Friday, July 01, 2005

Settling In...Or Something Like It

One of the things I set out to do in joining the Peace Corps was to turn my world upside down. Just to see what it looked like from another vantage point. I'm certainly standing on my head here in the Philippines.

Not much looks like it used to anymore and sometimes it can be confusing just to navigate your way through a culture that is so different from our own. There are many things about the Filipino culture I find charming: The closeknit families, their friendly nature, a fondness for eating good food and their love of a good joke. Or "joke, joke, joke lang!" (only joking!) as my new host mom is fond of saying. I sometimes don't know when my new friends are being serious or just trying to see how I will react.

For instance, I attended a town meeting the other day on nutrition. The health coordinator introduced me to the others and than announced that I'm single and pointed to the town doctor and said. "He's single, too!" Wink, wink. A harmless joking had by all? Well, not exactly! I've since found out there is a plot to marry me off to Dr. Owen!

There are times when I think I might not ever understand this culture, too. One of the most tiring things -- nakakapagod! -- is the questioning. Everything I do is cause for interrogation. Why are you eating that? Why are you cooking that way? What are you doing? Where are you going? Whose going with you? When will you return? One of my co-teachers explained the other day that this is simply the Filipino way of showing interest and making conversation. But, egads, it can get to you!

And because of the language barrier, I feel I'm only catching on to about 25 percent of what is happening around me. I thought the other day that it must be a lot like how it feels for someone who is deaf. I catch a few words, phrases here and there, but for the most part, I just smile and nod. Sometimes it's not worth saying you just don't understand.

I'm an oddity here too, of course. So I'm shown off in meetings or parties or gatherings. My jaw hurts from smiling and saying hello to people who greet me even though I have no idea who they are. I'm waiting for the day my celebrity-status wanes a bit.

I am making baby steps at school. I'm still observing classes and trying different activities to see what works and what doesn't. In the English Club I started with some of the more advanced students, we're putting on a program July 4 after the school flag ceremony. They learned and will sing the Star-Spangled Banner. (Okay, so I know this is a bit American-centric of me!) But the day is also Fil-Am Friendship Day here and a way to do a little cultural sharing. Only I didn't realize how difficult it is to hit those high notes...what was Francis Scott Key thinking anyway???

I'm also in the midst of planning a series of workshops -- activities teachers can use in their classrooms to improve English skills in reading, listening, writing, speaking, etc. These will be weekly teacher-enrichment sessions for English teachers only right now. Later, I'll be doing workshops for all teachers to improve their own English skills.

I'll soon be helping the kids work on the next edition of the school newspaper which comes out in October. Right now, the journalism students are decorating a bulletin board in the office near my desk where they will post news, student literary works, etc. Next weekend, I am traveling to a remote island -- Catanduanes, known as typhoon alley! -- to attend a Peace Corps run program called GLOW camp -- Girls Leading Our World, an empowerment camp for teen girls. It will give me a chance to see another part of the Philippines and get a little training on how to put on one of these camps in Donsol.

Okay, I'm putting myself to sleep with all these things. Just wanted to give some of you an idea of what I'm working on out here in the boondocks.

Ingat para sa lahat.


Blogger geary said...

Jules -- is Dr. Owen a babe? Keep up the great work. The funny thing is things are upside down to begin with in the US so maybe you're right side up!


6:43 PM  
Blogger amianan raya said...

Filipinos love playing matchmaker, especially between people of, er, very marriageable(sp) age. They tend to do that in front of a lot of people, too.

3:28 AM  
Blogger Patrick Hidalgo said...

Ms. Julia:

Greetings from Los Angeles, CA!

I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful "reports" you share from my country. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog - observation, thoughts and opinion about the Filipino people, food, culture, surroundings and the country itself. Despite some of the "ugliness" of the Philippines (i.e. pollution, poverty, etc.) I think the many photos you shared shows Filipinos are generally happy people, agree? Despite encountering daily hardships and challenges, Filipinos require little to be happy.

At any rate, I certainly hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in the Philippines. Also, I hope you'll get the opportunity to see many of its beautiful places and meet more friendly people. Many thanks again for your deferential and respectful news of my country. Very much appreciated. People who come from rich nations usually have a tendency to be condescending - not realizing the fact that what we take for granted here in rich countries like the US are considered "luxuries" in most parts of the world.

Take care!!

Patrick Hidalgo

3:55 PM  

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