Davao Diary Update, January 14

We still have no wi-fi, which is making my inner toddler gnash my teeth and stamp my feet. We really don’t have a clue when we’ll get it, either. We keep being told different things, contrary to what I was previously told, and that frustrates me. On the other hand, I have been getting a lot more reading done, and my Visaya vocabulary is probably up to as many as oh, 20 words. Well, considerably more than that if you count the words that are the same or very nearly so in Spanish.

The local people here typically speak 3 languages- their native Visaya or Cebuano; Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines, which is really the native tongue of about a quarter of the population, and most of those are on the upper island, where Manilla is located. There are about 180 dialects currently spoken in the Philippines, according to Wikipedia, btw. The third language is English, which I find spoken at different levels here, but generally enough to get by with the minimum, although every additional word of Visaya you speak seems to broaden the smiles of the already friendly locals just a bit more. They will use these 3 languages all at the same time in a conversation, a sentence will be liberally sprinkled with words from the other two languages. And then, often, of course, many of the words are from the Spanish as well. I astonished our helper this week when I quickly counted to twenty and then rattled off the days of the week and stumbled through the months for her. She was quite impressed with how much I know, but then I had to confess I already knew them because they are Spanish words as well and I already knew them from my Spanish classes. She had no idea, and was very interested. Later I was complimenting her on her ready use of three different languages, and then said it was really four, since she also knew so much Spanish. She laughed, and said yes, but she did not know she spoke Spanish until today.

About our helper…. We have hired a helper two days a week. She and her husband are believers. She is between the ages of my Pip and Jenny-Any-Dots and has four children like stairsteps, little girls. Her husband is out of work, but he is looking. She was the helper for the Korean family from whom we bought a lot of our kitchen and other household goods. They moved very suddenly (the decision was made in a day and they were gone in about two weeks). That meant she suddenly was without employment herself, which would have plunged them into considerable hardship. Another very young missionary family hired her for two days a week, but they couldn’t afford more. She found work with somebody else for one day a week, but still needed at least two more days to make up for the income she’d had before, so one of the missionary families asked us if we were interested, and we were. For us, we have her come a couple hours later than she did before but we pay the same. She cleans the bathrooms, sweeps and mops, does dishes, sweeps the patio, irons if we need her to, hangs out the laundry and will help with chopping vegetables and so forth. If we prefer, she will go to the market for us and buy groceries or she will come with me and show me the ropes. She also speaks fabulous English and is eager to teach me more Visayan words and customs.

Yesterday I was struggling with the pronunciation of a couple sounds that are particularly strange to my American tongue and I caught her trying not to grin. I told her she was having entirely too much fun with this and no more words with the nga sound. Of course, that’s like telling somebody not to think of pink elephants, and the next half dozen words she thought of that I should know, all had some version of that sound. She started laughing and she couldn’t stop, and then I started laughing and couldn’t stop, and then we both were in tears from laughing so hard.

She comes at ten, and she goes home between 3 and 4.

For all this help and comfort, we are paying her seven dollars a day, and that is seen as quite fair, perhaps even on the generous side since she doesn’t start until ten.

I consider it a seven dollars well spent, and am really glad we were told about her. She’s pretty amazing.

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  1. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Wow, so nice to have a helper while helping the helper. 🙂 But how on earth can she make a living on that little money a week?

    • Headmistress
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      I don’t know, but she considers this fairly generous, especially since she doesn’t have to come until 10. It is very common here for families to live all together in a kind of rambling warren of connected houses with shared halls, porches, walkways, kitchens. They add on when they need more room. It’s called a compound, but that word doesn’t really convey the right idea in English to Americans. So she might live with other family and not pay rent. The cost of living in general is lower, especially if you eat rice with all three meals, which we really cannot do. WEll, my son can. But the carb load of rice 3x a day is too much for my husband and me.

      • Lisa Beth W.
        Posted January 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

        Hmm…yes, I did see some pics (from our friend who worked at Mercy) of the living conditions you’re talking about. She said that living in community is so much of what the Philippines is about. The ladies who come to the clinic for prenatal checkups just all gather in the same big room with no curtains between the cots that they lay on to be checked. They don’t mind a bit. Privacy is not a big thing. 🙂 And I can see where the lower food costs would make the cost of living lower, but I had no idea it was THAT much lower. (Of course, I’m sure they are much poorer than we.)

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