Saturday, September 19, 2015

Manila Diary | Week Two | First Day Of Work, Mass and Making Friends

My family asked me this morning how many days I have left; 87 days. That's how long I have until I can see them again! It doesn't seem like that long, so I'm positive that this trip will go by in an instant. My goal is to learn something new everyday, whether about the people I work with or about myself (or both). I'm here to make some sort of difference, so that will be my main goal.

Hopefully I can make sense of my jubbled and racing thoughts. I'm glad that I still get to write, take photos, and do the things that I love the most while here in the Philippines! The good news is, I already feel more accustomed to Pasig. I like it here. I've almost already adapted to the warmer and more humid climate. The food is also delicious so there hasn't been any issues there either! I get more antsy when I think about work tomorrow. I'm nervous for what may happen, but I want to channel those nerves into motivation and be ready to get some work done.

 Today, we begin our internship! We were to arrive at 8:30 at the Mentors International office. I got up, showered, put on some fresh clothes, and waited for the others to be ready. We scarfed down the breakfast that Nanay made for us and rushed out the door. 

We reached Mentors International after a quick 10 minute tricycle ride. It's located close to City Hall. We filed in one by one to the office and headed up the stairs. There were people in cubicles typing away on computers or talking on their phones. We waved to them and said hello as we ascended to the meeting room. We grabbed a seat and waited for Novie, our boss. Novie has been working with Mentors International for 24 years. My first impression was that she is a very smart and capable woman. We began orientation with a slide show introducing the program, rules and schedule for what our internship will look like. We also met with Nathan via Skype, who gave us more insight into what we should expect. We introduced ourselves and what our strengths are to see what we could contribute to Mentors International.

After a quick lunch, we had one more presentation that told us about the individual steps taken to find new clients, process loans, and where we will fit in between. I felt a little nervous when they told us that we would meet one on one with people and also have freedom when choosing our own lesson plans for when we teach bigger groups. They reassured us of our safety and told us to essentially take everything in. We were here for an exposure, to experience a third world country and the everyday lives of these people. We were allowed to head home after our orientation, so we piled ourselves into a tricycle and drove back to the apartment. This trip has been all sorts nerves and excitement for me, but something tells me that we're going to be working very hard.


We have a weekly schedule set for us for the month of September. On Wednesdays, we have branch meetings where we discuss progress, questions or concerns, and for this week, the expectations that we have and our employer has for us. The meeting lasted for over an hour, filled with plenty of teasing and laughing. Filipinos are very friendly and happy people. We usually take a moment to crack a few jokes, but when it came to business, we needed to communicate our responsibilities clearly and efficiently.

We were off for the rest of the day and decided to treat ourselves to some lunch in town. We walked around to see where we could eat when we came across a beautiful and aged building. It was the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church that was founded in 1537. I have a thing for beautifully constructed buildings, there are not enough of these pieces of masterful architecture that exist in the United States. We walked up to the giant doors and entered into the chapel...

As we walked through the giant doors out of the trickling rain, I could hear the Priest reciting his prayers and the people following along. We tip toed across the marble floor and quietly filed into a bench. We listened to the prayers and the hum of the fans that were bolted to the wall above each row. I sat quietly observing the people, the stain glassed windows, and the designs in the ceilings, paintings, and statues. It was very beautiful. We couldn't hear since we were so far back, but it was spoken in Tagalog and English. We all shared experiences, stories and memories. You don't get a chance to experience religious practice in another country, and honestly this stuff is very intriguing to me. I'm glad my crew is open enough to experience it all together! I think it's fun to see how other people worship and to learn about what they believe.

