Friday, December 10, 2010

something to gobble about

December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Peace Corps style is quite an event. Here is just the quick recap of what went on.
 On Saturday we took a Jeepney, two vans, a pedicab, another Jeepney, and a pump boat to this amazing island in Northern Samar ( I started with me and my site mate, picked up three more volunteers in Tacloban, and met up with three more for the last two legs. I may or may not have got sick on the way, but that is all part of the adventure. When we got to the island plenty more volunteers welcomed us. Then we waited for the feast, and what a feast it was. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, native root crops, gravy, chicken lechon, apple pie, mango-lime pie, pumpkin spice bread, cranberry bread, birthday cake and I think that is all. Then we partied it up the rest of the evening.
On Sunday we had a beach day, which turned rainy and ended up being a playing games at the resort bar/restaurant area day that went long into the night. We basically did nothing, and it was so good.
Monday we repeated the journey, more or less. We all piled onto a pump boat, almost forgot a volunteer, turned around for her, started over again, said goodbye to some before hopping on a trike for the next leg. Said goodbye to some more at the Jeepney terminal and then 12 of us loaded onto a Jeepney that got a flat tire along the way, fixed that up and went flying again until, we got another flat. We were not too far from town so we got in another trike, went and had lunch, said goodbye to two more and then took a van back to Leyte. Got some bad advice (given with love) and ended up semi-stranded at a terminal, took a trike to the mall, had dinner, then found our way back to site via an autobus and van.
Yesterday was not only my ‘Monday’ but also turned out to be my ‘Friday’. I got to school and found out that grades 5 and 6 were cancelled for the rest of the week. This is my first of what will be many days of school that are just up and cancelled. So instead I did some laundry, went to the mall to avoid an all day brown out, and as well as other things I’ve just not had time to do.
Bring on December!

how many thistles did king thistle stick in the thistle of his hand?

December 8, 2010
So this blog is going to be a bit of a potpourri of everything that has happened since, well Thanksgiving.
Last week there wasn’t any school for me. So nothing really happened until the weekend. I went to Tacloban to go shopping and spend the day with some volunteers. We had pizza at this really nice place then did some browsing around. Then that night I stayed with a volunteer’s host family in Baras. It was a nice change of scenery.
Sunday was UN International Volunteer Day and one the CYF volunteer’s sites had arranged a river clean up. I’m not really going to go into much detail about this one. In all my years of janitoring and living I have never done anything as gross as that. I’m very proud of the volunteers who were way more hardcore than I was. They will get extra rewards. I managed to find a way to help thought and it was a good experience. It was good to have the children helping and seeing that we don’t want all that garbage in the river.
After that we went back to Baras, got cleaned up, took a nap then hit the mall for Harry Potter.
We had a little bit more school this week, but not by much. Monday was a prep day for the English Month Culmination. I worked on my first lessons.
Tuesday was English Month Culmination. I had no idea what this was going to be like and thought it would be a spelling bee and some monologues and things like that because that is what had been practiced on Monday and the weeks before. It was, but other schools were there. It was a district competition and kind of really neat. In the morning they had academic competitions. This is when the spelling bees and writing compositions took place.
Then in the afternoon they had the non-academic competitions. A couple weeks ago my teacher asked me to coach her kids in a reader’s theatre. The example she gave me was bad, but we did some editing and made it work. Then my students worked it. They took first place.
You win some you lose some. The teachers had asked me a few weeks ago to be part of their tongue twister. I did having no idea what it was for. It was for the teacher tongue twister competition. So we’d been practicing for weeks and weeks, but no one told us we could do choreography (heck I didn’t even know what it was for). We took third place, out of three. Hahaha.
Wednesday I finally did some co teaching. For grade 5 we had a lesson on words that can be adjectives or adverbs. All these are things that as an English speaker I’m aware they exist but don’t really know about it really. Luckily the English teachers here are whizzes at grammar rules. The teaching style for them is very much rote memorization. So it was fun to add an activity or two a little different. My first activity I did was interactive and the kids did really good at it, but then for the next activity when they had to actually think for themselves they kind of bombed. They are not use to that. When you ask them follow up questions they assume the first answer was wrong and change it. Going to have to work on that, it was only my first day of teaching.
For grade 6 I was suppose to help teach a lesson on writing application letters, but at the last minute we did a lesson on haiku so they could get poems put in the biannual school paper.
Thursday school is cancelled for all but those that paid to participate in a science day and Friday is a teacher day. So no school really on either of those days . Just another week in the life of a volunteer.

one, two, cha cha cha

December 10, 2010
Science day was really cool, but still it humors me that only certain kids were involved. It was a presentation on astronomy, complete with stargazing.

Teacher day was something else. They told me to show up to exercise at 6:00. So I left my house at ten after, was the first one there. Some one had to be there to set up the projector and Jane Fonda work out tapes, but I didn’t see them wherever they were. Then around 7:00 teachers started to show up, but none of my teachers. I waited and waited, and they restarted Jane Fonda 3 times. At about 7:45 they started checking blood pressure and doing blood tests, and even piercing ears. That was my cue to say I tried and then go home and have some breakfast.
Then my day was free until 3:00. Mass was at 2:00 but they told me to come at 3:00. So again I left at about 10 after, got soaked on my way, showed up and they are still doing church, and I am not only drenched through but also in a more casual then any one else. It is amazing how they were more dressed up in jeans than I was in slacks. Then we waited and waited and waited and things got started around 4:15.
They rewarded the retiring teachers. Announced the nominees for best teacher in several categories. Gave the prizes to the actual best teachers. Had some speeches. Ate some really good food, even the fruit/macaroni salad, don’t worry there wasn’t any mayo. Then each area had a performance and mayor gave everyone mugs. Then they had raffles. I won another mug. That takes mugs in the Philippines count to 5! Played some games for raffles. Then I was forced to cha cha with the mayor. No one else on the dance floor. Things were going fine until I started to get confident in my dancing skills then I totally missed a step and everyone laughed and laughed. Luckily it was good laughing and not ha ha pointing finger laughing.

Next week some school and more parties. Maybe I’ll be able to keep my dancing in check.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

just another manic thursday

November 25, 2010
I thought I’d feel kind of alone on Thanksgiving, but I didn’t think I was going to be alone. However, things being what they are I had dinner with me, myself, and that annoying cat I just can’t seem to keep out of the house.
First, the lay of the land (better be on your toes here, it gets confusing). In this house it is me, an Auntie in her 70s as well as a part time Atay in her 50s who is my Auntie’s niece. She splits duty between her aunt here and an aunt in Tacloban (my Auntie’s sister). Next door is my Auntie’s sister and her husband (or maybe it was the husband that was the brother, not sure) and her son and wife, and then their daughter who is in her late 20s with her two young sons (the husband is in Canada). The daughter is a teacher at my school.
Second, arriving. When I got here it was just my Auntie and her poor cooking skills. My Atay was with her Auntie (sister of my Auntie) in the hospital. She had been there also but had come back to Alang Alang because I was moving in (a de facto guilt trip ensued, but nothing on purpose). So I spent the first part of that week eating reheated burnt rice and cold leftovers. Then last Thursday my Auntie left for Manila for some sort of something or other (I never was sure what was going on, but did know about it on my visit). So for the weekend I had the house to myself and the helper (a cousin somehow) bringing me food and the sister (oldest generation next door) coming over to check on me. And did she really check on me, but that is a blog in and off it self. Then for a bit on Saturday my Atay came, and it was nice. She can cook, and I was able to explain what is going to be going on with me while here. You know get down to business finally. My Auntie said she was coming back Sunday (but I think she meant Monday, or had the dates confused or something). The family asked me to go visit the Auntie in the hospital (which is awkward because I don’t’ really have the communication to say, “No thanks, I don’t do hospitals all that well” yet), and it was looking pretty eminent that I would have too, but thanks to communication gaps I was able to stay home. About dinnertime the helper came over and explained in her broken English that I’d be home alone again. So that was the first week.
Now, on to week two. My auntie came home while I was attempting to shower (I’m still being a pansy about that) and was saying a bunch of stuff to me while I was in the shower. Then when I got all dressed for breakfast I was made to understand she was going to Tacloban, and that was the last I saw of her. Tuesday morning at school the one my age told me that the Auntie had passed. That is awkward anywhere (even more awkward than going to the hospital to meet a dying person).
I’ve been home alone since, every one has been gone somewhere, but I don’t know where and for how long they will be gone. The helper girl keeps bringing the meals and every day or so they buy a new loaf of bread (I think they’ve purchased 10 loaves in the 2 weeks I’ve been here) and more jars of peanut butter (today they brought the 4th one in, and no I’ve not been eating peanut butter sandwiches 24/7 they just do that, my Palo family did it also).
So, here I sit, my first Thanksgiving in the Philippines and it is just like any other awkward Thursday. I think it is actually good that it is not like I’m here alone on thanksgiving while everyone else is celebrating with their families. To them it is quite literally just another Thursday.  I’ve tried explaining Thanksgiving to people at school, but they just want to talk about Christmas as soon as I say holiday. It is exactly a month away you know? That’s kids for ya!
Happy Thanksgiving All

