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It's Offically Happening!   (published in Ghana)

May 28, 2017 by   Comments(0)

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So after months of thinking about it, I have finally applied to volunteer! This coming October I will be part of the 'Projects for Professionals' programme in Ghana, working as a Nurse.

I have lots of preparation to do. Paper work to organise. Visa to apply for. Flights to organise. And the part Im dreading the most - Vaccinations to get! (Just because I'm a nurse does not mean I can't be scared of needles too!) 

I'm so excited and so nervous! Hope to get in contact with some other people going at that time. looking forward to reading all about other peoples experiences!

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It's Offically Happening!
It's Offically Happening!

Just a week to go: flying home for Christmas

December 14, 2015 by   Comments(0)

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I haven’t updated my blog here in Tanzania as much as I was planning to or wanted to, unfortunately. The thing is, my stay here just hasn’t been as eventful as my stay in the Philippines. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because I’ve been doing things such as going to the beach on working days (after work, of course) much more often than in the Philippines, and the work has included much more variety and a lot of very interesting work. To say the least, I have learned a lot at the hospital.

What I mean when I say it is less eventful here than the Philippines is, as I explained in my last post, that the things done here are much more similar – beaches and markets are the main thing, and also going out drinking/partying during the weekends. In the Philippines we used to travel somewhere every weekend, to see something. The thing is that transport AND different tourist attractions, etc. were really cheap in the Philippines, and there were to many different things to do with just a few hours of traveling! Here in Tanzania though, things are more expensive and there aren’t as many varied attractions spread out in the same way. That doesn’t mean that my stay hasn’t been as good, though. The stay has been absolutely amazing – the beaches and the markets are lovely, the locals are amazing, and so are the other volunteers. There are a lot more volunteers here, and for a while that frustrated me. However, that also means that you often get more different options when looking for something to do with your time off, either in the afternoon and evenings or during the weekends. As I generally find that it gets boring pretty quickly to lie on a beach all day, and there are only a few similar markets nearby, I have often opted to stay home, however. I have been going to the gym a few times per week, either at one of the beaches (when I say beach I mean that we go to a hotel and pay to get in and stay at the beach and pool – those hotels also have a gym you can pay to use), or at the nearby gym called Azura Health & Fitness. This weekend, for instance, I’ve decided to just stay home and relax. I went to the gym on Friday and again today, Sunday, however. I figured I just wanted to relax around the house this weekend, as my roommate is out on safari with a group of volunteers (they’ve rented a safari car and are driving themselves, crazy motherf***ers – traffic here is insane, and they drive on the left side of the road – which they don’t in the Netherlands where my roommate is from!). Anyway, this is my last weekend here in Dar Es Salaam, as I am going home next Sunday but will be in Zanzibar from Wednesday and until Sunday.


It would be a shame to say that nothing has been happening since my last blog post – actually, quite a lot has happened! First of all, my Danish roommate, Mathilde, moved out of the house and to a different host family. She then ended up moving once more to a third one – long story, but one thing was that she needed some girls around her, as all she could look forward to here was two guys – leading me to the fact that two days after Mathilde moved out, Olivier moved in. Olivier is a Dutch volunteer, and a pretty cool guy in fact. I’m very happy to have him as roommate here, and we are finishing our projects almost at the same time, so in a way it all fits perfectly.

I wasn’t at the house when he moved in though, as I was on a 4-day safari at the time up in Arusha, going to places like Tarangire National Park, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro and Ngorongoro Crater. We saw a lot(!) of animals, and I loved the way they didn’t even seem to notice the cars. I know that is in fact not natural, but the thing is that they just carried on with their natural behavior as if we weren’t even there, letting us see how they would normally act. Of course the car still scared animals like zebras, but lions, leopards, elephants, etc. generally didn’t care about us. That meant we got to see some of them up close, as if in just a few meters from the car! We also had the accomplishment and luck to see the ‘Big Five’ meaning the buffalo, the elephant, the leopard, the lion, and the rhino. Those are not, as you might expect, the biggest animals. They are, however, the hardest and most dangerous ones to take down. The Ngorongoro Crater is the most likely place to see the rhinos, but there are a maximum of 15 rhinos in the crater, as they are pretty close to dying out. Anyway, we were really lucky to see a total of 5 of them! All of them were from a distance (they practically never go close to the road), but still close enough that with a good camera you could get pictures where you can actually make out that they are rhinos.



Other than that, my free time has been pretty relaxed. It’s included a bit of going to beaches, to the gym, or simply just relaxing and reading a good book (currently reading ‘A song of ice and fire’ series aka. Game of Thrones). I went to Bongoyo Island one weekend, which is a small island called ‘mini Zanzibar’. You go there on a daytrip – it’s very touristy, as you pay for transport there and back, for entrance to the island, for tanning beds, and even for the parasol for shade. And, obviously, you pay for food. The beach is really nice, though – lovely white sand and blue, clear water. There is even the opportunity to do a bit of snorkeling around the island. The food there is amazing too! There’s freshly caught seafood – crab, lobster, fish, prawns, you name it. I had a crab, and you really get a big one with a lot of meat on it (yes, you get the whole crab). And then you basically just spend your day lazing in the sun with music or a book – or sleeping if you have a hangover (I’m looking at you Olivier!).






Okay, back to the serious stuff – the work. The work has been crazy – mostly in a good way. It is pretty intense in a way, with so many new impressions that I have sometimes been very happy to only work 9am to 1pm, as it can be tough. There have been really boring days too, though. Days with practically nothing to do except wander around from one department to the other, sit with your phone (or talk to people around you if there are any), or go home early.

I have done three night shifts, as I wanted to try something different. All three times I have mainly been staying at the Minor Theatre, and also observing in the injection room as Alex, the nurse who was on duty took care of both during the night. The first night shift I did was really boring in truth. There was practically nothing to do; only a handful of patients came in and with nothing serious. That’s why I decided to go again the day after; I figured that if one day was so quiet, the next would be busy. And guess what – I was right. There were almost constantly new patients with cut wounds after being robbed (or attacked after trying to steal/rob, you never truly know if they were originally the victims). A day or two before I had learned how to stitch a patient – yes, they actually taught me, a volunteer with no medical experience, how to give local anesthesia and then stitch up an actual patient! It was a small cut on the shin of a guy who had cuts all over his body. It only needed a few stitches, and while it wasn’t easy (skin is tougher than you’d expect!), it wasn’t all that difficult either. They generally don’t do cosmetic stitches here, so the stitches I did were very simple ones – stick the needle through on both sides of the wound, then tie thoroughly. And, since they don’t keep the sutures sterile themselves when stitching, I didn’t have to either (I don’t know how, so I couldn’t, even if I wanted to). I look forward to learning that when I am back in Denmark, though. Anyway, during the night shift, Alex is at the injection room and I am left with a young guy (a medical student I think), who suddenly looks at me and asks if I know how to stitch and can take a patient by myself to stitch up (at this point we had maybe six people sitting outside the door waiting to get treatment, and he was the only one working). I say that yes, I’ve tried stitching once, but it would probably depend on the location of the wound. He says it’s on the back of the hand, and a pretty small cut. No problem I think, and the patient comes in. The thing is, that the wound he was talking about was simple enough, but the patient also has a wound between two fingers that needs stitching – and the middle finger is broken as well, so stitching the wound causes a lot of pain as I have to spread his fingers. I of course give him a lot of anesthesia and do my best. I somehow manage to get the wound between the fingers stitched up with to stitches, and then ask the young guy if it looks okay. Luckily, he says I did fine.

