Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Barangay winos!

Okay, so it didn't take me long to find the wine! Mary (one of my cluster mates) and I stumbled upon a liquor store in our little barangay. And what do you know? They carried a bottle of Yellow Tail shiraz for 385 pesos! Gotta love the Aussies.(That's roughly $7.50, a fortune here. For example, that money would be me a large meal a day for a week or more at local restaurants.) We broke down and splurged and hid the bottle in Mary's bag. Felt like a couple of teen-agers sneaking liquor under our parents' noses! It is rare for women in the Philippines to drink -- outside of Manila. We're not supposed to order alcohol at restaurants, etc. We're trying to respect that in public...but the Yellow Tail was a bit too tempting to pass up.

So we snuck the bottle into one of our other cluster mates' host family house -- Kelly was placed in a "mansion" here in the barangay when the Peace Corps got desperate for another host family. She has a large bedroom and air condition and a flush toilet and a shower!!! We hate her! :) Anyway, it's not the typical host family stay but the Peace Corps needed one last family and couldn't find one, so Kelly lucked out in getting a "rich" family. We used her spacious bedroom as a study hall last night and shared some wine. Sneaky.

Don't get me wrong about the host families. It turns out that mine is really nice and they have been more than hospitable to me. (Ate Julie even insisted on doing my laundry for me this weekend!) I only share my thoughts about the living arrangment because it is so shockingly different from our own back home. I feel bad complaining because they do have so little and as the son-in-law, Michael, told me yesterday, 'We are poor, but none of us is sick and that is all that matters.' I also feel guilty that I have my own bedroom in the house when my host mom and dad sleep on the floor in the sala (living room). It doesn't make sense except that the Peace Corps wants us to live at the economic level of the people we will be helping and that means living with folks who don't have a room to spare. The tradeoff is that they sleep on the floor to host a PCV and hopefully earn a little extra money to feed the family and get some experience from living with an American. Just thought I'd throw that out. I don't want you to think I am not aware of their sacrifices, too, to have me here.

I had my first Tagalog test today and it's a relief to be over. It was tough but beginning to understand a little of the structure of the language. I think I passed but will find out soon. We'll be learning more verbs this week so hopefully I can start saying more than I'm hungry, let's eat and I have to go to the bathroom! It feels like we're in the first grade. We had to describe our families using Tagalog and I'm sure I sounded like a moron! Oh well. By the way Ed, my teacher asked me what you did for a living as part of my test! Rocket scientist, siya. :)

We took a "field trip" this afternoon to the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos. It was a really pretty campus and nice museum, etc. The center is dedicated to researching better ways to grow rice to feed the world's ever-growing population. It's supported by many nations, including the U.S., and was actually really informative. I had no idea how many people eat rice as the main staple of their diets -- about 3 billion! I know you are all thinking...fascinating. But I can relate now that I eat rice three times a day. For example, almusal (breakfast) was one egg, rice and fried bangus (milk fish). And kape. Instant kape. God, what I would give for a nice grande skinny latte. Michael, got any Starbucks cards left??? Instant kape (coffee) is the rule of thumb here. I'm adjusting to it. Better than no kape.

On Thursday, we are traveling with our large group to somewhere outside of Manila -- a beach day. They are calling it "water safety training" but it sounds like a day at the beach to me. Can't wait. We haven't had a chance to do any swimming and the nearby bay is polluted so the beach trip is our big chance. Our barangay actually is known as a resort location with many hot springs. We're going to try one out one of these days but not sure how a hot spring is going to feel in 90-plus degrees. We'll see. Thursday night, we'll find out our permanent assignments. Please keep your fingers crossed that I am assigned to a beautiful beach area somewhere. I'm hoping for Bikol or Palawan.

Okay, off to get a pedicure for 99 pesos or $2! A splurge on my Peace Corps salary...but hey, you gotta treat yourself sometimes. I need a little pampering these days.

Ingat for now,


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