Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Firsts for the Babybook!

I'm coming up on my 7th month in the Philippines, 4th month at site. It's starting to become routine in certain ways, but then today happened and it was all new stuff. I had not one, but two firsts!!! YES!!

The first first came during breakfast. I was sitting down having my normal eggs, rolls, and sticky rice when I looked at Host Mom #2 and realized she had the most strange look on her face. She was silent, and just had this look of consternation. Then she finally turned to me after a few seconds and was like, "This is an earthquake!" Well, sure enough the floor was moving!!!!!

Granted it was so small, if she hadn't pointed it out to me I probably wouldn't have distinguished it from me shuffling my feet, but it doesn't matter. It's a big deal for a Florida girl. Apparently it was like a 5.4 quake about 30 miles southwest of Tacloban, which is still quite a ways from where we are on the coast. Not anything to jump up and down about, but still, I experienced my first earthquake!!!

Second first, I'm moving into my own place!!! I know, its taken me a while, but I'm finally living on my own. I moved the first half of my stuff today, with the help of my host brother (who on a side note has basically ignored me the past 3 months, but was all ready to help me move) and the working student who lives at the house with Host Family #2. Mark, the student, put all my things in the bicycle with a side cart and pedaled it all half a kilometer down the road. I'm only renting a room, so I am sharing the kitchen and the rest of the house. That's fine though, I'm very excited to have a little more independence.

It's been a nice Friday.

Barney Fife... I think not!

When you tell somebody that you're joining the Peace Corps, some people assume you're going to be kidnapped and held for ransom or you'll be killed in the middle of no where and it'll be months before anybody finds out about it. Not so true here on the island of Leyte.

I came to my town almost 4 months ago hearing that the crime rate is reported at 0%. I mean, come on, that's pretty unbelievable! It seems like people have lived here their entire lives, all know each other, and are either best friends or related to each other. Can't really commit a major crime without everybody knowing it!

Today I got to meet the fine men in blue of Inopacan. Well, I'm actually not sure if they're from Inopacan or another station, but they were police officers and wearing blue... so really those are the most important things. They came to the school today, terrifying my co-teacher who first thought they were there to speak with her (why she was so nervous, I have no clue), to get a picture taken with me. I think I may be put in their newsletter or something, I'm not really sure. We get our pictures taken a lot, and it's easier just to smile and say, "Sure, why not!"

The 2 guys were really nice. They brought ice cream, coke, and cupcakes so they're like my favorite people right now. Even after those great treats though I liked them even more because when I looked closely at the one guy's gun holster I had to do a double take. Oh yes folks, in his gun holster was not a gun, oh no, it was most definitely his Nokia cell phone.

0% Folks, 0%.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Move over Franklin and Gandhi

My classes this morning were dealing with proverbs. We had to read examples of proverbs, one being from Benjamin Franklin and the other from Mohandas Gandhi. Frankin's was "When the well is dry we know the value of water." Gandhi wrote, "There is enough for everybody's need, but not for everybody's want."

We discussed their meanings, and how proverbs offer advice or warnings. By the end of the class we'd brain stormed ideas for what they could write proverbs about, done examples, and the students were given a chance to create their own proverbs.

I wasn't sure how well the students would grasp the idea. Not only can proverbs be abstract and difficult to obtain, but creative writing in English when it's not your native language isn't the first thing students want to do. My first class did a fantastic job though. These were my two favorites: Janelyn wrote, "Those who waste water will be afraid of the bill," and Jerson wrote, "Wasting water is like wasting rice."

Both are so very true...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Tomorrow is Monday, and Monday is the Chinese New Year's Day. This fact brought around one of the great conversations ever..

It started with my host mom saying, "So your mother's maiden name is Chinese." HUH?

A) Kildahl? Not so Chinese. I mean I've never been to China before and I don't really enjoy Chinese food that much... but I'm pretty sure Kildahl would not be found in the Chinese Yellow Pages.

B) How does she know my mother's maiden name?!

Next comes, "Yes, Sue. That is very Chinese. AHH! NOW I GET IT.

Connie Sue Hoover.

After this comes, "Oh, no... That's just my middle name. My mother isn't Chinese or anything."

Classic example of the innocent misunderstandings I have eveyday about pretty much everything. It definitely keeps things interesting!

Monday, January 19, 2009

I want to remember this

Yesterday the sun came out for the first time in over 2 weeks. It happened just around sunset. At the time I was driving with my host mom in a multicab, and the scenery was amazing. The rice fields were the perfect shade of green, the sun made the lower clouds a beautiful pink, the mountains to the east were dark and majestic, while the clouds that surrounded their tops were a pure white color.

