Zum Blog der EPECTO freiwilligen gehts hier:
At approximately 23:25 on 2nd of October I arrived in the Philippines for the first time. I can´t even tell how I felt the first hours, because I was so tired from the 23 hours flight. But when we got out of the airport in Manila to look for our hostel driver, we asked some heavily armed security guard for help and I couldn´t help but stare at this big, fat machine-gun he carried as if it was nothing. Well, this is different. People here are armed and it´s nothing special. Welcome to the Philippines.
In the morning of 3rd of October I finally arrived in Naga Airport, which is not quite bigger than ours in ringheim for everyone who knows it. So when my luggage and that of the other fifteen Passengers was brought to us, there was I. A Newbie in the Philippines.
Another volunteer and our mentor fetched me from the airport and I was introduced to the traffic, nature and lifestyle of this magnificent country. With big eyes I stared trough the car window, seeing tricycles, vans, pujaks, jeepneys and sometimes also cars passing by, even though it’s a one-lane street and there is oncoming traffic. During the next 10 minutes of watching, I could spot at least 20 situations where an accident was almost inevitable. The streets are loud, everybody honks at each other, and because everybody is honking, nobody feels addressed and everyone is just doing what he wants to do, because nobody cares anyway. There basically are no rules in traffic here.
Except maybe three:
If you are scared, you´ve lost
Honk ( …because there still is a 1% possibility that out of the other 100 vehicles on the street, the vehicle you want to address hears you,
…because everyone does and
… it’s a nice sound)
Always plan to drive at least 2 hours longer than you would in Germany, because the fastest speed is around 40 km/h and traffic jams are everywhere
Three weeks later I can say: Yes, it is scary, but it also works somehow. Until now I never saw a serious accident. Just hundreds of almost-accidents.
The nature here is absolutely breath-taking. For someone who never got anywhere near tropical countries, it is marvellous. Palm trees and rain forests everywhere. Tropical fruits and vegetables such as dragonfruit, mango, papaya, buko, malungay and opo are fantastic and certainly a very good reason to stay here. Every food they serve is a little adventure for me that I wouldn’t want to miss.
The lifestyle here is also different. If you google pictures from the Philippines you are most likely to see rainforests with tiny little houses in between. Very sweet, native and kind of original you would say. Nobody tells you, that these people don´t have a solid floor, they don’t have tiles or parquet in their house, it is just dirt, pure soil. In most cases they don’t have clear running water and electricity is way too expensive. Oh, and I forgot to say that eight humans live in that shack, which is not bigger than my bathroom at home. This is the reality of most Filipinos. And I don’t speak of the very poor people here, this is basically middle class.
Everything is different – but how could it not.
Apart from all these impressions I also have an aim here. Helping where I can. And I can help at the Joseph Gualandi school for the deaf and mute. The 45 kids in this school can´t hear, which is why they learn how to lipread and to speak properly. Both is very difficult, but the catholic sisters who run the school, somehow manage to teach it to them. My task is to help cooking for the children in the morning and give extra lessons for three students in lipreading and writing in the evening. The kids are lovely. We two volunteers teach the five year old C., the 6 year old JP (he has ocean blue eyes and dark skin colour and hair, the most fascinating kid I have ever seen) and the 7 year old R. Every one of them is overwhelmingly sweet and I love teaching them. I also love the work because I also got to meet the coolest sisters in the world. Young, open-minded, loving, cookie-baking, zumba-dancing sisters, who appreciate us even more than they should and want to show us everything in their country. Apart from praying before eating, there is no rule set for us. They give us space. In just the last three weeks we were able to create a Memory game for the kids to practice their memory, they took us to house visits of the poorest children, we learned the song “Perfect” from Ed Sheeran in sign language, we taught children from another school how to sign animals, fruits and numbers, we were baking cookies with the children, ate buko, learned to eat traditionally with our hands and we were even asked to create dance choreographies in ballet, hip hop and kickboxing for a presentation on the 20th of December.
