Somehow it’s the end of April and I don’t really know how that happened. This month has been a whirlwind, either I have officially become to the used to the slow pace of life, or my life is really moving fast. I have too many stories to tell, so I decided to break this blog up by day so you can get a peek into my daily life, my encounters and what the heck I’m doing!
My Daily Life in thePhilippines
April 1st: Recognition Ceremony at the High School, where I gave a speech and help hand out awards to top students.
April 2nd: Graduation, where I had to say goodbye to 426 of my 4th year students.
April 3rd: Fly to Manila to use the IRC and Doctors appointments, the peace corp library is an amazing place where you can get resources for your site. There is also a special shelf where PCV’s bring their old books and you can take as many as you want. I took about 10-15 books!! When your finished you just bring them back the next time your inManila.
April 4th: HIV/AIDS Conference by USAID and Peace Corp where I learned so much and really felt inspired as a Volunteer. I live in Iloilo City (outside the main city) which is the 2nd fastest growing rate of HIV in thePhilippines. There is so much work that can be done!
April 5th: Mall of Asia, after the conference was over at night the PCV’s would stroll down to the MOA, only a 15 minute walk through intense traffic. I felt like it was theDisneyland of malls, and I quickly felt swept up in such a fancy place. With so many American stores, I almost forgot I was in thePhilippines
April 6th: Lincoln Lawyer, I went to the movies with some PCV’s at the Mall of Asia after conference. Many people live in such rural sites that this was their first time in the last 8 months to see a movie. Movies cost 150 pesos, about 3.50 US dollars, and a box of popcorn is 60 pesos, about 1.40 US dollars. Despite the low costs for an American, it is an extreme luxury to go to the movies. Before the move starts the theatre played the National Anthem and everyone stood up in their theatre seats and sang. They also only played previews for scary movies, I haven’t seen a scary movie in 8 months and I think because I live in such a happy culture I can no longer bare watching a scary movie, although it used to be my favorite genre.
April 7th: Last day of the HIV conference, also the last day of a HOT SHOWER!! I enjoyed 4 amazingly hot showers. I suddenly became aware of how much water a shower wastes. It doesn’t even take ½ a bucket to clean myself, and about 5 gallons when you shower. Despite knowing that I was wasting large quantities of water I over indulged and took between a 15-30 minute shower every day. My ipod touch stopped working, with no computer, a crashed a hard drive my heart broke when I no longer had an ipod. Luckily I was near the MOA, and it had a MAC Store!!! I skipped dinner and a few PCVS came with me see if it was fixable…and it was! They fixed it free of charge. Then I spent American money on a hoodie, yes a hoodie. I was freezing (because I was sick) and I wasn’t used to Air Conditioning. Then we went to Mexican food (well sorta) and I had a Veggie Burrito and it was YUMMMYYYYYY!!!
April 8th: Doctor Appointments, I had to stay an extra day because of my skin and ears. My skin has become extremely discolored and I have lost pigment in many places, aka I’m the new Michael Jackson haha jk!! I went to the dermatologist and its just the sun affecting my skin in a severe way, but when I go back to the States it should clear up. Secondly I went in for my ear. I have had an annoying ring in my ear for the last month. I went to the doctor inIloilo and he pulled all the ear wax out on one side thinking either an ant or a cockroach (yes its common for people to get cockroaches in their ears!!!) went into my ear. He couldn’t find anything, so he didn’t know what was wrong. For about 1 week my equilibrium was severely messed up, I felt dizzy all the time, and started getting severe headaches. The doctor in Manila put oil in my ear and the ringing stopped soon after, then he pulled out some ear wax on the other side (GROSS), so I don’t feel dizzy anymore and my ear is much better.
That night was pretty epic. When we go toManila for doctors appointments we get to stay at a pension house. Due to the fact that all of us are constantly sick with something you will always find at least a few PCV’s at the pension house, usually people you don’t know but find an immediate bond with due to the fact that you understand exactly how that person feels. You celebrate that bond by filling your stomach with tons of delicious American Foods, such as Veggie Burgers, Taco Bell, and Dairy Queen. You spend all of your monthly allowance in one day, yet you don’t care because the recognizable food was so delicious you would have paid triple. The night usually ends with good conversations, drinks and dancing. That’s right, dancing. I have been toManila two times now, and both times I maneuvered my way to a dance floor into the early morning hours. It amazes me how I don’t know any of the songs they are playing, but by the end of the night I’m singing along like it’s the best song I have ever heard. Sometimes when I’m in Peace Corp I feel so old; I’m a leader among my community, co-teachers, and students. They look for me for ideas and knowledge. I feel that for the majority of my life I have chosen to act older than my age, but when I get to dance and sing to songs with lame lyrics but good beats for a moment I get to feel my age, 23, and its amazing.
