Friday, May 20, 2011

To The Bukid! (And back)

5-16-11 Evening
So I’m laying on a mattress on the floor with a blue mosquito net above me. The backs of my hands are sunburned because I fail at sunscreen. Outside, a man is singing and playing what sounds like a ukelele. I think I’m in love. No, not with the ukelele player, although he is good, but with where I am. I am currently in the middle of the Philippine jungle, also known as the Bukid. I’m about 4 hours outside of Davao surrounded by huts and trees. There is a river about a 2 minute walk away. We went swimming with a bunch of the village kids earlier. This is the kind of stuff I’ve always dreamed about. Adventure. Climbing into the back of a truck and driving 4 hours into the jungle to do health teaching and prenatals. 
Man. I love this. This is where I was meant to be. Outside the city. Villages are where it’s at. Life is slow and sweet. None of the rush, rush, rush. The sounds are so soothing. I can hear bugs chirping, bats squeaking, a baby crying and dogs barking at something. It’s so different from Davao where it’s all cars and tricicabs and motors and horns. I’m excited for tomorrow. We’re headed even deeper into the Bukid for health teachings and prenatals. We have to get up early to go meet the mayor so I should go to bed now. Goodnight!

5-17-11  Evening
It’s rare I find myself so content. This morning seems eons ago. I awoke around 6, got ready and piled, with four other people (including the driver) onto a motorcycle to head into town and meet the mayor. We introduced ourselves and stated our purpose for going to the Bukid. After some friendly chitchat he asked if we were all single. We all laughed and said we were. It’s a big question here in the Phils, usually followed by “Why?” “Do you want a Philippino boyfriend?” and “Can I have your cellphone number?”
After our meeting with the mayor we went to the market where one of the stores was blaring Bob Marley. Freedom Fighters always puts me in a good mood so my spirits were high as we piled back onto the motors to head back to Ate (pronounced Ah-tay) Mary Jean’s village. 
Back at the village we packed our bags and climbed onto the motors to head up into the mountains. Lincey and I were on the biggest motor along with everyone’s bags on a skylab.
Our road took us through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. The path was steep and winding. Sometimes I though we wouldn’t make it up the mountain. But when we did... You could see for miles. Rolling hills and mountains covered in deep green rainforest. Places you only see in pictures and movies. Yet there I was, watching it all from my lofty perch on a motorcycle, careening down a dirt road.
We arrived at the village around noon. We spoke with some of the villagers via our shoddy Cebuano and a translator. They were all curious about us. People crowded around to hear our answers to various questions. How old are you? Do you speak Tagalog or Cebuano? The ever important “Are you single?”
We ate lunch after awhile. Rice and chicken. All’s I’ve eaten for the last two days has been rice. Then, since we were all wiped out, we took a nap before starting prenatals. Ate Mary Jean woke us up after about an hour. I woke up in a puddle of sweat.
Our health teaching consisted of a few hastily put together skits about high risk pregnancy. We covered twins, hypertension and anemia as best we could with our broken Cebuano. But the women seemed to understand. 
Some time between taking a woman’s blood pressure and checking the baby’s heart I had this moment that was just so surreal. I felt like I was in a movie or documentary. This is what I’ve dreamed of my whole life. I’m in a village, in the mountains of a developing country teaching women how to care for themselves and giving immunizations. It’s every missionary story I’ve ever read, except that it’s not a story for once. It’s my life. 
After prenatals a woman brought her son to us. He’d fallen and scraped his arm and head. I had the opportunity to clean him up and bandage his scrapes. What we’re doing here is so much more than midwifery. So much of what I’m learning is applicable to so many areas.
In the evening it started to rain so we put on our bathing clothes and went to the well. We bathed in the middle of the village in a big stone tub while it poured rain. It was such a “you know your a missionary when” moment. 
As our day began to wind down we curled up with cups of coffee and talked about our futures. We talked (as groups of girls are wont to do) about the kind of men we’d like to marry. I know I’d have to marry a missionary. A doctor or a teacher or something. I can’t stay in one place too long. 4-5 years at the most before I start to get restless. I have to move. I can’t live in America for the rest of my life. Being a missionary, living in Africa and being here has ruined anything other than being a missionary for me. I love it. It’s hard. It makes me cry. It makes me angry. It makes me hurt. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Nothing else stirs my heart the way this does. Nothing else makes me cry this way, makes me this angry or hurt this much. Nothing else makes me love so deep or feel so alive. It’s my passion, my calling, the desire of my heart. It’s who I am and who I am called to be.

5-18-11 Morning
I don’t think the sound I want to make even has a phonetical spelling. I ache. All over. We had two choices for a bed last night. The tile floor with a bamboo mat or a plywood bed with a bamboo mat. Makayla and Lincey called the floor. I’m pretty sure it was more comfortable than the bed. But hey. Now I know that I really can sleep on a rock if need be.
Anyways. It’s pouring rain and we’re headed to another village later. At least I won’t have to worry about being sunburned. Just about getting soaked. Also, even remote regions such as this are not free from Beiber fever. Over the pouring rain comes the sound of the voice of a prepubescent 17 year old. Baby, baby, baby ooh..

