Thursday, December 22, 2005

Maligayang Pasko sa inyo lahat!

For those of you were patiently awaiting another blog entry, here it is. I just left the Philippines today for the first time in almost nine months. That's the longest I've ever lived in a foreign country and leaving it makes me realize how familiar it has become to me, how it has become somewhat of a second home.

I boarded a Korean Airlines flight this morning bound for Seoul and am now awaiting a flight to Honolulu. Being on a plane where lots of people don't speak English or Tagalog was a jolt to the system. But my instinct now is to try to speak Tagalog with anyone who doesn't speak English and often it just comes out. My teacher says that is a sign that I'm moving along in the language. But how funny that "salamat," not thank you, is the first thing I think of. Or that I have to urge to attach a "po" (Sir or Ma'am in Tagalog) to every sentence, English or otherwise. Luckily, I met a nice Filipino woman from -- where else? ... New York City -- and we chatted in Tagalog. Now, that was a relief! And I couldn't have imagined that nine months ago...

Siguro, this means I am assimilating or adjusting or something like that. But whatever it is, it feels strange to be torn between two worlds and two languages. So as I make re-entry into my other world, I'm excited to see how different it will be or maybe even how the same it will be. In Hawaii, I want to see if I will recognize all things Filipino, things I may have seen before but never realized were distinctly Filipino. But most of all I'm just excited to be home again, even if only for two weeks. To have a little taste of home, of comfort that I miss out on in the Philippines. To see my family again and catch up on things that can't be said in a cell phone call or email. And to hit the beach, some sun (it's been non-stop rain in the Philippines) and just eat some good food.

Before I sign off here, just wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas or Maligayang Pasko! Have a bagong taon, too!

Ingat kayo,


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On the 12th Day of Christmas...

My true love gave to me: 12-hour flight to Hawaii! Yes, it's true, in just one week, I am leaving the Philippines for a little R & R in Hawaii. Honestly, I can't wait. What will I do first? I'll soak in a hut tub, siguro? Eat a little sushi? Swim in a clean ocean...take a breath of fresh air! So many things I took for granted will now be mine again, if only for two weeks...

So people say its hard to adjust when you reenter the U.S. after time away, but it's hard to imagine that I will have a hard time. But I do wonder whether I will speak funny, or make those funny Filipino expressions -- like letting my mouth drop wide open when I can't hear someone or pointing my lips to give directions. Will my family think its funny that I now have a hard time eating with a knife and a fork? That I am attached to the Filipino way...fork and spoon? Will I miss my bucket bath with a tabo(scoop for bathing)? My three-times daily intake of rice? Will I miss the crowded Filcab, the Jeepneys and the endless replay of the pop song, Pinoy Ako? Will I miss being asked daily if I am married? And why not? Will I miss the rat in my nipa hut and Pretty Boy, my new cat, who doesn't like to catch rats?

Whatever happens, it is a much-needed break from the stress of everyday life here and I can't wait. Mag-eenjoy ako! So for now, folks, happy pasko and stay tuned for more blogging in the New Year!

Ingat po kayo. Maligayang Pasko!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Good days, and Not So Good Days

Because you never know who is reading this blog, I am careful about the kinds of things I write about. Obviously, I can't give the complete picture of my experiences via the Internet.

Today was not such a good day and I thought I'd share it to give a little incite into the culture here. I have been working with Donsol's local nutrition council to try to acquire weighing scales to properly weigh children in the municipality who are malnourished. Donsol has one of the highest rates of low and underweight children in the region. The council asked me to help them acquire the scales.

It took some letter writing and phone calls and an in-person meeting in Manila until I finally came across a doctor at Unicef that agreed to help us acquire the scales. The only requirement: Donsol needed to put together a proposal requesting the scales and detailing their purpose, etc. Seems simple enough. So after relaying this information to the officials and explaining what needed to be written in the proposal and giving a deadline...wala (nothing)! No proposal. They missed the deadline and the budget year for the Unicef request. No weighing scales this year!

I'd like to say this situation is unusual...but I have encountered this issue many times over. Many Filipinos live on what they laughingly refer to as "Filipino time." (Important meetings always start half-hour to one hour late!) Unfortunately, I think it is the very reason they are falling behind the rest of the world...they are living in a different time zone, operating on a different frequency. I find little interest in planning, preparing, setting and making deadlines. Perhaps this is the glaring clash of American and Filipino cultures...but I really think it is holding people back here. But I also wonder how much people here really want to move ahead. Maybe they don't and we are trying to push them into a world they don't want to participate in. It's hard to tell from my prospective sometimes.

Of course, it is hard to stereotype a whole group of people. There are some very hard-working, good people here. The school librarian on the library project, for example, is very motivated to bring improvements to the library.

The essential question, I suppose, then, is how do I motivate others to help themselves? It might take me two years to figure that out.