CAUTION: I do not have internet connection, nor a computer at my site, meaning I will probably only be able to write a blog once a month, hence this blog is really long. It also is not as entertaining or as broken up into categories as I usually like to do for easy reading. The good stuff is at the end (aka the pictures of scary Lysette), but it might take awhile to get there so don’t feel like you have to read it in one sitting…its all I have to give you for the month. Thank you for coming to my blog and letting me share my life with you.
Lysette Davis Series of Unfortunate Events
A Three Month Tale
At least when Lemony Snicket did it….there was Hollywood behind him to make even the ugly things look artistic and creative, for me things aren’t so pretty. But there is one thing I learned from that movie, all the unfortunate things had a purpose, and for me, I might not necessarily see the purpose right away, but I have faith that there is a reason for everything; I am really trusting God on this whole experience. The last three months have been even more difficult than I expected, but there is a light at the end of every tunnel, and I’m sure I must be close to that light.
Let me Recap my series of Unfortunate Events:
1. While answering the phone for my last 4 way call with my best friends, I knocked the mirror off my mother’s car while pulling out of the garage the night before I left for the Peace Corp.
2. My Luggage Broke 10 minutes before I had to leave for the airport, brand new luggage I picked out for my birthday. I had to leave many things behind and was very late to the airport.
3. While rushing through the airport because I was late, I somehow lost my cellphone, making me incapable of calling friends and family and saying goodbye as I told many of them I would do.
4. After 3 days in the Philippines I became sick, with a cough/cold thing that made my voice go out at least 2 times a day.
5. Because I was sick, I had to miss language class and could hardly participate because I felt so miserable. While attending class, most every minute was miserable because I was using my voice by practicing. After 2 months of being sick, I was hospitalized for 6 days.
6. I thought I had my health back, but it was only for about 1 day. I immediately became ill again, but was afraid to tell anyone because I didn’t want to fall more behind in class, or worry anyone. So I act overly positive to trick myself into believing that I was healthy, although it wasn’t the case. I was so disappointed; not even being in the hospital could heal me.
7. I go to Masskara and loose all my makeup- now this may seem trivial, but since all my clothes are so plain and unfeminine, having mascara made me feel feminine. Like I was still a girl, like I was still taking care of myself.
8. I fail my language test (the peace corp has everyone take a test to check their fluency—you must pass before you leave), everyone in both educations clusters passed, expect for me. Failing is a really difficult experience for me to handle.
9. My brand new (well now 3 month old) laptop just stops working- this is really hard on me, because writing is my outlet, my computer was source of entertainment, my companion and friend. I lose my pictures, my writings and more importantly my opportunity to write.
10. I feel healthy for 2 days!! 2 days of health, and I get bit by an insect, and now look like a mix between zombie monster, and a victim of domestic abuse. No Halloween costume necessary. My eye became swollen shut, and I begin to loose my vision and my hope that I belong in the Peace Corp at all.
WHY AM I HERE?
If I were you, I would be asking, why are you still there?? Honestly I think I’m allergic to the Philippines, I have been healthy a total of 6 days in the last 3 months. I am very sick of being sick. This isn’t an easy experience anyways; people have a hard time handling this while being healthy, but being sick makes it even harder. Do all these signs point to the idea that its time to go home??
I have thought quite a bit about that. And so I have to explain unfortunate even number 10 to really explain how I answer these questions to myself. Brace yourself. This is long.
“WHO IS THAT GIRL I SEE…”
(IMAGINE THAT SONG FROM MULAN PLALYING THE BACKGROUND)
I had just arrived at my new site in San Miguel, and my passion is pouring out of me. The night before my first day of classes, I barely sleep. I looked at the clock about 19 times through the night just in case I slept through the alarm. I landed up getting up before my alarm anyways as I could not contain my excitement; here was my chance to make a difference in the world. I had just finished a wonderful week at counterparts’ conference where I became an official volunteer of the United States Peace Corp, a dream I had since 3rd grade. I still can’t believe I’m actually here. In the Philippines. Something I only imagined, something that President Kennedy dreamed up one day while talking to young people who wanted to move America forward, and somehow I managed to become a part of that. Part of representing the United States, the good that is there even though other countries don’t always see it; I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm to really start my journey at my new site.
