Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shopping Adventures

Finally, after being cut off from the rest of the world, we now have internet again!  For those of you who were wondering where we had disappeared to, we have now moved into our own house.  Previously we were staying with some very gracious and hospitable friends, while we searched for a house, and then while we set it up to the point where we could do important things, such as sleeping on something other than the tile floor, cooking food, and showering.

There are many things which we simply took for granted before we came.  We didn't stop to think about all those things that you just have; simple things that you use every day, that you have had for years, and that you probably have multiples of.  One of those things we discovered was towels.

We didn't have towels when we came here, so before we could really move in we had to go to the store to buy some towels, so that we could have showers.  Now in Canada that's pretty simple.  You just go down to your local WalMart, find the towel section, pick from among the many choices of types and colors and materials, then go to the cashier to pay.  The most complicated part comes when the cashier forgets to deactivate the alarm sensor thing and the alarm beeps at you when you try to leave.  Otherwise pretty simple.

Let me describe the act of buying towels here.  First you walk down to the main road to catch a jeepney (the equivalent to a bus here).  Being new to the city you don't really know streets, so you have to try to read the street listings on the side of the jeepney, decide if it is going to where you want to go, look to see if there is actually room for you to fit in, and wave it down to stop for you, all in the 3 seconds you have as it passes.

Then, assuming that you got on the right one, you have to dig through your pockets to come up with the change necessary to pay for your ride on the jeepney (8 pesos). If you only have a 1000 peso bill (the denomination that the bank machines dispense) you may be in trouble, as it is unlikely that the jeepney driver will have enough change.

You must then try to figure out where you are and where you are going while hunching over to try to look out the sides to spot landmarks you know.  When you spot the place you are going you call out to the driver, who then screeches to a halt, stopping wherever in order to let you out.

You have now arrived at the mall.  Hopefully.

You make your way across four lanes of traffic, which often actually involves vehicles 6 across, risking your well being as you don't have rights as a pedestrian.  Upon entering the mall you go through security, opening any bags you may be carrying to allow them to check the contents.  You proceed to the store of your choice, where you go through security again.  You must then find the section of the store where the desired product is.  Upon finding the section you are surrounded by several employees anxious to help you find whatever you are looking for, and often making suggestions for what you should buy.  These suggestions are often contradictory to one another, as it seems that each employee is pushing a particular brand.

Once you make your decision the sales person will take it to the checkout for you.  When you are done shopping you go to that checkout, and get in line to pay.  The cashier scans your items individually, and gives you the total.  You pay, and then your items are given to another person who checks every item you have chosen with the receipt.  It is then packaged and sealed and you are free to take it.  This process can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 30 minutes, so generally they provide chairs to sit in while you wait.

You now have your items in bags, and must again go through security on your way out.  You find the proper mall exit, go out and either catch a taxi home, or repeat the jeepney adventure.

And that is just to buy one item or to go to one store.  It gets even more complicated if you need to go to multiple stores, as some stores will not let you bring in bags from other stores.  At these places you must first check your bags in before you shop at their store.  This can be complicated, as you have to give some forethought to which entrance you want to exit from, and make sure you enter that door.  You also have to plan what order you will go to the stores in.  It is quite complicated.

Not every store is quite as difficult, but overall things take way longer here than back home.  It is something that we are still getting used to!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Our day started well with a trip to the hardware store which was a pleasant reminder to us of Home Depot!  We had a few things on our list, one of them being toilet seats and covers, seeing as how toilets aren't guaranteed to come with either seat or cover, which was the case for one of our bathrooms. This was the single most difficult thing for us to find in the last week, but alas we had success today.  We then conquered the grocery store and discovered that most things are sold in small quantities, no Costco sized packages here. 

