Hi There!

Well, I figured I better write a little something today….  I was quoted in an article at ozy.com.  Kind-of quoted, really.  A writer from the on-line magazine had called me several months ago because they were doing a piece on ‘tiny houses.’  I let them know that although the tiny house movement seemed very similar to living in a trailer and actually liking it, the two are not the same.

Tiny home people tend to have money and time to invest in their endeavor.  They are making the choice to live there in order to simplify, leave a smaller carbon footprint, or just see if they can do it – one of those things that just sounded like a good idea at the time.

People who find themselves living in a trailer suddenly, in their 30’s or 40’s, because of their job situation, a bankruptcy, a divorce, or a lousy decision, but who still consider themselves contributing members of society, and maybe even a bit stylish, are the ones who choose to make the most of a crappy situation.

That’s where my friends and I fit in….  It’s been 5 years since my life took a turn for the worst, and although moving into a run-down trailer was pretty much my only option at the time, it has truly been an awesome decision.  I love my tiny little trailer!  Sure it has some quirks about it that you don’t find in a stick-built home – tiny or otherwise.  For instance, a few months ago when the pipe going into the back of my toilet decided to break free from the constraints of toilet-tank life and shoot water all over my home, only the flooring in half of my place was ruined (because the pink trailer is not even slightly level).  But I love my tiny home.

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In fact I love it so much, that when I got married (yes, married) 9 months ago, he moved from upstate New York into the pink trailer.  So now instead of 450 square feet all to myself, I am sharing it.  But so far so good, I dare say he even likes it a little bit (he has never ever lived in a trailer before).

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So a lot has happened in the year I’ve been missing from my blog – I got engaged, married, went to Canada, Fiji, San Francisco, upstate New York, and Denver, and even had some house guests along the way.  Things are good, and the trailer is still as quirky as ever.  🙂

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Rebecca Knabe Conti

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Where Have I Been?

I don’t really have a good answer.  The best I can come up with is that I’ve been tired….  I know, that’s a terrible response.  But I’m back, and have a bunch of pictures of the stuff that’s been keeping me busy (and tired) for the last 2 months.

I helped this wonderful couple, and two of my favorite friends, celebrate their 10th anniversary:

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Then I watched the Sierra Nevada mountains go from this….

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…to this:

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I also had a myriad of visitors!  Some stayed with me in the pink trailer, and some did not.  Some were invited, and others, not so much….

Cassi's best friend, Bella.  Cassi and I, and Bella and her mama, Shawn, all lived together in Bend, Oregon in 2003/04.

Cassi’s best friend, Bella. Cassi and I, and Bella and her mama, Shawn, all lived together in Bend, Oregon in 2003/04.

A great night out with Shawn & Steve, visiting from Oregon.

A great night out with Shawn & Steve, visiting from Oregon.

Dannica (we have been best friends for nearly 40 - ugh! - years) visited from Kelowna, BC for our annual super-happy-fun-extra-long-weekend-and-Black-Friday-shopping-extravaganza.

Dannica (we have been best friends for nearly 40 – ugh! – years) visited from Kelowna, BC for our annual super-happy-fun-extra-long-weekend-and-Black-Friday-shopping-extravaganza.

Next, my sweet sister-in-law, Sierra, visited during the coldest few weeks of the year.

Next, my sweet sister-in-law, Sierra, visited during the coldest few weeks of the year.

My favorite fella, John, visited from upstate New York for a few weeks.

My favorite fella, John, visited from upstate New York for a few weeks.

And I can't forget Joey, my frequent uninvited guest, who loves to rub his hairy butt all over my bedding.  Good thing I'm allergic to cats....

And I can’t forget Joey, my frequent uninvited guest, who loves to rub his hairy butt all over my bedding. Good thing I’m allergic to cats….

With all the extra days off during the holidays, I had a few sleepovers at friends’ houses.  Conveniently also during some very cold days and nights.

Here, all are participating in a very riveting napping session.

Here, all are participating in a community napping session.

New Year's Eve was spent trading makeup and falling asleep before 11:00 with these two beauties.

New Year’s Eve was spent trading makeup and falling asleep before 11:00 with these two beauties.

