Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This is where I live. It is beautiful. I'm not allowed to tell you where this is through the blog. If you want to know ask. All is well.

Leaving Manila

One hurdle stands between me and my official status as an actual PC volunteer: A rigorous three month training process. PC has taken our group of 70 and split us into three groups, scattered throughout the country. My group is a wonderful mix of people who I’ve already gotten to know well, and others who I am lucky enough to meet over the next three months. We are a very dynamic group and one that I am quite excited about.

My cluster of 12 is located about 20 minutes outside of the city proper in a charming little barangay. The barangay is the smallest unit of government. My barangay is divided into two large sections—the downtown area and then the newer subdivision located a short walk away. The houses that line the streets are the image of squalor on the outside, largely, but reveal surprising luxury on the inside. The thatched roofs, rusted iron, and family gardens of their exteriors give way to beautiful tiled floors, electric lights, and TVs. And despite many of the comforts that Americans take for granted, these people cherish and conserve them as much as possible.

Throughout the barangay there are three things one is sure to see. The first are the small vendors located at the front of many homes. There is no separation between commercial districts and residential areas in these areas. Some set ups are quite elaborate store fronts with large displays, others are simply an old woman with a table, chair, and the bananas that fell off her tree that day.

The other two things that are everywhere are semi-stray dogs and roosters. Many of the dogs are not kept as indoor pets, but rather exchange territorial rights with food from a willing family. Some families (mine included) do have caged dogs as a means of alarm. In opposition to the skinny, malnourished dogs stand the prized roosters. In this area cockfighting is a very big industry that many men take up as a hobby. The cocks are fed very well, given steroids, and protected from dangers. Between the dogs barking and roosters cock-a-doodle-doodling, getting a full night’s sleep is quite difficult.

In the coming weeks it is my goal, and the goal of the other trainees, to get as integrated into the barangay as possible. I think this will be easier as my language abilities get better. I have a busy weekend ahead so I must away! Salamat (thanks)!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Opening Ceremonies

Local time in Manila is currently 9:20AM--12 hours ahead of EST. We landed a little ahead of schedule at 4:45PM. Before we even got our bags we were greeted with what I am assured was the first of many long lines. Immigration was a slow process but also a good chance to observe some Filipinos. Once through the immigration stand, we were greeted with big smiles and some flowers from current volunteers and staff members. A group of volunteers left a few months ago to return home, and so group 266 (I'm in group 267) has been eagerly awaiting some new friends. After being greeted we went to find our bags. AS far as I know all our bags made the trip with us and no one was left without clothing. I have a few pictures of the mountain of luggage that we created to help visualize 70 peoples' worth of baggage. Pictures on the blog are a little sketch right now and can get me in trouble, so they'll be forthcoming.

Currently I am sitting with a few other volunteers in the lounge area of our compound. We are about an hours outside of Manila proper. The weather is currently 79 degress and a little humid, with just enough breeze to be bearable. Some volunteers are making a stink about the humidity, but its not any worse than NC.

We spend the next four days getting inundated with information and meeting our staff. At the end of the four days we will be split into groups and head out for three months of training. We meet our Country Director (CD) in 20 minutes so I need to run. Thanks for checking in on me!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I made it LA just fine after an interesting set of flights. Luckily, I had a travel partner in one of the girls who is also from UNC. We boldly tried to take a full row to ourselves, but were thwarted by an evil banker. He took his middle seat proudly, and as soon as he was allowed, he broke out the laptop and began working away. I innocently asked a question of my traveling partner and he gave me the evil eye. Clearly no talking would be accepted. I listened to some music and did crossword puzzles to pass the three hours.

On our second flight we were still on the ends of the row but a nice 17 year old moved over for us. He really impressed me because he was reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And by reading, I mean the highlighting, underlining, and writing notes about the plot. It was pretty cool to see a little kid doing more active reading than I ever have. Then we land.

Kid: So where you from?
Me: North Carolina
Kid: Oh cool. LA must be really different for you.
Me: ...
Kid: You know because everything is so close together. (Thanks 17 year old for calling me a yokel.)
Me: Oh yeah (dismissal)

Granted that yes, things in NC are not so close together. But no, that doesn't mean I've never seen city blocks before. But thanks for being friendly, right? The funny thing is though, that I'm going to a place where everyone is going to assume that I'm rich and cultured and from something like a city. Not really sure I know which is right to assume about me.

Once in LA more adventures ensued. We couldn't find our shuttle bus to the hotel and had the Radisson guy take us from the hotel. He was sweet. Immediately we checked in and turned in all our forms. After that it was the first of our ICE BREAKERS! We did so MANY ice breakers. I love ice breakers more than the average person, but we played all the wrong ones: People Bingo, Change 5 things, Silent Sort. Granted, they're the low budget ones but I like a little variety in ice breakers.

Our two days of discussion covered topics such as personal safety, unwanted attention, and fears. The best was definitely the fears and aspirations work we did. I found out that all the big things I was scared about, were also fears of my companions. I'm really happy that we're pretty much all scared of explosive diarrhea and ready to tackel that issue with their 'help'.

That's pretty much the gist of the last two days. We're leaving SUPER early tomorrow morning to go to the airport. Since there are 70 of us it is going to take soooooo long just to do simple things like check in. I am a group leader and so I'm in charge of 18 people and making sure they don't get lost. I also have to get the airline people in gear when we get there so they can do their job as quickly as possible. Basically, group three is going to be the place to be.

Okay I need food and sleep and Olympics. Next post will be from PHILIPPINES!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


"The unicorn is the only fabulous beast that does not seem to have been conceived out of human fears. In even the earliest references he is fierce yet good, selfless yet solitary, but always mysteriously beautiful. He could be captured only by unfair means, and his single horn was said to neutralize poison." ~Marianna Mayer

Because I'm leaving in a week and nothing PC related has happened I thought I'd do something a little more topical (and amazing). For my first of such posts I have decided to write on unicorns. Unicorns are a topic of discussion that is rarely breached in our Puritanical society. In many cultures, unicorns are symbols for healing, rebirth, and strength. I mostly think they're hilarious, which is where this post is going.

This gem of a post was inspired by this wonderful little cartoon called, "10 reasons it would rule to date a unicorn". Would I date a unicorn? Heck yes!

What would a unicorn do??
How about chase a rainbow??

Another oldy but goody is Charlie The Unicorn.

Every time I watch Charlie's adventure I always get a little sad. A sequel recently came out and it is also pretty awesome (and slightly less dark).

My very favorite will always be Planet Unicorn. Planet Unicorn is the delightful adventures of three ridonculously gay unicorns. If for no other reason the theme song makes the whole experience worthwhile. Hope this first one gets you addicted. There are 5 in the series if you can't get enough now. Enjoy!