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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, a Look Back & Happy New Year

Hello,
It's Christmas Eve where I am at in Olongapo City and I am back to typing my posts at an internet cafe at least til school vacation is up,then it will be back at school since I am blessed that our school has wifi there where I can communicate with everybody.  My next post, I'll have photos of tonight's gathering of some Peace Corps Volunteers at a restaurant for Christmas Eve pizza. Yum!!  Tomorrow, I will be back at my host family's house where I stayed with for the past three months for Christmas. 

With moving in last Friday & this week, it's been hard to make time to write.  My one uneven table has too many things on it, I can barely get my laptop on there. Today's post will be one that I wrote in my journal in Dinalupihan (the spot I'll be headed to for New Year's Eve) on September 9, just before Swearing In as Peace Corps Volunteer.  I mention September 9 because that was the same date one of my Aunts' was writing to me as it had that day on the sheet of paper on top when I read it.  Pretty cool, huh.  We were were both writing at the same moment sort of.  For some reason, I was too late to translate this from paper to the computer, that's why it never printed.  However, I still love to journal when I can and I will continue to do that.  If you don't hear back from me before New Year's, Happy New Year!  Ingat na.


Reminiscing on the porch 9-9-11, 4:15 pm
I am sipping on Tsaa (tea) thinking about my times in Dinalupihan.  It’s pouring hard, but not hard where it doesn’t stop my pen from moving because I am on the porch and the roof is my umbrella stopping the rain.  The only reason I haven’t been out here as much is because of the mosquitoes.  They’re the ones that drive me into my room.   

I look up and see a lady walking under an umbrella.  Umbrellas are popular here regardless of the weather.  Whether it’s sunny or not, they always have shade.  I am starting to feel a drop, but nothing to keep me from moving.  I think about my times walking on the tulay (bridge) and seeing people see me & wave; I would wave & say a greeting such as Magadang umaga (good morning) or Magadang Hapon (good afternoon).   I’ll walk for a little bit tomorrow, but not on the trail unfortunately since I already packed up.  I’ll probably just walk around the Barangay.  Also, I can’t take a shower because I already packed my towel and I don’t want to pack a wet towel that will make my clothes stink.
 
I do remember arriving here in a sling and trying to wash clothes with that thing on.  I am glad & grateful my host mom Ate Loida helped me by washing my clothes.  It also helped that I wasn’t doing a good job & not doing it fast enough.  My ate said in Tagalog that the clothes were still marumi (dirty). 
 
Another reason I am writing now is because I am in my favorite spot in a rare moment where no one is home except Aldwin because he is sick.  It feels nice and quiet.  As I write I hear roosters, birds, thunder, with rain and a radio playing 80s music, along with sounds of the main street in the background (trikes, cars, and buses.)

I hope it stops before tomorrow’s Handog.  A Handog is a ceremony to honor the families for hosting the volunteers.  I wish they would just call it a fiesta so the families don’t feel obligated to stay that long.  I’ve been to two fiestas with my host family and the maximum they stayed at each was two hours, maybe.  Peace Corps wants us to stretch this to six from 8am-2pm.  My hope is that families come at different times and that the rain stops.

Another thing I will miss about my Barangay is the quaintness of this place.  In some ways this reminds me of Frankfort Square when I was growing up in the 80’s, kids playing in the street, neighbors talking to one another and local business (here it’s Sorry Sorry Stands) doing business as usual.  I hope it stays this way for a long time.  There some trouble spots, but for the most part, it’s safe.  Of course, I wouldn’t be here if things weren’t safe or there was a need for my services.  The Philippines used to import items they used to make, sound familiar?  That’s why education is so important here.

It’s 5:24 pm and normally that means nap time, but I am still alone and feel I have to take this opportunity and write until someone gets home.  Right now the neighbor’s radio blasted “Love Hurts” and that’s funny because that’s what if feels like for me now.  I am all packed up and ready to go, but it took me a couple of hours to get everything.  I’ll miss most of all the closeness of everything where it’s all just a walk or jeepney ride away.  The other day I lost my family’s umbrella and I took a jeepney ride  back to the palengke (market) and I was able to find it.  I’d rather pay 20 pesos (round trip ticket) than 100 pesos for a new one any day.  I’ll miss my cluster and my teachers.  Eva is the best LCF (language coordinating facilitator.  She takes initiative when there needs initiative.  For example, she was the first LCF to take us the palengke and she called PC to get us rain boots, which you need out here.  Sam is my TCF Technical coordinating facilitator and he gives me great tips on how to improve.  I would take his advice on anything.  My cluster mates are awesome as well; Katelin, Kevin, Phyllis and Julie.  Together, I believe we were the best education cluster in Bataan with the arguments I hear about in the other groups.  Our cluster gets along with each other.

