Wednesday, December 2, 2009


This plan for Thanksgiving had been, for many weeks, to travel way up north to Sagada. Sagada is know for its cool air, good food, and being home to some of the Ifugao people. Sadly, because of some poor planning a few were unable to go up there, and so we made the best of it down in the Visayas.

The three of us had a great time in Dumaguete though. We met some wonderful people including two Americans living in Korea, two Swedes, and a group of Filipino singer/songwriters. They were the ones who really made the weekend so memorable. I think if we had been up north with the other volunteers we would have gone through the same range of topics that we invariably always do: work, struggles at work, stupid people at work, things we don't like about being in the Philippines. I am in full support of volunteers being sounding boards for their fellow volunteers, but after a year its time to move to some new conversations.

While in Dumaguete we went snorkeling, which was absolutely amazing. My favorite part about snorkeling is that you pull up to this island and the water is beautiful and see through and all that. But looking at the water I would never have guessed the kind of party going on below. While snorkeling we saw lots of "Nemo fish" some big angel fish, beautiful corals in all the colors of the rainbow. But the best by far was seeing two sea turtles. We saw one and starting following after it, and while moving we saw this huge turtle just hanging out on the seabed. This second turtle was probably around 4 feet long and probably weighed a lot, but it moved through the water like it was flying. It was an unexpected surprise to see something so large move so quickly and so gracefully.

Anyhow, here are some pictures:
The Boulevard in Dumaguete from Silliman University

Getting ready to jump in!
You wouldn't guess it, but there's turtles in these watersOur last adventure was a short hike to see another beautiful waterfall

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Year at Site and Nothing To Say

I've reached me real one year mark now. On November 7th 2008 I was sworn in as a real Peace Corps Volunteer. On that same date one year later what was I doing? Watching old Seinfeld episodes in marathon. A week after the date I'm sitting in the office of my supervisor listening to essentially the Filipino version of Kids Say the Darndest Things (which is even less funny when you only get 80% of the conversation). In between stories she says, "Oh Justin, you know your one year anniversary just passed?" I say, yes I did realized that. She goes one with her stories.

The unceremonious passing of this day at work kind of seems to encapsulate the feeling of one year in the Philippines. In the first year I was learning new things, going new places, and making new friends. Everyday there was something new.

Even when I meet new people now (like the lady who lives down the street from me and has seen me in the neighborhood for the last 9 months, but finally got the courage to ask me something) react differently to my one year. When you've been here less than a year they're always so interested to make sure you're having fun, enjoying, or making observations. At a year though you'd better have your act together.

I wish I had more to say but life here is just life. Sadly that consists right now of nothing blog-worthy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

MassKara 2.0

MassKara 2009 has come and gone. This year's theme was "30 Years of Smiles". This being the 30th MassKara Festival in Bacolod I was expecting something bigger than last year. Certain group were way more amazing than last year. Others were incredibly bad. One thing that was cool this year was that I knew more about the folk songs that were used in the music. The song this year was SO much better than last year's too. Maybe because last year was our first year and we were still in training we were more excited and awed by the whole experience. This year, as insiders we had higher expectations. It was still a great weekend though. Below are some of my better shots from this year.
This is probably my favorite mask. Brngy. Mandalagan

Good action shot

These guys def. win the award for most disturbing costume. It was like someone had thrown up a bag of Skittles all over a 1970s Cher costume.

My favorite shot of the day. A picture of my barangay's dancers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Some Pics

So I was a little complain-y in the last posts. So here are some pictures of my more fun and productive ventures:

Several of us went for a hike to see the 7 waterfalls at a resort named Mambukal. We met these three 9 year olds who were our tour guides. They were so funny and great.

Shortly thereafter my students in speech class had their culminating activity. A culminating activity is a program where the students will apply what they've learned in lieu of a written final.
This is a picture of my students doing verse choir. They take poems and other texts and then recite them as a group with actions. Its a very Filipino thing.
A beach I went to near Roxas City. It was very pretty until it started raining.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A rare post on the struggles of a teacher trainer

I was recently doing some work with some high level teachers to prepare for a teaching methodology training that I will be facilitating in the coming month. Between the 6 of us we were asked to lead 12 session. We had 11 all picked out and so there was room for one more. On the table was the redundant (but often wanted) remedial reading --we were already doing a session on teaching reading in general-- and my suggestion of a session on reflective practices.

