The kids in my host family are all future movie stars, directors, and producers! Below are links to four videos they made entirely on their own through iMovie software. Be prepared to laugh, dance, and travel to mystical lands as you meet the talented Maxine, Andrea, Coco, Miel, Zyrex, and baby Barry Lee in the following four films:
Coco, Maxine, Miel, Andrea and several additional neighbors learned the parts and placement of human internal anatomy during our blindfolded body building activity. Even the adults put on a blindfold, did a few spins and gave it a try!
Human babies are born with over 300 bones, but as bones shift and fuse with growth a human adult has a grand total of 206 bones. Cumulatively, the Famero household had roughly 3,648 bones in attendance of this family activity night. Although our skeleton initially suffered from eviscerated intestines and largely displaced jaw, by the night’s end (and with great encouragement from the peanut gallery) all of his body parts were restored to their proper position.
Last week I gave my family a challenge: each member received a small piece of a photo I had taken from the other side of the globe, along with a blank piece of white paper. Each individual was to redraw their photo piece to the size of the white paper, but in secret! Once everyone finished we would assemble the drawing and discover the contents of the photo.
The photo was taken during my semester in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We discovered an injured flamingo, subsequently dubbed Jerome, near the island airport. We suspected Jerome had been attacked by one of the many feral dogs on South Caicos Island. Taped and nursed back to health from the comforts of our groundskeeper’s shower, Jerome made a full recovery and was released back to his flock. Although one leg was an unfortunate lost casualty of the art project, I currently have a lifesize version of Jerome hanging on my bedroom door.
Flamingos are found in Central and South American and some parts of Africa, which is why even once the photo was pieced together many mistook it for an ostrich, a more familiar bird. Unlike the heavy, solitary ostrich, flamingos are hugely loyal to their flock and also capable of flying. The pink hue of their feathers comes from pigments in brine shrimp that the birds scoop up with their hooked bills. Bristles inside the bill allow them to filter these small crustaceans as well as other mollusks, insects, and some plants from the water. The male and female flamingos both contribute to feeding the young, whose favorite meal is crop milk, rich in fat and protein this milk is produced in the adult digestive tract and regurgitated into the mouth of a chick.
This project was a lesson in art and zoology, but not without reward. The participants each received one US dollar for participation. This novel prize is equivalent to 44 Philippine pesos, enough to purchase lunch from the local Filipino cantina.
Check out my newest video with my host family here in Romblon entitled, “Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero” which means “An Evening with the Famero Family.” From my experience the most common evening activity in middle class Filipino families is watching TV. Soap operas are very popular as are singing competition shows similar to American Idol. The soap operas are in Tagalog, however many commercials are in English. I asked a Filipino about this and apparently it would take too long to say the same things in Tagalog. Although the TV is always on in my home as well, I have not had any time to partake in the tv dramas. My family seems to share my energy and many evenings we have instead found ourselves ballroom dancing, doing yoga or playing music. I teach yoga in exchange for lessons in swing, cha cha, and other forms of dancing. Watch my youtube video to see our family in action. I also brought some uno cards with me from the States and they have been a big hit for the young kids in my extended family.
Here is the translation for the Tagalog song we play together in the video entitled Bahay Kubo:
My Nepa Hut, even though it’s small
With varied plants around
Turnips and eggplant
Winged beans and peanut
String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean
White melon, sponge gourd
White pumpkin and squash
And also there is more
Garlic and ginger
And all around are sesame seeds.
This song is extremely appropriate to my life here in the Philippines because I am always eating fresh, delicious, cooked vegetables. Some interesting foods include ampalaya, a very bitter, green vegetable and papaya if cooked before it ripens is served green with other vegetables. I am also a huge fan of malunggay, small green leaves used in teas or soups packed with vitamins and minerals.
Slacklining refers to the activity of walking on a 1-2 inch wide flat rope a few feet off the ground (or higher dependent on personal confidence), utilizing both physical and mental finesse to maintain balance. This past time was first invented in 1979 by a pair of rock climbers. It is quickly becoming popular throughout the US especially within college campuses and among the rock climbing community. Worldwide slacklining is gaining a following and each year the most highly skills athletes come together to compete for the WorldCup title. These slacklining professionals can perform nearly any trick feasible on a trampoline on this 2 inch wide line. Check out the pros in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MdDobR65Oo
My own skills consist of walking on the line, jumping, turning around, and sitting down, however even this takes much practice as most people simply work on standing for more than 5 seconds. This past weekend I introduced slacklining to my host family and it was a huge hit!
If you want to order your own slackline the website theclymb.com generally has discounts but the cost of a Gibbon line generally ranges from $50-$100 depending on length.
My host family here is Romblon is absolutely wonderful! My host mom who coincidentally shares the same name, Jean, as my mother in the States, is a retired school teacher. Together with her husband, Daddy Barry, they have 5 grown children. Two of which live here in Odiongan with their own families.
We had a special dinner last week with three representatives from the Peace Corps office who visited us in our home. Below is a photo of our family and the wonderful feast they prepared for our guests.
Later that evening I had the first showing of a family video entitled, “Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero” or “An Evening with the Famero Family.” I have been trying unsuccessfully to load the video to youtube, however a slow internet connection has hindered my progress. Keep watching my blog and hopefully soon!
Here is a link to the movie I made with the help of my host family for our tagalog language class.
Every morning (except on Sundays – my one free day) I have language class from 8am until 12pm. It is a class of 4 students with my amazing Filipino language instructor Eva. Tagalog is the most widely spoken language here in the Philippines, however there are ~170 different dialects depending on where in the country you are located. The Peace Corps facilitates intensive Tagalog language classes for all volunteers here in the Philippines during initial training. In September when I find out my permanent site, I will also receive a one week crash course in whatever dialect is prominent in my new location. Tagalog itself has a strong Spanish influence (the Philippines was a Spanish colony for 300+ years) and some adopted English words as well with a unique Filipino spelling. For example…
Nurse –> Nars
Airplane –> Eroplano
Cuarto (Spanish for bedroom) –> Kuwarto
Here is the script from the movie link. See if you can guess what I am saying…
Ito ang aming sala. Pakipatay po ang ilaw, Tita Rose. Salamat po. Pasok kayo sa kwarto ko. Malambot ang kama ko. Mahalaga bentilador ko kasi mainit dito Pilipinas. Dito ko inilalagay ang mga damit ko. Dito ang aming kusina. Dito kami nagluluto at ito ang gripo. Dito kami kumakain nang masarap na pagkain at umiinom tubig. Weniel, nasaan ang CR?
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!
SJ Byce as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. And Intern at CIEE Bonaire '17