A Peace Corps Experience in the Philippines
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A Peace Corps Experience in the Philippines
A Peace Corps Experience in the Philippines (Part 1)
A Peace Corps Experience in the Philippines (Part 1)
As I was preparing for my 2 year service in the Peace Corps information on the country of my assignment, the Philippines. What I found were numerous pages on tourism which is to be expected given that it is a popular tourist destination for Europeans. What was lacking was the experiences of Peace Corps volunteers. Even though there have been Peace Corps volunteers serving here since 1963, there was only tid bits of information. From that point, I decided that if I had the capability and time, that I would write about my experience so people who wanted to know more about Peace Corps Philippines, might find this site useful. Additionally, for those curious about Peace Corps, this site might prove helpful in knowing more about the Peace Corps life as the way I see it.
April 26, 1998
I began my Peace Corps journey out of San Francisco. We had our staging at Cathedral Hill Hotel. I don’t know exactly what I expected - but everything went well.
What or how do you greet people whom you will be spending the next 2 years sweating, crying, experiencing, depending on, arguing, drinking, eating - with? Do you say, "Gosh, Can you believe we’ll know each other the rest of our lives"? Perhaps the volunteer who said this during staging was joking but she meant it and that the next two years of intense emotional experiences will create a bond that will, in some cases, last a lifetime.
We started the staging with a bonding and introduction session - not the kind with whips and gags! What the staging directors wanted from us was for us to realize that we, volunteers, have the same fears and excitements. One exercise had us trying to locate the other person who held the other piece of a quote. My favorite was:
"Have faith in Allah -
but tie your came"
The other exercises had us illustrate our fears and excitements. Some fears were of the chauvinist men in the Philippines and others home sickness, and snakes, etc. And it was interesting to find out there were so many divers and ultimate Frisbee players.
We finished with an extremely quick read of the Peace Corps policies - then we were let loose to see San Francisco. One last night in the States! Trying to find a dinner place without reservations to accommodate 27 people was a challenge which compounded the problem of how to get everyone there. But we got to North Beach, to the "Stinking Rose". After my 40 clove grilled garlic chicken, we headed to O’Reilys, an Irish pub a few minutes away. We drank and by the end of the night, we acted like we had known each other for weeks. One person informed everyone she was a gay witch and went into detail about her childhood molestation.
The next morning, our flight on NorthWest flight #27 to Tokyo was a party flight. Most were already hung over from the night before, but who could refuse free alcohol for 10 hours! It was like we signed up for the Peace Corps and took a trip on a Club-Med vacation. The flight was my kind of team building not that hokie-lovey-dovey stuff in San Francisco when I was anticipating a group hug or something.
The volunteers of group 251 are a diverse group with a mix of ethnicity's, sexes and orientations. We all seemed to connect somehow and instantly formed certain cliques. Well back to the free flowing alcohol part- we had so much to drink that our stewardess felt it necessary to read from her manual about how if we are too intoxicated in Tokyo, they would refuse to allow us to catch the connecting flight!
But we all made it through and arrived in Manila and were greeted by our co-Country directors along with the assistant directors. It was our first taste, feel, and sense of 90F humid weather at midnight!
Manila is Hell
April 28, 1998
I write this months later to try to fill in the gaps of my journal/letters.
So what do you for one week in Manila? Well, you sleep and try to get over the horrendous jet lag that ensues a 18 hour flight slash drinking fest! We all didn't know what to expect that first morning, waking up from the Pension Natividad (The Official Peace Corps Hangout in Manila) in a new country among new friends. I got, ordered up an American breakfast with the works, bacon, toast, butter and coffee while others went searching around the area for some authentic Filipino food. We were allowed to relax on Sunday, because the office was closed. Peace Corps suggested we check out Seafront. Seafront is where the some embassy personal having there living quarters. Seafront is not on the seafront, apparently before the massive land reclamation project of Manila, it was on the seafront overlooking Manila bay. Now it sits next to the main highway, amongst buildings, highways and people. It looks like a big high security apartment compound with swimming pool, grocery store, tennis court, gym and softball field, all nicely enclosed in barbed wire. So, you can only imagine what went through my mind when, just after one night in the Philippines, that I am swimming in a pool and working out in the gym!
