Maayong hapon from the other side of the world!
So if you’ve stuck with me this far I have told you about my first 2+ months here. This final post about my life as a “Peace Corps Trainee” highlights my last week of training which occurred in Manila at a nice resort called 9 waves.
The day we left our training sites just so happened to be my 24th birthday. My host family was sad they wouldn’t spent that day with me so the day before (sept 6) they invited my fellow volunteers to our house. My host family made some of my favorite Philippino food including pancit (like noodles cooked with soy sauce and veggies and meat if you want) and hot cakes (they’re like little pancakes). I helped my host nanay cooking while my host sister, Milan, was up to something outside with my friends. She kept me in the house for some time and wouldn’t let me come out but when she finally let me out she covered my eyes and walked me out to our kubo to reveal to me a makeshift cake made of cupcakes covered in icing she put together herself. After singing happy birthday (one of the many times it would be sang over the next three days) we all dug into our food stuffing our faces with my host nanay’s delicious food and later going out to the beach, which was conveniently in my backyard, and watching one last sunset together.
The next day [my actual birthday] we said some sad goodbyes to our host families and started making our way to Manila. I have to admit that a good chunk of my birthday was spent sleeping on the deliciously air conditioned bus and I loved it, but part of the bus ride we also plaid some fun charades games as we tried to get through the relentless Manila traffic. Anyways after that we made it to the Peace Corps Office where we ate lunch, and everyone sang happy birthday, again, and then we took a tour. After getting through more Manila traffic we made it to our resort where I shared a room with the awesome Nettie and Perri. That night more celebrations followed for my birthday as our room became “the party room” and was flooded by my friends from the CRM sector, again happy birthday was sung. As if on cue everyone from CRM left and everyone from Education came into our room, and again happy birthday was sung. Anyways it was an exciting night and a very happy birthday and the next day I received more voice notes from back home with happy birthday sung to me as technically it was still my birthday in the US, so yeah 3 days of celebrations!
The rest of the week we had all sorts of sessions which to be honest are pretty fuzzy. If I had to take a wild guess I’d say they were about safety and security and maybe even some medical stuff. What I do remember was enjoying my last week with my friends, knowing we wouldn’t be together like this until our next training. There were nights in the pool (there was an awesome slide and a huge wave pool), there were nights spent drinking red horse, nights spent going to the mall to enjoy the last bits of American food (such as a place that sold a hamburger with mac and cheese on it), there were nights with more chanting “steve steve steve”. I also remember that for some unfathomable reason we broke a bottle every day in our room, one day I was in my room looking for something during the day and I just tipped a bottle and it crashed into a million pieces, our room was a black hole for glass bottles. I also unfortunately remember what was supposed to be a fun trip but ended up being an interminable day. As if by magic everyone that day seemed to suffer from a bout of food poisoning, the resort looked like the scene from a zombie movie, with sick people trying to get by and a few survivors figuring out what the heck had happened. Those of us who were lucky to have “survived” whatever secret bacteria was making its rounds, got to go on a very long, very exhausting tour of Manila. As the day progressed more and more people were dropping like flies from this mysterious stomach bug that was afflicting everyone. Anyways after much talking with Peace Corps we managed to have one of the buses sent back early to the resort and we celebrated our early return by ordering some pizza, and of course drinking some red horse.
During this last week we also got to meet our counterparts, these were the people we would be working with for the next 2 years of our lives. We all got presented to them during a nice dinner and then had a couple of days were we got to know each other, talked about what we expected of each other and made a 5 month plan of things we wanted to accomplish during the first 5 months at site.
And finally… The moment we’ve all been looking forward to… swearing in! September 14, we all woke up and got into our fanciest suits, boarded the buses and headed of to the US embassy. In this place, we got sworn in as official peace corps volunteers, I was no longer a trainee. We actually got to fake swear in once and then we got to real swear in a second time. During our first attempt we apparently forgot a word or said a word wrong, don’t actually know, point is we got the pleasure of doing it all over again (it’s okay it only cost me a few extra minutes away from the cheese buffet). Anyways as especial as this was, the most important part of the whole event was the cheese buffet. I have been deprived of real, good cheese now for over 5 months and that fateful day in September I got to eat enough cheese for 10 people. I gotta say my stomach did not agree with this unexpected influx of dairy but I couldn’t care less! Once we swore in and ate all the cheese, we headed back to the hotel in what felt like an interminable bus ride due to the heavy Manila traffic, especially when you considered these were our last hours together. Back at the hotel we finished our last minute packing and went on to dance the night away, literally. We danced All. Night. Long. My clothes was soaked through with sweat and I had an amazing time making a fool of myself. I didn’t sleep all night because then in the blink of an eye it was 3am and time to go to the airport…. But this story of my trip to my permanent site and my first days there will be for another week.
For now, daghang salamat for reading!