Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Final Missive

(From atop of Cambodia's Angkor Temples)

Season's Greeting to all!

Six months have passed since my last update on the blog and I am unsure of where this time has gone. June signaled the beginning of the academic year for all education institutions in the Philippines, thus creating a course load of five classes for myself teamed with various counterparts; the smallest course load I have had the past five years. I taught two teaching methodology classes, two English classes (grammar and literature), and one PE class. When I wasn't preparing my lessons or assessing various assignments, I was involved in teacher trainings throughout the country.

The last six months of my service, I assisted in no less than seven trainings, with only two held at my site. Traveling in the Philippines is exhausting, as you have to catch, planes, boats, pedicabs (motorbikes with side cabs), buses, etc., just to go a few islands to the west. So just as I arrived to the workshop(s) as a resource speaker, or upon my return from the workshop(s), fatigue always seemed to overwhelm me, though the students and teachers warm greetings always turned the languish feelings to attitudes of excitement.

Also, the past year, I had been preparing the Visayas State University women's softball team for the one and annual regional competition that was to be held in late October 2010. The girls worked tediously to become team players and learned not only to manage their time but focus on leadership and skills development. The girls sacrificed much to be a part of a team and were patient with my demands in order to create a disciplined team.

We were able to play a few scrimmages with a few universities in preparation for the regional sports championships, and we were coming off great highs of winning our first game in nearly four years. Our victorious reign was short-lived, as the regional sports championship was cancelled for financial, security, etc. worries (and a bundle of other rumors ). I was devastated for the girls as they had strived so hard to be a competitive team, and yet our chances, as a unit, were taken away. Though tears were shed, soon smiles were had (the Filipino way) and we celebrated what we had accomplished rather than weighing in on what could of happened.

As the first semester came to a close in mid-October, so did my contract and work with the university. Despididas (goodbye parties) were had in the various departments I had assisted, with each despididas having its unforgettable touch. From the university’s administration to the security personnel, I had special moments playing basketball or sharing a merienda (snack break). But most importantly, I had wonderful counterparts in various departments that enabled us to create a two-way cultural avenue in which everyone was learning. Peace Corps work is unsuccessful unless the Peace Corps Volunteer and the assigned counterparts are willing to learn from each other, and in the two tours I participated in, this was done without fear or hesitation from each other.

After warm wishes and "see you laters" from colleagues and family members at VSU, I headed to Manila to close out my four and a half years of Peace Corps work (only a few people ever sign up for two Peace Corps tours like myself) and on November 5th, my service ended. Today, I still don't think it has "sunk" in that I am no longer part of the active Peace Corps community, but too, once you become of member of the Peace Corps, it is hard for you to ever leave this "family".

After meeting up with my Filipino roommate in Cagayan De Oro and venturing to Camiguin (island in the Philippines), I headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for a little over two weeks. I enjoyed my travels to both places, learning about each culture and even more about U.S. history in Vietnam. Each place in Vietnam seemed to sport its own culture and identity, which made Vietnam extremely intriguing. Cambodia, home of the Angkor empire and its array of Wats, fooled my eyes more so than the pyramids of Egypt did. Lastly, the Cambodian people displayed enough smiles and energy that if there were to be a world full of Cambodians, we would have renewable energy from their beaming smiles! :) Their optimism at all ages, despite the suffering and poverty that they witness day-in and day-out, is to be applauded. (Cambodians make roughly $30 a month, per my conversations with folks in Siem Reap).

My travels eventually ended a few days before Thanksgiving, which found me at Epply Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, in arms of missed family members.

I appreciate the support, letters, packages, and thoughts the past four and a half years of my Peace Corps journey. This has been a shared journey, not a lone journey by myself, and I am deeply thrilled to have been able to communicate or even inculcate you about the Armenian or Filipino cultures. I am also extremely grateful to the Armenians and Filipinos who opened their doors not only to a stranger (me), but opened up their lives and hearts to share with me as well.

As I concluded, I wanted to share with you all some fun and immediate observations in moving back to the U.S.