After that, I end up getting my own patients for the rest of the night, mainly for stitching. The most difficult one was a flap of skin/meat where most of the eyebrow was just hanging loosely. The guy had been brought in by the police who said he had been in an accident – he seemed very disoriented, and kept trying to turn over to lie on his side instead of his back, making the work even more difficult. The wound might have taken seven stitches or more, I do not remember. There were also more knife/stab wounds, one on the top of the head for instance – it was pretty long, but also a very clean cut and not too deep, so it only needed three stitches. There were also two open factures to the shin: flashback – myself when I was just 11 years old. However, the treatment I got was much, much better of course. In Mwananyamala Hospital they don’t even have the resources to deal with open fractures, so what they do is simply to fixate the leg using… wait for it… pieces of cardboard boxes wrapped with a bandage! Then they transfer the patient to a bigger hospital that can do orthopedic surgeries.


During my time at the hospital I’ve only had two encounters with actual death. I’ve seen patients on the verge of dying; thinking they might not last the night, or the next two hours, but only twice have I seen actual death up close. The first time was a Friday coming into work as one of the only volunteers – the others were doing a medical outreach, but I had decided to skip out on that to get a chance to do some extra work at the hospital when no other volunteers were around (that was the day I stitched up my first patient). As I entered the door to the minor theatre, the corpse of a guy was already lying on a stretcher in the already small and cramped room. He was mostly covered with a sheet, but it was still easy to see that it was a corpse lying there. I asked if it was okay to take a look, and it was. The man was already turning quite cold, but rigor mortis (stiffness of the limbs after death) hadn’t set in yet, so he hadn’t been there more than an hour or two. He had died in a motorcycle accident from a deep cut to the head, and had already been dead when he was brought in to the hospital.

The second time was last Thursday. A guy came in after an accident, also with a serious head wound – supposedly he had fallen off a roof. He was still breathing though, and had a pulse so strong that you could actually see the artery in his neck pulsating. It seemed that all the blood was collecting at the head, though, so I thought already as he came in that he might not make it. He was completely unconscious, his pupils not responding to light at all. I imagine there was swelling of the brain and probably brain damage. The staff at the hospital rushed to place an IV to give him some fluids (that is all they can do – they don’t have blood around for transfusions either), but mere seconds after the IV was placed, the artery I was looking at stopped pulsating and the patient stopped breathing. He was dead. The staff took it quite relaxed – they had clearly expected it, and did not attempt to resuscitate him (I admit that it did seem hopeless, but in Denmark you wouldn’t just give up like that. However, they didn’t have the means to help him here, so it was really up to his own body if it was going to keep him alive or not). It was disturbing to see in a way, mostly because it is the first person I see someone die. It was not too bad, because I never saw any other life signs from him than his pulse – he hadn’t moved, spoken, or shown any other signs of being alive. However, it did make me think through the fact that it could be anyone in that position – me, or somebody I love – that suddenly is involved in an accident, have a heart attack, a stroke, or something else entirely – and dies. We all think we’re going to have tomorrow, that we’re going to live another day, another month, another year – and fail to realize that some of us don’t. Some of us leave before we should, some die for one reason or the other. Of course you shouldn’t live your life in fear of dying. But I think I would like to get better at realizing that you never know when it is your time to go, or one of your loved ones. I would like to get better at living in the moment, not thinking of the past or the future too much, but enjoying what I have right now. Now don’t expect me to be a completely changed person and all poetic – I’m not talking drastic changes, I’m just talking about enjoying my life more. The experience is already fading from my memory in truth, but it did make me reflect a bit about life and death, and I think that is a healthy thing.


Okay, let’s turn this depressing subject around and talk about something else than death; and what could be better than it’s counterpart: life! I’ve also spent to days at the labor ward and witnessed a total of four births. Three of the babies were pulled from the mother using suction – they only give the women 15 minutes to push here, no matter if it is a mother’s first time or fifth time to give birth. The fourth and last baby was born completely naturally though, no suction, only pushing and the baby coming out by itself. While I did find it to be fascinating in a way, I do not intend to go that way when studying medicine. The screaming women and children were a little more than I’d be able to handle day in and day out. That being said, I am very happy I got to go there and experience new life being brought into this world – but let me tell you; while the concept of giving birth and bringing new life into the world seems a beautiful thing, the process is far from beautiful! There is loads of blood, loads of pain and loads of stools – when giving birth, a woman needs to push about the same way as when pushing out a turd on the toilet. In Denmark they often make sure the colon is empty so that won’t happen, but here the woman will often be pushing out stools as the baby comes out. Supposedly, that is actually the best thing to do; to not have the colon emptied beforehand. Anyway, as I said, the process is not beautiful – but seeing a newborn baby and hearing the first scream, the first sign of a living, healthy baby, is something special I’ll admit – and makes it worth bearing with the rest to witness it at least once.



Other than that, I’ve learned to place an IV as well. Took me a few tries the first time, but the second time I managed on first try. I also learned how to place a urine catheter; although the way they do it here, it’s a miracle that everyone doesn’t have urinary tract infections. They just take the whole thing out, grab it by the hand (with gloves, but not sterile ones), put gel on it and stick it in. Even if they have problems and have to take it out, they keep using the same one. It’s pretty crazy, and nowhere near a sterile procedure. Anyway, I’ve learned how to place it – the sterility will have to wait for when I start studying. The patients are generally quite thankful that we help, but the people here don’t look at locals the same way they did in the Philippines. In the Philippines we’d get a lot of appreciation and sometimes they’d even give us gifts such as fruits when we were working as a thank you. Here some of the doctors and nurses really dislike us. Maybe it’s because we come trying to take their job. Maybe it’s because the medical students who know about things such as sterility try to correct them and come off as ‘thinking they know better’, or maybe they just don’t want us wandering around the hospital. That being said there are also a lot of nice doctors and nurses that are more than willing to teach you new things – you just have to look for them and be polite and friendly, then you’ll make friends in the hospital in no time.


Cyst removal :)



Minor threatre


It is now Monday, as I didn’t finish the blog last night. I was actually supposed to go to the hospital today, but there was no power in the house during the night meaning no fan and too hot to sleep, so I’ve decided to stay home and start packing and sorting my things – for Zanzibar, for going home, and for donating. I also need to wash all my clothes. Tomorrow is going to be my last day at the hospital, so I’ll have to go there and say goodbye.

My last few days in Tanzania will, as mentioned, be spent in Zanzibar where I’m going to get my Advanced Open Water diving license! I’m going there with two girls and maybe a guy, all other volunteers, but I’ll probably be the only one diving. I don’t mind though, as it should be a lot of fun anyway, and I will still have some time off to spend with the others.


Regardless, this has been an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve had an amazing time both in the Philippines and in Tanzania, and I wish I could’ve stayed longer both places. However, I also want to go home to my family and friends during Christmas, and while I don’t miss the cold in Denmark, I do miss the people I love, and look very much forward to seeing them again. Will I be returning to the Philippines? Probably. Will I be returning to Tanzania? Probably. Will it be as a volunteer? I have no idea. There is so much left to see in both countries, and I definitely want to return and climb the Kilimanjaro one day! I’ll definitely also be dropping by my host family to say hello when I do return. I have visited to very different countries, although there are a few similarities (but not many at all! Of course they also have a few similarities even to Denmark), and I have fallen in love with both countries, each in its own way. The work can be frustrating at times, but very rewarding at other times. In the end, I think it’s all worth it, and an experience I am very happy with and wouldn’t want to be without it. While I wouldn’t consider myself a changed person from the experience, it does give some new perspective to life – how some people live every day with close to nothing while we in western countries have everything we could ever need and more.


I can’t say I’m looking forward to the cold weather in Denmark at this time of year, but seeing my friends and family will definitely make it worth it – and truth be told, the heat here can actually be quite overpowering, since the humidity is high as well. This means that just by walking around during the day you’re going to be drenched and dripping with sweat. But first comes Zanzibar, I’ll worry about the cold when I’m seated on the plane at midnight between Sunday and Monday!

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Just a week to go: flying home for Christmas
Just a week to go: flying home for Christmas

Leaving the Philippines today - a new adventure begins in Tanzania   (published in Philippines)

October 27, 2015 by   Comments(0)

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Last update from the Philippines, leaving the country at 8pm! Tanzania, here I come.


