Maayong hapon from the Philippines!
So as I mentioned before I’m going to do a little backtracking to get you caught up to where I am now. I left Florida, after only being there a month which I know now is not enough time to spend with your family and friends before a big trip like this, on July 1st making my way to California. This is where we had our “staging” event and where given more or less an idea of what to expect in the coming weeks, what they expected of us, what we expected of them, etc etc etc. I also met all my fellow volunteers that day which was overwhelming, it’s always frightening to be placed in a room with 70+ other strangers (it’s okay I like them now though!)
The next day we began our journey to the Philippines, we had a long flight to Tokyo in which I watched movies and tried to sleep through my anticipation in addition to already having the jet lag hit me, and after a short layover we got on our next flight to Manila, Phlippines. I was in the middle sit for this flight but true to my reputation of being able to sleep anywhere, I slept like a baby by just laying my head down on the tray table, I was pretty impressed, I didn’t even wake up for dinner. Anyways, I digress, we arrived at the airport pretty late into the night but thanks to the experience of the Peace Corps staff we quickly went through immigration and got our luggage (but of course we took a picture first!)
A quick bus ride brought us to a place called IIRR (or as they call it here – eleven RR) where we got a quick introduction and room assignments (by this point it was well past midnight). I couldn’t sleep that night mostly due to the jetlag but also because of the anticipation.
So to make a long story short we spend two weeks at this place called 11RR, it had a nice place to walk, some nice greenery and a pool I never made use of but wish I had, dorm style rooms, a cafeteria and conference halls for our sessions. We were jammed packed with sessions everyday (expect Sundays) from 8am to 5pm. Sessions ranged in a whole array of topics, from cultural training (many cultural differences which I will go into in another blog) to medical training to safety and security training. We had some cool [optional] sessions at night such as videoke (it’s a big thing here) and where we got to learn some fun Pinoy games. On another night we also had some University students show us their cultural dances in traditional attire, it was beautiful and made me realize the huge Spanish influence there was on the culture.
And of course there was language and technical training. We had tagalog (the national/official language) lessons while we were there, which to be honest I don’t remember much of even after 8 weeks of training because I speak a different dialect at my site. We also had technical training in which we learned about the framework of coastal resource management in the context of the Philippines. One of the highlights of the two weeks was a trip we took to a place called Mabini where we got to talk to the bantay dagat, fishermen’s association, the mayor and a resort owner. This was also the first time I snorkeled in the Pacific (excluding the Galapagos which doesn’t count cause the ecology is completely different). Some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever done happened there, I have never seen so much color and such amazing and crazy looking fish in my life.
On reflection, these two weeks were pretty cocooned, I only left 11RR twice. Once for the snorkeling trip and another time to go to the mall. Going to the mall made me realize how much I’d get stared at, and I can say I still haven’t gotten used to it. But now I see how many things I had yet to learn after leaving that institute. I was also quite shy during this time because I didn’t really get to know people but don’t worry, they got to find out how crazy and weird I was in the coming months.
So with that I signed off! Hope you got a good idea of my first two weeks at site, will write about the next months in my next blog so stay tuned!
Daghang salamat for reading,
P.S. Two blogs written, it’s a record!