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..