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A new chapter

It’s been almost 2 years! Wow, I’ve missed blogging! So much has happened already- reviewing for and taking the US medical boards, moving in to our new home, trying to get pregnant, finally getting pregnant, fearing miscarriage, putting my RA medications on hold, flaring up while pregnant, flaring up some more, giving birth, going through delivery complications, more postpartum complications, taking care of a newborn, struggling with breastfeeding, finally getting the hang of breastfeeding, more flaring up, taking care of an infant, dislocating my shoulder, thinking of weaning so I could get the shoulder surgery that I need, and did I mention my RA flaring up? – that I really haven’t had enough time to sit down and well, blog. Whew. All of that. But now that we are in a totally new chapter of our lives, I want to do this again and hopefully be able to document the fun (and not so fun) perks of parenting. So here’s to a whole new chapter and more!_DSC3392

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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

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You wanna share a room?

I took an exam in Anchorage more than a week ago, and what was supposed to be a daytrip turned into an overnight action-packed adventure. Excuse the exaggeration. The flight from Juneau to Anchorage at 6 o’ clock in the morning was rather uneventful. It was my return flight at 8 o’ clock in the evening on the same day that turned out to be a shocker. Since I took an exam, you could imagine how much stress I’ve been through the past week, not being able to sleep much, let alone eat 3 meals a day. And so as expected, by the time I was on the plane back  to Juneau, I was exhausted. And because I couldn’t wait to get home and sleep, I let out a huge sigh when the captain announced that we were preparing for landing. I didn’t see much outside the window since I was on an aisle seat. What I saw were clouds and some lights. As the plane descended and while I was counting the minutes and happily looking at the visible lights and rooftops out the window, longing to be in the comfort of my own bed, the plane suddenly shifted and pulled up. What had happened?

“Sorry folks, 0 visibility down there, we will be landing in Sitka instead.” Groans and irritated chatter. By the time we were at the airport in Sitka, everybody was on their phones talking to their concerned loved ones about the change of plans. Honestly, I was lost. Do we wait for the fog in Juneau to lift? How long could that take? Do we sleep at the airport? Just as I was going to ask a crew member, we all then received news about having to pay for our own hotel room because the airport was closing in 30 minutes and “weather difficulty” didn’t count for airline-sponsored accommodations. Everybody was angry. This lady was really mad at one of the crew members and said, “I will never fly Alaska Airlines again!” And then I thought, “Isn’t this the only interstate airline in this part of the country? Does that mean she’s never going to visit Alaska ever?” I was waiting on the sideline, hoping something good would end up happening after this angry lady complained about not having enough funds for a hotel room (which was pretty much the same as my predicament), but I ended up being told by Sam to just get a hotel room and get some rest rather than stress about the cost and end up getting sick.

People started looking around for potential roommates and so I found myself searching for one as well. I approached this really nice lady and asked, “You wanna share a room?” To my relief, she gladly consented. From then on, we talked nonstop. Even when we were already both in bed, we continued to talk about our families, how she came to live in Juneau, common friends, her daughter, and a whole lot more. We fell asleep at around 1 am, woke up at 4 am and headed to the airport, since we were told our flight was going to be at 6 am. But of course we waited for 5 more hours at the airport. Foggy weather being as unpredictable as can be, we left Sitka at around 11:30am. Boy was I relieved to see Sam’s smiling face in the driver’s seat as he parked the car on the airport arrival curb. His “Welcome home!” was enough to remind me how exhausted and hungry I was, and so I broke down in tears.

Given the number of times I have to travel in a year to and from LA to visit my aunt, my rheumatologist, and my gynecologist, I would suppose this experience will definitely not be the last. Next time I will be more prepared. If it hadn’t been for Sam  telling me to grab a couple of granola bars before leaving Juneau, I would have collapsed from hypoglycemia before we even got back. Pessimism aside, you remember when the apostle Paul told us to “give thanks in everything”? Well, I am definitely grateful for this experience. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Sitka, even if it wasn’t the most ideal tour package, at least the hotel shuttle driver was kind enough to give us a little history. I am also thankful for having met a new friend. She’s Asian, Thai, actually, and she was really nice. Most of all, I am grateful because the pilot decided to land the plane safely in Sitka rather than risk all of our lives landing on an invisible runway. Although this last item- the risks involved in landing a plane without being able to see the runway- had to be explained to me by Sam over and over again before I could understand why the plane didn’t have fog lights or if it did, why it didn’t help, or why the pilot had to actually see the runway before being able to land, or why the fog couldn’t be “fanned” out of the runway. Yes, I can be that naive.

