Thursday, June 18, 2009

Graduates of the Class of 2009

This is all the staff and students working with Newlife.
 The graduating class of 2009 Last week was graduation day! It was a day at a beach resort which included water slides, pool party and a whole slew of fun-ness; followed by awards, ceremonies and lots and lots of pictures. I had a great time, and am excited to have finished this race. Thank you to all those who rooted for me and cheered me on along the way! I couldn't have done it without you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Smoothie? Fruit? Oreos?

I'm willing to bet that Mindanao is the fruit capital of the Philippines. I've not read this. This is not official information. It is just my two cents. But believe me when I say the fruit is AMAZING and FRESH! Having said that, there are fruit stands everywhere. Over these last few years I've learned about all fruits exotic and strange. I've tasted the gut wrenching stench and yet delicious flavor of Durian- it smells like gym shoes but tastes like garlic and honey... and? ... and? ... I'm without words.

It's a must taste to believe kind of fruit. I've delighted myself on Rambutan, Santos, Lansones, and a whole mess of other fruits that I never learned the name. The ones I like the most are the Mangosteens! Right now, its Pomelo season. If you are unfamiliar with Pomelos, imagine a grapefruit on steroids and much much sweeter and we're in business! Okay... I got off on a tangent. Smoothies. Smoothies here are fantastic. I'll miss the fruit and I'll miss the smoothies. But I won't be missing all the flavors. Yesterday, I walked up to a smoothie stand and saw that one of their featured smoothies blends; cantaloupe, green mango and oreo cookies! I must confess I wasn't even a little bit curious as to what it tasted like! Can you imagine! I'm going to miss Filipino smoothies!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

.... closure?

As I prepare to go home... I've been thinking a lot about the things I'm going to miss, as well as the things I won't! This week, I took all my assignments to a book binding/photocopy center to get them bound. I want to use them to study for my NARM exam this coming August. They told me to come back the following day. But when I got there, the place was CLOSED. For reasons that are still unclear to me, the city shut them down and sealed off the premises.

As I stood there a bit confused (but laughing inside), just staring at the barred up doors and official seal, the owner's son saw me and came my way. He told me not to worry; that they would be open the following day! Sure enough, the next time I passed by, they were open and my books were safely returned- beautifully bound.

Moral of my story~ a year ago, that would have stressed me out. Two years worth of assignments are taken hostage by the city's closure?!? I probably would have gotten a bit flustered and tried to be all "American" on them and stuff. But after seeing how normal that is, and being subjected to it for over two years... I think my Surprise-O-Meter is broken. All I did was shrug, laugh and come back another day. However, I must confess, I won't be missing this when I leave.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Water buffalo with pumpkin mash and braised witlof -- Yum!

Water buffalo with pumpkin mash and braised witlof (Endive)

Serving size: Serves 4
INGREDIENTS 4 x 150g fillets water buffalo 1-2 tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper 1 medium onion, sliced 45ml port 1/3 cup beef stock 50 ml fresh pouring cream 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 teaspoon picked thyme leaves 4 head witlof 2 tablespoons caster sugar 40g butter 5-6 baby zucchini 80ml white wine 40 ml white wine vinegar Pumpkin mash to serve Parsley sprigs, extra, to garnish

METHOD Season buffalo fillets and rub with olive oil. Heat a large pan, cook buffalo to your liking, as you would with a fillet of beef (4-5 minutes each side) for medium/medium-rare. Remove, cover with foil and rest. Meanwhile return pan to heat. Add a little extra olive oil, if necessary, cook onion until soft. Add port, beef stock and cream, cook, simmering reduce by a 1/3 or cook until sauce thickens. Stir in fresh herbs and remove from heat. Meanwhile cut witlof in half and rub cut side in sugar. Heat a medium pan, place witlof sugar side down and cook a few minutes to caramelise. Reduce heat, turn witlof. Add butter and zucchini and cook covered until vegetables soften. Add white wine and vinegar, simmer until wine and juices reduce by half. Serve Buffalo Fillets with port sauce, pumpkin mash and caramelised witlof. Garnish with a little extra parsley if desired.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New life! New Adventure!

After 109 births, I got the chance to do something brand new! I got to sign my very first birth certificates! To me, that is just flat out exciting! It makes me feel like a midwife. All the previous ones were signed by my supervising Filipino midwives. But here in Tabuk, they don't care that I'm not Filipino.
These are pictures of my third catch up here at Abundant Grace of God Maternity Center. She was expecting her 5th child and was hoping for a little girl. All the rest have been boys up 'til now. But alas, there was no doubt when he was born that he was ALL BOY! We laughed and told her that now, they can start their own basketball team. Basketball is huge here! :-) Look how cute he is! - little Ericson!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Oh the things you will see!!!

