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Monday, November 12, 2012

Moving On

Just like the United States President Obama's campaign slogan; I have to move forward with the news I've been given by Peace Corps.  To most of the readers of this blog, you already know where I am at and it's not in the Philippines.

INBOX 
RE: October
On October 11, I suffered a seizure at my site Kalakake National High School (KNHS).  Two days later (Saturday), I was cleared to leave the hospital, but was told by the Peace Corps Doctor that I had to stay in Manila till the following Monday (Oct. 15), so they can consult with the Peace Corps main headquarters in Washington, DC.  As soon as I heard this, I started to worry about what they would say.  When I arrived back at the hotel, I took a walk along Manila Bay.  I recalled some memories of my stay in the Philippines.  Memories that occurred were trying to hand wash my clothes in the basement of my host family's house with a sling on my arm in Dinalupihan, Bataan during training to helping the girls & boys scouts do a cleanup along subic bay to teaching students about certain historical events such as September 11, 2001.
















As I write this, I realize there's been so much I haven't written that when I finally sit down in front of a computer to type an update for a blog, my memory can't keep up with what has happened.  The next morning (Sunday), I do remember eating a good breakfast at the Pancake House near the hotel, then took another walk along Manila Bay, but then realized I have to check out the Pasay Public Market, which I'd never took a visit to during my stay in the Philippines.  I bought a battery charger for my phone, a tank top, and some underwear.  I had worn the same pair for three days.  That's the Peace Corps budget for you.

The next morning I arrived at the PC Office early as I didn't sleep very well the night before even though I felt confident that I would be heading back to my site just like any other visit from Manila.  As I walked closer & closer to the office, my hands & feet were sweating waiting in anticipation.  In fact, they're both sweating now as I recall this.  I head to the PC nurse's office & she gets the PC Doctor to come in the office too.  Then, they both tell me that I would be (Medsep) medically separated from Peace Corps service due to my multiple seizures in the Philippines.

One of the PCVs I trained with before we became a PCV
Hearing the news was a shock & tough to handle even three weeks after landing in the U.S.  Furthermore, I couldn't travel back to my site to say goodbye or even go to my apartment to gather my things.  A PC Driver had to go pack my belongings from my apartment.  I had to say goodbye to my fellow teachers via skype, talk about fighting back tears, that was tough.  On top of that, I had to summarize my service in two pages for my Description of Service.  This is my first time to reflect on the hours leading up to hearing that decision.

After coming to realization that my time was ending in the Philippines, I made the most of it and sent a ton of texts out to friends saying goodbye.  There were many Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) from another batch leaving for the U.S. or other destinations that finished their two years of service.  I was lucky that some PCVs from my batch were heading to Manila for a meeting & were staying in Manila on my last night.  We went to a Cuban restaurant in the Greenbelt part of Manila called Cafe Havana.  I remember eating there during language camp with many PCVs and our Country Director.  Last time we ate inside, this time we ate outside & what a difference that was.  Not so much in the food, but in the surroundings.  It was a funny, but an awkward experience seeing old U.S. & foreign expats hitting on young Filipinas or most likely paying them to sit next to them.  Our table was the only one that didn't have an escort sitting at it.  It was awkward because I recommended the place, but I kept repeating throughout the night that we sat indoors last time.  Had I noticed earlier, I would've moved us inside.  It wasn't until a friend of a PCV who lives in Manila pointed out that this place was a hook up spot for rich foreigners.  We had already ordered our food & inside was filled up already.  Nonetheless, the food was excellent, I had a steak, and a desert in the shape of a cigar with chocolate inside.  Afterwards, we all walked around & took last photos.  I set my alarm for 3am, but then a hotel worker came into the dorm room & said my ride was here.  I looked at my watch and it was 4:10am, I was supposed to leave the hotel at 4am.  I just barely caught the plane.

The flight home was around 20-21 hours.  I'll admit feeling the cold air in Detroit when boarding the plane to Chicago felt great; I'm glad I wore my fleece because that air was brisk.  Arriving in Chicago and seeing my Dad for the first time in months, priceless.  We ate Mexican food an hour & a half later.  I think I ate that meal in about a minute.

NOW

Since then, I've been able to see family & friends that I haven't seen in quite awhile and I've even made new friends in the Epilepsy community in Chicago. I couldn't believe how much weight I lost, which was around 15 lbs.  I'm slowly gaining that back due to a new bakery shop in my neighborhood; it's very masarap (delicious in tagalog).