One adventure is over; another one begins

So I am currently sitting at the rooftop pool of The Bellavista Hotel near the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. I have already checked in online and I’m just waiting until 6pm where I have a free transfer from the hotel to the airport. It’s nice to have some time to reflect on things before leaving. My feelings right now are completely mixed, and almost impossible to tell apart. I am so happy that I decided to go as a volunteer, and I am absolutely in love with the Philippines, so my only regret is that I cannot stay for longer. This is also why I am so sad that I am now leaving. I feel like I just got here, even though I have been here for 8 weeks. Time has flown by, people have come and left, and now it is my turn to leave. However, I am lucky that a new adventure awaits in Tanzania where I am placed on the medical project and will be working in the Mwananyamala Regional Hospital for another 8 weeks. It will mostly be observing as I have no medical experience, but hopefully I will be able to learn a lot and over time get more responsibility. While I look forward to it and feel excited, right now the sadness of leaving is the most overwhelming feeling. However, I expect that as soon as I am on the plane and nearing my destination, sadness will turn to excitement. Luckily, another Danish volunteer, Ida, who is currently working on the Public Health project in the Philippines, has already been there and worked on the same project, so I know a little about it already. According to her, the country, the people, and the work are all amazing. I only hope that it is half as nice as it was here in the Philippines that will be plenty to make me happy.



So, what was the best part of this experience, I’ve been thinking. What I thought would be the best part before I left, was the volunteer work and the weekend travels. While that is also partially true, the one thing that binds the whole experience together to make it absolutely amazing is the people.  The host family, the Projects Abroad staff, and of course the other volunteers – all the friendly and kindhearted people you meet during the project are the ones that make the experience really worth it! And of course also the locals thanking you for the work you’re doing, thanking you for helping their country when it is in need, whether the help is building houses or giving out lifestyle advice.


I love the way all the volunteers get together and become friends regardless of gender, nationality, beliefs, age, and all the other things that can put people into separated groups. Everybody talks to each other, everybody is nice to each other, and often all the volunteers will go together on the weekend trips. A good thing as well is that as soon as it is not summer break, there aren’t a lot of volunteers in the Philippines. Don’t get me wrong here, of course it would be best for the projects if a lot of people volunteered – what I mean is that with only a handful of volunteers, the conditions for socializing with everyone becomes optimal – nobody gets left out, and people don’t split into a lot of small groups based on nationality or age or project for that matter.


When I arrived, I felt that my project was really lacking some structure – it still does, but I feel like it is improving, and while I don’t feel like I have made a huge difference in the community with the work I’ve been doing, I do feel like I have made a difference on the actual project, helping to improve it – although it is still a work in progress that needs further improvement. I hope and I believe that current and future volunteers will make it even better, to optimize it to a point where you actually see the impact you make on the local community. It is quite a relief for me to realize that all my work hasn’t been for nothing, because at one point during the project, I actually feared just that. However, it was more of an “in the current moment” feeling, where I hadn’t yet reflected on what I’d been doing. There still tends to be too many untied ends in the form of unfinished ideas, flyers, presentations, etc. that would all be great additions to the work if they were finished and actually used.



Weekend travels

Enough of the reflections for now – let’s talk about the fun stuff: the last weekends!


Since my last blog post I have been to Hagnaya Beach Resort, Malapascua (yes, we went back to paradise!), and Bohol.




In the weekend where we went to Hagnaya I had actually planned to go to Bohol with Niels. As I wasn’t able to sleep more than a few hours each night that week, I eventually ended up staying near Bogo instead, letting Niels go alone to Bohol (which he luckily didn’t mind). Hagnaya Beach Resort is sort of a small paradise 30 minutes away from Bogo City. You can go there by bus+trike, bus+transfer, or just by trike. If you do one of the two first options, you will be taking the bus to Hagnaya Port (the port where you get the ferry to Bantayan Island). From there you can take a trike to the resort, or if you book rooms in advance, the resort can arrange free transfer from the port and to the resort. We used the third option, which is simply getting a trike all the way there. We went to the bus terminal to catch a bus to the port, but a trike driver quickly approached and asked where we were going, and since he was willing to take us we decided to just let him take us there instead of waiting.

The resort has nice rooms – the standard room has aircon, minibar (fridge), water kettle, and hot water showers. It also has a really nice restaurant with amazing food. If you’re here and just want a quick getaway to relax, Hagnaya is really the place to go. Oh by the way, did I even mention the swimming pool? It has a lovely swimming pool, however it has waterslides at both ends, so if you don’t want kids at the pool, you might want to find something different. It wasn’t a problem though, as the kids weren’t even as noisy as you might think.





The weekend after we went back to Malapascua – I left earlier than everyone else because I wanted to get a diving license. I went there after lunch Friday and arrived in the afternoon. I ended up taking a jeepney (yay, my first jeepney-trip!) to Maya Port because three busses had come and went already but none of them going as far north as Maya Port. It took about an extra half hour and got a little cramped because a lot of the locals go to the market in Bogo to buy groceries and then bring them home on the jeepney. When I arrived in Malapascua, I went straight to the dive center where my instructor, Max, gave me 5 videos ranging from 30-60 minutes length each and told me that I had to watch the first three before the next day at 8.30. Luckily, the videos only covered the information from the diving manual, most of which I had already read before coming there. The next day I went to practice the dive skills with Max and a Swedish guy, Jens, who was becoming a Divemaster. Most of the day we simply did confined water sessions (skill practice on shallow water), although we did do one actual dive. Sunday consisted of just one confined water session and then two dives, whereas most of the last dive was without any skill practice but simply diving for fun. This means that I can now officially call myself a certified Open Water Scuba Diver! I also got a free 'Shark Bite Shot' to celebrate. Yay :)


At the time we were there, a typhoon, Koppu, that hit the Philippines farther north. We still got caught in the edge though, making the waters just rough enough that there were no boats leaving the Island on Sunday. At first, we thought this gave me the chance to study the Deep Dive skills and go see the thresher sharks the following morning. However, that was also cancelled because of the weather. We were still able to go back to the mainland Monday though, so I never got to dive with the sharks.  Who knows, maybe I’ll come back someday to experience it!



The weekend that has just ended was spent in Bohol. I took both Thursday and Friday off, as I had not taken any early leave days (we’re allowed to take one for every two weeks we’re on the project) to go with the others. Most went to Cebu early Thursday morning to do their visa extensions, while Pernille (a new Danish volunteers – we were four before I left!) stayed behind and left around noon instead. We all met up in Bohol, on the small Island of Panglao where Alona Beach is located. We stayed at Alona Tropical Beach resort where we were able to get 30 % off because we’re volunteers. On Thursday we didn’t really do much other than going out to eat dinner together and arranging the Friday’s trip.

On Friday we went on a boat trip – first to Virgin Island, then to Balicasag Island where everybody except from me went snorkeling – I went diving instead. I was pretty disappointed though – not because of the actual dive, which was amazing – so many beautiful fish! However, the others went snorkeling with sea turtles, and when we arranged it I asked if I could go dive with sea turtles instead. I was told yes, sure, but when I talked to the divemaster I was told that where we would be diving there was no sea turtles – what the hell! Anyway, the day was still amazing. We had lunch after the diving and snorkeling, and bought some overpriced souvenirs from the locals :)



Then we went back to the beach and went to the resort’s small but lovely swimming pool for a while. We eventually got out, and while the others decided to do other things (walking/shopping on the beach, relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean, etc.) I decided to go get a 1-hour full body massage for P500. Normal price is 350 for a regular massage, but because I had a stiff neck after sleeping in a bad position (probably), I went for a special massage, which was amazing! It included reflexology (Danish: zoneterapi), which I’ve never had before, and I actually found it to be quite nice! The massage lady also focused a lot on my neck/shoulders because I mentioned the stiff neck, and while it didn’t help much initially, I went back and got another on Saturday that almost completely fixed it! Today, Monday, I can still feel it slightly, however it is not bothering me anymore at all, as no regular head movements cause any pain anymore. Friday evening we found a restaurant where we could sit and eat on the beach. Most, if not all of us were pretty disappointed with the food. However we had first class seats to see the amazing fire show that took place on the beach.



