Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage.
-
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another dentist appointment, among other things

Today I had to return to the dentist for my 'permanent' insert for the work I had done in June, plus the 'temporary' for the second insert. I'll go back to get that one completed in October. I am happy to say things went equally as well today as they did last time. I was a bit nervous but not nearly as much as that first day. I am so happy with the effort my dentist puts into making me feel comfortable and assuring me that I can stop him if at any time I feel pain. He is there to serve me. I realize that he gets paid very well for this, VERY WELL, but it is nice all the same. Now I just have some tender gums from the pressure, but that's easily handled by a couple of Tylenol and careful chewing.

This morning when I got dressed I put on your typical summertime wardrobe...shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops. When I walked out the door I was reminded of exactly how far north I am. The temperature reading in my car said it was 53 degrees outside at 6:45 this morning, not quite what I'm used to even if I have been living here for 2 years! It did warm up to the low 70's by 10 a.m. I really do enjoy the cool and moderate temperatures here. It's so nice not to walk out and immediately be engulfed by smothering heat. On the other hand, it just doesn't quite seem like summer. Either way, it was and is a beautiful day. Karl and I got to see a glorious sunrise (my appt. was at 7 a.m. so we were both up very early) and some interesting fog/mist sitting just above the crops in the field behind our house. It was fun to see. I just wish I could spot a deer back there. We've been told by neighbors that they are often around but I've yet to see one. I guess I'm gonna have to start getting up earlier (uuggghh!) and sit on the deck to 'deer watch'. We do see plenty of birds, rabbits, and squirrels so that goes a long way towards making us feel like we're right in the middle of nature.

The rest of the day (it's only 1:30 but I feel like I've been awake forever) we've just been hanging out. The kids have been reading their library books and playing/drawing. They watched some cartoons. I've been doing some co-op business, Facebook, email, and writing this entry. I need to get a few chores done and figure out what's for dinner. Emma will need to be fed again before long too. So, I should stop here. Hope all is well with you. Be back soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baby Dedication

Something very important that we had done while in Alabama was a baby dedication for Emma. We have dedicated all of our kids to the Lord, asking that He and those close to us help in raising them to know Him. We have a church here and we could have done the dedication there, but we really wanted to do it with family members. Another bonus was that the pastor who married us, and who dedicated Logan, was living in Alabama at the time and was available to perform the ceremony. (He left that week to live in China for a year or more. He and his wife were missionaries in Africa years ago and are now working in missions again in China.) It was great timing for us. We had a short ceremony at my mom's home and then shared some refreshments with the pastor and the family members that were there. Hopefully we can get a picture up soon. Emma was perfect. She didn't cry or spit up on him....she saved that for just after he gave her back to me! ;)

We had a superb time at the condo in Gulf Shores. The kids and we had been looking forward to getting to the beach for several weeks. There was also a pool at the condo so it was very easy to go out onto the shore for a while then mosey back to the pool for some easier swimming. We enjoyed being there with family. Our nephew Charlie is growing so fast, and he's such a cutie! I think all the kids had fun playing together and the adults had their own fun in the evenings. We played a card game called Hand and Foot a couple of nights. This is the same game Karl and I played with his parents while we were at their house. It's pretty fun. We also played a game that Jason and Kristen brought called Settlers of Catan. This was also very fun but I am not very good at it. Karl is very much a 'strategy' guy so it was right up his alley. In any case, it was nice to be surrounded by family and enjoy being together with a little friendly competition!

It took Karl and Hailey about 2 hours in the sun to revive their tans.....the boys a day or two longer. Me, well, sadly I'm still pretty white! Apparently I'm allergic to the sun....I break out in what I would call hives if I try to sunbathe. My legs, arms, and face are slightly darker so I'll settle for that bit of color. Too much sun's not good for your skin anyway, right?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Home Again

We're finally back home!

It's been quite a while since my last post. Karl has been trying to fill in when I've slacked off, but he's very busy too these days. I had hoped to find a way to blog while on vacation but was unable to do so from my iPhone. I'm not sure if it's not possible or if I just don't know what I'm doing. :=Either way, it didn't happen.

Emma (and the other kids) did great on the drive down to Alabama. We coordinated her feedings with our own meals so we could avoid too many stops. Leaving at 4 a.m. that first morning helped a lot too. The kids were able to sleep a few more hours, then we stopped for breakfast. We made it to Alabama in just two days of traveling.....a hoped for but unexpected turn of events. While there we were able to spend some time with quite a few of our extended family members. My brother, his wife, and children came out from California too so it was a great 'reunion' for all.

