Tuesday, August 4, 2015

final weekend in the philippines

We spent our last weekend in the Philippines with JD's cousin, Holly, and her fiancĂ©, Eric.  Holly's lived in the Philippines for a year and a half.  She came here after the typhoon in Tacloban.  She and Eric work for Catholic Relief Services.  

When she heard we were adopting Christine she had just requested a transfer from Bangladesh to Tacloban.  We were excited even then to see each other 'one day' when we came to get Christine.  It was so cool that our plans from a year a half prior were actually happening.

Here's the cool room we got at the B&B we stayed at.  Summer camp, anyone?!  

Yes, there are five doubles and two twins!  We all had our own bed!

Chilling at the pool on Saturday.

We walked down a dirt/muddy road about a mile to the nearest beach.  Locals live on the water and had fishing nets out everywhere.  Eric said he had to show us some of the more beautiful beaches in Palawan.  

The happy couple!  

That night, we headed out to dinner at the coolest restaurant!

We rode in 'tricycles' or 'trikes'.  JD was all about it!  He loved riding on a trike!  It's basically a motorcycle with a cart attached.  Part car-part bike.

This is what Avery thought about riding the trike.  :)

This footbridge led to the front door of the restaurant.  It crossed over a swamp of mangroves.  

A beautiful open air restaurant.

The views from our table...

The girls checking out the view...

Little honeys.

As the sun set over this mountain, it looked like a volcano erupting.  So cool!

Avery wasn't a huge fan of the traditional Filipino fare, but she loved all the fresh mango smoothies.  I think the endless choices of mango options is what sustained her throughout the trip.

The closest plate is breaded okra.  It was sooo good!  This meal was the best we had in our two weeks in the Philippines.  Actually, this was our best restaurant meal.  The women in the children's home could cook!  Man, they blessed me with their cooking.

The next day, we decided to do the Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour.  It was so helpful to have Eric with us.  He was one step ahead of us throughout the weekend talking with locals and finding the best deals to sightsee.  There are thousands (!) of islands in the Philippines -- I think it's around 7,000! -- so exploring them could be a full time job!  Eric and Holly have traveled a lot around the country, but some of what they were doing with us in Palawan was their first time.  Eric secured a boat and we headed out to visit the little islands.  Renting this boat for the day (with two captains/guides) cost us just 30 bucks!  I know!  Crazy.

A shot of our boat, Erma 2, once we arrived at Starfish Island.

I honestly thought it was fake!

This is Princess.  If only she were friendly.  I would've loved to get my hands on her!

The weather was sublime!

We spent a good bit of time snorkeling, but I didn't get any photos.  iPhones and water don't mix.  I think Payton got some shots.  Perhaps I'll post them one day, for the record.

Sweet memories.

Even big girls get tuckered out and need to lean on their aunts for a quick rest.  :)

The water was clear and such a beautiful green.

Our last island and we were headed back to port so Holly & Eric could catch their flight home.

And of course a selfie was required to end our visit!

Spending the weekend with them made us that much more excited to travel to Huntsville in October for Holly + Eric's wedding!  Yay!

meeting lyka: part 2

Before I jump back in and finish telling about our day with Lyka, I have to diverge for a moment and say this...

This sweet girl, our sweet girl, is so, so lovely.

She is such a treat!  

Everyday, we're getting to know her more and more.  And loving her more and more in the process.  

Her sweet giggle, her honesty, her humor, her easy-going nature, her likes and dislikes.  

She ordered some kind of dish that came out in an enormous bowl with a huge hunk of a bone plopped down in the middle of broth.  She wasn't amused from the start...

It's a dish she'd enjoyed before but this didn't turn out as she was expecting.

I love her facial expressions!

The smell was brutal.  I guess it tasted better than it smelled (according to JD), but Christine quickly passed it off to the others to enjoy.  

She's just awesome.  

I can't wait for you all to meet her! 

And, best of all, she too is excited to arrive home and meet our huge and amazingly supportive and loving community of family and friends!  She's doing so very well.

We flew from the province/island of Palawan (the city of Puerto Princesa) to Manila today and are headed out tomorrow night (Wednesday) to fly home overnight.  We arrive in on Thursday morning.  We're super excited!

Okay, now back to our day with Lyka on Friday...

One of the sweetest aspects about our time with Lyka and her family was that we were privy to a rare family day for them.  Lyka and her sister had been to some of these attractions through Awana, but it was the first time her little brother had been to these attractions in their town.  To me, it equates to living in Richmond but never having the opportunity to go to Maymont or the Science or Children's Museum.  They were finally able to experience these things together as a family.   

Sweet big sisters.  I bet he is one very loved on little guy!

A shot of Lyka, her sister (behind her), her dad and her brother.  Look at their smiles.  Mm-mm-mm.

This was a small pond where you could put your hands in the water and let the little fish nibble on your hands to cleanse them.  It struck me when I realized the captain of a fishing ship was enjoying a moment with his son -- with fish, of all things!

After we left the Butterfly Farm and Tribal Village, we headed to Baker's Hill for lunch.  It was neat to share a meal together.

This beautiful floral design was done in a bird bath.  Amazing.

Walking into the restaurant, we saw this sign out front.  Tamilok is a delicacy in the Philippines.  However, it made it onto Fear Factor, so I doubt I'd like it.  Although I did l love that show!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made an appearance on Baker's Hill!

From there, we headed to the Crocodile Conservancy and Farm.  

The croc in the case was caught on Palawan and is about 18 feet long!  That's it's skin on the wall!

They raise crocodiles for their skin and meat.  I didn't quite realize that until JD enlightened me.  JD and Lyka shared crocodile sisiq at lunch and it was delicious!  Crocodile is a very common menu item in the Philippines. 

Brooks, Jackson and James, these photos are for you!

The bigger crocs are just kept for conservation.  Some are as old as 60 years old; they can live to 100!

I swear this croc was asleep...

he. did. not. move.

But you wouldn't know that with Payton's expression!

Avery: ever the drama queen!

Next, we headed to the grocery store to get groceries.  They were all so timid and hesitant, at first.  We said, 'Have at it!'  They got things like hotdogs, ramen noodles, eggs, milk.  

As we were leaving, I asked Lyka if she'd gotten something that was a special treat?!  She smiled and said she had.  You can probably guess...ice cream.  :)

And before I knew it our day was over.  We were headed back to our hotel.  As we pulled up, Jesse asked Lyka to pray.  She told Lyka it was okay to pray in Tagalog, her native tongue.  Her English is growing, but she is self-conscious about it.  She prayed from her heart asking God to bless us with safe travels and thanking Him for bringing us to visit.  

I asked Lyka to step outside the van so I could give her a hug.  I looked her in the eyes and told her if we never have the fortune of meeting again on earth, I am so comforted in knowing that we will be together forever in eternity.   I told her our letters and communication will have so much more meaning for me now.  She nodded looking up at me.  We hugged hard and long.  Again, misty eyes for both of us.  :(  JD prayed for their family and thanked God for crossing our paths over thousands of miles and many years.  

Lyka will be in the Compassion program until she's 22.  We have five more years of staying in touch this way, but of course I asked what happens after that?!  I'm so grateful to know that many sponsors keep in touch with their Compassion children into adulthood via email and Facebook!  Although, we're not allowed to do that now, I believe Lyka and I will be friends for life.

If you have a sponsored child through any organization that affords you the opportunity to correspond  with him/her, I cannot say enough what a blessing it has been to my heart and to Lyka's to have gotten to know each other.  A letter a month -- or even every couple of months.  That's all it's been.  And I'm eternally grateful for every, single correspondence.  She is dear to me.    


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