Monday, November 22, 2010

well, it was kind of like a durian...

You ever notice how you don't know how much you miss something until you get it back again. It's happening to me. Right now. I didn't know how much I missed the Philippines until I found an Oriental store, and located Nagaray's Cracker Nuts and Filipine mangoes for sale. Those two things in itself would be a lot...but wait, there's more. The store also held the precious durian fruit, whole, frozen, and only a few hours of defrosting away from being the smelly mess I came to love. YAY!!

I think it's this line of thinking that will wrap up this epic blogging that's continued for over 2 years. So often you don't get the full picture of something or really know your true feelings on something until you look at it differently. Perhaps you see it from somebody else's perspective, or you lose it and then are able to find it again, or maybe you just let yourself really think deeply about something for more than 5 seconds before you are off listening to your iPod or checking your email; no matter what is making you see things in a new light, acknowledge it and let it change your life.

Durian was a smelly disaster, and now, it's seriously a delight that just made my night.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Post COS Travel

A part of leaving Peace Corps, it seems, for many people is the post-service travel that many go on. I guess it makes sense to take advantage of the readjustment check that you get and the lack of employment that you suddenly find yourself in to travel while you can. I chose to travel to China, Italy, and then Paris. I know, your stomachs are probably growling already, and I'll admit, my scale is showing the results of this trip!

While making my way through China I was able to see the Expo in Shanghai, the Terra-cotta Soldiers in Xi'an, and the Great Wall in Beijing. And yes, of course, eat some amazing Chinese food! I think it's always interesting to compare different countries of Asia to the Philippines. Probably one of the first things I noticed, particularly while I was in Beijing was the cars.
It felt so wasteful to watch all the cars go by us on the highway that held only a single passenger. I never really thought of it before, but after seeing jeepnies, busese, and multicabs packed the max, it was obvious how lonesome the person looked as they drove. Favorite part of China? GREAT WALL! The entire time I was walking on it, all I could think was, "I'M ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!!" It was like a soundtrack on repeat in my mind. "GREAT WALL, GREAT WALL, GREAT WALL." Too cool.

The Great Wall of China. Waaaay steeper in parts than I ever imagined!

Terra Cotta Soldiers!

The Chinese Pavilion at the World Expo.

The next day after the Great Wall I found myself in Italy. I'll probably never get to say that sentence again, but while I could, it was awesome. :)

I met up with my friend Kindie in Italy, and we hit all the big places that we've always heard about and always wanted to see. We began in Naples, took day trips to Pompei and Capri, went on to Rome, Pisa, Florence, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Favorite parts? Probably just hanging out in quiet Lucca and definitely seeing the Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan. The whole experience of visiting the masterpiece was like none I'd ever had. They take you through several secured areas until you get to the door and hear a loud siren that tells the previous group it's time to vacate the viewing room and our 15 minute viewing session is about to begin. Was it worth all the trouble? Absolutely. I'm pretty sure I'm a better person for having seen it. Haha, joke lang :)

Hillside homes on the island of Capri, Italy.

And finally, our last train ride took us to Paris. I guess I had a lot of preconceived notions of what Paris would be like, most of which were not the most positive, but I gotta say, I really enjoyed it. Aside from the freezing temperatures, which my last 2 years of living in a sauna didn't exactly prepare me for, it was waaay cleaner than Manila, the metro system was color coded and even I could navigate it, and the sites that you always see on tv or in movies were there, in living color! Best part of Paris? Eating the crepes. OH THE CREPES! God bless Nutella and bananas. Amen.

The light show on the Eiffel Tower.

So the last 25 days of living ou of my backpack are done. They were busy days, which probably was a blessing because it kept my mind off the missing of friends back in the Philippines.

But now, on my second day back at home, I've got all the time in the world. EEKS. I find myself trying to find cheap quotes on car insurance and trying to figure out how to fit a resume onto one page and then trying to find people to send said resume to. Oh, right, and trying to walk off Italy and China. Well, on the bright side, if I can't find the cheap quotes for car insurance, at least that will help me with walking off the sad leftovers of ravioli, wine, and spicy tofu. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Just to make it "blog official," I'm done, finished, humana, completed with Peace Corps. :) More to come later.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


During my time in Peace Corps, my thoughts have often wandered to the past; not my past, but the past of Peace Corps. What were the first years like for those young trailblazers? Obviously electricity and running water were not guaranteed components, and living conditions on a whole would have been austere, but what about relationships with the nationals they meet?