Of course – it´s not just fun and rainbows here and I will elaborate on that at another time, but all in all I can say: it was a successful month, I´m glad that I´m given that chance and I´m up for much more.
Another month filled with amazing experiences is over and I wish I could go back to the beginning just so I could live through all of them once again. I left Fatima Center in Iriga on the first of October and now moved to Naga City for good. My new work here is at the Joseph Gualandi school for hearing impared children together with another volunteer, who arrived in here October 3rd . Working with her and working itself fills me with so much joy every single day. Getting up early in the morning is so much easier knowing that I will get to go to work at this amazing place and actually do something that will change lives for the good. Our task at Gualandi is helping the sisters cook snacks and lunch for the approx. 45 children. We also help them when it comes to eating since a lot of the children are still very young or just simply don’t know how to use spoon and fork for eating. It is not that their parents never taught them how to use spoon and fork because they are savages, which one might think just by looking at them behaving, but rather because they just can’t afford buying silverwear. I was wondering why the children don’t know simple tasks like that but once the sisters shared with me how poor most of the families are a lot of things became clear to me. They also offered both of us to join them for house visits to the poorest of the poorest families. The sisters at Gualandi try to visit the families of the students as regular as possible. When doing so, they bring them groceries and look at the current situation that the family is in. They help as much as they can and even if they only have very little themselves, they share it. Another task that we are sharing at Gualandi is teaching 3 students who need special attention when it comes to lipreading, speaking, writing and solving simple math problems. I really enjoy teaching those children. They are full of joy and appriciate everything we do for them. When we noticed that they have small problems with their short term memory we decided to make a memory-game for them. We went to a bookstore, bought old books and crafted a game by cutting out pictures from the books and sticking them on cardboard. Both, the kids as well as the sisters, loved our idea and enjoyed playing the game. By now we can already see them advancing at playing the game. It was also 2 of our 3 students that we got to visit when we went out for the house visits. All in all we visited 8 families. 5 of them are living in the Naga area, 1 in Pili and for the other 3 we had to drive further into the middle of nowhere. Visiting them, we volunteers brought them homemade cookies and the Gualandi sisters shared some groceries and rice with them. It is very hard to find the right words to describe the feelings I had while visiting the families. The poorest of them lived in Balatas, right by the dumpside. The student is in 4th grade and her parents are collecting trash and selling it for a living. The mother is currently pregnant with their 8th child and their house is just a hut build out of cardboard boxes and trash, not bigger than our pantry back home in Germany. I did not feel bad seeing them and I was not scared of being there as some people might would have been. I took everything in and tried to understand that these people might be very poor and live in bad conditions but they are still happy. The kids eyes where still bright and even the pregnant mother had a big smile on her face when we gave her our homemade cookies. Other families that we visited invited us inside of their house. With two sisters and us two volunteers, the house was already crowded. Most of them had only one bed for the whole family, usually a big bamboo plank that is used for sitting on during the day, eating on for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sleeping at night. The houses where build out of bamboo, wood, leaves and cardboard. When entering, almost everyone appologized for not having chairs for us to sit on and everytime it seemed so totally out of places for them to worry about us not sitting. I felt very welcomed at every family and instead of feeling ashamed for being poor and needing help from us, they openly showed their appriciation for our help and that felt amazing. Some of the families shared their stories with the sisters, who then translated those stories into english for us. One of our student’s father is a fisherman. On a good day he catches one kilogram of fish, which he then gets to sell for 100 pesos at the market. 100 pesos are not even 2 Euros. 2 Euros a day for a family of 4, on a good day, is not enough by far. The sister shared with us that most of the families don’t pay for their childrens tuition just because they can’t afford it, yet the sisters believe that everybody deserves and needs education and therefor still make sure that the children are able to visit Gualandi. It was really an amazing opportunity for us to visit those families, see their homes, their way of living and get to know the mentallity. Poverty is always present in this country and we see it whenever we leave the apartment but actually being invited into the houses and learning more about the stories of the families really hit me in a deep way. I am glad that I am able to do my best to help those children learn, help educate them and therefor help them secure a better future for themselves and their children. Attached are pictures of giving out snacks and drinks to deaf and mute children in Tigaon where we taught sign language as well as a picture of me trying to figure out their names by having them write it on the blackboard, of cooking at Gualandi and with a student of ours .
