Posts Tagged ‘fast’

Most of my calories this week have come from these exciting sources

Traveling in the Philippines with one of our Samaritana coworkers, we were returning from deep in the province. Ravenous after a six-hour bus ride, we turned to Ate Becky to ask what she wanted to eat. Her response? “Something to fill the hole.”

This struck me as funny, because mere sustenance is not how I think about eating: eating is pleasure! In America, meals mean choices, a flood of dopamine, an adventure of nourishment, novelty, and now. To merely fill the hole? What a letdown. In fact, mere hole-filling, mere placeholding in any area of life–partner, job, school, house–is countercultural in a land where anything is possible, and most of it’s affordable.

Then I started the Global Hunger Fast.

Giving up great food I was somewhat prepared for, since we did that last year. Ditto for giving up exercise. But giving up sleep and sex as well? Now we’re talking about the four chief sources of pleasure in my adult life; as one might expect, I’ve been pretty flatlined this week–but for one thing: Gabriel.

Our three-week-old son is the reason for the subtraction of sleep and sex, yet he’s sweet and soul-stirring and unquestionably worth it. In the Bible he’s a messenger from God, and our Gabriel brought a message for me this week: “Without your usual sources of fulfillment and fun, what will you use to fill the hole?”

One answer, of course, is people: Gabe and Laura; our generous and loving parents; the friends and relatives who have showered us with affection. I see better now why older, wiser cultures place such emphasis on relationships, because even when you’re unshaven, unemployed, under-slept, and undernourished, the right people still care for you. But people aren’t everything, and often it’s those closest to you who can hurt you the most. So under the gifts, the hugs, and the new life, the question remains.

Christians may be familiar with the idea of the God-shaped hole in humanity, and this week has reminded me of what I’m using to fill my holes, pie and otherwise. I’d hoped to glimpse God through this spiritual discipline, have my time atop the mountain, but I haven’t yet–or was snoozing on the bus (dreaming of steak and produce) when the divine light shone down. I’m still awaiting a moment of illumination, but I’m getting a new angle on my faith without these other things in the way.


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When this year’s Global Hunger Fast fell on the third week of my son’s life, I reluctantly agreed with my husband and family to sit out this time around. But as I think about my Filipina sisters at Samaritana (and women in developing countries worldwide), I’m acutely aware of how privileged I am for this to be a choice. While I don’t believe in punishing my son for the sake of making a point, I don’t take this contrast lightly.

Early in our time in Manila, I read that Filipinos are among the shortest people in the world, largely because of malnutrition. While I’m eating my affluent diet loaded with produce and protein, new mothers around the world are eating whatever they can get–which is to say, not what they need for themselves, let alone a baby. While I have the luxury of breastfeeding and pumping out plenty of milk to be frozen for future months, the mothers I knew at Samaritana had to make do with what their bodies would produce (or whatever they could afford), and they certainly didn’t have breast pumps or even refrigerators (or freezers) to store food or milk.

As every new mother knows, these first weeks are a haze of chaos and fatigue. But when I think about my first seventeen days of motherhood compared to those of the Samaritana women, my version of motherhood looks a piece of cake.

Even before Gabriel was born, my experience of labor and delivery was, by the world’s standards, pretty cushy: Nate and our doulas rubbed my back; I snacked when hungry, took a hot shower and hot bath to relax, all the while listening to the soothing sounds of Miles Davis. After contractions picked up, we drove ten minutes in our own car to the hospital, where for the next five hours, a flock of medical staff monitored Gabriel’s heartbeat and kept Nate and me informed. When his heartbeat kept dropping, yet I wasn’t dilating despite ever-stronger contractions (Gabe had his head turned sideways), the possibility of a C section first came up.

Ninety minutes later I was in the operating room; a half hour after that I heard Nate say “it’s a boy,” and then Gabriel Sagada Davis was in my arms and my husband was sobbing tears of joy beside me. While it didn’t happen quite as planned, and there were many painful hours, the whole experience was remarkably calm–pleasant, even. I had only a flicker of a thought that my baby and I might be in danger, and then it was gone with a simple prayer and the knowledge that I was about to go through a procedure that, while major, was also somewhat routine. The first four days of Gabe’s life were spent in the hospital, and Nate and I were continually impressed by how excellent the doctors and nurses were, how our every need was met, and what a gift it was to be in a setting with so many people who clearly love what they do.

