I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting the island nation of Philippines after my winter break. As much as I would like to decide the things I wanted to do, I had a very solid purpose for this trip. This purpose was also aided by my peers and teachers from school. The target was to “receive CAS* points”, a requirement for all students to complete their IB diploma. I am going to stick with telling you about my trip rather than explain the jargon of a high student undergoing the stress in the International Baccalaureate diploma program. The goal was CAS, but we all know when we trust another source there is always a side goal. That goal was advertised as “to gain perspective, experiences, etc.” However, no student is usually fooled when he knows there is additional work involved. I spent 5 days filled with various activities that might test one on a mental or physical preparedness. In a light manner of speaking, being a vegetarian is hard, especially when you are with a carnivorous crowd.
My first challenge in the trip was getting enough “sleep”. I had the pleasure of taking an early morning flight around 3 am, and trust me writing this sentence is already making me feel lethargic. Imagine my delight to know that a flight with all my friends during nighttime, with phones that have a camera to catch them snoring. That is not a prank but really a war in the metaphysical world level among people. The balance of good, evil, friendship, fear and destruction are usually questioned during the decision of taking a picture of your mates when they lay asleep. Everyone slept except me, for I cannot sleep sound in an airplane. The arrival was due no later than 7 am at the Cebu airport. After getting introduced to the guides and their responsibilities, the day was as follows: Breakfast at 9, then a hike for Group 4 at 11 and to the resort at 5 in the evening. The hike was fun because I was trained during my adventure in Ladakh in May 2015 while others looked like god food. Group 4 in short is a student project which combines various sciences to solve a problem or respond to what’s around them. With lack of sleep, I can safely say that I endured this challenge.
Second challenge was no more than working with children. I feel that children seem to be awkward with me around for reasons unknown. The target was to cook and play a game that was planned before the trip by a group of students. Cooking is not really my forte, but I managed to make through by washing vegetables. I was actually at home washing vegetables because at rare times I used to help cook with my mom. Not only did we serve the children the food we cooked we also had the pleasure of eating it ourselves. I was not too surprised that there was a shortage of options since all I had was a gravy like “pulusu**” and little rice. Dodge ball was the activity that was under my supervision during the school visit. Well I never thought that I was a sore person complaining about small problems, until I initiated this activity with these children. The first group did not want to participate at all, as they were too afraid to make the first move. The second group went all out like distant enemies going to war on that very day. Those games made my problems feel like small disagreements compared to the dispute among those children.
Third challenge was of skipping on thin ice. The third day’s agenda posed a rather long stretch of chemical energy consumption. In brief we had to plant mangroves, since “the dense root systems of mangrove forests trap sediments flowing down rivers and off the land. This helps stabilizes the coastline and prevents erosion from waves and storms” as the research says. Over 1000 mangroves were planted, not a lot if one knows his multiplication. For 50 people planting 20 mangroves each would amount to a simple 1000. After that early start of planting, we had an escapade into the coral reef for a scuba dive. The reason I call this challenge “stepping on thin ice” because I could not see much because of the turbid water and the fine chance on stepping on a sea urchin. The sand was also smooth enough for getting your leg stuck in it and making it also hard to get out since it would stick. I managed just fine by myself, but some people have physical advantages like height compared to others. Physically helping people out of holes, running to get slippers and stuff that floats away was not exactly what I had signed for. The hardest part was to ensure that others did not meet a pointy friend. Scuba diving is fun except when people act like cats and are your diving partners.
Fourth challenge would suit well with blood and sweat. The objective was to trek up to a mountain while picking up and carrying trash. The work was good enough to give you a sense of appreciation for your self if you knew yourself well. My group for some reason kept excavating bottles from our surroundings. The interesting aspect that kept me occupied from the heavy lifting was the choice of brands the glasses were titled with, an interesting survey in my opinion. That observation kept me going and occupied even though with that laborious weight. One would know that the weight was enough when the bottles started getting crushed by their own weight. In the end the bag full of glass bottles grazed just under my knee, I did not know what happened until I realized that my socks were wet with blood. I would not say that I was shocked but rather did not know what I was expecting from that feeling. After getting patched up, there was still a long way to go. The journey reminded me a lot of the struggles I dealt with in Leh, but not stopping me from getting to the top. No matter what even with the steep steps and the narrow pathways, nothing could xstop me. Of course, unless it’s a friend who needs help to get across some obstacles. That is not a problem though as helping people is always nice. We were treated with a lovely time at the beach for our hard work. Playing volleyball and skipping stones at the sea was more fun then I would admit. Through the photos I took, I share the views that I had the pleasure of gazing at the nature.
The fifth and final challenge was the end game. After any story that is a funny heist in the movies, it was great to seal the end with a dramatic finale. It would almost feel like an “Oceans” movie that might as well be titled as “Oceans 50”. Final days usually are saved to shop for mementos and make memories. During the night flight, I had some time to recollect all the events that had occurred. I believe I did gain a better insight into my friends as well as how far I have come through in the last few months. Having seen some amazing sunsets and a “new perspective”, I would call this a trip well spent.
* CAS = Creativity, Action, Service; which along with the extended essay and TOK (Theory of Knowledge) are essential to qualify for a IB diploma.
** Pulusu = A curry made using different vegetables in Andhra Pradesh, India