the little children's home      Flooding     Tugdaan Cultural Exchange           The Blob,  Vol. 4, Issue 9, October 2009
Thanksgiving            Happy Birthday Nathan!
Wednesday September 23rd, 2009

 the little children's home

 

If you're interested in adopting a child from the Philippines, check out the video on the left. They can be contacted at:
www.helpintl.org and at
www.gustafson-family.blogspot.com
A lot of interesting stories can be read on the blog, including the story of Cindy who was rescued only hours before she was to be sold. Sometimes children are sold here to make money. Sometimes the sale can land the children in a great family, but other times, they can end up being bred to serve the family who bought them which is not good.
The little children's home and the Birthing Home next door are both supported by donations.

Sunday September 27th, 2009
 Flooding
Tropical typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) broke an all time record rainfall in Manila on Saturday Sept. 26th, 2009. See the vid on the left (amateur one I chose from YouTube for the music :) Here's a news report.
The orphanage/birthing home in my previous entry is located in a community, Anti Polo, where a lot of people lost their homes and house supplies as they floated down the overflowing river. They are stretching their resources to help out their community and many friends are going out to help rebuild homes this week. Your prayers are coveted and you can also donate here. (I'm going to see if I can't get them to use paypal in the future).
I was on a school trip on another island, Mindoro, for a cultural exchange (see left) so I missed seeing the flood first hand. My place is fine (living on the 27th floor has some advantages). I'll be curious to hear how many teacher's houses were flooded at school tomorrow (we are the only open school in the city tomorrow I believe)!
Sunday October 4th, 2009
 Tugdaan Cultural Exchange
On the left you can see what I was doing when Ondoy hit Manila last Saturday. I'm kind of sad I missed the big event. I would love to have been stranded somewhere in Manila pulling people out of the water. The big Kaohsiung typhoon was one of my favourite experiences in Taiwan - riding my motorbike through 3 feet of water to get home was exhilarating.
There are however sad parts to the typhoon. One good friend Eve, lost all of her furniture. Fortunately she was able to find a new apartment this week. A family near the orphanage also lost their two year old daughter when the wall of their house collapsed in a
sudden gush of water. Fortunately, the 5 seconds of warning the mother had was just enough time to yell to her other two children to run for safety.
It's been beautiful to see my church, school and the orphanage all giving supplies, money and man power to areas all over the city. Our school was in session this week so I wasn't able to do much but donate money and pray. I did go out to the orphanage on Tuesday after school as usual, but it took me 2h (normally it takes 30min.) so I was unable to see the children and the status of the home. I did however see a lot of the damage in other communities on the way. The amount of junk on the side of the road is crazy!!! Some communities were still in 3 feet of water on Wednesday.
The timing of this typhoon is a bit of a contrast for me against a broken heart. While discussing the needs of the Tugdaan school last week, one of the teacher's commented that the most pain she had ever experienced was that of a broken heart. While I have had deeper losses in my life than a broken heart, the losses of some families here in Manila help me keep my own pain in perspective every so often. It's actually kind of hard to talk about emotional pain in the midst of a natural disaster because it can look trivial, but it is still real to me. Part of the difficulty for me is that this is probably the hardest break up in my life to accept. Usually I can find something to grasp and hold onto to feel better about a break-up. Sometimes I try to think of the bad qualities in the other person and exaggerate them to help me feel good about losing the person. I find that pretty difficult this time as it all seems pretty senseless to me.
My whole experience with the dating culture has caused to me rethink it all again and I have to say that I'm not all impressed with the system. It really leads to a lot of selfishness. Part of the problem, though, is that there is no longer a widely held belief that marriage is for everyone or that you should stay with one partner for life. Personally, I think that this is leading our culture down a sad road where the joys of deeper long lasting relationships are getting lost to immediate gratification and higher highs. Why stick with someone when you have problems if you can find another person with whom you won't have those problems? What is the motivation to push through problems and grow together? Eventually, we get old enough and decide that trying people on is boring and it just entails trading one problem for another. We also get tired of restarting new relationships all of the time. It's really such a strange place where our culture has landed.
The pain also leads me to think about GOD. One of the good things I get out of the most painful times in my life are that they send me back to the drawing board to reevaluate myself, my life, my beliefs and I always go to GOD for help. I was strongly reminded one night this week of the Christian faith and the pain GOD went through coming to earth and being rejected. In service this morning, the pastor spoke about JESUS washing the feet of HIS disciples right after HE told them that one of them was going to betray HIM (Judas). How could JESUS bless the fellow HE knew was going to betray HIM by washing HIS feet? Betrayal is another pain that runs very deep, perhaps even deeper than a broken heart, though the two are so intertwined. One of my favourite pictures of betrayal is in the movie 'Braveheart' where William is on the battle field and finds out that the Scottish king has betrayed him. William gave it all up at that point. He didn't want to live, yet his friends saved him, he went on to become a martyr, and the Scottish king was so shamed that he changed his heart and carried William's cause onto completion. William even forgave the king and gave him another chance to support Scotland. I mean, how many of us have the heart to love the people who hurt us the deepest?
This is the most interesting part of the Christian faith - forgiveness and love. When we are hurt, it feels good to hurt the people who hurt us, but where does that lead? Do things get better that way? No, that road leads to bitterness and hatred that eats at the heart. In most cases, there is no way for the person who hurt us to ever make restitution. Nothing the king of Scotland might have tried could ever make up for the hurt he caused William by betraying him and causing the deaths of so many of his friends. The only way out to make things better was through William's forgiveness and that is what makes the character of Braveheart so beautiful.
btw, another typhoon hit the Philippines this week, but fortunately it didn't come to Manila. Please keep the families of this natural disaster in your prayers, and say a little prayer for me over the next few months if you think of me.
Blessings and love to you all!
Monday October 12th, 2009
Happy Thanksgiving!