It’s getting dark and I don’t feel like getting the light.  Even with all those misses, I still look forward to my new residence and adventures in New Kalalake, Olongapo City, Zambales at Kalalake National High School.  Ingat na (take care) 5:56pm, 9-9-11
Aldwin takes a picture of me that day writing in my journal.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hikes, Running & Moving Out

Although, I am moving out this coming Saturday, I will be coming to my host family’s house for Christmas.  I thought of traveling to Sagada, but I like the idea of staying with a family & seeing them open gifts.  I have the next 22 & half months to visit Sagada & the Rice Terraces.

Teaching Poetry
I’ve never taught Poetry before, but some of the poems I’ve read by my 2nd year students about the environment has inspired me to do something with them about environment.  The smoke from the buses, trikes, other vehicles makes the city feel like we have a coal plant here in Olongapo, which might happen too.  To be continued about the Coal plant.  But back to the students, I would like to take them to my friend’s site in Subic to learn about how to keep an area clean and my friend would bring some of the students from his community to my school.  Going to Bob's site would be an environmental camp, but it’s just in the preliminary stage now. However, I think the students would enjoy this immensely.  I’ll keep you posted on the status of this.

Hiking
As mentioned before, I journeyed to my friend Bob’s site in Subic (which requires a half hour jeepney ride) and hiked up a mountain. Below are some of the photos from that day. His site is on farmland and reminded me of my training site in Dinalupihan, which I’ll be visiting again during New Years.
This is takbot. He came up with us on the hike too. Takbot is a strong little pup with an unfortunate abusive owner, but he likes Bob & I. Going up the hill, Takbot was even making steps with his feet to make it easier for us to climb.
 Bob, Albert and another member in Bob's community and I am in the middle.

This is the view from on top.  Don't worry, I haven't grown a blue tooth, that's just the camera.



Game 3 gone & forgotten
We lost game 3 by 20. Ouch!!  I bought the players some munchkins from Dunkin Doughnuts for their effort.  However, I should’ve waited, there’s another game for 3rd place going to happen soon.  The game was supposed to take place on Friday, but was postponed due to rain.  I don’t know when this will take place now.  

Red Cross 5K Run

Last Sunday I ran in a 5k run for the Red Cross and it was fun course, but like everything around here it started late, two hours late.  Luckily, we still got started at 7am and I was home by 7:30 in time for breakfast.  Below are pics from the run.
 To the left are two guys I don't know. The girl in front is Chelsey, who is now 12.  That day was her birthday.  In back is her Uncle and Barangay Kapitan Randy Sionzon with his son on the far right.


In the photos above are my students.  The first photo on your left is Abigail & Patricia from my I-5 class.  The photo to the right is Symon & Joseph from my I-6 class. 

The fellow standing next to me is Olongapo City Mayor James 'Bong' Gordon.  This Tuesday I will finally get to sit down with him along with three other PCVs to talk about our assignment here for the next 22 months.  This photo was after the race.


Moving Out
As I mentioned above, this is my last week with my host family.  I’ll miss them, but it will be nice to be on my own.  Everyday when I come home from school regardless of the time, I hear the song, "Teach me how to Dougie."  If you don't know the song, consider youself lucky.  On Saturday, I move in to my apartment just several blocks from here.  I’ll be riding my bike every day to school. 

Lunar Eclipse
Did anyone see it last night?  I did for a little bit, but it was very cloudy where I am at, so I didn't have the best view.   At times it looked like a glow n the dark ball, and that was a great sight.  Let me know in the comments section what it looked like in your part of the world.  Until next post, ingat na. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, a Spelling Bee and a New Bike

First, to all my family and friends in the United States and elsewhere in the world, Happy Thanksgiving.

I am Thankful this year for being placed close to volunteers I can work with and I am in a peaceful environment.  I also give thanks to those back home who had second thoughts of me coming here, but trusted my instincts and eventually supported my decision.  Finally, I am thankful for coming from a country (U.S.) that allows me to do this.  Not every country has a program where citizens can serve their country on foreign soil and see different parts of the world.   Furthermore, I am thankful to the Peace Corps for choosing me along with 54 other volunteers in my batch to represent the U.S. in this beautiful country.

Ok, let's eat.  Pictured below was some of the helping I had.  The Lola (Grandma) in my family had her birthday and cooked a feast.  Speghetti, Beef, Shanghei rolls, Chicken Gordon Bleu, cole slaw & fruit salad.





This is Rianne, she lives next door and is the daughter of Barangay Kaptain (they don't use the letter c in the Philippines-the letter isn't even in the Philippine dictionary except for English dictionaries.) 
She is two and saluting.  I thought this was cute and had to take a shot. 



Before my Thanksgiving meal, my fellow volunteers and I hung out at Starbucks for a Frapaccino or whatever they call their cold drinks.  From left to right; Steve Sierra (myself), Kevin Matlock II, Rachel Kooy (Kevin's wife), and Lucy Craft.









The Spelling Bee
Yesterday, one of the students I coached this week participated in a spelling bee, which represented the school I am volunteering at, Kalalake National High School.  Moments before the spelling bee I was nervous.  My hands were sweaty and I had a look and feel of frantic as if I was going on stage for the spelling bee.  Luckily, the student I'm coaching didn't feel that way or at least didn't show it.  Now, I know how a coach or parent feels right before a performance.  Part of you is on stage in the body of a much younger person.  For me that person was Carlei Gomez.  Age 12.

