This year I have… killed a chicken with a bolo knife, watched children beat a chicken with a stick as a way to prepare to eat the chicken, see many many traditional pig butchering, preached my first sermon, got bitten by a dog on two separate occasions and had to get multiple rabies and disinfectant shots both times, gotten robbed, battled lice for over a month, survived my first typhoon, survived another typhoon, cut off my hair, cut off my dreads, continued to cut off my hair, got a little more ink, danced many Igorot dances, performed the energizer/dance Instanbul to churches all over northern Luzon, hiked through many ancient rice terraces, visited many indigenous communities, snorkeled with lots of marine animals, scuba dived for the first time, lived on my own since December in a developing country, learned about indigenous spirituality by balancing a giant squash on my head while hiking up rice terraces for hours, became a true vidioke queen, made my first music video, learned the art of waiting and patience, witnessed child laborer, witnessed the corruption of politicians, the police, and the government, learned to live in ”poverty,” traveled all around the Philippines, climbed many mountains, eaten my body weight in rice 10 times over, eaten literally every part of a pig and chicken multiple times, eaten with my hands more than with utensils, learned how to master using a bucket to flush, learned how to not rely on toilet paper, tried to learn 3 languages, gotten my heart broken many times by corruption and the world, yelled at God more than I have prayed, learned the true meaning of loneliness, of community, and of selfless love, and learned the spiritual and healing power of laughter. And I could keep going for pages.
I know that is a lot to take in at once (try living it ;) ), but this craziness, this adventure, this incredible journey, has been my life for over nine months. And it will continue to my life for three more.
My year is almost over. My year is almost over. Even as a type it, I have trouble believing it. I don’t think about it too much because it’s too confusing, too sad, too exciting, and just too much to process. What will I do when I can no longer just jump on the back of crowded jeepney to get anywhere? What will I do when I go home and massages are $100, not $6? What will I do when I ask personal, invasive questions when I first meet someone and they look at me like I’m crazy? But what would I do if I stayed, giving up Princeton, giving up family and friends, giving up a world where I can actually speak the language well and fluently?
I love the Philippines, and I hate the Philippines too. It seems like I have felt every intense emotional possible here, the good and the bad, and through feeling everything I could feel, this place has worked its way deep inside me, to the core of who I am. Leaving it will inevitably be leaving a piece of me behind, one I have grown to love and uplift and fight for.
People casually ask me how I am and how’s the Philippines all the time over online messaging apps. I know they mean well, and are interested in my well being and life here, but I tend to get angry (admittedly probably a bit too irrationally angry) over the idea of trying to communicate the deep diversity of my experiences and life here over a causal online conversation. My journey, these people, this place, deserve so much more than I can articulate. I fear I will I write and write and speak and give presentation after presentation and still not feel like I have done the justice of telling the beauty and reality of this truly wonderful place.
All I can say now, is that the Philippines has changed me in every way. Last August my world was turned upside down and started spinning, and it has not stopped since. But instead of fighting for it to slow and flip back around (as I did in the beginning), I grew to love the constant rotation of life, the ever moving pace, the things you lose because they cannot keep up with the orbit, and the things you find to help stabilize the rotation. It’s a speed that forces to let go: of control, of expectations, of standards, and of the idea that the purpose of your life relies only in your hands. I gave up control and found freedom and laughter, speed and adventure, and clarity and simplicity.
These days I really only focus on the present. On the people who currently bring me joy and love, the places I can explore right at my fingertips, and the home I continue to build within myself and the one I have built here in the Philippines. Right here and now, the Philippines is my home, my life is an adventure, and I am happy.