I have taken a trike to work every day since I’ve been here, and every day it is the same. I give directions, “sa municipal hall sa 4Ps.” I pay and say some phrases in Kinaray-a. The trike driver playfully speaks to me as if I’m fluent; I clarify— “gamay lang” (just a little). We both laugh about it, and into my office I go—almost ritualistic. Two Tuesdays ago, the sun was not any brighter, the clouds had no grand formation, but for whatever reason, the day unfolded rather differently. I hailed a trike, gave directions “sa…”, and off we went to my office. We arrived, I handed my payment to the diver and nothing—no smile, no Kinaray-a, and most uniquely, no change. I looked at the driver and flooded him with every smile and eyebrow raise that could convey— sir, I’m a foreigner who knows better; it’s a set price, change please. Now, there is a Filipino value of “saving face.” Simply, in this regard, don’t shame anyone even if you’re the recipient of wrong doing. Hence, the universal Pilipino non-verbal gestures I did. He gave me my change, and I turned, walked away, and talked junk in my head about the nerve of this driver who tried to pull the wool over my eyes. I mean, I’ve been here in Barbaza, Antique for almost two weeks by this time and in the Philippines for nearly three months (as if he’d know this by looking at me)…when…BOOOM! Yes, that was the sound of my epic fall as it interrupted my thoughts. People appeared out of nowhere: the rooftops, out of buildings, behind stacks of bamboo, yelling in multiple languages to see if the American was alright. I popped up in a real jack-in-the box fashion trying to reassure everyone that I was okay, but the grass and dirt on my hair, clothes, and hands made my words less convincing. Amidst the shouts of concern resounded “HUMBLE YOURSELF,” a refrain that has grounded me during various segments of my life. Instead of inflating my level of integration, perhaps, I should have spent my time basking in the small victories while walking away. In reality, I’m clumsy, so I probably would have fallen anyway. Nevertheless, it was a great time to appreciate that I am speaking in the local language though “gamay lang” and am being understood. I’m using their non-verbal gestures successfully. Furthermore, I’m revering Filipino values in my daily actions. I laughed at myself when it happened and I will continue to have laughter as a cherished companion during my Peace Corps journey. However, when I return to this memory I will fondly remember humility. With humility, I can continue to appreciate small victories. These two themes I imagine will continue to emerge out of my experiences; those light-hearted like this instance and others with greater depth. In whatever way you can, I hope you too can appreciate the small victories in your life.
Salamat (Thank you)--Lena