Soul Searching: Part 2

Philippines edition.


I’m having an amazing time on this side of the world. I think I’ve made that clear by my previous travel & festival posts.

However, I thought for this particular blog, I’d come clean…

It hasn’t always been more fun in the Philippines.

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From one of my heartfelt Instagram posts where I describe my emotional rollercoaster at the start of this 6 month ride.


Before I begin, I want to reiterate the fact that I do not regret taking advantage of this opportunity in the slightest. I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing if I weren’t here. I’ve learned more about the world and about myself during these past 4.5 months than I have in my entire life.

The reason for this though… is due to the numerous challenges I’ve had to face.

I’d like to share a few of them with you, so you know that this experience hasn’t always been easy. It’s not all travelling and laughing and fun. Some things have not come easy.


Filipino/island time

It’s a thing. Even the locals admit it.

I usually ask them “Is that filipino time? Should I come an hour later than that?” We laugh about it, but it’s real.

I’ve developed a lot of patience from this. Which is saying a lot, because I’m still not very patient and I was even LESS patient before I got here. I guess I’m a lot more patient with some things than others.

But when I have to wake up at 6am to meet people so we can leave by 7am, it can kinda suck when we don’t leave until 9am. However, I’ve really learned to just go with it. Not like I can really do anything about it anyways! Things will happen as they may, and things get done. It’s not the worst challenge to overcome, but it can be difficult when you’ve come from a culture of schedules and punctuality.

Hot water

This…is NOT a thing.

The way I deal with this is, only shower after a warm activity.. LOL. Usually after I’ve either been to the gym, been cooking over the stove, or been walking outside in the blistering heat. Even then, I have to force myself to first stand under the cold water of our poorly pressured shower head.

You really don’t appreciate little things like this until you don’t have them anymore. I’ll never take a hot shower for granted again.

Personal Space

This is also not really a thing.

This is probably what I have the most patience for. Weirdly enough. But there’s some days where I’m just too hot and tired and grumpy to have people touching me.

This only really bothers me when it’s just absolutely unnecessary.

In the jeepney’s, most people sit a bit sideways, on an angle so their feet/legs aren’t blocking the very narrow walkway. But sometimes people will refuse to sit straight to make room for another person or just make room in general. When I’m in a jeep on my way to or from work and we’re packed in there already but the person next to me decides I’m their back rest, when they actually have enough room to scooch over a bit… THAT gets to me.

WiFi

What WiFi?

This was the MOST challenging thing when I first arrived. You might think this sounds pretty pathetic, but you try it and see what happens to your sanity. Especially when you’ve already been removed from everything you’re used to.

I’m super close to my family & will talk to my parents and sister on FaceTime quite often, and iMessage them constantly. Imagine the frustration of having to wait 5 minutes before responding to a question on the phone because there is such a huge delay in the connection. OR. Not receiving a message until a day or two after it was sent to you. Very. Frustrating.

Again, it’s because I come from a culture where we are heavily reliant on data and wifi. Like I said, you don’t realize how dependent you are on these things until you don’t have them. I’m grateful though, that I have an unlocked phone that allows me to have a local SIM card and data plan so I can communicate (slightly) easier.

Thank GOODNESS for offline Netflix.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Food

Those of you that know me as more than an acquaintance, know that I have about a million food allergies. It’s not something I talk about a lot, especially when people say dumb shit (sorry) like “Wow, your life sucks.” or “Oh my gosh you’re missing out.”

Side note: Let me just say… “No. YOU suck”. 

Anyways. Yes, it does often pose a challenge for me. However, in North America I have no problems eating the exact same stuff as you. There are substitutions for everything that allow me to bake, eat ice cream, have cheese loaded nachos. So my life is actually pretty okay.

BUT. You put me somewhere in southeast Asia & I’m suddenly terrified I’ll break out in anaphylaxis just walking home, due to the amount of peanuts people eat here. I’ve become one step away from a germaphobe because I don’t want to touch something that someone with peanut hands has just touched. So I just about go through a bottle of hand sanitizer a week. Fortunately, I’ve only had one really bad run in with a dish that caused me to get sick enough to attract medical attention. Since then, I’ve become EVEN MORE cautious about the food here…

Vegetables aren’t really a thing here. Obviously they are, but there aren’t nearly as many options. If there are, the selection of “fresh” produce in the store is usually half rotten. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of cooking unless its by use of a crock pot where I have to do little to no work, I usually eat a lot of raw or steamed veggies.

Here, the veggies are often cooked more than I prefer and usually put into soups. I eat the same amount as a horse so… limp vegetables in warm water isn’t really my thing.

As well, it’s quite hard to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle here. Meat & rice. Meat & rice.

Back in Canada I was in the process of transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle. Subsequently vegan actually, due to other severe food allergies I posses that cut animal by-products out of my diet (eggs & dairy). At least they have fresh tofu here! When I cook for myself here, I use tofu and beans to give my belly a break from all that meat (yuck).

So finding things I’d like to eat, is a challenge. Going out to eat with my friends is nerve wracking due to whatever mystery ingredients have the potential to inflict an allergic reaction. However, I AM very lucky that I have friends that are really helpful when we do go out. If the language barrier gets to be too much, they’re there to help make sure I won’t get poisoned.

