By: Sagar Gupta
If you happened to read my first blog you would know that I didn’t get off to the best start with my assigned business, and my homestay was no different. Having arrived a few hours later than the rest of the gang post journeying through an mtr, a flight, a taxi, a ferry and a bus to our final destination, Dora, Anchit and I waited for instructions at the foot of the infamous “slope” up to Tubud Mar. Dora was the luckier one I thought, her house being at the sea-side which would save her the trouble of this daily hike. On the way up, Professor Beau mentioned how my house was the furthest away, and my roommate wasn’t going to arrive until later that week. I wish I could say it felt like an added adventure but honestly the thought of isolation began bothering me as I traversed through that road. At the end of that treacherous mud path stood the house of Eugene and RD Lacaran, my foster parents. There wasn’t much time for a proper conversation that night, save the formal introductions and in those scheme of things I’m glad there wasn’t. From an endless hike, to an isolated house, to my head brushing against the bedroom ceiling (I’m six feet tall), to my indian snacks becoming a feast for ants, I felt nothing less than a carrot being boiled away in soup. Even the unusually low, seat-less toilets had me perplexed and I decided to save my business for the next day. Then again, I didn’t think the next day would be any better.
Day two however, had other plans. My grumpy self was greeted by the warm smile of my foster mom Eugene.
“Good morning Sagar! Come sit down. Let’s have breakfast” she said.
So she sat me down and brought out the most delicious looking breakfast spread that I could possibly imagine. Scrambled eggs, sausages, buns, banana cake, mangoes and coffee (I was too engrossed in my meal to bother to take a picture of it). Suddenly life seemed a lot better. Bliss proceeded with her playing Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” which had me marvelling at her taste in music. I knew from this point on that I would call her not Eugene, but Nanai (mother in Bisaya).
Nanai and I got along pretty well post that shaky start the previous night. She spoke to me about everything from life in the barangay to the latest village gossip about her least favourite cousin (let’s keep that one a secret shall we 😉).
I was then greeted by her husband RD (or Tatai as I call him) who is a farmer, and their shy 12 year old son, Lance. Don’t be fooled by his timid appearance, Lance Lacaran is a cheetah in the basketball court. I was also introduced to their dog, Mota-Un, who now spends most of her evenings getting belly rubs from me, and their two nosy little cats or “Mimis” who probably look way more adorable while they’re asleep.
Nanai accompanied me to the basketball court on the first day of my work here, teaching me to dodge the “Laapu” (mud) on the aforementioned mud-path, and I must say I’m pretty good at it now. And it wasn’t just the Lacarans who were so warm to me – the entire village makes one feel amazingly welcome. I’ve always been greeted by friendly locals offering to take us out to fish, for a bike-ride or just to make conversation. These folks really taught me how to value relationships and it is amazing to see how they all live as one family. Excuse the cliché’ in the former sentence, but most of them are relatives so it’s true in a more literal sense as well.
And speaking of relationships, I’ve formed plenty of those among my classmates too. From impromptu duets with Anchit that annoy the life out of SiEun and Emma, to the weirdest conversations and daily updates at Kumar’s shack, we were able to experience life through a new lens here. When I look back to the day of our first class for this course in HK, I would’ve never imagined that I would one day consider some of these people as close friends of mine.
Adjusting to a new environment may be quite challenging but getting hassled and annoyed will only deny you the opportunity to perhaps experience something amazing. As a consequence of my annoyance I didn’t realise that this was the view right outside my house at sunrise every morning:
This made me decide that I wouldn’t get flustered and would make the best of my experience here. I’ve now become so much more appreciative of cardinal pleasures, like how Nanai cooks the most amazing food that I’ve tasted in Bohol. Oh and I’m fed so much here that I need that endless hike to stay in shape. Funnily enough, I tried to cook her some Indian snacks, the idea of which excited her tremendously but I doubt I’ve left the best impression of my home cooking on her. Tatai and Lance seemed to really enjoy it surprisingly, unless they’re just better actors than Nanai is. One thing Nanai and I have to work on though, is keeping our promises. We both struggle to find time to fulfil our deal of her teaching me Bisaya and me teaching her Excel.
But the busy schedule by no means implies that I’m over-worked. There is just so much to do here. Local markets with their resplendent goods invite one vociferously and the smell of freshly baked breads and roasted chicken force one to stop in his tracks and shell out a few pesos despite just having had lunch. Resorts with the best music and even better sea-side views make one realise that the unassuming little Jagna can also be “lit”. Cliff diving from waterfalls, drinking coconut wine with local fishermen and journeying whilst sitting on top of our beloved jeepneys – this course has been quite the adventure.
Some people may call this life boring and rudimentary, but personally that is quite a superficial view. Life here aids the process of self-discovery rather than mindlessly following popular trends and ideas. The early nights provide one with the opportunity to introspect and analyse, to prepare the mind for a new day. Nature has definitely saved her most precious sights for this island and I can’t imagine not waking up to them in a few more days. My stay here has definitely been the experience of a lifetime and I’m really glad that I got to live life here as a local. I do hope that I can live my last few days here to the fullest. Salamat Tubud Mar, and may we meet again.