Rocky Gutierrez Airport (Sitka)
Rocky Gutierrez Airport (Sitka)
At the Departure Area (Sitka)
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Alaska- who would have thought?

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Most of you probably don’t know how and why we ended up living in the Last Frontier. Well, I don’t know either. One thing I’m sure of though, is that God plucked us out of that comfort zone called Bukidnon, and relocated us to an even colder place (as if Bukidnon wasn’t cold enough) called Juneau, Alaska. It has been 4 months since we left the Philippines and a lot of things have already happened. More than a year ago, we were in a period of perplexity, some disillusionment I might say, for not knowing where to go, and what to do. We both quit our jobs in a mission hospital, convinced that God was leading us somewhere else. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed as if we were waiting forever. It was during that period of waiting that we were tested- of our faith, our patience, and most of all discernment. I was the first one who got discouraged and doubted. I was convinced that we did everything we could to find Sam a job in the US. I talked to hospital HR departments; I called recruitment agencies, talked to some friends to help us, and sent online applications. After 6 months of waiting for that magical email or phone call, I felt that all my efforts were put to waste. And just as I was about to give up, as if hearing our plea, a friend suddenly informed Sam of a job opening. And then after that fateful referral and job interview, everything started to fall into place. Even if at one point we thought we lost that job because they never called Sam back in 2 months, and even if those 2 months of silent treatment brought about discouragement (this time it was Sam’s turn), everything miraculously worked out in the end. And it all happened in less than a year! Talk about answered prayer! Of course we are eternally grateful to the people who have helped us come here- our families, Michelle, BRH lab, admin and HR staff. Alaska! I mean I was planning to spend the rest of my life in hot, sunny (California) weather, or that group of tropical islands called the Philippines, but this? Who knew we would end up in Alaska?

Apparently, God did. He knew it all along. This brings me to Jeremiah 29:11. I will never get tired of this Bible verse, it gave us much encouragement during that period of waiting- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Although God was speaking to the nation of Israel, it was as if He was speaking to Sam and I too. He already had plans for us, just as He had plans in restoring the nation of Israel. And He didn’t mean that plan would unfold right away. Whether it be less than a year or 40 years, it’s HIS plan, so He implements it HIS way in HIS time, no matter how much effort we put into it. In fact, this is supposed to take a lot of stress off our shoulders. We don’t have to worry about anything! Our job then is to wait and to continue seeking His will, discerning and desiring what He desires, trusting that whatever it is He gives you in the end, or wherever He puts you, it is always to prosper you. Easier said than done, though. I know that waiting is hard- many times we lose hope easily, or we could doubt God’s sovereignty. But you know what, during those times, it will be helpful to remember how God has been faithful to the nation of Israel, or how He has been faithful to you all these years. Why wouldn’t He be faithful to you now? “For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” (Psalm 33:4) You may get what you’ve always wanted and prayed for, and sometimes you may not. Everything might not end up as you expected, but it IS God’s best for you, and that is what’s important. Because, honestly, most of the time we don’t even know what’s best for us. We didn’t expect to live in Alaska ever (okay, maybe just me, because Sam loves it here), but God thought it best. Who are we then to refuse?

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Egypt, Israel, Petra on our Second Year (Part I)

Regret is the worst feeling one could ever have after having gone to such remarkable places without taking the time to write a journal about it. Well, I did start taking notes on the first few days, but after that, I finally succumbed to allowing our camera to take over the role of documenting our experience. Right now, we have over 4,000 photos of the experience, and I haven’t even organized them. So when I thought of writing about our Holy Land Tour last November of 2011, I already imagined digging through my rusty memories for significant things I could share. That’s why I’m writing it in parts. It would make it easier to remember. So, here goes.

