Ordinary things that make life extraordinary.

Ordinary things that make life extraordinary.


Signs 013: Cut Emissions

A young activist from Mombasa, Kenya holds a sign for the environment. Age doesn’t matter when it comes to helping Mother Earth.

If only government officials all over the world can see and hear the pleas.

This was one of the  activities in 2010 with involvement of the communities that the VSO Coast Volunteers {of which I was a part of} initiated as part of the global grassroots campaign to raise the awareness and push forward the issue on climate change. Environment scientists/researches suggest that the world needs to cut CO2 emissions by 350 ppm (parts per million), or below, to stabilize the Earth’s climate.

It’s a gigantic task but we can all start right in our homes. Let’s find ways to cut our carbon footprints and help save Mother Earth.

Hello guys and gals!

The holidays are just around the corner so… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to us all! I can’t believe it is now a year since I came back from my volunteer stint with VSO Jitolee in Kenya. One year has passed and, my, how life has changed. I remember the excitement and great anticipation I had last year counting the days that I would finally be back to my land of birth and be with my son, husband, and family once again. I got teary-eyed every time I heard my co-volunteers in Mombasa mentioned “Christmas”, “family”, and “celebration”. I don’t know with others but in my family, Christmas means family members coming home for one big celebration and reunion. This year though is different. We won’t make it to our family Christmas because of work.

Anyways, one of my cousins came home for the holidays. He is based in the US as a nurse, a head nurse in one of the units in the hospital where he works. His is one success story. Small-town boy, finished his nursing course, worked in our city before getting an opportunity to go the US to work. He started at the very bottom of the ladder, studied (again) hard and worked his way up.  He told us that even doctors who aspire to have a higher-position are taking a medical management course to help them achieve it. Another family friend, who is in the UK at the moment, even went an extra mile and took a consultant interview course to ensure she was fully-equipped with tools and skills needed to clinch a position she was aiming for. And it worked because, the last time I heard, she was promoted. Also I noticed that more and more medical professionals are considering the medical teaching course. They might be doctors who don’t exactly practice their profession full-time and spend half of their time educating other doctors. Instead of doing the surgery, for example, they are teaching other doctors how to teach.  That’s the teach the teacher course. In NGO words, that’s a trainer’s training course.

Back to my cousin… I envy my cousin because he is really doing good in his profession. He has a nice house, drives his own car, and probably sooner or later, he’ll be a green-card holder. Will it be not too late for me to enter the medical and medical care profession? Had I excelled in the sciences and we had the financial resources, I would have probably considered this. Having said that, I’m happy with my work. Development work is very challenging but it has its own rewards.  It took me to least developed countries and contributed to helping people help themselves 🙂 Excuse the digression. I think I’m just getting the holiday blues.

Shadow Shot Sunday 007: Diani beach

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My favourite spot in Diani beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Taken while I was serving my one year volunteer assignment there with VSO Jitolee.

Imagine sitting there, under the shade of a big tree, the beautiful beach view and the lull of the sea breeze… heaven.

Shadow Shot Sunday 001: Gallivanting in Diani Beach

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Hi everyone.

This is my first time here at Shadow Shot Sunday. I saw a beautiful shadow shot while blog-hopping and followed the link. It led me here. I thought it’s fun. I am fascinated by shadows and I love taking pictures… So this week, and I hope in the following weeks to come, I’ll be posting my own shadow shots photos.

I am not expert in photography, but I just love taking pictures of things that fascinate me. I also appreciate comments from visitors.

So here is my first entry:

When I was still in Kenya, my VSO co-volunteers and I spend our weekends in Mombasa. After spending the week in our placement areas, a weekend in the “city” was a much-awaited time to come.

Diani is one of the popular beaches in Mombasa. Diani is a beautiful white-sanded beach and turquoise waters lying along the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. And this is where we volunteers loved to go. We shared stories of our work in the different areas of Mombasa, partook of the delicious meal, and just relaxed and enjoyed the view.

The photo above was taken during our Christmas holiday in 2010. I was with my co-volunteers walking along the beach. I noticed how enlongated our limbs were we looked like aliens. It was very hot that day but it didn’t faze us, we walked for an hour, just talking and talking, hoping our homesickness would go away.


And very happy to be!

