Growing Pains

After 5 months in the Philippines, I’ve finally gotten into a pattern; a regular everyday routine that gives me a sense of normalcy. I can speak a little of the local dialect, I can successfully navigate the city using the limited modes of transportation, and I recently started living on my own, without a host family. Obviously, it hasn’t always been this way. So, I figured I would share a couple stories that reflect my adjustment to living in the Philippines.

I’ll start with learning the language. Naturally, you want to learn the local language when you move to a new country and plan on staying for a while. So, that’s what I did! My site coordinator found Flanny (the other YAV staying in the same city as me) and me a language instructor. We were so excited to start learning the language and we attempted to use the few words we knew whenever we went out in public. I’m sure our accent made it sound weird and we messed up a few times, but we tried really hard to speak a few simple words everyday.

After a month or so, I realized that whenever we used a specific word, “Salamat” – which means “Thank You” – some of the friends we made would giggle and mimic us. I tried to ask what was wrong, but never really got a straight answer. I eventually asked my language instructor what we were saying wrong. It was at that point that I realized intonation and inflection make a world of difference. In the local dialect, even a slight emphasis change in a certain word can change the entire meaning of the word. Luckily, in the case of “Salamat,” the meaning never changed, however, I realized we were saying it in a lack luster type of way. I mean, imagine that you say “Thank you” to someone, but you’re completely monotone, with no emotion behind it. That is the equivalent to how we were saying “Thank you.” We’ve learned our lesson now, but I never realized how important inflection is until that point.

Now, on to transportation. It takes a little getting used to here in the Philippines. Different cities have different types of transportation. Here in Dumaguete, most people ride motorbikes, although I see compact cars frequently too. As for public transportation, you use pedicabs for shorter distances and the bus system for longer distances. Pedicabs are like motorbikes with a sidecar, plus they have a fixed price, either 8 or 10 pesos, depending on your destination.

Well, being foreigners, some, not all, pedicab drivers think we’re easy targets to make a few extra pesos. I made a habit out of asking friends how much it costs to get to a certain place, just so I know how much to give the driver. I’ve had to sit in the pedicab and wait for my change a few times because the driver thought I didn’t know how much it really costs. Being on a tight budget, I can’t afford to pay extra for a short ride in the pedicab. After a while, I got used to giving exact change, since I know where I’m going now and how much it costs to get there. Sometimes, I think back to when I first got here and realize that I’ve overpaid quite a few times, just because I wasn’t used to getting around and how much everything costs.

So far, being here has been a great experience. These stories I have are just the growing pains of adjusting to a new country, culture, and people. I’m not an expert by any means, but I think I’ve gotten used to my everyday life, here in the Philippines.