Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And this little piggy went to market

wow, so the last two days have actually been kind of busy!

Yesterday I went to yet another fiesta. Fiestas are done by barangays, which are certain areas of the town. I guess you could kind of think of them as neighborhoods. Each barangay has a patron saint, and when it's that saint's birthday they all celebrate it with a fiesta. The party is drawn out over several days, with each day usually featuring one or two big events. The day that I went, yesterday, was the Mass at the local chapel and then a day packed with eating. People host lunches, snacks, dinners, and more snacks at their homes and people circulate around the barangay, eating the day away. It's a pretty big deal and it's not uncommon for one household to kill 4 pigs and a carabao for fiesta. It's a happy time for Filipinos, not so happy time for the pigs.

Yesterday was also my first wedding in the Philippines. It started with a 2 hour service, which included Mass, and then finished with a reception at the local covered basketball court. There were a lot of similarities between this wedding and American weddings. The bride wore a beautiful white gown, they cut the cake, had sappy love songs playing, and a bossy photographer followed the couple around non-stop.

I did see some things that American weddings don't usually feature. First, the couple had people called "sponsors" who stood up with them at the wedding. These were not the bridesmaids or groomsmen (they also had those though), but were older people from the couple's lives that will guide them and offer support if they ever need it. Second, lechon. Lechon is a whole roasted pig that they set out at every major social function in the Philippines. Again, not a happy day for the pigs. Lastly, the couple's first dance included everyone in the audience coming up and pinning money to the couple's clothes. By the end of the song, they had dozens of peso bills attached to them. I really enjoyed going to the wedding.

Today I visited Inopacan's island, Digyo. It was a pretty overcasted day, so it was shady the entire time...so much for that awesome Peace Corps/Filipno tan! We headed back to the mainland around 3, and hit a torrential downpour in the pumpboat. Not so fun... But we're back now, and I'm eating Dove chocolate, so I can't complain. At least no pigs were killed during today's activities... oh no wait, they had pork for lunch. Sorry piggy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

And here's to you Mrs. GMA

Good news, January 2nd has been declared a holiday in the Philippines. This means, I can leave for the New Year's trip, without having to take annual leave days, which means that's one more day I can add to my vacation when I come back home. Thank you President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo!

The way holidays are announced is still kind of new to me. It seems like they're just called out of no where. For example, in November it was Bonafacio Day, but then because fell on the weekend the president decided that the following Monday would be a Holiday was well... but it's not declared until the week of. So when you're teaching at a school, it's just like all of a sudden, "oh, we don't have school today!" Not like in America where no days are taken off unless it's a natural disaster outside or it's been on the school calendar 2 years in advance. Just different I guess.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Noche Bueno

Yesterday was Christmas Eve, and there were some cultural exchanges going on!

First, I was able to give my host family a little mini-lesson on how to use a microwave. They got a new one, and I showed them how to make microwave popcorn. Anita, my host mom, was like, "You are an expert at this Connie," and all I could do was laugh and say yeah, I've made a few bags before!

Next on the agenda was a Christmas Eve dinner with all of Anita's family. I've never eaten so much before. They had crab, shrimp, fish, kamote (sweet potatoes), rice, buko salad (coconut salad), and actual Pepsi and 7-Up. Amazing. I'm so glad I was sent to seafood eating Philippines, and not yak eating Mongolia. :)

We left for midnight mass around 9:45, bringing our own plastic chairs. We got there just as the last of the cathederal was filling up. The place was packed, with people standing all around the outside of the doors. It started around 10, and went up till midnight. The entire service is in Cebuano, so I really don't have any idea what's being said, but you can obviously tell this is an important service to so many Filipinos.

After mass it was time for yet another meal... I'm writing this on Christmas morning, and I'm still full! This meal is called Noche Bueno, and is a traditional time to eat together as the Christmas morning begins. Once everything was said and done, it was around 1am, way past my Filipino bedtime!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So, this one is kind of a downer...

Things I miss:
1. My parents and family
2. My friends
3. Driving
4. Going Christmas shopping with my dad
5. Church's Christmas Eve Service
6. My mom's spaghetti
7. My personal space
8. Making my own breakfast and lunch, and telling my mom "thank you for supper."
9. Listening to music while I drive my car
10. Understanding the jokes that people tell
11. Going to the beach by myself
12. The Office
13. The first 15 minutes of Regis and Kelly
14. Waking up to quietness
15. Coming home after school and talking to my parents
16. Work lunches at Tijuana's
17. Regular refried bean burrito, no jalepenos, extra black olives
18. Crushed ice
19. Seatbelts
20. Butter crust pizza from Hungry Howie's
21. Grilled cheese sandwhiches with no pickles anywhere on the plate
22. Watching Grey's Anatomy with Kris and Kindie
23. Target
24. Playing sumo wrestler with Bekah
25. Painting Abby's nails
26. Christmas tags that say To Connie Sue From Santa that are in my dad's handwriting
27. The Statue of Liberty pose
28. Working in the nursery
29. Going to the movies with Tim and Debbie
30. Bobby saying, "don't make that face at Mom, Connie."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas

Today was the Family Day and Christmas Party at school. I can't even begin to list all the differences between American schools during the holiday season and here in the Philippines. I'll try to mention a few though.