This unusual mode of transportation is called a Huliglig. The engine is actually a rototiller that is attached to the body of this 'car' to get around town. It is detached again when they need to till the fields! :-) I love the ingenuity of it!

This sign says, "Your Army in Kalinga is just a text or phone call away to serve you..."! I have never called the Army to do anything for me... I wonder what might occasion it here! :-)
Here are more beautiful views of the mountains during out trip to Bugnay! Here the clouds are low on the mountains.... It turns the view gray and chilly but oh so beautiful!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Prenatals in Bugnay...

Early the morning after we arrived, we started doing prenatals at our house. The women arrived at our stairs, knowing we were in town for just that. When we unpacked all our stuff, we realized we forgot a very important part- the measuring tape. But it was an easy fix, we just asked all the builders in town if we could borrow the construction one. Every time we brought it out to use that day, we laughed. Instead of a soft cloth material, it was metal... the women didn't seem to mind. And we had a good time trying to use it .... bulky and stiff as it was. :-)

We also did house visits for prenatals and baby checks. This mother had delivered the night before we arrived. So this little guy is two days old. He was such a cutie! As you can see, he had a something little special on his hand- and extra thumb. This is regarded as good luck and is not removed in their culture. All in all, we did well over a dozen prenatals and a half dozen baby checks. It was wonderful going to their homes and meeting their children.
 The women seemed so much more relaxed having us as guests in their homes. I even met one young lady who has my EXACT birthday (day, month, year!). Her name is Angela. I took pictures of us together but they didn't work out. :- ( She is due in the next few weeks, and tells me that if she delivers a girl, she'll name her Stephanie.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our first night in Bugnay...

This is the entrance into Bugnay. We stopped to say hello to friends on our way to Belen's family's house. We have to step over fences made to keep the pigs in and the trails are made of rocks, cement and mud. The women carry all their packages on their heads. And this little girl is no exception. The homes are made of mahogany and concrete as the men learn from an early age how to be master carpenters.

When we arrived, our first visit was to Belen's home where we met her parents and sister who is visiting from Manila. In this picture, you see Belen's back, her niece Sonia and her father. The woman with all the tattoos, is her great aunt. She incidentally, has no idea how old she is. :- ) This is outside their home. We unloaded our bags and settled in for some native coffee. The coffee grows rather well here and it is served extra sweet! - much like the rest of the food in this country! The Filipinos i know have insatiable sweet tooths!

Again, this is Belen's great-aunt. She is so used to squatting and bending over that she is no longer comfortable standing up straight. Although she tried to do just that for this picture. She is smoking native tobacco, rolled in a cigar. Most of the older generation smokes it. Around her neck, hang very old beads that have been around for generations. Many women wear them. They seem to indicate status (as the older the beads, the more expensive they are). She also has the local tattoos on her arms. This is done for beauty. Tattooing is seen as very beautiful and indicates which tribe they are from. It is rarely done anymore, as the younger generation find it difficult to find work in the city when they have tribal tattoos.

That first night, we attended a viewing of a film made to share the gospel with the native peoples. It is called 'The prodigal Son' and has been made into several different dialects. The church was packed and sat riveted by the depiction. I too, understanding nothing, was riveted. We had a few people explain certain events, but as a whole it was very clear. And best of all, it was well received. They showed two versions that night. We didn't stay for the second viewing, as we were too exhausted from our trip.


Friday morning we packed our bags and climbed atop a Jeepney for an adventurous ride through the Filipino mountains. Our destination? ... BUGNAY! We planned to stay the weekend, check up on all the pregnant women in town and worship with the But-but tribe on Sunday morning. This picture is of me on top of the Jeepney at the beginning of the journey. At one point, there were 23 of us holding on to the rails and bouncing along the bumpy, muddy road. The views were spectacular! This was the main reason we wanted to be on top of the Jeep instead of inside. For more than 6 hours we feasted on the lush scenery and gawked at the rugged tropical beauty.