In one of the last blogs I wrote, I said that saying goodbye was made easier by knowing that my friends at site are just a quick e-mail away...and I'm not even out of the country yet and have talked to some of my students more on the Internet than I have in the past 3 weeks. Facebook, it changes everything. While living at site, I didn't accept my students as friends on the social network because I didnt' think that would be the wisest thing, but now that I'm done teaching, I addressed the 300 friend requests that had accumulated through my time at site. EEKS, sooo many! Some I didn't know, I think the wow factor of seeing a foreigner prompts people I don't know to request. I'd like to think it's because I'm just SO cool...but nah, I know better.

So now I leave the Philippines tomorrow, with lots of new friends, and glad that leaving doesn't mean waiting months for a postal reply as it would have in the past.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good Times.

My host mom and I, attempting to sing videokee.

My host family hosted a big beach party for all the students and teachers at my school to say good bye. I know, they're big on hosting! :)

Delicious chocolate cake from Michelle... and videokee in the background.

Second year students... I'm going to miss them!

First year students... I'm going to miss them too!
Check out their plates, banana tree trunks and leaves. Coolest. Thing. Ever.

A beach party wouldn't be complete without the beach, and a boat.

I had such a great time being able to just have fun at the beach with the students and teachers. My host mom once again went above and beyond my expectations when she put together this amazing lunch for so many people. Good times.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Despedida Season

Despedida: a farewell party. Yep, it's time to say goodbye, and that's just a little crazy. I think saying adios to all the students and coteachers is made easier by knowing it's not goodbye forever. With things like Facebook and e-mail, not to mention the ability to fly back once I save a lot of pesos, I know that I'll stay up to date about all the current events at my site. But still, I'm sure going to miss talking with my coteacher in between classes, joking with students, watching kids read in the library, and listening to the school's hymn every morning. So, a big thank you to INHS for having me the last two years, and letting me join the INHS family. And you're right, "It's not goodbye, but till then..."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Last Supper

Since the beginning, I've been having students over to my house to share dinner.
It's one of my favorite things.

This past week we shared our last dinner together
We had rice, chicken, green beans, salsa and it was good.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Teacher Day

World Teacher day has come and gone this past week, and the day was marked at my school with all the homemade goodness that I have come to love about the Philippines. I think America celebrates teachers, usually during Teacher's Week, with a couple staples. Gift cards and smelly things from Bath and Body Works comes to mind immediately, but it's different here. Gifts come more from the heart I think, and are made by the students themselves. The SSG (student government) at school put together a program that paid tribute to the teachers and let each class salute their advising teacher. They also had greeting card contests (where the kids made their own... no purchasing allowed!), poster contests, and dedicated songs that they sang on stage for us. Oh, and they made a student vs. teacher parlor game competition. Eh, ok, maybe my American self came out during this portion of the festivities. Dude, it was HOT! I think my coteacher above shows exactly why I wasn't thrilled about having to jump in a sack in 90 degree weather... haha :)
Can you spot my portrait? Yep, I'm blindingly pale. I think I'm going to be tan though when I get back to America. I can't wait for my family to see my rockin' flip-flop tanline.

My co-teacher and her advisory class. I'm really going to miss them!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"but I am too young!!!"

A little cultural 411; apparently turning 25 gives the official go ahead for people here to begin the "so when are you going to get married?" questioning. I got it a little before, but MAN OH MAN, it's guaranteed now that if somebody asks me for my age (which actually happens a lot... I'd like to think it's because I'm so young looking they can barely imagine me out of high school let alone living alone in a foreign country...but no, that's not why) the "And you will be married soon?" or "Do you have a special somebody?" questions immediately follow.

I've been 25 for less than a week, and it's already old. NO, I'm not ready to get married, NO, I'm not really worried about it right now, and NO, my life won't end if I end up not having kids.

America, will you be like this? Here's hoping NO!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


It was my third birthday in the Philippines today, and I've reached what everybody here tells me is the "silver birthday." In other words, I'm an ancient twenty five years old today. Haha, yeah. Doesn't sound like much, but when I think back to when I first arrived here as a whippersnapper of twenty two, it just reminds me of all the awesome expereiences I've gained during this period of my life. My host mom went about this day in a way that would make it one of my best, and most memorable birthday I could ever ask for. Starting at 4am when she and a group of neighbors and co-workers showed up at my house for a Maligayang, serenading. They also brought flowers, and garlands, and made me feel so special!
Then we all sat down and had a breakfast of sticky rice, bread, and chocolate.
Breakfast of champions!!!

