Monday, January 21, 2019

Manila, Part 2--Sightseeing then Home

What I learned when we whirlwind experienced the Philippines:

The Philippines mixes so many cultures and languages that it's difficult to find indigenous Filipino food, clothes, or experiences. I loved how language seamlessly moved from English through Spanish to Tagalog or any of the other native languages. I loved Japanese ramen and American Krispy Kreme and Filipino "pig foot" (yes I did eat that--tastes like a pork roast with lots of little bones in it). I loved how accepting and genuinely kind the people were. I loved talking to the cab drivers and hearing their opinions on local and international politics. I especially loved how Filipinos (in the words of one cab driver) "don't hold grudges" against other countries who had invaded or colonized or destroyed their country--"that happened so long ago. That doesn't matter in the Philippines today." I wish Americans were more like this--quick to forgive the worst and quick to adopt the best from other countries.

We only had three days in Manila, and one day was spent at the temple for Nosheen's sealing. What to see in Manila if you only have two full days plus one evening?

Of course we visited the oldest church in Manila--St. Augustine's, begun in the late 16th century.

Brad found an artisan market around the corner from the cathedral that had the most incredible crafts. It took all my self-control not to bring home the huge wood bowls and handcrafted baskets.

We also visited Fort Santiago, but by the time we got there, we couldn't see much of it.
On Thursday, Nosheen and Rahat attended the temple while we ventured out in the city.

First stop, the US WWII memorial cemetery.

I wish the general population still appreciated the military losses our country sustained over the centuries to maintain our freedom.
 I've been to war memorials all over Europe, but this cemetery brought the US loss of life in the Pacific into perspective.
What a beautiful, calm, green space in the middle of the chaotic city.

The nagging obstacle to sightseeing in Manila is the traffic. One cab driver explained to us that the combined metropolitan population is almost 14 million people, and there is very little transportation infrastructure--no subway system, no public bus system, only one limited monorail line--and over four million vehicles. Sometimes it takes hours to travel a few kilometers, and you never know when traffic will rear its ugly head (it took Brad 45 minutes to go 2 km between two airport terminals--at 11 PM!). Despite the potential for traffic issues, we opted next to visit the Divisoria Market on the other side of town. After a long cab ride through the highest income neighborhood in the city (Embassy row) and many middle areas, the cab driver picked his way carefully through one of the roughest neighborhoods I've seen anywhere in the world. Reviews of the market said there were great deals and gave the site 4.1 out of 5 stars. However, the cab driver was a little hesitant to let us out, strongly warned us about pickpockets, and informed us no drivers would come into Divisoria, so we'd have to find a cab stand to make it back home.

This picture can't portray how crazy congested and noisy this place was, but Brad and I were both uncomfortable and questioned our decision to come.
After wandering through the stalls and buying a few small presents for home and sharing apples with two small boys, we opted to take a tricycle cab back to a safer, less congested part of town before calling a car cab.
I'm so glad we did. It was a great way to see that area of the city and made us feel more like locals than tourists.

Friday was our final day, and Brad booked an incredible tour of Lake Taal and Volcano Island.

After a sunrise drive from the busyness of Manila to the tangled jungle of the provinces, we boarded a boat to cross the beautiful volcanic lake.
The lake looks calm, but after pulling away from shore, our pilot, Ren, handed us a big sheet of plastic and told us it was to protect us from the spray. Brad and I questioned whether we should use it, but we covered ourselves with it anyway. Two minutes later, we were bathed in spray--and very grateful for that small sheet.
It was such a beautiful ride to the middle of the lake and the active volcano.

We arrived on the island early, and since we were only the second group of tourists so far that day, there were few people and little dust on the trail.  It was incredible.
Only 3 km from the beach and we were at the top.
Brad got some amazing drone footage of the lake and the islands, and then we headed back down where we ingested fresh coconut.
What was going on at home in our absence?

Heidi's family visited my parents. I love that my grandkids know their great-grandparents.
 Karli and Tucker held down our fort, and she occasionally sent us cute pictures like this:
One day, Karli took her kids and Cleo to the park for a picnic. I got a text in the middle of the night, saying that Cleo had gotten into a bag of raisins while they were there, and Karli was taking her to the vet.

Cleo is fine, but she did have to have blood work, an oral dose of charcoal, and a hump of fluid in her back.
She never threw up, blood work was normal, and her appetite returned quickly.

But she did hate that hump! Doesn't she look pitiful?
Poor girl!

Before we knew it, we were on our way home.

