Friday, August 15, 2008

Message From Debs

Hullo to all! [This is what the Filipino children say when greeting two or more people.They put their right hand over their heart and say "Hullo to all!". So cute but quite weird when theres only two of you. ]

Right now I am in an internet place on another island (Boracay) where I have gone to get my visa extended. This island is a tourist mecca a world away from where I've been. This time of year it is frequented by rich Filipinos and Asians. The only whites are a smattering of aging, overweight, sickly-looking men, usually with some beautiful young Filipino beauty trailing along dutifully behind. It’s really sad. The whole place is really sad actually. It comes with all the trappings of a glitzy holiday destination—bars, restaurants, souvenir and clothing shops, and street venders everywhere. And not too far away, beyond the facade of shop fronts and hotels, the local people live in their rickety thrown-together huts. Its weird to see rich and poor living so closely together. I don't feel that comfortable here and am looking forward to going back to Tablas Island tomorrow.

My journey there last week went relatively smooth. The overnight boat trip was pretty surreal. As we left port they said a prayer for everyone over the loud speaker. I think the sinking of that ship has really unnerved everyone. It happened not far from where I'm living—this huge upturned hulk with around 700-800 dead bodies inside. A floating coffin. The locals won't swim; so spooked are they and are only just starting to fish again.

I am living in a little coastal villiage 10 kilometers from the nearest town center accessible by motor bikes and side cars only. Apart from the beautiful green rice paddies surrounded by towering cliff faces there is nothing too romantic about it. The villages are pretty squalid. Lots of concrete blocks and corrugated iron everywhere. Only the really poor still live in their traditional grass huts (which is fortunate for them because they are so much cooler). We have one where I'm staying and I am able to siesta there in the heat of the day. It is unbelievably hot and we are not getting the expected afternoon tropical downpours. Luckily there is cold spring fed water here from the mountains and two or three times a day I stand underneath it to cool off. Can drink it from the tap which is a total luxury in this overpopulated country.

My host family is very hospitable. Ma’amm Tess [all older woman are called Ma’am here, including me] is a big cuddly woman who fusses around like a hen. She is a teacher at the school. So every morning at 7:15 we walk there together, be home for lunch at 11:00 and back again at 1:30 p.m.

The first day I turned up with all the books and we set them up in their completely book-less but recently renovated library. The last volunteers did a good job of that. The children were delighted. So excited. So were the teachers. Took lots of photos. I guess this is why I was placed here. What good is a library without books?

So I have been reading to the younger children and taking art classes with the two senior classes. Last week we did blind contour drawing where they are not allowed to look at their paper. Very interesting for them.

I am loving the work at the school and have lots of ideas that the staff are very supportive of. Sadly I have not allowed myself long enough here. It’s going to be a wrench to leave.

Better go now.

Loads of love,

Debs (Hall)
Teaching Volunteer, Sugod, San Agustin, Romblon

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