I moved to site only a week ago but with each day I begin to settle into my new home. Every morning I wake up at 4:30am, I come out of my room to the kitchen and my Ate and I drink coffee before we start our day. Once the coffee is all finished we grab our flashlights and start our morning walk. We walk out to the rice fields where our goat, named Pangit, is excited to see us. I pet Pangit for a while and give the dog, Beethoven, enough time to catch up and accompany us on our walk. The three of us climb up the sea wall and walk. We pass trees that are still full of fireflies and enjoy the dark as it provides air that is cool and fresh. Once we arrive at the Bay I jog through the mangroves and the sun begins to slowly bake the air into a cloud of humidity. On the walk back home the sun rises over the rice fields turning the sky pink and orange. The face of Mount Bulusan comes to life and slowly but surely the Philippines starts to wake up.
Once we arrive back at the house everyone is awake. And by everyone I mean the chickens, the turkeys, the sheep and the cat (and soon piglets too, stay tuned). My Kuya arrives home from the fish pond at around 6:30am and the sheep begin to ‘baa’ demanding to be fed. After we all have eaten breakfast we get ready to leave for work. As we leave, my Ate begins her busy day. People arrive at the house to sell her ‘kasag’ (crabs) which she cooks in huge metal pots and re-sells through-out the day. My Kuya, who also works at the LGU, pulls out the tryke and drives us both to work. I very much enjoy my morning commute with the wind in my hair and the beautiful scenery on either side of the highway. We work at the Municipal Hall. My Kuya works in their engineering department. I work in the Agriculture Office in the Fisheries unit. Right now ‘work’ is mostly just observing, learning the language, and most importantly, eating.
I had mentioned the word ‘Merienda’ in my first blog post but my new LGU family takes it to a whole new level: As a reminder, merienda is a widely practiced Filipino snack time and it occurs between two and four times during the day. Merienda can range from different types of pandesal (bread), to pansit (noodles with veggies) to pinkakrow (starchy veggie in coconut milk) to tseron (like a banana spring roll) to various rice and rice flour snacks that I can’t remember the name of.
As the shiny new American, everyone is very concerned with making sure I have plenty of merienda (hence why I wake up at 4:30am to go running). In fact just now after being fed a plate of pasta, someone just came a placed an entire kamote (starchy vegetable, kind of like a potato) on my desk. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do with it… I’m just going to leave it there, maybe she’ll come back for it, I’ll keep you updated.
At 5pm I’ll meet my Kuya downstairs and sometimes we’ll go to the plaza to pick up some fruits or to the bakery for pandesal (for at home merienda, of course). When we get home Ate is still busy selling the crabs and running her sari-sari store. After dinner (the last meal of the day, thankfully) when work finally ends for my Ate, we go out to the bunag pavement (pavement where they lay out newly harvested rice to dry in the sun). It’s dark after dinner and if the sky is clear of clouds we can see the stars. We sit for a while and appreciate the stars. We talk about our days, one night I showed her what a cartwheel was, one night she taught me ‘bulalakaw’ means shooting star in bicol. But mostly we just stare up at the stars, I haven’t seen stars as good as these in a while. I love the stars and I am happy to have found that we share the same affinity and curiosity for the night sky.
Perhaps my favorite part of sitting and stargazing with my Ate is having something that is the same across our cultures. It’s simple mutual understanding. But it requires no translating, which is something to be appreciated when you are somewhere new and sometimes feel like home, and familiarity, is as far away as the stars. We walk back and I go to bed exhausted from a day of excitement, misunderstanding, translating, laughing, learning, and of course, eating. It has been quite the adventure so far and each day continues to bring new experiences. Stay tuned!
P.S. The Kamote is still on my desk…