I put on a solid navy blue t-shirt that rested up to my neck, and navy blue skirt dangling below my knees. While pinning my hair back I looked in the mirror, and somehow I saw a teacher, something I never expected to see. I saw someone now who I barely recognize in appearance, but exactly the same in the heart. Despite everything, I only want to help people more. My experiences haven’t made me callous, instead more determined. Loosing battles, of health, electronics and everything in between makes me realize how much I took them for granted in the first place.
FIRST DAY ON THE JOB
Walking up to the school, all my hardships disappear I feel like I am exactly in the right place. Despite all that’s been against me, I had a reason to be here, and it was the students that smiled and waved as I approached.
Every Monday is flag day, the entire school lines up in rows based on grade and section. The organization of the whole event is flawless. I see sea of jet black hair and dark eyes staring at me. After the flag was raised and that anthem sung, the principal of the school called upon me to give an impromptu speech. I don’t even know what I said, but I told them I was going to be at the school for two years, and all 2,000 students were astounded while they unanimously “oooed” at the same time. Loud cheers rang out as they clapped and smiled as if I had given them each their own winning lottery ticket. It’s a moment I will never forget. I realized what my time meant to them, and how my being there was already impacting them, because somehow by being there, it meant to them that they are worth something. It doesn’t matter if I stood with my nose in a corner all day, by being there I was representing that the United States thought they were worth some extra help. And they are, they are worth the help.
The first day went painfully slow. My job for now is simply to observe the classes; sadly I don’t get to start teaching yet. It basically feels like you have been preparing all season for a game, but you are benched on the sidelines waiting to be called in. While in the classroom it takes all my effort not to interject or add something. When I see a student falling behind or not understanding I want to pull them aside and work with them, however I have to be patient, my time will come.
CULTRUAL LIFE AT THE WORK PLACE
Value of Friendship
America is very different from the Philippines in the sense of work. On an Americans first day of work, you are expected to start working at full speed, in fact you have to put in even more effort to make up for the things you do not know. There really isn’t an observation period, you just start working. In the Philippines it doesn’t work that way. Culturally, you have to respect your co-workers, you have to get to know them, their families, their interests, their relationship with God. Once relationships are built, then you can start working. Its really hard to explain, because even writing it down isn’t really making sense or accurately depicting the value of importance friendship serves; but being a good worker here means being a good friend and understanding the community. On the other hand, in my American jobs if you happen to make a good friend that is an added bonus of going to work, while here my success in the Peace Corp is dependent of these friendships.
It’s a hard adjustment. I just want to go in there and get things done, but these teachers, my co-workers, are going to be around me for the next two years, meaning the relationship we build right now will be the foundation for my future.
The classrooms are so different than American classrooms I remember when students complained because their classroom was in a trailer/portable when I was in high school. I remember being so upset when the portables took over the tennis courts, and I didn’t even play tennis. I didn’t see then, how lucky we were to get brand new classrooms or to even have a tennis team. In 8th grade my school had a spell of rolling blackouts, when it became too hot due to the lack of air conditioning in the classroom our teacher would let us rest our heads on our desks and relax. Here, sweat beats down the faces of the teachers as if they just finished an Olympic mile, but they don’t stop class. When the students wipe the sweat from their foreheads they do not lay their heads down, they continue to learn, and the teachers continue to teach. I am amazed on how the teachers work with such little supplies. Every one of my classes in America had a projector, a whiteboard, a computer, lights, air conditioning, desks, paper, pens, electricity…and I took it all for granted.
While I’m observing, I have ample time to think about all of these events in my life, all the times I took it for granted. Think about how many times in your life you drank from the water fountain at your school. Clean water, which you could just drink anytime you wanted, for free. Its amazing, to think ‘wow, I didn’t even realize I was that lucky,’ and that’s exactly how I feel about every ten minutes that I’m here. I am lucky. I have had a blessed life. And I didn’t even realize the extent of how blessed we all are until I came here.
The challenges these students face are far greater than anything I was ever concerned about in high school. It seems like it is always rice harvest time, and many of the students are absent, as they have to go help out on the farms. They do not work to make extra cash to buy a new top, or popcorn at the movies, but to put food in their stomachs.