On Saturday, we went on a ‘road trip’ in Bohol, seeing most of the main sights. We first went to see the Tarsiers (Danish: spøgelsesaber). They are supposedly the world’s smallest primates – many people call them the world’s smallest monkeys. However, that is wrong, as they aren’t actually monkeys, but in a lone family. I haven’t yet decided if I think they’re cute, ugly, or both. Then we went to the chocolate hills – it’s possible to ride ATV’s there, but as I was the only one wanting to do that, we skipped over that part and went to the lookout. In Bohol there was an earthquake in 2013, and the lookout is one of the places you can see has been damaged by the earthquake. The view of the chocolate hills is amazing though, and it is nearly impossible to believe that they are not made my man.


Then we went to see a 2km long manmade forest of mahogany trees, which has taken a lot of work to create. Then came zip lining 120 meters above the Loboc River – what a rush! Then we went down to the river for the Loboc River Cruise, which means a lunch buffet on a boat, cruising down the river with live music and entertainment along the way. That was definitely also a lovely experience. Afterwards we went to see some big snakes and then went on to the oldest church in the Philippines – the church was closed, however, as it was severely damaged by the 2013 earthquake and was still being repaired.


Last we went to a monument of the Sandugo, a blood compact between the Spanish and Bohol, which is considered the treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and the Filipinos. The word Sandugo is visayan (dialect) for ‘one blood’.



On Sunday we didn’t do much other than relaxing – I went for a walk on the beach that ended up being quite expensive, as I bought a dive computer, a mask, and a snorkel in a dive shop for a total of P21.500 or around 3100 DKK. The original price of just the computer, however, was P22.450, so I was able to get what I believe is a decent price for all three items. Who knows, in Zanzibar I might buy more equipment, as I plan to donate most of my clothes in Tanzania, which should create some extra space in my suitcase. At 2pm we took the ferry back to Cebu, and from there we said goodbye and the other volunteers went back to Bogo while I went to Mactan Island (where the airport is placed) to find my hotel for my last night in the Philippines. And here I am, writing another long blog post, which is fortunately ending now.



To all the amazing people I’ve met in the Philippines, I will miss you, and I wish you all the very best in the future! I hope we will meet again someday, but if not then I am very grateful to have met each and every one of you.


To the people in Tanzania: I’m almost on my way, and I am looking very much forward to meeting you! I hope to have an amazing experience with you as well, and to learn about and experience the Tanzanian culture.



Thank you for everything, Philippines – may we meet again soon!



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Leaving the Philippines today - a new adventure begins in Tanzania
Leaving the Philippines today - a new adventure begins in Tanzania

Wow – time flies!   (published in Philippines)

October 7, 2015 by   Comments(0)

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What just happened? Monday I realized that I only have three weeks left here in the Philippines. In one way I feel like I’ve been here for ages with all that I’ve experienced in such a short time, yet I also feel like I’ve just arrived here and I really do not want to leave yet!


In this post I’m going to talk more about the culture and the city I live in, Bogo City. First I’ll just catch up with the rest of the long weekend after going to Oslob, and also the last weekend where we went to Malapascua. For your information I expect that, like the other posts, this will be quite long. So now you are warned, that if you want to read everything, you might want to put aside a bit of time.


The last two weekends
So I already told you about Bohol where we went swimming with whalesharks and about Mainit hot springs where we went afterwards. Here’s a quick picture of the whaleshark swimming! I'm on the right.




In the evening we took the bus back to Cebu City. We walked to a hotel near the southern bus terminal called GV Tower Hotel (GV an abbreviation for Great Value). They only had deluxe rooms available (meaning hot water, TV, your own terrace, and two single beds). We ended up staying there for two nights, from Friday to Sunday. On Saturday we went out to look at all the things there is to see in Cebu. We used a guide found online to get to the most interesting sites in Cebu, including San Pedro Fort, some churches, and a temple. In the evening we decided to go to Radisson Blu Hotel to have dinner at their buffet. The buffet was 1050 pesos which is very expensive for Filipino pricing – however it’s only around 150 DKK, so still cheap for a buffet including a huge variety of food, both western and Filipino. It also had sushi and a huge dessert table including a chocolate fountain, a cupcake Ferris wheel, homemade ice cream, and a lot more. After dinner we decided to go out. However, when looking for bars and nightclubs to go to in Cebu DO NOT trust the internet! We first tried to go to one place Niels found online, however the taxi driver couldn’t find it and apparently it had closed a few months before. Then we tried going somewhere called outpost – when we arrived, it was no longer called Outpost but something different. We stayed there for a drink, and then went on to Mango Square, which is a place consisting of bars/nightclubs. We went in a nightclub there, and stayed for the rest of the night. Apparently there were a lot of Koreans in said nightclub who were all studying in Cebu. The next day we got up, checked out of the hotel, and went to the SM City Mall just to see it, since it is the largest mall in Cebu. Then we got a taxi to the northern bus terminal and went back to Bogo.


During the next week, a total of three new volunteers arrived over two days. Two of them, Joan and Jess, come from the United Kingdom (Joan is from the Channel Islands located near France) and the third, Lea, is from Denmark. That means I’ve had my first face-to-face Danish conversations in a month, and I really feel like I’ve forgotten how to speak Danish by now – I even think in English!

Anyway, since Cait had taken Thursday as her visa extension day and Friday as an early leave day to go to Bohol, the five of us (Joan, Jess, Lea, Niels, and myself) decided to go to Malapascua since it is nearby. We went early on Saturday and were there as early as 10am. We checked in to Cocobana resort and then spent the rest of the day relaxing at the pool or the beach, except that we, Joan excluded, tried to walk around the Island (it should take 2-3 hours). We walked the length of the Island and then eventually gave up and turned back because it was getting dark, and the walk had a lot more detours through villages than we expected it would have. We also had the company of a dog for a long part of the walk. We decided to name him Oscar after Oscar Wilde.


Resting with Oscar on our walk

Relaxing in the water at the beach - picture borrowed from Jess


The Island is known for the lovely beaches, but even more for the diving spots – if you have a full diving license you will be able to dive down and see thresher sharks! On Sunday, Lea and I went on our first ever dive, arranged through Thesher Shark Divers, who can be highly recommended. Our instructor, an English guy named Jason, was great. He was professional, patient and showed us all the things there were to see on our first dive. I am currently considering going back there to get a PADI Open Water Diving license/certificate. While we were diving, the three others went snorkeling around the Island, which apparently also was a great experience, so if you’re not into diving, snorkeling could also be a great choice.



Right after our very first dive with our instructor, Jason


Bogo City

So since I’ve been here for some time now, I suppose it is time to actually tell you about the city that I live in. I think I’ve already mentioned a bit, but I’m going to tell a bit more now. I live in Bogo City, located on Cebu Island. It is far up north, around a 3-hour drive from Cebu City. I was completely exhausted the first time I took the trip from Cebu to Bogo, so I didn’t pay much attention to the landscape. However, what I’ve realized later, is something that Lea, the new Danish volunteer, has managed to notice on her first trip here. She has written about it on her own blog, and I really think her description is great – however, it is in Danish, so I can’t quote her entirely, but my description is inspired by hers. The fact is, though, that the further north you come, you put the big city and the stressful life and close traffic behind you. The large buildings and small streets are replaced with a beautiful landscape. You see large fields everywhere, and sugar cane plantation is probably the most common you’ll see. There are also palm trees, banana trees, mango trees and a lot of other plantation that won’t grow in the western world! While I often bring a book to read on the bus, I tend to end up looking out the window for most of the trip instead. On the side of the road there are plenty of small shops and vendors selling food, fruits, snacks, water, and maybe ‘load’ for your phone. The busses also let vendors on to the busses, selling some sort of snack (pork chops, crackers, cake, etc.) or if you’re in Cebu City also cold water or ice tea.


