Impact of the experience

(Susana Gonzalez)

I have to say that the return was difficult especially saying goodbye to all the people we met there. You may think that two months are not that long, but trust me when I say, that the intensity of this experience and the relationships we built in the Philippines cannot be measured in terms of time. We also have to add that we had more than one moment to say goodbye. The first goodbye was to our kids, to our amazing kids. It was really hard. In our last day at the schools, they gave us paintings, bracelets, hair bands and every kind of stuff you can imagine, also some, you wouldn´t even imag-ine like a teddy bear or a cup. Of course, seeing how they cared about us, and the effort they have made to give us something to remind us of them, prompted a lot of tears. The tears would not stop when they hugged us. “Mam Susi/Ate Susi don´t cry”, we´ll see us,” some of them said (“Ate” means big sister). That was when the little realistic voice in my head mumbled that is pretty unlikely that I would see them again, and then I cried harder. We also had to bid farewell to the girls from the dorm where we stayed, to the amazing people that accompanied us during this experience, and to our lovely Lola Tess (Lola means something like Grandma in Filipino), an amazing woman who cared about us as if we were family. After two months of being together for twenty-four hours a day in a totally new context for us, it was difficult to split at the Madrid airport to take our own ways back to the lives we had left before we went away. In saying that the return was difficult, I want to speak about the part of integrating what we had seen, smelled, experienced and basically lived over there. We lived for two months in a totally different world, it shook our roots, our cer-tainties and our fears. The first step in thinking about what we have actually lived, and recognising the feelings we had about it, was to speak about the experience to our friends and family. When someone asks you about your experience you lack the right words to convey all that you gone through. Yet later, in the middle of a random conversation, something reminds you about “that time when…” and you have to hold your tongue because you don´t want to overwhelm everyone with your stories. It is hard to explain, we had a life there. We woke up, went to the schools, taught, got back on the van, spoke about our day and there was always something new. We never knew what was waiting for us despite the routine. It could be that our school had visitors, classes are can-celled… no water… or because of rain, schools were flooded.
This was the first time for all of us to go abroad in the Roots and Wings project, so we didn´t had anything but our lives to compare this context with. We were lucky luck to be born in a place where a house, food, clothing, education, free time and more than the basic necessities were provided. You realize how unfair it is and wish that everyone could have the same conditions. But then, we also re-alized how different our worlds were. They may not have material things, but they were so welcom-ing, so willing to give and share whatever they had. Welcoming and “Regalos” are a Philippine way of life. It’s hard to put into words our experience and it´s even harder to describe the impact of it. I guess it has changed the way we see our society and also other societies. It has helped us to know ourselves better, to be patient and of course to stop at our tracks when we see something that re-minded us of being there. After the Philippines, I went to Heidelberg to study there for a year. One day while I was walking around the city center, I suddenly came across a plaque. You know when you are walking and seeing things, but actually not paying that much attention to them? That was my case. I saw a plaque and I kept walking, but I had to stop and go back because I thought: Did I just read Jose Rizal? And yeah, I went back, read it, and his name was written on a plaque at a ran-dom street I was passing by. The amazing national Philippine hero has actually been there working in a clinic for several months. What I realize is that after this experience, we came back to lives we have had, but seen differently. In our day to day life, we stop and pay attention to things we did not pay attention to before. We were there for two months and a very important way to comprehend and assimilate this experience was to share our feelings about the things we had seen and lived there.