Saturday, March 26, 2011

HappyBirthday Ann Marie!

She is 19 and all grown up!  We had a fun birthday celebration with Opa and Oma (Steve's parents), Cedrick, Jeanie, and of course our family!  There is always a party wherever we are all at!
Dinner out at our favorite place in Puerto Princesa, Chicken Inato's!  Barbecued chicken and mango shakes for everyone!
Ann Marie opened her gifts and enjoyed getting things from family here and in Alaska!

The boys had fun earlier in the day making dessert for Ann Marie's birthday!  Cake and cookies were very delicious!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Alaskan Visitors!

We have had our first from Alaska!  Steve's parents, Al and Marcia Veldstra, came, along with Cedrick, one of Steve's nephews.  Cedrick is the same age as Tyler and the boys had great times together!

We have been anticipating our first visitors for many months now and of course, had done a lot of work around our house the last two weeks prior to their upcoming arrival (the clay oven being one of those projects).  Steve went to Puerto Princesa a week early so he could buy supplies.  One of the big ticket items was a new generator as we had been getting by with an old one that was barely hanging on...thankfully it made it thru Steve being gone! He also wanted to buy some agriculture supplies since there was a big boat heading down our way.  Amazingly he was able to get all he needed and get it all on the boat within two days of arriving in Puerto!  Then he purchased a motorcycle, got his driver's license, purchased groceries including fresh meat which had to packaged and frozen.  Anyways, a lot of work goes into getting our supplies for what we need on the island.

Steve met his parents and nephew at the airport and they had one day in Puerto before the day long trip down to our home.  The evening before they were to come down...our plans dramatically changed!  Down on the island we were told of a night time roaming group of armed men in our area. Not knowing who they were or of their intent we made the decision to leave the island rather than bring our visitors to the island. So Stacey and the kids prepared the house for leaving, each packed a backpack, and we left early the next morning while it was still dark.  Scary times for all!  We had a very rough ride on the pomboat and were so thankful when land approached.  Steve met us in a rented van and we all rode together for the five hours to Puerto.  

Needless to say we were all very disappointed in the change of plans, but so thankful to be safe and all together.  It took Steve and I several days to regroup and change our thinking for our time with his parents.  Instead of working around our house on agriculture projects and showing them life on our island, we were now playing tourist in Puerto Princesa.  It is a beautiful place to be on vacation, just wasn't quite what we had in mind!  Thankfully the New Tribes guest house in Puerto had two rooms available for the two weeks they were going to be that became our home away from home!

So...some of the things we did while on "vacation"!!  

Rented a van with a driver to take us to Sabang and the Underground River.  The Underground River is one of the seven wonders of nature.  It is an 8.5km underground river, but you can only take a boat up 4.5km of the river.  The tour took us 1.5km in the cave and up the river.  Very interesting with all the formations inside the cave and the thousands of bats on the ceiling!  We were all wearing hard hats...probably more to protect us from falling bat guano than anything else!  We spent two days in Sabang and the kids enjoyed the beach and surf!  

We also visited the Butterfly fun to see the same butterflies that we see down on the island.  So many big, beautiful, colorful butterflies! Another fun feature of the Butterfly Garden is being able to observe a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis.  We got to watch several emerge and unfold their wings to dry and eventually try out their new wings! They also had many other big "bugs" scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, and geckos.
Kailee loves the butterflies!
Guess who likes to hold the scorpion?
We took many walks around and through Puerto, swam at a nearby beach, visited a couple agriculture places, went to church, did some touristy shopping, took them to our favorite places to eat, and so much more!

Even though our plans had changed and we were so disappointed over not taking our visitors down to our home...we are so thankful they came to see us and spend the time with us!  We were certainly sad to see them go as we miss all of our family in Alaska!

Clay Ann Marie

You’ve probably never experienced the joy and frustration of making a clay oven. It’s a long and never ending chore; well actually, it has to end at some point. Here’s a brief summary of how we made it.
The oven began with the building of the stand where the oven was to sit. Ethan dug the six holes where the posts were to find a resting place. From there the cement was poured into them. While this was going on, we had some big hard wood logs cut for us. They were put up and from there the platform was built. It is really sturdy.
While this was progressing, the clay, white sand, and black sand were collected from their various locations.  Dad hired a group of guys to do the hauling for us. Some went to Kamarisahan to get the clay, a difficult job I was told; Kaha, our neighbor, went to Indalawan to collect white sand; and he gathered the black sand from our beach. So our yard and deck was filled with all these heaps. We found a few unlucky crabs in the white sand. 

With all this paraphernalia we are ready to begin.  A concrete box was built on the platform and a day or so later it was dry. Ethan filled the box with some white sand and walked on it to make it more tightly packed; an inch or so was left. Bricks, which we had bought in Manila ages and ages ago, were laid on the one inch space. We didn’t have enough bricks so Ethan made some more out clay. That sat for some time while Dad did some circular measurements on the bricks.

Finally on Saturday February 12, the fun work began: clay dancing!! We had to mix clay with sand to make a nice mixture. It is a tedious job, and some, like Adams and Alyssum had fun “dancing” on it. Mom and I weren’t there for that first day of work but we were firmly informed that the next day it will be our turn. So on Sunday Uncle Dennis and Aunt Jeanie came over for our little dance party. We got to experience the squishy, soft clay between our toes.

While the clay was being made, Tyler made a sand castle mold out of the white sand. He put some sand on the bricks, add some water, and shaped it up. This went on for quite some time before he had the right shape and size of the mold. There were a few gray clouds overhead so a makeshift roof was made out of a tarp to keep the rain out and our sand castle from collapsing. After that the fun part of putting the clay on the mold began. We had like an assembly line: one was putting clay in a bucket, another hauling it up to the deck, another getting it out of the bucket and putting it on the platform, and still others molding the clay. Before long the first layer was done and it actually looked like it was supposed to! Don’t press too hard or all our work would be futile! After lunch we did some more clay dancing for the second layer. When it was all mixed we applied it to the first layer. Now all we have to do is wait a few days for it dry!

Uncle Dennis came over a few days later and cut a little hole in the clay to get some of the sand out to get a better airflow in there. It worked out well and the oven didn’t collapse. Yeah for us!! He came over the next day and cut a bigger door and this time all the sand came out. Now we can see the inside of our beautiful work! Since we were going to be putting two doors on the oven, the boys and Uncle Dennis added some more clay to form the front door and the smokestack hole. After they were done, the oven was beautified with shells on the front. They add a nice touch to it.

So if you are ever in our neighborhood and want to stop by for a freshly clay oven baked pizza, just drop by at our house. We will be more than happy to serve you. Oh, while you’re at it you could stay for a couple of days to get to know our neighborhood better! You won’t regret it!