Happy New Year, readers!
Well, my last post of 2016 ended on a rather somber note with the difficulties of being away from loved ones during the holidays… so we’re going to start 2017 on a high! A wonderfully blue and bright and positive HIGH! I spent the last days of the year diving an island on the other side of my province, watching sea turtles swim lazily by, creeping on cuttlefish and drifting down a wall of coral like a child in a candy shop. I visited waterfalls and rolling hills of green that made the soundtrack to the Sound of Music come alive in my mind. I danced on a beach with my fellow volunteers and watched fireworks light up the sky and the sea and the faces of my friends as the clock ticked us into the new year. I met travelers from all around the world and acted as a marine biologist/tour guide to some first-time snorkelers and stayed up til sunrise having conversations about the wonders of life. And I got to swim in a giant bait ball of sardines on the edge of an incredible coral reef and feel like I was in a scene from The Blue Planet.
It was an amazing way to start the year and I’m left relishing in my adventures and the fact that I live in this incredibly beautiful island in the Philippines. And now I’m back at site and in my office trying to turn this positive experience I’ve just had into motivation to make something happen in my community. Hmm… Nothing’s happened yet! Okay, patience I’ll get there! In the meantime, I wanted to introduce a series of stories that I’m calling ‘Little Drops of Happiness’. Upon reflection of my last post where I was battling the negative side of cultural exchanges, I wanted to spend a little more time sharing the positive moments I’ve experienced here. Sometimes those moments have been so small, they haven’t warranted a whole blog post and I’ve instead been collecting them in my head as ‘little drops of happiness’. But as we’re starting 2017 on a HIGH note, I think its time to share:
Drop of Happiness No. 1 – Catch Me If You Can
On one of my morning runs I was doing sprint-walk intervals. Toward the end of my road where I turn around, I passed four kids about 10 years in age walking in the other direction. Inevitably I would double back past them, putting us in the same direction. As time came to pass them the second time I was on a sprint; they looked behind and seeing me coming, took off running. I caught up to them in a few seconds and turned to look at them as I ran alongside. I smiled, they smiled; we waved at each other and I took off, putting up a Peace sign as I left them in my dust. I could hear their footsteps losing speed behind me and they laughed and shouted as I left them behind in the dark. I had to laugh at myself after the sprint was over as I had to run so fast to lose them, my lungs and legs were burning with exhilaration. I like to run early in the morning, by myself, for my own peace of mind – it’s my therapy here. One day I’ll be ready to run with the kids, but in the meantime these little moments are perfect.
Drop of Happiness No. 2 – Man’s Best Friend
In the Philippines, dogs are treated differently than we might treat them back in the US or parts of Europe. Here there are varying degrees of relationship between man and dog… some places eat dogs (this isn’t the norm, but is not unheard of) and some people have dogs as pets that are almost one of the family. But their are many dogs living on the streets that are dilapidated, starving, mangy, scabbed up and/or crippled. It breaks my heart when I see kids playing with dogs in abusive ways: hitting them with their shoes and throwing rocks at them. And there are many other terrible, little things: I’ve seen more dead dogs here than I’d care to see in a lifetime. But this story is about a good moment. One day, on a bus passing field after field of rice patties, I looked out the window to see a man bend down and affectionately pet his dog in the middle of a field. He stood up, eyes still on the dog and with a smile took off running: man and his best friend. It was a drop in the bucket of time, but a moment that filled my heart with happiness.
Drop of Happiness No. 3 – I’m a Real Pinoy Now!
Pinoy = the term for a Filipino in the Philippines. At my family Christmas party we were moving in between the house and the yard to eat, sing and dance. I prefer being barefoot in the house and well, pretty much anywhere. I don’t think I get to take my shoes off enough. At the Chirstmas party I was dancing the cha cha in the grass and running in and out of the house without shoes on and an extended family member points down at my feet and asks “where are your tsinelas?” (Tsinelas = sandals). I said I prefer being barefoot and they responded with “ai, ikaw usa ka Pinoy!” – You’re a Pinoy! So that’s it, I’ve done it. Almost six months in and I found the secret to becoming a local: bare feet.
Anyway, I’ll be making ‘Little Drops of Happiness’ a reoccurring topic as my service continues. I think sometimes we need reminders that the little moments in life are as important as the big accomplishments. 2017 is undeniably going to be full of challenges and adventures as a year spent entirely in the Philippines – and I look forward to both the falls and the rises.
Happy new year, again, and thanks for reading,
Also, if you feel like doing your part for a very localized ocean advocacy event, a couple of friends are trying to bring A Plastic Ocean to the Philippines. If you’re feeling a little like you overindulged this past holiday season and would like to help a good cause to bring some environmental education to my island, they are just $50 short of our fundraising goal: https://gogetfunding.com/documentary-screening-a-plastic-ocean/