Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pas Pas Pacquiao!

So now I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! Woohoo! This past week was spent in Bacolod City again, for our counterpart’s conference followed by the swearing-in ceremony on Friday. It was tough to leave our host families in Banate but I promised to visit soon and will definitely keep in touch! The conference was pretty good and the hotel was great, with delicious food, comfy beds and aircon. With all of the amenities I almost forgot I am in the PC.  It was really good to see our friends from other training sites again too and catch up with them. My counterpart is pretty cool, he likes to cut up and have fun but he has a lot of good experience doing CRM so hopefully together we can get a lot done in the next two years.

Pretty much the entire week, we spent the evening time hanging out and having fun with each other, celebrating the end of training. And Thursday was Elliott’s Birthday so we celebrated his birth in true Grupo Grabe fashion!

Of course these evenings were always followed by an early start the next morning for conference session  but we managed. We had a lot of sessions split up into our sectors. The CRM sessions were really great, giving us information about the marine ecology here and various funding options we will have at our disposal. Joyce, the current CRM sector manager, announced that she is leaving PC and moving on to other things. We were all really sad to hear this, although I already knew from talking to current PCVs, it was still upsetting when she sat down to tell us the news. She was emotional as well. PC will have a hard time finding someone to replace her. She is so passionate and dedicated to CRM and PC and making sure that our two years here are spent well. She worked especially hard for us to make sure we were matched up with the best sites possible and has high hopes for our group. She will be sorely missed.

The swearing-in ceremony was fantastic! It took place at the historic provincial capital building, which was decorated in red, white and blue for us! We were greeted by sounds of drums and instruments playing native music. The special guest who actually swore us in was the US Ambassador to the Philippines. It was pretty neat to have him there and his speech was inspiring, telling us that we were the actually ambassadors to the Philippines and the great impact we will have on American-Filipino relations.

Batch 269 with the US Ambassador to the Philippines. We made it!!!

That night more celebrating ensued by going out on the town. I also decided it was high time that I ate balut! For those who are not familiar with this cultural delicacy, balut is a fertilized duck egg which has been boiled after a few weeks of incubation. So the duck is partially formed and the yolk is very big. For a PCVer, it is sort of like a rite of passage to eat. So what better way to celebrate swearing-in as a PCV in the Philippines than to partake of balut! I will say it was not that bad but the key to eating it all (and I did eat it all) is not to look at it while you are eating it. Namit!

Saturday was time to leave Bacolod. My friends and I decided to spend one last night together in Iloilo, before heading to our different sites. Our PC Filipino friend, B, who has all the best connections, hooked us up with great and cheap accommodations. Instead of staying at a pension house (hostel), we stayed on a family compound in the city. They have extra houses that they rent out so we rented one for the night, complete with aircon! We got their number and definitely plan to stay there during our future reunions in Iloilo. It is really great that the city is so close to all of us. It will be a great place to get together and catch up with each other.

A big reason we wanted to stay together one more night was also to watch the fight Sunday morning. World Boxing Champion hailing from the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao, was challenged by Mexican Boxer Antonio Margarito. This was kinda a big deal. It was a terrific fight and even more amazing to watch it among Filipinos in the Philippines! We went to a hotel that was showing it and the place was packed with people! Filipinos are known for being very hospitable and friendly, but during my three months here so far, I have also come to know that Filipinos are also very proud to be Filipinos. This pride seemed to culminate around Manny Pacquiao. Every time he threw a punch people cheered. And when he was hit, there were screams of panic. However there was much more cheering than panicking. Pacquiao is a small man and he is very fast! I’m not really into boxing, but I could not take my eyes off of the fight. It was so exciting! And of course, Manny defended his title successfully!

After the fight it was finally time for us to part ways. It was tough to say good-bye but we know we will see each other soon enough. Now I am at my host family’s house in Guimaras am starting work as a PCV! The next few months will be challenging for me, but I am anxious to start.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What part of the duck is this?

Since our community project is completed, we were finally able to relax this weekend and get ready for Halloween in the Pines! Traditions in the Philippines are becoming more and more Americanized, but Halloween is for the most part celebrated as All Souls Day on November 1. Filipinos visit the cemetery with candles and flowers in remembrance of loved ones that have died.

We decided that we wanted our own Halloween party so Dan's host mom was gracious enough to let us party at her house. There was also going to be a Halloween party at our favorite Banate establishment, Kites, on Nov. 1 so we were going to need costumes of course! Friday afternoon Sam, Laura and I went into town to see what we could find in the way of costumes. Now Banate is a small town after all so there really isn't that much, especially since most Filipinos here don't dress in costume for Halloween anyway. But we found a gown rental store and thought we would check it out. 

Oh dresses dresses galore! Now the three of us aren't exactly what you would call 'girly girls', I mean we are coastal resource management, but we don't really have much opportunity at all to dress up here and the mere sight of these dresses got our estrogen flowing! The dresses were a little expensive to rent (at least on PC salary) but we decided there was no harm in trying them on. As we were trying on various gowns, we came across three dresses that were all styled the same with flowers, butterflies and sequence (ok that sounds really lame but I promise they were pretty). We had to try them on! And they fit each of us perfectly, which is really weird considering our larger stature when compared to that of the average Filipina. So of course we rented them for Saturday's party, going as.. a garden. (I know.) 

