Great Expectations, Part 5



As you can see, Christmas preparations were in full swing when we returned to Manila, even at the airport where these pictures were taken. Our travel team split up. Pastor Steve and Emily had only a few hours before boarding a flight back to wintry Seoul, William was heading out to spend time with his friend Kyle and his family, Tain was bound for a hotel to rest, while I was going with Dawn and Nobu to San Mateo to visit with friends of theirs from previous missions trips they had taken through the International Christian School in Uijeongbu. 

We piled into Pastor Arnel Cruz's car with his son Nico and our luggage for the drive through the traffic which was rather heavy on that Saturday morning. Eventually we came to the vacant home of another pastor where we would stay until we had to leave on Tuesday. I was exhausted. Why? When we returned from the visit with the children in the mountains, we had about five hours before we were to climb into a van a travel in the dead of night to an airport. I wasn't sleepy enough to rest those five hours, and I couldn't sleep in the van as it careened up and down and all around the mountains, and sleep eluded me on the airplane as well, so I'd been awake for over 24 hours. I had a headache too. Dawn, Nobu, and the Cruz men left me on a mat sleeping in an air conditioned room. When I awoke, there was a meal from KFC awaiting me that included both rice and mashed potatoes, which I thought funny. 

Alert again, I looked across the street and saw our temporary neighbors:


This was Mr. Foghorn Leghorn. He had God only knows how many cockadoodle dooing brothers just like him living on the same lot and he had a bazillion rowdy cousins competing for the title of Most Annoying Rooster living somewhere behind our house. Cock fighting is a popular spot in the Philippines, which explains the plethora of crowing featherbrains. 

I started this entry at the country house in Thailand on Christmas Eve morning 


where but for the songs of birds and the soft sigh of the breeze all was calm and bright. Now I'm riding in the front seat of a van back to Bangkok alongside a driver with a spiderweb tattooed on his left hand who enjoys listening to Korean R&B and dance music as he drives. I don't think I've seen any speed limit signs that any driver I've been with has ever obeyed. The same was true in the Philippines. Our ride up the twisty mountain roads to Malaybalay was like living in road race video game, only we couldn't hit anyone or anything and we didn't have extra lives to spare. Nowadays Psy's Gentleman song thumps us down this Thai highway, I will trust Spider-Man to get me safely to our destination and continue the story. 

Pastor Arnel brought blankets, pillows, and some delicious food to the house along with a big guy named Daniel who decided to sleep on the mattress with Nobu that night. Nobu woke up four times to get Daniel to stop snoring. I was snoozing on a thin Hello Kitty mat with a thin blanket trying not to freeze in the blasting air conditioning. 

The next morning we showered, dressed, ate breakfast at Tropical Hut, then walked to church. 



This was a special Christmas Sunday for the children's program where Pastor Arnel would be speaking a salvation message after a dramatic presentation. The children were excited. 

We sat and waited for the show to begin, and I snappy some pictures of Nobu, his friend Micah, and other friends including some little girls who attached themselves to Dawn. 





The program began with worship led by young adults including Micah on the drums. 


This was followed by the magic themed Christmas play which concluded with a live, bloody crucifixion scene and then a glorious resurrection where Jesus saved modern day people from their lost lives. I was sitting on the aisle when suddenly Jesus was dragged past me, covered in blood. Even as I think of it, my eyes well up and my throat tightens. Behind the beauty of Christmas lies the ugliness of the cross. And behind the ugliness of the cross lies the glory of the resurrection. I wonder how many people celebrate the birth and the resurrection, but avoid the cross?  There were salvations that morning. 

After church, we ate chicken insala with unlimited rice. The guys at my table said that real men eat five servings of rice. I managed two. Then we took a jeepney to the mall. 



That's Nico and his brother Gideon in the last picture. The mall was crowded with holiday shoppers and princesses were everywhere for some reason. We took pictures with one. 


Micah is the guy in the red shirt next to the prince. I went with Daniel to a bookstore where I bought a copy of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations for 99 pesos, a real bargain. I stopped by McDonalds to check out the local menu. 


When will McSpaghetti arrive in Maryland or Maine I wonder? Outside we regrouped for the jeepney ride home. 


Daniel is the guy on the left. He's a Bible teacher with many students. At home we found Dawn meeting with ladies from the church and the house was full for a while.  That night, Daniel slept on a cot away from Nobu, so sleep was possible. I may have slept on Hello Kitty, but Nobu slept wrapped in her paws. 


The next day was a lazy one. We slept a lot and went out for a bit and shopped in a grocery store where I spotted what appeared to be a whoopie pie. 


I bought shampoo instead, because it was what I really needed. That night we had some last visitors and the next morning Micah and Pastor Arnel took us to the airport. Micah saw Nobu off for his flight to Korea and Pastor Arnel brought Dawn and I to our terminal where we met Tain for our flight to Thailand. 

Thus ends my narrative of Great Expectations. What did I relearn in the Philippines? 

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation [is] from him. Psalm 62:5

Maybe my Thailand story will be called No Expectations or perhaps Whatever. Wait and see. 








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