I recap the birth because while I never set foot in a Manila hospital, I heard enough about them to make me glad I had no reason to. One Filipino friend told me that people avoid going to the hospital because once you’re there, you’re much more likely to die. And while good medical care is available in Manila (for the rich), as a new mom I also can’t ignore the world infant mortality rankings, which suggest that Gabriel would’ve been three times as likely to die had he been born a Filipino baby–or twenty times more likely as an Afghani.

It’s easy to walk away from these sobering contrasts feeling guilty for having so much, but I think I’m missing the point of the Global Hunger Fast if guilt is all I feel. I can’t change the world’s infant mortality rates or improve nutrition by feeling bad. But my awareness of the disparities between my life and the lives of women around the world can make me softer and more compassionate. It can open my wallet a little wider. It can keep me praying and looking for ways to love and serve, one woman at a time.


Princess, daughter of one of the women at Samaritana, and one of about 3 billion people in the world living on less than $2.50/day

Almost exactly a year ago, living in Manila, we joined our church back in Oakland for the Global Hunger Fast. For Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday), we challenged ourselves to live in solidarity with half the world’s population–and specifically our Filipina sisters at Samaritana–and live on ~$2 per day.  The result was one of the more profound experiences we’ve had in recent years, and the lessons we’ve learned have stuck with us even months after returning to the States.

Holy Week is upon us once again, and we are thrilled that our church has once again taken on the challenge of the Global Hunger Fast, this time with the goal of donating the money saved to Samaritana. Once again, we’ll be chronicling our experience, this time from the perspective of new parents in the United States.

We want to invite you to join us this next week, and to consider donating the money you’ll save to Samaritana. If living on $2.50 per day seems impossible, there are other meaningful, yet manageable ways you can join this fast. Give up your gourmet coffee for a week, or cut out eating out/take-out, or pick a daily dinner that a typical Filipino would eat. You can read more about the Global Hunger Fast (and get more ideas on how to participate) here. You can check out last year’s Global Hunger Fast here.

Please let us know if you’re joining with us and post comments so others can be encouraged. We hope that once again this experience will not only challenge and change us, but be a huge blessing to Samaritana and the women they serve.


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To make a tax-deductible donation to Samaritana, please write a check to Mission East Asia National Support (MEANS), and designate Samaritana in the memo. Then mail to: P.O. Box 8434, Bartlett, IL 60103.

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It’s safe to say that my anticipation for Easter has never been greater than it was this year.  Not even a 3:30 a.m. wakeup from the yappy dog next door or a 4:30 a.m. sunrise Easter service could dampen my spirits.

It was dark out when we ate mangoes and croissants before church; they were divine, and prompted numerous Josh Eichorn-style grunts of satisfaction as we devoured them. (I couldn’t help noticing that we paid a little less for them than what we’d spent for an entire day’s food the day before.)  We were so excited about eating a non-egg breakfast that we did it two more times, cereal at 6:30 a.m. and French Toast at 10.

After third breakfast, we went to work cooking.  We made Thai chicken curry from scratch (even pounding our own curry paste), had a large salad with fresh vegetables, ordered a giant (36″ inch) pizza, and even prepared mangoes and sticky rice for dessert.  Every bite of it was delicious–and in one meal we spent more than we have in the entire last week.

But the highlight of the day wasn’t all of the good food we ate, or going for our first run in a week this evening, or even the wonderful feeling of being full.  The best part of this Easter came in the form of little kids who couldn’t resist looking in our refrigerator, opening our drawers, and exploring every inch of our apartment while their young mothers tried to keep up.  By the time the sun went down, there were candy wrappers everywhere, the white tile bathroom floor was a splotchy gray, and one of the kids had diarrhea twice on the kitchen floor.  There were large piles of dirty dishes in the sink, the food was gone, and our wallets were empty.  We were delighted.

Our guests were about a dozen of the Samaritana women and their children, all of whom couldn’t afford to go back to the provinces for Holy Week.  After the past week’s peso-pinching, shopping for this meal felt  painfully indulgent, but we didn’t regret it.  We realized last week that if you’re living in poverty, there’s no such thing as holiday feasts or special treats like pizza.  We wanted to celebrate not just Christ’s resurrection, but the women who have become so dear to us and taught us so much.  We wanted to make this Easter special for them, for them to know just how precious they are to us.  We hope that in some small way this helped them know how precious they are to God.

For five hours, our apartment was filled with happy chaos.  There was a candy hunt that the adults were just as excited about as the kids.  There were giddy cries of disbelief when the three-foot-wide pizza had to be tilted to fit through the door–and then the wolf pack descended.  When it was time to go, 4-year old Penelope* (who a few months ago was afraid of strangers, but now has taken to calling us Uncle Nate and Aunt Laura) gave us hugs and said she wanted to come back to our house tomorrow.