EGYPT

Yes, we were there before political chaos broke out. Thank God for that. We all  know that Egypt is a very old place, and that its history goes back to the 10th millenium B.C. According to wikipedia, it has one of the longest histories of any modern state. Its sands have been witness to ancient civilizations that continue to baffle a lot of archaeological and other scientists today. I wish we could have stayed longer and explored more of the ancient ruins but as it was, we were on a tour and we still had two more countries on the list. Here are some points to take note of if ever you plan on going on a tour of Egypt:

1. Don’t expect to be in an oasis when you get there. Egypt is mostly desert, so naturally, it’s all sand. That means dusty shoes and clothes, and some powder on your face everyday. Even the carpets and the curtains of hotels are full of dust. So if you have allergies and the like, (especially allergic rhinitis) I would advice bringing some antihistamine and taking prophylactic measures like steroid sprays before travel.

2. We all know that oil is cheap in the middle east. But we didn’t expect it to be THAT cheap! When we were there, gas only cost 45 US cents a gallon! Get this. Gas was at 45cents per gallon while a bottle of water (500mL) cost $2! As water was scarce in the area, the cost of bottled water was like a whole lunch in Mcdonalds. We did wish we had the same water absorption and storage capacity of camels.

3. Camels. Yes, camels are very interesting creatures. They actually exist as two species- the Dromedary, which is one-humped and common in the middle east, and the Bactrian, or the two-humped camel, more common in central asia. The tourguide warned us however, that the tourist camels “parked” in the Pyramids of Giza were expensive and their handlers would trick you into taking a picture atop a camel for $5 but then they coax the camel to suddenly get up and walk with you on top (of course you couldn’t just jump your way down) and then later ask you to pay for the camel tour. So beware. Trust me, two of our tourmates fell victims to this and had to pay $100 just to get off the camel.

4. The pyramids were majestic. Thinking about all the blood and sweat that the ancient egyptians put into these monuments would all the more make you stand in awe of them. It reminded me of that scene in Transformers 2 where that shapeshifting robot was on top of a pyramid and destroying it. Thank God for special effects. I heard though that although the robots were computer-generated, the pyramids were not. They actually went to Egypt to film it at the Pyramids of Giza.

5. We went into a perfumery with the owner showing us how they made perfumes from flower oils and such. You know when you’re in the middle of picking a scent in a perfume store and your nose somehow fails you after the 4th or 5th scent and it seems like they all the smell the same? Well, you could try smelling ground coffee in between to neutralize and allow your olfactory nerves to recover.

6. As we traveled by bus to Israel, we passed by the Sinai Peninsula and stayed at a hotel which was located at the foot of the supposed Mt. Sinai, where Moses saw God in a burning bush and where the first ten commandment tablets were forged. Sam had a once in a lifetime chance of climbing Mt. Sinai, and I was thankful that he took that chance even if it meant leaving me alone in the hotel room at 2 in the morning. The pictures he took of the sunrise on the summit of Mt. Sinai were breathtaking!

7. I am not very fond of Mediterranean Food. Even though breakfast was always buffet, I always ended up eating only cereal, bread and a hard-boiled egg. Not to mention putting a lot of bread and hard-boiled eggs in our camera bag for “baon.” At first we found it embarrassing, but after seeing a lot of European and American tourists on the buffet tables with brown paper bags and ziplocs in their hands trying to take as much food with them on their tour as possible, we naturally followed suit. We didn’t expect to see Westerners making sure they had some “baon” for the bus tour from the breakfast buffet table, but we were glad to have seen them, at least we weren’t alone.

8. We also went to the River Nile, where Egypt’s ancient civilization started to unfold. It’s fascinating how the river overflowed and flooded the land every year, bringing vegetation to life and feeding thousands people. I haven’t read much about the mechanism of the flooding but the season of plenty at the beginning of the year, followed by a drought midyear, had been consistent events in Egyptian history which led to the development of the early Egyptian civilization. Today, the flooding no longer occurs.

As the tourguide went through much of Bible history, it was fascinating that he knew so much of it. Our Bible is not only God’s book of love and instruction for us, it is also the greatest book of history ever known. As we imagined ourselves in the sandals of the Israelites who roamed the desert for 40 years after the Egyptian pharaoh let them go, we couldn’t help but wonder how they managed to actually cross the Red Sea (which we also crossed, on a bus, through a tunnel), roam around that desert for 40 years, and finally reach their destination after generations of leaders. It’s different when you read the stories from the Old Testament, it’s really something else when you actually walk on the ground they walked on and experience the heat of the sun, the thirst, the hunger, that they went through. I probably would have died in the desert if I was with them. What I saw and everything I experienced in Egypt and even the trip out of Egypt was remarkable indeed. It made me realize the greatness of our God even more. It reminded me of how God had been faithful to His people, and how He promised to be faithful in the generations to come. Wait ’til I write about our next destination- Israel.

