I finally hit the 6 month mark here in Korea. The first semester of school ended on July 24th, and I taught 2 weeks of English camp before heading to the Philippines for my long awaited summer vacation.
I absolutely loved teaching English camp. I had 16 kids signed up for my camp, but only around 8-10 showed up to class every day. It was nice to have a small group because I was able to really get to know the students. We had such a good time. I got to plan all my own lessons, and teach by myself for once. These kids are worked SO hard here in Korea, so I wanted to make it as fun as possible for them. I gave them a lot of free talking and thinking time, and also time to use their own creativity. We also watched a lot of Harry Potter! Technically, my classes ran from 9-12 every day with a few breaks. Then after class, I was told I had to sit in my office every day until 4:30 – so basically, the same as usual school. But, I was literally the ONLY teacher in the whole school, so by the second day I was sneaking out around 1. Nobody noticed, so I had 2 weeks of half days and it was wonderful. Then, I ended up having about 10 days off for my vacation, which, with weekends I was able to take full advantage of.
On Saturday, August 11, my friend Lolade and I made our way on Zest Airlines to Manila. The flight was okay, but the leg room was severely lacking. I’m a small person and I was practically pressed up against the seat in front of me. But, the three hour trip went by smoothly and we made it to Manila safely. I had been worried because there were storms in the area and the city was very flooded. We called our hostel a few days before, and they assured us the area we were staying in was completely fine. But still, reading headlines like “20 people dead in Manila flooding” is not very comfortable. Nonetheless, we decided to go ahead with the trip.
Immediately after exiting the airport, we found the appropriate taxis to take us to our hostel “Where2Next”. I’m always a little nervous about getting ripped off in foreign countries, but the taxi we got was reasonable. It was so refreshing directing a taxi driver who speaks English. We quickly learned that everyone in the Philippines speaks English and that most of them are raised bilingual because English is the language that is spoken and taught in schools there. All the signs were in English. It was such a welcome change from Korea. The first thing I noticed were the jeepneys. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the streets and people we passed on the way to the hostel. It was so different from anything I’d seen before. The worst slums I’ve ever seen across the street from fancy tall buildings. It was strange, but I was very curious.
We made it safely to the hostel, where we checked in with a really nice guy named Chris. He was really friendly and helpful. He remembered us from calling and e-mailing about the flooding. When I told him my name he said, “Oh, Vanessa! You’re finally here!” It was so welcoming. We chatted with him for awhile about where we came from, and what our plans were before he took us to our room and on a tour of the hostel. It was nothing luxurious, but it was a nice place. The beds were comfortable, clean, and the aircon worked REALLY well so we were happy. We had planned to head out in a couple hours to explore the area but the next thing we knew it was 7:30pm! On the way to dinner, we were followed by a few dirty barefoot kids holding out their hands hoping for some money. It was sad, but my Filipino friends had warned me not to give any money to anyone so as hard as it was I walked quickly and tried to ignore them. We ended up eating dinner at a little Saudi Arabian restaurant a few blocks away from the hostel. It was delicious. We splurged a little and got a few dishes to share: hummus, chicken, and lamb. The owner was very nice and came over to talk to us for awhile, and recommended we check out the mall across the street. It was a good plan, and I wasn’t too excited to be wandering the streets in this strange area so the mall was a good choice.
It didn’t look like much from the outside, but Robinson Mall was gigantic on the inside. The first thing I saw was Dairy Queen! I was so excited to get a Blizzerd. Yum! We walked around for a couple hours exploring all the floors. It was endless, and they had so many western stores, and so many international restaurants. I wanted to eat everything, but I was so full from the Arabian dinner.
So that was my first day in Manila, and I was amazed by the place. It was so western, and being in the mall felt no different than being in a mall in the US. But, right outside the door were starving, dirty, begging children. So strange.
I’ll update soon about exploring more of Manila, and the beautiful island of Borocay!