Wednesday, June 30, 2010

President NoyNoy Aquino

Yeah, that's a picture I took of my tv of the inauguration... and yes, I know how geeky that is of me, and I'm cool with it.

The new mayor, swearing in.

June 30... the big inaugration day here in the Philippines! Last May, elections were held for both national and local governments and today was the day many had worked so hard for.

I got to attend the swearing in for the local government unit (LGU) here at my site. There were councilmen who took their oath of service, and then the vice mayor and mayor.

Next I rushed back to the house to see the tailend of the national inauguration on television. Thousands of people came out to see Benigno "NoyNoy" Aquino III be sworn in as the 15th president of the Republic of the Philippines. His inauguration speech included promises of honest, clean government and persuing and investigating leads of previous corruption by politicians.

The last name, Aquino, may ring a bell to many of you. NoyNoy is the son of Cory Aquino who passed away last year and who was also a president of RP. His father was also famous for pushing the values of democracy before being assassinated during the Marcos reign. As an outside observer, it seems that the name Aquino goes hand-in-hand with democracy, and all the values that many Filipinos voted for.

An exciting time here in the Philippines!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

i'm watching you

sometimes I get this weird feeling like everybody's watching me here

these were all from the market in Ormoc, Leyte

Saturday, June 26, 2010

One year later

Coolest thing OF the year: I discovered this back during the summer when I was breaking into the school because the main gate was locked. It's on the back of the CR (comfort room, aka bathroom) on campus for students. It only seemed appropriate to share it with ya'll as we just passed the one year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death.
yeah, that's right, it's a homemade memorial to Michael Jackson. :) I LOVE THIS. I know in America Michael Jackson became somewhat of a joke, with tons of people believing he is a sexual predator or at the very least just a very unique and perhaps misunderstood individual, but in the Philippines nobody mentions his questionable past. They LOVE him for his music, his dance moves, and perhaps his whiteness? I'm not sure about that last one, but in a society where whitening soaps are as bountiful as America's antibacterial soaps, I can't help but think that may be part of the allure. No matter the reasons, MJ is a loved figure.
Loved how much you may ask? Enough to where a year ago when he died, I had to actually console a student. "Ma'am Connie, is it true Michael Jackson is dead?!" "Yes... I'm very sorry, but I promise it will be ok. Promise." Enough that a prison in Cebu City created a dance team that did a mass dancing to Thriller and other favorites. (On a sad, sad sidenote, this amazing show has been closed due to questionable managing... leaving me kicking myself for not getting to see it earlier and hating corruption with an even greater passion!). And lastly, enough that last year's annual acquaintance party at school was abruptly changed from a luau theme to Michael Jackson after his death last year. I mean, need I say more to explain the deep passionate affair of Michael Jackson and the Philippines?!
And yeah, I'll admit it, I like his music more now that I've lived here... so BEAT IT!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Somewhat funny story from today. In a feeble attempt to try and learn some of the local dialect before my time is up at site, I was having a language lesson with my co-teacher. She talks EXTREMELY slow for me and I pick up about 1/4 of what she says. I know, I'm linguistically challenged.

Anyways, we were having a conversation about what I plan on doing when I return to the States. I have some ideas about moving to Georgia to teach and go back to school. Her next question was, you're parents want you to go there? Meaning, this is your parents plan, correct? I at first gave her this strange look and said, a well... I'm 24, my parents don't really decide for me. She IMMEDIATELY busted out laughing, saying, I forgot, I forgot, you're American, you're so independent!!

In short, it's completely normal for Philippine kids to follow the plan that their parents have set for them. If I ask the fourth year students (seniors) what they plan to do after graduation, I often get the response, Well my parents want me to go to VISCA (a local agricultural college) or my father wants me to be a nurse. I guess maybe the thought process may be that if the parent is paying for the college, they also get to choose the course.... which makes a lot of sense now that I think about it.