I nearly froze to death, on a couple of occasions.  On nights like this, living in an un-insulated trailer feels like barely a step up from being homeless.  But I’ve managed to figure out a system with my space heaters that prevents my pipes and I from freezing solid in the night (even when the temps hit 0F/-18C), without blowing a fuse, and while keeping my electric bill under $200.

Even on bright sunny days, the pink trailer was home to many icicles.

Even on bright sunny days, the pink trailer was home to many icicles.

Beautiful icicles flanking the laundry room of a local trailer park.

Beautiful icicles flanking the laundry room of a local trailer park.

Then my friends let me babysit.  Although “let me” doesn’t sound quite right.  I wasn’t exactly begging to do it….  But remember the 10th anniversary friends up above?  As part of my anniversary gift to them, I bought them a movie date and offered to babysit.  It was my first babysitting in a couple of decades.  No one died, no one pooped, and we only had one crier, so all in all, a pretty successful evening….

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I have also been spending a little time at a great new local coffee shop, Coffee Bar….

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…where Marty McFly’s De Lorean was recently parked:

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And finally, I had a fantastic long weekend in Vegas (one of my favorite cities to visit), catching up with friends and family:

Wearing blue to Blue Man Group.

Wearing blue to Blue Man Group.

Enjoying The Strip at night.

Enjoying The Strip at night.

Watching the Bellagio fountains, Ocean's Eleven style.

Watching the Bellagio fountains, Ocean’s Eleven style.

Beautiful Red Rock Canyon.

Beautiful Red Rock Canyon.

The breathtaking Nevada desert.

The breathtaking Nevada desert.

So that’s a little of what I’ve been up to, while being the world’s most neglectful blogger.  I promise to be better.  I promise.  🙂

Rebecca Knabe

Philippines Pt. 7 – Our Last Day & Hidden Valley Springs

Our last day in the Philippines was perfect.  We traveled an hour or so by bus to the province of Laguna, to the Hidden Valley Springs Resort.

On the way to the resort - Mt. Makiling.

On the way to the resort – Mt. Makiling.

This resort is a jungle paradise, nestled among a massive variety of lush vegetation.  Upon arriving we were pointed in the direction of the natural hot springs and waterfall.  Left to guide ourselves along the bamboo paths, we made our way from pool to pool, stopping here and there to enjoy the flora and fauna, to the beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail.

Coconut trees

Coconut trees

Bamboo forest

Bamboo forest

Bamboo trails

Bamboo trails

Everything about the resort was exactly as I had hoped.  The jungle floor was blanketed with huge leaves and flowers, and the canopy above swayed in the gentle breeze.  It was peaceful and awe-inspiring all at once.  We enjoyed some time at the falls, but were anxious to try out the warm volcanic pools.

Vibrant vegetation

Vibrant vegetation

Hidden Valley Waterfall

Hidden Valley Waterfall

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Each pool offered something a little different – a couple had small waterfalls flowing in and out, a few of them were infinity pools, some were deep and others shallow, and all were wonderfully warm except for the Lover’s Pool, which was kept cooler to encourage the embrace of lovers for warmth.

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Lover’s Pool

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Our favorite pool was quiet with waterfalls flowing in and out, right in the center of many tall trees.  As we floated on our backs and stared up at the swaying limbs and leaves above our heads, we collected our thoughts and began to process all the marvelous experiences we had throughout our visit.  It was a poetic end to a spectacular journey.

The lower pool was our favorite.

The lower pool was our favorite.

As if this amazing day wasn’t already more than I could have asked for, there was one more unexpected delight….  As I was walking up the trail from one of the pools, I noticed a lady with a pretty bathing suit walking towards me.  I looked at her face and realized I knew her.  Her name is Joice, and she was in the same congregation as me and my family for about 10 years in Edmonton, Canada.  I hadn’t seen her in at least 15 years, and neither of us live in Canada any longer.  I live in the States, and she lives in Indonesia, but we found each other again in the Philippines.  It was a tearful but joyful reunion, as we exchanged gifts and stories of our lives, and reminisced about Edmonton and our friends there.

Joice and I moments after seeing each other.

Joice and I moments after seeing each other.

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I know I keep saying this, and I will say it again – this trip was one of the best of my life.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the reality far exceeded any expectations I may have had.  Meeting new friends and brothers and sisters from around the world, and experiencing this amazing country with them was something I will always cherish.

