The past week has been a blur of despididas and emotions, and I have unfortunately not had enough time to post as frequently as I would like here. However, I hope what little I was able to share with you about this magical place has opened up your eyes to a world greater than you had previously imagined, as it has mine. In the beginning, six weeks seemed like a lifetime to be abroad, when in reality that is such little time. I am confident and proud of the work I was able to get done here in these mere six weeks, but I realize the long term effects of my efforts are not as beneficial as I would have liked.
All in all, the kids at my project site were able to gain minimal weight during my time here, which for such a short amount of time, I’d say it was a success. We updated all of their profiles for the government, and the project is now going to be under review to see how it has been going, and if there is anything more that can be done to make it better for the future. In addition, the Nanay lessons we taught were mostly beneficial, as the best we can do is provide them with an understanding of how to better one’s health through nutrition, which I feel we achieved.
During the tutorials I taught, I was able to experience what is was like to be a teacher, and let me tell you that was no easy task. I planned lessons for only one hour a day, and it took equally if not more time just to plan the lessons and review them after. From this experience, I have realized that simply the patience required to teach the struggling students is far beyond my capacity. For me though, the light at the end of the tunnel occurred on the last day, where the students thanked me for my hard work and explained how we were the first tutors to actually attempt to teach them something that has to do with their current schoolwork. In the past, tutors have only taught them spelling or French, and while useful, those subjects were not even taught at the school. They each hand wrote us letters expressing their gratitude, and it was such a good feeling to feel appreciated. I will most definitely save those letters forever. So for this, I would like to give a huge thank you to all of the teachers out there in the world for just being teachers, you rock.
In the beginning, I was excited to come here as a visitor to the nation, one where the tongue and culture was so drastically different as my own. And during my time here, I have definitely felt like a visitor at times, as the color of my skin often dictates the way people treat me even if I can converse and understand their language. However, I have also experienced many moments of locality, where they look past the color of my skin, my accent, or even my hair, and treat me as an equal. It is in these moments where I felt most included in the community, and proud to feel as I am more than just a person confided to the term “Americano.” It is these people that I will miss the most about being in the Philippines: the motorbike driver, Rex, who came to pick us up most days, the couple at the Palo Market, who helped us get the correct prices on all of the food for the feeding, the children in my home stay, who never failed to say “Goodbye, Ate!” or “Hello, Ate!” as I walked through the door each day. These are the type of people I wish to surround myself with, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. At dinner last night, Pamela and I were talking about such things, and how judging someone off of first impressions is the easy route. I have experienced this first hand by submerging myself into a foreign country, where I knew I would be seen as an outsider. But those that chose to see me as something more than an outsider, but an equal, made my transition to life here so much easier. The moment you look at someone, you instantly start thinking about them, and stereotypes come to the forefront because you are preset in your mind to think this way. When I come back from the Philippines, I hope I can divert these feelings and thoughts, and talk to the person about their life to gain an understanding about who they are. While I realize snap judgements are hard to shake, and I am equally guilty of doing it all the time, I want to change, and I urge you to do the same.
As I say all of my goodbyes to the people here, something I am awful at, I like to see of it as more of a see you later than a goodbye. To me, that leaves the opportunity for future contact, even if it is only through Facebook or email, or possibly another visit. At risk of sounding naive, I am so lucky to have been able to experience so much love and kindness here, and feel as though I have grown so much greater as a person here than the amount that I gave back to the community. And even though I realize I will most likely never see these people again, I will always carry them in my heart, for they are the ones that opened my eyes to the greater picture of how much more there is to life than just the small things.
Here are some pictures from my final days here…See you back in the Golden State!