Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why doesn't that suprise me anymore?

So I've noticed that there are several things about Filipino culture that don't shock me anymore. Here is just a short list:
  • I can eat rice at every meal plus for a snack and not even think twice.
  • The other day an ant was crawling on my lip and it didn't phase me. I just caught it and smashed it and continued reading my book.
  • This morning I went to eat my breakfast and there were ants crawling all over it. No, I didn't throw it away, I blew them all off and ate it anyway (more protien!).
  • I realize after about 10 minutes of "pig screaming" that there must be a party tomorrow and they are butchering the meal.
  • Who cares that we are driving on the wrong side of the street, the oncoming traffic will get out of the way.
  • I find it amusing when drunk Filipino men try and practice their English with me. This is usually when I'm at a birthday party for a 3 year old or at a baptism party.
  • I have become a master's the fastest and cheapest form of communication. I can abbreviate any word, but it myt tak u a wyl 2 dcyfr it.
  • It's not uncommon for a volunteer (me) to love and hate the Philippines in the same day. I admit that I have laughed and cried all in one day. It's all part of the experience.
  • You said there are chicken intestines for lunch? Hmmm, ok, so I still can't stomach the intestinal delicacies! I passed up that meal for bread and butter!

Things are really starting to feel normal. It's nice to get on a jeepny and have the driver stop at my center without me having to say anything. I'm starting to be able to joke with my coworkers and started to work on some design projects too. Right now I'm helping with a brochure about RSCC to promote their facility and program. I'm also going to create some materials to help recruit new foster families in the area. It's still an up and down rollercoaster ride, with the ups outweighing the downs by far. I'm still looking for my "barkada," or group of friends that I can hang out with, but that's slowing coming too.

Just to warn people, I may be out of touch for a little while. Next Thursday, the 1st, I'll be heading to Manila. I'll be spending 2 weeks in Silang, Cavite for PST 2. I'll be learning technical skills that will help me do my job more effectively. Then I'll be heading on vacation for a week. Should be back to site by the 25th. Not sure where we are going on vacation, but I'll be sure to take pictures and write about it! Ingat (take care)!

Monday, August 15, 2005


It's official, I survived the first major typhoon of the season...plenty more to come so I'm told. So it started out just heavy rain for a day or two, then it became very windy and cold. You have never seen so much rain, mud, and garbage floating down the street! It was really something. I really hated to leave the comfort of my room, but a volunteer I am, so the rain and wind I must overcome and face! It ended a few days ago and today is the first day in a couple of weeks that there hasn't been a heavy downpour. It's nice to be able to walk around without an umbrella.

Last week was super busy. On Monday, I was finally introduced to everyone in the Regional Office located in Baguio City. I had yet to make my official visit there, but my supervisor received a promotion so I attended the Flag Raising ceremony in which she was recognized. Recognition and ceremonies are a huge part of Filipino culture. About 9 volunteers came to Baguio for the weekend and one of them was a fellow CSE volunteer working at a center for adolescent boys. There are 40 boys in the center, but only 16 beds...oh, and an empty, brand new dormitory. They center hasn't been using it yet due to the fact that the congresswoman is unable to attend an opening ceremony. This is one of those instances in Filipino culture I'm like, "What the F***!?!?!" Making sure the pomp and circumstance and recognition is completed before they can make children's lives a little more pleasant seems to be backwards to me. All I can do in these situations is shake my head and keep my mouth shut until I find the nearest volunteer to vent to.

Back to the Regional Office...while I was there, one of the social workers I had met at RSCC a few times came up and started telling me about a trip to Tuba, Benguet and Ilocos Norte she and some other DSWD people will be taking. She offered an invitation my way and without hesitation, I accepted...especially when I was told that DSWD would foot the bill. Free travel, lodging and meals, how can you not accept??? Plus I will get to observe and Out of School Youth (OSY) program as well as possibly help with a Family Violence workshop. If all sticks to plan (it's about 50/50 usually!), I will be gone for the last week of August.

