Wow, I’m way behind on updates – this is a long one, so bear with me!
2 Weekends Ago:
We had a cross country meet in Manila (all meets are in Manila) at Faith. This time there were no dorms to stay in, so we had to get on the bus at 5 AM. As brutal as that was, it meant the kids were quiet the whole way there, unlike the first trip where they wouldn’t stay quiet or in their seats.
We got to Faith at about 7:00, and I noticed right away that this meet would be a lot smaller than the Brent Manila meet. It turned out there were a total of 80 runners. The course at Faith is a lot hillier, and the kids knew that before we arrived. They seemed defeated before we even began. Trying to get them to focus on the positive, I pointed out that they had a better chance of placing in the top ten at this meet than at the Brent Manila meets. And it worked! We had two middle school boys place 8th and 9th. We also had a middle school girl finish in the top 10, but they had mistakenly labeled her as a high school runner, so we didn’t know she had placed until we got home and saw the official results. I looked closer and noticed they had made this mistake with a couple of our other runners as well. We had a few high schoolers running the 2 mile instead of the 3.1, and high schoolers could not place in the 2 mile at this meet. To avoid all of the confusion next time, we’ll have all high school runners run the 3.1 and all middle school runners in the 2 mile. Lesson learned!
Just like the last trip to Manila, we stopped at the mall on our way home. Worn out from getting up early and running, the kids slept most of the way home, too. As much as I HATE getting up before 5 AM to get on a bus, I prefer the quiet bus rides. Our next meet is at Faith again, so it looks like I’ll have peace once again. : )
The school week blew by, as the last few have seemed to do. I have grown accustomed to changes that accompany cultural diversity, and I really enjoy it. Aside from some language issues, teaching here is just about like teaching at any other school. Kids anywhere are like kids everywhere in the basic ways. They forget to do homework and obsess over their social lives. They’re awkward. And they’re funny and insightful and surprise me every day.
Friday was the annual Acquaintance Party, which I believe is held as a way for new students and returning students to get to know each other better, but it’s basically just a dance. The theme was “hip hop.” Jeff was chosen to judge the dance competition, an honor he took VERY seriously. So we went home after school and dressed up in our best “hip hop” gear (sweat pants, sideways hats, etc.) and headed to the party. The student council put together one hell of a party, with group games, a rap battle, and the dance competition, which was far more impressive than I thought it would be. The inclusion of “Sprite pong” was a little suspect – even more so when the student council representative explained it as “just like beer pong, only with Sprite” to the entire audience… The judges were announced for the dance competition, and the kids made PLENTY of noise for Mr. Mayrose and his hip hop swag. Students from each grade choreographed their own dances, which were mostly impressive, but the seventh grade was by far the best. After the Acquaintance Party, we headed home for a low key night. Jeff was headed to Manila at 5 AM to have his knee looked at (more on that in a few) and I had volunteered to help with the Coastal Cleanup, starting at 6 AM.
Saturday started with rain, which looked to put a huge damper on the cleanup. Jeff took off at 5, and I was right behind him at 5:30. Student and teacher volunteers loaded up on three buses and headed to the bay to pick up trash on the shore. The places we normally see are public beaches and are well cared for. The cleanup took place in a less touristy area and was downright disgusting. Right when we pulled up it started to pour, but within 10 minutes it let up and didn’t rain again until right as we were finishing. We collected everything from diapers to foam from furniture and more shoes and sandals than I could count. There were multiple other groups out picking up trash as well, so the shoreline was packed with people all working together. It was pretty amazing to see the improvement after just a couple of hours. The kids did an awesome job, which made it almost enjoyable to pick up trash. We were home around 10, so it wasn’t even like I had to sacrifice my whole Saturday.
Jeff’s day, on the other hand, was consumed mostly by driving in Manila traffic. He hitched a ride with the Model United Nations team to see a doctor about his knee. The day before school started, Jeff was playing basketball when his knee buckled to the inside. He was in a lot of pain and saw a doctor here in Olongapo who said it was just a sprain. He told him he’d be able to run on it within a few days. Well, that wasn’t the case. It was about a month before it really felt better. At that point, Jeff had slowly started to play basketball again. I remember the first time he played. I was walking the hallway above the gym and looked down just as he landed from a jump shot. He immediately fell to the ground, simultaneously looking up and making eye contact with me. “That was weird,” he commented. But he wasn’t hurt. Not two weeks later, he was playing basketball one night and his knee buckled to the inside again. This time the swelling was worse, as was the pain. He went back to the doctor who told him it was just another sprain. Thankfully, Jeff didn’t buy that diagnosis this time. The doctor relented, suggesting he could send Jeff for an MRI if it would “make him feel better.” MRI results: a severe partial or complete tear of the ACL. I was seething mad and wanted to give that idiot in Olongapo more than a piece of mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance because Jeff was ushered into his office, leaving me in the hallway. Probably for the best…he told Jeff all he needed to do was rest it for a few months.
