Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The 5 this case, 3

I thought I would dedicate this entry to the sights, sounds and smells of the place I call home. It seems the sounds start at about 4:30, 5 a.m. No, I don't want to be up at this time, but one, the sun shines directly into my room as I lay in bed, and two, I can hear the local "Taho" man calling out to people..."Taaaaaaaa hoooooooo, taaaaaaaa hooooooo!" Taho (pronounced like the city), is a soy product and usually can be found in the mornings. There's not just one taho man, but at least 5 that walk around my neighborhood.

When I hear and see this, I quickly find my malong (long piece of colorful fabric that can be used for a number of things such as a blanket, laundry bag, skirt, etc.). My favorite use of my malong at 5 in the morning is to tye it around my eyes and ears so I can get about 45 more minutes of sleep. I really want an hour, but I hear my host family slowly waking up and starting to make breakfast. The smell of garlic wafts into my room and the clunk of the butcher knife on the chopping board finally wakes me up fully.

At breakfast this morning, I quietly watched as my "lola" (grandmother) was eating her breakfast. She was wearing her usual attire of a stocking hat that you see all Filipinos wearing up here in the hills. They market them as souvenires as they have BAGUIO CITY boldly knitted into them. Her long, black hair was pulled back into a clip, her usual fashion and she had a knitted scarf wrapped tightly around her neck since she is getting an itch in her throat. Lola also had her house coat on that is printed with teddy bears and "friends" is written all over it. Usually she just wears a skirt and big, heavy socks with her house slippers, but this morning was unusually cold so she had also put on a pair of sweatpants under her skirt. When I first met lola, I was eager to try out my language skills with her so I asked how old she was (to a Filipino woman, this is not offensive). Lola quickly answered that she wasn't really sure, but knew she was over 65. The neat thing about lola is that she always has a smile when she sees you walk into the room and you can see the wisdom of her more than 65 years in her eyes.

After breakfast, I head to the RSCC. Through my alleyway I walk and it is usually very wet from the rain the night before. This often releases the not so pleasant smells of the poo, human urine, and last week's garbage. I get to the main road of La Trinidad and the pace is a hundred times faster than Vista Hill. There are huge trucks that sputter and belch out black exhaust, which makes me wish I didn't have a nose for the pollution stings my nose. Jeepnies race through the streets as quickly and, at times, as recklessly, as they can to make their next fare. Busses are constantly buzzing through the streets, carrying passengers to their expected destinations. There is the never ending sound of motors and horns honking.

I get to the jeepny station that I go to everyday to hop on the Pico/Puguis jeep. The "yellers" (I don't know what else to call them since it seems their main job is to yell to the people walking by that a jeep is being loaded heading through Pico) finally know who I am and without me having to ask, point me to the correct jeep.

These same sights and sounds are repeated several times throughout the day until I get home. When school is let out, the kids are in the streets, playing and screaming. As dusk draws near, a local "garage band" gets out their instruments in a nearby house and practice for hours. Oftentimes this is the sound I fall asleep my bed, in the Philippines, I fall asleep to a band playing Nirvana. Only in the Philippines!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Photos...

Just wanted to quick add that there is a second album available by clicking here. It has photos up to almost now! I still have to get some from swearing in that I thought I had! Luckily I got the official photo on there, but I have a few more that I want to show everyone. Til next week, Take care!

Monday, June 20, 2005


Finally got some photos online. Sorry it's taken me so long and to be honest, these are very old...From the first month and a half. Here is the link to my photos. I'll try to post more in the next week or so.

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.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

It's Official

Hey, sorry it's been so long! I have been so very busy with all of my end of my pre-service training stuff. On June 6th, Francey's birthday, I took my oathe to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer and uphold the constitution of the United States of America.

Now I'm in La Trinidad, Benguet and have officially begun my service as a PCV. Haven't done much yet since it's the weekend and I'm not expected to my center until Monday, but I just found out that the President has declaired Monday as a holiday so I may not have to go in. June 12th is the Philippine Independance Day and since it lands on a Sunday, the Prez decided to push it over to Monday I guess.

I've been keeping busy getting to know my new host family and taking trips to Baguio. The Jeep system is a bit more complicated here than in Bayombong. Many more places to go to here than in little old Bayombong! The weather here is completely different. Who thought that I would be wearing a sweatshirt every morning because it is so cold! It rains everyday and it is beginning to be a rarity to see the sun! Soon the sun will stop showing its face to Benguet and the rains with come all day, everyday for a couple of months.

One person wrote me to ask if I live on the side of a mountain, barefoot, running from arrows being shot by little brown people. That is the complete opposite of where I live! Actually, I am in a very urban community. Heck, I ate at Pizza Hut for lunch today and right down the street from where I live is a McDonald's (which by the way, sells rice!). On the surface, the Philippines looks very westernized. Their clothes dawn the brand names from the US...FUBU, Old Navy, Gap, Nike, Adidas, etc. Once you really get to know the culture, it is completely different. Children live with their parents until they get married, and even then they sometimes continue to live with a parent. Family members will do anything for their own even if it means that they pay for a child's tuition instead of putting a roof on their house. It's amazing how dedicated and giving these people are.