Friday, December 18, 2009

Final Update for 2009

College of Education Family, My Host Mother and Me

VSU Holiday lights and family

Trip to Biliran Leyte..Water, sand, and hikes

Our Turkey Day festivities

Mike and I at UNO Hockey Game, Omaha, NE

Reunion in Santa Fe, NM

Whit's Wedding...Hi Laurel!

Greetings and Gobbles to all of you!

Ting, ting, ting….the gentle rains have arrived! After escaping the devastation of the typhoons that rolled in the Manila area from August to October, the rainy season has officially arrived in my neck of the woods. Truth be told, I love the rainy season! The weather is much cooler, I don’t sweat as much, therefore my soggy body doesn’t threaten the students, the dogs tend not to bark as much nor mate, and lastly, it is my only sense of feeling “winter”. Currently, the temperature drops to about 70F, and for me, that requires no fan, no tank-top to sleep in, and believe it not, covers on the bed.

For the many advantages of the rainy season, it does bring slight drawbacks. One being, washed clothes (remember no dryers, everything is done laboriously) taking days to dry. Another, being random clothes you thought were dry in your wardrobe are now covered in slight mold as the moisture leaves its trail on about everything. Thirdly, the mosquitoes come out by the bushels. It has been quite entertaining watching the mosquitoes suck my blood, as now I have attained the education to determine if this little gal is trying to transmit dengue or malaria to me. Given the region I am, the odds of me contracting malaria are about the same as the Washington Redskins winning the Super Bowl this year. So dengue is the main threat, and yes, there is no cure. Lastly, my exercise routine becomes near dormant as the rain finds it common pattern to be in the morning and late afternoon/evening hours. Perfect timing, thanks rain

The second semester has begun (November) and I am very pleased with my class load. I am teaching, co-teaching rather, seven courses with seven different professors. I am so lucky, as the classes I teach are ones I am utterly zealous about such as Foundations of Recreation and Leisure, Motor Behavior Skills (Thank you undergrad and UNO for this knowledge), Principle of Teachings, Methods Classes, Nonformal education, and a science reporting class. In between classes and planning, there is a softball team to coach and to mentor, as well as a literacy program at a local village. Last but not least, is my favorite new activity, a reading club. Currently the students (all four of them) finished their first book, The Diary of Anne Frank. We had our club meetings after the assigned readings, and I was just blown away. The students, all females, age 18, were so passionate about the book and intrigued about the Holocaust. They immediate could relate to the similar adolescent struggles of Anne. They are so inquiring about Judaism, the Jewish culture, and the history of the holocaust. Their beautiful brown eyes lit up with such interest that it honestly reaches deep into any teacher’s heart. They even told me, that they have GOOGLE’d (yes Sam, google’d, not Yahoo’d) to learn more about the situation. Ahhh sigh….students becoming self-directed in their learning efforts

These young ladies have spread word about the book, that I have a long list of students waiting to read the book. I am going to make it a mandatory read for some of the future teachers. Thanks to Barbara Rubin et al, who have mailed boxes of young reader books depicting the Holocaust. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the mass copies of these books! Based on my inquiry to the students, they state that WWII’s history is mostly taught from the Asian front. And as you may recall, there is still much to study from the Asian front and that atrocities that Japanese brought upon the Filipinos and other Allied Forces (ie: Bataan March). However, since European history during this time is not a focal point, I find it my duty to teach about the man-made calamities that were brought upon innocent individuals.


October proved to be a nice break, as I headed back stateside for my younger sister’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony filled with droll and sincere moments. It was wonderful to see so many family members and friends through a special ceremony. It was the longest I had been state-side since May 2006, so I took every opportunity to see many family members and friends, which welcomed me to “the good life” of Nebraska, the adobes of Mexican food and friends in Sante Fe, delicious food and hospitality in Cleveland, and reunions and laughter in DC.