I am proud of her, she gave the best she could.  It takes a lot to be the sole representative of your class representing the school.












Last week, I bought a new mountain bike for about 1/3 the cost it would be in the United States.
She rides great.  Tomorrow morning, I'll take her up the hills and see how she rides long distance. 

Next week is game 3 of our basketball series with Columban College High School.  Last week we played two games against them.  We lost the first one, but won the next day.  We had to play with one less player because he was 18 and this league is for 17 & younger.  The winner of next week advances to play another school in the best of 3.  The other goes home.  Next post you'll find out the result.  Ingat na!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Made a visit to the dead then traveled to Manila

In the last blog I told you about why November 1st is so special here in the Philippines.  Below are some photos from that day.  The line going to the cemetery is at least two miles long.  It was a long hike up the stairs, but when we arrived we had a great time.

Ok, it's taking forever to upload so just go to my facebook page to see the photos.  A few days later I made a bus trip to Manila for the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary at the Mall of Asia.  First, I made a visit to the office thinking I could see my regional manager for a few things, but that wasn't going to happen since everyone that was participating in the event was meeting there.  After my brief office visit, I took the LRT & MRT trains to get to meeting I had in Quezon City.  The LRT & MRT are equivalent to the Red, Blue, Orange & Green line trains in downtown Chicago and run about the same speed as those trains as well.  The meeting was about a possible partnership with a school I went to in the U.S., Dale Carnegie Training.  I want to do a leadership program with the students, but this could get expensive for the school if they go with this company, so I will improvise and make my own program.  To be continued on this one..  Anyone with any ideas for this or programs on this, please pass them onto me.

For dinner, I ate at a Mexican restaurant with some friends called Chiwawas.  I liked the the place because it's the one type of food that I've missed the most and I saved some of the food for breakfast the next day. 

On Friday, November 4, was the event at the Mall of Asia and it was great seeing friends that I trained with back together only for a short time, but a great time.  The Mall of Asia is huge, too huge in fact to see the whole thing in one visit.  After seeing everyone, I had to go back to Olongapo City that night because the US Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams along with the Philippine Country Director Denny Robertson were making a visit to my city the next day.  I've met the Philippine Country Director plenty of times, but this was my first time meeting the US Peace Corps Director, director of Peace Corps in all countries we serve.  He is a very nice man and served as Peace Corps Volunteer himself. 

On Tuesday, it was back to school and again I taught solo again.  I think I'll be teaching a lot by myself so I wasn't surprised.  Just like the first time, the first year students were rough and 2nd year students-not as rough.  Every job as it's growing pains.

Yesterday for the first time, I coached solo and our team won 73-53.  The players were leaders themselves by calling out plays in tagalog.  They made me look like a king.  All I did was bring the water for them to drink during the game.  We're 6-0 now.

Watching Manny win & Apartment hunting
My family bought the pay per view we saw Manny Pacquio vs Juan Manuel Marquez.  I saw the bout as a draw.  I think each fighter had six rounds.  At best was Pacquio by two, but I would've called this a draw.  After the fight I walked down several blocks in my neighborhood for an apartment when I move out next month.  I found a few good ones, but I am still looking around.  Until the next post, ingat na.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to everyone reading this.  I don't have a costume this year, but many of the kids I live with are wearing those masks from the Scream movies that came out 10 years ago. 

If you read my last blog, you probably saw some big grammatical errors and I apologize for those.  I thank some avid readers of this blog for pointing the mistake.  I have since made the correction.  Also, please let me know of an error you see on this blog and future blogs.  I do type fast when I write these. 

Yesterday, the family I stay with went on a small road trip to Pampanga and we drove through Dinalupihan, my training site for two and a half months.  It was nice to see the old neighborhood again even if we just drove by.  When we arrived, I saw a small farm with roosters and plenty of pigs (bamboy in Tagalog), it was great.  I didn't realize how much I missed the farm life of waking up to roosters and other animal noises.  Here in the OC (Olongapo City), I still here roosters, but not as often as I did in Dinalupihan.  Anyway, this was a place I wish I had my camera, I got my photo taken with plenty of animals & friends.  Luckily, one of my neighbors took my photo with her camera and I'll get to show you those in a future blog. 

As I wrote in some letters to family members last week, last Monday I taught solo for the first time.  It was a crazy experience.  When the kids my first classes found out that their main teacher wasn't going to be there, the went wild.  My afternoon classes were more forgiving.  It's nice to be on break now.  Every year the school gets Halloween off, but they also get November 1st & 2nd off as well.  November 1st is "All Souls Day."  All the families around here go to the cemetery to have a picnic and honor those family members who have passed.  I guess the next day is recovery from that picnic.  I will go to the cemetery with the family I am staying with here in Barangay New Kalalake, Olongapo City.

