I’ve disappeared from the blog for the past two weeks as I was on vacation and 1. I didn’t have a computer handy and 2. I was with friends so I was spending all my time with them and not caring about the cyber world. But here I am, back at site and back in action.
Here we are now, my first full month at site. What was that like you may ask? It’s hard to write this because it blurs together with my second, third and fourth months so I’m going off pictures and my terrible memory to write this. My first month at site was definitely hard, at least the first two weeks were the hardest. I went from spending two months surrounded by friends to going to a place where I didn’t know anyone or where anything was. To make myself feel better I unpacked all my stuff and made my room feel more homey. I set up all my clothes on shelves, put up my mosquito net (mostly for fear of cockroaches which surprisingly I haven’t seen many of at my house) and put up many many pictures on my walls from back home. During this time my host family also built me a kitchen area outside my room [it took them 3 days… it was impressive] and I went to get supplies for it so I could start cooking for myself. One of the things that makes me feel better whenever I travel is unpacking and setting up my stuff, it makes the place I’m at feel more like home, so doing this when I got here was definitely a step in the right direction. I also bought a fan because let me tell you folks, no air conditioning. I’m okay with this though, I lived all year in Belize without it and I really don’t care for it, in fact I even get cold with my fan on at night so I usually sleep with it off, let’s see what happens with summer! Luckily, my host family also had a bike, it hadn’t been used in quite while but my coworkers helped me take it to the shop and got it up and running with new tires and new brakes.
On this first month I also started going to the market and I got to meet some of the vendors but there’s one in particular I always go back too. She’s the sweetest and the nicest, even if she didn’t have what I was looking for she would run around and look for it for me, I’m her “Balik Balik Suki” or her returning customer. This quickly became one of my favorite activities to do during the week as it also helped me practice the local dialect of Visayan since she didn’t speak English. I also started getting into new hobbies such as cooking and learning the ukulele, with so much personal time I started to get creative about how to fill it up.
On the work front things were slow, at least compared to the typical American work style. You see the work life here is different, people work to live rather than live to work. The true heart of life is in family ties and work is just done out of necessity. It can all be slow going but somehow things get done and people still have plenty of time to be with their loved ones. So my work days consisted a lot of getting to know my coworkers, siting at my desk and trying to learn the language and going to meetings which to be honest I wasn’t sure what was being said more than half the time. I also got to go around to the different barangays in my municipality with my coworkers to do validations of the boat registrations and one day we even got to go snorkeling to an island a couple municipalities south of me for a meeting. Another fun activity that I did over and over was introducing myself in the local language to the mayor, to all the local government offices, to a bunch of barangays, to the city council chairs, etc etc etc the list goes on and if you’re interested in what that introduction was like in my local language here it is:
Maayong buntag/udto/hapon/gabi-i –> Good morning/noon/afternoon/night
Ako si Dani–> My name is Dani
24 anyos ako–> I am 24 years old
Taga Venezuela ako pero magpuyo ako sa Florida para 15 anyos –> I am from Venezuela but lived in Florida for 15 years
CRM volunteer ako, nagtrabaho ko sa opisina sa fisheries sa LGU para duha ka tuig–>I will be working at the fisheries office for the local government unit for two years
Nagpuyo ko sa barangay Santa Cruz–>I am living in barangay Santa Cruz
Marine Biologist ug scuba instuctor ako–>I am a marine biologist and scuba instructor
Mosulti ako gamay lang visayan pero nagtuon pa ko–> I can speak a little Visayan but I am still studying
And sometimes because it is not uncommon to ask questions that we would consider intrusive I would be asked “Dani, dalaga ka ba?”–> Dani are you single
Oo pero dili available na kay ganahan ko trabajo–> Yes but I’m not available cause I like to work!
So what’s the synopsis of my first month? Life was strange, I was trying to figure out my bearings, getting to know people and making myself feel at home in this strange new place. The days seemed slow but when I would look back on the week I’d realized they actually went by quite fast.
So that’s life here, at least the first month of it! And soon we’ll be caught up with my first months at site!!
Daghang salamat if you’ve stuck with me this far. Until next time!