But immediately after thinking that makes sense, I think how I never asked my parents if it's ok if I became a teacher. I don't think I ever even thought to ask them. I definitely ask my parents for their input, and usually take their words into consideration when I make major life choices, but I don't sit and wait for them to make all my plans... cause let's face it, I so would not be on the tailend of my Peace Corps experience if it had been up to my parents to sign me up! :)

Final thought: I didn't think about it so much before I left home, but if I had to pick one word to describe Americans, it would be INDEPENDENT.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

obnoxious :)... but it's hard to convey smiles in blogs sometimes :)

so... first day of school is over, and I survived. :)

It wasn't too bad, slightly chaotic at first, but I thought things quickly settled down as students figured out what was going on. There were still students who I saw that didn't know if they had passed the year before... I refrained from saying, "Well if you don't know, I'm going to go with a big fat NO!" I mean really, seriously? I let the other teacher answer that one...

Numbers were high, but still not as high as other high schools in this area. I'm not sure what the final total for the school is, but I do know that in the two first year classes there are 70 students and then in the one second year class there are 68. Other larger schools will have more sections (or in other words more classes per grade level), but we have a limited number of teachers, so one big ol' class will have to be. Obviously, it's tight quarters in the one second year class. Plus with the only one electric fan it's kind of miserable. I feel bad for the students, sitting on top of each other basically, and then the heat and humidity just make you feel like you're in a can of sardines.

Happily, the first year kids were pretty open and almost talkative when it came time to introduce the foreign teacher. It's so much more fun when people will make eye contact with you! :)

I also got over to the elementary school to check on their new library. We're off to a good start! Fortunately, the Librarian's course load was lightened (she was in charge of a content class, the canteen, and the library), so now she was given 2 vacant hours to use for the library. I'm also able to visit each day in the afternoon, so the library will be able to have kids at least for 3 hours a day. That is a huge accomplishment.

Today, a little kid named Andre wanted to check out a book about dinosaurs. Some of them are getting really excited. It's a fun thing to see! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

seksi graded

I've been looking at all of my friend's Facebook pages from back home, and am officially jealous because their summers are just beginning, and I go back to work tomorrow. The time has come... summer vacation is officially over.

In all honesty, I'm pretty lucky. Monday was our first day back to school, but another big THANKS to GMA for making it a holiday! Yeah, that's right, you heard me. The first day of school was turned into a holiday and school was canceled. Saturday happened to be the Philippine Independence Day, so the day off of work was transfered to the following Monday. Gotta love it.

New this year in the world of Deped (the Department of Education) is the trial run of sex education in selected public schools. This was announced to me by one of my students who came to my house and greeted me with a big "Ma'am Connie, We're going to learn about sex education!" Oh man, so glad I'm not in charge of teaching THAT class. Like some in the States, there are a large number of people here, including church officials, who do not agree with this new plan. Here's an article that features the island that I live on... to give it a more local perspective. It will be interesting to see if this will make it past the first year and what effect it has on statistics.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring. My guess is HUGE numbers of students on Tuesday; them all dressed in their spanking white uniform shirts and primply ironed plaid skirts and pressed blue pants. I'm excited to meet the new first year students, and am expecting to go back to those "who are you?... I have to talk to an american teacher?...NOSEBLEED!" moments again. ('nosebleed' is sometimes used as an excuse when the students are unsure of what to say and want to get out of answering). But that stage will pass, just like last years did, and soon we'll all be one big ol' happy family. I really hope it's a good first day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dude, they had gummy bears as party favors... COOL!

May and June are definitely the wedding season! I got to go to ANOTHER wedding last weekend, but this time it was in Cebu... OOO-LA-LA!! :) My host mom and I took a ferry over and then quickly went to the pension house to change and get ready for the service by 12:30. Of course we got there at 1 and nothing had started yet... FILIPINO TIME! ha, we got there just in time. The service was held in the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, and was beautiful!

This wedding was for a girl who grew up in the town where I live. I'd never met her, but like most of my social events, I got in because of my host mom. It was a really nice wedding, with beautiful imported flowers, and a huge reception in a local casino. The picture below is the bride and groom with their sponsors. I think the groom is a seamen, and they're planning on moving to Canada.

The reception was VERY westernized, and lots of fun! They had a MC who tried really hard to get the crowd energized, two huge buffet lines, live singers, and a photo booth set up outside for guests to get momentos of the couple's special day... oh, and margaritas! :) The cake below blew me away. It had fondant icing, multiflavor layers, and best of all, they actually cute it and served it at the reception! I've found that it's often the tendency for the families to save the cake for AFTER the reception... which leaves me without the sugar buzz I was hoping for.