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*this is what Sam rode halfway up Mt. Sinai, they had to walk the rest of the way.

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*This is how it looks from the top of the supposed Mt. SinaiImage

* Sunrise on Mt. Sinai

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Beijing on our first year

I can’t say that Sam and I both love to travel. He’s more of the stay-at-home type. I’m more of the adventurous type who could afford to get lost in the middle of nowhere. Since we got married, well, now he doesn’t really have a choice but get lost with me (chuckle). On our first year as a married couple, in December 2010, my parents treated us with a trip to Beijing (it might have been a strategy for us to give them a grandchild, but nope, it didn’t work). Three months before that trip, I fell down the hospital stairs after my morning rounds and well, broke my ankle. I was in a cast for 3 months. They finally took the cast out a week before the Beijing trip. Great timing for a fall, one might say.

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*just look at that expression on his face

Anyway, this trip was exciting for me because it was Sam’s first time outside the country and I couldn’t wait to see that usual child-like, excited expression that becomes plastered on his face everytime he’s into something new Well, true enough, he was so much excited that he took off his jacket at the arrival area in the airport, just to experience how cold it really was. And it really was! It wasn’t cold actually, it was freezing at -5’C. He couldn’t stop talking about how frozen his toes were when we stepped out into the cold night.

Anyway, so here are the things that made that trip memorable:

1. We had a FREE 5-day tour of Beijing and its sights. Yup, you read that right, it was free, more like unexpectedly free. It was an unexpected gift from my dad’s boss. And it included our own private english-speaking tourguide (named Nina), transportation and lauriat food!

2. It made me hate cold all the more. It made my aching ankle hurt more. As usual, Sam loved it! I remember we had to wear 3 layers of socks just to keep our feet warm.

3. Naturally, since my ankle was still healing, it was very painful out in the cold, much more when we had to walk miles just to get around the palaces! So, Sam had to carry me on his back a lot of times while we walked through gardens, museums, palaces, practically everywhere. Sometimes breaking  your ankle has its perks. 😀 Oh, and did I mention we had priority boarding status on the plane and that I was on a wheelchair the whole time at both the Philippine and Chinese Airports?

4. I learned that we couldn’t eat chinese food for more than 7 days in a row. After the 3rd day of eating chinese lauriat food, we just couldn’t take it anymore, so our tourguide brought us somewhere to eat pizza buffet. Even the smell of Chinese food was intolerable already.

5. When eating, always do a taste test. Eat a little piece before eating a whole spoonful. This is especially helpful when the server places a plate of jiggly chocolate jello on the table, and you think it was desert, and when you eat a whole spoonful, it turned out to be steamed pork fat. So much for chocolate jello.

6. You know that chinese translation/ speaking app? Well, it helped us a lot, well, maybe just a little. We learned that one word could mean a lot of things, depending on how you pronounce it. Like when we asked for cold water, for example, we got an empty glass. And when we repeated it, the waitress gave us a table napkin.

7.  By the way, restrooms aren’t restrooms, they’re called WCs- as in Water Closets. And some of them have cubicles that don’t have doors. So imagine squatting on the floor to pee and facing the sinks and the mirror, with people coming in and out of the restroom.

8. You know those automatic hand dryers in restrooms? You would appreciate them more in extremely cold weather. We were always on the look out for WCs- not because we felt like peeing, but because we wanted to warm our freezing hands under the hand dryer.

Ten days in Beijing was quite an experience. The place has so much history that even the trees tell you stories. Thanks to our tourguide, she had me really interested in listening to her stories and the history that China bears. We may not have a chance to go back to China, but I will always remember that adventure. How could I not when Sam carried me on is back most of the time?

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*did we lose some pounds just climbing up the Great Wall?

* See that look on his face? That spells E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D from carrying his wife on his back.
* See that look on his face? That spells E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D from carrying his wife on his back