In my humble opinion, the reflective aspect of teaching is one that is crucial to becoming a better teacher. It is through reflection that we see into our successes and failures within the classroom. Often times I hear that an activity test or assignment was failed by the majority of students because "they're the slow section" or "they didn't study enough because they're lazy". Besides being horrible things to say about your students it also takes the blame off of the teacher, who, after all is the one guiding learning. Any number of things leading up to the assessment could have been the reason that students were not able to succeed on it. I view the need for remedial reading programs in this country as a direct stem from poor teaching practices, not student ability.

I was turned down from my idea because the Filipino had no idea what the session would look like. They tried to assure me that its in the teacher's nature to reflect.

I've been here a year. I know that its not. Filipinos want to come back from a training and tell their supervisor they learned how to help those non-readers, not that they learned how to think about how other people think and why you weren't able to meet that need. The teacher at the training may not even have the initiative of want to teach those non-readers, but dammit she's trained to do it now. Reflection is something that everyone can do, its easy, and doesn't require a lot of work.

Teaching these teachers (yet again) about how to do remedial reading in a classroom is like watching a drag show--its flashy and sounds fun, but its really just trannys dancing around and singing the same songs as usual. However without reflecting on their poor practices they can't see that all they're doing is the same Tina Turner routine over and over again.

With a reflective personality and better "regular" reading activities I think the quality of teaching could be improved. But even if you fixed this one thing you'd hit the brick walls of lack of flexibility perceived in lesson planning, poor resources, and a management hierarchy that holds the best teachers down.

I don't really like posting about the nature of the Filipino educational system because it is such a complicated issue with no clear solution, other than a complete overhaul, that at this point I try to avoid even thinking about it on a day to day.

As a reflective person, I've been thinking about my observations from the past year. I've seen that the teachers of the Philippines need something new. The ideas that we're peddling have reached a wall and there needs to be some new pieces added to reach new conclusions. In my future sessions I'm going to try include some new topics that all teachers could use, but I know I'm going to hit more resistance....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Travel Nightmare

I have the worst luck when it comes to getting to the Bacolod Airport. Because of poor transportation timing I have had to change flights, sit at the airport for 10 hours, and pay cabbies far too much for their services. The main problem is that our airport is not actually in Bacolod but 30 minutes north in Silay. This means that to get to the airport you have to ride a shuttle van. As far as I can tell though, there is no set schedule for the vans. They just leave to get you to your flight on time.

Because I refuse to pray at the beginning of my classes with my Catholic students, God hates me, and thus will not allow me to get to the shuttle on time. So I missed my shuttle and had to pay a driver to take me to the airport (at double the cost of the normal shuttle price). Not only that but in negotiating the ride I was getting dangerously close to missing the check in time for my flight. Thank goodness for my driver who drove like a demon and made our 35 minute drive in 20.

So I'm at the airport in time waiting with everyone else who is trying to go to Manila. Because its the Philippines everyone is carrying giant boxes of pasalubong (like souvenirs, but food) and are all over the baggage limit. So the line is long and not moving; and because I freak out about missing flights I'm about to have a conniption in line and start yelling at the mother who won't keep her morbidly obese child on a tighter leash.

And then because I don't even bother to stand up during the school prayers, and God likes to play tricks on my kind of people, my plane decides to board early. So I'm stuck behind super-mom and her zeppelin-like son while they're calling for all passengers to board. So then I get the ticket, get through the minimalist security, and am power walking my way to the plane thinking about how nice it will be to get a nice little nap on the plane to take the edge off of the last hours of horrendous mishaps.

But because I blatantly don't pray, and I'm sure my students are praying for their poor, evil, Sir Tabor's soul, God has other intentions for this flight. The first thing being that I am greeted on the plane by Christmas music. The fact that Christmas music is even a genre of music makes me upset, let alone playing it in September. It is not beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and I don't want to hear music about it, thank you. Only slightly more annoying than the Christmas music is the sound of not one, but three infants crying. And this wasn't plaintive "Mom, I need a new diaper" crying, but the loud, intense "there's something wrong with me!!!!" crying of a baby in pain. The three babies seated within four aisles of my seat take turns crying for the entire hour and half flight, making sure that the cabin is never quiet enough for anyone to rest, relax, have awkward conversation with their neighbor, or even enjoy their Skymall in the peace which they are accustomed to.

