March 28, 2013

The Remaining Time in Manila is Getting Short…Really Short

We are missing some people from this photo because we could not find them...

With the Easter holiday coming up, my last day of work happened to be well before I leave the country. Normally, I would be excited for a few days off of work, but this just means I had to say goodbye earlier—or should I say, I had to say goodbye AGAIN! The “goodbye season” has begun for me and that means the time remaining here in Manila is short.

I had to wear wrinkled cloths because I had no iron and after all the pack out I realized I did not have a tie—oops. But nobody at work seemed to mind and you can’t see the wrinkles in the photos either.

It was hard to give hugs and tell everyone goodbye. I will really miss the staff here. I am thankful for the technology of social media because I am able to stay in touch with many of them even if I am living in a country on the other side of the world.

As I went around to take photos with everyone, we had a good time. Filipinos LOVE pictures so each place we had to take several pictures: a normal shot with multiple cameras, “jump shots” which did not ever turn out right,  and “wacky shot” of course! We spent plenty of time laughing that is for sure.

One office said, “It’s your last day, again!” I had to laugh, there was the last day when Lady and I left and then I came back and I am leaving again…They must think I am the never ending story.  

Our 'not so' jump, jump shot...

pose na!

that is what you get for missing the group picture! HAHA...(i waited until right before the photo and stuck my finger in his ear!)

Failed Jump shot--take 1

fail--take 2

Jump shot--take 3, not a complete fail...

new group...jump shot--take 4...three of us got it

Move places...him jump shot fail--take 5

we give up, we are laughing too hard!

March 27, 2013

Packing up and Cleaning out

One of the most exciting aspects of a career as a Foreign Service Officer is that you get to travel the world and every two or three years you move to another country. There is never time to become bored or complacent. Yet, that is also one of the hardest aspects too. People you have learned to love you have to say goodbye to, and every time you move you have to literally pack up everything you have and clean out!

As you all know, I came back to Manila to do our “pack out” and officially get ready for our next tour. For a week straight I was running around like a crazy person trying to get signatures, tie loose ends and finish projects. Then I would go home and clean, sort, throw away and/or give away stuff in the house in preparation for the movers to come. It was a LONG week! There were a few times that I just went and sat by the pool in the sunshine completely exhausted. 

Thankfully, Apple created Facetime and the credit card “points” provided us with Ipads because whatever I was doing I put Lady Hiva on Facetime and she was there with me. Kind of a fun experience.

The big day for pack out arrived and I was ready. The house looked like it was in shambles, but the reality was I had sorted everything: Dining room: Air shipment. Living room and Office: Sea shipment. Guest room: suitcase stuff.

The movers arrived and all four of them stood about 5 foot ZERO. I think that I made them nervous at first because I could speak Tagalog and therefore be able to listen to everything they were saying. (By the end of the day they were joking and having a good time with me though.) As we were starting to box the items and the large scale was used to weigh the boxes they all took turns standing on the scale. They ranged from 90-100lbs! YIKES! I could not help but think how these little guys were going to have to pack all our heavy boxes. I then had the sobering thought that all week I did not buy much food because I wanted to use what we had left in the cupboards and sadly what little I did have left was most likely more than these guys had in their homes to feed their families. I sent them home with most of the food remaining as they left.

I told the guy that the Tapa mats are the most important thing to my wife (not really true, but close) so to take EXTRA care of them. He said, "OK, sir...I will wrap them in bubbles too!"

The day was LONG and for the most part it went ok—I was only annoyed twice! HAHA. I talked with them, joked with them, and found ways to try and help because we are not allowed to help pack for liability reasons. I did have to pull all the stuff down from top shelves because they could neither reach nor see the stuff that was up there. Now, I thought that the people in the stores put A LOT of tape on the should have seen how much tape these movers used! THEY went through a WHOLE CASE!

So they day ended and the house is EMPTY! I don’t even have a tie to wear to work tomorrow…I have a meeting with the Ambassador I hope I can borrow one from somebody.

I went over to eat dinner with some neighbors and when I arrived it was a surprise party! That was really fun. I was really surprised too! I missed having Lady Hiva there with us, but we had a wonderful time with some great food! I am starting to realize how much I like Manila and the people that I have become friends with. 

March 18, 2013

Consular Leadership Day 2013—Welcome back to Manila

I made the draining flight back to Manila yesterday and what is better than a service project welcome party? One of the goals of being a Consular Officer with the Foreign Service is to reach out every year and have a leadership day. This year the team planned a service day to give back to the community—Corporate Social Responsibility. I was happy to get in time to join in!

We spent the morning on a large soccer complex playing games with the Special Olympians. Since I was not here for the planning portion of the day, I roamed around and enjoyed watching colleagues interact with the athletes. They played soccer, bocce, and other team games for several hours. I had fun in hearing the joy as their bocce ball got close and they gave everyone around them high fives!

One of my favorite things about the morning was listening to one of the Special Olympians give her welcome remarks. She was full of enthusiasm and spunk. She concluded her speech by saying, “My name is Brina and I have down-syndrome. Is it a challenge sometimes? Yes. Is it a problem? No, we all have struggles we need to overcome…oh and just so you know my family got their visas!”  Haha! What an inspiration.

In the afternoon we split off into four groups and did service. I ended up with the group that painted for an NGO—Reach Youth—that feeds street children and does an after school supplemental education program.

We had a blast painting…even if it was HOT!!

It felt good to do some service, as it always does. It was also fun to see all the friends we have made here in Manila. So many people that we love, it is hard to think my time here is coming to a close.