Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The next 2 years

Peace Corps will tell us our permanent sites on Sunday. Then it's off to visit them on Wednesday to see our schools, meet our counterparts and our new host families. It's like starting all over again. Only this time it's for real.

I'm 95% sure I'm going to be in or around Roxas City on the northern side of Panay Island.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

1 month down...

...26 to go!

I know I'm slacking on the blog, please forgive me, they keep us really busy around here. I've added my mailing address (see right) for all of you who have asked - but please don't send me anything until I get to my permanent site (except for letters, of course - they are always welcome). By then (Nov. 8) I'm sure I'll have a long list of things I desperately want and/or need.

Things are humming along here. Language classes are going maayo gid. I'm enjoying the other volunteers in my "cluster". I'm adapting to all the PC rules and regulations (not easy, but I'm doing it - it's been a long time since I've had to be accountable to anyone). My co-teacher is a sweetheart (even though I'm still only feeling lukewarm about teaching). My host family is super nice. I love the food. So overall, I really don't have anything to complain about. But, of course, there are things I miss about home (and seriously took for granted), such as:

Hot showers (no such thing here)
Peanut butter (who knew I'd start craving it?)
Cold milk (another who knew?)
Project Runway
Certain people ;-)
My laptop (yes, SP, I know I should've brought it)

But there is plenty to love about this place, too, like:

All the different types of sticky rice desserts
My host family
Riding trikes and jeepneys
The kids and their smiles
Being compared to a coke bottle (a compliment, really)
The seafood
Dante's internet cafe

It's been a pretty good first month, I think. There are 2 more months of training and then I officially become a volunteer. Everyone says that at that point things get easier - less restrictive mainly - and I can't wait. It's hard being told what you can and cannot do and having to explain your every move to everyone (part of this is Peace Corps regulations, part of it is the culture here - which I'll get more into in a separate post).

FYI - I started a Flickr account to store my photos, so let me know if you want me to "invite" you to have access or if you just want me to send the link to you every now and then (leave me a message in the blog comments or email me directly).

Miss you all!

(and I was kidding about liking the cockfighting, labcabbie)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Training, teaching, tiring.

We're now in week 2 (or is it week 3?) of training and I wholeheartedly agree with every other Peace Corps Volunteer I've ever known - training bites.

Ok, it's not really that bad. But it is tiring and confusing and overwhelming and frustrating and challenging and did I mention tiring? Or maybe it's just my age showing.

There have been really up ups and really down downs already, which I know is to be expected, but I tell you, I'm already counting down the days until Swearing In (November 7th) when we officially become Volunteers instead of Trainees.

But before any of you readers start thinking otherwise.....I am really, really, really happy to be here. Most of the time.

We started co-teaching this week. I've got First Years in high school, so the students are all about 13 years old. Plus, I have Section 1 and Section 2 kids, which means they're all pretty smart and dedicated and actually do their homework. Some of the other volunteers (pardon me, trainees) have Section 19 and 2o kids (and I think it goes down even further than that), so those classes may be a bit more challenging (then again, more interesting). My co-teacher and I are still figuring out where I fit into her classroom structure, but I think it will all work out okay. Mabuot gid siya (she's very nice) and wants to take me home and teach me how to cook traditional Filipino dishes. Because you all know how much I love to cook.

I'm off to visit my Nanay's sugar cane farm on Sunday (Negros is the sugar capitol of the Philippines, in case anyone ever asks), so will try to upload pictures after that. I keep forgetting to bring my memory card reader thingy to the e-cafe, so for all of you complaining that I haven't sent any pictures yet - relax, I'm working on it!

Kita'ay ta karon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rosetta Stoned

A lot has happened the last couple weeks, so I'll try to give a brief(ish) run-down of everything.

I met the other 68 Peace Corps Philippines volunteers in LA a week and a half ago (already feels like a lifetime). We spent 2 days playing ice-breakers (almost wanted to quit right then and there) before finally getting on a plane to Manila. Here are some things I've learned so far:

1) There is no one within 10 years of me age-wise in either direction.