So then we land and I bolt out the door of the plane to get away from these people who have clearly been sent by God on behalf of my worried pupils to set me on a right path. But just be sure that the point is clearly made my bag is the last one on the merry-go-round.

What my return trip will be like....I shudder to think.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Batch 268, Butterfliles, and Dancing Prisoners

Last week, while I was celebrating my one year anniversary away from home, I was also in Manila as part of the welcoming committee for our new batch of volunteers. 10 current volunteers were chosen to spend the week in Manila to act as resources for our 68 new trainees. As a group of resource volunteers our biggest revelation was that the only thing more boring than filling out visa paperwork, is watching other people fill out visa paperwork. Besides sitting in on info sessions on policy and culture we also got to answer hundreds of fun questions. Overall, it was a really fun week and one that I hope will be of value to our new batch.

P.S. every time someone calls them the "new batch" I'm reminded of this classic movie:
From there I went with a few of my friends down to Cebu to see what is slowly gaining a cult following, The Dancing Prisoners. They're gaining popularity through YouTube, especially because of their excellent Thriller dance and the Death of Michael Jackson. At this prison and rehab center they've hired a choreographer who teaches the inmates new dances and every month they present a show. They were so amazing! We all thought that there would be lots of distance (and bars) between us and the dancers, but instead we were within arms reach of them. After the dance they all line up for a photo op. By the end of the show you kind of forget that most of them have killed someone or something equally bad.
We had some extra time so we also went to a butterfly garden in the middle of the city. It is run by a man whose father was an ardent butterfly lover, artist, and explorer. His son has inherited the family house and continues to expand on his father's work. Besides seeing some beautiful butterflies we also got to see his father's art projects. His father was an avid painter and combined his love of butterflies and art and starting making art out of the wings of dead butterflies. He did 11 portraits of famous men out of small snipits of butterfly wings. The intricate details and tedious nature of working with butterfly wings made the art really special to see.
Needless to say I'm happy to be back home resting and prepping for my school's foundation week. Sept. 6-12 we are pulling out all the stops to put on a week of programs and dinner and speeches to celebrate our 12th year of operation. Its going to be something special. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Year Ago

A year ago....

It seems like another lifetime ago. Another world. A different person. But that's the way all my sentences seem to start this week.

Can you believe a year ago...?
Seems like it was just a year ago...
Where were you a year ago?

After a year in the Philippines (August 17th we landed I think) I've done a lot of new and fun things, met some amazing people, and done enough work for people to think I'm effective. I think at this time last year I was at my going away party drinking way too much and saying goodbyes to my old friends.

Time has been such a strange thing since I went abroad. In terms of Peace Corps I don't feel like I've been here that long. Every month there has been something new to keep me moving forward. In my work I feel like I've only just begun to be effective and doing the kind of things that I came here for. But a year is also long enough to start talking about America as "the old life" that I lived with "my old friends".

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand I see another year ahead in which I can accomplish so much more. I've got a calendar full of both work and play lined up all the way to December. At the same time I've got a year away the "old times". I think that one challenge maybe all volunteers feel is the feeling that for every step we take towards our new cultures and families abroad it takes us one step away from what we left behind. Its not fair to either group though to remain stationary for two years.

I hope that in the coming months I can keep the balance between old and new, America and Philippines, and work and play balanced.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


This week was mid-terms. It went off without a hitch, minus the fact that most of my students failed. I don't know how I feel about this. A good teacher would probably attribute this to poor teaching on their part, regroup, and review the things they messed up on. I'm not feeling so generous to take the responsibility totally on myself though. Seeing as how I only made half the exam, and only taught half the class it can't be totally my fault, surely my counterpart can take some blame.

I also see a lot of issues with the students' performance on the test. After giving 7 exams this week I've noticed a few things about Filipino test taking. Most students will start off strong and go through the test, answer everything they can with their own knowledge and then go back to the top. I'm a very linear test taker and don't like to move on until I've finished a section so I applaud their flexibility. However, once they go back to the top that's when they start cheating. This is when eyes start wandering and mouths start to open. Because of a generally collective culture cheating is not so much considered "cheating" as it is "helping my friend". You should help your friends...even if you're helping them in a bad way.

What happens is everyone has one smart friend, and the smart friend is in charge of answering all the questions. Then they share their answers with the dumb friends. The dumb friends, because they're inherently dumb, don't think that maybe...just maybe, the smart kid doesn't know either. So then they all have the same wrong answers instead of right answers. Based on the answers to test questions I can tell who was sitting by who and who is friends with who (not that those things don't go together anyhow).

