Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mindoro, the sequel

I came up with a little test to determine your nationality. I'll present you with a scenario, you tell me what you'd do. You're driving a rickety, piece of crap, chromed out LED light explosion of a jeep from WWII. You're driving down a 1 1/2 lane road in the mountains and there's a tricycle, a dump truck and another jeepney in front of you, all going different speeds and in different lane(s). You're going around a blind curve. Do you a) wait to pass or b) gun it wildly around the curve?

Now the results. If you selected choice A, you're probably American. No matter how aggressive of a driver you think you are, you are a passive, defense driver here. If you selected choice B, I don't know what you are. Maybe Indian. I hear they're crazy drivers. If you're Filipino, you would have selected secret choice C, which is that you'd stop on the blind curve to pack 4 more people into a vehicle that already has people on the roof and hanging on the sides.

Ok, enough fun and games, I have a serious job to do here. I must recap for everyone. Actually, I won't do that, but here's what's been going on. Life with the host fam is good. We've been working on these stupid (if anyone from PC office is reading, I mean great) "tools," which involves a lot of talking to people and then writing about the experience. It's by and large a waste of time, but there are some good things too. We all had to shadow someone in our field, so I went out for the day with Kuya Jun (Kuya means big brother, a term of respect), who lives in our town and works for the municipal government in CRM, much like I'll be doing. So he took me around on his normal day, which in this case involved drinking beer and eating chicken at the Bantay Dagat (local water patrol) and going to a chicken farm for much fruit eating and snake handling. In actuality, his job is to coordinate with all the different environmental organizations in the municipality, but in a country that's all about interpersonal relationships, that translates to a lot of hanging out and chatting.

Last Tuesday we took the ferry, the bus and then the ferry again to get to Calapan. We were supposed to have a host family, but since we didn't, we stayed at the guest house at Abby's school, which was probably better anyway. Abby really didn't have a whole lot to do because it's summer vacation here from April until June, but she went out to visit other schools and various youth organizations in town. I, on the other hand, was taken on a courtesy call extravaganza which resulted in us doing a shitload of driving and meeting with the mayors and environmental people of 9 of the 12 municipalities here. It was cool though, I got to hang out with my counterparts a lot, see a lot of the island and meet most of the people I'll be working with. Mindoro Oriental is really beautiful, we have the country's 4th highest peak (Mt Halcon ~9000ft), a huge freshwater lake named Naujan Lake, and a big national park right next to the lake. Most of the country-side consists of rice fields, banana and coconut trees and coastline. In the upland areas are the indigenous peoples of Mindoro, the Mangyans. There are 7 different tribes, and from what I've seen they're shy and wear g-strings.

My counterparts are awesome. They're both very nice, one is 46 and the other is turning 29 soon (both women as you might remember). It looks like it's going to be great working with them, and they're really excited to have me here, which makes me even more excited to be here. There are a lot of projects going on, but initially I'm going to be working on about 3 to 4 things. They want to set up a demo farm that will showcase different techniques of planting and raising crops, as well as how to do it organically without fertilizer, how to compost, etc. They also have a reforestation/mangrove rehabilitation project, and a few municipalities are setting up marine sanctuaries. Also, the WWF in Puerto Galera is starting the second phase of their project here, which is developing the upland areas into a tourist destination by creating trails, working with the Mangyans to showcase their cultural heritage, and educating the community about proper waste disposal and segregation, the need for environmental responsibility and all that good stuff. They invited me to work with them, so I think I will since it'll be nice to work with one project that's already doing well, it'll be a good learning experience for me. One way or the other, I'm going to be doing a lot of research because in case you didn't know, I don't know much about a lot of that stuff.

Right now we're in Puerto Galera. We went to White Beach last night, which is a small resort area with a lot of beach front bars/restaurants and drunk teenagers drinking brandy from the bottle. It was cool though, they had a concert and it was a very relaxed atmosphere. The weird thing about the resort areas here is that they're nothing like you'd expect. The roads are still dirt, it's mostly Filipino tourists from Manila and it's not the nicely manicured mega resorts with swimming pools like in the south of France or Jamaica. Today the guys from the Bantay Dagat took us over to Sabang Beach which is where all the dive shops are to talk to this guy we heard of about getting PADI certified. He gave us a little discount for being PC, so we get the course, the book, all the gear (rental) and one extra dive for $300 each, which I think is a pretty good deal? I dunno, but he's been doing this for 20 years, so at least we'll get a good lesson. They also took us to a few other beaches in their boat and then brought us back. Tomorrow we head back, and then we have about 3 more weeks of training before swearing in at the beginning of June. Whoo, the paperwork will be over with (for the time being)!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys:
This is Aunt Con and I am trying for the 3rd time to get this message posted.
Thanks for doing the blog, it is sooo interesting and helps me feel connected.
Aunt con