Basketball
My basketball team is 3-0.  Our last game was an exciting one.  They were down by 9 in the 4th Qtr and came back to force overtime.  They overtook the opponent in overtime, but almost blew by fouling them and bringing them to the foul line with a few seconds left.  Luckily, they missed the second free throw.  We were off last week, but are back on the court this Saturday.

Shoulder update
Drum roll please.  As of the last week in October, I am officially done with physical therapy.  Don't worry, I still work my shoulder with the stretch band, but it's nice to have 180 degree range with my shoulder.

Ingat na

Steve

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moving One Day at a Time

These past three weeks have gone by pretty fast even though I haven’t done much except try to rewrite the schedule to no avail.  My second week here, there was a terrible rain storm that flooded the streets and closed the schools for four days and during that week I rewrote the school schedule, which would be different than their current schedule because it would allow students to get out early around 4 pm instead of 4:30 pm or 4:40 pm.  What I did was take out their breaks.  They have two 15 minute breaks (one in the morning and another in the afternoon).  However, this idea is almost shot down by the feedback I got from the teacher survey I passed around last week (my third week). 

The reason for no breaks was to reduce noise from the breaks and have students more in class.  When I was in school between ages 12-16, I never had recess.  However, I did have an hour of Physical Education and that’s what this group needs.  But how do you provide regular physical education when you don’t have adequate space and you have to share the basketball court with the community and another school next door.  For example, the girls only had 20 minutes to practice for their basketball games on Friday, (which they placed third) before they had to give up the court to the community who were just using it for money games (gambling during school hours.)

Teacher’s day and the start of practice for our sports festival took over the third week and the sports festival took over this week as well as I only taught one lesson, but it was very successful and the students enjoyed it.  The lesson was called Human Scrabble where students got into two groups where each student had a letter of the alphabet.  The idea is for the students to come up with multiple words with the letters they have.  One team came up with eleven and the other team had seven.  The best way is for the students to get on the floor and to make words that way or use the chalkboard.  However, I’ve seen better success on the floor.  

Back to the third week, I observed the first day and then the next two days were taken over by Teachers day.  Teachers’ day is big here.  Each female teacher received multiple flowers/roses from students and everyone got out a half day early.  The next day was the same thing all over again, but without the students and in an arena where the teachers were the entertainers singing and dancing all day.  The day after that was back to school, but only half the students were in class; the other half were outside practicing (ahmm, just playing outside) for the sports fest the next week.  The same thing happened this week.  The actual sports fest is only two days, but the school allows them to practice during class for the event.  No wonder these kids can’t read.  They have this ruckus in the background and can’t concentrate.

On Wednesday our team had a practice game against St Joseph, which my team lost to.  We're lucky we didn't play them for real; that team was really good.  The opposing team’s coach said something great to me before the game and said that was that the school I am at is lucky to have me.  I said thank you very much in the local language.  That was great to hear.  I know my school feels the same. 

Yesterday, we played for real and won by 15 against another team.  I am ending this blog early because I just got the notice my computer is running out of battery now.  I'll write again whenever I can.  On Monday I start teaching for real, wish me luck.  Ingat na. (Take Care.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First week at Site and I am coaching basketball

This was my first week at site and it I knew this school needed work, but man this school needs a noise barrier.  Imagine your windows down in Chicago or New York or whereever you are where there is traffic.  It gets pretty noisy.  These kids double that.  In the morning unfortunately, real traffic from the tricycles & jeepneys riding around overtake the noise of the kids, but they settle down after awhile.

However, after lunch they're at it again.  This week and the next two weeks I'll be observing class.  I am observing three teachers and four classes overall during a day.

Besides the noise level, I noitice a lot of things missing.  One lack of reading material.  Both books & magazines.  The books they do have are from the 50s through the 70s.  I am definitely going to ask my local library back home and Peace Corps home office for help with this.  Students don't have access to the computers and the teachers' equipment is outdated & Unsafe.  God forbid a fire were to happen, this place would be toast.  I do have my work cut out for me.

Yesterday afternoon was an interesting time.  I knew I would be asked to help out in their sports department, I just didn't think I would help out in the first week.  Yesterday, they asked me to if I wanted to observe the boys & girls practice.  I said sure.  For the girls, it was actually their formal game.  (One thing I notice in the Philippines is sometimes there's a lot of miscommunication because of the language barrier,) Before the game I going through layup drills with them in my loafers before I asked to go home & change into sneakers.  (I am a 5-10 minute walk from my school. NICE.  Also, I am a 15-20 minute walk from the market.)

Anyway, the girls played their game and won by 20; 26-6.  I don't know if it was the drills or the loafers, but I am glad they won.  Next, it was the boys to take the floor.  Only they weren't playing a game, they were just having unorganized practice.  That's where I came in provided some running drills for them curtosy of my basketball experience.  Then, I ran out of drills & so I told them to just play a scrimmage game.  The actual coach is more of a babysitter so things don't get out of hand and a good translator.  He also made good decisions in the girls' game.  I think we'll be a good team, both boys and girls. 

