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.