After the crowd had gone and the hostess adrenaline faded, I was tired, but happy.  I thought about the story of the woman who anoints Jesus with perfume that cost a year’s wages; his disciples were indignant at the waste, but he said that what she’d done was a beautiful thing.  The Global Hunger Fast made me conscious of every peso we spend, but it also challenged me to find the right reasons for spending money at all.  Compared to how we’ve been living this past week, our Easter feast was extravagant.  But we hope that for the Samaritana women and for God, it was a beautiful thing.

We mentioned at the beginning of last week that we’d be donating what we saved last week to Samaritana.  If any of you would like to do the same, we’re providing the information you’ll need below.  With six women on the waiting list and recent news that Samaritana’s largest source of funding will be cut in half next year, there is a great need.  $100/month will support a new woman at Samaritana, but as we’ve mentioned before, every little bit goes a long way here.

Thanks to all of you who have done this Global Hunger Fast with us, either by participating or by following our daily reports and encouraging us along the way.  We hope our experience blessed you.

Happy Easter!


Here’s how you can donate to Samaritana:

Supporters in the United States may donate through our US partner Mission East Asia National Support (MEANS), and receive a tax-deductible receipt. Make checks payable to MEANS, and designate Samaritana in the memo. Mail to: P.O. Box 8434, Bartlett, IL 60103.

*Not her real name.

These are my running shoes. They’re last year’s model, bought on closeout from for $60. Plus they had free shipping! Pretty thrifty of me, right? What a great sport running is: all you need is a pair of shoes! Everyone should get into it.

Global Hunger Fast Me reads that paragraph, and he wants to hit Old American Me over the head, steal Old American Me’s shoes, and then sell them so he can feed himself and his wife. (Maybe even eat meat a couple times!)  Because those $60 shoes–that’s a month’s earnings right there! There’s no way Global Hunger Fast Me, wearing his one pair of $2.50 flip-flops, could ever afford Nikes. There’s a reason Global Hunger Fast Me doesn’t see any joggers in the squatter community around the corner: as uncomfortable as it is for Old American Me to hear, running is a sport for the comparatively rich. If Global Hunger Fast Me wants some exercise, he’ll do what the millions of other urban poor around the world do, activities you can do in flip-flops or barefoot: walking, basketball, or soccer. (Or, since activity just makes you hungrier, probably not.)

Over the past nine months living in metro Manila and working at Samaritana, we’d already come to appreciate another of the reasons poor people don’t exercise: they don’t have access to the knowledge, the facilities, that we do as rich people. (For example, some of the women’s kids go to Batasan Hills High School. How many students do they have there? 40,000. (in morning and evening shifts). One of our friends teaches the morning shift, and has five classes of 65 kids each. Does it sound like there’s space for a gym? If they’re in school, the $2/day kids may well be in one like this, or–if they’re like a lot of the women we work with, had to drop out of one like it.

Thanks to this brutally peso-pinching week, it’s unforgettably clear to us why most of the Samaritana women (on top of lack of knowledge or facilities) had never exercised. There’s just no way for them to afford the gear–which puts in even richer perspective the donation that enabled us to start the Super Babae fitness program at Samaritana. Thanks to our Patron Saint of Exercise, Krista Ford at Nike, we were able to help these women do something they never otherwise would’ve been able to: jog around the block.

So since the true purpose of this week for us isn’t only self-denial, but gut-level lifestyle understanding, we haven’t run at all this week. We haven’t even exercised beyond walking to buy food–which brings me the third uncomfortable conclusion about why really poor people don’t exercise as much: it just makes you hungrier (and rice doesn’t grow on trees). Earlier this week I noted that for Global Hunger Fast Me, every decision comes down to money, but perhaps what would be more accurate is to say that every decision comes down to hunger. So exercise? Sorry. I’ll be sitting on the curb.