Bogo in itself isn’t very large. It consists of 29 barangays (districts) whereas I am placed in Gairan [pronouncation: Ga-i-ran]. We are currently four volunteers in Gairan and another two are placed in Taytayan. I cannot remember which barangay Ariane is placed in though, but I recall it being somewhere different than the rest of us.

For me, everything I need is within walking distance. It takes me 15-20 minutes to walk into “town”, meaning the area with all the important things - Gaisano Mall, Jolibee, the Plaza, restaurants (Capitancillo and Pizza Point are the ones we usually go to), post office, and the gym. I am only 5-10 minutes walk from the Super Metro, which is even larger and better than the Gaisano Mall – also, they have Danish butter cookies!

I am probably 30-40 minutes walk from the Projects Abroad office, but since we are taken to work and back home by the projects abroad drivers, Randy and Romeo, I haven’t yet tried walking to or from the office.

The traffic here is crazy – but nothing like in Cebu City! However, in general there seems to be a crazy road hierarchy here in the Philippines where the bigger you are, the more powerful you are. This means busses drive like crazy. There are no traffic lights and only few traffic laws/rules that needs to be obeyed. No helmets or safety gear on motorcycles for example. Sometimes you just have to walk and trust that the trikes and/or cars won’t hit you. It tends to be the person going first that gets the right of way, nothing else. It took me some time to get used to, but by now I feel like I can move around in the city without any problems. I still wouldn’t dare to drive here though, at least not in a car – a small motorcycle, maybe. Taking a trike is 8 pesos and only just over 1 DKK. You can get anywhere in Bogo City for 10 pesos, so transport is ridiculously cheap – yet still I like to walk around instead of taking trikes.

The trikes, or tricycles, are small motorcycles with a small resemblance to the rickshaws/tuk-tuks in Africa. They are built with a sidecar and can fit up to six people (or more, if people stand on the back/side or sit on top of each other) – usually four in the sidecar and two on the driver’s seat on the actual motorcycle.



People are also really polite here, and a lot of places such as restaurants (especially Capitancillo) there will be someone, typically a sort of guard, posted at the door who opens the door for you. They also use a lot of titles here, and I have been called “sir” and “Mr. Tobias” a lot of times, which is very hard to get used to. Gabrile, my supervisor, called me Mr. Tobias the first week at least, but has automatically changed to calling me “Tob” instead, which I like a lot better. The whole formality thing is not something I can get used to, but I’m able to accept it since it is part of the culture here. The drivers, especially Randy, will always call me “sir” though.


Another funny thing about the culture here, and apparently in Asia in general, is their obsession with white people/white skin. Some Filipinos seem to find white people superior, and they love the white skin. They sell a lot of cremes, soaps, etc. with whitening effects, so whenever you go buy a lotion or soap, make sure you don’t buy whitening one!

The ironic part of this is how white people come to a tropical country like this to go sunbathing and get tan, so we want darker skin. It seems that you always want what you don’t have! Africa seems to be the exception though, as I have never heard of African people wanting to have white skin.


Also, they love music here in the Philippines, and they especially love singing. They do a lot of karaoke/videoke here. It’s fun to watch and listen to, although some places it can go on all night and really disturbs your sleep. While I do not participate as I don’t want to cause people’s ears to bleed, I respect this part of the culture as almost anyone will sing, regardless of them being good singers or not – the practice, however, means that none of them are nearly as bad as I personally am.


My host family and house

I just realized that I haven’t yet told you anything about my host family – how rude of me! Whereas most of the volunteers live with large host families who have children, my host family is very different. My host family only consists of three people; my host dad Genesis, his mother Casilda, and his niece (as far as I understand), Mirasol. Mirasol, or Sol, is mainly there as a sort of househelper. She spends most of her day taking care of Casilda, as she is very old compared to the average age here, and therefore also somewhat weak. She can, however, still walk by herself, and she is generally in good health.

I live with them in a very nice, and quite western-style house. It also has a bathroom (or comfort room as they’re called here) with a western-style toilet, a sink, and a good shower. There’s running water, but it is cold water only. I really thought I’d hate taking cold showers, but with the heat and humidity here I actually find them nice and refreshing – especially right after a workout.

I do my workouts in a small gym called R&F Fitness, and while it lacks what would be basic equipment in Denmark, such as Olympic barbells, it is still better than the gym I went to at first. During the induction you’ll be taken to a small gym on the wharf, which is simply way too small and cramped to get a good workout, and it has no squat rack whatsoever (there’s a smith machine, but I refuse to use those for squats). If you do come here and want to workout, go to the R&F gym instead. Or if you’re female and live in Taytayan you can use the new women’s only gym there – for obvious reasons I haven’t seen it from the inside, but it might be worth checking out for anyone interested. I’ve never tried sweating as much during workouts as I do here, and after a leg workout I will be able to squeeze a good half liter of water out of my t-shirt – I haven’t measured, but I have a video where I squeeze water out of my t-shirt, and it’s actually quite a lot. I go to the gym 3-4 times per week, meaning that unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to socialize with the family. This is also because they like to make me eat alone before them, and when they’re finished eating it’s almost time to go to bed anyway. I don’t like that, and I’ve had some discussion with Genesis about it, and while I would still like to just eat with the family, the arrangement now is that Genesis often eats with me before the rest of the family, and sometimes I eat alone. I always eat breakfast alone, but I don’t mind as I get up later than they do, and I’ve always had my breakfast by myself.


I also get my clothes washed every weekend. I pay P200 (around 28 DKK) and can have all the clothes I want washed – including towels, linen, etc. I was surprised the first time I had my clothes back after they’d been washed, because they’ve never felt so nice! They’re hand washed AND ironed! I’ve never had my clothes ironed before, but I love that they are ironed here.


I think this is my longest post so far, and the thing is; I still have lots I want to tell, it’s insane. I have to stop this post now though, as I realize that people can’t spend all day reading, even if I can easily spend all day talking about it.


I hope everyone at home is well, and while I look forward to seeing you again, I wish I could just bring all you guys here instead of coming back to Denmark!


Until next time!

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Wow – time flies!
Wow – time flies!

3 weeks since arrival – status update, weekends, work, and thoughts   (published in Philippines)

September 25, 2015 by   Comments(0)

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Hello to anyone reading the blog! It’s been almost two weeks since I last uploaded a post on the blog, so I figured it’s about time to give you guys another update. First of all, I’d like to announce that I’m doing well (in case anyone is worried or wondering – don’t know why they would be, though) – I have been in good health, and while my blood pressure was a little high after I arrived (likely due to the stress right before leaving), it is now back to normal, and I haven’t had any health problems. I consider myself lucky for that, since it seems to be common that people catch something relatively soon after coming here, or get stomach problems from the food, etc.


Also, I’d like to give a special “tribute” to two people – Peter, my friend home in Denmark, and Dorothy, another volunteer (from Australia) here in the Philippines who is unfortunately leaving this Sunday after having extended her project twice. Both of them have read the blog and actually asked when the next post would be up because they wanted to read about it – so here you are guys, this is for you!


To be honest there is so much I want to tell you all that I really don’t know where to begin, and when I get started I fear it’ll be hard to stop myself. I’ve been taking notes on my phone about things I want to write about and by now I have a long list, so I’ll just go over some of the things. I’ll talk about my last two weekends, and also what I’m doing this weekend, and then I’ll talk some more about the work – both my own project and another project I’ve visited twice now. I’ll probably be talking a bit about culture as well, but in the next post I plan to write specifically about the culture, the local area and other things.