November brought the beginning of the second semester and opulent cultural exchanges. Thanksgiving Day was celebrated in the College of Education, with a brief potluck of Filipino dishes, and traditional turkey day delicacies. Questions posed, answers resolved, food devoured. It was a great time. Thanksgiving weekend proved to be yet another beautiful weekend, where five PCVs joined together and celebrated a massive Thanksgiving dinner at another PCV’s host family’s home. We learned to kill a live turkey and roast it for hours. We prepared sweet potato casseroles, macaroni and cheese, cinnamon rolls, stuffing, deviled eggs, and so much more. Most homes in the Filipinos do not have ovens, so we were able to use the HUGE wood stove at the local bakery to cook three dishes. The dinner was well attended by everyone and stories shared. The next day, we went to a beach and did some hiking (see pics above). It was a nice break.

December brought the “Visayas Women in Sport Congress” sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission. I was a guest speaker and was able to connect with many individuals involved in this movement. It was a blessing to have networked with some many passionate people. Next up, was the annual PC conference, where there were a multitude of medical checks conducted, and a chance to see my “batchmates”. Some of them I hadn’t seen in over a year. A karaoke contest was conducted by my group, in which yours truly participated in a duet of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. It wasn’t quite an award winning performance, but a blast to participate. During that week we also sent our goodbyes to one of the PC staff members, Kavita, who will be now be working at the PC Guyana’s office.

The university dismissed it classes on December 18th, so I will be just getting some lesson plans together, cleaning (mass cleaning) the house, reading, and enjoying some free time until classes resume on January 4th. I am sure there will be some beloved hammock time, books read, and basketball played. Campus will be quiet as many people have left to spend the holidays with their families (students and faculty alike). I will celebrate the holidays with my host family and friends.

As the year comes to an end, I want to thank everyone who has continued to support me in my international endeavors. I am approaching my final year of PC and the time has passed with such alacrity. Though the Philippines has experience many tragic events this passed year, especially in the past five months, I am blessed to have such a small part in such a wonderful country. As many of you gather around the hearth for your holiday celebrations please kindly remember those who are in evacuation centers because of a threatening volcano, those who are attending funerals from the massacre held in Maguidanao, and those who are still homeless from the various typhoons that devastated the Philippines.

Peace upon you as the year/decade makes it final journey.

Happy Holidays. Maayong Pasko og Bagong Tuig. Shnorhavor amanor!

Top of Syd’s Reads for 2009 (read 31 books this year)
Blum, Jenna. Those Who Save Us
Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance Loss
Eugenides, Jeffery. Middlesex
Forsyth, Frederick. The Odessa Files
Ghosh, Amitar. The Hungry Tide
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Love, Pray
Keating, Barbara and Stephanie. Blood Sisters
Mathabane, Mark. Kaffir Boy
Moore. Christopher. Lamb
Orwell, George. Burmese Days
Stewart, Rory. The Places In Between

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ting-Bagyo (Typhoon Season)

I feel like every time I have begun my blog updates, it follows the pattern of “…it has been long overdue since my last update…” This seems to my personal theme the past four years. But nonetheless, here it is, the anticipated tardy journal entry from your Peace Corps zealot, a peripatetic by nature.

First, I must regard the concerns and comments of the latest typhoon that struck devastation in the Philippines, particularly that in the Metro Manila area. It is quite a distressing scene in most parts of Manila, despite the aid and relief that is in progress. I was not directly affected by the events of Typhoon Ondoy as I am far southeast of the Manila area. We received a large amount of heavy rains/thunderstorms, but it was short-lived. However, there were some Peace Corps staff and volunteers caught in the middle of the flooding, some escaping to higher grounds, watching their cars float away; another in shoulder-deep water escaping the taxi that was soon to be looted; others are still unreachable and we are just hoping for their safety. Over a half million people are not only homeless, but have no possessions besides the clothes on their backs. It has been inspiring to see how the nation has been united. Here at the university we are doing a food and clothing drive in response to the tragic and horrifying event. And just when the sun has graced us with his presence, the outbreak of another typhoon, a super typhoon, is quickly approaching the Eastern side of the Philippines. It will hit us this evening. I am starting to buy-in to the concept of typhoon season.

Before the rains came, life was on its normal pace of alacrity. July ended with a bang and August rendered to be a vacation month, as there are three national holidays, the death of a former hero-later president, Pres. Cory Aquino, the university’s 85th anniversary celebration (leaving classes shorten or cancelled), and mid-term week. The time breezed by despite the lack of formal education.