Then they don't think that things on the test may give them answers to other parts. You know how when you do a math test and you fill in the equations in the first part and then have to DO the equations in the second part? And then between the parts you just copy and paste the ideas from part one to part two? Yeah that is a connection that is missing. They'll get things right the first time, then not the second time. If you knew it once why not twice??

So I don't think I'm going to go back over IPA symbols, because its a fairly worthless skill in my opinion. But we're def. going to to some discussion on test taking skills and logical thinking.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No Longer Cute

During student teaching I tried so hard to make sure that I always looked very trendy and fashionable when I went into school. I'd like to hope that even those older teacher who wear the seasonal sweater vests and mom jeans started off a twenty-something, fun, "cute teacher". I'm sure we've all even had a "cute teacher"-- a teacher who not only teaches well but looks nice too--at some point in our academic careers. I realized this past week that I've lost my status as a "cute teacher".

I've turned into the teacher that I've avoided so hard. I have about 6 teaching outfits that I rotate through, all of which don't fit me right because of all the weight I've lost. So I typically roll into school in over-sized jeans and an un-tucked shirt (because tucking just makes you too hot). I wear my favorite flip-flops, which are not slightly colored have have about 1/4th an inch left of the sole. My trusty Kenneth Cole teacher bag is starting to come unsewn from overuse now too. Basically I look like a mess.

By the end of the day I've pulled my hand through my hair so much that its all messed up, I'm covered in chalk dust, and my feet have gotten dirty from the mud. I probably smell a little too from all the sweating, but that's not so much the case now in rainy season.

Although I know I could go lower, I think I need a make over before to stop my slow descent into ugliness.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rainy Season

As I am constantly reminded by my students, the Philippines only has two "seasons"-- the wet and the dry. We're in the middle of the wet one and oh is it fun. During the day its pretty sunny but starting at 2pm it gets really humid and by 4 it rains. The rain stops around 5 or 6, just in time for me to walk home. During the night it usually rains too. This is nice because the rain keeps the temperature really nice and bearable.

The bad thing about the rain is that everything is always wet. My ceiling leaks a little bit and so there's now a puddle in the bedroom every morning when I wake up. On several occasions my pillow has gotten soaked too, which sucks big ones. The worst though is that I can't get sunlight to dry my laundry.

This week in my preparations for my trip to manila I had a lot of clothes to wash. After being washed, they sat outside under our overhang for three days and were still wet. In an act of desperation I had to pull out the big guns and use my "pinoy dryer". This involves taking a curtain off the rod, putting the rod across two chairs and then turning my electric fan on full blast. It took a full day, but my clothes were finally dry. Below is the proof so that you don't think i'm joking. Have fun!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I'm only on the second week of school and I am beat. I'm teaching a very full class load that keeps me at school a lot more than I was last semester. Last school year I had no Friday classes, now I have 6 hours of class on fridays. LAME. Besides that all of my classes are a straight three hours long.

Besides the marathon of knowledge that is my schedule I've also stepped up my involvement during class. In our new set-up the first hour of class is mine. I've developed a 100 word program for my students where they learn 10 new words every week. If they learn all the words and pass their quizzes they get a snazzy prize (like dinner at my house). They're not doing as great as I want...but how is that surprising? At least they're trying is my motto, and that gets me through the days.

My other fun task is working with speech training. I'm using all my summer research and work to give my students the gift of understandable spoken English. They're excited to learn this too, but there are some big hurdles. Like in music, my students have bad speaking habits that i have to break them of. One of the worst is getting them to make -TH- sounds correctly. The TH sounds only exists in English and Greek so I've been told a lot of people have issues with it. I feel good about this challenge though, and its re-energized my care for teaching English.

I'm also really excited because this coming weekend we're having a 4th of July party in Bacolod. other volunteers are coming to the area to celebrate with us! Although I'm not the biggest patriot, this 4th of July I'll proudly celebrate things like hamburgers, hotdogs, and potato salad. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

False Start

I'm halfway through my first week of school. We were supposed to start a week earlier, but everything was postponed a week because of swine flu. My take is that the president says that since college students travel more they might have the virus and carry it to a campus. As such we complied, and everyone got an extra week of summer. My students barely have money to leave their houses, so it was silly for us, but we didn't really have a choice.

