Monday, May 31, 2010

Dancing for Money

My neighbor got married this past weekend! I get invited to a bunch of things; birthday parties for people I don't really know, weddings for old white guys, but finally, a joyous celebration for somebody that I've come to know and like here in town! So fun!!

Weddings here have a lot of similarities with those back home, and then some differences. I think I mentioned another wedding (not the infamous old white guy one I attended, but a more age appropriate one) a while back, but this time I got some pictures to go with it to help explain.

Here is part of the bridal party. There are the traditional flower girls, ring bearers, bible bearers, bridesmaids, and then the Filipino addition of the ninong and the ninang. Ninongs and Ninangs (the adults in the pictures above) are the "sponsors" of the couple. They are entrusted in guiding the newlyweds or supporting them as the need be. It's really an acknowledgement of respect for the people in your life on your special day as the bride and groom. I really LOVE this idea. Respect here in the Philippines is something that always impresses me. Asking someone to be a sponsors is just another way that it is shown here. This picture also shows the traditional formal wear for men. It's a special lightweight, embroidered shirt known as a barong. I think women should totally steal the barong idea... they seem way cooler than the heavy, lined skirts the women must wear in the 100 degree weather!

Here you have the signing of the marriage license. You also can see the electric fans going full speed and just a few members of the photography team. When I say there was a team, I mean this event could have been confused with a paparazzi scene. Documentation... so very important in the Philippines :) Also, married in the Catholic church... it's soooo final.

And finally, the money dance! During the reception you see many of the same traditions that an American wedding would have; slicing of the cake (although no cake fights), sharing wine, releasing of the doves (maybe in days past in America), and toasts of well wishes. A unique Filipino tradition is the money dance. The couple shares a dance as husband and wife, and as they dance, pins are passed out so guests can come up and pin money on the bride and groom. It's to get the couple off on a prosperous start... and so much more convenient than all those giftcards Americans hand out!

Well, there you have it, a Filipino wedding in a nutshell!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yours, Anne

I have a special student. Well, honestly I have a lot of special students, but if I could give a "You're a Terrific Kid and I love Talking with You about Books You Read because You Always Say Things that Make me Take a Moment and Think, WOW, You're a Cool Kid" award, this award would go to Lyka Mae.

She takes the time to read books that I say I really enjoy, and then patiently lets me talk to her about them. It's honestly a highlight of my time here. Our latest book was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

Background knowledge is so important when you pick up a book. Grasping loose ends until you have a firm understanding of what you're about to read makes understanding easier, and in the long run, more solid. Background knowledge was slightly tricky for this book. World War II has a major part in Philippine history. The English textbook the students are issued at school feature articles about the Japanese invasions, the Bataan Death March, and Douglas MacArthur's landing. They know WWII, in the Pacific. WWII in Europe and other surrounding areas is not covered as much however. Other unknowns, like religion also came up while reading the book. Roman Catholicism is it here in Inopacan. A small group, perhaps 100, citizens in town are not Catholic. Learning that Anne was Jewish gave an opportunity to introduce new ethnicities and religions. Anne's diary offered so much for discussion.

So what did we discuss? Well of course we talked about the Haulocost. What did it mean? How could it have happened? What has the world learned from it? And then my wow moment happened. Lyka said, in this simple honest voice, "I think I'm a lot like Anne."

In all my excitement to share points that I had gathered when I read the book, or had talked about in previous discussions, I had forgotten this obvious link between author and reader. Both are the same age, both are girls, and both are wise beyond their years. The book doesn't just showcase social injustice, but also the feelings that young girls have. Those feelings of, "Seriously, can ANYBODY understand me and not judge me at the same time?" Lyka could feel where Anne was coming from.

And that is what it's all about. :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday Night Movie

Do you ever wonder if your dreams may be psychic visions? Predictions of what are to come? Sometimes, I super hope so.

I've had some really cool dreams since being in the Philippines. One night I dreamed my host mom was Oprah. My room was a-maz-ing! As was the ski boat and lake that was part of the package.

Another night I had President Obama visit my classroom here in the Philippines. Super cool, but I was so nervous! He really is nice in person.

And then last Monday night I dreamed of a salad fight. I so miss good salads. There were all types of lettuce, bright red tomatoes, and feta cheese; all flying in the air, just waiting to be devoured.

These could all be right around the corner for me! A quick glimpse of good things to come!

Ooooor, if you wanted to make another guess as to why I have some strange dreams, you could say it's from the malaria pills that volunteers here are required to take every week. Vivid dreams are a side effect, and while mine aren't terrifying like some of the other stories I've heard, they do seem really real.