Here I have written the top five things (tangible) that I have missed from the U.S. (excluding family and friends as they are intangible).

1) Tap Water
2) Real Dairy (skim milk and cheeses)
3) Driving (Not allowed by Peace Corps)
4) Diversity in ethnic foods
5) Seasons of weather

Here are three tangible things that I already miss from Armenia and the Philippines (excluding family and friends as they are intangible).

1) Availability of public transport
2) Every day warm greetings from students and colleagues
3) Fresh fruits and vegetable
4) Discounted Book Stores/Peace Corps Book Exchange

5) Not relying on internet on a day-to-day basis

There's been no doubt that my core, soul, and philosophy of life have changed from living a more simplistic life and learning what really IS important in life: family, friends, and love. Not only that, but my zeal to continue a career in education as well as finding better means to allow all learners to succeed in the classroom, have given me such a desire to pursue a Ph.D in which I can shape my experiences and apply research to make educational settings more conducive for the multicultural classrooms found throughout the world.

Lastly, I hope that my experience has encouraged you to breakout of your daily routine to volunteer and give back to others. And I hope you are doing so, or will do so because your heart demands you too, not because you feel "obligated" to it. Believe me, volunteering and finding the time to do so, is the best thing that could happen to you; you will see a whole new perspective of life, and just maybe, maybe you will learn a little more about your true self.

With this said, I sign off wishing the best to come in 2011. Thank you, all of you, for your support! I can't wait to see you all very soon.



Captions for each pic:

1) Electrical wires in Saigon, Vietnam

2) Catching a waterfall in Banue, Ifugao, Philippines

3) Beach near my home

4) Halong Bay, Vietnam

5) Teachers at my site with me and other Peace Corps Volunteers

6) My adorable goddaugher, Alika

7) Another way to transport a motorbike

8) San Jose, Romblon, Philippines

Sunday, June 13, 2010

School Year 2010-11 Has Begun!

Boracay Beach

Pictures from the top (Boracay Beach 3x) (Banaue Rice Terraces, Batad Hike and Waterfall 6x) (Sagada Training, Sagada Caving and Hiking 7x) (Calatagan Camp 3x)

Greetings my fellow amigos and amigas! Alas, I am providing a blog update despite a three month sabbatical of not providing an invigorating missive!

The end of March brought the conclusion of the 2009-2010 academic year at the university. Over 850 graduates received their diplomas, with around 100 coming from the College of Education. It was great to watch these students mature from second year students to fourth year students. Observing the bounce and smile, the students grabbed their diplomas from their respective deans which was enticing even if the entire ceremony was nearly five hours long. I was extremely proud of my ten advisees, and some of them are the first in their families to earn a degree in higher education

With that said, many of the students struggle financially to achieve such a dream, so having them reflect on the past fours years and see the future was exhilarating.
The graduating students from the teacher education program needed to submit the final project, a student-teacher profile, which reflected upon their four months of student teaching as well as prepare them for the future which included articles such as a career plan, resume, literature reviews, and vision statements. Knowing that this was a new requirement sent forth by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Dean of the College of Education asked me to come up with a sample portfolio to model to the approximately 100 graduating students.

While doing so as asked, I also inquired to my co-teacher and dean how strict they wanted me to be with the format, professionalism and content of the resume, literature reviews, career plans and reflections. Enthusiastically I was told to go about in American way; and that is exactly what I did…my poor advisees.

They handed in rough draft after rough draft. Grammar errors. Un-cited work. Sloppy resumes. The list continued. Each time, I corrected and edited the errors. One student, really stood out during this process, as he excitedly handed in his portfolio and said:

“Ma’am, please sign off. I am done. I will graduate!”
Unfortunately, his energy and optimism didn’t match his output in his portfolio.

It also was the day before the submission of the final draft. Knowing that finances were minimal, and the it was the third draft, I played a small mind battle in my head of whether or not I should make him redo a few sections in his portfolio. I had seen other students‘ portfolios from other advisors and I realized that I had really pushed my ten advisees. I was very particular on their grammatical structures and the format of the citations. It had seemed, that these were not particularly paid attention to by other students’ advisors. Nonetheless, I remembered the dean’s words of allowing me to be “estricto” and I also knew I needed to be consistent. So, I made the student revise his portfolio one last time.

