Friday, September 30, 2011

just like the fonz...

September 29, 2011
I wanted to do this post at my one-year mark, but life at that time was a bit of a hot mess. My second thought was to wait until my mid-service training, but I still don’t know when that is and I want to talk about things while they are still fresh memories. I’m not sure the date when I will be coming home but sometime in the next week or so will pretty much be the exact middle of my service.
Coming up on the year mark I was worried that this post was going to be negative and all thumbs down. There is something none as the 12-month funk, and those of us in Leyte got it early. Life was frustrating and there was plenty of volunteer commiserate parties about everything: school, heat, counter parts, plumbing, and any number of things.
Luckily it was just a phase and we all came out of the funk about the same time. So here is the non-thumbs down version of how I think things have been at site the past six (plus) months at site.
My well-being is a thumbs up. All those things that drove me completely up the wall before are just funny parts of this life. This is what I’ve signed up for, and I’m for sure a better person for all of it.
Professionally speaking I’d give myself hesitant thumbs up. But I think the hesitation is good, it is so important to keep working to be better and allow for growth. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not so sure how needed I am, but in the place I am I’m doing all that I can. I’ve really started to gain control as a teacher and I myself am learning so much about the English language and coming up with millions of ideas for future classroom use, both good and bad. My library is coming together. I’m learning when are good times to meet with my committee and when are just really awful times to meet with them. I feel good, but still feel there is room for improvement.
Everything else is a thumbs up also. I really feel like the community, and not just the immediate community has embraced me around my house. I go running, and people are ok with that. I go to the market and people are respectful and practice English on me. I don’t feel like I need to flee to the mall all the time. Random people have invited me to random things. I really like it here.
I don’t feel like my life is a wash. Things are good. Happy Days! Aaaaaaaaa! (That was my Fonzie impression, picture me with my thumbs up, but no motorcycle that’d get me sent home)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

best not forget

September 27, 2011
It has been no secret that I’ve struggled with my grade 6 pupils, to the point I was almost dreading that time of the day. Friday was crazy, Ma’am was gone working on some professional development and the student teacher was a no show.
At the end of class I sat them all down and had them write down on pieces of paper what their expectations were of me as their teacher. After they all turned them in I asked the class if they enjoyed having me as their teacher. They all said yes and we talked about why for a while. Then I told them that they made it really hard for me to enjoy being their teacher. We discussed what we all could do to make the experience optimum for everyone involved. When I read their expectations later it made me happy, other than playing games and giving good grades they would like me to buy snacks, cancel class, be funny (tell at least one joke per lesson), be beautiful, be tall, be kind, and one kid said he/she had no expectations because I was a good teacher.
They are good kids, but I for sure think they forget. The only problem is, I’m not going to really be teaching them much these next few weeks to practice what we discussed. Lets hope they are not too forgetful.

September 28, 2011
I’m not really sure what the deal was yesterday but when I showed up yesterday after lunch there were no teachers about. So naturally the Grade 6 pupils were all over the place. I asked where the teachers were and they said at a meeting in the conference hall (I knew of this meeting, I even signed off on being told, but the paper said 4:00). The other classes had student teachers teaching but the teacher how teaches before we teach English does not have one. Hence the reason they were all over the place.
I pulled them into class and came up with an activity (not on the spot, I already had it planned). I’m having them do a pen pal program with one of my best friend’s in Albuquerque. I explained that they would be writing with grade 6 pupils and that they would just introduce themselves in the first letter. I also explained that they might not be writing with the gender of their choice because my class is mostly girls. One of my students said he wanted a girl and I said he wanted to write to his future wife. (That met my expectation for one joke per lesson.)
The kids were eating this up and were quietly writing their life stories so I went up to the conference hall. We were planning what to do on Friday for the competition and what to do next Wednesday for World Teacher Day. When it came time for English class I went back to the room to watch the students teacher. We got a new one Friday and she was not ready to teach at all. So, instead of assigning the letters for homework I had them finish them. They asked that I not read them. It was funny, and I hope this turns out to be a positive project for all involved. It seemed to work for Charlie Brown.

