A Pebble in A Pond

Just another WordPress.com site

A new pebble in a pond

Hello Readers,

As you may know if you have been following my blog since it’s birth, I really believe that everyone makes ripples in life and follow effect others through their actions, thus I named this blog A Pebble in a Pond.

Since I returned to grad school I have been missing the part of my identity that is service. In the Peace Corps, your whole live is serving, and it’s really hard to come back to America where your life suddenly becomes all about you again. Grad school is harder than I expected and time always disappears, and service to others has come in different forms. Today I am excited to share a new journey, of advising others on service.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a group of students on the University of Arizona’s Alternative Spring Break Trip. I have the honor of working with 11 students who have worked hard to put together a trip in which we will serve in two locations in San Francisco.

The trip leaders identified two main areas that they wanted to help in SF. First, they wanted to work with Glide, a church that provides food to the homeless. Second, they wanted to work with the aids foundation.

We will be serving at Glide, and focus on serving foods to others. San Francisco has a large homeless population.  According to a recent report by the Business Insider,  In San Francisco, there are 6,436 homeless people and a little over half of them live on the street. If you are interested in serving the homeless in your own area, check out Hungerhomeless.org.

We will also be working with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation that provides free HIV Testing and Counseling. According to the San Francisco AIDS foundation, AIDS is prevalent in SF with over 28,000 residents being diagnosed, making up 18% of the total of all cases of California AIDS.  Their mission: “Reduce the number of new infections in San Francisco because we refuse to accept HIV as inevitable. Through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care, we are confronting HIV in communities most vulnerable to the disease.”

In one our meetings I explained to them my own philosphy about being a pebble in a pond, and it inspired a new blog. If you are interested in checking out the trip or meeting some of the amazing students I will work with,  check out:

theserviceeffect.wordpress.com

Thanks for your continued encouragement,

Lysette

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Keep the Dream Alive …

martin

Today is a day to dream, to remember that any one person can move another. Change each other. Inspire each other.

When I was in college I had a class on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As we were learning about Lincoln, I paused in the place Martin Luther King once stood, and I knew the world would never be the same for me. It’s not okay with me to suppress others and hurt others. People could call me a “bleeding heart liberal,” but I like to call myself a human.

The dream still exists, 50 years later and we still have to work for the society MLK envisioned.

What do you think MLK would think about today’s society?  Has racism disappeared?  Recently I was exposed to two videos that really changed my perspective.

How often do actually stand up for someone? How often do you let a law exist because it doesn’t apply to you?

Watch this clip comedy central produced making a mockery of the “Stop and Frisk” law in NYC.

To watch the video and potentially sign a petition- click below:

Stop and Frisk

There is a petition you can sign when watching the video. But sometime you might not want to take the time to sign a petition. No one would ever know if you did or didn’t sign. However, people do notice when you don’t  use your privilege to stand up for someone else.

One Easy thing All People Can do  —

My philosophy with this blog was to take time to realize that I am a pebble in a pond, making ripples in life. Each ripple causes an effect. My attitude, my perseverance, my heart is constantly effecting the things around me. But I’m not the only pebble out there. Think about the ripples you are making in your life, and how your signature, your voice can make a world of a difference to a stranger who can’t always stand up for themselves.

Thanks for reading,

Lysette

Leave a comment »

How did you spend your Jelly Bean today?

Sometimes life goes by too quickly, but what if we took the time to realize the value of each day.

Leave a comment »

Why do Peace Corps?

 “When you seek beauty in all people and all things you will not only find it, you will become it.”

