Now ever since my rheumatologist told me I couldn’t really get back into running or anything that would significantly affect my joints’ capacity to handle mechanical stress, the world of hiking seemed to be more appealing as I felt my leg muscles grow softer and softer each day.I have gotten concerned that my soft tissues would eventually lose their tone and not be strong enough to support my joints. This was especially encouraged by my physical therapist after she helped me manage my cervical spine problems. So Sam and I started to go on short day hikes with elevation (as advised by my PT), and then we eventually progressed to longer hikes. I have had difficulty in making this a habit because of the cold (yes, I still haven’t gotten used to it), but Sam has helped me bundle up more effectively and of course the scenery is a reward that makes me look forward to it every time. Ever since we moved here, we have hiked a total of around 14 trails, some more often than the others, some didn’t actually have a trail like that time we hiked across the frozen Mendenhall Lake toward the Ice Caves last winter. I’d like to list them all down– makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something. 🙂
We just moved! Well, technically we officially moved on the first day of May so it’s been more than a month since. I was in California reviewing for the Step 1 of the USMLE when we closed on our new condo so I was on Skype while Sam did all the signing of papers. I was with him (through Skype) when he first opened the door to the new place and though I was far away we could both feel each other’s excitement! This is officially our first place here in the US!
Although exciting as it may be, Sam couldn’t help but worry about the bills at this point. I guess that’s a guy thing? Because what I started to get worried about was how I was going to manage decorating the place while reviewing for the US medical boards at the same time! Haha!
This first month was just awesome. And everyday, we still marvel at how we came to this point- how God had been so faithful and how He continues to be faithful in every aspect of our lives, even in this whole home buying process! I couldn’t contain it any longer, that after about 7 months since my last blogpost I decided to document and write about this whole experience. And I think this deserves a whole new category too. I hope I will be able to keep up with all this documenting since I am still in the middle of reviewing for the 3rd exam and home decorating. But, I will try to do my best!
Spent my first snowy winter (December-February) in Juneau, Alaska. I’ve spent a number of winters in LA and it wasn’t as bad. I must admit, this time it wasn’t all fun, well except for the ski trips we had every weekend, and the Northern Lights, of course. But when one has spent most of his/her life in a tropical climate, avoiding the sun as much as possible for fear of getting burned, winter then gets to be pretty depressing. I was in LA in December and when I got here by the end of the month, it was snoraining (a term I probably invented to describe both the snow and the rain that fall simultaneously, otherwise known as wet snow). And it went on for a whole month, December 25-January 30 to be exact. By the end of January I was on my knees praying and crying for the Lord to give us sunshine. And He did. We had weeks of endless sunshine with occasional snowfall after that. They say that it was the warmest winter in Alaska by far. I’m glad it was, for me at least. While most of the continental US froze with record-high snowfall, we were blessed with sunshine. And the sunshine was a good thing for me. Sam did notice drastic changes in my mood that inadvertently coincided with the weather. As if RA flares, a shoulder injury and then surgery, plus no job, don’t at all affect my mood. So, aside from my weather-coinciding depression (which is not a peril at all), here’s what I found out about the perils and such whatnots of winter (in Juneau):
It gets dark. Having large windows and more lamps at home would help. Oh, and don’t forget the Vitamin D supplements. Although I’ve heard about Vitamin D deficiency being linked to clinical depression, I’ve learned that it’s still inconclusive. I’d like to research on that too someday.
Layer. The first time we learned how to layer clothes in winter was when we went to Beijing, and it wasn’t really effective because we didn’t consider the kind of material our clothes were made of. Technology has allowed manufacturers to create warmer and lighter layers so we don’t have to carry all that bulkiness with us, especially when skiing.
The skin gets really, really, really dry. So apply moisturizing lotion as often as possible. I learned this the hard way. I neglected my skin, especially my face, and my face broke out really bad. I’m still trying to resuscitate it at this moment.
Waterproof boots. This is a staple in every Alaskan’s wardrobe, especially if you live in Juneau. Believe me, walking in cold wet shoes is no fun at all.
