Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30

I'm trying to think of the best way to describe birthdays in the Philippines. I guess the best word to use for mine today was "Homemade." For all the card holidays, like Valentines and birthdays, the students always all out to make it special in their own personal ways. For example, when I walked downstairs this morning, the kids had put a poster saying, "Happy Birthday Ma'am Connie Hoover" in my living room. I later asked when they put it in there, and they're like, oh, around 5am. That is some dedication!

They also made each class today spcial. When I stepped into my first class, Jundie, one of my students had his guitar and everybody broke out with 3 rounds of Happy Birthday. My second class had collected flowers to throw at me...some throwers were a little overzealous...but all in good fun! Then my third class gave me red hibiscuses. I got cards, letters, necklaces made out of flowers, balloons on sticks, all the little things that made it a very special day.

Then to top it off, my host mom went birthday crazy. I got a special breakfast, lunch, 4 cakes, banana splits, pizza, yikes. I'm literally about to explode. I think I'm going to need another 364 days to recover!

Monday, September 28, 2009


The big news in the Philippines right now is the weather. There has been massive flooding in the capital Manila due to tropical storm Ketsana. Apparently this is the most rain that the area has gotten in over 40 years, and due to poor drainage systems, parts of the city have been reported as having 20 feet of standing water. Almost half a million people are displaced and the death count, which is around 100, is still rising. It's not a good situation.

The weather in Leyte however has been pretty mild. A couple days ago when the storm system was passing nearby, we had some thunderstorms during the night that made me jump out of my skin, and a couple of blissful days with no sun, but nothing like Manila's forecast.

Friday, September 25, 2009


There is one thing that is for sure, September has flown by! I never thought I'd be able to say that about any month while I was in Peace Corps, but the time really is going quickly. Which is awesome, cause in 75 days I'll be heading home for Christmas!! Yep, 75 days; you can start making reservations at Olive Garden now, cause I plan on camping out in their parking lot the majority of the time I'm home. :)

The only thing that's been out of the ordinary lately was I visited another volunteer's site to help at a training she was hosting. I did an afternoon session about teaching strategies for vocabulary development, narrative text, and informational text. There were about 50 high school and elementary school teachers from a nearby town that came to listen. It was a good experience.

My favorite moment of the presentation was during the time I was reading the book, The Most Beautiful Thing in the World. It's a folktale from China all about 3 princes who must go out and find the most beautiful thing and bring it back to their father to earn the crown. The teachers were supposed to listen and then we were going to use different strategies to help with vocabulary development. Anyways, I got to the second prince's experience and he finds a cave with an enormous dragon in it. I asked the teachers, what would you do about the dragon? Without missing a beat, all of these middle aged women (plus one guy) wearing their DepEd uniforms, looking downtrodden from being in meetings all day, yell out, "KILL THE DRAGON!" Too funny.

This upcoming week should also be fun. It will include banana splits, mail, and a site visit from PC staff. I know, I can hardly wait!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

yeah, pollyanna would be jealous...

Some days are good days, and some days are bad days. It seems like September 2009, while it’s only the 12th, is going much quicker than September 2008 did. This leads me to believe that the number of good days are finally outweighing the bad days! :)

Honestly, the good days have been around for a few months now. On a regular workday I’m pretty content to go to school, eat lunch, go back to school, and then watch tv when I get back to the house around 5. While I’m at school I really enjoy getting to talk to some of the kids, and reading with them in the library. The days where everybody is afraid to talk to me are long gone, and again, that makes the days bright.

On the weekend days, like today, I would describe a good day as one where I get to go into BayBay or Tacloban and do a little shopping, eat a few French fries, and go up to the school in the afternoon to do Library Time.

Today, was a good day. I went into BayBay in the morning to buy some seafood at the market and was back in town by lunch. I invited my host mom over for a home cooked meal. I made spaghetti with some sautéed scallops, shrimp, okra, tomatoes, and onion. I wasn’t sure if she’d like it, cause as I’ve said before, my recipes tend to flop, but she seemed to enjoy it. I even bought some French bread at Maayong’s Breadshop and showed her how Italian restaurants will give bread with olive oil and herbs. She told me, “You know all the secrets!!” Haha, yeah… I’m down with Macaroni Grill.