He was shocked, begged that he had done a fine job. I told him, positively, that he had 24 hours to return me the final product. He debated a bit then said “thanks” and walked out of the office. Not eight hours later, I had a perfect portfolio by this student. When I signed his clearance, tears of happiness ran down his cheeks.

“Ma’am”… "I did it. I didn’t think I could do it…could be a teacher…could graduate! I never thought I could do this, financially and mentally…Thank you!!!”

And with that we embraced. That scene would mimic itself many more times on April 8th, as I greeted the ten advisees and other graduates with hugs of congratulations, each having a degree in hand…

This summer was very busy in every good sense of the word. After graduation on April 8th, I headed to Luzon (the main island) for a month. My first spot was near Calatagan, Bataganes for a high school aged Eco-Camp. It was great to be back in “Camp Syd” mentality and be out of the “professional teacher ethos”. BOOM-CHICKA-BOOM reigned as the camp hymn just like the Green Camp days in Armenia, but this time, it was an accident.
I had a great time with my intimate group during the swimming and snorkeling lessons, as two girls were afraid of the water and by the last day, they threw off the life jackets and snorkeled around the boat discovering various “underwater friends”. One student had so much fun on the first day of lessons, that he decided to take off his flip-flops , against policy, and nicely stepped on a sea urchin…ouch! Luckily, a co-PCV man was around to urinate on his foot to stop the poisoning. This didn’t hinder his future swimming pursuits or snorkeling discoveries the rest of the week…thank god.

The camp structure was on educating the student leaders of various high schools the importance of sea life, from mangroves to coral reefs, swimming and snorkeling lessons, recycling, and learning about aquatic life all in a fun and interactive experiential learning environment. The purpose then was to take the knowledge gained, back to their respected communities and schools and become eco-leaders. To this date, this project seems to be quite sustainable as a few school immediately adopted environmental clubs to apply the information learned from camp.

Next up, was a 20 hour, three different buses trip to Sagada, Mountain Province. Wow! The journey was breathtaking and so unique. I was up high in the mountains where there was not a trace of bamboo, palms, or sand. There were fir trees, I could see my breath and I had, yes HAD to sleep with a quilt! It reminded me much of Appalachia back in the US.

In Sagada, there was a Summer English Institute for sixty local elementary teachers. Six PCVs and counterparts taught and refreshed basic English skills, specifically in speaking and writing. It was a ten day institute filled with some of the best moments of my Philippines tour.

Not only was I amazed at the diversity of terrain, but also how aberrant the Igorot culture is. The teachers were shy unlike the those in the Visayas, and foreigners are commonly seen as tourists, not as people interested in assisting them professionally. However, by the end of the week, rapport was established and friendships are still being endured.

My favorite class was when we had a debate on overpopulation, a current issue facing most of Asia and in particular, the Philippines. After an hour, I had to stop the debate as the teachers were so into it, and it was time for dinner. It was great to see their fervor as they processed and explained their opinions. They too, had no idea they could carry on a conversation for so long in English!

My favorite part of the conference was the last evening we were together. It was a culture exchange program, in which the six of us PCVs, tried to do a country line dance, which I regretfully inform, we did a lousy job. It turned into a caricature and embarrassment as we messed up the subtle steps. Next, the various districts around Sagada did their village dances. Soon they asked us to join in. Without hesitation, Melissa (PCV) and I joined in, others soon followed. As the boys played the gongs, we did our best to reproduce the actions of our fellow counterparts. Regrettably, dancing is a not a fine motor skill I posses, yet it did provide free entertainment and laughs as I meticulously tried every dance movement. The dancing night lasted over two hours with smiles and sweaty bodies embracing each other for the wonderful night. Even though it ended up only as a one-way culture dance exchange, the night was one to remember (and no pictures to prove it :().

