Sunday, July 15, 2007

Salsa, the Pampanga and other sayaws

Covered basketball court, Santa Cruz, Laguna

I’m still on the dancing high and I haven’t been there in too damn long. It’s the kind of high where you lie and bed but the constant movement of the evening tricks your body into thinking that your hips are still rocking side to side and your arms, still circling your head and flying out to grab your partners’ outstretched hand. It makes me so giddy that I want to convince myself that I quit too early and I have one last wind to go. I would get up and dance my way to the bathroom to get it out of my system on last time but my feet are sore and my thighs hurt. It isn’t a good night though if you don’t hurt afterwards. I missed hanging out with people who just want to do nothing else but dance their asses off.

My co-workers took me ballroom dancing and I loved it. I learned a few new dances. I dance called the Pampanga (a town in the Philippines), which is kind of similar to the Chacha but requires more twisting. Her and her friends are DIs(dance instructors) so they had to keep getting up to dance with the people who were paying to dance with them for the night but I didn’t mind half the time just watching. There were so many people in formal dress twisting into a perfect tango or dancing a seductive salsa step and many of them were definitely over 55, 60. It was freeing to be there. I’ve felt so clogged up in my beautiful pink room, walking to and from school, it was nice to fly down the highway in a jeepney and just dance in an open-air court and be me without worrying about saying the wrong thing or doing something that would scandalize someone or ruin my reputation in the community

I stayed over at my co-workers’ house. It is a small home with a slanted tin roof patched with short ply wood boards but I felt more at home than I had in a long time. I was going to stay on their couch but she was worried that I’d get a mosquito bite so I slept with her family in their room, two steps up from the first floor on a king size mattress on the floor. I felt humbled and honored to lie on the cool white cotton mattress smelling of sea spray scented soap between her 16 year old and 5 year old, the breeze from the single electric fan crowding out all other sounds from the street. The only word that came to mind was this is what peace feels like. There was a feeling of complete safety and security among her family here. I don’t know why, I just felt it.


I sat with her and her kids the next morning over instant coffee and cold macaroni with a sweet red sauce with the two roosters crowing loudly back and force to each other across the yard and wished that I could stay there longer. She told me several times that said she wish that she had enough room for me. We have the same approach to life. We want to live simply but live life to be happy and not over-think things. I left her house promising myself that when I got a job I would try to help them out.

The next few weeks led to conflicting feelings about people, work and my life here.

The journalism conference was a great success overall, but also proved to me that there are many obstacles that the teachers must face day to day. (I am deliberately being vague because I can’t discuss it.) Maybe it was the fact that at only quarter to four the sky closed up, gathering its energy before spewing out the down pour that sent SGA students and teachers with palms raised about their heads as they raced to trikes, ending the seminar early, even though not even half the students had submitted to assignments they were supposed to complete for the weekend’s training. (And didn’t submit the assignment completely until the beginning of September!)

I think that I was feeling this way and that’s why it bothered me

I also was told about tings that other people were saying about me that really only hurt my feelings and made me more frustrated with my friendships here. I also learned a few things that left me feeling taken for granted, misjudged and generally frustrated. I am expected to never judge, comment, or react to Filipino culture while I am judged and told to my face why so many things that I do are weird and disagreeable to them.

I found myself sitting in my room that night feeling a little, like a patched-up Raggedy Anne doll. My feet and calve are covered in bug bites; I’m exhausted from a long weekend of helping with the journalism seminar; and feeling unhinged by all the comments people feel comfortable telling me about what others are saying about me behind my back; a few choice inappropriate and infuriating requests made of me (which I’m not at liberty to discuss); and for what, I have to ask myself. Yes, I was having my first, “what the hell I am putting up with this sh%&t for” moment.

(Now, as I edit these entries, I have a much tougher skin. I ignore the constant comments about an inch gained here or there, my every pimple or imperfection, and other appearance obsessions that plague the culture here. I am happy to share my differences with the Filipinos learn about their culture and maybe the third reason is to remember why I believe, live, who I am and learn to be more confident in that person when confronted with others that don’t understand my lifestyle choices, etc.)


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