Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Reality sets in

So after a fairly boring 3 days in Los Banos, we are officially sworn in. We had to swear our allegiance to the constitution, and there was also something in there about defending America against our enemies? I don't know, it was a very odd thing to have to repeat back. So yay, replace our T's with V's, for we be official, yo. We took a few days in getting to our actual site by way of Manila, where we found probably the best hostel I have ever stayed in. For an aircon dorm room with its own bathroom, it was a whopping P200 ($4). This included a sweet balcony overlooking the city, free wifi, free coffee, a kitchen and communal fridge, and on Saturdays the owner has wine night. Needless to say, we're going back in July to watch the last game of the World Cup. Is anyone following the World Cup? Our family has cable, so we've been watching the games on the bad reception Japanese channel. Manila was a really nice 3 day break full of eating good food, drinking bad beer (actually, it's not so bad) and just checking out the city. Manila is huge (I think 12 million people), but not too difficult to get around. We went to Quiapo, or more specifically to Chinatown, and Abby discovered a whole street devoted to beads. She was in heaven. Actually, she got our friend Carrie into it, so now bead madness is sweeping the PC ladies. Well, three of them at least.

After Manila we got to site to, dun dun dun, start working. After 2 1/2 months of goofing off, it was a little nerve racking showing up to work. Not to mention both of us were taken everywhere possible and introduced to everyone and their mother (sometimes literally). Abby's boss got up at a conference and introduced her as the Peace Corps volunteer with a different last name than her husband, and no babies. For a country that is supposed to be very indirect, pinoys can say some startlingly upfront things. For example, our old host father said to us, in front of his 16 year old daughter, "she's not feeling well, she's on her period." Ha! I think an American girl would die of mortification is her father said that to guests. The work situation is good, but frustrating for both of us. We can both see that these will be good jobs and that we'll get along well with our co-workers but for the time being it's a lot of showing up and wandering around trying to figure out what's going on. It's much more self-directed than a normal job, and by that I mean it's totally self-directed. You have to find out what's going on, and then invite yourself to it. I think part of the problem is that I now have 2 desks, 2 (maybe 3) counterparts, 3 (maybe 4) offices and 1-3 "bosses." So basically I'm going to have to narrow my focus here at the beginning if only so I know which office I'm supposed to go to every morning. Unfortunately everyone is out of town this week, so that will have to wait until next week.

All job bitching aside, everything else is great. Our host family is very nice, there are three kids who are hilarious and very talkative (a radical change from our last host family where the girls maybe said 8 words to me between the two of them over the course of our 2 month stay). The 9 year old likes to watch movies and then point to things and say "Kuya Owen, is that how it is in America?" My answer is yes, if you're very rich and live in New York. Also, and this is a biggie, we get to cook our own food! Maybe that needs two exclamation points. Cook our own food!! Now don't get me wrong, Filipino food is great, we still eat with the host fam sometimes, but pinoys have this habit of deep-frying fried eggs. And there's a lot of boiled meat and vegetables going on. And they have this stuff called tuna spread which is just tuna flavored mayo and definitely NOT tuna salad despite their claims that it is. So it's nice to be able to make spaghettii that doesn't have sugar and hot dogs in it, or a tuna salad sandwich, or curries. It's kind of a happy medium, I guess you could say. Also, Calapan is really nice, we keep discovering cool new places and there's a ton of exploring still ahead of us. For example, hiking on the 9000ft mountain that's a little ways away. Or taking a banka out to the three uninhabited white sand beach islets that are just off the shore. Puerto Galera is only an hour away and three hours away, 50km after the road ends, is Bulalacao, which is all white sand beaches and Mangyans (indigenous tribe), no tourists. We have a marine sanctuary project down there actually, so I'll get to visit it on the government's dime.

So all temporary job frustrations aside, everything is going really well here. Still sweating it out, but a little less so. Actually it'll start getting a little bit cooler over the next few months and during typhoon season it's supposed to be pretty nice (except for the 21 predicted typhoons of course). So, yeah...

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