Saturday, September 06, 2008

From the Philippines Part 1

The beach again :)
The beach near my house...
A sunset outside of Manila....

Everyone…greetings from the Philippines! Wow, this place is sooooo amazing. From the white sandy beaches, to the coral, to the genuineness of the people, I am simply overwhelmed. Most people can understand English, which is must different from the past couple of years, which has enabled me to engage in more conversations right away, without playing the game of charades.

My host family is wonderful. I have a family of a mother, father, and two host brothers; one who is a senior and the other who is studying at the university. My host family owns a shop and works day and day out. They are also musicians and the younger son plays in a popular band and the father manages the band. Dinner time is around 8pm and it is always full of what happened during the day and the new language skills I have acquired. Needless to say, it is quite entertaining and we joke around quite a bit. (I go to bed early, because the sun comes up at 530 and goes down at 630)

The language I am studying is Visayan/Cebuano. There are over 85 languages in the Philippines, not dialects, but LANGUAGES. Tagalog is the national language, next is English, and funny enough Cebuano and Ilongo. So far, so good with studying the language which alphabet is much like that of the Spanish alphabet. I enjoy testing my limits with the language and watching the Filipinos faces, as they are trying to figure out what in the heck I am trying to translate in my head. I have already made some entertaining comments. One day, I was trying to say, “ I like vegetables”, when I said “I like the ‘male part’”, not a mistake you would like to make….thank the Lord that my host family found humor out of it. They are thrilled I want to speak their language, and are enjoying my progression. My host mother speaks fluent English, so she is great teacher as well.

Living arrangements are quite different from what I came from in Armenia. Not good, not bad, just different. I have cable TV in my room, air-con in my room (though I refuse to use it…I’m in Peace Corps), and running water all day, all the time with a shower. It is quite overwhelming to be honest, and I have seen a bucket in the bathroom, so I continue my bucket rises/baths. I like them better anyways. Also, we spent our first couple of days in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines….wow! About 16 million people live there and I was freaked out! Living in the village in Armenia, and then going back to Nebraska for a couple of days; this was way too many people….so you can imagine, as my fellow Armenian PCVs are adjusting to cultural shock in the US, I am going through my own cultural shock here in the Philippines….mostly of which is the realization that I am not in Armenia anymore….my comfort zone.

I live off the beach, and I can see it from the road. Last week, I went snorkeling with some other friends…for free. I saw some of the most amazing coral and water life; and the bluest/clearest water. From barracudas to blue starfish, this place is another planet under the water. The island I live on, has some of the best scuba diving/snorkeling places in the world….looks like I will have the chance to overcome my fear of scuba diving! The beaches are covered with red, black, white, or normal sand. Being landlocked my whole life, you can just imagine how my brain is absorbing everything at the moment.

The staple food for me has changed from the glorious potatoes of Vardenik, Armenia, to the rice and yummy fish of the Philippines. I am eating it all, and half the time I don’t know what I am eating. I ate pig’s head and had no idea. I ate the traditional Filipino food, balut, which is like a hard-boiled egg, with a chicken embryo in it…mine was only 14 days old….tastes like chicken, but I think one time is enough…I am not a fan of hard boiled eggs to be honest.

I can’t even describe how amazing the fruit is. I have had so many types of new fruit: mango, jack fruit, durian, and many others that I still do not know the English names yet. I just try everything, and so far the stomach has held up! Even the fish, it is sooooooooo good!

I have started a practicum with a teacher at the university for the next three months, as this is the training time and after that, I will move to another island. The higher education system is stemmed from the US higher educational system, which is fun to see in another cultural setting. There was homecoming the other day, and the bands were playing “Indiana Jones' Theme Song”, cheerleaders were being tossed, etc. However, it is combined with the Filipino side, which makes it really fun to watch the cross-cultural immersion.

And the heat…My body is still adjusting and I sweat profusely every day and drink 3 liters of water a day! I hope to reach homeostasis soon! The evenings are nice and so are the mornings, which also provide indescribable sunsets positioning among the water.

The Philippines is quite interesting, to be honest. Over seven thousand islands, with English, seeming to be the common language between the islands. The culture has influences from Malaysia, China, and the United States with the a history that dates back 30,000 years….and in the next 27 months I will keep you posted about the Philippines as I get to discover it with my own eyes!

Anniversaries: Sam and Chadd
Birthdays: Carter, Jack B., Ethan, Armen, Kevin B., Rhonda, Justinn, Nate, Andrea
Weddings: Nate and Kelly