On the Road with Tin Tin ;-) i love this piece

Old notes taken mostly from my personal time with God. We're moving house again, so, I guess we're back to being, literally, pilgrims on the Rough Roads of Planet Earth. (Photo taken on a road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, North Auckland, NZ, Dec 2009.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Suddenly Summer


It’s suddenly Summer here in Queens, NY and it’s really surprising. As late as February we were still operating our central heating full-blast and there was still snow on the ground. Spring came quite suddenly when the trees sprouted overnight after a day or two of rain sometime in March and we had beautiful intermittent blooms in trees, grass and bushes (I don’t know the name of the trees!),  with colors mostly in white, pinks, reds and purples. And then suddenly it’s hot, humid Summer! Now we have started using the aircon instead of the heater. Just when we thought we can save on heating bills, now it’s cooling charges. Haha!




 Our house in Winter.







 Our house in Spring.


















Our house this Summer. How the colours have changed within a few months!


















It never gets this hot in Auckland, as far as I can recall, but we had no aircon in our house then, so, Summer in Auckland was quite tough. We also had lots of flies coming in because our windows had no netting. So, despite the extreme weather here, looks like the houses are better-built  and indoor life would be more comfortable than in mild-weather Auckland.



We’ve settled in quite a bit more now and we can’t help but compare a lot of things in the different places we’ve lived in. So, how does it compare?
                                            Auckland             Tokyo        K. Lumpur                         New York
Winter Weather                    Mild                Cold             N.A.                                 Very Cold
Heating  / Insulation             OK          Less Than OK       N.A.                                Excellent
Summer Weather                 Mild           Hot, Humid       Hot, Humid                  Hot, Humid
Cooling System                N.A.A.            N.A.A.                Quite Common             Common      
Food Costs                          High             Highest              Lowest                              Low
School Lunches           Less Healthy     Healthy           Less Healthy                      Least Healthy
Health Food             Easy to Find        Expensive        Easy to Find                   Not Easy to Find
Public Transport        Least Efficient   Most Efficient   Least Efficient                  Efficient
Clothes, Quality          Less Choices     More Choices    Most Choices                 Less Choices   
Health Care Provided         Good                Good            None                               Best  
First Language            Kiwi English       Japanese          Malay                            American English                
Second Language        Maori          practically none     English                          Spanish                                          
N.A. – not applicable
N.A.A. – not always available
Just trying to make a quick-glance comparison of the places we’ve lived in. I didn't think of including Singapore because it is quite similar to K. Lumpur in terms of weather. So, yeah, though the weather here is harsher than in Auckland we feel more comfortable, as long as we stay indoors, because of their better insulated/heated/cooled houses here. Food here is quite reasonably-priced, if you know where to go, especially Chinese “eat-out”, and they taste better too, than the Chinese “eat-out” in Auckland. There’s a big Oriental population here (Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other Asian) so, Oriental food is readily available, has a lot of variety and competitively-priced. As for school lunches, my younger son said he thought the food at his school in Auckland was junk (mostly sausages, pizza and meat pies) but then he said they taste really good (potato-topped beef pie was his favourite)! Whereas, here in New York, he says  the food in his school is really junk (mostly chicken nuggets and fries) and they taste awful, too! My younger daughter doesn’t even touch her school lunch, she still sticks to her salad lunch box which I pack for her from home. My younger son misses the Kiwi meat pies a lot and the only one, a frozen version, I can find in our local supermarket is not up to mark for him. It doesn't taste as good. :( And I haven't seen any potato-topped ones at all.

As for Health Food I find that it's readily available in Auckland. You can find vitamins, organic food, granolas and whole cereals, fruit juices ( a wide variety of them!!) off the shelves of your local supermarket. Here in New York you have to hunt for most of these items in a health food shop. Most of the food they sell in the common supermarkets are highly processed food. I get the feeling people here love highly processed, sugary and / or salty convenience food which easily can be classified as junk. Compared to K. Lumpur, Auckland has definitely more healthy food and vitamins readily available, and also cheaper. In Tokyo, everything is more expensive than in most parts of the world and that includes health food, too.

