Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hiking and Filipino Food

So I've been trying several Filipino dishes that are very unique to say the least. The other night I thought that dinner was great. It was seyote (a squash that is native to the Philippines), onions, pork, garlic, vinegar, and pepper. I asked my host mom to tell me the ingrediates because it seemed like such a simple dish to make. She relayed all of the above ingrediants which didn't seem to be that uncommon, right? I asked, just make sure, if that was all and she said, "Oh, I almost forgot! There's also pig blood." I said, "WHAT?!?!" My host mom assured me that she never buys the pig blood in the market because she's unsure of how old it is and that her friend had killed a pig that morning so she bought the blood from them. Needless to say, I'm pretty sure I won't be making this for supper.

Another dish that Filipinos love to make is spaghetti...yes, spaghetti, only it's completely different than what we have in the states. When they tell you how they make the sauce, the ingrediants begin the same; onions, garlic, pepper, etc. When it comes to the part of the list when you think they'll say tomatoes, it never comes, instead the main red ingrediant is banana ketchup with mayo! And if it's a meat sauce, usually it's cut up, bright red hotdogs or a spam consistencey meat. Very funny...they use banana ketchup for everything.

On a different note, last Sunday I went on a hike up into the mountains surrounding Vista Hill. We left early in the morning. Many of the people in our community can't believe that we would want to walk up the mountain for fun. Most people only go up if something is wrong with their water. So I went with another trainee and our language instructor. It was AMAZING! When we got to our first clearing, we could see the national highway we take to NVSU and the river that runs by it. We went further and came to another clearing. We could see for miles and it was a great way to see how farming is done in the mountains. We were also able see one of the spring boxes that supplies water to our community. Many of you may have been making bets already as to when I will break an ankle here...I almost did climbing up to the spring box. Luckily it held out and I made it out alive!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Site Assignment

I learned where I will be living for the next two years (starting in June!!!). I'll be heading to La Trinidad in the Benguet Province. It's right by the biggest city in Northern Luzon...Baguio City. My language instructor said that it is the best place in the Philippines, but she's a little biased since she lives there! The temperature averages around 80 degrees and I'll be surrounded by mountains. It's exactly where I wanted to be!

The program I'll be working with is called the Research and Study Center for Children (RSCC). It is a government funded program under the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD...have you noticed how many acronyms I have to learn???). The facility is a residential placement for kids ages 0-14 who have been abandoned, surrendered, abused, Out of School Youth (OSY), maltreated, etc. I'm really excited about the programs they want me to assist them with. The first is an early educational program for toddlers to help with socialization, drawing/scribbling, etc. The second is to help develop the Foster Care program for the facility and prepare a module outlining the program. Should be a lot of work, but interesting!

This past week has been so busy! Monday-Wednesday I was back at NVSU to the hub site for more group training. Everyone had heard about the basketball game that took place on Saturday evening. Our cluster group was asked to play the Barangay Kagawads (city counsel members), but when we got to the court, we found out that the kagawads had gotten younger, faster replacements for themselves! 3 other volunteers from another cluster site came up and 2 helped us play. It was quite the seemed like the whole community had come to watch the Americans play the Filipinos (they named us the gatas or milk and the other team cape, or coffee). The game started at 7p.m. under the bright court lights. This was serious business. They had 2 referees, an announcer and music to play during timeouts and halftime! The announcing was almost as important as the game itself and it wouldn't have been complete without a dog fight in the middle of the game! Our team ended up losing by 1 little point and there's already talk in the community about the next game!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Goats, Chickens, and Dogs

Sometimes I wonder how anyone can sleep in my community!!! In my backyard, I have about 10 chickens that squack, cluck, and cock-a-doodle-do all night and day! It's amazing how many livestock animals are in the community. Another trainee in Vista Hill has a cow, some goats, and pigs in her backyard. It's so funny, the other night we all went to a basketball game and during a timeout, some chickens ran across the court! The next animal was a dog.