It was a neat experience to go to a wedding in the big city. Something different, and new, which makes the days go by quicker!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Reading

This past week has been filled with nothing but books, books, and yep, more books. After the great success of the high school library, when all you awesome blog readers help collect 5,000 books and ship them over, we thought why stop there? The students need books in high school, but they also need them before their secondary education. Imagine going to high school and never having visited the library in elementary school? That's the way it was for some kids... but starting this year, that number will be oh-so-much smaller!

We set up shop at Inopacan Central School! This week included lots of set-up preparation, and then teachers, their children, and some of my awesome high school girls coming to volunteer in the labeling of books. Luckily my students have PLENTY of experience when it comes to labeling, recording, and organizing books! :) I was really proud of them for coming to help.

We separated the books into four simple categories: fiction, non-fiction, reference, and teacher resources. Each section is given a tag with a color (red, green, or white) and a number. To keep the system easy and practical for the librarian and parent volunteers we kept the numbering simple. Each category starts with 1 and then continues open ended. So there is a F-1, NF-1, and TR-1. Our town doesn't have Internet yet, so this works for now. Perhaps when the slow Internet train finally comes to town we can upgrade to an online book catalogue. But for now, we have a notebook catalogue that gives titles, authors, and book number. Not quite the New York Public Library or anything, but I'm proud of it!

Here are the reference and teacher resource books. I'm hoping to get teachers interested in this special section we created for them. I put some of the American text-books and all the teaching books that Peace Corps supplied us as trainees... hopefully they're not going to ask for those back... so that teachers can have alternate resources. This will be a great source for graphic organizers, pictures, and up-dated information. I know some teachers are hesitant to try "new," yeah... it's not just American teachers!!! :) so I made a Library Request Form that teachers can fill out if they are looking for specific information. That way until they are familiar with the books and feel comfortable in the library, I can help them with locating what they're looking for. Again, hopefully this will work as well as I'm imagining.

The fiction section. We keep the bottom level of windows closed, because little hands fit through them so perfectly, as do the books when turned sideways. On a interior design sidenote, the curtains... so Filipino :) A lot of houses will have the curtains knotted like that to let the breeze in. I can never get the knot to look so perfect. Mine always look crooked, but then all you have to do is just kind of scrunch your eyes and turn you head to the side and they look as good as when my host mom or students tie them.

To familiarize the teachers with the new library we held a seminar on Thursday. Unfortunately attendance was on the low side. As I mentioned before, teachers were in charge of running the election poles, well they're also incharge of collecting the numbers for the census. So this week many of the teachers were completing their forms and visiting around town in order to find out the number of residences.

Only about 12 of the 23 teachers attended. It's a start though, and hopefully those that did make it will spread the word and get others interested. This is our fun agenda for the day. We came away knowing the rules of the library, setting a goal for kids to visit the library at least once a week (as compared to last year's zero times), a wish list the teachers compiled (they let me know that Filipino books would be helpful... so I can keep my eye out when I go to the used bookstore in Taclobon), and much more.

The next steps, raising funds from local community memebers in order to buy the grills on the outside of the windows, get an electric fan that works (ok, let's be honest, that's at the top fo the shopping list!), searching for Filipino books, and having parent and high school volunteers sign-up to help lead story-time and reading buddies.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

i got the fatigue

I got the fatigue; the blogger's fatigue. What to write about?! I've told about projects. I've mentioned the weather. What else is there in life?

This was my case, my sad sad tale of not having anything to write. I was thinking these lame excuses for my lack of writing when BAM, god healed me... here's the story:

An unsusupecting Peace Corps volunteer walked through her small town. She was walking along the only main highway through her site, a 2 laned road that runs the length of the island, and she had to carefully pick her way through a maze of parked pedicabs. The sun was shining high in the sun, making the volunteer have to shade her eyes. Finally she got to the shady corner of the street that she had to turn onto. She just got her eyes to adjust to the suddent shade when all of a sudden a woman carrying a young child walks up to her. She'd never met the lady before, nor seen the kid around town. She smiled politely, cause really, who would want to be known as the American girl who never smiles? Her smile was returned with a, "Are you American?" "Yes, ma'am. I am, " she replied. "Oh, so is she (the kid). Half American; her father is American," said the lady. "Oh, that's nice," said the hesitant volunteer. She wondered what what happen next. And then the volunteer's entire day brightened, "Her name is Princess Rapunzel," the lady continued.