I got to school and the party continued. The student body surprised me with a great rendition of Happy Birthday, and I kept getting birthday treats throughout the day. For example, I walked to my desk and Genelyn and Lyka Mae had made me this poster. They wrote "Saranghae" all over it... Korean for "I love you." I laughed soooo hard when I saw that. We're always joking about how much they want to go to Korea and be a Korean popstar... even though we all know Lady GaGa is waaay better than any Korean popstar...
But I don't doubt Genelyn and Lyka, they'll get to Korea one day. :)

Then by the end of the day, it was birthday party with the host family! My host dad, who works on a ship and is away from home right now, sent orders for a lechon. Just another example of how awesome and considerate my host family is! So here is the birthday piggy... I think I'm goign to seriously miss the lechon presence when I go back home. It's such a staple at all social gatherings, is it really a party without the lechon?!

So here we are folks, this is what 25 looks like. I've decided it's going to be the best year yet. A year of cultural blending, and finding out ways to keep the best of both worlds.
It's going to be good!

Monday, September 27, 2010


With 24 days left in my Peace Corps career, I have certain things that MUST get accomplished. I will get to see the window grills put on the library before I leave, host a couple of groups of new trainees at my site, master the art of making biko (my favorite rice dessert), and learn how to open a bottle by using another bottle.

But what did I just check off my list of things to do? Seeing Cebu's Internet famous Dancing Inmates!! AAAHH!!! Yeah, I know, what is cooler than that?! I know, not much.... :)

I had seen the youtube video of the prisoners before I arrived in the Philippines, and marveled at the oddity. But after being here for over 2 years, it's not odd anymore. They first became famous for dancing to the song Thriller, and anybody who stays in this country for more than a month can attest to the citizen's strong devotion to Michael Jackson, and there's never a day that passes that I don't see some type of dance routine being done. So the fact that all those people choose to dance to hit music and then put on a show, is just natural.

So on the last Saturday of every month, the inmates do choreographed dances to both current and past musical hits. The show lasted for over an hour, and included Justin Bieber's Baby, MJ's Billie Jean, and Shakira's Waka Waka. I think the Waka Waka was my favorite one... so here it is!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


This past week has been occupied with Peace Corps requirements. There are weeks where I forget about Peace Corps. I don't have anything really to do with them except a monthly call-in and the ever present feeling that my regional manager is distantly keeping tabs on my existence. But now that I'm less than a month away from finishing my contract, it seems that PC is EVERYWHERE. This includes awesome flight to Manila for a medical check!

Oh Manila, what a love/hate relationship. How can an entire city smell like a urinal? Why is it that 95% of the times I get into a taxi there I have to struggle not to scream "SERENITY NOW!!" But man-oh-man, how I love to eat you Manila. Cheeseburgers cooked to medium with non-eden cheese (aka, made with real milk that has to be refrigerated!!), McDonald's french fries, pizza with mozzarella cheese... I mean yum.

But back to business, medical check is finished. Apparently the Philippines is rotting my teeth, so I get to have 6 fillings done before I return home. I told this to my host mom when I returned to site, adding how I can't eat sugar anymore. Her response was, "I have ice cream in the ref for dessert... so very hot today!" ...and the cavities continue!

Friday, September 17, 2010

garth brooks

I've touched on the subject of storms here before, but I finally got out of bed to take a picture of one this week. I took this picture from the window of my bedroom, facing towards the ocean. The houses are across the street from me, and then if you look closely you can see a taller building behind them with a belltower, that's the church.
Monstrous rains falls here often, but when it comes at night they takes on their own character. Without local weather reports, you don't know what will happen. And when the lightning seems to strike right next to you at times, or as the case was last year, does and and gets the tv, you can't help but wonder what the statistics are for getting hit. I love the thunder here. The mountains on the inland of the island make the sound echo, at times lasting for up over 20 seconds. For the flat-Florida girl, this is insane!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Any ideas?

Alright, here's the situation: I keep waking up in the middle of the night to this scratching sound.

It seems like it is coming from above my ceiling. Imagine a long fingernail slowly and deliberately going at a piece of plywood and that's about what it sounds like. The only thing that brings to my mind is the ghost story you hear in elementary school about the escaped lunatic who was found on the roof of the girl's car slowly scratching his way through the metal roof... as a girl, and the driver of a canvas top convertible, that always left me feeling a little uneasy. Now, as the girl trying to sleep, it just irritates me.


