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Sam’s First Snow

Of all the things I love documenting, it’s my husband’s firsts i love the most. This week we experienced our first snowfall, and boy what a snowfall that was! Reports tell us we had a total of 14 inches in 2 days alone, but I think it was more than 14! As if I knew. Since it was our first time seeing a lot of fresh fluffy snow (we’ve seen fake snow, and snow on the ground, but nothing like fresh fluffy snow!), Sam had all the energy plowing the entire driveway! And of course I also had the energy to instruct him on how to do it better, which didn’t help at all, by the way. So, since my “instructions” didn’t help at all, and because I really wanted to help, I just ended up taking the hand-held snow plow (also spelled as snow plough)  from him for short periods of time to allow him to rest. So,  it’s hello again, painful joints for me. Anyway, here are some of his reactions as we waited for our first real snowfall:

Day 1:  It’s snowing! Yay! Snow! Snow! Snow!

Day 2:  Have you seen how much snow there is outside?! You’ve got to come look!

Day 3:  (when he came home from work at 6am) I couldn’t find my car under all that snow! Oh no, and it’s only the first day of snow!

My reaction: You wanted snow, God gave you snow 🙂

Look at him:

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Cupcakes For #TeamBanggi

We’ve been following Dr. Evangeline Cua’s efforts for the past weeks since typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Visayas Islands. A few days after the disaster, she posted a facebook status asking for help as she planned for a medical relief operation on her own to Tacloban, and she got an overwhelming response from all over the world! I won’t talk about the difficulties and stumbling blocks she encountered as this would spark another interesting discussion on my comment feed. I would rather talk about how much they were of help to the victims who were sick, injured, and…wait for this…pregnant! I exaggerated the last part a bit because, get this, she’s actually a surgeon, a very good one, in fact, and yet the most featured picture (and newsclip) of her on TV was when she delivered the “Yolanda” baby. Needless to say, we are very proud of her. She was my surgery chief resident during my younger days as an intern in medical school. The team she led consisted of a chef, a physical therapist, a midwife, a law student, a Social Action Officer, an OR nurse, and two more doctors. They were able to help around a thousand sick and injured (don’t forget pregnant) victims. If you want to see her in action, click here. She’s the one in blue scrubs carrying the newly delivered baby. You can also listen to her interview with BBC here.

So, since I’m all the way here and couldn’t help on the ground, my husband and I decided to help by fundraising for Dr. Cua and her team as they prepare for their second and third trips. So we started CUPCAKES FOR A CAUSE, proceeds of which will be wired to Dr. Cua’s “Yolanda” bank account and will be used to procure medicines and surgical supplies for her team’s medical-surgical mission to the typhoon-affected areas. Five dozens of cupcakes gave us $220 in return, at (supposedly) $2 a piece during the first two days! So, we thank you- Bartlett Regional Hospital Laboratory and Emergency Room staff, employees of First Bank (Mendenhall Valley Branch), and the people that have helped us around at such short notice, the Arsuas- for supporting this cause. If you’re from Juneau, Alaska and you want to help, you can contact me, or place a comment below. We are yet to collect from some more people who have pledged their donations, and we will be wiring the funds next week.

To Dr. Cua (or Doc Banggi as we fondly call her), may you and your team be safe, and may God bless your hearts even more!

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THE LAST THING WE FILIPINOS OUGHT TO DO

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photo taken from cnn.com (http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/10/world/asia/typhoon-haiyan-developments/)

When news of the aftermath of Yolanda(a.k.a. Haiyan) reached us, we were devastated. My facebook newsfeed was and is still full of pictures, videos, news updates of missing people, notes from survivors- everything that painted a picture of the shocking destruction made by the supertyphoon and the tsunami-like storm surge that killed an estimate of almost 10,000 in just one area, left thousands homeless, and wiped out entire cities. Not only that, my facebook wall has also been full of personal opinions on how the affected should be helped, complaints on delayed relief efforts, derogatory remarks about the government and the president- even of volunteers, media people, fellow doctors, and the Red Cross– blogposts on people being insensitive about what they post on their facebook walls, attacks on churches and religious organizations, and disputes, yes quarrels on social media about anything pertaining to the use of social media in such a time as this. And this too, is heartbreaking.