What a breath of fresh air from the fumed-filled city streets of Davao City. One mountain in particular stands out. It is called 'Sleeping Beauty'. Perhaps you can see her lying there, sleeping in the distance. Rice is the main crop of the Philippines, i would say. This is a rice paddy up close. It will be ready for harvest in July, I'm told. This is a picture of Belen (our lovely local guide and translator!) and me standing on the bridge leading to Bugnay. The bridge is made of metal and sits several hundred feet above one of the largest rivers in the north. That day, it was raging with brown muddy swells from the recent rain storms. In the distance, you can see some of the houses of the village. I am told there are about 1000 inhabitants in Bugnay. And Bugnay is just one of 5 towns, where the But-but live. I'm told the But-but tribe is one of the largest ethnic groups here in the north.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Breath of life...

These are pictures of my second catch here at Abundant Grace of God... We got a text late one night and took our 'ambulance' to go get her. She lived 30 + minutes away in another village and had no means of getting to the clinic. She said she was not active, but when we picked her up she was having strong contractions every 3 minutes. She got to the clinic shortly before 10 pm and had her baby an hour and 13 minutes later! It went quite fast. Her baby needed resuscitation but he perked up quickly. I'm glad she didn't have him at home, as he needed a lot of extra help getting started on this whole breathing thing! This is a picture of our ambulance we picked her up in. This is her sister-in-law, the grandmother and a Filipino midwife on staff... and of course little baby Errin.
This is a picture of my patient and me in front of the clinic. She, like many of the women we serve, is very petite. She isn't angry... at least that is what I'm told. Her tribe is not a smiling bunch.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Transporting to the local hospital...

The other day, we had a patient who chose to go to the hospital and deliver. She got discouraged because she developed severe leg cramps. This picture is Janelle transporting her in our 'ambulance'. Her husband was our 'stretcher' carrying her from the deliver room, to the ambulance and then into the hospital. I think this is my new favorite way of transporting women now. It was fast and very effective... but then again, she weighed very little. Eventually,she was placed on a stainless steel stretcher. It didn't look very comfortable, but it was definitely clean. We all went in to make sure she got the best care possible. We attracted quite a lot of attention so we didn't stay too long. We stopped over at the pharmacy to get some supplies. It is on the side of the hospital.

Prenatal questions...

Yesterday, a very sweet young mother asked me, "Ma'am, I am work on computer. Will hurt my baby?" At first, I wasn't sure what she was asking, so I repeated her question back and she said that I had understood. She wanted to know if her computer would cause any fetal abnormalities or problems during her pregnancy. I assured her that sitting in front of a computer screen would not hurt her baby but that I couldn't say the same for her eyes.... or tush! :-) She left much happier and not just a little relieved. I was happy to share the good news. :-)

A sneak peek at the Birthing Center...

This is a quick peek at God's Abundant Grace Maternity Center where I am currently working. It is clinic within a house. The bottom floor has a kitchen, bathroom and three rooms for the clinic. There is a delivery room, prenatal room and postpartum room. It's tight but very efficient. The main entry is the reception room... And this picture is of the director and one of the staff proof reading birth certificates.

In this picture, one of the staff is washing linens. The patients family are required to do their own laundry by hand. It's a simple process and works well.

This is a picture of my first patient here at Abundant Grace. I enjoyed getting to know her over the two days she was here. It was a beautiful birth.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Outreach and prenatals in Laclong!

Today we went to Laclong, a neighboring village to do a teaching on Labor and Delivery and prenatals. It rained the whole time... but it was warm and fun, none the less!
Look at the size of our umbrella!
She was doing the laundry in the rain!
 We also gathered the women and their babies for check-ups.

Laclong- second take...

Getting ready for teaching... already we were attracting a crowd.
 Janelle taking blood pressure
 Inside look at the prenatal room... we fit three women at a time inside the house.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Manila and beyond! - Day one and a half of the adventure

So much... oh so much to share.... but I'll start with this, the ADVENTURE HAS BEGUN! Yesterday morning I was shuttled off to the airport where I caught the early flight to Manila. My partner in crime and trusty side-kick is a travel savvy MK from Africa,named Janelle. Together we had it all figured out. We'd drop our bags at the bus depot and then explore the city on foot. We were excited. Once we landed, we powerhoused our hiking bags on and off carts, around the masses and made it to the concierge desk for information.

We figured it couldn't hurt to ask for directions for the bus depot. When in doubt, ask! Right? We made it to the concierge desk and were thrilled to learn we could get to the station using public transportation. So off we went, with a skip in our step to the bus depot. We boarded a transit bus and rolled on and on... and on. We were told where to get off by the conductor and then asked a few people who helped us find the place. We were so proud that we made it there by bus... all on our ingenious own! (plus the help of about 25 locals- of course). But soon after arriving, we discovered there was just one problem... it was the WRONG TERMINAL!

