Friday, February 26, 2010


Driving in the Philippines is completely different from anything else you’ve ever experienced. Imagine packing 15 sweaty bodies and our luggage into something slightly larger than a 7 person minivan. Next, imagine that same van cruising down the road at mach speed in the effort to get to who knows where...FAST!

After a very busy trip and a long day (24 hours) of driving ahead of us, I decided to catch a few extra minutes of sleep on Kai’s shoulder. The sleep was restless, as is any sleep that one catches packed tightly in between bodies, traversing rough roads, with the chatter of conversations around me. The driver had been up all night the previous night and was planning to continue to drive the rest of the day and all night until we reached our destination. We were all concerned he was working too hard, but the leader of our group assured us that he was fine and all would be well.

About 2 hours into the trip, I awoke to the strained and frantic voices of everyone around me. Groggily I opened my eyes and tried to recollect my surroundings and figure out what all the commotion was about. Ah yes. I was in a cramped van travelling to who knows where, heading down a highway going…THE WRONG WAY!?!?! I immediately snapped awake realizing that cars were zipping by us all heading in the wrong direction—opposite of us. In fact ALL the cars were heading straight toward us. We were the only car heading in our direction. WE were the ones going the wrong way!! We were driving the highway in the wrong direction. When I say highway, I don’t use this term lightly. This was no downtown boulevard or even 4 lane road. This was a divided 8 lane highway that was a main artery for the capital city of the Philippines. The sound of blaring horns could be heard as we weaved our way through the oncoming traffic. We looked to the driver who was unaffected. Pedal to the medal, hands firmly on the wheel, eyes locked straight ahead; determined. One look at the faces in the van and you could be sure we were uttering our last prayers—trying to make final peace with God because this was very obviously the end. Some were covering their faces. Others were staring straight ahead, not wanting to miss their last moments on earth. Then, just as quickly as it started, it ended. Our driver found an opening in the median, crossed over, and resumed driving on the correct side of the highway.

After having a chance to get my racing heart back to normal again I was filled in on what I had missed while sleeping. Apparently our driver was annoyed by the traffic jam we had been sitting in. Traffic was moving sluggishly, so he decided to try something different--the other side of the highway! Thankful to be alive, we uttered prayers of thanks, dismissed the incidence as an isolated moment of insanity due to lack of sleep, and resumed our conversations again.

A little further down the road, we were out of the city and the road had now narrowed significantly from 8 busy lanes to 2 very congested lanes of traffic heading in opposite directions. The only passing that was to be done was the kind of passing in which you waited for a break in the oncoming traffic and made an attempt to pass the car in front of you. Keep in mind that we were a fully loaded van with 15 people and our luggage. We were heavy and difficult to move. Our driver was unaware of either of those points, however. When an opportunity arose, he would floor the gas pedal, the engine would surge, and we would inch slowly by the car we were so determined to pass, all the while staring straight into the headlights of an oncoming car. Again, we prepared to meet our Maker. White knuckles, sweaty palms, racing hearts, breath held, minds lifted heavenward in prayer and supplication. Audible gasps rang out sporadically throughout the van. All lighthearted conversation had ceased. The only talk was that of if we were ever going to make it out of the Philippines alive. At the last second we would squeeze in ahead of the passed car just in time for the oncoming car to barrel past us. Several times, we obviously weren’t going to make it, so either the oncoming car or the car being passed (or both) would veer off the road at the last second and make 3 lanes from a 2 lane road to avoid a head-on collision.

We passengers in the van coined a phrase in those traumatic moments: DieInThePhiliMaDrivaMcPhoba. Plainly stated, this is the fear of dying in the Philippines from a maniac driver. Call it post traumatic stress disorder, but neither of us have ever forgotten that phrase in the 6 years since our trip.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Money Well Spent

Several years ago, when we were living in South Korea, we took a trip to the Philippines for a short mission stint. The people we met there were wonderful people. Rich in love, poor in possessions. They radiated some of the best smiles I’ve ever seen even though some were toothless or near toothless. I think smile wrinkles are beautiful. Many of the people we came in contact with had deep, beautiful smile wrinkles. One of my favorite memories of all times is from that time.

