Working in Random

Working while having fun is like enjoying your hot coffee under the heat of the sun.

Working and having fun are two entities which are at the opposite side of the world(if you are part of a linear/straightforward organization). Working and having fun are yep! Two entities from different side of the globe yet, you may do things simultaneously(trust me! You can, just tell yourself)!

While everyone is cramming about our activities, my work counterpart and I were just chillin and having a nice chat, with background music, even snack/s with us, just to be casual and informal does not make you lame/lazy, but a sign that you are an unconventional one.

It is hard not to compare

Flashing, dashing, beaming and striking lights will hit your eyes when you go out of your house to work; you will hear a lot of buzzing horns, noise coming to and from the hierarchy of cars upto the rushing workers who are late for their work. – that is a typical life in the metro where the biggest companies and branded goods were sold.

On the other side, you will hearย  a ‘cry of chicken'(tilaok in Filipino), feel the cool morning breeze that will pass through the window, the chirping of the birds, smell the dish being prepared for your breakfast and packed lunch. – that is what me and my hhc (most if not all the time experienced), oh! Before I forgot! We also have the leisure of time to walk to our workplace (which is the Municipal Hall) and have the luxury to grabย  a cup of coffee in our favorite coffee shop (note: it is not as fancy as Starbucks, nor as cozy as Coffee Bean) but, the lady is sooo kind and we even had the opportunity to have a nice chat with her during our ‘coffee break’. They even know our favorite spot, the time we mostly have our coffee and even the routine (I’ll gonna ask for some coffee for me and a hot water for my hhc ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

What am I really doing here?

Well, to be fair, I want to disclose the information that I am working as a volunteer in the Municipality of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. I am working with other 19 volunteers (9 Filipino and 11 British)ย  with the community in making a 5-year Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan (DRRM-Plan) for the whole municipality.

Sounds good?

Pretty much, I would say that I am fortunate yet pressured to work on the plan. We were given a ton of appreciation, a lot of fun and relaxation time and of course the challenge to go out of your own box.

I just never thought that, in such Saturday (which was my A-day), would be the start of my ‘out-of-the-box’ experience. It was really an out of the box experience, I did not even told my mom about the A-day (I did not told her about my whereabouts which is unusual) and asked her what if I will go to a place in the country to do volunteer works?

Questions Overheard:

1. ย The funding-where will I get my support for my daily expenses?

  1. The fragile health status- my parents in particular are really health conscious, they keep on telling me that ‘health is wealth’, they even worry about my allergies but rest assured that I am not having it (hypocondriac syndrome?)
  1. After the programme where will you go?- this question was raised by my big bro. I’ve been working in the corporate world, been in rushing things and I thought it is about career mobility and security (stepping up the corporate ladder) which made me believe that will give me happiness (but it is really the simple things).
  1. What will happen next?- this question was raised by my father before getting his approval for me to join the program. Basically, it is a normal parental instincts which made him a bit anxious of letting me do my own thing. But, I think, he is now a proud father for having me stepping out of my zone and explore more about myself.

This is just a cumulative list of what my family perceive what I am doing, no one is being hurt(hopefully my fam won’t). ๐Ÿ™‚

The Not-so-Out-of-the-Box

โ€œLive your life as if you’re getting out of the box.โ€

It is a bit strange and I can’t distinguish the emotion that I have. From the day that we left our training facility which I had the most uncomfortable emotion that I had ever in my life, upto now living in the community. I was paired with a UKV (both at home and at work) which technically has the English language capabilities, and here I am, still wearing this mask of being independent and confident (e.g. having a degree and learned some foreign language), does not really make any sense, because all of us volunteers are making the most out of our experience for the coming weeks.

It will be a tough game if not a journey as one of our facilitators in the training told me. It will never be a spoon feeding approach on how to handle various if not sudden emotions for the next couple of weeks, but one thing is for sure, savor the unusual feeling and try not to rationalize it.

What is out-of-the-box experience?

For me, it is not as fancy and as glamorous nor as scary and as spontaneous as others might classify it. Perhaps, just not following your daily routine makes you do things out of the box. Even challenging your old perceptions which hinders you to grow.

