Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Birthdays are good for you!

The time is quickly going by with less than 3 months left in the Philippines! Oh my! I have my official leave date to be October 31! Although I won't be flying direct to the States quite yet. It is tradition for PCVs to travel a bit before going home and with holding to this tradition I am planning a trip to Laos and Cambodia with a quick stop in Japan to visit a friend before heading home to the good 'ole USA in time for Christmas. But my big news is that my primary project that I have been working on is pretty much complete! The ordinance has passed in both the municipal and provincial offices declaring the new Balcon Marine Protected Area. And the guardhouse is finally complete!

Part of the project plan to make the reserve more sustainable is to establish a MPA (marine protected area) management board up of community members to effectively manage the MPA. So we had our first organizational meeting with those who will be part of the management board. The meeting was held, appropriately enough, in the new guardhouse. My counterpart explained what the boards duties would be  and they elected a Chairman among the members. They decided to meet bi-monthly with the first meeting to be early next month. During that first meeting I will hold an informal management strategies workshop to help instruct the board how to come up with a management plan and monitor and evaluate that plan in the future.

me at the new MPA guardhouse - this building overlooks the reserve enabling the community to watch over and enforce no fishing inside the MPA
the community members making up the new MPA management board at their organizational meeting held in the new guardhouse

This all means this project is pretty much complete! I ended up having excess funding left over from the grant so I am planning two trainings to use the remaining funds. The mayor and community have donated so much supplies for the guardhouse so we ended up saving a lot that can go towards expanding trainings and included more participants. I also have completed the final draft of a 5-year CRM plan for my supervisor and hope it will help them in planning for future management of coastal resources for Jordan. 

In other news I celebrated my 26th birthday and the last of which I will be in the Philippines for. So in proper Filipino custom I threw myself a party! (Instead of someone throwing you a party and giving presents, its more Filipino culture to pay for a party and food for your friends when its your birthday, so the birthday bill falls on the birthday girl, lucky me!) I rented out our favorite kareoke restaurant (they gave me a discount since I am "suki" - repeat customer) and invited my coworkers and friends. All of my coworkers made it as well as other Filipino friends, Peace Corps, and Japanese volunteer (JICA) friends!

As a surprise my coworkers and friends arranged to have a "program" for me complete with surprises! First they had me sit up infront of everyone. There was a prayer and then my coworkers sang "The Journey" by Lea Salonga for me. This was followed by every one of my friends and coworkers getting up and, one at a time, giving me a heart felt birthday speech which left me in tears. I feel so fortunate that I have made such amazing friends here!

But getting away from the sappy parts there was also a surprise....

yep... thats my face in the sun and my coworkers faces atop many slightly underdressed bodies... lol

It was an amazing birthday that I will surely never forget!

with my coworkers at my Bday party

getting a Bday message from my supervisor

singing kareoke

more Bday messages from my coworkers

drinking with coworkers!

party party!

kareoke time!

and no party is complete with cake! and lots of it!
Next week I am heading to the island of Samar for a week long vacation trip (trying to use of those vacay days). This will be my first time to the western visayas! Stay tuned :)

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