Sunday, August 26, 2012

God Bless America

Although this blog is intended to follow my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, I have found that living here has not only taught me about this country, but quite a bit about my "motherland," as well.

My parents recently returned home after a wonderful two-week visit here, which is undoubtedly one of the top highlights of my service so far.  Not only because I had missed my family so much, but just being able to share with them what my life is like here.  It was a really fun adventure-- seeing the Philippines through new eyes.  I forgot what my first jeepney ride was like; when the conductor keeps saying "Maysa laeng!  Maysa lang!" (Just one more!  Just one more!) and shoves additional passengers inside, when you thought it would have been physically impossible to fit another body on that tiny bench.

Or how about the surprise that finding diet soda is nearly impossible outside of big cities?  In a country where obesity is quite rare, there isn't much demand for it.  I forgot about my repugnant reaction to drinking syrup-y regular coke, after being an exclusive diet soda drinker for years.  Now it's my norm-- although ask my Ifugao PCVs, and they'll assure you that our lunches at Mrs. Baker's and McDo always include a good Coke Zero on my part :)

I suppose I just never realized how many little adjustments I've had to make living here.  Things that come second nature, that I don't even think about.  Preferring to drink out of a bag, instead of a bottle while on-the-go (that's classy Philippines for you!), ALWAYS bringing an umbrella with me even if it's a beautiful, sunny day...

I think the thing I gained the most from their visit was seeing my school through those new eyes.  It's really difficult to explain it, but after talking with my parents for hours and hours - GOOD hours and hours :)  - it clarified a lot of the things I've been thinking and feeling about my service here, and the culture surrounding English language learning.  My mom and dad both brought up a lot of valid and interesting points that I hadn't even thought of, and suggestions on how I can cope with the difficulties I have as an English teacher here.  The day my parents left, I spent the day working at the Peace Corps office in Manila, and had two long talks with my Regional Manager and another member of the PC staff, to get their feedback on the insight I had just gained.  It helped a lot, and I left Manila feeling rejuvinated and positive from realizing all of the professional and personal support I have in my life. 

I've done quite a bit of reflection since my parents left, and I've made some decisions on how to better focus my service.  My school had wanted me to work on this construction project, and since I wanted to be cooperative and helpful, I was going along with it.  But it wasn't until just before my parents visit that I realized I couldn't morally support this project (for numerous reasons that I won't get into here).  And after talking it out, I felt more sure of myself and decided that I needed to do what's right.  So when I returned to school this past week, I had a really positive talk with my counterpart about it, and we are going to switch to a library improvement project.  I'm so excited, and feel so proud of myself and happy that I managed not to offend anyone in suggesting this change.

As far as the title of this blog post goes, God bless America.  Another thing that has become SO clear to me during my service here, is that although our country can be kind of screwed up (pardon my lack of a better term- my linguistics can only be so good while sitting in McDonald's, as the satiating aroma of saturated fat wafts by...), we do A LOT of things right.

I think this comment comes at a somewhat significant (yet delayed) time, shortly after the recent movie theater shooting.  Yes, we have crime.  Yes, we have corruption.  Greed.  Gluttony.  Whatever the seven deadly sins are.  But that is everywhere in the world, to some extent.  However, our country is pretty special.  We are efficient.  We make progress.  We are forward-thinking.  We are hard-working.  We are creative.  We embrace our differences.  We value everyones' opinions.  Ahhhh I could go on and on.

I am POSITIVE that there are many of you reading this, thinking, "Oh Becky.  Silly girl.  25 years isn't exactly the age of wisdom.  You've only voted for one president so far in your life.  You don't know what _______, _______, or ________ is like.  But nice attempt at being philosophical."

I am here to say to you, "Thank you for your concern of my naivete."  All I am trying to express here, is that, for the things that I DO know about life, living in the Philippines has amplified my perspective ten times over.  Take the educational system here.  Learning about it, and the culture around education itself.  Then when I compare it to that of the United States, I see each in a much clearer way, perhaps because of the stark contrasts between the two.  For example, if you grew up thinking that Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream was the only flavor (you'd be very lucky), you would understand the ways that the chunks of dark chocolate pair wonderfully with the whole cherries mixed in.  You would know that there's only one way to eat it-- one pint in a sitting.  Preferably while watching reality TV.

But then one day your friend brought over a gallon of Edy's Girl Scout Samoa Cookie ice cream.  A can of whipped cream, a jar of sprinkles and a bottle of chocolate syrup.  (Sorry; fantasizing here)  Something so drastically different, yet it's the same concept.  It's sometimes hard to understand one thing without knowing its complete opposite, or at least something else.  Arggggg I can't explain this!  (In the case of education in the Philippines, ice cream #2 would be store brand coffee- gross.  However I try to stay positive in this blog, so I'll leave my comments at that.)

So I just would like to let you all know, at a mournful time for many Americans, please know that there is hope for us, and know that we ARE very lucky to live where we do.  I can't possibly explain what certain aspects of life are like here, but just please appreciate what we DO have in the States.  It's easy to feel sorry for ourselves; it's really easy for PCVs to feel sorry for OURselves (shout out to y'all!)... I think what I've learned is that I need to continually remind myself of how fortunate I am to have my knowledge, work-ethic and values. 

Just something to think about, my friends.  Anyways it's time for me to get some work done here.  I have an HIV/AIDS workshop this weekend, Sept 1-2.  Super excited for it.  My fellow PCV and I have been planning and organizing it since May, and were given a very large grant from Peace Corps to run the event.  It's going to be really great, and I can't wait!  But for now, adios amigos!  Hope all is well on the other side of the world  :)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home