A couple months ago, when I was just a Peace Corps Trainee I wrote a post with rough detail on what I was doing in my day-to-day life. As yesterday marked two months at my permanent site, I thought it would be a good time to share what I do on a regular basis as an actual volunteer! On the average Monday through Friday this is what you could find me doing:
4.30am – Yup, this is when I wake up! It’s not the roosters that do it, or the sun, but my desire to run while it’s still cool and quiet out. I love getting up and starting my morning with the stars (currently have a great view of the Southern Cross and Orion), a run, and watching the sunrise over the water. It’s much more pleasant without the heat of the day and because there are fewer people on the street… which makes me the subject of much less staring than normal!
6.00am – After my run/workout, I make myself some tea and have breakfast. Sometimes I watch a TV show I have saved on my hard drive, or else I read or write… or even take a nap for an hour!
8.00am – I’m heading into work which is just a couple minutes’ walk away. I usually spend the first hour or so catching up on correspondence and emails (I don’t have internet access outside my office and things pile up quickly with the time difference!) as well as posting on my blog and Instagram. I then begin my research and reading on everything about my area’s coastal resources that I can find… coral reefs, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), sea turtle findings, solid waste management. And that part goes on for days… I have a list of projects that I am working on and I spend a bit of time brainstorming ideas and tracking down resourceful people around town.
12.00pm – I head home for lunch. I cook for myself as I am trying to eat vegetarian most of the time and live off of delicious, local cheap veggies like eggplants and Calabaza squash, and an omelet or two! My family tends to eat a little earlier than me, so usually I miss them for lunch but sometimes we eat together.
1.00pm – Back to work and back to my ‘reading desk’! The afternoon is pretty much a continuation of what I was doing that morning. That being said, there is plenty of variability in the day-to-day. Some afternoons we travel around conducting IEC (Information, Education, and Communication) sessions at the coastal and island neighborhoods in my municipality. These are open-to-public education sessions where my office presents issues on pollution, global warming, and illegal fishing in a comfortable space where the public gets to ask questions, give suggestions, or present problems to us. I have found these incredibly rewarding and educating and I am planning on conducting some of my own on specific subjects such as sea turtles and endangered species protection or how to reduce the creation of trash.
And even though every day has a similar pattern, there are always surprises! One day two researchers from Manila walked into our office, inquiring about find dive sites for a study and I got to tag along with them for a fun day of boating and snorkeling. On another, there was a MPA restructuring meeting for one of the islands in my district and I got to help be a part of the forum! Some days my office mates and I go and visit the Bantay Dagat (Sea Guardians) at their water front hut for a friendly, social call. There is always something that can be done if you are open-minded, and often things pop-up at the last minute. Work definitely utilizes the Peace Corps training advice of ‘being flexible, adaptable, and resilient’; you need it to survive here!
5.00pm – I head home and usually do some yoga. I was fortunate enough to get a room with lots of tiled floor space; I like to stretch after sitting in an office for too many hours. Sometimes, I go to the daily market to buy my veggies for the next few days. I have a regular stall run by a very friendly couple (one day I might feature them in a post) and I’m slowly building relationships with members of the community!
6.30pm – Dinner time as a family! I’ll usually cook a veggie dish so that everyone can try a little, so we eat together but not the same. It’s always a subject of conversation, eating vegetables lang (only) and no baboy (pork) is quite unheard of here.
7.30pm – I usually hang out a bit on my own after dinner and then head to the entrance of the compound where my Ate runs a snack shop. Her, her husband and I will sit and competitively play cards (he’s a basketball coach and I’m just competitive) for a couple hours, snacking on fresh bread from the bakery next door, or splurging on ice cream every now and then. I leave my phone charging in my room and enjoy being disconnected for a few more hours of the day (having WiFi for a full day in the office is overwhelming sometimes).
9.00pm – I say goodnight to the family and head to my room. I’ll read for a bit or maybe watch another one of the shows I have stocked onto my hard drive (I try to do this sparingly… 2 years is a long time to watch the same series over and over again!) But I’m usually heading to bed by 10pm. Have to be well-rested and ready for my run the next morning!
On the weekends, there are a multitude of things to do, or not do! If it’s been a busy week, I quite like a day around the home to relax, to sleep in a bit, or spend some more time reading, or writing, or doing yoga, whatever hobby I was lacking on during the week. Most of the time, I try and meet some of the other volunteer’s on my island (we’re lucky, there are ~11 of us all within a couple hours’ bus ride of each other). Sometimes we go to Tagbilaran City, the main city on the island, to splurge on pizzas and a day of air conditioning in the mall, or even a movie! A couple of times, if I’m really feeling adventurous, I’ll head a little further out to Panglao, a small island off of the mainland that has a strip of bars and hotels in front of white sandy beaches and is a well-known tourist destination around the Philippines. It’s wonderful to not be the only foreigner around for a few hours, to eat more pizza and ice cream, and dare I say it, wear an actual bikini! It’s also a great snorkeling and dive site and that to me is an excellent way to spend a weekend.
A couple times, I’ve had day visits with my closest site mates at each other’s’ sites, just to have an English-speaking day! And other weekends, I’ll hang around and do something with the family… visit other relatives in a nearby neighborhood, go to birthday parties, or just sit and play cards all day long! There is also a great market in my town on the weekends, full of fresh fruit and veggies, second hand clothing and local craft stands. I can buy a kilo of eggplants for 20P, about $0.40 and that’ll last me until the weekend after!
It’s kind of like a routine-less routine. There never seems to be too much down time because something fun always crops up. But when I need to relax and be with my own thoughts, the time is somehow there. It’s been just two months at site and it grows on me more and more. There are definitely difficulties adjusting to life in the Philippines: I admit I am not doing as well on the language aspect as I would have liked; when I’m sick I want nothing more than a hot shower and an air-conditioned room, luxuries of a different lifetime; and on a regular basis I miss random foods like walnuts, or savory breads, or fresh-baked cookies. Of course, there is the fact that I am far away from my family (unfortunately not a new fact, but new time differences make for re-adjusting) and I would give a suitcase of my worldly belongings just to see a familiar face right now. But at the same time, I am settling into life here and I have a lot of plans in and out of work that I am very excited about! The Peace Corps wouldn’t be The Peace Corps if it wasn’t a challenge; it’s slogan after all is “the toughest job you’ll ever love”, one which I couldn’t agree more.
Thanks for reading,