I stared out the window of the bus and thought to myself,
“Sometimes it seems like I’m living in a postcard.”
Noel was fast asleep across the aisle, and for a moment, I felt a little bit of jealousy that he had a camera and I didn’t. I had sold mine months before, during a quickly developing income squeeze. I gazed out again at the natural beauty of the Philippines and realized… the best pictures I would ever keep were lodged in my head. Memories are potent and drive us to nostalgic endpoints in which we gaze back and romanticize moments that left an impact.
We pulled into the terminal and caught a jeepney back to the city. I went home and began to reacquaint myself with the online world while unpacking. I had just completed a 3 day mission with One Heart for Hope, an excursion that aimed to bring solar lighting to poor fishing families in Carles, Panay Island, Philippines. Many of the experiences I had, including the rock-climbing fall that left me a bit scratched up, were in sync with the impressions we left on the target groups: astounding.
One family, in particular, had twelve offspring. Another had nary enough money to light a kerosene candle at night, so they ate under the moon. Yet another had so little daily income, they had to choose between buying gasoline to fill their fishing boat or some other item that was critical. It was touching to be able to take a simple idea like solar lamps and make such a difference in people’s lives.
Later that evening, I met up with Noel. His stay in the region was to end the next day, and so I decided to catch up with him for dinner. Unfortunately, the remnants of my lunch and some foreign bacteria in my stomach and lower intestines had other plans. Within 30 minutes of illness onset, I hailed a taxi and admitted myself to a hospital nearby. The next four days are strangely blurred, yet also crystal clear.
Being hooked into an IV for survival is not a scenario I wish on anyone. Being unplugged from the world during a crisis is an even worse fate, I think. Shortly after admittance, my only connection to the world, my mobile phone, died and I was thereby cut off from any way to keep in touch and give updates about my status.
As these things go, it was not the weariness of being violently ill that shook me, it was the enveloping loneliness that filled the room. Silence can be a golden angel in times of tranquility, but also has a way of presenting itself as a demon. Laying there in the bed, on a balmy Saturday morning, with the same clothes on I was wearing Thursday evening I made a promise: I will never leave my parents in a nursing home. The thought alone upsets me.
Some time Sunday, I was casually released, and the ordeal was over. Of course, the hospital bill was enormous, and that is where I leave you.. the weeks following this incident have gone by rather quickly. Being out of freelance work, and having no money (it all went to pay off hospital loans) means living is rather tight these days. Living on $2-3 during tough times is not new to me, and so after my release, I pulled myself together and thought about what I want to do with the next year in store. This year has had some good moments with Singgit Sirkulo, the art school I volunteered at back in September and August.
There were other one off moments, but the overall accounting of this year leaves me feeling as if there is a discrepancy between my vision of contribution and the stark reality. I am really no better off, many times, than my social work target audience. It makes for great empathy, as I now understand the daily battle to survive, but it’s a lousy foundation to a promising future in entrepreneurial start-ups.
To remedy this, I am partnering with someone, and drawing up plans to start a reading campaign in the Philippines. Under this campaign, I will be able to do film-making, tutorial services, and maybe even include local political causes. In addition, my book is in review and I’m adding more content as needed.
I’ve always known, in the 18 months I’ve been here, that to “Create value, I must have a mission“, but I also know I can’t do this alone.
I need a network.
I need you.