|By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 4:55 pm: Edit Post|
A Peace Corps Experience in the Philippines (Part 3)
A Peace Corps Experience in the Philippines (Part 3)
"It's Starting to Look like Christmas"
December 17, 1998
This Christmas can't be any more different then the one I spent in Sweden. I mean, not only will it be around 35C outside, with the sun beating down and the palm trees but the kind of food. I will be subjected, well, I will partake in a lot of eating. The main party food here is Lechon or roasted pig on a spit. They roast pigs whole, stuff them will herbs until the inside is nice and juicy and the skin is crackly. Eat this cholesterol rich food along with rice, spaghetti, and some beers and you got the x-mas menu. So we won't have glogg, herring, potatoes or sour cream. But its a new experience. While you are skiing outside, and possible freezing, I will be in the shade outside avoiding the sun or in my room with the fan directed right at me blowing full blast.
Yes we did have really good memories, didn't we. I think we will be telling "some" of the stories to our children someday, but many we will have to keep for ourselves.
Say hello to everyone for me!
Gunfire and Fireworks
December 18, 1998
You just won't believe what's happen'in while you've been away from Antique. To start, there have been five new caribou that have been born, and that's just been this week. Also, the municipal office approved four more licenses for tricycles this month. And the most amazing thing is that the word "kwan" has officially entered into the English curriculum at SAC and by next year, to ANS(you know, the private schools are usually ahead in grammar trends). So you can look forward to people using "kwan" more often then they are now.
But I guess with that update, you are now all caught up with what's happening in San Jose. So, what's up with Cavite? Sheila wrote and said she left, I guess the language part is over? What are your plans? I bet, Baguio, Sagada and then back to Manila and on your way home, somewhere on Romblon? That's probably what I would do if I were you. No need to hurry back, besides what's above not much is happening. Enjoy your "away time". I'm planning on attending 10 million x-mas parties, some weddings, all the while stuffing myself with pork skin, uummmm. For new years I'll be on Boracay with some other volunteers for new years (12/30-1-2). We were thinking Iloilo but new years isn't a big going out night, especially with all the gunfire and fireworks. Anyways, hope you are doing well and see you next year "Chicken butt".
December 23, 1998
Its good you have a connection at home now, that will allow us to talk more frequently. I was just reading over our past messages and reliving those old memories, as well as the new ones we both have. Truly exciting and can't wait to have a few drinks with you and talk about our lives again.
I just received a present from your parents! It was a beautiful handmade ornament Denmark! That was very, very nice of them to remember me here in the "bush". I am looking forward to seeing them too. I think they are probably a little nervous about the entire thing. But by the time they arrive, Nov. 99, I will be a pretty good tour guide. I have traveled around the Philippines a bit and will do more by next year. But I hope they continue their interests in the Philippines, I mean, the more they read about the sites and history, the more they will enjoy it.
I'm not really tired of the site here. I mean, about a month ago, I was getting bored, work wasn't going well and I just didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything. Then I left for about a month for work and leisure around the Philippines with some other volunteers and came back so much more energized and enthusiastic. Now I am so busy. I am more driven to get things done and its working out really well..
What's the news here? Well, this entire week will be filled with Christmas parties and some weddings, which means plenty of beers and pork fat and some other foods that, I just don't want to describe in case you puke all over the keyboard. I mean, I thought solstromming was bad, but this stuff here is even worse. Not so much in smell but the kinds of meat and things you wouldn't even think you could eat. I finished my first project, two sanitary toilets for some poor fisherfolks around the cost. It was a tricky project, something that I've never done before but the success is in that it actually flushes, but lets see if they use it.
So what have I been doing to entertain myself. Nothing. Reading, playing my guitar (I still have that book that we made, WFYA all the way, and occasionally people will ask me what it means. But I need more new music dude!), and work. I have started making a volleyball court in the dirt. And I will begin training the highschool volleyball team for a month. So, I'll have people to play volleyball with and something new to do.
Well bud, I know you are feeling the travelling urge, its only naturally for people like us right. We need a high input of sensory experiences and travelling fulfills that doesn't it. But just hang in there, finish school because we have the rest of our lives to travel! Right, isn't it just the beginning of our adventures?
See you on the other side bro!
December 24, 1998
I bet you got your hands full being the Santa for two kids this year. Well, I am sure you are enjoying being the father and granting all their wishes, even if it involves some kind of stupid, over hyped toy of the year (i.e. Furby).
Things are well here. I decided to spend Christmas in the Philippines, and I must say, its been quite an experience. I would have liked to go home and see my family and catch up on everyone but I thought it would be a good thing to see Christmas here in the Philippines. Amazingly enough, its not too different from the states, except for maybe the menu. But I went to two office parties, mine and the department of health, and it was something you expect back in the States, including gift exchanges, party games, caroling (Rudolph, Silent night, etc) and pork fat washed down with a nice semi-cool beer. Actually, they were pretty cold when they delivered the cases, but after sitting a while, they got cool.
Well, it's the 24th for me now. I got back home from a wedding reception and its about 2:00 am and I thought I would write my Christmas greetings now. In any case, I can't really sleep since there is music blaring into my room from the disco in front of the house.