We then had to brave the taxi system (not a good reputation in manila) and cross town to the northern terminal!.... Amid the honking and exhaust fumes... we had to laugh. We had tried to avoid the taxi and here we were begging one to get us to our next stop. Three hours after landing in Manila... we made it there at last. We purchased our tickets and stored our bags. We were exhausted... hot... hungry and a bit defeated. The noise and the dirt, the heat and the hassle, had conspired to zap the adventurous spirit out of our steps. We had grand plans to see Rizal Park (a 58 hectare oasis in down town Manila) and then roam around museums to while-away the time. But instead we opted for the nearest mall and settled in for a 7 hour lay-over.

We ate, played and laughed our way around the mall. We got lost in the book stores and even more lost looking for the loo! (Apparently only the locals now where they are... and restroom signs cannot be trusted!) We didn't want to stay any longer than we had to at the bus station so we tried to time our connection to the last possible moment. We had to be there at 7pm so, optimistic us, we gave ourselves 15 minutes. We were naive to think that a 7 minute ride could take us longer than 15 minutes or that traffic might play a part in our downfall. But most of all, we assumed that like in everything else in the Philippines, that time didn't matter and they'd hold the bus for us! Oh... we were WRONG! Oh so very WRONG! Not only was our bus gone at 7:05 when we arrived but it had left exactly at 7pm!!! Timeliness is a concept that is largely unknown... or possibly unappreciated by this culture- EXCEPT AT THE BUS STATION!

Happily, my story does not end with my trusty-side-kick and I standing sullen and dejected, holding our bags amid the masses of travelers. We were able to catch the next bus (which thankfully left only 45 minutes later) and bunker down for the 12 hour commute to Tabuk. Yes, you heard that right... 12hrs! Now, I've taken international flights across the Atlantic that didn't take that long! But we were happy... because the Victory Liner bus was taking us further and further away from the BIG-BAD-CITY with every minute. And we were both craving a little country-side time. The ride was uneventful... if you don't count the cheesy-B-class horror movie they subjected us to, or the lack of sleep and leg room. This morning, we arrived safe and sound to our destination... a lovely birthing clinic surrounded by rice fields on three sides and a main street on the last. As I sit on the balcony and type out this message, I get excited about what the next few weeks will entail. I'm sure it will have something to do with catching babies... but i'm hoping for much, much more. But as each adventure leads me to new places... I'll make sure and bring you along. Until then, thank you for lifting us up in prayer!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

101 reasons why I love being a midwife!

This last week I caught my 100th and 101th baby! This is a mile marker for me in my new life as a midwife. I'm in the three digits! I'm amazed at the opportunities I've had this last year and a half. I'm overwhelmed by how much I've learned and all that I've seen. But I'm also keenly aware of all that I have left to learn!

As many of you have noted... I am not writing the birth stories on my blog anymore. This is out of respect for their privacy. I'll be sharing stuff more anonymously and with pictures that don't have names. This is all very intentional. I hope you understand. Thank you for praying for me and my ministry here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Up in Smoke!

So immigration is not a place you want to spend much time. I don't care if you are talking about the American immigration or in any foreign country. It's just not a pleasant place. You have lines. lots of them. You have uncomfortable chairs and flickering neon lights. And you have hot, cranky, impatient foreigners mindlessly tapping their feet and staring off into space. The staff are sometimes friendly but often they are just disinterested and going through the motions. It's not a job I'd sign up for personally so I can empathize with the monotony. Well, this morning I found myself standing in those lines and waiting in those seats. They took my papers and informed me they'd be going on lunch (a two hour lunch!) so I should return after 1 pm. That's fine with me. I'd rather be doing other things too. So i left and had lunch with a patient in the hospital down the street. I had to transport her because of signs of hypertension. It was a nice lunch and she let me cuddle her cute little girl, Charmaine. When I returned, I waited as they came back from lunch and start my paperwork. But then, all of a sudden there was more flickering of the lights than normal. There was fluctuating power surges then POOF!!! one of the computers went up in smoke. The women screeched. The men ran to cut off the power and everybody in the lobby started for the doors. except me. I just walked closer for a better look. It was only a computer. :- ) I would have unplugged the computer and turned back on the power. it's an easy fix. But here they went the opposite direction. They closed down the office and asked everyone to come back another day... So I won't be renewing my immigration status today. Perhaps tomorrow. Assuming nothing else explodes while I'm there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