After making our way home, we began to put things away and organize our house somewhat, and our landlord, Rikki, came by to drop off the rental agreement and chat for a while.  We then began to smell smoke in the air and made the assumption that someone was burning leaves in their yard, a common occurrence here to get rid of unwanted leaves and to prevent the mosquitoes from hanging around.  However, when Steve and Rikki went outside, they discovered that it was actually a house in the neighborhood behind ours that was on fire.  The fire began pretty small, but very quickly picked up speed and was soon raging out of control.  The problem was that this house was part of a group of houses behind our subdivision which are made out of concrete, tin and wood and are jammed packed together.  Rikki hopped on his motorcycle and headed over in the direction of the fire to make sure that the fire department had been called and Steve and I just stood there watching the house burn.  There was absolutely nothing we could do.  The fire department did arrive and the fire was able to be contained, but not before the house was completely destroyed and two others were gutted as well.  Thankfully there was a cement block wall beside the house and it prevented the fire from moving down any further.  Even though our house was not in any significant danger, we could feel the heat from the flames as we stood outside, and it was heartbreaking to watch it burn and know that everything that the family there owned, was now gone.  After it was all over, Steve and I left our subdivision to see if we could find where the fire had occurred, but the neighborhood that it happened in was a maze of narrow, twisting alleyways and hundreds of makeshift houses and we were unable to find it.  We then returned home and just sat, trying to process what we had just seen.

Please pray with us for the family who lived there and now have to start their lives over.


The view from behind our house

The fire raging out of control

A firefighter checking things, notice that the house is completely gone

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cost of living in Davao

It has been an interesting experience here so far, and one of the interesting things has been to see how prices here compare with prices in Canada.  Here are a few examples:

House rental (in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in a middle-class gated community): 26000 pesos/month = $590.91 CAD

Electricity Bill: Approx. 4400 pesos/month = $100

Internet and home phone: 1000 pesos/month = $22.73

Cost to send a text message: 1 peso = $0.02

Cost for a day at a really fancy beach resort, including the boat ride over and an amazing lunch for four: 1020 pesos = $23.18

Custom Built bamboo couch, loveseat, chair, coffee table, 2 end tables, 2 loft beds for the kids (Filipino furniture is quite small, so we have ordered furniture built, which is also considerably cheaper than buying from the stores): 14600 pesos (plus the cost of cushions, which we haven't ordered yet) = $331.82

Jeepney Ride (kind of like the bus system, but so much cooler!): 8 pesos = $0.18

House help (which is a very common thing here, and gives the helper a job and an opportunity): 265 pesos/day = $6.02/day

A McDonald's cheeseburger meal: 78 pesos = $1.77

Anyone want to come live here?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things we have learned so far...

We have only been in the Philippines for four days now, but we have already learned many interesting things, and wanted to share them with you.

1. Taking at least two cold showers a day is a necessity in dealing with the heat
2. The fruit that we have in Canada is tasteless, boring and expensive compared to the wonderful varieties that we can get here.
3. The laws for driving are a little different than we are used to:
  • there are no speed limits, you simply go as fast as the person in front of you is going
  • pedestrians have no right of way at all, and it's up to them to avoid being hit
  • the first person to get their vehicle into a space has the right of way
  • cutting someone off is just part of every day driving
  • if you are in an accident or you decide to check your oil or the tire pressure, you simply stop where you are and take your time dealing with it; you do not pull your car over to the side of the road
  • you can drive into oncoming traffic in order to get around someone, as long as you are faster than the vehicles coming towards you
  • seatbelts are in the car to look nice, not to actually be worn (except by foreigners in the first couple of days)
  • kids can sit anyplace they want including on the driver's lap
4. The ants are just a part of daily life and are not really a big deal unless you get bitten by them.  They are extremely tiny and you simply brush them away.
5. Buying things in large quantities does not save you any money and everything is available to buy in single use packets including toothpaste. 
6. The neighborhood corner stores are called sari-sari stores and carry everything from vegetables and charcoal to single serve bags of soft drinks.
7. The real estate market is slightly different than what we are used to - the "for rent" signs on houses may not actually mean the person is wanting to rent out their house, it could simply be there because the owner didn't feel like taking it down, or perhaps it looks nice and they've decided to leave it there.  You often have to go through multiple people to be able to view the house and then it may still take some time before you are actually able to rent it.  There are no guarantees.

There are many more things we are learning and will continue to learn; some of which will be funny and others simply frustrating.  I also did discover that I am afraid of frogs.  The kids were out frog hunting yesterday morning and when Daniel brought his frog over to show me, it jumped out of his hand toward me and I freaked out and nearly fell off the bench I was sitting on.  Any time him or the other kids would show me one and it was facing me, I would almost begin to cry and make them take it far away from me. I should probably get over that one quickly as frogs are quite common and both kids love them.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

We're Here!

