Wednesday, January 19, 2011

what a site to see

January 13, 2011
This week my regional manager came for my site visit. I combined forces with D, and I’m really glad I did.
D has been here a whole year longer than me and it was good to see what she has done in the past year and what she has planned in the next year. At this point I’ve done absolutely nothing. Sure I’ve taught a handful of times in the past month or so, but that doesn’t seem like a lot.
But to see that D has done stuff was really good for me. It was good to see where I could be a year from now. Sometimes in this culture it seems a wonder things get done. Not to say anything against Filipinos. It is just I’ve seen time and time again that their priorities are not what mine might be. Again this is not bad, just different. However, today I saw that you can do things within the systems here.
I was also reassured that I’m still in the observation state of this whole ordeal. Yes I’m teaching, but that doesn’t mean that my work here has actually begun. So yes I can set up reading classes, and fix up buildings, and do projects with D, but none of those things need to be done tomorrow, next week, next month, or even this school year.
I’m still getting my feet wet, and not just because of the rain. I’m still new and have plenty of time to change what little part of the world I can.

January 14, 2011
Today was kind of part two of the site visit. I was observed teaching, and then, since she was gone yesterday we talked with my supervisor. It was good to have a person from Peace Corps tell her what my limitations are and to explain that I am a volunteer and not a source of money.
We were also able to start serious discussions about the nonfunctioning library and what needs to be done to get it functioning. Then we were shown the new space for the library. The structure was sound but the room was a hot mess. I wanted to get a before picture but my battery was dead in my camera. The whole room was three feet deep of rotting workbooks. Before we’d even said goodbye the school had a bonfire going for the books. They pulled pupils out of some class somewhere to sort through the books, and burned the ones not good enough. By the time I left school today the room was all but cleared, the books were sorted, and the fire was going strong.
Again, you never know what will get done and what won’t. 

hip to be a square

January 12, 2011
Today I had a really good day, which I was in need of. My lessons went well today. I think the kids like to have lessons that are not taken from some book filled with formal English. I’ve been working with some student teachers and I really like it. The one is very much in control and the other is, well, getting there. We’ve been teaching the same thing to both sections and until today had been going to town with the prepositions. Going to be honest, the only thing I really knew about them before was that you are not suppose to end sentences with them, but I do anyways. Now I know so much more. So it was nice to change it up and do some cause and effect relationships today. We sang, we danced, we wrote stories, we got outside of the box. They loved it! Also, I got a box from the States! Mail will always make my day better, and I was at the point where I needed a better day.
Maybe it was the prepositions getting me down, but earlier this week when I got a text stating how sometimes it is so frustrating here I couldn’t help but reflect on my week and agree. This week while working in the library I’ve had some visitors, four girls probably in grade one that have come to see me every day. Our library is not a working library (yet, go Peace Corps!), so basically these kids were just playing hooky, and no matter how many times and in what language I said it in I could not get them to go to class. I realize that that statement makes me sound like a square, but hey education is important to me, and is kind of the reason why I am here. The thing is, nobody cared that these girls were not in class. No matter how many times I told them they needed to be in clase they knew that maybe they needed to be there but they didn’t have to be there. The teacher didn’t care, their parents wouldn’t know, the principal wasn’t around. The only person who cared was some Americano, and they thought it was more fun to stare at me and giggle. Cute yes, but also frustrating.
So yes at times it is hard, but there are the good days. The days when your students get upset when they have to stop your activity. Days when even the shy kids raise their hands. Days that confirm that all those years of schooling were not for not.  A good way to end my week of teaching, and I’ll take it!