It was one of those pictures that you hope will always stay in your mind.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Fast (van driver) and the Furious (me)

There are moments in your life that can be described as nothing but perfect. Everything seems to be perfectly alligned, and you would never want to change any part of it because nothing could be better.

Then on the other hand, there are moments in life when all you can think to do is a "Zack Morris/Saved by the Bell Time-Out." Today, of all the moments that I've been here in the Philippines, is the day when I would have yelled, "cut!" and stepped out of the situation.

I've riden in a lot of memorable cars. When I think back I remember driving in my parent's stationwagon to Key West when I was in the second grade, sandwiched between my brother and sister; riding in my high school boyfriend's car I unlovingly called "The Death Trap;" and you can't forget the Focus that got a personal introduction to a deer on the ski trip in Tennessee, but nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, beats the van ride I got to go on today.

Transportation in the Philippines is like no other. Whether it be in a bus, pedicab, ferry, trike, or put-put, nothing in America compares. My supervisor and I got to drive back from Tacloban in a van today. It's a 15 passenger van with a sliding door. The adventure started by waiting in the van for 30 minutes so all the passengers could wander in, pay, and finally sit down. Eventually we got started, as did the rain.

So I'm stuck directly in the middle of a van full of people; the lone white girl in a sea of Filipinos. Whatever, I'm used to that, no big deal. I'm not however used to sitting ontop of other people, and I especially don't like it when the guy next to me smells like he hasn't taken a shower in a week. But again, whatever, it could be worse. Oh wait, but then it does get worse. This is when the driver starts to play the music. Bob Marley IS NOT meant to be played to a upbeat, pop-club tempo. It's just not, I'm sorry. Strike one against the driver.

Strike two: Driving 80 miles per hour on roads that are only 2 lanes is also NOT COOL. I know, I probably sound really uptight, but let me try to paint the picture. The entire trip consists of nothing but this one mountain winding road that is not only wet from the constant rain we've been getting for the past 2 weeks, but is also lined with houses, towns, kids playing, bicycle taxis, and carabaos. So as the van goes alone at light speed, it's constantly swerving around bikes and missing cars that are coming in the opposite direction by literally seconds. By this point, my main mission is not to be the first one to throw up in the van.

Strike three came when I began to really look at the van. The driver had tacky stuffed animals all over the front of the van, plus obnoxious hanging slinky animals from the rearview mirror. Then to top it off, he also had a "God Help Us" crochetted banner hanging in the front, which normally I'd be perfectly fine with, but couldn't help but thinking during this situation that it was the driver's cruel way of mocking us.

So by this point in the trip everybody else seems to be asleep in the van, I'm in a sweat because the airconditioning isn't working right and I'm having a panic attack, I'm wonering what would be the best way to prevent my body from flying out of the car if we slide off the mountain because there are no seatbelts, and I'm praying to God to please help us. Alright, now the banner makes perfect sense! This is it, this is when I'd call the time-out.

To wrap it all up, I wasn't the first one to puke. The little Filipno kid behind me made it two hours before he was upchucking into a plastic bag. And me? I plan on staying stantionary for awhile.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Triple G, minus 1

I remember learning in high school about the 3 G's. In history the G's were always for "God, Gold, and Glory," and they were used to describe the general reason for exploration and colonization. Explorers set out for new terrain to spread the Word of God, become rich off of gold they would discover, and spread their name and bring glory to their country.

Well, I have so much time on my hands, I've figured out the 3G's of the Philippines. I don't know if these G's could be said for all of the Philippines, I'm simply basing them off of where I'm staying and what my experience has been so far.

So, here we go... G number 1: God. The Spaniards took control of the islands for 300 years, and have left a lasting impression. Roman Catholicism is everywhere, and God is brought into every activity that takes place. School, work, and family life all center around God and religion. The priest, Father Randy, is constantly on the go. Every social function, whether it be weddings, birthdays, Mass at school, or lunch during fiesta, always includes Father Randy.

G number 2: Gay. There seems to be a lot of gay people here. This is one of those things where I'm not sure if it's just where I'm located and who I am introduced to, or if it's like this throughout the country. The people that I have met seem very comfortable and open with who they are, and most people in the community are very accepting of that. For example, at the fiesta lunch I went to yesterday, I sat next to Father Randy and the new Miss Gay. This was the man who won the fiesta's gay beauty pageant. It was a great meal, and everybody ate and laughed together. It's just confusing for me sometimes when they refer to he as she... and then I learned at the lunch today that the local group of gay men have created their own terms, which they called, "gay filipino." For example, the name 'rebekah' means beer. I tried to explain to them that I'm having trouble just getting the basics of the filipno language, and would have to wait to add the "gay filipino" words.