A boy in my first year class is 19 years old, in a class that is equal to the US 7th grader, meaning 12 and 13 year olds. Can you imagine how he feels, being around people so much younger than him. I can’t imagine how hard it is, because I know how much I changed from 12-14, let alone 12-19! He keeps trying to go to school, but gets pulled away to help his family. The only time I ever missed school for work was for “Take your Daughter To Work Day.” I was never helping my family survive; I was exposing myself to opportunity. And that’s exactly what I represent to these students, opportunity and possibility; the opportunity that the world is bigger that just San Miguel and most importantly, the possibility that education can get you somewhere.
WHEN HALLOWEEN CAME IN NOVEMBER
My counterpart, Mam Norms, had a schedule prepared for me. Monday I would observe Year 1, Tuesday Year 2, etc.
Unfortunately, Wednesday came. I was already in a pretty low place, despite my stimulation from the students, the school, and my new family I felt very alone. This is a typical feeling of a Peace Corp member, and I expected it, I just didn’t think it would be so hard. People who really know me, know that to say I am a social butterfly is an understatement. A day was never complete without several meetings, happy hours, and hanging out with friends. I jumped from group to group and managed to love and care for many friends at the same time. I am happiest when I am extremely busy and overwhelmed, and rarely spend a minute alone. And then I joined the Peace Corps! Alone time is really hard to cope with, only because I have so much of it, and nothing to do. Without my computer, I can’t even write my stories. I read all the books people had given me; the only thing to fill my hours alone is the journal and the Bible I brought with me.
Suddenly, I felt a pain in my eye, but I thought it may be a side affect of a headache. But the pain progressed. I felt as though a spider had laid eggs in my eye, it was a weird feeling. I examined my eye in the mirror and saw a strange splatter of blood dabbled across the top of my eye.
The next morning, I woke up and my eye was swollen shut, sealed with a gooey white mixture. I literally had to use both hands to pull my eye open. Inside it looked like I had dumped a pile of clear glue. My face was in pain. It had swollen up so big, it was bruising under my eye. I scared myself just by looking in the mirror.
Day 2 picture–
My host mom really stepped to the plate, Peace Corp gave me medicine for pink eye, but she insisted I see the doctor, aka another trip to the hospital. When she talked to the doctor on the phone they said I may have to be admitted. I packed up an overnight bag, praying that I wouldn’t have to that experience all over again.
Walking into the Doctors office, I felt sick to my stomach. As people starred at me, I realized I not only looked like a monster, I felt like a monster.
The doctor called me in, stood me up and opened my eyes using a tool to old my lid open. She asked me to read the letters on the chart. And I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t see!! Everything was blurry, and I began to panic.
Can’t I just catch a break?? The Peace Corp was already going to be harder on me than everyone else, I don’t like nature, I’m afraid of bugs, and I am the pickiest eater than anyone I have ever met. Those things were supposed to be my challenges, not going blind. It was too much for me to handle. With all my might I tried to control my feelings.
The doctor moved me to a machine, where she checked my eye. It was so swollen and painful for her to even move my eye lid. She had never seen a case like that, and said it was a viral infection that could be contagious most likely contracted from an insect bite so I could not be around students. Meaning I was going to be spending even more time alone, with nothing to do, and making me incapable of moving forward at my site. The whole point of me to be here is to work, and I can’t even do my job. How is this happening to me?!?! Again?!?!
After a few moments of silence, my brain was racing, finally able to spit out words I asked the doctor how long it would be infected.
Her answer. Three Weeks.
That was more than I could handle, tears fell from my eyes and I wiped them away before anyone could see. I thought I would be blind for three weeks, and it broke me. As I wiped my tears without thinking, I wiped a tear from my unhealthy eye to my healthy eye. Immediately the effects started to take place. I could feel it happening. By feeling sorry for myself I spread the infection. Now I was going to be blind in both eyes.
The hospital payment system is special for Peace Corp members; I had to go to billing to get a special stamp before I went to the pharmacy to pick up the medicine. While walking to billing, my host mom ran into someone she knew. I asked her if I could go ahead to billing as she stayed behind.
