Monday, June 21, 2010

A Sense of Palawan

The experiences here, small or vast, are all very potent. All senses are triggered. I see, hear, smell, feel, and taste every element this atmosphere has to offer, internalizing each of them.

I see enormous pigs on leashes walking men instead of being walked; a live rooster in a plastic bag tied tight with lettuce; children having dancing contests, rap battles, and playing tag with a sandal; monkeys tied to fences as "pets"; string beans 3 ft long; water buffalo coated in mud to stay cool; mountains covered in clouds; families riding motorcycles; men riding on the top of buses with the luggage; live bamboo some as big as my arm; bright pink, orange, yellow, white, and blue flowers; huge trees vibrant & green; crystal blue waters; jungle flora & fauna; butterflies, lizards, & snakes; electrifying gardens & rice terraces; the longest navigable underground river with bats flying all around me; and phenomenal sunsets.

I hear a language that I cannot even begin to understand let alone speak; roosters crowing with the rising of the sun; coins clinging; pigs squealing; ice cream men ringing bells; all sorts of engines revving; loud deep laughter, babies crying and talking; American music covered by Filipinos playing; dogs barking; birds chirping; monkeys calling; people selling goods; Matt's mind speaking, educating, & humoring me; people of all ages singing; hammers pounding incessantly on houses and buildings; all types of horns honking repeatedly; waves crashing on the beach; wind chimes singing; food cooking; and fans humming.

I taste ripe, juicy mangoes; cold Coca-Cola from glass bottles; the best frozen fruit shakes I've ever had; local eggs; a variety of crazy fruits & vegetables I've never seen before; delicious curry dishes; all sorts of well cooked seafood; peach hookah; every different flavor of rice you could imagine; & delicious Filipino candy & snacks.

I smell fresh, crisp air; street food; ripened mangoes and pineapples; dried fish in the markets; fresh rain; sweet flowers; stinky farms and garbage in certain areas; burning charcoal & coconut shells, matches being blown out (my favorite); exhaust in the cities; every meal I have been served; lemongrass, ginger, & curry.

I feel the hot sun on my skin (sun poisoning the 1st week-I was so white-the sun is so intense-now I am golden brown); wind blowing through my hair; cold & warm rain on my skin; continuously moist-the humidity is constant; Matt' touch & warmth; massage, reflexology, & yoga healing my body; cool winds at night time which make the days heat not seem so bad; mosquitoes biting and ants crawling on my skin (especially in Sabang); the finest sand I have ever felt; sardines rub up against me as I swam through a school of 1000's; & a deep connection with Earth & all the people & things around me. I have never felt oneness like I do here, like I do now.

I am truly realizing that cultures around the world are not just some picture in a National Geographic that are untouchable. In fact, the other side of the world is not that far away~it is here, it is happening, tangible, & within reach.
Tomorrow morning Matt & I are flying to the Visayas. We are both anticipating new & exciting experiences to delve into.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

El Nido (Just the tip) of Palawan

I am awake at 7:30, & this has been normal so far. Most people here, especially the ones who work, go to bed early & rise with the sun. You hear tricycle-motorbikes (the rides) at 6am, so its quite hard to sleep after 6:30. We took a long van ride (5hrs) up to El Nido from Puerto Princessa & it was well worth it. This place is AMAZING!!

Everything including the people, the atmosphere (very small village), & the scenery (crystal blue waters, surrounded by mountains, white beaches, & carst topography). Yesterday we took a tour on a bangka boat.. Seriously Epic! I experienced perfection several times throughout the day. The mountains here are unlike any I have seen before, they are coated in sharp igneous rocks like pumice. The waters are the brightest shades of blue, & I am constantly amazed by the atmospheric conditions.

Yesterday, Matt & I sat under the shade of a palm tree drinking milk out of a coconut with a straw, trying our best to fight the heat of the sun, but still it was thundering-quite cool! Then it started to sprinkle with blue skies all around us, the warmest rain I've ever felt. We moved to the ocean & looked at each other with eyes of amazement. It will be straight up raining in one region with a huge cumulonimbus cloud surrounding the region & everywhere else is sunny & beautiful. The rain only lasts a bit, I could lay in it forever.
The under-water world was an experience in itself. Matt, JOhn, & myself signed up to take a day tour around the surrounding islands on a bangka (small boat). We hopped around on a few different islands & each spot had something different to offer. On the first spot we started our snorkeling excursion. There were several little hidden coves which we had to squeeze through small gaps in order to find. I was amazed by the coral species I was seeing, but to my surprise I had seen nothing yet. We all got back on the boat and started moving to the next destination. the guides told us to go snorkeling as they prepared our lunch, with no hesitation we jumped in, and soon enough we were submerged into another world. This world was crawling with life and synchronicity. I have never witnessed such a sight before in my life. There was a vast variety of fish, coral, and other species of life that were all living in unity with one another. It was literally a scene from "Finding Nemo", but in real life. I witnessed every color in the spectrum, and the water is so salty here that I could float perfectly allowing me to hover over this community. I was clown fish (nemo) protecting their habitat (anemone), bright angel fish, colorful corals & fans, and several fish species that I cannot name. But everything was living in unison, everything had a purpose, and its own unique approach to life. Every time Matt & I crossed each others path we had something different to point out to each other. This experience will forever stay imprinted in my memory. I am engulfed by beauty above & below... This section of the Earth has so much to offer, the Earth is throbbing with character & charisma.

