That is the sentence that starts my every day. I wake up to roosters and motorcycle engines outside my window. I sit down to a breakfast of rice and tortong talong. My host sister and brothers leave for school and I walk down the dusty paved road toward the Peace Corps staff house for class. On my walk I greet everyone: “Magandang Umaga Po!”. Curious eyes watch as I walk around kal-asos and trykes, or as I squish to the side of the road as a large truck comes through. Mornings are usually language sessions and during breaks, we walk less than 100 paces to stand on the seashore. We stretch our legs, stand in the surf, and breathe in the salty air. We break at lunch and I head home where Kuya greets me. He makes me food for lunch, usually chicken (manok), and of course, rice. Little Job is usually home from Kinder-one by then and he hides behind my chair and pokes me while I eat. The afternoon rolls in and I accept the slow melting feeling that will loom over me for the rest of the day.
The afternoons are usually technical sessions. The past two weeks have consisted of learning to perform coral seagrass and mangrove assessments, learning fish coral seagrass and mangrove identification, in both English and Tagalog, and learning to perform a participatory coastal resource assessment. To say it’s been a busy couple of weeks is an understatement. But sitting on the edge of a pump boat at 7am waiting to jump into the water and assess coral is a pretty great way to start the work week.
When I come home at night I am greeted by ‘Ate Chelsea, Ate Chelsea!’ And hugs from little Job and Denise. I live with an Ate and Kuya. They have a daughter and two sons, but several cousins live close by so there are always kids around. The kids and I enjoy coloring, countless games of monkey monkey (go fish), and reading. At night everyone watches television and does their homework. We eat dinner, and I go to bed to the sound of videoke, kal-asos, and my fan turned on its highest setting.
Aside from my daily schedule each day brings unique unexpected moments of being present. Whether it’s drinking the best buko juice I’ve ever had from freshly cut coconuts on a beachside goat farm (and subsequently getting that coconut stolen by a goat), or dancing with the Ates at a birthday party while singing videoke. I’m amazed at the world of the Philippines as it unfolds before me.