Rat? Tuko lizard? Crazy lunatic guy?

The world may never know...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Day is What you Make It.

I work in a high school, but really, I'm at my best with little kids. So what do you do when Peace Corps tells you you have to work in a high school? You do, and then you volunteer your own time at the local elementary school. I head over to Inopacan Central School at the end of my lunch time and help with the school's library. It's so interesting to compare elementary schools between what I see here and what I grew up with in America. Did you know that teachers here are likely to be asked to help pay for the running of the school? Yep. And who is responsible for upkeep of the school? Yep it's the teachers. And during the town census and the running of the election polls, guess which government employees are expected to lend a hand... correctomundo, the teachers! You can imagine, with all those responsibilities plus those of actual teaching, it's a time consuming profession. This past September 11th, we held an in school inset workshop to talk about reading strategies that can be used with whole groups. In my opinion, activities with cooperative small groups are great, but at times inpractical. The desks and space issues in the classrooms here make it very challenging to manuever around the room and traditionally, the students here are used to doing things together and out loud. I'm not saying new ideas shouldn't be tried in the classrooms, but I do think that it's always nice to work with a person's strengths. Whole group is one of the strengths here, so at the workshop I introduced ideas that the teacher could use with all of her students, whether he or she did have small groups or in the more likely scenario of a large 35+ student whole group.

So we talked pre-reading prediction, vocabulary, and background knowledge. I can't remember if we use this term in America, but here they always say that we are "unlocking difficulties" for the students before the actual reading. Strategies included "If I know, then you know..." Frayer's boxes, 4-fold vocabulary, linear arrays, and KWL charts. Mid-reading was about reading with expression and tracking, and then post reading included things about retelling the story, Bloom's taxonomy questions, readers theaters, and more.

It's not the norm for schools in our area to have a library at their school that is readily available for them to use in their everyday classes. It felt good to watch the teachers at the workshop look through the shelves and find books that were appropriate for their students. In the pictures above, they're creating props or other teaching manipulatives that they could use while reading the books.
One of my favorites was from the 3rd picture, where Ma'am Heidi made a Grover face so her pre-k students could attach and detach eyes, nose, and mouth. Her book choice had been a Sesame Street book about the parts of a body. Another favorite, in the 4th picture, the teacher with the Dora book created popsicle stick puppets that can be used for retelling the story.
It was a positively hopeful day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Let it be put in the record books, today, September 9, 2010, was the day I received my first official "Merry Christmas."

It's always exciting to wait for this special occurance. I've been eagerly anticipating it since September 1... the beginning of the Christmas season here. Other signs that it's the most wonderful time of the year? Christmas carols are already being played in the shopping malls.

Monday, September 6, 2010

entertainment+aircon=my favorite thing to do

Did you know, that Mondays are free movie day for senior citizens in the Philippines? Yeah, it's true. They get in free with a valid id for the first showing of a movie. And let me tell you, they take advantage of it; there was massive chaos at the ticket counter! Lines don't always work here, and I'll be honest, as someone who's mom taught her that "you wait your turn in line," it's frustrating. But whatever, that's just how it is.

Other interesting facts about the movie theaters here? Well, first off, it all depends on where you are in the country. Manila and Cebu have HUGE theaters, where they let you reserve your seat on a computer system at the ticket counter. Then once you get into the theater, don't get comfy in your seat because it's likely you'll get to stand up for the singing of the national anthem.

On the other hand, if you're in a smaller theater in the province or a smaller mall everything is a little more informal. If I go to the theater in the Robinson's mall in Taclobon, they won't play the anthem, and at the ticket counter you get a little yellow ticket from one of the giant rolls of generic tickets.

But you know the coolest part about the movie theaters here, aside from it only costing between 50-200 pesos (a sweet $1-$4)? You don't have to sneak your food in! And when I say you don't have to sneak in food, I mean real food. Not just a cruddy like bag of pretzels or an illegal bag of skittles. I'm talking fried chicken from Jollibee's, wine from the grocery store also found in the mall, drinks from Starbucks, popcorn you bought not from the movie theater but from the Holy Kettle Corn kiosk right next to the theater.

