Time really does fly when you are enjoying yourself. It has now been almost two months since I came to the Philippines to work as a volunteer and it feels like I just left two weeks ago.
Life here is very, very different from my life back home in Germany. As I am currently still staying at the Fatima Integraded Farm School Inc., which is also an orphange the standards of living are fairly low. The fact that I have killed multiple cockroaches that seemed to make themselves a home in my bed, spiders, bigger than my hand and with red glowing eyes and ants that lived under and in my matress just put a perspective on things. Since I am terrified of spiders I would have most likely started to cry in Germany when there was a little, thumbnail sized, spider in my room. Now I just laugh and let that tiny thing be.
Another big difference to home is the climat. By now I have seem to adapted to it a little bit. I am still sweatting whenever I go outside in the sun but not as badly as I did in the beginnig. I thought the humidity would be a big issue for me but it really isn’t. Thankfully Filipinos live there life ’slowly‘ and since I adapted to that a little bit the heat does not have such a bad influence on me anymore. The moment I realized that I adapted to the climat was after an afternoon rain. After it was raining it was 28°C outside and I had to go get my sweatshirt and a jacket because I started freezing.
As I mentioned earlier I am enjoying myself here in the Philippines but that does not mean that I am not missing home. I don’t feel homesick but I sometimes start remenissing about warm showers, bath tubs and comfortable beds with multiple pillows in them. Yet, it makes me feel guilty because I am just fine here without all of that. The food is also a huge difference. I mentioned that all the rice was bothering me before but I am actually getting used to it now. I enjoy eating my meals with rice and I never thought I would. It is not just the rice that is very different tho. I have already eaten chicken feet, brain and guts as well as fisheyes and other little things that might be normal to the Filipinos but very foreign to me. I enjoy trying those dishes very much and I doubt that there is anything I would not try. I have yet to try the most famous traditional food balot, which I am looking forward to in the near future. When the kids ask me about my life in Germany and if I can show them pictures I always feel a little bit sad and bad about sharing those things with them. Their eyes fill with excitement and yet I can sense some jealousy that I was really trying to avoid. Spending time with the children here at Fatima Center is also very different from what I used to know about playing with kids. Back in Germany the kids used to ask me to join them when they played with their toys or they got all excited when they got to watch a movie. Here, the value of just spending time together is just so much higher. 3 or 5 year old kids are enjoying it to just sit down with you and to ‚talk‘ with you about their day and what they like. They don’t throw a fit every five minutes because they are not getting the toy they want, they are just happy to be outside, run around, or sit for hours and do nothing.
Since I started working at the Fatima Center I have not seen a single child with a toy. All the toys and games that the Center has are a broked chess board with many missing pieces that have been replaced by little stones or caps of waterbottles with lables on them, and a monopoly game that the kids only get to play on special nights. They don’t have books or stories that you can read to them, but they want you to tell them stories about your life even tho they are not able to grasp the english most of the times. I must say that that is the part that I enjoy about seeing the children grow up in Fatima Center. The way they deal with the nature around them and with others is really amazing. And again, I have yet to see a single child cry because of a fight it had with another. In 2 months of working in Fatima Center I have not seen a single fight or disagreement. Sister Itat, the head of the Center shared to me that she has a special rule when it comes to the children fighting. Once she hears a child cry, everyone has to go to their dorms right away and they are not alowed to leave until the next day. A rule that seemed a little bit crule to me in the beginning, since I am used to kids of that age crying a lot and I do believe that it is healthy for them to do so every now and then, but after watching them interact with each other for a while it really is a great thing. If there is anything that would come close to a disagreement, other kids join to help solve the problem before things go south.
Attached are pictures of the grade 5 children in the gardens of Fatima center, as well as me with some of the children just hanging out and a picture of us volunteers at the CWC in Pili.