Friday, January 30, 2015

January 31, 2015

Today is Saturday and the week has just flown by even though we were not that busy.  However, we have seen a lot of the area and have many things to talk about.
With President and Sister Reeder in front of their home in Naga
Last Sunday, we went to a District Meeting in a city named Iriga.  This District consists of 5 branches and we were able to meet many of the leaders and missionaries while there.  There was a change of leader in the district. President and Sister Reeder spoke along with several local leaders.  President and Sister Reeder spoke in English (neither speak Tagalog), the local leaders spoke in half English and half Tagalog.  It seemed like they would say something in English and then maybe repeat it in Tagalog or they just said some things in English and some things in Tagalog.  The point is that we were able to understand  somewhat the message that was being conveyed by the local leaders.  We were very impressed by the local leaders and their humility and spirituality.  Sister Reeder gave a talk on Tithing.  I suspect that the principle of Tithing is an issue for these saints and this district has been a district for 22 years. The desire is to make it a stake and the principle of tithing is one of the items measured in being considered for a Stake.  The principle of Tithing is profound and most members don't understand it. They think that it is somehow about money but they are so wrong.  It is really about sacrifice.  The Lord asks us to give 10% of our earnings for which he says that he will "open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing" upon us.   The Lord doesn't need our money - but he does want us to learn obedience through sacrifice and giving up some of our money is the hardest thing for many people to do.  The principle of tithing is a "test" to see if we truly love the Lord and will do what he asks us to do.  The promise is profound.  Why would we not want to follow the Lords plan and receive his blessings?

We have been having trouble getting our Drivers Licenses and so decided to try getting them through the city of Iriga.  The president of the District suggested that the President of the Baao branch might be able to help us.  He agreed and we drove back to Baao on Tuesday and met him and went on to Iriga but were still unable to get our licenses.  It was the same issue as in Naga.  Our Visa is good for 90 days and then must be extended.  They won't give us a license until the Visa is extended and they know we are going to be here longer than 90 days.  For some reason they will do it in Manila so we may have to fly back to Manila to get the license.  We can drive with our Utah license and passport for 90 days so we are fine now.  I am not worried as I think we can get this all resolved in some way.

After the drivers license office on Tuesday, President Botor asked if we would like to see some of the area so we drove to two different cities with branches to visit.  We took a lot of pictures and are posting several as they are quite interesting.

We drove to a place called Buhi which has a branch but I don't know how many are people in it. It literally is at the end of the road according to a map.  It borders a big lake which you will see.  When we got near the lake President Botor said, "oh, I forgot.  Today is market day" and there were people everywhere and it was really hard to get through and find a place to park.

Just more of the outdoor market.  These are coconuts.

This is the lake at the end of the road.  It is really beautiful.  Pres. Botor told us that there is a village which you can't see from this picture.  It is further to the right.   The mountain you see is an active volcano and a few years ago it did spout some lava and affected the water supply to the little village on the other side of the lake. Many people were getting sick and dying because of bad water.  The villagers asked government and other sources for help but the only help that came was from the LDS Church which did come in and build a new water system.

This is the current building where the members in Buhi meet for church.

This is a new chapel under construction in Buhi with President Botor.  (this is not his city or building) He was really great with us. We are going to his branch in Baao for church tomorrow.  The Baao branch has only been in existence for 6 months and he said one of his biggest concerns is training in everything.  We will try to help with everything we can although there is a couple who live in Baao and can be a great resource to him.  We will probably help more with the church information system training.

This is the meeting place in another little city named Nabua.

The Gardners told us that they transport chickens like this all the time.  They are not dead but when turned upside down, they go semi unconscious and then revive when turned back upright.  I remember my Dad hanging chickens upside down but they didn't ever come back to life.  After he hung them up and somehow locked their wings together, he chopped off their heads.

I took this last night from our bedroom window.   These are young men from the local wards and it happens several nights a week.  Last night there were about 30 people here not counting children.  I was very impressed with so many coming and participating and also with the quality of ball players.  It is located behind the church house.

Sister Hoopes just can't help herself.  She found some items behind the Mission Office which were placed outside to be junked.  She went through to find things that she could use in our apartment.  This is shades of Germany all over again.

FYI:  You might wonder about garbage.  We put our garbage near the road at night and in the morning it is gone.  You might think the city has a very efficient disposal service and they do but it has nothing to do with government.  Some people in the city take it and scour it for recyclable material that they can sell.  I don't know where the rest goes but our garbage is gone.

