Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Monday, July 25, 2005

Cooking...American Style, Rainy Weather, and a Christening

Ok, it's been a while and I apologize. I did attempt to write once last week, but the internet crashed during a storm. I'll try and summarize for the past two weeks!

Two Sundays ago, I cooked lunch for my host family. The menu consisted of Spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and a garden salad. I was very excited to start this meal as I hadn't had spaghetti or a good salad since I got to the Philippines. Ok, so I've had spaghetti, but you've read in earlier entries how sweet it is...nothing like what mom used to make!

I slaved away in the kitchen for 2 hours. My lola and two host sisters helped with the preparations. It was completed and it was quite tasty if I don't say so myself! The response from those who ate was positive. They noted that the spaghetti in the States is more on spice than on sweet and my host sister was suprised to find how sweet Pinoy style spaghetti is. The taters were a hit and it was a toss up with the tossed salad. Some didn't try it, but those who did said that it was good. My host father looked at the dressing and exclaimed, "so that's what this is for!" He said that he had always seen salad dressing in the grocery store, but never bought it because he had no idea what to use it for.

Baguio and La Trinidad has been hit with monsoon rains on an almost daily basis. And when it rains here, it's a serious downpour! I can't believe how much rain we have gotten and people say that it's usually worse; this is a light rainy season. The clouds roll in at around 11 am and it's usually starting to rain by 1pm. Then the thunder starts and it is so loud. I'm not sure if it's because I'm so high up in the mountains or if it's just being in a new place that has the windows open all the time! When the thunder gets going, then it really starts to pour. Small rivers are created and it is impossible to go 3 feet without getting drenched! I carry an umbrella with me at all times!

This past weekend I became a godmother. A baptism was held at my center and I was asked to sponsor one of the little girls who is there. The whole ceremony was spoken in English (except for the homily, which was in Tagalog). Baptisms are a time to celebrate and my center didn't skimp out on anything! They bought a whole pig, butchered it at the center, and was able to creat a feast. They used every part of the pig...the blood, intestines, liver...I think you get the point! It was a great experience and was glad I got to be apart of the celebration.

Monday, July 11, 2005

My Trip to Tadian

I decided it was time to get away this past weekend. I have a very good friend, Rachel, whose site is in Tadian (pronounced Ta-jon) in Mountain Province. I was gone, Friday through Sunday and let me just tell everyone, transportation here is something that will take time to get used to. Here's my bus traveling story:

So I was really excited to begin this little weekend excursion on Friday morning. I had a few things to do before getting on the bus so I had gotten up early, double checked my packing efforts and headed out the door at a little after 7 a.m. I went to the bank and then hopped on a jeepny into Baguio to catch my bus at the Slaughter Station. Yes, quite a morbid name for a bus depot, but accrued its name due to the fact that it was situated near a slaughtering house.

I got a few items at the little market nearby, a bottle of water, an apple, and a bag of snacks and I felt I was all set to go. My bus arrived and some people began to board. I picked out my seat and my gosh, there was absolutely no leg room! Good thing this was not a full bus or I would have been in trouble! The bus was scheduled to leave at about 9:30 and we got going about 20 minutes late. One thing you have to know about the buses is that there is not really a set schedule, just an estimate and there are no "bus stops". You stick out your hand if you want a bus to stop...kind of like a taxi!

We made several stops in Baguio, picking up more people as we went. At one of these stops, a lady and about 50 boxes were packed into the bus. They put all of the boxes on the top and piled a few bags of rice in the aisles and then we were off again. The bus driver was going at a very good clip when all of a sudden there was a huge boom on the roof. That's right, one of the boxes had come loose and flew onto the highway. The guys who are called conductors (they take tickets) jumped up out of their seats and yelled for the bus to stop. One of them ran out and gathered the box and its contents...luckily just a box of tinapy (bread). Not too much damage so we were off again.

One of the conductors decided that he wanted to check the rest of the boxes on the roof. Instead of having the bus stop, he jumped out of the bus door, scaled the side of the bus and jumped up on the roof; doing this with just rubber sandles no less!

I didn't mention that this whole bus ride was through the mountains of Northern Luzon and estimated to take 6 hours. There were times when I looked out of my window and could only see down about 300 feet! My bus driver was a risk taker as well. Not only did he pass other trucks and buses, but did so going uphill and around a curve! I must be getting used to this type of driving as I'm not even nervous when drivers do this anymore.

After many stops, helping another bus get unstuck from the mud, and the bumpiest road I have ever been on, I made it to Tadian in one piece and alive! Rachel was there to greet me at the market and I was shown around her town. Very quiet and peaceful situated on the side of a mountain. No traffic, no pollution; only calm and quiet!

I got to attend a wedding while on my visit and Rachel and I tried our hand at cooking for ourselves for the first time. Attempted rice pudding, mash potatoes and sayote omlettes. Another volunteer came for the night on Saturday and we had a popcorn party. Then I was off on Sunday afternoon on the same bus company.

Let's just say this was an even crazier bus driver and the last 2 hours of the ride I wasn't feeling too good. When I got home, I crawled in my bed. After about a half hour I emerged and told my host family about my trip...oh, and that I would be skipping dinner due to my bus ride. One of my host sisters told me that the bus company I took, D' Rising Sun, was notorious for it's fast paced driving!!!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Filipino Wake

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July! I missed the "Captain's Cup" and heard everyone had a blast...I'll be there in two years!!!

As I was laying in bed on Sunday evening, my cell phone chimed that I had received a text. I "opened" my text and saw that it was from my Language Instructor, Roritz. She told me that she was heading to a wake (a very good friend's mother had died). I asked her when she was going to get home and she replied that she would be spending the night at the funeral home.

WHAT?! I asked. I thought I read the text wrong at first. A flurry of texts back and forth ensued. Will you stay awake the whole time? Yes. How long is the wake? Five days. WHAT?! Is that normally how long a wake is? Yes. Why do you have to stay the whole night? Because it appears that you're not doing your duty if you leave the body unattended. What do you do all night? Talk, pray, sing; I'll be singing Amazing you want to come?

I had already gotten ready to wind down for the night so I said I'd take a raincheck. Roritz replied that she would be going again the following night and I was welcome to come if I wanted. I thought, sure, why not!

I didn't really know what to expect. I met up with Roritz and we were off to Paz Funeral Parlor. This place was enormous! At least 10 different viewing chambers. We got to the one designated for her friend. It was uncanny how familiar of a setting it was. It could have been a funeral home in the states! Anyway, Roritz introduced me to several of her friends. There was chika-chika (basically just talking and gabbing), food, joking, and not a tear in sight.

The coffin was in front of two rows of pews. Filipino coffins are just a little different from the States. Instead of the casket being open, there is a glass barrier over the top. Roritz explained that most of the time, this barrier is removed right before burial because there is a superstition that when the wood gives way, it will break the glass and damage the body and in response, the sould of that person will return to its family members.

We stayed for at least three hours. I got to meet several new people, a few of Roritz's family members, practiced Ilokano, and had a good laugh. Very unexpected to have such a good time at a wake!