Welcome to Tacloban!

 Posted by Kari Gravdal at 8:36 pm  Philippines
Nov 012014

Saturday 1st November
So here I am, in Tacloban at my homestay.
Started 4 am this morning, by taxi to Changi Airport in Singapore. I had a couple of days there on my way to Tacloban. I think it was a great idea to acclimatize before leaving for Philippines. Now my body is used to the heat and my head is somewhat used to the time difference. However, the difference in life standard in Singapore and here is enormous. I left the uppermost of standard in the morning to meet this poverty in the afternoon (but the bed here is definitely more comfortable than the one I had at my hotel in Singapore. That was like sleeping on the wooden floor with a log under my head!).
The flight to Manila was quiet and comfortable, the attitude and the humour of the Filipinos are great, even the Airline had a twist on their way of presenting themselves and the security on board.
My first contact with the Philippines was the airport in Manila. To me it all seem chaotic, I got through immigration unexpectedly easy and the lack of interest they showed me at the custom, confused me. The transfer of my luggage and “you must stand here” and “you must go there”, without understanding why I had to do so, made me believe that I never would find my way to terminal three and the right gate. I did, but had no expectation to get my luggage when landing in Tacloban. I did that as well. VfV was not present at the airport to pick me up due to traffic, but I had so many around trying to help that I was fully occupied with that until the two young men turned up and took me to the VfV office by jeepney and further on to Josephine and her lovely house and family.

I had my first bucket bath before I spent some time playing with the kid in the house, drawing and watching children’s programmes on the computer.
Josephine made me supper and after that, I was not able to do much more, jet lagged and out of sleep as I was, but we managed to connect me to the Wi-Fi before I went to bed, so staying in touch with the world will be easier than I feared.
Early to bed, fan on and mosquito net hung, Nite…..until the rooster started 4 am. The volunteer guide warned about the rooster in the neighbourhood, and surely it is present. Earplugs in, but that did not eliminate the sound of the rooster. I will get used to it, I guess.
Sunday 2nd November
Early start again, bucket bath, breakfast and off to the VfV office for orientation about Volunteer for Visayans, followed by a round trip in Tacloban. We were supposed to learn our way around using jeepnies as transport, but I think I missed that part. The jeepnies are so low so when sitting sidewise under the ceiling, you do not see much of the surroundings (at least not when you are a tall European), so getting any feeling of where we were heading was difficult. The city is not very big, but very confusing and it is difficult to figure out the streets. They all look the same. I must learn some landmarks to orientate
We jumped off the jeepney a couple of places, amongst them at Robinson’s Shopping Mall where we could shop for essentials as tissue paper and a snack. This Mall is new and busy with the most you can wish for, in contrast to the shops along the streets. The tour ended by having lunch in a Filipino restaurant at the mall.
My community is very poor; most houses are built and rebuilt out of what one could get hold of. Some got a concrete structure and tin roof; some are proper houses, like the one I am staying in. But also this house were badly hit during Youlanda last year, with water standing 1,5 meters above the ground floor. Inside it is so clean and neat (how does she manage to have so shiny floor tiles?), outside the “streets” or narrow alleys are dirty and stinky, cats, dogs and roosters are wandering around. The walkways are concrete tiles with open drains on both side, so you must better watch your steps! Everybody are interested in the new volunteers so kids and adults, they all ask for my name and tries to pronounce it. I guess they even manage to remember my name. I cannot guarantee I will remember theirs. I got at short walk from my homestay to the VfV-office, so within a week or two I might manage to name those living along the route.
Rest of the day are free to rest. Tomorrow I will know what kind of work they will put me on.


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