So much has happened in the last few days that I have not had time to write about it! I attended the graduation ceremony, spent the day with Careen at the Ocean World attraction, and climbed a volcano with a group from my hostel. Today (Sunday) I leave the Philippines for a short stay in Indonesia, but before I go I will share with you the story of my day meeting Careen, my LDP student. (photos to come when I have more internet time).
Thursday, April 26th.
Today my plan was to go to the LDP graduation ceremony, meet Careen, eat a meal together, and take lots of pictures. While all of that happened, it did not go quite the way I had planned….
I set out for the graduation site in plenty of time, but then I could not get a taxi. After trying fruitlessly to get a ride, I saw some of the staff from the hostel pass by and they invited me to ride the public transport with them. I was so relieved.
So we hopped in a jeepney (van-bus) and then climbed a bunch of stairs to get to the ticket station for the metro. When the train came we squished on to the already crowded car and set off. A few minutes later I was told that it was my stop and I hopped off the train, and set off walking the 4 blocks to the entrance. At that point I was wishing I was in anything other than dress clothes.
When I got to the entrance of the camp where the ceremony was supposed to be, I was told to sit down and wait for the shuttle because the building was “way too far away to walk." After waiting for longer than I had wanted to, the shuttle finally came, but it could only take half of the waiting people, and I was not in that group. By that time I had already asked someone the time and it was 9:05... The ceremony was supposed to have started at 9:00. I was frustrated and not sure what too do. I talked to the person behind me and he said the next shuttle could take as long as 30minutes. So we both started walking. It turns out it was only a 5-10 minute walk. Which means that if I had just started walking right away, I may have been there on time. Oh well.
As it was I made it, and I was late, but I was just in time for the part of the ceremony where I was supposed to speak. The staff had been really worried because I was not there, and apparently Careen was also worried that maybe I had decided not to come. A minute after I got there and sat down I was called up on stage to give my speech. I was frazzled, but when I spoke to other people later on they said it had gone well. It had just been all I could do to speak clearly and not look too closely at anyone in the audience. I was afraid that if I saw Careen and we “met” for the first time while I was speaking… well, that may have been the end of my speech.
After speaking I left the stage but before I got to my seat I was ushered back onto the stage for the presentation of gifts from the LDPs to their sponsors who had been able to attend.
After everything that had happened that day, after all the long flights, after 6 years of corresponding Careen and I were finally face to face. I am not sure what the other sponsors and their students did, but Careen and I embraced each other and did not let go.
She was dressed in a white ball gown and looked beautiful. All too soon the ceremony went on and we had to walk away from each other and sit in our respective seats. As the speaking continued I had trouble paying attention knowing that Careen was so close by. It was a beautiful ceremony though, Honoring the graduates, recognizing them for their work and encouraging them to run strong as they start this new part of their journey. There were movies the students had made, songs by the students, and presentation from Compassion children from a local project.
After the Ceremony was over and hundreds of smiles were captured in photos, we moved to the other part of the room to eat a delicious lunch. As we ate we were finally able to really speak and to catch up on what is going on with each other.
I found out that after graduating from the university (a month before the LDP graduation) she was hired by a newspaper! She now works as a journalist for a big newspaper in Cebu. She said she had brought some articles to show me.
I was also able to give Careen the graduation cards that my family had signed for her, and the quilt I had made for her. I had chosen pink as a backing color and I came to find out that it was her favorite color! I am not quite sure that Careen realized it was the back and not the front, but she said they will use it in their house.
Next we took a taxi back to the Compassion office to pick up something for Careen. An Australian sponsor had visited the Philippines and Careen had shared her testimony. Later that sponsor decided to donate some money specifically so that Careen could get a laptop! She was sooo excited.
While we were waiting for one of the workers to bring the laptop, Careen and I talked some more. We were both so tired by that point, but it was good to just be together. Careen also taught me some words in her native dialect. I wrote them down so I would not forget, but I still can't quite remember them.
Once Careen got her laptop we said our goodbyes and I hopped into a taxi to get back to my hostel.
It was a really good day and made better by the fact that we knew we would see each other again tomorrow…