First off, in America it is the "Holiday Season" and in the Philippines it's strictly "Merry Christmas." The entire day seemed to be revolved around Santa and Baby Jesus. It's very interesting to see how religion is involved in everything. For example, the kids decorated a bicycle that is attached to a small plateform as a float for the parade, and the fourh year class had theirs decorated like a stable, complete with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Another difference is "Filipno Time." This is one cultural difference that I'm definitely still getting used to. Nothing starts on time, and yes I know it's like that in a lot of places around the world but the American "Time is Money" mentality is hard to break for a Type A personality like myself. For example, the school had a special Mass scheduled for today. I was told that it was for students, parents, and teachers and was to happen at 7am. Ok, I knew it wouldn't start at 7, but when I got there at 7, expecting it to happen around 7:30 or so, I was shocked to see that there was only 2 students at the school. ok.... So people dont' stress about time, but my real question is how did every person in town know to show up around 45 minutes late because everybody showed up late at the same time. How do they do that?! They don't always come 45 minutes late, but whenever they do show up later than expected it's always at the same time as each other. I need to get on the inside track I guess!

Lastly, schools in America are lucky to get a holiday party in the classroom. INHS had a parade! Unfortunately it rained all day today, so we got to walk the parade route in the pouring rain. The kids were good sports though, and every student and many parents participated. It was nice to see the parents at the school, and try to match them up with their kids.

So, in short, Christmas is serious business here!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

cardboard box miracle

Since coming to the Phlippines, I have learned of the miracle of Balikbayan Boxes. Literally it means "return to homeland," and it's the means of shipping large or heavy items back to the Philippines without breaking the bank.

To begin with, many Filipinos will go overseas to find jobs. They are known as Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs), and they will typically send back money to their loved ones still living in the Philippines. By plane it takes 22 hours to go from Florida to Manila, the capital of the Philippines. You can only imagine what it would cost to send a 100 pound package here... yeah, practically as much as a plane ticket! So what people have done is create a system to solve this problem.

A person overseas will get a large cardboard box, fill it with as many goods as possible, and then ship it overseas on a slow boat. It can take up to 3 months for it to go half way around the world, but it's done for only around $100. The best part? The package is delivered door-to-door and the sender's receipt is a picture of the recipient getting the box!

As you can imagine, the balikbayan box is ideal for shipping books. There is no weight limit, and as long as the box stays together, plus I can get them to deliver the box straight to the school so I don't have to carry it myself, :) we're all set!

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!" said Gomer Pyle style

I was in the middle of teaching English I, second section today when all of a sudden I heard a drum roll. Now, in the States this may cause an alarm because the school yards are mostly silent during the middle of class. In the Philippines however, I've grown accustomed to strange sounds happening all the time; whether a rooster at 3:30 am, a dog at 4:30 am, the Cathederal's megaphone going off at 5:30 am, or even the kareokee singer I can hear right at this very moment five houses down at 8:00 pm. So a drum roll? No biggie.

Well this drum roll turned out to be the opening call of Teacher's Day! Surprise Surprise Surprise. I had no idea today was Teacher Day, nor did I have any idea there was anything called Teacher's Day. The best part? The other teachers had no idea either. The students completely put this together on their own, and it was amazing.

I was taken directly from the classroom by a student, and led to a stage area they had set up. There, each class read a speech and sang a song dedicated their class advisor. Since I am just a volunteer-teacher, I dont' have an advisory class. They did however sing me a song and speak to me. My song was "The Gift," you know the sappy love song from the 90's. Nothing beats a good sappy love song from the 90's!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tabang Pulihug (Help Please)

I am on a mission. I am on a mission to improve the library at Inopacan National High School. I am on a mission to improve the library at Inopacan National High School because I started a reading remediation program there, and the students deserve books to read after working so hard at improving their skills. And not just books, but books that are on their level; like chapter book series (Goosebumps, Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Animorph, etc.), quality children's literature (Maniac McGee, Shiloh, Bridge to Terabithia, Sarah Plain and Tall, Holes,etc.), non-fiction (books about science, sports, oceans, animals, cars, motorcycles, fishing, farming, receipes, etc.), magazines (pop-culture, National Geographic, Upper Room devotionals, etc.), old English or Grammar text books, even children's books (like Dr. Seuss or other beginning to read stories, to help students that are having difficulty with English phonics).