I arrived in Roxas City very early morning kag,  baw, maulanon gid ya. I’m not surprised my son wasn’t there at the airport to greet me – but he was jumping like a live pasayan (shrimp) when I arrived! While trying to put my baggage down, he was chattering away about 50kph – oh, what a joy! My son missed me as much as I missed him.

When I arrived at my parent’s house, the red bag that I asked from my sister is already there! Inside were a pair of swimming shorts and a cute top. Salamat gid sa donor!

I brought some stuffs that my younger sister Labs bought for the kids and they (kids, especially the girls) were squealing in delight. Man, paborito guid abi nila. It was nice to see them, including my son, bouncing and yapping happily. Tita Lab, thank you very much kuno sa imo pasalubong kag miss ka na kuno ni Bop kag ni Chappi.

Okay, now it’s back to the real world for me. But before I dive right into my real life right away, let me share you some pictures taken during the VSO Returned Volunteer Weekend in Lake Island.

It would have been more authentic if I had my hair braided again, just like what I did before coming home. Bonggang-bongga guid tani ako ya! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I missed my Hippo batchmates but I know I’ll see them again in the future. I flew home with lots of great memories, new friends, and bubbling thoughts in my head.  Should I consider volunteering for VSO Bahaginan again, but this time, nationally?

We’ll see… abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

Signing in…

I just want to let you all know that I am already on a bus on my way to visit my baby sister in Angeles City where is she based for years now. I’m looking forward for a two-day bonding with her and chilling out, Pampangeno style.

I was in Lake Island, Binangonan, Rizal since last Thursday to attend the VSO’s RV (Returning Volunteers) Weekend – ikatatlo ko na ka beses didto pero sige lang, bongga man ang program ah. I hoped to meet my Hippo batchmates pero wala gid bisan isa sa ila ya… anyways, sadya man ang mga na-meet ko na mga returned volunteers from other batch. We shared experiences, took stock of our different insights and learnings from our work assignments, and together we reflected if volunteering has changed us professionally and personally. Have I brought change to the local community where I worked? Has my African volunteer assignment changed me? If so, what were the changes? Were they for the better, or, for worse? 🙂

There were so many activities planned for us by the VSO Bahaginan and it reminded me of our pre-departure training days. So much fun and learnings but there were two persons who  I miss – my dearest friends and co-Volunteers Tarc Tarucs – who returned to Philippines from his assignment in Zambia  in 2010 and died suddenly last month – and Arnol Pajaron, he died in a motorcycle accident in Malawi during his volunteer assignment in 2010. Staying in Lake Island for the third time reminded me of my friends who have long gone and I had some senti moments reminiscing our friendships and good memories that started and flourished in this very same place.  I might have known them only for a short time yet is very difficult to accept the loss of, not one, but two fantastic men.  I hope and pray that wherever they are now, they’re both happy and have found what they’re looking for 🙂 I’m sure the angels are laughing at their jokes and antics up there.

Pictures will be up next time. I forgot to bring my USB connector this time 🙁

Sari-saring kwento ng buhay

Summer school break is nearly here and my pupil is following a very strict schedule because he is having his final exams. No more late night TV and playing PC games. After school, he eats his merienda first while I prepare our dinner. Then we review his lessons together and by 9pm, he should already be in bed.

My son is in a kindergarten class in a private school affiliate with the Baptist church in Roxas. They have the usual English, Maths, Science and Art stuffs. In addition to that they have Bible classes, too. This Bible class is not to be missed. As part of their final exams, they have Bible verses recitation. My son doesn’t like memorizing that much. He finds it boring and he purposely makes mistakes at times. I feel I need to stretch my patience a bit more as a mother in times like this.

So their graduation rites will be on the 17th of March. If he passes all his subjects, he will be among those who will graduate. His younger cousin, my niece, Bop, is in the nursery class and we were told she’s among the top honors in her class. Congrats, Bop! From nursery, she will graduate to enter Kindergarten in the next school year. I wish my son will be as studious as his cousin Bop in the next school year – he will be in grade one, gasp! I am partly to blame because I was away in Africa when he entered Kindergarten. Although he was left in the capable hands of my mom, I still feel that I should’ve been there personally. I only came back last December, which was incidentally, their Christmas party. That gave me only less than three months to “mother” him before his graduation.