Dear fellow Filipinos, the whole world is watching us. We claim to be strong in the face of adversity; we claim to be heroes for withstanding the strongest typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters beyond our imagination, but we seem to go on lashing out at each other- judging people by the content of their facebook walls, judging victims who have looted grocery stores, attacking the president or any other politician, attacking churches and whole religions, complaining, oh, endless complaining about almost everything- from the delay of relief operations, to the blackouts, tv programs deemed insensitive- almost everything. Please, let us stop.

Let’s not judge the president for his seeming lack of sensitivity and reported lack of manners by walking out. We don’t know exactly what was on his mind. Let us not judge the church who reportedly refused to help survivors, we do not know what really happened, and if they did really refuse victims, it is not for us to judge them, they are not accountable to us. Let us stop making or even exaggerating the stories about politicians from the affected areas who are also victims of the tragedy. I am sure they are doing their best in helping. Let us stop complaining about the delay of relief operations to the affected areas. We do not know exactly what it entails for the volunteers to travel to the affected areas. We also do not know what it entails for truckloads of relief supplies to reach the area. We know nothing about the logistics. Let us stop judging volunteers if they post photos of themselves helping out on facebook. We are not aware of their intentions, and even if it were to brag, it’s not for us to judge them, at least they’re helping out. Let us stop judging victims who have looted groceries, helping themselves to whatever is left- food, clothing, even appliances- these people have lost their homes and loved ones, and have gone hungry and psychologically traumatized for days. Let us not judge the media for still allowing “happy” shows on television amidst the mourning. They might just want to cheer us up. If you can’t take it, you can turn your television off. Let us stop judging our electric companies for the blackouts, it was actually caused by a lack of power supply due to damage of electric lines and powerplants- and I know this because my brother and of course my dad both work for the National Grid and they haven’t slept (and gone home) for days. Let us stop arguing about the cause of Yolanda, whether it was man-made or divinely appointed. Only God knows why it happened. Let us not blame God for this disaster. We do not know His purpose. We can only trust and hope. Let us not put the blame on the victims for their sins either, it’s like saying the whole earth deserves to be wiped out right now. We are no better than them.

Let’s stop judging. Let’s stop blaming. Let’s stop complaining. Let’s stop arguing and attacking each other. This is supposed to be a time for unity, a time for solidarity among the Filipino people. We ought to love and forgive each other. We ought to help each other, move together, hope for the better. We ought to pray. We ought to live up to our own reputation of being strong (and happy) in the face of adversity. The last thing we ought to do at this time is attack a fellow Filipino. This isn’t war, people, this is a tragedy.

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Chasing Aurora

Last weekend, Juneau gave us the show of our lives! I’ve been waiting for the aurora since we got here. I’ve read about it, visited all the notification sites and waited for news on a facebook page that gives realtime updates on aurora sightings all over Alaska. And we finally witnessed it from where we are. So, who (or what, but I like referring to it as a who) is this aurora that people (photographers, especially) keep on chasing around? According to Wikipedia, “an Aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere; In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621.”

I’ve been gazing out our bedroom window every night whenever it was clear, to check if the lights were out. Finally, Sam’s boss called on an early Friday evening to inform us that he could see the aurora from where he was. We immediately rushed out of the house in our cold gear with our camera in tow. It was breathtaking! Literally. It was so dark and cold that we fumbled with the camera at first, but thanks to this kind man we met, he taught us how to set our camera right and invited us to join the Juneau Photo Club. Here are some of the shots that Sam took:

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I think the camera was tipped to the side on this one. Ha!
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Breathtaking!
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Being the helper God designed me to be

2 weeks ago Sam and I had an argument about whose turn it was to cook. Both of us actually cook and we both have our own specialties, but because he has more love for it than me, he has done most of the cooking since we got married, and so my role has been the cleaning up afterward (and not just in the kitchen). The situation happened 2 weeks ago- I was cramming for an exam and he was tired because he came from work so nobody went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. We were silently waiting for each other to make a move, until I asked him (expecting him to cook something), “So, what are we having for dinner?” And he replied, “I’m really tired, can you do the cooking? After all, you are the woman.”

