Typhoon Haiyan (part 3)

Posted: December 16, 2013 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, TRAVEL
Tags: , , ,
In my game days- here are the best and worst days:

Worst days:

  • Fable 3 crunch-being in some big machine that x-rays you every 2 minutes after eating radioactive oatmeal trying to see why I can’t keep down solid food.
  • Dragon Age crunch where I was in the ER after having a “heart attack” at the age of 25.
  • The day I was fired from that job that caused said heart attack.
  • Seeing the game that you worked so hard on (lost relationships for, cried over, gained 50lbs during the crunch, didn’t get any royalty money from), in the discount rack for 4.95$ less than a year after it’s release.

Best days:

  • When the final email goes out and says “WE’RE GOLD!” (read: done).
  • When the game is on the shelves and over-hearing a kid say “MOM! I WANT THIS GAME! IT’S SO COOL!” (for the record, this happened 2/20 times).
  • Going to Target to get Nerf Guns and then having an all-out war in the hallway while compiling a build at 11:23pm before a milestone.
  • When you can impress a bunch of dudes at a bar by saying “Did you play Fable 3? Did you have sex? Did you hear the bassoon porn music? That’s me.” (side/sad note: I have never actually picked up anyone using that line.)
In my latest volunteer work, here are the best and worst days:

Worst day: I was told that I HAVE to tell this story, even though it made me sob like a hyperventilating toddler. So, Ian, this is for you:

We were in Day 2 of a “House Damage Assessment”. (Day 18 post Typhoon). A task given to me by the Mayor of Bogo because I was an “unbiased party”. However, he did not give me a helicopter (spoiler: ended up getting a drone! ‘Murika!) or a lot of manpower (2.5 people… One was useless, so I don’t really count him as a person). Needless to say, we set out and tried our best.

We went to one barangay (village) and were shown a cemetery. At least, it was a cemetery. Tombs were above ground, clean, made of concrete. I can only imagine that the stick-houses that were built around these were of family/relatives that were staying close to keep the tombs clean. It’s important to note that I used the term “were”- because the tombs weren’t really there anymore. Yolanda or the earthquake (or both) made short work of the crumbling concrete and now the remains were spewed out all over the ground.

This area was also prone to flooding, and caskets are expensive and usually a body is just thrown into a hole…. You’re a smart reader- you know where this is going: the bones were above ground and washed all over. Have you ever played Diablo 2? You know the icon after you kill something and it becomes a pile of bones? That’s what this was. Except in real life.. and in the sticks that used to be people’s homes.

As if seeing this wasn’t enough, my partner and I were watching our step and counting all the totally destroyed houses (which was the same as counting how many houses total there were…. Since they were all gone and everyone there would have to be relocated) when one lady grabbed my hand and pulled me into her house, begging me to help her. I took one step in, looking at what she was pointing at and heard a giant crunch. I look down and see my foot in the middle of a skull.

Three thoughts occurred at that moment: (in this order)

1) My white-girl weight just crunched a skull. I must be fat.
2) Oh. My. Effin’. God. I just stepped on a human skull.
3) Why is this lady yapping about her lack of roof when she has human remains INSIDE HER HOUSE! Like they were dust-bunnies!

She told me to look up. Her roof was gone and replaced with some raincoats and plastic bags. She was really concerned about the roof, but I couldn’t help but look down at the collection of bones that had washed into the 1-room house that was residence of her (small) family of 5. I told her that I would do all I could, blessed her hand and escaped outside to try to get some kind of reprieve. Not that outside was much better, but it didn’t smell of black mold and my cough wasn’t as bad and I could look up instead of down if I felt nauseous.

I don’t know why, but I picked up a piece of jaw from somewhere else as proof that this day actually happened. Making a silent vow to help as much as I could.

Completely shaken, not wanting to do anything except drink heavily and try to forget everything, I arrived at my host’s house. Now- I love host families. They provided me an insight into how Yolanda has affected the locals and a deeper look into the local culture. If you ever get a chance to couchsurf, take it. It’ll change your life. However, sometimes you just aren’t in the mood. Sometimes you just want to sit someplace quiet and do your own thing, but because you’re a guest you feel obligated to talk to the host family. This was one of those nights.

Instead of the Muslim speech I got the other end of the spectum: Roman Catholic. I was asked (read: made to feel guilty… but in a nice way) why I wasn’t married (it’s expensive and men are trouble and heart-ache), why I don’t have kids (they’re expensive), and why I quit my job to travel (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. Are you happy that I’m here?). At the end of the night, I took a (cold) shower and cried. Just wanting the whole mess to end.


Best day: 

On Thanksgiving another American solo volunteer showed up and I (finally) got to have “adult conversation” again! I had no idea how much I had missed using slang and making pop-culture references. There was a rumor that a concert was going to happen on Saturday, November 30th. I don’t really believe in rumors because in Filipino Time(tm) “saturday” could mean “next month”. So on Saturday, (day 21 post Typhoon) I had gotten back from my 24-hr R&R (read: air con and internet break) in Cebu city, went to the 7-11, got a bottle of Boracay Rum (3$USD for 750ml bottle) and proceeded to go to the BBQ pit for dinner and get shit-faced.

At 9pm, the other American and I slowly made our way to the complex where, there was indeed(!!!) a concert. We got seats in a good section and watched the show of dancers, singers, magic shows and snake-charmers. It was probably the equivalent to a B-movie-talent show, but when you have been overly stressed for weeks and haven’t seen anything like this for a long time, your bar goes down and everything becomes magical. Needless to say, it was exactly what the people needed- and the only sad part was that more didn’t know about it to come. 😦

After the show, the DSWD (the group that I have been helping) started dancing. I went down and was instantly swept up in jitterbug swing! SWING DANCING! Oh, bless this little country for being an American Colony in the 40’s!!! I danced. and danced and danced. We showed off what moves we knew. This sound (called laughing) came out of my mouth that I hadn’t heard in a long time. I picked up girl’s husbands to bring them to the dance circle. Smiles, cheers, giggles, laughter and singing went on for 2 hours.

With sweat pouring off my body like I had just ran through a sprinkler, the band had to pack up and leave, the party ended and people went home. The next morning I was rejuvenated and so proud to be part of this community. I was thrilled that I was a volunteer who was there to help, happy to call these people my family. I finally felt part of this city and felt that it was a part of me.

As I write this, I was wracking my brain trying to remember the last time I had so much fun during all my travels- and a few times come close- but this was the cat’s pajamas. I said this during my “good bye speech”- but I’ll write it here: To the City of Bogo- I came here to help in any way that I could: Hauling sacks of rice, repairing homes, sweeping, data entry, looking at houses, listening. In the end, I think I cheated you because you ended up helping me more. I love you and I will come home soon.


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