Monday, January 30, 2012

Good bye January, Hello February!

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

Interesting labels

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So what exactly is videoke Filipino style?

Internet is sloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww so forgive the multiple posts

Can you drum like these guys?


My birthday, Ala Eh Festival, Field day and holidays!

Float at Ala Eh

One of many costumed dancers at Ala Eh

Sample Field day demo

Ala Eh in Calaca Batangas

Ibaan Central School Teacher's Christmas gang

Outrigger of banca boat that took us to Mindoro

More Mindoro

From top of the mountain Mindoro

Christmas eve in an unfinished location on top of Mindoro

Yes I can carry my own pack!

Locals along the way

Muddy volunteers

The view from top of the mountain in Mindoro was breath taking

Yep, it was really really muddy walking the mountain in Mindoro

Boat landing view of White Beach Mindoro

Rocky beach Mindoro

Ocean Park Manila with great Filipino friends

Star City Manila haunted house!

Violet wearing Happy New Year bunch!

Awesome PCV on Mindoro
La Virginia Resort - overlooking Taal Lake, my birthday treat from the school!

Happy Birthday from Grade 1

Wonderful teachers who came to La Virginia for my birthday

Amy is taught how to cook rice the Filipino way - my new kitchen!
As promised photos, how could I have forgotten my birthday!!!! and the Ala Eh Festival of Batangas!!

Ibaan with mosquito net clothing Ala Eh Festival

Holidays in the Philippines

OMG I don't know where to start! Life has been a whirlwind since before Christmas! I think it must be a novelty to have an American at your Christmas/Fiesta/New Year's Eve/New Year's Day party. I was invited to EVERYTHING and tried to attend almost all, exhausting! Christmas parties at school were no mild quiet occasion, oh no, not in the Philippines! All and I mean ALL classrooms had their own videoke machine for the Christmas parties, and food! OMG so much food! The school electric breakers kept going off and a transformer actually blew because of almost 40 videoke machines.
Games were played, musical chairs is called Trip to Jerusalem here, game called Bring Me, also who can say the longest Merry Christmasssssssssssssssssssssssssssss..
Simbang Gabi continued for 9 nights prior to Christmas, you could choose to attend mass at 4am (and yes they rang the bells at 3:30am and scared the wits out of me every night...) or attend the evening service, the churches were packed with people every night spilling out into the parking lot, why not in the U.S.??
Prior to the Christmas parties we had a school wide Field day, exercises and each grade performed a traditional Filipino folk dance.
Teacher's party was exciting, games of course, everyone had fun, exchanged gifts to your secret person.
Christmas weekend was spent on the island of Mindoro, a friend and I visited another PC volunteer who is assigned there. We spent 2 hours hiking up the mountain, spent Christmas eve dinner with the family of wonderful Filipino indigenous people, slept on top of the mountain with an incredible view of neighboring islands, hiked back down the mountain in rain and mud for Christmas day church. Boat trip there and back in a small banca with outriggers was invigorating!
Town Fiesta was Dec. 30, I was invited to about 10 houses to eat that day and could only visit 7 because we ran out of time! You are expected to eat just a little bit at every house, it was great! Bands, rides, booths of things for sale, people everywhere! Great hospitality and wonderful to meet new people.
Dec. 31 was very interesting, 7 parties in one house that lasted all day long! We first began with food of course around 1:30, prayer at 3 then more food, a thanksgiving type celebration, then a birthday party with hats, noisemakers, balloons and pinata, then we all had to change into violet colored clothes for the actual New years celebration, more food somewhere in there, and we exchanged gifts, actually I was showered with gifts from a very loving family!! Finally we set off and watched fireworks, many I had never seen before, probably illegal in the US, a wild time, smoke from the fireworks everywhere! Videoke in the house I was visiting lasted until at least 2am then up early because yes, more food and more houses to visit!
Jan. 1 revealed more gifts and food and hugs, I felt so loved and appreciated by these wonderful Filipino friends who I did not even know 6 months ago.
Recooperated on Jan. 2, laundry, grocery shopping and now back to school we all go.....
If you are exhausted reading this very very abridged version, wow, try spending the holidays in the Philippines! They sure know how to celebrate and throw a party!!
Pictures to follow later....I hope that 2012 will be YOUR year! Don't just sit and watch life happen, go out and live it!