Third week ended

 Posted by Kari Gravdal at 5:11 pm  Philippines
Nov 222014

23th November

My third week in Tacloban has ended. It has been a quiet week without much to write about. I have been doing the nutrition project in Lolita Village all week. Tuesday and Friday I did I alone, and that is no problem now, as I know the drill. Some days the kids turn up early and sit awaiting while I am doing the magic with the meat and vegetables and as soon the food is ready to be served, they queue up with their boxes, eager to dig in my culinary wonder. Kari-Kare (has nothing to do with my name) on Friday, pork and vegetables in a peanut sauce, the photo shows the pasta, tomatosauce and sausages we served earlier this week. Yes, it is rewarding, I can recognise the children from day to day now. It is an easy job, though, and not very challenging. I am not sure about next week, maybe I will stick to Lolita, maybe I will show the drill to one of the new volunteers that arrived yesterday, maybe I will do a totally different job my last week here.


After finishing work on Wednesday, two of us went Downtown for lunch. I have not been often to the town thus I find it very confusing, messy, hot and dirty, but I had this wish to see the ships that Yolanda throw onshore. After eating and walking around for a while, we headed to Barangay 69 by foot. This is the area northwest of Downtown. To reach there one have to walk through the market area and the smell as approaching the fish market is unbearable. Walking through the market without a cloth to hold over nose and mouth will make you puke. Two weeks ago, we were stuck in traffic here sitting in a minicab, ten more minutes and we would all been dead!

Along the coastline in Barangay 69 many people still are living in makeshift shelters and sheds put together of whatever available. In the middle of all this, several ships stranded. The work chopping the ships to get rid of them is going on. Only the bow and the keel are left of the one that stranded with its bow stuck in the shoulder of the main road. The ships are dangerous but tempting. People soon moved in in lack of other accommodation, to imagine the living conditions on board the ships is impossible.

As we saw and smelled all this, I was aware that I did not take it in as I expected I would. It scared me I did not feel stronger. Have I lost my empathy? Am I shallow and ignoring, or is it just too much to handle? I have no answers.

I find it difficult to figure out what to feel about how they administrate this country and how the people living here are coping with everything. Those who lost everything due to Yolanda, also their plot where they lived as areas now are banned as building land, have not much of a choice other than live in tent and makeshift sheds while awaiting a new place to settle. I can understand their desperation and hopelessness.

Most people here are so cheerful, positive and seems to be happy. What I find difficult to understand though is why some just choose to live in mud and rubbish. OK, they are poor, but it does not cost anything to bend down and collect the rubbish around you in a pile to burn? It is like an acceptance of the situation. This is not a result of Yolanda only. I saw this especially in the area where I was working on the house build and as we travelled to Biliran Island two weeks ago. Clever people, educated, some of them got jobs, owning their own plot of land and motorbike, but living in houses you could not see because of all the rubbish that was stored around them. Old fridges, loudspeakers that never will speak again, lanterns, plastic boxes, torn plastic bags, rotten wood, a bath tub, boxes filled with empty bottles, cracked buckets, rusty roof sheets….. All soaked in mud and for every rain shower; more mud added. Nothing of value, nothing to reuse, just rubbish. Amongst it, barefooted children, roosters, pigs, dogs, chickens and cats wandering around making their contribution to the smelly mud. I know it cost to hire a car to take the rubbish to the dump site, but it does not cost much (actually nothing) to sort out what to burn, and place all the rest on one place to make one’s living space to a nicer place to be. Why collect lumber for years until it is useless instead of using it to make walkways between the houses to avoid walking in mud? This “it doesn’t matter” and “it’s good enough for us” attitude is hard to understand. Instead of doing something to improve one’s environment, they spend hours singing videoke and listen to radio. However, as we saw Downtown the other day, next to a stinky river with the worst houses you can imagine alongside, the most beautiful tranquil garden occurs. The contrasts here are enormous; you never know what you will meet around the next bend.

To get away from it all for an hour or two is essential, and I have found Patio Victoria as my hide away. This week I have visited the pool three times, to swim or to sit on a sunbed watching the sea and just turn the back to Tacloban and all its misery. Yesterday I ended up in the pool after being to the MacArthur Landing Memorial site. It took some time for me to figure out how to get around using Jeepneys. Minicabs and Pedicabs, since there are no real maps of the area available, and Google Maps does not deliver very well, either. After learning where the different destinations marked on the Jeepneys are according to each other, it is not so scary to travel alone. MacArthur surely found a beautiful spot to go ashore 20th October 1944 to fight the Japanese. The memorial is impressive and the sea breeze was welcome. I am glad I went to see this landmark.


My housemate turned 18 this week. She is so excited about it. This afternoon she will hold a gathering at the community centre to celebrate the birthday and I guess it is a “thanks and good bye” as well, since she is leaving Saturday after spending 3 months here. Our Nannay has been preparing food all morning and at the centre, they are busy preparing a surprise for her.

She dragged me out of the shower this morning because I had promised to follow her and a couple of others to a church and they had decided to attend the 9 am service, not the 10:45 as planned. So off in a hurry to Robinsons to participate in the service that was held in the movie theatre. It was not a regular catholic or Lutheran service as I thought, but some sort of New World congregation with a jumping and dancing audience and a rock band on stage, the song texts on the screen and praise the Lord and buy our latest CD mixed together. I was not able to stay there. It actually made me feel sick, so I left after twenty minutes.



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