Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Thank you ma'am! Enjoy your meals!"

This is the first time I’ve been able to take a break at work in… well, since the school year started June 4th, really.  Ay apo!  (roughly translates to “Dios mio!”, “Oh my God!”)  I’ve been super busy with 100 things, and on the weekends I’m so tired that I just lie in my hammock all day long and read or sleep.  Sheesh.
My friend and I are organizing an HIV/AIDS Awareness workshop September 1-2, and have been in the planning phases for the past month or so.  We just finished writing and submitting our grant proposal for funding.  It’s pretty sweet; USAID has partnered with Peace Corps for an HIV/AIDS prevention and education initiative.  For the participants who attended the PC training in May, we can avail of the funds.  And it’s a very generous amount.  So it’s very exciting, and our event is going to be pretty awesome.  We are inviting 100 student leaders from every college in Ifugao (my province) and Nueva Vizcaya (her province).  There will be guest speakers, activities, leadership training, and project planning.  It’s been taking a lot of time, and there is still a ton of work to do, but it’s very much worth it.
                My counterpart and I began our remedial reading program three weeks ago, and everything is going swimmingly!  We have four groups of eight students, and it’s really nice to get to know them a little better in a small group environment.  We have fun.  So far I’ve been working just on paper, but I want to incorporate multimedia as well, to keep things interesting.  Also to address those multiple intelligences (for all you teachers out there…).  If any of you know of good teaching resources via video/music/etc, let me know.  I’d really appreciate it!
                I also just sent off an application for book donations for our library.  99% of our books are textbooks.  There is one shelf of pleasure reading books, maybe 20 or 30 total.  However they are really advanced, like American college-level books, as well as a few Shakespeare, Austen, etc novels with old English/confusing words that I don’t even understand.  C’mon guys.  And then our teachers wonder why students don’t ever read for pleasure.  Well, there’s no town library, and there are maybe two books worth reading and at their reading level, so… Anyways I requested a variety of popular fiction and non-fiction, biographies, and such, plus some National Geographic magazines.  This organization, Books for Peace, seems really great.  A lot of volunteers have had success with asking for donations.  I’m excited.
                In addition to that, my counterpart, supervisor, and I have been working hard on planning our big school project.  It’s construction; I will talk about it later, once we get some details squared away here, but it’s going to require some grant writing as well.  My goal is to have it done by the end of the school year in March.  I am being American realistic.  I haven’t told them that yet.  I’ve learned that people here always want a quick fix… for everything.  Instant gratification.  So it’s kind of my little secret, knowing the reality of this project’s timeline.  The earliest I think it could be completed is late December, but if that happened, I would be flabbergasted.  I’m not being pessimistic, and it doesn’t bother me that this is how they think here; I just listen to them when they talk and nod my head in agreement.  I play along as if I believe the same way.  It’s not worth arguing about it, because we simply have inherited different trains of thought and lived in very different worlds, when it comes to making progress.  Anyhow, we’re waiting on the architect to complete drawings for now, so it’s actually a good thing because I’ve been able to focus my energy on all the other things going on.
                The project coming up soonest is an echo training of our Peace Corps Project Design and Management workshop, which we attended in March.  One of the volunteers here in Ifugao was not able to attend, so my counterpart and I are organizing the event, and another PCV will join us at the event to help facilitate.  I have got to say, I don’t think I’ve collaborated with so many people SO many times as I have in the past year.  It’s pretty great.  We have such a good support system, and it makes such a difference when it comes to being successful in our projects and whatnot.  Two heads, three, four, five, or 20 heads are most certainly better than one.  I’m definitely learning a ton of teamwork skills.  And if I thought I had people skills before… pshhhh. 
                It’s funny; a friend of mine and I were talking recently, and said that next September when we complete our service, we are going to hold a “Graduation” ceremony.  Each volunteer will say what degree they completed service with.  I said that I will have graduated with a Doctorate in Cranial Sedation (aka dealing with difficult people while not letting my head explode) and a double masters in Pageant Studies (with a focus on Judgementalism) and Lizard Linguistics. 
                Finally, a project that I am so incredibly pumped about is the creation of a BOOK!  My friend and I are compiling a ton of resources regarding remedial reading and are going to organize them into a remedial reading manual!  We’re going to write a grant and make it into a legit book, bound and all like you’d find in a library.  We are going to write about how to assess students, begin a remedial reading program, and then different units that can be covered.  We will also include sample readings and guided lesson plans with questions and everything.  It’s going to be BOMB DIGGITY (when was the last time you heard that phrase?)!  We are starting this weekend, when she comes up for my party.
                Yes, party.  I’ve invited some of my batch-mates up to my place to celebrate our ONE YEAR in the Philippines!  We’re also including it as a US Independence Day celebration, so we’re only serving American food.  It’s going to be glorious.  However, we’re incorporating some of the Philippines, by renting a videoke machine again.  Gotta do it.  My apartment is going to be packed!  I’m super excited to see everyone, and to party like it’s 1999!  (Where are all these dated phrases coming from?  I was 12 in 1999.)  Plus, my landlady’s husband is home to visit for a month.  He’s an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), and he’s been away for almost a year.  I’m so happy for her; I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have a family member away for that long.  Although I guess that’s kind of me right now… Hm I never thought of it that way.  It’s definitely hard being away this long, but time moves at a very strange pace here.  Slow but fast at the same time.
                There is an incredibly large population of overseas workers in the Philippines.  There is at least one student in all of my classes with an OFW parent, sometimes with two.  It is seen as a very noble thing, to leave home and make money to send home to your family.  However there are so many children that grow up without one parent or the other.  But sometimes the jobs simply aren’t here.  So families often can’t find a job that will be able to support their family here in the Philippines.  It seems really sad to me, but perhaps it is just such a reality and such a common practice here, that people don’t see it as a big deal.  I don’t know; it’s certainly a very different dynamic than what we know in the US.  American parents go overseas for a business trip, and if they take a job overseas it usually means they’re taking their family with them.  Many of their companies will pay to move the family over.  But it’s not like that with OFWs.  I guess that’s why there is a Western Union on every corner in this country, like Dunkin Donuts in Massachusetts.  People are constantly wiring money around the world.
                Okay I’m exhausted.  Just got amazing news that my parents have FINALLY booked their tickets to come and visit!!!!  Yayyyyyy!  Anyways, here’s the funny anecdote of the day:
                There’s a very friendly man who is the bagger at this small grocery store near me.  Every time I leave, he recites his token farewell.  Today I went there to get toilet paper for the party (if you knew this group of friends, you’d agree we’ll need a few rolls).  I shamefully purchased the toilet paper (how embarrassing is it when that’s ALL you’re buying?), and strolled out.  He called out to me with what he says everytime: “Thank you ma’am!  Enjoy your meals!”


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