But be forewarned, don't have your digital camera on you when you go to the movies. Pirating is big here, and if they find out you have a camera on you, you're expected to check it in with the security guard!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

mental case

You know that feeling of alarm that has a dash of excitement and then a pinch of "I don't think I can do this?" It's the feeling of being overwhelmed. That's the feeling that I'm blaming on a not-so-great week. The sad thing is, there was nothing to really overwhelm me at site, it's all in my head.

What started this feeling of anxiety was looking at friend's pictures on Facebook. My degree was Elementary Education, so I know people who were excitedly decorating and making strategies for what would be the best ways to set up their classrooms for the new school year. These pictures, in all their amazing beauty, left me breathless; literally, on the verge of hyperventilating. THERE'S SO MUCH STUFF!! Laminated posters, die-cut shapes, computer printed signs, cute bulletin boards decorated with ants that have titles like "Anticipating a Great Year," window decals, textbooks, classroom libraries, white boards, smart boards (I didn't even know what that was... I had to read the caption), fluorescent lights, computer projectors, classroom computers, pocket charts, that giant yellow manipulative clock, and I'm pretty sure I could feel the aircon through the picture; all the things that have come to be expected in an American classroom. You know what made me feel the most uneasy when looking at these pictures? The empty space. The classroom was so big you, as an adult, you could lay down and make a snow angel on the floor and not touch a single piece of furniture or another person. There was room to be an individual, a separate person from the mass.

Um, yeah, that's not what I've worked with for the last 2 years. (This is when the overwhelming feeling really kicked in.) I hope I can keep up. I hope I can take advantage of all the technology. I hope I remember to think of using an overhead projector instead of just a sheet of manila paper. I hope I can be best friends with the tech support guy at whatever school I end up working at. I hope I don't disappoint/make a complete fool of my students, the parents of my students, the principal, my co-teachers, or myself.

I hope I don't ever forget that you don't need stuff to be a good teacher.

Haha, and you know the best part of all this overhwelming business? I don't even have the job to worry about yet! Yep, it's all in my head.

Monday, August 23, 2010

current events

On this side of the globe, in the sunny nation of the Philippines, I heard several current events being discussed at school today.

In America, since 2001, we have paid particular attention to those who surround us. Of course neighborhood watches were using their binoculars on their neighbors long before that year, but with the terrorist attacks that used a trusted mode of transportation to kill thousands there was a reminder of observing others around you, just in case. Now, our country has an entire generation of kids who know nothing but post-9/11 thinking; never leave your baggage unattended, report if somebody acts suspicious, and HOLY COW, use hand sanitizer... cause you don't know where his or hers hands have been!

In the Philippines, despite terrorist attacks in the southern island of Mindanao, you don't feel a constant fear radiating off people in public areas. I have my guard up against pickpocketers and kids trying to stick their hands into my pockets while I'm in the city, I'm not wondering if there's a bomb in somebody's box that I sit next to on the bus and I've learned just washing your hands with soap, the good ol' fashioned way, can keep you just as healthy as 99.9% Purell. I have boarded airplanes without having my id checked, and yeah, the naked woman at the bus terminal was acting shady but I never thought she'd harm anybody. Aside from some high tensions during election times, I feel like most people are just doing their own thing; getting from point A to point B and living their lives.

Unfortunately, yesterday didn't turn out that way. I didn't now about it till I turned the tv to CNN at 8pm, but since earlier in the morning in Manila, a tourist bus had been hijacked and 25 hostages were still, more than 10 hours after being taken over, waiting to be saved by police. Ironically, the hostage taker was an ex-police officer who had been dismissed due to extortion and wanted to be reconsidered. Sadly, 8 innocent lives were lost and 7 were wounded. Such a tragedy. It makes me wonder how the public here will act in another 20 years. Will the innocence be converted to the guarded once-over look?

To end the post on a lighter note, the second current event? One more common to the Philippines... beauty pageants! Yes, I've observed that there are few things higher on the list of favorites for many Filipinos than a glittzy beauty pageant. News of the latest Miss Universe was already making the rounds hours after it aired live. Congratulations Miss Mexico!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

...and this was one of the most exciting parts of my week... i'm not sure how to feel about that...

I am no good at cooking. I burn things, leaving the kitchen filled with a wonderful layer of smoke, which slowly permeates through the entire house. It's never good when I try to fry things, or grill things, or saute.

How do I eat?

I boil things and microwave (very, very carefully... cause yeah, I've been known to make things explode,) and now I rice cooker things. And here is where I say, KISS IT MARTHA STEWART!!