Well, tell me the latest man. I am sure you saw the preview of the new Star Wars and are just salivating, aren't you? Wasn't that crazy how people went to a movie just to watch the preview and left after it? I hope your not one of them...
Take care and Merry Christmas to your whole family!
To Boracay I Go!
December 27, 1998
I hope you had a Christmas full of fulfilled wishes: raunchy sex, simmering saunas, and irresponsible drinking because at least one of us should, right?
It was good to spend the Christmas here. The family I am staying with showed me around, brought me to all the Christmas parties where I just ate and drank. I swear, I am getting a Santa belly just from this past week.
I'll send more pictures of my typical life here. I've been meaning to take some pictures so I can show people the life here.
New Years isn't such a big party thing here. Its more of a family celebration plus with the fireworks or I should say bombs, you don't want to be outside. I'm actually leaving today to meet some other volunteers and we will go to a beach resort and hang out there for new years. Its a popular place for western tourists, so maybe it'll be a normal party... The last time I was there, I saw a lot of Scandinavian tourists, hmmm...
On the Flip Side
January 4, 1999
Well I survived the Christmas holiday. About 5 Christmas parties and 2 weddings, boy I think I gained about 5 pounds in one week. I guess excessive beer and pork fat have a tendency to do that to ones physique. But it was a great experience and I am glad I decided to stay.
I did escape to Boracay to bring on the New Year though. It was absolutely awesome. I think it was that I was with a bunch of westerners who celebrate New Years the way I am accustomed to (e.g. drinking, dancing, staying out 'til dawn). Remember how I mentioned I wasn't that impressed with Boracay my first time. Well, this time, I think I accepted the situation and enjoyed Boracay for Boracay and had a good time. I indulged and just didn't really worry. We spent 3 days on the beautiful beach, and took refreshing swims. Afterwards, we went to Caribou island, about 40 minutes from Boracay. A beautiful island, white sand beach and clear water. Probably equivalent to what Boracay was 20 years ago when you were just a young stud romping around naked, right? There is a volunteer assigned there. A house right on a gorgeous beach with friendly people. He is assigned in Paradise I think..
Everything is well here, except for Mama's constant inventorying of everything insight. After hearing her count the forks and spoons for the 10th time, one's patience is truly tested. Mama bought a computer for the family including modem and multimedia. Arleen is still struggling with it but give her a while and some practice and she'll be alright.
As for me, I am well. I feel a lot more energetic these days, perhaps because the realization that I've been in Antique for 6 months and only have 1 1/2 years left in my service. So work has to get going!
Anyways, take care bud and see you on the Flip side!(I love that play on words, is it offensive to call Filipinos Flips?)
Dang, the only volunteer on Panay at this moment!
January 7, 1999
I can completely relate to what you mean. I remember going back from Europe and having 3 weeks before the Philippines. It was completely boring. I had about 3 days of absolute attention, then people's lives seem to resume and one is left in limbo. But the most frustrating thing is trying to explain to people what you've experienced. And for most, they have really no concept, so they can't appreciate it so much, so it ends up they start talking about themselves instead. Oh, well, I guess that is part of re-culture shock.
Well New Years was quite amazing in Boracay. We all pretty much ran out of money. I think when I got home, I had about P100 and everyone else had just enough to get them transported to the bank and that was about it. We went from eating P200 buffets and having giant English breakfast to having just a plain rice lunch after the money ran out. We did have a good time. Not really active, just sitting around, waking up late, drinking late etc.
As for memorable things that happened, lets see. We didn't have any naked show by Keith (we kept the Tanduay away from him) but Keith and Tyson decided to quit smoking. So for 2 days in the new year, they were struggling and were relatively good. I think Tyson had 2 cigarettes and Keith about the same. I hope they can control themselves once they get back to site.
Thanks for offering to bring stuff back. I actually had a box sent over and guess what was one of the things in it. YES, the famous SARACHI (whatever the spelling) HOT SAUCE. So, I am as content as can be. But what I want you to bring back is a beautiful smile and your great attitude! (sorry for the cheez)
How long will you be in the States? Anyways, I check my e-mail pretty regularly. Actually, everyday since we have a connection in my house. Oh, shut up, I don't want to hear about it!
My First Dive in PH
January 22, 1999
I had another one of those great weekends where I find myself staring into space and being amazed at my current situation! We ended staying on a small island off the coast of Antique and dove around the island. I dove a total of 6 dives over 2 days. My first diving in the Philippines and it was awesome. We actually had the mayor's speed boat, so getting around was a breeze, we were basically travelling in luxury. The water was clear, plenty of fish and really odd looking things. The people I dove with had a much different mentality then the divers in the states. It was a waste on some dives since they only lasted about 30 minutes, I could have been down another 15! Just a little too conservative and inexperienced. Oh well. I did hook up with another diver though. We are planning a dive trip next weekend. He has some equipment I can use and has done 100 dives in the past 8 months! That's diving almost every weekend man! But sorry, I didn't take any picture. Lately, I've been so lazy with taking pictures, but I need to get off my ass and take some. For now, you'll have to settle for my weak descriptions and fill in the gaps with your imagination. But if anything, the Philippines is a good place to learn how to dive. About $150 for 3 days! No bad...
Well, check you out later man.