The anniversary celebration was an anthology of activities from beauty pageants, to farmer’s field day, to native dance troop numbers, to sports competitions. There were bazaars, markets, and food vendors from all over. I sure did get my abstemious fill of cheesy popcorn, gauche hamburgers but tasty ice cream. There were an additional 4000 people on campus for the week’s event. For all my Falls City-ians, you may compared it a glorified Cobblestone, but cut out the demo derby and tractor pull, and add a more tropical-agriculture experience such as bamboo pole racing and abaca trunk shedding.

Also in August, a former PCV colleague of mine from Armenia, Laszlo, dropped by for a visit. It just so happened to be the same weekend as my birthday, so a few of us gathered for a weekend of island hopping and camping. The next day was followed up with some hiking and caving. I had never been caving before and found it very pleasing. I saw many deleterious organisms such as millipedes (or maybe they were centipedes…didn’t want to stick around to count the legs), water snakes, bats, and the craziest looking spiders and insects that I have ever seen. The second cave took us up a former coconut covered mountain (deforestation) into a small village of about six homes. We stopped by the villager officer’s home to acknowledge our presence, and trekked on. The cave was submerged in water and took some rock grabbing skills in order not to fall into holes that were naked to the eye. The stalagmites were in great forms (again, rookie caver) as not many people have been in these caves except the locals. It was a great experience and a good way to chill off after a hot hike. It was a day of 10k of trekking, exploring two caves and stunning sites.

In late August, the senior education college students and I started a reading program at a local elementary school. It has been very successful and fun. It provides a pragmatic experience for the teachers-to-be and also allows me to work with the much adorable younger population.

September was full of conferences. I presented a program design and management training for a school district north to where I am currently residing. It was very fun, but exhausting as I was the main resource person for 100 participants for the two days of implementation. Next, was an English Workshop for the local elementary and high school teachers in the local district. There were 50 participants for the three day event. Next and finally, came a conference with the Peace Corps in conjunction with the new batch of volunteers that arrived in the country in August. It was humbling to reflect upon my year of service here and to lend a hand or two the newbies as well as their Filipino counterparts. I enjoyed the pampering of being in air-conditioning as well as a shower that also included hot water. However, soon the hot water was too hot and the air-conditioning was too cold, so I just preferred the normal; an electric fan and a bucket with a scoop.

Also in September it was the first annual celebration of “World Teacher Appreciation Month” at the university. It started with a parade (a familiar thing for any celebration in the Philippines), an opening ceremony, followed by a movie. I was in charged of this endeavor so I found it must appropriate to have the faculty and students watch “Freedom Writers”. It was interesting watching the reactions of 500 movie goers, especially when it came to the diversity of the characters. The reactions by the audience to the actions of some of the characters in the movies only confirmed my fervor to carry out a multicultural approach to my classes. By the end of the movies, tears had dropped from some cheeks and I was approached by the Dean of the College of Education who had requested the video. She must have been inspired because she would like all future educators to watch this movie before they graduate from the College. This followed by many other requests for the movie as well; inspiring them a bit further in their daily work. All of this sure did bring a beaming grin across my face.

On a social note, I have been busy attending fiestas and birthday parties indulging on roasted pigs, various spaghetti plates, and exotic fruit. Just when I thought I have tried every fruit in the Philippines, another one appears in front of my eyes….

…The softball team is progressing well and hopefully will be prepared for the annual sporting event (region-wide, covering two islands) at the end of the month. The rains have thwarted our practices, but what is there to expect during typhoon season? :)

Since I have been delaying the update of the blog, I have missed several birthdays and anniversaries to “shout out”. I hope you received my personal facebook messages or a note in your inbox to acknowledge my greetings to you. There are only two shout outs I will give now, the first to my younger sister and her fiancé, who will tie the knot in two weeks :) The other is to my dear Satenik S. who is dominating her FLEX interviews J

Here’s hoping the F’s are keeping the Americans happy (Family, Football, Friends, and Fall), and here’s hoping the potato harvest is successful in Armenia!

With warm regards,

PS. The internet is too slow for pictures, so please check out the latest pictures at these websites..

this are pics from my friend Laszlo :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Transportation in the PI and Random Thoughts

Pictures taken by my education task force friend, Christina Chung.

