Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Maobra ko gid!

Wow another month has come and gone and it is already April!

There is good news and bad news to report. The bad news is that my Solid Waste Management project that got approved for funding got postponed. It is still approved and will eventually get done (hopefully) but for now the funds have been “reallocated” to another project that the LGU deems of higher priority. However this news is not all bad. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed before: trying to push the implementation of my solid waste mgt project while also trying to plan when I was going to do coastal assessments, and I have also been busy visiting all of the schools in town, presenting on solid waste and composting. Now I can focus on the coastal assessments and go back to solid waste later once I get the funds again.
Talking to the kids about composting and solid waste management. They laugh everytime I talk in Ilonggo!

They look so attentive don't they..

Also a lot of my time lately has been focused on Solid Waste Management recently. Like I mentioned, I have visited just about every school in Jordan giving presentations on Solid Waste Management and composting. And I recently helped the municipal engineer to establish some composting bins made out of tires at our municipal building. So this will be a nice change of pace going back to CRM (coastal resource management). 
The compost bins behind my office, made from recycled tires.

Physical assessments of the coast is probably most CRM volunteers favorite thing to do because it involves getting in the water and looking at coral reefs and seagrass. However it is also one of the most frustrating things to plan because trying to find all the necessary supplies can be a hassle! Even though performing assessments in coastal waters is mandated by the national government, most LGU (that’s Local Government Unit for those that forgot) don’t have the proper supplies or know-how to do it.

Coastal assessments are important for assessing the effectiveness of established marine reserves and the information gathered will be used to update the Coastal Resource Management Plan. I also want to assess a new area so I can make recommendations for establishing a new marine reserve.

During training we learned how to do these assessments and used supplies supplied by Peace Corps (see earlier blog post - Finding Nemo). Now it’s time to do assessments in my municipality. I have been waiting for the good weather (and calmer waters) of the summer season to do this. But the summer weather was late in getting here and the rainy season is fast approaching. And the next two months are already very full with activities! Next week is Manggahan Festival, celebrating Guimaras’ sweet mangos. It is a full week of events including dance competitions, live bands, mango eating competition, Filipino celebrities, carnival rides and a day of all-you-can-eat-mangos! After Manggahan is Holy Week, ending with a reenactment of the Crucifixion of Christ – whether this will be using nails or rope is yet to be known! I will also be gone for two weeks in May for various PC training events.

All these weeks of festivals and conferences leave me little time to do coastal assessments so I am trying to get everything planned. And the planning process takes a good deal longer here since it takes twice as long for someone to get back to me about supplies and even when someone says they have transect lines that I can use, it doesn’t always mean they actually do. Often times items are misplaced, broken, or in use somewhere else even though they were supposed to be saved for me.

But I digress… I am sure you are wondering what this good news is that I mentioned earlier. Well I moved out of my host family house and am now living in my own place! As mentioned before I loved living with my host family but have also been really wanting to get out and have my own place. This is part of American culture that many Filipinos just don’t understand. “Why would you want to move away from your family?” “Aren’t you scared to live on your own?” These are the questions I get. At the core of Filipino culture is family. Family members don’t move out until they get married, and even then often new couples continue to live with their parents. Even when they eventually do move out, usually they build a house right next store to their parents’.

This is of course quite different from the average American household, wherein parents from day one are raising their children to be independent so as to be ready for that fateful day when you move out on your own. I remember looking forward to moving out and having my own place, and I know my youngest brother is feeling the same way right now. I try to explain to locals that my American family is just as close, we just don’t all live together in the same house, and we strive to be able to be independent. But this is just one example of the cultural differences I run into on a daily basis!

So I moved down the street to a nice little house. I also got a dog and a roommate. My roommate is just for the month of April but it is nice to transition to living on my own here by having a roommate first. And she is a foreigner to the Philippines as well. Chie is a JICA (Japan’s version of PC) volunteer. Her site is in the city but she has a month off and wants to concentrate on learning Ilonggo, so she asked if she could move in with me for a bit so that she could take language lessons with my language tutor.  It is a really neat experience living with a volunteer who is from another country. We take turns cooking American and Japanese foods and help each other with language.
My new house!

The compost bin I set up behind my house, also using recycled tires.

My Japanese roommate, Chie, with my new puppy, Turtle.

I find myself keeping some American ways and practices but also adopting some of the Filipino ways that I have learned while living with my host family. I am also learning how to buy food and cook in the Philippines. Going to the market is an adventure every time! I never know what fruits, vegetables and fish are going to be available or if they will be selling chicken. And many of the produce is new to me so, with the help of Chie, I am learning how to cook different types of food.  Another great thing about having my own place is that my friends can visit me, which they plan on doing for Manggahan Festival. The festival is Guimaras’ highlight of the year and I can’t wait to pig out on sweet mangoes! Yum! I will be sure to take lots of pictures for my next blog entry J

Halong everyone!