January 22, 1999
Well, I just came back from Ati-Ati Han in Kalibo. It's the Philippine equivalent to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Loud drums, people dressed up and painted, drinking, dancing and just an outrageous time. I had a lot to drink and was usually exhausted when I got home in the morning! Then we went to Boracay to relax for a night and have a nice dinner, some mixed drinks, dancing and karaoke.
And I've been extremely busy with work. I am usually running around town, making calls on people and setting up meetings and getting signatures. But now things are in a little bit of a lull.
Tell Mom and Dad I won't be able to go to Vietnam in Feb. Things came up with work and it is a little more difficult to get visas and all that stuff. But I hope to try again later, I'm not sure. It depends on a lot of things.
Hope all is well at home..
February 13, 1999
I seriously think that you have fallen of the face of this earth, or at least taken a noise dive into cyber abyss. Either that or your just too busy sweet talking the girls in CUSEEME! Am I right?
Anyways, Saint Joe is good. Metro bank has a new building, looks like some futuristic building, painted orange, green and yellow but also with Roman columns. Today is Evelio B. Javier's, the hero on Antique, Death Anniversary, the 13th, so public offices are closed. Mama Carin is still here, running around and always busy. Gina and Tina are well in the house.
Well, see ya man and give me an update or some indication that you still have a pulse.
Stuck like Glue
February 13, 1999
Have you ever seen two dogs mating and during the process, they are disturbed and try to separate but can't. So the male dog is limping along, with its penis super clued to the bitch? If not, then you should come to the Philippines.
Well, things are about the same here. Just got back from a week long conference on the other side of the Philippines. Other then that, nothing too new.
February 14, 1999
Well, I complete understand the concept of relative temperatures. I mean, I am on the opposite extreme. Usually, it is about 35-38C here, everyday but when it goes down to 28C, it feels cold! I am getting to be a real wimp when it gets any colder then 20C! Can you believe that?
What do you mean you are almost going into the world? When will you be graduating? I somehow expected it in a few years from now? What do you plan on doing, looking for a job or will you travel for a while first?
As for me, things are well. The last two months have been busy, not really doing projects, but laying out a lot of the foundation, setting meetings, attending meetings, etc. The other day, I saw a special on the discovery channel about Are, Sweden! I had been there once, but during the summer, but much of it looked familiar. This may seem stupid but I was excited to see a Konsum in the background photography!
Well take care dear,
I thought I replied to your message but having heard from you. Either you didn't receive it or you are just too swamped with stupid water quality test to reply. In anycase, thought I'd send you a little update.
Things are well with me. I am involved in 3 projects right now. Two related to building sanitary toilets and solid waste management and the other is an out of school youth ecology camp. I am excited about the challenges but sometimes I wonder if I have bitten off more then I can chew. Oh well. Other then that, I spent my Valentines listening to probably one of the worst bands in the world. You know, your standard keyboard and bass guitar and drum that sounds like some digital mess of confusion. Somehow, I felt like I was in some slimmy lounge in Vegas watching some guys in a leisure suits monotonously strumming their guitars and beating their drums, without the slot machines!
Sometimes, I wonder about the music tastes of Filipinos. I mean, they are extremely fond of the Beatles which is okay but what about Englebert Humperdink? Or whatever? Why are they so popular as for karaoke songs? I mean, come on!
Some tidbits of news for you about the Philippines. It is fast approaching Mango season. The prices have dropped from 70 pesos/kg to about 30/kg and soon, God willing, P15/kg. It hasn't rained much here in the past month. I think this is probably known as the best time in the Philippines, when temperatures get to be around 70-80 at night. Amazing how my tolerance for cold has gone down as well as my tolerance for heat has gone up. I went to Ati-Ati Han in Kalibo and Dinagyan in Iloilo. Ati-Ati was great as for what I remember due to all the alcohol consumed.
Well, take care and write back.
Warm Beer, Cold Women
February 25, 1999
Funny you mention warm beer. I mean, I remember thinking that night in Sweden when that warm beer was just absolutely disgusting but when necessary, why not. Well, I am glad that didn't happen too often in Sweden. But here in the Philippines, it seems to happen quite too often. I resort now to putting ice cubes in my beer, when available. I have built up an incredible tolerance for that stuff, beer not ice. Also while we are on the subject of that night, remember going to the Limnologan and trying to figure out what was on the test for the phytoplankton identification? Oh, and what about "what's her face?"
So has Annica's sister visited yet? I don't know if I will make it to Australia. I mean, from here, the cost is still relatively high and on a living allowance, it makes it almost impossible. So my friend, when I make those big bucks and become a jet setting environmental consultant, I will surely visit the land of the Kangaroos or will it be the land of the moose? In anycase, we will see each other again..
March 6, 1999
Sorry its taken a bit to reply. I did not end up going to Vietnam. I had planned on trying to make it for Tet but backed out for various reasons. But I hope to make it in that region this coming July. But my parents are there and they should be returning to Garden Grove anytime soon.
Yeah, Tet seemed to be a normal Tuesday for me. I actually had forgotten about it on the day. It wasn't until about Wednesday that I remembered. It's a shame since I could have gone to the Vietnamese family here in my town. I saw them last night and we chatted. They were refugees that arrived in the Philippines about 9 years ago and have since left the camp and have a business here. It's interesting to practice my Vietnamese and occasionally have Vietnamese food.