A day after my son’s graduation ceremony, I will be flying back to Manila for the VSO Returned Volunteers Weekend upon the invitation of VSO Bahaginan. It must be fun to meet the other returned volunteers and share stories and experiences of our volunteer works. Although I have to say that it will be a bittersweet gathering because of the sudden passing of my favourite VSO-Hippo  batchmate, Tarcs Taruc. He was the man behind the My So-called Mid-life Angst blog and had a 6month assignment in Zambia. I was looking forward to seeing him again during the RV weekend and cried when I learned that he’s already gone. Such a great person – humble, kind, funny, intelligent, deep-thinker, and a good friend. A huge loss to his family, friends, and colleagues. I will forever cherish the memories I have of him. Tarcs, may you rest in peace. I’m sure the angels up there are laughing with you and at your jokes.

Kwaheri, Kenya… Mabuhay, Pilipinas!

I have so many stories to tell yet due to me moving around to places where there are no electricity, let alone internet, I could not post them all.  As you can see on the right, my bags are all packed and several hours from now, I will be leaving Kenya for my beautiful homeland, the Philippines.  And so this, will be my last entry for My Nipa Hut… Still in Kenya blog and will resume blogging here, in the same blog but with a different blog title and a new header to boot.  Right, ‘te? *wink-wink*

What a memorable night it was - I will surely miss the Tusker beer! ngyahaha. Of course, I will miss my friends.

Okay, no more wasting time, here it is… After the beach clean up in Mombasa, I spent my last few days in Kisumu with my co-volunteers. While there I could not believe that I am already leaving the country soon. I said goodbye to people and friends I’ve made and I’ll surely miss the Kenyan wildlife that I’ve met up close and personal in the national parks I visited.

My days in Kisumu were filled with activities and fellowship with other co-volunteers.  On my last night there last Tuesday,  we all had dinner together. Nothing fancy, just the usual chapati and veggies and – believe it or not – the pancit that I myself cooked. Hahaha. It was a night of fun, truly memorable. Thank you, everybody, for taking me in your care. You know who you are. Di ko na lang i-mention ang name at baka may magtampo sa billing! hahaha.

All my bags are packed and ready to -- wait... where will I put my son's Transformers robots?

As I packed my luggage last night, I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. On one hand, I think I am already missing Kenya, the coast especially, and I feel reluctant to leave. It is so much like the coastal towns in the Philippines. The beach is just around the ‘co-ne’ (corner). Diani beach, you will always be in my mind. So many good memories and people I met there. On the other hand, I am excited to go home to my son and husband who I haven’t seen for more than a year! Gahhh! With 30kgs baggage allowance to Manila with Emirates, and, from Manila to my hometown, I was shocked to learn that there is only a 15kg-allowance with Cebu Pacific! Now I am in great dilemma because how could I bring my son’s sackful of Transformers robots with this measly baggage allowance? Oh dear. I might leave some stuffs to my younger sister so I would not go over the limit — I do not have enough money to pay for the extra baggage myself. Unlike other OFWs, VSO volunteers do not have incomes and rely only on basic monthly allowances. Most of the times, they come home with almost-empty pockets. With this,  I just hope I don’t get to meet “crocodile” airport staff and taxi drivers when I arrive in Manila on Sunday.

Anyways, I will worry about that later on.

Someone told me before that my blog posts are more like “touristy” and didn’t show more about my work in Mombasa. I apologise for not writing accurately about my volunteer experience but this is my  blog and I choose whatever I write about. For me, I’d like to write lightly and not deal with serious matters. I would like to thank those who spared some time reading my posts and leaving comments from time to time.  This blog has helped me cure homesickness and has been a great stress-reliever when times got tough at work.  At nighttime when everything is quiet, at the mercy of the network signal and laptop battery, I read and re-read my posts and laugh at my silly writings, and how I appreciate your comments! Thank you for being part of my journey in Kenya.

Now that I’m leaving Kenya, a new chapter in MamaGirl.com will com. So watch out for it.

About MamaGirl

mamagirl in africaI’m a 30-something Mama juggling a career in motherhood and development work at the same time. I just returned to the Philippines after a 12month-stint as a VSO Volunteer, working with local farmers to address their food security issues, and building and strengthening the institutional capacity of their cooperative in Mombasa, eastern coast of Kenya. Back in my home country, I am working in another industry so alien to me. But I am coping.

