Flying over Mindanao island yesterday, I was really surprised by the tropical mountainous terrain; parts of the coast must be a good hundred metres above sea level. The next thing that struck me was just how bloody hot and sticky it is here, definitely hotter and more humid than Manila.
After saying a quick hello to the few people in the office, I was driven the 30 odd metres to my new house...it's huge!! At the moment there are four of us (though one is on leave) in the house, with plans to convert one of the sitting areas into another bedroom. We have a housekeeper, Luce, who cooked up a chicken curry for us, leaving us only to reheat and cook some rice when we were ready. There are also some cats (yes, I'm keeping my distance) including a very newborn kitten, who's a bit mangy but very cute.
After checking that I had successfully transported a very special bottle of gin (i.e. a normal bottle of gin) in my checked luggage, I threw the rest of my clothes out onto the bench/shelf thing (which is going to have to be my wardrobe for the time being) without much consideration and then waited to be picked up to attend a meeting with our 'cooperating partner'. It was an interesting meeting, where I freaked out about how many place names I'm going to need to learn rather quickly, but a great group of very enthusiastic people.
Today, Nicole, another Australian seconded through RedR and my lovely housemate, another national staff member and I drove about an hour and a half to a place called Mamasapano to monitor a rice distribution.
I won't go into details about the actual work, but I will tell you that we also visited one of the evacuation centres (i.e. camps for internally displaced people) where one family had a pet monkey. Yeah, not sure why...
My first impressions of Mindanao have actually found a lot of similarities to rural Bangladesh. There are so many coconut palms, and the little thatched roofed huts. The big difference is the quality of the roads - so much better here!!! And as always, I'm interested in the means of public transport. Jeepnies are here, and so are rickshaws, but with a twist. The bicycle has a side car of sorts, welded onto it, and it's more of a BMX bike than a road bike. The auto rickshaws (which they just call tricycles) are fantastic: motorbike, sidecar, beach umbrella.
Yep, those umbrellas are attached to the bikes. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to even walk around town (and I haven't seen it yet) so there's no way I'll be able to have a ride in a trike. :-(