Things are settling down internally. I am not constantly questioning my motives for being here. I more often, am just here.
Language training is hard as hell. We move incredibly quickly but I know we need to move at this pace because after our Tagalog test at the end of August, we will start learning a different language, the one used at our permanent site. It could be Tagalog, or Cebuano, or Ilocano…or like 5 other languages. Interesting fact: many smaller Filipino languages were incredibly well preserved throughout history, due to the horrid fact of the Spanish colonizers not wanting them to be able to speak to each other or internally mobilize large rebellions. But I think I’m learning Tagalog pretty well for only being a week in to CBT (community based training). Technical training is moving a little slower at the moment, but the Community Organizing workshops we’ve had the past two days have been amazing, and have made me extremely excited about getting to site. Which site? I have no idea. Could be northern Luzon, could be southern Visayas, it’s all in question until site placement announcements at the end of August (and changes often still occur after that).
I was asked about my days and nights so here is my typical day: I wake up at 5:15/5:30 and contemplate doing yoga in my bedroom while drifting in and out of sleep or reading until about 6:05- I have yet to practice since arriving at CBT. Then I have breakfast with my host Nanay (mother), sister, and sometimes Tita (aunt). I get ready for training and head out at 7:30 to the staff house about a 10 minute walk from my own. Language training all morning with my “cluster” of 5 other trainees and myself until lunch at noon. Then, technical training in the afternoon usually with all 30 CRM (coastal resource management) trainees in the Philippines. My language and technical trainers could not be more wonderful. Then, home at 5/6 to do homework or talk with my host family until dinner at 7/7:30 and right after, I’m so tired that I take my tabo (bucket and ladle) shower, read or listen to music and/or cry, and go to bed by 9:30/10. Right before sleep I think “maybe I’ll do yoga in the morning” and the process begins again.
Mom- yes, I am making wonderful friends. It does smell different: the air quality is worse, but I can smell the sea which is always worth it. The air is hot and humid and I am having trouble adjusting and not profusely sweating for hours at a time but I will adapt. I was able to borrow a book, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche (thanks Jon).
Training is difficult. I get very sad. But I am getting enough sleep and eating delicious foods. Also, I hear the bullfrogs and cicadas at night and sometimes I pretend I’m home. Sometimes, I love that I’m not.
She looked out her window at the river. In a few hours they would tell her that it was actually a road, it had just rained a lot the previous day. The trees she identified as West Indian almond were actually cashew, and for the first time, the ocean lay closest to the west.
She lay down on her bed in front of the fan and spent 45 minutes thinking about taking him to the place where she was born. Then, she began to think about her fickle callousness in love, which made her upset, so she went downstairs.
Downstairs she smiled big. It tugged at her chest uncomfortably but she coaxed it up around her teeth to resemble something more genuine, which it became. She laughed and ate with a family that wasn’t hers, and casually swatted at the mosquitos when they did. Maybe she would get dengue and be sent home (to him). This didn’t feel like hoping for an illness. To him. Is that where she would go?
Never mind, she washed her body with the bucket and ladle. The slow movement of ritualistic rinsing let her mind be occupied with intention for awhile.
Maybe they would go to a French restaurant together, someday. Maybe she would wear something sophisticated to feel powerful, to pretend like she could hide from him what had already been shown. But he had seen everything, so she could hide nothing. Maybe it is better to be so far for so long; she would find things to hide so she would not feel so bare in his presence. The other option would be to find freedom in the nakedness, which she did not yet know how to do.
I forgot how horrible being outside of your comfort zone is. It sounds fun and adventurous and important when you’re not actually doing it. The mosquitos, moisture, and heat are things I can handle (thanks Bahamas/TCI). Hand washing clothes? No problem. Food? Easy. I eat everything. Tabo? …this definitely takes some adjusting to. Tagalog? Just stamp dumbass on my forehead. I’ve never had more respect for the difficulties that come with language and culture barriers. At this point, I cannot even begin to envision myself able to do my CRM (coastal resource management) job remotely well, or at all. Adjusting and integrating will take all of my attention for at least the first year. Yes, I’ve heard other Volunteers say this is true, but I’m really starting to understand why it takes so long. And get this- I probably won’t even be speaking Tagalog. These first few days have been incredibly challenging and often lonely, but it only gets easier from here, right? (Right???)
I don’t know what’s more difficult: being so uncomfortable in this unfamiliar environment that I can’t think of anything else, or finally feeling a small sense of comfort and only thinking of you. I must keep myself distracted because the latter is too easy to lose entire nights of sleep over. I have to do what I can to put you out of my mind in the early morning because if not, she shouts “go to him! Go to him!” so loudly that I am distracted the rest of the day by your absence (or, I guess, mine).