Employment and earning situation of the people in my surroundings
Money, payment, earnings, salary, cash… In this very moment these terms cause enormous trouble and likewise splendiferous joy to many people all around the globe. Feeling happiness or concerns when hearing the word money has become an almost “natural” phenomenon in our world today. In essence, we give away portions of our time and energy and receive what we call money, as a more universal object of value, in return. Then we are able to go out and give this object away again to be rewarded with items that are essential to sustain our lives, such as food, shelter and entertainment. We agree within our gigantic communities that a neutral, artificial item serves as evidence that a person has offered sufficient time and energy in the past, which now entitles this individual to certain benefits. So far so good. Now that means money – or a specific object of value – can be the difference between life and death. So naturally, people from any culture will be worried if they do not have a sufficient access to money, as long as the culture has implemented such an object of value. Hence, money can be considered a primary factor of a certain extent of happiness. Therefore, even people from vastly different countries such as Germany and the Philippines usually have money on their minds.
Let’s talk about money a little more… The official currency in the Philippines is called the “Philippine Peso” (PHP), which can be divided into 100 “centavos”. According to stock markets, one Euro equals approximately 60 Philippine Pesos at the moment. Thus, in order to understand Filipino salaries a little more, let us compare official minimum wages at first. In Germany, the minimum wage for any registered worker amounts to almost 9€ per hour, which would equal about 540.00 PHP per hour. If an employee works about eight hours per day, his daily wage would add up to miraculous 4,320.00 PHP. In comparison, the legal minimum wage in the Philippines is 514 PHP per day, which would add up to about 14,000 PHP (roughly 233€) per month for a full-time job. However, it turns out to be impossible that all the working class earns at least this much money, which has also been confirmed by locals. Why does the federal government then claim such a thing? All I was told in that context was that there is a difference between the minimum payment of a hired employee, captured on tax forms, and a person’s daily earnings out on the streets. In order to make this a little clearer the following chosen examples hopefully provide an informative glimpse at the earning situation of both common and uncommon Filipinos.
There are indeed jobs that are considered as well-paid here. It is considered normal that teachers in public schools earn about 23,000 PHP (roughly 383€) per month, which would count as a relatively good payment. A friendly social worker once told me that as a reliable, long-term social worker in a private corporation it is likely to receive a monthly salary of 40,000 PHP (about 670€) and more. Truly, these salaries are quite high for Filipino standards. But also, there are extremely well paid occupations in this country. How much exactly these people earn or what they even do for a living, I do not know. But – according to their rarely seen, enormous mansions – I would consider this 1% of the population as rich even for European standards.
Then, of course, there are less affluent people. A Padyak is basically nothing but a bike with a roof and a little wagon on the right side which provides seating for one or two people. The Padyak driver (or should I say rider?) transports passengers a few blocks up or down the road, which is convenient to locals especially when there is light rain or extreme sunshine. Usually a ride costs about 5 PHP. However, since many “drivers” do not own their padyak, they have to pay the owner of the bike 40 PHP per day to rent it. Whatever is left of their daily earnings, they may take home. Thus, if one earns 100 PHP with padyak rides on a regular day, that person will be able to support their families with 60 PHP on that day. One kilo of rice costs about 40 PHP here. On the other hand, the owner of one padyak will earn at least 40 PHP. The drivers of tricycles – motorcycles instead of bikes with a wagon on its side – work in the same way. The only differences are (1) a regular ride costs 8 PHP, (2) one tricycle can fit up to eight or nine passengers and (3) at the end of the day the drivers have to return 500 PHP to the owner. That would leave roughly 300 PHP to them and their families on a regular day.