One of the things we got to do while there was take the kids canoeing on Blackwater River. Any of you who have known us for very long at all know that Karl and I met and started dating at the age of 15. The youth group from Karl's church ( I attended there with him from about age 16 on) went there occasionally during the summers. So we had many memories to discuss about our times there as kids, and landmarks to look for.....the rope swing was still there. You know the one where a certain 2 people told me they would go pick up Karl for me and actually STOLE our canoe?! (you know who you are :{ ) We were stuck on that island for a couple of hours, thinking they would bring it back....then decided to swim back. Guess where our canoe was? Right around the corner. Man did we get in trouble that day! Believe me you don't want to be lectured by the pastor in front of the entire youth group and the youth pastor. I'm still little bitter about it, so watch out boys! The kids actually wanted me to take them back but I never did. I was a bit concerned about trying to row alone with 3 children.....I never did like to get near the bank and those low hanging branches. I am a scaredy-cat ya know! Maybe we'll find a place to canoe here, that might be fun.

We also did lots of eating while there. I had plenty of my mamma's fried okra and fried corn. My aunts brought over collard greens fresh from the garden, those 'lumpy' mashed potatoes, 'cracklin' bread....oh, so good! And of course just seeing everyone was wonderful.

During the second week of our vacation we made a trip to Florida. That 10 hour drive seemed like nothing after driving down from New York to Alabama! We spent our first night there with good friends and went to the beach the next day. I can't say that Emma enjoyed it all that much,it was during her nap time, but everyone else had a great time. Just the smell of the ocean and hearing the crash of the waves again made my heart sing! I miss it so much, the water and the sand. There's nothing like it. We also went by our house while there, and the renters seem to be taking care of the place. And we went to spend a couple of days with Karl's parents. It was nice to just relax with them and enjoy one another. We learned a new card game and had lots of fun playing that with them. We spent a couple more days with our friends before heading back to my mom's. We had to get back in order to get to the condo we rented with Karl's brother and family, his parents, and his aunt and uncle. A whole weekend on the Gulf of Mexico!

I'll have to tell about that later because I'm out of time. Karl is on his way home from work and I need to put the finishing touches on dinner. Be back soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shhhhh. Can you keep a secret?

I went to a “mall” today called Greenhills. There may be a mall there somewhere, but what I visited was more of a flea market, or what might be called a “swap-meet” out west. These were all new wares, though. Many were knock-offs of course, but plenty of authentic stuff as well. Many of the major labels that are sold in the US are manufactured in the Philippines, Malaysia or China for the obvious reasons of labor cost. If some of these items happen to get “lost” in transit I suppose they must end up somewhere. Factory seconds probably also make their way here, as well as production overrun. Although I did no see such an example, I hear that Gap clothing is sold here, with the word Gap actually cut out of the tag for apparent legal reasons. I’ll probably check for that next time.
Walking by each stall was reminiscent of the straw market in Nassau, Bahamas. Passing each booth came with greetings that double as an add for whatever the young lady happened to be selling.
“Hi sir, T-shirts for you.”
“Hi sir, rubba shoes” “you buy.”
“Hi sir, (insert product here), you buy. I give first customer discount.”
Some are more persistent than others, and everything is negotiable.

I, of course, thought the first customer discount was a bit of a scam, but apparently it is for real. There are hundreds of these stalls, and remembering Wendy’s flea market days, some times an entire day can go by without one sale. In buying a T-shirt for Corbin I was one such first customer. The lady took the money, and kind of bounced it over the remaining neatly stacked shirts, sort of like the pope does with that little incense thing or holy water or whatever. They believe the first customer money is good luck, and this was an effort to spread that luck over the rest of her stock.

Rubba shoes?” You may have asked previously. They were referring to Crocs. They have both the real deal and fakes. One can tell the difference by looking at the embossed writing on the bottom. The real ones list the crocks.com website and the company headquarters in boulder Colorado. The fakes direct you to croos.com and “bolder coloroad”, wherever that is. Not sure it really matters, I mean, come on, they are only rubba shoes. How can you screw that up? I got Wendy some of the authentic ones anyway. No sense taking chances, right? I’m usually against buying anything abroad that can be purchased at home, but I will make an exception if it can be had for 10%- 20% of the normal price.

