This morning I went for a 16-20km bike ride. I woke up with energy, spirit, and a happiness that I truly thought I had lost. My first thought was about God, and I woke wanting to praise him for the day, I haven’t felt that way in a long time.
Today makes 8 months in the peace corp. I just finished looking at some pictures and I can honestly say I don’t look like the same person. My body has changed, my hair color brown, and my skin slightly toasted. Not even a third of way done with my service I don’t know how to feel. I guess I mostly feel grateful, grateful for this opportunity and the community I was blessed to be with.
This month started off difficult, I was going to go to America to see my family. I really needed a break from this experience. I had been counting down the days, but after the earthquake in Japan and the nuclear reactors my family didn’t feel it was safe to fly through the radiation because scientist had not yet tested the air quality of the flying zone. Although it hurt tremendously, I understood my parents.
Recognition was a real highlight for me as a teacher of the 4th year students. This last quarter I had the opportunity to work with every 4th year student as their computer teacher, and for section 1, an English teacher as well. There were 9 sections total. The teachers allowed me to give a special message during the ceremony. I spent a long time deciding what I wanted to say to the students, as it was my last chance to address them. The day was quite moving, and I felt very proud of my students. All of them. If I have time later I will type my speech.
For Graduation I was really impressed because the event started nearly on time, a rarity in Pilipino culture. The students were all there before it started, lined up by sections. People from the town gathered along the halls watching the graduates’ parade down the hall way one by one. I received a program, and I still can’t believe how nice it is. It will serve as a year book for me as it has section pictures of each 4th year class. Jaron was kind enough to accompany me both through the recognition ceremony and graduation. As anyone knows, even for graduations in America, when you don’t know anyone or even if you do, its not fun. I was very lucky that he was willing to come support the work I had done with my students.
We were place on stage with other political figures and donors while speeches where made and diplomas handed out. The highlight moment for me was when section 9 was called to the stage. The 9th section is the lowest section, some students older then myself. Most of them have had to drop out many times in order to help their families financially or to pick rice. The whole place roared with cheers as each student crossed the stage. When one of the oldest students walked across, you would assume it Oprah on her very last show. It made me so proud of my town, that they are so encouraging to the students who have faced the most difficulty but yet still prevailed.
Rhea Joy, the helper in my house and my dear friend also graduated with the 4th year. Watching her walk across the stage I felt an extreme pride for her. She has been working as a helper since a young age, her father who lives only a town away she rarely sees yet she worked hard and made him proud as she finished at the top of her section. It was a sad day because it was the last time I may ever see her. Her mother came back into her life but lives on the other side of the Philippines, islands away. Her smile always lit up my days, and her eyes showed extreme kindness, I will miss her greatly.
After graduation two teachers provided lunch for some of the guests and faculty. Ma’am Norms, my co-teacher and head teacher of the English departments’ daughter was solitarian, while another English teacher, Ma’am Prados son was valedictorian. I am proud to work with a faculty who produces such excellent students, and was also happy that the top two students came from parents of the English department! I didn’t have much time to celebrate. I ended up getting an allergic reaction to something, popping a bendryl and falling asleep by 8pm.
The next morning I had an AM flight to Manila for a training, and I had to say goodbye to Rhea Joy! HIV/AIDS I was selected at the last minute to do an HIV/AIDS workshop in Manila. I was eager and happy to have the opportunity. I decided to go a day early in order to use the IRC, a resource center in the Peace Corp office, and to meeting with PCMO to talk about my many illness’.
When I arrived in Manila I was still upset about not getting to go to America, so I went straight from the airport to Taco Bell. No joke. Its at a random mall in Manila and when I told the taxi driver I wanted to go to the mall with my bag he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. I ordered enough food for lunch and dinner, and then took another cab to the Peace Corp office. Since it was a Sunday, no one was in the building and most of the lights where off. It was really scary. I found my way to the office and felt such a peace. I had my Taco Bell and unlimited resources. I was able to go up and down every isle of the library selecting all the resources I could want.