blame it on the rain

January 18, 2011
So, I’ve been here awhile! Friday was two months at site. Tomorrow marks another month of my Peace Corps experience. Which means I’ve basically been here for 5 months. That is almost half a year. As far as my marathon analogy I’ve done 4 miles and have 22 to go. My PC friend in Tacloban has been keeping track of weeks. based on M’s count I’ve been here 22 weeks. When I type it I realize that it sounds like a long time, but when I think about August, it doesn’t seem that long ago. However, what does make me realize the time I’ve been here is the weather. When we got here there was something totally different going on out there. It was hot all the time and rained sometimes. Now it rains. I’ve been here for a change in ‘seasons’!
So I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the change of seasons. I very much have a love hate relationship going on with the rain. It is still a very foreign concept to me. In Wyoming it snows, we don’t get rain. In New Mexico we do have the monsoons, but an hour of rain each afternoon is way different than weeks of rain.
Let us exam the hate part of my relationship. First, I’m not loving this whole wet feet thing. I don’t think they’ve been dry since November. My shoes are wet. I hate sloshing home in the puddle in my wet sandals. Who does? Second, I am not an umbrella person. What a nuisance. I get wet any ways. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, or maybe I’m just too tall for it to truly serve its purpose. In order for it to do any good I have to hold it way low over my head, which makes me blind and antisocial on my walk home. And most of the time the thing is broken in some way. To be honest, I really only use the thing so that people don’t tell me to use it. Third is something I’ve mentioned before, but laundry implications. It just doesn’t dry. Nothing dries. I’m pretty sure my pillow has mold, which can’t be healthy. Fourth, I’ve not been running since mid-December. Now I don’t know if I’d hit the road sans rain, but I like to think I would have. Last on my list, for now, is I don’t like to be rained on while I use the loo. We’ve got 4 solid leaks in there and lots of baby leaks. The toilet is soaking, I get dripped on, mosquitoes love it it in there. Not fun.
However, the rain is not all bad, and it could be a lot of worse. My daily text updates from L in Samar are astonishing. Three days without power, that is hard core Peace Corps! So, my ode to rain. Despite the list rain makes me happy. It evokes memories of those rare times when I’d go play in the rain as a kid, and even in my later years. I sleep better when it rains. It puts me to sleep, and reminds me of backpacking. I’ll take rain on a tin roof over videoke, roosters, trucks, etc any day. I’d also take the weather being in the upper 70s any day. I like my rain jacket. It makes me feel cool, and is a great color. People are impressed that I know how to say, “It is raining!” in WarayWaray.
This rain is crazy! Filipinos are afraid of getting wet, and I have a hard time staying dry. It marks time here, they have a rainy season, and a not rainy season.  Before I know it will be summer break, and I’ll be missing the rain like crazy. Until then, I’ll try not to let it frustrate me too much.
And yes, I did just write a whole blog about rain. Ma uran!

Friday, January 07, 2011

holiday identity crisis

December 27, 2010
Well, Christmas was made for Filipinos that is for sure!
My school program and party was wonderful. Which is a good thing, because the whole week before hand was devoted to getting ready for this party. We decorated, and cleaned, and rehearsed and organized.  And all went without a hitch. The classes had a lantern contest. Which was actually an overall classroom decoration contest. Which was actually just the student teachers decorating while the kids waxed and buffed the floors. My class took second, but I think the judges were biased; after all they gave themselves first. The program was amazing. My favorite part was this chubby second grader dressed up as Santa throwing Juicy Fruit into the audience. After all the different performances we went and had our class parties. Lots of food, games and fun! The student teachers were in charge of parlor games, my CP and I did the catering arrangements, and the kids had fun. Then we went home.
The partying didn’t stop there. The town party was quite an event also. It started at “6:00” we left the house at 7:00, sat around for almost 45 minutes waiting. Then a huge rainstorm came in during which all of DepEd was huddled under a tent only slightly bigger than my current bedroom (not big at all). Then the power went out. Then the rain let up and the power came back and they finally let us eat. Lots of food as always. Then they had a Live Belen (Nativity) contests. Most of them were super somber and rehearsed and really put together. DepEd's, not so much. They were trying to convince me to be Mary because I am white and everyone knows Mary was white herself. I’m glad I declined, because their Belen included one of the Barrio Principals dressed as Baby Jesus. At this party the dancing didn’t start until almost midnight, and I went home with my teachers and didn’t get to practice my cha-cha.
The week leading up to Christmas was full of lots of gatherings also. Going to Tacloban to celebrate M’s birthday, going to Death Anniversaries, birthday parties, other Christmas events, all-leading up to the big day. And as the day drew nearer the dread grew stronger. Let me just tell you, the idea of being 1000s of miles away from home on Christmas is way worse than the reality. The worse part is the dread of how terrible it is going to be, and doing whatever you can to will it not to come. But then it does and everyone is super cheerful and everything is fine.
On Christmas Eve we went to service, and then it turned midnight and the firecrackers were insane. I was impressed, and I come from a state where you needed a shopping cart or two to properly celebrate the Fourth of July. Then the noise finally stopped and I slept, and woke up and it was Christmas. Simple as that. The strangest thing did happen, the kids went…well…trick-or-treating. They all had bags, and were going door to door saying merry Christmas singing a bar or two of some song and then they got candy.  Then for lunch we went to the mall, stood around outside for a long time for the place to open, ate, came home, and then did nothing the rest of the day.
On Sunday we went to the Parish Family Christmas Party. We had mass, we ate, we raffled, we played games, we danced, and again had some fun!
Now today, I’m exhausted from the week and a half of partying.
Maupay Nga Pasko!

bringing in the new year

January 3, 2011
How does a Filipino celebrate the New Year? I have no idea, but I can only assume it involves 13 hour street parties that don’t stop until 4 a.m. with music they can hear in Australia, triple the firecracker power from Christmas, and just adding to the misery of the poor sick Americans that may be about. Or maybe not. I’m not sure.
I do know, that I had really great plans and they fizzled. I got sick something fierce. So instead of going to Donsol to see K, L, and MD and ring in a brand new year I laid in bed for 5 days. Maybe next year.
I went to school today and my teacher and principal sent me home, so now I’m back in bed, and now adding cabin fever to my symptoms. It’s all up hill from here right?
Happy New Years All!