We have this implied deal with my hhc, which is to do out of the box things for the rest of the program (e.g. Eat foods that we don’t love or new to us, speak English for a long period of time, have more than a cup of coffee within the day or walk almost a kilometer ). Sounds strange? Yep! At first it will be strange, but later on, you might realize that there is much more when you go out of your comfort zone and try new things, as if living your life with no regrets. ๐Ÿ™‚

What I’ve far….

I am not really into doing out of the box things which most if not all of my friends would know. But to set the record, my hhc and I talked and did a lot of things about the following:

1.Cross culturally exchange our views anything under the sun,(talk about the economic crisis, courtship styles of both countries, and even fashion styles :))

2. Make and organize our blog entries during our most convenient time,

3. I talked to our host dad that I don’t eat pork (it was really strange and I even got some butterflies in my stomach, because don’t want them to offend anyone :)),

4. Thinking about having allergies every time I eat prawns is like a life or death thing, but actually not (tell the symptoms to Katie before acknowledging the allergies :P),

5. Ditch someone’s invitation if you really don’t feel like going(it is not again a life or death situation if you will not join the mob:) ),

6. Stressing or even worrying about something that is not even happening is crazy! All human beings are subject to stress but it should not ruin your daily activities.(try to see the positive aspect of each scenario:)),

7. Making decisions for yourself does not mean your neglecting the opinion of your family. It does not really mean that you’re being disrespectful with your family, but who does the thinking? Who will live up the decision that someone made for you? Who will suffer if it did not turned out that good? (*I’m not anti-family, but it seems, someone should do things because he/she is happy and enjoying doing it, not because someone told him/her to do so).

Obviously, I am still in the process of doing things out of the box, but I am happy doing it. I am happy to challenge the norms that I had when I was a little girl pampered by the society that I am part with, even the thought of making decisions for myself and accept the consequences of such. It is not an easy and smooth ride, and that makes out of the box things more fullfiling and worthwhile.

*I just had 3 prawns and ate Cat fish for my breakfast, I never had more than 2 prawns and never ate catfish EVER before, as my hhc would say: ’tilapia and cat fish are the same, both of them are fish, there is nothing special distinguishes one from another, if don’t have special or even a good reason, then it is just being picky’.

In-Community Orientation

The Real Thing

It was almost a week since we land our feet in Cabiao. The past few days has been too accommodating and too friendly for all volunteers like we feel we were in a holiday.

Our supervisors break the leg in bringing us back into reality- the DRRM plan.

We had our Disaster Preparedness workshop wherein most if not all of us were mentally drained. For the next couple of days, or even weeks, we will conduct our baseline survey on how prepared the people are when a disaster hit their community. Next, we were introduced to various matrixes/tools that we should extract from each barangay (e.g. Social venn diagram, disaster timeline and etc.). In such span of more or less 9 hours of mental gruelling, most of us felt drained, want to hit our pillows and even ask for meds. By the way, we were also grouped into various clusters wherein steve and I will be working with pauline and ollie in clutser 4.

The stressful-yet-not so stressful counterparts

I was paired with Steve as my work counterpart. Steve is veerrrryyyy nice that he considers my opinion and we actually did our CRA program, right just on time before we had our precious break. The thing in cross-cultural teams is that, there will be lots of translation as if you are there (in my case in Cabiao) to be some sort of translator for the UK volunteers. This is not to offend anyone of anything, but this is my opinion though…

Good thing my work counterpart and my home counterpart are different people. On our way home, my hhc, ask me if I am okay; since I did not have much for lunch due to acidic reflux, a pile of nonsense stressors (e.g. Being stressed if I am a vital part in the group, stressing/thinking too much if I should stay or should I go)- very childish isn’t?

My hhc and I hit the public market to buy some shorts. When it is time to pay, I was surprised that my hhc is verrrryyy good at doing barter! She is! I never thought that she does that, and I even consider myself as poor at her standards :P.

Ladies and Gents, lend me your ears.

Tomorrow, we will be conducting some sort of symposium at Cabiao National High School in partnership with Engr. Hidalgo, and a representative from Department of Agriculture of the Municipality of Cabiao; wherein they will have a talk about climatye change and we’ll followed it up with a workshop.