I took some time off to discover Sagada on my own as well. I went on a four-hour caving expedition, did some hiking, and jumped off a waterfall. The landscape was breathtaking and I still can’t believe that such a place exists in the tropics of the Philippines. I also, took my time getting down to my next stop, and enjoyed the mountainous ride to the world renown Banaue Rice Terraces, hiked in the rain, and enjoyed the rendition of “Banaue Road, Take Me Home” by our hostel manager.

My last stop was at PCV Christina’s site in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya for a week long curriculum development workshop with her high school English teachers. There, I was charged with the first year teachers, in which we created a road map of how to teach a small pocket book in a six week timetable. I was just one of four volunteers that came to assist in this endeavor. However, this workshop had to come to a quick end, as PC Philippines put a travel ban for the presidential elections. So I took the eight hour night bus back to Manila to fly out back to Leyte, and then finally, a three hour van ride back to site before the May 10th elections.

Once at sight, I caught up on some much needed sleep, and prepared for an all day long summer course. This pretty much filled my time until I would leave for another two-week span of conferencing in the Western Visayas. I enjoyed teaching the summer course, but wow, every day for about six hours requires some intense lesson planning!

My final summer escapade was from May 23-June 6th. I joined 22 chosen PCVs to go to Panay in the Western Visayas to do four, 2-day trainings for the four provinces in coordination with the Department of Education (DepEd). It was a marathon in all senses of the imagination. We would teach the same lesson six to eight times a training, sleep on floors, and then pack up and move to the next training. Our food was provided and was heavenly. Sometimes we were entertained with air-conditioned rooms for an evening’s sleep. We would do one training, caravan-travel to the next training the following day and set-up, and then the process repeated itself. In the end, around 1480 teachers were trained. The target was 2000, but hey, some things are just out of your control, such as the government mandated census count in which the teachers had to take part in with interviews. One PCV volunteer really organized this adventure and it was extremely successful. Kudos to you Justin dear!

After the trainings, DepEd Aklan, put us up for a nice price at their boarding house in Boracay, the most famous island beach in the Philippines. It is a very small island full of white sandy beaches, restaurants, bars, kite surfing, sailing, etc…you name it, they do it. It is not only heavily promoted to foreigners, but remains a place for Filipinos alike. Two nights and one day was enough for my senses, as I needed to head back before the start of classes. I had to return for my 7 a.m. first class on June 7th. I arrived just in time as the night boat came in around 3 a.m. that same morning.

Which now, leads to today. The 2010-11 academic year has been in session for a week. My teaching load seems fair with five classes and I will continue to coach the women’s softball team as well as offer my tutorial services at near by elementary school. There has been a sense of anxiety amongst some, as they see that I am in my last semester at the university. Come November, my time at the university and the Philippines will expire physically, but never spiritually or emotionally.

The upcoming months will bring the last of my teacher trainings and the close out of some major projects (curriculum development, reading modules, etc.). Things will slow down and hopefully, will become more sustainable as I slowly let go.

I wish all of you happy and relaxing summer. Enjoy the heat (as we do every day here) and the barbecue.



June: Mom, Sam, Christina, Sheryll, Jenny Anniversaries: Rhea and Man, Stephanie and Brian, Nic and Andrew
July: Stacie, Laurel, Todd, Elizabeth, Meghanne

Monday, March 15, 2010

Schools Almost Out For Summer!

Friends in the Philippines

Can you find me?

Learning the Tausug Dance

Yes, proposal writing is so much fun!

Teacher Syd

Can you find me again?

Yes here I am.

The campus I work on is quite beautiful.

Students learning to use chopsticks in Motor Behavior class

My Godchild, Alika, and below her mother, Kim.

Native folk dances and costumes

Yippee..sliding down the waterfall

A sunset on campus.

Kuting Reef

More pictures can be seen at...

Happy Spring to all of you!

