Monday, March 30, 2009

Graduation in 50 words or less

Last night was the fourth year stuents' graduation.

First we there was a mass that lasted two hours.

Next, there was a five hour graduation ceremony.

By that time it was 12:30 AM.

Somewhere in between there, there was a blackout.

Enough said.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

where's connie?

If you could choose any fictional character, who would you be? What a great question to ponder here, when at times you feel like there's absolutely nothing to do...except read. It's commonly said that Peace Corps provides you with the time and motivation to read more for pleasure than any other time in your life. I'd have to agree, whether it's the trashy romance novels that always have a happy ending, Three Cups of Tea that motivates and inspires, classics like The Great Gatsby, or the Twilight series that, yes, has even reached the Philippines in its uncontrolled popularity, all genres are consumed and leave you only wanting to read more.

But back to the orginal question, what character would you be?

I've decided, after careful deliberation, I'd have to be Waldo, of Where's Waldo? fame. I mean, think of all the interesting places and situations Waldo finds himself. He's probably one of the most popular people on the planet because everybody is constantly searching for him and always so excited to find him. I wonder if he ever gets tired of not blending in.

It's hard to blend in here too. While there are some foreigners in Leyte, there's nowhere near as many on this island as there are on other, more populated islands. It's still a big "shock" to see an American in certain parts, especially if you go up to the mountain barangays. And yes, when riding on the bus through town, you can watch people who are casually watching passengers go by, and they have the excited, "Waldo" reaction when they make eye-contact with you. It's like a brief, "OH! FOUND YA!" conversation that's only spoken through facial expressions.

When this happens, it just kind of makes you more aware that you're different than everyone else. Being different is ok, good at times. I mean who wants to be like everybody else, we're supposed to be individualists, right? I'll admit though, sometimes I wish I could really blend in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I got to do one of the coolest things yesterday! I work at a high school, which isn't quite the age group that I'm used to! So I talked one of my co-teachers into taking me to one of the elementary schools that are in one of the farther barangays. We got to visit the school yesterday, and it was sooo much fun!

I got a couple of my first year students to pick out simple picture books from our library (which is quickly growing bigger and bigger, we're up to 1067 books!) and they joined me in riding a trike to the school. It took about a 15 minute ride by trike, and the road led us over rivers which had carabao hanging out in them trying to escape the intense heat until we finally came to a bamboo bridge that could only be walked across.

The school we visited could only be reached by crossing the the 20 foot bamboo bridge... this in itself made me love the school before I even saw it! The sense of adventure doubled once we got past the bridge and found a 117 step stairway going up to the school. AWESOME! The school was surrounded with a tropical rainforest. It was definitely one of the nicest school campuses I've come across, and you could tell the staff really took pride in their school.

I began reading to the grade 1-grade 4, but soon grades 5 and 6 joined. Honestly, just sitting in this beautiful campus, sitting under a huge tree, reading and singing songs with a huge group of kids that were excited just to hear stories, is one of the best moments I've had here. One of the kids' favorite books was the I Know an Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly. They could recite the entire sequence for me by the end. They especially loved to "wriggle and wriggle and jiggle," with the spider.

The students that I took from my school seemed really interested in learning how to read stories aloud, with enthusiasm and drawing the reader in with questions. I'm hoping that with practice, I can help those students start a program where they tour around the local elementary schools and raise interest in reading. They said the large group of students was intimidating, but that they might be able to do a small group of three or four children. I also want to show them how they can make manipulatives to add to the books, like puppets, masks, etc.

I'm really excited about this.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Born again

It’s Sunday here, and today I was invited to attend church by one of my students. While most Filipinos are Catholic, but Jundie, the student who invited me is Born Again. I’ve been to several masses here, so I was interested to see how a Born Again Christian service would be like here. Well, it was different.

