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.