Hello, Blog! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been immersed in the business of living in the Philippines. It’s pretty weird, living here. In some ways, my life is very much the same as it is in the US. I have Internet in my home now, so I’ve resumed Life As Normal, by which I mean I spend most of my free time talking to the People Inside My Computer. I don’t know what made me think I’d magically stop doing that after joining the Peace Corps, but I was wrong!
On the other hand, when I do leave the house, I’m freaking movie star, you guys.
Grocery shopping is like being in the US, only cooler, because when I go into the market, the vendors who sell me my vegetables say things like, “Yes, Sexy? What is it?” Why yes I AM sexy, thanks for noticing!
Once I walked past a house, minding my own business, and heard a, “WOW!” from the darkened interior. In seconds, half a dozen children appear peering through the bars.
You guys. I merited a WOW. It was most definitely in all caps, just like that.
But the best part is the little neighborhood I pass through on my walk to work. Let’s call it Sesame St. The Sesame St. crowd is my FAVORITE. Most houses in the Philippines have high walls and gates, to keep people from stealing the things inside, but the residents of Sesame St. are on the poorer side. Maybe they don’t have anything worth stealing.
Whatever the case, their huts are open right out into a dirt compound, and the street. And that means that instead of being shut up behind gates, the kids play out in the street.
The kids think I’m great.
At first, they mostly wanted to know my name. Since they have various levels of ability in various languages (at least three, I’m guessing, Ilokano, Tagalog, and English), the conversations tended to go like this.
Kid: “Anong pangalan mo?”
Me, grinning: “Ako si Emma.”
Kid, remembering the one phrase he knows in English: “What’s your name?”
Me: “Uh . . . still Emma.”
Oddly enough, my name stays the same no matter what language I’m speaking. WEIRD.
We had this exchange twice a day, when I walked to school and when I walked home. Eventually I just started answering, “Alam mo!” You know!
The kids must have spread the word, because now sometimes when I’m walking down Sesame St., people call, “Ate Emma!” (‘Ate’ is like ‘big sister’. You use it for females older than you.)
And that’s the downside of this unexpected stardom. See, I’ve managed to learn the names of two of Sesame St. kids. I still don’t know the names of any of the adults, or the rest of the kids. It feels a little unfair. After all, there’s only one of me, and I did tell them my name four times a day in multiple languages for several weeks.
But I didn’t ask to be a star. All I wanted was to be a neighbor, and neighbors should learn each other’s names.
Maybe I’ll start with the folks at the canteen who are always so curious about what I’m up to. Like the time I was walking home with a gallon of white vinegar in one hand. A GALLON, guys. SO much vinegar, they stopped measuring it in liters.
And if you thought they were curious about that, imagine what they thought about me walking down Sesame St. with my male best friend. But that’s a story for another post.