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* * * * *
Daily Tab:

2 whole-wheat buns–16
1 mango–16
3 eggs–15

Lunch + Dinner
bag of mung beans–33
2 hamburgers–22
2 tofu blocks–8
1/2 kilo rice–15
1 egg–6

shampoo sachet–6

Daily Total: 179

It’s only Day Three of the Global Hunger Fast, and already a generalization is starting to form: I’m almost always hungry now. Have we simply not been creative or industrious enough with our shopping, or is it just not possible for a person with my metabolism to be full on $2 a day? Sure, there are countries in the world where food would be even cheaper than here in the Philippines–but not many (rank by “grocery” column). Perhaps there’s some combination of beans, rice, and fish that would be both substantial and available for the pittance we’re working with, but we haven’t found it yet (beans don’t seem to be as cheap or easy to come by here as in other parts of the world).
And yet even if we did find it, this elusive goulash of sustenance, what then? We’d still be lacking what turns out to be another luxury, something that (as an American) I would’ve considered not a luxury, but an inalienable right: variety. Who cares if there are 30,000 products in the grocery store when the only ones you can afford are the ones on the bottom shelf? Oh wait, never mind: you’re not shopping at the grocery store anyway: you’re shopping at the palengke, the open-air wet/dry market where the lady may or may not be bothered to swish the flies off that fish that might be your dinner.

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For the Old American Me, eating was often an exciting venture into a carnival of carne, a midway of tastes and smells with an overwhelming number of fun rides to go on. But not for Global Hunger Fast Me. Oh no. Eating for Global Hunger Fast Me (to use a rich-person analogy) is like being forced to refuel your car at the gunpoint of your hunger–and wincing at the price of gas every time. As a poor person, chances are your food will be brown and white, and that it will either be the same thing you had for your previous meal, or the same thing you’ll have for your next one. To illustrate, though you’ve seen some pictures, here are our meals for the last three days:Sunday
breakfast: a few tiny oranges, eggs, toast
lunch: stir-fried vegetables and egg on rice
dinner: stir-fried vegetables and egg on riceMonday
breakfast: splitting a mango, an egg, rolls, and three small bananas (But hungry by 10:30 am).
lunch: sinigang–sour soup with a boiled fish head, and rice
dinner: fried fish tail, lentils (yes!), and rice

breakfast: eggs, 1 small dried fish, garlic rice (how they use the leftovers from the night before)
lunch: sour soup with a boiled fish head and rice
dinner: rice porridge with small bits of chicken

Notice a few recurring themes here? And the absence of meat, dairy, and produce? For Americans accustomed to a life of plenty, of having the world’s bounty at the swipe of a credit card, eating repetitive fare like this gives one pause. And yet, as Laura commented before, the Samaritana women–some of the most joyful, life-giving people we know–have been eating like this their whole lives. Looks like Global Hunger Fast Me, like them, needs to look for happiness somewhere beyond the dinner plate.
-Nate* * * * *Daily Tab (for Monday and Tuesday):

30 pesos per meal at Samaritana–ridiculously cheap for Old American Me, and quite cheap for New Missionary Me. But for Global Hunger Fast Me? If it hadn’t been for our friends giving us a ride, we’d still be walking home.
P30x6 meals = P180 (not including internet use on Samaritana’s computer)

I woke up this morning knowing that today’s post would be about vanity, and wondering how I’d ever be able to write about something that  I felt embarrassed to admit.  Here in Manila, where the heat and humidity mean that my hair is always awry and my skin always sweaty (and where I wear only simple, modest clothes), a little mascara and lipstick go a long way to making me feel okay.  This Global Hunger Fast has called forth all of my petty insecurities: I wonder if people notice my unstyled hair, colorless face, and squinting eyes—or if I smell (since deodorant, at $2 or more, is out of the question).

But vanity is a luxury.  I realized this one day when one of the Samaritana women asked me how much I paid for a tube of lipstick that I got back in the States.  I told her I’d paid $3 for a cheapo grocery store brand.  Her response was, “mahal!”  Expensive.  On a training day, the Samaritana women earn a daily allowance of 190 pesos—about $4.  That’s better than the $2/day that many of them had before they came to Samaritana—but not much, especially when you consider that most of them have children, and some of them have jobless partners. So I get it now: that $3 purchase suddenly feels frivolous.

I’ve been thinking about all of the things we women do to try to make ourselves feel beautiful.  At one time in my life, it wouldn’t have been unheard of for me to pay somewhere in the range of $100-150 for a haircut and highlights at a salon.  A handful of department store makeup? $100 or more.  Here in Manila, I’ve occasionally indulged in a manicure or pedicure, which is cheap here (100 pesos).  But the new Global Hunger Fast Me who lives on 90 pesos a day (per person) could hardly imagine trading food for nail polish.

The truth is that for most of my life I’ve suffered from comparison.  Sure, I know that God loves me and that I’m worth something because He says I am . . . but that’s not how I live.  I’ve spent years comparing myself—to friends, to movie stars, to women in magazines—and always came up short.  I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to satisfy my vanity—in vain.