After looking at his MRI, two friends of friends in the medical field said the same thing: surgery. Jeff has since been to see a surgeon in Manila who handles the players for the national basketball team. He took one look at the MRI and agreed wholeheartedly that Jeff should have surgery if he wants to continue living an active lifestyle. He also said the ACL was most definitely torn the first time Jeff hurt it, and the reason he fell and then hurt it again was because his knee is really unstable. This doctor does about 300 ACL surgeries a year, so I’d say he knows what he’s talking about. My biggest concern was anesthesia (I’m totally freaked out by being “put under” for surgeries), and my fears were immediately calmed because he uses spinal tap numbing. Jeff will be awake through the surgery but will feel nothing. The plan is to have surgery in early November, right after our trip to Caramoan. The doctor (the smart one in Manila, not the idiot in Olongapo) said it’s not urgent, but until he has surgery he should avoid lateral movements. Of course, any surgery isn’t ideal, but I am confident that Jeff is in the very best of hands with this doctor, one of the best in the country. I know before coming here I was leery about how good the doctors would be. As I found in the States, I’ve found the same to be true here: there are good doctors and there are bad doctors. Brandon made a good point when we were talking about this the other night: “Do you really think you could be seen by one of leading medical professionals in the field back in the States?” And that should make anyone worried about Jeff feel a lot better. His surgeon is one of the best, and his surgery is simple – done in about an hour. The hard part is the recovery: 6 months to a year of physical therapy. But the doctor said he will be at 95-100+% of what he was before surgery. Some people actually see better performance after the PT because they strengthen all of the muscles around the knee, not just rehab the ligament. Jeff is now convinced he will be a superstar baller in 2014.
It’s now Tuesday night and we haven’t had school yet this week. What started as slow, intermittent showers last week quickly turned into non-stop torrential downpour on Sunday. By Monday morning, Olongapo was in the grip of the worst flood in the city’s history. My principal sent out a message asking for home-cooked food to be sent down to the rescue workers. Well, home-cooked isn’t my forte, but I did whip up some scalloped potatoes and mac ‘n’ cheese to send down, along with a huge bag of Kit Kats that I desperately needed to get out of the house before I consumed them all. We spent the rest of the day watching football and being worthless. By 7:00 PM I was antsy to get out of the house, as was everyone else, so a few of us headed up to the gym to play volleyball. I put aside my insecurities and jumped right in. Yes, I was terrible, but I still had fun. It felt great to move around, laugh, and just be out of the house.
Today I was surprised by Jeff’s 5:00 AM announcement that school was once again cancelled. It looked like the sun was out, I didn’t hear the monotonous drumming of rain on the driveway, so why no school? We learned soon after that the school had experienced a pretty nasty leak in one of the buildings, and all of those classrooms needed to be cleaned up. Also, the flood waters had receded in Olongapo, and cleanup had begun. The streets, office buildings, and people’s homes were full of mud and debris, as were the roadways and bridges. The people of Olongapo banded together to get everything back to normal.
Thankfully, we are about to enter the last month of rainy season, and I can only hope it will be kinder to the people of the Philippines. We are VERY fortunate to live where we do, high up on a hill where flooding is next to impossible. The worst we have had to deal with is the roof leak between our living room and dining room, which seems to get worse every time it rains. Monday the paint on the wall bulged with water and slowly worked its way down the wall. We have two towels in constant rotation on that part of the floor. It’s certainly a pain in the butt, and I would really like for the maintenance to crew to figure out the problem, but patience — I am learning — is the most important of all virtues here. : )
All in all, life here feels normal, routine even. There are times I completely forget that I’m teaching in a foreign country, which I NEVER thought would happen. As much as living here is becoming natural, I still have moments where I stop and think, “Holy sh*t, I live in the Philippines.” I hope these moments never go away. I don’t want to grow to take this experience for granted.
And while I have gotten used to living here and find it very enjoyable, I still miss home. This will never BE home. I see pictures on Facebook showcasing the landscape of Iowa, and I little twinge snags my stomach. I miss Iowa football games if we can’t find a live stream of the game. I miss fall weather. I hear celebratory news from my friends and family and am reminded of all that we are missing out on by choosing this experience. Just the weekend before this, one of my very best friends announced she is pregnant. And while my heart burst with cliche joy for Glenna and Adam, it simultaneously broke, knowing I’m missing out on her entire pregnancy. I will never get to feel her baby kick or visit her in the hospital. I won’t get to plan her baby shower and pick out the cutest-ever first baby present. Baby Nockels will be over 2 months old before I ever get to smell its baby smell and feel its tiny hand squeeze my finger. So I have determined that I will find a way to make missing out on my best friend’s pregnancy FUN. Through monthly video chats and sending her surprise presents from afar. By buying the cutest-ever first baby presents from a foreign country and having her open them in a virtual baby shower. This baby will be wordly before it even leaves the womb, if I have my way.
I knew I would miss out on things when we made the decision to move overseas, but the reality of that is far harder than the hypothetical. And that’s life, in it’s hard, unforgiving nutshell.