I arrived on this island of Leyte on Thursday morning, scared, since according to the news and people Leyte was supposed to be a dangerous place to be, hopped off the ferry in Ormoc, got into a car from SOS Children's Village, and was taken to Tacloban City through almost totally destroyed, but still lively surroundings. The car ride took us about 2 hours, and along the way I saw so very sad looking houses and villages, that no words or pictures will help me discribe, what I saw. Pictures I didn't even take. Have no camera (except on my phone) and don't want to take photos of other peoples misery. Today I did, but will post them later, since the internet connection is slow - and since I'm using other people's connection.
Anyhow it's NOT dangerous to be on this island. It's slowly, slowly recovering. There are no dead bodies on the streets, the roads are cleared from the taifuun damages, and all the carbage is being pushed aside the lanes or in big piles in crossings. There are no people walking like zombies or running around with guns and threatening others.
Actually most of the people are smiling. They are waving their hands, they are greeting. That's the most touching thing here: the people have lost almost it all – except hope. They still smile, cause they are alive; they survived. And life has to be lived further, so what's the point in falling into the waves of depression. So I'm not totally devastated. It's horrible to see the damages, broken houses, fallen trees, loads and loads of carbage and waste next to the streets, but the people live.
They even joke about the storm. They enjoy the fact, that they still breathe. Because only then you can say, you lost it all, when you lost your life. Of course there are people, who lost their loved ones, and it will take long long time to recover, but I just honour these lovely, warm, friendly people here. They know, what is important and what is not, and they don't complain about small things. I think I will never do that again, either. Really. I've never, ever experienced something like this before. Seeing so so so so so much of misery but at the same time happiness and relief.
And this SOS Children's Village of Tacloban is like a huge family. Full of cute kids and friendly adults and life – even though it got hit by the Yolanda, too. Mornings (except on Saturdays & Sundays) I'm working in a kindergarten across the street. In the afternoons I travel with the other volunteers (mostly local school teachers) by a van to the edge of the city, to ”rural” areas, where probably not so many foreigners ever went. Next week I'll do my afternoon work quite close to the SOS Village, in a very poor area, where quite many people live in houses made of ”stuff that can be found” just like in the "rural" areas.
I've been a bit depressed some evenings. I guess all the surroundings and what I've seen, have had a huge affection on how I feel. I've also had time to think, since there's some free time. What I've been thinking about, is my past. All the things I've done in my private life. Here, just in these 4 days, I have learnt what in life is important and what is not – which may sound stupid, since I've lived already 31 years. But now I think some of my thoughts and opinions are changing. I will never ever hurt anyone again, for example.
So when I go back to normal life from this volunteering life without electricity and running water (and latest info: from the middle of dengue fever danger!!!!), I think I won't be the same in some ways. In many ways yes, but a person can always develop. In good. In bad, unfortunately, too. One thing is, that I will smile. Much much more. Smiling I can already do, but not as well as these people here. These, who have nothing left or who just are so very nice in general.
It's at times rough and tough to be here. Really. I'm tired. I'm dirty. I'm full of mosquito bites. I miss home, I miss my past and my future. Here, all I have, is me and myself – even though I'm here to help and surrounded by countless people. By happy people – I still am impressed of the way, how these Philippineans smile and have fun in the middle of difficult times. And how warm and welcoming they are. How much they laugh. For example our rides to the spots, where we teach kids, are full of jokes – even though the local volunteers have lost quite a lot as well as most of the citizens.
I wake up in the mornings latest at 6 am. Because I'm staying in a house, which is full of life, and which wakes up already before 6. People clean up the house, children play outside, traffic rolls on the street next to the SOS village. There are almost no quiet moments at all – except during the night, and not even then, since the electricity generator is on through the whole night.
The tiredness has a lot to do with how I feel as well as feeling dirty. Even going to the toilet is difficult. There's no paper. And flushing is a hand job (tonite some of us had dinner in downtown, in the only pizzeria that is open - and full of foreigners - and it was such a luxury to actually be able to flush the toilet and wash hands under running water!!) as well as washing laundry. Ever since the day 1 I've washed me and my hair using just a bucket of water. I really do appreciate everything I have at home, and the possibility to drink as much as I can. Here I drink a bit less water than I should. Because somehow I don't want to drink the water of others...I know I could and it would be no problem, but well, I just don't dare to. And that saves me of course from going to the toilet too often. I try avoid that somehow.
The smoke, that surrounds every corner of this city and which is going to the eyes and throat and everywhere, is tough to bear. Yesterday was the worst of all. So smoggy air, that it was hard to see far. And the scenery. Miserable scenery. Every time I see it, I have to wonder, how could something like this happen and how will it be totally taken care of. Everything is broken, everything is in small pieces or in muddy piles. The taifuun itself didn't make it. It was the tsunami that came after the taifuun. The water flushed everything away.
This weekend has been, though, somehow very nice and right now I'm on a very hilarious mood. Feel like I've done a lot. Not only that, I we went to see the bridge, that connects Leyte to the island nearby and that used to be the longest one in Philippines. We also took a walk in downtown. I bought fruits (oooo how I miss fruits and vegetables, did I mention that already!?Will swim in bowls of fruit when I get home!!) and new flip flops and two t-shirts, since I sweat here so much, that my few t-shirts are not at all enough. We also saw the sea front – and how destroyed it is. Oh my heaven. So much waste piled up on the shore. Much much more than anywhere else.
Our SOS Village is located at the edge of Tacloban – in the middle of ”not the richest” people. Real life, again, just like in Cebu City. So much I have seen and only one week I've been gone from home. I stepped the first plane from Munich to Hong Kong a week ago, and it feels like I've traveled months. And one thing has happened...
I am seriously considering taking a year off from everything. Even from writing (except that's not possible, I can't breathe without writing!!). And working for an organization like SOS. Helping out somewhere, bringing my knowledge and experience as an educator and a pedagogic to the places, where it would be needed. Let's see, what the future brings. Until that I'll live the moment. Meaning, that I will concentrate on the life and volunteering here. And on the people. Since the world is built up for us AND it's made by us. And that's what we have to take care of.
P. S. I had two cold beers today! There's COLD beer in the city!!! It's hard to find but when you find it...awwwww....so very refreshing! How wonderful is it, that small, tiny things can make a person happy! Please enjoy the small joys of life, promise me that, and smile, smile, smile. Don't be so serious. Don't fall into depression even at difficult times. Laugh all the sorrows away and breathe, will you!!