Well, the next day brought more reality, but not in the sense that I expected. The first week in Manila is reserved for policy briefings, cultural sensitivity, and a crash course on proper conduct along with a long winded speech from embassy personnel on how not to get robbed and kidnapped in the Phillippines, among some of the suggestions were:
* Never follow the same routine and always walk a different way home
* Vary your daily pattern
* Always be on the look out for suspicious characters
During one of the evenings, we are introduced to our American Host family. Peace Corps matches us with an embassy family so that when we are in Manila, we are able to hang out with Americans. My family consists of a husband and wife who met while she was volunteering in Africa and he was in the state department. I must say that are good, fair people, but I realized (more now then ever) that embassy personnel live very sheltered life and many can live in a country for 2 years without seeing much!
So after a week of paper work, photographs, interviews and much anticipation, we found out where each of us will be spending our two years. When they passed out our assignments, we all looked vigorously through the description, picked up our handy Lonely Planet guide and tried to see if the infamous Jens Peters describes it in his book. I was lucky- he briefly mentioned my site, San Jose Antique and had some peculiar things about it:
* The 76 bus line seems to always get flat tires
* The Binarayan festival has been cancelled due to funding problems
After I found out my site, in my blind enthusiasm, I forgot that I won't be there for another 2 months after training. And hell, I was sick of being in Manila already, yes just after one week of pollution, traffic and buildings, I wanted out. Out of this concrete jungle and into something Peace Corps-ish, I wanted open fields, rice paddies, coconut trees and wild beasts!
Peace Corps Training- Glad I did it But Never Again!
Training was so time consuming, that I hardly, rarely wrote anything about it. Below is an excerpt from an e-mail that was written several months after training.
I might have mentioned in a letter about my Peace Corps training. It lasted for 2 months in the small town of Dumaguete where we were trained on culture, language and technical . At first, it was all so overwhelming but then everything becomes more and more familiar. For example, I use to catch a tricycle to training from my host family. At first, these modified motorcycles with sidecars were really exotic, but after riding it so many times, they become a routine. My technical training was excellent. We were able to construct some projects during our training, nothing monumental or anything like that but useable things that communities needed. We were trained on how to dismantle and install shallow and deep wells. The shallow wells are what you see on Little House on the Prairie where Laura would push down on the handle and water would be gushing out. The name is from its relatively shallow depth, usually less than 30 feet. Deep wells differ in that instead of a suction head near the handle above the surface, a deep well has a pump mechanism at the bottom of the well that basically lifts the water up. So these have almost limitless depths but usually around 80 to 200 feet. It was great to go out and repair these wells and see people use.
HOME! San Jose Antique
I am in San Jose, Antique in the region called the Visayans. It's like most of the Philippines, lush and very tropical. I life in a coastal community of about 42,000 people. There are many of the amenities of the west, which I definitely enjoy so its not the nipa hut setup that I had prepared myself for.
I live in a boarding host with my host mother Arleen. She is a single woman around fifty that still enjoys a beer and a Beatles song. She is an excellent guitarist but her singing abilities can definitely be improved but there is something about that horseness that is appealing, just look at Dylan! She is a group of friends that are the pilars of San Jose's social scene. She seems to be connected to just about everyone, and I have defintiely found it benificial to be associated with her when it comes to work and hell, she is a lot of fun!
My assignment isn't really your typical Peace Corps assignment. I mean, I am in a fairly modern town of San Jose, where I can buy many western products (shaving cream, Tabasco, iced tea) and 2 hours from Iloilo which has everything from mozzarella cheese to cyber cafes. You just can't believe walking into one of there malls in a big city, you would swear you were in a mall in the states. I get my McDonalds and Kentucky friend chicken fix there.
But in my leisure time, which I have plenty of, I keep busy with a variety of things. I have started playing tennis again. Gina, the other volunteer here, and I play tennis in the morning. Its all coming back to me, but give me two years and I'll play as well as any country club smooze. I also bought a guitar. A really nice Epiphone, almost exactly like the black one I have at home. I bought it cheap from a volunteer who finished his tour. So I play this thing everyday. I am learning some finger picking and soloing from the players here. My most recent hobby is mountain biking. I bought one in iloilo the other day. It is an aluminum frame with shimano gears and brakes. This thing is sweat and light too. I hope to be able to ride in the nearby mountains here and do some touring around this island. But I spent so much on this thing that I think I will ship it back home or to Europe where I will bike around after my assignment.
My work is going well. I am working for the provincial government, similar to the state government back in the US. I work in their planning office and have started to involve myself in some of their projects and plan on establishing my own. Most of my work will deal with the drinking water situation here. Many people still get their drinking water from streams or open shallow wells. But there are many opportunities to help in providing safer drinking water here. I am very excited about my future here, and can't believe that I've been here for 4 months now.
