Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rio Tuba, Philippines

We left Puerto Princessa a few days ago after a brief visit to the hospital (I'm going to try and spare what's left of my son's dignity, but if you're curious, it rhymes with 'book' and 'squirm'), and now we're anchored in our first ever river. We almost passed it up. We're both tired of the Philippines (please don't hold it against us), but we felt like we should suck it up and get one last cultural experience before we landed in Borneo.

And here we are. There are three girls paddling up to Savannah as I type this. We have spent the afternoon trying to converse with the small children in their canoes. They range anywhere from 3 to 12. It's not like Micronesia….these kids don't want candy (although they'll gladly take it), they want rice, milk, sugar… Their English is broken at best but they're about the cutest things I've ever seen.

Under normal circumstances, we wouldn't just give stuff away. If you do that, and the next boat does that, and the next and so on, then eventually, all you have is a group of people that bombard you all day and night wanting stuff that you don't have to give away. The conventional cruiser wisdom is that you give something but you ask for something in return. It could be a fish, a banana, or something as little as a coconut, but it's a trade thing, not a 'give me' thing. But for the life of me, I cannot barter with these 6 year olds…. This is the first time EVER that I have been asked for rice in a country that produces rice. I was asked for chicken and eggs… I wanted to tell them to wait until morning when all the roosters were crowing and they could surely find those darn pesky chickens… I know from my grandmother, just a quick ring of their necks and you'll be good for days….

Anyway, it's way past sundown and we just sent the last boat off with some soap and lotion and a few cup fulls of our pasta dinner (I sure hope they're not muslim…that cup was full of ground pork….).

All kidding aside, this is the first time in four years when I would have gladly given all of our stores away. It's no secret the Philippines are poor (as a whole, I know there are those that are not), but this is a reality check for us. Jake has gotten some good lessons here; "I feel good when I give away mommy." Andy and I have as well… Very few of us in the US have any idea what poor is compared to these folks. Dad goes out and fishes all day in the hot sun (about 40 miles out from shore in a tiny little canoe). Mom washes clothes or sells things at the market. Kids go out and peddle. And when the day ends, they have a few cups of rice and a fish. They live in a shack out on the water with no electricity or running water. They poop in a hole. No shoes, ripped shirts. And you know what? They're smiling. Today was a good day. They got to eat. And I sit in my first world country called Savannah and drink my wine, watch a movie and eat my pasta on a soft cushy sofa. I sleep in a real bed with a mattress and sheets and while we don't have AC, we do have a fan. Tomorrow I will wash with fresh water, eat some pancakes and wipe my butt with actual toilet paper.

Tonight we are humbled as never before. We came unprepared. Tomorrow is market day and we'll go in and restock and buy more than we need so we'll be prepared next time. And if there's not a next time, well, now we have rice. We're glad we stopped.

4 more days to Borneo….not sure we're prepared for that either.

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1 comment:

Mac Mckaskle said...

what a wonderful experience, god bless you.. Stay safe

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