So what is like to have lived a year in America:

My top 10 major habit changes:

  1. I came to find I don’t like taco bell as much as I thought I did.
  2. I now prefer being under my covers than going out.
  3. I don’t enjoy eating out and try and usually avoid it because I feel weird when people serve me.
  4. I’m more frugal and can only justify purchasing something if I found an excellent deal.
  5. I don’t think travelling 20 minutes to 1hr is any trouble at all and may even consider it “close.”
  6. I appreciate the ability I have to work out every day and put healthy things in my body.
  7. My friends would say I’m better at talking on the phone, (I used to last around 10 minutes now I can talk for 30 minutes +).
  8. I wear some sort of Philippine jewelry or remembrance every day, even if it doesn’t match my outfit.
  9. I take much less time getting ready. Way shorter showers. And I am constantly aware of my water/electricity usage.
  10. I enjoy rules, specifically traffic laws.
  11. I’m not afraid of bugs*. And take great pleasure in this. (*American bugs).

The 3 hardest things about returning to America culturally:

  1. Feeling like I have so much when others have so little.
  2. Watching others throw away food or letting food “go bad.”
  3. Knowing that in America we have the freedom of education, the opportunities to learn, yet our academic competence level internationally has decreased. After being a teacher in another country and watching some kinds try so hard just to learn English, it’s hard to not be discouraged by the fact kids would rather play video games or watch TV than learn.

The hardest thing about returning personally

  1. The struggle with my body and the expectations I have for it to heal in the way I want it to, though it won’t. It has definitely made it the most challenging year of my life internally.

The best thing about returning personally

  1. Experiencing the changes in my relationships with my friends and family during my struggle and time away. The people who want to be in your life make time for you. I don’t put in as much effort as I used to with people who aren’t willing to match my efforts. I try and spend more valuable time with the people who also value me. For once I think I found quality over quantity. I have changed internally and externally, yet feel accepted you and supported. I have had a wonderful experience in returning home to a wonderful support group.

After 1 year of being back, Jaron Weston and Lysette Davis met fellow RPCV Kaitlin McGarvey in SF for a mini 269 Reunion Party. It’s wonderful to feel connected to another RPCV.

In Peace Corps, your job is to see beauty in defeat. To see progress in minute changes. To see beauty in yourself, so that you can help others find the beauty within themselves. Sustainability is of course the ultimate goal, but not so much with the projects, but with the people. How did you affect a person? Whether at home or abroad, your Peace Corps service changed someone or something.

My Peace Corps service is still affecting me, still changing me and still changing those around me.

On October 25th, I flew home to America, meaning I have now been home for one entire year.  It’s shocking, it doesn’t feel like it. I still have the taste in my mouth of burning trash. I still feel challenged by my experience. I still feel connected to the place I used to call home.

 

My Last Day of Peace Corps Story:

At this time a year ago I was dancing and singing my lungs out at a Black Eyed Peas Concert. I had just enough pesos left to buy tickets to the last show on the Black Eyed Peas tour. I had less than 10 hours left in the Philippines and it was time to make the most of it.

Without realizing it, I knew every song. Their songs had been blasting during my runs, bike rides, from karaoke at 3am to 5am fitness time at the plaza, it was easy to sing along. I remember looking around and thinking, this may be the last time I am taller than 75% of the people here. The farthest back from the stage and I could still see over people. I felt one with the crowd and with a few PCV’s we danced and danced. As they played their last song the audience sang the same chorus over and over.

“I’ve had the time of my life and I’ve never felt this way before,

And I swear this is true

And I owe it all to you.”

Then everyone began chanting,  “I had the time of my life… I had the time of my life…”

And just as quick as it began, it was over.

Peace Corps was over.

Peace Corps Philippines has a tradition when finish your service, they ring a bell. When that bell rang, it sent chills down my body.  Was Peace Corps really over?

To those of you who are finishing up service, travelling the world, or already made it home. I’m here to say that your experience never ends. Peace Corps redefines the places in your heart and soul that you didn’t know needed redefining. Whether it’s the appreciation of hot food, a warm shower or a bug-less bed, you learn to appreciate the things you didn’t see before.

I think that Peace Corps doesn’t just teach you to grow up; it teaches you to grow in.

Congratulations to those who made it to COS of batch 269 Philippines. I certainly wish I could have been there!

Thanks for reading,

Lysette

2 Comments »

when people back home ask what peace corps is really like…

when people back home ask what peace corps is really like…

 

 

As I lay on my soft pillow and pull the blankets over my body, I pop up, unable to sleep.

