I’ve been in Dumaguete for the past three months. Dumaguete is a relatively small city located on one of the central islands of the Philippines. My time here, so far, has been different than I imagined. When I first arrived, I got wrapped up in the whirlwind of my new environment. My entire first month was all about figuring out transportation, work placement, and the Filipino culture. I think the first month could be compared to any situation where you uproot your life to move to a new area. I had to figure out what bus to take to get to work only to realize that if I want the luxury of air conditioning, I’ll be paying luxury prices. I had to come to terms with the fact that, Filipino people are, on average, much smaller than me, so finding work clothes is not the easiest thing to do.
When I arrived in Dumaguete, I didn’t think the language barrier would be as big as it really is. One of the official languages of the Philippines is English, which, on paper is good for me. However, every area of the Philippines has it’s own language, including Dumaguete, and English isn’t commonly spoken unless you are on a college campus. Luckily, I am taking language classes, however, I’ve never been the best at learning a new language, so it’s been slow going.
I’ve been in the Philippines for 4 months at this point and I’ve adjusted to many things. I can now get to work on the right bus; I can go to different areas of the city without having to google map every turn; I can even speak a little of the local language. However, my biggest hurdle is the culture differences between the Philippines and the US. It seems like the closer I get towards holidays, the more I realize that nothing is what I’m used to. Although, that’s just a part of being abroad and immersing yourself into another culture, it’s still slightly disconcerting.
And to that point, I have to give a shout out to the other two YAVs who are here with me in the Philippines. Being so far away from home, away from family, friends, and all things comfortable is extremely hard. Especially when so many major things are happening while you’re away and you can’t help but feel like you’re missing some important things. Flanny, Katheryn, and I have really created a “home away from home” together. We may be physically separated by a few miles (or in Katheryn’s case, by a few islands), but we keep each other sane when things get to be too much; and during this Christmas season, when I’m missing my family and friends, knowing I won’t see them for quite a few more months, that’s exactly what I need.
I have so many mixed emotions about my time here so far, but I’m still incredibly grateful for this opportunity.