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).
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).