Two sister missionaries going home on the next transfer.  The one on the left is Sister Beus from Hooper Utah.  Some of you might recognize the name.  She is the niece of Robert Beus in Fairview.

Other Star Valley ties:  Sister Gardner is a Cranny from Etna Wyoming and Jerry Campbell and his wife served in this same mission and left within the last year.

Small world.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25, 2015

I promised to write again this weekend to talk about Naga.  It is a bustling city with the streets filled with cars, Jeepneys, and trici's (sp).  The Gardners picked us up at the airport and brought us to the Mision office and our apartment.  Later, we went to lunch with them in the Mall which is within very easy walking distance from our apartment.  There is a Supermarket there with most everything we might find at home.  Also many fast food restaurants including McDonalds, Sbarro's, Shakey's, Pizza Hut along with many Philippino fast food restaurants.  We ate at a Japanese restaurant and had a special rice dish along with Tempura Shrimp and Sister Gardner likes their Sushi.  The Gardners eat no meat here - not that they are vegetarians but they don't trust the meat.

The little blue thing in the picture is a Tricy - a motorcycle with a  wheel and cart added.  The drivers haul people around the city for a price.  There are a few very nice vehicles here but lots of motorcycles and the Tricy's. This picture is taken from in front of the mission office and our apartment.  The Mission office is on the main thoroughfare of Naga and almost downtown (city center). The road is busy and our living room window faces the road.  It is noisy all day and most of the night.

Our first evening here, we went to dinner with the Gardners and President and Sister Reeder.  It was great to see them again.  They seem to be doing quite well and we are grateful to be here to support them.  We had a very nice Chinese dinner at a nice restaurant.  Sorry we have no picture of them.  We just talked so much we forgot to get a picture.


Above is a picture of the church right next to the office and this one below is the rest of the church on the right with the office building on the left.  Our apartment is above the office.

 This is the back of the church with parking and the basketball court which is busy most nights of the week.

Left is our new car - a Toyota Corolla Altis.  It is very nice and I am grateful to be driving it and not the big van.  Driving is quite interesting here.  I will have to say more about this in future posts.

We have spent several days going to the stores and back stocking up on things we need for cooking, cleaning, etc.  The grocery store is well stocked and has many American items.  We were excited to find Hershey chocolate chips.

 Below is a picture of the mall from the front.  You can see it from our apartment building as it is very large.

Today is Sunday and we just returned from a District Conference which is a little over an hour away.  For those of you who don't know, a District is like a Stake but has only branches, not wards and falls under the direction of the Mission President.  Stakes come under the direction of the Area Presidency.  This district has been a district for 22 years and can't seem to get the right numbers to jump up to the next level - that of a Stake.  We rode with Elder and Sister Gardner and met the other couple, the Watson's,  in the mission in a little place called Baao which has a small branch and a little church house.  We will be going back to this branch next week to meet with the leaders to discuss membership records and, hopefully, do some training.  We shall see.

We also met with President and Sister Reeder.  It was great to be with them again.  They joined us at the home of Elder and Sister Watson for lunch which consisted of cheese sandwiches, Lays potato chips, fruit cocktail and some cinnamon rolls which Kathlene made last night.  Sister Watson apologized for the lunch, saying, "I have never served a lunch like this to my guests, I always have a roast and potatoes..."  Needless, to say, we all feel the same as she does but were grateful for the food and the company.  Some of Sisters will only eat something like a cheese sandwich anyway.

This is the house the Watson's live in and it looks quite nice but their AC doesn't work well and they have only fans for cooling.  It apparently gets very hot.

It comes complete with all kinds of fruit trees including bananas and a shed for pigs.  The Watson's are ranchers/farmers from Alberta Canada but don't think they are going to be doing anything with pigs.  See picture to the right below.

I am going to end this one as it is getting long and there is so much to say.  I need to talk more in the near future about these people.  That is the reason why we are here.  It is about these people and really nothing else.  They are beautiful, happy people.  I will talk more next time about how we are treated everywhere we go.  We had a beautiful and productive day today and hope to make progress this coming week.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23, 2015

My fathers birthday.  I hope he gets to follow along with our adventure.

Here we go with the first real update to the blog for Jon and Kathlene Hoopes while we are in the Philippines.  I think I will do this in sections so I can remember all the things that might be of interest.  I am also concerned about running too many things together.