But now I am at my site and what have I done so far? Well, not much. Peace corps prepared us during training to expect a very slow start in the first 3 to 6 months. I agree with them. Initially, you need to build contacts with people and become known in the community and most importantly learn the language. I am doing that now. I show up to work for about 3-4 hours in the morning most days, where I find myself reading reports and fixing their computers. But don't get me wrong, I am trying to find work. Right now, my effort is towards working with a loan by the Asian Development Bank given to my province (similar to a state) that is to be used to improve the water situation. They have picked out 2 barrios in each of the 18 municipalities (similar to a county) which needs water the most. So now, we have formed a task force and I will be working with the provincial engineers and planners to identify and design and construct water projects in these 36 barrios. I am hoping that my supervisor will let me take charge of 1 or 2 barrios and let me do it from start to finish. But things happen very slowly here, so I don't think this will get going until sometime next year.
In the mean time, I will be trying to do some smaller community projects like environmental education and toilet constructions here in San Jose. In September, I will be working with children for 5 days at a youth ecology camp, where we’ll get children from around the Philippines and teach them some environmental awareness.
Well, I shaved my head around 3 weeks ago now. There are a lot of men here with shaved heads, and its mostly for keeping cool. Now I think its because they are lazy, there is just nothing to do in the morning except wash your face and brush your teeth, then you look normal. I don't know if I will cut it again, I do miss my hair sometimes but people say it looks good.
About the incident with Mr. Robert Bock, it seems it didn't hit the news in the States very much.
(Robert Bock was a Peace Corps volunteer assigned in Conception, Iloilo. About 4 hours from me. Apparently, a group of drugged up men felt they wanted to cause some problems. These men are known criminals and were apparently laying low in Sara, Iloilo. The men, decided to make a blockade on the rode and shot at passing cars and eventually stopped cars and buses. The car Robert Bock was in was a random car that was fired at. Mr. Bock and the driver were both killed along with 8 other victims in other vehicles. )
That's probably because TV and newspapers there are talking about the two African bombings and Clinton's problems. I can't believe how much they are going on and on about that thing
I envy you for those nice weekend volleyball sessions, warming up, sitting in the warm sand, I really do miss it. It's great that the entire volleyball thing is still going-on, I hope it is still running strong two years from now when I return. And no doubt this being labor day weekend, you guys will definitely squeeze in a v-ball session in there and maybe even a trip to El Torito for some peach marguerites!
Things are good here. Getting busier with work, what a shame! But not busy in the American sense, just Filipino busy which means having to go to work more then 3 times a week. This morning, I went mountain biking through some rice fields. It was early, the people were walking to work, to school, just hives of activity, the rice fields are vibrantly green and caribou-driven plows were working the field. So at least it makes up for some of the fun I am missing out at home.
By the way, my skin is much lighter here then back in So. Cal. I mean, it's just hella hot in the sun here and I can't stand being in the sun for longer then 15 minutes. And when I do go to the beach, its usually in the early sunset evening cause the rest of the time, its HOT! So don't worry, I won't die of skin cancer any time soon.
Arleen, my host mother, is playing it much cooler now and has been feeling very well. I hope she can handle not drinking any alcohol and fried foods- it must be damn difficult. As for Jing, he has again postponed and is still here drinking, eating and sleeping. I think he has gotten very comfortable here, who can blame him right?
Gina's house is 70% complete. They have put up the nipa roof, the bamboo flooring, and have finished 1/2 of the walls. It's looking great but the budget is running away from them. But I am sure they'll figure something out.
As for me, I've amazingly have actually been a little busier. I've been helping with a survey in Anini-y in Brgy. Magdalena which took up much of my time. I am working with a SB(Municipal Board Member) in San Jose to formulate a Solid waste management plan. It may be all talk now, but I hope to be able to push them along with a plan and help implement it. Yesterday, Gina, Arleen and I went to Brgy. EBJ to deliver some school materials to the daycare center. And I talked with one of the Brgy. officials about their future spring development project, and he wants me to look at it next week.
There is a rainforest in the mountains around here, Gina (the other volunteer) and I delivered a box of donated school supplies to some children and we ended up staying there the night.
I called home for the first time this past weekend. My mother was very happy to hear my voice, in fact, I spoke with everyone in my family. That phone bill is going to be outrageous.
Shaved once again
My shaved head just got shaved again since the last time I wrote. I think its mostly due to the weather, I mean it is just too hot here. Plus, I've always wanted to shave my head so I decided to do it.