And of course we could not wear these gowns without also getting our hair and make-up done. So Sam called up her Filipino friend who works at a salon in town and he jumped at the chance to do our hair and make-up saying he had never done make-up on a white face before. He wanted us to meet him at Sam's house at 3pm to get ready. The party was a 8pm. Yeah it took that long. But the end result was really great. The guys all stopped by and we inturn put make-up on them since they were going as the Spice Girls, haha. Once we were all done-up we made our way to Dan's house and party party!

The Spice Girls: (left to right) Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Posh Spice, Baby Spice, and Ginger Spice. Don't ask!
We are a garden!
The following day (after recovering from the previous days activities) we went to play soccer. Instead of going to Borotoc Nueva like usual to play, we went to a PC staff’s hometown of Pototan. It is a very nice town with clean streets and mowed lawn – the first I have seen in the Pines! There were even signs around warning people the fine for littering. The FINE for LITTERING!  This is a crazy thought to me here since everyday in Banate I watch as people casually throw their plastic trash in the streets. The mind set of these two nearby towns, Banate and Pototan, differ so much and the result is just as dramatic. However Pototan gave me hope that if behavior change can happen there then it will be able to happen other places as well. Do I hear a side project calling my name? Perhaps Jordan is ready for an anti-littering campaign as well J

But I digress. Soccer at Pototan was great! The field was green and mowed and … Muddy! All of the rain the past few days had left the field utterly soaked! But we definitely weren’t going to let that stop us! It was a muddy good time and Bobbit's friend who lived down the road let us go to his house to hose off afterwards.

After the game we decided to check out the pizzeria that we noticed on the way into town. Pizza has kind of become our go-to for comfort food. That being said there are two types of pizza here: American style and Filipino style. This was definitely Filipino style. One of the options was hotdog and sausage and the supreme pizza included pepperoni, ham, hotdog and sardines. I decided to stay simple and ordered a pepperoni and cheese pizza. The sauce was very sweet and the cheese gooey but tasted good to me! Afterwards we made our way back to good ole Banate.

The next day was Nov. 1, All Saints Day and day of the Halloween Party at Kites! The whole town was in celebration mode. Shops were closed, people were spending the day at the cemetery, Kites was decorating  for the party, and there was a giant wall of speakers in the middle of the road. That's right, as I was making my way into town I had to go around the giant wall of speakers while trying not to go deaf from the BASS BASS BASS BASS. Apparently there was going to be a street dance party that evening competing with Kites party, oh and they decided to go ahead and start blaring music around 7am. That the Pines for you!

When evening time came around we all got together to get ready for the party. The girls came over to my house. Laura and Lindsay dressed like gypsies while Sam and I decided to go 80's (thanks mom for that wide-necked shirt :). A side ponytail, some impromptu leg warmers made from a cut up sock, and some purple eyeshadow and I was ready! We went to Tyler's house to dinner, because as usual we were invited over to feast.

Tyler's host mom had prepared for us pancit (noodles), rice (of course), pork and duck. Now I haven't tried duck yet but had tried goose and wasn't really a fan of it. But the others kept telling me that I had to try the duck because it was so good. So I told them to pass me the bowl and I picked out a piece. I usually like to know what part of the animal I am eating but couldn't really tell so I just went with it. There wasn't much meat on it but it tasted pretty good. As I was chowing down on the duck a form slowly took place. It was then that I realized exactly what part of the duck I was chewing on. I turned to Laura and asked "what exactly does that look like to you?" She busted out laughing as she realized what I already knew. It was the head. Yes I was gnawing on the skull and neck of a duck head. Needless to say I put it down and was done.

I tend to avoid animal heads in this country, there is just something about eating an animal head that weirds me out. So whenever I eat chicken or fish, I always avoid the head. It usually works out because the head happens to be someone's favorite. Too bad this time it was left for me. 
I don't think I will be trying duck again for awhile.

After my interesting dinner, we made our way through the rain to Kites. It was already rocking when we got there! Shortly after we arrived, Jane (our friendly server) asked us in true Filipino fashion, what song would we like to perform to. Being Americans we are invited to many events. And most of the time we are asked to stand up and say a speech or perform a dance or song without any preparation. This is pretty scary to the typical American but our time so far in the Philippines has given us many opportunities to become better at improvisation. So I guess we shouldn't have been surprised at the request.

We quickly made the decision that we should dance to.. Thriller. Duh. As they started the music, we made our way to the center of the dance floor, walking as zombies, and then taking a few moves from MJ's music video we managed to last the whole song and our audience LOVED it! They wanted us to do another, but we were able to persuade them otherwise and danced the night away with our Banate friends.

Of course the night was not over since on our way back home we had to pass the giant wall of speakers. In front of which there was a huge gathering of people dancing in the street and in the rain. Why fight it, right? So we danced our way through.

It was an exhausting but fun weekend and now we are busy preparing for our language interview taking place Thursday morning. 

Only one more week in Banate!