First, I had to ask directions to the church from about 12 different people, because nobody knew where the church was. I think this just shows how the majority of residents here are Catholic. If I asked where the cathedral was, they’d all think I was crazy because it’s at the center of town. Eventually I got there, and I’ve got to say, it was a new experience.

The church was probably 30 feet long and 15 feet wide, made of bamboo. They had electricity, and even had an old drum set, keyboard, and electric guitar. Jundie played the guitar. It was pretty much all spoken in Cebuano, so I read my Bible during the 2 ½ hour service. I didn’t know it would be that long.

The other attendants were very excited to have a visitor. I had to go up to the front in the beginning and introduce myself. That in itself wasn’t that strange for me, I’ve probably had to introduce myself to large groups about 1,000 times so far. It was new though to have to come up at the end of the service and have the pastor put his hand on my head and pray for me. There was a lot of “amening,” and falling down going on during the service.

I guess it was similar to some churches in the states, just not what I’m personally used to. It was nice though to see people who worshiped so sincerely that they had tears in their eyes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Have you ever?

I know this is a great experience, a once in a lifetime type of deal. Being overseas however, away from family and friends can be overwhelming. Not just a little overwhelming, but an intense "HOLY CRAP, I'M OVER A 20 HOUR FLIGHT FROM HOME!" overwhelming. Yeah, it's that big.

Something that helps me though, aside from my parents telling me to get a grip, is to think of the question, "Have you ever?" It feels good to be able to answer the questions with an affirmative. I'm not away from home for nothing, I can now answer yes to the following questions:

Have you ever had a student climb up a coconut tree for you? Why actually, yes. Today some of the boys (my famous -of paper boys) played along with a joke about me getting buko juice (young coconut juice) and delivered me a sliced open coconut at the end of school today.

Have you ever watched a sex ed lecture that began with the words "We all have a deep love... for God." Couldn't say yes until yesterday. But now, oh yeah, I can.

Have you ever watched goats outside your classroom door while you teach? Everyday.

Have you ever seen a dog in the drivers seat of a motorcycle? yes, but my favorite is seeing the babies driving.

Have you ever used chalkboards to teach with? So far, that's been all we've had. My dream is to have a chalk eraser that sucks the chalk dust up with a tiny vacuum while you erase.

Have you ever watched a cockfight? I love hearing the sound of all the betters shouting while I'm walking back to the house after school. It's like a distant roar. I'd say that's one of the true unspoiled sounds of the Philippines.

Have you ever had students over to your house? We play uno, and I make them American food. Last week was spaghetti, and this week they're having their first ever peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches. I know that would never happen in America, I'd be fired probably. Here though, it's no big deal.

Have you ever did a home visit to one of your students where it took you almost an hour to get there and when you finally arrived, you found yourself at the top of a mountain? It was one of the most eye-opening experiences ever. One of those experiences that leaves you with more questions about life than you'll ever be able to answer.

Have you ever watched a kid look at a book like it's something amazing and want to know where it came from? It gives you a pretty cool feeling.

Have you ever lived without airconditiong? I wouldn't recommend it.

Have you ever had a bucket bath? It's amazing how much you can do with just one bucket full of water.

Have you ever eaten an entire pineapple? It's good.

Have you ever bought tofu out of an open bowl at the open market? I admit, I was hesitant at first, but it beats eating seafood every meal.

Have you ever been told by the priest that you're getting "sexier and sexier?" um, so that one made me blush... a lot... but it should be known that sexy is an everyday word here, and you'd be feeling bad if you didn't get it said about you at least once a day.

Have you ever watched The Office, season 5? I can't say yes to this one... but I can say it after tonight because it's finally coming on tv here. YAY!!! No, it's more than yay, it's a DOUBLE YAY!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Day in a Coconut Shell

My day could be summed up in this one scenario. I’m was reading a listening section from the textbook, titled “Are Human Beings Endangered Species?” It’s all about pollution and how humans are destroying their environment, and if change is not made then humans will not have the clean air, water, and land that they need to survive.

