A Chance Meeting in El Nido
There are chance meetings with strangers that interest us from the first moment, before a word is spoken. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Everyone has that moment when a person or people met along the way shares captivating stories and testimonials begging for question after question, to hear just something more. One such chance meeting has created this realization that my life in Korea is safe and cushy when compared to others whose life is full of more meaningful contributions to society. During our “enjoyable” rocky ride from Puerto Princessa to El Nido, an unexpected encounter leads to unforgettable conversations and understandings. Upon pickup at our hotel, we step into the van and notice other fellow foreigners who greet us with as pleasant a “Hello” as 7am will afford. Having a pickup before us guaranteed them having less sleep than us.
Peace Corps vs. ESL in Korea
It turns out that they work for the Peace Corps and are helping people in other parts of the Philippines. Throughout my life, I’ve heard friends mention or even apply for the Peace Corps. I knew of its existence but after hearing first hand accounts of these two volunteers, I’m feeling shocked at how much work these people actually do. Korea is absolutely cozy compared to those ACTUALLY helping the people in Samar, the region affected by Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda as it’s known in the Philippines. “Affected” is an understatement only further enhanced while listening to countless tales of infrastructural ruin and daily despair imposed on those living there.
And here we are, sitting pretty in our super-developed ESL Korea Land complaining about cultural differences and piddly little things that don’t really matter. Bus drivers sparing no time to reach a destination, no matter how many passengers are flung around the aisles? Ha! That’s child’s play when thoughts of fully paved roads being regarded as luxury come to mind. Boo Hoo! My internet is slow because students are back on campus and hogging bandwidth playing online games? “Internet,” you say? Hah!
They return to Samar while our work restarts in Korea. Having time to ponder our lovely little seaside town has me thinking about lots of things. For starters, what are we doing here? Are we really helping people? Are we making a difference? It’s hard for me to say “Yes” right now. While our two friends are helping a town get back on its feet, we continue to find grievances with a place that comparably lacks for nothing. This chance meeting really makes me reassess our priorities and goals during this time in Korea.
Maybe I should’ve always been doing this, but the life that Korea has offered always spoke louder. So many things come to mind: vacation opportunities and time to think, time to relax, etc. As I’ve learned, that’s not the case everywhere an expat decides to go. Our new friends shrugged off the notion and remained modest about their work and its impact. Still, I believe they are making a true difference in this world.
Nevertheless, I have hope for my future and for the possibility of doing something important. Even after leaving cozy Korea, things look bright. It’s a different kind of struggle trying to negotiate your own language and culture that sometimes puts up impassable barriers. Those can be ignored and sometimes improved upon, with the impediments only temporary and sporadically found. We live in a safe and great place and thanks to our exchanges with those two amazing people in El Nido, so many thoughts and feelings are stirring inside me. That chance meeting in El Nido taught me about gratefulness and to appreciate my surroundings, no matter the location. Those two wonderful people inspired me to try a little bit harder everyday and remember what I have no matter where I live.
What about you? Have you ever had a similar meeting that changed your views on things? I’d love to read about it in the comments section!
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