Trip Start May 27, 2008
13Trip End Jul 31, 2008
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I'm currently in the Isabela province, one of the northernmost provinces of Luzon, and we're just bordering the mountain province which we actually hiked into earlier this morning. I'm staying with the De Guzman family in Simimbaan, a small barangay (village) that was probably a good five miles off the main road of the nearest "town".
Unlike the other places that we've been before, I feel like I'm the most immersed into true Filipino life. We're probably in the most rural part that I've seen so far and we've been allowed to help gather food and help cook the meals. And at night, many of the young people come and just hang out with us in this huge nipa hut that the de Guzmans have in their yard (which is where we also eat all of our meals... BA). I'm still trying to figure out how I could build a nipa hut in Michigan and have it be able to withstand the weather... it's seriously a soul center. It's almost scary, when I stop to think about it, how when I wake up in the morning, that this is just life. All of the things that I would naturally be neurotic about are no longer at the forefront of my conscience (ok, except that I do still go through about 12 ounces of hand sanitizer a day--- but only because there really isn't anywhere TO wash your hands) and all of the things that would generally stress me out... don't. This is life, and every aspect of it is to be appreciated. I love the Philippines.
Yesterday we went with the youth to pick papayas for them to use to make Atsara to sell as a fundraiser. On our way back though we stopped in a rice field to catch some crickets-- a favorite pasttime, apparently. Yet another day where I find myself knee-deep in mud, overturning bunches of rice shoots to check for crickets in the mud pile beneath. The boys were pretty successful--- I found two throughout all of my endeavors, which was respectable, but after we filled an entire bag full we hopped back in the kuliglig (tractor) and brought them home to cook as our protein for dinner. I had no problems eating the crickets once they were fried in vegetable oil and covered in salt and pepper--- they actually tasted like crunchy chicken tots and I probably ate a dozen of them before everyone arrived for dinner (shhhh!). My problem was with the preparation of the crickets-- I literally gagged when one of the guys showed Jen and I how we had to pull, from the back appendage of the cricket, the entire intestinal system... which came out in one good tug, but was covered in this nasty white snot with an occasional yellow tint at the very end. I was bound and determined to help since Jennifer was completely unfaized by this-- but I definitely had to turn my head a couple times and made her finish de-intestinizing one of the crickets when I accidentally squeezed too hard and all of the guts shot out the side of one of them. Eating them though--- definitely the easy part.
A couple of our days here have been spent with the staff at Outreach Philippines Inc, Heifer Intl, and CORD (community one resources development) learning about their involvement in some of the surrounding communities. I'm still totally unsure about how everything is connected and what parts of what are supported by who-- but the most important part is their personal human development approach to solutions for problems within communities. They currently have 6 staff working in five different locations, assessing the biggest concerns of the community and then developing ways in which everyone can become involved in the solution. A basic concept, but pretty difficult to put into action. Alot of times people want the government to just give them medicines to cure their illnesses instead of resources to construct proper sanitation facilities or want money instead of materials to use to develop their own trade. Tomorrow we get to visit one of the sites-- I forget what the major project was there but I'm excited to see how the community first-hand and hear how the project has evolved. And the staff have passion radiating from every word they share with us about their work, and the people they work with and for-- something I can really relate to.
I love it here, I really do. Even the things I miss most don't seem all that important anymore. I can live without a #12 from Jimmy Johns when I have unlimited supplies of delicious mangoes and fried crunchy crickets (that's not sarcasm either). I do miss everyone back home though-- it still surprises me how life continues even when I'm not there and I have a lot to look forward to too when I get back! But for now... I'm gonna keep trying to beat the heat, loving on the wonderful people here, and seeing what other kinds of crazy stuff I can eat without throwing up. :)
love to all.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention, I now have my very own Filipino God-daughter...