One year ago today, I accepted my invitation to join the Peace Corps. Now, I’ve been in the Philippines for over four months and at my permanent site, here in Capiz, for just over two. These past months have gone by so quickly, and without a great deal of tangible results, that I sometimes catch myself worrying about not having enough time here to accomplish what I hope.
But, that’s the American in me; time is different in the Philippines and not having enough time isn’t really a concern. This can be frustrating as a volunteer– Filipinos are notoriously late, for everything. And not just a little late. Yesterday, I was told to arrive at the municipal building at 6am. Feeling savvy, I got there at 6:45. By 7:30, everyone else had trickled in.
If you’re reading from the US, you might imagine that the more punctual of the group would be annoyed or even angry waiting for the stragglers. But, that wasn’t the case. Instead, people were catching up, exchanging stories and genuinely enjoying their time.
In fact, that’s exactly what I was told during my training that I only partially understood at then– Filipinos enjoy time.
This makes me think back to a quote I read once, superimposed over some serine natural scene, incorrectly credited to Buddha: “The trouble is, you think you have time.” The quote stuck with me because I liked it, but didn’t totally sink in. I couldn’t really imagine an alternative to possessing time, until now.
So, in the spirit of enjoying time and not possessing it– I’d like to share a few highlights from my last few weeks.
I experienced my first major holiday– I traveled with my work partner to her home town for All Saints Day. Part of this experience included attending an outdoor mass in a cemetery.
I went on a pilgrimage- Well, I visited a Pilgrimage Resort*. Without knowing what I was getting myself into. When I was invited, they left out the “pilgrimage” part. We walked up ~500 steps, stopping along the way at scenes representing the stations of the cross to arrive in Heaven.
Also, it was a farm. (*In the US, the word “resort” carries a different meaning than in the Philippines. Here, they can range from modest beach spots with a few cabanas for rent to very upscale vacation spots.)
I became a Maninay– or a wedding sponsor/godmother. During the wedding ceremony, I stood behind the bride and groom. It was pointed out that at 25, I’m very young for the role. And, although I’m not completely sure what it entails, it’s an honor none the less!
I’ve explored the coastal waters– My municipality has a beautiful 13 km of coastline and several small islands. We have corals, white sand beaches, tidal pools, mangroves and seagrass. Getting there is a bit of hike from my house, but this just got easier BECAUSE…
I got a bike! So far, I’ve only taken it out twice. And, heading out to the coastal barangays isn’t exactly a leisurely ride, up and down some hilly and not always smooth terrain. But, the freedom is exciting! I’m also realizing I have a lot to learn in the ways of bike maintenance.
I rode a jeepney… alone-This might not seem like a big deal. But, the fact that it took 4 months to happen should say something. Part of the reason it took so long is cultural. My hosts here are extremely hospitable (like above and beyond) and always make sure I have a companion. But also, traveling around as a foreigner is not exactly easy.
Also, I have been fairly busy with “work”. Most of this involves just going places, shaking hands, and posing for pictures. I have met with all kinds of government leaders from the barangay officals to the governor. I’ve begun getting involved with local groups and attending events with co-workers. There are a lot of people to meet and get to know. Still in my first couple months at site, I have a lot to familiarize myself with. Slowly, I am seeing relationships develop and am finding different ways to get involved (even with my very limited language skills).
More to come!