Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thanksgiving In Sagada

WOW! That's about all I can say about the holiday spent with about 25 other volunteers and friends in Sagada, Mt. Province. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to do Thanksgiving this way! I started my treck on Tuesday morning with a trip to the Baguio City Public Market. My host sister went with me and stuck around with me while I shopped for lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, etc! I ended up getting about 20 kilos of vegetables that I had to get on a bus and travel 6 hours on a winding mountain road. What a morning!

Made it safe and sound to Tadian, Mt. Province. You'll remember that this was one of my first trips that I took when I first got to site 6 months ago. Spent the night with Rachel at her house. We decided to make a night of cooking a mexican dinner. We started out by boiling a TON of black beans to make refried beans. Then the chopping, slicing and cutting ensued. I was in charge of the onions which made me very teary eyed. We also made Spanish rice, salsa and homemade tortillas. You do not know how nice it was to have a familiar meal!

The next day we made the trip from Tadian to Sagada. We packed and walked up the huge hill to the market area where we waited for about a half hour in a van going to Bontoc. Rachel informed me that there is a fork in the road in which we get off that we wait for another vehicle to take us to Sagada. So we did all this and ended up on an almost empty jeepney. Let's just say that I don't think I've been on a bumpier road in my life. At one point we flew almost a half a foot off the bench all while a filipina was trying to carry on a conversation with us! After we got checked into the pension everyone was staying, we decided to walk into town. On the way we took a hike to a viewpoint of some of the hanging coffins. It was amazing to see how several stone coffins were wedged into the side of the mountain. Next time I'll definately have to take the longer tour!

Thursday morning, we woke up to the large task of making Thanksgiving dinner with one small stove and a tiny oven. Everyone was ready and willing to peel 30 kilos of potatoes (ok, we had that much, but didn't use them all!), chop veggies and mix whatever there was to be mixed. One of the PCVs had arranged some Filipinos to help with the meal. They were incharge of killing 5 wild turkies and roasting them. I think we started everything at about 10 in the morning and got ready to sit and eat at 6pm! We had everything...except the pumpkin pie, but a great substitute of some of the most tastiest apple pie I've ever had. After dinner, there was videoke and if I don't say so myself, I have a mean rendition of Build Me Up Buttercup. AWESOME!

After a late night, I woke up to a beautiful morning. Rachel and I transferred to a Peace Corps Volunteer's house for the night to crash. In the afternoon, I received a call from home. I got to talk to so many people!!! Thanks for the call mom, dad, Charley, Fran, Grandma, Uncle Dan, and Aunt Sue!!! It was so good to talk to so many people from home. Hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving and a good kickoff into the holiday season.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Do I Do Anything??? Yes, I Do!!!

So I'm sure most of you wonder if I really do anything here. I admit, I write more about the crazy things that happen than what I do at the center, so I decided this week I would dedicate my entry to what I do at RSCC...and other things work related.

One of my biggest projects is creating a brochure about the RSCC. Basically the center has asked me to help with an information discemmination tool to help spread the word about RSCC as well as promote the services. In doing this, the hope that people will be more willing to become a part of and help in the center; the biggest help would be more people to become foster/adoptive parents.

Foster/Adoptive Parent Flier
The second project is a bookmark sized flier to be placed in various restaraunts, churches and anywhere else large numbers of people go to congregate. We hope to get people interested in becoming a foster parent for the children in the center as being in a home setting is more conducive to growing a healthy, happy child than staying in a center while waiting to be adopted or placed back into their own parent's custody.

Christmas Play
A few of the staff approached me to help write and make costumes for the Christmas play the children will be performing for the staff of the regional office during the Christmas party next month. It has been fun coming up with the script and inserting Christmas songs as well. I'll be sure to take photos when it's performed!

Staff Training
One of the major objectives while I'm at RSCC is to help with staff development. To do this I had all of the houseparents fill out a questionnaire about their needs. I have a 2 hour workshop prepared to present to the houseparents about behavior management. The only barrier I'm facing is lack of organization. Whenever I ask the social workers what day would work the best, the response I get is always silence. We'll see how far this goes.

Dental Partnership
I'm also working on trying to form a partnership with a local NonGovernment Organization (NGO) who deals with medical and dental requests. I'm hoping to have this NGO come to the center and do a presentation on proper tooth brushing as well as perform free check-ups with the children. I have everything I need except a counterpart to work on the letter with me. It should be relatively easy to find least you would think so, right?

I'm also working with an NGO in Baguio City called Baguio Center for Young Adults (BCYA) as a secondary project. I recently accepted the responsibility to become the HIV/AIDS representative for Peace Corps in Northern Luzon. This past Monday, I went to BCYA for the first time and I thought I was going to observe a radio show, but instead I was told I was the guest for the radio show that would be about HIV/AIDS!

Needless to say I panicked and ran out of there as fast as I could. Ok, so I didn't, but I calmly explained that I was not an expert...yet and would need more time in preparation. They decided that was fair, but they still needed to interview someone for their hour radio show and switched the topic to Peace Corps. Easy enough and it really was. It was fun to do the show and I was told that I definately would be on again.

