Great, I am going to get heat stroke. That’s what I thought as I watched my hat sail down and land gently on the road behind the truck we were riding on. A lady strolled into the street and picked it up, well I guess it’s hers now. This was my first lesson in Filipino hospitality, many twisting turns later a Trike driver pulled alongside and proudly presented me with my hat, having given chase to return it.
Today was hectic for sure. Starting with a visit to mayor’s office, where we had the privilege of a Q and A session with the man in charge of everything in this city. He assured us the police force will be watching over us and it was hard not to feel like a rockstar.
The first visit to La Carlota Special Needs Integrated School proved more heart-warming than we could have anticipated, everywhere we looked cute little faces offered beaming smiles. We apprehensively tried out our new sign language skills, met with confused faces and giggling, my signing needs some work evidently.
After lunch we shipped out to experience sugar cane farming, which was a rude awakening. The first five minutes of slashing about with a machete felt awesome, very quickly the heat set in and the task became taxing. The camera only panned past me when I stumbled or was pulling up my shorts. The replanting process was even worse, fully doubled over and trying to break through the hard soil. “Wrong”. We were each supervised by farming women who assisted with our technique, saying “wrong” every time we placed a sugar cane cut off the wrong way up in a hole. The whole time we tried to figure out what factor decided the orientation of the cut off in the hole “wrong”. Feeling light-headed after 10 minutes of their working day, I realised I had massively underestimated the day’s tasks. These people work unbelievably hard just to get by, just to survive. It was precious when we made them laugh, always at our expense but rewarding all the same. When I was sure I would pass out I showed my supervisor the universal sign for sleeping, resting my head on my hands and closing my eyes, she doubled over with laughter and quickly the message and the laughter spread across the field. The afternoon was filled with these moments, laughing at just how awfully we were completing our tasks and how extraordinarily pink James had turned. If I lived their reality, I don’t think I could laugh often.
We are all being well fed, and our accommodation is comfortable. We are laughing until we cry and inside jokes and banter is out of control. However, for anyone who (like me) expected this trip would just be mildly enlightening or simply food for thought, if we thought it would fall short of confronting and life changing, well we were “wrong”.