Homestay

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I have moved in with my host family in Sabang, Morong, Bataan. And my Tita Rose is really sweet and cooks amazing Filipino food. There is no internet in Sabang, so my updates will be few and far between until I transfer to my permanent site in late September. I still do not know where I will be placed but am hoping to utilize my technical skills in the water. I have been snorkeling just off the beach in Sabang and the marine life here is incredible! At the moment I am sitting in a large mall, impressive even when compared to those frequented in the States, utilizing Starbucks internet. In Sabang, population ~6,000, Starbucks itself is a novelty and life is much simpler. I am extremely fortunate as Tita Rose speaks wonderful English and has a very nice home, in which I have my own room. Each morning I have Tagalog language class a few steps from the beach and in the afternoon we do technical training sessions. Today we visited a large fish market to learn what types of fish are sold as well as the local names and relative prices. Tonight will be a fish fry dinner!

Typhoon Glenda

The Philippines gets hit with an average of 20+ typhoons every year. Glenda which hit earlier this week was my first with promise of several more throughout my time here. Following such storms brown outs (loss of electricity) are common due to down power lines. With the loss of power comes the loss of water. Currently, at our training center we have regained power but are still operating without running water meaning we collect rain water, take bucket showers, and conserve as much as possible. Fresh drinking water is brought in in jugs. This typhoon hit metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines, especially hard. I heard rumors of incredible traffic due to traffic light outages. The roads at our training center were completely covered with debris and we had numerous trees down. The photos below were taken during the calm period of the typhoon eye, thus imagine double the debris picture at the end. To help clean up we used sticks and branches as brooms/shovels to push leaves and sticks of the road. The larger trees had to be tackled with saws and teamwork.

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Here is a link with some nationwide photos of the effects: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/370527/news/specialreports/in-pictures-typhoon-glenda-whips-through-luzon

Intro to Philippine Culture

Our Peace Corps Batch 273 currently consists of 80 volunteers and we are all living at a training base together for these first two weeks. Below are photos from our cultural day, complete with a performance by a Dance Troupe, demonstrating various traditional festival dances. These performers were incredibly impressive and even managed to balance a glass cup of liquid on their foreheads for the entirety of one dance. I got an opportunity to try a few simple steps after the show. Cultural day also included opportunities to try some of the more exotic Filipino foods including chicken feet (grilled and served on a skewer) and balut (fertilized chicken eggs which depending on the stage of development may even include feathers and a beak). While balut has recently received greater attention due to the show Survivor and/or Fear Factor, this food is commonly fed to children as parents encourage them to grow strong. Balut is a good source of protein, but luckily mine did not contain feathers or a beak. Finally, we learned a version of the game tag traditional to Filipino childhood and some common superstitions including the idea that if you are ever lost, you must turn your clothes inside out to find your way (Filipinos and Americans share similar superstitions about opening umbrellas indoors).

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Departure!!!

My journey to the Philippines began at 4am on the 4th of July out of Pittsburgh, onward to  Minneapolis, overnight in Los Angeles (I was born here 24 years ago and this is my first time back), through the bustle of Tokyo, and finally landing in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, named after a species of mangrove (the Philippines have 40+ different mangrove species compared to the 3 found in Florida). 

The next 3 months of training promise to be intense with full days of language, culture, and coastal resource training and little free time. I will do my best to regularly post updates and share the knowledge I gain along the way. Many thanks to my Canadian friend Nikki Karn for this link to fun facts about the Philippines:http://www.travelingmyself.com/2013/04/25/34-interesting-facts-about-the-philippines/

Check out the photo of me in the airport, equipped with my ukulele (which I did play walking through the airport) and my bike helmet (which fit better on my head than in my suitcase).

SJ