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November 2014

NOVEMBER – it was supposed to be my last month here in Kalibo until I got my extension period approved. Right now I am so glad about the extension. Because life here in Kalibo is still good.

We farewelled my good housemate Jen yesterday, she did not apply for an assignment extension and was happy to go home, back to Australia. And it's not just Jen, by the end of November all Australian Volunteers here in Kalibo apart from Allister and me will have left. Particularly Jen's departure will effect a major change in my life here too. The big house we rented together would be awfully empty with just me living there. So I will move back to the little 'Pensione', a small and friendly guesthouse. My room there will be my base for the remaining two months in the Philippines. And I am already looking forward to it, it is the same place where I lived for my first few days after arrival in Kalibo. And I kept in contact since. It's like closing the circle. And it's also beautifully close to the office, just across the road. So it will mean more sleep for me, and probably more time spent with my friends living in the volunteers office.

Jen's return to Australia brought it back home to me how different our lifes will become soon. She will be back into her old life, western style, in Sydney. Whereas I am still in my routine here in Kalibo. It is only a temporary life here in Kalibo for me but right now it is still my life and the daily routines I am living through here will soon start to feel strange again, seen from Australia. Once I am back in Sydney.

I still do enjoy my time in Kalibo a lot. There are many happy moments every day. Such as buying bananas at the market. My banana seller is the most lovely lady you can imagine. She is probably in her 50s, skinny, black hair, dark tan. And always, always showing the biggest smile in the world. She will not let me go past her stall without stopping me, talking to me and give me some free bananas. We talk half in English and half in Aklanon language and due to the lack of our respective common vocabulary we pretty much say the same things every day. And everyone around us, including the two of us, just laughing! She is my favourite banana lady.

But there's not just a banana lady in my life, no, there is also a pineapple lady. Almost every day I buy a sweet pineapple from her, she peels it in a way that it is so easy to cut and eat, no peel left, no brown spots, just beautiful yellow pineapple flesh. Sometimes she's not there though and her husband takes over the stall. And I remember the one morning when I bought a pineapple from him. The choice was between 3 pineapples, a big one, a mid size one and a small one. So I picked the big one, paid my 40 Peso and went away. A few minutes later at the other end of the market someone taps me on the shoulder – it's my pineapple lady. She's taking away from me the pineapple I bought and gives me the smaller one instead and 10 Pesos return. Her only comment while pointing at the big pineapple: 'Maaslum' – 'Sour'. And hey, the new one she gave me was indeed very sweet.

People are really adaptive. I'm sure looking at my everyday's life, what seems so normal while I'm here, from an Australian viewpoint will look very uncomforable. But it's not. Walking along the street next to a neverending queue of smokey tricycles becomes normal. Eating rice three times a day nothing unusual. Using fork and spoon instead of fork and knife for eating becomes routine. Living with power outages is easier than expected. Sharing of resources including motorbike, laptop and camera is just the way to do it. Everyone in the office is using my laptop. For presentations, for computations or just simply because it is the only computer we have that can connect to our printer and scanner. No one sees anything strange in this.

You also quickly get used to be around people all the time, never alone. Quite often when we have workshops outside Kalibo the whole team stays overnight. And mostly either sleeps on the floor in a school, sleeps in hotels room with only two beds. Or even in a tent. Regardless which arrangements have been made, it's always a sardine style scenario. Easy to get used to.

What I keep liking the most is the people and their friendliness, their calm and happy attitude. Again this month we spent a few days in a school camp, simply on first aid duty and to teach disaster response skills. But the interesting fact for me is the behaviour of the kids. They were elementary school students, so around the 14years age group, plus minus. But you could not have wished for better kids. The discipline, the team spirit was just amazing to witness. There was no one or two kids doing stupid things, or annoying things as you may expect from a large group of kids of that age. Whenever the teacher was teaching the kids became silent. Really cool.

December, the next month, will be interesting again. For the first three weeks we will be incredibly busy as most NGO finish their yearly budget and therefore have a lot of drills and workshops squeezed into December. And of course it's also Christmas and therefore time of the most significant celebrations in the Philippines. After Christmas Jayfree and me plan to go travelling for two weeks to see more of the Philippines main island Luzon. It will be another good month.

During a simulation exercise for a vehicle crash

All happy - the rescuers, the victim, the trainers

Water Rescue Training on the Aklan River

Facilitators and participants of a 3 day contingency planning workshop

Inside the classroom of Guadalupe Elementary School during an earthquake drill

Schools in the Philippines usually have beautiful compounds with beautiful gardening and colourful flags. The kids in this picture are all ducking and covering their head as part of the earthquake drill.

My favourite fruit in the Philippines - large sweet pineapples

During a school encampment in St Rafael, everyone attentatively listening to their teacher

During the same school encampment - night shift first aid course

Part of the school encampment was a really cool nature hike to a waterfall...

...trekking through a dense green landscape.

On the way back we all rode in the back of dump trucks such as this one. It was a pretty bumpy ride but really cool, another experience I will never have in Australia. Taking 50 kids and ride on a truck.

The team of Seals Rescuers waiting for their shift in Libacao during the Balsa Parada Festival.

Some entertainment while waiting for lunch.

The Balsa Parada Festival in Libacao is a celebration of the mighty Aklan River and the beautiful Bamboo Floats travelling along it.

For the festival entire houseboats made out of Bamboo were built.

This is on the inside of one such houseboat.

The designs are quite colourful, such as this 'Banana Boat'.

Two more beautiful bamboo floats during the Balsa Parada

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(c) 2014    marco hoffmann