I hope you got that internship. It would be a great experience. I am currently working with some money provided by UNICEF and UNFPA(Family Planning). Its definitely a great organization but at times, big organizations like that throw there money around so foolishly. Hopefully you still have intentions doing some grassroots work in the future since this is where true development work is successful.
Ah camping... Well, to give you a short summary. I usually go camping up in the Sierras once or twice a year for about 4-5 days. So, about 2 years ago, I decided to take the entire family including cousins for a 7 mile hike to a lake. Well, you know the shape of my family and they definitely found the rather steep hike with heavy backpacks difficult. Plus, carrying 3 year old Rachael wasn't that easy either. We finally made it to the lake at around 3 pm and the entire family just collapsed and napped for about an hour. But after they were able to relax, they enjoyed the lake and the fishing. Afterwards, they looked back and really enjoyed it. But it was a pretty difficult task organizing 13 people to go on a hike, including all the equipment. But I wouldn't mind doing it again, but that won't be for a while. And when that happens, you are definitely welcome to come.
March 30, 1999
Nice to hear from you. I just came back from Palawan. I don't know if you know that much about it. It's the island way off on the western side of the Philippines. Closer to the Borneo area. Anyways, I was there on a kind of work/vacation thing. We are planning on having a national youth environmental camp there, and since I am on the organizing committee, I got to go and assess the area. Palawan, until recently, hasn't had much people living on this island, except for the local tribes. Which means that its pretty much untouched, probably much like Alaska is to the US. I saw plenty of monkeys, huge lizards, birds, and giant old trees with these jungly type vines all twisted around. Well, all this was in a national park but still, they were free roaming. The most interesting or famous part is an underground river that is about 8 kms long (longest in the world-I think?), and you can take a boat inside. It is basically a huge, long cave with a river flowing inside it. And on the ceiling, there are about 40,000 bats hanging around. It was pretty amazing.
It's great that you still plan on coming to the Philippines. I plan on possibly going to Thailand in late June to July for about 5 weeks. But I don't have any plans in August or Sept. I could always take time off. It also depends on what you want to see, since I need to find out if I can afford hanging around with you big spenders.
Well, that's about it here. I think if the weather permits, I will be biking to Boracay again this week. This being holy week, there is nothing going on except for processions and mass.
April 4, 1999
The weather here has been strange this year. It has been raining a lot here, they say it is probably the El Nina. It is suppose to be hot and dry now. Well, it's hot but not exactly dry.
I just spent today on top of a bus for 5 hours with my bicycle. The bus was so full because of the Easter holiday that I had to bear a tropical storm on top of the bus sitting on top of a bag of rice and dodging electrical wires and branches! Real fun, it should be a sport!
Well, don't worry about life, I am sure with you, it will all work out someway. You will probably find a job and find yourself in some town, with a small apartment and strolling in a park.
Well, Happy Easter to you too!
April 10, 1999
So, have you officially died or is your company just keeping you too busy with that 'Melissa' virus? It's probably been a good 1 1/2 months since I've heard from you. Is that because you've been busy or is it just nothing to report?
Anyways, things are going well here. It's beginning of the hot season and just about the time I came here last year? It'll almost be a year in about 2 weeks. The new volunteers will be arriving next week. 28 bright eyed, bushy tailed volunteers ready to change the world, ha! Anyways, at least I can say I'm happy with my work so far. I am trying to be extremely patient, and it makes it easier since I have 3 projects I can bounce back and forth from.
I spent Easter on the paradise beaches of Boracay. I went with Gina and two other female volunteers, we drank, danced, dined and did a little arguing, but in all, it was fun. We tried to bike there again (60 miles), but we had a late start, had too many breaks and it got too damn hot. So, we threw our bikes on top of a bus and rode on top the rest of the way, dodging wires, trees and just hanging on to dear life.
I am pretty much traveled out, since the week before, I had come from Palawan, which is a must see if you are in the Philippines. True jungle areas with monkeys and huge lizards walking around in the park! Amazing!
So, if I remember right, this is about the time you planned on doing your tour around the Middle East and Europe. How are you plans going? I bet the visa requirements for Jordan are a little hassle, eh? So, are you quitting this job?
Write back bud,
Officially 1 Year!
April 11, 1999
There must be some kind of misconception or misinformation here if you think that I am propagating and having little Dang's here. Hell, I get plenty of little Dangs but they usually roll off my finger and into the toilet.
Ah, well it ain't that bad but at times, it feels like it. But yeah, things are good here, I don't regret doing this at all. Except when you mention crazy parties in Mexico and all and especially Volleyball. I miss that damn sport.
Anyways, in two weeks, I would have been here one year! Time goes by quick doesn't it? That means I have about one year left! Not much further to go, and I bet the second year will even go faster.
Well, hope things work out with that girl of yours either way, and don't be dogging her too much, who do you think you are, ME?
Take it easy,
Dump Trucks are for the Dump
April 16, 1999
That's great about the move, I hope my kids, if I ever have any, will have a large yard to play in and sufficient space from the neighbors so they can't hear them snoring! Hey, since it is a fix'er upper, you could probably persuade Diem to help you with some work. I heard he remodeled the bathroom and it is suppose to look sharp! Can't wait to see you guys with Maegan and Rachel in your new house, wow 4 bedrooms?