Second weekend – Kawasan Falls

In my second weekend I went to Kawasan Falls with three other volunteers and a previous volunteer, Linda, who came back to do more work, just not through Projects Abroad. We left Saturday morning and arrived at the falls later the same day. We went and got a hotel room that was pretty large and where at least 10 people was allowed to stay (beds+matrasses for 8) even if we were only 5, since the room one size smaller only had two double beds meaning 4 people. We stayed at the hotel for the entire evening. The hotel is placed right next to a waterfall, and that’s where we spent the entire evening. First we went in the water, then spent the evening at the tables next to it; eating dinner and drinking beer.


The next day, Sunday, we went canyoneering before going home. This means climbing and jumping off of cliffs and waterfalls. The heights meant I had to gather courage once or twice before jumping, but I am proud to say that I did make every jump I was presented to. The best one was probably the last, which is the actual Kawasan Falls, where you jump from the top of the actual waterfall and then go straight on land to get lunch (since we ordered lunch at the falls). All in all it was an amazing experience, and since we actually contacted the guide in Visayan, we ‘accidentally’ got the whole experience at local price (foreigners are charged extra). Our guide was great as well. Niels, a Dutch volunteer, forgot his shoes at the waterfall the first evening, and after we left, our guide, Michael, managed to track down the shoes and is now shipping them to Niels. So to anyone considering visiting the Philippines and the Cebu Island – if you go to the Kawasan Falls, request Michael as tour guide!


Third weekend – staying in Bogo, watching a cockfight

So, last weekend the two DR volunteers, Dorothy and Caitlin, decided they wanted to go somewhere individually, just to relax. This meant that Niels and I ended up staying in Bogo, just to relax. It also meant that we both got to experience a local cockfight – Niels went on Saturday, I went on Sunday. Niels ended up losing 300 pesos (around 45 DKK) and I ended up winning 100 pesos (around 15 DKK). I have the Projects Abroad driver, Randy, to thank for my winnings though, since he took care of the betting for me.

The cockfight was, to say the least, different. If you are able to put the whole ‘animal abuse’ theme away and just experience it as a local event, regardless of the laws you’re used to, then it is definitely worth the experience. Before the fight, the cocks are shown to the audience so that they can decide which cock the want to bet on. They’re also allowed to beck at each other while one’s head is held in place so that they will be ready to fight. The cocks have razor blades attaches to their feet that oftentimes mean a short fight, since one cock randomly cuts the other one at a fatal spot. While I found the cockfight relatively interesting, it is not something that I wish is going to spread to other countries. That being said, since it is Filipino culture, I wouldn’t ask for it to be illegalized here either. A lot of foreigners (us) find the fights disturbing and some have a really hard time watching it, but the Filipinos usually just shake their heads and doesn’t understand why we fuss so much about it.


Fourth and current weekend – visa extension, swimming with whalesharks in Oslob and more
So, the current weekend is actually twice as long as regular weekends, at least for Niels (Dutch volunteer) and I. On Thursday we both went to Cebu to have our visas extended since the initial visa stamp only lasts for a month. Since we are volunteers it is free to extend though, since we get a ‘gratis visa’ that allows us to stay for longer. The ride to Cebu is 3 hours by bus, but luckily there are aircon busses and even if they’re more expensive than non-aircon busses they’re still cheap. From the bus station we took a taxi to the J Centre Mall where the immigration office is located, and the taxi fare (minimum fare is 40 pesos) cost us around 80 pesos which is equal to about 11,50 DKK or 1,50 EUR. The visa extension went pretty smoothly. It was about 2-2,5 hours total including filling out the request form and waiting for it to be approved.

After the visa extension we got a bite to eat at the mall’s Jollibee (basically their equivalent to McDonald’s – they’re everywhere) and then continued to the southern bus terminal and got a bus to Oslob which was another 3,5 hour ride in a bus. The long bus rides get a little hard because of the bumpy roads the fact that the horn is constantly used to warn other vehicles or people on foot. The seats are decent in the aircon busses though, while the ones in non-aircon tend to be horrible and way too small. We eventually arrived and had a pleasant surprise because someone was actually waiting for us there – we had booked rooms in advance at a small, local place called New Village Lodge (which, while it is nothing fancy, actually has the fastest wi-fi I’ve encountered here in the Philippines so far!). We were guided to the place, shown our room, packed out and went for dinner at a local ‘restaurant’ that had karaoke. We stayed there a few hours, drank a few beers, and then went back to our room and went to sleep.

We woke up today, Friday, at 5.15 am because we were going to swim/snorkel with the whalesharks (that’s what Oslob is known for in regards to tourism). We got there and rented an underwater camera, went a little out from shore and jumped in the water to see plenty of whalesharks around us. While we were asked to keep a distance of 4-5 meters, they tend to get a lot closer and at one point one came right behind me, closer than 1 meter – that incident was actually caught on camera! They are very large animals and having them so close is a bit of a surreal experience. The locals feed them with small shrimp, which is why they come to the area every day. We were in the water for about half an hour, yet the guide who had the camera actually managed to snap more than 350 pictures! He also did this thing where he dived to the bottom and then blew rings of air, just like you can do with smoke, and then swam up through them. He took a few photos of the air rings – it looked like this:


After the whalesharks we went back to the lodge and had breakfast. We were supposed to go to the Tumalog falls after breakfast, but since it is raining, we are currently just sitting on standby since we don’t feel like going if the weather is too bad. We’d also like to experience the Mainit hot springs in Malabuyoc, and figure that they might actually be nice even when it is raining. Right now the time is 9:50 am here and we are still trying to decide.

Either this afternoon/evening or tomorrow morning we will go back to Cebu and stay there tomorrow to see what the Island’s main city has to offer. You’ll probably hear more about that in the next blog post.


Work: public health update, CHO, and disaster relief
So, the work has been pretty good. It is still a lot of the same, and last time I said I was going to suggest some changes – I haven’t really had a chance yet, since we’ve had some public holidays (yesterday included) , and I have spent one day at the CHO – City Health Office, and two days at the DR (Disaster Relief) site.
We’ve still been doing our screenings, but so far we haven’t done any sort of reviewing the screenings, so next week I plan to talk to my project supervisor, Gab, about that. If we never review them or use the data, then the whole survey form seems sort of irrelevant, and a waste of time. When that is said, I’ve seen a better response from the locals since last time. More people seems to take it seriously when we tell them that they suffer from something like hypertension or diabetes, or that they will eventually if they don’t change their lifestyles. So generally, the work is still nice, even though I’ll probably be doing DR once a week for variation.
This Monday is when we went to the CHO, and while it was nice to see another work environment, it was also pretty boring. In the morning I was told to check blood pressure on several patients, and that was fine, but when that was over, there was nothing left to do. I was told that I could go around and observe, and I did, but there weren’t many clients, so there wasn’t much to see. After lunch, one of the employees came and talked to me, and we talked for the rest of the day. He showed me how to draw blood and wanted to teach me, however there were never any clients to try it on. Only one came in to have blood drawn, and she was used as a demonstration. I got my blood type tested though, which confirmed that I am A- like I thought I was (I tested it in biology class once and got the same result).

I have been to DR twice now, first time was Friday last week, and second time was Wednesday this week. DR includes plenty of manual labor building houses – carrying planks and bricks, sawing, hammering, lifting, etc. It is also outside in the sun, meaning that you can’t avoid sweating a lot. I like it though, people are nice and friendly there, and the chance to do some physical work is great. There are currently 4 volunteers on DR. Dorothy from Australia who is leaving this Sunday, Cait from the US, and two new people who started on Wednesday; Zoe and Mike from Australia. Zoe and Mike will only be here for two weeks, meaning that they only have about 6 actual working days. There is another volunteer coming to DR soon though, and both Niels and I want to go once a week, so there should be enough people to do the work there. I do think they like their breaks too much at DR though. There are three breaks, and the lunch break tends to be 1.5-2 hours long to avoid the sun when it is worst. To me it feels like that just when you get started and you’re working at a nice pace, they stop for a break. That being said, I love the actual work there.


I think that’s about it for now. This post became a lot longer than I planned, but as I said, it is hard to limit myself because I feel like there’s so much to talk about. Everything is different here, and I experience a lot of things.