I’m on the last sentence of the short selection, when I look up and see Remavie pass a candy wrapper to another girl, who then throws it out the window.

So, we’re still working on comprehension and application.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prom, Filipino Style

I didn’t know exactly what to expect when it came to the JS Prom here in the Philippines. Would it be fancy? Do they have dates? How much glitter would be used in this festivity? Well… I have my answers now. It’s fancy, the boys are assigned to girls to dance with for the Cotillion, and if you’re a Filipino girl, you can wear a whole lot of glitter on your body.

I luckily got out of buying a gown for the prom (which I was told I had to do by my counterpart and supervisor) because finding an American sized dress was kind of pushing it, and instead just wore a dress that my mom had mailed to me. I’m glad I didn’t end up getting the gown… cause did any of the other teachers wear gowns like they were supposed to? BIG FAT NO! Awkward situation diverted, for once.

The decorations were all natural. They did a great job creating a tropical forest around the tennis courts. They used orchids, handmade tiki torches, ferns, banana leaves, etc. It was fun to watch the students bring all the foliage from their homes.

My favorite scene from prom this past week, seeing a line of put-puts outside the gates of the tennis court, waiting to drop off all the girls in their prom dresses. Put-puts are the bicycle taxis. My second favorite moment had to be seeing all the boys wearing their dads’ suits.

It was an overall great night.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

Tonight was fun.

It started at my host family's house, which I wasn't too excited about because the host mom guilted me into going, but then one of their cousins was there, and he was really funny. It turned out to be his birthday, so he invited us over to his house for kareokee. Again, wasn't very excited because, well, videokee is pretty much my mortal enemy. I mean, the videos they show behind the words is your ideal version of video hell. It's where all the pointless video footage of landscapes and bad American parades from 1982 go when they've died and been judged on their awfulness. yeah, you heard me, I'm critizing videokee... Ok, that being said, I had a great time listening to my host dad #2 sing Dean Martin and serenade my host mom #2 with Nat King Cole songs. They even got me to sing once. I usually get out of it, claiming I have about the worst voice on this side of the globe, but nonetheless they got me to sing My Heart Will Go on... which of course any girl who was in middle school when Titanic came out has a soft spot for; don't deny it, you know you do.

Then the second part of the night was filled with ballroom dancing. I have a confession... when I was three I had an extreme obsession with Dirty Dancing and would act out the final dance scene in my pink "dirty dancing" dress in my living room. I'm sorry to say, there's even video footage of this debacle floating around out there which my family has brought out on occasion to have a good laugh. So since that time, ballroom dancing has always been like this repressed dream of mine... and it just so happens that every student here knows how to dance AND the JS prom is this Friday, so everybody's in crazy ballrom dance fever mode. So the cousin's daughter, Scarlett, is trying to teach me. I know, I'm a white girl who can't dance... but it was still fun to try!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Q & A

I get a lot of questions, and these are the most commonly asked ones:

1. What is your religion? Methodist. WHAT IS THAT? Christian. OH, OK.

2. How old are you? 23. OH, SO YOUNG!

3. Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend back home? No, no I'm not married. I'm too young.

this is always then followed with #4:

4. You will marry a Filipino? (Ok, honestly this isnt' really a question, more of a statement. But I like to think they're at least asking me what I think about the subject.)

5. May I touch your hair? Ok, but just once.

6. What skin whitener do you use? None, I'm naturally albino.

7. Do you get lonely living alone? No, I like to be independent.

8. Do you speak Visayan? Gamay lang. GAMAY LANG! HEHEHEHEHE

9. Do you eat rice? Yes, everyday. HEHEHEHE

and last, but not least

10. What do you want to eat? Nothing, busog na ko. OY, 2 ORANGES, I LOVE YOU.

(#10 is courtesty of host mom #2. one day she literally said, "I love you, so I give you food." and even if I'm already full, I can never leave the house without bananas, oranges, and some stype of sticky rice.)