Pasensya na man! (I’m so sorry!) It’s been a smooth 3 months since my last post. PERO, I’d like to think I’ve lost track of posts because I’ve been putting in some ~serious~ work.
Because there is a miraculous amount to catch up on, I’m challenging myself to sum it all up in yet another Highs and Lows post. Let’s get it.
Lows (always first, it’s the only way)
People Going Home
We all know it’s going happen; volunteers going back home to the states before their service ends. For some, it’s medical. For some, it’s personal. For some, it’s administrative. Whatever the reason, we’ve lost a handful of volunteers now and it hurts every time. It hurts pretty bad.
Last time I posted I was getting ready to conduct baseline assessments. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED getting back in the water and scuba diving but the two weeks worth of assessments had some “ugh’ moments. 1) That quadrat I made? Forget about it. Gone. No one “knows” how it disappeared from the storage room in the back. Cool. Stoked to make another one (not). 2) Before diving under, Benjie and I noticed a fisherman WITHIN the sanctuary lines, with several bol-bol on his boat. Bol-bol is the local name for an illegal fishing cage that is sunk to the ocean floor for a period of time to essentially let the fish in and keep them in. Often they became “ghosts” when fisherman can’t relocate them and they are never pulled up, eventually killing all the fish inside anyways. Benjie communicated to him that it was illegal and he needed to leave the sanctuary. He seemed to understand. So, we dove. When we surfaced I noticed the same man, same boat, but no bol-bol. He had deployed them in a different part of the sanctuary when were under. UGH. 3) The sanctuaries aren’t looking so great. Years of mismanagement and illegal fishing have left large patches of dead coral and very, VERY little fish. There is a lot of work to do here. I’m ready for it. But, there’s a lot. These sanctuaries are quickly becoming my primary project.
I’ve experienced my first real bout of illness here in the Philippines as you can imagine it was NOT fun. Fever, chills, uncontrollable bowels, all over pain, you name it. And over my first vacation? I WILL cry you a river. It was awful.
“HEY!” “HEY YOU!” “What is your name?!” “HELLO MISS BEAUTIFUL” “I LOVE YOU!” “Where are you going?” “Where are you from?” “WOOOW” “TSSST” “TSSSSSKKKSSSST” “HI MISS UNIVERSE” “AMERIKANA! AMERIKANA!” “Marry me!” Or….
*blank stares* *nervous smiles* *double takes, triple takes* *looks of utter confusion*
I get a lot of attention here. Sometimes, I can handle it. I wave, I smile, I laugh, I ask “kumusta ka?” (how are you?) 90% of the time it’s harmless attention anyways, easy. Other times I am too exhausted, too emotional, too absorbed to deal. There’s nothing I can do. There have been times when I didn’t leave the house because I knew I wasn’t in the right mood or mindset to handle the attention I’d get the moment I hit the street. Even the prolonged staring, if I can’t that day, I can’t. It ruins my walk home sometimes, or my afternoon, or my whole day and I HATE that.
Highs (hell yeah’s)
First of two birthdays in the Philippines! Cheers to 24! Cakes? 3! Gifts? Ukulele from my host fam (they knew I was looking for one!!), fresh rose bouquet from the farm, and a dark chocolate filled care package from home! Songs? I was sang to literally all day beginning at 6AM! Felt loved? My sitemate surprise visited me with cupcakes, random trike drivers and students wished me Happy Birthday on the street, and I had some wonderful FaceTime with my family from back home. I felt so loved from both sides of the world 🙂
We’ve got 8 dogs and they are my therapy. I come home and make my rounds outside the house to say hello and pet all our dogs. I love that Tatay loves dogs. Some are still leashed 24/7 which makes me a little sad as I’ve mentioned in my last ‘highs and lows’ post. But, the family takes good care of them. In December one of them had 6 precious puppies that I quickly and subconsciously prioritized over everything. We have now sold them all but two were adopted by the next Mayor so I have a feeling I will still be seeing them 😉
Aside from the gorgeous views, a personal takeaway from my holiday trip to Bohol and Dumaguete City is my newfound confidence in solo travel! I’ve now had to figure out van, bus, ferry, and plane terminals/schedules in places I’ve never been. While you might be scoffing that it should be fairly easy, try having an indefinitely cancelled ferry, 12 hour delayed plane, multiple local dialects to comprehend, and a dying phone after already using your portable charger. I’ve learned to say “bahala na!” (up to whatever, up to the universe) when it comes to travelling the thousands of islands here and I’m proud.
I’ve definitely defied my low expectations for work pace. Since November, I’ve knocked out 4 baseline assessments, 20 fisherfolk interviews, a weekend long coastal cleanup, and 4 focus group discussions before our In Service Training earlier this February. This is considering the almost 2 week long work-less consolidation in Manila for a typhoon, and the other 2 weeks of holiday leave I took. I’m feeling confident in what my counterparts and I have accomplished so far. During IST I was even invited to lead a couple sessions for my fellow CRM PCVs about habitat assessments and marine sanctuary management. My counterpart and I topped off IST with a successful proposal for a marine sanctuary rehabilitation project that includes an educational campaign, boundary/buoy rehabilitation, and ecosystem restoration through methods like artificial reefs and gardening. Now I just have to try my hand at grant writing WHOOP.
I’m back in the office post lunch scheduling out my next two weeks before I leave for Palawan uban akong uyab 😉 I’m hoping to have most of my marine sanctuary campaign materials ready and a good grip on our grant proposal before I go. Also
*whispers* I might be battling a parasite right now
Welp friends and family that’s about it for me! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little update as much as I’ve enjoyed typing it out. I will definitely work on my post consistency *sighs* …my apologies.
Ayo-Ayo! (take care!)