February Diary

DSCF0734I am surrounded by gloomy weather. I am trying my best to think of fondest memories to cheer me up. This brings me back to an interview question from an executive, “What makes you happy?”

For the past few months, I was preoccupied with so many twist and turns in my life and my thoughts are clouded with many premature plans, and grown-up errands that I cannot pinpoint what exactly makes me happy. I cannot even think of happiness in its simplest form.

I just try to look back which month I was happy or at least a month that I never thought of being sad.

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“They like you,” the teacher said after I had an hour teaching English.

That was my first day of an ESL (English as a Second Language). My depleting funds pushed me to get a temporary job while I was finishing my MA.

I did not know what I was going to teach. I did not have enough time to prepare. Then there were three boys who were waiting for me. They looked older than me (haha!). They probably thought I was close to their age. As days went by, my group class grew bigger. Sometimes, I had ten as maximum number of students but my regular group class consisted of five students. And I had one-on-one classes on of top that. It did not really sound a part-time job.

They were Turkish students who chose to pursue college education in China and spent their vacation break in the Philippines all for the sake of studying English. My students were very polite and kind. My student would get me some tea and bread.

On my first day, one student asked: “Teacher, is this your first time teacher?”

He continued,”For a first timer, you are very good.”

I also had this one funny student who kept reminding me that I was too old and that I should get married. He was kind enough to give me a special offer: “When you reach 30 and still single, I will help you find a husband. My dad owns a jewelry shop. He has many friends.”

He made me laugh in so many ways. He said: “You… get married…. impossible but me, go to Harvard possible.”

I did enjoy my short-ESL-teaching stint because it was filled with fun and light moments in class. We were always laughing and talking. I felt a certain sense of fulfillment when I witnessed my students progressed and when they showed gratitude. I got the weirdest remarks “Teacher , you look like my grandmother because she’s short and dark.” And the winner: You look like a Bollywood actress” (haha)

Maybe in the future, I might go back to teaching. For one reason, I like the feeling of being young. I like to laugh. I like to talk. I like to smile. And it gives space for introverts like me to be with people. Maybe that’s my version of living a teenage dream – young and happy.

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Learning

They say journals are good learning tools. I am documenting a few things I  have learned from the past few weeks.

I am done with my fieldwork with a group of home-based women workers. They are highly skillful. They can create doormats, jewelry boxes, fashion accessories, and other crafts.

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If you have a group of women who are senior and who practically know more than what you know, what else can you possibly contribute? So what we did we made a series of workshop with topics on gender and personal development. It was also one way for us to get to know them more as part of our community immersion. We at least tried to be creative and resourceful.

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share your dreams with vision board

share your dreams with vision board

Lesson learned:

You do not have to “teach” so that others can learn.

We don’t develop people, people develop themselves (Julius Nyerere)

As cliché as this may sound but experience is the best teacher. There’s nothing like spending time with the community.

Skill/s gained:

How to think on your feet

What can be improved:

Let the hands do the work

Activities that keep your hands busy fosters better participation.

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We did a gender sensitive training for kids. Gender and sexuality for kids? It’s quite heavy and serious themes for children but there’s always a child-friendly way to do it. We had three main activities. First, we asked the kids to draw body parts of boys and girls. And they had a nice sketch of body parts. Second, we let them categorize photos of toys or items according to gender. Third, we asked all them to draw specific jobs like doctor, teacher. It all boils down on three points:The only difference between boys and girls is their body parts. Boys and girls can like the same things. Girls can do what boys can do.

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My group mates in Feminist Pedagogy

Skill/s gained: Patience! Haha

Kids are more challenging compared with adults because they show you that they’re bored or uninterested. There was one participant who did not want to do the drawing activity and when we asked him why, he just replied “

Tinatamad ako (I’m lazy)” That was brutally honest!

What can be improved:

On my end, I think what needs to be improved is time management. They have short attention span.

And have some extra kindness, fairness and friendliness

It helps to have one figure of authority

 

 

 

To all the wonderful mothers in the world

To all the wonderful mothers in the world,

Full-time or part-time,

your role is always permanent.

With career or at home,

you always have a job.

Today, the world reminds us to give thanks to our mothers but the truth is the world is in debt of gratitude for your service to humanity.

In this world where we exchange goods and services with cash and credit, a mother’s work is often undervalued. In fact, most often, a mother’s work is not considered real work. If it does not generate income, it cannot be called work. When we ask full-time moms, what are their jobs, most mothers would respond they are not working.

But what is work? Work is not a self-entitlement or a  status symbol. This is what we do that consumes our time, energy and resources. This is what we do in the service of others. Mothers are overworked and exploited at times. They work beyond office hours. They are always on call. And they have no fixed job description. They have mastered the craft of multi-tasking. Whether they have a job outside home or not, they are always overworked.

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To those who say they are just mere housewives, wake up. Your work as mothers are not of less value just because you are not paid for what you do. Think of this if no one does domestic work at home and if no one takes care of the children and husbands. Husbands cannot perform their work well. Children cannot perform well in school. If all mothers revolt not to do the care work, what will happen to our society?

