Even though we STILL have no passports, we fly to the Philippines tomorrow! It’s been a long time in the making, but after 6 snowy months in the UK, we head via Hong Kong to Manila for a week-long training programme for our new lives as volunteers with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The 24 contract was first shortened to 18 months as VSO plan to stop sending volunteers to the Philippines next year, then it was shortened again to a 12 month trip as the pull-out is now planned for March 2010. We got a call last night to say that VSO has the paperwork in order and is sending it to us to arrive on Friday morning – the same day as we fly! Not ideal, but looks like I’ll have to snatch and grab the parcel with tickets and loads of other details from the postman while Lucy has the getaway-taxi revving the engine…
Mindanao, the big southern island of the Philippines is a bit off the beaten tourist track. There is an autonomous Muslim region in the centre of it and it has a bit of a history of conflict. We’re going to be splitting our time (we are told…) between Iligan City, a Catholic coastal town with a huge industry and export market, and Marawi City, a very conservative Muslim city and the religious heart of the Islamic region. It seems that Islamic Marawi isn’t the most energetic or lively of towns, so VSO wants us to set up a residence in Iligan as well so that we have a bit more freedom and safety. It’s probably best not to read the news reports from Iligan though – doesn’t seem like the safer of the two if you believe everything you read!
Lucy is to become a natural resource management advisor (ooOOoo!) for an organisation called Kalimudan and I am going to teach English and work on the organisational development of the Philippines Muslim Welfare Society (PMWS). Both of them are Islamic organisations and we think both are based in Marawi but it sounds like we’ll be working for part of the week in the VSO office in Iligan. We have the chance to go Filipino house-hunting when we first arrive, so should be able to find ourselves something reasonable with the VSO allowance. Speaking of which, we’re both pretty chuffed that the volunteer ‘allowance’ from VSO is more than we got ‘paid’ for working in Kenya!
So today is the giant day of cleaning-up, packing, freezer-defrosting, waiting for passports, waiting for a module of my masters to arrive, enjoying the sunshine, backing up computers and eating all of the food we have left in the house and writing updates for you. An exciting time! I’ll put more on soon after we arrive and settle in. More soon, and here’s to a good flight!