This time a year ago, I was in the hospital. My sister was about to give birth and I couldn’t call home. I didn’t want to stress out my family, the focus needed to be on my sister, the health of the bay.  I remember the realness of making the decision to keep something from my parents. After several hospital visits and tests over the course of a year, I feared this was the time that they would finally know what was wrong with me.

Waiting in the hospital bed for answers fearing the unknown.

Answers.

We want them.

Immediately.

Without hesitation.

But the answers never came, they never really came at all.

Even the doctors/nutritionists’ in America are still stunned about what is occurring with my body. Every so often I feel completely healed and then a week like today hits where my energy is anything but normal. I think I feel healed when I’m 100% happy. My happiness overpowers the exhaustion. But sometimes happiness is not enough.

Some people suffer externally. You can see their wounds, their pain, their journey.

My suffering is internal. Cause without reason. My personality screams happiness, so often people forget the battle that I’m facing. The one that won’t end. It’s easy to hide the things you don’t want to face.

People often ask me if the Peace Corps was worth it? Would I do it again if I knew my body would react the way that it has?

I don’t think that anyone knowingly would harm themselves physically; knowing that my recovery would consume my thoughts and actions daily against a fight that doesn’t necessarily have a name is unrelenting. A vicious cycle of attitude over reality. I wouldn’t choose that. However, it’s not all bad.

Laying in that hospital I missed things like getting to be there when my nephew was born or missing the opportunity to be in a friend’s wedding. However the things I missed, also became the things I gained.

Perspective.

The Peace Corps gave me the most valuable gifts of life: appreciation, respect and an ability to love deeper, to see with my heart. These are things that we think we already have. I don’t think people go into jobs, educational pursuits or service seeking a deeper need to appreciate a hot shower. However, these simple things are the ones we all need the most work on.

My biggest joy comes from the laughter of a 1 year old. Before the Peace Corps I would have been too busy serving other families instead of serving the family that I call mine. I think that Peace Corps volunteers have a huge heart to serve, sometimes we miss serving the people who need us most, our families. Until I got home, I didn’t realize the sacrifice my family had made in order to let me go.

If you are reading this as a parent of a PCV, I commend you on your ability to allow your child to pursue their dreams. Letting go isn’t easy, but coming back is something that will never be the same.

If you are reading this and a current PCV, hang in there. Your community, your fellow PCV’s might not always see your struggles, but I promise you there is something to gain out of it. Struggles make us stronger.

If you are a PCV reading this who is currently in the hospital, congrats for having internet access! Let your family know you’re okay (you can never tell them too many times) and count how many bugs are on the ceiling. It makes for good stories later and passes the time. Haha.

To the perspective PCV’s, you might go into Peace Corps thinking that you are going to change the world, but the person you might be changing is into a better version of yourself.

At the end of every day I have something to be grateful for, not just the pillows under my head or internet access to write this, but that who I am right now wouldn’t be in existence without the suffering. I appreciate things like energy, being up able to stay up all day and completing a workday without feeling like I need a nap. I appreciate life, living and the company of friends and family that God blessed me with.

I pray for all the PCV’s who have been Med Sep’d and fought a battle that no one else could see, that each of you can find strength in your weakness and see that  while our journeys didn’t last as long as we thought they would doesn’t mean they ended. Keep growing.

Thanks for reading,

Lysette

 

1 Comment »

The “Liberated” American, Lessons of Television based on the Hit TV Show, New Girl

As 8:30 approaches I have a decision to make.  Do I watch the hit comedy show “New Girl?” Now to most people this probably wouldn’t be such a big dilemma, but last weeks episode left a huge impression on me about our society today. The previous episode of New Girl, mainly revolved around roommates Winston (Lamorne Morris) and  Schmidt ( Max Greenfield )  teaching their friend and other roommate Nick (Jake Johnson)  how to “dump” a girl after sleeping with her one time. While the show made me laugh several times with corky lines and a truthful perspective of society today, it also saddened me.

