Telling My family I was medically Separated from Peace Corps:
After a night of not sleeping and staring at the clock waiting for a reasonable time to call my parents, the 6 o’clock hour of California the US finally came. This was a common problem for me as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) anyways, the Philippines is a ½ day ahead. My family is from California, and my nights were their days and vice versa.
When I heard my mothers voice, I only heard that of a cry, I couldn’t understand her words. I can’t imagine how it feels to hear that your daughter is medically separated, they knew I had already been in the hospital several times but had not been sent home, so in their minds they thought I was dying. I didn’t have answers for them, as Peace Corps Medical Office (PCMO) said they would answer my questions when I arrived in their Manila office.
My dad took the phone away from my mom and was able to speak. I found comfort in their desire to have me home and safe. That morning I was about to disappoint my community, so to find some joy knowing returning home would give my parents a bit of peace and happiness was what I needed before I went to school. I don’t think I will ever stop needing the encouragement of my family, my family is my heart. Finding the courage to go to the school for my morning meeting took all my energy. I repeated words over and over in my head of what exactly I was going to say.
When I arrived in the principals office I had prepared a speech in my mind to give to the staff, but my principal explained to me that she needed to explain the situation and that I should go home and pack.
My first attempt at saying goodbye to some students
With all the teachers in meetings, I decided to roam the school. I decided to start with the 1st year students and tell them goodbye. The first classroom I had was Year 1 Section 6. Explaining that I was sick and had to go back to America was something that was not communicated. They all said, “It’s okay Ma’am Davis, you will just come back when you are better,” its hard to tell someone you are never going to see them again. Many of the other classes didn’t have a reaction, they didn’t understand. Other students cried. Many feared taking a picture with me, and others couldn’t wait for our last picture together.
I went around to about 8 classrooms and decided that it was too depressing. Instead I went to my International Day speaking engagement in the Plaza. In honor of International Month, the local pre-school had a day to honor other cultures. They paraded their costumes around the plaza, and it gave me a chance to take some final goodbye pictures of the place I called home.
International Day in the Plaza
Finally the event started. It was on Philipino time which means about an 1hr late! It will be hard to forget the students in their costumes, their costumes were made with heavy materials and in the unbearable heat their mothers had to fan them in order to keep the kids from fainting. I was the “keynote” speaker, and I didn’t know what to say to a group of 3-5 year olds and their parents.
If it hadn’t been my last speech in the plaza, I would have just done it all in English, but because it was my last chance to try the language I had worked so hard at (and still didn’t ever fully grasp it) publicly. I had overcome a huge battle of mine, I have always been afraid to speak Kina-raya publicly, but I had no choice, it was now or never.
I started with Kina-raya and spoke for about 1.5 minutes off the top of my head. Who knows if I was coherent, but that 1.5 minutes seemed like 5 minutes of conversation! Then I switched to English, and that was a lot easier.
I then had made a poster and taught the students a Jack Johnson/ Ben Harper song, with my terrible singing voice I lead in song and made small hand gestures. Its not the first time I have used that song at a Speaking event, I always find it inspiring, that each of us can change the world with our own two hands.
After the International Day event, I saw some familiar faces resting under the small amount of shade I had been helping coach the girls softball team and had really become close to a few of the girls. While waiting for the event to start I found a few of them lounging on the grass. I told them that I would be going home, and they all requested that I send them new equipment. Saying goodbye to them was difficult, many of them wanted to be my favorite, and they would always ask me who it was, thus they didn’t want me to leave until I answered! Haha! Not something I expected, I told them, “Being on a team is like being in a family, you can’t love your mom more than your dad, or your anything sister less than you, you are like my family so I love each of you the same, and thus you are each my favorite.” They laughed because they probably didn’t understand what I had said and then hugged me.
Typically they play in the mud, in the rain and in the heat with no shoes or equipment. They have one broken helmet, but its too hot to wear it anyways. Their softballs are repaired with tape, and their bases with rice sacks. Spending time with these girls was a true highlight of my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I had played softball since age 5 through high school and never expected that one day I would get to act as a coach. I just want to throw out a quick thanks to all the coaches in my life you were able to catch a ball, throw it, and bat it and make it look easy—because I never could! Haha! Really I just would throw up fly balls or have to throw down grounders. The biggest lesson that these girls showed me is love for a game. Even when the weather was a monsoon, or so hot you could taste the heat, they never complained, they never asked to stop playing, the game was theirs to play, and that’s all that mattered.
In life I feel like its easy to make excuses not to do something because everything in life has an obstacle, but these girls not only taught me to enjoy the additional challenges, but to embrace them. Standing out in a mud “field” holding an umbrella during the pouring Philippine rain deep into the “outfield” and watching those girls light up will truly be something that I will never forget.
The Peace Corps has been something on my bucket list and was kind of the last tangible thing that I really ever wanted to do in life. Saying goodbye to the softball girls helped me create a new goal, to one day be a coach of some sort, in order to teach the lessons I have learned through sports, and to be reminded that you never stop learning from those younger than you.
My next blog will be about one of the most amazing moments in time that I have ever experienced. I don’t think the world or people could have been any kinder, or a person could have felt more honored. It has taken me so long to write it because I don’t know really how to capture it all in words.
Thanks for reading,