1 year ago today

a year ago today was my last post on this blog – no matter how hard i try to keep this updated i just can’t, for many reasons – both valid and just plain katamaran (laziness). i guess when one turns a new leaf one is entitled to say something online for her to read again at some point, just to remind her (not necessarily anyone else) of things that have happened in weeks, months or even years.

it might be better too to do this chronologically, because sometimes that’s easier to do for me:

November 2013 – a year ago on 08 November, Typhoon  Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines, showing no mercy at all. Eastern Visayas and some parts of Cebu had the most damage and most number of casualties. I remember seeing this on CNN right when it happened, like I was just at home in Manila watching the news on TV. I remember seeing the dead strewn on the streets like dolls after a great flood. They showed Tacloban, or what’s left of it anyway – mud everywhere, people in shock – crying in all the interviews, but i think most are just in shock – all makeshift housing flattened to the ground, buildings broken, ships (!!!) brought ashore by the strong wind and water combo (storm surge will be a new weather jargon that won’t be forgotten). Tacloban was washed out to almost nothingness. One can barely see it anymore. So was Guiuan. But in Guiuan the LGU managed to get the people to abandon their homes for safer ground. I remember crying with the people who lost their homes, their families and friends, their pets, their livelihood. And i cried some more when I got news that my father’s 3 sisters and their families were still missing. November 2013, that was a horrible time for my home and my heart. (NB: we got news 6 days later that they were all safe, and were on their way to Manila)

December 2013 – After Haiyan happened i was glued to the TV for news back home, and to Facebook with my siblings to check on our aunts and cousins – we finally received news that they were all alive 6 days later, after we had thought them dead or washed away somewhere (thank heavens they’re alive!). Family doing better – cousins and aunt had the medical attention they needed. My own family was over the moon with the news. We even had a small reunion, a thanksgiving for another chance at life.

I was also offered a post by my old organisation for the Haiyan Emergency Response, and i took it – I was planning on volunteering anyway – a real paid job just made the decision easier for me. Husband was worried, but he was more unhappy seeing me so affected by what was happening back home. He reluctantly agreed to 4 months – nothing more. Anyway we will be seeing each other midway through it when he comes to Manila to finally meet the rest of the family. Tickets were purchased, reminders (for him) written down, and I was in Manila on 09 December 2013. By the next day I was already in Cebu City. I literally hit the ground running, only to be told to run faster. And so I did. December was a flurry of events – orientation, coordination meetings, situationers, land and air travel to Samar and Leyte, forming a team and started working with other programmes. In two weeks I was able to do work for 3 people for a month! I had missed meals, calls, sleep, that I actually lost weight. I thought that the CNN coverage of Haiyan 24/7 would somehow prepare me for my actual visit to the places where we work. It didn’t. The first time I had to go to Barangay San Jose in Tacloban, I was so shocked at what i saw that i did not even notice tears streaming down my face like someone was rubbing onions on my eyes. I couldn’t stop them fast enough, so i just let them fall freely. The driver noticed my tears, but did not say anything – just let me stay there for some minutes. I think he understood why.

I had to take a break for Christmas. I thought i deserved time to recharge and be with family. The time spent in Tacloban drained all my energy and happy thoughts.

January 2014 – ahhh, New Year! finally getting the hang of things and team recruits in place already. Finally scheduled a trip to Guiuan where we again met another typhoon (Agaton) while staying in a cheap tent inside the UN Hub – all the big, sturdier tents were full! Managed the two-day gender orientation for the whole Guiuan team during the storm anyway – nothing could stop us! (Was supported by a global gender advisor)

On the last week I traveled to Manila to fetch the hubby who was coming to meet the family. He arrived on the 23rd January. We stayed in Manila for 1 busy social week with family and friends. Hubby had a grand time shopping, eating out, meeting family and friends, and just hanging out with my parents. We even went to a sabungan (cockfighting arena) one time because hubby requested for it -hubby wanted all of that experience. He was so intrigued by how Tatay is so fascinated by it until now in his 70s. Tatay was just happy to oblige and brought us to his usual haunt in Pasig – and we had a grand time!

Brought the hubby back with me to Cebu as I needed to be back at work. We had the chance to meet up with two of my dearest friends in Cebu so that was nice; but I was working all the time. We even got as far as Bantayan Island (again for work), which he enjoyed a lot. I just wish we had more free time to explore – i was working and he was left at the hotel by himself most of the time. I felt bad for him, but i think he tries to understand my work.

February-April 2014 – Hubby left Manila February 12, so i was back to work, work, work. These months have been the most stressful for me, but also the most rewarding. I was finally ending my 4-month stint and ready to pass on the torch to one of the officers whom i think can do the job very well. I was literally Haiyan’d out — so tired and ready to go back to my quieter life in Cameroon. Another flurry of meet ups with friends and family, and then I was off to Cameroon.

When I got back to Cameroon mid-April, husband surprised me with a piece of property (land) near our apartment, which he bought for us. This is where we (he) are planning to build next year.

May-August 2014 – quiet life in Yaounde, interspersed with a few social activities in between – mostly with other Pinoys in Yaounde. It was great seeing them all again after a long time. Attended a huge Cameroonian wedding in August, and 2 kumpils – one for husband’s nephew. I was back to learning French (level: Elementaire!) and doing well in school, cooking some more, but I was also starting to jobhunt again.

September 2014 – One of the NGOs i applied at called me asking me if I wanted to do something that was not the post i originally applied for (i was a strong candidate and they liked me, they said, but in the end they took an old staff who reapplied – because, yes, my French still needs to be at a certain level). Naturally i said yes. And i am glad I did.

The post was as a consultant (project manager) for an NFI distribution project in the East region — it was aid for refugees and for the host communities. I will also do partner management – something i had already been doing so much of before. It was perfect. Just something I can sink my teeth into! The post was only for 2 months, but it was as good as any offer at that point. I was excited again! (I will post some photos next time of all our shenanigans in the East) 🙂

October 2014 – a year later from my last post I am in an entirely different place in my life now – my marriage is better, I have a job that lets me do what i like best, which is working directly with communities, i get to travel a lot for work (well, mostly to the same places) and i gained the trust of my employers and the partner/team i work with directly on field. So much so that the partner wants to pirate me (i said no – the East is not exactly like the Northwest), and my employer just extended my contract to 2 more months (yayy!).

 

It is November again now, 2 days before Typhoon Haiyan’s anniversary. I think I have come full circle, and I am exactly where I want to be. I am blooming where I am planted.

Hopefully I would be able to write more updates and post more photos again (I always, always say this — never happens!).

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