Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weird for awhile

Wow. I can't believe this is my last week at site. Sunday I head to Manila to end my PC service. It's been an amazing two years filled with so many new experiences and friends and I'm sure it will take awhile to process. I have been thinking a lot lately about what it might be like for me when I get back to the States and I keep thinking of a story that an already returned PCV (we call them RPCVs) told us via video clip during our end of service conference. It goes something like this..

This volunteer had just arrived in the States and was standing inline at the airport. She was eating a pack of gummy bears and couldn't help but notice the sweet American kid standing in front of her and eyeing her candy snack. Without a second thought she offered the boy a gummy bear and he promptly put it in his mouth to enjoy............. ok so at this point you might know where this story is going. But for the record I would like to explain that this is a perfectly acceptable social interaction in the Philippines (and I would bet most of Asia). Here everyone looks after children. It is not unusual for perfect strangers to give candy to, help onto a jeepney or even hold a child. After over two years of living here, we have become so accustomed to these types of social interactions that we may forget that things are different in the States.

So back to the story (though I am sure you probably already know what comes next). The mother of the child started yelling at this volunteer and made her kid spit out the candy immediately. The volunteer tried to explain to the woman that she just came from the Philippines where this was ok and she didn't mean any harm to the woman's kid. Of course this woman wouldn't listen to anything the volunteer was saying and kept yelling at her about not giving candy to her child.

What I am trying to say here is this, it might take awhile for me to get used to American culture again. At first I was a little nervous about it, but more and more I am beginning to accept the idea that I might just be different for awhile. I am sure there will be some American culture and social graces that I quickly slip back into, but there might also be things that take me awhile to readjust to.

So fare warning to anyone that I might/will interact with when I get back stateside - I will probably be weird for awhile. Just bare with me!

For now I am just trying to get all of my things packed up or given away, and spending time with my friends and coworkers here. I am also looking forward to and preparing for my last trip before I return home. I will be travelling the next month around Cambodia, Laos and Thailand for a bit. I am really excited to see some more of Asia before I leave. Big shout out to Linds, my travelling companion - we are going to have an epic time!

Halong! (Take care)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


So with less than a month left in the Philippines I’m feeling a little crazy... I just got back from COS (close of service conference, that is) and boy was that a whirlwind of emotions! COS is something PC does to help volunteers prepare for our departure from the Philippines and to help us start thinking about whatever our next step is. They had sessions for us on resume writing, interviewing, and tips for job hunting. They also had a panel of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who are working in and around the Philippines. They were able to share their experiences with leaving Peace Corps and moving on to grad school or careers. But the most important aspect of COS for us volunteers was the opportunity to be with each other.

Our batch 269 of Peace Corps Volunteers in the Philippines started out with 144 in August of 2010 when we arrived in-country and started our training. Today as we get ready to end our service, our number is around 102. Some were sent home for medical reasons, some for breaking rules (i.e. riding motorcycles) and some decided this experience was not for them and left early of their own accord.

But the 102 of us that remain share a common bond: We made it.

And when we return it might be somewhat difficult for us as we experience what is referred to as “reverse culture-shock” and try to decide what our next steps in life is. Grad school? Looking for a job? Or just bumming at our parents’ house as we try to figure things out..? Wherever we end up we know there are 101 others going through the same mental anxiety and are only a phone call away.

So COS was a bit emotional as we said good-bye to many of our fellow volunteers, not knowing when we would see each other again and in what country it might be.
PC Phil Batch 269 (photo courtesy of L. Heil)

But now I am back at site and I have 3 weeks left in Guimaras before I leave again for the last time. After an emotional week and a half with fellow Americans and then having to leave them I was feeling a bit down. But my Filipina friends are amazing people…

Manang Susan, one of my office coworkers, had invited me to her house that Saturday after I returned from Manila to have dinner with her and her family. Manang Susan has 6 children, the four youngest are 2 sets of twins. They are ages 26, 22, 20, and 16. They are all incredibly smart and hard-working, a truly amazing family. They remind me a lot of my own family at home, a big and close family, sitting around the dinner table together. And when nang Susan yelled at the younger boys to turn off the TV and come to dinner, I could almost hear my own mother’s voice yelling the same phrase (but in a different language!)

I assumed they would be preparing typical Filipino food, maybe some of my favorites. But imagine my surprise to walk in and see a table full of pesto pasta and salad, along with some Filipino lumpia and monok! They had prepared an American meal they had heard me talk about before and it was delicious! Each family member was responsible for a different aspect of the meal and later on Sam, the eldest, admitted to me that he looked up the pesto pasta recipe online!

After eating they brought out some red horse beer and we talked into the night, laughing and sharing stories and culture!  They asked me questions about American culture, what I was looking forward to and what I would miss about the Philippines. We made jokes about our own cultural differences, speaking in English mostly and sometimes Ilonggo. It was a perfect night that I didn’t want to end. These are the moments that I will never forget and that I will think of when I think back on my time in the Philippines…
me with Manang Susan and her kids (slight height difference haha)