By Eimear O’Kane
Oh no, I’ve slept in for work! I should be on my way to school at the minute! My heart skipped a beat as I checked the time through one dreary open eye. However when I sat up I then realised where I was, and the stillness of it all. In my bedroom, in the depths of the countryside in Co.Derry, Ireland. I was at ‘home’. So then why the knot in my stomach as I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep and avoid talking to my family, who were downstairs carrying out the usual rushed morning routine.
It’s only been a few days since my return home from my time in the Philppines with SERVE. However already my trip seems a lifetime ago. Even from the moment we landed in Heathrow airport, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people travelling all over the world, it seemed like a dream. There were no kids running around our feet, eager to play tag or football. No chickens roaming freely around the streets. No one smiled when they passed by, and if met them with a smile they gave me a look as if I was an extremely odd girl. We were definitely not in the Philippines anymore.
It was the strangest feeling to be back in the Western culture and back to our traditional ways of living. It was as if I had never been away. Although I am very much a ‘home bird’ while away, I was never homesick as I imagined I would be. I felt free from all of the ties and the pressures of a 20 year old in Ireland. No stressing about the insignificant things like whether or not I would be able to afford ‘that’ Topshop dress, for yet another night out in the same nightclub. No college assignments to worry me. No popularity politics.
Everyone we met in the Philippines was so overwhelmingly happy, even the families in Tacloban who had all been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. They were very positive and grateful for all they had, which was not much. Comparing this attitude with the ones we are often met with at home is somewhat frustrating. I almost feel guilty for all of the luxuries I can enjoy at home. What did I do deserve to live in this big house, in a secure environment with no major worries about finances, or feeding my family or keeping them safe from simple diseases. Why me, and not any of the wonderful people I encountered? Why does our country not experience the same extreme weather? In my experience, the Filipinos are a much more welcoming, kind and faithful people. So why do they experience such hardships?
Not only this, but why do they deep down seem happier than all of us? Many of us who have the world at our fingertips in terms of money, resources and technology. The more I consider this the more I come to the conclusion that the old adage is right. ‘The best things in life are free’.
The sooner I can adopt this attitude and remember to be grateful for the little things, the happier I will become. I have learned much more than I could have imagined from my trip and have met some of the most wonderful people. Some of them envied our possessions and lifestyle. However upon returning home I can safely say they are the real winners.