This rice cooker thing, (don't judge me because I'm in the Peace Corps and own a rice cooker, there are quite a few Filipinos who use electric rice cookers!) is doable. Even I can handle just adding water and rice, then plugging in a cord and pushing the button. this week however, I took it to a whole new level, a Martha Stewart level. Yeah, it was THAT good!

I know, it's kind of a no brainer, any heat will cook an egg... but for me this was some inovative stuff! My mom sent some Mexican rice seasoning packets (but if I wanted to make this Filipino, maybe adding Magic Sarap would work?) so I added that to the rice before it cooked. Once that was done, I added the chopped tomatoes, egg, and wait for it. wait for it. cilantro.
Yeah Martha, I grow my own cilantro!!
Then you just let it sit with the lid back on until the egg is done steaming. Steaming? I guess, but there's no water. Eh, I don't know, I'm not a cook, whatever. You let it sit until the egg is ready to your liking. Then you just take the pot out of the cooker, and here's the best best part, for that classic "eat it straight from the kitchen" feel you eat it straight from the rice cooker pot... and one less dish to wash. :)
It's a good thing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

i got the seniorirtis

Senioritis. It's what seniors get in high school during the last part of their final year before they become, as my dad likes to say, "just one of the statistics (aka unemployed adults.)" I had it then, I had it during my last part of college. And yeah, I have it now during my last part of Peace Corps. But I think, dare I say it, my case is even more severe this time around!

I'm a countdown kind of girl. Let me describe my geekiness for you. I started counting down the days until my COS (close of service... last day of Peace Corps) waaaaay back, at around day 150; here's where my brilliant geekiness shines through. I don't just count the days, I make it into a game. I make myself not look at the calendar just so that I loose track of the days, and then when I finally do let myself recount the remaining days, it makes it feel like I'm so much closer because I got to skip all those inbetween days. Did I really get to skip all those days? No, but I have to make a little excitement for myself!

The tricky thing is, I know I'm going to miss my site once I return home. I'll miss my host family and co-teachers, and I'll definitely miss my students. It's kind of confusing to be so excited for something, but then know that once I'm on the other side of the Pacific I'll still be counting days till I'm able to come back for a visit.

But one countdown at a time, and for now, 63 days till COS.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bahala Na

Dear Bahala Na,

I'm going to be honest and upfront and just say it, sometimes I don't like you.

Oh, I'll admit there are times when I say your name. The bus is late, "Bahala Na." I have laundry to do, but the water is turned off, "Bahala Na." Brown out, "Bahala Na." You're a comforting thing to say when I accept that there's nothing I personally can do to solve the situation, so yes, "Bahala Na," I will let God take control of it. Why stress? You're a close relation to Timon and Pumba's "Hakuna Matata," and Big Mouth Billy Bass' "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and I like that, you're just missing your own catchy song.

But man, there are some times I just want to turn around and shout, "Dude, who invited you to this party?!" You're an expression that people say when they come to a metaphorical wall and are resigned to just stand there without getting a ladder to climb over, or better yet, a stack of dynamite to blow the obstacle to smithereens. Instead they'll just accept that they can't go further, shout out "Bahala Na," and forget about the goal or greener pastures that were on the other side of the wall. Sometimes I feel like you're a dream killer, Bahala Na. You're an excuse that turns to laziness; a reason to accept second, third, or even fourth best. Sometimes, you're a crutch that I find myself saying when I could just work harder and not have to call out your name.

You visited me this week, and I really wish you hadn't. Test scores were not what I was hoping for, "Bahala Na." No, not "Bahala Na." I will work harder. Enough said.

I'll give you this, you have great potential Bahala Na. Instead of taking anti-depressants or having panic attacks, we could just say your name and trust in God because we can't control everything in our lives. But really, you need to shape up and remember what you're really for.

Connie Sue

big laugh.

i was in my first year class last week, which has a boys on one side-girls on the other seating arrangement. after prompting the class for an answer, students had to raise their hands once they knew the answer. 3/4 of the girls had their hands up, but the boys only had around 1/4. i ask, "boys, come one, are the girls smarter today?" one boy's answers with a flat out, "yes." we all started to laugh.

later that day, i was walking back to my host family's house for lunch when i overheard a boy, this little short guy, from that same first year class as above, singing the song destiny to himself as he walked. i started listening when he came to the "you and i were meant to be, with all my heart and soul, i give my love to have and hold, as far as i can see, you were always meant to be, my destiny."

big smile.

