12 months down, 12 to go!

“There are many ways to shape and define fragile existence—many ways to give it meaning. But it is our memories that shape its purpose and give it context.”

It’s, officially, been one year since I started as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer! It’s been an unforgettable journey! I could not be happier with my decision to become a USPCV. I remember going to the airport with my family to leave for Staging in Los Angeles. I was excited and anxious to see what the future had for me. My expectations have been exceeded, for sure. However, I do miss home. I miss having my apartment. I miss gaming until the late hours of the night. I miss eating my favorite foods whenever I want. I miss my family and friends. I’ve missed so many events back home and I have a whole year left. I have definitely been in that emotional low for a few months now since I’ve been away from home for a year. I missed weddings, birthdays, holidays, and just everything. I’m always thinking of home and what it would have been like if I stayed in America. It’s almost bittersweet to think of my accomplishments as a PCV and realizing how much I gave up to pursue my dreams. I regret leaving my life, but I would have, also, regretted not accepting the offer to come abroad. I go back and forth all the time!

I’m still in disbelief that I’ve become a teacher in a foreign country. I remember going through High School and College being absolutely frightened of public speaking, or speaking in front of a large group of people. I took a huge leap in the Fall of 2013 by joining Liberty in North Korea to become one of their Nomads. They taught me how to overcome my fear of public speaking and I can never thank them enough for that. Now, I’m teaching in front of hundreds of students in a completely different country. I’ve spoken in front of many groups of people since! My 20s, so far, have been extremely life changing.

I never imagined Peace Corps to be like this. I guess I only thought of the big picture of completing projects, helping the community with whatever their need may be. The small details didn’t even occur to me until I began to experience them here in the Philippines. The friendships and presence we establish in our communities are impossible to describe. I have gotten to know the many teachers here along with some people in my community. They’re all incredible. Every PCV has a story about their host family, counterpart, or someone in their community who has reached out to them and helped them through service. It’s these relationships that are the real impact PCVs have around the world. We establish these connections with the people we work with and the children we teach.

Being a PCV is not all work! We do have a lot of down time. I’ve read so many books during the weekends or days off. The odd thing is that it’s really hard to acquire books here—one of the main problems of English literacy in the provinces. If you are a book worm like me, here are some books I recommend reading!

  • The Death of Colonel Mann
  • American Sniper
  • Divergent Series (3 books)
  • The 13th Reality (Books 1 & 2) *I still need to find the rest of the series
  • Inferno
  • The Mortal Instruments Series (6 books)
  • The Last Apprentice (Books 1 & 2) *Looking for the other books
  • The Morality Doctrine (3 books)
  • October Sky (aka Rocket Boys)
  • Gray Matter
  • Gordon Ramsey’s Humble Pie
  • Left Behind (Series, but only read the first book)

I’ve, also, been trying to learn the ukulele. I can play basic songs, but I always have a hard time learning strum patterns. I usually just YouTube a tutorial to show me how to play a song. String instruments are not my area of expertise, but it’s still fun to play.

I haven’t explored the Philippines that much. I’ve been around Manila a few times due to trainings. I went to Bohol for New Years and I went to Moalboal, Cebu to visit another PCV. I plan to do more traveling eventually since I have a ton of vacation days saved up! Transportation around the Philippines is quite the challenge. Flying becomes expensive due to our limited allowance so we have to become creative when traveling—especially with our restrictions as PCVs. We are not allowed to ride a motorcycle at all, only trikes/pedicabs. For example, when I went Cebu, I have to take a jeepney that doesn’t have a normal schedule to the Siquijor Port, buy a ferry ticket to Dumaguete, wait for a bus on the boulevard (to anywhere) that goes via Sibulan so I can go to a smaller port to get to Santander (southern point of Cebu) to board a pump boat then I have to take a trike/pedicab to the bus station to board the buses to Cebu. From here, I just sit on the bus to Moalboal or go all the way to Cebu. It’s cheap, but it takes forever. Look up Siquijor to Cebu and find the exact distance. It isn’t far, but it is literally an all-day trip due to the lack of transportation options. Life of a PCV.

Peace Corps has shown me a side of the world I would have never seen if I stayed in America. It has motivated me to explore more! I want to help people throughout Africa, but my parents refused to let me go the first time around. Now that I have some experience abroad, I assume they’ll let me the next time around. Not that they have any say this time 😊. This experience has strengthened my opinion about being/becoming a humanitarian. Every person has a story. Every person has something to say. There are billions of ways to see the world. I want to try to see them all! Ambitious yet exciting! I welcome anyone who wants to join me!

Everything is bittersweet at this point. I have read some of the news happening back home. The political climate is really rough, along with the questionable uprisings of free speech. I made a few posts on Facebook about it. My statement to everything is that everyone needs to read their history books again. Not only that, but they need to expose themselves to the world. Hedonism is overrated and inevitable, but we have to overcome the negative side of hedonism and work towards building a peaceful community. That community being the world. I can say that there has been a larger appreciation of America’s history and respecting others due to their religious affiliations or sexual orientation since the outbreaks. The understanding that people are people is coming to light as well. I hope that more will realize that human beings are human beings. We are all the same. A country or a religion does not make someone different. It is not logical or reasonable to discriminate or think lesser of someone because of a country name or a religious affiliation. Countries are a mere reference to a place, NOTHING more. Religion gives people hope. It makes people believe they are not alone. There are extremists, but don’t be dense and start stereotyping.

America will always be my home though. Sure, I may not agree with what is happening. I’ll always try to make it better or give a clearer perception of America to those who only can see our country in the mass media. My students and fellow co-teachers always ask me about America. They don’t know what to ask so they always shoot for a broad question, “What is America like?” Imagine trying to answer that. I always start off by saying America is a very large country with countless places to visit. There’s no true way to describe America with its diverse population—America was built by the people of Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, China, Japan, Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco and nearly every country in the world is represented in America through the ancestors of American citizens. Logically, there’s no sound reason to discriminate if you are a true American Citizen. I hope Americans will realize that America has kept its historical reputation of the melting pot. It can even be proven through the individuals who are Peace Corps Volunteers. I am serving with a very diverse group of people, it’s amazing to meet all of them! It shouldn’t shock me, but it still shocks me when people of European origins (Euro-Americans) are racist. Let’s stop there before I begin ranting on forever. Everyone I talk to wants to go abroad to see the US for themselves! I hope the students have enough motivation to actually make it! It’s tough for Filipinos due to their weakening economy (1USD:50PHP). It would be so cool to know that some of my students make it to America when they’re older. First things first, I want them to join universities!

I’m exhausted after just one year! I have to finish, though! I’m sad to miss yet another upcoming Thanksgiving with my family. BUT! I’m so happy to know that my parents and sister are visiting me during Christmas! I’m meeting them in Hong Kong! I am so excited to see them and eat really good food!!!!! It’ll be a good motivator to finish the last few months strong! Thanks for everyone back home for supporting me, keeping in touch, and reading my blog! I know I’m not the most exciting writer, but I try.

Crazy photo of when I became a Peace Corps Volunteer and a photo of one year into service! See everyone in a year!

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