Who ever thought that being a volunteer would be so exhausting and that the time would FLY by? Seems like it was just New Years and now we only have two more months of school. Summer vacation here is April and May. Classes are still in full swing, a lot of testing and/or getting ready for testing. I have spent a lot of time with the non-readers hopefully getting them able to read so they can pass Grade 1. Our school has been busy cleaning up the grounds, a lot of overgrowth and trash needed to be cut and cleaned out. We have a creek behind the school and lovely trees and bamboo. Some bamboo was recently cut in preparation for the building of a bahay kubo, a traditional bamboo small hut. We hope to build one under the large mango tree in the courtyard to serve as a reading space. Our school does not have a library or many books at all. Pupils that really need remedial reading help have no materials and no inviting space to go to. It is our hope that the bahay kubo will motivate pupils to want to go sit there and read during recess or as part of a small group. I have received several generous donations of lovely easy children’s books and hope to receive more. The children actually clapped after each page of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?” they were so enchanted by the pictures. If by some chance you are part of a group of folks who would like to gather some used paperback easy children’s books and send them, please let me know. A flat rate US postal box large size costs about $58 to send here. If you can get a group of folks to donate some paperback easy reader books and a few dollars each, then your group could send a box.
So what have I been up to this past January? Our province had two visits from PC staff, our country director visited followed by two gentlemen from PC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The country director’s visit was very special; he really wants to see first hand where each volunteer works and where they live. I even got to spend 30 minutes just one on one with him to talk honestly about whatever I wanted. How many directors of over 200 full time volunteers (plus numerous paid staff) located among a vast expanse of site locations (numerous islands in our case) would take the time to personally visit each and every volunteer to see what they are doing and how they are managing? Most directors I have known in the US prefer to stay in their air conditioned offices and rarely go out into the field. We are very lucky indeed!
The two gentlemen from D.C. were on a brief Asian tour spending time also getting to see “real” volunteers in their “real” work environments, taking a break from the hectic pace of life in D.C. – we wanted to talk about the election since we are so removed from the day to day news, but I think they were sick of election talk! It was really nice to put faces and personalities on what were previously just names from HQ.
I experienced a lovely drive through rice fields that had been harvested and the men were separating the rice from the stalks. Also saw a man plowing for a new crop with his carabaw. We saw bamboo nailed way up high from coconut tree to tree (so men can walk from tree to tree without climbing down) and apparently they harvest the sap or new growth and then have something like a still to brew the wine in.
Got to go on a whirlwind tour of 13 elementary schools here in Ibaan for the evaluation of the most functional canteen, had a great time with old friends and made some new ones. It was a good opportunity for me to visit other schools and say hello to the pupils. Some schools have less than 200 pupils, only one section per grade. They may not have an opportunity to come into “town” where I am, so I made a point of saying hello. Yes, I get stared at but that is part of the job here. Many have never seen a “foreigner” before, let alone an American or someone who speaks English as their native language. It was also very interesting to see what each canteen was evaluated on, how many particular items it had, the records that were kept, types of food served, cleanliness, etc. We were fed at each stop and went home with a huge bag of food!
I am also including several interesting photos I took this month. Do you want to attend the Blood Letting?????
|Hard work in the rice fields|
|Bamboo walkways up high in the coconut trees|
|Coconut wine still|
|Wonderful friends in a lovely canteen|
|More interesting labels|
|New idea for the VIP meaning!|
|Man working hard plowing rice field with carabaw|
|Lovely ladies in pink in the jeepney|
|Filipino version of a blood drive|