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.