So thank you, my beautiful Ilonogo speaking friends. 

All this being said… I have found a ton of filipino dishes I love. The main one being adobo. I hope to bring a recipe back to Canada than hopefully can be converted to vegetarian… We’ll see.

Work

Clearly, this is the primary reason for my journey to this side of the world. I received an internship with the International Youth Internship Program funded by Global Affairs Canada & facilitated by the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Newfoundland.

Again. Can be challenging. Like any job can be.

Here, I am faced with the language barrier that can often deter me from fully participating in a meeting or following a conversation, etc. This could be worse than it is. English is one of the official languages of the Philippines, so there are lots of people that are more than willing to translate, or at explain what the current topic of discussion is.

I am associated with the Community Extension Office here at John B. Lacson Foundation University. My supervisor is responsible for A LOT of events and ongoing projects under the university name. I didn’t know what to expect with reference to work experience here. Maybe I thought I would be slightly more busy than I am, but things just operate differently here.

People are a lot less stressed out. Everyone seems to take care of each other in that sense. Therefore, some assignments do seem to move quite slowly. This kind of falls under the island/filipino time table thing… What’s the rush? That’s basically the philosophy here.

BUT. My supervisor has a lot on her plate and I’m always happy to help. Wether it’s editing reports or letters, assisting media production in the coverage of bike events, or diving, I’m here to help and gain experience.

I’ve lucked out with my position as the Marine Environment Management Assistant, because of the number of marine based projects JBFLMU has going on. This correlates heavily with the time of year I arrived. A large partnership between a German company and JBLFMU is just tying up some loose ends. This partnership is responsible for the implementation of a marine protected area on a neighbouring island that I have had the great pleasure of working in. The work in the MPA will continue, however the closing of this partnership involved completing a final marine survey. As well, other projects like the  deployment of artificial reefs and initiation of a coral gardening project have taken place within the MPA.

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Coral gardening, MPA’s & friends make me happy.

Though I often have a lot of spare time within the office. I’m able to get a lot of other things accomplished. This is very much the type of position where you have the freedom to make it your own. By this I mean, think of new projects, come up with proposals and bug your boss until she has time to start that too! :p

Spending time by myself

I do actually like spending time by myself. But I really don’t like feeling alone.

How do I explain this? It’s a really complicated answer in which I’d have to describe nearly every anxious thought bouncing around in the corners of my mind. So I won’t get into it.

I’ve always lived with my family or near/with close friends of mine. This allowed me to go into a different room for some peace and quiet on my own if I wanted, or emerge and socialize with the people I love. Not so much the case here.

I live with two guys that I just met about 4.5 months ago. The 3 of us are extremely different to the point that had we not been placed in this situation, our paths never would have crossed. Much like the rest of us Canadian interns scattered around various countries.

Sometimes though, I just want to go people watching with my sister, shopping with my mom, watch a movie with my dad, go to Georgestreet with my best friends & go hiking up the fjords in my favourite place in Canada. I have to wait a while longer to do any of those things again.

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Fam jam xoxo

Instead, I’ve had to find things I like to do by myself. Colouring is very fun… I can do that while I watch my billions of movies and TV shows. I’ve been teaching myself how to play the ukulele. Photography, yoga, writing this blog, etc.

I’ve had to find things to do that I’ve never really made time for before. A big learning curve, but a healthy one. One that I hope to continue when I’m back in Canada or where ever I end up in the future!


I want to be clear that I am so grateful for the people that I’ve met throughout this journey. It wouldn’t be what it is, without them. I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of new things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t met these people. They’ve really helped shape my experience here.

So this overseas experience has very largely impacted who I am and who I want to be. I’ve never spent so much time on my own. It does weird things to a person if you’re not used to it and if you’re reliant on your friends & family like I am.

I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I’ve learned how deep my love for the ocean is. I’ve realized how important it is to me, that I help protect it. I’ve also gained an understanding of what I need to do in order to achieve the new goals I’ve set for myself.

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All I think about now, is diving. Photo cred: Meagan Bernier

Though I’ve endured a lot of “low” points throughout this experience, I’ve gained purpose and a new sense of who I am and what I want.

Therefore, I wouldn’t change anything about this experience. Except maybe been a little nicer to myself during those rough patches… I’m still working on that one. :p

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Summit of Mt. Napulak at sunrise. Most challenging and rewarding hike I’ve ever completed.

I can’t thank my loved ones enough for the unconditional love & support you’ve given me through this adventure of mine. It’s an experience I’ll never forget & it’s because of all of you that I’ve have the motivation & strength to keep going.

xoxoxo

One thought on “Soul Searching: Part 2

  1. Dennis Rumbolt says:

    You go girl,it’s the chance of a lifetime. A lot of people would love to be doing what you are doing . Make every minute count , because before you know it you will have. to leave and come home . Look at the experience and the world off different cultures . Look at the people you are helping . You could be back here in Newfoundland and could be snowing like us . Keep up the good work . Bonne bay marine station mis you .ENJOY

    Liked by 1 person

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