thankful for it all

November 19, 2010
This week I got rocked emotionally! It was without a doubt the hardest one yet. I blame the lack of distractions. I was just sitting watching most of the week. I moved in with my new family and had to adjust to new people. Also had to adjust to the new house. The facilities have been a bit of a shock (it is really hard to will yourself to throw cold water on your self every morning). Of course, it does calm the nerves some after the hours and hours of constant crowing. I really miss my 10-rooster house in Palo. Plus being so close to the highway, and the rice store room (after seeing the process of rice I’m even less of a fan of it), and the metal shop my ears are shot. Then there is the new school, where I’m not really set to jump in too much until after Christmas (there are just too many fiestas and such to really get anything rolling).
Which means I’ve had a lot a lot of time to sit and think. Think about how dirty I am. How much I hate roosters. How lonely I am. How long two years is. But I also thought, how fast is this time going to go. As of today I’ve been part of this whole Peace Corps Philippines thing for 3 months. How did that happen already? As of today I’ve also been a real deal volunteer for a whole week! Today is huge! I also got to thinking, I chose to do this. I wanted to do something good, and step outside my comfort zone and experience something new and different. Another thing. I know how to read. I can read all day long if I wanted (or was tired of thinking about the giant spider on my toilet seat). All my favorite foods are just going to taste so much better after this. I miss the cold, but I’m not going to have to shovel or scrape windows for the next two years. People are jealous of me. They wish they had done this.
So darn it, I am going to do this! I’ve only got 2 years, and that is so so not long at all. I’ve got to make them proud!

Friday, November 12, 2010

what a long strange trip it has been... and yet it is just beginning

November 11, 2010
I feel like, what with this being the week I become a volunteer and all, you deserve a blog. I also feel like you probably really don’t want to read about my going to conferences all day starting Sunday at 1:00 to Thursday night at 5:00. Here is the gist of things, and then we will move on to more blog worthy things. Sunday and Monday were some business type PC things. Monday night I met my counterpart, and the rest of the sessions were basically training for when we get to site next week.
Now, for something you’ll really like. The stuff to blog about:
  • This week has left me with some very mixed feelings. Not that I hated training these past 12 weeks (but it was in fact training) but boy am I glad to be over with that part of my life. It was sad to leave Palo, and really too bad that it was too early for me to be showing the proper emotion, let alone any emotion. I really liked being there and loved the way our Barangay just took us in and showed us the ropes.
  • I also loved the people I got to go through this experience with, not just my cluster but the other clusters as well. I loved that we had the type of relationships that spending nearly every waking hour with each other was just not enough. And after this week we are being scattered about. Some of us here, some of us there, and others just staying right put. Because of that, we’ve been spending nearly every iota of free time that we have here together. At dinner we do whatever we can to get all 14 of us around the table. I’m so terribly sad to part ways with them, even though in 2 weeks we’ll see each other again, and then probably not too long after that.
  • Then there is worry of next week. I. Am. Going. To. Be. A. Volunteer. (let us just process that for a moment) I’ll be at site doing my Peace Corps thing. The first few months will be observing, and talking, and eating meryenda, and figuring out what I can do outside of teaching. I’ll be doing what I came to do, and that is wonderful, and scary, and wonderful because it is scary. I’m shaking in my heavy, heavy boots!
So that is where I am in life. I  soon to be sworn in official volunteer fixing to hop on a plane and fly alone to my site!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

ceiling wax, cabbages and things

November 5, 2010
So apparently some things did stick.
I took my LPI yesterday, and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be. It is set up as an interview, and mine was administered by the LCF for the CYF cluster. We’d heard stories about how… well we’d heard stories about his particular interview style. So of course that had my nerves. And the fact I was severely congested and had a lot of other things on my mind going on my head was swimming.
Luckily during the interview I was able to calm down, and somewhat successfully could talk about myself. I can say who I am, where I’m from, where I went to school, what I studied, what my parents do, if I have siblings, about the cold climate at home, mashed potatoes, teaching in Palo, my plans for Alang Alang, and kind of sort of ask questions about Leyte landing. I never got myself into the position to discuss movies and literature and the like. It was choppy, but I did enough to get myself passed.
There are 3 levels novice, intermediate and advanced, and then 3 levels within those. I placed myself right smack dab in the middle, and you know what? That is ok with me.

handog sa host family

November 6, 2010
So, last Saturday we got a text from our LCF asking us to meet at my place for a meeting (did she not know we had a pig to lechon?). She came over and was like hey guys you need to be in charge of planning this party, here are the details, get it done, then got in a pedicab and went away.
We had to plan the farewell and thank you party for our host families in one week and studied for previous blogged language test, oh and lechon a pig and party for that and have those plans by Monday. So my cluster mate and I quickly threw together a plan and said we are going to have to be those people that make business addresses at costume parties. We did it super fast, and it was totally delegating jobs and yelling over a karaoke machine and sounding so very bossy (not my favorite way to sound). Then had to email the business meetings to everyone the next day. Take the information gathered and make invitations and programs for the party. Oh and did I mention we had our interview this week also?
Part of the tribute was musical numbers. We worked on some ditties and some how managed to find time to practice more than once, and oh ya prepare for that interview.
Then we had our interview and life got better from there. Now all we had to do was buy things for the party, make some final musical adjustments, figure out what our group activity is going to be, and make sure every thing else is all set. And that is what we did.
Today it all fell together. The emcees were amazing! The speakers were sincere! The games were so fun! The food was tasty! The music was loud enough!
We laughed, we took pictures, we sweated, and now we are leaving. That is sad, but also it is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

where is my tan, and other quandaries

October 31, 2010
How is that tomorrow is November. I mean really, this is so baffling to me. Things I found noteworthy for October:
I really want to know why I am not more tan. I brought 2 long sleeve shirts that never get worn when the sun is shining. I walk everywhere. So why aren’t I darker?
Are my feet tan or is that dirt? Will my feet ever be clean in the next 2 years?
Is this finally the end of the three a.m. wake up calls? October is the month for Our Lady Fatima, the patron saint of the Philippines. Which means every morning at the chapel right across from my window they bang some sort of bell drum annoying thing to call people to the dawn rosary. I’m going to bed tonight with bated breath in hopes it ends now. I think it may not though because of tomorrow being All Souls Day and Tuesday being All Saints Day. And what does that even mean? Is it just a fancier way of saying Memorial Day? And do those days have dawn rosaries also?
I went to the beach on Friday and it was amazing. We went on a hike and then rolled in some waves. Quite a nice day. Today we are going to the beach, on Halloween. The weather is amazing and it is the end of October. Where is the snow and blow? And it isn’t even the hot season here.
It is however the rainy season. Why is it that we never have water when it has been raining a lot? And will my shoes ever really dry out?
If you were to have a regional fish why would you choose one with so many bones?
Why are the puppies here so darn cute?
And most noteworthy. I’m almost done with being a PCT. How did that even happen?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