I still have yet to dive here in the Philippines. Its the lack of equipment and people to go with. But I have done a lot of snorkeling and that has been excellent- many beautiful coral formations in very shallow waters. There is a marine sanctuary about 1.5 hours from here and it is absolutely clear and stunning.
Happy Hump Day
Before you get carried away from the title because of your incredibly perverted mind, I should tell you that it has no sexual connotations to it! Actually, it's because it is a Wednesday today and halfway through the workweek. They should declare it a holiday!
Thinking of days, its funny how it just doesn't matter what day it is to me anymore. I mean, back in the states, I sometimes got the Sunday blues or the Friday itch but not here. All the days are the same. If I go out at night, it doesn't have to be a weekend, and if I don't want to go to work, I don't.
Everything is okay here, Gina's house is over budget but beautiful. They are finishing the CR and kitchen and should be done in 1 week. We've decided to help her with some labor so this afternoon, we will be digging for fill material for the kitchen.
Arleen is doing well. Her mother sent her a Balikbayan box 2 weeks ago, and that's always nice. Her mother included a massive food processor/blender/mixer combination thing. Huge! I think Arleen only wanted a small hand mixer for some cakes. Oh well.
Found some French table wine for 157 pesos, not too bad eh? Haven't opened it yet, but if its good, I think it'll have to be a regular splurge in Antique.
Marco, My Italiani
You know what I liked the most about visiting you and now miss the most. It was the red wine we had during our meals at your house. Tell you father, I wish I had a big barrel of that right here in the Philippines. I had my first wine here in the Philippines this past weekend. It was a California red, it made me want to have it more often. So I think that I must.
The nights are good but not many changes from one night to the other. I do a lot of drinking, play billiards or just watch TV. Not anything too exciting. Occasionally I go to the BIG city and go out there.
I am helping a friend build her house now. It's good to do things with bamboo, coconut wood and grass. But my real work is going slow, but I don't mind very much right now.
I did receive your postcard, thank you. The address I gave you is still good. When you send something, it goes to the main office then they send it to me. Its probably what I will use the next two years!
Say hello to everyone for me!
Video Stores Galore
Speaking of video stores, they're not too bad here. I thought I would be subjected to 2 years of either Filipinos movies or just stupid action/natural catastrophe flicks, but there is a relatively descent choice of movies here. Plus, my host family has a TV and VCR. But the funny thing is that I watched pirate versions of Species II and X-Files- which was horrible. Not only could you not see the entire screen but the sound was muted and you could hear the audience laugh or moan. On top of that, there was some guy with what must have been a small bladder because he got up and went to the bathroom 3 times, walking in front of the video camera no less!
Life here is good, I don't live in a grass hut or anything like that. I live in a town with 40,000 people with many of the conveniences of home. No American fast-food restaurants but I think my waist line can do with out that. Besides, a McDonalds or KFC is only a 2 hour bus ride away. I still can drink my wine and vodka/cranberry.
It was pretty tense around here after the bombings, not only because of what happened in Africa but because 2 days after, a Peace Corps Volunteer here was killed in a massacre. Apparently, a gang got high and drunk and decided to shoot at random cars that passed by a highway. They attacked 4 cars with automatic weapons and killed everybody in it. Out of the 10 killed, one was a volunteer. So, we were running around finding out what was happening and for a while, thought they might pull us out of here. But it was a random incident not directed at Peace Corps, so I think I'll be able to stay.
Zanzibar and update
(One of my friends is a die-hard travel and sent a postcard from Zanzibar)
I received your latest postcard from Zanzibar! I am not a betting man, but even if I was I would not take you up on that bet about the twisted coconut tree!
Your postcards really inspires me to travel. I have only put a small dink in the world and desire to experience so much more. I look forward to the day we can just sit somewhere with cup of good coffee and reminisce about our travels and talk about life in general. I am sure that day will come once we are in the same country someday.
As I am at my site, I find myself a little frustrated. Peace Corps has given us some training in water development but not nearly enough. I find myself having to learn so much, which I enjoy immensely but my years of education in no way prepared me for this. For example, I took some classes in Solid waste management, but we were more preoccupied with the engineering aspects (e.g. truck schedules, solid waste constituents.). Here I am trying to learn the human aspect of solid waste. Trying to understand how I will be able to persuade these people that they need to clean up after themselves instead of littering everywhere. I guess we in the states are trained at a young age the importance of litter, but they are just learning this here. There isn't a waste program here in this town of 40,000 people! Absolutely incredible! But each day brings a better understanding of my role here.