I'd kind of like to go with psychic though... that seems WAY more fun :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

bad for the crops

Though the days of our summer vacation are quickly dwindling, there is one thing that keeps rising in Leyte; the heat!

Man, everyday seems to be a scorcher and it seems like there's a cd in my head on repeat that keeps saying, "It's hot, It's hot, It's hot." Ha, the heat is almost all mind consuming. It wears me out mentally and physically. I'm ready for bed by 8.

I thought the humidity was bad in Florida, but I think it's worse here. And then to top it off, ever since the election and we've had such little rain that the water levels are down so the water only runs in the house from like 11pm-5 or 6am. I wake up in the middle of the night to fill buckets and old coke bottles so I have water for the next day, aaaaaand I do the dreaded laundry.

Yeah, it's 3am and I'm doing laundry.

Which leads me to end with, Anybody want to get a raindance started?

Monday, May 17, 2010

fiesta time

My second fiesta at site was this past week. FIESTA, YAY!!! haha, kind of. At times fiesta gets old to me. There can be so many of them, and so many people, and so much food... it's just so much. But this fiesta felt different from the others, and I guess it's because I was more "part of the crowd."

Last year I stuck with my host family the whole time. I didn't know what to expect, what to do, it was all new. This year though, I ventured off on my own more. It felt good to get invited to the house of one of my students and then get called into more houses as people saw me walking by. I was honored to be invited into people's homes for the staple fiesta meal: spaghetti, cake, lechon, coke, and so on. Good times.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Election Day

A president, senators, campaigns, and elections; all things that are essential to America's government. It's what we know, what we expect, and a process to governing that we have come to respect, for the most part. Those things are also found in the Philippines.

Today, May 10, 2010 is Election Day here in this nation of islands. We're not really supposed to make comments about politics or the government of the country we're volunteering in, so I'm just going to report on what I observed.

People, lots and lots of people out to vote; that's what I saw. A few people told me, "Very different than America, no?" I kind of laughed, well, we get to wait in long lines to vote too! Except here it's sans line, so instead they give out a slip of paper with a number on it and then you're called to vote when it's your turn, and the waiting can last literally all morning if you're there when the poll opens at 7 am.

Election Day is a holiday, no work, and school is already out for summer, so people were able to spend all day at their respective voting places. Teachers are in charge of running the voting and all precincts are in public schools. There is a like an express lane for senior citizens, pregnant women, and the disabled, even though I think all would agree that "express" was used in loose terms. The wait in line could last hours, cause the number of people at each precinct was around 1000. I asked one lady who was observing the voting how long, on average, it took for a person to fill in the ballot and slide it into the scanner. She said roughly 10 minutes. This year was the first year that voters filled in their ballot with a special marker and then slid it into an electric counter.

The temperature yesterday was probably in the high eighties with 110% humidity. It was the kind of hot where all you do is stand outside and your shirt is soaked through within 10 minutes. Yep, long wait and killer heat.

Haven't heard any results yet, and somewhere I did hear that the voting times were going to be extended, so now, like in America, it's just "let's wait and see."

Ok, I tried really hard to keep it to the facts and as far as a blog goes, it was probably pretty neutral... maybe, kind of, sorta.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

king kong played ping pong while eating a ding dong in hong kong

Big Buddha

Laser Show

Fish Market

Mickey and Minnie at Hong Kong Disneyland

Sunday afternoon in Kowloon Park
What's the best part about being a teacher? Changing the lives of countless children? Seeing improvement in your students throughout the year? Or perhaps taking away something new that you may have forgotten since you were a kid, but your innocent students have retaught you? Or, it could just be summer vacation! :)
I took a quick trip to Hong Kong this past week. Wow, man, what a shopper's dream. Whether you have the means to do up-scale shopping or bargain market shopping, this is the place to do it. So as somebody who likes to look, even when the price tag is way out of my league, I loved walking the streets as I window shopped at Gucci, Tiffany's, and Louis Vuitton and then even more fun when I got to walk up and down the street markets and actually buy the knock-offs. Temple street market at night was fun, and just browsing through the fish market (for once they were all alive and swimming!) and flower markets were interesting.
I also took a day to visit Hong Kong Disneyland...which yeah, I know, sounds so completely touristy. But I'm from Orlando, Florida! I was completely hooked on seeing how the two parks compared. Overall verdict: there's no place like home. :) Hong Kong's was cool, and yes, the "queues" were much shorter, but nothing compares to Cinderella's Castle... sorry Sleeping Beauty.
Lastly, I rode the cable car up to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. This made me think of Japan, and how different these two trips ended up being. Japan's religious sites were all hundreds of years old, while the Big Buddha was built in 1993.