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To Tacloban!

PHILIPPINES | Wednesday, 9 July 2014 | Views [456] | Comments [2]

I have arrived in Tacloban!

Dad and I spent our last night in Cebu together, going out for Indian food (yum!) and drinks at a bar on the street, then watching television (what a treat!) at our fancy $30/night hotel until we went to sleep. He set off early and we said our goodbyes, miss you travel buddy!

The ferry took 2.5 hours and the bus ride, which I had read online takes 1.5 hours, actually took 3. I could that we were approaching Tacloban as more and more collapsed buildings and damaged homes began to line the roads. Houses and businesses with only frames left, covered by blue Samaritan’s Purse and UNICEF tarps to act as walls and ceilings, became more frequent. Finally, I arrived in the city. As I drove through it, I could see that very many places have been rebuilt- the place was bustling and signs saying “Now open!” and “Grand re-opening!” seemed to offer signs of hope, resiliency, and reconstruction. Grim reminders of the typhoon still line the streets, however; on some walls of collapsed and abandoned buildings, desperate messages such as “We need food, SOS” and “Save us- people inside” offer a stark look at how the city must have looked in the days following the disaster.

I arrived at my homestay at 6pm, in a barangay of Tacloban. The streets in the neighbourhood are sidewalks lined by covered sewers (open sewers covered by chunks of concrete that can be removed, and in many areas are missing completely…a fellow volunteer tells me he prefers to wear hot shoes instead of flip-flops due to the tendency of the sewers to flood many days and carry various parasites), the houses, which were probably not in the best of shape before the typhoon, have been partly rebuilt after being flooded. Mine is painted bright green inside, by paint donated by some past volunteers who stayed at my same homestay before the disaster. Volunteer for the Visayans, the group I am working with, has been here for ten years working in this area. The friendliest people and sweetest, most curious and outgoing kids you’ll ever meet run everywhere. I feel welcome and comfortable.

My nanay (housemom) is an incredible cook, happily making delicious vegetarian meals for me and my fellow volunteer housemate, a med student from Wales who is also vegetarian and is named Ganey. Nanay is retired and her grown children live outside the home, but her daughter lives next door and frequently brings over her 3-year-old daughter who is totally hilarious. She runs a little store out the front of her house and we communicate mostly through smiles and laughter, since she is not fluent in English and I know no Waray-Waray (the local language). I get to take a Waray Waray class tonight, though, and I am going to work very hard to gain some level of functionality with the language! The other volunteers are super-nice, we went out for drinks last night and spend quite a bit of time together in the center since our projects go throughout different hours of the day.

Yesterday I did my Tacloban City orientation (a tour around town) and got some groceries. I get to make my own lunches, for which I’m very thankful as it is an opportunity to choose my own comfort foods like peanut butter and jam sandwiches on whole wheat and Skinny Cow cheese on Ritz crackers, and to get actual protein every day through snacks like pumpkin seeds and trail mix. I even got wine that’s NOT Chablis, a first in this country since I was in Manila! My nanay makes me breakfast and dinner every day. Last night after shopping, I spent some time tutoring in the after-school tutoring program for the neighbourhood kids- I went in with another volunteer and sat with 6 grade-eight students to go over their math and spelling questions from earlier that day in school. I was terrified initially but I actually knew what topics we were talking about and was able to be helpful, I think. I committed to do it on Wed and Fri nights but will probably do it more often than that. Today I learned how to get to my clinic as my guide took me on the half hour jeepney and 15-minute tricycle ride there. It is beautiful, run by a doctor and a midwife and still has tarp ceilings and one tarp room as they are still waiting for help re-building after Yolanda. I look very much forward to starting there tomorrow morning, roasting in my scrubs as I continue to roast and sweat all day every day. Now I sit in the intermittent blowing of the fan in the internet café, escaping the heat for an hour until I head back to the center to help prepare meals for the nutrition program that takes place every evening for the kids in the neighbourhood.

Until next time, my friends! Thank you for reading!



Still reading Kirsten! You are very inspiring to me! Love you! Uncle joe

  Joe Jul 9, 2014 3:54 PM


The house youre staying at sounds really amazing! Cant wait to hear your experiences in more detail when you get home and we can chat. I want to hear more! Nicole

  Nicole Aug 1, 2014 8:49 AM

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