lechon, or go home

October 31, 2010
I’d like to start by stating I never thought I’d have plans to go to the beach on Halloween. That being said, here is how else I never thought I’d be celebrating Halloween.
We roasted a pig, and by we I mean mostly my cluster mate. I watched and took pictures (nothing too gory, despite the holiday). I’ll try not to be too terribly graphic.
His family woke up early and bought the pig. The plan was for us all to go together, but it was determined that a handful of Americans would make it next to impossible to get a good price on a pig. Which worked out well, because I did not want to go to the market at 3:00.
Around 1:00 we gathered to watch. First he hog-tied it, and boy did it scream. Then he slapped it on the table, shoved the knife in, dug around and threw it on the stick. Well… not quite but basically. He did throw it on the table, and he did shove the knife in its throat, but then it was quite a process to get it to the bamboo pole.
Luckily I don’t know much of the details about the actual slaughter of the pig, because he himself didn’t much know what he was doing. He probably knows more Waray then the guy knows English, so he was just kind of hoping he does the right thing.
So he put the knife in his throat, and it squealed some more (but not as much as I thought) and it bled some (again not as much as I thought). Then they let it twitch while the water boiled. The water was poured on the pig and then he took off the hair and outer layer of skin. Then he took a razor and shaved off the longer hairs, popped off the hoof casings (toenails) and rinsed it off.
After it was clean he cut it open and began to disembowel it. Bladder first. Then the rest all together. This was the coolest part. He pulled and pulled and removed and removed. They saved that part. When that was all removed they went for the repertory system. Then they rinsed out the middle. This is where all the blood came into play, but really there wasn’t that much.
Then he… well there is no poetic way to say this, but he shoved the stick up its butt, through its insides and then through quite a bit of work right out the mouth. Once on the stick they hammered it on and stuffed it with garlic, onions and other delish goodies. He sewed that thing up, rubbed it down with some Coke and set himself up to spin that thing for 2 hours.
We went home and made our salsa and left him to rotisserie our dinner. Luckily it was raining and so he didn’t have to sit in the heat. However the pigskin was not as crispy as it would have been sans rain. When the pig was done we got into our costumes and went to the party.
One of the best Halloweens ever, and it wasn’t even Halloween yet. We’ve got the beach on the schedule for today and this afternoon are going to try to catch Rocky Horror Glee Show.

paca paca paca

October 28, 2010
All parts of our PACA are finally finished, and the biggest thing is we learned from it.
I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned anything about the whole thing so I’m just going to state everything again.
Step one: We looked at the school and talked with the principal trying to get a feel for what she thought was needed. Went back to our class and started to develop some plans. Through our PACA criteria we came up with some things we really liked. Number one being a manual labor projects that was at the same time a sort of English camp for students. It involved teaching students some English terms, having them use critical thinking skills to develop a plan of attack, getting those empty rooms cleaned, and then having the kids see if what they did was what they wanted to do. We wrote it up all nice like and showed it to the principal.
Step two: The principal didn’t like it. We mentioned our other idea to do just an English camp for the students. Not liking that either. Digging deeper into our suggestions, an English workshop for the teachers. She said she would work on the most important English skills she would want us to attack. We’d work in teams and take two topics. Well when we went to get her ideas she had a completely different idea.
Step three: The completely different idea was to fix a fence. A fence that needs to just be torn down and rebuilt. We don’t have the budget for that. So we went to the drawing board and figured out how to fix it the best within our budget, skills, and time.
Step four: Fixing the fence. We woke up early Tuesday morning to buy our supplies then went to work. We tore down the bad sections and put up new fence sections. We cut out the bad spots and either put in new fencing or wired it closed a bit better, tore down the first sections (the ones you see first) and replaced them, and tore out the worse section and left it. No fence looks better than shaudy fence, right? We did this all with 4 pairs of cheap pliers (don’t have high expectations if you are going to pay 50 pesos for the tool), 5 PCTs, a dozen or more kids at any given time, and heat and humidity. But we busted it out and got the whole thing done in one morning, and even had time to shower before lunch.
Step five: Showing the fence to the principal.
Lessons learned: Thank goodness we won’t have a week to plan our community projects and then a week to do it. My first 3 months at site will be the evaluating, observing, asking, finding out what the schools needs are. Then the next 21 months will be doing (this is where you guys will come in).
Sometimes what you think the school needs or wants is not what the school wants or needs.
Our project is pretty not sustainable. That is the exact opposite of the point of Peace Corps. That happens though. Luckily, again, I’ll have plenty of time to make sure I am doing the right thing at my site.

Friday, October 22, 2010

mcarthur's grandchildren

October 22, 2010
This past week was quite a week. We took a break from the normal and lived it up a little. Wednesday was the 66th anniversary of the Leyte Landing during WWII, and of course this is something to celebrate.
On Monday night they had some bands and plenty of street vendors but nothing too big.
Tuesday was a different story. We volunteers got invited to a special dinner. It was quite a set up. We had three tables reserved for us right next to the veterans. Their was all sorts of ambassadors and embassy representatives, but I none from the U.S. that night. They’d asked us to perform on stage that night, so some of the volunteers had prepared You Are My Sunshine and Country Roads. Then they had several other performers and hot air balloons. This part was so cool, and maybe my favorite thing of the whole week, maybe. They had lanterns made out of oiled rice paper with a little fuel cell you light on fire. When it is full with hot air away it floats. They made us all light ours with or in the vicinity of the mayor for ideal photo ops for all involved.
Wednesday started early with a walk for peace from Palo proper to the beach memorial. This is the first thing in all my time being here that started early. It was scheduled to start at 5:30, so I left my house to pick up the others around 5:00. While waiting we had a coffee spill and that put us slightly behind schedule. By the time we got to the plaza at 5:20 the procession had long left. So we took the short cut and ended up just behind them, but our group was towards the front. Thankfully we have longer legs than everyone and quite quickly made our way up to them, but also got to chitchat with the Filipinos in between.
There was events going all day, and we were even able to squeeze in some beach time. Then at night they had another ceremony and asked us to perform once again. We did You Are My Sunshine, and they loved it. During the war they used that song as a moral booster. Then they had sons and daughters of the veterans speak and lit candles in the memorial water and had a 21-gun salute.

But wait, there is more…
Thursday was my last day in my Palo Central Class, so the kids had a fun party for me. They brought in their plates and food. Lots of food. We had boiled bananas, 6 loaves of white bread, 3 loaves of banana bread, a huge pile of cheesy pan de sol, a huge pile of rice pan de sol, pansit, boiled gabi, roasted chicken, fried chicken, sticky rice, cake, and several litres of coke. We just chatted and had a good time. Took some pictures with the kids and said my farewell.
And with that, everything is going to be a whirlwind up to swearing in.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

american's can cook, also

I've got something to blog about for this week. Yesterday we made fish tacos, and they were good.
On the right is the homemade tortillas. We used flour, baking powder, salt and maybe too much water. To fix that we found some oat bran in the fridge and it really helped and they tasted great. I was in charge of flipping them!
In the middle is the amazing salsa! Saturday is market day and we bought all the ingredients fresh and in Waray. It had mango, pineapple, tomato, scallion, steamed corn (bought fresh, they steam it and sell it at the market or on the beach), lemonsitas (look like tiny limes, have orange flesh, and are mostly lemon in flavor) and harong peppers (which are hot, this salsa had kick and it was really the first kick we've had here). I sliced and diced, but it was not my recipe.
To the left is the fish. Lauren had never gutted a fish, so we let her do the honors. It is milk fish which is the regional fish for Leyte and Samar. We kind of saute/steamed it with more scallions and garlic.
The meal was amazing and probably didn't even cost 4 dollars to make.

eye of the storm

October 15, 2010
This post may be boring, but don’t think I’m not having an adventure any more. I really don’t have any thing of even to say. Last week was a lot. The weeks leading up to last week were a lot. It left me just about exhausted. So this week was one those just going through the motions weeks.
On Monday we went on a bumpy field trip to a Cebuano speaking area of Leyte. It was the farthest South I’d even been in my life. We had that realization in the van and very quickly after felt very stupid, because here nine weeks in is when we realized that before Monday we’d actually been living at the southern most point we’d ever been. The things the tired mind dwells on.
On Wednesday we went into Tacloban and made a Waray Waray scavenger hunt. For my group it was pretty uneventful, but the other group did get a citizens arrest for jaywalking. That was exciting for them, but not really my story to tell. the only excitement my team had was amazing cinnamon rolls, which don’t get me wrong, is very very exciting, but even the jailbirds got those also.
Thursday was my last day teaching during training. Next week the kids are doing their second term English test so we are going to watch that, and school is cancelled Wed (I’ll tell you more about that later), there is scouting Thursday and Friday (more on that later) and a farewell for us on Thursday. The following week is a teachers’ in service and our PACA project. Then the following week is our language test, then swearing in, and then site!!
Things are going to be intense next week and the weeks to follow, so it was probably good to have a calm week.