The bombings in Africa was truly sad and senseless. Two days afterwards, we had our own misfortune here. One of the volunteers on my island was killed in a massacre by a group of drugged up gang members. Robert Bock was in the wrong place at the wrong time and we all will remember him. But things like these remind me how short life can be and to truly live each day with the desire to learn and experience more. And I agree with you, I would be pissed off to if I were to die tomorrow!
Well, I hope you receive this and keep me up to date with what you are doing as will I. By the way, I have befriended a Vietnamese family in this town. Apparently, they were among the 2000 refugees that fled Vietnam in 1987 to the Philippines. They have made a life for themselves here and are quite successful and have integrated here nicely. I look forward to spending more time with them the next two years.
Take care of yourself
The Philippines is good. Each day presents its own challenges, either the heat, mosquitoes, bureaucracy, or just mere boredom, but I am staying busy and am still very optimistic. The Philippines is a beautiful country, with coconut trees (with coconuts) and banana plants! It's the rainy season now, so everything is blindly green. I have yet to get into a real juicy project but have identified many future projects and have met the right people. Work like this takes a while, so I just need to be patient.
I am keeping a journal but have yet to write in it religiously like I tell myself I should. Essentially to remember the things that have changed me. Just the other day, my host mother Arleen, went into the hospital to remove two lumps in her chest. We feared the worst and thought she might need a complete mastectomy along with chemo-therapy but it turned out that it was benign and so it was a simple operation. So she is recovering now at home, which is a big relief. But I learned a lot from this experience. I mean, ever since my grandmother died when I was 12, I've always had this fear of hospitals. But when my host mother was there, I think I overcame much of that fear. You see, the Filipinos culture looks at hospitals differently. It's almost like a party, along with food, drinks and just hanging out. I even slept in the room with her along with 4 other people. And during the day, we would lounge around and keep her company. Being in the hospital just doesn't have that same morbid sense as it does to me in the States.
I have finally made some ground in work. I am hoping soon to work with the Department of Health here to do some surveys of a coastal barrio in hopes to determine their needs for sanitary toilets, and then eventually installing some. So, I am truly excited at this prospect and hope this will pan out.
I am still alive and kicking. The rainy season is here, about 2 months late but here. Last week, it seemed to rain almost every day. I never felt clean because I was always sticky. I carry a bottle of rubbing alcohol now to take those instant showers by splashing it on my arms and face. It also cools me off too.
I attended a national youth environmental conference. It was sponsored by USAID- it brought PC volunteers and kids from throughout the Philippines. Many of the kids had never left their towns, so their reaction to a "big" city with malls, escalators, and McDonalds was exciting. They learned a lot and made a lot of good friends from around the Philippines.
Projects with toilets
Work here is finally developing into what I had hoped for, more community based. I have begun working with the Provincial Department of Health here. They are great for two reasons, 1) they have plenty of money and 2): they are very concerned with the health of the community. My first project will be trying to construct some sanitary toilets in a coastal barrio. But there is a problem with the sandy soil having a tendency to collapse and the shallow depth of groundwater. One solution for the collapsible soil is using precast culverts to reinforce the walls but there still exists the problems with the groundwater. I am now researching the use of compostable toilets which are used in China and Vietnam. It is an above ground toilet with two compartments. The waste is allowed to mix with other organic materials such as grass and ash. When one compartment fills up, it is closed and the other is used so that the filled one can decompose properly. After a few months, the material can be removed and used as fertilizers.
I think the biggest obstacle with this will be to persuade the people to "handle their own shit".
Well, if you have any other ideas, they would be appreciated!
Good to hear from you..
Sorry for not mentioning the package before. I thought I did. I received the package about a week after you sent it. Thank you for the Rolling Stones and the pictures. Were there any other pictures of Europe in there? I completely forgot about that roll. Also, thanks for the magazine, but I noticed the postage was pretty expensive on that. Its probably better for me to buy it here, or you send something like that through the book-rate mail which is about 2 months but 1/3 the price.
The mailing address you gave me was fine. The one with the house 9/14 is more suitable for packages and the other letters.
Update and Arleen
Long time no type. Each week, I seem to get a little busier and busier. Which obviously reduces my tennis and biking time, as well as my e-mail time. But I will try to be more faithful with one of the three.
Much has happened since I last wrote.