I've been writing to Lua and Lani and they have kept me up to date with the family happenings. Wow, Lua will finally graduate from college that's good. Did you hear that Hang will be moving to Colorado? Isn't that great, a definite reason to check it out for me.
Things are well here. I just finished my first Out of School Youth environmental leadership camp. It was an extremely hectic day like, for example, the municipal dump truck (our vehicle to the mountains) broke down and we had to rent a jeepney to take us, or the crossing of a river with 23 kids with pots of food for lunch and then climbing up a steep mountain and having to run down before it started raining. But it all went really well and the kids I think really enjoyed it. We are going out to the public market today and painting two environmental murals with the kids.
Well, besides that, things are well everywhere. It is getting to be the hot season around here again, which means sweating and sitting in front of the fan!
Well take care
The Opposite of Sex
April 19, 1999
I'm just hanging out in the Municipal Hall after hours surfing a bit on the net and trying to download some new guitar lyrics and shit, but the connection is incredibly slow that I can type e-mail in while it is downloading the pages. I guess I shouldn't complain so much about having an internet connection so close.
Yeah, I am thinking about my future income too. I mean, hell, we are approaching 30 with really no investments. We'll never be rich given our current rate. Every time I look at how much stocks can make people money, I get sick to my stomach and wonder about missed opportunities. Oh well, such is life.
I got back from playing tennis just now, showered and am here. Played at about 3:30 when there are no people at the courts, that's because it is so fuck'in hot! But at least I was able to make a fool out of myself and play a bit....
Opps, I got interrupted. The guy I am working on that compost project was here and wanted to have a little meeting. And Now I am continuing this message, three days later on a Sunday afternoon. I just got back from the city where I watched "Shakespeare in Love" and "The Opposite of Sex", two pretty good movies. During Opposite of Sex, I took a bottle of rum in the theatre and mixed it with a Mango shake, and got pretty drunk off of that.
Well, keep me posted on your travel plans..
April 20, 1999
I went to the big city, Iloilo. Its actually 2 hours away and has normal US style shopping malls, with McDonalds, Sbarros, Air conditioned movie theatres, and most importantly "SHAKEYS". I don't understand why Shakeys is so popular with Filippinos. You must have some kind of statistics some where at the Shakey's Corporate Headquarters about that.
May 1, 1999
You know, when you ask me what I am doing this summer, I had to think hard about when summer really is. I mean, sure, obviously it is in June-August but still, I really had to think. You know, like when you need to multiply 7 times 8 and you know its 56 but it takes a while because you haven't multiplied 7 times 8 in a long time. I believe it's the same with seasons because it is always so hot here and really doesn't change so it always seems like summer and I never think about the other seasons. I guess also because I've been out of school now for 2 years, and summer really isn't summer when you're not of school.
Anyways, I plan on that trip to Thailand/Laos/Vietnam in June/July with two other Peace Corps volunteer. We will be going for about 5 weeks around that area and probably spend a lot of money. So often, I think about how cheap things must be for Swedish tourists when they come here in Asia. I mean, a cold beer is 11 pesos at the store, that's about 25 cents or what 2 kr? Even the most expensive places like in Manila, the rich night clubs, beers cost 70 pesos, or about 14 kr?
You know its been over a year since I saw you last in front of McDonalds in Uppsala and remember how we were drinking beer in McDonalds and looking at all the young kids?
I am staying busy with work and working on getting connections in NGOs and GOs and companies. You know, I got to work on it for WFYA!
No Surf in Saint Joe
May 16, 1999
Good to hear that you celebrated a pseudo-Fiesta. Anyways, you had probably enough Fiesta pork in your life in your "younger" days to last you a lifetime.
Me leave this country? No, I am still here and have another year left. Its amazing that when I see you, that will pretty much mark the one year I have been here in Antique. And you know that Gina has extended, so her and I will be here to welcome you along with Christina, who is the volunteer that replaced Tina.
Lets see, what is happening here? Today, the vendors that have been hanging out in the plaza for the last month are finally leaving. Things will start to wind down after the post-fiesta period. Mama Carin will be leaving for Manila tomorrow. Can't believe she's already been here for 6 months! Life will resume back to normal, but what will we do with the 15 neighborhood cats that she has been feeding? Mareles and Alex had 35 people staying and eating at their house during Fiesta, apparently just some of Alex's relatives, amazing. We were suppose to get a new coastal resource volunteer here but for some reason he was scared off. He was in his second day of a 2 month training, came to San Jose to check it out, and then the next day, he booked a ticket himself back to Manila to get out of this country. Now, don't know exactly what was going though his mind but Saint Joe scared him off. Some suspect since he brought a surf board here, that he was disappointed about Saint Joe's measly surf breaks. Oh well.
May 18, 1999
Gina and I have a two day training for the facilitators, its about a participatory coastal resource assessment, and we are vigorously working late into the evening, on a Sunday nonetheless. It is amazing I am still able to write this in between the project and FreeCell.
Mama left yesterday, refusing any type of despedida or appeareanc there of. Cano ended up making some macaroni and cheeze without the cheeze and using tomato sauce. Mama's cats are now left alone, and sometimes I wonder if she will miss the cats more then anything else here in Saint Joe.
