Saturday, January 25, 2014


 A major theme that keeps coming up in my Lay Institute class is the concept of how our narrative shapes how we see the world.  We understand everything within the context of the stories we tell ourselves about how the world works, how we ought to be. 

For the past several weeks within that class, I’ve been telling the narrative of science.  The history behind many scientific discoveries, how science and scientists think of themselves and their goals, how science works.  Last Monday I had my father skype in for an interview, and he spent part of it telling the stories of geology, but mostly telling his own story.  Telling his experiences within geology and within the church, and how those stories shaped him into who he was.  With my permission, he also told the class stories about me, so they could see where I came from and what shaped me into the person sitting in that class, teaching in the way I do. 

One of the great things about teaching here in the Philippines is that I don’t have to explain why stories are important, why what we tell ourselves about the world matters in how we see things.  Everyone in my Lay Institute class gets that, gets the importance of story in telling truths.  They’re just as likely to say that the only way to tell real truths is to tell the story behind it, and I can’t disagree there. 

Our Lay Institute classes tend to run long, and to wander into discussions far afield of the original topics as we pursue those stories.  Often it brings us to surprising commonalities, moments of shared traditions between two cultures.  A discussion of Darwinian concepts of evolution turned into thoughts on immigration in the US, and into a history of the Irish immigration in particular, and from there into the similarities in how the Irish were viewed at that time and how Filipinos are viewed today, the parallels and repetitions only strengthening the truths we found. 

Over the course of this next week I’ll have to write a mid-term test to track what we have taught.  But how do I turn the brilliant, dynamic discussions we’ve held into something semi-objective?  No attempt I can come up with will truly track what has been learned here.  I don’t even know for certain everything that I’ve learned in the course of teaching.  But that in itself is its own gift: this class experience will never be summed up in a test and an outline of our course objectives.  It has already succeeded in its true goal of making us all think differently.  And the only way to describe that change?  Is in the stories we will tell from this point onwards.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

St. James' Church Dedication

I’ve said that several of the clergy here in Baguio have taken to just deciding that I need to come along with them and visit various different churches and congregations when they are going to visit.  This past week was a perfect example of that, as Padie Alyse heard that St. James church in Balakbak was being consecrated and dedicated, and she took me out to participate in the dedication.

Balakbak is only about 40 km from Baguio, but it’s a pretty rough road through the mountains, so we’re talking a close to two hour trip on winding mountain roads.  When I wasn’t feeling somewhat carsick on the drive out, I was gleeing over the views, because the mountain road is just so pretty, and I really can’t believe I get to live here for this year.  

These photos were technically taken on the way back, but you can see what I mean about the views being spectacular.

We arrived in Balakbak early enough to catch a bite to eat with some of the congregation and a few visitors before the service started.  I’m starting to become a bit more known throughout the EDNCP, several of the clergy and a few visiting laity knew who I was before I was introduced.  Among the visitors to Balakbak were some visiting members of Ma’am Bridget’s family, so even though I didn’t get to meet them at her pre-New Years party, I hand a chance to say hello to them.  Ma’am Bridget had pointed me out to them yesterday, though we hadn’t been introduced at that time.  I’m given to understand, though, that it’s hard to miss seeing the one red-head on Easter College’s campus, even if you don’t see me up close at any point.  Seriously, the hair is a beacon.  

The Consecration and dedication service went off very well, and it was wonderful to sit there in a new church building and watch everything possible get blessed and dedicated.  It was mentioned to me that before this building was built, the congregation had been sharing building space and worship services with the local Lutheran congregation, another one of those synchronies of ecumenism that happen far more often than we ever really acknowledge.  

Everything got blessed, from the doors, the walls, to the alter linens.  Sitting here are most of the linens and the initial offerings for the church service, waiting their turn in the proceedings.

And of course, after the service, there was more food!  I ended up sitting with several of the clergy members eating our lunches together and drinking some rather nice rice wine, and then some fruit wine.  After the meal was over, some of the little kids from the congregation kept coming over to stare at me, then dodging away.  This meant, of course, that I had to pull out the bubble solution.  I can’t emphasize this enough, blowing bubbles with young children seems to cross all boundaries and create friendships like magic.  I think Padie Alyse was amused watching as more and more children wandered over, played and tried to catch the bubbles, then relaxed enough to do things like grabbing and stroking my hair to see if it was real or if the color would rub off.  By the time we left to go back to Baguio, I had seven little kids willing to hug me goodbye, when a half hour before they’d been too shy to come near me.  

