Thursday, July 30, 2009


Her name is Bean. I named her that because they eat dogs here. Keep reading...They have a lot of beans, and I told them that they should just eat those, but people prefer to eat the dog meat. I named her Bean so that, as a joke, people would not prefer to eat her. It seems sort of morbid, but everything is a joke here. You can't take life too seriously, or you won't survive.

-Melanie West Goes...Puppy


Here it is! The place where I lay my head at night. I live on the property of a woman named Cresencia Dongalen. I call her Auntie or Lola which means grandmother. She is a 67 year old widow and retired school teacher. We have really been enjoying each other's company. I live in a barangay (neighborhood)called Kin-iway. It is about 97% Episcopalian! Everyone here is very nice.They have been teaching me the language (Igorot). They do not speak Pilipino (Tagalog) here in the mountains. As you can see, I wash all of my dishes and clothing outside by hand, and I shower from a bucket. I am getting better at it. All of the exterior walls of my house and all of the floors are made of concrete,and everything else is made of wood. Besao is a peaceful place filled with wonderful people. It is starting to feel more like home.

This sink is where I do my dishes and laundry.

Okay so it's not MTV cribs material, but I like it. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

-Melanie West Goes... House

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Traveling to the small city of Bontoc in the back of a jeepney proved to be a rough ride. The mountain roads remain unpaved and very rocky. Combine that with the altitude, sideways movement, and hard benches and you have a recipe for disaster. With each passing moment I got closer to losing my breakfast. There were about 16 people there with me on the benches who looked fairly carefree. I, on the other hand, looked franticly for a place to discreetly toss my cookies. I took a couple of motion sickness pills, but it was too late. I tried to sleep, but it didn’t work. So there I remained in a miserable state of dizziness for the whole one and a half hour trip. I thank God that I did not throw up there in front of all of those strangers. We arrived at the offices of the Bishop and I looked at my traveling companion with a pale face. She laughed and said, “first time in a jeepney, huh?”-Melanie West Goes… Jeepney


At 6am on Monday morning we left Manila and drove north toward the Cordillera Mountains. We stopped three times throughout the 14 hour trip to eat and stretch our legs. It seemed as if we would never make it there. The farther we drove from the city, the worse the roads got, and the more beautiful the scenery, until it became dark. We had made it to Besao, but not yet to my barangay (neighborhood) of Kin-iway. I couldn’t see the mountains for it was pitch black, but the others assured me that they were there. We spent the night at the Besao Multi-Purpose Cooperative and drank coffee and shared stories with the women who greeted us upon our arrival. I woke up early in the morning to the sound of roosters crowing loudly, and that is when I knew, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, as the saying goes. We took my bags from the car and walked up the road to my new house. This is the view from my back yard.The rain had just stopped, and the clouds began to lift. As they rose they revealed the beauty of the mountains and their terraced sides, used for planting rice.
-Melanie West Goes… Besao


Well, I made it to Manila safe and sound with all of my belongings and my health. The driver for the National Church office picked me up from the airport. On the way to my hotel he showed me the city. I stayed there in Manila from Friday July 3rd to Monday July 6th, and took it all in while getting to know the staff at the National Church office. I also had the opportunity to attend the Sunday service at the Episcopal Church in the Philippines National Cathedral. It was beautiful. The walls were lined floor to ceiling with open windows and the light shown in as the incense poured out. Beyond the church grounds, the air is thick with pollution as there are many cars and many people packed tightly within Manila’s borders. The poverty was overwhelming to me. It was unlike anything I had seen before. Children bathe naked and barefoot in the streets while the rain pours down. Along the rivers, the shanties are stacked high atop one another. People hang their clothing outside to dry and everywhere people sell what they can to live day by day. Tears welled up in my eyes for I had read about this kind of poverty before, but I had never really understood it. I never truly will.
-Melanie West Goes… Manila

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hong Kong

I flew from St. Louis to LA then LA to Hong Kong. It was the longest flight I have ever been on. It took about 24 hours in total, and I still had another flight and a 14 hour drive ahead of me to get to my town. I would leave in a few hours to go to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. While I waited, I looked at the beautiful view from the Hong Kong airport. My friend, and fellow, Maegan will be moving here next month and I can’t wait for her to see this beautiful view. I flew Cathay Pacific Airlines. It was a nice flight. The food was very good and I was able to nap and watch a couple of movies. Although, I have to admit that I teared up a little when I thought about the magnitude of the adventure that was before me. I already missed the ones who had taken me to the airport just the day before, and I thought to myself, can I do this? I knew the answer when the man sitting next to me on the plane asked if I was traveling alone and I answered yes. He quickly corrected me saying, “No, do not think that you are alone. God is with you.”
-Melanie West Goes… Hong Kong.


On July 1st, 2009 I packed my bags and left my home in Missouri to move to the Philippines for one year. Here are the things that I brought: 4 pairs of Shoes, Back Pack, Sun Screen (SPF 30), Water Purifier with water bottle, Bug Spray with Deet, Headlamp, Medications, Bed Sheets/ Pillow Case, Tooth Brush, Tooth Paste, Extra Zip-Lock Bags, Q-Tips, Gorilla Tape, Nail Clippers, Journal, Ink Pens and Pencils, Eye Glasses, Contacts and Solution, Bible, Book of Common Prayer, Swim Suit, Rain Jacket, Rain Pants, Towel , 5 Pants (2 nice and 3 casual), 3 Shorts (1 nice and one casual), 8 Shirts (2 nice and 6 casual), 1 Fleece, 1 vest (black zip-up), 1 Dress, First Aid Kit, Flashlight, Adaptors (power and plug), Passport, and a Blanket. I fit it all into these two bags. Combined they weighed 82.5lbs.
-Melanie West Goes...Packing.