Baler & Balete

I realize it’s been 10 days, but with our trip and work I’ve managed to keep pretty busy. Last week 4 of the long-term interns left after 6 months at the farm. We celebrated their time here at a resort that we rented out for the night. Everyone brought food, we sang karaoke and we swam all night. It was so fun, but I was also very sad to see them go. The farm definitely isn’t the same without them around.
The next day we left on our MAD (make a difference) Travel trip. MAD Travel is an SE that organizes trips around the Philippines which include visiting other GK communities mixed with some relaxing vacation. During our trip we first stopped at GK Silver Heights, another GK community an hour away. It’s a less developed community than GKEF so it was cool to see different stages, since their model is based off some of the GKEF ideas. For example, they are currently in the process of building a bakery which is going to look exactly like the bakery in our community. At Silver Heights we got an introduction to the community and a tour before we were served a delicious lunch. One of my favorite things about Silver Heights is their sense of community. Everyone is so close and cares for each other. When they were still building the houses, everyone waited to move in at the same time – even if some houses were already built- to share a sense of equality. Also, we were hosted by different families in the community and they were all so welcoming. They cleared a space for me, although there were already 5 people sleeping in a room, and gave me a mattress. Rarely have I felt so welcome in a place. We also worked with the Tita’s at the community to cook our dinner. We made some Chop Suey and Chicken Adobo as well as banana egg rolls. It was so delicious and rewarding!The next day we continued on to Baler. With a lunch that took 2 hours to be served and a flat tire on the way we ended up spending almost all day in the car. When we finally arrived at our super cool hostel (it’s very colorful, every guest is encouraged to draw and write all over the walls!) we found a restaurant with delicious Mexican food. We also went night swimming in the ocean which was super fun.

I’m the morning we went to another GK community, GK Mejares, I believe. It’s a community by the beach which is really cool! This was probably my favorite community we visited, since we got to spend all morning playing and dancing with the kids. I loved it! They also served us a delicious lunch boodle fight style (where you eat everything with your hands). In the afternoon we got to take surf lessons! It was so much fun, and not quite as hard as I expected (but that might be because the waves were pretty small…). All of us managed to stand up and the surf instructors were very encouraging. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. We tried some local seafood that night at a traditional restaurant. It was good!

The next morning we drove out to another community, which is right by one of the only rainforests that remain in the Philippines. The whole community works with the wood from the surrounding trees. Some of the community members took us on a trek through the river and over rocks to a waterfall. We got to climb the waterfall and go river tubing before being served freshly harvested pineapples. I had a lot of fun and it was nice to be outside and active when you could hop in the water every few minutes. The community served us a lunch after we trekked back. Unfortunately we didn’t see much of the community, but the members we did meet were so nice and welcoming, just like every GK member has been so far as well as just about every other Filipino person I have met. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcome in a country. After a stop at a souvenir shop and a really nice bakery we decided we wanted to stay another night since the first day got cut short. Everyone agreed and we spent the afternoon in the ocean trying to surf again. We had a dinner at a nice resort.

In the morning I did some more souvenir shopping before we packed up and headed to lunch. On our way back to GKEF we stopped at Balete tree, a century-old tree. We were able to climb it and go inside. We spent the rest of the day driving back. Overall it was a really good trip, which helped broaden my understanding of the GK mission as well as giving us a change of scenery from the farm.

Our social education work has been going well! We pretty much finalized our first document, are close to finished with a money-handling workshop for the community kids and are partially done with the 1-2 week intern document. Joni, the lady in charge of social education is happy with our progress and giving helpful feedback. Unfortunately we lost one of our team members. Diego, the intern from New York that joined our group left this morning. He’s been such an integral part of our friend group and a great addition to the social education team – he’ll definitely be missed!

We also started swim lessons for the community this week! Each night we’ve been getting a group of 15 kids from the community and we’ve been teaching them basic techniques and strokes. It’s a little difficult since 1) they’re kids in a pool, so they just want to have fun and jump around and 2) the groups are uneven in skill level. But with all of us contributing and gauging every kid’s skill level it’s been successful, and the kids seem to be enjoying themselves a lot! I’m sure with more time we’ll also figure out how to best plan the lessons for the various groups.

I cannot believe we are only here for 3 more weeks! It feels like we just got here. I now understand why most interns stay 6 months. On Saturday the rest of the IWU students that are interning throughout the Philippines are visiting. It’s going to be weird to have everybody at the farm! But I’m excited to see everyone. For now I’m hoping this rain will stop so tonight’s swim lesson can take place!

One thought on “Baler & Balete

  1. Hi Jessica,
    Excellent log and understanding of your work. Good observations of your daily experiences and your perceptions of them. Dfinately a memorable set of moments for you. Thanks for taking he time to share them with us.
    Prof Sikora


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