Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Takes a While to Post These Things

October 8, 2011
It’s officially been three months in country, three weeks of those at site and wow!  (Cue cliché-ness)  There’s so much I’ve already seen and done that I could never have expected, which makes me wonder... what in the world is next?!

I suppose I’ll have to start by talking about my host family!  I live with my host mom, her aunt, and four of her six children (two go to boarding school during the week).  Plus a dog named Meggie (weird, right?  Our family’s first dog was Maggie), who I thought was a girl.  However one day about 3,000 ants got into the peanut butter so I decided to show my youngest two siblings, 5 and 6, how to feed PB to dogs.  This was an awesome moment, because I realized that, just as humans are, dogs are just the same as all the others around the whole world.  They all look RIDICULOUS when they try to eat peanut butter!  If you haven’t seen this phenomenon for yourself already, get your dog or go on youtube.  I’m sure someone’s gotten it online by now.  So funny!  The kids were cracking up and I think Meggie likes me now.  But needless to say, as she sat there licking away I discovered that she is actually a HE.  So anyways, moving on.

The most amusing running joke in my house is that I have been nicknamed “Barbie hair.”  I suppose it doesn’t matter that unlike Barbie’s long, silky, platinum strands… I’m sporting short, auburn, nappy roots.  Nevertheless, to my host siblings, Barbie and I are one and the same.  Which I have to admit, is flattering.  When it comes to toys, I’ve always likened my hair to that of my stuffed bear after I sent it through the washer and dryer when I was 9 or so.  POOF!  Anyways they like to play with it; brushing, ponytailing, smelling… things that even my stylist back home doesn’t do. 

Meanwhile I’ll sit there watching one of the AWESOME Filipino melodramas on TV.  They’re all in Tagalog, so I have ZERO idea of what’s being said, but the acting is so cheesy and overdramatic that I want to laugh hysterically.  However my siblings sit there intently so I stifle my giggles.  Imagine an Amerian soap opera.  But on uppers and downers.

My host mom is awesome.  We live a five minute walk from town and the market, so after school every day we walk around to pick up fresh veggies, fruits, and meat (I’d rather not talk about the meat part.  Ever.), and I get introduced to whomever I haven’t already met.  I’ve never said “Bassit laeng” so many times consecutively (When asked if I speak Ilokano, it’s my token answer – “Only a little”).  But it’s really nice to meet everyone because then when I’m walking around on my own, I’m not just a random stranger that’s invading their quiet little town.  The other day I was by myself and someone recognized me and said hello.  I smiled and said hello back, and kept thinking to myself ‘who was that?’ and remembered a few minutes later.  I WISH I was better with names, but I’ve just been meeting SO many people in such a short span of time.  I’m just getting all the teachers’ names down now.  A few of the students as well, but it’s going to take some time.
When it comes to being known and knowing people in the area, you might as well consider this “area” to be all of Ifugao.  There are five other PCVs in the province, one in Lamut with me, two in Lagawe, another in Kiangan, and the fifth in Hinyon.  These towns are not very close- 45, 90, and 120 minutes away, respectively. If I mention this, a person will ask which family they are staying with, and somehow they will know right away who I am talking about.  If I was talking about a friend of mine a few towns over in the States, if asked whom it was, I would simply answer, “Oh you wouldn’t know her…” because chances are, that’d be the case.  However I have a feeling that the same will happen with us as we live here for a while.  Not that WE will know all of these people, but that they will know US
So here’s the question being asked lately: “Are you in one piece?”  Yes, my friends and family, I am fine despite it being a wild typhoon season.  I’m wondering how these past few have fared in comparison to years’ past.  So Tuesday the 27th we woke up with no power.  No biggie.  It happened the week before for a day, and then it was back on before we knew it.  And this happens in the States too, anyways.  Just a part of life.  And it’s usually kind of fun- a race to eat everything in the fridge, Jeremy PO’ed at the “idiots” running into Shaws, stocking up on water and batteries…  Well Typhoon Pedro laughed at my ignorant New England American-ness and showed me what blackouts are really about.

The storm itself wasn’t too crazy; we shut all the windows and doors, and it was really banging around outside, but I just sat on the couch texting away and reading all day long as the rain poured down.  Got the candles out for some ambience at dinner (ha), and went to sleep early because it was pitch black (duh), which kind of made us a bit lethargic.  Woke up the next morning, no way to know if we had school or not so we just didn’t go.  Didn’t want to get caught in Quiel, which was reported to hit shortly, according to Peace Corps.  They’re actually pretty great about letting us know of ANY update on weather or security FYI’s.  They send out immediate mass texts to every PCV with the latest reports.  So when my host family or teachers at school don’t know what’s going on, they’ve learned to turn to me for the forecast.  Go PC!

