Experiencing Allocation Life

A friend was heading back to her allocation to join her translation partner after a stay at the Nasuli center. Jeff (my “boss” in Computer Services) and Albert (acting head of our maintenance department) were driving her out, prepared to do repairs around their place, and I was invited to go along. Thanks to Chris who was willing to be on call for radio needs, it worked out.

We left Wednesday morning, with the Toyota extended-cab pickup loaded to its capacity. The drive took us through through the mountains—some of the most beautiful scenery in God's creation. Mom, you would not have enjoyed the roads. Some were nicely asphalted, some nicely graveled, and some were neither. And guard rails were not a big deal… We got thrown around some, but that was not the fault of our drivers. I didn’t take a turn at driving because I’m still waiting for Christen Lofland to teach me how to use standard transmission…

Albert, of Spanish descent, grew up in the Philippines. He knows the area well and pointed out sites that would interest me—hills formed by lava flows, the sugar mill, a carabao dairy, rubber plantations, etc. He’s from a large family and has a terrific sense of humor. By the end of the trip, I had two nicknames and we were joking about everything.

The views from the mountain roads were breathtaking. We paused at a scenic overlook on the first ascent, and saw the farms, villages, and rice paddies below and the mountain ranges to the southwest and to the north. Later on the coconut palms were exchanged for more pines and ferns and tiger grass (grown for brooms). We saw peanuts being cultivated in nearly vertical fields on the mountainsides, and ponies being used as pack animals.

Our first stop was in Matigsalug country where we had merienda with the Hunt family and used the CR (comfort room). We had errands at two other allocations on the way, so I got to see the radios in four of our language areas. Being able to picture my friends during roll call will make the job seem much more “real”.

Speaking of the CR, the ones I got acquainted with use a water-seal system and are flushed with water from a nearby bucket. At Ena’s place, the water source was rainwater collected in drums under the eaves. I even learned how to shower using the dipper-and-basin method, but I was too “chicken” to use the unheated water.

Ena’s allocation is about 3000 feet above sea level. Outside Davao, the road was only a few meters from the water’s edge, so our ears had to make continual adjustments. Also, Davao was warmer than Nasuli, but we noticed a marked change as we ascended the mountains. And the mountains cool off considerably at night. Good reason for heating the bathwater!

In Davao City we stopped at the mall and gawked at the abundance of available goods. Ate at a nice Italian café. Albert encouraged me to try an avocado shake, to be different. It had a very mild flavor, slightly sweet, refreshingly cool. Later on, my friends were eager to give me as many new experiences as possible, so I tried some new fruits and ate dried fish. Those were similar to the “guppies” Miss Lulu introduced us to in Chicago, only saltier, and much harder. Their sharp ends have earned them the Manobo nickname “nails”. Quite appropriate, actually.

Other firsts were: hiking up to the hot springs on Mt. Apo, going to two Filipino funeral wakes, and sleeping under a mosquito net. The chill usually chases the mosquitoes away by bedtime, but the net keeps any other small creatures out. The hot springs were wonders of creation, and the climb along the rough trail was an adventure in itself.

The first funeral was for an elderly Christian lady. The second was more of a shock to us, though Ena’s language helper had heart problems for years. He passed away in the middle of our last night there. Pastor Tano has helped Ena and Vera with translation since they arrived, so they will miss him greatly. When the sun came up, I went to the house with Ena and Vera to pay our respects and grieve with Feli, his widow. It was my first time to see death so close, so recent, and so natural (no coffin, before any embalming had been done). Tano had also been our guest in Nasuli in November.

When we headed home later in the morning, we took one of Tano's relatives along with us part of the way, so he could carry the news to family members in another city. We also gave Vera a ride as far as Davao. And we stopped at each of the other three allocations again.

The trip helped me better understand what it is like to be a translator. It was relaxing to be away from my usual responsibilities, but it was mentally exhausting to experience so many new things in just three days! It felt good to get “home” and have a quiet evening with my new housemate. I had no idea the next day would just as full of adventures, but that’s another story…

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