Seeing as its 8:18 and I just got home from work, I think I rather write this instead. Too many times I watch something and have a deep thought about it, yet I don’t share it. I have neglected my blog since I came home, but finally I have something worth writing that parallels my Peace Corps experience and daily life in America.

I call this blog the “Liberated American” because I will never forget one of my first days teaching in the Philippines. I brought my laptop into the teachers’ lounge and a slideshow appeared as my computer hibernated. The picture illuminated a tall male kissing me on the cheek, this man was one of my best friends, it was not an intimate picture but instead playful in manner; yet when my co-workers saw the picture they said, “you are so lucky to be a liberated American.”

“Liberated American?” I asked, “What does that mean?”

Unfortunately “liberated” did not have the definition that I was hoping, instead it was as though my Pilipino co-teacher had already made an impression of me based on what American girls represent in their culture, sluts. I had no choice but to laugh off the comment, by American standards I am the farthest thing from a “slut” however, by having a boy kiss me on the cheek in a picture I was representing something that further engrained what my American stereotype represents to Pilipino woman, a lack of morals. My co-teacher, who later became one of my best friends eventually, explained to me that American women are free to love whomever they want and whatever they want, a freedom that does not exist in the Philippines.

After first hearing this I thought how sad that Pilipino women don’t get to “date” boys. The process of dating in my community included courting, dating and then marriage. If you officially “dated” someone that meant you were going to marry them. Many students keep their relationships private from their parents. In my young life I have “dated” many boys, all of which taught me what I do and don’t want in a relationship.  I felt those relationships where lessons (some much harder to learn than others) that taught me more about myself and the standards and morals I wanted to keep for myself.

I lived in the Philippines for 14 months, during which time American media greatly changed in my mind and its effect on what it means to be in a relationship. Several American TV shows aired in the Philippines (a few seasons late), in which I was able to gather my Pilipino family around the TV to watch a familiar movie or show.  While I was happy to point out background scenery and explain American culture and clothing, there was one thing I could never explain; why the men could have as many women as they wanted yet the woman didn’t have a value to the man.

This idea of women not having a value to the man has really stuck with me. Then suddenly last week as the episode of New Girl aired I was reminded of that conversation. What if that episode goes to the Philippines one day? Why is it okay that girls are presented in media as not respecting themselves? Are you okay with this? Am I?

Upon further reflection, my actions would say I am.  If nothing is on TV I find myself watching  Two and Half Men in the background as I browse Facebook. By viewing that show, what am I teaching myself about the worth of a woman? Could anyone count how many women Charlie Sheen has slept with in his real life let alone TV life? Countless girls with perfect bodies and unmemorable faces roam in and out of sheets without many lines or purpose but to say, “Just sleeping with me is okay, but I don’t matter.”

Maybe your reading this right now and saying, “It’s my choice to sleep with whoever I want, I get something out of it too.” To those of you who are thinking that I’m not trying to say that as a woman you shouldn’t have the right to your own body and to do what you please, however I am trying to ask is why is it okay to devalue woman on TV by allowing countless TV shows and movie dismiss girls as quick as they seal the deal. I’m talking about truly objectifying women, there is a difference between treating a woman as an object or a person. I’m not judging anyone. However, I think it’s something we need to talk about as a society. I believe that woman have value and I don’t think it’s okay to let TV shows or movies dictate to men that it’s okay to sleep with us and then cast us to the side minutes later. It’s not okay to use my friends, my sisters, my generation of women; because this issue of value is not just effecting our society, the idea is effecting the world. Many countries look up to Americans, but what are they looking up to?

My message to my students before I left was to value themselves, but do I value myself by watching shows that dismiss women? Joking or not, this happens in real life. My friends are better than that, your better than that. I wish American TV culture could translate a message of the intellectual women I am surrounded than rather than a devaluing of our ability as woman to make decisions of value.