*This weekend we got our first tropical storm/typhoon texts from Peace Corps for Megi. It didn’t apply to us here really, but we did get some extra rain. I’m very curious to see what these things are like, but in a safe way of course.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


October 5, 2010
How is it even possible that I am 6 almost 7 weeks into this? I’m halfway to being a volunteer and that is a lot to process and take in. So here are some thoughts from Supervisors Conference.
-First my alphabet has been turned, flipped upside down. Peace Corps loves acronyms, and DepEd loves acronyms, and to an extent the Philippines is a country all about acronyms. For the most part they do save time and it is easier to type. But to prevent myself from being all Rachel Ray every time I post I will make a list for my blog to help you along.
-I’m feeling like I’ve come a long way, but still feel like I’ve got little to show for it. That should be changing very soon. On Monday I got my assignment. Tomorrow I’m heading to site. I’ve met my Supe and hopefully things are super.
-The thought of going to site is very exciting, but also very scary. This will be my first time flying solo so to speak. I’ve got a tight unit in Capite West, and it is part of a tight group of PCTs in Palo. Here at conference it is nice to see the other PCTs in Luzon but I’m glad I have those 5 and 15. On Thursday when we step of the plane it is going to be leaving them. That seams kind of sad to me. It is goodbye all over again. Luckily it is just a weekend, and everyone has some pretty dope sites.
-I’m coping really well with my lack of luxuries. That being said, my Training Family is pretty posh. I’ve mentioned it before, but a shower and a flushing toilet. Who knows what is in store for me. I love that the shower this week has been hot, but I still took a semi-cold shower after my run. Oh and the two pillows on my super soft bed? They were just too much. My back was sore when I woke up and the pillow was on the floor. Oh and that AirCon as usual is much too much!
-I’m already having major issues with communication and now I’m walking around the streets of the city of Antipalo trying to learn how to buy Bar Nuts in Tagalog only to find out they don’t even exist up here.
A quick note on Bar Nuts. The packaging says Wow, Bar Nuts!, and quite frankly no truer words have been printed. So think of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (but made with homemade peanut butter). Think so hard that it melts. Now do a happy dance that blends that up and now mold it into a teeny tiny bar (about the size of a rectangular pink eraser). That, my friends, is heaven for only one Peso (which, don’t quote me on this, is about 2 cents). Sorry Beatles, but when Bar Nuts are involved you can buy me love! Wow!
So, moral of the post? I’m stoked like a fire to be half way to a Volunteer! Going to site tomorrow! and it is still hitting me that I’m in the Peace Corps. Wow!

dida la

October 4, 2010

Filipinos seem more curious than they are. They are always asking each other, “Where are you going?” They don’t really care; they are just doing what Filipinos do (like we never really care how people are, we just ask because that is what we’ve always done, we rarely even wait for an answer). Since no one cares they have a simple response, “Dida la” which is Waray for just there.
Well, the moment we have all been waiting for. Where am I going? The answer: Just there. I’ve been assigned to Alang Alang, Leyte. It is just there, down the road from Palo. The town after Santa Fe (how cool would it have been had my site been Santa Fe, but alas that went to my other cluster mate, Holly). It is not near a beach. I’ve heard it is mountainous, but I’ve also heard it is not. I think it is the lowlands near the mountains. It is farming country, so lots of rice and maybe even coconuts. I’m sure they still eat fish and probably still have roosters everywhere.
Speaking of roosters, I think I may be escaping them. My host house is an older, single, never been married, women. I’m pretty sure that is not the type of person to have a dozen roosters in the back yard for Sunday entertainment. This could also mean other things. This could be my first doting Filipino experience, or it could be almost like a boarding type scenario. It could be a lonely Christmas while still being dry-docked. Or it could be just right. Very unsure about it at this point, fingers crossed.
And the supervisor. This is the one I have the least bit of bearing with. I have no idea what is going on with her. What she wants on paper is different than what she wants on any given moment. What she wants at any given moment changes based on what she hears others talking about around her. So hopefully I’ll be able to reign in the situation and meet my counterparts and figure what I’ll be doing.
I’m not going to be flying completely solo. Alang Alang has a volunteer that came last year, Debra. She works in the high school here and is quite loveable. We met here earlier when she was adopting another cluster in Palo. She is an older volunteer, which may be helpful when I am having a rough day and need my mom (even though I'm really not that type of person). She is there, and I mentioned the site near by in Santa Fe and the sites far away are on the beach and well worth the visit to see my cluster-folk.
It feels so good to finally know what I am going to be doing, now just get me there already!

you say goodbye, i say hello

October 8, 2010
What a week, what a weekend!
I’m wrapping up my site visit, and I’m quite happy with where I am. It was kind of sad Wednesday night to say goodbye to those going to Samar. I was glad to have so many going to Tacloban, and really glad to go as far as Santa Fe with the Holly.
My housing situation should be fine. It is mostly my Auntie and me. She has a brother that moved to the United States, and the joke is I am her long lost niece! It looks like that some of the time her actually niece will be here. She splits her time between her aunt and another aunt in Tacloban and her other family all over the area. Next door is my Auntie’s sister, her son, his daughter, and her two sons. Sounds like it should be very similar to Palo, which is good. As much as I am glad it will work out I am still not looking forward to the awkwardness of finding my groove here. Thankfully I’ll be super busy.
The school here is nice, nicer than I anticipated. When I pulled up to the school there was a big banner waiting for me, and what does it matter that they spelled my name wrong, right? Just part of being flexible.
Thursday was the Farewell for the Student Teachers and they turned the program into a welcome for me as well. It was mostly for the staff. There were student performances and speeches and apparently they wanted me to speak as well. Again with the flexibility.
The original plan was for me to be properly introduced to the school Friday morning during the flag ceremony, but my principal found out that DepEd planned a last minute workshop for Friday and Saturday. So much for my site visit. And yes, that means that school on Friday was cancelled, but no one told the students and the teachers were lucky they found out.
They had me come to the school to meet the superintendent before the orientation and workshop began. They had me sit in for opening ceremonies, and surprise! I was being asked to speak again (thank goodness our LCF had gone over simple introductions earlier, and thank goodness even more I took notes that day). Then we snuck out to meet the mayor. He was in Manila, so I met the stand in mayor. Then I got to go buy the church and through the market day. We went back to school and I sat in the back and watched. Then I was able to sneak off and explore the school.
I arranged to meet with Debra in the afternoon so I did not pull anybody away from the workshop. It made my site visit short and I didn’t get to meet my counterparts, but oh well, we’ve got to be flexible. I am so glad to have Debra here, she showed me the best places to get Internet and to buy load and I got to see the high school. I learned this past week I know more Waray Waray than I knew I knew. Oh and nothing wows a crowd of kids on the street like saying Good Morning in the native tongue. They actually said, “Wow!”
 Now I am waiting for Holly to come get me. Ibeth, my awesome LCF, was able to arrange it so we could go home early. It has been a long week and I’m ready to be home. I am also loving that I am really considering a place in the Philippines home. This is going to be a good two years.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


 September 26, 2010

We’ve got a running club. My family gets a kick out of it. They always ask if I went jogging then remember oh nope MWF (we go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). We’ve got some routes that are just amazing. Totally makes me feel that whoa I’m in the Philippines feeling every other day.

This is just one of my favorite spots. The sunrise and the mist and cariboa, and that is one a morning when it has not been raining. You should see it after a storm. We go early in the morning (around 5:15) and get back right around 6:00. By then the sweat is just dripping and the humidity is mocking us. I enjoy it though. There are the three of us and I feel way safe, but am worried if I’ll feel that safe at site. Hopefully I’ll be able to work something out so I don’t end up as a headline (joke, joke, joke).
We are a pretty active group here. We try to play basketball early on Saturday mornings. We walk everywhere (which is very un-Filipino of us). One of these Sundays we are going to Tai Bo. We know how to swim when we go to the beach. Life is good and hot and healthy (maybe not so much all the fried food we eat). 

this is why i'm hot

September 27, 2010
The Philippines are gross. I am so hot. We’ve not had rain in over a week and it is miserable. I actually like wind chill. That’s right I said it. I like wind chill. Whatever way I can get it it is welcome.  Lately we’ve been having mini-brown-outs in the middle of class. There is nothing more claustrophobic than a brown out. The heat has a presence. It is heavy and the humidity makes it wet. Oscillating fans are a must have. The thing about those fans is they don’t work without the electricity. So brown-outs mean fan-outs. I hate that. The past not quite week we’ve had them for about an hour here and there. How is one supposed to learn a completely foreign language when she is quite literally turned to goo in her chair?
All this heat and misery and it is only October. While you are at home with your brown leaves, and pumpkins, and whooping cranes, and balloon fiestas, and apple pies, and scraping windows just remember it is blazing hot here, and the worse is yet to come. I have no idea at this point in time how I am going to survive April and May. Luckily I’ve got a rainy season coming along soon to break the monotony of heat. Now if we could just get a shower today to calm things down out there.