~ A surprise ending ~

Mai-Mai came into the clinic moving slowly. She had a strange, wild look in her eyes and she keep repeating over and over again in a low whisper, "My baby is coming! My baby is coming! .... My baby is coming!" Together we walked to the bed where she started pushing immediately. Within minutes, a little patch of dark black hair poked through. A push or two more and little Jonred joined us on this side of the uterus. It was a slow, sweet birth .... truly beautiful. Then... we all sat back and enjoyed this little crying, slimy boy a bit while we waited for the placenta. When it came time for the placenta, she pushed once, twice... there were no signs of placental separation; no bleeding. There was just a bit of cord lengthening. So I waited. Then as I looked down to see her push for the third time I was startled to find myself COVERED in her blood! Her placenta hung most of the way out but her blood was everywhere... mainly all over me! The best part was the reaction of everyone in the room! My assist, supervisor and the father of the child all recoiled in unison! Together they all made the same sound of disgusted 'uuugggggggghhhhh!!!!' I was covered from neck to thigh in almost 100 cc of blood! Then we laughed and I made a B-line for the shower! I should have taken a picture... :- )

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Badjao Wedding ~

~An Atypical Tuesday Morning ~
On Tuesday morning at 11, I was invited to attend a wedding among the Badjao. When I asked why get married Tuesday morning at 11? The answer made me smile. To understand the answer you must know that the Badjao are a native ethnic group in the Philippines. They are social outcasts, sea gypsies and street beggars. They have their own language and live in stilted housed on the sea. Most are Muslim but not all. Those who live in Isla Verde are some of the poorest. So when I asked why Tuesday morning? I was told, “When nobody works; Why not?”
 The bride is named Lassa. She is the pastor’s daughter and was marrying late at 18 yrs old. (Most are married off at 13 or 14 yrs.) A Badjao wedding is a three day affair with dancing, food and festivities. The whole town is invited. I got there on the final day of festivities, to find most of the town gathered in front of the church, watching dancers and waiting for the fun to begin.
 The bride was beautiful! She reminded me of a fine porcelain doll with her layers and layers of make-up! She had white foundation, green and gold eye shadow and a perfect circle of bright pink blush on each cheek! Her lipstick was deep red and she wore one inch fake eyelashes! They must have been heavy as she kept her eyes to the floor- downcast and demure.
 She wore a white, frilly gown that must have been sweltering in the heat! Her hair was tucked up under a white tulle veil that trailed behind her. On her hands she wore lacy gloves. Each finger donned at least one large gold ring and her wrists drooped with gold bracelets. Around her neck hung not one but two large gold necklaces with another in her hair which laid low on her forehead. She resembled nothing of the giggling young girl I had met months before. She didn’t smile. She didn’t move. She didn’t giggle. She sat stock still while one friend caked on more and more make-up and another fanned her with a piece of cardboard. She looked very nervous- and hot!
The groom was also in his finest. But for him, that meant shiny new sneakers, dark blue jeans and a traditional white linen shirt. His hair was spiked with gobs of gel. And up until the vows, he wore brand-new black sun glasses. He looked green and ready to pass out at any moment! As it came time for the ceremony to start, the crowd cheered as the groom went to get the bride and then led her to the altar.

 They sat on a bench with their hands neatly folded on golden pillows and stared stoically as the crowd bustled in close for a better view. The crowd stood quietly as they exchanged rings and vowed to love each other in a way that would glorify God! Then slowly, the church emptied and the kids ran for the cake. It was simple and lovely. There was just one thing. The groom was reluctant…and the bride was hopeful. Their families had arranged it for social prestige and money. She came with a hefty dowry (14,000 pesos or $300.00 US). ….. And he had no choice. Pray that they learn to love each other as Christ loves the church!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Ugly Dress Party ~ New Year's Eve 2008

Happy New Year!!! This new year's eve a few of us decided to stay in and have an "ugly dress party"! We went to the thrift stores (Aka Uki-uki shopping, which are outdoor stalls with thrift store cast offs) and bought the ugliest dresses we could find! I'm in the white 1980's number! Oh... it takes me back! I know this will be hard to believe. But my dress actually had the original tags on it! I was the first to wear it! :- ) We played a few games, did a cat-walk to compete for 'worst dressed' and then topped it off with the worlds worst 'talent' show. It was a hoot! Happy New Year everyone!!!