Tha Bar Wa

So.  My week as volunteer as come to an end.  Next Monday I will begin my vipassana.  I’m a little worried that I won’t make it but I don’t wanna call it off even before starting it. 

My week in Tha Bar Wa has been interesting.  I’ve met nice people and seen things that I couldn’t even imagine. Volunteering always gives me back the faith in the human race.  In a society where all that matters is money and appearance,  it’s good for the heart to see that there are people ready to work for free,  ready to give something in return for nothing if not in return for some personal satisfaction.  During my time here I’ve been practicing massage on poor people, suffering from hard labour and stroke.  It was good to give and get in return their gratitude.  It made my day. 

Of course not everything is nice and beautiful.  Life here can sometimes be hard,  hygiene is a different concept from what we think.  People are very clean,  they shower at least once a day everyday but then houses are barracks,  trash is everywhere,  animal have free entry wherever they feel like (there are plenty of stray dogs around here – and mostly are sick,  there are 5 cows and they shit everywhere). 

But life has a different rhythm,  people help each other,  nobody goes to bed with hunger.  And our help is very much appreciated. 

I had the chance to participate to the alms and see how people can give just for the sake of it.  There is no shame. You give what you can.  Being money or food.  Or both.  Someone gives an apple,  someone a bag of rice,  some a tube of toothpaste. Nothing is too little.  You give according to your possibilities. 

I also had the chance to see the other side of the mirror.  Monks are not necessarily saints,  they are people and for this reason they’re not perfect.  Far from it I would say.  And they are not necessarily nice persons,  they don’t smile to you,  you don’t feel your life is in good hands when you’re with them.  They live their lives detached from everyone else.  They don’t mingle. The first day I did the alms I was carrying the bowl for the money and the first thing that the “first” monk did after we finished the tour was to snap it out of my hands. And they are bit supposed to use money.  I was a bit shocked.  I would expect that from a priest,  but from a monk…. 

But still.  Even some of my coworkers have been here a long time and think they are “so spiritual” and feel the need to give you advice about meditation and detachment,  it was a good experience.  I like to see things with my own eyes and this time I’ve learnt so much.  On many different levels.  Now comes the hard part.  Vipassana is said to be a magnificent experience although very hard.  Another step to get to know me better I guess…. 


Riassumendo – Indonesia 

E anche l’Indonesia è fatta. Strano paese, 3 grandi isole (le principali) e tre realtà completamente differenti.

Bali è la più “semplice”. Essendo la più conosciuta e sfruttata dal turismo è anche la più occidentalizzata. La gente locale è ben abituata agli stranieri, l’inglese è parlato ovunque ed è semplice spostarsi da un posto all’altro.  Ma ciò non è necessariamente una cosa positiva. I prezzi sono più alti e una volta di più i bianchi sono considerati “portafogli ambulanti”.  Ad ogni passo ti chiedono se vuoi un taxi (taksi,  chiedo scusa) o un sarong o un sellier stick o se vuoi mangiare o bere qualcosa. Basicamente Como in ogni altro paese in Asia dove il turismo è anche troppo sviluppato. 



Arrivato a Java le cose si calmano un poco. Il bianco è ancora un portafogli ambulante ma in maniera più discreta. Non sei più assalito. Solo invitato. Ripetutamente ma non è troppo fastidioso. La gente in generale è gentile e vuole aiutarti. Sorridono ma noti la differenza da Bali. 

L’ultima (in ordine di apparizione) è Sumatra senza dubbio la mia favorita. Sfortunatamente avevo solo pochi giorni da passare su questa bellissima terra verde. Qui il turismo e le sue infrastrutture sono ancora ad un livello basico. I turisti sono pochi e i lo locali sono estremamente gentili. Il mio host e la sua famiglia sono stati fantastici.  La gente è curiosa rispetto agli stranieri ma non  sono fastidiosi.  Non cercano di venderti niente e tu sei ancora tu. Solo uno straniero in una bellissima terra straniera. 