September 28, 2010
I don’t know how I missed my one-month being here in Leyte. Perhaps because I’m so worried about the future. Where will I be? Who will be my supervisor? Where will everyone else be? Who will be their supervisors? A lot to look forward to, and to be honest it doesn’t feel like I’ve done all that much.
We worked last week on our PACA and had an awesome plan. The school had some unused buildings so we were going to do an English camp/clean out the rooms project. We were going to have the students develop a game plan, and teach them English working words, and the kids who came were going to report back to their classes. Something totally different but also fun at the same time. We went to pre-present it to the principal and was shot down.  She suggested we help with a teachers’ inservice and she would give us details for it tomorrow. We stressed that we would only be doing two topics and were thinking of great ideas. This plan wouldn’t use any of our PACA budget because it was school sponsored so we could make amazing visuals and handouts. Not our original idea, but it was actually our back up plan. Today we found out from out TCF that the principal wants us to do a beautification project. Hopefully tomorrow we get this straight so we can start planning for week 10 (I can’t believe this is midway through week 6, we are halfway done with training).
Week 6 means we are also half way through language training. This is such a struggle. Lately I’ve been really working on trying to use Waray instead of answering immediately. It’s not that I don’t know how to answer most of the time, it is just I don’t allow myself to. Curse you English frame-of-mind. I’ve got it so that I rarely say yes and no any more, but I still have trouble with what no to use (waray for existential things and diri for no). The kids say Good Morning! (doesn’t matter the time of the day) and it is hard not to kind of mimic them and say Good Morning! Not as you normally would say it but with the same inflection and cadence as them (it just sounds happier). Other habits are starting to form. One day it will click, but for now it is a hot mess.
Teaching! I love that every time I walk into my class the kids stand up and say, “Good Morning Teacher, and Mabuhay (welcome)! As they pump their fists in the air. I love that. I also love how much they pay attention to me. If only I could just slow down. This has always been a shortcoming of my teaching. I have an excited personality and just tend to rattle away. It is not so much nerves but pure joy and energy level. I’m glad I not only got to teach today, but also tomorrow and Thursday.
So a month in and I’m still feeling green around the gills, but I love it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

most important meal of the day

September 16, 2010

When I got here my family asked what I usually ate for breakfast. I have never been a breakfast eater (it made me sick) but when you are up for 2 hours before eating then you get kind of hungry. I told them eggs and fruit and stuff like that. I made sure not to mention anything else that would put them out or be a hassle. Breakfast quickly became my favorite meal of the day. The options were smaller and I didn’t feel like I needed to try everything, and the options were very um, well American. Such delicacies as elbow macaroni with carrots or apples, alphabet or number chicken nuggets, hot dogs (slightly different than in America), omelets, grilled cheez-wiz sandwiches, and fruit, fruit, fruit.
Well this week out of nowhere we had cereal. Now this is one of my favorite foods at home (any time) but I made sure not to mention that. Milk is expensive and is for the most part imported from elsewhere (ours is currently from Australia and pasteurized beyond belief). Same with most dairy products (the local cheese is plastic and scares me). Well we’ve been having this really good almond cereal. Today I noticed I was eating it with my fork in true Filipino fashion (No knives here. Just a spoon in the dominant hand to scoop and a fork in your other hand to help manipulate the food. i.e. a wall for the rice, stab the meat and pull at with knife, etc). It was so exciting. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I got midway through the bowl.

one month in, and it's all good

September 18, 2010

Twenty-six months left of my Peace Corps experience. I love that! Not in a way that I’m counting down the days until my return to warm showers, but more in a way of I’m really doing this. I’ve been here a month! I’m one month in to changing the world at some level. I love that!
I just wish I could say more for this one month. I’m still in the job training stages of things. I did teach one class, which was fun and scary and thrilling and a spring in my step. However, due to training schedules I won’t teach again for another week or so. I’m feeling like my progress in language is slow, but at some level I know more than I think I know. At this point my response to everything is maúpay, which means good. So really I’m still my optimistic self every time I open my mouth. I would like my lexicon to expand beyond this. In time, in time. I’m starting to recognize verbs when I hear others speaking. Not the exact verb, but the fact that part of the sentence was the verb.
I’m still getting along very well with my family. Playing games, going to birthdays, eating crab and feeling like a fool for my lack of technique, and not having some of the frustrations others may be having.
Oh! There is the accomplishment of a month in and as far as I know still no parasites or amoebas! That I feel is huge. Also so far I have not melted. Which is huge, but I’m not so sure how long I can say that. We had a week or so when it would rain all night and well into the morning and it really kept things cooler. Last week that quickly ended and I feel like these past 2 days have been the kicker. And to think it only gets worse from here.
Oh and the biggest achievement in this month… I’ve still not killed that blasted rooster. hahahah

strong to the finish...

September 19, 2010

I finally did some laundry. A couple weekends ago we had made plans to do it on Saturday, but it never happened. So the plan was to do it Sunday early before going to the beach. We went to the beach later than was planned and didn’t do any laundry at all. Then on Monday when I woke up all my laundry had been done.
Almost the same thing happened this weekend. We had plans to do it yesterday, but again it didn’t happen. At dinner they said we’d do it this morning. At breakfast this plan was confirmed. Then the waiting started, and finally the laundry is done at 4:00 in the afternoon.
This could be a long long two years. Hand washing will be my only option once I get to site other than paying someone else to hand wash them for me. Either way the clothes will get scrubbed and rubbed and rung and hung. Which as you can imagine can be hard on the clothes, but also hard on the scrubber, rubber, ringer, hanger. I’m going to get some killer fore arms in two years. Not something I ever tried to work on at the gym, but maybe Popeye will be a good luck on me and make me look less like Olive.

Friday, September 10, 2010

a whole lot of nothing going on

September 1, 2010
when we got to the philippines we all thought we would be speaking tagalog. not so. only those in zambales/bataan learn how to speak filipino (tagalog). there are those in negros oriental who are speaking cebuana. those in iloilo are going to be speaking hiligayon, then there is yours truly and the others in leyte that are speaking waray-waray. so what does this all mean?
i’ve mentioned 4, but actually there are 170+languages in the philippines, and tagalog is kind of a composite of them all. the philippines is split into 12 regions based on language,  and each of those languages has more than a million native speakers.
well, i can only tell you about the waray-waray side of things. it is spoken in the eastern visayas of the philippines and about 3 million speak it natively. so here is how it breaks down. going back to tagalog. if a native speaker of waray-waray were never taught tagalog they would not be able to understand someone they met on the street speaking tagalog (however in school they learn filipino, it being the national language and all, so that really would never happen). it works the other way, a tagalog speaker will not be able to understand waray-waray.
so let me confuse you more….tagalog came from a proto-central philippine language and makes its own branch of languages within the central philippine group. waray-waray  belongs to the central visayan sub-branch of the visayan branch of the central philippine group of languages. it has dialects, but here in leyte i am learning the standard form. i will end up either in leyte, eastern samar or northern samar.
in waray-waray waray means nothing. so the language is nothing-nothing. after several explanations as to why, i’m still confused. but sometimes it is also called waryan. i know this: the people chose the language name, so they can’t really be too upset about it being nothing-nothing. the way they say waray is unique to waray-waray and different than other visayan languages. also after discussions they never came up with a better name. the number one idea (suggested by imelda marcos) is may-ada-ada which means something, but can also mean an occasional loss of sanity. so probably a no-go there.
parts of it are simpler and rules seem to be a little more finite than say other languages i know. there are no silent vowels, and each vowel has its own syllable (no blends). so yes, which is spelled oo is pronounced oh-oh. there is a lot to learn, and i’m thankful for the spanish influence. i also find the words that are spanish interesting. it is the words that were not needed before western “civilization” came to this part of the world. parts of the house are mostly spanish, because a hut is pretty basic. also a lot to do with schools. the alphabet is different, so it is fun to see how they adapted the spanish to waray-wary. i.e. school is eskwelahan.
this curious to me though. in cultures where there is lots of snow the indigenous languages have 100s of names for snow. here in an island change with a language whose speakers are mostly fisher folk they have one word that means ocean, sea, and beach and other things related to the beach: dagut.
 i’m slowly picking things up, but i feel like i am on a 2-day delay. thankfully we only have a 1-day weekend so i don’t lose too much on the rests. but it does have me major major busy from sun up (5:00), to way past sun down (6:00).

