The Philippine Chronicles, 8
To be perfectly honest, today was a hard day. That’s kind of ridiculous for me to say considering what the day actually consisted of, but it’s true nonetheless, at least for me. We spent most of the morning at a market so we could get stuff for people back home. I don’t know what you’re picturing when you read “market,” but it wasn’t like a bunch of stands or shacks or anything. It was actually kinda like a third-world strip mall made up of a bunch of little stores. This was decently fun. I actually get into bargaining with the sellers, which you wouldn’t think about me considering my personality. However, it was tough ‘cause they were really stubborn. I walked out on a few deals I was trying to work. Usually that will send people chasing after you so that you can enter into another round of negotiations. Not here in the Philippines. They didn’t sweat it at all.
Once everyone had dropped way too many pesos considering what we’ve been seeing all week (myself included), we went to lunch. There Nice and Rafonzel (two of the LDP graduates) presented us all with gifts. I’ll save what they are so that some of you can be surprised. Nice had also contacted her aunt who carved Student Life an eagle out of coconut husks. It looks amazing, but I really have no idea how we’re going to get it home safely. I think BoBe has been tasked with that responsibility. Wish him luck.
Over lunch we discussed how the Filipinos wanted us to try one more food. Supposedly you can’t say you’ve been to Davao until you have eaten some durian. Durian is some kind of fruit. It’s difficult to describe. It is shaped like a melon but looks spiky like a pineapple, but it’s green in color. Once you cracked it open it looked kinda like it consisted of four avocado pits with the flesh of the fruit surrounding these large seeds. The locals have a saying about it. “Durian tastes like Heaven, but it smells like Hell.” And it does… smell like Hell I mean. It stinks. The moment the van doors opened at the fruit stand you could smell it. As far as it tasting like Heaven, though, not so much. Rafonzel told me that there are different kinds. Some durian can be super-sweet, while others can be sweet and bitter. This one leaned towards the bitter end of the spectrum. It actually tasted like guacamole (you read that right, not avocado, guacamole with all the onions and stuff added).
We also sampled a couple of other fruits. One was called mangostine (not sure about the spelling). It’s what you would get if you crossed a plumb with an orange. It was delicious. I recommended they now say that you haven’t visited Davao until you’ve eaten a mangostine, but they insisted that durian is really where it’s at.
While we were at the fruit stand, we experienced one of the more difficult situations we’ve encountered since we’ve been here. I’m sure some other people will be writing about this, but I’ll go ahead and do it too so that you can get a number of different perspectives.
The minute our vans pulled up there were street kids outside (well, evidently they probably weren’t all street kids, but Roger might can tell you about that), and they started knocking on our doors and windows. Some of them had things to sell but most were just outright begging. Our van door opened and when I stepped out there was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, holding a naked baby boy who might have been 18 months (I’m not the best judge of children’s ages). She never really spoke but would get your attention and then point to the boy’s belly and then his mouth, indicating he was hungry obviously. She’d then hold her hand out for something.
A lot of you know that I usually give something to someone who is begging even in the states. I’ve been taken advantage of by that a number of times, but I still do it pretty consistently. Here I really didn’t have anything left, and there were just so many of them. I was really having trouble processing it all. The closest I could come was to think, “I wish you were involved with Compassion.” Afterwards I found out that many of us were thinking that exact same thing.
Now you may be asking yourself, “how do they know that one of those kids isn’t involved with Compassion?” Well, trust me… I know. Compassion makes such a difference in the lives of these children (and obviously I know that God is the one actually making the difference through Compassion) that even though they come from the same communities and same life situations, they behave differently. They have confidence. They have pride (the good kind). They have dignity.
We drove away with them staring after us (actually, first, some of them grabbed some fruit from Callie as she was trying to pass it out to them and they proceeded to fight each other for it). It was an extremely sobering moment. That’s yet another reason I’m an advocate. So that more people can help Compassion help more children in more places.
We traveled back to Manila tonight. We had a final dinner with Noel, the Compassion country director for the Philippines, and Kiwi and Daniel (two of the other LDP graduates). They also presented us with gifts. It seems there is no end to the hospitality of the Filipino people, regardless of life circumstance.
The rest of our day has been full of goodbyes and questions. Goodbyes to all of the friends we’ve made in the short time we’ve been here. Questions about what the future holds, specifically if we can get Kiwi, Daniel and Nice over to the states for the summer. It sucks. And it’s hard. But I trust God. I really do. I know that He desires to change the lives of children in all twenty-four countries in the world in which Compassion works, and I know that He desires to change the lives of teenagers in the U.S. I believe that one of the ways in which He accomplishes both is through the relationship of an American teenage sponsor and their Compassion child. It really does change two lives. So, I know that He is working out His will and purpose for how to best make those connections this summer. But I desperately yearn for Him to choose to do that by bringing these other LDP graduates.
That is my prayer, and I pray it confidently and humbly. Please, join me.
In a few hours we’ll wake up and head to the airport to fly to Tokyo for a day. Yet another extreme moment of culture shock, I’m sure.