The toughest thing has been updating my resume.  The first resume & cover letter I sent out to a company was too rushed, but I'm getting the hang of it, but I'm going to have a lot of practice in the next few weeks.

NEXT

A few weeks ago I submitted a revision of my grant for the Kalalake National High School (KNHS) Reading for Life Center.  This week I'll find out if my old site receives the funding or not.  Also, I'm going to try to start an Epilepsy support group in the suburbs where I live.  There are many in the city of Chicago, but none further south, so we'll see where that leads, it may take awhile, but I'm hopeful that I'll get some visitors to the group.  Take care & safe travels.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2nd Year of Service Underway

NOW
Today is Teachers's Day at Kalalake National High School (KNHS) where the students danced & sang songs for the teachers for half the day and all the teachers ate Pancit, chicken, kanin & saging for lunch.  Now, I just finished invite letters for the HIV/AIDS workshop next week.  No pics on today's event, I'll put that on my facebook page.  Here's a link to my friend's blog, her last post was hilarious and I thought it might make you laugh too.   http://brynacaroline.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/my-face-when/

Past
I haven't written extensively in a while & I thought this would be a good time to catch up on what I've been up to.  On August 18, I took a few of my students on a bike tour of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and we saw the Lighthouse.  After that, we rode our bikes two hours west to Ocean Adventure.  It  was a tough ride for the students & the one staff member who also rode with us.  At times, we had to push our bikes up the steep hill, but they were able to do it.  One student said he didn't believe he had it in him to ride that far, but he did just fine.  That comment made my day.  Teaching has been a great experience, but taking the students on the bike ride & showing them places they had not been before was amazing & something I plan to do more of.
I know they should be wearing helmets, but the helmets here are just too expensive  for them

We saw many Bats & Monkeys, this was one of the monkeys.
All of us near the Beach with Subic Bay as our background.


During the flood, I lost a few important items.  One being my external hardrive (backup) and the other being my passport.  Recently, I made a visit to the U.S. Embassy to request a Peace Corps issued passport.  Visiting the Embassy is similar to paying a visit to the DMV to get your drivers license, it's not a fun experience and it's a long wait, not surprisingly.

Ok, back to fun again.  This past Sunday, I went on a field trip with my school to see four places: Church/museum, Science & Discovery museum, Bread factory & Enchanted Kingdom (mini Great America).
First, some faculty members, students & I took two buses and left at 4:30 am en route to Manila.  Then, we arrived at a Church./Museum & the students were able to witness a mini show of the history of their country through a tour similar to what one may see at an historical museum or an historical reenactment, but instead of actors playing the roles, we all saw statues with voices coming from the speakers telling the story.  It was dark, but the museum does a fascinating job at explaining to students the history of the Philippines, especially Philippines icon Jose Rizal.  Second, we all hoped on the bus & journeyed to the Science & Discovery Museum in the Mall of Asia.  The students enjoyed this too.  The last part of the SDM was a visit inside an astronomy theatre/dome to look at stars & hear other science related information.  This took me back to my junior college days where I had a class for a few hours on a Wednesday night inside a similar dome.  However, inside this dome, they sold popcorn, which was totally cool.  I just munched popcorn off the students.  As a PCV, we gotta save pesos when we can. ha ha.  Don't worry, I just took a few kernels.  After this we chowed down at gas station.  The teachers & myself ate at KFC & the students ate somewhere else, I forgot already.  Then, we headed to a bread factory in Laguna where the students saw the process of how one company makes loafs of bread & ships them everyday to supermarkets across the Philippines.  Finally, we made a visit to Enchanted Kingdom, which is a small Great America, but Enchanting nonetheless.  The first ride I went on was with the students on the swings and that was a lot of fun.  Then I rode with the teachers on the raging raft water ride, which I gladly welcomed the water onto my clothes & face, it was still early & I did eventually dry off.  After this, I went on a few other rides, then I stumbled onto games & played basketball.  I made two shots in a row & I received a stuffed animal, which will be someone else's eventually, for whom, I won't say.  The whole day was a blast, I'll send photos soon.  I forgot my camera that day, but the students & teachers took many photos.