Gina and Tina have finally moved into the house, on a full-moon nonetheless and have sacrificed their white chicken and made pagan blood crosses on all the posts in the house. They even had Anteco (the electric company) come out and put electricity in the house, so it is "deluxe apartment in the sky".
Arleen is recovering from her surgery. They operated on her last weekend and took a sample of her lumps, found out they were benign but still removed them but she did not have to go through a mastectomy. The operation was in Iloilo and she was surrounded by friends and recovered well. It was the first time for me to spend a night in a hospital, I've always thought of them as very eerie, and sterile environments but here, it seems like its just another excuse to have a big slumber party.
While Arleen is recovering, she can't be as active, so poor Jun-Jun is her eyes, legs and arms. So he is constantly biking around town doing errands for Arleen. But he seems to be enjoying it.
Hang in there!
Wish List for Care Package
Good to hear from you man..
And it is awesome that you found out about the box. Lately, I've been running around town with my head cut off. My workload has increased along with my personal problems.
The project I talked to you about, the P50,000 has now jumped up to P190,000($4700). It will be a much bigger project then anticipated but I am still leading the project. It makes me feel alive to finally get some concrete project going. But in the mean time, you know that sweet bike I had, well it was stolen last week. I am searching for it, along with just about everyone in the community. I have the provincial police commander on my side along with the barrio captains and the radio station has even made announcements. So there goes $400 down the drain!
Now here for my wishlist of hings.
· Light Guitar String(s)
· Snorkel strap made of neoprene/Velcro
· Picture corners (corners that hold pictures in an album)
· Carton of Camel Light Cigarettes
· Chianti (Italy)
· Gwertersterveiner (white)
· Cabernet Sauvignon
· A few microbrew beers (you recommend)
· Licorice (red and black)
· Parmesan Cheese (Fresh kind that doesn’t need refrigeration, will it
· Levi’s 560 34wx32L
· Socks (short running socks without balls)
· Boxer shorts (large, around 34-36 waist)
· Blank diskettes
· Computer speakers, if you have any extra in the office that run on an AC adapter, I'm sick of listening to my earphones
· Bausum Laum Contact Lense Solution (3)
· Arrid XX deodorant regular scent - A lot!
· Music ( you can just tape some of your CD’s if you want: If you have the band called James I would love their tapes. Maybe you can ask around your friends and tape their tapes for me)
· Misc gifts (cheesy stuff about California/San Fran that I can give people here or even junk from your company)
Dear Peace Corps Supervisor,
Good morning, or Afternoon!
I received your letter with the pictures from your visit thank you. I am still awaiting work on that ADB project of Bernardio (my supervisor at site), I've attended one meeting so far but it is definitely something that will take a long time to develop. In the mean time, I am excited to tell you that I am working now on a P190,000 project funded by the DOH! I approached Dr. Tanchuan at DOH and attended their monthly planning meeting, I expressed my interests in building CRs and waste management which was perfect timing since they had P190,000 left over and needed to spend it by the end of this year. So, he suggested I get with the Municipal Planning and Development Officer, Mr. Petinglay, to fast track this project. The project will be to build sanitary toilets in 5 coastal barangays (barrios). The money will be arriving next week and we will begin with an information session at each barangay to request applications from the community. P150,000 will be used for construction and the remaining P40,000 will be a mobile education campaign in which Gina will help me with. I am very excited and will actually get to do some WORK!
Now for the bad news. Last Thursday, the October 8th, my bicycle was stolen from in front of Gina's new house. It was leaning against the porch with the porch light on and the front door was open with us sitting in the living room. At approximately 10 PM I was on my way home and found there was no bike. I reported the crime to the police station that night and spoke with the head barangay captain, Aki. That night, Aki radioed the other barangay captains about the bike. The next day, I then went to the Provincial PNP commander and asked for his influence to expedite the case. I even went to the radio station here to have them announce the bike. So, as you can see, I am doing my best to locate the bike. But it has been almost 6 days since the crime and there is no suspect.
I hope to find it but what are my options in case I don't retrieve the bike? How much will peace corps reimburse? I spent P17,000 on it hoping to use it after peace corps to travel through Europe. I was also thinking that if Bob's family decided not to forward the bike home, that maybe you can transfer it over to me. But Tina seems to think that it is her bike now so maybe some clarifications might help. Please help me Stella...
Other than that, Antique is great and I am really excited to share my experiences at IST(In-service Training)!
