Today I received a snapfish book I ordered filled with my entire journey of Peace Corps from my goodbye party at the very beginning to my last trip at Sabarro with Jaron. My mom asked what my favorite memory was from all of Peace Corps. Two pictures stand out, two experiences could sum up a 15 month journey.
The Blind Man
The first is a lesson I learned. While at General Douglas MacArthur Park, Leyte was that there is no excuse not to do whatever you put your mind to.
This man proved to be one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. While thinking about him I still get goose bumps. His song was pure, his ability to move what was left of his hands up and down the guitar, how he had to tilt his hand at exactly the right angle to pull the strings without being able to see what he was doing was doing. His young grandson stood next to him telling him when to play for people. I’m sad to say that my battery was about to die, but I was able to caputre about 30 seconds of him playing.
Whether you glance at the pictures or watch the entire clip I hope it reminds you that you can make anything possible and find it as inspirational as I do.
My Last Speech
It is well known in the Philippines that when someone is making a presentation its okay to talk, text, even get up, turn your back to the speaker, listen to your own music etc. When I first arrived to the Philippines I started intently at the speaker, even after a year I still felt disrespectful when others would talk to me during a speech, but I came to understand it as the culture and eventually became a part of the culture.
I would say that I gave a speech at least 2xs a month, sometimes more with presentations, and of course there was teaching everyday. I was used to people speaking when I spoke and being busy with other things. I would say that people on average tend to listen to me more intently then others mostly because it took a lot of effort to hear and understand my English.
Then it was time for my last speech. And when I spoke, you could hear a pin drop. With the whole school and staff watching, everyone was quiet. When I finished my speech they were still quiet. They wanted more, they weren’t finished with me. We all knew that when I stopped speaking that I was the end of my journey.
I felt robbed by my health to end my service early. There are many more things I wanted to do, and relationships I was not ready to end.
In that moment, that quiet still moment, I felt closure, i felt respected, that my work had value and that value was the moment of silence everyone honored me with. Hanging on my every word, I worried my words would not have enough meaning, but all the meaning was felt when I looked out into the crowd and saw my work.
My last speech was an announcement, a summary and a goodbye. The students and teachers have asked that I write it out for them to have and read again. I know that I finished my speech and then it was quiet so I just kept speaking, so this isn’t exactly all of it, but here is what I have written down:
“Mayad nga Aga– (I finally said something in kinaray-a, so everyone cheered and then laughed– as did I)
To the students and teachers of Lenora S. Salapantan National High School, no words can express my sorrow in making this announcement, today will be my last day as a teacher in San Miguel, as I will be returning to America.
This departure comes as a shock both to you and to me. You might not know this, but in the last year I have been in the hospital trhee times. As a 24 year old adult, Peace Corps Washington D.C. decided that its time for me to go home due to my last hospital visit only a few weeks ago. I didn’t expect to go home and I will miss you all very much.
However, I am happy to leave on a day that represents a day for sharing the world with each other (it was international day) as I have shared America with you for the last year. As I walk around campus and see the door decorations representing different cultures I am proud of you (my final project was a door decorating contest that I will share in my next blog). I am proud that you were willing to accept a culture different than your own. I have enjoyed teaching you random facts about the United States and myself.,a s you have shared with me your life.
When strangers find that I actually live in San Miguel, they often ask how I find the place. I easily tell them, I find the students friendly, polite and eager to learn and you really can’t ask for anything more than that.
Peace Corps has 3 main goals and I believe that despite my time with you being shortened, together we have achieved all three.
1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
If I have one wish to make before I leave, Its that you feel inspired. I believe in each of you, in your talents, in your will power. I know that with hard work you can do anything. Remember to never settle and to push harder than you think you can push.
Good things don’t come easy, but when you want something with your whole heart its worth the effort. Dream big, dream bigger than your parents or friends think you can dream. Never limit yourself to what you think you can can, because if I had limited myself I would have never had the opportunity to meet each of you.
Here is a little bit of my story. I was born in a lower income area in a suburb of Los Angeles. The schools and education systems were not challenging, so everyday my mom gave me extra assignments. Over each summer, I never stopped learning, my mom prepared workbooks and had me read whatever I could find. From the beginning of my schooling I have attended 9 schools. Every time I moved I tried to learn from the people around me, not just educationally, but morally. At each school I tried to challenge myself, joining every club and exposing myself to things I didn’t even know I would like. I never said no to an opportunity, I found myself trying things that I thought I would hate, things that I thought I wasn’t going to be smart enough for, things that challenged me. But it turns out, I was smart enough, and that trying different clubs, sports, friends, and activities made me who I am.
My message to you it just to try. Give life nothing short of your best. Try your best in everything in what you do and what you say. Trust God to lead your decisions and pray He blesses you with the kindness you show to others. YOU can be anyone you want to be, you just have to try.
Thank you. Thank you for greeting me at the school with smiles on your faces. For saying good night even when you meant good morning, because you weren’t afraid to try to speak Engish and I admire that. Thank you for listening in my classes. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for letting me give you a nosebleed everyday (meaning I spoke too much English). Thank you for teaching me words like “gwapa, namit and salamat (beautiful, delicious and thank you).” Thank you for loving me, and welcoming me, for dancing with me, singing with me, playing with me, talking with me, for being my friend and making me feel at home.
Palangga ako ikaw( I love you), I will miss you, and I will will never forget you.”
Thank you San Miguel and the Philippines or teaching me and inspiring me. Thank you for the honor you gave me by the way you treated me in my last speech. You did so much for me that day that it will have to be another blog, but I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
I love you all.
Thank you for reading and sharing my life,