Monday, December 29, 2008

Here's to a Wonderful 2008!

nice view of parents

Well the holiday seasons surrounds us, and I cannot help but recall the wonderful joy and spirit felt around these holidays when I was living in Armenia. Recently I had time to look back at the pictures and witness through these pictures; personal growth. Though this year will come to an end and new beginning without dolma, blinchik, or cakes of all sorts, tastes, and sizes, it will approach, yet, a new beginning for all of us. Time for your new year’s resolutions (if you ever start them in the first place), a relaxing break from your hard work, and a time to enjoy the presence of the three “Fs”: Family, Friends and Football.

This holiday was much tougher than usual, as I wish dearly to be near my family. To me, it is not as much as being able to give presents, but to be present in their presence…but I guess sometimes we just can’t have all of our eggs in one basket(ball).

Time is passing by steadily here in the PI (Philippine Islands). The university is excited to have me as part as their team and with that, comes some interesting and fun jobs. I enjoy teaching a diversity of courses in a team-teaching approach, where I share the classroom time with a Filipino teacher. My course load incorporates the subject areas of: journalism, mass communications, speech, pronunciation, ESL teaching methods, and of course, English Grammar and Composition. I really enjoy teaching and working with the Filipinos. We have wonderful times inside and outside of the classroom. The students are charming and for the most part, eager to learn. The students I have in my classroom are from first year to third year.

Speaking of the students, I was so proud of them. Before Thanksgiving, I informed one class of World AIDS Awareness Day on December 1st. They became very excited about this, and asked for more information. So with the help of a couple of organizations, we got some facts and figures of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. I put forward this information, and the students organized and implemented an awareness parade on campus alongside with a symposium with about 90 participants in attendance. I was so proud of their willingness to initiate to become educated on such a global topic. Now, a faculty advisor and I will be attending an HIV/AIDS awareness workshop sponsored by PC in January. …..Goes to say…If you teach a man to fish….

Thanksgiving brought a togetherness that was least expected. My host mother and some other faculty were in a very serious car accident in a metro area about two hours from my site. The accident left them hospitalized for four days, with surgeries, broken bones, and head trauma. Thankfully everyone survived to tell about it. The extraordinary part of this is that we had a thanksgiving mass held in their honor, actually, on the American Thanksgiving holiday. It was quite exceptional to embrace a dual-thanksgiving on that special day.

That weekend, some of the PCVs on the island gathered at my site, where we had a Thanksgiving dinner shared with some of my friends and family here at the university. Mashed potatoes were served, replacing rice, allowing some in attendance to experience their first meal without rice. There was no turkey, but whole chickens to capture Thanksgiving’s food essence. Pumpkin pie was replaced with brownies and ice cream.

The month of December has been busy, but not quite a blur. I am really focusing on the language and trying to acquire better skills, as it is so easy to get around with English. I am disappointed in my lack of studying, so I hope to make up some ground this break. I have been reading a lot, and have just read the most fascinating fiction book in my life! All Returned PCVs should read this book, and likewise, anyone who has ever lived in another culture. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is an alluring book of a Georgian family (USA) who moves to the Congo to spread Christianity. The book is told through the eyes of their four daughters ranging from the ages of 5-16. It tells the physical exertion of culture adaptation, language learning faux pas, and realization that what we have been taught to believe, may not be compatible with what people in that region have been doing their whole life. It gives you a moral that cultures have a rhyme and reason in the things they believe. Truly an amazing book that must be read before you kick the bucket….a must.

I have also finished another book about adult teaching methods by Jane Vella, a must read for educators out there, as well as a book surrounding love, the Great Depression, and the circus. An interesting combination to give a great story called Water for Elephants written by Sara Gruen.

So as you can see, my life is expanding through pages and mangos J My fifth year without a TV and I fill like I haven’t missed a beat. I just hope my vocabulary is improving as well, as I am preparing to take the GRE this summer (my scores are ready expired…where has the time gone?) in preparation to enroll in a Phd program focusing on culture and teaching upon my return to the States in 2011. Hey, the early bird gets the worm, you snooze you lose, no need to procrastinate.

The holidays here were fun and low key. I attended Misa de Gallo (midnight mass) with my host family, and then we had Noche Buena (feast of food of Christmas Eve). Christmas Day was spent with other faculty and staff at a local place, singing videoke (karaoke, this is a Filipino favorite), eating lechon (roasted whole pig) and playing games. After my rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in videoke, the university President nicely reminded me I have two years to get better…oh well, we can’t be all stars in everything.

For the rest of the break, I have spending time with my host family, reading, visiting people, enjoying numerous fiestas, and trying not to get drenched from the rain showers, as it has arrived…the rainy season. Plus the best part, I enjoy staying up until 11pm and waking up PAST 6am…such a rebel I have become :)

As two thousandth and eighth year comes to a close, I am reminded just how wonderful it has to have a great support network of remarkable family, friends, colleagues, and people. Really, I am the luckiest person alive! Thank you all.

Here’s wishing you a prosperous 2009!

Malipayong Bagong Tuig (have a happy new year)

Daghang Gakos (Many hugs)


Birthdays: Bobby D., Loren M., Dominic M., Brian H., Rhonda P., Penny P., Alex H., Aunt Ann, Ani jan, Torgorm jan, Nanay,