Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joining the "People of the Hill"

That’s the literal translation of ‘i-pugo’ (i= from/people, pugo= hill).  The Spaniards changed it from ‘Ipugo’ to ‘Ipugaw,’ and once the Americans came in, they changed it to ‘Ifugao,’ the Philippine province where I am today.  You may be wondering why I’m just getting on the internet now.  Well, it’s kind of a long story…

Rewind a week or so, when our whole batch #270 was in Cavite, meeting our counterparts and swearing in as Peace Corps Volunteers.  As usual, it’s always a great time when we all reunite and get to see each other after going solo for a while.  In this case, we hadn’t been exactly “solo,” as we had spent the past 10 weeks with our respective clusters, but spending time with the other 41 PCTs was definitely great.  Nonetheless our cluster seemed to stick around each other and mix groups a lot of the time.  Just goes to show that I won’t ever be able to reiterate how awesome the LaTrinidad Education cluster was the BOMB DIGGITY.
Friday was the day we had all been waiting for… since arriving in Los Angeles on July 1st!  Swearing in!  For those of you who already know, the grand finale and best part of the ceremony was the end, when our cluster performed a traditional dance of the Cordillera region!  If you haven’t gotten the link yet, you can watch it online here:
It’s the whole ceremony, which was about an hour long.  So hopefully you can just click ahead to the dance—it’s almost at the very end.  Enjoy!  (By the way, if you see me talking the whole time, it’s because I was keeping our rhythm.  Made sure we all stayed in the 8-counts, but I had to be loud so all of us dancers could hear).  Anyways that was the big secret I’ve been talking about for a while.  For the past month we had been telling the other clusters that we were doing a PowerPoint presentation, and then we said it was a puppet show, and the only people who knew were several Peace Corps staff members who had to help us find additional pieces to the stage so we could fit :) Yes!  Props to them; they were a huge help and great at keeping the secret!
So now I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer- no longer Trainee!  Pretty awesome.  Saturday, after some crazy goodbyes, we all went separate ways.  The four of us Ifugao-bound PCVs waited for the 10pm bus up north.  It’s the way from Manila to Ifugao- the overnight.  Which kind of stinks but at the same time, it’s seven hours and I suppose you would waste a day if you traveled any other time.  I arrived in Lamut just before 5am and met my new host mom, in a haze.  Packed all my luggage onto the back and inside of a trike (google it), and took the two minute ride from the center of town to my new home. 
I was braindead at this point, dirty from wearing the same clothes for almost 24 hours, and overall could not function.  I’m sure I made a horrible impression, but my host mom was very kind and understanding nonetheless.  Once my bags were strewn around my room, I plopped onto my bed and slept for six hours.  Thank goodness nobody woke me for breakfast.  After lunch I fell asleep for another five hours, woke up for dinner, unpacked a bit, and went to sleep at 8:30.  I guess I was catching up on an entire week of little sleep in Cavite and a lonnnng overnight bus ride.  Intense.
After sleeping all of Sunday away, I reported to school the very next day!  The eight teachers and 147 students all welcomed me enthusiastically and graciously.  I had a big welcome at their flag ceremony, which was pretty awesome.  I felt pretty special.  Since there are only eight teachers in the whole school, nine including myself, they all share a common room with their desks.  It’s pretty sweet.  AND they set up a whole desk and everything for me.  Feeling pretty important already :) So nice!  They totally made me feel at home.  What a great way to start off my two years! 
Not so surprising the first questions asked of me… during training, the PCVs gave us a head’s up on this one.  How old are you?  24.  Are you married?  No.  Do you have a boyfriend?  No.  (Cue momentary silence, confused looks, followed by “Oh well you’re still young…”)  They went on to point out the other 24 year-old teacher sitting across from me who “still wasn’t married” but “at least she has a boyfriend”- cue laughter from them all (directed at her, not me), including herself.  They told me we both needed to join the Marriage Club (sounds like a cult to me), and proceeded to turn to the 29 year-old male teacher and tell him to find a nice Filipino for me.  “Don’t worry; we will find you someone while you’re here!”  (Well jeez.  Thanks for quelling my momentous concerns of being single.  Not.)  In case you were wondering, this had all happened by 9:30am on my first day of school.  Don’t worry, Kevin—I’ll make sure to specify that I’m not into the Tree Man.
Other than the teachers becoming my BALAE (parents-of different families- who set their children up with each other), I settled in pretty well on my first day.  I was exhausted by the time it was over.  The school day runs 7:30am-5pm.  I’m wondering how long it’ll take to get used to such a long day, but I’m sure it will happen eventually.  At least my commute is pretty sweet; exactly 12 minutes by trike, and could definitely be biked also, because the route is pretty flat (and unlike you, Jeff, I’m too lazy for hills).  What blows my mind about trikes is how many people manage to get on/in them.  The inside has the same square footage of maybe three metal garbage drums.  Legally, two Filipinos can fit behind the driver (I clarify the nationality, because two typical Americans definitely couldn’t fit) and three can fit inside.  HOWEVER, the other day I was in one with two behind the driver, three inside (including myself), two hanging off the back, and one standing on the opposite wheel, hanging off the side.  How the vehicle managed to move, I have no idea.  It’s only powered by the one motorcycle.  But the driver certainly makes more money with more passengers.  It’s totally illegal, but you see it everywhere and never see police pull them over or anything. 
Kind  of with jeepneys.  The legal limit is 22- ten on each side in the back, and two sitting next to the driver.  However, during rush hour or when school lets out, you’ll see four people hanging off the back, two sitting on a makeshift piece of wood balanced in front of the open back “door,” and the craziest of all is when you also see 20 children piled on TOP of the vehicle.  Like a cracked-out school bus.  Again, so illegal, but very typical.  Meanwhile there are no lines painted on any roads except in big cities, and drivers weave in and out of each other… just normal du rigueur.  One of those cultural things that just makes me laugh and really enjoy this country even more.  Jeepneys are so fun.  Don’t worry Mom- I don’t want to hang off the back or sit on the top (plus Peace Corps doesn’t allow it).
One thing I’ve also discovered this week is that I seriously need an Ilokano tutor ASAP!  Ohmygosh.  In LaTrinidad there was a mix of Ilokano, Tagalog, and plenty of English.  But here it’s all Ilokano and much less English.  Also, all of my teachers speak Ilokano all day and I’d like to have an idea of what they’re saying.  I would also like to respect their culture (and who wouldn’t like to become fluent in some random language?) and be able to communicate with anyone in the area.  So that’s on my to-do list for this/next week.  Find someone who can help me.  Luckily Peace Corps covers the cost, which is pretty sweet. 
Anyways this entry has already become far too long, so I’ll stop here.  But there’s much, much more to talk about.  So next time I make it to an internet café, you’ll be hearing from me.  Lamut is much less connected to the outside world than LaTrinidad, so bear with me.  Hope all is well back in the States!
Rambling on… Beck


