New Routines: Part 1 - Skillful Cook
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New Routines: Part 1

Cebu City View of houses and trees.

There's something you should know about me.

I love routine and structure and rules and schedules and color-coded charts and all things safe and un-risky. But then I moved to the Philippines. Ha ha.

Things in the Philippines operate freely and loosely. Internet isn’t working? Hey, we’ll be there next month to check it out. Grab a mango lassi and chill out, girl.

This relaxed mentality is wonderful in theory, right? But in reality my type A brain would shrivel up and die if I didn't have my life anchored around a few predictable routines.

Oatmeal cooking with a wooden spoon.

Routine #1: Oatmeal everyday. I finally found ONE single container of old fashioned oats on the back of the bottom cereal shelf at the grocery store. Praise the Lord that I can enjoy my same old Midwestern breakfast here in Cebu.

I make it in the rice cooker because it seems like the Cebuano thing to do, and sometimes I mix it with brown rice, coconut milk, and bananas. And I eat it cold, which leads to routine #2.

Small apartment kitchen.

Routine #2: Cold leftovers.  We don’t have a microwave. I’ve always kind of wanted to be microwaveless and it turns out that there’s no better time to give it a try than moving to a developing country.

If I really need my leftovers warmed up, I just set them out on the counter for 20 seconds. Voila.

Small lizard on kitchen appliances.

Routine #3: Cold showers, 2x a day at minimum. And here's a picture of a gecko on a coffeemaker since I'm coming up short on pictures of the shower.

Interesting fact of the day: most Filipino water faucets have one direction for on and one direction for off. No temperature controls here, missy.

But our high maintenance tendencies won out and we decided to splurge and go for the water heater, which has 4 temperature options: Cold, Warm, Warmer, and Warmest. This would be a good time to let you know that Cold actually feels like lukewarm bathwater. So when I say that about 75% of my showers are Cold, you understand that basically I haven’t stopped sweating since the day we arrived.

Tall and beautiful house.

That's our apartment pictured above - we are on the second floor and it's awesome.

Routine #4: Purse purge. The only things that go out into the wild with me are my Cebuano phrasebook, my umbrella, my Nokia 110 Cebuano cell phone, a few coins, and my travel toilet paper.

That’s it.

No camera, no iPhone, no large bills, no computer, no jewelry (in fact, I don’t wear my wedding ring at all). This is sad for me because 1) I like to wear my wedding ring, and 2) I wish I could take more pictures, but that’s hard to do without a camera.

One of my coworkers recently had her gold earrings stolen when she was out in the city– someone snuck up behind her and literally pulled them out of her ears. All the people we’ve met here are so lovely, friendly, and outgoing, but as with many big cities, theft is a big problem.

Someday I’ll get the guts to take my camera out into the streets and capture the full extent of this colorful, loud, and beautiful urban craziness.

Beautiful city at night time.

Routines: Part 2 coming up next Monday. You can never have too many routines, I say.

Can I say one last thing? I am continually overwhelmed by your encouraging comments, emails, and messages throughout this whole living abroad process. Thank you for your support, through a computer screen, half a world away.

I'm sending you a virtual s'mores bar now. XO.

Filed Under: Living Abroad

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    love the post and glimpse into your new life, microwave-less, gecko-filled, and sweaty…and you could post this type of thing every day – I love hearing and seeing what it’s like!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks Patrick. PS. You should ask for the video people at Renovation to include your announcements on the Renovation message videos. We were excited to hear you give the announcements when we watched the video the other day, but they cut you out, darn it. You need to say something about that. 😉

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    wow this is SOOOO interesting!

    When i lived in Russia during communism (totally developed but I swear they used to do some of this stuff just to eff with its people), we used to have either all cold water for 2-3 months at a time (in Russia cold means freezing and you may actually have hypothermia after a bath…there are no showers) or NO water for 2-3 weeks at a time….this happened so regularly that I don’t think anyone even blinked an eye.

    Here we had Hurricane Irene come through and lost power (and with our electric well-water pump water as well) for 5 days and you’d think that life ended.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Isn’t that crazy? I have a feeling it will sort of be like that when we come home, with people freaking out about the smallest little things and me feeling like it’s luxury just to have the basics!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks! We love it. It’s a little weird to live in such a nice building and have “squatter” homes all around us (basically people living in shacks and shantys), but we sure appreciate having a safe and clean place to settle down for the year.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    What a fun post Lindsay! It’s so interesting to read about your new life. I’m not sure how I would live without a microwave, but now I’m curious about it. 🙂 And I don’t blame you for not taking out your camera or jewelry onto the streets. Better safe than sorry, right? I’d be heartbroken if my camera was stolen!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I know, that’s kind of how I feel. Just tonight I read a blog post from a guy who is living in Cebu who had his iPhone stolen on a Jeepney, so I’m thinking I’ll keep leaving all that stuff at home!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I think you’re handling the culture shock quite well, and with lots of humor. I would have fainted dead away at the sight of the gecko on the coffee pot–and I wouldn’t go near the pot again! I have so much admiration for you and your family. And to keep the blog going to? Wow.

    Wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your e-book about food photography. I wish I had purchased it sooner. Your explanations were so much easier to understand for me that other books about photography that I have purchased and read.


  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Delicious s’mores bar thank you!

