First Week <3

My first week, including the travel, was full of new, exciting sights while also being a bit tiresome. I had never flown internationally before, and the jet lag was definitely a new experience that I assume no one could get used to. However, I loved being in the clouds and getting to see civilization from such a high elevation. Everytime I looked out the window (I choose the window seats on all my flights for this exact purpose), I was just as shocked and awestruck as the previous time as I gazed down. Getting to see a world that is so much larger than myself, and all I’ve ever known, has been the most beautiful part of this experience. I would recommend the Freeman Asia experience – or any potential abroad encounter– to everyone, but especially those who have a thirst for life; a thirst for experiencing other cultures, which are entire new, beautiful worlds.


Anyways, back to my first week. My first week in the Philippines was one of new foods, new people, new places, and, most importantly, new lessons about life. I never remember to take pictures, so let’s hope that my words don’t fail me. I’m a pescetarian, so my internship site (DOST-FNRI) made sure that I had various options available to me for dining. Upon first arriving, we attended a brief, 2-hour long orientation to learn about what our responsibilities and specific jobs were as interns. After the orientation, we were fed lunch. We had an eggplant omelet, a sliced avocado dish, and some greens. Already, I was trying dishes that I hadn’t ever even thought of before, and happily so! The eggplant omelet had a unique texture, which coupled well with the smooth, bold, distinct flavors that announced their presence! To put it simply, I thoroughly enjoyed my eggplant omelet. Ms. Josie, upon first meeting us interns, warmly declared herself as our mother in the Philippines; who was I to question such a beautiful declaration from such a splendid lady! Ms. Josie is now my mother in the Philippines, and she has been such a grounding, caring force. She even suggested that I try the Philippines’ fish, called the MilkFish. As a New Orleanian, it’s no small statement when I say that the MilkFish is the best fish that I’ve consumed to this date. Like many of the foods in the Philippines, the manner in which the Milk Fish was seasoned reminded me of home. The bold and savory flavors that can be found in most New Orleanian dishes are easily found in Filipino dishes as well, and the MilkFish is no exception. The MilkFish has bold flavors coupled with the kind of thickness in a seemingly thin slice of fish that I had never encountered before, so it’s only right that I name this fish as the best fish that I’ve ever had. Filipino desserts are no different, though. From time to time, FNRI employees would buy traditional snacks and give them to us to try. One interesting thing that I would have never thought I’d enjoy is Buko pie. Buko pie is a Filipino staple, known for its endless health benefits. It’s made of immature coconut – and I often don’t like coconut, which is why I thought I wouldn’t like it. Buko pie boosts skin health, heart health, and even strengthens the mind against illnesses like Alzheimers. It can do all of that while still being tasty! I can see why it is important in Filipino food culture. It has the texture of the outside of a hard boiled egg with a flaky pie crust on the outside. Buko pie has a natural sweetness, and isn’t overpowering in the slightest. I have every intention to purchase more. Needless to say, the food in the Philippines is amazing, and I cannot wait to have the privilege to try more Filipino dishes.

People & Life Lessons:

That’s enough of my food experiences, now onto the new people and the new lessons that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in my time here! I’d be remiss if I didn’t first mention Ms. Josie. Ms. Josie has been such a warm figure in my time in the Philippines. Sometimes I’d be struggling with homesickness or getting used to being in a completely new culture, and one conversation with her would make me feel much better. I’ve recently found out that she’s the IWU coordinator for DOST-FNRI, and she has been ascribed the nickname “Mama Josie” in relation to the IWU Interns. They picked such a perfect person for this job, and I’d want no other to be my mother in the Philippines :). Next, is the assistant director of FNRI, Doc Mill, who has been an inspiring force for me while I’ve been here. I haven’t had much interaction with her, but from the few interactions I have had with her, I can tell that she’s an extraordinary leader who genuinely cares for her team. Each time she talks, I feel like she’s going to drop some kind of diamond-equivalent life lesson. She’s not intimidating in the slightest, but she commands attention when she talks, and I love being around people who I feel I can learn from. She’s motivating and inspiring, and it’s her natural way of being. I love it! And, finally, how could I not mention Tito Mon? Tito Mon, Dr. Amoloza’s brother and our focal person as IWU interns in the Philippines, has a very relaxing presence. He definitely reminded me of my own grandfather upon first meeting him. I was very anxious from the full 2 days of traveling from the USA to the Philippines, but Tito Mon cracked a couple of Papa jokes and I was suddenly okay :). Tito Mon, which means “Uncle Mon” in English, is the primary person who taught us IWU interns the way of the Philippines. One thing that not only he, but all the aforementioned people in this blog, told me was to “take every step slowly, but surely”. The way of the west, or at least in the USA, is a very fast-paced environment. Here, in the east, but especially in the Philippines, we are being told to enjoy each moment; to breathe, and take in the beauty of a new culture around us; to be present, and in the moment, not worrying about what may come or what has passed. I find this sentiment to be grounding, and reflective of the beauty in Filipino culture. I have been able to enjoy myself in a way that is truly meaningful due to this advice, and I will try my best to take it with me when I return back to IWU. For me, that piece of advice has single-handedly assisted me in being able to truly enjoy myself while battling hardship, so it was nice to hear it.


Upon first walking to work, I immediately noticed the beautiful garden that DOST-FNRI had grown themselves! There are gardeners of DOST-FNRI, and they are oh-so-very talented. The garden is full of up-cycled plastic water jugs and glass bottles. It’s just beautiful, so much so that it completely stops one in their tracks. I was sweating from the near-mile walk, but I had to cease my steps to admire the creative and fruitful piece of art in front of me. I must include some pictures: 

I was awestruck! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an upcycled garden in front of me, so to see how beautiful and thought injected they are was very profound for me. To see a sustainable, effective upcycled garden was only something that I saw online and day-dreamed about, so I don’t think I could ever explain just how thrilled I was upon first viewing – and even still, I’m in constant awe of that garden. Anyways, I didn’t really get many assignments to do in my first week other than reading to familiarize myself with my department’s functions and duties. I’m happy with my placement because I can definitely see myself applying the knowledge I’ve learned here to my desired career of choice. I love that I had access to this opportunity, and I plan to explore and learn as much as I am able!


I am enjoying myself in the Philippines. I am learning new things; it’s beyond measure, really. I am happy that I was afforded this opportunity, as this is truly a dream for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my week one blog! Stay tuned, much more to come :).

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