Over my first few weeks in Leyte, I have noticed myself using the “Asante Sana” instead of thank you quite often. At first I was extremely confused as to why this word was coming to my mind, but then I looked back through my journal that I wrote while I was in Africa, and realized it was Swahili for thank you. I was amazed that I had subconsciously started drawing connections with these two experiences that have made such a large impact on my life.
Now that I am a third of the way into my program, (which was fitting considering I just finished my first pack of three face wipes) I am feeling a lot more connected with the area and culture here. I am much more aware of the culture I am living in, and am more accepting of it as well. Here, as well as in Tanzania, I have learned the value of family, because everyone lives near or around their family, and are always in each other’s lives and business. All of us volunteers are treated as if we are part of the family, and we are called “Ate” (older girl) and “Kuya” (older boy) as a form of respect from the younger members of our family. Often, we attend events as part of the family, like birthday parties, picnics, and parades. We are always served the same dinner as the family members are, although we often don’t eat with them because of the different meal times and project times. Here is a meal that I had earlier, it’s Chicken Adobo, Squash Curry, Vegetable Lumpia, rice and mango:
As you can tell, there often aren’t a lot of vegetables in our food, which is killing me a bit inside. What I would give for a spinach salad right now is insane, I can’t even, ok I’m done now. On the plus side, I’ve fallen in love with the veggie curry-it is to die for! More of my personal favorite dishes are the chicken pancit, lemon fish, and mango shakes.
Another aspect of the Filipino culture I have learned it what they call “Filipino Time.” Similar to “Berkeley Time,” which is the ten-minute grace period we have to get to class, Filipino time refers to the grace period after the actual time you will be somewhere. For example, if you tell someone lets meet at 9am to go shopping, they most likely won’t arrive until 9:15/20. With the type A personality that I have, this has been a bit of an adjustment getting use to, as I am usually pretty prompt with meeting times. On the plus side though, Filipinos are extremely laid back and relaxed, which has been such a nice break since leaving Berkeley, where everyone is constantly doing something.
Having fun and hanging out with friends and family is definitely a huge part of the culture here. Videoke, basically karaoke, is extremely popular here, and it is common to here people singing from their houses at all hours of the day. I’ve done it at my Tatays birthday party, at my friends house one night, and at two other volunteer’s despedida (explained in a minute). It’s truly very fun and everyone gets super into it and dances around.
Now a “despedida” translates to a farewell party in English, and most of the volunteers will have despedidas hosted by their family on the night before they leave. I’ve been to a few of these so far, and they are extremely fun! During the past few, we have sung videoke, had huge feasts prepared by the family, gone out on the town, or played card games. We even got a cake for one of them too, and it supposedly had “buttercream frosting,” which was exciting, but it ended up being just straight butter frosting, and was disgusting to say the least. It also looked like something that was eatenHarry Potter, but I’m probably just having withdrawals.
I will end with the concept of honestly, and a little bit of good luck. Everybody I have met here has been so nice and friendly, always saying hi as I walk by, or offering me rides everywhere. I truly feel the community here is very genuine and wants the best for everyone. For example, my friend Cam left his IPhone on a jeepeny in the morning, so naturally we both freaked out and counted it as a lost cause. However, in the afternoon, I happened to spot the exact jeepney we were in 5 hours later, and we went up to the driver to see if they had found a phone in it. The driver looks at us, and without hesitating whips Cam’s Iphone out of the console and into his hands, unscathed and in perfect condition. Something I can’t even imagine happening in the United States. Trust and honestly are practiced daily around here, and I know I am going to miss this coming back to the states.
One big difference between this trip and my Tanzania trip is length: two weeks, compared with six weeks. I feel like while I had a good experience, to truly learn about another culture, the longer you are immersed in it, the better. Therefore, in the seemingly short four weeks I have left, I cannot wait to become closer to the culture here and learn more about what makes Filipinos such amazing people.
And lastly, I will end with some adorable pictures of my favorite kiddos around (thanks to Erica for a few pics!):
And here is a pic of the arch entry into our neighborhood: