Part of the requirements to finish nursing school here in the Philippines is to partake in a two week long immersion in the community. Similar to a volunteer work and medical missions, this project gives us a chance to give a helping hand in some of the less accessible areas in the provinces. Our mission is not only to give basic nursing care, but also to assess the baranggay (a local version of a small town, similar to a village) and find the risks in their lifestyle that possibly could affect their health. Once we do, we prepare a plan of action and thus we educate them on how to better the situation.
I wanted to share my experience because as much as I dreaded having to go through this at the time, it turned out to be one of the highlights of my nursing school experience. Prior to traveling, I was really accustomed to the comfort of my home– comfortable bed, reliable internet, countless forms of entertainment, food of my preference, a clean bathroom with hot water, etc. Immersing in the community means giving up most of that and trading it off with a much less ideal ways to my first world state of mind. Of course that was bound to change with all the travels and adventure that I choose to engage myself in. Although this wasn’t entirely my turning point, this was probably my first step to that change in perspective.
My group was assigned at Baranggay Narvaez, which happens to be a nice little peaceful place tucked away in the province of Cavite. It’s the kind of place where everybody knew everyone. The type where you can leave your front door open with no worry that someone is going to rob you. It’s a place where people don’t have that much money, but it’s obviously not an issue. It’s the simplest way of life, but you see the happiness and contentment at the twinkle of their eyes.
Basically, we were given a host and we’re expected to immerse in their lifestyle and live the way they do. We do however make our own food to cause less trouble to our hosts. Most of the time we ate instant food such as canned goods and cup noodles. We could have cooked, but the market isn’t very accessible and we were instructed not to wander further away unsupervised. Not only that, but not many of us in our group really knew to cook at the time. However, on our last day, a fish vendor was roaming around the streets so we managed to cook some sweet and sour tilapia.
Our hosts gladly let us have their room so we had a bed to sleep in. We all brought our own sleeping bags and pillows because we expected we’d be sleeping on the floor, but they were so hospitable that they wouldn’t let us do that (an example of Filipino hospitality). It’s a simple home, very humble with no television or even complete furnishings. We didn’t have a screen on our window and one morning we woke up with a huge spider on top of my luggage. There is no flush in the toilet and there is absolutely no hot water. The bright side is, the cool January breeze was perfect.
We usually meet up with the other groups and our clinical instructor in the morning to discuss our findings from our assessment. This is also when we plan our health teaching program. After this, we do our rounds around the baranggay and go to our respective patients. We just give basic care when we do this, such as checking their vital signs and see if everything is going well. We also assess their homes so we can advise them to eliminate any risk problems. We usually finish this by noon and then we all meet up at our respective foster homes to make lunch. By then, our clinical instructor has already left so we’re left to fend for our own entertainment.
It’s almost like a vacation really. We have the rest of the day to just nap in a hammock, explore the area, talk to the locals, and basically just hang out. We’d hangout with our foster family and the little girl just enjoys playing with us.
One day, we were also invited to go to one of the groups’ host’s farm for some fresh coconut juice. She picked some for us straight from the tree and we drank it fresh right there and then. We walked around and discovered another river where we saw locals washing their clothes. It was quite nice, seeing the simplicity of their life here. The air is fresh, the surroundings are clean, and worries are non-existent.
At night time after dinner, we would either watch tv with our host’s neighbor for a little bit and before 8pm we’re already in our respective rooms. We don’t normally go to bed right away as we try to finish some daily requirements, but by 9 pm we’re already in bed just as everyone else is. And that’s how our days went. It was laid back and simple. They don’t have the necessities we consider such as wifi or video games, but it was nice to just be away from all of that for a bit. Sometimes, it’s just nice to feel disconnected. Ironically, when you do disconnect, it’s when you can feel connected to yourself and the world even more.
Engaging in experiences like this, it changes you. Your ideas, your state of mind, your views— it broadens. I’d be lying if I said that it was absolutely life-changing, because in the end I still went back to my comfortable life. But don’t we all after an exposure to major eye-openers? But when it comes down to it, when it comes down to why we travel and why we immerse ourselves in other cultures, isn’t that what we’re all looking for– perspective? Not necessarily to change the life that we live, but to appreciate what we have at home. Fortunately, the world is a wonderful place. Most of us fly across the world to indulge in eye-opener experiences like this, but sometimes, you don’t have to search very far.
Link me to your similar stories down below…may it be traveling with a cause, volunteer works, medical missions, etc. I’d love to hear about it.