So, you should all be relieved that I'm not just on a two year vacation and I really do work! Hopefully this list will continue to grow as more opportunities come up.

Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! I'll be gone next week to Sagada, Mountain Province for a Peace Corps Thanksgiving get together so I won't be making an entry. Hope all of you have a great holiday and are able to spend it with family and loved ones! Eat lots of turkey and watch the football games for me!!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I Finally Did It...

That's right, I finally broke down and had Balut. The reason I hadn't tried until now was because I wasn't going to use my own money to buy a hard boiled, duck embryo! I just couldn't bring myself to do my line of defense (which was shattered last night) was that, "Of course I'll try Balut, but only if you buy it for me!" Whenever I said that to the Filipino who asked me about, they would get a good chuckle and move along.

Well, my host sister asked me a couple of nights ago if I had tried it and I gave her my usual response. She shot back with, "Ok, I will be the one to buy it for you!" This got me nervous...I was hoping and praying all day that she would forget. Then, I heard her enter the house and to my suprise, or dismay, she was holding a plastic bag with 3 Balut in it. I looked at her in suprise and she giggled at me.

During supper, she looked at me and said, "Manang Jody, after dinner, we will eat our Balut!" Great, I can't wait I thought. So the time came, Bing Bing ran to her room and got us each an egg. She carefully instructed me in the Balut eating technique. "First you need to just take the top part of the shell off so you can sip the juice out." "Don't forget to add salt!" added my host brother.

I couldn't believe I was actually doing this. I had to stop the festivities so I could get my camera (yes, I do have a few photos to document this milestone in my life!) and had Jun Jun take a few snapshots. Back to the sipping and slurping. So the egg juice just was a salty tasting task that was easy to conquer. Next came the shelling of the rest of the egg. As I peeled mine, I saw the distinct formation of feathers. I looked at my host sister and said, "I thought you told the vendor to get very, very young ones!" She laughed and shrugged. Let's be serious, how could they really know how old the ebryo was inside???

"Leave the white part for's my favorite part. Eat the yolk and chick first and don't forget to add the salt!" I followed the instructions. I could only make the salting of the glob take so long and I finally had to just do it. I think my first bite was the worst. There were veins filled with blood that made my eyes water. My gag reflex instantly kicked in and I had a HELL OF A TIME hiding it from my host family! Mmmm, least that's what I had to keep telling myself as I struggled to get through it.

A second wave of gagging flared up as I bit into something hard. OH MY GOD, I thought. This egg is so mature that the bones are starting to form! I felt triumphant as I finished the first part of the Balut. Next all I had to eat was "the delicious" part. When I picked up the white part of the Balut, I noticed that it was very solid. I asked if this was how it was supposed to be. Bing Bing assured me that it was ok. So I salted it and took a bite. I literally thought I was chewing one of those little superballs. Rubber....that's all I could think of as I chomped and chewed.

Everyone clapped and seemed proud when I had finished my Balut. As I got up to wash my hands, Jun Jun said that you couldn't eat Balut very often because it has such a high cholesterol rate. "Yeah, one a year is probably good enough!" I said. Everyone laughed.

On a more serious note, I was honored to be apart of the turnover for 2 of our children who were adopted from our center. There was a mass held and I was able to talk to both sets of parents. One couple came all the way from Montreal, Canada. All I can say is that I'm going to miss both of these kids so much! They are so lucky to have found the homes that they did.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Feast Day of St. Jude

Last Friday, I was invited by Nanay, the cook at RSCC, to accompany her to a school gathering. The elementary school, St. Jude's Learning Center, is owned and ran by her sister. When I arrived, mass had already started and I found that several students were receiving their 1st Communion. After mass, everyone was invited for Merienda (morning or afternoon snack) in the school. The snack consisted of pancit (noodles with veggies and meat), Shanghai Lumpia (an eggroll type thing), and fruit salad. So basically, merienda is more like a small meal than a snack!

After we had talked and ate, Nanay said that we were going to her house since I have not been there yet. We walked to a small, humble dwelling in the middle of Baguio. She owns a cute, one bedroom house and shares it with her daughter. She then stated that she would cook me lunch and went about her business of cooking rice and frying fish. Although I was still a bit full from merienda, I had a small portion.

We finished and Nanay announced that we would go back to St. Jude's Learning Center and see her sisters again. They live above the school and when I entered their house, I found a huge table of food waiting for the visitors to begin eating! Nanay told me that we would eat again and to just take a small portion of each dish! I admit that I could have passed on this food, but this is very rude, especially since I was a guest.

I'm just shocked at how much Filipinos can eat and yet they are skin and bones most of the time! How do they do that?!?! Needless to say, I enjoyed getting to know the rest of Nanay's family and learning about some history of the Baguio area. I was also able to share with everyone that St. Jude was my grandpa's favorite saint and after praying, would always ask St. Jude to pray for his grandkids. They got a kick out of this story and somehow, the feast day turned into the Feast Day for Jude-ee (for some reason, Filipinos pronounce my name as Judy instead of Jody. I've stopped trying to correct them and now answer to the name Judy!).