The sun rises now around 5:00 a.m. and my apartment is a sauna by 9. The cool breeze that provided my ventilation the first few months of the year is gone and summer has settled in. Summer. The kids are out of school, the beaches are somewhat busy, and the pace of life is even slower than normal. This won’t last forever. By June the humidity will flare up and scenes of flooded Manila will flash on the television screen. Fantasies of July and August approaching keep my mind wandering. It also motivates me to think about what I need to accomplish before service officially ends.
I’ve finally started progress on the long-delayed marine sanctuary strengthening project I implemented with my counterpart last year. The outputs are a little different than what I’d imagined when we conceptualized the idea about a year ago, but I’m a pro now at acceptance, so I’ve adapted well to the changes. We’re currently gearing up for sanctuary days in two barangays, planning activities and speeches and educational games, and acquiring certain materials needed for effective sanctuary management. By the end of May I need to fill the calendar up with our strategic planning workshop and biophysical assessment training with my fisherfolk, so the grant can be closed out and completed, and the community can hopefully continue with the training that my office and I have provided for them. I’m also thinking clearly now about BRO camp activities, something I’ve procrastinated on doing for a solid month.
These are all cool and worthy things, and are a large part of the real reason I came here. But I must be honest. I spend a lot of time thinking about my own personal life and how I will eventually be transitioning from a life with very little structure to a life surrounded by structure. How will I transition from a dysfunctional society and an isolated existence to one that is more familiar to me and more in line with my aptitude? Where in the workforce do I see myself? In what direction do I want to continue with my career? How easy (or hard) will it be to leave behind the Philippines?
Balancing the two is difficult. For example, I should be going to work dead-set on making some sort of measurable progress on our project goals, rather than allow the overall work ethic and attitude, or lack thereof, lock me into submission until I just don’t really care if I get that work plan completed or not. I used to complain heavily about the lack of accountability here and how it perpetuates the notion that nothing needs to be done, in this quarter or ever. And now I am comforted by it.
Or instead of enjoying the ample free time we PCVs have with my host family or my community and local friends, I spend loads of time at home researching jobs, building my resume, Google deep diving, and trying to find some insight into how community development work in a foreign country can actually have an attainable end result.
Do I feel guilty about this dual existence? Yes. And no. My mind is constantly flopping like a fish on deck between trudging forward with my work here and possibly expanding it into areas I’ve left untouched or satisfying my own desires of isolating myself and dreaming of self-fulfillment.
A million thoughts cross my mind each day, but this one has set the tone and prevailed more than others:
"I may be on the fat government teat right now, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here wasting away not even thinking about my future when I can do something to actively alter the course of reality, which, at the moment, involves me being unemployed at my parent’s house!" (Sorry Mom and Dad)
There are periods of transition in our lives and they offer a massive opportunity to take your destiny into your own hands. They provide the rare chance of real change yet also the stress of an ending without a foreseeable beginning. But this kind of ending shouldn’t be stressful, it should be enjoyable, bittersweet. And really, unexpected beginnings are the best kind anyway.