Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Couple of Weeks

I feel like a lot has has happened in the last week here...
1. Last Thursday/Friday
Took the boys at the center camping at Meridia "Little Hawai'i" about a half hour outside of Ormoc. It was great, the boys had a great time and so did all the staff here. Everything works a lot different here in the Philippines, after the kids went to sleep around 9 or 10 Thursday night, all the staff and volunteers stayed up and sang A LOT of karaoke and drank A LOT of Red Horse beer. It turned into...yes, A LOT of fun. The other two volunteers and I sponsored the whole thing, which included the rental of the whole camp ground and all the food bought for 30 people. It actually only ended up costing us about 40 USD each, so it was well worth it. We are all planning on going out Friday night too.
2. Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Made a trip to Biliran Island, just north of Leyte a short causeway connects the two islands. Biliran was beautiful, incredibly lush, mountainous and awesome. There are a lot of great hikes and the interior has a lot to offer if you are willing to make the effort (and pay the moto driver). On Saturday, Sara (Swedish volunteer) and I rented a kayak and headed over to Dalutan Island, which only took about 20 minutes to kayak over to. We layed on a deserted white sand beach for awhile, and met some medical volunteers from Manila who had worked for the last week at the Biliran hospital. They were incredibly nice and hospitable, and we ended up being invited to the feast that they had brought over as well as a couple San Miguels. Took the kayak around the island and found a cave to kayak into..we could hear the bats inside it...kinda creepy, but awesome. That evening, took a motorbike up into the mountains where there was a fiesta going on, with makeshift roulette and other gambling games, as well as a disco where we did a little dancing. A lot of fun, and met some very nice Filipinas who tried to teach me the cha cha (unsuccessful, but worth a try).
Saturday we rented three motorbike drives and were able to explore the island. Hiked to some gorgeous waterfalls, where I actually climbed part way up one and dove off! It was pretty awesome, and the water was so clear and clean...absolutely awesome. The moto driver befriended us (for a cost of course) and took us on a hike to his grandma's house. where he and another driver proceded to climb up a palm tree with a machete and hacked down a few young buko (coconut) then made an amazing buko desert that consisted of milk, ice and the buko "meat" which is essentially huge chunks of coconut. I didn't think I really liked coconut...but I was definitely wrong, because this stuff was to die for.
On Sunday we finally made it back to Ormoc, with sore legs, arms, back, and butts (from hours on the back of a moto), just in time for dinner at my home stay. A great weekend, I'll post some pictures soon!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trip to Tacloban

Definitely the closest to death I could be today, took the windiest road to Tacloban to get my Visa extended, which cost me almost 6,000 pesos. Although the trip was little hectic; I had a hard time finding the immigration office, what really got me was the rudest Australian I have ever met. Told me that he hated all Americans and that we were offensive idiots, and we were all "corrupt" . I was pretty proud of myself for biting back though and told him all Australian men I had met were arrogant and obnoxious (untrue) and that it's offensive to make such extreme generalizations about a whole culture of people. I was pretty fuming. After he left the immigration office, the officials and I had a good laugh at his expense.
It's funny the first negative experience I've had with a person here is a foreigner, and not any locals.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Week 2

I can't say enough how much I love this country. Everyone is so friendly and helpful, if you ask anyone a question they will out of their way to help you, even if they have to ask someone else for help also. I've heard that it is just art of the Filipino culture, which I know is true, but I can't help but wonder how much of that friendliness is exaggerated because we are white.

Went to this most amazing place I could ever even imagine, the Camotes Islands, about a 2 1/2 hour boat ride from Ormoc. On the way there I met a gentlemen who was from California and was retiring in the Philippines. He was originally from the Philippines, but has lived in the states for the last 50 years. We chatted for awhile on the boat ride, and he wouldn't stop buying me friend Sara and I San Miguel's (local beer) the whole trip. It is hard to tell if someone is hitting on you or not here, because everyone is so kind and generous. I really hope he wasn't. He was 68. Had grandchildren older than me. But I figure he might be a good contact to make here in Ormoc, maybe he could help me find some funding for the Boy's Center that I volunteer at. I might have to give him a call sometime this week, to see if him or any of his friends would help donate to the center.

Once we reached the island, there were a group of motorbikes (huble-hubles) waiting for us to take us to our resort (a term used loosely here). Went for the most amazing huble-huble ride around half of the island and saw the most amazing views...roads that are basically cliffs over looking the ocean...through broken down barangays (villages) where children run half naked around the streets and old women walk their caribou to the next town. As you ride through the barangays it is like a constant chorus of little "hi"'s from the children who have never seen a white person in their life.
Saturday we shared a liter of Red Horse (local beer) on the beach for 40 pesos (about a 80 cents). And that evening shared a fifth of Tanduay (local rum) for 60 pesos ($1.25) and sung about 7 karaoke songs at an open air karaoke bar about 10 feet from the water, no floor, only sand, tables and chair and a tin roof. Definitely one of my favorite nights here.

The next day, Sunday, took a huble-huble up to Lake Danoe, a lake right in the middle of the island and climbed a kilometer into the earth to swim in fresh water caves...absolutely incredible. So much to see here.... Now back to the work week.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Week 1

Made it through my first week in Ormoc City, and even got the chance to do a little island hopping to Canigao Island, it is this tiny little island about a 15 minute boat ride from Leyte. It is literally not on any maps, its so small. You can walk around the island in about 15 minutes. The island was stunning, white sand beaches, no bugs, rainforest interior...great snorkeling. We slept on the beach both nights, without tents, since there is no fresh water on the island there are no mosquitos also, which is a plus!

Now I have to start a very busy week planning lessons for the kids. Today we did an "About Me" project, where we had pictures of them developed and had them write some sentences in english about themselves. It is such a challenge and a learning experence for the volunteers and the boys. The language barrier is pretty extreme, I thought they would speak english a little better, but they know very little. You can tell they want to learn though, they are trying. There is one boy who is 15, but is in the first grade at school, so I've been working on his english reading and writing. Tomorrow I'm going to try and start to do a geography lesson. Just so they might know the continents and some countries in Southeast Asia. I also got permission to do a mural, so I think I'l do some sort of world map, maybe the solar system also.
Now I'm off to an hour long massage...for $5....I love the Philippines

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ormoc City

Well I made it to Ormoc City if you can believe it. I was soo close to missing my flight to Tacloban from Manila, it was quite humorous. Basically my first expereuince in the Philippines was sprinting through the airport after a Filipino calling out my name, meanwhile cutting in everyline and pushin past everyone. I couldn't help but laugh. Saw my first cockroach too.

And I also made it succesfuly to Ormoc, which took a two hour bus ride, but was fairly easy. It is SO true what people say about the driving in the Philiipines being less of rules and more of "suggestions". People pass on all sides, honking and the gass pedal are the first reaction to anything whether that be people walking in the crosswalk (careful!) or cars driving too slow. Hilariously interesting.

Also got to go to my placement at the Street Educators program. There is so much work to do it is overwhelming. The center is basically a jail, but there are only a few of the kids locked up, the rest are free to roam around the grounds. I'll try and take some pictures. I am trying to think of some kind of program to implement that will really get the kids attention. One of the girls I work with thought of the idea of a community garden there, which I thought was awesome. But there has to be more. I am going to do some research on line.

I came at the best time of the year because it's holy week, and this weekend is Easter. I think a couple of the girls I volunteer with and I may head south to some awesome beaches for the holiday. We'll see how it pans out.

Too tired of typing. I'll try and put some pictures up later this week.