Friday, December 19, 2008

Blatent Consumerism

I think I commented before on the simple beauty of Filipino life. I probably made this comment back when I was living in Granada though. The Filipino are very adept at using every part of everything to its ultimate end. If you look at their cooking, dishes like dinuguan (pig intestines with a blood gravy—which is actually pretty yummy if you don’t think about it) show their utilization of things that we consider garbage. Whether out of love of the environment or just a penchant for penny-pinching, lights are always turned off when not in use, and only utilized when the sun is not bright enough. In America I was taking 10 minute showers of constant running water. Here I take a bucket shower that maybe uses a gallon of water (I don’t feel as clean afterwards, but then again I never really feel clean here).

Taking into account this new lifestyle, the blatant consumption that is Christmas is a little depressing. The same Filipinos who were only using what they need have gone crazy buying crap they don’t really need. The usage of crap cannot be emphasized enough in this case either. On a Christmas shopping trip that I recently made with my counterpart teacher to buy gift exchange gifts I asked her to show me what would be some typical gifts. Her first choice was some flowery cups. Choice number two was a flashlight; finally, Looney Tunes towels. I kept saying, “If I got this gift I would not be happy…Would you?” She agreed, but only after some pushing. I ended up buying a wall clock and a watch as my two gifts. If nothing else those two people will be on time to things.

As much as I complain about all these things, I can’t say I’m doing much better. Last weekend I went out with Marlo and Rachael to his office Christmas party then out until 4am. I basked in the luxury of sleeping in until 11, got up and went to the new Starbucks. That’s right; my city just got its first Starbucks. This is a pretty big deal in that only two or three cities in Philippines have a store. I’ve already been trying to justify indulging in weekly high priced cups of coffee at other establishments, but the prices at our new Starbucks push the limit of my delusion. This week I also dropped some big PHP on a bike. This bike is great because I can get where i need to for free. But with that and the coffee and christmas presents the cash has been flowing.

Not sure of a way to end this post except to say that this Christmas I received a flashlight and a porcelain puppy statue thing. The puppy is also holding what I think is supposed to be a green key, but looks like a green penis... MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Actually Doing Work

Many of the volunteers from batch 266 gave us the advice to take our first weeks slow. For many of us there is the temptation to jump right in. We only have two years at our sites, which really isn't that long when you take into account the slow bureaucracy we're up against. I'm really glad that I followed the advice because I've taken the time to get myself embedded in my school. My students are beginning to warm up to me and it seems like they're just as excited to get some things started at the school as I am. My favorite class right now is I-B. My A level kids are very smart and don't really need my help. They're pretty confident in their abilities and as such aren't as startstruck by me. I-C needs the most work, and requires a lot more bilingual education. But I-B is perfectly poised in the middle. They WANT to know more about English, but they've got a solid enough foundation. They're made up of some fun personalities and potential leaders for activities.

This week I started using my PACA tools. These are PC developed tools that help to gauge what your site actually needs/wants. Doing it with my students has given me a long list of things that they would really like to do. Most immediately I'm looking to start some English and Math clubs to provide support for my students. They also gave me some good ideas for drama, dance, sport, outings, and seminars. Just off of their suggestions I probably have enough to do for the next two years.

The sad part is that I can't immediately implement. I have to run these ideas by my many supervisors to make sure that I contact all the necessary important people. I'm used to being in who-you-know situations, and think I usually do pretty well in them, but in Philippines this is more pronounced than anywhere else I've been. I'll be pretty lucky if I can get a club or two set up for next year and maybe a seminar or two. At least I feel like I'm doint something though. The last two weeks have been pretty slow and I was feeling a little down. Now that I'm in action I feel more hopeful for the future.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Our First Thanksgiving

I returned Monday afternoon from a 4 day trip to Guimaras Island with most of my training group. Guimaras island is a smallish island halfway between my island and the next big one, Panay. To get there involves either a safe, but expensive ferry ride or the more adventurous and cheaper pump boat ride. A pump boat is a fairly large motor boat that travels the short distances between islands. It derives its name from the pump that is located by the motor that keeps the water intake in check. We didn't have that...I spent most of the day soaking wet from the frist boat ride.

Me, Marlo, Shauna, and Rachael decided to make the trek from Negros to Guimaras together. Our going trip was frustrating because thought people kept ripping us off in our times of need. First, we tried to take the boat on the incoming trip to Guimaras, but the schedule was cancelled for the day and so we were forced to rent a small motor boat for the journey. It took us about an hour to cross the choppy sea in our little boat, but we had some beautiful views. At 1000 pesos we thought the price was a little steep. Once we landed we found out we were 40 kilometers from where we needed to be and that no forms of transport were coming until the next day. Our only option was to rent a trike for 400 pesos. Again we thought this was a little steep. An hour later we arrived in one of Guimaras’ two big towns. There we just happened to bump into a host parent who assured us that we were not ripped off and that the resort would be beautiful.

By nightfall we arrived at our beautiful beach resort located in the middle of nowhere. I think that only pictures can capture the beauty of this place. It was my first time to be at a beach with clear water and coral. Swimming around you could see everything below you. The scenery was absolutely amazing.

On Thanksgiving Day we got up and hung out on the beach, swam, and played some volleyball. After lunch time we started the preparation of the live turkey! Sir Turkey, as we called him, was bought from a local family and carried with us by boat to the resort. During his final hours of freedom he played with a new friend turkey around the kitchen area a sort of ironic way. I held his feet while he was killed then helped in plucking and gutting him with Marlo and Becky. There’s something satisfying about eating something that you helped prepare so intimately. Needless to say, Sir Turkey tasted amazing as did the stuffing and powered mashed potatoes we had for dinner.

The trip was a great because it was our first chance to do something that WE wanted to do. During training our time was mapped out for us, down to the hour. In the last three weeks since training we’ve been at the whim of our new host families and organizations. We’ve been wearing big smiles and just trying to get established. This was perfectly timed to give us a chance to get away from all of that and just have some fun, American time. There’s no way that you can beat 4 days of good food, good friends, and good fun. Hope your Thanksgiving was good too!