Monday, February 20, 2012

Design on a Dime...or a Peso

I moved into my new apartment last month, and it’s been pretty great.  My little town had very few options, and my site mate’s (fellow PCV living in my town) landlady offered to renovate a building on her property and turn it into an apartment for me!  The building used to be an internet café, then a restaurant, and has been deserted for a while.  But she got carpenters and electricians in there, and it was all fixed up within a few weeks.  So awesome.  It’s got all 3 L’s~ located right behind the market and all of town proper, which is super convenient and fun.  I actually live next door to a videoke bar, which at first I was apprehensive about because of all the noise, but I’ve ended up enjoying it.  Most of the time I’m either singing along or laughing at how bad the singer is.  So it’s been fun. 

Anyways since the place was just renovated, all the walls were bare, straight up wood and concrete, which was actually exciting because it was a clean slate that I could play around with!  So this past weekend I had a bunch of the nearby PCVs come over for a painting party!  We split into two teams: the painting team and the cooking team.  The cooking team made a delicious dinner, and after it all we rented a videoke machine and sang for four hours straight!  I don’t remember if I’ve explained videoke before~ it’s basically the same thing as karaoke but there are cheesy videos on the screen while the songs are playing, completely unrelated to the songs themselves.  Saturday night there was a video of people with mullets, knee pads, and roller blades, line dancing.  I wish I was that coordinated.  And the other video was of what I think were Dutch men, all dressed up in those traditional short short overall type things and white shirts underneath, high white knee socks and matching ugly brown shoes and hat.  These men were rolling these giant wheels of cheese down a cobblestone road in Holland.  Some were very successful; others who had the cheese in wheelbarrows were tripping over themselves and slamming face first into the cheese.  Anyways the videos are always pretty amusing, and last weekend was no exception!  Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without a few tributes to Whitney Houston and some Disney duets… I make a pretty good Jasmine in ‘A Whole New World,’ if I do say so myself.

The party was a big success; we got a lot of painting done but there’s still a ton to do.  Which at first I wished we had finished it all.  However it’s actually a good thing, because it’ll prevent me from going out and blowing all my money on furniture right away!  Plus it’s a good afterschool project, and I’ve felt pretty cool, having done a lot of it myself.  Last week I painted my entire bedroom because I knew we’d all be sleeping up there Saturday night… so it needed to be finished.  I had five very late nights in a row, but did get it all done!  I’m really really happy with how it turned out, and want to get decorating right away.  But I’ve promised myself to take a break from being typical Becky and breaking even every month!  Haha moving into a new place is EXPENSIVE!  You live, you learn, I suppose.  I’m so happy though, so no biggie.

I’ve had quite a busy few weeks.  Mid-January I was invited to facilitate at an English camp in Santo Domingo, Ilokos Sur, focused on improving students’ and teachers’ reading skills.  My session was geared towards strategies that will especially help visual learners.  It was a lot of fun; I did a memory game and made up a funny mad libs story we did together.  Our group later on spent some time in Vigan, the town right nearby.  It’s a UNESCO heritage site, and still retains the traditional Spanish architecture from when they were over here.  It’s a super unique city with very beautiful buildings and whatnot.  Lots of festivals and fun things to see.  From the two days we spent there, it was clearly a place where a lot of tourists go, apparent by the nice hotels and excellent English-speaking shopkeepers.  Quite different from my quiet Filipino hamlet up in Ifugao!  So that was fun.

The last week of January I was asked to coach the swimmers from Ifugao who had qualified for the CARAA (Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic ???) meet.  I had coached the Lamut swimmers back in December for the Ifugao Provincial Meet, so this was the next step.  I spent the week with them, instead of going to school… their training schedule is really hardcore!  They swam 8am-4pm, pretty much non-stop, for ten days straight.  It’s a lot, and it’s also too bad because there are no swimming pools in our province, therefore these are the only days during the entire year that they do get to practice.  Our big issue that week was that so many of the swimmers have “illegal” stroke technique, so incorrect kicking, pulling, turns, etc… I couldn’t let them go to the meet without working on that first and foremost; literally ALL of them would have been disqualified for one thing or the other.  So we spent two and a half days on that, and at lunch time on the third day the other coaches came up to me and said “Okay so how do we make them have endurance now?”  Now, for those of you who know me well, you KNOW that I have no poker face.  I’m glad I was wearing sunglasses because I felt my eyes bug out of my head and eyebrows raise like “Are you crazy?”—must have looked like a cartoon character with that facial expression.  I had to pause a second before answering and trying to explain that endurance is something gained over months of training, and with two days left there wasn’t too much we could do in THAT aspect.  We could only improve on what we had.  It was as if I had popped a balloon and all the air had gone “pfffffffffffffft.”  I felt badly, because then it seemed that their frustration was towards the kids for not being fast enough.  I tried my best to continually assure them that the swimmers were trying their best, but it’s simply not possible to achieve the times in one week that other swimmers have from training year-round. 

