Sunday, September 21, 2008

City of Smiles

Maayong adlaw sa tanan (Good day to all)

To all of my loved ones, this is my first blog! This is the best way for me to share stories and update everyone on all of my crazy adventures here in the Philippines!

So I've already been here in Bacolod for a little over one month, I can't believe it! Bacolod is called the city of smiles, so pretty sure I fit right in. So far, this is why I love the Philippines...

1. I have small hands and feet like many Filipinas (so I fit well in the jeepney- our transportation)
2. I can sing a fabulous Madonna rendition on videoke (thank you Teatro ZinZanni for preparing my karaoke skills)
3. The main harvest here is sugarcane... so I have sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and pamahaw- snack in between)
4. There is no such concept of personal space. Women like to touch your shoulder, arm, buli (butt -sometimes) as a way of showing closeness. No problem for me I like being close
5. Everybody loves to dance... i don't need to elaborate on that. I think you know me well enough
6. Mango, pineapple, banana, marang, atis, watermelon, guava, the list goes on and on and on
7. Its tropical, hot and humid. Beautiful and hot hot hot!
8. Rice: sticky rice, fried rice, garlic rice, steamed rice, rice cakes, gelatinous rice... i like rice!

Language: So far, I've been taking language classes in the morning with 5 other Peace Corps volunteers. We've been learning Hiligaynon, a language mostly spoken in the Western Visayas region. We're picking up the language pretty quick... so far my favorite words/phrases
1. Puto- rice pudding (not the same meaning as the Spanish word)
2. Gwapa- beautiful, I just like it when people say it to me:) haha
3. Chika Chika- Basically gossip and everybody does it
4. Bussog na ko- I'm full! If I didn't know this phrase, I would become tambok gid! (very fat)

Work: In the afternoon, I co-plan and co-teach with a Filipina teacher at Bacolod City National College. So far the students are very entertaining, they call me Mom (which is really Ma'am) and I asked them to say Ms. Shaun, instead of Ms. Aron because I felt like my mother and I'm not sure I'm ready to go there yet... love you Mommy! They like to giggle A LOT and say oh you're so gwapa, so gwapa. I find it very sweet:)
I also observed the HI (hearing impaired) classes. There are about 80 deaf students in my high school. They all use ASL (American Sign Language) and are very intelligent! I don't think most of the deaf students have ever communicated with an American who can sign so its an amazing experience to work with these kids!
We have a very talented group of students who are preparing for the Masskara festival in one month. They have elaborate costumes, floats, and dance routines! All of Bacolod comes out for this parade and the students at my school win every year!

Host Family: I love my host family!! My tatay(dad) plays the guitar so he's been teaching me how to play! I finally bought my very own guitar a couple of days ago. I have a nanay (mother) Inday who is wonderful, and a younger sister named Charity who is 22, but we call her Mae Mae. Mae is lovely and she takes me out with her friends for kape (coffee) and drinking out in the town of Bacolod!
I also have a Manang(older sister) Hasel, who is also our timbang. She does all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Hasel has taught me how to wash my own clothes and shop in the market at 5:30 am- when all the fresh food is there. Without Hasel I would be lost! She is my kasama (my companion) she walks with me to school every afternoon when I teach and I ask her all the inappropriate questions I need answers to:)

Peace Corps Trainees: So we're not volunteers yet, still in training. Here in Bacolod there are 18 of us! 6 here in Taculing, which is more of the city. There are 12 other volunteers 30 minutes away in Granada, which is a more rural suburb of Bacolod. 6 are teaching English, and the other 6 are working with kids who are in trouble with the law- kids often who have been abandoned, abused or neglected.
We have a lot of fun together. A couple of weeks ago we all went to Santa Fe, a resort where we had a BBQ and went swimming. (tankini of course, can't wear the 2 piece in most places because its a little too scandalous)
Yesterday, 6 of us went to IloIlo which is a province on Panay island. Our language teacher took us to his family's farm and to the beach. I could finally wear my 2 piece bathing suit! Yay!

To sum up my experience so far.... I do not have malaria or dengue fever from any mosquito's. I haven't gotten worms or any bacteria or virus from food or the water. Pretty much its a success! I'll keep you all updated on my blog and please feel free to comment!

All my love!! xoxoxo

Akon Balay

Akon Balay
yes, family and friends, I live here!