I have been at site for 7 months now, which means it has been 7 months since I have been back to my training site, Banate, or seen my host family there. I have kept in touch with them via texting though and have wanted to make a trip there to see them. I was hoping to visit at the same time that Gay would be there. She is the mother of my host cousins and works in Saudi Arabia. During the short time she was in Banate we became close and continue to keep in touch with email and texting. She had originally told me she would return to the Philippines in June or July but now is saying she won’t have a chance to come home until September. So when Rob said he was going to Banate for their Festival, I decided it was as good a time as any to go visit my training site and host family.
It was so great to see them all again! Going back to that family compound felt strangely like going home, which is a weird thought, to “go home” in a foreign country. I got to see all of my Titas (aunts) and host parents, Lisa and Jon, and all the kids, Dax(11), Darielle(12), JonJon(10) and Crystal(12). Even the house help of my tita was excited to see me! All throughout dinner they asked me questions about my life and work in Guimaras. I brought them sweet Guimaras mangos which they devoured! And it was great to see all of the other community members and kids who remembered us, shouting our names and wanting “high fives”.
On Saturday Elliott and I decided to take our host siblings for a day out. We wanted to take them to the festival so they could ride the ferris wheel but unfortunately when we got there they were already dismantling it to take to the next town for another festival. So instead we took the kids to the park. They enjoyed it so much! At first I was worried they would be disappointed for not riding the ferris wheel, but then I realized that going to the park was just as special for them. Their daily lives usually consist of being with their family all of the time, so besides going to school and sometimes the market, they spend most of their time in their own barangay at home. So going to the park was a special occasion for them.
|Taking the kids for a day out!|
|Getting some breeze by the ocean.|
|Playing with the kids at the park.|
|My host siblings! They are such great and well-behaved kids! Love them!|
We bought them cold cokes and snacks and played with them on the playground. They were laughing and smiling the whole time! At one point I whispered to Elliott, “why didn’t we do this more often when we were here?” but he just shrugged and replied, “we didn’t know”. It was true. Training (which seems like forever ago) was a bonding time for me and my training-mates. It is when we first got to know each other and become the good friends we all are now. And time spent with our host families was getting acclimated to the culture, language and food. We were constantly learning and adjusting during that time. It was so much to adjust to that when we did have down time, we spent it in the presence of each other, just wanting to be around fellow Americans and talking about the cultural differences we were all getting used to. It was important then for us to be with each other because we were going through the hardest part of the adjustment together and needed to support each other. Now that we are better adjusted and more familiar with the culture, language and food, we can really just appreciate our host families and spend time with them.
I had a great weekend in Banate and told them I would be back again many more times (especially for the upcoming birth, as Lisa is 6 months pregnant!) It truly felt like a weekend of homecoming to me and my friends and I am so grateful to have that here during my service.