The rain was coming down ever harder when we left the chapel. We crossed the street to a bookstore that had notebooks, envelopes, crayons, pencils, and more.  Anthony and I were sorting and fiddling through the small notebooks and trying to decide which one was the best. We wanted the small notebooks to jot down thoughts each day. By the time we bought what we needed, the rain was coming down in sheets. I pulled out my umbrella and shifted my backpack to the front of my belly. We flagged down a tricycle and had a soaking wet ride back to the apartment

Today at work we went to Pateros and met a group of women there. They were lively, friendly and yet shy to meet us. I was with Madi, who speaks Tagolog, and people are always pleasantly surprised to see an American speaking their language. Madi and I watched over their meeting and learned more about how things run. They were delegating responsibilites, filling out forms, and listening to the new rules in place for meetings. Rain began to trickle down and one of the women offered us an umbrella. Another woman mentioned that she was making Balot. Balot is... a Filipino delicacy. It's actually a cooked fertizlized egg.  My stomach turned at the thought of eating it, but regardless, we bagged it up and thanked them and took it home with us.

After the meeting, Connie, one of the Mentors, took us to the Market Market. It was a smaller version of the Mall of Asia, for lunch. We had rice, chicken and a watermelon mint smoothie. It was nice to drink something freezing cold because of how hot and humid it was. She took us around to a different building that was a garden on top, it was beautiful. We were stories high above the city and surrounded by beautiful plants, shrubs and flowers. We explored for only a few minutes and did a little window shopping. Afterwards we took a van back to Pasig.

That night, I didn't want to be alone when eating the Balot so Anthony tried it with me. Let's just say, he's the champion, because he actually ate it. I psyched myself out. You really can't look at it when you eat it haha! After wussing out and laughing up a storm, we decided to go for a quick night swim in the pool. The baskeball court was lit up and a league game was going on. We sat along the stairs and watched them play. Basketball is very popular here, posters of Michael Jordan and jerseys of Stephen Curry everywhere. We headed back up to the apartment, said our good nights and headed to bed.

Madi and I tagged along with Josephino today. We were meeting new clients and following up with old ones. The clients are always very kind and hospitable. We let Josephino do the talking and consulting, and we quietly sat by observing. We take a lot of different forms of transportation to get around. We take tricycles, side cars, and jeepneys. On one Jeepney, I met a very rambunctious and charismatic driver. He saw me and immediately started asking me questions in Tagolog. I was flustered and told him I didn't speak it. Most people know English around here, and his English was very good. He teased me and taught me different words. I explained that I knew a few words like Salamat (Thank you) and Pasencha (Please) and Ingot (Take Care). He told me to say Salamat Pogi, and I asked what it meant.  He told me that Pogi means good looking and he busted up laughing. The other kids on the ride were laughing along (or probably at me) as I was trying to learn more tagolog. He told me that he liked me, and that the next time I rode his jeepney, it would be for free! I was sure to say Salamat Pogi, before I left.

I've already been around to so many different places in Manila. We meet clients with very different personalities, but mostly very friendly. Kids will usually stare or even wave to us and duck behind walls giggling after I wave back, which always makes me smile. I can't even remember the exact names of the places that I've been because there are so many. We met back up with Blake and got a quick bite at McDonalds before heading home.

It was just me and the boys this weekend. Madi decided to fly to another island to visit some of her friends there. We decided to head over to the Market Market and do some shopping. We meandered over all 5 flights of stairs with all sorts of stores and boutiques. We had delicious lunch at the Yellow Cab, where I had pizza and soup. We found a church at the top of a building and found glass doors that led out to the rooftop gardens they had.

I have a thing for lookouts. I love being so high up and being able to see the entire city. It was beautiful. They say that Manila is the city where the rich and the poor rub shoulders everyday, these pictures prove it. That's been the strangest thing to adjust too. It's so strange to be able to go from a high end, expensive and beautiful place to a home made of concrete or boards, where everything is crammed, dirty, and bug infested. But the greatest part is, is that everyone really is happy. They are genuine and hospitable people. There wasn't a meeting where we weren't joking around and smiling. It's amazing that these people can have such little income and still offer us food or an umbrella.

Thanks for Reading!
Love, Nick


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