I had to write this and ask my friends and all readers of my blog to value yourself. Don’t let people use you; you are better than our TV culture teaches us. When I left the Philippines I hope that woman I affected saw me as an “Intellectual American” instead of a “Liberated” one.

Thanks for reading,

Lysette

(ps guess I missed new girl)

7 Comments »

The Most Inspirational Moments of Peace Corps

When I arrived at the park I didn't realize my sunglasses where broken until someone pointed it out-- haha it was a good laugh

General Douglas MacArthur Park, Leyte, Philippines

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

Look at how he uses his arms to play music

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.

inspiration

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

Lysette Davis, Peace Corps Volunteer Philippines last speech with staff and students in San Miguel, Iloilo, Philippines

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.

Teachers and students waving goodbye to their Peace Corps Volunteer

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.

Together we created a computer class, training all of last years 4th year students how to use computers. We have worked together as a staff, sharing new educational tools inside of the classroom. We have trained outside of the classroom, learning about HIV/AIDS, playing sports, being active, student government, drug and safety, and many other activities that will train you for your own futures.
2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
Sometimes when I get to school you know more about me then I think, you have found articles on the internet, asked about my family, my lifestyle in America, and about the challenges Americans face. I have constantly been impressed that you have not only been willing to ask questions , but listen to the answers. I enjoyed our times in between classes and after school where we would hang out and learn about each other.
3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
I will never forget when some of you helped make a video to send home for my family when I was away last Christmas. I have already shared thousands of pictures, told hundreds of stories, and lived differently because I met each of you. 

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.

The students who listened to my final speech

I love you all.

Thank you for reading and sharing my life,

Lysette

2 Comments »

International Day in the Philippines, making my debut speaking Kinaray-a Publicly

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.

Before the meeting where I planned to tell my staff that I was medically separated from Peace Corps

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.

4-1 trying to "jump" haha! fail.

the computer lab where I taught 4th year students how to use computers!

Goodbye year 3 section 1 students!

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

San Miguel, Iloilo, the plaza, i love this picture because it captures the essence of my home

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.

International Day- Lysette Davis

Representing America on International Day with Peace Corps Volunteer, Lysette Davis

Celebrating different Cultures

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRjDBd6tBBY&feature=related

Softball players Practicing at the Plaza

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.

Softball team in the Philippines

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.

A decent softball

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.

How do you repair a softball in the Philippines? Add tape.

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.

this green space is on our campus, and our "field"

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,

Lysette

1 Comment »

What does Medical Separation in Peace Corps mean?

Be afraid….very afraid.. haha. Medical Separation and Peace Corps, no I didn’t get sent home for becoming a zombie – best selfie ever – haha! jk!

 

Medical Separation

My first hospital visit with Jaron– the nurse made an extra tag so to make me feel better Jaron wore a hospital bracelet too.

For my parents, community and friends in Peace Corps, being Medically Separated from Peace Corps came as a large surprise, as my symptoms the day PCMO called where really no different than they had been since the 3rd day I arrived in the Philippines. Many people have asked and emailed about the process of exactly what is Medical Separation and how it is determined, and how much control you have over it. I don’t have all the answers, but I can only share my case, Peace Corps Medical Office Washington DC looked over my Medical File in the Philippines, upon looking at my file and seeing that I had been the hospital several times and that my symptoms had not improved they decided it was in my best interest to return to America.

From the time i turned purple and almost drowned during water safety because my “safety vest” inflated and suffocated me

Medical Separation happens very quickly, I could have been back in American about 4 days from packing my room to the plane; however I had two events I had planned in my town so the Peace Corps let me stay longer. I’m not sure this is normal, but I only spent one day in the Philippines Headquarters office to get my paperwork done and then flew back.

When I found out I was medically separated,  I didn’t even know what day I would be flying back to America. When they called, I didn’t know specifically what I was being sent home for, and my imagination went wild with worry about the possibilities they might have found during my last hospital visit; a visit I had kept from my family. My sister was about to have a baby and I didn’t want to stress my family out knowing I was in the hospital. (Shout out to Jaron—we spent our 1year anniversary in the hospital—the same place we were almost a year ago when I was in the hospital the first time, funny that we ended up in the same place, a true anniversary).