I'm happy though to be back at school. I have a very full course load (7 classes) but I'm excited to teach the sections. 4 of my classes are on speaking properly, which is what I spent my summer researching and getting ready for. My other 3 classes are "Study and Thinking Skills" classes. This is the freshman class on how to use the library and do basic scholarship. I'm less happy to be teaching these sections, but its good for them to get exposure to me, and there are no other courses for me to teach.

Well that's life for now. I'll update more soon. A lot has happened in the past weeks that will make for good posts, but no point using all my material at once.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Barber Shop

I've been going to the same barber shop as Marlo now for 4 months. Its a nice little place 10 steps down the street from our market. Inside there are 5 chairs, 2 TVs, and lots of mirrors. The walls are cream colored, as are the tiles on the floor. Its in a row of 5 barber shops and it seems like most people just pass ours by. Maybe its facilities aren't as nice, or maybe people just don't like the guys who work there, or maybe they just have a small and devoted clientele. For whatever reason there's never a line.

It may be small and stuffy and is certainly no salon, but the barber shop is constantly one of my favorite places here. When I walk in, my barber is always available and quick to get me into the chair. He knows exactly how I want my hair cut, and goes straight to work. He doesn't know my name and I don't know his. He doesn't ask me questions about my work, where I live, what I do, why I'm here. I don't have to speak in another language. I don't have to speak in English. The most communication is when I give a slight nod to indicate that my bangs are even.

When he's satisfied with his work he dusts off my neck and gives my shoulders a little massage. We both silently agree that my hair is as good as its going to get on this occasion. I pay. I walk out the door and hope my hair grows fast.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Do You Think?

I'm used to the "Hey Joes" by now. Everywhere I go some Filipino thinks its cute to yell "Hey Joe" at me. That's cool. I get it...whatever.

Recently though they've stopped with the Joe and have moved onto American movie stars. Because I have brown hair and glasses I've gotten Harry Potter, Spiderman, and as always-- Superman. My students back in the US called me Superman, and so I'm sort of okay with that...maybe that's a weird ego thing. I would love a second opinion. Which is most like me??

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Special Summer Promo

I live near a hospital. On the gates to the hospital entrance are several banners congratulating new nurses, or some doctor for doing this or that...who really cares? Well recently I was riding my jeep home from the market and noticed a new fun yellow sign. The new sign had a cartoony sun in one corner and a palm tree down the other side. In the middle written cute, green, dancing lettering were the words that so many Filipinos I'm sure were dying to hear:
Summer Circumcision Promo
500 peso all inclusive!

500 pesos is roughly $10 so I'm not totally sure what "all inclusive" would entail. So yeah...awesome.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Just went on a very short trip to Boracay. Boracay is Philippines' answer to Miami. It is a very long beach with lots of little dance clubs and restaurants along the beach. Its absolutely beautiful, but def. designed for tourists. Sadly, it is slightly out of the volunteers' budget in some ways.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me

My first birthday here has come and gone. I didn't do anything too big because in Filipino traditions the birthday boy gets to pay for everything...and that wasn't about to happen.

Another volunteer used her connections to get us into a very nice resort located in the foothills of our volcano. It was beautiful, but rainy so we weren't able to really take advantage of the fresh, cold-water pool. We did have a cook out though with some of our Australian friends.

The next day there was the Pasalamat Festival in La Carlotta City, about an hour from Bacolod. My coworkers took me to a party where there was lots of great food. Then we all watched the big fight. Only after the fight could we watch the parade and lots of street dancing. The costumes were very exciting.This is my favorite shot from the day. She's really selling it, even in the rain.
On my actual birthday I was a little sad that I couldn't spend it with my friends back home, but that's okay. There'll be other years for that. It was kind of the first time I've really really missed home though.

Anyhow, thanks to all for the birthday wishes!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Will Trade Your Picture for a Chicken

I just got back in from a 10 day conference in Cebu. During the conference I got to catch up with many volunteers and find out about their projects and adventures in the Philippines. There were volunteers who were doing a lot of great things already in their first 5 months, and others who feel underused and unneeded at their sites. I feel somewhere in the middle. I haven't done a whole lot, but my site needs me. I took my first 5 months slow on purpose and am now ready to hit next year full throttle.