April 9th- 14th: Language camp, the hardest part of my summer went by almost too quickly. I had the chance to be reunited with PCV’s and some of my dearest friends here. They saw me struggle, and they supported me. I wrote more about this in my last blog, but the week included learning a new language, pizza, a cockroach, a nun home, feeling really intelligent, feeling like a total failure, feeling overwhelmed, and the feel of hope, that I one day, just maybe, I will be able to speak.
April 15th-17th:Mangahan festival in Gumerias, where over 25 PCV’s came together to celebrate Mangoes! The highlight moment, quesadillas with REAL CHEESE!
with tons of mangoes!
I got my first tattoo, henna of course, had mango smoothie, and mango pizza (not with real cheese L) and of course dance with the local children and friends with most of Gumerias as local bands played top 40 songs. My second favorite part was the firework competition, different regions set up a colorful firework display and the crowd judged their favorites through their ooo’s, ahh’s and applause.
With Sean and Leanna
April 18th- Scheduled Nap 15 minutes. Haha! Truly though, look at my month. This marks 8 months in Peace Corp!!!
April 19th- Internet access at my school delivered excellent news, my community was accepted into the database workshop that will be inManila by Peace Corp and USAID. They only had six slots, and I feel really lucky to have the opportunity. I get to take 2 of my counterparts. When I told the school the news I received a standing ovation. They all hugged me and told me how much they missed me (they are used to seeing my everyday and so far I had been gone most of the month), and they told me that most of them had never been to Manila and they were so happy to have one of their own get to go to the capital city. We had a good time chika-chicking about the summer, and I just enjoyed the companies of my teachers. After language camp I was able to pick up a few more words when they were talking.
April 20th- Visiting the Mayor, this summer I wanted to do projects in my community with the health department and the municipality office, but as you can see from my schedule, time did not allow. I went to meet with the mayor and we talked about what the rest of my service will look like. We discussed many projects to work on, so many in fact that I think next school year I will only work at the school 4 days a week and in the Mayors office 1 day a week to plan community projects.
I then went into the city to meet my very best Pilipino friend. She was my first counterpart at my school in Mandurrio and we have remained close friends. She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever encountered, as she is selfless by design and has one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen. As a child she was sickly so her parents sent her away to live with her old maid aunts, she desired to be a cook, but aunts rely on her income and she was forced to go into teaching. She works with the remedial children, the ones who are always hungry, have extremely poor hygiene and are otherwise tossed aside. She loves them, sings to them, and teaches them to be good human beings. Despite her parents leaving her, they are sick now, so her one teacher income supports both of her sick parents and two very old aunts. All her time is dedicated to the school, the students and her church where she sings in the choir. For her birthday I insisted that I take her out for dinner. In American culture we treat the person whose birthday it is, in thePhilippineshowever, when its your birthday its your responsibility to give a party or treat your friends.
After a 40 minute battle, I took her to the most expensive restaurant in the mall because I really wanted to treat her nice, as I feel that she is most deserving. I finally got her to go in, but she knows about my Peace Corp budget and so she wouldn’t let me buy the meal there after we looked at the menu. She instead chose Kenny Rogers, a chain restaurant here. I know she chose it because she thought it looked American. She wanted to order what I ordered, many of the Philipinos touch my stomach here, they think its flat because I’m vegetarian (I think I just hold weight differently and I eat as healthy as I can and work out, but they think its because of being vegetarian). It often makes others copy my order, or whats on my plate. So I ordered, my new favorite food!! It was a pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes sandwich on wheat bread with real cheese!! For 105 pesos, I can’t maintain that as my favorite food, as its not very big or filling, but it was delicious. I also got her a side of potatoes and macaroni and cheese (fake cheese—not so good to an American) and a smoothie.
As we ate our meals in celebration of her birthday I found out she turned 37. As we talked about her life, she held back tears, no one had ever treated her to such a meal. That was one of the most momentous dinner in my life, something I will always remember. How many times in my life have I been treated by my friends or family? How many times I have treated a friend?? And did it mean anything to me? Did it mean anything to them? It made me realize how blessed I have been my whole life, and I will be forever changed. Here in the Philippines I have learned one of the biggest lessons of my life, to appreciate.
April 21st: Beach Day, yes I finally went to a beach while in thePhilippines. Sean Leanna and I went to Jarons house for Pagtaltal. We all got there early in the morning for the start of Holy Week so we could go to the beach. We decided to go to the “closest” beach to Jarons house. The Tryke driver “dropped” us off at the beginning of a trail that led to the beach. There was no such trail. It turned into a hike, a muddy, humid, and scary movie style dangerous when we couldn’t really tell if we were on the “trail” anymore. We found ourselves in front of a spread of fish farms with a “No Trespassing Sign.” Since I am short and have a non-threatening smile I took Sean with me and we walked along the ridges of the fish farm, crossed over a fence, avoided dogs and “spoke” in illongo. The fishermen were very kind to us, and they took us by bamboo flat rafts across the fish farms, through a persons house, and pointed to walk through a forest. The scene was unforgettable, the way the light hit the trees, the idea of what was lurking around the corner, seeing wild cows, and native Filipinos with little clothing. Finally we came upon it, one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen, it felt like I was inCapri,Italy a private cove with a beautiful beach and delicately placed mountains.