At that time the doctors told me they didn’t really know what was wrong, that I have/had extreme exhaustion. They told me to take a break from my work, but at that time I was really busy with my HIV/AIDS Grant and some projects at the school I was working on; it’s really hard on my nature to take a break, but I rested in my room for about 5 days after the hospital.

I waited a week more and then I texted PCMO and asked them if they can give me anymore vitamins that I’m not already taking, because two weeks after my hospital visit I am still feeling awful. Apparently this text message was the tipping point. PCMO realized that there was nothing more they could do for me, and they sent my files to Washington causing Washington D.C. to make their final decision.

It is sad to say, but staying in the Philippineswas a battle of heart against my body. From the 3rd day I was in thePhilippines my symptoms never really disappeared. I had my own complex about not being a good volunteer because I had never been camping or was much of an outdoor person. I thought the reason I was sick and everyone else was healthy was because of my lack of outdoor training. I was fearful of being labelled as high maintenance because I was in my own opinion very different from the other volunteers. I didn’t complain to PCMO about my symptoms and tried to function without medical help.  My Peace Corps Language Trainer was the one who first recommended for me to go the doctor in October of last year, upon going to the doctor I was immediately admitted to the hospital, this was the same case that happened a few weeks ago. However, no one could ever really figure out what was wrong with me.

During my 14 1/2 months I had to endure other severe medical dilemmas, I had a case of sore eyes where I went blind in one eye, and the doctor told me that it was going to be for 3 weeks, luckily that didn’t happen and recovered fully after 11 days. I also developed a heart condition in which my heart was beating at an extremely low number of 30-40 beats instead of normal healthy heart beat of 60-100. I thought I could be sent home for each of those, and was prepared to be medically separated in June, however I tried my best to stick it out.

Hospital time– I hated that contraption on my face, you have to wake up every 3 hours to breathe properly, not a lot of sleep

In truth I am extremely grateful to PCMO for making the decision to send me home, I didn’t really know how sick I was or what I was doing to my body until I returned home. Although I am still exhausted, I feel 100% better in ways I didn’t even know I was sick. Now that I am away from the Philippines, and not dedicated to my work I realize how much sickness I was suppressing. It’s nice to be honest about how I really feel, because before I was trying to cover it up so I could do my job.

For those of you who are Peace Corps Volunteers and are worried about Medical Separation, it took many illnesses and the ultimate realization that staying in the Philippines and being sick every single day was too much for my body to handle. You can also reapply in 45 days if you are better, however I think in cases like mine that would be really difficult as I have many tests to run and doctors to see and I am only on appointment #1.

My advice, if you feel like your body is under severe stress, speak up, while I loved my work and the people around me, its hard to make the decision for yourself because you want to stay and help so badly. What I learned about myself through this experience,  I don’t want to limit my ability to serve others to 27 months in Peace Corps, but a healthy long life of loving and finding ways to serve elsewhere. While going home was not something I expected, my community, friends and all my families have been extremely supportive, because the people around you always want what best, and all of them could see that I was sick.

I have to trust God on this one. I had no idea I was going to be separated and I have no idea what to do now, but I know when doors close, windows open so I’m going to get healthy and then look for windows.

Thanks for reading,

Lysette

My favorite picture, because this is as bad as I could ever imagine looking. Day 1 of sore eyes, when it was only in one eye

P.s. I am very determined person which means when I put my mind something it consumes me. I was really determined to make the most of my time in Peace Corps even if it meant suffering, every week I thought to myself, I can make it through, just one more day or one more week. I think many of my successes in Peace Corps was due to my sickness, since I felt so bad all the time I wanted to do as much work as possible so the suffering would be worth it.  I would have never made the decision to return home on my own, although the people who knew me best were always supportive of putting my health first, and to all those people, OKAY YOU WERE RIGHT! Haha!! And now you can really say, “I told you so.’ Haha. Thank you for loving me despite my ambitions.

