travelling in the philippines: chapter six

do you like modern comforts? charging your phone and having access to the internet? wiping your butt and hanging wet clothes up to dry? our room is sleeping on a board with a single light sheet. roosters gang up on us outside of our window night and day. why are you working right now? why are you on? I laugh at 10 o’clock at night. the power is sometimes shut off at random and often the toilet doesn’t flush. there’s a hole in the sink and our shower consists of a bucket and cold water that spits out that smells like raw sewage. but hey, they have bum guns!

mosquitoes have marked their territory on me one thousand times, which I’m afraid to get malaria from [did I get that shot? no.] and I am the proud owner of a terrible sunburn on my nose from the first day I arrived, marking me from cold, wet, grey vancouver desperately seeking refuge from winter. all of our belongings have so much sand and dirt in them and everything smells like poo or a musky foot.

the most humbling of them all is that the trip has been determined by airplanes and waves sayin yes or no to plans. airplanes and waves made me miss two stays in different places, two flights, and a tour, all of which was already paid, no refunds. but at least the airplanes and waves didn’t kill me! I never experienced bigger waves than yesterday on a boat tour; I wondered, “is this where we capsize?” even now, the fluids inside my body are still wavering from that experience.

there have been a few moments where I thought I was going to die already, one when we were in a jeepney / tricycle [the motorbikes that have been rigged with a sidecar to create a futuristic alien looking hack]. the driver couldn’t see out of his windshield at night, so he just sped right into the thick darkness. of course, none of this was communicated other than by him wiping it, nothing changing, and him choosing to speed off with our futures in his hands anyway, with his head cocked outside of the strange contraption, squinting and shifting gears. big trucks blared at us, we zipped by, eyes squeezed tightly, and almost clipped people walking on the tiny, chaotic dirt roads. every time there was a close call, I gathered courage to yell at him, or maybe to even tuck and roll out of the jeepney, but my tongue was thick and I said nothing but “trust” - or did I pray for that? I thought for sure my last moments would be seeing blurry headlights and smashing my sweet melon through the muddy windshield.

through all of this, I am easily learning about our luxuries, what it means to be privileged. gentle reminders of how little some have yet how little they make it mean. every time I explore a new place, I feel a bit guilty at my opportunity, a bit confused by tourism, especially in places that are developing. we spend a lot of money to venture faraway to see the most beautiful things where there are also people who struggle relentlessly every day. the time and the specifics and details may be different, but really, we aren’t that much from each other. yet, to travel may be the most privileged thing in the world; to leave your identity temporarily and just be, exploring all the collective riches and sadness this earth has to offer. to be fortunate enough to venture out of the circumstances that were dictated to you. even to whine you have “jet lag” [something I would never do again] means you’re marked as a fortunate complainer.

I may never understand what it’s like to exist in another’s skin, but I will always seek out those places and try. my hope through understanding other places, culture and people of our earth is that we will become more compassionate, empathetic, respectful and kind. we could all use a little more of that and less of the former “stuff” and comforts, even if I am inconveniently itchy while stuck in a place. forget kardashian’s and contoured cheekbones; to travel in luxury almost defeats the whole purpose, no?? only when you have nothing do you realize your potential for everything.