We were soon greeted by the people who lived there who stared at as from a distance and feared our white skin. Jaron and I approached them with a mix of English and Illongo and they allowed us to use the beach, only after we took pictures with them. Sadly non of us knew that we were going to go on such an epic adventure and didn’t bring our own cameras.
The crowd rooting to crucify Jesus
April 22nd: Pagtaltal- Good Friday was one of my most cultural experience thus far, a small group of PCV’s assembled to witness a reenactment of Jesus Christ being crucified on the cross.
While I could tell you a step by step of the day, Jaron let me use his camera, and I went crazy. I hope the pictures can better explain to you how serious Religion is here.
Old and young participated in the recreation
Also I think I may have found a new passion for photography. Side notes, the day was really really really hot, the event took place through stations along a trail leading to the very top of a mountain. My blog, The Day I Became A Peace Corp Member, shows pictures of my cluster reaching the top of the mountain. The climb is very steep, yet the “Jesus” character still had to carry the cross up the mountain. About every 5 minute walk was another staging of a part of the bible, so each scene in the pictures below took place along the trail.
The Last Supper
I’m really happy I experienced the event, although I wasn’t as moved as I thought I would be due to the fact that I was buying water at every stand and focusing on my sweat while looking for stage. Looking at the pictures afterwards I am reminded about what Christ did for my sins, and feel so loved by God. I hope these pictures effect you.
Look at how many people came!
April 23rd- I planned to return to my site so I could spend Easter Sunday with my host family and community, but all the Jeepnys in San Miguel (our form of transportation) stopped running because it was their day to be blessed by our local Catholic Church. Disappointed about how early I would have to wake so early the next morning, I went with the other PCV’s at Raymens beach for a few hours of sun. I was able to read on the beach and felt very relaxed. My mom shipped me a GIANT salsa, and for dinner it was almost all consumed. Overall it was a really nice day, and I got to go to the beach again. It was a 3 dayHoliday away from work, and it was lovely.
April 24th- Happy Easter!! I woke up at 4:30 am to leave Jarons house at 5:00am. I took a tryke, to a jeep, to a boat, to a jeep, to another jeep, to a tryke. Three hours later I arrived in my town, and just in time for church and the towns first ever Easter Egg hunt. Easter is a special time to remember what Christ has done for me. One of my most memorable Easters was when I was 12. I lived inWashingtonD.C., and we attended sunrise service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The marble steps froze our feet as we stood with hundreds of others, and rays of light shined through the clouds and graced the buildings with a purity I had not seen before. That memory has always been an inspiration, and maybe it’s why I love that place so much.
Brown out easter dinner, there is really no other way to have it
My host mom and me at Easter Sunday Service
Finding Easter Eggs
On Easter Sunday in San Miguel I missed so greatly Easter inAmerica. I missed a service in English, my family, and of course Easter Dinner with twice baked potatoes (my favorite food-which by the way my family said they wont’ have until I come back). The only thing that resembledAmericawas the Easter Egg hunt, it was fun to watch the children discover their prizes, and I was even given a Dumdum!!! I attended breakfast/brunches/lunches with friends/family/community members. Then I went home and skyped from my house for the first time since I had been at site, as Jaron FIXED MY COMPUTER.
I was so excited to talk with my parents, but very sad to hear the news. I could tell from my parents expressions that something was wrong, and it didn’t take them long to tell me; my grandpa had been in the hospital and things are looking good. A few blogs ago I shared a story about how I was feeling about my grandpa being sick because I was so far away from him and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to see him again. It seems that the likelihood of me ever seen him again is grim. I am extremely effected every moment of the day, as my grandpa is constantly on my mind. I have a very special relationship with him, and although I know everyone has a time to leave, its still very hard. With the news of my grandpa and seeing my parents for the first time in months I was almost in tears. I had events planned later that evening, but just spent rest of the evening reflecting alone.
Easter dinner was cold pasta, due to the brown out we had no electricity, but my family did give me a coke light.
April 25th-29th – Teacher Training in Antique
I did two teacher trainings on Remedial Reading I and II, and Creative Writing. It was excellent practice and a good outline of what the rest of summer will look like for me. Teacher trainings occur when you bring a group of teachers to one location and a group of peace corp volunteers become “experts” on a topic and present ideas and information on how to develop the topic into the school/personal life. It was a completely different experience teaching teachers. Many funny things happened, but if your still reading this, I don’t think you probably want to hear them all. Highlights, I stayed in a mansion that one of the Peace Corp Members, ran on the beach, presented with Jaron on 12 1 ½ hour presentations and worked incredibly well together, managed my sweat well, and ran/walk/jogged about 10km with Jaron in about an 1hr-1hr 1/2 and I’m not sore anymore.
April 30th- I ate my monthly calzone from Sabarro. It was delicious. 150 pesos, well spent. And the end to a successful month.
Thanks for reading,