Our first two days were spent in language camp where we just reviewed what we learned months ago in training. After that we had two days of sector-based seminar where I learned a few new things. The last few days were spent in a project designing workshop that I attended with my counterpart. By the time she got there I was pretty much ready to be back at home. For her though it was an exciting experience and so I felt like a bit of a Debbie Downer. Throughout the workshop she was taking pictures of anything she thought might be worth remembering. I asked her what she would do with all these pictures of me and her filling out worksheets on needs assessment. She told me directly, "I will take the ones of you and trade them for a chicken in the mountains."

I know she said it in jest...but I'm still a little worried my picture's going to be posted on some mountain-girl's wall, while my teacher will have one more chicken.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Here are pictures of the house now that its sort of decorated and what not. Enjoy! At a conference all of next week so I'll be either really busy or really bored...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Random Trip

This weekend I went on a spur of the moment trip with my friend Caitlin. She got dive certified and while she was doing that I took a small trip to Bohol. It was wonderful. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I just returned on Thursday from a three day trip to Manila. I ostensibly went there to help with a language proctor licensing (at the end of training we take a language interview to gauge or abilities and the proctors must be US certified every 5 years). I really went to Manila, though, to get my clarinet fixed and eat Wendy’s.

I had my apprehensions about going to Manila for its seedy reputation. Although not so blatantly thrown in your face as it is in Bangkok, Manila is a hotbed for sex tourism. Being a port it also has its share of lonely seamen…and their semen. Walking around our part of Manila it was pretty common to see what could be compared to a Hooter’s Girl every 50 feet trying to entice those in need.

Besides this, Manila is also rumored to have some crazy pickpockets. Rumors abound about men who can slice open your pocket and catch your falling wallet without you noticing. They’ll also cut necklaces off your body. You always have to lock your cab doors because they could open them during a red light and run off with your bag. Recently a volunteer had her phone taken out of her hand and the nabber didn’t even run away but taunted her to get it back from him.

What Manila taught me is that everything I’ve observed here in Bacolod is carried out on a much larger scale there. If the scale of not-having to having is 1-10 then Bacolod is something like 3-8; Manila is 1-10. It’s maddening to see people with bags full of things I can’t afford in the states walking past children who are playing with a used tire that they found. As a volunteer there’s a natural want to try and fix this. To right such a terrible wrong. The wrong is so systematic though that there’s nothing I can do to fix the whole problem. That is the difficulty of this job, there is so much that needs fixing that one must be realistic in terms of what actual results they can achieve.

The biggest thing I took away from Manila is the fact that I can’t go back to the states during my service. Because it is summer here a lot of people are making plans to go back for a visit in the coming months. I wonder how smart a move it is for some of them. I know that I was willing once to say, “Sure send me anywhere and don’t pay me much to work at a really hard job.” But I would I be willing to say that again if I had my old life back?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Creepy Crawlies

I don't know if its because its starting to heat up, we're not competent cleaners, or that our ceiling doesn't always touch the walls but our house is being invaded by bugs. The bugs are very smart though, they've come in innocuous waves until now where the problem has elevated to an unbearable level.

The attack began with a small stream of ants. I didn't really mind the ants at first because they clean the food off the floor and eat cockroaches after you squish them. Then the ants went from stream to class V rapids. The garbage can and counter top were their stomping ground. It was only until now that we've gotten smart and put our garbage can in a bucket of water so they can't get to it.

We also have cockroaches about the size of the palm of your hand. They've rare, but gross. They also splatter all over the place and leave a mess. I'm in charge of the ants, Marlo get the roaches.

The ones I hate the most are the spiders. They're really large and scary and hide in dark places (like under the chair you're sitting in...). They're not at all dangerous, but still I don't want them in the house. They supposedly are good to keep because they hunt other bugs, but I don't think pro outweighs their complete lack of aesthetic appeal.

As if it wasn't enough, last night we had a mouse! Before, I was all about sending them outside and letting bygones be bygones. But I'm over that now. Cleaning alone will no longer do. This weekend its time for big shoes and chemicals.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


I can’t figure out why, but Filipinos have to be some of the worst ATM operators in the world. Every trip I make to the ATMs is a trial of my patience for the people I am supposed to be graciously helping. The largest cause is the old women, who, to save their lives, could not operate the machine. I’ve not tried using the ATM in Tagalog, but unless there are some serious mistranslations I think the directions are pretty straight forward. Eventually someone in line will get tired enough of the incompetent operator and take control of the machine for them. In the time that this one has gotten her money her replacement is already filed into line and is waiting to make everyone else’s day just a little bit slower.