A highly flammable cat nap at a rest stop.

A highly flammable cat nap at a rest stop.

Rebecca Knabe

Philippines Pt. 6 – Special Convention

Finally it was time for the convention – and the reason we had traveled all the way to the other side of the world.  For three days we attended the Ang Salita ng Diyos ay Katotohanan (God’s Word is Truth) Special Convention.

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We were foreigners in a far off land.

Inside Cuneta Astrodome

Inside Cuneta Astrodome

There were about 7,000 in attendance each day, made up of some of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as the delegates from the United States, Indonesia, and Taiwan.  We enjoyed not only the program, but also getting to know one another before and after the sessions, and during lunch.  The majority of the program was in Tagalog, but the local brothers had received special permission from the Philippines government to broadcast a translation in English over the radio.

Chinese speaking friends from Taiwan.

Chinese speaking friends from Taiwan. They gave us beautiful chopsticks, handmade bookmarks, and cookies as gifts.

New friends from Texas.  And easily the tallest group in the building.

New friends from Texas. And easily the tallest group in the building – each of them over 6 feet.

At a little over 5'4", I'm short at home.  But in the Philippines I'm a giant!

At a little over 5’4″, I’m short at home. But in the Philippines I’m a giant!

This is Riley.  He is from our host congregation, Malibay.  Him and his mom found us everyday for lots of hugs and pictures.  We love this family!

This is Riley. He is from our host congregation, Malibay. Him and his mom found us everyday for lots of hugs and pictures. We love this family!

We shared gifts too - pictures from home, and artwork from the kids in some of the Reno, NV congregations.

We shared gifts too – pictures from home, and artwork from the kids in some of the Reno, NV congregations.

Conventions are an opportunity for those who desire, and who qualify, to get baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Conventions are an opportunity for those who desire, and who qualify, to get baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

David Splane, a member of the Governing Body, from the world headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, releasing a new Bible study aid.  On the stage with a translator.

David Splane, a member of the Governing Body, from the world headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, releasing a new Bible study aid. On the stage with a translator.

Up close - me and Brother Splane.

Up close – me and Brother Splane.

More pictures with many of our friends from Malibay Congregation.

More pictures with many of our friends from Malibay Congregation.

Many wore traditional costumes from their country, culture, or language group.

Many wore traditional costumes from their country, culture, or language group.

These birds flitted around the Cuneta Astrodome, with 3 others, for the duration of the convention.

These birds flitted around the Cuneta Astrodome, with 3 others, for the duration of the convention.

By the end of the three convention days, we felt like family.  Many hugs were shared and tears were shed as we said, not goodbye, but “until next time” to one another.  As the busses full of delegates pulled away from the convention center, crowds of our new friends waved, blew kisses, and shouted mahal kita (I love you).  It was an experience to be remembered forever.

One of the local beauties.

One of the local beauties.

Outside the convention center.

Outside the convention center.

One more sunset over Manila Bay.

One more sunset over Manila Bay.

Rebecca Knabe

Philippines Pt. 5 – Metro Manila & Ayala Museum Tour

We expected our bus tour of Metro Manila and afternoon at the museum to be a little more low-key than our other days thus far, but our tour guides and the branch still had some surprises in store for us.

Leaving the hotel.  The bomb-sniffing dog that occupies the entrance.

Leaving the hotel. The bomb-sniffing dog that occupies the entrance.

While walking tours are ideal, I like driving tours too, as I find you can still get a good feel for an area when you are limited on time.  Our guides weren’t able to cover quite as much of the city as they had anticipated, due to heavier-than-usual traffic, but we still got quite an extensive overview of the city.

Jeepneys - the local public transportation.  Very affordable at less than 20 cents a pop.

Jeepneys – the local public transportation. Very affordable at less than 20 cents a pop.

The poorest citizens of Manila occupy these self-built shanties along the river.  We were told to stay far away from these areas, in part because dengue fever runs rampant in these slums.

The poorest citizens of Manila occupy these self-built shanties along the river. We were told to stay far away from these areas, in part because dengue fever runs rampant in these slums.

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Interesting architecture from different generations fills the city.

Interesting architecture from different generations fills the city.