Speaking of Mamas, Kristina's mother and brother arrived in SJ yesterday. Its been extremely hot lately but they are handling it well, thank God for electric fans. Arleen made a welcome dinner at the nipa house with rice, lechon manok, and Kristina made curry vegetable. Nice spread and some gin and mango drinks to boot! I think I said this before, that one's tolerance for "strange" things increases being here and one hardly notices them. It takes a visitor to really make one notice the strange things one overlooks. For example I hardly give it a thought to all the bugs at the Nipa house, the sounds of geckos, the scratching of the rats in the walls, etc. But it was amusing to see the look on their faces when the gecko made its noise. I wonder how they faired in the late evening when the rats started making their racket! They will go to Nogas today, which will be a good experience.
Speaking of puter stuff, I'm working on my web-page right now, among other projects, and I think you'll like it. I'll give you the address when I finish.
Anyways, gotta go take my morning shower and take on the world, or at least san jose.
What Dreams May Come
May 19, 1999
Hey, it ain't paradise when it is 95F in the shade and you have a complete power failure, so any type of cooling fan or cold beverages are inaccessible and you are left to sweat and use a hand fan while trying to reduce any amount of movements.
I was thinking about you guys last night, had a dream about volleyball and how I tried to play again after my two years here. I was lousy, not that I was ever that good but I couldn't even spike at all, I would actually miss the ball by several feet. Oh, nightmares are so traumatic.
Anyways, things are well, I think I am due for a vacation out of this country. Something new!
May 19, 1999
It sounds like you and the other cousins are having a lot of fun. Yes, those younger days in Garden Grove. One of my strongest memories were of those berries we picked from your tree. I remember shaking the tree and hundreds of plump, sour berries would fall on the ground. And remember how we took turns shaking the tree. That was fun.
Hawaii looks fun. I mean, I see so many pictures from Diem, Lua, Minh, Dai, Gam, heck, I think everyone has gone there except me. But I figure, I can go there any time. And after these two years, I will be pretty much sick of tropical environments.
Now, what's this stuff about getting a haircut. Not to say I don't need one, but I think there was only one picture of me I sent, and I was wearing hat, right? Anyways, this is about the shortest I've had my hair in many years. But I think I will let it grow out now to the point I can actually style it. But who knows, I might just get stupid again and shave the entire thing off.
Anyways, talk to you later.
May 24, 1999
This past weekend, I went to the big city, Iloilo, which isn't that far but still a 2 1/2 hour trip. My main reason for going was to watch Star Trek, yes Star Trek, not Star Wars. Star Trek:Insurrection has finally reached the Philippines. I was so excited, I remember the last one, First Contact and how we watched it at Paramount Studious. Anyways, after rushing to the theater, and having high expectations, I was pretty let down. I mean the movie was actually pretty cheesy and for some reason geared towards a girly audience. Pretty bad. Some of it was good but it lacked the humor and the solid story line. I wonder if they will be making anymore of these? Especially since there is no Star Trek series on TV, right?
Actually, I would love to do a road trip through the US for an extended time. What has stopped me before is that I don't know many people in other states, but after meeting all these other PC Volunteers who are spread out everywhere, I think it'll be a good opportunity. Plus, I've always wanted to do a cross-country road trip.
I had a sleepy rainy afternoon yesterday. I had two other volunteers visiting me. The night before, we partied very hard in Iloilo so when they came here, we were all tired and just ready to veg all day. Which was perfect because when they laid down to rest, it started pouring so we ended up napping for a good 2 hours! Oh, that's life!
Well, take care
September 7, 1999
I've always been amazed about how you lose track of holidays while overseas. I'm sure you know what I mean, since there isn't that blitz of television ads that constantly remind you about the big "Labor Day Weekend Sale" or the "Turkey Blowout", good riddance. But not to take away the affect of a 3-day holiday, which seems to be a distant memory also. Enough of that overseas living crap!
Thanks for all the info in your last message about all the contact stuff. When the time approaches, I will surely write those people. My close of service (COS) is still June 2000, so I have plenty of time to weigh out the options of my future which by the way, is still somewhere between grad school and the corner market.
I'm not in the best of moods lately. To give you the short version, it is because the Municipal government has been promising to back my organic composting project by purchasing a shredding machines, but all the "Yes's" and "Of courses" in the past have not amounted to much at all. And I just found out yesterday, that the person that was going to run the whole show is now planning on going overseas, so that pretty much scraps the entire project, which I have spent too much time over. Siyoung! (Tagalog for such is life!) Anyways, trying to work on my attitude and get myself refocused. I've only been back at site one week and I am ready for another vacation. Luckily, I'll be off for a week for a youth ecology camp. Which I am sure will be fun!
Anyways, what did you do for this past glorious holiday? I went to the big city (2 hours away) started with 2 Mc Donalds Cheeseburger meals and a donut. I've never been a big Mc Donalds fan in the states, but there is something about eating something familiar! You know? Then I went to see a movie staring none other than David Hasselholf! Don't be shocked, my taste in movies is not always this demented, but the movie was filmed in Manila and had a Filipino actress. "Legacy" wasn't too bad of a movie because there were plenty of references to life here in the Philippines. Then it was back on the bus back home! Fun eh?