Next I headed to the school for Library Time. I used to call this the volunteer pre-school, but I’m not sure if that’s the most appropriate name. The students’ ages are between 3 and 9, so it’s probably safer to just say Library Time. Whatever the name is, today’s was amazing! The past couple weeks we’ve had to cancel it, and it’s frustrating some Saturdays when not enough high school students show up and I’m outnumbered by little munchkins, but today those little guys had no hope. 15 high school students came to help!! That’s by far the highest number so far. I had them sit down and read them a story, pointing out how to use expression and ask questions as I read. Then I sent them down the hill to bring back one kid each. Those are the odds I like!

The story time went smoothly, snack had no problems (and all the trash went into the trashcan…which seems like it shouldn’t be such a big accomplishment, yet it is), and the kids went crazy over the new toys that came in the last balikbayan boxes. Puzzles seem to be the big winners so far, with Memory a close second.

By the time the kids went home it was about 4:30. 2 ½ hours of no major dilemmas or drama means, yes, a good day. And then to top it all of, one of my students, Leo, shared his sugar cane with me on the way back to the house. Gotta love that!

Friday, September 11, 2009

"I would have felt sad." - RoseMarie

I wasn't sure if I would introduce the idea of 9/11 to the students here, but I really believe in signs. I walked into the library today, and the first book I saw was September 12th: We Knew Everything Would be Alright and then I turned open our text book and the topic for today was reading to understand other people's feelings...which yes, I took as major signs to take the time to share such an important event in America's history.

As I told the story of the morning of September 11, the students listened attentively. We talked about the ideas of innocence, terrorism, violence, and "putting yourself in somebody else's shoes." The kids know about terrorism in certain parts of the Philippines, so I think that kind of helped them relate to the situation.

I'm so glad that somebody decided to send that book for the library! Being able to share it with the first and second year students and then to have a conversation with them about how we can learn lessons from such devestation was a moment I think I will always remember.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Mama Mary

September 8th is the Virgin Mary's birthday, so my host mom asked me to go with her to go to a special chapel to offer prayers. We went to Maasin City and hopped a trike to Monte Cueva.

Monte Cueva is a cave where they hold services. Of course it was a cave that was at the top of a mountain that we had to climb up...holy cow was that a trek up! I was so sweaty I even used the towel down your back like the Filipinos always do.

Overall it's a pretty small cave I guess, but they hold regular masses there, so they had a keyboard and statues of Mary and Jesus, plus buckets to catch dripping water. They also had kids selling candles that you could light for prayers, as well as girls selling flowers to place at Mary's feet.

They only thing I question is, how old is Mama Mary?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mr. and Miss Intramurals

I just got back from the Mr. and Miss Intramurals 2009 beauty pageant. The school has been getting ready for it for about a month. I was on the planning committee, but since my language skills are basically non-existent, they basically just gave me the job of writing and typing all the English that was said during the program.

Pageants are really serious here. They have to go and get money by soliciting to residents in town to be able to put on the show, buy trophies, decorations, and sashes... and of course snacks. They had the show at the tennis court, which was filled with adults and kids from around town. The theme was "Saving Marine Life," so the contestants did a big production number at the beginning which involved them dressing as different aquatic creatures. My favorite girl was a sea urchent and my favorite guy was a starfish. The other competitions were sports attire, formal, body profile, and beauty.

I was pretty hesitant about the whole pageant thing. I guess in my mind they usually have a negative conotation, but it was a pretty good time. I can definitely see how if you're in a small town things like this can really be a high light. People worked really hard on it, and I'm glad that the kids had a good time.

The only thing I still can't figure out though is how do handguns and whips fit into the sports attire competition?

And I'm super excited that one of my "sheet of paper" boys won!