There are a lot of misunderstandings in the Philippines when it comes to health and wellness.  It’s the land of old wives’ tales.  One belief is that drinking cold liquids makes you sick.  Also, if you go outside on a sunny day without an umbrella, you get lice.  And on an unrelated note, if it rains when the sun is out, it means two dwarves just got married.  Yup.  So trying to explain the concept of physical endurance was a little tricky.  I did my best though.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to the meet because it was located in Kalinga, a province which is off-limits for Peace Corps Volunteers.  It’s called a “black zone.”  “White zones” are places we can be assigned to or travel around, according to our safety and security office.  “Gray zones” can be traveled through, en route to a white zone, perhaps via bus, van, or car.  However we are not allowed to stop anywhere in a gray zone.  “Black zones” are completely off-limits though.  Kalinga is one of those places, due to the fact that head hunting still goes on there!  Yep.  Pretty crazy.  So yeah, I’ll steer clear of Kalinga, thank you very much!

Instead, I decided to spend the weekend in San Juan, La Union, to see a surfing competition!  Tough life J  A whole bunch of us volunteers spent the weekend together, which was a lot of fun.  And I continued to learn more about travel throughout the Philippines.  Lesson of that weekend: always give yourself at least two hours of “cushion time” when going far distances.  My bus home to Baguio took an hour longer than expected, and therefore I missed my connecting van to Solano… had to wait two more hours for the next one, and knew I would get back too late to catch the jeeps to Lamut.  THEREFORE, I had to text one of the volunteers that lives right near Solano, and I ended up crashing at her place for the night, and returning home the next morning.  MY GOODNESS!  Oh well~ story of my life here, you live you learn!  Hahaha!  Oy vey.

During the work week I’ve been continuing to plug away at my remedial reading program development.  Hit a bit of a road block two weeks ago, as logistics may end up proving difficult.  Once the time comes, I’ll be sure to update you all about how we set it up and whatnot.  But the details will bore you, so I’ll spare you for now.  Also I announced to the students that we will be participating in the International Creative Writing Contest.  It began nine years ago with a PCV in some other country, and now it is worldwide at a lot of PCVs’ schools.  The contest is based on the student’s creativity, and not on spelling or grammar.  When I told the classes this, I received a lot of “yesssssssss”es!  That’ll take place next week, and I’m super excited about it.

I’m also going to have my school participate in the One World Classrooms art exchange.  You submit 25 pieces of artwork to this organization, and in return you receive 25 from around the world to display at your school!  I’m excited to get other students involved, as I’m sure plenty of them have no interest in doing the ICWC.  In addition to those programs, I’m creating a blog which will allow students at my school to correspond with students at Marshfield High in Massachusetts.  They’ll submit their letters to me, I’ll put them online and will do the same with those from MHS.  I decided to get the ball rolling on these three projects the day I had my frustrating issue with my reading program.  Since I can’t get the support I need right now on my reading program, I’ll take the bull by the horns and take the initiative to get the students involved on an international/extracurricular level.  I know eventually people will come around with the reading thing, but I don’t feel like waiting around, idle.  This stuff will be really fun and inspiring to a lot of the students and (hopefully) teachers.

I have first period free at school, so I’ve just been typing this blog up.  One of the teacher’s sons just returned from working in Miami yesterday, and brought some treats as souvenirs.  He came up to my desk and said, “I believe this is from your country?” and handed me a mini Snickers.  It was like Christmas all over again.  My face lit up and I tried my best not to flip out and tear the wrapper open.  Snickers here are both extremely difficult to find (you have to travel to faraway big cities) and then they’re super expensive, to boot!  For example, a candy bar here is typically 6-12 pesos, whereas a regular sized Snickers is 43-50 pesos.  Ahhh!  Hence I never have them, and they are my favorite candy bar in the whole world.  So that was pretty awesome.

This week I’ll continue painting, and then this weekend I’ll head southwest to Baguio for the flower festival!  Several friends and I will be camping in Burnham Park there, tent and all, and I’m super excited.  It’s a major celebration, and I’ve only heard great things about it.  My goodness, how did this blog become so long?  It’s time for me to head off to class.  Hope all is well in the land where Snickers exist in abundance!


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