It’s very easy to fall into the day-in, day-out patterns of our busy lives. Wake up and grab a quick bite to eat before heading off to work or class, only to return to your home in the early evening. Maybe you mix it up and grab dinner with a friend or catch happy hour with some coworkers. Or maybe you hit the gym or go for a run before settling in for dinner, catch a primetime TV show or lounge with a favorite book before heading to bed. Repeat.
I was enjoying the fact that my life in the Philippines didn't lock me into a daily schedule. Constant nuances throughout my first year here kept me on my toes and sparked my curiosity. But it seems the times have finally caught up to me. Or maybe I have just caught up to the Philippines.
These past two months or so have flown by like no other, partly because I have developed a daily routine. Or so I think. To briefly walk you through…I typically wake up a little later these days (because my work allows me to). Sometimes I work from home; other days I will head to my Agriculture Office or the World Wildlife Fund office nearby. I work til 12 before heading home to have lunch prepared by my host family. Work concludes at 5, at which time I like to stop to grab pandesal (a bready wonder treat made by gods) for my afternoon merienda (snack). I try and workout at my house before cooking dinner for myself, then a little light reading or a TV show on my laptop before hittin’ the hay. Again…repeat.
Now, are routines a be all and end all evil? Not at all. A lot of times having a routine allows us to be incredibly efficient. Or provides us with some stability or continuity. Some of my most productive work has occurred in the past two months. I've designed four new proposals for upcoming projects (including my internship proposal for my Master’s), helped update the municipal fisherfolk database, and conducted several coastal cleanups in nearby barangays. I've played in several local basketball tournaments, and had a few leisurely weekends with other volunteers and Filipinos. But for me looking back, it’s the feeling that that isn’t enough. That I could still be doing more. More work, more social activities, more cultural interaction.
Then I have a night like I did two weeks ago where you fully grasp that impact of what you’re doing and the appreciation others have for it. Once again, I was sharing my story as a Peace Corps volunteer. Why I am here, what I do, how I live, etc. etc. The usual. This time with a bunch of basketball teammates after one of our games. I was repeatedly asked, “So why are you here?” I explain. But then I get, “So why are you STILL here?” I sat there a bit shocked because I had never been asked that before. But it didn't take me long to respond. “Because I want to be here. This is where I belong right now.” With that, my friends were stunned. Just the look on their faces gave me the most overwhelming feeling of humility, gratitude, and acceptance (I’m hoping it was that and not that we had knocked back one too many San Mig Lights ;)).
It is these moments that make routines not so routine. And that make ordinary days extraordinary.