The A-Day!

The time has come to an end that we need to face our fears. Well, almost, if not all volunteers are anxious if they’re performance will be good enough for the rest of the students of Cabiao National High School. Even my hhc, memorized and practoced her line to be perfect when she’ll deliver it to the students. To be honest (since this is my blog entry) this was the first time that I got an extraordinary attention from a school administration. We were even seated in a presidential table and had a chat with the principal and the rest of the science teachers.

Rude culture

My hhc and the rest of the UK volunteers find it rude that when the speaker did the talk or even the principal is talking the students are also busy with each and other businesses; for the UKV’s It is very rude not to listen to someone is talking as if you really donLt care on what the other person is saying or talking about.

I felt guilty as well when I heard that it was rude (for UKV’s) that we use our phones or even have some small chats while they are talking; it is soooo strange as well and I find it odd reminicing my uni years having a chat with my seatmate while my protocol professor gives us a lecture. Perhaps, one of the reasons why the country is not that well off yet, is because we lack DISCIPLINE in almost a lot of aspects of our society. Yes, we respect one another, but we pretty much enjoy if not abuse the liberty that is being laid out to us.

Strangers from Different side of the Globe

Cross cultural communication is not all about spoken words, but it is also about being sensitive in a way that is not offending to both parties.

Independent, confident, passionate about her volunteer experience is what I’ve perceived with my hhc. I thought, she is perfect, like a princess travelled thousandย ย  if not millions of miles just to volunteer in a developing country like the Philippines.

I find it odd as well, to know that she is an actress way back in London and wearing different hats made me feel awkward. Why is this woman with a blonde hair, fair complexion, a vegetarian and has a good background will go as far as this community to do volunteer work/s?

Surprising Facts

Since we had this very intellectual stimulating conversation about random stuff, we even talked about how simple she is in her own country. She even know how to do her laundry by herself (I thought she has servants or what not), eating dishes using her hands ( I think, I taught her to do so, to be some sort of gain the trust of the fam? ๐Ÿ™‚ ), cleans up our room (I thought she has a robot like asimo to do it ๐Ÿ™‚ ), aside from her usual outgoing physique she has a big heart as well, she loves to listen to a loooooottttt of things, as if picking up bits of everything is part of the learning journey.

First Impressions usually don’t last

During our first socials with the UKV’S, I thought she’s picky and bit snob when dealing with a foreign counterpart. Also, when I talked to her, like asking for her name, I thought, she wear this mask of being friendly, but I was wrong; she’s really nice and has a lot of things to discover just ask (wink) .

It was during our in community orientation that I had the chance to know her more. We stayed in one room together with two more volunteers. We even talked about the the Filipino’s thinking time, ‘trust’ issues, how to handle it, even cultural sensitivity in both Philippines and U.K.

Keep the reel rolling!

I told her straight to the point that I felt awkward when it was revealed that I will be her host home counterpart (hhc), it was a nerve wracking experience for me(sorry for exageration ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and I thought we came from two different worlds and just met half-way, but it is not.

On our first night as host home counterparts, I disclosed the fact that both of us should be honest with our emotions and if we are pissed off with one another, or even stressed out for the day, also, if we feel the urgency of having a ‘me time’ to reflect, self-check, or even do our own thing.

Cultural Sensitive

I am not sure if she just want to blend more with the culture or really wants to adapt to our very heterogeneous culture. The past few weeks has been a roller coaster like experience for us. She even asked me if she wears a culturally sensitive clothes, eating with her hands is culturally acceptable thing, nor refusing one thing is acceptable.She wants to engage more in the community but obviously she can’t because she came all the way from London, has blonde hair and fair complexion; I on the other side, is enjoying the thought of having my cup of coffee and no one notices me.