Above: Kerri J, Right: Denis Colette
Thank YOU GOD for friends, family, food, shelter, finances, a job, health, computers, transportation, mercy, love, grace, patience, forgiveness, peace, kindness, hugs, kisses, holding hands and yes, thank YOU for pain!
Sunday October 18th, 2009 Happy Birthday Nathan!
 

Eve arranged for a surprise birthday party for Nathan on Friday night. She also prepped a special dance (see left). The song she chose is a Korean song and probably the most popular song in the Philippines right now. To my chagrin at the time, every second person in Tugdaan was humming this song the week-end we were there. Grace teaches English to Korean students, about 20% of my students are Korean and I visited Korea three times this year.
For being a country I never really had on my radar to visit, I've sure learned a lot about it this past year. In the summer, a friend talked about wanting to settle down in Seoul and I was really surprised because I hadn't been impressed. During my visit last month however I started seeing Korea through new eyes and I actually started falling for Seoul. It's actually a pretty cool city. Korean culture however still baffles me.
You go Eve!!! :)

"One of the most influential books of this century was Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture, in which she described at length three dramatically different 'primitive' cultures. In one of the three, the gender roles we know were completely reversed. The men were accountable for the homemaking and child rearing, while the women were accountable for business and all the important political decisions. In contrast, another of the cultures Benedict studied was even more patriarchal than that of the United States back in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
The message of this powerful book was that no culture is better than any other. And while a member of any one of them would have been confused in entering another, each of the three seemingly worked well. Benedict's book put forth the concept of cultural relativism, whose underlying principle is what is considered good in one culture may be considered bad in another. In other words, ethics are totally relative to culture. Somewhat like situational ethics, cultural relativism holds that judgments cannot be made about any culture except from within it."
"I could point to dozens of major flaws in the culture of this nation, but to my mind the greatest problem for the United States at this point in time is not the flaws of its culture but the fact that its culture is breaking down. Since the beginning of the 1960s, all our major cultural norms have come into serious question. I believe that this has been proper. But is has left us in a position where many of our citizens are increasingly unsure about how to behave. We have demolished many of the old, rigid cultural norms and are still in the process of doing so. The big question now is whether we will be able to develop new and more workable norms. I do not know the answer to that question. The future of our society seems increasingly obscure." (The Road Less Traveled & Beyond, M. Scott Peck, M.D. p. 197, 199)
The first quote is interesting because western culture really does so often fall into the trap of thinking they have the ultimate culture. I fall into this myself in some areas. The second quote is even more interesting because western culture is breaking down. Gender roles are really not understood anymore because there is no norm, and my experience suggests that North American women are very confused and men don't want to commit to relationships until they're much older.
Not that I'm suggesting the old patriarchal norm was better, but I'm suggesting that we haven't replaced it with anything so people are left confused and empty or else making up their own thing which makes it hard for cultural communication. The church holds on to some norms, but it too has some morphing to do.
I watched a few episodes of this new HBO series 'True Blood' this week and I was very disapointed. I guess some people really like this series, but every episode has left me feeling so sad and empty. The women in this story are presented as heroines for North American women, but they are so confused about who they want to be or where they want to go. I think it's great that they exert their independence and break the negatives about the patriarchal system, but in their desire to be independent, the heroines avoid any dependence on men which doesn't seem right and a bit of a pendulum swing I think. What is so wrong about having one mate for life and why is sleeping around to have new emotional experiences in shorter or longer term relationships considered so healthy and a role model for western culture? Why is marital unfaithfulness considered acceptable? Why is sex promoted to be more important than the depth of a ten year relationship? This show 'True Blood' throws in some emotional depth by very quickly creating some seemingly complex characters and having a few scenes with emotion, but in reality, the whole thing keeps going back to sex. It's like they've found a way to make a lot of sex palatable to both genders and make it look like that's what we should be striving for by adding on a little emotional depth. The saddest thing is that despite how sad the show makes me feel, I want to keep watching because of the scifi vampire side of things. I want to know about their powers and how they're created and how they can die. What kind of stupidity is that? How on earth have I been sucked in to such a sad show? What are these shows doing to me and our culture?