Ah, the rain! As it beats unswervingly on the various palms, the tin roofs, the pavement; the bonhomie relaxes me just as the sudden rush of water falling steadily from a waterfall. Ting-habagat (Northwest Monsoon Season) has arrived, gently marking her presence on the Philippines, bringing heavy rain that beats very so rhythmically, blossomsbuds of beauty, and of course, stimulates the endless mating of frogs in only a scintilla of water. I am keen to the rain, it unwinds me and finds me indulged into my rhetorical duties of life: reading, writing, pondering and listening.

During one of the last sleepy, raining, hayahay (relaxing) days, I was pondering on the mode of transportation. I believe I don’t correctly visualize the Philippines for you and the mode of transportation is fun and exciting here.

First, Filipinos heavily rely on public transportation, just like Armenia did as well as 85% of the world…it is just that I grew in the other 15%. The first mode of transportation that I adore on the island is the bus system. They have windows that a child could easily fall from, but I love the wind bracing my face and blowing my hair as the bus speeds down the road that is barely wide enough for two buses. The buses are nicely decorated with spray paint showing aesthetic meaning that would most commonly be ignored.

Next up are the put-puts, otherwise known as the “the guy with the bicycle that has a cart attached to it”. This carrying mechanism is most commonly found in towns, in which a person needs to get from one store to another. These put-puts require large amounts of physical exertion especially if a Westerner is going along for the ride. Westerners tend to be about a size and half bigger than the regular Filipino. Therefore, I would venture to speculate that 1.5 Westerner(s) could fit in a cart that a put-put peddles, compared to three Filipinos.

Thirdly, are Jeepneys. (see pic above) These are found everywhere, and are highly decorated modes of transportation that will travel shortest distance a bus would. The Jeepney idea was left over from the American colonization days, when the Americans slowly moved out of the Philippines, leaving their military equipment behind. The Filipinos restored these durable vehicles as their public transport, beautifying them into highlighted graphics of glory, God, the USA, and peace.

Fourthly, there are multi-cabs. These are little van-like organisms that have an open end as it cab, and we cram as many people in it as possible, as there is always room for “just one more”. I am most familiar with this transport, as it gets me from the university to town when I am craving ice cream.

Then we have the boats, which are liberating as you cross the sea/ocean seeing various island groups, jumping fish, and occasionally a pod of dolphins. There are many types of boats here; some seem to have seen their better days, but are more reliable than you would have ever imagined. Others are fast ferries, the more touristy open. Sometimes I take this option if I want microwave popcorn and a good movie; though I prefer the open air boat that takes about four to six hours, as nature and I unite through tiny little droplets of water.

Lastly, there are taxis in the biggest of cities (not that exciting), air conditioned buses (which are nauseating to me), vans (small, crammed, and rarely the air conditioning works) and airplanes that connect us to the main islands.

Other notes….

Recently, I received my Peace Corps financial history report. I have just reached my third anniversary with Peace Corps, meaning I am entering my fourth year of rustic living and learning. I have cried, laughed, broke down, and rejoiced in the past three years at my challenges, mistakes, and successes. Yet, I choose and continue this journey with the unknown ahead, only eager to see why awaits me.

The financial record showed that I have made about $5900 since my inception to the PC. Which means, I have barely made 2K the each year the past three years (and yes, there are some taxes to lower this number even more); yet I believe that I am richer than a number of individuals. The experiences that I have come across the past three years outweigh the monetary sign above and in the end, I have the faith that those opportunities (and the ones to come) will and have made me a better person, not just for myself, but for you, others and for our country.

(The countries in which I have lived in, annually, make a gross income around 1500 USD, and they feed numbers of people off this smidgen of salary. Again, they live richer lives in so many ways that we can’t imagine).

The fourth of July was celebrated by many PCVs and university staff as it is a shared holiday between the two cultures as well; American-Filipino Friendship Day. A small bbq, American football, Frisbee, softball, and a quiz show were all part of the activities planned as well as swimming and relaxing on the shores of Camote Sea. It was a good time by all, celebrating the exchange of common brotherhood between two countries.

