The Philippines

Everything is better in the Philippines — this is literally their motto and I believe it. The pineapple, the mango, the weather, all of it was so incredible. I spent this January in Malaybalay on the southern most island of Mindanao with Liz’s team. Liz is one of my favorite humans. Our friendship began on Twitter over Chacos before training camp in 2012 and we’ve never looked back. She challenges me in tough ways and inspires me to be real. Even to this day, she’s one of my dearest and best friends.

Back to Mindanao…

We slept in bunk rooms in a concrete building on land close to a KIM Ministries orphanage, spending most of our time hanging out with high school kids in town or playing (or attempting to play) soccer and basketball. We also went on a few home visits in nearby villages. Our frequent trips into town were made on the backs (and once on top) of jeepneys, old military jeeps from WWII converted into public transportation with loud colors and tons of cultural nuances. We found quaint coffee shops and discount movies (specifically the last Twilight movie bootlegged from America, which we watched on a laptop in our bunk room). Meredith bought a multicolored backpack that marked the rest of our Race. We separated tortillas and ate enough fresh pineapple to make all of our mouths raw.

For adventures, we went caving (or spelunking) once, led by a 12 year old young man in flip-flops. To exit the cave, each of us had to hold our breath and duck under water through a small hole into a puddle on the other side. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure. Toward the end of the month we went into Cagayan de Oro where most of our team went snorkeling off the coast where there’s a bit of a reef, I believe. I did not go snorkeling because I received word after arriving that my grandfather had passed away. I spent the majority of the day skyping with family. After the rest of the team returned we had a wonderful dinner and half of us got tattoos.

That’s right, tattoos. In the Philippines. If you’re a WR alum, you know this is par for the course. I got a tree on my wrist with the words “beloved” in the roots for a whopping $17. I’ll link you to the story here.

I loved living in our little bunk room with our bucket showers. Granted, I’d not like to go back to bucket showers..ever. We had so many great minds in one space. We laughed, Abby killed all the bugs, Ang made us all laugh. We wrote scripture on the walls toward the end of the month in chalk. Madison sent me Beth Moore’s talk from Passion that year – The Table & the Cup – which I remember listening to just as everyone had gone to bed. I continue to listen to it at least once a year. Beth talks through the significance of the four cups of wine taken during Passover — a game changer and such an incredible glimpse into the final Passover Christ took, but also the very conception of the Passover in the Old Testament.

Toward the end of the month, Liz had this wonderful idea to downsize our things. By this time, month five, we were well aware that we’d begun our journey with way too much STUFF. So, we held a bit of a yardsale (really we just gave things away in a pile) on the main street in Malaybalay. It was actually one of the most memorable moments of the month besides the fresh pineapple, of course.

We listened to Taylor Swift’s album, 21, which had just released, ALL MONTH LONG. We don’t regret it one bit. The boys also ate balut, which is gross. I’ll let you look it up.

Check out a fun video Angela made of our month here.