The last couple of months, Junebug has hit the sweet spot of toddler babble, thanks in no small part to her weekly speech therapy lessons. After being almost completely non-verbal at age two, Junebug has become a regular chatterbox just six months later. Although we understand her quite well, her speech remains muddled, as she mixes up letters, speaks in incomplete sentences, and trips over herself in her exuberance to articulate her thoughts. The result is an immensely adorable toddler diction that makes us want to record every one of her monologues for posterity.
Posts tagged ‘family’
As an island nation that straddles five geological fault lines along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines endures far more than its fair share of natural disasters. Earthquakes, tropical storms of all stripes, and volcanic eruptions routinely exact a fearsome toll on the archipelago. On the upside, this is a uniquely beautiful country to call home for a few years and, in some ways, Manila has proved a far better posting than our previous assignments. The last couple of weeks in particular have underscored this dichotomy, as a volcano we hiked just a few months ago blanketed Manila with ash several days before we headed out to Palawan for a beach vacation with S’s visiting family.
A few years ago, the NY Times ran an op-ed encouraging travelers to plan less, ostensibly to reduce stress. It stuck with us, not because we found the advice helpful but rather because we thought the piece thoroughly infuriating and completely out of touch, a flippant acknowledgment that “for most travelers, particularly those with families, such an extreme lack of planning seems impossible, even inadvisable” notwithstanding. We traveled like this during our backpacking days, but that was before grad school, marriage, kids, and careers. Once adult responsibilities entered the picture, such travel became out of reach. During his recent visit to Nepal, D found an opportunity to practice what the article preached. Whether arriving in country with only half of his work itinerary booked led to less stress is debatable, but D did manage to turn a potential bureaucratic nightmare into an enjoyable adventure.
Last weekend may well go down as the wildest of our Manila tour. On Saturday, we welcomed S’s parents and aunt to the Philippines. It was a beautiful, sunny day. On Sunday, the sky went dark. Taal Volcano, located 37 miles away from Manila, erupted for the first time in 43 years, triggering hundreds of volcanic earthquakes, spawning a lightning storm inside its 10-mile-high ash column, and blanketing the capital and a good part of the country’s north with volcanic debris.
The end of one year and the beginning of another tends to invite reflection. As Munchkin nears his sixth birthday and Junebug begins her second semester of preschool, we can’t help but marvel at how different our two kids are. Even as Junebug endeavors to follow in Munchkin’s every step, she has developed a personality so distinctly her own that oftentimes it feels that our kids are mirror twins, their characters polar opposites of each other.
We didn’t quite make it to midnight, seeing off the last few hours of the decade without fanfare at a transit hotel outside Noi Bai Airport. We did get an early start to 2020, however, rising before the sun for our return flight to Manila after splitting the last dozen days between Vietnam and Laos.
As Americans living in Manila, we are frequently struck by how much the Philippines— much more so than other countries where we’ve served — reminds us of home while simultaneously retaining its own distinct cultural identity. This is to be expected, of course. Not only do our two countries share a long history, but also the four million Filipinos who call the United States home ensure a continuous sharing of cultural customs and traditions. This is especially evident during the holidays.
Next week marks six months since S arrived in Manila with the kids. Junebug, whose second birthday we celebrated a couple of weeks early during our last weekend together in DC, is quickly approaching the midway point of her third year. Now that she is speaking up a storm, her personality has truly blossomed. It is a curious age, as she seems caught between holding onto her baby tendencies and striving to catch up to her older brother.
D’s mom, comparing life in America to the one she knew in the Soviet Union, once succinctly summarized the difference by pointing to a sign at a public beach, which enumerated prohibited behavior: “In America they tell you what you cannot do, and anything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed. In the Soviet Union, it was the opposite: if it was not expressly permitted, then you couldn’t do it.”