My hosts, travel companions and new friends

Originally published January 18, 2012 – I happen to have stumbled across the two quite colourful and spiritual characters as my hosts.

Simone Francis

simone francis, always a buzz

simone francis, always a buzz

So there is Simone, director of Nomadic Hands.
She is this energetic 27-year-old Australian who, when you listen to her speak, must have lived more lives than her age gives away. She has travelled and worked around the world, has taught numerous skills, including snorkelling and tumbling (youtube it), and is learning about all sorts of spiritual healing at this time – a project on her horizon is setting up a singing bowl meditation in Sydney.

She has been successfully running a social enterprise for over four years. Nomadic Hands travels around the world lending their hands to communities who need them, raising awareness for humanitarian and environmental issues.
And all the while she is working on her ongoing documentary, in which she documents her own journey as she ‘leaves the consumerist system’. From the material I have seen, its an amazing life-change, courageous and full of passion. And at the same time quite disturbing as she reveals facts most of us know about but chose to ignore. One of the first things she does is she goes ‘dumpster-diving’ in Sydney – she goes looking for perfectly alright food thrown away to prepare her own meals, and finds loads!
She is an amazing ‘go-doer’, she bubbles with energy and drive, she thinks up ideas and solutions and does them the same minute. Quite impressive, really, and so the opposite to me – I hope some of her entrepreneur spirit colours off on me during this trip.


2012 philippines ramke flute

Ramke. I’ve been waking up to the soft sound of his flute playing in the distance.

So, being this adventure-seeker, Simone has recently taken to music and singing. And this is where her Philippine friend and co-host, Ramke, comes in. We are staying at his sister’s house in Talisay, near Bacolod and at his parents’ cottage when we’re in the mountains.
Ramke is an earthbound artist and currently reading into all kinds of healing, from reiki to numerology  – you name it, he’ll tell you about it. He reads a lot.
On my first evening he asked me what day my birthday was and I said March 18. He said ‘so you’re a 9’. Later on he explained that nines are very diverse creatures, they like to know and experiment everything, they like the challenge of the unknown. ‘And as soon as something is no longer unknown or an ability has been acquired, the nines look for what’s next.’ That explains a few things.

As a musician he plays the guitar, the flute, the didgeridoo, the harmonica and the drums… There may be more, but the sounds of these instruments have been accompanying us so far.

Simone and Ramke are both welcoming and generous in their own ways, and I am excited at the thought that by just being with them I may be getting more out of my time here than just the internship as such.

scary first moves


scary first moves. A jeepney!

Originally published on January 16, 2012

Hi Laura
take a 50 peso shuttle to silay plaza,
then take a jeepney to talisay for 8 pesos,
get off at Durex. We will meet u there.

I received this text when waiting for the last of three flights, the first having been a 15-hour transpacific flight to Hong Kong, then a two hour hop in a 747 to Manila. My island shuttle to Bacolod on Negros had been rescheduled to two hours later.

So I had asked my Nomadic Hands host Simone if I should still meet her where she had initially said. I was told to, “Take a 50 peso shuttle to silay plaza, then take a jeepney to talisay for 8 pesos, get off at durex. We will meet u there.”

It is my first time in Asia, my two day stopover in Hong Kong in the nineties hardly counts. But luckily, I have traveled before. And I know that I, as one always does, will be comparing this trip to others. As open-minded and well-traveled as I like to see myself, I still like finding the comfort of the ‘known’ in the ‘unknown’, which I will either reject or cherish, depending on what it is.

So I know that the public transport, as it always is, will be new and complex but it will eventually be ‘how its done’ to me, too. Once I know the system I will also learn my own tricks in it, as I have for the Los Angeles road network and the buses in Quito. But first I will have to observe it and dive into it in a few scary first moves. There are no two ways about it.

So why not start at the airport after 30-hours of flying across the dateline? Reading that message all I thought was ‘well yeah, I am sure it will all become clear once I take the first step.’ – though I knew there was no way ‘silay plaza’ or ‘durex’ were going to be posted grandly on the inside or the outside of my vehicle, as stops are in, say, Paris buses.

And lordy, what on earth is a ‘jeepney’?

To my message to my sister Kate, she replied ‘Ha, the jeepneys! Fun :)’

So jeepneys are minibuses. LOTS OF MINIBUSES. Colourful minibuses. The insides are taken out, the back is open, as are the sides. Two benches line insides and people get in from the back and scootch in as long as there is a spot free. People with babies on their arms, people with shopping bag, old people, young people, all kinds of people; everybody gets into the jeepney and off the bus goes. It goes, meanders around other jeepneys, cars, buses, trikes (mopeds with sidecars serving the side roads), hops over potholes in the street while bodies and heads inside bob to the blows. You pay the driver en-route, people closest to the driver hand the money back and forth from the passengers. A ride costs 7,5 pesos. Which is 13 eurocents. You get off when the time is right; I think if you know where you want to get off, you tell the driver first.

I did not learn about this when I arrived at the airport in Bacolod.

I had decided that I was going to tackle the local ways without my luggage for two months of travel, after a shower and most of all, after horizontal sleep. I took a taxi. True tourist ‘oblige’, I took a private cab and paid twice as much as I would have needed to. Which was OK, for now.