After a very last minute change of plan 4 weeks ago from volunteering in China to the Philippines due to visa troubles I have finished my trip and tomorrow I am heading home (after this year it definitely feels like it) Singapore. I’ve learnt so much in such a short amount of time about all sorts of things; this country, its people, my enjoyment of teaching, mental health, and most importantly I’ve learnt a lot about myself (cliché I know).
I came out here after booking a 3 week teaching volunteering programme through IVHQ who have connections with the organisation Greenlion whose team works locally in Palawan as well as other countries. I was based in a tiny village 2 hours south of Puerto Princesa called Tigman village. The camp I based at was very basic with most of the rooms having bucket showers, occasionally the water stopped running during the night, a few power-cuts and nearly non existent wifi or signal. Despite this the beds were comfy and the aircon was brilliant and the company was second to none. I was so lucky with my orientation group (11 of us) and we all got on so well.
Orientation week was the first week there so initially no volunteering just getting used to the area and the culture including language lesson (basic tagalog training) cooking lesson a visit to a lady who weaves roofs out of leaves a visit to a waterfall the local market a sandbar and the Puerto city (including a stop off to get massages which will never be forgotten thanks to a very small pair of underwear and a hilarious Igor). It was a slow week but we got to now each other and by Friday we had a weekend group trip organised to the Underground River – one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I wouldn’t say it is comparable to the other 6 wonders but definitely worth a trip if you are in the Philippines nature truly is an artist and the cave system is so vast and impressive!
We even managed to fit in a zipline over the sea (Left above) before heading back to Puerto.
Monday of the next wee was when all the hard work started adn considering how slow orientation wee was I was not prepared for the very difficult challenging and fast past project that lay in store. We had been told basically nothing about what we would have to do so turning up at a school in the morning being assigned a class – and since we were under staffed for the age groups I had my own class of ages 11+ and then just told to teach. I was told to do a 2 hour lesson on division…. I hadn’t done division by hand in years and I had no idea what they had already learnt or how good they were and the resources available to us included chalk and a blackboard.
The first day was very hard and a lot to take in and a little bit frustrating however I had learnt all my classes names and actually done really well considering how under prepared and under informed I was.
I started this trip anticipating that maybe I would like teaching and I could consider it for a profession after I graduate but I didn’t anticipate liking it so much and feeling so comfortable in front of a class of ids! Especially when they don’t speak good english and so teaching them things involves finding the most basic language and talking very slowly.
Realising they needed practice in their english I spent most of the 2 wees doing the basics; nouns verbs adverbs and adjectives followed by connecting worlds pronouns and working on their understanding of past present and future tense! Luckily for me I had the oldest ids in the school so they understood most of what I was teaching they were well behaved very receptive and most of them only came on the first Monday – I only had 6 ids by the end of the 2nd wee. This ended up as a blessing because I worked on each of them repeating things back to me and focusing on helping and correcting each of their errors.
Not only did I do lots of English being a science student I was desperate to teach them some biology – initially when I asked if they liked science they all said no and looked very unhappy at the idea that I would consider teaching them any. So I started on the most mind blowing piece of biology – Evolution. Teaching them this was one of the best moments of the whole two wees of teaching. I used them and me as examples to explain adaptation I told them why they have dark skin and I have pale and told them that they are adapted to their environment and so was I. Using something so simple that they can relate to visually I could tell that I had really told them something they understood. The reward of seeing that spar in their eyes might be the thing that drives me to take up teaching.
These subjects and daily struggles with topics filled my two weeks on placement along with my amazing classes smiling faces and the continuous flow of letters and drawings saying ‘I love you teacher Rosie’ – things like that make everything worthwhile. But despite the busy schedule I still managed to slip in another get away to El Nido in the second weekend this time with a slightly different group of 10! The long a very fast (dangerously fast) 8 hour drive was worth it for the boat tour on the Saturday and the scuba diving tour I did with two other girls on the Sunday! El Nido is so similar to Ha Long bay with the dramatic rock formations but the beaches are so perfect and ‘hidden beach’ and ‘secret beach’ are lie things out of a movie not real life! The waters were so perfectly turquoise and crystal clear! For the diving trip the 3 of us had our own private boat I had a dive master to myself and we went to 3 dive sites had lunch cooked for us on the back of the boat and coffee after every dive!
I’m writing this blog on my way back to Singapore – I’ve stopped in Cebu on my way back and the transit was 11 hours during the day… so I somehow have ended up writing this while sitting in a 5 star resort hotel sunbathing by a lagoon…
My life is simply incredible but I wouldn’t like the ending luxury to overshadow how hard I have had to work with the children how much energy I have put in to making friends and being open to everything! This trip has taught me that I can be strong no matter what and I’m even stronger when someone else needs me to be, I found that I am much more confident than I ever imagined (I was shy in school when I was little), and that I love teaching.
thanks for the memories and the lessons I’ve learnt and the friends that I will never forget!
(also my laptop keyboard is slightly broken so if I’m missing a k or a comma it is because my keys dont wor)