Me and the chickens have a hate-hate relationship. They don’t like me to sleep past 5:30 am, even if I went to bed at midnight. Every morning around 5:15 the sunlight pours into my room, and they begin to call to each other in the yard and throughout the neighborhood. If that doesn’t work, the church bell in front of our house helps them out. They usually succeed in their goal.
Today, I wake up at 9 am. It’s the latest I’ve slept since I have been in the Philippines. Ate Mareli woke up early to feed them before they could start going crazy. She knew I was tired from our trip from the day before and wanted me to get some rest. I am so thankful.
My plans for today are: nothing. Well, I take that back. I don’t plan on GOING anywhere, I plan to write a bagillion blog posts. I never get to be still at home in the states and I want to take advantage. I usually hate writing but for whatever reason, I don’t mind this. Maybe because it’s the only effective way for me to share my experiences with the rest of the world. Or maybe because it is required for me to write a blog for my CHFI scholarship if I want to receive the full amount. Or maybe because my final rotation grade depends on me writing a blog if I want to get that degree when I come back. In any case, you are the beneficiaries;)
Today I get to write without the interruptions of going from place to place. I never have this much time to be still at home. Nadia and I are spoiled by Ate Mareli and her house helpers. They bring us food every two hours, hungry or not. Nadia thinks because we are at the dining room table, they think we expect a meal. We try kamote, which is like a potato, and eat fried bananas and drink watermelon shakes. The helpers say little, trying not to disturb us as we work. They bring up our laundry, separated and already folded. I feel like royalty, spoiled. All I have to do is sit here as they cater to us. I could never have it like this in the states.
Nadia and I sit in our outdoor room, which functions as our dining room, porch, and living space. There are big bamboo panels which shade the sun and close in the room. Nadia likes them up but I like them down. They make the space more intimate. It maximizes the privacy I can have out here. Even in our room, the windows and doors are always open. It’s so hot and humid and without air conditioning, so we have to allow the breeze in. It’s usually cooler outside in our outdoor room than it is in the bedroom. So I sit out here often.
I hear the ocean and children playing a few feet away, down below in the street. Even in my room, I always feel exposed, and connected to the community around me. I can hear the church service in the mornings, blaring in Tagalog. When I step outside, the sounds of everyone living life fill the air. A couple in a house nearby making love in the afternoon. In the evening, a baby crying in another home, unable to be soothed by her mother. A pig squealing loudly for a few minutes, then suddenly, silence.
Even living on the second floor living in the sky, we are still participants in the world below. It’s impossible to have a moment truly to yourself and I almost think it’s designed that way. The sense of community here can be a blessing and a curse. There are no secrets. The whole municipality of Alcantara knew we were here, even before the formal introduction at the flag ceremony last Monday.
Among each of us there is even less privacy. Our bathroom didn’t even have a door for a few days. Nadia could see me use the toilet from her bed. Alec can still participate in the dinner conversation while he takes a shower in our bathroom. He is so tall, you can watch him soap his chest through the window while we eat our fish. But we are used to living like this. I’ve never been a modest person and no one seems to complain. I think the vulnerability makes us closer. I will never forget the memories we made here together. Nadia, Alec and I.