Well, take care
September 9, 1999
I don't know if I told you but my house is directly behind a restaurant/bar. Actually my host mother owns it but she leases it out to people who try to have a bar/restaurant. I say try because since I've been here, 14 months, there have been 3 failed attempts. They had names like Kruuhay, Jolly House, and Lindske. The new name is W.E. Fastfood! Catching? No, I don't think so either. Anyways, last night was the grand opening/blessing. In any case, this morning, I woke up with a massive headache. I actually am sitting here with a large glass of water to my right and a headache to my top!
About the camp, it is a national camp. USAID gave us some money to organize an annual youth ecology camp. This year, I am on the organizing committee. We'll have 30 kids from throughout the Philippines along with about 20 PC volunteers. We'll be going to Palawan to the St. Paul Underground River park. We'll spend a week there snorkeling, hiking, and other environmental stuff. The park's main attraction is the river. The amazing thing with it is that it has carved through limestone formations, so when you take a boat up river, you go inside a cave and view about 40,000 bats hanging on the ceiling! Quite impressive! The other thing there is the old growth forest. You see, back in the 70's when Marcos was ruling, he did one good thing, he declared the river a national park. That in essence saved all the surrounding trees and wild life. So now, as you walk around the park, there are plenty of monkeys and 1.5 m monitor lizards! Counting the days!
Well, take care
Relatives in Vietnam
September 14, 1999
Anyways, things are well here. I came back recently from a 6 week vacation around Thailand/Laos/Vietnam/Cambodia. I met our relatives in Vietnam. I was really amazed at how life is very much the same as life in the Philippines. I think the biggest shock was probably that our relatives own so many damn tractor shops, in one little town. Also, one of the funniest things was how Bac Thanh chews that tobacco. It reminded me of our Grandmother, I faintly remember that she use to do that when we were young. But about their living conditions, it is very similar to many people I know here, so I don't think it was that surprising, actually, they would be considered doing OK here in the Philippines.
It was so nerve-wrecking. I basically just had their address, so I headed out of Saigon on a bus, got a little lost, then got over-charged and then arrived at their door-step, pretty much unexpected. It was nice and I will definitely go back there. I mean, it was great to hear stories from the other side of the family, stories my parents never told me.
Well, Take care
Blow Torch and Barking
October 7, 1999
Great to hear from you. And a correction about what Vivian said. I was not the one who insisted on having the dog for her going away party. It was actually another friend of hers that was also visiting. Apparently he wanted to document the entire process. Sure enough, the neighbors were willing to oblige and since Vivian had about a dozen dogs, they just chose one and bamm, dinner. It was a pretty gruesome affair, blow torch and barking! But I must admit, the dog tasted good. I could only have one piece because I just couldn't get the image of the dying dog out of my mind. Well, tell her I said hi and please forward my e-mail.
The visit home was nice. I don't know what I really expected. I guess I am use to feeling like the center of attention, the oddity at a party since here in the Philippines, I am usually treated that way. Actually, they didn't seem that intrigued by me at all, and not even intrigued by my white friend that accompanied me. But it was overwhelming to see everyone and meet so many people. They didn't ask me for money, actually it was the opposite, they actually paid for my bus fair to get back to Saigon. But I did give them some English-Vietnamese dictionaries.
Anyways, I can't wait to come home and we should have a huge grand family reunion. Wouldn't that be nice. We should do that, most "normal" families do that, right? heheh.. anyways, take care and good luck with another school year!
October 9, 1999
Today we had a blackout, no electricity from 8:00 to 5:00. It didn't help that I was in my room trying to read and do work and basically fanning myself to stay cool. And now, a few hours later, I am writing e-mail on the internet. The Philippines is bizarre sometimes, or most of the time!
The diving here is decent. Compared to California, it is awesome, especially in the areas that are protected. But sadly, much of the coral is dying because of illegal fishing methods and also from all the siltation. I've only gone diving once here. Yeah, sounds pathetic but it costs money, which I really don't seem to have much of. But I think in the next few months, I'll have to do some special trips. The coral is nice and there is a wide variety of fish. I hear diving in Palawan (El Nido) and Bohol are good. I'll be over with here in June 2000, then after that who knows. Thought about Australia for a bit, maybe I will. Who knows when I'll be in this part of the country again. Do you do a lot of diving in Adelaide?
October 9, 1999
I'll tell you what you can do with me the next time I see you. You can strip down all my clothes, take a feather and tickle my feet while I am chained up with silky rope but only if you feed me fan cake from the Broadway...haha.
I'm doing fine here. I have about 8 months left in my contract. Can you believe that I've been away almost 20months now? I can't believe time has gone by so fast, and not much has changed. Nice to be able to still write to you guys. So, what do you do for fun these days?
Well, it will be nice to see you guys again but until then, keep writing "REAL" messages and not all that mass media stuff, deal?
Take care my gigle friend.
October 8, 1999
I finished Atlas Shrugged. I first started reading it in Thailand, and made some pretty good progress on the nice air-con, luxury buses, but then we went over to Laos and the transportation was hell. I mean speed boats, cramped up buses and rocky roads. Then over to Vietnam, where I had some quiet time to lounge around in air-con rooms and cafes but not really. Then it was all shot to hell in Cambodia where the sight of piglet heads and grilled turtles wasn't conducive to reading but finally when our flight was cancelled in Thailand to go back to Manila and we spent 4 extra days in Bangkok in the Peace Corps lounge. That's when I finished it.
