I want to take moment and write about some thoughts and feelings about having lived in the Philippines for one full year. July 4th was my first anniversary here and it was a blessing to look back on the previous year and feel grateful and happy with my service so far. I have been fortunate enough to have been placed at an amazing NGO, My Refuge House, and get to work with wonderful people every day. I feel as though I have lived a somewhat charmed service, which makes me feel guilty at times, but mainly very appreciative. Though my service has been a perfect for me in so many ways, this does not mean it has been void of struggles. I go through times when I desperately miss family and friends back home, when I just want to take a warm bath, when I want to drive my car (anywhere), when I want to look nice without factoring in heat and sweat, when I want to understand what everyone is saying around me, when I miss my favourite foods and restaurants, when I miss having four seasons, etc.
Even with a great Peace Corps site, there are always people and aspects I miss and long for in the U.S. Sometimes it takes a minute for me to remember what month it is because there are no seasons to help me keep track. In my mind I picture the Philippines as hot and the U.S. as cold (even though they are in their summer months), because it is a piece I miss. I have also had numerous heinous colds here with the changes in the atmosphere, such as at the end and beginning of rainy season, and temperature variations. Sometimes I just want to be home in the U.S., in the comfort of my large bed, and have comfort foods such as chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese sandwich, and sweet tea. I miss different senses, such as the smell of my mom’s cooking; the feel of crisp, mountain air on my face; the silence when sitting on my parent’s porch; hugs from family and friend; the comfort of snuggling in a blanket to read or watch a movie. I generally am not overwhelmed by missing all of these things; however certain situations will bring a few to the forefront of my mind every now and then. It can be difficult trying to balance between recognizing what I miss and being consumed by it. It is not healthy to dwell on for too long so I find myself thinking about specific aspects for a while then telling myself to move past it.
In contrast, there are many features about the Philippines that I love and am sure to miss when I leave in a year. I love the shared community with one another. Filipinos want to be around others, even when doing separate tasks; they value presence and just being, and I greatly appreciate this. I love that most of what I eat is grown on a local farm and brought to sell at the market. I love their kindness and hospitality which I benefit from on a daily basis and attempt to mirror in the way I live my own life. I love that I work in an environment where my thoughts and ideas are appreciated and often acted upon; and that I feel comfortable enough to share them in the first place. I love the way people help each other and jump in to take part, whether it is everyone cleaning up after an activity or strangers helping a toddler into a jeepney (public transportation – think extended jeep).
I am incredibly grateful for Peace Corps, my host country/site, the continual support from family and friends back home, and the joy of living abroad. Living internationally is such an amazing experience (life-shaping in many ways) and I highly recommend it to everyone. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far and who has supported me along this journey. You are all wonderful and I am so appreciative of the love and encouragement you send my way. Much love!