Week 2: The Farm

This past week I’ve spent at the GK Enchanted Farm where Bayani Brew resides. I arrived Tuesday and took a tour to learn about the various businesses that the farm supports and what “GK” means- Gawad Kalinga. They’re communities that promote collective involvement and work to reduce farmer poverty. They do this by buying products directly from the farmers at around 2-3x the cost, reducing the middleman and therefore putting money directly in farmer pockets. At the farm I had French roommates who were heading off to spend time in various communities in the Philippines to build for them. Wednesday I shadowed Jules, the production manager at the farm, and observed how the tea is made and the product tasks that contribute to its making. I spent time with the brewers and helped add sugar to the tea, clean pandan, and cap and label bottles. The BayaniBrew brewing method involves cleaning plants, boiling water and leaves, adding sugar, filtering out natural contaminants (like soil and bugs) at least three times, filling bottles, checking the bottles to make sure there isn’t overwhelming residue at the bottom of the bottle, and then finally labeling and boxing. Thursday I spent more time in production and got to see the part of the farm where the tea ingredients are actually grown, then I spent more time in production and then attended a team dinner at Jollibee. Filipinos are OBSESSED with Jollibee. I’d never heard of it but it’s apparently where every kid goes on their birthday, and it’s many people’s favorite restaurant. I played it safe and got a cheeseburger because I don’t like spaghetti or bone-in fried chicken and got many disgruntled looks for not getting something more traditional- they take Jollibee very seriously. That night I went to karaoke with Jules and some French interns and stepped out of my comfort zone and rapped No Diggity. Friday morning I helped Jules with an experiment she was doing to see if they could use a double brewing method, which would save time, energy, and money. I was then off to Manila. 

My first night in Manila I met up with Matt and JD to grab dinner, see midget boxing, and then go to a club. The next day I was sick and I’m pretty sure it was from the ice in my cup- since then I’ve learned to ask for no ice. Midget boxing was something I’m glad I experienced once, with an emphasis on once. At the club I hadn’t brought much cash and couldn’t buy drinks, but one of the waiters offered me free drinks (yay for being a young woman!) and hooked me up every time mine was done. The three of us then took to the dance floor where we danced with a singer from the band who had performed before the club transitioned from a bar to a club at 11. This week I arrived in Asia- my very first time on this continent. Within 24 hours of landing in Singapore from the U.S., I was already on my way to Hong Kong with my boss. He introduced me to the employees of his venture capitalist firm and showed me their shoebox of an office in the central part of the city. I was then left to my own devices and explored a little bit of the city. I walked to the botanical gardens and spent some time people-watching in the park. The botanical gardens have an impressive fountain surrounded by benches for those seeking refuge from the clustered city. It was there that I was able to breathe in the Asian air and take a moment to appreciate how far I’d come and the new culture that I had begun to dive into. 

The next day I was up bright and early for breakfast with my boss followed by some clerical work (inputting contacts into their system), and then shadowing one of the members of his team on a lunch interview. Surprisingly the lunch was casual and more of a discussion than an interview. Jolie, whom I was shadowing, described to me the importance of the new hire being personable and social. It was interesting to hear about the interviewee’s education and professional background. He was young and American-born and educated but living in Hong Kong. After lunch, I finished some more clerical work and then went with my boss to check in on one of his investments- a recruiting company. I didn’t understand much of what they were discussing, but I was able to catch onto some of the goals and tasks my boss expected of his investments in order for them to be successful. I could tell he was frustrated because the founder of his investment wasn’t listening and it was effecting the company’s production. 

My boss gave me Thursday to venture into the city alone and do what I wanted. I woke up, walked to a breakfast shop and got two pastries- mango passionfruit and pistachio raspberry, and took them back to the hotel to eat in the air conditioning (which I’ve learned to appreciate). I then left and went to an antique market, then took a ferry to Kowloon, went to the ladies’ market and got a fake designer bag for myself and a hoodie for my brother. I then went back to central and relaxed, then headed back out again to go to the observation wheel at night. The view was great and I got to see the nightly light show at 8. In my car on the wheel was a young family and some older women in a group. I asked one of them to take a picture of me and she was happy to do so. We didn’t speak the same language but were able to communicate through gestures and smiles. One of her friends helped direct her and the camera, another took pictures of her helping me to record the event. It was a special moment for me, because from traveling alone and keeping to myself I hadn’t had many interactions with foreigners. After the observation wheel, I headed back to Kowloon for the Temple Night Market, walked around, and then sat down at a street shop to observe the hustle and bustle around me. I watched groups happily gathered together outside, socializing, and eating street food. 

Friday was my last day in Hong Kong. I went back to the office, did more clerical work (this time updating expense reports) and then went to a business lunch with my boss, his business partner, an employee, and one of their investors. I sat back and observed- they mostly talked about business stuff I didn’t know anything about. Afterward, we left for the airport and my trip to Hong Kong was over. Although the trip was short, it was the perfect introduction to Asia and it allowed me to evolve as a solo traveller. I learned it was easy to get overwhelmed and want to stay in my hotel but pushing myself to leave paid off and the thrill of new experiences made up for the anxiety I was facing.

Saturday I got lunch and spent most of the day looking for an AirBnb for our Bali trip. I went to the gym twice because I had been neglecting my body for the past two weeks, then got wings delivered. Sunday I got lunch at a healthy restaurant called Green Pastures. I got their homemade Burrata which was amazing and of course a salad. After lunch, I met up again with Matt and JD and we walked up High Street and explored the area. I tried Taro milk tea and decided I didn’t like that particular flavor though it wasn’t bad- just not my favorite. We then swam at my apartment building and got Korean BBQ for dinner- my first time! 

GK Enchanted FarmBayaniBrew Office at the FarmPandanFiltering the TeaCooling Sealed BottlesBottle LabelingEmpty BottlesTea FarmInfinity Pool at the FarmManila Skyline from my ApartmentMidget BoxingKorean BBQManila

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