check out dem gams!

september 2, 2010
i am not afraid of spiders, or bugs really. i mean sure i hate a mosquito, cock roaches are beyond disgusting and moths give me the willies, but afraid? no.
however, i am a little bit afraid to go to the bathroom with this gal hanging over the toilet. i know she is not the biggest spider they have here, i myself have seen bigger desert spiders. this however is the biggest spider i have seen suspended in the air (big spiders that i know of stick to the ground and spin traps not webs), and she is suspended over my toilet!

now for a name, i’m thinking she looks like a hazel.

p.s. i just remembered i am afraid of getting bot flies (look them up).

a fruitful week

september 3, 2010
so i have been in palo for all of seven days (that is one week folks)! and so far no regrets! but i would like to say this…(just kidding, i’m not really going to start each sentence of this post with a conjunction, because basically that is not their function). can you tell i am tired? week one (which is actually week 2) has been a crazy intense intro to the philippine way of life including the food.
a cluster mate of mine is a fruit nut and has been bringing treats for us each day this week. today was mango-steen. very good, like a mango meets an orange but not really at all. dragon fruit yesterday. like a kiwi but not as sweet. huge and green and purple on the outside, the inside rind is magenta, and this one happened to be white with lots of little seeds (i guess some are purple instead of white). lanzones which are like grapes and oranges, but again not really. then there is papaya. sometimes a fan, sometimes not. not all papaya are created the same. some are good for smoothies and that is about all then there are some that are so sweet and good (the sweet good kind are not in season). and sadly we are just coming to the end of regular mango season… but i’ve heard rumor that there are two kinds of mangoes here and they have different seasons. and two kinds of really good bananas. this weekend i get my first banana-que (from my understanding kind of liked grilled bananas foster/flambé but without the liquor and on a stick). and for lunch today we had sandia (watermelon). it is also not quite pineapple season. apples are big here, but imported.  that is just this week and only the fruit.
more on other food and the rest of my week on a later post.

this is the town and these are the people

  September 4, 2010
so, um, can we just talk about the fact that i am living in the philippines? some days i am just like whoa, this is so very real. today was one of those days. palo is at the bottom of this spectacular mountain with a big cross almost to the top.

well we got a hankering to climb it and the good people of palo arranged it. police escort and all. usually people only hike it during holy week to the cross. we went to the cross and the view was amazing. then they were like lets keep going and they showed us these old bunkers and a cave that the japanese had dug to get to another island during world war 2. 

the day was quite perfect. we went early so it was not too hot, and we got back way early. it is amazing how much gets done here before noon. when we got back we went to the market, which i am still not quite fond of. something about crouching under tarps to look at flies landing on fish and people yelling at you trying to buy their goods is not quite something i love. yet.

dem bones dem bones

September 5, 2010
today was the first day i was not hot all day. we woke up early and the family went to the beach. we ate breakfast at the beach and then two of my cluster were just walking along and joined us about the time first meryenda was about to go down. at this point it was kind of warm so the three of us went into the ocean. we got our special strip of ocean (being a good 6 inches taller than all the other swimmers) and kind of rode the current down a ways and came back to the hut we were set up. then ate meryenda number two. did some studying to a nice cool beach breeze. after some studying they had some boiled peanuts (a new favorite of mine). then we three had to leave in order to go to our interview. when i got home they had lunch waiting for me so i ate again but this time all alone. got dolled up and we headed to the interview.
the interview! the higher ups showed up and they had some amazing treats from cebua (a place that is amazing but impossible for us to go to any sooner than february) (also, for those costco shoppers, if you buy the bags of dried mangoes that say philippines all big on the bag, those are cebu mangoes) and we partook then did our interviews one by one two at a time. the interviews are set up under the pretense for them to pick which one of the sites we will be going to. but here is what it really is; they know our sites, they’ve known our sites, they are just making sure we are still a good fit. the set of questions for everyone are all on the same piece of paper but not one of us had similar interviews. they so know! we won’t know results until october.
she made sure i still wanted rural, check (as long as i can have a modern bathroom…or not). she asked if it was ok that i was two hours away from a mall, check (and welcome to my whole childhood). asked if i would be willing to use sports to enhance english through out the whole community not just the school, check. if i wanted a small school, check (even though all i know is small is less than 1,000 students, so it could still be a big school). then they asked questions about how i saw supervisors and what if my supervisor was very set in her ways and an outstanding principal. i said i was flexible but still had a backbone. she loved that and compared me to bamboo! then she asked about counterparts. parts plural. i said that sounded good to me. she loved me. and even went to say that she could tell i was very boney. she said i was strong, funny, and hopeful, and said that the backbone, funny bone, and wishbone are the most important bones.
the other four interviews were nothing like that. so they so know. which is tough to chew on. i just want to know.

making friends

 September 6, 2010
remember hazel? well i think i trumped her. meet oswald.

i went to the bathroom when i woke up and it was friend free. went on my run, and when i got back and hopped (no pun intended) in the shower i noticed i was not alone. he kept to himself over in the toilet area and even turned his back while i got dressed.
i thought the spider was normal and didn’t say anything about it, accept to my cluster folk. they all wanted to see so i took them into  to meet hazel. my host family gave me a funny look. i said there is a spider in there. they laughed and said good morning and we went to school. when i got home at lunch, the spider was gone and they were all up in my grill (not in a mean way, it was funny) about not telling them. hahaha i assured them it wasn’t a big deal, and didn’t mention i actually did try to convey the message. then i learned about spider fighting, a popular sport with the kids. they catch spiders and keep them in match boxes (not as big as my hazel) and don’t feed them. then they find a kid with a spider put them on a stick and let them have at each other. i also learned they do different things with hazel and all her sisters. they take them and remove the egg sack. where the sack was is an impression or marking. they try to see what number it most resembles and boom they have a new lucky number.
i told them about oswald and continued to do my hair with him chilling. then i went and did some stuff and nothing was done about the frog. when i had to pee again (nature calls a lot these days) i checked for him, didn’t find him and sat down. then came in someone to take care of him… despite my announcing my status they came in full force. it was awkward but i really didn’t get too embarrassed (the philipinnes are doing wonders to me). so when i was done we did another search and didn’t see him.
oswald is tricky, because guess what. he came out during breakfast and was doing sprints between the shower and the toilet. what a life i live.

we don't party hardly, we just party hard

September 8, 2010
The Philippines are catholic and so therefore their traditions are at times catholic. This week was one of those cases where my group got to participate in part of these traditions.
My nanay’s husband passed away 9 years ago this week. In the Catholic Church you say a pray on the day he passed to help ensure entry to heaven, but for the first 9 years you say the pray and have an anniversary celebration (a very big celebration). We were invited to be part of this.
The prayer was at 11:00 and lunch followed around 12:00. The spread, oh the spread! There was rice, and pork adobo, and pansit (noodles and a personal favorite of mine), and chicken, and fried shrimp, and a pork and cabbage type stir-fry, and some more chicken, and some more pork, and another kind of pork pâté kind of thing, and amazing pineapple, and fruit salad, and fish, and gabi, then the amazing lychee flan (I ate way more than my share of that). Then they brought out the beers and we got practice our turn down the brew skills, what with us sitting across from a teachers, and with having class in 30 minutes, and the fact I don’t drink. When we went to class they told us to come back for meryenda and then come back after class.
After class we walked around a bit and did some visiting at a cluster mates house. Then I went home and the party was in full force. I had some studying to do so I hid away in my room for a bit. Then at about 7:30 a cluster mate of mine stopped by. We were ushered to the back yard for some tuba (a type of wine made from the bark of the coconut tree, they drink it with Coke) and more beers and some videoke. Which was fine for my cluster mate, him being a male that drinks and all. However I was the only one in the back yard without a drink and without a y chromosome. My house sister brought me some tang and more flan and stayed out for a couple songs then came inside to play card games with the kids. A couple hours later my cluster mate went home and I proceeded to bed.
Luckily I had my earplugs in because they were videoke-ing well into the morning. This morning was the first morning I was up before everyone in the family, and we even decided to go on a later run. My cluster mate who is also one of my running mates was there, but not in top form.
Talking at breakfast just now they said they had 200 plates and it was not enough. They have already started the clean up and knowing the way people use their time here it should be all clear by the time I get back for lunch.
What a day, the celebration went from 11:00 am to 2:00 am. This is the last year they well have an anniversary celebration for him. In so many days they will pray for him, and then in so many days later pray again. After that they will just go to mass on the anniversary of his death.

doo, doo, doo looking out my back door...

