Friday, February 13, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away, Come Again Another Day (preferably not tomorrow)

Picture one: One of my counterparts, Avril and I, at an island
Picture two: A view of my island (in the distance)

The New Year came with fireworks, rain, a thanksgiving dinner, and more rain. This past New Year’s was quite placid compared to the two-week New Year’s extravaganza that I witnessed the previous two years. This year, it was immediate family only, and reminded me much of what we do during the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many prayers of thanks were devoted to others, as long as a nice native home cooked meal, some toasts and glorious desserts, followed by talks which eventually led to drowsy eyes and heads hitting the pillows.

After New Years, a group of us “new islanders” headed to the southern tip of the island to catch some rays, snorkel, and relax before school was in session again. However, a small typhoon blew threw, leaving us bunked in our rooms chatting the hours away while our swimming suits stayed packed in our bags. No swimming with whale sharks that weekend. We tried snorkeling before the weather worsened, but were only greeted by swarms of jellyfish; so our outing was quite brief.

Classes have been in full gear and I am really enjoying them. My ardor for teaching ameliorates everyday, and I feel so comfortable in the classroom, whether it sits 25 or 100 students. Plus, I am very privileged to have such wonderful students! They are very active in the classroom and are eager to learn, which only make every thing so much fun. Even sometimes, I find myself spending hours on one lesson plan only wondering where the time has gone!

My favorite parts of teaching are challenging the students to think critically and to take responsibility for their learning and secondly, curriculum development. I have lived and died on Bloom’s Taxonomy, reaching to grasp the students’ highest potentials, as well as encouraging the future teachers to use creative skills in their future classrooms, as this process allows the freedom of the soul to articulate oneself. Finally, implementing active learning has been a blast, as research shows that more information is retain by learners, it they DO the action what is supposed to be learned!

To clarify even more deeply of how AMAZING the students are here, I have to give you a prime example. In early January, a counterpart and I went to Manila to attend a small HIV/AIDS conference. HIV/AIDS has always been an interest of mine after my travels in South Africa, and then again as I served as an awareness educator in Armenia. The Philippines is considered a “low prevalent” country, but cases are on the rise as the population expands, workers go abroad, and the youth become more curious. So, we went the conference and left the conference with a project design of how to implement awareness programs. We decided on using the university’s multimedia outlets: through radio spots; poster design, and feature story and/or column writing. Also, we trained five peer educators (college students) in HIV/AIDS education.

Just recently the peer educators conducted a five hour education section on another island…all by themselves! Now they have two more appointments on the island as the students spread the understanding of HIV/AIDS! They are training others as well to become peer educators. Our initial impact was around 400 students, and we have already targeted that number with two events still left (which could reach 500 more students!). The students have really taking their own initiative with this responsiveness and are very passionate as they teach! I am very proud of them! They are even helping me structure the curriculum now ;)

I am continuing to coach softball and have witness a vast amount of improvement in the girls. Their hand and eye coordination is incredible and they understand the game very well. We should have a first game and only game of the before school gets out at the end of February to assess what we actually can do in a game like situation ;) Exciting times!

Oh, by the way, our summer time here is March through June. I cannot wait to tell you all about it, as it is suppose to get hotter than the dickens here. Well, I just may melt as it is always “pretty warm” here already :)

For the social side of my life, I spent time with my host family and some colleagues. We have been star gazing, sunset watching, as well as their endless attempts to teach me the language which tries their patience! hehe On my own, I have been studying the language as well as preparing to retake the GRE as my scores have expired. I am slowly improving my vocabulary skills and revamping my old math skills. I find myself questioning whether or not is really essential if I know the formula for the area of trapezoid to get into graduate school. Oh well, the standards we live by :)

Soon, the rains will abate and summer will be here. Trainings and galore of trainings for English teachers will be held throughout the country and I will part take in this accretion of knowledge expansion: for me and the teachers ;)

All in all, things are good here. I live with a wonderful host family, work with amazing people, and am enjoying life. But before I end, two big congratulations are in order:

Congratulations to my younger sister, Whitney, and her fiancé, as they plan to wed in October.
Second set of congratulations to Dominic and Sarah, PCV friends who found each other’s hearts in Armenia and plan to say the vows in August ;)

Here’s hoping all is well and safe with you!
Happy Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, International Women’s Day (March 8th) and St. Patty’s
Birthdays for Feb and March: Dad, Connie S., Eileen K., Eloise, Whitney, Cliff, Jan G, Kristen, Monica, Jamie W., Lindy R., Satenik jan
Anniversaries: Laurel and Joe


Sarah said...

Thanks for the sweet congratulations Syd jan!

Too bad you're not coming home just a little bit earlier. There will surely be plenty of toasting and Haykakan merriment to go around.

I got your letter today! I was going to email you back but I think I'd prefer to write again. Let me know if your address changes from the last package I sent.



Tami Shadduck said...

I came across your blog when I googled a map of the Philippines. I am also a RPCV (Costa Rica 2002-2004). I am heading to the Philippines on February 20th for a month-long stay with Rotary's Group Study Exchange Program. I will be with host families, visiting various Rotary Clubs and also doing vocational visits. I am a Sexual Health Educator and will probably visit these HIV education groups you speak of in this post. I even requested to help a PCV with a current project, but I don't know if they will accommodate that request. My e-mail address is I'd love the chance to meet you and hear all about what you've learned in the Philippines so far. Good luck!

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