2) Twenty-somethings have no concept of age....either that or I look a lot older than I am. I was asked more than once if I had children, which seems like an innocent question until you realize that a) they must think I have young kids and just selfishly left them at home and ran away for 2 years or b) they must think I'm actually old enough to have adult children.

3) Twenty-somethings don't think anyone over 30 could possibly need a pregnancy test. Ok, before mom and dad freak out - it was a Peace Corps requirement to pee in a cup before getting some additional vaccinations, just in case one of us was pregnant. Now we do have two 50-somethings and one 80-someting (!) in the group, so granted, they probably didn't need to be tested, but one girl actually asked me why I was standing in line with my plastic cup. It took all my strength not to swat her.

Anyway, we split up into 3 smaller groups a couple of days ago and flew to our training sites and I have to admit I was a bit relieved to get away from the larger group. No offense to any of them, of course, but I like my smaller group. So now I find myself on the island of Negros in the Western Visayans (how exotic does that sound!?) living in Bacolod with my host mom Mel, host sister Kiel and 2 helpers (essentially servants, but treated more like family). They're all great and I feel very lucky.

But here's the kicker....they don't speak Tagalog here. They speak Hiligaynon (also know as Ilonggo) and it's pretty different.

It's a good thing I didn't put too much effort into that Rosetta Stone course.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Last Supper(s)

I have 1 more day here in Texas with my wonderful family and then I'm off to California to spend a few days with girlfriends before Peace Corps"staging". I spent my last couple weeks in DC stuffed to the gills. Even in an "eat out" kind of city, I think I had more dinners out in those last 2 weeks than I normally have in 2 months. You don't realize just how many people there are to say goodbye to until you actually have to do it. To be honest, the whole process was making me feel a little down. Of course I'm still very excited about leaving for such a great adventure, but sad, too. I absolutely loved living in DC and I absolutely adore my friends. I mean really, how are the "Bobs" going to survive without me? (Answer: just fine, I'm sure). Then there's SP, he's a whole other blog post entirely...

And now it's down to my last day with my family. SP was here with me the first few days and it was such great fun, but he had to go back to DC and so my last week here was spent in "business mode". Lists to work through, things to buy, stuff to organize, laundry, sorting, tossing, packing, re-packing. It still doesn't feel very real - it's somehow hard to completely "get" that I'm not coming back anytime soon. Excitement, sadness, anxiety, all rolled into one bundle of crazy - that's the only way to describe my emotions right now.

I think I should've bought a bigger backpack.

(edited to add that I started this post way back on July 21, but it's actually now August 9)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lucky Charms

I have, without a doubt, the best friends on the planet.

This past Saturday night Chez DeM. hosted a celebration of good friends, good food and good times, not to mention good margaritas. It was both a reunion (with out-of-town friends who could not have timed their visits more perfectly) and a farewell (for me)...and it was wonderful. Besides some of the best grilling this side of the Mississippi, dodge-bocce ball and buckets of "whimsies", I was presented with the best goodbye gift a girl could ask for - baubles! My funny, fantastic friends had made me the most beautiful charm bracelet and they had each contributed a charm that in some way represented our friendship. I've been wearing it nonstop since and can't keep from fingering it and smiling at the memories it brings. It will be one of the most priceless things I'll be taking with me to the Philippines (next to my passport, of course). Words, none that I write anyway, cannot express how much all these people mean to me and how much I will miss them.

Teardrops and tiki huts and toucans and celery seeds and messages in a bottle and courageous cats and prayer scrolls and margarita glasses and buffaloes and evil eyes and hands of Fatima and words of wisdom and horseshoe crabs and.....Elvis.

If this thing doesn't keep me safe and bring me luck, nothing will.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


My staging packet arrived in the mail yesterday. It consists of information on when and where to report (Los Angeles) plus yet more paperwork to fill out before actually getting on the flight to Manila (on Hawaiian Airlines no less).

Uh. My. Gah.

It's starting to feel very, very, very real.