Saturday, July 15, 2006

I wrote a description of the OSY, Luchie, who I stayed with for a week in Ormoc for a letter to be sent to NDI. I thought I’d post it here along with some other thoughts on the families I’ve stayed with:

Luchie is an OSY who just graduated from SCALA. She lives with her parents and four other brothers and sisters in a small neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ormoc. Her father drives a tricyle, which are still by far my favourite way of getting around.

Luchie's family was so welcoming – every night a crowd of people from the neighbourhood would flock to the living room and try to teach me Cebuano. There was a lot of laughter. Sometimes their hospitality made me a bit uncomfortable, since her family was pretty poor and gave me the best they had. To give you an idea – her family lived in a house that probably wasn't larger than my living room in Canada. My sleeping on the floor of one of the rooms with Luchie and her sister probably meant one more person had to squish onto the floor of the living room to sleep with everyone else. Still, they were the most gracious hosts. I wish I could have stayed longer than a week and gotten to know the family better.

Luchie is one of the brightest successes of the Ormoc centre so far. SCALA training consists of in-class computer training on the Office suite, internet, typing and life-skills (usually for about 3 months) and then an on-the-job placement for another 3 months or so. Luchie had her on-the-job training at the city government's General Services office and was offered full-time employment as a data encoder before her placement had even finished! Although it's interesting that the most important aspect of the SCALA program to her is the mentoring she received from one of the computer trainers. She started the program with very little motivation and kept skipping out on the classes. She says it was the talks she had with MaryAnn, one of the trainers, that really changed her attitude. I was at her graduation when she talked about that experience and by the end both she and MaryAnn were in tears. It was a really touching moment.

Luchie’s family was a big contrast with the family I stayed with in Koronadal. I was staying with Ate Luding, the budget officer at the regional DSWD, and her family. Again her familiy was very welcoming, but very difficult. The most obvious was that they were so much richer – kids in private schools, walls and gates around the house (which is really typical here), tons more food. Her way of hosting was very different too – in Luchie’s house I was always being asked to sit in the best chair, always being accompanied places, whereas Ate Luding had the ‘make our house your own’ way of hosting that I’m more familiar with.

Now, I’m not trying to say that the difference in hosting was related to the difference in income, or really trying to make any conclusions since these experiences are living in just two different families for short periods of time). But it made me wonder about where we learn the most – in Luchie’s house I think I was further outside my comfort zone (or at least further outside the realm of what I was used to). For example, I slept on the floor with two other people and was confronted daily with the fact that they were giving me the best of what they had (for example, probably more food than the rest of them were eating, although I was assured they were getting Food for Work for hosting me from the DSWD). At Ate Luding’s house I was in an environment I found much more familiar – I slept in a large bed I only shared with one other person and I was treated more like one of the family (although still confronted with the fact that the family had cousins living with them who, although the family was paying for their school, also acted as servants, and who objected every time I tried to wash the dishes or help with dinner). I was more able to communicate with Ate Luding though – for starters she spoke excellent English (Luchie’s mother didn’t speak any and my Cebuano is incredibly limited) and she was coming from perhaps a closer experience to mine, having done part of her studying at a University in Wales and working at the DSWD. So my question for you is how do you think one learns more? By being pushed outside your comfort zone or by being pushed less but able to communicate more? Thoughts?

Luchie on the path from her house to the highway


Mom said...

Hi Meg

I have thought about the disparity in income in some of the countries I have visited. Its an irony that we always seem more sensitive to it in a "foreign" country whereas it exists in Canada and the contrast is there between Canada and other countries.

But as a parent, I think the situation becomes more difficult. All parents want the same for our children- starting with food, and safety and usually including education. So what seems good in pronciple often conflicts with our desires as parents.

For instance, our decision to place you in a private school during the time we were living abroad in a neighbourhood with an unsafe reputation when in principle we were strong suporters of public education.

I think that you are very lucky to have met some wonderful people.

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