Looking fresh at the beginning of the trip . . .
 . . . an impromptu photo in Narita airport that led to a minor skirmish between spouses before our long trans-Pacific flight . . .
 . . . one of us sleeping almost the entire second leg . . .
. . . arriving back home 25 hours after leaving our Manila apartment. Brad was home one hour, then I drove him back to the airport for a quick flight to SLC for his nephew's mission farewell.

I shared souvenirs with kids and evaluated the fridge before taking Hyrum and Eve to the store for some quick groceries.

I need to conclude this post with this awesome shot of Hyrum. Four gallons of milk, four liters of soda, seven grocery bags (one with seven cans of tomatoes).
His faces portrays his mood perfectly--sheer panic that the bags would break or he would drop part of his load or that the bag handles would tear through his arms. Gotta love his tenacity.

I was gone nine solid days. I experienced the highest levels of academia and the lowest levels of poverty, the full range of the earth's climates and human emotions.

But in the end . . .

There's no place like home.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Manila, Part 1

I flew over 

the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Arctic Oceans

the Bering and the South China and East China Seas

Hudson Bay and the Sea of Japan

and all the land in between

All in one week.

Whew.

Instead of coming home before my next trip, I flew directly from Boston
 . . . after a mandatory cup of chowdah . . .

. . . through Tokyo and the world's cleanest and most complicated bathrooms . . .
 . . . to Manila for three quick days.
 Why Manila?

This.
 Remember when we attended a wedding in Pakistan in 2016?


 Brad and I met Nosheen and Rahat in Manila so their little family could be sealed in the temple.


I met their beautiful daughter, Tahzeeb.
What a beautiful baby.
She flew 18+ hours, had no regular bedtime, stayed with sitters while her parents attended the temple, endured ENDLESS cab rides in the Manila traffic, and generally bounced everywhere the adults dragged her.
 And I think I only heard her cry once or twice. She is such a good baby with a sweet temperament and quick smile.
I fell in love with her immediately.

My favorite experience of the entire trip was when I was granted the privilege of holding her as she was sealed to her mom and dad forever. That moment still brings tears to my eyes and will remain a treasured memory for the rest of my life.
We love Nosheen like she is our own daughter, and we are so thankful we could be there to share their special day.

What an incredible day. I am so happy we could make it.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Tale of Two Climates

What a week this has been!

I submitted the hardest paper of my life in December, and I've waited almost every day since then for feedback from my professor. He was so helpful all semester, and I fully anticipated feedback within a few days of submission. Time passed--and so did Christmas, then New Year's--and I still hadn't heard anything. Final grades were being issued on January 8, so I knew I'd find out at least my grade on that day, and I hoped grades would update at midnight Boston time--which they did. Brad snapped this picture as I was getting ready for bed at 10:01 pm on January 7.
I worked harder for that grade than any other in my life. I knew I'd left everything on the table and that I couldn't have done any better.

I got an A.

And I couldn't stop smiling and squealing for almost an hour.

But I'm glad it's over.

(A few days later I got feedback on my work. I will be forever grateful for Dr. Shoemaker and what he taught me about critical thinking and writing. That class was a life changer, and that can't even express how I feel about the experience."

It's been a big week for my Hyrum as well.
 He was ordained a deacon on January 2, and the next Saturday, Brad and I took the boys to the Gilbert temple to perform baptisms.
There's nothing like the excitement of these young kids and their first time in the temple and passing the sacrament in church. I'm really proud of him and his attitude about life. Can you believe how tall Micah's getting? This picture makes him look taller than Brad, which he isn't yet, but he's close!

This girl left us to head back to college.
Lily had a rough time last semester. School was hard. Life was hard. The cold was hard. Everything was hard. But she went back up to Rexburg with a new attitude and firm resolve. She's FaceTimed me a few times, and I love the difference in her attitude and commitment to school. I just know this semester will be her fresh start and the time when the real Lily Jane will come bounding out to take the world by the horns. Love her and her desire to succeed and work hard.


And this girl.
This girl told me, "Mom, you're my comfort human. And Cleo is my comfort animal." I was flattered, especially when she told me (through tears) that the reason she can't stand to be away from me is because "You're the best human in the whole wide world." She has a hard time going to bed anywhere but home or if I'm gone, but she's doing so much better lately. I know she's working hard so she can spend a week at Grandma Tucker's house this summer. If she keeps this up, she will be ready! She made this cute bag at Activity Days out of bandannas and insisted Brad send me a picture of her wearing it. I'm proud of her and how hard she's working to go to sleep at night and learn some independence.