OH, and happy 2 year anniversary. today marks the day i left sunny florida to start my adventure in the even sunnier philippines. and it also brings me to day 69 in the return to home countdown!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

High Speed

soooo... with the coming of the long awaited landline, comes somewhat of a tranformation to the small munipality that I'm living in. One of them, Facebook has taken on a life of its own! I literally have over a hundred Facebook friend requests from students sitting in my friend request box. (which will be accepted in October, when I'm not your teacher :) )

Another recent discovery... this blog! I'm getting this a lot around town, "I saw your blog!!" Which is when I get this nervous smile and say something like, OH, I hope you liked it...! I try to keep the blog about the optimistic reality as I see it, but I worry that my forienger's perspective may offend somebody. I apalogize now if it does; I mean no harm. It's only been positive reviews so far though, so that's good.

With my outsider's perspective, I'd say Internet is definitely changing the pace of our town. I saw one student yesterday doing a speedwalk, that would make all those early morning mall walkers jealous, as she was weaving in and out of the large group of students leaving the school for the day. Why such a rush? She wanted to be one of the first students in line at the Internet cafe. Her super fast speedwalking though, dodging innocent bystanders, too funny!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

and the Oscar goes to...

Folks, wow, you are in for such a treat... really, you have no idea. May I please present to you, a group of my amazing students as they lead you on an adventure through Inopacan National High School's library. All I can say is, watch out Hollywood! :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fact: Chow King has the best halo halo.

Halo halo.

Can I say its changed my life in the most serious tone and not be over dramatic? I guess if you say it like "an angel's halo" you may think I'm referring to some type of religious epiphany or something. That may deserve a "changed my life" statement. But then if you say it like I mean it, "hollow, hollow" you would have to find out that I'm referring to a shaved ice dessert, and yes... yes, that would be over dramatic. Ha, whatever, it's the love of my life!

Halo halo means "mixed-mixed," and that is exactly what it is. You start with a foundation of crushed/shaved ice. Then you traditionally add evaporated milk, but if you like it sweet, just pour on the condensed milk. Then the mix-mix comes in. If you have the jackfruit, add the jack fruit. If you have the nata de coco (really stiff jello type material) throw it in. Why wouldn't you had some red beans or corn in if you have it lying around? Buko (young coconut) is delightful on halo halo. And if you throw in the buko, don't forget banana and rice krispies and leche flan... oh the leche flan!! And then, to really make it "fiesta halo halo," go ahead and throw on a scoop or two of ice cream on top.

The funny thing, no cherry on top! Ha, I know, beans and corn galore, but I've never seen a cherry on a halo halo. Weird!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

what's on my mind

a. 78 days till i come home. b. i wish i had a can of chocolate frosting in the refridgerator right now. c. they play doogie howser here once a week, and i love it. d. i can't imagine the last two years without having michael jackson, taylor swift, and lady gaga in them. e. if you want to change the world, wear a condom and volunteer to read a book to a kid everyday. f. georgia or florida? g. do i take the plane ticket to america or the cash in lieu? h. i came to the philippines a young 22 and will leave an ancient 25. i. graduate school right away or finally work in an american classroom for the first time to gain experience? j. i want me some tijuana flats. k. it's the rainy season here, and so the mold grows, and then the allergies come to life. l. i like that i get a text from the postmaster whenever i get mail. m. rambutan. look it up, love it. n. no, the classrooms here are not airconditioned, and some of them don't have electricity. o. i love glee. p. australia is supposed to be needing english teachers. q. i have way too much laundry that needs to be done and not enough sunshine to dry it all. r. any leads on public schools hiring a "hard working, optimistic, committed to the job, returning peace corps volunteer" in the florida/georgia area after the holiday break? s. i need to sit down and write my description of service. t. if fazoli's is closed, where do you eat lunch after vbs? u. from my room right now, i can hear a group of people walking from house to house singing a prayer and playing guitar. v. facebook has taken over the town i live in. w. here you still say things like, "give my regards to so-and-so." x. i'm excited to be able to drive again... but not so excited to pay for gasoline and car insurance. y. this week my mom reminded me that i'm going to have to stop calling airconditioning "aircon" and after going to thailand with my friends i realized i can't hiss at waiters to get their attention anymore nor can i use my teeth to open plastic bags as has become the norm for me. z. ha, yep, hissing and using my teeth to open things, i am so classy folks!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shut Up and Dance

I'm a white girl who can't dance. I know, stereotypes are bad... but sometimes they're true, and the one that says that white people can't dance accurately describes me. I don't have the beat and I don't have the rhythm; I mean I can barely stumble through the electric slide. I never used to dance in America, but here in the Philippines it's not the worst thing in the world.