I have been playing a lot of basketball of late and I am the only female that does so. Sometimes little kids asked me if I am a boy or girl. Of course, I answer that I am female, and then they look at me so innocently and verbalize, “But girls don’t play basketball”…ah gender lessons 101! I can’t blame these ingenuous thoughts by the young, as in the Philippines, especially here on campus, there are many gay and transgender individuals, mostly coming from the male side. So to see a male in girl clothing, make-up, hair -tied back, with jewelry is really a common scene; and then I just confuse the picture by being feminine and carrying an orange ball around!

I was asked to play basketball by some of the administration staff (of course, males). They requested that I should be part of their university team. I nodded the request and now I have a uniform and I am playing with people who could have witnessed my first words to my graduation; in other words; they are the same age as my father. We have a blast.

We play on the concrete and with street balls that lose their grip after about six times playing with them. Beggers can’t be choosers, so I am just fortunate that between about twenty of us, there are about two balls we use.

Speaking of sports, the softball team is reporting and I am back on my coaching duties. The team is going to be strong this year and I am excited to see how they will perform during our university games that will be held in October. They don’t get pleasure from the conditioning part of practice, but I do it with them and let them beat me once in awhile so they can bathe in glory. So as you can see, my competition edge is slowly fading away from me; but I don’t think it will fully ever die!

We had a signal 2 typhoon the other week. Not much to divulge but small winds and heavy rains that caused some minor flooding. The elementary and high schools were dismissed, but college remained in session, though the lack of electricity and gloomy skies made it impossible to read the information from the blackboard. Once I finished work that day, I convinced my roommate to head yonder to the sea and check out the tide. It was high and breached its limit, but no damage.

Oh, and thank you Americans! I love the fact you donate your used clothing and shoes, so that I can buy them for a couple of dollars! Not only that, I picked up a pair of old used Nike shoes as well. These shoes lasted only two days before their true colors came through and the soles fell off. However, I have new soles and I look quite intimidating with my black-used-cheaply but well-done re-soled shoes! Secondhand stores are simply amazing.

I will be doing trainings for much of July and in August, brings a PCV friend from Armenia to visit, as well as the anniversary of the university (like homecoming). Time is rolling by quickly, and I am still enjoying every drip of sweat that falls from my brow.

As my classmates united for our ten year high school anniversary, I wish that I could have joined them in reminiscing the naïve and youthful days as inexperienced adolescent ready to take on the world, and now as adults. Out of 16 of us Falls City Sacred Heart grads of 1999, I am pretty sure there is less than ¼ of us not married; including yours truly who doesn’t see that in the new future.

I hope the summer is bringing forth many delicious juicy watermelons, melting sweet ice cream in your mouth, and some quality relaxation time. Enjoy the water, baseball, and life!

In peace,
Birthdays: Mom, Sam, Stacie W. Courtney, Uncle Julian, Laurel
Anniversaries: Sue/Brad, Andrea/Nick, Rhea/Craig, Steph/Brian
Weddings: Sarah and Dominic, Bern and Michelle
Engagements: Aruss and Jody :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My homeroom Class (not everyone) Go Blue Team!

Yikes! I cannot believe that two months have past since I last updated the world on my Filipino life! Here I thought, “Wow, it is summer-time; days full of beach, good books, some ice cream, and a mango or two.” Unfortunately not all fantasies come true, even if you have already been to Disneyland.

Graduation occurred the first week in April and it was a fascinating exercise; a total of 600 some odd graduates and around 100 of them graduating with honors. The ceremony itself was quite traditional to what may be seen in America, but I am not sure if a graduation ceremony back home would still have an attentive audience after six hours, in a warm, humid day in the Philippines. Even with this temperature, the faculty, staff, and soon-to-be graduates looked prestigious and restful in their garb. Celebrations followed the ceremony with roasted pig, desserts, pansit (Filipino dish), kinilaw (Filipino side), and of course, rice.

Then for the faculty it was back to work, before the Holy Week approached. Holy Week in the Philippines is intense and can be very frightening for the non-Catholic. Palm Sunday starts the festivities and then Holy Week is the most dedicated time of observance. Marches, parades, and the like are happening throughout the barangays (villages), towns, and cities; all depicting the suffering of Jesus. The Stations of the Cross are dispersed kilometers a part, as “Jesus” proceeds with his final walk. Up north in Luzon, there are places where self-crucifixions take place (no worries, no one really dies). Many people fast during this time as well which I would presume is difficult here, as typically there are meriendas (snack) twice a day. Finally comes the Easter Vigil mass which is rejoiced in much glory.