At the residential home for disabled and abandoned poor people (MoP), where I am working still, there are a number of caretakers (“Pfleger”) that help maintaining the facility every day of the week. One day I was told each of these staff members earns 100 to 150 PHP per day, depending on how long they have worked there already. Each one of them supports a family with several children. Yet, at MoP the caretakers receive food packages each week, including 25 kilos of rice per month, to get by. Comparable to this would be the occupation of a construction worker here. It is confirmed one of these earns about 350 PHP per day, including food during their scheduled hours.
The MoP monastery itself is located in one of the poorest communities around Naga City. Also, the city dumpsite is nearby, which is why one can find numerous so called “junk shops” in that area. There people collect, clean and sell items from the dumpsite. Garbage, basically. That’s why they are called “junk” shops. Exact knowledge about their earnings I cannot provide but while I was waiting for a tricycle to hire, I spotted a sign in the junk shop on the other side of the road, which read: “5 Pesos per kilo” and was attached to a large bundle of white 10L plastic jerry cans/canisters. Also, vendors at the local market for fruits, vegetables, spices and home-made goods sometimes sell their goods amongst many other salespeople (with the exact same products) for astonishingly little money. At this market, I recently encountered a lady selling bananas for 20 PHP per kilo as one of at least 15 other vendors selling bananas. Even for Filipino standards that is very little. One can make up his one mind about the daily wages of people like those mentioned above but it seems to me that such prices of products cannot afford wealthy living standards.
In any case, it is possible to distinct a more affluent social class out on the streets by the way people dress, where they live and go shopping, what kind of vehicle they drive and at times even how they behave. It seems to me that – at one point – one must cross a line, meaning receive a certain amount of money for whatever job they do, in order to almost instantly belong to this “level” of society. We as volunteers do not earn money because we are volunteers. Yet we are given some pocket money and a budget for the cost of living, food, transportation, etc. This reimbursement of about 18,000 PHP allows us to live here in a way that some locals would already consider as terribly wealthy. In general, we cannot complain about money while living, laughing, working and becoming friends with those who belong to the poorest in the world.
The church, its influence and cultural importance.
When it comes to the matter of religion, the Philippines certainly stand out from the rest of the entirety of Asia. According to statistics, 86% of all Filipinos are Roman Catholic and 8% of the population belongs to other Christian denominations, including Lutheran churches (source: asiasociety.org). There is no other Asian country with a higher percentage of Christians among its people. Historically, this can be explained by the long-lasting occupation of the Filipino archipelago by the Spanish, who first began Christianization in 1565, which continued for more than 300 years. But what influence does this have on the culture today? And how can it be perceived in everyday life? Well… To be honest, that is a difficult question to answer. Due to the short period of time I stayed in this country and my personal cultural connotations (both positive and negative), my overview of the local culture, its unique habits, traditions and beliefs is still very limited. I can only recount my impressions from within these boundaries. Thus, it is important to remember that the following report consists of observations from my personal point of view. In my experience, the church, especially the Roman Catholic institutions, have a great influence on this society. First of all, churches are omnipresent. Often small independent Christian communities share buildings with cafes, shops and restaurants, where they maintain chapels and other facilities. Also, gigantic churches can be found in Naga city, for instance, the large, dark-brown and gold Cathedral in downtown Naga and the big white and blue Basilica, located a little more outside of town. Furthermore, opposite of the Cathedral, very close to where we volunteers live, one can find the enormous, segregated complex of the archdiocese of Caceres, where the current archbishop R. Tirona resides. In my opinion, these status symbols perfectly portray the importance of the church in this city and – presumably – likewise in the rest of the country. Furthermore, there is an abundance of religious institutions, dedicated to serve a specific social purpose, which (in Germany) people would usually expect to be run by a government. Yet in the Philippines Christian organizations take that kind of social responsibility in many cases. After all, all of our current partners are run by religious people. The Missionaries of the Poor, whom I work with, are after all the Missionaries of the Poor. The Fatima Center Integrated Farming School and