I showed the man at the counter my Peace Corp ID. As he processed the paperwork I felt my other eye starting to swell. In the middle of the room, in front of the worker and the other 20+ people in the room I start balling. I think the only time I have ever cried in public was while at a funeral, and I was in the front row so no one saw. This was full exposure. I’m sure everyone in the room thought I either couldn’t pay my bill, or my loved one just passed away. I didn’t have the strength to stop the tears as they flooded down my face in an irate manner. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I felt like I had given everything I could to my Peace Corp experience, but that everything was against me. Hadn’t I been through enough?
My host mom came up behind me and said, “Don’t worry, you are going to be okay. As long as you are with me, I will take good care of you. Peace Corp members are strong, stop crying, you will be okay.” It took all the energy I had left to stop crying. Once again I was faced with something I took for granted, but this time it was more serious than a sip of water from a fountain, it was my vision.
When I got home, I went to my room. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself so I opened the Bible. I read all of Ester, I didn’t know how much longer I would be able to see, so I wanted to make the most of my good eye while I had it. And I learned a lot, I learned that God made her for a purpose. She didn’t understand it, but she was placed where she was despite the odds of her not belonging there to eventually save the Jews. I’m not trying to save the Jews, nor do I think God has a super big plan for me, but He must have designed my heart to decide to give up the comforts of America, and serve where I was needed. I never wanted to be a teacher; I didn’t think I would be good at it. It surprises me the reaction I get from students and observers when I finish a lesson, somehow I manage to get through to the students, and I can literally see their lights turn on. Although I didn’t necessarily see why God has made it possible for me to be a teacher in the Philippines…when I teach it becomes really clear. After Ester comes Job, and its about how pure Job’s heart is for God, that despite loosing everything including children, and his health he didn’t rebuke God…he prayed. And so that’s what I need/ am doing now, praying. And I feel really happy. It opened my heart to see the purpose…
And then it hit me, all the bad thins that happened to me, prepared me for this moment.
HOW AM I STILL HERE, THE ANSWERS:
- Ruining my moms car- it taught me to be patient in situations, not to rush. I could have waited to answer the phone or called them back. It also taught me that my parents love me no matter what.
- Luggage Breaking- I don’t need all that stuff, the few things that I brought are more than enough; in the truest sense less is more. And I can’t believe I am saying that.
- Loosing my cellphone- realizing that I don’t have my friends here, I didn’t get to say goodbye, just like now I don’t get to call them when I need someone to talk to. It helped prepare me for alone time.
- Being sick- and loosing my voice helped me to learn from others. My silence meant observing how others work. If I had my voice I would have made myself the center of attention, and I can’t grow from the center, I have to grow from the bottom.
- Hospitalized- feeling all alone, and really low made me re asses why I’m here. It would have been really easy to go home right then, a Medical Leave is still a respectable way to go. It was window to leave, but I decided to stay. It was a brick in my foundation of I can make it. It also grew my relationship with Jaron, I had never felt so supported by another person.
- Attitude- I couldn’t let my sickness affect those around me. My instructors often told me, you don’t act sick, and I didn’t. I taught myself to be positive for others.
- No Makeup- its not that I think I need make up to be pretty, but I feel more like a girl and more confident with it. When I first came to my site, the only thing everyone talked about was how pretty I was, about my eyes, how they were so unique. Funny thing, the first thing to go haywire was the thing the Philippinos liked best about me. Most conversations start with, Your so pretty. It really bothered me, I wanted to be more than pretty, I don’t want my outside to show, but my inside to shine. Having my face look like I was trying out for Zombieland would have been a lot worse if I had my make up all along. Because I can’t wear make up now, and I look flat out ugly, loosing my make up prepared me for this moment. And helped my insides to shine a little brighter.
- Failing my language test- it will help me relate to the students. Yes, I had a lot of bad things happened. I had to miss class when I didn’t want to, I was sick, and tired, but I tried my best. I still failed. My students will be the same. They will have to miss class, they will be tired, but they are trying their best. It allows me to take a few steps in their shoes. Even though failing is the worst feeling, maybe you have to fail to help others succeed.