MTC:  We left Monday morning for the MTC and spent all week there.  We were blessed to meet and make many friends and meet former associates.  It was a very good experience.  We completed the MTC on Friday afternoon and hurried to SLC for a wedding dinner with Jesse and Cynthia and their families.  We had a great evening.

Wedding:  We were back in SLC to the temple for Jesse and Cynthia's wedding.  It was a cold but beautiful day.  We were grateful to have the 2nd Councilor in the Temple Presidency perform the ordinance.  His name is Wes Thompson and is someone who I used to associate with at Intermountain Healthcare for many years.  I saw him at the temple when we went through with Cynthia on January 6 for her endowments and asked him to perform the wedding.  He said he would be honored to do it and then on Saturday before the wedding, I met the new Temple President who is Cecil Samuelson who I also know from Intermountain days.  It was nice to meet with both of them.  But the best of all was to see Jesse and Cynthia sealed for time and all eternity.  We wish them all the best.

Travel to the Philippines:  Many of you have asked about our travel here,  Our itinerary was as follows:  We got up at 4:00 am on Monday morning and left at 5:00 for the airport.  We flew from SLC at 8:10 am on Delta, to Seatle.  It was about a 2 hour flight.  We then had a layover of 3 hours when we got on another Delta flight to Tokyo, Japan which was a 10.5 hour flight.  We arrived in Tokyo about 2:00 pm.  Then at 5:30 pm we flew from Tokyo to Manila arriving about 9:50 in the evening. We were met by church travel employees and guided to our hotel.   By the time we got through customs and to the hotel, it was after 11:00 at night.  I calculated that we had been up and traveling for about 26 hours before arriving in the Philippines.  We went to bed about 12 and then had to be up at 6:00 to leave again at 7:00 to go to immigration.  Of interest to us was meeting Elder Trask who flew with us to Manila along with his wife. He is the new MTC President for the Philippines.  We also met Elder & Sister Garrett, who flew out of SLC with us who will be staying in Manila to work in the area office.

Manila:  We were picked up at 7:00 am and taken to the immigration office.  Upon arriving there, we were met by church employees to help us and others from the area office to help us with a new process being implemented in the Philippines.  We already had a visa good for 90 days but it needs to be extended to 18 months.  For that we had to be fingerprinted, photographed, etc.  The paperwork was extensive and we were in the immigration office from 7:30 until about 11:30.  From there, we went to the area office where met many other couples including Elder Ferrin who is over all the missionary efforts for the Asia area.  (The Mission Presidents don't report to him but he has responsibility all the travel, health, etc. for all the missionaries)  We then left to try to get our drivers licenses which required a visit to a clinic for medical review.  This was an eye test and blood pressure which I passed.  We then drove to the Drivers License office but found that there were hundreds of people waiting in line and there was no way we could get through in the short time we had left that day. So the drivers license issue was saved for Naga City.

Arrival in Naga: We got up at 5:00 again on Thursday to be picked up at 6:00 for the airport.  We flew out at 8:40.  What an experience!  There were thousands of people there flying to other parts of the Philippines.  It was mind boggling.  We had a porter who helped us with our 4 heavy bags and we did get another church travel employee who found us and helped us through the process.  Thank goodness!  We flew on Philippines Airlines this time and they only allowed 40 Kilos and our bags (which had all flown free on Delta) weighed over 80  The additional cost was about $350 which the church paid.  It was quite an experience getting through all that.  We are grateful that the church provided many competent people along the way to help us.  Our flight to Naga was on a twin prop plane which held about 50 people.  Gratefully, it was a flight of about 40 minutes this time and we arrived safely and were met by a wonderful couple, the Gardners who are serving here from Perry.

This is me in front of the Naga airport.

We arrived at our apartment which we found to be quite nice at least in appearance.  It is plenty large and has tile throughout on the floor.  There is a nice countertop of marble all the way around with some new appliances.  Below is the dining area with a small table.  The best of all is the air conditioning on the wall.  We also have one in the bedroom.

This is the kitchen which is actually bigger than our kitchen in Germany.  We have several new small appliances.  The range is gas supplied by a propane tank under the counter.  We have discovered that most of the water fixtures don't work very well and leak which we will try to work on later.
Below is the door into the apartment with a couch and chair.  All in all quite nice for the Philippines and certainly better than what we expected.

We are actually doing very and I drove my car today for the first time and was quite proud of myself.  I will write again this weekend to talk about what it is like in Naga.