However, I was actually looking forward to giving up something for Lent and attending Easter Sunday Mass as part of tradition. Soon, I realized that the act of giving up something for Lent is not commonly practiced at my site, and well, Easter Sunday Mass was very anti-climatic as it was just a normal mass. Also, there is some type of attachment some Americans get with the Easter Bunny, Peeps, colored eggs, and candy. I regret to say, none of the above was seen at my site. (Though I did receive some Easter candy from a dear friend last week).

The following week, I was off to Cebu for an 8-month check up with my batch-mates and the PC. It was a nice little break full of meetings and late nights with friends we hadn’t seen since swearing in. Also, there was a language camp to help guide us with some self-directed language learning techniques, considering many of us are learning a language that is only spoken, not taught. After the confidence boost of language instruction, we had some PC policy meetings and sector updates. Here, a project I have been collaborating with other PCV was presented. We proposed a new training program for the education volunteers. The curriculum was presented and approved by the staff, and now we are on the final stages of organizing this new training curriculum/module. After much work and many hours researching proper ESL techniques, I feel that much weight has been released from my shoulders.

After the conference/language camp, I stayed in Cebu for a doctor’s appointment as I had been having digestive problems for three months. With tests done and samples turned in, my diagnosis was okay and I went home with a small box full of medicine. Things are still “normal” at the moment.

I came home for a couple of days to check in with my work colleagues, only to turn around to head back to Cebu for another training/camp, but this time, I was not scheduled to be the participant, but a trainer. The training/camp was for elementary teachers living in Mindanao. Mindanao is the large island in the southern Philippines. Some parts of this region are unsafe and disturbed by occasional war. USAID has a many projects in Mindanao and one of these is called “Tudlo Mindanao”, simply meaning ‘Teach Mindanao’. As PCVs, we were interviewed and selected for this event, and are co-facilitators with Mindanao counterparts. My counterpart had been a facilitator for three years and we were responsible for teaching methodology courses for the next two weeks. We had an awesome classroom dynamic together and our homeroom class was always full of enthusiasm and smiles. Other courses worked on improving English skills for the elementary teachers.

The setting of the training was like as summer camp, so as many of you can conclude, I was definitely in my “environment”. We taught all day, and in the evening there were additional activities for participants if they were interested; ballroom dancing, jewelry making, cooking, etc. Other nights, participants and PCVs spent the night away working on their “cultural” presentations for the last night’s closing cultural ceremonies. As many of the participants displayed their indigenous traditions, dances, and garments, many of us Americans were left stuck-in-the-mud, as what could we really do to show our culture. Throw a baseball? Use comedy to display our cultural values of punctuality, determination, individuality, etc? How boring! So we did a music video which can be seen at this web address. (the Blue Team was my homeroom) It has become a tradition to make a PCV music video for the past three years of Tudlo.

The training, itself, was simply eye-opening. Going into Tudlo experience, I had heard nothing but wonderful things about the program, so it was easy to just follow expectations. However, knowing that views are commonly biased towards individuals, I came into Tudlo with positive energy and my own set of expectations, and the results of my hopes exceeded all measures.

I am one who lives for cultural exchanges and to be honest, this is very difficult to find with so much western influence and post American imperialism grounded in the Philippines; to find the purest forms of an endemic culture. Intrinsically I was able to feel, hear, see, and touch this type of exchange with various cultures coming from Mindanao at Tudlo.

For example, in one classroom alone, I had 24 participants that spoke 9 different languages and/or dialects. In another classroom setting, an individual had never met a nice and disciplined Muslim before and generalizations about both religions were quickly dissolved after open discussion. Christians were standing by their Muslim friends/counterparts at a time other Christians assumed the stereotypes. When I think about this discussion, it still brings goose bumps to my arms. It was one of the most amazing discussions I have ever witnessed in my life and it continues to give me belief that simple education can create a peaceful world.