To the ones at home reading this: I miss you all, and I’m looking forward to seeing you at Christmas time!

Bye for now :)


UPDATE: we ended up going to the hot springs first, and they were really nice! The warmest spring was the one we went into, and it was 42,6 degrees Celsius, meaning it was actually almost a little burning at first – you got used to it after a few seconds though, and then it was really nice and relaxing! Afterwards we also went to the Tumalog falls – they were closed however, due to the weather, so we had to turn back and return to the lodge. The ride, especially to the hot springs, was crazy – but also pretty fun. We went on the back of motorcycles in hard rain and at some points went 70 km/h with no helmets or safety gear whatsoever. The ride back was the same, except the rain had stopped, actually making for a nice drive where you had time to enjoy the views.

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3 weeks since arrival – status update, weekends, work, and thoughts
3 weeks since arrival – status update, weekends, work, and thoughts

6 more weeks…   (published in Fiji)

September 21, 2015 by   Comments(3)

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I am going to Fiji in late October for 3 weeks to partake in the Shark Conservation project. I would love to hear from those who will be there at the same time as me - contact me via email - ! 

I have always wanted to particpate in a volunteer program but have never known where to go or for what cause (help kids or animals etc.). But recently, I went to Hawaii where I snorkelled with sandbar and galapagos sharks. It was an eye-opening, incredible experience that completely changed my perspective of sharks. The company was called One Ocean Diving (with Ocean Ramsey and Juan Oliphant) who informed us all about the problems sharks are currently facing and what measures are being taken to help. In that moment I knew I wanted to take action, so I did some research. I found that the Projects Abroad Shark Conservation program is one of the most renown programs, and the fact that it is in Fiji is an added bonus! I travelled to Fiji a years ago and fell in love with the island. A few days ago, I went to the Doctor to get vaccinations in preparation for my upcoming trip, and he is also a lover of diving, and showed me great footage of Beqa Lagoon. I hear this is where I will be headed in 6 weeks time... I couldn't be more exited! 

I have a passion for photography and am thrilled that I will have the opportunity to swim alongside bull and tiger sharks... I will not be forgetting my new underwater housing case! I went for a snorkel today to test out the camera... It was amazing!! 


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6 more weeks…
6 more weeks…

First week is over - the trip, first impressions, first weekend and first work week.   (published in Philippines)

September 14, 2015 by   Comments(0)

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So, it's finally happened. As I said in my first blog post, I arranged the whole trip on only a few weeks notice, so everything was really stressful and I barely even realized what was happening before I was actually here. Even though it's my first time traveling alone and also the first time I'm out of Denmark for more than a week, I didn't feel nervous at all at any point. It surprises me, because I usually get somewhat nervous when trying something new, and this I actually thought to be going quite a bit out of my comfort zone. Anyway, everything went as planned - except for the last flight from Manila to Cebu. I found out on the day that I left that my flight had been rescheduled to 4 am, so I had to wait at the airport for the entire night and 9.5 hours in total, meaning my travel time ended up at more than 28 hours from when I left Aalborg to when I arrived in Cebu. I slept a few hours on the plane from Denmark to Taipei (we had a stop there but got back on the same plane afterwards and went to Manila) and otherwise didn't sleep for the 28 hours, so I was exhausted when I finally arrived. I was supposed to stay the night at a local hotel but instead arrived at 5.15 am when life has already begun here in the Philippines, so no sleep for me. We waited until about 8 am where a Japanese volunteer who had arrived the night before and been more fortunate with her flights, got up and had breakfast. Then we left for Bogo City, which is where I live at the moment. It's about a 2.5 hour drive of bumpy roads, so I didn't sleep on the ride either, even if my body tried to a few times. The car had aircondition though, which was really nice.


First impressions

My first impression when arriving in the airport in Cebu was how high the humidity was - it's always 27-30 degress celsius here, but the humidity is really high making it even worse. You sweat like crazy, and people often have to change shirts during the day because they sweat so much.

I was met by a Filipino named Acquiles at the airport. He took me to the local hotel where I had breakfast and then taken to Bogo City. Acquiles, being the first Filipino I had a conversation with, made sure I had a good first impression of the local people. He is a very nice guy, always smiling and making jokes, but also often loses track in conversations (he likes to talk - a lot) and ends up changing subject 5 times in one conversation. It's easy to bear over with though, and he's very knowledgeable in regards to the history of the Philippines.


When I arrived in Bogo City, I was taken straight to the Projects Abroad office where I met Gabrile who is my project supervisor. He is a Filipino who is always happy, smiling and laughing. He's full of energy all the time and also very friendly. However, no matter the subject - even if dead serious - he is always laughing. He could basically tell you that you're dying from cancer and then laugh it off. That being said, it is hard not to like the people here, since it is part of the culture to be so open and welcoming towards foreigners. They put a lot of effort into their hospitality, and they make sure that you absolutely do not need anything.

After the office we went to the district called Pantalan, which is where everything important is - the mall, the banks, the wharf, the plaza - everything. We went to a restaurant called Capitancillo, and it is the place where all the volunteers always go to socialize. They're locally famous for their lavacake (which is amazing by the way - my instagram, tobias_th95, will have a picture of it the next time i get one). We had our 'induction' there and then walked around the city to see the banks, the mall, the post office, and to get a local phone number so the volunteers can get in touch. This is also why I probably won’t react to any text messages I receive on my Danish number, since I don’t use the sim card.


When the induction was over we were taken to our respective host families. I live in a two-story house with three other people - my host father, his mother, and his niece. By that time I was extremely tired and could barely stay awake, so I was taken straight to my room so I could sleep. I was supposed to sleep for an hour only so I could go to socials with the other volunteers (every thursday), but I slept through my alarm and slept five hours. By then the time was 8 pm. I got up, had something to drink and stayed awake for 2-3 hours. Then I went back to sleep and slept for the rest of the night.


The following day came the first day of work. Life starts really early here, and generally a lot of people get up at 4-5 am. I personally don’t have to get up early since I have breakfast at 7 am and get picked up for work at around 7.50 am. The first day of work contained the rest of the induction, since we had to cut it short the day before as Gabrile’s laptop ran out of power and he hadn’t brought the charger. After that, it was pretty relaxed, as we didn’t have time to go out to the Barangays (districts) that day. Instead we revised a survey form being used to do health screenings, which we have just revised once more so that it is easier to fill out and we get the most relevant information.


First weekend

In the weekend four of us (we were six at the time) went to a place called Bantayan Island, which is north west of Bogo City. We had to take a bus for a few hours and afterwards a ferry the rest of the way. A very short trip, the distances in the Philippines considered. While Bantayan is really only known for the beaches there, we still had a really nice time. We stayed in a beach resort – we were four people and rented two cottages for the night. Each cottage were 1500 pesos including breakfast so we each paid 750, which is about 105 DKK or about 14 EUR – so basically, extremely cheap! The cottage had a nice bed, electricity, air-condition, running water (warm water as well! My only warm shower here so far), so everything you could ask for. Three of us also decided to get a 1-hour massage for 350 pesos or about 50DKK/6,5EUR.

As you can probably tell by now, everything is really cheap here – food, clothes, hotel rooms, transport, you name it. It’s just as cheap to go out to eat here, as it is to cook food yourself in Denmark – possibly cheaper, depending on your budget.

The beaches there were amazing though – we’re talking postcard perfect, they were as taken straight out of a post card. And there was also this really lovely cave with nice, clear fresh water. The cave was quite small though, and there were bats in the back of the cave.

