My first week here in the Philippines has been full of new and exciting experiences.
The first time I traveled for twenty four hours. The plane ride was 15 hours to Taipei. Then there was a five hour layover before I took a two hour flight to Manila, Philippines. then I took a two hour bus ride to get to Los Banos where orientation was held for the first day. The next day 5 other students from Illinois Wesleyan took a two an a half hour bus ride to the GK enchanted Farm. I’ll talk more about GK another time. I was exhausted at this point to say the least.
The first time I really didn’t know the language around me. The main language here is Tagalog, but most people speak English. I am able to understand, but when Tagalog is spoken I have no idea what is being said. There are some words that mean the same in both Spanish and Tagalog that I am able to understand, but it is minimum.
The first time I am living on a farm. At home I worked at a small farm and garden center, so I was somewhat prepared for the hard work that was to come. It is a different lifestyle than I am used to because everyone is up at the crack of dawn and in bed by 9pm. I totally understand because I am exhausted every time I come back to the room.
Photo: View from the Lifebank center for Bayanihan Economics
The first time I have helped slaughter chickens. Before you freak out I did not actually slaughter them. I helped to pluck the feathers out after they weird dead. It was definitely a unique experience, and one I will never do again. Once was definitely enough. After this I had to hold off on eating chicken for a couple days.
Photo: Community members and students slaughtering chickens
The first time I had a mango. I know this doesn’t seem that monumental but here it is. There are mango trees everywhere I look on the farm. We also eat them at every. single. meal. I enjoyed this at first but now it’s becoming too much. I’m taking a break. Along with trying a mango this was the first time i harvested mangoes. This was one of my favorite experiences so far. In order to reach the mangoes from the tree you have to use a long stick with a net on the end that has three triangles on the end that are spaced out. You have to grab the mango between the triangles and pull it, and it falls into the net. I was pretty good at it. It was also a major arm workout.
Photo: Me harvesting mangoes
The first time I have eaten rice at every single meal. I didn’t think it was possible to get sick of rice, but since being in the Philippines that is all I have eaten. Don’t get me wrong I like rice but now it’s time for a break, just like with the mangoes.
Photo: Lunch made by one of the mothers in the community
The first time I have experienced so much accomplishment around me. The first day I arrived at the farm I went to the graduation ceremony for the students that live here and went to the university. The students have come from nothing. They were poor. they stole, lied, and cheated and in the time span of two years have become social entrepreneurs. These students, in the past two years, have learned French and English and have come up with their own social enterprises. For instance, one girl now sells banana chips and sweet potato chips. The enterprise is called Friendchips. The amount of effort and talent these students have is amazing. They are changing themselves and the world one enterprise at a time.
The first time I have felt so welcomed in a community. At school I have my friends and felt welcomed when I joined my sorority, but this is something completely different. The people here always say hi or good morning/afternoon/evening whenever they see me. Some will stop and talk or walk with me too. I’ve met so many people I can hardly remember all of their names. One of my favorite people that I have met so far is Tito Jun. He works at the worm compost on the farm. As we all learned about the compost he would tell us jokes. He said that the worms love music and they love to sing. The mature worms eat the food at the bottom of the pit and come up to get rid of it. They sing rolling in the deep because of this. Later that same day he invited us into his home and we sang with him. That was my favorite experience so far.
Photo: Tito Jun, the compost man
I know there are many more firsts to come. These were the just the first few things from my first week here!