Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's take a drive

Last Saturday we took a walk, so this Saturday, let's take a drive.

I've been in the Philippines for 17 months, I think, and riding the buses are normal now. For example, I didn't blink an eye this morning when I got onto one of the smaller buses that runs up and down the coast of Leyte, and joined 33 other people that were on the bus that was built for 24. I thought nothing of the entire back bench of the bus being filled from floor to ceiling with old pig feed bags (basically plastic burlap bags) that were stuffed with seaweed. The guy smoking next to me on the bus didn't really bother me, ok, well maybe a little, but at least he was right next to the window and most of the smoke got carried away with the wind. I liked seeing the traveling salesmen who were hauling their pots to sell, from town to town, hoping to come home with pockets full and hands empty. And I was excited when the kid in front of me turned on his cellphone to play music... and even more excited when the music Low.

And finally, it was fun because this bus scored high on my "How Filipino is my Ride?" game. Points are given for the number of rosaries, stuffed animals, Christmas lights, other religious figures, draperies, music, and number of livestock that can be seen in the vehicle. As you've gathered from above, music was present, but it wasn't Low, so the points were not as high. The bus did have 2 rosaries hanging, so that was double points, and it also had a Sto. Nino figure. The draperies were floral print and hung above the windshield, but sadly no Christmas lights were plugged in to work off the brake lights. On the bright side however, there were multiple stuffed animals suction cupped below the drapes. All in all, a high scorer!

My mom and sister are supposed to be visiting in April, I can't wait to play this game with them. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010


So I was hanging out at the school's canteen today before the 10 minute recess began, drinking some buko juice, and got to see one of the funniest mosquito slaps ever. There's one lady who comes to the school everyday to sell the best bananque ever. She's really sweet, I like her a lot. She was standing behind her bamboo table that was piled high with delicious treats when Swynford, one of the second year students, walked up to her. She says, "Come closer. Closer." He hesitantly inches forward, not sure what's going on, when all of a sudden WHAM! Out of nowhere, the sweet banaque lady slaps him on the cheek. Swynford kind of had this look of shock, like, "What did I do?! I just wanted some bananauqe!" She brings her hand away, and in the center of her palm is the splatter of blood from the mosquito that had been on his cheek. I start laughing because for some reason this is the funniest thing I've seen all day, the lady chuckles, and Swynford is left wiping off the aftermath from his face with this look of horror. In short, Bananaque Lady saves the day!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

let's take a walk

A walk to school takes only about 10 minutes. It's actually a pretty nice walk down the residential street I live on, take a right turn, and I find myself on the road that leads to the school. I definitely see things on my way to school that I hope I always remember, because well, they're so simple and not things that I would ever get to see in America. Here's what I saw during my walk yesterday on my way to open the library for Story Time:

coconut palms everywhere, the house where one of my students lives (they have 2 sets of twin boys, plus 2 other sons. The boys have chicken pox right now, but it doesn't stop them. Yesterday they were still running around outside, climbing trees, and having a grand time), a carabao lazily plodding down the street with a cart full of dirt harnesd to him, one little boy, probably around 2 and a half, who always waves to me. (His wave is awesome. He keeps his fingers tightly bunched together, fully extends his arm out towards me, and waves his hand in short spastic motions. It always makes me laugh.), the school gate locked, yet again, rooster calls (I timed it, I heard 30 rooster calls in 1 minute... no joke.) the library kids running up the hill, and Daisy Jane saying, "Ma'am Connie, I think we'll have to walk around the back and climb through the fence again," moms rushing out to take their clothes in from the line before the rain starts, and carabao prints in the mud.

Friday, January 22, 2010


this was periodical exams week at school

i never realized as a student that my teachers may feel so down during this time

that was a lot of work preparing for the exam

one kid got 0%, anwered every question, and still got a 0%

i saw kids in class this week that hadn't been there since the last periodical exam


i think next time i'll give points for putting their names on the paper

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sinulog @ 30

Manila is the largest city in the Philippines, but next on the list is Cebu City. Cebu is in the Visayan region, which is the same region as my site in Leyte. This past weekend, Cebu had their 30th annual Sinulog festival. I'm so glad I was able to go this year, it was quite an experience!

Sinulog is the fiesta for Santo Nino. Santo Nino is the figure of baby Jesus, or really more toddler Jesus. The story that I was told by my host family is that when the Spanish arrived in Cebu over 300 years ago, a figure of Santo Nino was given to the Natives. The figure was taken back when the Spanish left, but eventually made it's way back into the possession of the Cebuanos. It is the figure of Santo Nino that now brings millions of Filipnos to the streets of Cebu in celebration.