Spent long hours at my center Tues-Thurs (9-10 hrs/day) for a workshop that one of the social workers facilitated. I'm worried that most of the houseparents didn't understand the majority of the information though. It was mostly in English and the facilitator tried to translate into Ilokano or Tagalog. Hopefully I can create a project from this workshop in the future. Some very good information.

I've also started hunting for my own place. I love my host family, but it's time for me to have my own space. I will continue to keep in contact with them and hopefully travel to Tinoc, Ifugao at some point in my service to help with computer training there. Things seem to be falling into place lately. I'm much more comfortable in my center and in my community. I think the people in La Trinidad are finally getting used to the that big, tall, white, American girl walking around!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

And I Thought Baguio was a BIG CITY!

Baguio is so small compared to Manila!!! I had the opportunity to do a little Manila exploring as I am now an Alternate Warden in Benguet Province. OK, here's the boring info part to explain what a Warden is...Peace Corps has a security measure in place so that if information needs to be passed to volunteers quickly, there are certain contact people in specific areas. It works like a phone tree. Well, there is already a Warden for Benguet, but he will be COSing next April so I'm next in line. Anyway, to be a Warden or the Alternate, you have to attend a 1 and a half day training.

Training was in Silang, Cavite...very close to Manila. A few volunteers and I went a day early so that we could meet up with other volunteers in Malate, Manila. We got checked into the Pension (a budget, dormitory type hotel) and then met up with people at a bar called the G-Point. I know, sounds pretty seedy, right? Well it gets worse. At first I thought that the others were leading us on to have us come to a bar called the G-Point. We walk in and I swear, there was an old, balding, fat, white guy at every table with a Filipina sitting beside him. I realized that we had just walked into a GRO (Guest Relations Officer...code name for prostitute) bar. The other volunteers were there and we ended up having a really good time, except for the occasional wave of nausea!

The next day I went with people who were on a mission to buy a bicycle...I decided to hold off on that due to the limited area I feel safe to ride a bike. Then we headed to the training site about an hour and a half away. It was so nice to sleep in a place that didn't have chickens or dogs right outside your windows or TAHO vendors screaming up and down the block at 5:30 in the morning! I usually wake up a little before 6 due to these disturbances, but found that I was able to sleep until 6:30 without any was a good day!

Ok, so I think I've mentioned, or maybe not, the various ways some Filipinoes have tried to rip me off, but I have never experienced anything like the taxi drivers in Manila. It was ridiculous. When we first got off the bus, there were 3 or 4 of them who were willing to give us a ride to the pension, but for PHP 300...a ride to the pension should only be about PHP 100. We finally found a driver who would turn on the meter, but then he decided he needed to get gas before he dropped us off. We said no problem as long as he paused the meter, but he didn't like that idea so we got out and walked the rest of the way.

The next hassle I had was when we were leaving the Peace Corps office in Manila. A taxi pulled up and I explained where we were going and asked for him to turn on the meter. He said sure, but plus PHP50. I said no, and he tried to bargain down to plus PHP30. I explained that there was no reason he needed to add anything and that we would find a different taxi if he didn't like it. What was even more incredible was that he said ok and would rather have no fare than to give us a metered ride!

Ok, one last taxi story. So we are still waiting for a taxi and finally one pulls up. I did the whole explanation...we want to go to the Victory Liner bus station in Pasay City and want it metered. The driver says ok, so we're off. A few blocks into the ride he asked if we were going to Baguio and I said yes. "Well, you want the Cubao terminal then, I will take you there." I said, "No, no! We want the terminal in Pasay City on EDSA. No Cubao!" "Oh, you know where?" he says. Cubao would have been a couple hundred peso ride. It's just really frustrating at times. Needless to say, I'm very thankful I'm in's nice and cool, the people are friendly and the taxi drivers are honest!