It's funny, as I write that last sentence, I am looking up downloadable coaching drills.  That's all I have for now.  Till next time, Ingat na. (take care.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Swearing In - I am finally a PCV

Well, it's finally here; I've graduated from intense training to being an official member of the Peace Corps in the 50th year Anniversery.  I couldn't believe it happened so fast.  To actually witness the ceremony, you can view it here http://www.ustream.tv/channel/pcv270sw1  and I promise this is the correct site.  I gave my dad this address except I wrote down an l instead of a 1, looks the same right, but the first letter I copied down was a lower capital L instead of a 1, Ouch!!.  I give thanks to my dad for actually taking time to be up at that time of the hour.  It was 12:45 am where he's at.  A 13 hour difference between Chicago and the Philippines.  Unfortunately, he wasn't able to view it due to my dumb mistake, but hey we all make them. 

To the left is Sam Salter, my TCF (Technical Cross-Cultural Facilitator) and to the right of me is the new Peace Corps Philippines Director Denny Roberston.










All the speeches were great and I even felt a tear coming on as the U.S. official asked us to raise our hands.  Many thimgs went through my mind as I was up there.  First of all, my seizure and shoulder incidents at the same time.  I thought for sure I was going home, but I was fortunate to have a great Peace Corps staff & a great host family in training to help me through my injuries.  Above & below photos of the event.


The photo above & to the left is of Brenna & Kayla in the costume she wore for her group's performance.  Click on the link above to see it; it was awesome.  The photo to the right is my Chicago counterpart Bob Baily from Oak Lawn.  He'll be with me in Zambalas; he'll be serving in Subic in the CYF section.  The photo directly above is of Wyatt & Michah; they're married & are from California.  They'll be doing their service together in Bohol, I think.
The lady standing to my left in red will be my counterpart teacher for the next two years.  Her name is Doris Lapuz.  I will be teaching 1st & 2nd year English.  However, I've also been informed that I will handle 3rd year as well.

This is one of my favorite photos because it's a picture of my cluster, but without Phyllis, unfortunetely.  Standing in for her is Rachel on the far left.  She is married to Kevin in the suit.  Kevin & Rachel will be doing their service in my city, Olongapo City.  The lady is Katelin.  She will be heading up north to Pagasina.  In the middle is Eva, our LCF (Language cross-culture facilitator).  She is the best, wihout her I wouldn't have passed my language profiency test (LPI).  Standing next to me is Julie, my neighbor in Magsaysay.  She will have a 10 hour boat ride south to a tiny island called Romblon and teaching secondary in a high school called Romblon High School in Romblon, Romblon.  That's a lot of Romblon's in there.  Not pictured is Phyllis and she will be teaching in Los Banos, an hour & half south of Manila.

Oh, what the heck, I might as well throw this in there as well.  This photo is from a previous time, but one I like a lot, because it includes all of us in there.  From L to R Sam, Kevin, Katelin, Eva, Phyllis, Julie and me.





Friday, September 2, 2011

Cooking, Mt Sumat & more photos

Extra time means extra time to get caught up with more photos.


Who needs a carrot shredder when you have Steve Sierra cutting carrots without cutting himself and that's the truth, not one cut.  Out here there's no need for extra junk, everything is done by hand, no blenders, just hard-nosed stirring & cutting.  It also depends on where you're at too.
 It's nice having an audience while you cut.  That's Irisz watching me cut carrots.  There one of four incredients I need for cooking Limpia Shanghi rolls.


Above I am in the kitchen doing the final & tough touches of flipping the rolls to make sure they're cooked right.  To the right is the end result.  They tasted delicious.  I wish I could send some home.
 Mt Sumat is above and I wish I could make it bigger, but if I make it bigger, I won't be able to add the 2nd image of me at the half-way marker.
Like the other pic, I wish I could make the size bigger on the photo above.  We're 36 stories high.  Next to the photo are Mike & Gina, the photo was shot sideways, but I still got a good shot of them.

Above are photos from my last day in class at BPSU (my training site).  I enjoyed my time there.  I taught High School Senior class and this is also the class I taught my Oddyssey & Motivator sessions to.

That's it for now.  The rest of the photos didn't make the cut and plus I have to get out of here.  I talk to you next time.  If you haven't check the site in a while, be sure to check my last blog published this past Sunday for even more photos. 
Take care

Saturday, August 27, 2011

More Photos from my training site, Barangay Magsaysay, Dinalupihan

I am back with more photos now that my community project is over.  Thank God.  But first let me tell you about this past week and a half. 

I gave three different lesson plans to eight different classes.  The first was on Garbage Burning to a group of ALS students.  ALS here in the Philippines similar to GED in the U.S.  These people never graduated high school and now they're going back to school to get their GED.  Trying to get them to talk and participate in class was like pulling teeth from a person.  It was hard at first, but it got easier as it went along. This was just a five - 10 minute speech, given four separate times.