Life in the Philippines has been interesting. Since I had last written, we had experienced volcanic disturbances and tsunami warnings though nothing transpired from the cautionary advice. However, last Tuesday, this time without warning, a small earthquake rattled its way through Samar and Leyte. I was sitting at my desk at the time when I felt a rumbling noise, similar as if a big logging truck were to pass through campus. But as a looked up, silence grew and the mirror in the office swayed ever so leisurly. Within six seconds, nothing was left but a swift memory and my second earth rocking experience. The quake center was about 120 kilometers from my site. However, there is a rather large mountain range, valley and the Leyte Gulf all in between. Needless to say,the 5.2 measured “linog” (earthquake) feared nothing and growled its way across the Eastern Visayas, leaving its mark through small cracks in the walls.

Despite the exhilarating natural experiences living in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the way of life continues to move forward with optimistic approaches and gentle smiles. At this time, the university, to some extent resembles the calm before the storm, as final exams and graduation requirements are being completed this week. My eyes have checked various papers, edited diverse thesis reports, and doubled verified grades in preparation for the final calculation. While spring seems be to beckoning in your part of the world (or fall for my southern hemisphere friends), summer has arrived and everyone feels the warm pressure to conclude the 2009-2010 academic successfully.

This year graduates a batch of future teachers and development communicators that have really been a driving force in my Peace Corps experience at the university. These students and I had much bonding time in the classroom as well as outside the classroom though implementing HIV/AIDS workshops for high school students and adopting an elementary school for Saturday reading lessons. In all regards, these students could be equivalent to “my first students” here in the Philippines. I taught the majority of their major courses and we united deeper when we inculcated various nonformal educational programs in our outreach programs. I am excited for the students’ future, and a part of me wishes that my Philippine Peace Corps Journey would extend to see them in their respective fields, hopefully applying the knowledge that so earnestly yearned for.

Summer brings less time at the beaches than one would think. Due to my ability to say “yes” to anything, I have found my summer schedule packed with conferences and trainings all throughout the Philippines. I am even squeezing in one summer Eco-Camp as well. The exciting part of all these wonderful but very arduous events, is that I will be travelling out of my region, thus indulging in a new cultures, new languages, new territories, and new food as I hope to edify an assorted number of teachers in several concepts of teacher and English education. I can’t wait to tell my story, upload my pictures, and reflect on my upcoming experiences to all of you. In 60 days this summer, I will be travelling to five regions, doing 33 days of conferencing. Mind you, some places will require me to take boat, airplane, bus, van, bike, etc; thus taking countless days to reach the destination.


The past four months have been prosperous as I became a godmother to my dear counterpart’s child, presented a project design and management workshop to the Siasi people, judged various competitions, and wrapped-up annual academic activities. Definitely, the freshest memory is that of the project design and management workshop. This workshop was held in conjunction with USAID to the people of Siasi, Sulu, Philippines. If you Google this location, you will find it as a very small island near Borneo, though still part of the Philippines. So by nature, I was completely intrigued with their way of life. After the workshop, we (PCVs) had opportunities to really get to know our participants by listening to their stories.

Their stories are the ones you read about in development communication journals. A floating school, in which classes are held depending on the tide; during high tide, the water envelopes the walkway to the school thus disabling the students to leave or get to the school building. Or a school beneath a palm tree, providing shade as basic education is conducted. No electricity, no running water, no salaries for the teachers, etc. The stories continued to flow, but doing so in the most sanguine manner; all knowing it is better to have something rather than nothing.

Then came the fun part, the cultural exchange. The people of Siasi come from the Tausug tribe, and most practice Islam. Their manners and behaviors are so sincere, reminding me of the Islam culture colliding with the Hawaiian way of life. The music is refreshing, calm as the wind blows, the garb is full of influence and elegance, and the language has a rhythm and pride in its origin and secular world. Despite the odds, despite the lack of government funds that rarely trickle down to the smallest islands, the people of Siasi are the friendliest of the friendliest in the Philippines. I only wish I had more time to learn with them and see their world with my own eyes. Your eyes, however, can see some, as the pictures above show the smiles, the dress, and the optimistic eyes as I familiarized myself with a small part of the Tausug culture.