    It would be tricky adjusting to life in such a different city but it seems like you guys are doing a pretty amazing job. I love your enviro-friendly microwave – the kitchen bench!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Brings back memories!! You both remain in our prayers. Enjoy the mangos 🙂

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Lindsay ,from Montreal(Québec)mes meilleurs voeux de santé pour continuer votre oeuvre charitable.Soyez prudents. My english isnot so good but I can read your article.Do you understand french langage.Bonne chance

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Grandma and IAee sitting here chuckling . I remember the multiple showers and the hair always plopped on top of my head. Saved a ton on makeup that rapidly melts to the chin line!

    grandma says we enjoy hearing from you. Susan is visiting this month to all the babies (great grands) on her Minnesota tour. Love you. Enjoy those mangos grandma

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks Nancy (and grandma)! You made my day! 🙂 And I’m so thankful that someone else knows about the makeup melting to the chin line. Soooo special. Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks as always for sharing. I love the insights into all you are learning – both about your new home and insights to yourself!

    I’m newly into rice cookers myself! It seems like magic! 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I’ve always had one but never tapped into its full potential. This will be the Year of the Rice Cooker, I think. Let me know if you find any amazing ways to use it. 🙂

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for sharing life with us, Lindsay! I admire your courage to follow God’s leading to serve like this in a country so far from your home, family and what feels comfortable! You have a way with words. I really enjoy reading your blog. Despite all the ups and downs of settling in, I hope you and Bjork are really enjoying your time in Cebu! This year will go by so fast and you will be so glad you took advantage of the chance you had now to do something like this down the road. 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thank you Karen! I already can’t believe ONE MONTH has gone by. We are doing our best to enjoy every moment and laugh and the challenges! 🙂 PS. Any more thoughts on starting a blog??

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    You are doing great! 🙂 I’m not sure I could do what you are doing with such grace.

    Can’t wait for another recipe!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Lindsay! I really look forward to your posts about living in Cebu. I am living vicariously through you until I can one day visit my homeland for the first time. I think what you’re doing over there is so awesome. God is doing some amazing work through you.
    All of those adjustments sound like a huge change for me but I’ve always wanted to learn to live a simple life. I think our culture here in the states is so busy and overstimulated. Are you finding that life is simplier or harder?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Joanna, thanks for your sweet comment! 🙂 I do feel like this is a simpler life, mostly because we literally have fewer possessions now. Culturally things are really relaxed, and that part is hard for me (sometimes it’s maybe too relaxed in my opinion) but on the other hand, I’m finding that things I used to care about don’t really matter to me anymore. Which is probably ok. 🙂 You should read the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. It’s all about finding simplicity, as a way to follow God, in a overmaterialistic and busy American culture. I found it really inspiring and it sounds like something you might be interested in. Take care Joanna! 🙂

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great story. So glad you shared. I really wouldn’t risk taking your camera out. The photos you post here are fine. If it were stolen (because photography is important to you) that one single incident could have a profound effect on your attitude.

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love your blog, and even though I never comment I always come for the good food (no, wait, more like fantastic food!) and a handful of silly-cute stories from your life, but this routine thing made me realize that I’m not the only one in the world with her little quirks, and I had to say – thank you so very much for it. :))
    However, the gecko on the coffee maker scares me. Really. I guess I’m still a teeny tiny bit worse at adjusting to the unknown than you. :))
    You two are both adorable and you seem to be handling the change really well. You are. 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks so much Barbara! The gecko on the coffee maker thing was weird at first. Ok, still is weird. But if I can have enough composure to take pictures of the gecko instead of running away, I think I’ve made progress. 🙂

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    You crack me up with your posts. It brings back memories of when I visited the PI many years ago (and I too was overwhelmed with sweat “everyday”). Have you tried “Halo Halo” yet? It will help you and Bjork with the heat and humidity and is a yummy treat. Maybe a recipe for it in the future from you?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I don’t know… I’ve had halo halo and something about beans in ice cream just doesn’t do it for me. 🙂 But I DO love the ube ice cream, and the corn flakes are awesome! Totally wish the ube was more available in the states!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    We always tell the 2nd graders to use more “VOICE” in their writing. I should read them your blog posts! 🙂

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love your site, Lindsay! I’ve been living in California for around 20 years now and seeing pictures of the day to day life in my country keeps me smiling. The gecko, or “butiki” in Tagalog is such a great shot. They’ve always been a part of our lives living there, no matter where you are, rich or poor.

    It’s so great that you and your husband are doing this, and greater still that you are keeping such a great attitude through all the changes! I have friends, American AND Filipino who cringe at the stories I tell them about growing up in the Philippines. I’m definitely sending them your blog. ^_^

    By the way, since you like oatmeal, have you ever tried the local “champorado?”

    Here’s a pic :

    It’s basically chocolate rice porridge. Sounds weird, but really, it’s yum. :] I like eating it cold too, with lots of evaporated milk. Nom.

    Keep up the great, inspirational work, and thanks for all of it! :]

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Yes! The tiki! I was wondering if anyone would mention that… I figured that I should just call it a gecko since most people wouldn’t know what I meant by tiki. And as for the champorado, I have never even heard of it! Do I need to buy it anywhere special? I think I would love it!!

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love the sneak peek! I didn’t have a water heater when I was younger and I would jump in and out of the shower…I remember those days! Now I need to take a bath with hot water all the time (even in the summer) and you know how hot it is over here!! Definitely need to try me oatmeal in the rice cooker soon! 🙂

    Ah the gecko! Or what we call it –> ‘butiki’ 🙂