Future
Both tomorrow & Friday, the city will celebrate teachers day & we will meander down to the convention center to sit through the same acts we sat through today with our school, except tomorrow, we will sit beside other schools as well.

Next week, I have an HIV/AIDS workshop that one of my teachers & I will be hosting.  I'll let you know how that goes.  I am really looking forward to mid-service training (MST) to see all my fellow 270 batch mates.  After that it's vacation somewhere, I don't know yet.

Ingat na.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

For My Grandma


I didn’t think I would be writing a remembrance letter about my Grandma just under six months after my Grandfather’s death.  However, with the passing of my Grandmother two weeks ago, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

My Grandmother, Hope L.  Delgado, 85 was suffering badly from Alzheimer’s disease, but I thought I would be able to see her when I return from my service.  As I write this, I’m listening to Spanish music, because that’s what my Grandma played in the house when I was younger, but it’s not helping.
My Grandmother was a ray of light whenever she came into a room.  She always brought energy and love to everyone around her.  Going to Grandma's to stay overnight when I was little always made me excited.  Together with my Grandpa, we would go to the movies, the park, and bring Chicago hot dogs home or pizza from Vito & Nicks.  (I’m getting hungry just writing those items.)  She always shared stories of growing up in Chicago.
 
Chicago
My Grandma loved this City.  She worked at Marshall Fields when it was called that & was proud of it.  Now, it’s called something else, but that’s another story.  She would walk with my Mom & I in the store to look at different shops every holiday season.   Another Chicago story she told was growing up on Taylor Street.  All of her brothers & sisters had a choice of either taking the bus going to the park or walking to the park & taking a bus ride home.  The choice was always simple for them and that was taking a bus to the park, so they can start playing at the park as soon as possible.  Her family might have been tired at the end of the day, but to them it was more time at the park & that was all that mattered.
Similar to my Grandfather, Grandma was a terrific cook.  Her mole & rice were out of this world.  Unlike the hot cakes I found in the Olongapo City market that I found before my Grandfather died, which were one of the items my Grandfather made; I haven’t found anything remotely close to my Grandmother’s cooking in the Philippines.  However, she would encourage me to try some of the new foods here & I have.  Just the other day, I tried Chicken liver; it tastes like chicken, but on a stick.  Not bad for 12 pesos.

I was one blessed Grandson and now one incredibly sad Peace Corps Volunteer.  However, I'll be ok knowing my Grandma is now at Peace and joined with my Grandfather & Mom (their daughter) in spirit.  May she rest in Peace.  If anyone knew my Grandmother, please post your memories below.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flooded Out Temporarily - SAFE NOW

Last Tuesday August 7, 2012 started out like any other day. I worked out, walked to the bakery through puddles (as always) and got my pandasal (bread).  However, the puddles were now spreading into the streets, but just a little and not enough to concern me.  I found out that school was cancelled when my counterpart teacher texted me saying that 'Olongapo is being flooded.'  After reading this, I looked out my door and although it was wet, I didn't think I would be leaving me my place to stay at another friend's anytime soon, but that's exactly what happened.

After buying my pandasal, I cooked my usual oatmeal and then started packing an emergency pack just in case (again, not thinking I would need this).  Once this was done, I started reading, but couldn't concentrate because of the thought of having to leave my place in the case of a flood.  Then, instead of rain, I heard the sound of water/flood moving outside.  I peaked out and it was already at flood level, but not close to my place yet.  I started piling things high quickly moving my clothes to the second shelf.  I should've piled them higher.

After gathering as many things as I could to higher ground, I took a walk around the block IN THE FLOOD.  It was pretty weird neighbors standing outside and kids playing basketball like nothing as if there's no water around.  At 11am, I ate lunch an hour early, just in case power would go out (I was surprised it didn't).  Around noon, my friend who lives up in the hills said I could stay at her place.  Once I made the decision to leave, some locals down the street said the floods were too high in the direction I was heading, but I had no choice if I wanted to avoid sleeping on the roof or second floor of someone's place.  At first, I resisted & stayed back at my place, but figured the floods are just going to get worse.  I might as well get wet now, but sleep in a dry spot later.