By far the most unique gift is for little Hailey. She likes weird stuff, but she is also the animal lover in the family, so I’m not sure if she is going to absolutely love this or be freaked out by it, but I just couldn’t pass this up. It’s the little monster you see at the top of the post that is poised to destroy the Makati skyline. It’s a whole frog skin, tanned like leather and turned into a coin purse. Yes that is a zipper across its chest. A small rope has also been inserted as a shoulder strap. I still find it kind of creepy, but this definitely fits in the “stuff I’ve never seen for sale in the US” category. A picture with a little better perspective is below. So if any of you reading this see my little bit before I do, this one’s a secret, so keep your trap shut… or I’m sending the frog after you.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sago Gulaman

I went to lunch with our host here in Manila and he insisted on buying me a local drink. Usually this means I should prepare myself for something stronger than I would normally drink at noon, but hey, mom always said try new things, right? Well it was every bit as strong as expected, but not in the way I expected at all.
Many northerners I’ve met seem to enjoy making fun of how terribly sweet southerners make their tea. These people have obviously never tried Sago Gulaman. This stuff would make a glass of sweet tea at a Georgia Cracker Barrel seem like Earl Gray by comparison.
Sago Gulaman is a non-alcoholic drink that I think must be made by pouring just enough water over a pile of brown sugar so that the crystals will dissolve completely, then pour that over (get this) jelly, before adding ice and little balls of jello. Since the camera-phone picture above that I took is of such poor quality, below is a web image that most closely resembles what I had. A reasonably clear picture was harder to come by than I had expected. The only explanation that I could think of while doing my web search is that most pictures of this drink are taken just as the photographer is beginning to enter diabetic shock.
The drink is not as thick as pancake syrup, but it is every bit as sweet, if not more so. The first thing that struck me was how fat the straw was. It was almost large enough in diameter to drop a dime through. I quickly discovered the reason for this. See those little white balls in the picture above? It was nearly impossible to take a sip that was not accompanied by the “thhhwunk” of one of these things hitting the roof of my mouth as it got sucked up into the straw.

“How do you like your Gulaman?”

“Mmm, (thhhwunk). Wow, I’ve never had anything like this before. (thhhwunk thwunk). Hey you wouldn’t happen to have any spare insulin on you, would ya?”



Now for the educational portion of our post for all you home-schoolers looking to add a bit of cultural exploration to your day.

Turns out that the specifics of my ingredient list are inaccurate. Sago is not a jello ball at all. It is an extract made from the pith of a Sago Palm, and is apparently similar to tapioca.

Gulaman is not a typical gelatin but is made from processed seaweed.

Feel free to follow the links for a little more info. Take note of the reference to the Chinese Konjac Jelly in the Gulaman link. I am absolutely hooked on that stuff. I'll be bringing more of that home from Singapore this time. I'm not sure if it can be bought in the US anymore. Perhaps I'll leave some with Walter and Donna to share with the family. If you're lucky enough to get one from them, be careful. They are apparently quite deadly.

Oh, and since this post is all over the place anyway... Lunch also included fish.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mangosteen

Every time I go to a new country, without fail, someone will warn me about the dangers of drinking the water or eating the food. I'm usually pretty careful about the water, but it's sometimes difficult to avoid the food. Turns out I kinda like food, even the odd stuff. of course there is the occasional item that I would rather not have again, such as whole bably octopus, or (who could forget) the sea cucumber. But by and large, I like trying new things and have grown quite accustomed to the Asian food. There are times in the States when I actually get a craving for some fried noodles at breakfast. I just can't turn down food. I suppose I’ve been lucky to this point. The biggest health risk I’ve faced so far is getting fat on all the great stuff that each country has to offer. One option to combat the fat risk, while still satisfying my urge to explore, is to look for the local fruits that cannot be bought easily in the US. I found one tonight. It’s called the Mangosteen. It's not at all related to the Mango, nor does it look like one in any way. After spotting a stack of them I asked the girl behind the table what is was and how to eat it. She just dug into the leathery outer shell with her fingernails and pulled the thing in half, revealing small pearl colored seed pods that are the edible part of the fruit. The whole thing is a little larger than a golf ball and feels almost as hard, but inside are these little fleshy seeds that have a citrus type flavor to them. Not bad at all. I took one back to the room to get a couple photos of what it looks like, but I think I’ll just eat it and grab some pics off the web. So far, both that I've eaten have had one pod that is significantly larger than the others and it contains something solid that i did not try to eat. I'm assuming it was the actual seed.

Ok, funny story. Not in a funny "ha-ha" type of way. More of a funny, "get this thing off of me!" type of way. I grabbed my web picture that you see above, then picked up my last mangosteen and dug in. as soon as my fingernails broke the outer skin, a little black ant shot out, ran up my hand and bit me. You gotta be kidding! I'll tell ya right now, that is one smashed ant. Of course, once the death and mayhem was over I got back to the work of opening the fruit. Tasty.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back on the Road Again...

...or should I say in the air. I know I completely missed posting anything on the Mongolia trip. I really enjoyed it. Perhaps more on that later. I'm currently en route to Manila, Philippines and am typing this from an airport lounge in Nagoya, Japan while waiting for the plane to refuel. I'll try to do a better job this time, perhaps shorter posts are better than no posts at all.