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Somewhere in the Middle: A Journey to the Philippines in Search of Roots, Belonging, and Identity
Half Filipino but raised in an American household, Deborah Francisco Douglas had always longed to know more about her Filipino heritage. So when a thick government-issued envelope arrived at her door announcing her assignment to the Philippines as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she snatched the opportunity and set out on a journey of self-discovery, travel, and adventure. Arriving in the mountain town of Baguio City, Philippines, she was introduced to a life of obnoxious roosters, bucket baths, and kids shouting her name every time she walked down the street. Despite her attempts to get involved in the community, her desire for belonging and identity did not materialize as quickly as planned. Realizing that “Filipino time” means nothing ever happens in a hurry, Deborah braces for the journey ahead, hoping to find answers, and above all, to find herself. Filled with warmth and humor, Somewhere in the Middle captures the simple joy found in ordinary moments and in the people we share our lives with, shedding new light on what it truly means to find the place where you belong. Whether you’re hoping to unearth your own cultural roots, volunteer abroad, or find your next travel adventure, this memoir offers inspiration for all those yearning to discover who they are and where they belong in the world.
In this energetic debut, Filipino American blogger Douglas narrates her “quest for self-identity” while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, a country she knew little about despite being the birthplace of her father. She lived in the country from 2011 to 2014, and tells of life in Baguio City, “the salad bowl of the Philippines” located in the mountainous Cordillera region. Douglas’s introduction to Filipino culture is thwarted at first by her vague grasp of the language. Assigned to a local school and community center, she forges relationships with co-workers over snack and coffee breaks as she discovers that, for Filipinos, “sharing a meal means generosity, kinship, connection.” Some of Douglas’s observations, however, can verge on whiny (while in a hospital being treated for asthma, she says, “This isn’t what I envisioned when I first learned I would be living in the Philippines”). On the other hand, Douglas’s stories of weekend trips to remote, unspoiled areas for hiking, caving, and waterfall climbing are high points, conveying her thrill of exploration. It’s her efforts during her stay to integrate music into her life—via guitar lessons, choir rehearsals, and monthly coffeehouse music sessions—that enable her to form lasting friendships. Douglas is an amiable narrator, and those searching for their own roots will take pleasure in this heartfelt memoir. (BookLife)