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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Kitten vs the Cockroach

A few weeks ago my housemates acquired a stray ginger kitten to try and deal with the large numbers of mice that have taken up residence in our house. When I first saw the tiny animal I thought it was a bit of a joke and doubted it could catch anything. I was wrong.

Yesterday evening I heard a noise downstairs and went to investigate. I found Chiqui the formerly stray kitten pouncing repeatedly on a medium sized cockoach occasionally flicking it into the air and then waiting to assess its reaction. Of course there was none as luckily for it, the creature that had now become Chiqui's latest toy, had long since passed on. I decided to leave them to the one sided game of "tag" and went back upstairs. The next day I found pieces of black shell all over the lounge and was informed by my housemate that she had already cleared most of it up and that there had been not one but two victims. It seems Chiqui does have his uses until he gets big enough for the mice.

Mice I can cope with, cockroaches I really can't. I've had experiences here of giant flying ones and of being bitten on the lip or on the eye when asleep. The area of the bite can swell to 3 times its normal size which is quite inconvenient and looks really odd.

A fairly large cockroach appeared in my bedroom recently (I can never work out where they come from)and sat on the floor watching me warily. I looked for a book to squash it but as the only option within easy reach without putting my feet on the floor and potentially in its path, was my Bible which I decided wasn't appropriate and I wondered if the horrible insect was too big to be squashed.I dreaded the sound and the mess. So I spent the next 20 mins trying to catch it with a broom and eventually succeeded in killing it with said implement...resulting in the bristles of my broom now being filled with mangled cockroach. Nice!

Onto a more enriching subject. Tonight I attended the weekly homeless people's Bible study at my church. The regular attendees greeted me as usual like a long lost friend using the opportunity to practice their English greetings. There were about 35 adults, mostly men but with a few women and some children too.

When I first began attending these studies I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing, being used to the very civilised and orderly English style study. This was something entirely different. The people traipse in often with their worldly belongings in tow so that they don't get stolen if they leave them on the street or with their plastic recyclables, ready to sell later on, that they have spent the day collecting. They head straight for the shower block which can only be a good thing. Then they sit around a large square table and a man from the church leads the study.

Amongst the attendees is a man who genuinely (and wrongly) beleives himself to be a modern day apostle wearing T-shirts and carrying literature to that effect. He gets short shrift from the other homeless people whenever he mentions it though which saves us a job.

I had arranged to supply anyone that attended the Monday night study for 5 consecutive weeks with their own Bibles, and now after only a month the Bibles that are visible look a bit like the people; dirty, tired and have seen better days. But there is an enthusiasm and quiet joy amongst a few of the attendees; one man sitting next to me has added coloured labels to his Bible so he can find the books easily. He shows me this proudly and I encourage him. Others have written their names on the spine and have many passages heavily underlined. Some of the Bibles have been well read whilst others are just dragged out for the study and while some have probably been lost or sold but thats always a risk worth taking. 6 new Bibles are presented and only 1 old man tries to claim 1 for the 2nd time.

During the study which last for an hour there is much disruption. People come and go from the shower block suddenly deciding to have their shower in the middle of it. A man walks around with an attendance register talking to people as he does so. A church member asks a few of the men to go with him to do something. People in the second row are openly sleeping with T-shirts and towels over their heads, others are trying not to fall asleep as they look on with bleary eyes. The older men through squniting eyes are still looking for the right page let alone chapter and verse when the study is already well underway, then they find something more interesting and read that instead commenting to their neighbour about it. A man gets out a bright purple comb and starts combing his hair which prompts others to do the same. A woman begins massaging her partners arms as he is complaining of pain. Another old man trys repeatedly to catch my eye to grin at me as I look around the motley collection. Many people are talking to each other. The children are well behaved today which is not always the case. A cat appears and stalks round the table sounding remarkably like a small child and yowling loudly over and over again. A few members of the team are preparing a snack for afterwards. I am relieved that they are not cooking today as it has been known for the whole place to become a health hazard as it fills up with smoke.

Yet despite all of this the study goes on with some listening attentively and taking copious notes. I wonder at the patience of the Study leader who doesn't allow himself to get distracted by any of the things going on around him. Actually if he did the study would never end, those that really want to listen can hear and thats the important thing, its just a complete contrast to Western ways.

Afterwards the people have their snack and I notice that a man is eyeing up my sports bag. He picks it up, examines it and compares it to his own. He approaches me and tells me it is a good bag. Then he says that his bag is "almost" broken and he needs a new one. He asks me if I have any others that I don't need. I don't. I look closely at his bag which is well worn and very full, bursting at the seams, but it still has a bit of life in it and there are no holes. I promise to buy him a new one if his breaks which seems to make him happy. I hope he doesn't quicken its demise as a result of my promise.

As usual I'm surprised by the small things the people ask for. Their lives are simple and uncomplicated, they don't want lots of material things but just the basics they need to survive. There is a definite freedom to this approach. I realised a while ago that the more things I had the more cluttered my life was and the more stressed I felt as I had to think about them. Life is definitely about relationships with people not about things and although much of the time it is not of their own making, these people have an advantage over Westerners in that respect.

Another woman wrote me a short letter last week asking me to consider her request. I wanted to discourage this type of solicitation and approached the church leaders about it. I asked her today what it was she wanted as the letter wasn't clear. The dear lady just needed the wheel on her wooden cart fixed so she could go back to work and provide for her family (Cost 500-700 pesos= a huge £7-£10!) On realising this, having thought she wanted long term support, I made the arrangements through a church member, she was very grateful which humbled me.

I was saddened again by the lack of provision for the elderly here. There are no care homes and no NHS. If the older people don't have family they roam the streets begging for money, ignored and marginalised by many people. In a culture where respect for the elderly is high on the agenda and senior citizens badges get you 20% off everything I find it strange that there is no longer term help. Often I see people that must be in their 70s (who look like they are in their 90's due to the burdens they have carried for many years) pushing heavy carts along the street or collecting plastic recyclables from garbage bags. I hope the government will step up and do something about this, when they have finished lining their own pockets that is.

In other news I have just agreed a deal for my book

They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know? They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know? by Natalie Vellacott

to be narrated in 2015 so you will be able to listen to it as well as reading it. The PDF Ebook is also available at Google Play

I'm desperately seeking someone with the technical knowledge to change the PDF into epub or word so that I can upload it to the Kindle and other ereaders. Its not as straight forward as you might think, I have tried many software packages etc so please only offer if you really know how to do it without the images and contents page looking like they have been regurgitated :)

Please feel free to comment on or "like" my blog and recommend it to others...until next time when there will be some updates about the "rugby boys" in Olongapo :)