At September 25, 2011 at 5:31 PM , Blogger erikafromamerica said...

Love your "rambling" and your PIC!!!!!!!! YOU ROCK MY LIFE! And I cant wait to see you!

At September 25, 2011 at 9:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thoroughly enjoying your posts and, as you call it, "rambling on". Keep on "rambling"! It sounds like your experiences are wonderful! Have fun!

At September 26, 2011 at 12:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love u Beck. All stops out on Ilokano. UR with a country committed to engaging with the future. This was so evident from the 'swearing in' participation, comments made by participants, history of involvment with Peace Corps, and long term engagement with US. The impact on humankind's progress of what you are doing can't be easily measured because it is so fantastic. Teach them English and all that is good; you know it all already in your heart, there is nothing more I can add.

At September 28, 2011 at 8:16 PM , Anonymous Lisa Keys said...

Congrats on being an official Peace Corps volunteer. Enjoy every minute and be safe. Think of you a lot-one brave soul can change the world

love Aunt Lisa

At September 29, 2011 at 7:45 AM , Blogger Patti Dente said...

Glad your first day in class went well....funny how they asked all the questions but hey they want to know about fun they want to set you up, what is the age group you are teaching and roughly how many students do you have per class, do they rotate classes during the average day ? Yes that must be so hard with the other teacher speaking there language and not knowing what she"s saying, I hope at least she gives you a briefing as to her instructions < anyway glad your host Mom is nice....I know she;ll just love you ( who wouldn't
Now as for the Vehicles for transportation wow riding on the side & the roof of the cars OMG and hanging off the trikes oh my... hate to see what happens if someone looses their Balance YIKES !!! Yes Becky your Aunt Patti's agrees stay seated inside those vehicles....
Well it's Fall season here in New York the leaves are slowly turning colors however not as fast as in past years...mostly cause of all the rain we've had here...temp averages in the 70's however we have had some cool evenings.... well again Becky thanks for another wonderful update I know everything you do there you will do it well take care love Aunt Patti

At October 14, 2011 at 12:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...



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