My second lesson plan was last Monday and it was on Oddessy written by Homer.  For those of you not update on Roman Mythology, Oddessy is the sequal to the Book of "Iliad".  There's movie called "Troy" that tells about Iliad.  My lesson plan on Oddessy was an eye opener on preparation.  My note cards were all over the place, but I am glad the students were patient with me as I taught the entire class.  I let students finish sentenances, which most of them knew the answer to because they had done their homework.  I ended early, but Mam Bel. (the teacher in the class said I did good).  That was a relief and great to get that lesson plan off my back and concentrate on the community project.

We have five members in our cluster working on this project. Kevin, Katlin, Julie, Phyllis and me.  Kevin & Katlin were in one room covering listening & speaking, while Julie & Phyllis were in another covering Reading & Writing.  I was in a room doing a lesson on Motivators three different times to three different groups of students.  Two of them were high school, which I am used to.  The first group was college and the toughest because I expected a larger group and one of the games I had was for a larger group, but I adjusted and made due.  The second & third groups were the best, especially the second.  They really liked the motivator games I prepared for them.  What I prepared was three games. One called Name Exchange, another called Human Scrabble, and a third called Name interview.  The students had fun with three of them.  However, it's nice relief to be done with that project and concentrate on my language these last two weeks before I go to my permanent site in Olongapo City in the Province of Zambles.  Ok here come the pics.
The picture above is the day I arrived at my host family's house on Sunday, July 17 with my host tatay (host father) Rollie Langad, his wife & host nanay (host mom) Loida Langad and their cute daughter 6 year old Irisz (who will turn 7 on September 25)
This is my mosquito net given to me by Peace Corps, but I still get bitten by mosquitos.  One night and Ipis(cockroach) snuck into the net.  I had to use old papers given to me at IO to kill the sucker.









As I mentioned a few blogs ago, the fish here is incredible and you just eat it right off the bone.  Some of the fish here would probably cost $60-$70 at a restaurant.  In the future, I plan on doing an entire blog post on just food here in the Philippines.  Tell me what you want to know in the comment section.
 I thought is was a nice pic of a carabou below is a pic of me on the trail that's right by my house.  I'd be on that trail more often if it wasn't so rainy.

The pic to the right is the bridge you have to cross to reach the other side and finish the rest of the trail.  This is the halfway marker 



I just love the pic above!

 This pic was the miniture school our group at Supervisor's Conference made. 











This photo is yours truly doing an old traditional dance in the Philippines.  I am surprised I managed not to fall.  I have more photos, but I will post them another time.  Have fun with these.  Ingat na.  (Take Care!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Photos of my journey so far Part 1 of many to come

So far I've only told you in words what I've done and accomplished, which haven't been much.  This post is exclusively photos so far of what it's looked like from my end.  Hope you enjoy.  The photo above is of me heading off to Los Angeles from Chicago on the morning of Friday, July 2, 2011.
These frogs were outside my room when I stayed at 11RR before I came to Dinalipihan in Bataan.  This was when I was still in Silang.


Even though this shot is far away I had to get a shot with both the Peace Corps flag and the John F Kennedy Peace Corps Poster.











All the shots I had taken were of the one above and I need a close up with both flags and Kennedy.  I couldn't leave 11RR without doing it.
















This is Edmund, my roommate at 11RR and more importantly, the one who alerted help when I had a seizure.  We've trained together, but his permanent site will be about 4-5 hours from my permanent site.

Those are the photos for now.  I have to go as my laptop doesn't have much power left. bye

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Living in Magsaysay

Living in Magsaysay

One thing I’ve noticed about the Tagalog language is that everything is spelled the way it sounds with every letter being annunciated as one says the word.  For example, Manit means hot, but it’s pronounced Maneet even though its spelled Manit.  The I’s in the alphabet sound like ees and so on with the vowels.  The same goes for the town I will co-teach English in, which its name is Dinalupihan (prounounced Dinaloopeehaan).  Finally, the Barangay I live in (Magsaysay) sounds different than it’s spelled as well, (pronounced Maagsighsigh) with the say say sounding like two sighs (sigh sigh).

Enough about grammar, I’ll have plenty of time during my service here to write about grammar.  Now, I am in my room in my host family’s house writing this blog on what have been many rainy days in a row.  As you can see the dates between my last blog and this blog, it’s going to take time to get these out.  At this rate, I’ll probably average one blog a month.

It was two and a half weeks ago when I moved in with my host family.  We live in Barangay Magsaysay.  At first and still even today they feed me a lot.  I think they try to feed me so much because I am a guest and also they don’t speak any English.  My family can’t understand why I don’t eat the same proportions as they do, but they now understand since they let me fill my plate with food; at first it was the other way around.  I have learned to say Bosog ng ako pretty fast (I am full) and then I point to my expanding belly and they laugh, but get it.  They do have an Aunt that speaks English and she’s been great in translating everything.

Today was the first morning I wasn’t served rice.  However, unlike my first two weeks in the Philippines, the food here has been awesome.  On my last few days in Silang where 11RR (My first home after arrival to the Philippines) is based I threw up a few times, but not with this food.  Yesterday, I had grilled fish for lunch.  If any of you reading this decides to come here, have a family cook you the fish because I believe it’s 10 times better than any fish served in a restaurant in the states.  It’s out of this world, but you have to watch out for the bones, I almost swallowed one yesterday because they’re so tiny.

