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 na├»ve 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 :)