5-18-11 Still morning
We’re waiting on Genevive (a local midwife) to meet us before we head to the next village. We had rice for breakfast again. And instant coffee. After breakfast we walked around the village for a little while. The little kids ran from us. It’s so beautiful out here. It’s so green and there are flowers everywhere! A lot of the younger kids run around naked. If I were to come back to the Phils long term, this is what I’d want to do. Travel around with someone. Go around to villages and do prenatals and whatever medical stuff I could. Today I helped a woman who had what appeared to be an ear infection. I remembered that you can flush an infected ear with hydrogen peroxide. I just wish we’d brought some medication with us. She could have used some antibiotics. Yesterday, even simple Tylenol would have helped. We had a little girl with a fever come to us for help and there wasn’t really anything we could do. I need to make an outreach bag I think. I’ll come up with a list of things to take with me next time.
I could do this. Live in a village. Live in a little house and travel to other villages and do prenatals and births and simple med stuff. With a small garden and some chickens I could even be pretty self sufficient! Maybe one day...

5-18-11 Evening
So this morning we loaded back onto the motors and proceeded to careen once more through the mountains at “Oh dear God, I’m so glad the speedometer is broken!” KM/H. I exaggerate a bit. But only a bit. It had rained the night before so there was a lot of puddle dodging. The road was mostly dry but at one point we did have to contend with a mudslide. I thought we were going to have to get off the motorcycle and walk!
It didn’t take too long to reach the village. We dropped our stuff off at our host family’s house and went to do more prenatals. The group here was quite a bit more rambunctious than the group yesterday. We introduced ourselves. They asked how old we were and where we were from. And then the ever present “Are you single?” When we said yes they all laughed and cheered. Some of the young men got the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. 
After prenatals it began to rain. We stayed at the health center for about an hour and just talked and had our merianda (snack). Later, Lincey, Makayla and I decided to walk to the river. We were followed by a bunch of kids.
Eventually the kids decided we were boring. They jumped into the river and swam to the other side to jump off of some low rocks. It wasn’t long before they started calling to us. “Ma’am, ma’am can you swim?” 
After much debate Lincey and I decided that we could indeed swim. We both plunged, fully clothed, into the river, much to the delight of the kids. The current was stronger than I expected but I made it across just fine. We spent some time with the kids laughing and jumping into the water before heading back to the other shore. 
We rejoined Makayla and headed back to our temporary house. After some coffee, one of our drivers came back with a live chicken. We were told that the chicken was dinner and that we could watch him kill it if we wanted. Linc and I took him up on the offer. As we watched, music started blaring from across the street. Someone had cranked up the town’s karaoke machine so that it was just playing music. So now I’m just waiting on dinner and listening to what sounds like Creed or something from across the street. Rad stuff right here.

5-19-11 Evening
So  this morning we headed to Patil, the furthest village you can go to by motor. On the way we once again contended with the mudslide. But this time we were headed uphill. And this time, the mudslide won.
About halfway through the mud our motor tipped over. The skylab kept us from going all the way over, but Lincey and I had to get off and walk. I hopped off the motor and immediately sunk up to my ankles. I was a little worried I might loose my shoes so I took them off and carried them for the 10 feet or so across the mudslide. My feet looked like I was half mudman. Luckily, there was a small stream where I could wash my feet and my flipflops. 
After we got the motor out of the mud we continued on to Patil where we did several prenatals. I’m pretty sure I took BP for every person in the village who was over 40. When they have low BP, anything less than 100/70, they immediately declare themselves anemic. I’m sitting there thinking, “Umm... that’s not what that means...”
After prenatals and a quick lunch of, you guessed it, rice, we loaded back up onto the motors to head back to Ate Mary Jean’s village. After about an hour of driving, my butt was sore and we were back. We took a half an hour or so to unload and rest before promptly deciding that it was naptime.
I woke up around 5 to the sound of rain. It was near dinner time so I decided not to go back to bed. Instead I got up, looked out the window and decided it was time to start building an ark. Late May/ early June is the beginning of rainy season and it shows. It’s flooded outside right now. I just hope we’ll be able to make it home tomorrow. I’ve really loved it out here, but I go back to the states in 11 days and I need to get packing!

5-20-11 Evening
Well, we made it back to Davao! It stopped raining sometime last night and the flood receded enough that the roads weren’t washed out or anything. So we loaded up onto the motors for the last time and headed in to town. We said our goodbyes and hopped a jeepney to Tagum where we took a bus back to Davao. We were home by 11am!
My turtle is still alive. I’m happy to be eating something other than rice and to have a real shower and a good bed. I’m excited to be going home in only 10 days! I also can’t wait to go on outreach again! Ate Mary Jean told us that she needs a team every month. And it only costs about $40 for food and transportation for the week so this is something I’ll definitely be trying to do again! It was definitely one of the best weeks of my life!
Anyway, here is a link to my pictures. There should be more tomorrow or the next day because I still have to get some from the other girls.