The next day was a Monday, so all the staff were in their offices. I met with PCMO and sure enough I had to go to see some doctors. I barely made my appointment before the conference started. Overwhelmed I didn’t realize how nice of a place I was staying. Air condition, hot showers, good food, a real bed, and tv. It was epic. Then came the training. I truly can’t believe how much I learned. How much there is to do, and how much I want to do. Of all of my trainings from Peace Corp, he HIV workshop was by far my favorite.
I went to the Mall of Asia for the first time and went all American by going to the movies and eating popcorn. They also had a huge grocery store and I purchased granola bars, something that I rarely find. I used my American money. I got sick at the hotel because I wasn’t used to Air Conditioning, I broke down and purchased a sweater, again using my American money. I really hate to break into it, because I know I will need it when I get back, but for taco bell, a sweatshirt and some granola bars life is good. I never thought I would need a sweatshirt! Maybe that means I’m turning Pilipino.
I had to stay an extra day in Manila because I was sick. But the good news is that I’m much better, although it took some time.
Instead of going to America, I attended what will most likely be my toughest challenge of the summer. My language skills are laughable. I can say things like, who I am, where I work, where I live, where I’m from and that someone is pretty, the food tastes good and that I’m full. But that’s about all I can do. Oh, and classroom commands, like be quiet, and sit down etc. I think I can understand some, but actually speaking and formulating my own sentences are near impossible.
I was so intimated and insecure about going. Worried that I was going to fail the LPI, a language proficiency test given by Peace Corp, I dreaded going. On the first day I found out there was no test and my confidence boosted. I as able to participate strongly, try the material and learn the new language. My training was in Hiligaynon, but the language spoken in my town is Kinarya. They speak extremely fast and use word softeners so its really impossible for me to pick up naturally.
I met a man today from Saudi and he said he would teach me Arabic. As soon as I learn Kinaray I will try Arabic, but I’m doubtful that will really happen.
I went to another wake in the middle of the camp, as my closest Filipino friends mentor passed away. Being at Language Camp I forgot that I was American because I was around so many American in a secluded place. The camp was at a nunnery that takes care of abandoned elderly. It America its common to Old Folks homes, but here in the Philipines they don’t really exist because families take great pride in caring for their loved ones. When families abandon the elderly there is really no place to go, so the nuns take care of them. Its really beautiful, but sad at the same time.
Anyways walking down the street everyone was staring again and I remembered quickly where I was. On the way walking down a random street to what looked like an oncoming farm a cow ran out from no where, I got scared and startled because it was running and everyone started laughing at me, afraid of a cow. Cows often roam the streets here, its very common to see them graze along the roads, but to have one loose and running is startled me quite a bit. I ended up laughing at myself too.
The last day of camp was the hardest for me, and I almost had a break down with how hard language was for me, but I survived my hardest week. They had no vegetarian food at the camp, and my friend and I who are vegetarian didn’t want to complain, after all nuns were making us food and on the first day they told us to be grateful for the food because we are eating for those who can’t eat and not to waste any food. Finally when we brought to their attention we were hungry they made us cheese lumpia and salad!!! It was a great last day food wise.
I am really appreciative of what Language camp did for me. It allowed me to rebuild my confidence and give me hope that I can conquer the language. I was very thankful to my trainers and peers to be so supportive of the effort I was putting in. I was grateful to make better friends with people I barely knew and enjoy the company of my friends who I had missed so much. There were 17 PCV’s at the camp. And I truly grew a lot as a person during that week as I faced my hardest challenge.
During camp my friends and I went bowling. The bowling is very different, the pins are tiny and you get three turns. Its 13 pesos a game so less then 50 cents…still the most I have ever played at one time is 2.
We also went to dinner a real restaurant, in which there was a cockroach and I got so freaked out still I left behind my left overs! Bummer. I told Jaron what happened, so he called the place and went there in person the next day to see if they still had my left overs and they gave me a brand new 8in pizza for free! We really enjoyed that.
Together with another PCV we left for Gumerias for their Mango festival. This blog is already way to long but I will just say that my next blog will include major cultural experiences, and hopefully amazing pictures.
As always, thanks for reading,
HAPPY 8 MONTHS fellow 269ers!!