Friday, June 1, 2012

“Back to school, back to school…”

“Hope I don’t look like a fool…”  Name that movie.  As I sit here in my apartment, it’s a balmy 74 degrees (Thank you Mom, for the thermometer!)  The past two weeks have felt much cooler than before.  It could be that the worst has passed or it could be that I’m getting used to it.  I doubt the latter.  My northeast US upbringing has certainly not conditioned my blood for these temps.  So I’m a horrible blogger.  I feel bad that I haven’t updated y’all in over two months.  I’d like to say that it’s because my summer has been insanely busy (and it has), but there have been a few slow days.  However, a whole bunch of those slow days have consisted of me, lying on my concrete floor because it’s too hot to move or think.  (Unfortunately even the concrete’s hot, but anyways…)  Nonetheless, here I am now.  So let’s see, where did I leave off?

Well the school year wrapped up in the end of March.  I got to make quick trip down to La Trinidad to see my first host brother graduate high school, which was pretty great.  It was the same school we trained at, so it was a bit nostalgic going back.  The first week of April was Holy Week, so my friends and I took a trip to Marinduque, an island south of Luzon, for the Moriones Fiesta.  Moriones (today) are these men who dress up in elaborate costumes with masks, like warriors almost.  It’s a pretty big tradition there, and it was really fun to experience.  Yet another unique cultural experience of the Philippines.  One thing that I really appreciate about this country is that it can be super diverse with its traditions and ways of life from one place to the next.  Not at first glance, but once you get in deeper, it’s there for sure.  So I find myself always pleasantly surprised, traveling from one place to another.

The following weekend, several volunteers and myself took an overnight hike up Mt. Pulog (poo-log… try not to laugh) in Benguet.  It is the 2nd highest mountain in the country, following Mt. Apo in Mindanao.  However, due to security reasons, we PCVs aren’t allowed to go to Mindanao, so this was a perfectly good alternative.  And man, I am so glad I went!  We began our hike late at night and reached the summit at 4am.  I’ve never seen so many stars, or stars so bright in my entire life.  I need to go back again.  Take another route.  We got to see the sunrise above the clouds, take some amazing pictures, and then hike down seeing everything for the first time.  Pretty amazing, and I’m super excited to go back at some point.

Right after that, we had a week of Language Camp in La Trinidad.  Great to see other volunteers again, and really great to work on my Ilokano more.  We were all able to clear up questions about language we do and don’t hear at site, practice with our original language tutors, and with each other.  It was definitely beneficial.  I just wish we could do it every six months.  Anyways after that week it was sooo nice to return home for a few weeks.  I facilitated at a youth camp nearby for a day, judged a beauty pageant, and gave a mini-presentation regarding my freshman orientation to the Dep Ed division office.  It was pretty exciting, and the first time I had ever done anything like that!  Very cool.

The beginning of May, I took a trip down to Manila for some MAJOR research.  The Peace Corps office has a library with books on all sorts of things, so I was able to work on my remedial reading program, my English club, freshman orientation, grant proposals, etc etc.  Plus… free printing!  AND the fastest internet since I’ve stepped on American soil.  I’d click the mouse and suddenly be at the next webpage.  I forgot what it was like.  So it was sooo incredibly productive; I left feeling fantastic. 

The FOLLOWING week (sheesh!) my friend and I held a teacher training in Lagawe, Ifugao, at the office of another PCV who lives there.  Based on classroom management and (for lack of a better term) child management.  That sounds bad, but my melting brain can’t think of a more eloquent way to put it.  Anyways it went so well and was such a success, that they asked if we’d do the training again at another of their sites!  Also if we’d partner with them in the future, as well!  Yeah yeah! 

Next up was an HIV/AIDS Workshop down in Baguio, so another lovely excursion to pleasant weather for a week.  Thank goodness.  It was amazing.  The training was really awesome, too.  Its focus was on how to create and facilitate HIV/AIDS awareness programs.  It’s a huge problem in the Philippines.  This is one of only five countries in the world that still has an infection rate growth of over 25% per year.  The statistics are crazy scary, and public knowledge of the disease itself is very poor.  So I’m hoping to begin some work at my site with local projects, working with the health department and nearby universities to get something going.  Peace Corps has allotted each of the workshop participants with funds to do such activities, so as long as I can organize such things and write up grants (which, please, let’s be real), the money is right there.  So it’s very promising.

Then, da da da daaaaaa!  It was time for the grand finale of my summer, my freshman orientation!  Monday we had a training for the upperclassmen facilitators, and Tuesday to Wednesday was the program itself!  It was such a hit; my PCV friend was my partner in crime on this one.  She did a ton of the organizing and development of it all as well, and we worked really well together.  There were 55 students that attended, and (almost) everything went smoothly!  We have a lot of notes and good feedback from student surveys and a debriefing with the facilitators, so next year’s will be even better!  Our goal is to bring it to her site, too, and possibly expand this one in my town, Lamut.  But we shall see.  That’s for another time.  Lots to look forward to now, for sure!

Maybe my lack of updates has been somewhat due to the fact that this is all my reality now, and a lot of it doesn’t seem so new and exciting as it did before.  Yesterday I was spit on by the jeepney driver sitting in front of me, when his loogey came back through the window after it was projected from his moma-chewing mouth.  (Google moma, aka betelnut.  Not while you’re eating, though)  Yup.  Inspired me to splurge on some Pringles.  I hardly ever buy American brand merchandise or food, because it is grossly overpriced and I can’t afford it.  But I figured after being spit on I deserved a little bit of a pick-me-up. 

I STILL haven’t finished painting my apartment, and it’s driving me nuts.  It has just been so incredibly hot.  It might only be 74 now, but it has to be 100% humidity, because it feels like 90+ ALL.THE.TIME.  So I feel uber lazy for not having finished it yet, but there’s no motivation to be so uncomfortably hot.  Mehhh.  Oh well.  Rainy season is on its way—it rains most evenings/nights here now, so it’ll start cooling off a bit, I hope.  It’s going to look really awesome.  I just gotta get on it.

Anyhow, that’s it for today, I think.  Two more days of summer, time to get everything together for the new year!  Hope all’s well back home!  I’ll do my best to not be such a stranger!


At June 3, 2012 at 8:34 PM , Anonymous lisa keys said...

Hi Becky
I am writing with some happy news. First, let me say it was great catching up on all your doing. My head is spinning with all your travels and projects. You sound so well and happy in spite of the terrible heat and humidity.

Uncle Bill and I got news from Caitlin last night that she is engaged. Her boyfriend, Sam, is a one-in-a-million kind of guy so we are so very pleased. I think you will be home in time for the wedding!

xoxoAunt Lisa


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