If you have enough income, you may hire a house helper or a nanny. But that does not discount the society’s poor perception on women’s reproductive work. The fact that domestic work are paid less shows how our society does not recognize the contribution of women’s reproductive work. When a woman cooks, she does it for free as it is expected of her but when a man cooks, he is called a chef.

To all mothers, if you sell makeup, networking products, bananaque, and peanut butter, think of yourselves as real workers who are earning well. Our culture often assigns women as secondary earners but take pride of every coin you take home.

You, mothers are the first people who taught the world charity. You exemplify labor of love. You teach us to care. You teach us what it is like to volunteer. It is selfless and generous. It’s no wonder why mothers are always involved in community work, church and social work.

Take time to pamper yourself. You deserve more than thank-you cards and flowers. You deserve a lifetime recognition of the efforts you’ve made for your children, your family. You deserve a vacation leave from your lifetime job, motherhood.

You are important not only to your home but to the society as well.

The “F” Word

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“Are you a feminist?”

My Turkish student asked after I told them I was studying women and development. I did not know much about their country but  later on, I found out that they were religious and at the same influenced by European culture. They could not get over the fact that in the Philippines, or in China, when a guy asks you for a date, it’s the guy who usually pays the bill. In their country, they split up the bill regardless the status of their relationship. Whether it’s serious or a first day, they practice equal sharing of the expenses. True sense of gender equality, right?

I just smiled and after five seconds, I said “yah.”

So you do the bra-burning?”

They asked teasingly.

My five-second pause came from the popular images of feminists: A woman with an iron fist, or a muscled woman, or Beyonce. Some call themselves feminists by displaying their armpit hair. Gee, feminism is much more than that! I don’t have a tough looking face to be called a feminist. I don’t want to be branded by any political ideology because feminism just like any political ideology should not be treated as a fundamentalist truth. I don’t like to be labeled because feminism is also against stereotypes.

I may not agree in everything feminism believes in but you and I can benefit a lot from feminist thinking. Feminists comes in different shapes and sizes. They fight for different causes but they share some common beliefs which people from different walks of life can get inspiration from. Here are some:

Motherhood is important.

Some say feminism movement is responsible why many women neglect their responsibilities at home, why they prefer career over family. That is not feminism! In fact, motherhood is important to feminists. This is the reason feminists fight for long maternity leave, daycare centers, and breastfeeding stations in offices and public spaces. It is so important that feminists would like to share the gift of motherhood with men. We don’t take motherhood lightly. Feminists have high regard for mothers. We know how heavy the role of the mother is. This is also  the reason some opt not to have kids of their own.

Domestic work is important

Some people might think that feminists are fighting for reversed roles that feminists are the brand of women who prefer to do what boys do and who do not like to cook, and take care of children. But feminists are actually fighting for domestic work to be recognized as real work. There are many women who would just introduce themselves, “housewife lang” “nasa bahay lang.” This shows how much we undervalue women’s work, just because it does not bring economic value. We want to change the minds of many women to take pride of what they do, that they should stand tall when they say “I’m a full-time mother” or “I’m a homemaker”

Women experiences are important

We believe experiences are entry point in understanding women’s condition. We believe knowledge does not only come from scholars, books, or from a special kind of jargon that are highly institutionalized. We take time to listen other people’s experiences because they are also rich source of knowledge.

We don’t belittle personal stories

We don’t because we believe the personal is political. We believe your silence is a product of life events. We believe your aggressiveness speaks a volume of entries of your life journal.

We believe in sisterhood and solidarity

We recognize that sometimes in the course of a woman’s life, it is a fellow woman who pulls you down. A women empowerment campaign often shows a highly successful woman in the public sphere. This encourages a lot of individualism. A real feminist does not aim competition among women but rather equality not only among different genders,  but among different classes, and races.

We value diversity

Because we respect differences, we don’t impose a life prescription on how you should live your life as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. What we care most is your freedom and empowerment.

Lastly, we recognized that you are not only oppressed by your gender, but also by your age, race, class. And we recognize that it’s not only women who are oppressed.

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To the Boy I love

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There is a reason why friends do not celebrate monthsaries and anniversaries. Real friends know no time and limits.

Thank you for lending me a handkerchief when I feel like crying forever. Thank you for using the word douche-bag when I badly want to hear it. Thank you for reminding me that I deserve a hug much tighter than yours. And when I am preoccupied with my personal problems, thank you for knocking my head , “That’s too middleclass. Pwede ba irelate mo naman yung problema mo sa problema ng Pilipinas?

Sometimes love is not made of bows and arrows, hearts and flowers. Sometimes it lies in true friendship.

I embrace your superiority complex and all  kinds of complexities that come with our  friendship:)

I am happy with your victories in life. You are awesome. I know that’s an understatement

We are the most odd combination but thanks to Social Exchange Theory, we get along very well …lol

To me, you are always original. You are the only friend who will give me a long sermon of NGO.

If you need a girlfriend, I can volunteer. ( Joke lang!  )

When I painfully think of growing old, I imagine visiting your own place and having your home-cooked meals. We will have endless milk tea and random ramblings.

