For the past several weeks I have finally been able to get out and go hiking with friends, and it has been a soothing balm for my soul. I have been trying to go since I arrived a year ago but our plans would always fall through due to busy schedules or torrential downpours. But, finally it has happened after the least initiative involved, of course, and I have been able to go several weeks in a row. The first hike took place after I texted my friend Bebs on a Friday night to see what she was doing the next day:
Me: What are you doing tomorrow?
Me: Want to go on a hike?
Bebs: Yes. Meet at 10 a.m. by the church.
This is all it took. After all this time. I just had to roll my eyes at how simple it was to arrange after months of longing. Anyway, we met the next morning and started on our journey with water, snacks, and facial sunscreen. When I think of hiking I picture hiking in the mountains back in the U.S. but the reality of hiking in the Philippines is much different; there are almost no trees covering the trail and no respite from the sun anywhere. During our first break I was thankful for the facial sunscreen I brought and tried to dry the sweat from my face before application. It was a miracle worker and I was so proud of myself for thinking of it. The hike finished gloriously, we had a wonderful time chatting together, talking of our future hopes and dreams, and embracing the beautiful scenery. However, the proud moment I just referred to was shattered as soon as I returned home and saw the damage the sun had done to the rest of my body.
Apparently, when you apply sun screen to your face it does not, in fact, shield the rest of your person. I should be fully aware of this since I have been turning various shades of red since infancy; but my mental lapse from a lifetime of previous experience cost me dearly this day. As I started shedding my clothes off to enjoy a nice cold shower my once happy disposition quickly turned to horror at the candy cane image I saw in the mirror, my skin alternating between stripes of pure white and blood red. I had been wearing a t-shirt with a small V-neckline and mid-calf capris. I had the obvious burn-lines on my arms which you would expect, but I had also acquired a burn-V on my neck/chest, and a glorious burn-line right across my calves. These were not faint remnants from fun in the sun, these were stark raving lines of anger. I looked (and still look) like I am wearing red knee-socks from the capris clothing decision I made and they will probably take months to restore back to normal. My host mom could not believe my skin could turn such colors:
Me: Mama, look what happened to me!!!!
Mama: (pure shock and chuckling)
Me: It hurts so much! But I am hungry so I am going outside to make some eggs.
Mama: Ok, well at least the mosquitoes won’t bother you since you are wearing your knee socks.
Me: (stunned at such a well played joke and howling with laughter).
Because my fair skin burns even on cloudy days I have learned to protect it from sun damage; I am the person who only buys SPF 75 or higher and lathers it on like a mother does to her 5 year-old kid. Since coming to the Philippines this has been ingrained in me even more so because Filipinos are constantly hiding from the sun so their skin does not turn dark. I have embraced the culture of carrying an umbrella in the heat, staying in the shade, and hiding in the shadows. This day, however, I brought shame upon myself by not protecting my skin from the blazing sun and for tarnishing my creamy complexion (if you could even call it that); and I am still living with the results. Thankfully the next two hiking trips fared much better considering I bathed myself in sun screen before stepping out of my house. I love to hike and being able to do so with my precious friends here in the Philippines is very special for me. I get to disconnect from the world for a few hours, not worry about projects or how to be a better volunteer, but just enjoy this spectacular earth and marvel in God’s creativity and majesty. It challenges my body to keep going further and tells my mind to not give up, it produces appreciation and develops character. Two things we could all use a little more of in our lives.