The bus and subway system here is also quite good, except that there aren’t enough buses running in certain routes and the buses hardly follow their posted schedules. But then again, in Auckland, sometimes bus services just disappear, even without prior notice, or buses simply don’t turn up at all, for unknown reasons. Their bus system is still unreliable, probably because of lack in commuter volumes. Of course, the best in public transport system would be Japan. Their buses and trains always come on time, just as predictable as the Japanese  people’s  behavior is, largely, when it comes to public protocols. It’s mostly due to their culture of discipline and excellent organization / automation.  In that sense, Singapore’s public transport comes close to that of Japan’s, too.

 There is so much diversity in population (Caucasian, African, Hispanic, Asian, Greek, Italian, etc.) here such that even for Medical , Dental and Optical care, one can have the option of visiting the health professionals of his / her own ethnic group. It’s very interesting. Thus, even if you speak only your own language, e.g. Chinese, Spanish, Greek, you can survive by doing business only with your own people group. The population of each ethnic group is big enough to be a community or economy of its own.  It is really interesting. You can easily disappear into your own microcosm. And a major discovery we had a few weeks into moving here is that America has a second language(!) and it’s called Spanish. Public signs often have Spanish versions and forms for filling up always have Spanish translations. This surprise is similar to the surprise we got when we moved to Auckland: NZ is more diverse than we thought. Before we moved there we always thought NZ is made up of mostly Caucasians when in fact their people and culture is very much diverse. The student population in the school my younger daughter first attended, for instance, was 80% coloured (made up of Pacific Islanders, Maoris, Asians, etc.) and only 20% Caucasian. The staff make-up was the other way around though - 80% Caucasian and 20% coloured. That was a kind of shock for us. But then again this may be true only in West Auckland or Auckland in general, or even the North Island. The South Island is "another kind of NZ" yet again. The Maori and Pacific Islander cultures are very similar to the more popular Polynesian culture I know which is Hawaiian. Their dances, songs and languages are so similar to that of Hawaiian and they use flowers a lot in their cultural activities, too. Thus, I get the feeling that NZ is a kind of "British Hawaii".  I have never thought of New Zealand that way before. This also makes me realize that we Asians of Malay stock - Filipinos, Indonesians and Malaysians (the Malay race) - have cultures similar to Polynesians, too. I was thrilled to hear some Maori words similar to that of the Filipino languages.

As for the Health Care provided by the Government, in New Zealand they cover only for the medical costs, in Japan they cover both medical and dental costs and here in New York they cover medical, dental and even optical care! (I heard it’s not necessarily the same in other States in the US, though.) So, New York is really tops, whereas in Malaysia, the government doesn’t cover any health insurance at all for its citizens. Everyone has to pay out of his own pocket or buy his own private health insurance.

Well, these are just some of the comparisons I can think of off-hand but I better stop rattling on. Many people might find my opinions and observations offensive, but then this is my blog and my statements are just a matter of personal opinion and observation, which are not backed by statistics or thorough research. So, please do bear that in mind, if you, my reader, would care to quote me. :)

So, back to the Summer heat here in Bayside. Yeah, looks like Summer in New York is going to be sweltering-hot but the heat makes everything green and beautiful!







Now I get to go for a walk in the morning, it's warm enough for walks!


















These are photos of a generic and random apartment building in our neighborhood and I find the lamps are still on shortly before 8am. I thought it's pretty.




Yeah, still the same apartment block. Then, I turned around to take a photo of another lamp still lighted on the other side of the road...




















...only to find a senior citizen had come out from the house next to that house with the lighted lamp, and was looking at me, suspicious and cross, probably for taking these last three photos. So, I pretended taking a photo of the tree / sky instead and got this shot. :(







I went on pretending to take photos of the grass as well, but hey, this turned out to be my best photo so far of a dying dandelion. Perfect!















I walked on and discovered this: A bird sitting on her eggs on a nest in a tree in someone's front yard. Funny, I grew up in a small farming town in the Philippines, have lived in "100% Pure and Natural New Zealand", have lived in a farming area in Tsukuba, Japan, but this is the first time I actually see a bird sitting on her eggs in its natural habitat - in the suburban city of Bayside, New York! (Well, actually, there was once a bird nest on the tree at the back of our townhouse when we first moved into it in suburban Kuala Lumpur but the eggs had already hatched and we only saw the mother bird feeding her birdies in it.) Can you see the bird in the pic below? It's facing backwards to the camera and its tummy is colored reddish. It's on the right middle side of the photo. I couldn't come closer as I didn't want to disturb it.