One very hot day as we were visiting another poor town, we saw a tired man pushing an ice cream cart. The children playing in the streets stared longingly at him, but were obviously poor and had no money to buy any ice cream. He was working hard to try and sell our group of foreigners some of his delicious ice cream. Some in the group dug in their pockets and produced the coins needed to buy a cone and satisfy their craving. It was the perfect treat for a blistering hot day. Kai and I looked at each other and had the same idea hit us instantly.

We started talking with the ice cream man and asked how much it would cost to buy ice cream for all the children around. He looked at us in shock, took off his hat, and rubbed his sweaty head as he started calculating. He wasn’t sure if he even had enough ice cream in his cart. We handed over the bills and he started calling the children to him. Children poured in from everywhere! A long line of expectant, happy faces formed. We walked a distance and watched as kids of all ages eagerly took their ice cream and devoured it with joy while the man frantically and exuberantly scooped ice cream until his cart was empty. It was a simple act. It didn't even cost much. Yet I’ll never forget the gratitude we experienced from bringing a little happiness to an ice cream man and some Philippino children.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One year

Here’s a brief re-cap of Kasen's year:

1 month: Started smiling (and hasn't stopped since).

2 months: We got 7 hours and 9 hours of sleep straight through! We felt like new people.

3 months: Learned to squeal in delight as he watched Shamu at Sea World. He also rolled over and knew his name.

4 months: Sat alone.

5 months: 1st and 2nd teeth popped through.

6 months: Started crawling, rode on an airplane for the first time, and got the 3rd and 4th teeth.

7 months: Said “Mama” and got 5th and 6th teeth.

8 months: Said “Dada”, stood alone, and waved bye-bye.

9 months: Started walking and tooth #7 arrived .

10 months: Started running and got his 8th tooth.

11 months: Said “ball”.

I can’t believe all that’s happened in one short year!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Kasen!

This past weekend we celebrated Kasen’s 1 year birthday. His actual birthday is still 2 weeks away, but most of our family was here for Kai’s white coat ceremony (pics of that later), so we thought we’d take advantage of the opportunity and celebrate a little early.

I handmade the all of the invitations with one of my best friends, Elisa. She’s singlehandedly one of the most creative people I know and with her help we came up with some very cute invitations. Since the party was scheduled for the day before the Super Bowl, I decided to theme the party around that (and sports in general). We stayed up until midnight gluing, cutting, folding, etc., but had so much fun! Pictures are below.

The party had a great turn out. I sent out 20 invitations thinking we would get about 1/2 of those to actually show up considering all the big events of the weekend, but as the rsvp's were coming in, I realized I might have underestimated that number. The day of the party we had 52 people here!! It was raining, so we had to have it inside, and if you've been to our home, you know that that means we were very cozy! We served a full lunch of homemade mac and cheese with various side dishes. Kasen now has more toys than he can even think about being interested in, so Kai and I have considered hiding them and bringing one new toy out each week...not sure what we're going to do.

It’s a pop-up card, so when you pull on the sides, the picture of Kasen pop’s up from inside.

He really didn't like the taste of cake. (He obviously doesn't take after me on that one!)
Kai's dad decorated this cake. It's been tradition that he's decorated his boys' cakes since they were young children. We were so happy he could carry on that tradition for Kasen's first birthday!
Not sure what to do.
He was shocked when everyone started singing to him. This look was priceless!
The toy pile. Most of his new birthday toys aren't even pictured here. Thankfully, we plan to have more kids so we'll never have to buy toys again, right?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Food For Thought

If you haven't watched Food, Inc. and/or The Future of Food, I highly recommend you adding one or both to your Netflix queue. These 2 movies pushed us over the edge we've been teetering on for some time now about whether to buy organic foods. We are now fully committed to buying organic food as often as we possibly can. Until I know exactly what genetically modified (gm) foods do to our bodies, I'd prefer to not eat them. Quick fact: 90% of all corn is gm and a large majority of our processed foods come from gm corn, so unless your label reads "organic" or it's not made from corn or any derivative of corn you're likely eating gm food. Japan is watching U.S. children for the next 20 years to see how our kids turn out after eating gm foods before they allow gm foods into their country.

I find making a list of the top 3 most important things regarding something always seems to make it stick a little better, so here's my list from the 2 previous films:
  • Buy local--from farmers markets, local growers, etc.
  • Buy organic
  • Buy dairy products from animals not treated with growth hormones.