(part 2, Pros and cons of having and working with a Foreign Counterpart)

Pros and cons of having a Foreign Counterpart

Well, this is not to highlight all the good things we were accomplished (as hhcs’) so far in the programme, we also had this not so good experiences as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Managing the language barrier- I, being able to speak the language(local) is in better position to get the ‘trust’ of the locals even our hhh; she has the eagerness to learn the language but find herself as rubbish in it (I felt the same, when I study foreign language/s).
  1. Should I say ‘yes’ or should I say ‘no’?- such phrase ‘would you mind…….?’ is like asking in Filipino ‘gusto mo bang….?’ whenever we gonna do something, like ‘would you mind having more rice?’ if I replied in no, for her it means yes! ๐Ÿ˜›
  1. If they say thank you they really mean it- I find it odd to say thank you whenever someone will complement whatever I did for a particular thing. My hhc even read my blog and find it organized but I reckon the thought, that I am not really good(like being inferior does not really make any sense). Being inferior and being humble are 2 different entities. You can’t say your humble while being inferior.
  1. If they say you can count on them they mean it- I don’t know, there is a gap (literally a large one) if you will able to see how we manage to have our socials, our team meetings, as if, there is this thing about being Superior-Inferior. Is it innate with us (Filipinos) to act in a certain way that a Westener will be treated like a Queen travelled thousand miles just to visit a pauper? Or is it part of each individual to be inferior over the other? Or it is just me who is reckoning to work at par with my counterparts?(this really causes me a bit worry) if I work that much(whose standard should we follow?)if I work that lame/lazy(again what is the benchmark?). I thought that working hard does not really makes sense, I’ve been in that situation before that working hard and not enjoying it does not help you to grow as individual (trust me, been there done that ๐Ÿ™‚ ).
  1. Never been in the spotlight so spare me one- personally, I hate to be in spotlight(one thing that I wasn’t able to overcome even I already had a degree-which involves a lot of socials!) for the rest of my life?! It was a word from a fellow who said ‘weather you like it or not time will come and you need to overcome this social-phobia that you have’; spotlight is an inevitable thing, from time to time you will be talking with a lot of people. It was strange as well when my hhc, asked me to sit beside her to join the group and have some chat, I reckon the idea and got stressed for what we did, before the party: which was hilarious! We should have asked for their help, coz it was a team thing! We should not carry the cross all over just to overcome the problem (that’s the thing with us Filipinos) we recognize the problem, act on it as if we are atlas who carries the globe, but we are not! We are individuals with diversed skills and definitely has something to offer, so why bother?
  1. I will be your friend in need and in deed- I am not sure if it is just me and my counterpart who has this sort of implied arrangement/deal whenever someone is upset/down for a particular reason. At first, I thought my hhc, is soo independent and optimistic, but as each single day passed, I realized that we are pretty much the same- our difference? I am from the land of pearl in the orient sea and she came from the land of freedom and liberty (not sure though on the last phrase). Also, I never thought that she will be that pessimist at a certain point, while I on the other hand, keeps on telling her that at least I am assured that I am in a room with a human being not of a robot (because again, I thought she is as perfect as asimo:) )
  1. Be assertive as you are- being assertive does not happen overnight. It is not the same as having a nice snack in a fast food chain (wherein you give your order and wait for couple of minutes to have your food).

There’s more to share, but my glasses were already blurred. Trying to see more in a bit and write about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Monday Courtesy Call

It is a monday flag raising routine, all of the members of the municipal/local government needs to participate and or mandated by the flag protocol to sing the national anthem.

We were joined by the municipal mayor and the rest of the municipal team. Students as well were encourage to participate in the flag raising ceremony.

We were encourage to sing the national anthem and yet, I think, that was the first time that I sung the song with full pride and honor (apologies for my protocol professor :P), but yup, I sang the song as if I am very proud to be one, -if that makes any sense?. (the phrase “is that make any sense?” Is what I am used to hear from my hhc when we engage ourselves in an intellectually stimulating conversation :)).

The Unconventional Tour

After our courtesy call with the municipal mayor, we were toured within the municipal hall about the various department agencies we will be working with for the next 3 months, also we were able to ride a typical jeepney wherein the group was divided into two groups (unlike the usual jeepney ride wherein there are lots of people inside like sardines), I think we were given much value because of our counterparts? -not sure though. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  But we can work it on our advantage specially if we are going to have our workshops. ๐Ÿ˜€

The Spotlight

In my previous experience as a volunteer/leader wanna be in my school, I never had much attention as we had when we visited the St. Joseph’s elementary school. Well, for an obvious and not so obvious reasons in this programme we were paired with a ‘foreigner’ so basically the more foreign you are the greater attention you will get.