orphanage is run by nuns. Our newest partner, the J. Gualandi School for the Hearing Impaired, a school for deaf and mute children, is equally facilitated by an order of Christian sisters. And we already encountered or heard of various other religious groups operating other social institutions such as a public school, a hospital or a residential home for sexually abused children. Moreover, these facilities do not only co-exist. As I have experienced, religious groups know of one another and maintain strong connections and friendships among its members. They certainly also support each other’s work but how in particular, I do not know. In any case, these organizations are closely connected and form some sort of social network which the members of all social levels are constantly aware of. One day, a woman came to the Missionaries of the Poor apostolate and asked for food because her husband was sick and could not work. She was not sent away and I was assured this happens a lot. My impression is that acts of kindness like these are one reason why the church plays such an enormous role in the social life of so many people. They help and many people appreciate that. On top of that regions in the Philippines have their own Christian patron saint, whom they idolize. Here in the Bicol region this would be Mary, the mother of Jesus, or – as she is referred to here – “nuestra senora de Penafrancia” or simply “Ina”, which means as much as “mother”. Every year in the beginning of September, the Penafrancia Festival is celebrated in Naga city, which means a time of prayer to the patron saint lasting for nine days, a so called “novena”, is being held. A small statue, about 50 cm in height, triangular in silver and gold, represents the patron saint Ina herself. Literally millions of people from all over the Philippines come to the Bicol region, to Naga, in order to pray and honor Ina. Every day at every full hour different preachers hold masses in the downtown Cathedral, where the image is displayed. But the two highlights of the celebrations are two parades in the beginning and at the end of the novena. The first one, the “Traslacion procession” traditionally takes place on a Friday. On that day a cheerful, colorful, musical but also praying crowd accompanies the image of Ina from the Basilica to the Cathedral. The second one, the “Fluvial procession” consequently happens nine days later on a Saturday afternoon, where Ina is placed on a large boat on the Naga River – alongside countless colorful boats full of young men – and shipped back to the Basilica while thousands upon thousands of people on either side of the river are cheering and singing. We were part of the crowds at both parades and attended church during the novena. I have to say, it was one of the most fascinating, intimidating and astonishing experiences of my entire life. At last, I would like to include some of my personal thoughts about this topic. When I was invited to the 37th birthday party of the superior of the Missionaries of the Poor, it turned out that quite a number of local politicians were present as well, among them the mayor of Naga city. He held a speech, was thankful and happy. The friendship between the mayor and the superior of MoP made me think about the connection between church and politics. And I asked myself this question: What chances of success would an atheist or a member of another religion have if he or she was a candidate running for a political office, such as the mayor’s, in this society? Now this is my personal opinion: I believe that these people would not go very far in their political career, if at all they had one. Why? The members of a democratic society want their politicians to represent their beliefs and if 96% of a society is Christian, the answer to the question which candidate this vast majority would prefer is quite clear. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with that, I think. We, also desire our German democracy to be representative. Apparently, this includes 12,5% of blown-up nationalism but that is another story. The Christian and Catholic church pervades the Filipino culture like veins and arteries pervade the human body. Whether it represents the heart, too, I am not sure. But what I do know is this: The largest chunk of Filipino society is Christian and many, many people express their beliefs actively by attending church services, supporting/donating to religious institutions, praying as they begin or end a meal or a long journey or simply by wearing jewelry with religious symbols. This matters to the people here and it is clearly visible every day.
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.
On August 10th, 2017 another volunteer and I left Germany to go on a trip of a liftime. After over 24 hours of travelling we arrived in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
One of the first impression I had when I exited the airplane and walked through the airport was how unbelievably crowded it was. It was after midnight, but no matter where you went there were always crowds and crowds of people. I am a fairly well travelled person and I have never experienced anything like this at an airport before.