I’ve thought a lot today, well really for the past 4 months I’ve been in country, about how I could fundraise books. Ideas have started to form and take shape, most are still blurry and questionable about practicality, but one thing is blatantly clear; I need all the help I can get!

I’m currently considering the following:
· Book Drive- A couple people have offered to hold book drives for me back in the States, and I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate that! How cool would it be to have the time could align with a Scholastic Warehouse Sale :)
· PC Affiliated Book Drives- I am searching for these, and will hopefully find a source to help.
· Public Schools- I’ve started a search to find out what the public schools do with their used textbooks (particularly their English and Grammar books). If my understanding is correct, the SCPS’ website says they are able to distribute these books to non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. My goal is to contact the local Oviedo schools’ textbook managers to inquire about their out-of-adoption textbooks.
· Public Library- Again, used books… where do they all go? Doesn’t the Casselberry branch have a used bookstore? Maybe I could check to see if they ever have to clear out the shelves or make room for newer old books- that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean!
So this is where I currently stand. Of course the next dilemma is how to get the books over here. It seems like so far the best solution is the marvelous Balikbayan Box. I’m hoping that the PTCA at the school will help with shipping costs. They seem like they are a very supportive group of parents.

Oh, and one more dream of mine? I would love to have a reading comprehension program that would kind of mimic the idea of Accelerated Reader. Each book in the library would have an index card with 10 comprehension questions for students to answer to rate their understanding. I wonder if it’s conceivable to have the kid or parent write possible questions on a card and stick it in the book when they donate it. Kind of a "These are things that made me think when I read my book that I'm going to donate to a Filipino student," type idea. Just an idea… I figure if I think of more ideas than necessary, maybe a couple of them will end up working out!

So to wrap up this astronomically long blog post, does anyone have any other ideas of what I could do to raise books? I really would appreciate any help that I can get!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Know Your Audience

In all of my teaching classes I always heard how important it is to know where your students come from. No matter what the outward appearance may be, whether it's the kid with ironed jeans and GAP t-shirts or the one with Goodwill shoes and no backpack, a teacher should look past the sometimes inaccurate outward appearances and have a realistic view of what the students' homelife is like.

This is defintely true for the schools here in the Philippines. It amazes me how economically diverse some of the residents here are, much like in America. From what I can gather in the short time I've been here, there are students attending the school that come from families in town that are very well provided for and then there are students from the barrio area that have to cross rivers to get to school each day.

So how have I learned the importance of the lesson from my education classes? There was a boy that I taught on Tuesday who was absent from his morning class. He's one of those students that is always smiling and one of the few in the school that doesn't giggle over everything I do... in other words, I really missed him when he wasn't there that day. However, at the end of the day during Remediation time, I noticed that he was there in the library reading the material with his mentor partner. I asked him why he wasn't there that day, ready to give the automatic "you shouldn't skip school" lecture.

He momentarily shocked me though when he said, "I had to help plant rice this morning."

Okay, so at that moment all of the reflections and papers I had to write in college about how to be sensitive to the students' situations came crashing back like a ten pound brick. Even with the little background knowledge I had of what a lot of the home situations are like for the students here, I was still taken aback to actually hear a boy tell me how he skipped school so he could help his family that morning make a living. He went on to tell me that they plant a hectare of rice, which is equivalent to 107639 sq feet (according to Wikipedia.) It's so interesting to hear the students talk about their lives.

There are some really awesome kids at this school... especially this one because he came back for my Remediation class! :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hail Mary

So, I've been wondering what I could write about since the last time I wrote and tonight at dinner I got my answer. We eat dinner, and every other meal for that matter, together. It's the host dad, host mom, and me every meal, at the dinning room table. We had just finished eating our daily meal of fried fish, rice, and vegetables when I looked out the window and saw a candlelight processional coming through the gates to the house. Hmmm... this is not part of our usual evening routine.

I tell the others at the table there are people out side, and the host mom says, "You stay right here," and then she runs to turn the outside lights on and opens the door.

I stay at the table and just listen to her. As soon as she opens the door opened host mom started speaking fast-speed Cebuano. I had no clue what was going on. She stood at the door for 5 minutes, holding a giant sign/banner that the others had brought with them. Finally at the end I heard an, "Amen," and she returns to the table.

I wait a second to see what will happen and finally ask the question, "So, Anita, what was that about?"

She explained to me that they have a procession around the barangay (which is like a neighborhood area of the town) that visits a new house every night. They say the Hail Marys. The whole scene seemed very traditional and I could just imagine how the same ladies have probably been doing this for decades with each other. My next question was if she knew they were coming that night.

She laughed at me and replied, "Yes, they text me when they are on their way."