I walked further and saw this just-rained-on Rhododendron in bloom (not sure if that's how you call this plant).



















This one is detail of a Red Maple (?) in bloom.





Two days later I walked past there again and the eggs in the nest have hatched! The mother bird was gone and  I spied on the birdies so I suspected she must be not too far away looking for food. True enough, I caught her rummaging for worms on this green road-divider. (Click on the photo twice so you can see her in the bottom middle of the pic.)
















This one is another Rhododendron in a neighbor's front yard.







A Summer white bloom. This one is in front of someone's gate next to a bus stop. I saw lots of Spring white blooms here in Bayside but there are more blooming even now in Summer. What is it about "white" here? It seems people here love white flowers. I have seen white peonies, too, besides the pink ones. Well, I for one, love "white and green," anytime. :)

















Detail of the same white bloom.






A "white tree" in Summer in the front yard of the church near our house. (It seems to have been left behind by the "white trees" which bloomed in Spring along that same road.)
















This one's a budding rose bush - red rose! I looked forward to it going in full bloom so I can photograph it but alas, this morning, it's totally gone! The owner is renovating his driveway and totally annihilated this poor beauty! So, there goes the promising red rose bush of Summer. I guess Summer here also means Renovations. :) (The roses here are mostly red, and small-sized, unlike the very colorful and huge ones I have seen in Auckland.)



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Photobucket 
July 6, 2011, 9:58am - Lately, my older daughter took a photo of a bird she saw in our neighborhood and it looks exactly like the bird I saw sitting on that nest above. I do not know what this bird is called.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

Well, it's Mother's Day, so, it's my day!!! Yayayayay!!!! ;D
How did I celebrate it? I went to church. I was late because I had to attend to my younger daughter before I could go, so, I decided to go to another church where their service starts much later. I had to take the bus but it's a very short ride and the weather is wonderfully sunny / cloudy and cool today, so, I had a pleasant outing. I had seen the sign to that church and their service time whenever the bus passes by there, for a long while already, but I was puzzled as to where the church building is because the sign is located right in front of a Jewish Temple, yeah, a synagogue. But lately I realized that here in NYC, to defray the costs of maintaining a church building, congregations usually share their building or rent it out for certain times / days, to other congregations. That explains why there is a sign for a Korean church right in front of this Baptist church in our neighborhood. Then I realized, maybe this particular Christian church I want to visit is actually using the Jewish synagogue building for their Sunday worship. So, I just went there and I was right!
It turned out to be a Presbyterian congregation. Umm, a very typical one - really solemn, orderly, and subdued. Even the drum-tapping of the drummer at singing time was measured and nobody raises hands or sways as we sang. I was member of a Presbyterian church before so I wasn't new to this. The message was very timely though. It was simple, refreshing and plain, un-embellished preaching of the word of God on sin. They had communion and I had the feeling they have it every service and I think that's really good. They also honored all moms, everyone's mom, in a very simple but meaningful way. The pastor asked that we think of our moms, wherever she may be, and we honor them by clapping our hands – applause for all the good that they are / have been to us. I have been to many churches, different denominations, in many places, and I have seen so many ways moms have been honored – with presents, with flowers, with preaching on the topic of moms, with prayers at the altar, with public acknowledgment (by making every mom in the room stand) as everyone clapped, etc. This one's the most simple and among the most meaningful, I think. The pastor was Korean and everyone (!), except for one Caucasian lady, in the room was Korean, although the service was totally in English. He invited everyone for a fellowship over cupcakes after the service but I was feeling so out-of-place I decided to exit and go straight home instead.
When I got home I went online and found that Ptr. David Wilkerson's devotion page had been updated. His son Gary Wilkerson has continued posting his writings, both published and unpublished, and I am so blessed by that. The two most recent posts talk so much of the same topic as the Korean pastor above did: Sin and failure. Coincidence? That actually reminds me of the first book I read of David Wilkerson's, when I was a new Christian and still finding my way through my new life as a Christian. The book was, "Have You Felt Like Giving Up Lately?" It was written for people struggling with drugs, alcohol and whatever sin they were entangled in. The book was very helpful to me, especially that nobody actually shared the Gospel with me – I kind of understood it only as I read that book. It was only much later, some years later when I was already married, that I read his most popular book, "The Cross and the Switchblade." Meanwhile, I quote here in full, these two powerful devotional entries posted in his page, emphasis mine:

by David Wilkerson | May 5, 2011
"God's ultimate goal for all his children is abundant life. He never intended that we go through life focused on our sins and failures. The good news is that we serve a God of absolute love—a God of mercies who desires to bring his beloved ones into a place high above all turmoil. But we cannot take our place, seated with Christ in the heavenlies, until we are fully identified with his death and resurrection.
There can be no breakthrough into ascension life without experiencing death at the cross. The Holy Spirit has put within us a knowledge that we can never truly live until we truly die. We seem to know we have a date with death, a destiny relating to the cross of Christ.
Take a good look at where we are, with all our fears, emptiness, loneliness, failures, and compromising with sin. Consider how little of the Lord's promised peace we really possess. We have come up far short of what we know an overcoming Christian should be, yet we know God's Word speaks clearly of victory, peace, and freedom from sin's dominion. We have seen some who have broken through to that beautiful life of assurance and would like to ask: How did you arrive at such victory? And then we wonder how we can break through.
The Holy Spirit must bring us to the cross and make us face the reality of dying to the world and sin. The moment we begin to seek the Lord diligently with a desire to be under his lordship in all things, we will be irresistibly drawn by the Spirit. We will be brought to the end of ourselves, stripped, weakened, and without confidence in our flesh.
I am convinced the Holy Spirit is bringing his church back to the glorious truths of identification with Christ in death, resurrection, and ascension life.
Death can be very frightening, especially if you cannot see the glory on the other side of it. But he assures us of his everlasting love, in spite of our failures, and gives us peace and the joy and hope of his resurrection life."
by David Wilkerson | May 6, 2011
"After the Word tells us that it is God who makes wars to cease, this is added: 'Be still and know that I am God...' (Psalm 46:10).
The Hebrew word for "still" is raphah, which means to cease; let alone; become weak, feeble. It is from the root rapha, which means to mend and be made thoroughly whole by the hand of a physician.
How thoroughly consistent the Word of God is. He makes wars to cease and until he finishes his work, we are to cease our self-righteous efforts, trust everything into his hands, confess our weaknesses and feebleness, and trust our future and restoration into the hands of Christ, our Great Physician.
Loving believer, is your inner conflict tearing you apart? You may be buffeted by Satan, but he cannot hurt or destroy you. Most likely you are being stripped down in preparation for a deeper revelation of the cross so you can be made ready for greater service for God.
You are like Peter, who was stripped of everything before going to Pentecost. See this great man of God wandering aimlessly over the Judean hills—at rock bottom. Peter once walked on water and helped feed multitudes miraculously. He experienced the actual glory of God and was a blessed, prominent, useful, Christ-loved servant. But he sinned grievously, failing the Lord as few others did, and afterward, he wept and grieved, thinking he had lost his salvation and his ministry.
"What is wrong with me?" he must have asked himself over and again. "Why did I have no power or strength when tempted? Why no moral reserves—no will to resist the enemy? Why did I have to be the one to fall? How could a man of God do such a horrendous thing to his Lord? How could I have preached to others when I have no power in a crisis?"
God did not cause Peter's failure, but great good came out of it. It was a part of the stripping of God's man—permitted to reveal what was rooted deep in the inner man. Only failure could expose the pride and self-sufficiency. Failure broke Peter down and revealed to him his need for absolute dependence on his Lord for everything, including his purity and righteousness.
It is in the shadow of the cross that we endure our greatest temptation and failures and then break through to resurrection!"
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What glorious, life-giving messages. As we meditate on them today, let's not forget to greet our moms, " Happy Mother's Day"! :-)

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The Many Versions of Love Stories 1. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. They live happily ever after. 2. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. The marriage sours, they part, and live happily ever after. 3. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. Then boy finds out it's more fun to be girl... or girl finds out it's more fun to be boy, they part, change sexes and live happily ever after. 4.Finally, boy or girl meets God. It's love at first sight... The roads went rough, the tides rose high, the strong winds blew and the quake shook the ground... but they truly live happily ever after, forever and ever. 5. Try God's love... it's always happy forever after, and the story never ends. :-D