Dogs! They're everywhere too! My family owns three, but are quick to point out that they are really the neighbor's dogs, but they like to live on their porch. Another trainee has a dog that follows him everywhere. We went on a hike two days ago, up into the mountains and the dog went all the way with us. There are always dogs barking. It may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm really just amazed at the animal population!

After our hike, we were invited to an educational seminar about how to raise goats. Never in a million years did I think that I would attend a meeting about goats that was spoken in Ilokano! It was a learning experience though. Before Filipinos begin any of their gatherings, they make everyone stand up and introduce themselves. Then a prayer is said and the Philippine national anthem is sung. In the middle of the seminar, they stopped what they were doing so an ice breaker could be done! Filipinos love ice breakers and incorporate them into everything. It's really quite amusing.

UPDATE: The cold showers are becoming more comfortable. The time it takes for me to "pump myself up" to dump that bucket of cold water over my head is getting shorter!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Host Family

I'm all moved in and boy is it different than the resort! Ha. I have my own room with a door that locks...that's a Peace Corps policy for host families. I'm living with a mother and her daughter. They make me laugh a lot. The mother speaks very good English and it has been very easy to communicate with her. Her husband is abroad working in Saudi Arabia. A brother and his two kids live in the house as well, but I have rarely see the brother or his son.

The bathroom situation is very different from the states. I have a squatter toilet and I got stage fright the first time I tried to use it. It will take some getting used to! After you're done doing your "business," you use a bucket and pour water in the toilet to make it flush. I don't know how it works, but it does. The shower is a cement room with a water spout with a basin under it and a bucket. I use the bucket to pour the FREEZING cold water over me and that's how I take my showers!

Yesterday afternoon, all of the trainees' host families organized a gathering at one of the houses for Marienda (snack the Philippines, marienda is at 10 am and 3 pm everyday no matter what! People will stop what they're doing for meals and snacks). We had some very good spaghetti and a coconut and fruit salad that was absolutely delicious.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I Know I'm Not In America...

...when I'm walking down the street and see a tricycle (small motorcycle with a sidecar) with a PIG in the sidecar!!!

Use your imagination. I formally started my language training yesterday as I stated last time. Ilokano is one of the most difficult languages spoken in the Philippines. Here are a few phrases I've learned: Naimbag nga biget mo. (Good morning to you) Kumusta ka? (How are you?) Mayet. (Fine) Papanam? (Where are you going?) Idiay laeng (Somewhere) That's all I can remember for now. It's very interesting and my language facilitator is HILARIOUS.

Today we were working on a learning activity and she was observing. I was standing next to her and she asked me if she could ask me a personal question. Now a personal question to a Filipino is completely different than what an American would consider one to be. She asked me how tall I was! I chuckled and told her that was not a personal question at all. I told her I was close to 6'2" and she was excited to learn that I played volleyball and basketball. My language instructor's head comes to a couple inches above my elbow so I joked with her that she could be my arm rest. She's really a fun person.

Now, I have to explain what a normal question to a Filipino is. They have no problem asking you how old you are, what your religion is and why you're not married. As we all know, this would be taken the wrong way in the US if those were the first questions asked by someone you just met.

I also wrote that I will be heading to my host family tomorrow! How exciting...I learned a little bit more about my family today. I will be living with a woman and her two children. Her husband is working in another country so it will be just a few of us in the house. I can't wait to meet her and her children. I do admit that I'm a bit nervous about living with a host family since I never done this before. Just another new experience to add to the ever growing list!

