Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas...

...Or not so much since it's in the mid-70s to low-80s in temperature!!! And there certainly isn't as many lights or decorations as we are used to in the States either. And, believe it or not, I actually miss the snow a little bit...but not the below zero temperatures! This will be my first Christmas where I was in a place that didn't snow. It's a bit surreal in the fact that Christmas can exist without the white, fluffy stuff.

I'm in the middle of figuring out what are appropriate gifts for host families and some of the close Filipino friends I've made. I still really haven't a clue what to get them, but feel the need to show my appreciation for opening their doors to the American! I'm also involved in a "Kris Kringle" which we all know as the "Secret Santa" gift exchange. Thankfully it's not as elaborate as some of the secret santas I've been involved in. I'm also working with the preschool teacher and another staff member at RSCC to put on a Christmas play about the birth of Jesus. I'm the writer, narrator, and Christmas Carol lyric finder. At least it's keeping me busy and I get to work with the kids more!

Rachel and I will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas at the upscale Camp John Hay manor house here in Baguio. We decided that we needed to treat ourselves to some pampering and I can't wait to relax in some of the comforts from home that I don't get anymore. We will then probably head to the beach for a few days. I think we will check out 100 Islands Nature Reserve in Pangasinan. There is supposed to be some amazing white beaches and areas to snorkel. Should be a nice get away...again. Seems like I'm doing more traveling than anything else, huh??? I have to though, don't I???

So, my next topic brings me to my Christmas Wish List.
  1. Of course my friends and family who I sorely miss and wouldn't be able to survive from day to day without their love and support!
  2. Being able to hop in my car and drive (So I don't have a car anymore, but just to drive again would be AWESOME!).
  3. My bed! Right now the bed I use here is just a wooden frame with a 3 inch foam pad as the mattress. Nothing compared to my pillowtop queen size bed!
  4. I miss my big, white, fluffy dog, Nanuk, so much right now! I would like to be able to pet a clean, well groomed and well behaved dog. I've only found a handful of well taken care of pets here.
  5. All of the Christmas goodies that come with the season...thanks to the package from my family, I got my mom's homemade chex mix to munch on!

I'm sure I could think of a few other things, but these are at the top of the list. I know I took all of them for granted when I was in the states and it is such a huge wakeup call to live in a style in which is so foreign...even unimaginable I'd say. Who would have thought that plastic furniture would be the main means of furnishing your house? And I never would have imagined that there was a place that didn't understand the concept of owning a pet, but when you have a hard enough time feeding yourself, how can you afford a dog?

I hope you all have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and able to spend it with the ones you are closest to. I also hope the New Year is prosperous with only good things to come! I would like to thank everyone who has written, emailed, or called in the past 8 months. You don't know how much all of them meant to me. I know that a New Year's resolution will be to actually write more. Take care and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tinoc and a Christmas Party

I have been quite busy again. My Regional Manager has been working on site identification for the past few months and one municipality interested in getting a volunteer is Tinoc, Ifugao. My host mother and the High School principal are interested in getting an education volunteer. Since I'm familiar with many of the key people in Tinoc (my host mom is the mayor), my Regional Manager asked me to go there and do a site assessment to see if it would be a good place to send a volunteer.

So I was off with my host mom, my 3yr old host sister and the Tinoc driver on the 7 hour drive. The 1st 3 hours were normal...I have done it a few times already. But then the roads became less defined and more treacherous! It was often hard to see what was road and what wasn't and several times we got caught up on rocks. I know I've said it before, but this seriously was the WORST road I've ever been on and probably will ever be on again!

The next day I was escorted to Tinoc National High School with my host mom. I talked to the principal and the teacher identified as the counterpart for the prospective volunteer. All seemed to be in order and the high school seems like a great site for one of the incoming PCVs next year. The only thing about Tinoc is that there is no electricity or cell service. In this day and age in Peace Corps Philippines, those are two very important things to have. Although it will be a tough assignment, I found Tinoc to be a really pleasant community. Two thumbs up for a future volunteer!

This morning, Rachel (the volunteer in Tadian) and I went to my center to play with babies and see if my pouch from Peace Corps had arrived. The Officer in Charge informed me that there were several visitors at the center today. I found out that a Medical Mission was happening and the kids were getting free check ups and shots if needed. There were members of an emergency response team also there who donated clothes and toys to the children.

After everything was completed, Rachel and I were leaving as the emergency team was too. A few asked us if we would join them for lunch. Of course we quickly accepted (especially since we were offered a free ride into Baguio!) and we got into the Ambulence that the crew had driven. As we drove through La Trinidad, the Filipino who was driving turned on the sirens and we were flying through the streets. It was definately the fastest trip to Baguio I have ever had! We got a mini tour of Baguio as we were driven through parts of the city we had yet to see and then we finally got to our destination, the headquarters of the Emergency Response Team.

We were warmly greeted by several of the key members of the organization. We found out that the party we were attending was the annual Christmas Party. A large spread of food was on the table, native style, meaning that banana leaves were laid on the table and the food on the leaves. We were then given pieces of a banana tree trunk to use as our bowl. There was no silverware and we ate with our hands. I have to say that this was by far one of the best days I've had in the Philippines. We were surrounded by good food, laughing faces and a beautiful day. We were also able to have a discussion with the chairman of the response team and it was so good to have a long and meaningful conversation with this wise man.

I am still amazed at the generosity of Filipinos and of their constant hospitality! When I think things can't possibly get any better, things happen like today. I continue to tell myself I am one of the luckiest people to be having such an experience.