 September 10, 2010
I suppose it is time I introduce you to more of my “friends.” These guys don’t have names; I just don’t like them enough. In fact I very close to hate them. Each time I hear them I just think more and more about how much they are not my friends.  These ones are used for cockfighting. It is a big deal here, which makes sense since they fight spiders as kids. Grow up and use a bigger, meaner, louder, not as bright (mentally) animal.
(No joke, taken from my window)

(Three more of the dozen in my backyard.)
This is the one underneath my window. He is the ringleader. He’ll wake up early and do his half effort crow in the early hours of the morning (the roosters cock-a-doodle with no doo, in fact they are lucky if they make it through the doodle before petering out {perhaps it is too hot for them to give 100%}). If a rooster replies he’s good for an hour so. If not then it is every 10 seconds. Sometimes the replies come from one of the other ten in the back yard.

Sometimes the replies come from roosters far away, and the whole town is crowing until it finally makes it back to our yard. Then an hour or so later the same thing happens again. And again and again and again. Then once the sun is up and shining it still happens but the internal clock has been shut off. So it is randomly annoying throughout my life. And they sound so desperate, and stupid, and unoriginal.
Oh also while studying a chicken flew in the front door (unlike the roosters they are not tethered), bounced off my foot, and hid under the TV. The nephew saw this whole thing, calmly put his bag down and shewed her out the door like this was normal.
I may come back certifiable.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

thatsa big bridge

August 29, 2010
after going to see the beach, we went and saw the san juanic0 bridge. this is pretty neat. it connects leyte to the next island. it is the longest bridge in the philippines, maybe asia. my host family was undecided on that, but it was quite amazing all the same. it spans 2.2 ks and was a gift from ferdinand marcos to his wife Imelda (the one with the shoes). if i were to take a bus to manila this would be how i would do it, but it would still take 21 hours.

I shall return...

August 29, 2010

so the philippines have had an interesting history.  magellan came here when he was going around the world. if you know that story you know that his crew made it but not him. he had a bit of a snafu in the philippines that ended up with him, you know dying. that happened near here. well this started about 300 years of spanish rule. lots of other countries have had influence on the culture here. then the japanese came in and occupied the islands.
well douglas macarther came and did some stuff then left and said “i shall return”. he did return and here is where he came. to where i live. my host mom here remembers it. she was in first grade. yesterday we went to see that beach where it all happened. on the way we stopped and spoke with my host mom’s brother who was older and remembers it also. his highlights were soldiers being nice to the children and ignoring the adults. they would give chocolate to the kids. they remember that while america was occupying the philippines they celebrated the fourth of july and sang the national anthem in schools. then early in the 50s the philippines gained independence, did away with our song and now celebrate on june 12th.
and that my friends, is philippine history in my very brief nutshell version of the details i know or at least pretend to know.

before my day even begins

August 30, 2010
did you know the creator of netflix was a peace corps volunteer? well he was, and it all makes sense now. i’m sure he came up with the theory all before 6 in the morning. for those who know me, you know just how big this next statement is: i think i may leave here a bit of a morning person. not once since i got here have i slept past 5:30 and i’ve never actually gotten up out of bed past 6:30 (that is the big thing, because i really enjoy the slow get up out of bed).
there are a lot of factors at work here:
by the end of the day i am exhausted, i think i’ve been asleep by 10:30 every night
the roosters in the back yard, they crow hours before sunrise, don’t let the jimmy dean commercials fool you, oh and it is not a once and done ordeal—all morning long!
the sun comes up early here and will always come up early
since arrival in the philippines I’ve been peeing like a race horse (in fact last night was the first night i made it to 4 with out the morning urge
     o part jet lag, part of my extreme efforts to drink lots of water and also
     o i’ve not been feeling good. in part a new diet and also my malaria pill gives me stomach cramps and an overall just not feeling good feeling
however there is not much to do between the 5:45 shower (more on that in a different blog) and leaving for class at 7:45. there is breakfast, but that doesn’t take 2 hours. if I was either flexible or could focus and sit still i could yoga. i’ve been reading (a lot, not just in the morning). running just is unthinkable (it is so hot, blog on that also) and i am not quite too the point where i should be walking around by myself yet. i could sleep in, but to be right good and honest i don’t want to get into that habit. it would be hard to break when i got to site. and soon enough i will have a language to study. so for now i will blog away and experience the world before 7:30 a.m. for a change.
maúpay gna ága (good morning)!

kasílyas (bathrooms)

august 30, 2010
so bathrooms are definitely the first thing the trainees texted each other about. luckily i was able to provide good reports.
i have a shower (no hot water, but i like it like that) which means i get to learn to bucket showering later on in my pc career
i have a toilet that flushes, which means i get to learn about bucket flushing later on in my pc career
i have toilet paper, which means i get to learn about bucket wiping later in my pc career (just kidding! i will leave that to the natives, i’ll choose to wipe throughout the duration)
however speaking of toilet paper, i’m curious how long it takes to get into the habit of throwing it away…. hahahaha just a thought. and another thought, i hope they teach us how to burn just our garbage and not the whole village or town.

just a little shell shock

August 28, 2010
i have a purpose! i am still just a trainee, but finally got a job and area and language! i was so nervous, but felt very unique in my anxiety. people were wondering where they would be and what they would be speaking but I was so focused on my job. primary education is a brand new program this year in the philippines and only 10 volunteers would be in this sector. this was not public information, but wasn’t private either and slowly was sneaking out of the current volunteers mouths. i was so nervous: only 10 of the 80 some odd of us. well it happened I am going to be teaching year 6 students (11-12 year olds). i will be training in palo, leyte and learning to speak waray waray. i have been here in leyte for almost a day and half. and i am realizing just how huge this is.
my host mom is a retired teacher and i live with here and her daughter in her 30s. next door is either 1 or 2 of her sons and their families (not quite sure). she also has 2 children married and living france and a child studying here, but not in palo. i have a room on the first floor.
we have not quite settled into our routines yet, which makes sense considering i just got here. i find myself alone a lot and i am not quite sure where everybody went. i think they go next door and are doing there day to day routines. as they should, but until monday i do not have a day to day routine of my own, but i’ve been aching for that long before finding myself home alone in the philippines (the desire goes back to kemmerer). hopefully once i get my routine going i can fit into their routine also. because right now i just feel like a hindrance amongst other things. namely being lonely. this is the first time since philadelphia i have not been surrounded by people at all times, and at pst i had found a great group of people who didn’t mind that my name was not same as theirs. it was sad to say goodbye to laura, and jessica, and sarah, and laura, and jessica, and the other sarah is here with me but not in my training cluster so in a different part of town. but it will be good for us to have our individual experiences and share and visit each other. whale sharks here we come (well as soon as we can leave site)!
i am not home sick, but at this point i am thinking too much. thinking of kemmerer, and thinking of albuquerque, and foremost thinking of vermont (a place i’ve never been). it is kind of frustrating that i am sitting here alone in a new house while two of my dear friends are getting married. they are happy for me, but we all thought i was going to be too busy to not be missing the festivities. wrong, too bad it is not next weekend when i have started classes. i miss my family, and still wish i could have said better goodbyes and currently had better communication with my friends. these are things with time that i will still miss, but won’t be active in my mind.
i know that this is just an adjustment. every single thing is new, and i am going into sensory over load and not handling a malaria pill too well. wyoming is quiet and leyte has given me a home with a rooster tethered by my window. wyoming smells like cattle and leyte smells like fish. wyoming is cold and getting to be fall and leyte is hot and thriving. the view from the plane was one of the best things i have experienced in my whole life. so green and thriving and good. wyoming is rural and leyte and the philippines are so alive and busy. 
things i am for sure not use to, but very excited to think of the norm and find my groove here. overall my thoughts of the philippines and this huge thing i have chosen to do are so overwhelming, but it is overwhelmingly good! i am falling in love with it. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

