Week 4: Business, Immersion, it’s Usual

Work and Travel

Four weeks down and I think I’ve got a pretty good feel for how things are run at the company. Because those press releases I mentioned in the last post haven’t come down to me yet, my contribution felt routine and manageable – there really wasn’t much to it. I took care of last week’s edits, helped a different department do some archiving when they were under hard deadlines, and took care of standard duties at the office while I waited for feedback on other projects from my boss. That is not to say it was a dull time, however.

Skipping our desk lives for a day, my fellow intern and I went with a group of new hires on an “immersion” at Gawad Kalinga’s Enchanted Farm on Friday. The trip is intended to give Human Nature employees insight into what drives their company, as well as what their individual work will eventually serve besides the bottom line. At the farm, GK maintains a village, farmland for its various subordinate social enterprises (e.g. Human Nature), housing and facilities for members of SEED (a program for training social entrepreneurs from among the poor), and a sort of miniature, modest resort for the visitors who come to see what all this is about. While there, we did a bit of work around the farm. Between us, my roommate and I built a small bamboo retaining wall, tilled soil, and laid 40 eggplant seedlings. Though the fact of villagers doing nothing but overseeing our work would indicate that our additional manpower was not of great importance to the function of the farm or village, it was still good to know that people would be eating the crops sown that day. The overall experience was also a nice, concrete addition to my understanding of this aspect of HN, even though I’d read and heard of it so many times before.

The Lightning Round (But a Little More Rolling Thunder this Time)

It’s considered strange to smell your food before eating it, even if it’s a new food to you. Forks are held in the left hand, large spoons in the right. The left serves the right, while the right cuts the food and transports the food from plate to mouth. This is the rule, except when eating something like a steak that requires a knife – a rare circumstance because of the common diet here. When I’ve explained the Western fork-in-left-knife-in-right method, Filipinos always exclaim something along the lines of, “how can you eat rice like that?!” This is linked with another difference in culture; knives are largely prohibited. From my understanding, the law only allows knives to be carried if they are somehow necessary to one’s work life, or a “lawful pursuit” like camping. When walking near an outdoor mall, I even saw a professional gardener slashing at the woody stems of bushes with a small box cutter. This could have been caused by a lack of money for a better tool, but I think the episode also points to cultural ideas about knives and their role in society that is different from what we understand in the West. There is practically nothing resembling road rage here; occasionally, you’ll come across an irascible cab driver, but that’s about the worst of it. The words I’ve so far encountered in Tagalog that have been borrowed from Spanish seem to suggest various things about the history of colonization. Some examples are: pulisya (policía), mundo, chisme, merienda, siesta, tinidor (tenedor), reyna (reina), and trabaho (trabajo/a). The Spanish words for the numbers 1-100 and telling time are also used.

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