4 Comments »

What happened? And Why Am I back in America?

What happened? And Why Am I back in America?

Wednesday— Day 1 of my Journey Home

Around 4:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from PCMO (the Peace Corps Doctors). It was a typical phone call with an unexpected turn that went something like this:

PCMO: How are you feeling today?

Me: Same as usual, I lost my voice 3 times today during school, I’m coughing the same cough I have had for the last year, and I’m exhausted, but same as usual.

PCMO: Okay, well PCMO DC just sent us a letter and you are Medically Separated.

Me: Huh??

PCMO: You will be going back to America

Me: Me???

PCMO: You will come to Manila on  Friday

Me: What!?!?????????????????????????????

PCMO: This is a lot to process, take a deep breathe.

Click.

I didn’t understand, was that my imagination, did that just happen? I needed to say it out loud, I  need to talk to someone. I had so many questions, PCMO told me they would answer my question in the Manila office, and that once DC decides it’s final.

I went outside of my room and told my host mom, she started to cry. I had no reaction, it didn’t seem real until I said it out loud to her. “I’m medically separated from Peace Corps,” I can still hear myself saying it.

We just hugged for a really long time, then while she was still grieving, I told her I need to call Jaron.

Calling Jaron and having to tell him that I was going to go home, and not knowing if/when I was going to say goodbye was overwhelming. I was scattered brain and freaking out, I feared we would not get the chance to say goodbye. Overwhelmed I had to think of everyone around me, and I knew I needed to rush to the school.

As school ended, I was worried I wasn’t even going to get to tell my principal the news. Some teachers live far away, and they tend to leave the school as soon as its its over. Two members from my host family walked with me to school, and supported me as I told my principal. As I walked I noticed everything differently, the way the little kids wave and smile at me. How they try and talk to me in the few words of English they know. I looked at the mothers who called me over to hold their babies. I saw the brightness of the trees, and listened how the wind wrestled the leaves even though I felt no breeze at all.

Then I felt sick to my stomach, approaching the school the students greeted me as normal. All shouting my name, and saying, “good afternoon.” They had no idea, and I couldn’t imagine breaking their hearts.

My principal smiled brightly as I entered her office, but her smile turned into a worry as she could feel my emotions. Being in a foreign country, we are often unable to express ourselves with words, but we focus on each others body language, without speaking she knew something was wrong. When I told her that I was medically separated, it was a concept that didn’t make sense. When I said I would be leaving the Philippines, it seemed she didn’t understand.

Then in the middle of her silence,she began to cry. Suddenly I felt my eyes wet. It had really hit me, my host family knew, Jaron knew, and now my school knew. I just wanted to get out of there. I didn’t tell any of the teachers, I just asked the principal if I could have a meeting with the teachers in the morning and tell them myself.

As I walked home, as I do everyday, it started to rain.

My host mom said that the Philippines was crying for their loss, mirroring our emotions and crying with us.

The worst part was that due to the time difference I had to wait for hours to tell my parents. Day one of no sleep. I was so mixed with emotions I didn’t know what to do, I was dying to wake them up, but there were so many questions that I didn’t have the answers to myself.

I had a scheduled speaking event for International Day in my town Plaza on that Thursday, and I had planned an Around the World day at my school for that Friday. I am very close to my host family, my first host family and of course I had my boyfriend Jaron, during the phone call I couldn’t’ really talk, my mind was full of all the people I was worried I wouldn’t have time to say goodbye to, let alone the students and teachers I considered my family.

I asked Peace Corps if I could please stay for my events and to say goodbye. They let me stay until Monday. At least it was some answer.

The journey of coming back to America has been long and full of emotions. I decided to break up my 4 day goodbye into parts, so part one is Wednesday. I think the best day was Friday.

Thanks for your support and for those of you who have welcomed me home, I am happy, much healthier, and have my first doctor’s appointment tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,

Lysette

5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: