So the last week has been quite interesting. Started at the center on Tuesday, June 14. Observed how some things are done and did a lot of sitting around. I'm not sure that my supervisor or coworkers quite know what to do with me. At times I'm overwhelmed with the language barrier as I still don't know enough Ilokano to have a normal conversation with anyone. Oh, and by the way, my supervisor told me that she wants me to learn Tagalog as well since she is not from the north and doesn't know any Ilokano! We'll see how that turns out.
Here's a run down of how I spend a typical day so far:
9 a.m.: Arrive to work and go to the kitchen area when I fix myself a cup of coffee.
9:20 a.m.: Sit at my desk and read. Watch coworkers type on the computer and express polite niceties to everyone who comes in the office.
9:45 a.m.: Sit in the pre-school room and observe how the teacher runs her classroom.
10:15 a.m.: Go back to the kitchen for more coffee and a little Chika-chika with Nanay, the center's cook.
11:00 a.m.: Walk around the Center and hold a baby or two and then go back to my desk.
11:45 a.m.: Head to the kitchen for dinner. Watch the kids eat lunch and then have lunch with the staff.
12:30 p.m.: Finish reading at my desk. Talk to the social workers a little.
1 p.m.: Head back home.
At times it's a little awkward as with any new job. You need time time to adjust and get to know everyone you'll be working with. I think it may also take me a little longer with the staff just because of the language barrier. Even though most Filipinos speak English very well, they are often too ashamed to use it with an American. When they tell me this, I reply that I'm also very embarrassed to use the Ilokano I know because I may mispronounce a word or say something completely wrong. When I tell them this, most of the time they understand how hard it is for us too and it becomes a little easier to communicate.
The kids have really warmed up to me quickly. When they see me, they start screaming, "Ate, Ate!" Which means older sister in tagalog. They are very hyper and remind me of a few of my cousins in the states...lots of energy! The babies are so cute and I want to bring all of them home with me (until they get a dirty diaper or start crying!).
I did have to make several courtesy calls this week. Went to see the Chief of Police at his office. He was very hospitable and easy to talk to. He told me specific areas of the city to be aware of the time of night and if I need an escort, to just come to the station and they would be happy to help. My supervisor, coworker and I left the station. My supervisor had to run a quick errand and while we were waiting for her, a police officer requested we come back into the station because the Chief wanted to have our photo taken. We re-enacted the meeting we had completed 15 minutes earlier until the officer taking pictures was satisfied with the photos he had taken. It was the oddest thing I have been asked to do yet I think!
We also went to the Provincial Capital to set up a meeting with the governor. We talked to his secretary and agreed to meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 17. Well, we arrived to his office on Friday morning and his secretary again met us and took us into the governor's office. We chatted a bit and then he finally told us that the governor had gone to another municipality and it was doubtful that he would be in that day. The secretary suggested the best time and offered us a handshake. I have yet to go back to the office and waiting to set up another time!
One last story and then I'm off... I saw a chicken being butchered at work today by one of the guys who works in the office! Did not think that to see a bird being chopped up I would only have to go to work. The dish he was making for lunch is called Pinik-piken (translated means "Killing Me Softly"). The process is to beat the chicken slowly...first they break its legs so it can't run away and then they beat it so its blood with be absorbed into the muscles. After beating it, they crack the chicken over the head to kill it. Then they use a blow torch and burn off all of its feathers. I have not seen the whole "killing me softly" part though, just the butchering of the dead bird. After he had chopped it into pieces and extracted all of the organs, he took the intestines and cleaned them out. Yes, poop into the sink! YUCK! He said that's his favorite part of the chicken and then dumped it into the already simmering pot of chicken parts.