As the months wind down, I realize that I probably will only update this blog a few more times. Reflecting upon that creates disturbance in my soul as it means my time in Peace Corps is in its final miles of the marathon; my identity that has shaped me into who I am today, will slowly be in its final stage. This has all come into perspective to me in the last month, as the university president and other administers kindly gestured for me to stay an additional year. Half of me wants to ignore the fact that I cannot stay, though I really wish I could. So to satisfy the yearning soul, I have been extended the opportunity to come back after the completion of my doctoral study. Thus, giving me another aim to reach for in the years to come, and satisfying my desire to return.

The school hunting process has been fun, interesting, and challenging with the internet situation. I don’t understand why the develop world needs all these flashy pop-up features on their websites. Yes, I am sure it is eye-catching, but is a major pain for people with dial-up connections to research the pros and cons of an institution for potential application. Whatever the case or opinion, the websites should get right to the point, emphasizing the educational attainment instead of flashing me all this nonsense and wasteful excess that is suppose to “lure” me into applying to the institution. Instead, from the developing world, it makes me not want to ever step foot in that institution. Probably something I would have never mulled over if I were in the US.

Most of the schools that have struck an interest to be seem to be on the East coast, either in the DC or NYC area. I am not sure who will take me, but let’s just hope someone is willing, especially as the education systems are experiencing high tuition rates, stiffer application requirements, and smaller faculties.

So I know that this update is rather insipid and a bit vague, but I am due for some time of informational notice to acknowledge to you all that I am alive and well. I promise the next update, probably in June, will be more electrifying :)

Lastly, to my Armenian friends and family, it was a pleasure to finally speak with you over the phone. Dzez ampi chap em karotel...

Thus I conclude, wishing you all a merry spring. Enjoy March Madness and root for the Lady Huskers. Enjoy Passover, Easter or the weekend; Pick a flower for one you love, and hug another for no reason at all.

Peace to you all and forever,
March: Monica, Whit, Cliff, Jan, Lindy, Tatev, Satenik, Steck, Jamie, Laurel and Joey’s Anniversary
April: Danny, Aunt Barb, Nancy, Matt, Leigh, Mom and Dad’s 31st
May: Heather, Jeff, Alex, Ant, Bern, Torgom, Jamie, Pam, Laszlo

Extra info on the Tausug Tribe... Retrieved on March 15th, 2010 from:


Tausug (people of the current) were the fisrt tribe in the archipelago to be converted to Islam. They are historically, the ruling people of the ancient Sultanate of Jolo, and regard themselves supeiror to other Philippine Muslims. They generally live a combative, "very mascular" life, where violence is often an expression of the social process. They are traders, fishermen and artisans of fine Muslim textiles and metal works.

Tausug Wisdom - To the Tausug, a proverb is masaalla, a word of Arabic origin. Some are pittuwa, or advice about life. Proverbs are part of daman or symbolic speech, which includes riddles and courtship dialogue.

Some proverbs follow:

Tausug: In lasa iban uba di hikatapuk.
Tagalog: Ang pag-ibig at ubo ay hindi maitatago.
English: Love and a cough cannot be hidden.

Tausug: In ulang natutuy mada sin sug.
Tagalog: Ang natutulog na alimango ay matatangay ng agaos.
English: A sleeping crab will be carried by the current.

Tausug: Wayruun asu bang way kayu.
Tagalog: Kung walang usok, wala ring apoy.
English: There is no smoke where there is no fire.

Tausug: Atay nagduruwaruwa wayruun kasungan niya.
Tagalog: Kung ang isa ay hindi makapag disisyon, siya ay walang kinabukasan.
English: One who cannot decide will have no future.

Tausug: Ayaw mangaku daug salugay buhi.
Tagalog: (1) Huwag aaminin ang pagkatalo haggang ikaw ay nabubuhay. or (2) Hanggang maybuhay, may pag asa.
English: Never admit defeat as long as you live.

Sources: Insight Guides: Philippines and Filway's Philippine Almanac Centennial Edition

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