I am forever grateful that I had such an opportunity to connect with some many individuals who were utterly thankful for the new knowledge learned, but more importantly for the new friendships that were made from all parts of the Philippines. One lady, in our closing interview stated, “Thank you Ma’am Syd. You are the first foreigner that has ever been nice to me. I really treasure you and how helpful you and your American friends were to us.” Another one said, “I didn’t know I could speak such English. When I went to SM (a shopping mall in Cebu), I was talking and didn’t realize it was in English, until the security guard asked me to speak Bisayan as I asked him a question in English.” Again, as I have mentioned before, it is not about replacing the native tongue of the participants, but giving them the confidence to use English as another tool in their life toolboxes.

My favorite part of this program is when one teacher pulled me aside and had this conversation in sbroken English.

“What do you know about schools in the Philippines? Don’t you get a big money to be here? Has your school ever been bombed? Are your students afraid come to school?”

Wow, I stood there without any answers. How do I relate? I simply looked her in the eyes, and said, “Ma’am, no I cannot relate to your daily battles. That is why I am here to learn from you too, so we can work together to make your life as a teacher much easier”. Later, I explained the concept of volunteerism and the role of PC.

This was a good conversation; it put me in my place and made me count those numerous blessings that I have which tend to be overlooked on a daily basis.

The most alluring part of what I have just described above is that these are just some of my stories and there are many others from PCVs alike. It was such an empowering experience for me, and just another story how much I have gained working with people of other cultures…more than what I could ever give them in technical training/skills. I still feel the same about my service in Armenia…There is nothing I could or can do to equate how much I learned from the Armenians.

…Which now brings me to date.

I took the GRE last week, and the preliminary results are higher than expected. It is a waiting game for the final results. Next step, deciding what institutions would like me in their classrooms. School will resume on June 8th, as many people back in the US are graduating/graduated and my Armenian friends will soon celebrate the Verjin Zang on the 25th, signaling the end of the school year. For me, my book list has grown, and the dreamy days of laying in a hammock with my book and mangoes are realistic…it is scheduled for Saturday :) Avocados are in season, so guacamole is on the menu… now I need to convince my friends here that an avocado is not always used a fruit.

Enjoy your Memorial Weekend Americans…and take time to reflect on the real reason why you get that following Monday off…then you will come to appreciate why life in the US is really good, even on the bad days.

Happy Summer to you all!

Ayo-ayo, ingat, amping, hajogh-majogh, take care,


Birthdays had and to be had: Lindy, Moni, RPCV Nancy, Heather, Kristen, Aunt Bard, Upchuck Katie, Ant, Alex, Bern, Jeff, Mom, Sam, Courtney, Artur, Anna, Meri

Anniversaries: Lindsey/Nick, Andrea/Nic, Rhea/Craig, Steph/Brian, Mom/Dad #30

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Pics

These are some more pics! When I was home, I am with my sisters. Some more snorkeling pictures, and my host sister and I going for a swim :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feelin Hot Hot Hot!

Happy Spring :)

The pictures above are from a recent snorkeling trip not too far from the island. Also is the smallest primate in the world :O)

Well, while most of you are eagerly awaiting warm weather, let me share with you mine, as summer has officially rolled around in my neck of the world! Which means, SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER! (yes, you may sing this little ditty if you like). But as the university has closed its classroom doors, life is still active on all portions of campus.

This summer won’t be dreary for me, as I will be going on a tour of teacher-trainings, helping with development and expansion of the English curricula, and teaching a Frisbee course in the PE department. Not to mention, there will be times where I might just leave work a bit early to catch the sunset or read in my hammock, which fits nicely on the beach here. I am assuming summer will pass with alacrity which before I know it, June will arrive bringing in the new academic year of 2009-10. So as you all are preparing your summer plans, I will be studying new faces and new names.

Many of you have been on my PC journey from day one and have inquired about the differences/similarities of PC Armenia and PC Philippines. While the countries are similar in many plausible ways, there are some rather exclusive distinctions between the two.

First and foremost, you simply cannot contrast the two countries. First, Armenia was landlocked only claiming the waters of Lake Sevan. Secondly, Armenia, though small in size (some say similar to the size of Maryland) has 32 micro-climates and three main mountain ranges that intersect each other. I had the coldest of winters at my site, and experienced some very hot summers in the valleys of Armenia.

