Monday, November 30, 2009

turkey on the table, with a head

Turkey day came and went, and guess what, you couldn't really tell it was Thanksgiving. Peace Corps does not get American holidays off. Well, that statement can be misleading... let me clarify, Peace Corps Volunteers do not get American holidays off from work. So the last Thursday of November came and went like any other work day.

The volunteers living nearby did of course gather together to celebrate this special holiday together during the weekend. Last year we gathered at a PCVs site for our "Very Leyte Thanksgiving," and this year we switched locations to nearby Biliran for another great feast. We had lots of American favorites like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey (except here we got to take pictures with the live Mr. Gobbler prior to slicing, plucking, dressing, turning on a spit, and eating ), cranberry sauce, plus some Filipino favorites like biko (rice dessert), pancit (noodles with seasoning, meat, and some vegetables), rice, crabs, and manok (chicken). There was tons more, sooo lamit kaayo (very delicious).

One of the best parts is getting to see all your fellow PCV friends. We talked and laughed, and of course ate. We reminisced, talked about friends we miss, and got to know a new friend who was placed at a nearby site. We stayed at a nearby hotel, visited a nearby tropical paradise island, snorkeled, sunbathed, and ate some more. One cool thing that we got to do was use MAGIC... magicJack that is. My parents sent me this miracle phone jack thing that lets you make free international calls when plugged into high speed Internet. So phone calls were made back home, which made thanks giving even more. Nothing was very rushed or stressful, so I guess this year's theme could have been "Very Laid Back Thanksgiving," Gotta tell ya, totally the way to go.

Friday, November 20, 2009

duck eats worm, people eat duck, all around bad day for worm.

My host mom is the head nurse at the Rural Health Unit, or the RHU. She made a visit to the school this week to pass out deworming pills to all the students. As I saw her passing out the medicine, I just thought how different the priorities are here compared to in America. Hookworms, roundworms, and pinworms are all everyday realities for many of the students, and for the public health center to give out free medicine is extremely helpful for the families who would not be able to afford to seek treatment . During my schooling, I never remember hearing about worms, but I do recall putting on the bulky headphones for hearing tests and the 7th grade scoliosis test. Very different than the immediate needs you find here.

Other happenings this week included my first, and admittedly long overdue, taste of balot. Back when I was still in the application/nomination/I can’t remember it was so long ago and frustrating process, I did the basic google search of The Philippines. One of the big hits was always balot. There’s just something about the eating of fertilized duck eggs that attracts the average google user I guess. I know a lot of volunteers tried the hardboiled duckies as soon as they landed, but I am a self-diagnosed picky eater. I probably would have tried it earlier but it’s been out of site, out of mind and it wasn’t until I was talking to my host mom that Iremembered I always meant to try it. I’ve learned that once something is mentioned to my host mom it’s immediately done. So the next day she bought bllot for me and a group of students that came over. The overall verdict: not bad. The juice was the best part, and the worst part was this hard egg white portion that was slightly gag-ilicious. I think I’d rather eat balot again than try the chicken legs on a stick. I’m not to that point yet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


a) i forgot what a GAP bag looks like, b) underwear for thanksgiving has never been so cool, c) American q-tips are just better, d) i threw my back out and would like it to come back in, e) i really like how if Love Story, White Horse, or Fifteen comes on the radio the conversation halts and singing commences, f) 23 days, g) my new favorite vegetables are eggplant and okra, h) if it’s not fried or have condensed milk in it i might not eat it, i) handwritten letters are special, j) my magic scale has turned on me, k) i’m reading the book ‘tis at the moment, l) i have a nasty addiction to coke, m) i’m trying to decide when is the best time to buy a house, n) the students are excited about new moon, o) some students are reading the book new moon, p) i have no control in the second year second section class, q) i love my other 3 classes, r) my grammar is becomingly increasingly worser..., s)my host mom claims manny pacquiao is from our town, t)mid-service training –mst- is quickly approaching, u) the kraft macaroni and cheese arrived in time for the thanksgiving feast, v) i opened the door to my host mom’s house this afternoon and found her sitting like 2 feet from the door, getting a life-size Virgin Mary dressed (one of the funniest moments of my life, she laughed too), w) i miss my mom and dad a lot, x) i wonder how much i’ve changed since i’ve left home, y) white malaria pills are THE worst and i feel guilty having them available when we don’t have malaria here and other people have the malaria but not the nasty white malaria pills, and finally, z) the new tv seasons are starting to be shown

Friday, November 13, 2009

so close to 100%

This isn't a funny Filipino story; just a funny teaching story. In my first year, second section class today we had a vocabulary test. I first call out the words that they were given at the beginning of the week, they write them down, and then they use the words to fill in sentences. Pretty old fashioned, I know, but just the idea of a type of an evaluation each week is a somewhat foreign idea at times.