time warp

my body is way confused time wise, hence the blogging at 5 in the morning.
also since i have not blogged since i got here let us start at the beginning.
last week at this time i was still a peace corps nominee, and getting very sick to my stomach about it. i was a nervous wreck. it came to climax on wednesday morning when we had to wake up early and drive to evanston. there we waited, then drove to salt lake, ate, waited, and went to the airport. that was the climax of the oh-my-wordness. then actually once on the plane the dread subsided above nebraska somewhere. going to admit, that it did flow a bit during the landing.
then the actual philadelphia was very good, and it was very good to know everyone else felt the same as me to a degree. we even took a group to the bell, liberty bell. as well as just exploring down town philadelphia for a couple hours.
then my life changed forever. we woke up at 4:30 to check out (which to my body was 2:30), got on one of three buses, drove to new york city, through the actual city on a huge bus, and then on to jfk. we got through security rather painlessly and arrived in the terminal just in time for all the places to stop serving breakfast (and yet it was still 7:30 my time). then we waited all day to board the plane. it took forever to leave then the chaos began.
we travelled west, so the sun never set and the plane just kept going. i've lost a day or gained a day or something all i know is i am confused. and they just kept feeding us and feeding us. also the movies were suppose to be good, but they were messed up and sucked. hahah then we got to tokyo at who knows what time where. there we sampled wasabi, green tea, and soy sauce kit-kats (and by we i mean people who like american kit-kats, so not me). then we got back on a plane and came to manila. there we were shuttled around, and got visas stamped and got on buses to come to this lovely island resort.
it really is lovely, but sadly very boring. up to now we've been eating at the same outdoor place, and then sitting in the same ballroom from 8:30-5:00.
that part is very overwhelming. we are getting briefed on info but there are tons of us and i think some don't realize it is just a briefing and are getting freaked out. which starts the very specific questions which is fine but we are still very generalized. i won't find out where i am going until i am basically going.
the jet lag is intense. it sets in about 6 and from there it is a power struggle between me and the sleep. they told us to stay up until 9:00 and that has been the hardest rule so far. we've been in bed waiting for the clock to turn each night. on the flip side the whole troupe is up between 3 and 5. self included (i may come back a morning person!) but at that time the internet is also the best.
the adventure has started, but just waiting to get of the compound!

Friday, August 13, 2010

what are my thumbs good for now?

when I left albuquerque it basically broke my heart. the goodbyes were vague. it was before medical clearance, and invitation kits, and knowing that i had a plan beyond august. so i said my fair wells and drove away.
of course through out the summer i wasn't out of communication with them. thankfully i had my texting and did it ever get me through the summer. it was sad that i had to tell all my friends my great news not face to face, but i still knew they were pumped for me. and they were there to encourage me through the stresses and worries that came with this process. and as each day goes by, those feelings have for sure heightened.
so has the reality that i've only got about a week or so of those texts and occasional phone calls left. you start to think, hey will i ever see so-and-so again. i know i'll see such-and-such, but what about whats-her-toe? and it is hard to come to this realization and have it maybe be a one sided emotion. sure so-and-so and whats-her-toe will miss you, but do they know if they will see you again. thankfully in this age of communication i'll be in contact, but will i ever hug such-and-such again?
goodbyes are awkward, well at least for me. they involve those hugs that you don't want to end and the avoiding eye contact as best as possible to not just break down. well, how are you suppose to avoid eye contact through a text? there won't be the hugs, and the parties, and good luck wishes. just texts to boost the moral one last time, and perhaps a completely avoided farewell (at least on my part).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

in tents, like a circus

the other day i was so excited that i was basically two weeks away. two weeks! it sounded brave, bold, and daring.
well now two weeks isn't an idea anymore it is now a reality. a scary reality. i'm not so sure about my moxie to take this on any more. i'm so very very nervous. which is good. i think it would be less than normal if i wasn't afraid.
i'm ready to go, and i'm sure i'll be fine. but i'm embarking on a life changing adventure. if it wasn't huge i wouldn't embark. you don't embark to go grocery shopping, which is why it is not scary. but because i am embarking it just ups the intensity by whoa!
i'm ready to leave despite the anxiety to involve. well scratch that, i'm not so ready as i could leave on the plane tomorrow. i've still got to finish making all those pre-departure lists of things to do, of what to pack to bring with me, what to pack for the parents to save, and then check off the things on those lists. i'm starting to realize that i should just do what i know i need to do and if i've forgotten something oh well! roll with the punches, i'm sure you can survive without that very american luxury you failed to think about before hand.
i'm over that nervousness. the reality is i am leaving (embarking, haha) and i am nervous. the nerves will get me through once i can find my sleep again. intense.... like a circus.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

hop, skip, and a juuuuuump away

"go west, young man"-horace greeley said it and then they named a town in colorado after him. it seems like simple yet sage advice: go west. well sir that is what i intend to do, but i guess i'm going in the round about way.
i got my itinerary from staging head quarters and was shocked to see that i am going to philadelphia for orientation rather than california. i have to go clear to pennsylvania (which also has a greeley named after our friend horace) on the east coast.
i've made my travel plans and actually hop on over to pa the night before because in order to get from the west side of the nation to the east side of the nation by 11:00 am you need to leave the day before. which may or may not give me some time in the morning to see some city, but maybe not.
then i have to do all of my orientation things and then wake up at 5:00 am (which is 3 here) and skip on up to new york. we are taking a bus up there and flying out of jfk in the afternoon.
now here for the jump. from jfk i fly to tokyo (i assume we go up and over) then from tokyo to manila. a twenty hour twenty minute flight. that is almost a whole day off of the ground. that is just crazy to me.
however this gives me some more sense of direction. i got my h1n1 shot, and registered to vote, and any day in the mail some goods for the journey are coming. i'm glad i get to get out of here one day earlier just because that is one less day to wait.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

no whammy, no whammy!

you know on the game shows when they spin the wheel or it the buttons and then are just standing there screaming come on big money? well that is me. i'm checking the mail (both snail and e) very religiously waiting for my staging info and still nothing. which renders me pretty helpless. i'm at starting line, in the blocks ready to go, but the guy with the start gun has yet to load it and let us getting going already. just sitting here with energy waiting to get out and serve, and do, and help.

what's with the altitude?

One month left and my mind is a mess. I know I'm in for a world of change, but the main thing on my mind these days is the change in world. The physical environment is just going to be so completely different from anything I've experienced.
  • Climate: I currently live in a high desert. Very dry lots of sage brush, and yet very harsh winters. I went to school in New Mexico, lived in a desert there also. Before school the high desert as well as many other tiny communities in Wyoming with harsh winters and if summer ever came it was mild. Not quite the story in the Philippines. They are the tropics with 10 degrees difference all year round. They have typhoons and a rainy season, and always humidity. Deserts don't have humidity. That may do me in.
  • Land forms: Wyoming is a mountainous state fairly land locked, and by fairly landlocked I mean 2-3 giant states sit between it and the ocean. Very similar story with New Mexico. The Philippine Islands are just that. Islands. 7,000 plus islands right smack dab in the middle of the Ring of Fire. Which means volcanoes, several of which are active, see Mount Pinatubo . Also earthquakes and there fore tsunamis. I've experienced countless earthquakes with out even knowing, but have yet to see a tsunami.
  • Altitude: In all my life I have never lived below 4,500 feet. The highest point in the Philippines isn't even 3,000 feet. Can we say energy galore? I'm going to be bouncing off the walls.
These are just some of the things I've been thinking about, not even to mention the other aspects of culture. More on that later, and welcome to my Peace Corps experience.