Just a note to everyone who has written me! I may be having to change my email address since I haven't been able to find an internet cafe that lets Hotmail work properly on their computers. I'll post the change if there is one!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya

How cool of a name is that for the city I'm living in right now! I made my 7 and a half hour bus ride up here without any problems. The scenery was beautiful as well...a lot of mountains! We stopped along the way for a photo opportunity at the highest point (I forgot the name, but I got a photo that I need to post...I still haven't found a computer that will let me post yet). We got to Bayombong at about 1 p.m. and had lunch at a cafe. Very nice! During our first session yesterday, we found out where our cluster sites will be (cluster site is where our host family lives and there will be 4-5 trainees at each site. My site will be at Vista Hills, Bayambong and there will be 4 of us in all. I was voted at Barangay Capitan (pronounced cap-ee-tan) and I'm not really sure what that exactly means yet.

Today has been more meetings and people talking to us. We broke up into our program areas and had a current volunteer explain the goals and objectives to us. I'm getting more and more excited to actually start at my site. Training goes for about 10 more weeks and we'll be doing a cluster project during that time in our communities. I learned that I am the only volunteer out of the 10 CSE (community services educator) volunteers to be learning the language of Ilokano...everyone else is learning the official language called Tagalog. I'm really interested in what they have planned for me.

We're staying in on a college campus in Bayombong. It's called Nueva Vizcaya State University. Our language and cultural instructors are very patient and willing to answer all of our questions. There are also current PCVs here helping with the training and it's so funny because one is from Worthington! Well, I suppose, I'm heading back up the hill to the university.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Heading to Northern Luzon

Yesterday our batch went to Manila for the day. Our bus left at 7 a.m. and it took us almost an hour and a half to get to our location. At one point, there was 12 lanes of traffic!!! Driving is so much different. We saw one car who had a flat tire and didn't bother to pull over; just changed it in the middle of the road.

We had a tour of Intramuros...the oldest part of Manila. Heard the history of the Philippines by a very enthusiastic speaker. It was very informative and explained a lot of the culture and the Spanish/American/Chinese influence on the country.

Then we headed over to the US Embassy and heard a lot of people speak about the relations between the US and Philippines.

Afterwards, we went to Peace Corps Philippines headquarter and got a tour of the facilities. We also were told where we are going. I am going to the region I really wanted to be sent--Norther Luzon. It is the mountainous region of the Philippines. There are also indiginous tribes still previlent there. Very excited!!! I leave tomorrow for my Hub Site (the town we will meet for training). On Saturday, I am sent to my Cluster Site (smaller towns that language and culture training will take place). Very confusing, but hopefully I'll be able to clarify in future posts! I'm off to get ready...repacking, etc. Oh yeah, my bus ride to N. Luzon will take 8-10 hours! Thinking about all of you!

Friday, April 01, 2005

First Day in the Philippines

I made it to the Philippines in one piece. What a long plane ride...16 hours! When we got into Manila Airport, there were several PC staff and volunteers waiting for us. They gave each of us a leigh; pink for girls and blue for boys. We went through immigration and on to baggage claim. After all of us got our luggage, we were guided out of the airport and moving trucks met us to transport our bags. All trainees went on a bus that took us to where we are staying. On the way, we got a small glimpse of Manila. It was very dark and kind of hard to see. It was funny to see 7-Eleven and KFC!

We are staying on this awesome resort has a mini zoo, butterfly sanctuary, water park, putt-putt golf, and a ton of other stuff. This Peace Corps business is really difficult I tell you! Just's going to get a lot different in about 5 days. Tomorrow I have an interview with my regional manager. I'm not exactly sure what that means yet, but he/she is the one who places me in post.

I continue to meet a ton of different volunteers everyday. Everyone has such interesting stories and backgrounds. Tonight we went to a "fishing village" that overlooked the bay. It was incredible. We waited until the sun set and then went to another really cool location on the resort for dinner. I had my first experience with Filipino food...I asked for a piece of fish and when I looked on my plate, there was an eye staring up at me! I at least tried it, but that was all.

There is air conditioning in all of our rooms so we are being spoiled. Jet lag has started to take its toll and I'm about ready to crash for the night. It's only 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1. They're keeping us pretty busy in the mornings with informational meetings. Hopefully soon, I'll be able to get to Manila and see what the city is like. I'm off to bed!