- Laptop broken- If I had my laptop working, I wouldn’t have opened my Bible, I would have turned on a familiar movie with characters that would comfort me and help me escape. I don’t know why I chose Ester, maybe it chose me. Maybe her story is not parallel to my life at all, and I’m seeing lines that don’t exist, but I feel like there is a reason for everything, and there is a reason I am here.
- Thriller Style Scary- I can honestly say I have never felt or looked uglier. I feel broken. Alone. Upset. Unlucky. That life isn’t fair. But that’s exactly why this is happening to me. Firstly, because I have had an extremely blessed life and its time I get some challenges in there, and secondly because you have to hit rock bottom before you can climb back up. When my eyes were at their worst, I made a decision. A decision to accept this as a trial in my life, and to decide its time to climb back up.
With that decision made, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I’m not saying that I don’t think this whole thing sucks, it really does, but my eyes are getting better. In fact by the time I post this, I may already have returned to school. It didn’t last three weeks, maybe three weeks to completely get better, but my vision was only blurred for about 1 day ½. My left eye never got as bad as the right one. It only took about a week.
Jaron Visits My Site
Jaron was kind enough to visit me despite the warning my monster like attributes. When he first came I wore my sunglasses, which is quite uncomfortable because its so hot that they steam up and cause me to sweat even more. I showed him pictures of how bad it was and then became brave enough to take of my sunglasses. Jaron and my host family still accepted me. And the reason that I’m sharing these pictures now is because I know you will still accept me. And it is the only entertaining bit in this whole post. I’m happy that I can laugh at myself, because 3 months ago I wouldn’t even have taken bad pictures of myself in the first place.
During Jarons visit he also gave me his computer to use, so the reason I am able to write this is because of him, so if your reading this, thank you. And to anyone else who is reading this, I still need a lot of prayers. Pray that my computer will be fixed!! So I don’t have to barrow his, that my insurance will cover it, or that I can find another one for real cheap. I can reflect back at everything and see how a purpose is involved but it doesn’t make it easy.
HAVE I CHANGED???
I can promise you this, I am learning. Learning more about myself right now that I ever wanted or thought I needed to, but it is causing me to grow. I thought I was a pretty good person before I left, but now I can see all the selfishness and self absorption that I carried in my daily life. More importantly I can see how I took things for granted.
This week was one of the helpers of the house birthday. She turned 16! We had dinner and they went to the market and purchased some Pilipino chips for everyone for the celebration. She didn’t ask for anything, her gift was a paper fan from the family, and she was happy. One of the nieces spent the night, thus taking the bed of the helper. On her 16th birthday she slept on a mat on the floor.
1- I remember how I acted on my 16th birthday when I didn’t get a car, please keep in mind I didn’t even have a permit, but I still felt entitled to one. All my friends were getting them, and I watched enough Sweet 16 episodes to know how it was supposed to work. I acted like brat afterwards. I was disappointed in my parents. Now I can’t believe my parents loved me after the way I acted. For 16 years they had given me everything they could, but I wanted more. The helper was happy with a paper fan, and sleeping on the floor.
2- By the niece spending the night, she was taking the bed of the helper. She didn’t even realize that on by spending the night, the helper had to sleep on the floor on her birthday. This is a lesson I am still learning, how many times have I cut a line and not realized I was casting someone else to the side. How has my own presence made other people make sacrifices that I don’t choose to see? I hope to see how my presence affects others from a new perspective, and do my best to realize those sacrifices others make on my behalf.
I am grateful that my eyes are healing. And I think I am healing in places I didn’t know I needed to be healed.
Here are the rest of the pictures
Are you scared yet?!?!? hahaha!! well i’m better now..so no worries!!
I really miss and love you all.
Thank you for reading,
Also if you are still reading it probably means you are one of the people who writes me, if so, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to return emails. And for now, sadly this will have to be it. Its not a pretty one, its honest and real and I wrote it like I would an email with my close family and friends in mind.
It also means you may have asked me for an address, if so
Please mail to
Mrs. Maria Teresa Tadifa-Salvilla
Brgy#13 Saclawio Street, San Miguel
Iloilo City, 5025, Philippines