Why would she be calling me and sending me pictures?
 Sunset over Cape Cod

. . . because I'm finishing up five days in Boston for my latest class--Boston before the Revolution.
I've spent hours in lecture and writing two papers. The best/worst was walking ALL DAY yesterday around Boston, going to museums, historical societies and historical sites. It. Was. COLD. And not just cold to the AZ visitor. It was 20 degrees with a breeze. Even the native Bostonians were complaining of the cold once the sun went down. Miserable but awesome. Is that possible?

We had lunch in a Charles Bulfinch house on Beacon Hill that is owned by the Colonial Historical Society. Charles Bulfinch!
We casually ate hoagie sandwiches and clementines among the 17th-18th century paintings and antique furniture with "Please do not touch" signs pushed aside. When asked why we were allowed to eat in the room (I felt like a little kid in the good room of the house with a glass of grape juice), Dr. Allison offhandedly commented, "Well, I'm the vice president and I have a key." Wow. Just wow. That is a moment I'll never forget.

Our professor knows his stuff. I can't believe how much he knows and how he seems to have an answer for any question.

I also learned to ride the T like a pro--way easier than NY's or Paris's subway system, that's for sure. See me in my coat, scarf, and ear warmer?
Notable moments from this Boston trip besides lunch in the Bulfinch house:

Seeing Copley's paintings in person at the Museum of Fine Arts. So much better than a copy. Samuel Adams is my hero.

Meeting a History teacher from Chandler who shares my passions and shared some of his teaching insights for when I return to the classroom one day.

Using my Harvard ID to study in Widener Library.
This was the moment of the trip for me.

I swiped my ID and walked into the library as a Harvard student. I sat in this room for almost five hours writing a paper.

It was such a surreal moment. I wrote a paper while at Harvard. What??

Every time I come to Boston, I have at least one moment where I cackle under my breath and send up a silent prayer of gratitude that I get to live this dream. I love every second of every experience and every class. I realized during this trip that I only have 18 months left in this adventure before I finish my degree, and then these moments walking the streets of Cambridge with a backpack and academic purpose will end.

I'm going to savor every moment.

And I have five classes and one more trip to Boston this semester, so that will be a lot of savoring.

I love my life.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Ringing in the New Year, Denton Style

Happy New Year from the Denton Sanatorium!
We aren't that festive or exciting around here on New Year's Eve, but I did plan a few Minute-to-Win-It games. The kids liked them ok, but then Brad upped the ante when we finished playing a kid version of beer pong.

After an unsuccessful round on the table with $20 prize, Brad made it more challenging and more rewarding. He placed the Solo cup on the floor, gave each person one chance to stand on a chair and try to bounce the ping pong ball into the cup from 12 feet away.

Prize? Benjamin Franklin.

After four or five of us unsuccessfully attempted the new challenge, Tucker landed the ball in the cup and I wish this moment was on video! And immediately after him, Karli's brother Troy landed a second ball in the cup!
Brad was nervous at this point, thinking he would be bled dry by the end of the challenge, but thankfully for him, there were only two winners. I don't think Troy had ever held a $100 of his own. Not bad for five seconds of work!

On January 1, we headed north to the cabin. (Tucker's family plus her two youngest siblings, Ben and Makayla, and us with our three youngest. Lily, who lives in the land of ice and snow while she's in school, opted to stay home and clean the entire house for a small fee. I quickly agreed to that deal!) Snow in the AZ mountains is unpredictable, and when the forecast shows a snowflake, we desert rats quickly comb through the snow clothes and drive 90 minutes for a few hours of winter.
 The snow level was lower than I've ever seen it as we drove up--snow-capped saguaro cactus and the desert grasses bowing under the unfamiliar weight of heavy, wet snow.
 It was beautiful.

My boys inherited their teasing from their dad. While I was asleep, the family started a snow fort and tried to build a sled track down our driveway (not enough snow for that, unfortunately). Brad incessantly pelted everyone with snowballs or tackled  people to the ground to whitewash them.

Finally, the boys took it upon themselves for a little revenge. Brad didn't stand a chance against his three biggest boys (with Hyrum egging his brothers on from the sidelines).
 Micah landed the lucky shot . . .
 . . . which landed right in Brad's face. He may tease a lot, but he takes it when the kids dish it right back at him.
I love this picture. And I love this man and the family and life we've created together over the last almost thirty years.

Although the snow wasn't deep enough for a proper bobsled track like we've built in the past, the kids still had a great time sledding down the hill . . .


. . .  and making actual "snow" cones.
Summer is a great time to head north and escape the heat of the Valley, but winter and snow are my favorite times in the pines of central Arizona.
 Especially when surrounded by people I love.


The best part? After frozen pizza and quickly straightening up, we drove back to the Valley and were all in bed by 9 pm.

I may have said this before, but I love the cabin.