The Philippines, however, is an archipelago of over 7000 islands, sits in the Pacific Ring of fire, and experiences typhoons to landslides. I am surrounded by not only water, but jungle-like mountains that have homed the tarsier (see above…world’s smallest primate).

Though these are the obvious differences, I have decided to break down into categories for a clearer view of just how special each experience has been/is. Some will be funny, some serious, and some for your additional learning attainment. If like for me to add any other category just let me know.




Water Availability

Sometimes it froze

On my island, always have it


Heated bucket baths

Non heated cold bucket baths


Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Beef

Chicken, Pork, Beef. Lamb, Caribou

(I have tried dog too)

Ice Cream Availability

If lucky, five months out of the year


Favorite Food

OH LORD I MISS SEPAS, Borsht, Lavish, Kebabs, Xorats (bbq), fresh veggies, Arakelyan Langit, hats, tapots kartofel (fried potatoes) & I miss dolma a little bit

Fried chicken, Pancit (all types), Halo Halo, Katambak (yummy fish), chicken curry, and lechon (roasted pig), seaweed, ganas, and I love some UBEY

Staple Foods

Bread, Cheese, Greens, Potatoes

Fish, Rice

One-in-a-lifetime food try

Liver Blinchik


School Year

Sept. 1-May 25

June 14- March 20

Christmas Day

January 6th

December 25th

Dominate Religion

Armenian Apostolic

Roman Catholic

Degrees from the Equator




Communal, super hospitable

Communal, super friendly

Favorite Musical Instrument

Duduk and/or Piano

Acoustic Guitar


Old and very interesting

Old and very interesting

People living in Country

Approx 3 million

Approx. 90 million

Supplies given by Peace Corps

Heater, Gas stove, Water filter

Life Jacket, and endless supply of sunscreen, mosquito net

Extra Trainings by Peace Corps

Hypothermia, how to keep your house warm

Water safety…what to do if your boat sinks


2 languages (eastern/western) and up to 60 dialects

Around 170 languages

Language I learned

Armenian (different alphabet)

Cebuano/Bisaya (Latin alphabet)

Average Temperate at Site

about 65F (depending where you live)

85.8 F

Number of People Living in Host family home

6 including me

(though normal is around 8)

10 including me

Favorite thing….



Second favorite thing



Number of PCVs serving in country



Flag Colors

KARMIR, KAPYUT, TSRANAGYUN! (red,blue,orange)

Yellow sun and stars, Red, White, and Blue

Holidays and Celebrations



So quite interesting, eh?

Back to the updates…

Misfortune was sent across the nation on February 13th, and I went to the US for a quick trip (12 days) and met my dear friends there for a funeral of our dear friend, Lorin Maurer, who was on Continental Flight 3407. Though it was wonderful to be united with a wonderful group of friends, it was the most poignant way for a reunion. I am blessed to have many friends who picked me up in DC, clothed me in winter clothes, drove me to PA to the services, and then drove me half way back to Nebraska. What a wonderful group of friends! (A Shout Out to: Niq, Moni, Cis, Stacie, J, Bobby, Colby, Rhonda, V, Nate and Dave!)

I did have time to see my family and watch members of the family brave a snow storm ( I was so excited to see snow, and to use a blanket while sleeping) to see me. Card games, movies, food and drinks were shared by all, and little sleep was had (as my nephews and niece, adding to five, shared a room with Aunt Syd). It was great to see each and everyone, especially those little tikes that mean so much to me!

I also met up with my Pen Pals from Hiawatha and was able to speak about the Philippines to students in high school and elementary, at three different schools. It was so wonderful to share my experiences to keen listeners. But just as all the fun had started, soon I was boarding the transcontinental flight back to the Philippines.

I was then graced by a visit from a dear friend of the Armenian PC days, and we did do some island hopping and site seeing around the area (most of the photos are from this excursion). But yet, as all fun times quickly end, she left and then I was facing the end of the school year. Which frankly, leaves me to today, writing this update.

I am lucky to have great internet access (I am just lazy checking it), but rest assure, I am in full tune with the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Final Four tournaments…and with that, I will end with this…


Warm hugs and big high-fives

Your PCV friend,

Maam Syd or Sydulik