In one of the rooms that we visited, I’ve seen a queue of slippers outside the room, such depitcs how practical and simple life is here in Cabiao and even having a shoe is a kind of luxury (how will you appreciate the use of shoes if it will be soaked in mud anyway?).

ย The Not so Tiring Day

We practically roamed around all Cabiao within the day, I could say that all of us got tired if not exhausted and want to grab our power nap. On our way home, I asked my hhc(katie) if she wants to drop by at the postal office which is practically a walking distance in our HH. We head off to the new public markey and even had the opportunity to send her package for her boyfriend in London. It was a fascinating thing for me since, I was able to see for myself how do the postal staff put on stamps on our package and letters (I usually give my letters to the postal staff and leave coz they gonna do their job-put on stamps in it).

A Proud Counterpart

Since this is my blog, I think I have the authority if not the privilege to be proud of myself and my hhc counterpart. We learned our lessons the hard way, as if being taught using textbook is dull and inefficient(I am not an anti-education, but I find it more effective if students will be able to learn the unconventional way? ). In our “intellectually stimulating” conversation I had with my hhc, I felt and realized that it is best to learn in a simple conversation and share thoughts and perspectives has a high retention rate than having it read in a textbook or guidebook. My hhc, has been a very good if not the best counterpart listening to my endless stories and being patient with my English. She even listened as well to my “suggestions” and read the things between the lines.. so fast learner! ๐Ÿ˜€

Cross cultural communication -The Health Buff

I felt quite challenged and at the same time inspired by my host-home counter part-katie, to at least update and organize my blog. She has been updating her blog about her volunteer experience in the country.This is I think the 2nd week that I am with the team, and as part of being cross-culturally linked, we shared lots of informations and perceptions about a lot of stuff.

Going back and challenge the old lifestyle…

I am not really a health buff, because I find not ‘cool’ to become one but a neccessity though to be one; my host-home counterpart (hhc), is much more into doing an exercise every morning and she’d been into participating in a marathon (in UK). I find it strange as well, that I run walk and run, but she does all the running, and I felt I am not fit, or I am weak beacuse I can’t even at par with her. After the jogging/running, I find strange as well to pay a visit to the gym, (I thought if you ran already that is enough, but I was wrong, I even don’t know how to use the gym equipments that they have, and much more acquainted with muay thai than weight lifting). It was fun yet exhausting, Bev(another volunteer) and I were doing some stretches, I had enough, like, I’m not really used to that kind of excercise to be fit, but for them, it is the usual thing.

The not so healthy advise

My hhc, has been anxious if she’s been being rude with our Host Homes, since she got the spotlight (well, Filipino culture will tell ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and even skeptical about having rice in every meal. She has a lot of the dishes but not of the rice. She even disclosed the information that in England, she only have rice once a week, which in contrast in the counrty we favor rice in each and every meal.

It may sound strange that I even suggested that she takes all the dishes(ulam) first, and have the rice the last thing to be put in the plate; but here I am, in every meal loves to have rice and I think a cup and a quarter of it.

In most tropical countries like the Philippines, you can see a lot of coconut trees (buko), which has lots if not tons of nutrition and or vitamins in it. Last saturday (20 Sept.), we went to the poblacion/bayan to do some community mapping, we went to other volunteers’ HH, and we had lots of food (if I can say a food overload? ๐Ÿ™‚ );our group saw a buko stand and the UK volunteers tried to have some coconut juice. Unfortunately, the buko juice that they bought was not the fresh one, it has sugar in it and not the lil’ bit sour in taste of fresh buko.

Last 22nd day of September, my hhc and I had our first fresh buko experience after we sent some package/ did the postal thing at the post office near our house. It was fun yet another out of the box thing for the both of us having it tried for the first time(for her) and doing it like a local. We felt full already and want to skip our dinner but we don’t want to offend anyone in the house so, we still had a sumptuous dinner. ๐Ÿ˜€