We have arrived in Davao City and have had a couple of days to try to get over our jet lag.  We're starting to feel human again, but we still feel like everything is spinning.  Hopefully that will end soon!

It is beautiful here.  We are surrounded by lush green jungle and palm trees.  It's hot - about 32C and 100% humidity.  It's like that every day, so we had best get used to it.  I know that we will acclimatize but for now it feels pretty hot.

We are staying with our new friends, who have graciously let us stay here until we find a place of our own.  That we are hoping to do quite soon.  We have gone to see a house for rent, which we have put an offer on.  We are hopeful that we will be able to get in there soon.  It is a cute little house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen and a small living room.  It has a yard and a patio, and is located in a gated community not far from the clinic.

We weren't sure what to expect when we came here, so I'm not sure what to think about everything.  It will take some time to become familiar and comfortable with our new culture.  There are many differences, especially due to living in a Third World country.  It is interesting to tour around and see the vast difference between the rich and the poor.  While sitting in our friend's house I can look out and see people living in poverty.  It is a dynamic unlike Canada.

So far we have discovered that things here aren't quite as cheap as we had assumed from the little bits of information that we had gathered.  We know that God has brought us here and He has provided in amazing ways up to this point, but it's still hard to not do the math in our heads and be a bit worried.  All we can do is trust God to provide for our needs.

I will try to post a bit more often now than I had before we came, as there will be many new and interesting experiences which I'm sure you will be interested to hear about.


We've arrived!

After 36 hours of being in airports and on planes, we arrived safe and sound in Davao City yesterday evening around 5:30pm.  Our flights went relatively well, but it was still a very long couple of travel days which I don't want to do again for a very long time.  Jet lag is setting in nicely and when we get tired enough in the evening, it begins to feel as though everything is spinning around us and we feel lightheaded and dizzy.  Hopefully that wont last too long.

I'll have to blog a more detailed post about our trip at another time, my brain isn't working too well at the moment.  Here are a few pictures from our trip.


The beginning of our trip - the kids were excited to start...

Waiting for the shuttle in Manila - they're beginning to fade...

And this is how the trip ended - they fell asleep while waiting for our luggage in Davao!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Right now I am sitting in a hotel room at the Delta Airport Hotel.  We have said our last goodbyes today, which has been hard.  It has been an emotional end to an emotional week.  

At this moment, with the exception of a few boxes of sentimental things in storage, everything is contained in five duffel bags, four backpacks, two laptop bags, and some boxes in various places around the world.  We don't have a place to live, we have no cars, we don't even own a bed to sleep in or a chair to sit in.

We also have no clue what the next few days holds for us.  We will be getting on a plane tomorrow, and will get off the plane 30-something hours later in a new city, a new culture and a new life.  What have we gotten ourselves into now?  I guess there is no turning back at this point.

There are many things that each of us are going to miss about our lives in Canada, and many people that we will miss seeing.  The new friends that we make will never take the place of those we have left behind, and the new experiences will not take the place of the old ones.  We simply have the opportunity to expand our horizons, to try some new things, to learn a new culture, and to make new friends.

We often get people commenting that they could never do what we are doing; giving up everything here to go somewhere we have never been, to commit three years of our lives to this adventure.  And I think that's okay.  This is not the life for everyone and there is nothing wrong with it.  What we are doing is not any more noble or valuable than what those of you who stay in Canada (or the US or England or wherever you are from) do with your lives.  But this is what God has called us to do.  So we go.

Sometimes the cost seems too much.  Sometimes I want to stop this journey.  Sometimes I want to say no and to return to my life of working and paying bills and buying cars and fixing cars and replacing lightbulbs and going to our church and going on roadtrips to unique places in the summer.  Sometimes my ideal future involves growing old in a house that we own, having a 1995 Toyota MR2 fully restored and modified in my garage, and seeing my kids graduate from high school with the same kids that they started grade 1 with.

But usually those times are fleeting.  I can see how God has been directing us in this adventure, and how He has poured out blessings on us as we follow Him.  I know that twenty years from now I will be able to look back on all this and be thankful for the awesome privilege of what we are doing.  After all, who wouldn't want to get away from cold Canadian winters to go to a tropical paradise?

So here we are, in a hotel room, awaiting a plane to take us to the next stage in our journey.