Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'm Back!!!

Ok, ok. I know it’s way past due for an update. I got back to site on Sunday, September 25th. After 3 long weeks of being away, I was so glad to be able to unpack and have a permanent place to put my things again! I have so many travels and places and experiences to write about so bear with me if this gets to be a little long. Go ahead, take a break, get some merienda and come back and finish!

So training was very useful and I know I’ll be able to use a lot of the materials and resources at my center. We got one free day all to ourselves on the 11th. I took this opportunity, along with 7 other volunteers, to go to Tagaytay, Cavite. We decided to hike up Taal Volcano. So we got up early, ate breakfast and hopped on a jeepney. None of us really knew what to expect or where exactly we were going!

Our driver dropped us off at the jeepney terminal in Tagaytay and there were several men standing around. Luckily one in particular offered us the use of his two tricycles down the mountain to the lake where we then would have to transfer to a bangka boat to cross to the volcano. We accepted the offer and we were on our way, 4 volunteers + the driver on each trike! I’m sure we were a site to see when we passed people. The ride took at least 45 minutes down a road that was paved in some places and muddy ruts in others. We had to get out several times just so the trike could cross some of the more treacherous terrain. Luckily we made it down in one piece (but not without a pit stop to fix a broken part on the trike).

Our group was taken to a restaurant where we were offered beverages and a meal that would be prepared and ready when we were done with our volcano adventure. After showing our gratitude and politely declined, we were on our next leg of the journey. Our guide led us down to the lake where a bangka boat was waiting for us. We crossed the lake which was a nice, slow ride. The scenery was amazing! The lake was like glass and there were several mountains that jutted up from its shores. We were headed to an island in the middle of the lake. We arrived and told that we needed horses for the climb up the volcano. Our group was determined to hike the volcano. We refused the horses and a guide, but they seemed to think that we needed them anyway, so for over half of the hike, about 5 horses with riders followed us. I finally about blew a gasket and told them that we didn’t want horses and to stop following us. I think they finally got the hint and went back down!

After reaching the top, I was treated to a spectacular view of the inside of a volcano. Ok, so it wasn’t red, hot lava like most would expect. There is actually another lake in the mouth of Taal. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but Taal is still active. The last eruption was in the 70s and is on about a 50 year cycle. The lake bubbled in some places due to the release of some gases. On the shores were several sulfur deposits and occasionally, the cool breeze became almost hot due to the hot gases from the mouth.

To the right of our group, I noticed some Chinese tourists. One man in the group had his camera out. I could tell he wanted to talk to us and he finally was able to ask if he could take our photo. I said, “No problem, but it will cost you 5 pesos!” At first he stared blankly until it registered that I was joking and he let out a roar of laughter. He proceeded to take our picture and then asked me if I would take a photo with his wife. Hey, I can’t deny a fan! He told us that we needed to lean in so the wife put her elbow on my shoulder. I said, “Oo, I don’t know if you want to do that. I’m sweaty.” And she says, “Oh, I’m Jenna!” So now a bunch of Chinese tourists are going to go home and tell their friends they met an American named sweaty! Before they left, I asked if I could have a picture taken with them. When they finally were heading back down the volcano, the man turns around and says to me, “I am your face! I am your face!” I looked over at the other volunteers who were just as puzzled as I was. We finally figured out he meant to say, “I am your friend!”

The rest of training went without incident and during the week I finally made plans for the week of my vacation. Ok, so they weren’t exactly plans, but I figured out where I was going, how I would get there and who I would go with. A group of 5 of us decided to take a 36 hour boat from Manila to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. It was just like a cruise ship with meals provided and an air con room. We were scheduled to leave at around 10:45 p.m. on Friday night. We got checked in and situated in our room and waited for departure. Midnight came and went without any movement. We decided to amuse ourselves with cards and some chess. While we waited, water started streaming into our room. We opened the door and there was a river in the hallway! I thought we were going to sink before we even left port! They switched us to a different room and informed us that it was just the air conditioning unit that had sprung a leak, which meant we had no air con.

We finally left the dock at 3 in the morning. We then celebrated our departure by singing videoke late into the morning and then went to crash in our room. Needless to say it was almost unbearable due to the lack of ventilation and no air con. One of the guys I was with asked the front desk when it would be fixed. Instead of the air con being fixed, we were moved to another room…our 3rd in only 12 hours. That has to be a record! The rest of the voyage went without a hitch and we arrived to Dumaguete without incident, but I had started to feel a bit under the weather.

I was exhausted to due lack of sleep, but people talked me into going to a resort where more volunteers were. Dumaguete was the second training site as it is hard for Peace Corps to find one location to meet all of the needs of all of projects. My head began to ache and shoulders hurt. Thankfully, one of the volunteers that I was on the boat with offered me her bed to lie down on. Another girl stayed in the room to keep me company. When I explained what I felt like, she got a thermometer and took my temperature. I had a 38.8 degree temp in Celsius…in Fahrenheit that turns out to be almost 102. Luckily some Tylenol did the trick to break my fever.

The next day I just rested and felt a little better. We went to Casa Roro Falls on Tuesday the 20th. To say the least, it was a pretty difficult hike for me, a seasoned hiker! Haha, just kidding, I’m not really a very experienced hiker so I admit, it was hard. There were 335 steps that led down to the river which we followed to the 30 meter waterfall. Even though it was tough, I’m so glad that I went, scraped, battered and bruised.

The next day, 4 of us headed to Cebu on a 45 minute boat ride. Cebu is another island in the Visayas. Our original plan was to go to another waterfall with a volunteer who lives in a municipality called Badian. Everyone told us that it was impossible to get there because a bridge was broken. So we turned to the Lonely Planet guidebook to look for a resort on the beach. Turns out the resort we picked was on the way to the other volunteer’s site. Instead of re-rescheduling our plans, we had him meet us at the resort. It was beautiful and dawned native style hut housing. It was nice to relax and not have to worry about anything for a day. We did end up going to Kasawan Falls the following day and on to Cebu City after that.

On the 24th, Rachel and I headed back to Baguio via airplane from Cebu City to Manila. Then a nice, long bus ride from Manila to Baguio. We stayed in a hotel in Baguio on Saturday and I finally got back home on the 25th as I mentioned at the beginning of this long narrative. My saying for the week is that I need a vacation from my vacation! I slept most of the day on Sunday and I feel like I’m still recharging. I’ve officially made it 6 months in the Philippines on the 1st of October. Feels like just yesterday I was arriving in country. When I sit back and think about it, all I can do is shake my head.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Away From Site

Hello everyone. Don't worry, I am still alive! I'm attending a two week training in Silang, Cavite. I got here on Sunday and will stay through the 17th. Then I'm heading to Dumaguete on Negros Occidental for some vacation time. Hope to hang out on the beach for a while!

This training is called PST 2 (Pre-Service Training) and is a callaboration of several techinical workshops. There is a great staff here and I'm feeling a lot more confident about what I'll be able to do when I go back to site. Just to give you an idea of some of the topics: Gender and Development, Library Development, Case Management, Counseling, Workshop Development and Special Education. I'm really excited too because we will be getting a lot of time to develop some of our own workshops to bring back to site. Hopefully I'll also be able to help develop our pre-school classes in a little bit more organized fashion.

Things are going really well here. It's been fun to see all the volunteers that I was in training with as well as several of the volunteers who I haven't seen since we left Manila in April! Take care and will write when I can again!