I enjoyed photographing the haphazzard powerlines that are strewn up and down every street.

I enjoyed photographing the haphazard power lines that are strewn up and down every street.

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This globe is right outside the Mall of Asia - the largest mall in Asia.  When driving to the mall, the undercarriage of your vehicle is checked with mirrors for explosives.  To enter the mall, you pass through a small security gate with a metal detector and bag check.

This globe is right outside the Mall of Asia – the largest mall in Asia. When driving to the mall, the undercarriage of your vehicle is checked with mirrors for explosives. To enter the mall, you pass through a small security gate with a metal detector and bag check.

There's nothing more romantic than a hot cup of reconstituted noodles.

There’s nothing more romantic than a hot cup of reconstituted noodles.

Lunch was an unexpected treat.  Our busses brought us to the Golden Bay Chinese Restaurant in Pasay City, one of the 16 cities that make up Metro Manila.  We were greeted at the door by several formally dressed individuals, and then sent to our tables, where a family-style Chinese feast was served.  Towards the end of our meal, the group who greeted us at the door, made their way to the stage, to perform a beautiful a capella serenade for all in attendance.  These singers are all currently working as fulltime volunteers at the Philippines Branch Office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as vocalists for CD’s, DVD’s, and other on-line recordings.

The bethel singers.

The Bethel singers.

We spent the afternoon learning about the history of the Philippines at the Ayala Museum in Makati City, the financial center of the country.  The historical collection at the museum coincides with their mission, “Re-collecting the past.  Re-presenting the future.”

Makati City

Makati City

The lovely courtyard behind the museum.

The lovely courtyard behind the museum.

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Finally, we returned to the hotel for a large evening gathering.  Another feast of local dishes, and entertainment by several local brothers and sisters.  The two-hour program included a vast array of dance routines.  Interestingly, none of the dancers were professional, several just learning the traditional dances for the performance for the delegates.  They had practiced nearly daily for 3 months prior to our visit.  But if no one had told me, I would have never have known this was new to them.  They were that good!

The umbrella dance.

The umbrella dance.

The clay pot dance, which required tremendous balance, as they carried a stack of pots on their heads.

The clay pot dance, which required tremendous balance, as they carried a stack of pots on their heads.

The breathtaking fan dance - of which my photo does not do justice.

The breathtaking fan dance – of which my photo does not do justice.

Rebecca Knabe

Philippines Pt. 4 – Corregidor Island & Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

This day was long – about 13+ hours of sight-seeing – but it was one of my favorites.  We boarded a ferry early in the morning, and made our way to Corregidor Island, a small tadpole-shaped island at the mouth of Manila Bay.  Our ride was rough, and although there was a doctor on board with lots of sea-sickness medications, many passengers lost their breakfast on the 90 minute ride.  But not me!  🙂  I took some Dramamine, was happy to be there, and enjoyed every moment of the ride, chatting and making new friends.

Our view as we left the city.

Our view as we left the city.

Corregidor was used as a defence post for the entrance of the bay, fortified with several batteries, and coastal artillery and ammunitions magazines, to ward off attacks by enemy warships in the event of war.  During World War II, Corregidor played an important role during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces. Although heavily bombarded in the latter part of the war, it was briefly used as the temporary location for the Government of the Philippines.  General Douglas MacArthur also used Corregidor as Allied headquarters until March 11, 1942.  Today it is an unoccupied island of ruins, memorials, and a garden of peace.

From boat to trolly busses.

From boat to trolley busses.

Can you spot the goat?

Can you spot the goat?

It is densely lush, green and beautiful.  And as we wound our way through the twisting, narrow roadways, our tour guide/bus driver reassured us several times that Filipinos are a forgiving and happy people, and they love the Americans and Japanese alike.

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Hey hey, it's a monkey....

Hey hey, it’s a monkey….

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Malinta, meaning "full of leeches;" this 390 foot tunnel was used as a bunker and storage, a 1,000-bed hospital, General MacArthur's headquarters, and finally the location of mass suicide of Japanese soldiers trapped within.

Malinta, meaning “full of leeches;” this 390 foot tunnel was used as a bunker and storage, a 1,000-bed hospital, General MacArthur’s headquarters, and finally the location of mass suicide of Japanese soldiers trapped within.