there's no place like home

It has been windy here at site. Normally it is pretty dead with an occasional breeze bringing a moment or two of relief from the heat. No this week!
I'm sure you all know about Pedring and the wallop Luzon got. Well one mans mega typhoon is another's perfect day. The sun went away Sunday and didn't come back until yesterday. With all that cloud cover you think I'd get rained on, but we only got showers at night. Humidity levels were down. And back to the wind. 
The wind has been awesome. I've not been hot. It reminds me of Albuquerque in the spring, or heck Wyoming all the time. Amazing how something so obnoxious in one home setting when nonexistent in another home setting is blessed.
I've been able to go on great runs this week. The one morning I was going to go riding to wind was so intense I opted to stay home and avoid any wicked witch scenarios. 
I wish we always could be in typhoon side effects weather with out the actual typhoon. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

all over the place

September 25, 2011
Another weekend in the big city.
Saturday I finally bought myself a bicycle. I went in Saturday morning, my plan being to sit my favorite little tea house type place, attack a list of internet things to do, have some pizza, grab the bike and come on home. It more or less worked like that. My Jeep was super fast and I got into town before my place opened so I stopped into McDo for breakfast. I had to go to the bathroom so I took all my stuff into the stall and went to put my backpack on the hook. It slid off the hook and I caught it right when it hit the ground. After this I trekked over to get my tea on. The place was so hot, steamy, and dark. The city was having a scheduled brown out. The poor guy was standing there stirring a hot pot of tapioca pearls and told me they didn’t have a brown out. Poor guy. I abandoned ship and went over to the coffee joint, which was so packed and crowded, due to brown out. I took out my computer and figured out my mouse track pad is all messed up, and kind of slightly my keyboard. I ran into some other volunteers there and ended up having pizza company. Then I went and bought my heavy new bike. I’m very excited to have it, and can’t wait to ride!
I’ve been in sore need of mall groceries for weeks now, but didn’t want to do groceries and bikes on a Jeep same day. It is enough of a pain with absolutely nothing on your person. So Sunday I went to the mall. I’d done my shopping and was walking through mall when I ran into what could be considered my host niece from when I first got here. It was her birthday and they were eating at Jolibee. I got the crazy idea that I would just say hi. Just saying hi does not exist here. Before I knew it was sitting there sipping Coke waiting for food. When the food came they plopped the fried chicken and rice and telling me to eat. I noticed the mom had no food, and I started to feel super guilty about my lunch. She said she never ordered food for herself just extra rice, at first I didn’t believe her, but then noticed that this mother of 3 ended up finishing off the better part of 3 chicken breasts. Luckily the gravy has free refills and she didn’t starve. Then the ice cream came and they went to the arcade. It was so nice bumping into them and feeling so welcomed.
I went to go sit after this and call my family at home. I ended up sharing an outlet (this country not only has a lack of power, but also a lack of power sources) with some guy working really hard. He was trying to skype with someone in Chinese and seemed to be having a hard time. After a while three Filipinos joined him. They started giving him a hard time for not knowing my story. We started talking and they work for the company this first guy worked for and were sent from Manila to be his cultural aide. One guy was a Waray Waray speaker, the other two were Cebuano speakers one from Bohol and one from Mindanao. Those three all had to speak to each other in Tagalog, which is no problem, but had to use their poor English skills to speak to the Chinese guy with even poorer English skills. They found out I was a teacher and the language classes began (minus the Chinese man who was still trying to work, and terribly shy and awkward). I told the Mindanao guy my teacher was also from Mindanao and he asked where. All I knew was from a region that uses to speak Cebucano (spelling check on that), which is known as a broken Spanish. I was telling them some of the little Spanish I’ve retained, and even how to say strawberry and apricot (neither of witch are popular fruits here) in Italian, which is basically all I learned outside of dinner terms from my short time there. When I left they said sianaura and laughed and laughed. I guess I’m a citizen of the world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


There are certain things I took for advantage at home that are total splurges is. I've decided to start high lighting them, hopefully this will make you all super appreciative of what you have.
First would be peanut butter. To be fair, they have peanut butter here but it has more sugar than peanuts. So sometimes I go big and buy American. Another splurge that i really enjoy is apples. They aren't really that rare, but they are imported and do cost more come market day.
Another thing I splurged on is Olive Oil. Usually I will use coconut or corn oil, but sometimes when I'm having pasta I like to get fancy.

Aglio olio con string beans (I don't know the Italian for string bean, but I eat them so much they deserve their own post). Win.
Also, I went fancy and bought cinnamon, and I'm sure a vanilla purchase is not too far in my future. Like the olive oil these aren't really buy and eat, but buy and get lots of uses purchases. I bought the cinnamon to make french toast and cinnamon sugar.

French toast I made with a homemade mango cinnamon syrup. Win.

waray power or no power, but no as in none, zilch, nada, zero, without, absence of...

Lately brown outs have been plaguing my life. They are a super pain of varying degrees on time of day. Sometimes they start in the middle of the night, and I usually get woken up (if the roosters haven't yet) by my fan turning off. These are the least annoying unless they last well into the morning.
Then there are the most annoying, the kinds that happen in the evenings when the sun is going down but it is still kind of light out. At this time it is really hard to see, but flashlights don't really offer much relief.
Next annoying is when it is the evenings and dark outside. Especially if I have not made dinner yet. Here is when flashlights come in super handy.
My brown out arsenal. Don't you wish your cell had a flashlight?