Well, at least I hope you had a good time at the wedding. I haven't been to one in a long time, I always seem to want to get drunk at those things. Especially at the Vietnamese ones where they have at each table, a bottle of Hennesey cognac and tonic water. I gulp that stuff down like their ain't no such thing as a hangover. These days, I find myself drinking vodka tonics with a lot of vodka and a little tonic and a twist of lime. But I don't get that bad of a hang over anymore with it.
The other two American Peace Corps here just built a nipa house. It's made of coconut tree lumber, bamboo and nipa grass. Looks a lot like what you see on Gilligans Island or something. Anyways, its right by the beach, so you get a nice cool breeze, with an excellent view of the stars while the crickets are serenading you.
(A friend wrote about an apple tree in Sweden that had a ripe apple, and she waited until it seemed ripe enough to eat it. When she did finally pick it, it turned out sour)
Sorry to hear about the apples. I just read a short story about a Vietnamese woman who moved to the US and she had a special affection for apples. She recalls back when the US military was there, that was the only time there were apples in Vietnam, and to be given a succulent red apple from an American was a treasure to be cherished. She eventually came to the states, and realized that apples were so easily bought and sold, they didn't have the same meaning anymore since she could just buy as many as she wanted. She was disheartened about America and disillusioned about her dreams. Until she met the special American man in her life, and from then on, she never bought any more apples, and only ate them when her husband bought them for her.
Update for Patrice
Wow, your e-mails are always so informative and yet, filled with so many new questions.
> Are you mountain biking a lot?
Not now since my bike was stolen last week. It's been a bit stressful, I've informed so many people so many people are looking for it now, but it doesn't seem like I will find it. Sucks man! Anyways, I might borrow a bike a do a 180 km bike ride from my town to the most famous beach resort in the Philippines, Boracay. I think we'll do it in two days, as soon as the weather clears up. The Philippines has been hit by a signal 4 typhoon. I can't feel the impact as much here except for more rain, some wind, and bigger waves. Other parts of the country are sustaining a lot of damage.
> Are you coming home for the holidays?
I don't think I will be coming home for the holidays. Just that I don't feel I've been away that long and anyways, I want to see how Christmas is spent here.
What do I do every day? Well, as I said, I don't go to work very often. I am usually going around town, meeting with officials, going to the bank, listening to music and reading. But lately, I've been very busy finding money to build some sanitary toilets in some depressed areas. Also, the two other volunteers here have built a nipa house, which is made of bamboo and coconut tree wood among other things. Kinda like Gilligans Island but with electricity!
No volleyball for me. I think once, I brought my volleyball to the beach and bumped around for about 5 minutes. Pretty pathetic. The meals, what can I say except three words "fish and rice". That's the extent of my meals here, lunch, breakfast, and dinner. "Fish and rice". I have lost some weight, probably do to the non-junk food diet and my elimination of drinking beer.
5.5 months in the Philippines
I am doin' swell. I actually have been in the Philippines now for about 5 1/2 months! It's amazing how time passes here. Soon, my one year mark will be over then two years, lickety splitly! I have yet to build anything here. Just running around doing a few seminars on health and some surveys. But soon, I hope to find some money to do some actual construction work!
Do I need things? You bet, and since Christmas is around the corner(hint, hint) Should I make a wish list? Are you actually offering?
Should you visit the Philippines?
A friend plans on visiting the Philippines with her father. She is a Filipino-American
I think you will enjoy the Philippines. It isn't the cleanest place in the world, and everything is in absolute chaos most of the time but its quite an adventure. Have you told your parents about me? Do they know where San Jose Antique is? Where will your Fathers reunion be? I am very close to Iloilo. I recall your mother is from Bacolad, which is about 2 hours speedboat.
We will definitely have to hit Boracay when you visit. I am doing good, my boredom was broken last week. I was running around to three different government offices, attending meetings, in budget arguments, etc. Really spiced up my life for a while.
I am doing well. I was suppose to bike to a beach resort this weekend. A total of 170 km or about 100 miles, but because of my cough and cold and because of a typhoon that has just hit the region, we decided not to go. In parts of the Philippines, winds up to 200 kph. They've evacuated some coastal communities. We are safe here, Antique rarely gets much winds. There is a electricity brown out now, so I am writing this on battery with the help of a kerosene lamp. But besides that, all is well and I am recovering from my cold.