That got me. All of a sudden, all the lectures on gender equality and feminism from my college days flooded my mind. Of course I didn’t mention it to him, until we drove somewhere after dinner and we were silent in the car the whole time. I broke the silence by telling him about his lack of gender sensitivity by assigning a role (cooking) to me just because I am the woman when in fact both of us cook and he has actually done most of the cooking ever since. As usual, he responded by citing Bible verses about my role as a helper. I didn’t contest the biblical fact that I am supposed to be a helper. I just didn’t want him to assign the cooking role just because I am the woman. Wait, is cooking specified in the Bible? Well , good thing it wasn’t really a heated up argument and we did arrive at a compromise in the end: If he needed me to do the cooking or anything else for that matter, he could just ask for my help, not tell me to do it “because after all, I am the woman.” It turned out to be just a technicality; he just needed to omit that line. Or was it really just a technicality?

In the Philippines, we literally had a helper, more like a maid, who did most of the household chores when I was too busy attending to my patients’ needs in the hospital. She wasn’t really that efficient when it came to cleaning, so I would often pick up after her when I had the time. Also, because I love (and I do mean that, my friends could attest to it) doing the laundry, handwashing that is, I would usually do the laundry before she even gets to collect it from our laundry basket. Some people just don’t do things the way you do no matter how much you teach them.  That would be my obsessive-compulsive mind speaking. In all fairness, she really did her job by doing the chores that would otherwise be difficult for us to add to our already busy week. In other words, during the first 3 years of our marriage, we didn’t really get to the point of arguing over whose turn it was to cook dinner because we had help then- in the form of another person who wasn’t me. I guess I got so used to being busy in my roles then as a doctor and many other things like managing the wedding shop and being a makeup artist, that I’ve forgotten my role as a wife and a homemaker. However, God is dealing with me right now on that specific aspect and let me tell you that the journey has not been easy.

Sam and I both worked in a Baptist mission hospital back home. We lived in the hospital compound and were being called on during the most unholy hours to attend to patients’ needs. He worked in the lab and of course I was a doctor on call who did 24-hour (and more) shifts. To serve in this hospital was our calling when we were still single and younger (we’re still young ). In fact, the hospital was where we met. After we got married, we continued to work in the same hospital for 2 more years until we felt God urging us to move out. We were uncertain of our would-be circumstance once we quit our jobs, but after almost a year of waiting Sam got petitioned by the hospital in Juneau, and so we moved here.

Bottomline is that right now, Sam’s got a job. I don’t. For me, to be unemployed and not be able to practice my profession- well, to be honest- have been quite a struggle. How long am I supposed to wait until I can be a doctor again so that I could help those who are sick? I have run out of options and the waiting has become unbearable. I have been cleaning, organizing stuff, doing the laundry, paying bills, cleaning again, and doing all the other things that Sam doesn’t get to do, and I still feel that it’s not enough. My life’s mission is in a healing profession. Housekeeping is not fulfilling enough. What I have been doing for the past 5 months (I know, I know, it’s not that long a time) is just not enough. I have been ranting (mostly in my mind) about unemployment, complaining to God and asking Him about direction. Well, not until Sam got sick 4 days ago and I had to do most everything, even getting up at night to give him his medications and massages to staying up all night to watch him and make sure he was breathing normally (he has asthma), to going out in the freezing cold to start the car and the heater so he wouldn’t feel too cold once he gets in and drives to work. Then, it slowly started to sink in. Maybe this was going to be the role I would have to accept and take right now. Maybe this is what God wants me to do- to be a wife to my husband; to be the helper He designed me to be, RIGHT NOW. Although Sam is encouraging me to still pursue further medical training and then perhaps establish private practice, I need to stop stressing over the hows and the whys of that right now. I need to stop grumbling about how much longer I would have to wait until I get that accomplished. I finally realized that I needed to lay aside my own goals and give priority to this higher calling right now. It IS hard. Who said it was easy? I am still struggling, but I know God will give me strength and show me how.

I finally gathered my guts and attended the women’s bible study at church yesterday. And guess what the topic was? “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” (Genesis 2:18)

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“For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9