My co-teacher told me that Cebu has around 2,000,000 residents, but during this event an estimated 8,000,000 people packed the streets shouting, "Viva Pit Senor!" The weekend's schedule was filled with religious events, pageants, and street dancing. My favorite event was definitely the street dancing. Dancing troupes from all over the country came to participate in the parade and street dancing competition. The parade took 9 hours! The costumes were amazing and it was obvious that countless hours and pesos were put into creating the works of art. The costumes were all Filipino styled, ranging from the Spanish inspired to the Native ones with nipa hats.

As soon as I get to a place with high-speed Internet, I'll try to post some pictures.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


It started raining on Monday, it's now Friday afternoon, and I desperately need some sunshine!

I remember this time of year last year being pretty gloomy also. The rain makes things a little complicated at times. For instance, walking to school becomes less enjoyable. I've finally given up on the concept of saving money and just pay the 5 pesos for a put-put (taxi bicycle) ride to and from school. The drivers of the put-put, which gets its name for the sound of the horn that is attached to the bike, puts plastic up around the passenger seat, as well as around the driver portion. It's like being pedaled around town with a shower curtain wrapped around you. It somewhat keeps the rain off you, and by far better than walking and having the mud splatter up on the back of your pants. I have yet to master the act of walking without splashing.

Umbrellas are also big business right now. The students all bring them to school, which is true on days where there is no rain but rather rays of scorching sun, and will leave them hanging on the bars that cover the windows. The umbrellas line the windows like a Skittle's rainbow of different colors and patterns.

Another result of the rainy season is the pile of laundry that is quickly stacking up in my bathroom. The clouds and rain don't offer much in the way of drying my laundry, so I've given up. Washing will begin again when the sunny skies return.

It may sound all gloom, but with all this rain comes cool weather, so it's not all totally bad.

Friday, January 8, 2010

adios bananaque :(

So, with the New Year having gotten off to a pretty good start, it's time to really get down to those resolutions. According to Wikipedia, which everyone knows is ALWAYS accurate and should NEVER be doubted, roughly 64% of Americans are overweight or obese. It's the big elephant in the room that most Americans are completely aware of and are content at just letting it stand there.

I'm not obese, but I'm definitely not skinny either. I'm kind of in the middle where the resolution every New Years is to eat less and exercise more, and never really go very far. But why? Probably because in comparison to other Americans, I'm not the heaviest, so I don't feel an extreme pressure to be the smallest person. Plus, in America I'm never told directly, "Connie, you need to lose weight. You're fat!"

But yeah, that's in America. In the Philippines it seems that all physical appearances are open for discussion, and yes, that includes the dreaded phrase, "You're fat." My favorite example of this was this past November. The school had just finished their monthly mass, and as usual the priest and teachers sat down for snack afterwards. The priest sat at the head of the table and asked me to sit down next to him. As I start to sit in the chair, he so eloquently says, "Connie, you're getting so fat. You're bigger than before." Soooooo not as cool as when the other priest had told me I was getting "sexier and sexier" earlier in the year. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out, but instead I pulled out my cellphone and started rapidly texting another volunteer to gain some reassurance that I am indeed not near obesity.

I've heard other volunteers say they've also received blunt statements on physical appearance. I understand that the priest meant to say that, oh, you're looking 'healthy' and you must be having fun because you've packed on a couple pounds since the last time I've seen you. But at the same time, I know my extra pounds would have been politely overlooked in America. Sometimes I really miss that discrete overlook.

As you can imagine, coming back from America after the Christmas season has opened the door to numerous "you're fat" moments since my return. So, here it comes, the resolution for 2010... once again, lose weight. At least this time around I'll have lots of feedback from the people around me... just hopefully of the more positive nature :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


What could possibly be the worst thing to happen when traveling back to the Philippines? Yep, you got it, the airlines leaving your pasalubong bag in Chicago while you continue to travel on to Hong Kong and then Manila. It's not cool folks, not cool.

Pasalubong is the gift that you bring back to all the people you know in the Philippines. It's a pretty big thing, and expectations are held by many of the people you live near, work with, or saw a couple times in town. You can bring back all types of stuff, like clothes, candy, money, or games. As long as you have something to give, I think, from what I've gathered in my time here so far, you'll be ok. But when you don't have the pasalubong, oh man, I've already heard some grumbles through the grapevine.

All I can say to the people is, please, be patient... the bag is making its way to Leyte, and I have to drive the 3 hours back to Taclobon tomorrow to pick it up at the airport, but it's acomin!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

let the jet lag begin!

Aaand I'm back. Christmas vacation is over, and it's back to land of fiestas and mangos.

I really enjoyed being home for Christmas and my mom's birthday. Things really hadn't changed that much; the inside jokes were all the same, and Tijuana Flatt's is still the best place to eat. I guess I'd go as far to say that Christmas 2009 became my new favorite Christmas.

I'll write more later, but for now, know that I made it back safely.