Like any other culture the children are the most welcoming, but in the Philippines people of all ages are thrilled to see you. They have the biggest smiles I have ever seen, & it is evident how much they value our smiles. There are many cultural differences that I am continuously adjusting to. For instance, I have always been a bit picky about food handling, here the smells are very potent & they do not adhere to several of the precautions that we do in the states. Sanitary regulations are just different, plain & simple. But the food however is delicious, I have yet the confidence to try the "street food" but I am sure the future calls for it. The toilets are another custom I am getting more used to as the days go by. They are about 1/2 the size I am used to and typically come without a toilet seat. They also have a bucket of water next to the toilets which are used for flushing and washing, toilet paper is quite rare.
The people are genuinely friendly and quite willing to lend a hand when in need. Yesterday the three of us drove motorcycles around the northern tip of Palawan & had the opportunity to see several small villages, the country folk, and some epic views of the rice terraces & distant islands. The whole time we were greeted with smiles & waves as some people asked questions like "where are you going" & "whats your name", their English is surprisingly good...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trip of Transformation: The Journey Begins

The trip finally hit me in San Fransisco, as I stood in the Korean airline check-in. I felt this wave of anxiety wash over my body as everyone starred at me because I was the only Caucasian in line. This is the exact moment that it all hit me; I am submerging myself into another world, and I will be VERY different from everyone else. To be honest, I have never been the minority in an Asian crowd. But this will be the journey for the next several months. The plane ride was treacherous. First from Denver to San fran, a little over 2 hrs. Then San fran to Seoul Korea, which was the hefty 18-20 hrs. Then the last one from Korea to Manila, about 4 hrs. All in all, it ended up being a 3 day journey in a tiny little airplane seat. Somehow I woke up at 5 am sunday morning and didnt arrive in the Philippines until Tuesday at 11pm. I have to give compliments to Korean Airlines~it was the best service I have ever received from an airline. In the states it seems like they are minimizing everything during the flight (paying for headphones?) but this flight (both ones out of the country) was the exact opposite. If felt like the 60's where the stewardess' were all dressed in similar uniforms. Regardless of the fact that I did not sleep, they did everything to make the long journey comfortable. Food & drinks constantly, tons of free crappy movies to watch, and smiles from ear to ear. I fancied the Korean language in that little time I was there.
My first sunset on the other side of the world was greeted to me by the Korean coast, as I boarded my 3rd plane of the long day.. It was extraordinary, and set me up for the great sunsets/rises I will be seeing in the near future.
The last plane ride to the Philippines was simply a burden, after that 20 hr plane ride I was SOOO over it, but I kept on truckin. A little Filipino boy had the same idea as me as we both sprawled out on 4 chairs between the two of us. I finally fell asleep for a little bit, then I woke up to a ding and the captain saying we were landing in 30 minutes. I sat up, dizzy & cross-eyed, put my face into my hands and smiled so deep that it penetrated my soul. I MADE IT!
I made my way through immigration & customs with a sense of accomplishment-that ride was a commitment. As I was grabbing my bag I heard my name over the PA, the woman told me "some man is waiting over there for you." I grinned and walked out the doors and FINALLY met up with Matt. As soon as I turned the corner everyone else blurred out and he was the only one I could see. I had been anticipating that moment for a month...
Again, we were united!
We eventually found a cab, but cars were all over, people were all over, it was a cluster-fuck! Manila is a big dirty city with strip malls, strip clubs, & quick & easy food all over. It hit me again that I am in another world, but by this time I was on overload. We are escaping Manila today and headed for the island life of Palawan/Puerto Princessa. But for now, I am spoiled laying in an air-conditioned room; preparing myself for the heat of the hostels yet to come. Matt is sleeping by my side as I lay here reflecting & grateful.
I cannot sleep, I am too excited!!