The other major ATM issue is that no one remembers their account balance. Every transaction demands an account inquiry, which means two rounds of them trying to figure out which buttons to press. And do they save the print out of their balance? No, of course not. That wonderful piece of paper which documents exactly how much they have is immediately thrown away, thus enabling them to forget the balance by their next trip. Maybe it’s an American cultural trait to want to know exactly how much you have in the bank at all times but I would have thought that most people could track their money.

Besides the delay in getting my money I have little to complain about. The house is wonderful, school is nearly over, and I've found a counterpart for next year that I'm very excited to be working with. My next task is finding some reliable internet service for the house. While not essential to life, I think its worth the investment.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lame February

I've officially been away for over 6 months now!

Moving into the house pretty much wiped out my budget for the month. We had just enough money to buy enough furniture to get by, and enough utensils for the kitchen. There is one week one February remaining, and I will probably be totally broke by payday on March 1st. And while the house has drained me financially, it has also revived my spirits and given me new life that I didn't have before.

I understand why Peace Corps thinks that it is important for us to have a second host family stay in the Philippines. One of the challenges here is that local cultures are very powerful, and unique. What I see on this island may not carry through onto the next island. Because of this, our training island may not have the same culture as our permanent island. In exchange for the theoretical community integration we gain, we lose much of our agency for a total of 6 months. This leads to a debate I've been having for these last six months: how much of being an American do I really want to give up? The struggle here is between the Pinoy obsession with hospitality and the intense American individualism. I want my colleagues to be happy, which means letting them take care of me, but at the same time it was killing me to let them do so much with nothing in return.

With the house I now feel that I'm on stronger footing. Every time my supervisor gives me a little goody I'm able to counter with my own snack for her to try. I'm also using my language more. I spent so long trying to learn it then had to stay with a host family who wouldn't let me shop with them (and buying food is one of the few topics I can really expound on). I'm cooking again and learning a lot about how to prepare Filipino food. I messed up my first pot of rice, but I'm determined to get better.

Work is winding down for the summer. We'll have final exams in two weeks and then I'm all finished. This summer I'll hopefully be on the road for a month going from a 10 day conference to a really cool teacher training program. I'm interviewing this week and REALLY hope I make the cut. I've submitted a proposal to start up English club, and in the coming week will be requesting a seminar series. This seminar series is basically a year long compilation of my RA programs. It'll be boring for me to repeat the same topics I was doing with undergrads at UNC, but if they needed it in America then they really need it here.

Anyhow, sorry for the delay in updating. When you're poor and it gets dark at 6:30 then it really limits the type of interesting things one can do. Hope all is well with you. Comments welcome.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pictures of the New House

I move into my new house on Sunday! I can't wait! here are some pictures. There's an extra guest room so you're always welcome to come visit.

Forget moving trucks! All you need is some string and a trike

Our kitchen and crazy blue fridge

Bedroom and bed

Our sala or living room

The deck area.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm a Prince!

I have 150 exams to partially grade this week. My co-teacher will be handling the multiple choice parts while i get the essays and application questions. This division of the labor not only underscores our daily routine, but also our basic differences in proper assessment techniques. I admit that grading 150 essays is not fun, however, only multiple choice questions in a writing class is just not gonna cut it for me and my performance based background.

I gave my students two topics to write about that exemplified various forms of discourse:
1. Argue you opinion of legalization of gay marriage.
2. Describe the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

I've gotten some very touching, and well thought out responses to both prompts. Also, their ability to write has gotten much better from their work in the first week (Oh my gosh I might actually be reaching them!!).

Below are the words one student so lovingly wrote about the most beautiful thing she's ever seen. I haven't changed the words at all.

The most beautiful person I’ve ever seen is my sir Justin. He’s my professor in the English subject. He’s tall, white complexion and a handsome too. He’s an American citizen. He always wears his black eye glasses and a smile in his face. I admire him so much because of his eyes, which is so blue, his nose which is tall, and of course he’s pinky and kissable lips. Sir Justin is a Peace Corps volunteer. He looks like a prince when he enters our room because of his glamorous appearance.

Now isn't that just the creepies...I mean sweetest thing. I guess through my glasses my brown eyes start to look blue, or something like that... This little gem though made 4 hours of essay reading pretty much worthwhile.