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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where I've been & the Start of School

It’s been awhile since I posted one of these, but I thought now would be as good as time as any, I’m writing the first part of this on the bus heading back to Olongapo from Baguio.  If you’re keeping score at home that makes 3 times I’ve been to Baguio.  If you’re a fellow volunteer reading this, I’m sorry (giggles) I know I’m lucky.

Ok, maybe writing on the back of the bus didn’t fair out so well, start of school & hand-writing a few letters to some family members are some of the reasons this came out so late.  However, I’m back now & will catch you up on the happenings in my life.

After Mt Pulag, I started work on the Peace Corps Partnership Program for the World Connect Grant Proposal with my counterpart for the Reading Center, but we’ve had to make changes to and it’s in the final steps now. I hope to have this done by the end of this week.  The Reading Center will be my main project and the engineer said this would cost php300,066 pesos ($6,798.00 USD).  I’m crossing my fingers.

In May, I journeyed south to Manila for language camp.  Man, my tagalog sucks.  It took a nose dive after my training last year; having a week of language camp and practicing with my LCF (Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitator) again was great.  I just need to keep practicing, but it’s hard because all my fellow teachers speak very good English, which makes it easy to resort to. 

Then, a week later, I headed up North to Baguio for an HIV/AIDS Workshop with my supervisor/counterpart.  We will be doing a project educating both teachers & students about HIV/AIDS in the fall-very late fall.  We did many activities including going on a street immersion similar to how my fellow CYF volunteers did theirs during their training.  Street immersion for us was going out in the evening and asking a few women about their experience working on the street.  When I mention ‘working’ my priest in the States once put it in his mass reading as “a lady of the night” to put it lightly.  I’ll let your imaginations go where they may.  I was lucky my counterpart was very cool doing this, I was always looking over my back because it seemed like men were walking by staring and gawking at the women we were speaking to.  We were talking to these ladies in the red light district of Baguio, an area you don’t want to venture to alone.  On my last day in Baguio, I attended an International AIDS candlelight memorial at People’s Park in Baguio City to “promote health & dignity together” on the HIV/AIDS.  I was impressed by Baguio City’s set-up and it’s something to emulate in Olongapo City.  They made great use of the small space they had & made 50-75 people seem like over 100.  It was the perfect ending for my trip. 

When I came back I had my first skype talk with a U.S. classroom out of Stillwater, MN and it was pretty cool until I couldn’t hear them anymore probably because it was close to midnight where I’m at.  Before Iost audio connection, I was able to span my laptop camera around McDonalds.  They were surprised to see a security guard at McDonalds.  Yes, you read that right, there is a security guard at McDonalds, and in fact there is a security in about every store you venture into here in the Philippines.  They even check grocery receipts.  Anyway, the students & their teacher asked me some good questions.  One of them was “What are your students’ hopes & dreams?”  I couldn’t believe I couldn’t answer this & told the students that I would make sure I would ask my students this year.  On the second day of class last week, I asked them and most of the boys said they wanted to join the Army & most of the girls said they wanted to be a nurse.  I think most of them just wanted to sit back down, I’ll ask them again six months from now.  However, I do remember one student’s answer from last year and he said it was to see the Great Wall in China.  Another good question I couldn’t answer right away was “What have you learned about yourself?”  Blindsided again, I gave an answer around change, but in reality, I am only halfway through my service, and I am still finding out the answer.  I apologize to the students & their teacher in Stillwater, MN, while adapting to change is important, I’m still finding out the answer.  Other questions were the differences between the US & Philippines and what do kids do on their free time.

Lastly, the day before school started, I went to Ocean Adventure by bike.  It took me nearly an hour & half and was a tough climb especially when I went past Subic Bay International Airport, but fun; I will definitely do the same ride again.  As for Ocean Adventure, it wasn’t bad.  The Sea lion & dolphin shows were great; Walk on the wild side (about the jungle) & the diving show were ok.  After the shows I walked on the beach, but then the rain started to come & I headed home.  I took a different route the ride back to the main road & the tough climb turned into a fast drop.  I was on the main road in seconds; it was great, but I had to ride the break a few times or I would've fallen down.  Once on the main road, the rain started pouring & piercing my body as I pedaled through the floods of droplets caving from the sky.  One weird feeling I hadn’t felt in Olongapo ever was cold.  The fierce rain brought a nice chill that was much needed.  As I came back to the city, I ventured into a Mexican restaurant for a nice meal.  I still like the two Mexican restaurants in Barreto better, but after a tough ride, this meal tasted delicious and a great escape from the rain.

Back to School
First Day of School & Books arrive
After my trip to Mt Pulag in April, I sent a 2nd request to Books for Peace for a donation and guess what they came through for us again, only this time, it was a class set of multiple subjects including English, Science & Economics, plus an assortment of fiction books including “The Hunger Games, three Harry Potter books, Swiss Family Robinson, four nearly complete years of archived issues of National Geographic magazine, Helen Keller autobiography, two Hardy Boys & two Nancy Drew books & many more, 19 boxes of books & magazines in total.  Yes, I’m very lucky & our school will definitely be ordering another set before it’s all said & done.  All those boxes came on the first day of school, June 4th.  What a day, meeting all the students & doing inventory on our new material.  I am already teaching out of the new English books.  The first shipment came in February, but was only a sample set of what we want now.
I teach four grade 7 clasess.  Grade 7 is new, last year grade 7 was called 1st year for the 1st year of high school, but the Philippines DepEd is making changes & adopting the U.S. grade school system of having students in school from grades 1-12.  In previous years, students only finished up at 4th year, which is equivalent to 10th grade or a sophomore year in the U.S.  Even though the grade 7 students are in high school, they will be here for six years instead of four with the last two years being grades 11 & 12. 

Yesterday, we had our first day off already for Philippines Independence Day.  Since rain season is here now, I bought a rain jacket with rain pants; I'm glad I did.  This morning was the first time I got to use it, plus I wore my rain boots for the first time since my Peace Corps training.  It was a downpour this morning, but I was dry, it felt good.  Finally, let me know what you want to know about the Philippines & I’ll try to answer it in the blog, so I’m not monotonous.  Ingat na.


  1. Hey! Right now there is an AIDS/HIV photo contest- you should submit some of yours to PC/DC!