Tell Sean I didn't take any pictures of the dog butchering. I wish I had but for some reason, I didn't.
Well, take care and keep in touch!
September 13, 1999
It's funny, how one checks e-mail everyday to see if people have responded and then when you get nothing, you wonder, is it my turn? But that's where it usually ends, you just wonder and never act upon it, so you get periods of non-writing for an extended amount of time until one person breaks down and writes some jibberish, something stupid, like this to get the writing going again....
Things are good here. My toilet project is running semi-smoothly but I can't wait until it is over! It's been dragging on way too long!
Next week, I am going to a conference with other international volunteers in this region. It'll be good since it is mostly a way to meet other people and network on projects and stuff. But the reason I bring it up is because the last day is on Boracay, which I've been to many times before, which (is this bad english or what?) is a white sand island, beautiful! Anyways, we'll have a volleyball tournament there. Well not just v-ball but at least I'll be able to try to play after almost 2 years! Can't believe it! I'll probably suck, get frustrated, but still have fun hopefully..
October 18, 1999
Speaking of Filipino time, got just got back from the Masskara festival in Bacolad. Where I basically stayed in a van the entire time with my host mother and rode around time doing errands and basically wasting time. But I did see about 30 minutes of the street dancing. ha!
I don't know where I'll go after COS. I was thinking about an intense 6 month, cross the globe kinda traveling but more and more, I am thinking about 6 months in Vietnam to hang out and teach English and learn the language more. But who knows. I think it depends on what awaits back in the good old states! I would definitely recommend the Thailand/Laos trip. It's easy and inexpensive and beautiful. Crossing over to Vietnam adds complications but I also highly recommend it. Vietnam was my favorite country as far as sites and charm but as for hassle, it was the top place. It is a little difficult to bargain and deal with those damn bus/tryke operators.
So are you seriously coming next year? Gina said you might be coming to the biggest despadeda in town, ours. But sorry no dog...
November 4, 1999
What a long weekend! Here in the Philippines, All Saints and All Souls day is a very big holiday when everyone from the cities go back to their hometown to have a family reunion and pay tribute to the dead. Which means, major travel traffic, over loading of passengers and a general headache for travel. And the fact that Monday and Tuesday were national holidays, didn't make the travel prospects too good, so I ended up staying home, reading, sleeping and relaxing. I actually needed that.
With my project it's focused on improving the health of poor coastal families. Most are fisher folk who live in temporary bamboo shacks along the coast. I found funding through the department of health to build 30 sanitary household toilets and to educate the entire area, around 1000 households, on health and hygiene. I think it is going well, all the households have gone through the workshop and now about half the toilets are finished. I am especially happy since the area is planning on building and additional 150 toilets using money from a different funding source. I think they saw how easy and important it was to build a toilet that they are trying to have all their households with toilets.
As for projects, I actually created this one, so I will probably create a new one after this. I just don't know exactly what I want to do and how much of a commitment I want to put into it considering I might be leaving in March, at the earliest, or maybe June at the latest. I am sure I will find something.
Well take care
Banaue Rice Terraces
November 17, 1999
I came back from a trip to the north. That's where the Banaue rice terraces are. Terraces that are 2000 years old and carved by the work of men. Pretty impressive. I had my Swedish host parents visit me so I took them around. It was quite a cultural experience for them. We stayed in little native huts and rode on Jeepneys, pounded rice and had a nice cultural experience in a small village. We lived with a family that a Peace Corps volunteer knew. The woman was a weaver and sold weavings to tourist. It was amazing seeing them talk and comparing countries. I mean, the Philippines and Swedish social system could not be more opposite. But it was good for both of them to share things.
I think a year or two away from what you know is bound to mature anyone. And I do feel more mature myself. I had the same feeling when I spent that year in Sweden. I came back more energized and focused. It was a great feeling. Well, I hope other things are well with you. How is the weather there these days? Any bizarro things happening? I just saw the "200 cigarettes". Have you seen it?
November 28, 1999
You know, there are those times when you keep checking e-mail and there is nothing. But you end up connecting several times, sometimes in the same day, same hour but nothing. But you are always too lazy to write anything to anyone. Well, I was in that mood for a while. I don't know why, maybe I get to the point in time when I find my life uninteresting and just don't want to burden other people with it. Not to say my life has become any more exotic but I thought I'd drop you a line..
I just got back from yet another trip from Manila. I was there to talk to some of the new volunteers about projects and what not. As I was at the training site, it struck me that it was a year ago when I was here, and yet it seems just like last month. Time is going by fast, and I don't know if it is the age thing or the PC experience. In anycase, I have been here for over 18 months. I have 6 months left in my contract. I am in the last home stretch....
As for visiting me, hell you should man! I mean, it's easy and cheap to get here from SF. SF is the main hub for travel to the PH. Anyways, probably the best time to visit is in May or June of 2000. By then you will have settled yourself a bit and for me, I will be in my last month and I will have dead time. Anyways, even if you come out here for a week, it'll probably be worth seeing something besides the inside of your cubicle.
Well dude, take care