roof. He gave it to a friend of his who needed work. I had no objections to this. I paid up the full amount early, with my reasoning being: if I didn't, he would take longer to finish it. However, it turns out that over here you never pay up in full straight away because once they have the full amount they will do every other job they can, and take as long as they can on the paid-in-full. I just wanna ride my tricycle (that actually sounds a bit too much like a four-year-old for my liking)  

* Coming from a land where schoolkids "live" for recess and lunchtimes, it has been hard for me to fathom that here at Ruel, the most common question I get asked is "School time?" Even at merienda breaks, even in the late afternoon, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Sheesh!! The schoolroom is also a place where the younger kids aspire to sneak into any chance they get. I guess I must be doing something right.

* I love kids mispronouncing song lyrics. Here's the latest two from Ruel:
"Now let's get the river of the hands" (rhythm, Dr Knickerbocker)
"You are, you are, you are my feeder" (freedom, Alive by Hillsong)

* Since I've taken over the Ruel FB page we've chalked up 330 extra "likes", majority from Australia (not taking any credit for that). Thanks so much for your support my fellow Australians, and it's a privilege to promote an organisation like Ruel Foundation, doing such good work helping the kids and families of the Philippines.

Ruel mistake #6942 - I was pushing a kid on the swing, and some others came along and tried to grab it while it was moving. I made the mistake of sternly warning them "Let it go!" What do you think they started gleefully singing while I blocked my ears and writhed in agony? *Facepalm*

* CRAP!! My first earthquake since I've been in the Philippines and I missed it! How the heck did I miss it!? 5.2 on the scale and I was sitting on my couch, on my laptop. Heard or felt nothing. Wow.

* I've been given more responsibility at Ruel than I've ever had before - caring for kids, teaching, promotion, money, admin, driving. I am thankful for the trust that's been shown to me. But rather than get weighed down by it all, I feel like I'm actually thriving. Being a (paying!) volunteer, I'm not swamped by the extra pressure and expectation I put on myself when I was earning a fairly decent five-figure wage as a teacher. Feeling good about it all
These legends! The four family members from the US have been volunteering at Ruel for a few weeks. On their second night here they uttered six little words: "We're going out. Ya wanna come?" Might not seem like much, but to an insecure introvert like myself it was huge. Numerous card games and trips to Anahaw and McDonalds followed, and I really enjoyed getting to know them. You will be missed!
You know that show, "Pimp My Ride"? Well, consider my ride officially "pimped." The kids were asking straight away if they could go for a ride, and while I appreciate their absolute faith and trust in me, I just ain't ready. Now to practise. 

Yesterday the kids went for their regular walk down to a local church to get some exercise. I decided to surprise them with a visit on my new tricycle. They all jumped on and I took them for a spin (in the safe confines of the church grounds) PS the kids on the roof and the babies are just there for the photo
I'm finally on the staff board! My job description: "Teacher, administrator, social media promoter" I came up with that all by myself :)

Happy 2nd birthday to Baby S. She sure knows how to eat cake
This is something I always need to remember. There's a few of these here at Ruel

I was ecstatic to receive some genuine Cadbury chocolate from down south. They have it here but it's not quite the same. 

A sad day for me (from a selfish point of view), with Mr B going home with his family. Rarely has a little person worked their way into my heart like this guy. He was here for about two months, had a cleft palate operation and is now well enough to go home. His only communication is in squeaks and squeals, and to me it was like a "siren song of cuteness". I'll miss you little guy

Fathers Day here in the Philippines kind of snuck up on me, since in Australia we don't celebrate it until September. Another tricky day, considering where I find myself, amongst many fatherless kids. My major feeling at the moment is gratitude. God is using me, even with all the challenges and struggles I have been dealing with, to be a father to these kids (even when they show their affection by kicking, whacking and biting). Inch by inch I am growing in love, grace and patience.

Some brand new art and craft supplies thanks to friends from Portland, Australia, Rita and Mick Handreck.

This sign gives me a chuckle every time I go past it. I sure hope it's not what the customers say when they purchase a tyre and get just down the road.

Any Zoolander fans out there? "So hot right now..."

With an awesome family of godly men from church. I am now their adopted brother/son

The day finally arrived! After being reminded every day for a MONTH, June 17th was Miss M's 9th birthday. Miss M has made my life...interesting and challenging...and has stretched all my reserves of love and patience. I took her on a tricycle ride to a local mall, we played some games, got her a watch and a yummy blue drink. She was very well behaved until she started running around the "breakables" section of the department store, then I knew it was time to go. I know God has brought her into my life for a reason, to build my character and reveal to me areas of my life that need improving. Happy birthday Miss M.

This picture is right outside my apartment. It might not look much like a bathroom, but it's amazing how many people stop at this spot for a very public wee-wee. I'm feeling thankful for bathrooms.

June 19th was my third "Forever Family" experience since I've been at Ruel. 3-year-old Mr R headed off to his new family in the US. He's an awesome little guy and he's been here most of his life, so there's a big adjustment period ahead. God bless you little fella
Here's Mr R meeting his new daddy for the first time

A momentous occasion for me. I am officially a registered, certified Alien (the card is actually called "Alien Certificate of Registration"). Because only Aliens can open bank accounts, mere tourists can't. I'm becoming more Filipino every day

Staff outing to a nearby resort. I successfully drove a bunch of the Filipinas there and back safely in the big van. Felt rather proud of myself. 

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