After our short, but sweet tour of the island, we boarded our boat again for a 45 minute ride to Bataan peninsula.  There we climbed aboard touristy jeepneys (a cleaned-up version of the local transportation), and were driven through beautiful mountains, fields, and jungles to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

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A rare sighting of the ferocious Philippine Tiger.

A rare sighting of the ferocious Philippine Tiger.

The entrance to the town, who's theme is, "Pride in the past, hope for the future."

The entrance to the town, whose theme is, “Pride in the past, hope for the future.”

This little resort town is “a living museum,” with 27 architectural structures, dating back to the 18th to early 20th centuries, that were carefully and painstakingly reconstructed from different parts of the country and rebuilt exactly as they originally were.  We were greeted with live music and singing, and although the weather was rainy, we meandered through the cobblestone streets of the picturesque town.

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The stunning view from the bathroom sink.

The stunning view from the bathroom sink.

For lunch we enjoyed a large buffet of traditional dishes, and were entertained by local dancers.  After a little more wandering the area, we got back on the bumpy jeepneys, and made our way to the boat.  To everyone’s relief, our ride back to Manila was smooth and quick, and while it was too cloudy to see the setting sun, the city lights welcomed us back into the harbor.

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Back to Manila.

Back to Manila.

Rebecca Knabe

Philippines Pt. 3 – Metro Manila Assembly Hall & Bethel

Our second full day in Metro Manila was another busy one.  We were still struggling to cope with our jet lag and the 15 hour time difference, but once again, even dazed exhaustion couldn’t keep us down.

We were up before the sun, enjoyed another delicious Filipino breakfast of pancit, and loaded onto the bus headed for the newly built Metro Manila Assembly Hall.  The traffic in Manila, in a word, stinks.  Although only 1 in 5 residents in the city own a vehicle, Metro Manila is one of the most (if not THE most) densely populated cities in the world.  That amounts to a ton of traffic in a not-big-enough-to-accomodate-it area.  So movement around the city was slow, often sitting in heavy gridlock, but allowing for lots of photo opportunities.

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Possibly the only near-empty street in the city.

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We were welcomed at the Assembly Hall by many Filipino Jehovah’s Witnesses, donned in beautiful traditional attire and huge smiles, and holding welcome signs.  Jehovah’s Witnesses are known primarily for two things – our door-to-door preaching work, and our intense love for one another.  This love was evident as we shook hands, hugged, kissed, introduced ourselves, and took pictures with all who were there.

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The man on the far left with the grey umbrella ran next to me for much of my time there, his umbrella shielding me from the sun.  They treated us like royalty, even though we didn't deserve it.  It was a lesson in true humility.

The man on the far left with the grey umbrella ran next to me for much of my time there, his umbrella shielding me from the sun. They treated us like royalty, even though we didn’t deserve it. It was a lesson in true humility.

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The grounds were beautifully landscaped and meticulously maintained.  And we enjoyed wandering around the property in the hot morning sun.  We completed our self-guided walking tour, got back to the busses, and made our way to the Philippines Branch Office of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A stunning white bird flits by.

A stunning white bird flits by.

Unlike the others, Jericho was not even slightly impressed with us.  :)

Unlike the others, Jericho was not even slightly impressed with us. 🙂

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Again we were greeted with smiles and vigorous waving of hands and streamers.  We enjoyed lunch with many of the local Bethel Family while entertained by a musical performance, and then our tour of the facility commenced.  The most notable part of the branch facility was the translation department, that keeps busy translating the Bible and Bible study aids into many of the indigenous languages and dialects spoken in the Philippines.  Again, the buildings and gardens were simple yet pristine, in stark contrast to the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Jeepney photo op.

Jeepney photo-op.

Traveller's Palm, which are not actually a palm tree, but a relative of the banana and bird of paradise.

Traveller’s Palm, which are not actually a palm tree, but a relative of the banana and bird of paradise.

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The landscape crew.

The landscaping crew.

As the day ended we were once again loaded onto the busses, our bags heavy with gifts, candy and fruit, as the Bethel Family outside waving to us their good-bye’s and ‘I love you’s.’  Paalam , mahal kita.

The sun setting over Manila Bay.

The sun setting over Manila Bay.

Rebecca Knabe