So I had my site visit this past weekend and as excited as I was before about my site being on Guimaras, I am even more excited now!
We left Thursday morning for the ferry from Bacolod back to Iloilo (and by we I mean me and my Supervisor, and Rob and Jensen and their supervisors). Our CRM Guimaras group had bought tickets for the 9:50 ferry, but when we got to the wharf at 8:20, the 8:00 ferry hadn't left yet. So we quickly exchanged our tickets and made a fast run to the ferry, getting upgraded to first class (not sure how that happened actually).
When we arrived in Iloilo, Rob and his supervisor went their separate way, since his town in Guimaras has their own wharf. Jensen and I continued on with our supervisors to the Jordan wharf and boarded the pump boat for a 20 min ride across the sea to the island paradise of Guimaras.
Guimaras, as I mentioned before, is known for the sweetest mangoes. Mangoes from Guimaras have been served to President Obama in the White House and in Buckingham Palace. And the people of Guimaras take their mangeos very seriously! They don't allow any mangoes to be brought from outside onto the island so as to not "contaminate" the sweet Guimaras mangoes.
Once we arrived to Guimaras, Jensen and I parted ways and I went with my supervisor to the municipal hall, where the Office of Agriculture (my office) is. I met all of the people who work there, who were all very welcoming and friendly! My counterpart seems very motivated and knowledgeable about fisheries; he has also worked with PC volunteers before so I look forward to working with him. I also was able to meet the Mayor and Vice-Mayor and some of the SB (town council) members. I am very fortunate that our vice-mayor is very proactive and my supervisor and the mayor are on very good terms. This will all be important when I go to them to get projects approved and funded. My supervisor already talked to the mayor about getting me my own transportation to take me around to the different coastal barangays (barangays are basically neighborhoods or parts of town) and it sounds like I can count on my own transportation starting in Jan!
That brings me to the next part of my tale, getting to my host family house, it is no short trip. First I have to ride on a jeepney for roughly 10-15 minutes depending on how many stops it makes, then take a tricycle (motorcycle attached to a side car) for another 10 min up the mountain. I definitely foresee the travel from home to work as a potential pain, both for times sake and money. PC is giving me money to buy a bike once I get to site but it would be one rough bike ride back up the mountain! Because there is really no main road through the island, it can take awhile to get even short distances as the roads wind around the mountains. This could make getting around the different barangays a little time consuming!
My host family is really nice though and they have a really nice house. My host mom works at the LGU as the treasurer, and my host dad works the farm. They have a hog farm in the back, along with dogs, chickens, pet parrots and a goat. They have two kids, ages 8 and 5, who warmed up to me pretty quickly, especially after I let them play games on my computer.
I get my own bathroom complete with shower. The family also has a fridge, oven, two TVs and a room with AirCon. They also have their own videoke game, which we played all Saturday evening! On Saturday they took me to a famous monastery in town where they grow mangoes (one of many places on the island). They told me about the Mango Festival every April. There is a mango eating contest and all you can eat mangoes for 50 pesos (roughly $1). Last year's champion ate 12 Kilos.... maybe I can be a contender ;)
All in all my site visit was great! There will definitely be a lot of down time (including the hour "rest time" from noon to 1 in my office, where the lights turn off and everyone takes a nap). But there will be other PCVs near me and there is so much of the island to explore. It is so beautiful and far less trashy than Banate. Needless to say I think I am really going to enjoy it there!
Well now I am back in Banate to finish my training for another month and a half. We will be working on our community project here, and I will enjoy hanging out with Grupo Grabe (as we call our training group) before we all go our separate ways to site in November.
Halong for now!