The food

So if you’re the kind of person to eat somewhat healthy, you’re going to have a complete culture shock with the food! The food is generally extremely unhealthy here in the Philippines! Everything is sweet/sugary, salty, fatty (everything is prepared with a truckload of oil and some of the dishes they serve have lumps of fat with a bit of meat instead of the other way around), or deep-fried (fried chicken, fried fish, fried pork, even fried rice). Vegetables are generally not served in many dishes, and definitely not in large quantities. Even the bread here is so sweet that you can practically taste the sugar – the good thing is that you don’t need butter or anything, you just eat it as is. Below is the plate from a dish I had at a hotel restaurant this weekend, you can just see how the plate is flooded with oil. Most of the dishes still taste good though, once you get used to the salty taste (lucky Danish people generally like salty food), and the fat – I usually cut the lumps of fat off and just eat the meat, though. The only exception from the four cases is rice. They have rice with everything here – no rice it’s not a meal! Rice, it’s a meal! And they eat it in large quantities as well, so I imagine that when I leave here I’ll settle for anything except rice.



The work

Okay, so we’ve arrived at why I’m really here – to work as a volunteer; to help, to make a difference, to be able to improve somebody’s life.

While it’s still early for me to be talking about the full experience, I’ll say that the work is a bit of a mixed experience. The Public Health project I’m on is still relatively new, and is clearly still a work in progress. A lot of the work is just repetition (blood pressure readings, blood sugar tests, and cholesterol tests – also a survey form when we’re out doing screenings in the barangays). In the barangays we test the locals; often people who are on or below the poverty line and cannot afford any health care themselves – so we give them sort of an overall health profile and give them advice on how to change their lifestyle for the better. It’s hard to know if it’s making a difference though, since some of them seem to just laugh off the advice, and others might be too poor to have much of a choice. Regardless, most people seem genuinely grateful and happy about the work we do, so seeing the smiles on people’s faces are generally enough to make the day worth while, even if you don’t exactly feel like you’re saving the world. I hope to be able to make some progress and implement a few changes to make the work more organized. I have a few ideas that I will have to suggest at work one day – more about that another time.


This post has gotten really long, and since I just went canyoneering on a weekend trip to Kawasan Falls with four other people, I have even more to talk about, but that might be for another post. For now, I’m going to get some sleep since I am going on a government-organized medical mission tomorrow (every Tuesday and Thursday), and I get up relatively early in the morning.

So for now, bye! To all of my friends and family reading this: I miss you guys at home, and I look forward to coming home in December with loads of stories to tell! Love you guys.

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First week is over - the trip, first impressions, first weekend and first work week.
First week is over - the trip, first impressions, first weekend and first work week.

Leaving on September 1st for the Philippines - Tanzania comes after!   (published in Philippines)

August 7, 2015 by   Comments(2)

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Hello there!


By now, most of the preparations through Projects Abroad are taken care of. I have paid my invoice, I have received my tickets by e-mail, I know where I'm going to be staying for my 8 weeks in the Philippines and I've read through the guides. All I really still need are my vaccinations and I'll be going to my GP this wednesday to get them. In just 3 weeks and 4 days (1st of September) on 6:20 pm Danish time, I'll be on the first plane of three that are going to take me to the Philippines. It is quite a long trip with 18 hours and 25 minutes of flight time and a total traveling time of 22 hours and 50 minutes including waiting time at airports, starting from when I leave from Aalborg Airport and ending when I arrive at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. I'll be working on the Public Health project in the Philippines and am looking very much forward to the experience.

However, I still have a lot to do before I leave. I have to move out of my apartment and move my things to a rented storage room as I can't keep my apartment when I am taking a gap year from studying. There is also still a few items I have to buy before I leave but that shouldn't take too much time. The packing and moving can also be done in a day or two as I live in a one bedroom apartment, so the amount of furniture I have is pretty limited.

After my visit and volunteering in the Philippines, I'll be going to Tanzania for another 8 weeks where I'll be volunteering in Dar es Salaam on the medical project. I have no medical experience however, so it will most likely be a lot of observing. It is my hope though that the public health project in the Philippines will give me a little bit of insight in the medical world that might come to use in Tanzania. At any rate, I plan to do my best and show that I am willing to work and learn.


This will be my first time traveling alone and I have only been abroad very few times. I've been to Egypt when I was about 8 years old, I've been on a ski trip in Norway, I've been on a student trip in England (London, specifically), and I've been on a sort of student exchange trip to Mainz, Germany. Each of the trips have been of about one week in length, so it will also be the first time I'm going to be away for more than a week - and I'll be abroad for 16 weeks! It all seems pretty crazy, especially since I first contacted Projects Abroad on the 19th of July - not 3 weeks ago, and I signed up for the projects on the 27th of July - not even two weeks ago. Everything has happened and is happening really fast, and I'm not sure I actually realize what is happening before I'm sitting on a plane on my way to the Philippines.


Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting with a lot of new people in the Philippines - my host family, the local population, and of course the other volunteers. For any other volunteers in the Philippines who is there during the period from September 2nd to October 26th and who read this, this is me after I graduated on June 22nd after passing a math exam with about 2 hours of sleep that night


I'll do my best to make blog updates during my trip, however I'll make no promises - I am there to experience new things, after all, not sit in front of a computer to write blog entries. I expect there'll be time enough for that anyway, though.


Until next time - see ya!

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Leaving on September 1st for the Philippines - Tanzania comes after!
Leaving on September 1st for the Philippines - Tanzania comes after!

Teaching in Thailand   (published in Thailand)

March 3, 2015 by   Comments(0)

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By: Christopher Hinson (UK)

I have been teaching for four weeks at a rural school in Krabi, Thailand, classes of about 29 to 30 children. In this time I was pulled into doing some mobile teaching as well.

I’m going to start off by talking about a few of the differences between my limited experiences in classrooms in the UK and my experience in Thailand.

First thing is about resources. In the UK you have tables, chairs, a colourful room, maybe desks, books, games. In my school, I had much the same except no tables and no chairs. This changes class organisation a lot for a teacher. In the UK you pull them away from desks for some vocab practise and to mix it up and to do games. At the tables you split them into groups and can keep an eye on mischief. In Thailand, my classes all worked on the floor. No dividing them into ability groups and if you went from vocab practise at the board to writing, your class could be sitting still for a long time!

Second thing is control, because there are no desks or groups they sit with friends and chat. In the UK if a group chats you deal with it personally. In Thailand, as they were speaking in Thai which I couldn’t unfortunately understand, I’d just point at the board and hope they got on with it. The boys could be quiet rough with each other but this was seen as the norm so I couldn’t do much about it.

In the UK, with the different ability levels dictated by their groups, I could set work by level. In Thailand this is rare as a struggling child might just copy off his friend and you’d be none the wiser.

Finally, the main big point is the method of study. The Thais seem to prefer group learning and listen-repeat-write style learning. In the UK we encourage a lot more independent thought. Coaxing out volunteers in a Thai class was often hard until it had already been done a few times. In the UK it can be hard but children can be more independent.

Differences aside, this is what I hope will bring a more realistic expectation. Teaching in Thailand encouraged me to be flexible with my lesson planning, open-minded with different and fun ways to learn, challenged by the language gap. I have enjoyed teaching so much, I am genuinely thinking of coming back and teaching for a real job.

As a few things to make anyone who is scared feel a little less overwhelmed, I’m going to talk through some general, fun points:

The Language Gap
It’s okay if the children don’t understand you the first time. Try using actions, body language, get a volunteer. If all else fails, feel comfortable to go ask the Thai teacher to explain in Thai, it’s what they are there for!

Flexible Lesson Planning and ‘Thai Time’
Something to get used to is ‘Thai time’ which is their excuse when morning assembly just took 15 minutes out of your first lesson! This happens a lot but in general if you overrun in part of your lesson do not worry as you can always pick up where you stopped in the next lesson. Just always try to start simple, break down complex ideas, and get them to write something so it might sink in.

Mobile Teaching
At school I had one hour lessons, at mobile teaching it was a straight two and a half hour lesson. Hard going for any teacher or class, but you won’t be alone, take it slow, put some games in to break up the class and don’t be afraid to over plan.

As a final note, you can win anyone over as a teacher with a warm smile and a friendly wave! 

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Teaching in Thailand
Teaching in Thailand