Monday, April 26, 2010

swimming in the deep end

I'm not gonna lie or try and sugarcoat it. I rarely ventured into the deepend of the pool, when I was a kid, when I was a teenager, or even the day before I left for Peace Corps. I can't remember when my fear of swimming in open/somewhat open water started, or why, but I'm sure it has something to do with Jaws and my older brother telling me that sharks not only swam in the ocean but also under the sand... so logical thinking for any kid would be swimming pools were also fair game. Perhaps that's when all my trouble started, I don' t know.

I do know that last weekend I stood on the bow of a boat, eyed a whale shark, and jumped in for a nice leisurely swim with it... Ok, leisurely may be stretching it, but I was at least in the water!

My friend and I went down to Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte for a weekend of snorkeling with the gentle creatures. We went with an crew that goes out weekly to give foreigners the once-in-a-life time thrill of diving with the world's largest fish. All I gotta say is they look WAY bigger when I was in the water and their dotted skin is just an armslength away than when I saw them at the Georgia Aquarium a couple years back. WAY BIGGER!!

Live and Learn

I would imagine that if you had a child, your very first child whether the first of many or the sole mini-you, you would do anything to protect him or her. The reason there are over a thousand parenting guides and Baby Einstein videos is because deep down, no parent wants to screw up their own flesh and blood, right? The first years of that innocent life must be pins and needles for the parent as they learn the basic do's and don'ts of parenthood. But of course, there must be one moment when they drop the ball, figuratively speaking... hopefully, and Baby gets hurt. I would assume that hearing the screams of pain coming from your own child would threaten to cinch the strings of a mother's heart making his or her's pain their own. Lesson learned. It's not ok for Baby to eat peanutbutter when he is allergic to peanuts, and it's not advisable for her to go outside without shoes because somebody was careless and dropped a glass and the remaining shards of glass will rip her feet to shreds. You live, you learn, and you make sure that you don't do it again.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Musuem. It was last on my stops through Japan, and by far my favorite part of the journey. The simple reasons of this museum, and the surrounding park, are to not only remember, but to live, and to learn from the past. August 6, 1945 was the day that put Hiroshima on the map, and sadly erased thousands from it at the same time. At 8:15 am the first atomic bomb was dropped, and the entire world changed. I knew little of the atomic bomb prior to coming to the museum. I knew that Americans dropped it, and it put an end to the years of bloodshed and killing that had amassed into World War II, but I didn't know of the personal devestation it brought to the individuals; the ones who lost their lives immediately due to the heatrays, those who managed to navigate their ways home while their melted skin hung off their arms, legs, and backs until there was nothing to do but slip off into surely what would be a better place, or the lucky ones who survived unharmed, until years down the road when they exhibited the signs of radiation poisoning.

The museum did what I thought was a thorough job of not only telling, but also showing things you probably learned in history class as well as opening the door to the lives of those actually touched by that day. They had copies of Einstein's letter to Roosevelt telling that the knowledge was there to create such a weapon and it could end up in the "wrong hands." You could look at detailed models of the pre and post-bomb city of Hiroshima. They had what appeared to be chunks of glass that were really the result of sand being exposed to intense heatrays in the desert during bomb tests. And they had an exhibit that introduced the needlessly short biographies of kids who had been put to work by the Japanese government to clear lots throughout the city that would give them firelanes incase of an air raid attack but actually became their final resting places.

It was during this last exhibit where the full impact of destruction hit me. I just kept thinking, is this the result of the formula falling into the "right hands?" But how different would my life be if instead of visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum I was visiting the Oviedo Peace Memorial Museum, or more appropriately timed, the Shelbyville Peace Memorial Museum. Shelbyville was the town where my dad, whose own parents were learning the do's and don'ts of complicated parenthood, was on August 6, 1945.

