Monday, August 08, 2005

Nasaan Si Julia?

Sorry folks. I've been on the road again. This time, no volcanoes. Just a trip via jet plane to the big city of Manila. I have been selected to be a warden for my Peace Corps Batch 264. Basically, it means I am in charge of safety and security for my area should there be any need to, well, evacuate. You know, just in case there is a big typhoon or a political coup. Both of which are entirely possible!

In any case, it got me to Manila for a training session and a couple of days roaming the filthy streets of the city. Also got my cell phone swiped from my backpack. A typical day in Manila!

It was great to be back in a city. I miss New York sooooooo much! And while Manila is no New York City, the smells and sounds reminded me a bit of home. Like the rest of the Philippines, Manila is a city of great potential but lacking in so much. On one hand, I got a glimpse of how the rich live in Makati City, a wealthy section of town. We visited the complex of mega luxury malls there -- stores which I can no longer afford! And all the expensive restaurants and wine bars. I stared through the windows in envy. Again, I can no longer afford such luxuries! Then just blocks away, there are shanty towns again. This country is like that, stark contrasts everywhere you turn around.

I am back in Donsol again and trying to put my head down and get to work. Though I realize that is a very American way of thinking. It's tough to get things done here and sometimes you have to give in to just doing nothing. But I push a little bit each day -- to organize a workshop, the girls' camp I'm pulling together and chipping away at my long-term pet project -- the library.

Speaking of which, I will be organizing some sort of library program in which all of you and your friends can get involved. Looking for a tax break? Or just want to do some good? Find a place to put your extra pocket change? Stay tuned. Mom and I will organize a way for you to help build up the high school library. I want to develop the program slowly -- It doesn't do us any good to receive books and then have nowhere to put them, right???

I am working with our librarian, Ms. Linell Jacinto, to figure out what to do. We will form a committee on our end and probably one there at home to work together on book drives, donations for a new library, etc. Our dream is to renovate a historic building on campus into a new library! This is big dream. But it doesn't hurt to try.

This weekend, I spent some time speaking with the folks who may become my new neighbors. I am thinking of building a nipa hut -- or actually completing a nipa hut a local family had started and can't finish because of lack of funds. They are a very sweet family. The "Ate" is head of the local fisherman's association; she sells fish in the palengke. "Kuya" is a fireman in the nearby town of Pilar. They have six kids, three in college. The neighborhood is mostly all nipa huts and there are lot of kids around, chickens, cats, dogs, and a few carabao. As we were snacking on merienda, a few evening shrimpers walked by with these huge nets reaching to the treetops. And Ate says if she will teach me how to "dance" for muscles in the sand at the beach at four in the morning. (You apparently just dance a bit in the sand and uncover lots of muscles. Yummy!)

Anyway, they are good people and I hope they will become my new neighbors. We talked about plans for the nipa...they teased me that I will need a really big C.R. because they know how Americans love their bathrooms. The hut will be simple, living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom -- about the size of my studio back home and made with bamboo and nipa leaves on the roof. Total cost of new home: $500. No running water but we do plan to string electricity in there somewhere. I will have to haul water to the house. Just awaiting approval now from the cross your fingers.