All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Of course our days are not filled with work and no play. The marketing group would usually head off to the market in the morning to get the ingredients for lunch and dinner. Besides, going to the market is always fun since the day will be a rather relaxing one *ahem, less construction, ahem* πŸ˜‰

Chicken heads, chicken feet and any other possible chicken parts you can think of, it’s likely available in the market.

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Buying vegetables to feed 20 plus people is always interesting since the store may not carry enough of what we want. So the store owner (in blue) will ask from her neighbours around her and there’s this trading thing going on. Lol.

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Another interesting thing to note is that the people there are not afraid of others stealing their business. One time we wanted to buy mangoes and Benny (our guide in the Philippines) asked one of the fruit store owner where we can get some. She directed us to some other stores even though she was selling mangoes as well. It’s quite heart-warming to see this kind of friendliness going on even though they are all trying to make a living.

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The noodles/condiments store. Condiments are usually sold in small little packets compared to the bottles we are used to.

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Major fish chopping with a hammer.

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That day, we were preparing to cook pancit (pronounced pun-sit), a noodle dish. Typically, people will often debone and remove the skin of a chicken. But there, every part is used even if don’t eat the bones at the end… This kinda reminds me of the GK village motto: no one is left behind. In this case, no chicken is left behind. Hehe.

After lunch, we would usually start teaching the village kids at 2pm, followed by some sports activities after the lessons are done. Lessons are definitely a challenge given the different ages, level of comprehension and personality of the children. We were task to teach colours that day and the older ones have definitely learnt them and were quite restless. On the other hand, the younger ones, especially the girls, are a lot quieter and slower. I felt there’s a fine line between managing the older kids (so they don’t lose interest) and the younger ones (so they don’t feel left behind and start doodling by themselves).

After colours, was an origami session. The kids had not done it before and the session proved to be an eye-opener for them. We ended the lesson with tons of cranes and kids preparing for an origami boat competition.

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All GK village would have sports amenities, usually the basketball/volleyball court. The idea is that sports reduces the possibility of exposure/interest in smoking, gambling etc. Besides, the children have an endless amount of energy. They can run about the whole day and still have energy to play at 10pm -.- The children also pick up new sports very fast. We taught them volleyball, frisbee, American football and they got it immediately O.O There’s definitely never a dull day here.

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Building from scratch!

In the village, people work to get a house. As you contribute to the construction of the house, you’ll accumulate points that increase the likelihood of you owning the house. Of course there are exist other criteria. To accumulate more points so as to accelerate the “house-owning” process, the children in the family skip school to help in the construction.

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Not the most ideal way for these kids to break out of the poverty cycle especially when they can take 6 consecutive off days before the school will contact their family.Β Back to the constructing process, we basically aided the skilled workers in the plaster preparation:

1. Separating the big rocks from the sand pile

2. Sieving the sand from the previous step to obtain the fine sand

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Our bags of sand

3. Mixing the fine sand with the cement to form the plaster

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Plastering is really needed since these “bricks” crumble easily if you exert even the slightest force when carrying it.

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Besides that, we did some levelling of the floor as well as painted the houses. Β The whole process was tough but as we were working, we saw kids as young as 6 or 7 shovelling the sand, preparing the cement etc. It made us feel quite guilty whenever we took a short break or break for lunch because these kids would continue with where we left off.

To cool off from the mid-morning hit, the villagers like to enjoy a good pomelo or coconut (freshly plucked from the trees by the kids/adults). The coconut was a thirst-quencher though the pomelo was kind of dry (and sour) and it made most of us a lot thirstier than we initially were. Though the kids find great enjoyment in eating the pomelo.

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Despite the muscle aches, we pressed on for the next few days knowing that what we did accelerated the construction process so that someone can eventually live in the house.

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At the end of our 13 days there, these are the “completed” houses. The 2 green ones are the ones we worked on. It appears incomplete because of the lack of materials for the roof, plaster, partitioning the inside of the house etc. But we did what we could and the the workers can enjoy a well-deserved Christmas break ^^.

A different way of life

Hello! I’m back from the Philippines. Contrary to my earlier post, we ended up heading to the GK village in Panabo City instead of the one in Compostela Valley due to some administrative complications. The village in Panabo City aims to relocate the people who are living near the shoreline so as to reduce the risks should a typhoon strike again. It was Β anΒ enriching (for the lack of a better word) experience that I would not trade for another.Β 

The warm welcome we received from the villagers when we arrived was heart-warming. It was a nice surprise after getting off a long flight.

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From the various GK villages we visited, the brightly coloured houses and the closely-knited community remains a distinctive trait of the place.

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Our first day there, we were struggling with the sweltering heat, met up with shy kids and trying to get use to the change in living conditions. The water pump became our best friend for the next 13 days. It was here we bath, we wash and did our laundry.

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We were then assigned to our home stay families for the next 13 days. The home stay segment remains to be one of the most interactive session I’ve had with the locals. It was here I truly understand the hospitality of the locals. They willingly gave us their beds, fans and whatever they had just to welcome us with open arms. Initially, I truly felt guilty that I was imposing on them but I’ve learnt that this was how they showed their appreciation for our presence there. The day ended with a site visit to a completed GK village

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and a wonderful seaside view with a nice breeze to accompany it.

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Sleep eluded me the first night there as I was bombarded with mosquito kisses and the sweltering heat. I was quickly woken up by the chicken choir and light streaming into the room at about 4-5am. Not the best sleep I’ve had but I’ve gradually gotten used to it. Now, back in Singapore, I’m trying to adjust back to life as I’m still anticipating the chicken calls in the wee hours.