This is to remind you that you will always have a friend when you want to be classy or when you want to be jologs.

I am ending this letter with your favorite’s singer epic line:

“I will always love you ”

-Whitney Houston

From your friend whose love for you is unrecognizable and almost invisible

-Jackie

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Detour

It has been more than six months since the day I took a lewindmill 1ap of faith.

Like other millennials, I romanticize quarter life crisis with existential questions, and empowering quotes. Quotes like “It’s never too late to change, to try, to be what you are supposed to be” were very appealing to me. And if you’ve heard that outrageous advice: “Quit your job and travel the world”, you are truly a millennial. I once thought that  that was a good idea but realized  later on that  it sounded too middle class.

I was contemplating hard on my desk.  What should I do next? I constantly felt depressed and I could not focus on anything. I kept asking, “Were my feelings valid?” Perhaps God was just so good to me that he only let me problemitize how was I going to survive adulthood. I did not know what I wanted to happen in my life. I tried all the options I had. I wasn’t complacent at all. It was just that my heart and mind were floating somewhere. I questioned the choices, the circumstances, the philosophies I had in life. Do I want to focus on career? Can I see myself getting married? Do I really want to study? Can I just be carefree forever? Do I want to have lots of money so I can do this and that? Am I productive? Useful? Is this all I’ll ever be? I’ll ever have?

Sometimes the choices I made were quite absurd, such as living alone,  taking master’s degree in women and development, to be temporarily unemployed and the choice to be indecisive and free. At times, it is a choice to be indecisive. I want to keep on experimenting my life and wait till everything falls in the right place. Some people would probably think that I did some pointless and useless things in life.

I am quite fortunate that I had the privilege to make drastic changes in life. I quit my job without any backup plan. I then thought of studying full time while I was still figuring out what I wanted to do next. The first three months after my resignation were a major adjustment. I was anxious all the time.

Minimalist lifestyle experiment was not just an idea but it was a conscious effort for me. Later on, I made an effort to cut down my expenses. Right after  new year, I tried to track my expenses. I wanted to know where most of my money went. I stopped going to the laundry shop, and opt to hand wash my clothes. Back those days, I was willing to spend a lot on food just to satisfy my adventurous palate. I eventually stopped taking food photos for instagram because I was no longer having special meals. Though I miss the comfort of coffee shops, I stopped thinking of coffee shops as best escape. The coffee Americano, worth 50 pesos in the nearest convenience store was already expensive for me. My grocery list became shorter than the usual. The only time I spend a lot on food and drinks is when I am with other people. Was I depriving myself? No, because it was a consequence of the choices I made.

As what I always I believe in, I’d rather be broke than be brokenhearted (cheesy?). No, I’m not yet broke. I am still surviving. What I can’t bear most is receiving unsolicited advice from different people, that I have to answer the existential questions: What are your plans? And what do you want to do? Those were like birth pains after I decided to make a detour in my life –  from a stable life to a more unpredictable one.

I felt like I was immobile not only because of my expenses, but also because I lacked routine and a regular set of people to meet. I then decided I could not be just a full time student. After I enrolled for my MA, I  immediately took the job of an English teacher. I must say it was like a spare-of-the-moment decision, just like all the decisions I made in life but it was worth it, just like all the major decisions I had to make in life. It’s quite odd that my spontaneity was always my compass in making life changes. If I have to be sexist about it, women are just naturally intuitive.

I am enjoying the process of getting to know myself all over again. Teaching English was somehow part of the process though it was not really planned. It did fill in some empty spaces. I realize that even if I am an introvert, I like to be with people. I like to have an audience (how narcissistic!). And I like the feeling that at the end of the day, I have shared something. Maybe it’s a piece of information or just a new word.

I like my life now but I know this too shall pass. I like that I don’t have quiet time to analyze my life, to reevaluate my mistakes and imperfections. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to repair and upgrade my life with career choices, relationships, and lifestyle. What matters is that these changes are aligned to my interests and values. And that these changes are not too far from who I am.  A line of a Broadway song goes likes this : “Don’t lose sight of who you are.”

I also change my perceptions on weaknesses. For me, weaknesses should not be viewed as something to be cured or impairments but these are maps that guide us to what we should do and have in life. It guess it’s part of growing up to realize that I can’t have everything or try everything in life. If I keep on focusing on what needs to be improved, I’ll lose significant amount of time and energy, which could have been used in cultivating relationships and on things that can truly make me happy.

Would I recommend the choices I made? No.

Would I  give an advice: “Quit your job when you just feel you don’t like it”? The problem is not your job. As long as you can find meaning and purpose in whatever life conditions you have, then what you have is a well lived life. Fighting for your principles such as fighting for your country or women rights per se are indeed noble but fighting for your family and living for your family are equally worth fighting for.

Would I recommend to quit your job and experiment? If you have a lavish lifestyle that you can’t just give up, no. Though I did not have a backup plan, I was quite prepared. I had foreseen that I was going to be anxious and restless.

As long as you are accountable and responsible for the decisions you make, you have the right to do so.

Live your life. It’s your life. Define happiness in your terms and conditions.

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