As we were flying onwards to Naga, we had an amazing view on the nature of the country, which I truly can’t wait to further explore. At the tiny airport in Naga we were picked up by a Swiss who moved to the Philippines over 20 years ago. He drove us to our apartment and explained things about the Filipino culture and Naga City to us on the way. We used that opportunity to ask a lot of questions about the behaviour of Filipinos in different situations. After all neither one of us has ever been to this country nor have we really been encountering Filipinos in Germany.
While driving through the streets of Naga I could not stop staring outside. Everything looked so very different from what I knew. If it is the traffic, which should be worth a completely different report, the way buildings are constructed, the open life on the streets, the smells, or noices. Everything was so very different and new.
The same day we first met our mentor. The three of us got along very well from the beginning and we enjoyed having him show us around Naga. Our mentor explained to us how to ride a Tricycle and any other vehicle that is used for public transportation around here, where to go for grocery shopping and where we would find everything necessary to ’survive out here‘.
Looking back at my first day walking through the streets of the city, it felt pretty scary just crossing the road while hundrets of vehicles are still driving and not stopping for you. It felt almost uncomfortable being starred at, no matter where we went and the busy life on the streets was unknown and foreign. Now, only a couple weeks later, I feel way more comfortable walking around in the city, even without a Filipino companion. I have gotten used to the staring and now just see it as a compliment.
Naga will not be my home for the first two months of my volunteer work. I am currently living and working at the Fatima Center Integraded Farming Schools Inc. (FIFS) close to Iriga, about one hour south of Naga. Fatima Center is home to about 90 orphans and a school to approximaltely 650 children. It focuses on sustainable resources and a healthy living. Living here has been fairly difficult for me. My task here, given to me by sister Itat and the directress of the school, is to observe the lessons, to support the teachers as good as I can and to talk to the students in English after their classes. Finding work here turned out to be way harder than expected. Everone sees me rather as a visitor and guest than as a voluteer and worker. The teachers seem like they would much rather have me observe and play with the children during their many breaks than help them with correcting exams or actually letting me teach. In addition to that did the children have had almost no classes since I got here. The day is filled with unnecessary breaks, which I usually use to teach the students some German, and they have a lot of activities, such as speech competitions, ethnic dance competitions or sport turnaments and preperation for such going on.
Even the daily life chores I am not allowed to do. Trying to wash the dishes after dinner or even pouring myself a glass of water and not letting them do it for me almost turns into a loud discussion or fight. To avoid exactly that I am currently focusing on spending time with the children, who are all more than amazing, caring and just lovable. I was literally welcomed with open arms by all of them and I still am. When we find time to hang out together in between the many prayers, school, studying and dinner we usually sit together and sing international songs, teach each other each others‘ language or play games such as catch, chess, hide and seek or small games that the kids teach me. Unfortunately, my relationship with the sisters and working adults in Fatima Center is not the best, for reasons I don’t know nor understand. Finding friends here is pretty much impossible. I always have to be very careful when I open my mouth, no matter in what situation I am in. Everything I say around here can, and usually will, be used against me in some kind of way. This and the ongoing questioning about my religious believes and private life sure have been a challenge for me but I am learning to deal with it and to just focus on the reason why I went here in the first place, the kids. Another cultural difference I experienced and that is a little bit more difficult for me to deal with is the food, or better, the rice. Rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast we usually have garlic rice with dried fish, for lunch rice with fish or soup and for dinner rice with chicken or fish. I am not a picky eater, so I try everything that is being cooked for me, even if the fish is swimming as a whole in the fishsoup and even if the smell of garlic rice in the morning is already making me feel not so happy about getting up. There is a positive side to the food in Fatima Center tho. Because the Center is focused on farming and agricultural work and they own multiple big properties and all the meals are cooked freshly with their own grown foods. Just walking around the Center, the children and the workers always offer me to try different fruits and they pick them right off the trees for me to try. Something I most definetly enjoy a lot.
On by some pictures of me and the children after school infront of one of their school buildings, the students and I before their ethnic dance competition in their selfmade costumes, and just me during break in class with them.