Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dumaguete: Day 6

I arrived last Thursday in Dumaguete City. It has a really positive education atmosphere and laid-back pace; no one breaks 20 mph in Dumaguete. Our group of 69 trainees split into city groups – some went to Batangas and Bacolod – and each group is learning a different language. Within those groups we were split into “clusters” for language training depending on our sector (mine is education) and assignment (mine is Negros Oriental National High School). In my cluster are Sally from Texas/Colorado who is 80, Syd from Nebraska who just finished her tour in Peace Corps Armenia, Dan from Pennsylvania, Sean from Minnesota and Sheryll from LA. I think we are all in agreement that we got the best training site here in Dumaguete and wouldn’t change it.

Here is Syd and me in a petty cab, which is a motorcyle rigged up to be a trike for getting around town.

My host family are really amazing people. They are so caring and kind. Tita Andring is a midwife, Tito Jaime (as in hy-may) works at the power plant, their son Kieth is an engineer and his girlfriend Ellen is about to become a nurse as soon as she passes her board exam and NCLEX. Kieth’s sister is in America, and the family misses her. My host family situation is really ideal. I am so glad I was placed with them. Last night I got a little sick (and I’m fine now), but they were really taking care of me, and now Tita Andring has brought me my favorite sweet: a sweet sticky rice cylinder wrapped in banana leaves and sometimes containing chocolate.

On Sunday Keith and Ellen and Ellen’s cousins Eric and Neil took me to Valencia, to a place called the Forest Camp, because there was a brown out (no electricity), so it was really hot. At Forest Camp, it’s cooler because it’s by a mountain (dormant volcano, I think, actually) and there are cold, fresh mountain springs. The whole day was pretty amazing, and I hope my fellow trainees get a chance to go, though on that day I know most of them went to a beach. So here are some pictures of that.

This is all of us

This is Eric, me and Ellen.

Here in the Philippines, they have a thing called merienda, or just plain snack here in the Visayas, where the whole country is like “Dude I need a snack” between breakfast and lunch and then another between lunch and dinner. I have really gotten behind this idea. I am a fan, and actually, now I require my merienda. I have been doing an epic amount of eating here because I really like the food, it’s easy to be gluten-free and is exactly to my taste. I know some trainees have been having some trouble with the cuisine, but I am very lucky to have exactly what I want pretty much all the time. They have a variety of rice sweets, and I’ve been converted to the joys of the mango, which is vastly superior here than stateside. Also, despite the epic eating I’ve been engaging in, I appear to have lost weight. It’s like a dream: eat what I want, lose weight.

Today I observed a classroom at the high school at which I will be teacher training. I will be co-teachcing with a teacher of the 2nd year. Generally, the age range for that is 13-14, but can contain older students as well. It was really nice there today, and allayed my fears a little bit, but I’m sure I’ll be nervous again when I actually have to get up in front of a class.

Yesterday my host family got wireless internet, so I have been sitting and basking in my internet connection. I hope it doesn’t distract me too much, but it does mean I am better equipped to respond to messages now, so don’t hesitate. I am kept very busy by the Peace Corps, but I will get back to you if you email me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So It Begins

Today, the monsoon finally came to prove its mettle. I have been in Antipolo, Manila since arriving in the Philippines on Saturday night. The weather has, until today, been typically tropical: hot, humid. I suppose despite the intense torrents it’s still pretty hot. I am not complaining about the heat, but I am feeling it, and I hope I can get acclimated soon so it stops bothering me.

There are sixty-nine people in our volunteer batch. We are staying in a hotel outside of metropolitan Manila. So far I’ve been mostly functional throughout the day, no naps, but I am still unable to sleep more than about five hours a night. I hope this jetlag does not last much longer. One perk of the not sleeping, however, is that in the early dawn, when the world is still grey, I go out on our balcony and take in our view of Manila.

We have mostly just been doing policy and housekeeping kind of stuff, very dry, so I had nothing to report until today. Last night after a trip to the Mall of Asia, which is the biggest damn mall I’ve ever seen, some fellow trainees and I took in the sunset over Manila Bay from across the mall.

And today, I found out where I will be trained and in what language. Tomorrow, I leave for Dumaguete City on the island of Negros, Oriental Province, among the Visayan Islands in the south. I will be attempting to speak Cebuano, the regional dialect of the Visayas. At this point, I’m really glad I was unable to get Rosetta Stone Tagalog to work, since it would have been a waste of forty hours of my precious, precious time.

Training will begin in earnest soon, about which I am both apprehensive and excited. I will have a host family and professional counterparts and all of the sudden will have to act like an adult in the world. It’s very intimidating, and I’m going into it like something natural but I don’t know if it actually is, if I’m going to wake up every morning and force myself to get out there beyond my fears. I think it would be the same with a “normal” job in the States though, really. Concerns here are really immediate: safety, health, cultural sensitivity, interpersonal relations. But these aren’t chief among my concerns; I’m plagued by thoughts of failure and remaining juvenile in a (mostly) adult setting.

On those immediate concerns though, I seem to be faring well. I don’t mind the bathroom facilities I might see soon, I really like the food, I’m going in being open to new experiences. However, all sorts of health/safety issues are befalling me; I hope this means I am getting them out of the way at the outset, and I am fated for a better time in general. At LAX I ran over my toenail twice and lost the top of it. I burned my tongue and developed a raging canker sore, the former of which just got better today and the latter of which is slightly better today but still alive and sensitive. I fell down the stairs yesterday morning and really twisted my ankle and now it keeps cracking, but the doctor said it’s okay. And, after some travails with poo, I thought I was on even ground, but today the anti-malarial prophylaxis I took on Monday kicked in and gave me some belly sadness. It raped everyone else yesterday and apparently just took its sweet time over here. Gluten, however, has yet to be an issue, knock on wood.

Dumaguete City has ample internet (and many other amenities; it’s the poshest training site in Peace Corps Philippines), so I hope to update with more news and pictures and all that good stuff. Although, right now I'm having trouble posting pictures, so we'll see how that goes.