Thought I'd tell you guys about a Filipino friend of mine that is now visiting the US. He is attending a United Nations conference for 1 month at UC Santa Cruz where he will be staying. I gave him the address of our Family (Garden Grove) and told him to stay there if he was going to d-land. Which I think will be a good opportunity for the family to meet someone from here. He is Dr. Norman Tanchuan. The Public Health administrator for the province here in Antique. I will be working with him for the next two years. He is a great guy, curious, great sense of humor and very modern. If you are interested in meeting him, I can forward him your address in San Jose. But I know you two are extremely busy but this might be a good opportunity to meet someone that is very familiar with where I will be living the next 2 years. It would be interesting for you culturally.
I will be actually leaving my site for about 3 weeks in November for a series of trainings around the Philippines. I look forward to a change in scenery and seeing some of the Peace Corps faces from training. It will have been about 5 months that I have seen most of them. Can't believe how time has just flown by!
Thanks for the thing with the box, hopefully you can put that all in one box.... Be sure to check what dimension box they require. And to tape it up securely, wrapping any fragile stuff well and keeping it moisture proof. Look forward to the box man! And don't be surprised if I have some last minute additions.
Peace Corps Life Answered
Greetings from the Jungle man!
I've been a little bit busy, well not really. Busy more like sleeping in a little later, reading too much and just hanging out on the hammock. You see two of the volunteers in this town built a nipa house, complete with bamboo floor and walls and a luxurious rattan hammock on the porch. So, I spend a few hours a day out there, reading and swinging (on the hammock that is.) Our situation is funny, four volunteers in the same town (highly uncommon), 3 women and one male (me).
Besides that, life treats me okay. I experienced my first Typhoon last week. I mean, it wasn't just an ordinary Typhoon, it was a Super Typhoon called Lelonke. 200 plus KPH winds with rains and very rough seas. But lucky for me, it really didn't hit the Visayans, where I am, very hard. So what I got here was very wet for 1 week, some wind and rough waters, which made it very enjoyable to swim in! But because El Nino, the rainy season didn't hit very much but this one week really gave me a good feel. I mean, it rained all the time, and by the end of the week, all my clothes smelled like mildew and fungus and everything was growing funny things on it. My room was stuffy and to top it off, there was no electricity for 2 days. What a rough life, eh?
It wasn't too bad, except for the constant humidity and moistness of everything. I swear, my clothes all smell of mildew and my leather shoes are growing some funky stuff on top of it. But all this is remedied fairly easily.
# I am curious about what you are doing on a day to day basis. Do you have a set schedule like 9-5 or is it pretty flexible? Have you been able to do some exploring of the islands? How have you been treated by the Filipinos? I hear that they can be quite racist when it comes to other Asians. What do you think about the people, custom, cultures, and norms? And finally, are you returning to the U.S. before your term is up?
Great thing with the Peace Corps is that there is no schedule. At first, I was going to the office often, 3-4 times a week but now, its pretty much once a week for a few hours. Instead, I go to other offices to meet with people and try to get into the community. But now, in the beginning, not much is going on , but I think things will definitely pick up by the beginning of next year, where I will be on a construction project everyday for a few months. Also, I am pretty lucky since the other volunteer here asked me to help her map out the coral reefs along the coast, so I'll be able to do some diving.
Racially, I had heard that their might be some animosity towards Asians, mostly due to the resentment towards the Chinese here. But I haven't felt that at all. Perhaps, that's because everyone thinks I look Filipino so that they don't really take notice of me. And once the do find out I'm not, they are more fascinated about how a Vietnamese guy got to the States and is now working for the US government.
Culturally, I think much of it is based on Asian culture. Like the whole respect for the elderly, and strong family bonds. But then again, much of it is Spanish, with the Fiesta's and the siestas and all that. In general, the Filipino culture is an amalgamation of Asian family values, mixed with Spanish laziness and zest for life and American capitalism and third world environmental awareness. Sounds harsh but is true in most cases.
About your Asia whirlwind trip, that sounds awesome. I really want to see Asia while I am here too. Airline tickets are dirt cheap once you get over here. I have heard of that deal that you mentioned, costing around $999 for unlimited travel through Asia for a month or so from Cathay Pacific. But if I were you, which I am not, I wouldn't try to hit so many countries. I mean, for me, I think I want to see Thailand and Vietnam for about 1 1/2 months, and I think that is a bit too short. But I think that's the best way to travel instead of staying in a country for 1 week or so. But if you are in the Philippines, definitely tell me, I can easily take time off to travel with you. Don't know what my budget will be like but I'll do my damn'dest!
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Special Interests - PCVs in the Field - Philippines
By Anonymous (proxy.ji-net.com - 188.8.131.52) on Friday, July 22, 2005 - 5:50 am: Edit Post|
i love to read the articles about the peacecorps.great...