Nothing could have prepared me for the life that waited beyond what I was used to. Needless to say, I came from a world that was pretty rough around the edges. Doing the things that I did, I was constantly and completely surrounded by boys. Soon, I began to dress like them, act like them and drink like them. I think somewhere along the way, I forgot how to be a girl. I thought, hey, if this is the world I move in, I might as well play by their rules for acceptance.
A friend of mine asked me on YM once: How come you don’t have any girl friends? I was just about to type out a smart aleck comeback when I realized she was right. Yes, I had the solid high school core group of friends and the two or three that I really got along with at gigs but that was about it. No real “let’s hang out in the mall all day or watch dvds till sunrise” circle that I could call my own. It was a pretty depressing thought.
I guess I was always under the impression that girls didn’t like me. And that always automated my defense switch on: either by over-compensating with niceness or putting on my icy “tomboy” armor. Either way, I was afraid to death of them. I didn’t know how to shop for clothes and I didn’t like handbags. What on earth could we possibly have in common? What was I going to say to them?
Moreso, I had been trained to go about life alone; or at least when my boyfriend wasn’t available to accompany me about town. I watched movies alone, I ate alone, I took the MRT alone. I thought it just wasn’t a big deal.
I wasn’t a girly girl, I decided early on in life.
So imagine my shock when Chel and I boarded from our 14-hour bus journey to Tabuk, Kalinga. We were met by Crystal, a lovely girl from North Carolina and a golden retriever. She, and the dog, led us to a charming two story wooden house with a wide garden full of tall green grass. I remember clothes hanging out to dry on the clothesline. Judging from the kind of clothes that hung, I knew this place was inhabited by girls.
Inside, a small group of young women, stomachs ripe with babies waiting to be born sat and talked amongst themselves quietly. Behind the counter sat Georgia, the clinic’s founder, her gentle smile contrasting with her fiery red hair.
We were led up the common room to meet the rest of the ladies, students from around the US taking up their midwifery courses in a school in Davao and having their practicum training here at the clinic. Abundant Grace of God, it was called, nestled in Tabuk, Kalinga. They delivered babies and offered pre-natal and post natal care. They went up on medical missions to the poorer tribes with no access to medicine or hospitals. They offered seminars, consultations and dispatched medicine where they could. All down out of the goodness of their hearts.
Two ladies sat in front of us, explaining how things at the clinic worked,Kayla, from Iowa and Crystal, who has been at the clinic the longest, after Georgia. More tiptoed in and out of the dorm-style room, looking at us as they did so: Sarah, Willow and Mary.
While Chel chatted happily with everyone, and sank into comfort, I remained tight-lipped and fell into tension. I felt out of place with my tattoos, my need to drink, my need for male companionship. I felt trapped in a storybook cottage with characters straight out of a fairytale. I felt the strong urge to light up a cigarette or burst out the doors to run to my freedom.
I was scared half to death and for the nth time in my life, looking around at the babies and the ladies and the pregnant women, I wondered what the heck I was doing here.
I excused myself, crept into our appointed room, threw myself on the bed and slept.
I began to dream.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
Psalm 139: 7