My parents gave me the nickname “Babygirl” and was used by family and close friends when I was growing up. After getting married, they stopped calling me by that nickname anymore and “christened” me with a new one. So “Babygirl” became “Mamagirl”. It still sounds affectionate and endearing to me and at the same time the new nickname fits my new role as a wife and mama. So there… this is Mamagirl, married to PapaJhong, and mother to a precocious boy named Joshua. Welcome to my blog, My Nipa Hut.

Wordless Wednesday 006: Tribal women

Another update set in the auto-post mode. I am not sure which tribe they belong to but these women work as entertainers/performers at the hotel where the VSO Coast Volunteers had a 3day conference two months ago. I have a feeling that these women do not exactly enjoy what they’re doing but they  have no other choice. They earn from performing their tribal dance every night. 

Visit other Wordless entries by clicking the WW logo above.


As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated this blog since last year. I am currently out of the country, in far away African land. Yes, difficult as it is, I left my family and my little boy to be based in Mombasa, Kenya, working as a VSO Volunteer. I help strengthen the capacities of not only the Kenyan fruit-growers but also build the capacity of the fruit-growers cooperative so that they will become a highly-functioning institution. I am also fundraising for the cooperative, as well as linking them to relevant government ministries/agencies and non-government institutions.

So please, if you’d like to follow my adventures in Kenya, head over to my blog Farah in Africa. See you there!

Hey, I’m still here!

After a hectic February and March and a 4day volunteers conference in Nairobi, I am back in Mombasa to spend the remaining days of the Lenten and Easter. So please excuse the long blog silence, just you be patient and I’ll be updating as soon as my schedule allows me to.
The volunteers conference in Nairobi was an opportune time to meet all the other VSO volunteers all over Kenya. It was great seeing new faces and reconnecting with others. It was a huge mixed group of newcomers (in my case, I have been in my placement for about 6months and yet I am still getting used to my new surroundings), some half-way through their placements, while others are preparing to leave. It was nice to finally see the people face-to-face whose names I only read in email exchanges between volunteers.
Nairobi was way cooler than Lukore as the rainy season has already began. I can only wish the weather is the same in Lukore! The hot weather is still making me sick. It is extremely, extremely hot in Lukore even at night. I come from a tropical country myself but the heat is nothing like here. The community cooperative has no office of its own and so we meet just about anywhere there is space we could find. I do not mind it at all as I am used to this kind of stuffs – in fact, I love that we are outdoors – but due to the unbearable heat at this time of the year, I am experiencing severe headaches which is very unusual for me. It could be dehydration, I don’t know. While I am very enthusiastic about my work in the community, the heat and headaches are hampering me from doing my  job. I have asked my PM if I would be allowed to do 3days of field work and 2 days paperwork just only till the hot days are over and I’d go back to regular work activities. Up to now I have yet to hear from my PM. If not, then I will be forced to do the rain dance whether I like it or like it very much! *lol*
Anyways, the planned trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro by most of us volunteers was canceled because of the rains, much to our disappointment! So we all decided to go back to our respective areas. On my trip back to Mombasa, fellow Pinoy volunteers came with me and we were welcomed again at the Pinoy mansion where I decided to spend the Easter holiday. It’s actually a company-rented townhouse provided to the Filipino engineers I met a few weeks after I arrived in Mombasa. These lads have graciously opened their house to us – VSO volunteers like me, garment workers, and a lot more – and has become our  “holiday house” of sorts. Not only did our gracious hosts provide us with a nice place to sleep with running water and electricity, internet connection, and above all,  they feed us Filipino food that we sorely miss and the much-yearned for companionship.  I’m sure many of you will agree with me that being thousands of miles from home, in a sea of foreign faces and tongues, being with your kababayans helps ease the loneliness and homesickness. My first Christmas and New Year in Kenya would have been earth-shatteringly lonely if not for the engineers at the mansion, who I consider now as my older brothers, I was spared and enjoyed a wonderfully holiday celebrations Pinoy-style. Truly, wherevever you go, the famed Filipino hospitality still comes shining through. Madamo guid nga salamat sa inyo.

Now that holidays are over, I can’t wait to go back to my community and continue the work.