Then there are those that happen in the middle of the day, when it is so hot and as soon as that fan stops spinning you are positive you are going to die. An audible sigh can be heard for kms around, and an even louder huzah when it comes back on. I'm teaching kids just starting puberty and the classroom can be a smelly stinky place with no power. No fun for anyone, but not so annoying, unless it is over cast and then it is impossible to see the chalk boards in the classroom.
As soon as the power goes I get myself some orange soda in a bag ASAP

evaluating the evaluation

September 14, 2011
Way back in mid-August we were suppose to have an evaluation. Of course it didn’t happen. Then last Wednesday we were supposed to have it. Of course that didn’t happen either. They moved it to Monday. Of course that didn’t happen. The new date was set for today. By this point I was pretty positive it wasn’t going to happen ever, so of course it did happen.
Each time we thought it was going to happen school for the day or so before was halted so that students could buff the floors and wash things and make sure the appearance of the school was tip top shape. In August it took a whole week, and after that it just kind of was maintained. In my opinion it never really looked all that bad anyways, but I am super grateful for janitors (and i'm not just saying that because I was one). So last week we cleaned on Monday afternoon, all day Tuesday, and then extreme hard-core cleaning on Friday. This week we cleaned all day Tuesday.
Well today the evaluator came and by now I’ve gotten pretty curious about what goes on during this evaluation. I still am. The guy came and then Ma’am took me to the canteen to sit while he did his evaluations. I know that he looked at all her records and made sure she had labels on everything so there is no doubt if the sink is sink. The students had to do some oral recitations and stuff.
We had a big fancy lunch because of the evaluation and now the rest of the day there are no classes. 

Friday, September 09, 2011

tapos na?

September 6, 2011
More adventures in awkward.
I don’t know if you recall but about a month ago two of my neighbors that were both high ups in DepEd passed away. I’d mentioned all the events we had to go to and the Catholic process, but there is more. Today was Tapos (that is strictly my spelling), which is the prayer mass held 40 days the death. They have an altar and they light candles and give offerings and food. Kind of a way of ensuring happy ever after.
Yesterday I was invited to go to a specific Tapos at lunch and the teachers said they would wait for me at the corner. The corner of the street in between where the two houses where the deaths occurred. I waited and waited and finally teachers called me over and they had a seat saved for me and I sat. We got up to get food and when we sat back down the thought occurred to me I was at the wrong Tapos. Sure plenty of my teachers were there, and sure they saved me a seat, but these weren’t those teachers that invited me yesterday so this probably wasn’t the chair I was suppose to be at.
It was terribly awkward for me from that point on, but I also realize I doubt that anybody noticed and no one from either teacher group seemed to think I was a tool for being at one house and not the other. I just can’t help but wonder if maybe the food at the house was more delicious. Is that bad?

not the most august August

September 6, 2011
Not going to lie, I’ve been kind of ignoring the blog.
These past few weeks have been very trying and with lots of personal things I’ve had to go through. To spare you the details I’ll late it out simply for you. I had the flu, which in itself is nothing I can’t handle, although running a fever in 80 degree 100% humidity is no picnic. My site mate left, which in itself is nothing I can’t handle, and something I’d been preparing for, but I was expecting November and not a text saying I’m leaving the day after tomorrow. I’ve been dealing with sick grandpas, which is hard but in itself nothing I can’t handle, but both being sick and my mom’s father passing way does make it a bit more of a challenge. Then there is the fact that all this took place at the exact same time, and truth be told I couldn’t handle it.
If there is something to be said about having things all fall apart at once it does help you not to focus on any one thing too too much. Ideally I would have liked to get lost in work, but lately very little teaching has been going on. So at first I focused on getting healthy, and took a personal weekend in the city. It is amazing what hot showers, air conditioning, cable, a real bed, mostly consistent Internet, and a lack of roosters can do to all aspects of your health.
So I’m recovering from that, and this week we started teaching again. Sort of. At first we weren’t but the evaluation tomorrow, that was actually suppose to be on August 26, has been moved to Monday. This evaluation has been the reason for the lack of lessons. However, we also got student teachers this week! So instead of continuing prep for this evaluation we’re teaching for them to observe. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have student teachers again. I’ve always sort of struggled with how much my students need me, and the fact that I’m fairly stuck with them. The other English teacher for Grade 5 and 6 is about to retire and doesn’t want to work with me (not in a mean way, she’s just done). Also there is no sustainability in that. But student teachers, they love to learn. Last year when I was working with them it made me feel so useful. Hopefully I get the same return this time. The student teacher I got is super sweet and I really like her. We’ll start co teaching next week after the evaluation.
So that is the update on me. I’ve not forgotten that I’ve been here a full year! That blog post is forth coming, I promise.