Nella mia profonda ignoranza ho sempre pensato che i paesi musulmani sono chiusi e inospitali ma non ho visto nulla di tutto ciò durante i miei spostamenti in Indonesia. La gente è amichevole e ospitale, curiosa del tuo paese, le tue abitudini, la tua vita e i climi freddi. 

Il cibo è buono e poco costoso e hai problemi solo se cerchi disperatamente una birra. A parte ciò la vita è bella e semplice.

Non ho necessariamente visto tutte le cose tipiche che i visitatori in teoria devono vedere in Indonesia.  In realtà ho visto molto poco ma non rimpiango il mio viaggio per nulla. Cercavo una vera esperienza, conoscere la gente locale, mescolarsi a loro e vivere le loro vite e in un certo modo ci sono riuscito. Ho imparato che questa gente è  ben diversa da come la dipingono i giornali e la TV.  Ho imparato che siamo molto più simili di quanto pensiamo e allo stesso tempo completamente differenti.  E la vita non è necessariamente migliore nella nostra società ultra sviluppata. Qui la gente non ha nulla o molto poco ma sono felici di condividere con te. Noi dovremmo imparare a fare lo stesso.  

Hanging out like a coffin (in Sagada)

I arrived in Sagada yesterday afternoon to see the world famous hanging coffins.

The city itself is just another Asian city, nothing really special.

I checked in at “Clairence Inn”. It is a very decent place close to the bus station, the rooms are nice and clean and have shared bathroom. For 300 pesos per night you have a very good value for money.

Afterwards I went for lunch at Masferré and managed to have a very good vegetarian combo, admittedly one of the best meal I had since I arrived in the Philippines. But don’t even think of getting a “pizza”. Once again, the dough was frozen and the overall very bad (one of the guys I had lunch with tried his luck!) The only VERY negative thing about this place is the service. It is run buy a bunch of adolescents, very impolite and annoying. They look at you, the laugh at you, they ignore you. All in all a very unpleasant experience (apart from the food, which unfortunately doesn’t make up for everything else)

In the afternoon I went visiting the hanging coffins. It is a very unique custom they have here in Sagada. If you like, you can decide that once you die you have your​ coffin hunged on a wall inside the cemetery perimeter. There are rules of course, not everyone can do that. You have to be old (from 40 on…!!!!) and your entire family has to agree. The reasons why they ​do this are not very clear. Some says it is to have your body close to heaven, some says it is because the dead don’t want to be eaten by the animals and insects when their body is buried in the ground. To visit the coffins you need a guide that is not very necessary as the hicking goes, but you can still ask as many questions as you want (and then you are free to believe or not his answers).

As I realized I was running out of cash I headed at the ATM by the information office. For some reason neither of my cards (Visa and MasterCard) worked. So I went out the ATM at the “mall”. Same problem. So following morning I went to the bank office. No luck either. I explained my issue to the bank clerk and I’ve been answered that Visa and MasterCard don’t work here. So I asked: so what cards work here? And the answer came with the best smile (only one I’ve seen since I arrived): only local cards!
Now, I’m stranded here with close to no money in my pocket and waiting for the bus to Manila that leaves this afternoon. Luckily I managed to buy the ticket yesterday, and that’s what left me high and dry.

 For dinner I went with some Spanish guys met here to this place called “Slabhouse Cafe” where they serve very big plates and the food is pretty good.

I can’t say I’ve enjoyed my staying here. People, it hurts to say, are not very friendly. They don’t smile and are not helpful. If you’re in trouble they make fun of you (excluding the girl at the hostel). The WiFi doesn’t work and if you don’t have a local SIM card to look on your phone for information, you have to rely on people that most of the time don’t understand what you’re saying and the rest of the time pretend not to understand.

But I have to admit that vegetarian food is good and aplenty out here! Silver lining 😊