Another thing that’s new for me are the bucket baths, the toilet without a seat, and no flush drainage.  Whenever I take a piss or shit, I have to dump a bucket of water to flush it down.  As far as bathing goes, I just pour water over my head and use the soap to wash up.  For brushing my teeth,  I squeeze a little bit onto my brush and just spit onto the floor and pour water over it to wash it out of the bathroom and onto the street.  The same goes for shaving.  At first I shaved blindly, but the other day I found a tiny mirror, which allows me to see what hairs I’ve missed.

The last two weeks have been more language based, but my tagalog is still bad; I could barely complete a sentence in tagalog, but I was able to ask for the bus fare when I was on the jeepney going to the market in Olongopo.  Plus, I did bargain with a sales lady to bring the price of a pouch down to 100 pesos from 120 pesos; that was cool.

One thing I am quickly adjusting to unfortunately is the mosquitos.  I’ve had one on almost every part of my body.  I received another bottle of cream from the medical office, but I think I need an upgrade because the mosquitos seem to like me.  Every time I am outside I am getting bitten.  It makes me wish I brought my long-sleeve lightweight trekking shirt, but I’ll survive.  There are plenty of stores where you can get deals on shirts.

Speaking of trekking, I went on a rainy hike this morning with my two host family brothers, Doon & Ryan.  It was a muddy hike, but a good one because I hiked on some trails I had never hiked on before.  Our feet fell in the mud a few times.  We had to water-spray our shoes & sandals when we got back, for me it was my hiking boots, but for my brothers, they just sprayed their sandals.  Everyone wears sandals wherever they go and whatever the weather/ground condition.

Our training group took a hike near where the former Sabit Air Force Base used to be, we finished the hike just in time when the rain starting trouncing down.

Yesterday, I met with my counterpart teacher for the first time I will be doing an introduction of the Greek author Homer and the Epic he wrote “Iliod” on August 15 and will assist in teaching something on August 31st possibly.

Shoulder Update-Breaking News

Well, I guess I shouldn’t use the word breaking, let’s just say I have good news.  I am OFF the Sling.  It feels great to stretch my arm when I walk.  Now I’ll be starting a lot of stretching and physical therapy around the corner.

Until next time,

Steve

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mall Security in the Philippines

Last Saturday I took a visit to the mall for the first time.  It's similar to the malls in America except trying to find something in the lost and found is a little bit of an adventure.

One of my last stops was to pick up a phone card, which I paid for in pesos just like everything I pay for is.  However, in the process I lost my Peace Corps given phone.  When I got back to IIRR (which is where I live until tomorrow morning) I realized I lost the phone & more importantly, I realized I had to make another trip to the mall to possibly find a phone that may never turn up. 

The next day I take the Jeepney, which is a small bus that could cram up to 25-30 people if it wants, but I think on this trip we were just over 20.  Once we arrive, I dart straight over to the Smartphone section where I lost the phone & tell them about the situation.  They look in their drawers to no avail and summon the mall security.  About 3 or 4 security guards arrive & then talk in their walkie talkies in tagalog (which I haven't mastered yet), loud enough & long enough to make me look nervous even though I didn't do anything.  At this point, I am praying no other Peace Corps Trainee is stairing at me at this point because with all the security around it looks like I just got caught shoplifting.

Then one of the guards tells me to follow him to what I think is the lost and found section.  I follow him upstairs throught the department store & into the employee locker room.  Now I am thinking, 'ok seriously, what did I do.'  After I walk down past the employee section, I finally enter a room where I sit down with three other guards, one of them is the Head security.  He asks me for my identity, which I didn't have at the time.  I had left it at in my room.  I couldn't believe it.  I kept telling the guard the brand of the phone & the names on the phone, but I guess it wasn't enough.  Luckily, I think the guard felt sorry for me & returned the phone to me.  It hasn't left my side ever since.

Moral of the story, watch were you put your junk.  You never know if you'll get it back.  Next time I write I'll be in Dinalupihan in the Province of Bataan.  Farewell from the Municipality of Silang.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tough Landing

I wish I meant that title was because of the total 20 hour flight from Chicago to Manilla, Philippines.  No the tough landing title comes from the tough spill I had after the flight.  I suffered a seizure on Sunday night in the midnight hour, fell down & separated my shoulder.  I just had an MRI done today.  I should be able to stay, but I guess that’s up to the MRI.  I am on pins & needles.

Enough scarcity.  What’s it like down here?  Well for one, it’s HOT.  Humid is a better word, but not as much as I thought, but I shouldn’t write that too soon, I’ve only been here for five days. 

I am in batch # 270 & there are over 60 volunteers in my batch alone serving both the Education & CYF (Children, Youth, Family) Sectors. (I am in the Education Sector.)  The range of age varies with the youngest being 21 & the oldest being in their mid 60s.  Anyway it’s great working & living with these people in these first two weeks before we all head out to our sites.  Speaking of sites, I just found out where I’ll be stationed & I'll be in the province of Bataan teaching English in the secondary level, which is mostly high school.