This past weekend I was one of the facilitators for a training another volunteer was leading, and one thing I loved about this training, and the Philippines in general, was the music and dance. Can you imagine going to a professional development training and everybody just listening to the Glee soundtrack and dancing as their opening energizer? I for one know I would have hated it if I was ever expected to dance at some type of conference, but now it's just fun! Everybody participated, even the woman who was breastfeeding her kid... I mean that's some dedication to the art of dancing.

The rest of the training went really well. We talked about Phonics and Phonemic awareness and how to use those unfamiliar teacher words in the everyday classroom. It was very hands on, and hopefully they can take some of the activities back to their classroom. It was a good weekend. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Land of Smiles

Largest Reclining Buddha, Bangkok

Street Vendor, Bangkok

Kayan Hillstribe, Chiang Mai

Elephants from the Maesa Elephant Camp, Chiang Mai

Ayuthaya Ruins, Bangkok
Where in the world can you find the largest reclining Buddha, street vendors on every corner you look, women wearing rings to extend their necks, elephants bathing in the river, and ancient ruins? I mean sure, street vendors, that's no big deal... and elephants are a dime a dozen...and what place doesn't have an old abandoned building around somewhere...and big Buddha's were seen in Hong Kong and Japan... but long necked Kayan tribeswomen?! It's gotta be Thailand!!

A couple of friends and I caught a plane to Thailand, the Land of Smiles, last Sunday and took a week to explore Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The entire time we were there I kept thinking how great it was to be with friends. Jasmine, who was another volunteer in Leyte, is half Thai and ever since we met she's given Thailand such a great story and I finally got to put a picture to her words. She and her family took us around to see all the attractions, which included the pictures above, as well as riding those beautiful elephants, shopping in bazaars, and visiting a floating market where I had my first Thai massage and fish foot massage. Yay to thai massage, nay to fish massage... waaaay too ticklish! It's kind of exhilarating when you're in a lake and a little minnow pecks your toe, but imagine if you stuck your feet into an aquarium and a school of the little suckers comes and laches onto your skin like blood sucking piranhas. Ok, I exaggerate... but there were a lot of fish eating away at dead skin on your feet!

I liked Thailand, and was really surprised with Bangkok. It seems so clean to me. Maybe Manila has gotten to me too much. I think of the city, which before Peace Corps brought a picture of small Orlando where you just basically have to watch out for pooping ducks at Lake Eola, and now I think of pulsating Manila. Manila, where everywhere you turn there's a group of street kids, guys peeing on the street, women trying to get you to buy things, jeepneys pouring out exhaust, and taxi drivers trying to rip you off, where you just sigh and mutter, "uh, Manila." I didn't get that feeling in Bangkok. It was clean, I didn't hear any roosters, and don't you know those are my two criteria! I don't know, perhaps we stayed clear of the trouble areas, but on the whole, super impressed with Bangkok, and Thailand for that matter. I will say though, you got the traffic too man!

Friday, July 16, 2010

You and Me Could Write a Bad Romance

Well, it's that time of year again. The time when the plaid skirts get ironed, white shirts get an extra bleach washing, and black pants are pressed; aka The Acquaintance Party. It's the back-to-school bash that kids have been waiting for since school started back in June, and it's also my favorite dance that I'm required to go to.

Last year's theme was Michael Jackson, and to date is still one of my best memories of Peace Corps. This year they had an jaw dropping Lady Gaga impersonation contest. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I could be arrested for posting the pictures, so for viewing purposes just imagine Lady Gaga in her ukay ukay finest, dancing her heart out. So funny, and outrageous at the same time.

After the official swearing in that the new students do, and PTCA members pledge to do their best for the school, the lights drop down and the words DISCO bring on a roar from the students that I'm sure could rival any Lady Gaga concert. The kids had a great time, and well, me too :)

me and Genelyn

Lennie and some of the 3rd year boys in their dance competition


What happens when somebody gets ahold of your camera...

and again, thanks Genelyn for the awesome pictures.

And here is the innocent side of Acquaintance Party, the side of the traditional Philippine School... the Inopacan National High School Hymn (they sing this at flag ceremony every morning). I will without a doubt, completely regret missing next year's party.