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PHILIPPINES | Sunday, 10 August 2014 | Views [383]

I’m not ready to come home!!

It’s so exciting getting to come back in a week and a half to see everyone, but at the same time it’s so sad. I feel like I’ve settled in so nicely here, and have adjusted to everything but the blazing heat. I love walking down the street and constantly having people saying hello and smiling, kids running beside me saying “Ate Kirsten, where are you going?” (ate = at-ay = big cousin or sister in Waray Waray), the sounds of karaoke everywhere and palm trees blowing.

As of Monday, the clinic is being rebuilt! USAid came through last Friday and was shocked to find that it had not yet been rebuilt, as apparently they had planned to do it by the 6-month mark after the typhoon (it’s now been 9 months). They told us to pack up everything and find a temporary location and they would start this week. Literally half of the clinic has not been in use since the ceilings were irreparable and there was so much damage, and the makeshift delivery room was nothing compared to what it used to be. They now have land allocated, a sign up letting people know that “this is the future site of Tabontabon Medical Clinic, and plans to start construction this week. Al the midwife even said that they’re thinking about keeping the old clinic and reconstructing it to be an annex, so the new building can be primarily for labor and delivery and the old building can be for tuberculosis patients, patients with diarrheal and other diseases and patients who need to stay overnight for a couple of nights. Up until now they have not been able to keep overnight patients, so it would be a huge help to those who only need to be admitted for 1-3 nights, who have trouble affording the trip to and from the hospital half an hour away.

Learned a lot about cockfighting this week from Al (haha)- apparently it’s like a national sport! He says that people who dress the roosters with the blades for their feet (yikes) actually become quite famous and can make a lot of money, and fights are televised from Manila regularly. The whole town in Tabontabon comes out on Sunday afternoons when fights occur, and a lot of people make good money if their roosters become champion fighters, just from people in town placing bets. Al had fifteen at his house apparently. He also knows people in Canada and the US who come from the Philippines to work there. While they’re there, they raise roosters well with expensive food and great care before bringing them home later to fight! According to Al, the foreign-raised roosters are much stronger and better than the Philippine-raised ones. He invited me to see a fight…as much as I want to participate in a local pastime, I somehow think that watching two birds fight to the death and slaughter each other with razor blades would not be my cup of tea!

Yesterday we did a project tour and got to see the community garden currently being built for the people in Cangumbang (who do not have easy access to veggies), the home I saw/sort of worked on last week, and a school that has just been completed by VFV volunteers and local workers- up until now the kids have studied in UN tents in the blistering heat, exposed to the elements. We brought the chairs and desks that volunteers built and painted this week, and the kids will be ready to move in and start doing classes in them before I leave! I teared up a bit walking around the school grounds and seeing the conditions that the children were being forced to study in. A teacher said that when it rains, the kids get wet in the tents, and when it’s hot, it’s…well, extremely hot. It’s so cool that they’re going to have windows and doors and a real roof and shade now. We also distributed aid bags to Tanauan, which was really fun. We organized bags of clothing, soap and dental hygiene stuff and passed them out to a few dozen families who were on the list of those in need. It only took maybe half an hour or forty five minutes but I really enjoyed it.

On Tuesday I’ll be hopefully going with a new volunteer who was here two years ago to visit some kids she knows who are currently living in a “tent city.” She described the kids having swollen bellies (which makes me think immediately of either severe malnourishment or possibly leishmaniasis) and rashes…on Tuesday we are going to distribute some supplies she picked up for them like soaps, underwear and toothbrushes- all of which they don’t have- and to check on them. I’m going to have a look at them and try to determine if we should bring them to the free hospital in town. If it’s leishmaniasis or something else, they should go to the doctor, but if it’s malnourishment…well, nothing helps except for a long-term feeding program. I’m hoping it’s something easily treatable but am concerned that it might not be.

Off to book my flight to Manila and organize my life this week before I leave Tacloban next Tuesday. I also have a diving weekend planned in Southern Leyte again with Eve and maybe some others before next week, for which I am thoroughly stoked! Thanks for reading as always, and I should have one or two more updates before I’m back in Canada!

 

Oh yeah, and my goal to start running two or three days a week again has turned into a massive failure. I managed one week of it but since then it has been 35 degrees almost every day, with full humidity of course and a "real feel" of 40+ degrees according to another volunteer's iPhone! Every time I think I've gotten used to the heat here, I realize that it was just a slightly cooler or cloudy day and the next blistering day brings back it all back. This is the one thing I'll be thrilled to leave behind!

 

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