Published: August 7th 2008August 7th 2008
Ok, so it's been quite some time since my last post. I apologize for my negligence, but I'm sure none of you minded.
I'm back, which is to say I'm now in the U.S. I have been awake for the last like 30 hours flying with Yvonne from Manila to Phoenix (so if this post sucks, layoff jerks--I'm tired) where we will have debriefing over the next couple of days. I am now in a hotel (I decided to blow some money on a hotel room for my time in Phoenix) and awaiting the next few days of chilling in the office.
But more important than debriefing (no offense FHUS staff) were my last two weeks in the Philippines. In those last two weeks I did a lot, mostly trying to finish up the work I was doing for FH. I also did things like play a rousing game of pickup basketball with members of the local church. Now when I say a game of basketball, I am speaking somewhat broadly. What it really was was an hour and a half of four on one odd man breaks. They aren't big on the half court game in the Philippines, which made me look like a defensive juggernaut. After my team would score, they would try a full court outlet pass which were exceptionally easy to intercept. I would pass to someone on my team and they would score easily just so the other team could try another Hail Mary. There was no official statkeeper, but I believe I ended with 43 steals. And four points (there are enough guys in the NBA who can play offense, but I'll be a defensive specialist).
There were other happy moments in the last two weeks, like when the dog of Brother Jhun (my host father for two weeks) finally died. Perhaps this makes me sound cruel, but I assure you anyone who wanted this dog to live any more is the real sadist. Besides from being like 14 years old, it lugged around a massive tumor and made the most piteous sounds you've ever heard. I wanted to kill it myself, but didn't have the nerve. So when I got back from a three day trip to a place called Norzagaray and Brother J told me his dog had died, it took every ounce of resolve in me to keep from shouting for joy. Brother J soon told me that he had been praying for the dog to die, which made me love him even more.
The reason I say even more is because I really connected with Brother Jhun, which was great because I didn't have that kind of connection with any of the men of the church. When he told me (he was laughing as he said it) that he wanted Kina to die, I knew for sure he was one enlightened cat. Unlike basically all of the other men of the church, whom I love (just so you don't think I'm bashing them, it's just the way they are), I never heard him say anything racist or sexist. He never once asked me if I was scared that a black Muslim was going to be my next president (I excuse misidentifying Obama's religion on the grounds that I don't know anything about politics in the Philippines- but the rest of that is pretty rough) or how "liberated Western women are" (That one always made me shudder). So getting to know Brother Jhun the last few weeks was great, and this one experience with his dog solidified it for me.
In my last two weeks I also did some adventureous things. Foremost in my mind and my stomach is trying balut. Yvonne and I had been putting it off for some time, but knew we would eventually have to try it, and we did two Saturdays before we left. For those of you who don't know (which I assume is almost all), balut is a delightful little snack Filipinos are quite fond of. In fact, they say you aren't a Filipino until you try one. What they do is they take a duck egg and let it incubate for 18 days. Then they hard boil the sucker and hand it out. So it's basically an egg with a duck fetus to go along with it. It doesn't look too great, especially the fetus part (my fetus's head actually fell off so I had to put it back on before eating), but really doesn't taste as bad as you'd think. The only really bad thing is in 18 days, the duck already has feathers, so there's that whole mess to deal with.
They say that it's supposed to be really healthy, but I've learned that they are full of crap when it comes to this. They say everything that is disgusting is healthy. On one of our last days, Yvonne was forced to drink an egg in a pop called Sarsi (what a terrible name)--because I beat her in a game--and they tried to tell me that it was actually healthy. Excuse me if I'm a little skeptical.
Anywho, the last week was full of working really hard, saying goodbyes, and getting crap for some of you people back home (I didn't actually get much for you guys, so don't get your hopes up for a gift). The goodbyes were pretty rough, especially to certain people I felt really close to, like Sister Neneng, the woman I love (/forty-eight year old caretaker of the church). I don't have too much else to say, mostly because I still have to figure out what this whole experience meant to me, which is how I hope to spend my time in the hotel. Thanks for reading and for all the support. I appreciate it. Really.
Well sports fans, it's been a long and strange journey. I now kind of have a beard, sort of. It's pretty terrible, but my resolve was strong in the face of adversity and I never gave in. This one single endeavor has taught me a great deal about myself and the human spirit in general, perhaps more than anything else I did, saw, or tried. Today, when David Curtis, an FHUS staff person, he didn't recognize me from when I had left. I truly look different, and not for the better. For some reason, the hair on my chin is read. In some places, there are hairs that are way way way longer than rest and it looks ridiculous. But all is well. Tonight, I will be shaving all except the frankly vulgar little creature on my upper lip. Most of you probably will not see this attempt at mustachioed fame, but I will keep it for a few days and take pictures, just as I have of my beard. Just as with the beard, with the mustache we must not waiver, we must not flinch, we must not give up so much as the smallest hair (get it?). With that I leave you. Good night, and good luck.