Anyways, Quiel did hit us and most of Northern Luzon.  As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t as bad as Pedro.  But I guess the destruction as a whole has been crazy.  Difficult to tell what happened when though.  We went back to school Thursday, still with no power but we don’t usually use the lights anyways so it was no big deal.  However, the lack of a fan near my desk was (and is) irksome.  Came home from school every day to no light the rest of the week, but I started stressing out because I couldn’t charge my cell phone anywhere and my battery was dying.  Not only was this a problem for my socialization, but when there are major security issues in the country, Peace Corps asks us to follow up any texts from our Regional Managers (RMs) regarding our well-being… just making sure everyone’s accounted for.  So this whole time I’m getting more and more anxious because all I want to do is send random texts to people as I always do (my friends back home- you can vouch for me on this one- it’s my way of life), and in the meantime I also need to make sure I’m being a legitimately responsible PCV  (Insert: “You are a bratty generation X American” comment here).
It was dark for 8 and ½ days at my house.  Day 9 I left for school without power, and upon my return, I walked into my dark house, feeling defeated once again.  I opened my bedroom door, hit the switch on my wall, and VICTORY WAS MINE!  I shouted “Woooooooooohoooooooooooo!” at the top of my lungs and started dancing around my illuminated room.  I plugged my cell phone into the charger and instantly felt like a new woman.

Later that evening, a friend of mine texted me, asking what I learned from all of this.  (HE had only been without power for three days.  Ifugao went the longest in the dark in the whole country.  My school still doesn’t have power).  I wished he was sitting next to me so I could punch him in the arm.  VERY FUNNYYYYYYYYYYY.  But he was asking this as a legitimate question, so as I lay in bed later that night, I thought about it.  And quite frankly, by day six it just seemed to be the normal routine.  Daytime is as it always is, we’ll get home from school around 5:30, and the sun will already be going down.  By 7 it will already be completely dark inside.  Dinner will have somehow been prepared with limited light, and we will sit around, eating by candlelight.  Afterwards we’ll be sitting around doing much of nothing, maybe some reading or helping with homework… then taking a bath by candlelight.  Reading in bed by candlelight (it actually produces more and better light than my diesel camping flashlight), and falling asleep.  Waking up and starting all over again.  I can honestly say that I was okay with it.  The ONLY thing that really caused me legitimate distress was the dying cell phone battery.

The cell phone thing makes me feel like (and probably sound like) a major brat.  However, it’s not just the lack of HAVING the little piece of Nokia plastic working that’s the problem.  I haven’t been here very long, but the friends that I’ve made are pretty awesome and the blackout made me realize how much I enjoy staying connected to them, especially since we live hours away.  Because in the States, I basically still live within spitting distance of most of my best friends.  And for two months, it was the same here.  So I guess this is the first time in my life that I’m actually riding solo.  It’s definitely weird.  It’s not that it makes me sad or anything, but all I want to do is joke around when something funny happens to me, something that only these friends would understand (or would just be totally inappropriate to say to the Filipinos around me).  So to put it simply, it was the laughter that I missed, of all things.  Not the electricity.  My laptop was dead, as was my ipod.  But I missed sharing the humor of everyday life with the people I care about.  THAT’S what I learned.
A few days later, Typhoon Ramon seemed to just turn around and spare us with hardly even a drop of rain, which was very nice.  And the weather has been quite pleasant for the past few days.  Knock on wood!  Go figure.

Anyways, as usual, there’s much, much more to say, but as usual, I’ve been rambling.  One quick update: if you ever feel so inclined to send anything via snail mail (seeing as I hardly get to the internet- plus snail mail is awesome), I have my new address for ya.  If it’s more than just a letter, Peace Corps suggests that you write some biblical sayings or verses on the package so people will feel guilty if they want to open it up and steal stuff.  Get creative J  Peace, love, and Thomas Edison… Becky

Becky Keys
The Butale Family
159 Kullaw
Poblacion West
Lamut, Ifugao


At October 24, 2011 at 12:00 PM , Blogger Patti Dente said...

I will Copy your letter re: McDonalds and mail it to every MD'S in our area... Now I don't feel Bad loosing power for the 5 days we were out... Love you Becky


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