Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Good days, and Not So Good Days

Because you never know who is reading this blog, I am careful about the kinds of things I write about. Obviously, I can't give the complete picture of my experiences via the Internet.

Today was not such a good day and I thought I'd share it to give a little incite into the culture here. I have been working with Donsol's local nutrition council to try to acquire weighing scales to properly weigh children in the municipality who are malnourished. Donsol has one of the highest rates of low and underweight children in the region. The council asked me to help them acquire the scales.

It took some letter writing and phone calls and an in-person meeting in Manila until I finally came across a doctor at Unicef that agreed to help us acquire the scales. The only requirement: Donsol needed to put together a proposal requesting the scales and detailing their purpose, etc. Seems simple enough. So after relaying this information to the officials and explaining what needed to be written in the proposal and giving a deadline...wala (nothing)! No proposal. They missed the deadline and the budget year for the Unicef request. No weighing scales this year!

I'd like to say this situation is unusual...but I have encountered this issue many times over. Many Filipinos live on what they laughingly refer to as "Filipino time." (Important meetings always start half-hour to one hour late!) Unfortunately, I think it is the very reason they are falling behind the rest of the world...they are living in a different time zone, operating on a different frequency. I find little interest in planning, preparing, setting and making deadlines. Perhaps this is the glaring clash of American and Filipino cultures...but I really think it is holding people back here. But I also wonder how much people here really want to move ahead. Maybe they don't and we are trying to push them into a world they don't want to participate in. It's hard to tell from my prospective sometimes.

Of course, it is hard to stereotype a whole group of people. There are some very hard-working, good people here. The school librarian on the library project, for example, is very motivated to bring improvements to the library.

The essential question, I suppose, then, is how do I motivate others to help themselves? It might take me two years to figure that out.


Blogger Next Stop Wonderland said...

It is sad that I have to post this when I get to learn about your death. The Filipinos are very complex people and you do not win them by scaring them or by appealing to their intellect. We are a primitive race that thrives on what we see and what we hear. If somebody says a scheme made him lots of money rest assured everyone will follow suite. Take ten years ago when nata de coco was the craze you will find hundreds of household making it. Now its the being a nurse which is the in thing. We cannot live in proper, restrained and confined environments. Our rules are often broken mostly by the ones who make them. So where does that leave us? We are indeed in a different time zone and by calculations using the theory of relativity when every other civilization is on decay mode that would be the time the Filipinos will prosper. It has been beautiful that you have been part of the islands. The islands that I love. Sumalangit nawa ang 'yong kaluluwa.

4:17 AM  
Blogger pinklavander said...

dear Julia,
am terribly sorry to hear about your violent death after all the good deeds you've done in our country. i would have wanted to thank you in person for spending two precious years with us, Filipinos. am praying for your soul and i hope you can somehow read this.

9:39 PM  

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