The food here is terrific, but I don’t want to comment on the food until I get to my actual site.  Although it’s good, most of the food is westernized, which is probably why there is no difference in taste.

Everyone, I am sorry  I haven’t kept up with updates, but I’ve been trying to keep up myself.  I now realize how little this blog might be, but I’ll try to keep you updated at home from time to time because I plan on staying all 27 months.  Although my arm is in a sling, there’s no quit in me.  I didn’t change my life 360 to come back after a week. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life is Calling. How far will you go?

That’s what the pen says, which I received at an informational Peace Corps meeting two years ago.  As I write my first blog, I have a million things racing through my brain: What to pack, what not to pack, Will my carry-on bag be to big to board on the plane?  I also have on my mind that I should’ve started this a few weeks ago and I am asking myself, why am I waiting until now to get something down in writing.  Tomorrow is my last day at work and I want to show my co-workers & family a sneak peak of what they’ll get to read over the next few years.  For those that don’t know by know I will be headed to the Philippines in a week and teach English for the Peace Corps.  
I have had an idea about doing some service oversees for a while, but I just didn’t know where.  Pondering when the inception of my international travel thoughts began, I can’t help, but look back five years ago this winter in 2006 when I went to California.  My friend & I were staying with another friend in Los Angeles.  At the time I wasn’t the outdoors type, but that changed completely after we all did a short night hike up a hill in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.  Once we hiked to a certain point, we looked up at the beautiful Los Angeles night sky and saw tons of stars and the entire city of Los Angeles lit up.  It was gorgeous sight and one I’ll never forget.  I like to tell friends in my backpackers circle, that was the night that started my backpacking craze and that night without saying it, I made a New Year’s Resolution to get outdoors more and that I did.  In 2007, I think I went out 4 or 5 backpacking trips.  Two of them just to get warmed up for a week long trip to Colorado.  In late June, 2007 when I turned 30, I backpacked the Comanche Peak Wilderness in Roosevelt National Park for five days.  I saw some incredible views of the mountains & landscape.  For the next two years, I would go on to backpack with friends in eight different states and Colorado, a second time.  However, the second time was not as memorable with a sprained ankle, but great stories for sure.   Ironically the same city where I saw stars in the night sky is the same one I’ll be departing from next Friday for the Philippines, Los Angeles. 
After backpacking on & off in 2008, I began think about doing other things and also how I could make an impact doing the things I like.  In early 2009, I started volunteering for a group near my house called the Frankfort Jaycees, which serves the community in the public interest.  Shortly after that I was running a food drive for the Frankfort Food Pantry as part of my duty with the Frankfort Jaycees and at the end of that Saturday, it felt great to collect that much food for the pantry.  It’s funny looking back, I see many things happening this week that also happened during my journey to the Peace Corps.  For example, I will be gathering food this weekend, (not as much as in 09) but I will bring this bag of food to the church for them to deliver to the needy, just as I did.
Also in 2009, I read an article about the Peace Corps & then heard an informational meeting.  It was after this meeting that I really considered joining on my mind.
For those that don’t know the Peace Corps is an organization started by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to promote World Peace & friendship  Volunteers serve a minimum of 27 months in developing countries all over the world.
I was taking class being offered in Downers Grove by Dale Carnegie Training.  The course was about “Effective Communication & Human Relations Skills for Success” and in every class each student rose to speak in front of the class about a topic.  In one of my last speeches for the class I was taking, I remember saying to everyone that one of my goals was to join the Peace Corps by the end of 2012.  WOW! I thought to myself because now it was for real and I had said it out loud to everyone.  I still had to prove I was worthy enough to join the Peace Corps and I knew I needed more volunteer experience.  The fall of 2009 I joined the Forest Preserve District of  Will County doing preserve work twice a month.  In February, I started tutoring English as a second language & Math for the Moraine Valley Community College Literacy Program.  I took sign language just in case I would be called up to do that.  In July, 2010, I started reading for the blind in Orland Park 2-3 times a month.  August, 2010 is when I applied for the Peace Corps.  Finally, I took the extra time to receive my Teaching English as a Second Language (TEFL) certificate, which I believe was key to me being picked to teach English in the Philippines.  The rest as they say is history.  You can never have too much education.  My advice to anyone reading:  If you have time & you think a class can help you with your work, take it.
Some might ask, why not continue with what you were doing with the three organizations?  I wanted to challenge myself internationally, something I had not done before and I am looking forward to the challenge.  I had never been oversees before and this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
Life is short, you have to the things you want now.  You don’t want to say to yourself that   “I should’ve done this or done that.”  Just do it.  Some might argue, what about money.  Well, don’t spend the cash on little items like coffee or lunch.  Make your lunch at home and try to save when you can.   Also, stay focused on your goals & stop watching “American Idol.”  That show sucks anyway.
I look forward to giving you updates on my journey.  Hopefully, I’ll get to write one more time before I go.