We had a bit more time on the way back, so there was time to stop beside the road and let me climb up on a pile of rock-fall and look at pretty boulders taller than I am.  You can take the daughter away from the geologist, but some things have been bred and trained into me, and rocks are to be stared at and climbed over.  Even in somewhat inappropriate shoes. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Campus Tour

It occurs to me that I've been spectacularly bad at taking photos and putting them up on this blog.  Part of that is that I tend to not be a very visually oriented person.  Blame the eyes that don't correct all the way even with glasses on, I guess.  And another part is that I am terrible at remembering to bring either a camera or spare batteries for the camera anywhere I go.  The final part has more to do with my internet hating to load images on anything, so the less time I spend fighting with blogger and photobucket, the better. 

But since I have this quiet time between quarters, I used it to take something of a campus tour with my camera, and I thought I'd orient you to where I'm living and working.

This is the view right outside my bedroom balcony. Look at the flowers blooming in December!

This is my room here in Easter College.  Please note, it is almost never this neat.  I tend to use half the bed as secondary storage.  Also, look at the pretty pretty quilt my Dad made for me.  See the prettiness of it? 

Walking out of my rooms, this is my immediate view.  The earth stairs you see lead up to the President's office, which used to be the rectory. 
This is my kitchen/laundry room space.  It seems huge, but remember this is a shared space with the Easter College HRM staff, and whenever they need to do laundry, it can get full very fast.  This is where I held that dinner party in November. 

This is the exterior view of the HRM building, where I stay.  I'm standing in front of the high school building to get this shot, which tells you how short my commute really is.  The flowering tree you see peeking out from the very back of the building is the same one I photographed from my balcony. 

The high school!  I spend most of my time in this building, going up and down to the classrooms.  This week is about the only time this building is quiet, there's almost always a few students playing or hanging out on the school campus, even on weekends. 

This is the view from standing on the steps of the high school, out across the central field to the elementary school building.  I've learned to quantify levels of fog here.  On a moderately foggy day, the surrounding mountains fade away.  On very foggy days, the elementary building is invisible.  And on the most foggy days, towards the end of the rainy season, the tree I photographed from my balcony was invisible except for the main trunk. 

From a spot very close to where I was photographing the high school, this is the College building/gymnasium.  My lay institute classroom is in this building, but since it's locked for break I couldn't get in to give you a better picture.  And yes, the inclines here are steep enough, this building is three stories on one side, and four stories on the other. 

Wandering down a bit further, this is the college library, sitting opposite the near portion of the college building.  They tell me this used to be the chapel before Holy Innocents was built, and then they converted it into the college level library. 

The campus canteen is attached to the college library.  At this point I've wandered a bit further down the main paved road, and turned to my left.  The canteen is actually composed of about five or six different booths, each run independently, selling slightly different meals for snacks and lunch.  They just recently put in a frappe booth that sells various flavors of frozen coffee for between 39 and 59 pesos.  That's right, if I'm craving it I can get a frappe for under a buck. 

The canteen also houses a load machine right next to the guardhouse and gates, which is where I go every week to put more load on my internet.  It might be slow and occasionally argumentative, but it is how I keep my access to home, so it's worth it. 

Walk through the gates at one end of the canteen and you get to here, Holy Innocents Episcopal Church.  This is where I go most Sundays, if I'm not getting taken along to visit a different church.  It's also where the high school holds its Wednesday services. 

I walked out from the Holy Innocents gate and back around to the main Easter College gate to take a picture of the welcome sign.  The banners below the name of the school are about Foundation Day events, which will be happening in early February, and about the various degree programs offered by the school. 

Walking back in, this is the same paved road I walked down and turned away from to head towards the canteen and Holy Innocents.  On the left is the college building, on my right, the edge of the Easter Weaving Room building. 

Another view of the main field, this time from the steps of the gym.  Flat, undeveloped land is a bit of a rarity in Baguio, and Easter College keeping this section as a general play area is a large part of the draw for several students and their families, who like knowing that there is a safe, accessible green space for the kids to play in. We are looking in the direction of part of the elementary, and the hill where the President's office is on, but you can't see it well yet because of the trees.

Looking up the hill towards the President's office from the edge of the field.

Me, with the President's office building in the background.  And of course my picture will not rotate around correctly, what, you think photobucket ever wants to cooperate with me on this?  And yes, that is me wandering around sleeveless a day or two after Christmas.  Because this is the Philippines.  I'm actually missing snow right now, even though if I were back home I'd be complaining about the unreasonableness of temperatures hitting 0 Fahrenheit. 

And there you have it, this is the place I've been living for the past four months or so.  It also took me two hours juggling between photobucket and blogger to get this written, so you're not getting another photo-intensive post for a while to come.