Now for the twist... for the last G, you must subtract 1 letter and make it F. F is for Fiesta! Fiesta rules here. Each barangay, or neighborhood, has a patron saint and celebrates that saint on its birthday. It literally seems like there is a fiesta at least every other week. The neighboring area shuts down when it's fiesta time. Students don't go to school, and often teachers don't make their way to work. It's fiesta time... all the time!

So, as you can see, the GGG has taken on new cultural meanings. I'd be really interested to know what other volunteers have seen and experienced at their sites.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

always add "of paper!"

My favorite lessons to teach at school are the ones that involve speech, pronunciation, and diction. Here is a perfect example of why:

Nobody likes to make mistakes. I hate trying to speak Cebuano, knowing that I'm going to butcher the words and everybody will laugh; therefore I understand when students are shy about speaking English to me. I've found however that the one time they are not afraid to step outside of the box and are willing to make mistakes is when I introduce the speech lessons. I preface the lesson with, "this is a lesson where we're all going to make mistakes, and it's okay to laugh."

The second year class is broken into two sections. One is for advanced students, which I taught yesterday. Within that section, my counterpart and I have broken them into boys and girls, and then teach them seperately. This takes the class size from around 40, to only 20. While I was teaching the boys, we had an impromptu speech lesson (nothing, and I mean nothing, beats an impromptu speech lesson with the advanced second year boys [their age being equievalent to 7th grade boys in America]).

The word was "sheet." The context, "stratus clouds are layered and like sheets of paper." Making the long E sound, was just not happening with the boys. They were really trying, but it always ended up sounding like the short i sound. No matter what we tried; whether it be stressing the E, breaking the word into syllables, drawing other words out of it, NOTHING worked. I couldn't stop laughing. Laughter would have been the worst possible thing to do with the girl's group, but with these boys it was the perfect way to just say, "Ok, maybe we just won't get the word 'sheet' correct today."

For some reason though, I didn't feel it was right to let the boys go out of the classroom knowing they could always make me crack up by saying the word 'sheet,' so I made them all take a solemn vow to always add "of paper" whenever they have the say 'sheet.' It was a fun class.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

31 days and counting...

Alright folks, It's official, as of tomorrow, January 11, 2009, we begin the OFFICIAL 1 MONTH COUNTDOWN TO MOVING DAY!!!

I've been in country for the past 5 months, first living in Dumaguete and now at my official site. The time has been broken into 2 host families, PC requiring us to live with each family for 3 months. My last month is about to begin... and you could say I'm a little excited. I've really enjoy the families that I've stayed with, but I'm also really ready to go out on my own.

The house that I'm moving into is taken care of by my current host mom. She is the caretaker while the owners are living in Cebu (another island). I'll be living in the upstairs, while a couple lives downstairs. It's hard to explain the layout of the house, but the downstairs isn't actually attached to the main part of the house. It should actually be like I'm there by myself, with an apartment underneath me.

So, as you can tell I'm anxiously awaiting the move... I even bought my rice cooker today in anticipation!! I'm such a geek.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bob White's Language

I had dinner at a house last night that was just like any other house in America. There were laptops scattered around the house, the kids were speaking English, and coca-cola was being drunk; all of which made me forget that I was in the Peace Corps.

Now on the opposite end of the spectrum I visited a small island that is about 45 minutes off he coast, on Tuesday. It's a private island, that houses 6 families on it. Each family makes their living fishing and selling their catch to neighboring islands or on the mainland. The host family I'm staying with is related to the owners of the island, so we were invited to spend the day. We had to take a small pumpboat over and stayed the afternoon eating, swimming, and walking around the island.

As I went for a walk with my host mom, Anita, I sat to watch the water. I ended up sitting next to the coconut trees and bushes that line the sand, and as I sat I heard whistling. Of course if you hear whistling, you automatically start to whistle back. This goes on for probably 3 minutes, until I look behind me and three little boys who live on the island come bursting from the bushes. They're all giggling and pointing at me. Our whistling continues. It turns into a game of copy cat. I try to think of every easy tune I can think of; and now the boys know the call of Bob White.

They follow us for the rest of our walk, and I learn that they know a little English. It turns out they go to school on a neighoring island. I even got to visit their homes, which during high tide are literally 3 feet from the water. The floors were sand, and the beach around them was cluttered with banka boats and fish nets.

Sometimes it's hard to fathom the diversity in economic resources among Filipinos. To go from sand floors to 4 laptops in a house in the spand of a day makes you think a lot. I wish I could say I have tons of concrete thoughts about this, but honestly I don't. There's still hours of thinking before I can say more. The only thing I can say for sure is that I'm so glad I got a chance to whistle a conversation with those boys.