I started walking and already the water was up to my thighs, two more blocks and it reached my waist.  I was ok, until I came to the first intersection and the currents were going against me fast, at that moment, it became tough to walk, but I continued on towards the jeepneys.  My worst fear started coming to mind and that was that jeepneys would stop giving rides up the hills.  However, I didn't want to trek back, it was all systems go now - No Turning Back. When crossing an intersection, I had to take baby steps to keep my feet closed to the ground.  If I didn't, I would've gone with the currents.  After walking against the current for nine blocks, I finally made it to the jeepneys.  I got in line to board a jeepney to New Cabalan, where one of my fellow batch mates lives.

The Aftermath
I came back to my place the next day, opened the door and I didn't see any part of the floor, only mud.  When I opened the bathroom, it just looked like a muddy mess.  My friend took a measuring stick & measured 16 & half inches of water came into my place.  After this piece of news, we started cleaning up what we could & then headed up to her place again.  On Thursday, I met with my Regional Manager & he saw my place, he couldn't believe, but there were many others that were worse than I was, in fact my old training spot in Dinalupihan got hit the hardest.  I felt bad for them & realized how luck I was.  After his visit, it was time to withdraw pesos to buy some cleaning supplies from Ace Hardware.  Yes, there is Ace in Olongapo.  I bought a squeegee & that was a great buy because that cleaned up the mud fast.  Then, I washed the floors (They were dirty anyway).  After that, I went back to my friend's place to get my things because I could now  move back into my place.  Plus, it was now time to clean the school the next day and since my new bed is sleeping on my yoga mat now, I needed to get as much sleep as possible.  Some of the classrooms were flooded too, but not as bad as mine or some of the other homes around here.

Items lost
My mattress was toast & I'll have to get a new frame.  My external hardrive went bye bye, but that's it. My computer stayed dry, as well as my food & kitchen appliances.  I will have to go to the dry cleaners this week for few loads, but I'm very lucky, compared to others in Dinalupihan, lower parts of Olongapo & many parts of Manila, where there is still standing water. Ingat na!  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rain outs & Brownouts

This week week we had one day off from school & two half-days off because of the rain.  Yesterday, we had an eleven hour brownout (no power) in Olongapo City.  Today, it seems back to normal, but this is just the early beginning of the rainy season.  Not many updates since last time, but I hope to have students bike ride with me next Saturday to SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority).  We would start at Kalalake National High School and then bike ride to Waterfront Rd, the last street before you hit Subic Bay.  Once we're on there we would bike ride along that road and then stop to take some photos.  That's the hopeful outcome, but the reason we're doing this is to bring kids outside & to let them know they can transport themselves without using a trike or jeepney to do it for them.
With extra time on my hands lately, I guest-blogged on another site "The Gotham Foundry."  My post was about biking in the Philippines.  Check it out at http://blog.bikegotham.com/
Ingat na!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fractured tooth, PCPP Grant, 1 yr anniversary and oh yeah the USNS Mercy & JMSDF come to my site to play hoops with my students

Since my bike accident, I've been busy with many things including taking a visit to the dentist, which discovered I had a fractured back tooth and I need a crown.  The crown will be put on later in the week.  The other events I will discuss, but in this blog I'll go backwards and write about recent events you may have already seen photos on.  If not click http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4191965439711.180109.1301887593&type=1

On Thursday, July 5, nine of my basketball players & one hearing-impaired student (a student of a fellow PCV)  played basketball with 12 U.S. Navy from the USNS Mercy (United States Naval Ship) & 10 JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces) at Pag-Asa court where Kalalake National High School ((KNHS) the school I volunteer at)) hold their basketball practice. In the audience were 60 students along with 40 onlookers witnessing a game where all the players got a chance to play and have a lot of fun.  The day started with a few phone calls from PC staff making sure everything was set and it was.  I commend my school for being on time & Barangay Pag-Asa for letting us use their court for free.  Both being on time & having a covered court for free for two hours is a rarity in the Philippines. Maraming Salamat po. (Thank you very much).
At 9am, our school started walking down to the court and the players arrived there shortly after.  I walked with the students just in case anyone arrived early.  Once everyone was there, we shot around for practice.  Then, 3 vehicles arrived (one being a squad car) and I knew it was them.  After meeting, greeting each other, and everyone trying to get photos with the USNS & JMSDF, we finally started to play.  We played for an hour mixing the teams making sure there was a member of USNS, JMSDF, and at least two of my players playing at the same time.  It was a great mix.  My job was to take photos & I refereed the 1st part of the game.  After playing for an hour, there was a quick game between USNS & JMSDF vs. KNHS.  The players really enjoyed that because that's what they wanted in the first place.  After  a 30 minutes of playing, the USNS handed out girl scout cookies & badminton rackets to the teachers of KNHS for the students.  Simultaneously, the JMSDF leader handed out towels & a pin to the players & KNHS basketball coach Butch Atis.  The pin was a flag symbol of Japan & the Philippines together (equivalent to the pin I received at my Peace Corps swearing in except my pin was of the U.S. flag & Philippines of course).  Many thanks to both the USNS Mercy & JMSDF for coming to our school & playing with the students.  I hope to work with them again.  Again more photos on the link above.