So I had called all 10 words out, and asked if they would like me to repeat any of them. Of course they said, yes, all of them, so I start to go through and repeat. "Number 1, freedom. Number 2, emulate. Number 3, draft. Number 4, revolution." At this point, I hear one little boy, Roben, shout, "YES!!!" I look down and he's put check marks next to each of the words I've called out. He looks up at me with a smile, excitedly awaiting the next word I call out, hoping he'll get Number 5 correct.

Yep, good thing I was just REPEATING the words aloud that will be checked later for correct spelling. I kind of tilted my head and gave him this look that said, “but wait a second…” After that second, Roben finally realized what he was doing wrong. He slaps his forehead with his hand and just shakes his head. Too funny.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

David Letterman

In high school, my best friend and I used to write our top ten moments for the year down in our yearbooks. It kind of helps remind you why you are the way you are now. Today marks the one year point of being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Here are this year’s top ten:

Top 10 Moments of Peace Corps: Year 1

10. Singing Hanson songs with Willard and MariBeth. No judgment, all Mmmbop.

9. Seeing my first movie in Ormoc. It’s like a 2 hour bus ride to Ormoc, which is the closest large city. After probably a month at site, I told my host family I was going to visit it on my own. The ride there gave me this awesome feeling of independence. A day trip by myself into uncharted territory was nothing short of amazing. I explored the city, found a 50 peso theater, and watched Twilight in the air-conditioning. Aahhhhh.

8. Dinosaurs at Jesus’ birth. Last Christmas, I looked down at my host mother’s manger scene she had displayed and saw where the house helper’s son but a stegosaurus next to the sheep and cows. It made me laugh.

7. Riding a bus with Jasmine and watching a guy offer our bus driver beer. Don’t worry mom, he declined.

6. Cooking lessons at Dovie’s. Bananque, fish, buko salad. I’m one step closer to diabetes, but at least it was delicious getting there.

5. Digyo. Inopacan is known for having 3 islands off its coast, and the very last one is named Digyo. It’s beautiful, with white sand beaches and a marine sanctuary for snorkeling. Definitely a cool place to go camping…you know you want to come and visit it!

4. Valentine’s Day. I really love my students.

3. Watching any type of beauty pageant or dance routine. Have you ever seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine? You know the part where she does her dance routine for the talent competition; it’s kind of like that.

2. Friends. Some are still here, some have gone back, and some I’ll be seeing super super soon!

1. Library. I love the fact that the books inside of it came from people that I love back home for new people that I’ve come to love here. It truly has made a difference for a lot of kids, and helped me get through my first year here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Advanced Happy New Millenium

Mark it on the calendar. Today I got my first "Advance Merry Christmas." A student told it to me during class this morning. I just laughed. Dude, it's the first week of November, but thank you very much!

People are always saying "advanced so and so" or "Happy belated whatever." It's kind of nice, like they want you to think of them later on, and they really do wish you that extra happiness. I'll get other sayings from students, like "advanced good evening," when all I'm doing is walking back to the house for lunch.

But by far, my favorite advanced greeting has to be the one that followed today's Merry Christmas. Not to be outdone by the eager wisher, the kid next to him followed with, "and Advanced Happy New Year!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009


November 1 is celebrated as All Saint’s Day. Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day. Last year at this time we were leaving our training sites about to be sworn in as volunteers, so this year is my first year at site for the holiday. My host mom has been busy getting the family mausoleum retiled and in shape for the big day. She and her brother have taken a lot of time to prepare to celebrate their relatives and the saints that have passed away.

Tonight, we had a big dinner at her house with all of her family and then at 7 there was a mass held in the cemetery. When I say big dinner, I mean BIG, and with lots of people. I usually end up sitting next to my host uncle and his wife during meals like this. He has a tendnecy to make sure I try everything on the table. He'll even go as far as to crack the crabs for me and just place the crab meat on my plate. I don't know if he doesn't think I can do it myself, or if he's just being really helpful...either way, yum.

The mass at the cemetery was really like nothing I've ever been to in America. It is at this old cemetery packed with adults and kids, candles of all sizes burning on headstones or ornate candle holders. Everybody listens to the service and then most will settle in to spend the night among the graves.

Probably the one snapshot memory that I'll always keep in my head was a group of men and boys sitting on top of a double stacked vault, playing cards, with a sidewinding palm tree and the full moon in the packground. Seeing the place lit with candles was amazing, and made it a special memory.