Shoveling. Sam lived in a farm most of his life so he’s been used to shoveling dirt, stone, gravel and sand. Shoveling snow is no different, wet snow and ice that is. Well if you shovel freshly fallen snow then it could be easier.
Studded snow tires. We didn’t have to change our car’s tires since they were already all-season and we were told that Subaru’s build and tires usually do great in the winter. They really are great, well, except for that one time when we were driving through an inclined parking lot that was frozen and very slippery and Sam mistakenly hit the brakes, and the car slid sideways, all the way to the left.
I don’t recall everything for now so I’ll just add up to that list in the next few days.
So it’s officially spring, and it’s been warmer and more sunny, which is good. I would definitely try to avoid spending next winter here in Alaska again. Keyword is “try.” Of course I still don’t know if my husband would be ok with that, and even if he would be, I don’t know if I could stay away from him that long.
For some, 2013 had been a year of joy, marriage, birth, life, reunion. For some it was a year of sorrow, heartache, loss, tragedy, death. For most people active in social networks, it was a year of selfies. For even most, it was just like any other year. For Sam and I, 2013 was a year of change, the kind of change that enabled us to grow and marvel at God’s faithfulness together.
We could never really fathom how much God has been faithful to us ever since we got married. This year had been exceptionally awesome. I still remember us saying goodbye to 2012, both without jobs, praying, waiting, trusting, and hoping for the best. This time, we say goodbye to 2013 with the deepest gratitude, as God had answered our prayers, and specifically at that. And so we document the highlights that have brought color to our 2013, those that have spelled God’s love, faithfulness, and most of all, His majesty.
First, Sam got the job we specifically prayed for. Although I wasn’t particularly excited about living in Alaska because of the cold, it was Sam’s dream and he very much felt led. So where else does the wife go? That’s right, anywhere the husband goes.
Second, I had my third surgery for endometriosis in July, and I recovered pretty well. Insurance covered 98% of the total hospital cost.
Third, I was able to start chemotherapy for my Rheumatoid Arthritis and I’ve been better with less fatigue and more activities, although with almost the same amount and intensity of joint pains. But then again, insurance covers 99% of the total monthly cost. The path to healing has been rough for me, physically especially. Pain has become my friend; it has allowed me to cling onto Him for strength.
Fourth, We’ve been praying for a church where God could use us and whom we could treat as second family here in Juneau, and yes, God has answered our prayers by leading us to Auke Bay Bible Church.
Fifth, we’ve seen the Northern Lights right above our heads! The Aurora borealis reminds us of His majesty and how the heavens declare the glory of God. You could almost see how His hands move as if directing the rhythm of the dancing lights.
Sixth, Sam has learned how to snowboard and is slowly getting better at it. He’s now convincing me to learn how to ski.
Seventh, I started to blog this year. This has allowed me to find something to do besides reading and baking cupcakes. It has also helped me discover new support groups for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Endometriosis. My blogs have become a way for me to increase awareness and advocate support for RA and endometriosis research.
Eighth, we’ve met new people and developed new friendships. I guess this is important for anyone anywhere.
Ninth, we’ve found opportunities to pray for certain people and help them, especially during the Yolanda tragedy. Sam and I have always held on to this particularly important formula in our lives- that we are BLESSED TO BLESS.
Last, we are thankful for our families and how God continues to strengthen and uphold each of their ministries. We miss them a lot but we are confident that God is taking care of them. It is being far from them that moves us to value them even more and appreciate them as they are.
There are more things to thank God and praise Him for but I’ll leave the specific things to memory. God has taught us many things out here- patience, grace, lovingkindness, and more- practically everything we lack, and He still continues to teach us everyday. Yes, 2013 was indeed a year of change for us as we ventured into an entirely different environment and culture with different people. It was hard, but we have trusted in Him and He has made all things beautiful. God has always been and will always be faithful. And so we look forward to 2014 with the same hope that we had a year ago, and the same excitement that He is indeed going to fulfill His promises and unfold another chapter in the story He has written. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
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!
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 Romangoddess 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:
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.
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?