One Year in the Philippines
The night before this event I attended a one year anniversary party of being here in the Philippines with my fellow Batch 270 Zambales sitemates.  It was a lot of fun with great food.  It's something, it was just a year ago I was at IO (Initial Orientation - in case you forgot).  It's been so long since I wrote or said those two letters, but that's exactly where the new batch 271 is at now.  Best of luck to them with their pre-service training trying to earn their "V" status.  I remember how intense IO was followed by center-based training in Bataan, but I also remember how helpful it was too.  My advice to the new batch would be to stay focused, but have a positive outlook on everything; you'll need it.  Staying positive helped me out so many times, I wouldn't be here now in an Internet cafe listening to kids laugh & shoot imaginary characters at a computer screen or hearing a neighbor sing "hey Macarena, AY!" over & over if it wasn't for a positive outlook.  Good luck & see you soon Batch 271.  A lot has happened to me both physically (still happening, read below) and emotionally.  I look forward to the next 15 months as there is still a lot to accomplish.  Again, happy one year anniversary to all my fellow Batchmates of 270.
Batch 270 volunteers in Zambales and all from the Chicagoland area
PCPP
PCPP stands for Peace Corps Partnership Program and it's a form a volunteer fills out with their counterpart to possibly receive a grant for a project at their site.  My school's project name is the "KNHS Reading for Life Center."  We developed a new title at the advice of someone who looked at our grant.  If awarded, this will be to renovate our existing reading center.  The amount our school is asking from the partnership grant is $4,010.58 to cover materials & labor.  My counterpart & I finished the revision of the PCPP proposal on Friday; it took us all afternoon and into the night, but we finally finished it.  The overall project will be $5,365.81.  We have the reading materials to go into the reading center; now we just the space renovated.  I have my fingers crossed.

Fractured tooth
This past week I went to Manila, so the dentist could look at my tooth.  It turns out the bike accident fractured my back tooth, so I have to go back on Wednesday to have a crown put on it.

A look into the future
This week I hope to finally start talks on an HIV/AIDS project with my school.  The sooner the school decides what they want, the sooner I can fill out more grant work for that.  Ok, off to lunch now.  Happy late  fourth of July to everyone in the U.S.A.  Ingat na.

Friday, June 22, 2012

FACEPLANT

I bet you didn't think you'd see a post this soon.  I didn't think I'd be writing this soon, but what happened on Tuesday night deserves a small one.
After my language session I headed back home on my bike.  I thought I could pass a jeepney on the side, however I forgot the curb went down and when I tried to go back on the street, wipeout.  I fell down hard and my chin got cut up pretty bad, but I didn't realize how bad until I got home.  At first, I was concerned about my bike because it couldn't move forward, but then I realized that the front was twisted.  Once I realized it and untwisted, I thought I escaped unscathed, minor cuts-a happy ending.
I was so confident that I took a detour home & got something before I went home.  Once I arrived home and put my bike in my place I noticed a couple of drops of blood from my chin.  This time I checked the mirror and noticed a small mouth on my chin.  Yes, you read that right, a small mouth.  It was a bigger cut than I thought, this little mouth looked like it could talk, but I wasn't gonna stick around to try to witness it, it was saying enough with blood coming out of it.  Now, I walked fast to the jeepney to go to the ER in Olongapo City.  I needed stitches.  Once arrived, they confirmed my thoughts & stitched the small mouth closed with three stitches.  I was out in an hour and next Tuesday they will remove the stitches, hopefully.
Sometimes, when you least expect it, you'll get injured once, twice, or more if you're me.  Until next time, happy trails.