After visiting the museum I got curious. How close was this major event in history to wiping off my parent who was alive at that time. The answer, 1 degree, in a way of thinking. Apparently Hiroshima is roughly at the latitude line of 34 degrees. Little ol' Shelbyville, Tennessee? 35 degrees. Yeah, I know, nowhere near each other, yet, almost just like a hop, skip, and a jump. All that type of thinking just leads me to wonder, who isn't writing a blog at this very moment because that complex mathematical problem was solved by "the wrong hands."

As you can see, the Peace Museum made my brain work. I appreciated how one of the major ideas expressed was, this tragic event happened, over a hundred thousand people were killed because of it, and what about now? Each time a nuclear bomb test is done in the world, the mayor of Hiroshima telegraphs a request of ceasing. The citizens of Hiroshima have learned their lesson, but have the rest of us?

I guess if I ever have a child I'll make a lot of parenting mistakes, but I will live, learn, and change.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

things i like about japan

the ONLY piece of trash in a giant river running through Kyoto
(and no, I don't really like the piece of trash... but the fact that it's the ONLY piece of trash in a river is pretty amazing!!)

nets that hold the garbage on pick-up day in Nara

picnicers everywhere in Osaka

cherry blossoms :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

quick snapshots of Japan, more to come

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan

Todaiji Temple, Nara, Japan

Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan

To console myself after my mom and sister's too soon departure, I went to Japan.
It was my first time going on a big trip by myself... and what an amazing experience! I was lucky enough to line up my trip with cherry blossom season, so the entire countryside was dotted with magnificently delicate pink and white flowers. the Philippines can be a beautiful place, however its beauty can be classified as nothing but tropical. Japan's beauty is one of cool refinement. A beauty that goes hand-in-hand with a cup of hot green tea. A beauty that has next to zero trash in it, and has me wanting to go back.
Through the week, I was able to visit the cities of Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. My only reget is that I didn't get to spend more time in Japan.

did you know that 80% of pollination is done by bees?

The site of the Blood Compact. This was when the Spanish and Filipinos first made a deal of friendship... obviously before the 300 years of colonization...
The Chocolate Hills. They're called this because during the dry season the trees and shrubs turn brown, thus giving the look of chocolate.


Can you find the queen?

The month of April is well underway, and with it came not only Easter but also my mom and sister. They arrived the day before the big holiday, and I was so excited to be able to show them around the Philippines. After a quick tour of the shopping Manila has to offer (which is a lot!!) we took a quick trip down to a part of the country I'd never been able to visit before. We stayed in Bohol, a popular tourist destination here, and were able to see the Chocolate Hills, stay at The Bee Farm, and see the much anticipated endagered tarsiers.
The Bee Farm was a pretty cool place to stay. It specializes in organic farming, and provides its guests with tours of the garden, bee insights, and the BEST food I've had here. Did you know that you can eat bouganvillia?! Yeah, it's true. They make salads at the restaurant that include beautiful flowers in them, and tell you, if a bee pollinates it, you can eat it. So my friends, be prepared, cause when I come back home I fully expect you to eat the bouganvillia and cosmos flowers that are in my tossed salads!
I'll provide the honey mustard dressing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Back at staging (the time where all the PCVs first meet and sign away the next 2 years) we began to be introduced to the Philippine culture. This is when all of our googling endeavors were combined and we found out what others had discovered. Probably the 3 big things: balut (fertilized duck eggs), NPA/terrorists, and lastly, THEY CRUCIFY PEOPLE?!

It's true, sort of. There's a place in northern Luzon called San Fernando, Pampanga, where yes, a man volunteers each year to be nailed to a cross. He does it as an act of repentance, asking God's forgiveness for his sins. There are also other men who walk through the streets of town whipping themselves with spindles of wood and having their backs cut with glass. This again, is to show repentance.

I know I've become desensitized in a way since coming here, because while I was shocked back at staging, the shock wasn't with me yesterday. I did however get an uneasy feeling in my gut. What a unique experience.