Today was the first of a two-day Lenten retreat for Samaritana staff and volunteers.  We spent much of the day in silent contemplation, and I asked God to help me with my lifelong obsession with vanity.  Meditating on the days leading up to Jesus’ death, I closed my eyes, saw myself there among the crowd, and was horrified to realize that I was joining in the cries to crucify him.  He looked at me with pure love, longing, and forgiveness, and I saw that the more he suffered, the more beautiful I became.

All at once I was reminded of my name: Laura.  Crown of beauty.  When I was young, I hoped that this meant I was beautiful, but today I felt God say to me that I was his crown.  How could I have missed this all of these years?  While I was trying to live up to the world’s impossible standards, all along God was asking me to be his crown, telling me that my beauty was there to glorify him, to point people to him.  I started to cry.  I was touched and humbled that God should choose me as his crown, and for the first time in my life, I felt beautiful.

Daily Tab:

Breakfast (split between the two of us)
10 pesos for 1 mango
10 pesos for 3 small bananas
5 pesos for 1 egg
12 pesos for 4 small rolls

26 pesos for bus to Samaritana (13 per person)

Lunch at Samaritana (30 pesos/person)
A simple meal of rice and soup with fish
1 banana

Dinner at Samaritana (30 pesos/person)
A simple meal of fried fish, rice, and lentel soup
1 mango

Daily Total: 183 pesos (realized too late that we were 3 pesos over—not including using the internet at Samaritana to post this)

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Today was Palm Sunday, but we observed it a little differently than usual this year: today was also the first day of the Global Hunger Fast, an experiment in voluntary poverty for rich Westerners. For this week, we are trying to do what billions of people around the world for their entire lives: live on $2 a day. A big reason why Laura and I wanted to do this is that poverty is one of the main factors in the supply side of trafficking and prostitution; many of the women at Samaritana and IJM came from $2 a day situations. So in this small way, we hope to gain some small understanding of the choices–or lack thereof–that lead so many people down these hard roads.

Here were our expenditures today (using an exchange rate of 45 pesos to the dollar, or P90 apiece per day, P180 for Laura and me):

38–1/3 bag of clementines (a foolish, short-sided and expensive mistake!)
15–three eggs
10–two pieces of bread

36–transportation to

Lunch & Dinner
15–half kilo of rice
10–mixed vegetables
5–one head of garlic
10–two onions
10–single-serving cooking oil

6–sample-size toothpaste
6–sample-size laundry detergent

Total: P186.

Of the many impressions we had today, perhaps the most striking to me was that for the poor, every decision involves money. Everything has a cost; everything must be factored into the ever-present mental tally. For example, we walked 45 minutes home from church in 90° heat because if we hadn’t, we would’ve only had onions and rice for lunch and dinner. And at 34 years old, going to church itself was a sacrifice: those 36 pesos we spent on public transportation would’ve bought two pieces of fried chicken from the street vendor–and I wouldn’t be as hungry now. And those five pesos we tithed? That was an egg we were dropping out of our lunch and into the collection bag.

The funny part is that the Old American Me would write tithing checks of hundreds of dollars, and not even feel it. The presence or absence of that much money made no appreciable difference in our lifestyle. And we were “middle class.” And yet today–tithing the equivalent of 11¢–for the first time I understood what it meant to “give ’til it hurts.”


7 Days of Hunger

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Life in the Philippines
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve all heard that half the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day; this year we’ve decided to join with the thousands of people around the world who are taking part in the Global Hunger Fast, a challenge to eat for seven days as half the world’s population eats every day, and then set aside money you would have spent on additional groceries and donate it.

This is close to home for us since the women at Samaritana are living on not much more than $2/day.  We’ll be donating our money to Samaritana, and wanted to invite you to follow us through the next seven days–and even join in the Global Hunger Fast yourself!

In Manila, $2/day is roughly 90 pesos per day.  We know that we can’t exactly duplicate the lives of the poor, but we’re doing our best to get as close as we can.  This means no internet or computer unless we charge ourselves what we’d pay at an internet cafe, no running (running shoes are a luxury), no contacts, glasses, makeup, or hair dryer, and no buying in bulk.  We’re starting from nothing, which means that food or condiments we’d purchased before today are off-limits.

We invite you to join us this week, read more about the Global Hunger Fast here, and check back daily as we post on our experiences in Manila, where we can walk down the street and see some of the poorest people in the world.