Monday, December 20, 2010

barkada, fiestas, and some CRM work

Since I have returned from Manila from Thanksgiving break CRM related duties and tasks have been moving at a mind numbingly slow pace.  My counterpart and I have been continuing to make appearances and surveying the 17 coastal brgy’s (barangays) that make up my municipality of Buenavista.  The two major CRM related tasks that we have accomplished in the month of December has been two proposals.  The first one I wrote by myself to my supervisor asking for funding to bring two PCV’s to my site for a few days in January.  Our office is trying to set up a MPA (marine protected area) and since nobody here at my office has ever done a coral, seagrass, or fish stock assessment I will be needing assistance.  My proposal was accepted about two weeks back, but there really hasn’t been any conversation since then to go and get snorkel gear and set specific dates.  We were told in training that not much gets done in the office during the Christmas season, so right now I am chalking it up to that fact.  Hopefully when the new year arrives we can start having conversations again to get these assessments done so we can move forward with our proposed MPA.  The second proposal my counterpart took the lead on because it was to the provincial government.  There is a specific format/template that needs to be used when requesting money from the provincial government.  We requested php50,000 ($1,150) for cages for our tilapia hatchery.  The proposal was about 7 pages and we had to explain the reason for the cages, the dimensions, the direct benefit, etc.  The total costs of the project is php 67,000, so our municipality is going to have to shoulder the remaining php17,000 if the proposal gets approved.  We sent that proposal into the provincial government about 10 days ago.  However, much to my chagrin, the proposal will not be approved or denied until 6-8 months from the date of submission.  This is a little bit frustrating because the hatchery was supposed to help the fishermen from the brgys within the proposed MPA.  Once the MPA is up and running it will affect two brgys.  The fishermen from these two brgys will not be allowed to fish within the parameters of the MPA and therefore their fish catch and ultimately their income will be taking an enormous hit.  Fishermen in the Philippines depend on catching fish to support and feed their families and most of them already live very meager wages.  So, the hatchery was an alternative livelihood project for the fishermen affected by the implementation of the MPA.  They could raise fish in the hatchery and then sell it to the local market or to the community to sustain their income.  So, it is crucial that we coincide the opening of our MPA with our tilapia hatchery for the benefit of the many fishermen in the two affected brgys.  If there is one thing I have learned here it is that nothing ever goes according to plan or runs smoothly, so one needs to always be conscious of this fact because people’s livelihoods are in the balance. 

Since, the CRM related tasks having been going relatively slow because of the Christmas season I have been doing some serious cultural integration.  My host family here has not really introduced me to anybody outside of their street/compound.  This has been both good and bad because it has forced me to go out and talk to people and make friends in my community.  I already have developed a barkada/grupo (group of friends) here in Buenavista.  There are 7 of us including myself and when I am not doing work here I am hanging out with them.  They have been influential in showing me around and introducing me to people not only in my brgy, but throughout my municipality.  We all are between the ages of 23-30, so we have a lot in common even though I am the only non Filipino in the group.  They have taken me to three fiestas already in different brgy’s throughout Buenavista.  The most recent one was brgy Ban Ban which was this past Sunday.  They picked me up at around 7 and we went to one of their friends house to of course eat eat eat and also do some drinking before we went to the brgy hall to dance.  At these fiestas the whole brgy is involved and it is a giant party with people drinking all over the streets, a dj is present with literally a wall of speakers that play music at deafening levels, and the fiestas are usually good for 4-5 fights because everyone is inebriated.  However, one of the guys in my barkada has a very influential and well off family here in Buenavista.  His dad and brother are members of the police, so whenever I go the fiestas he never lets me get more than 10 feet away from him because everybody is afraid of his family (think Sopranos).  I think one can imagine the stares and looks I get when I go to these fiestas because I am the only foreigner among 300-400 people.  While the vast majority of people here are very friendly there is always a couple who are not happy to see an American at their fiesta.  So, my barkada is always looking after me and makes sure nobody gives me a hard time which is pretty awesome.  This last fiesta was memorable because of the three new foods I ate, or maybe forced to eat.  The first was called soup #5 which was cow penis and testicles with some veggies.  If I wasn’t told what it was BEFORE I ate it there was no way I could tell what it was.  The taste was chewy and sort of bland; I have eaten far worse dishes here.  The second dish was my favorite of the night and was cow stomach in soup with potatoes, chilies, and carrots.  The stomach was cut up into long thin strips and was cooked in the broth until it was less chewy than it would be if eaten raw.  The third dish was the bone marrow of a very big fish for Philippine standards.  I got about 4 notches of vertebra off the fish and broke them off one by one and had suck out the marrow located inside the bone.  All these dishes are called sumsumain which means food you eat while drinking.  So, we were all sitting in a circle and in the middle of the table was a bottle of Rhum (that is how they spell rum here) and these three dishes that everyone was picking at throughout the night. 

Some other highlights over the last two weeks: I was able to release 6 sea turtles in the first week of December with another CRM volunteer at her site in Jordan which is the municipality just south of mine.  They have a turtle rehab center there and we released the turtles in front of a news team and the governor of Guimiars was in attendance as well.  I made a trip back down to Jordan last weekend for another volunteer’s birthday which was fun.  We cooked chicken tacos with real cheese, onions, tomatoes, and salsa it was an awesome dinner.  It is always nice to see familiar faces and hear native English speakers because I am the only PCV here in Buenavista, so I don’t get to see other PCVS too often.  We had our Christmas party last Friday and it was for all the local government workers here in Buenavista, so there were about 100 people at the party.  We did a gift exchange and I got a cup and a wash cloth that I will be using as a sweat rag because the one I bought during training is getting a little foul.  There was tons of food prepared for the party and lots of beer as well.  I think we went through 50 kilos of rice, 25 kilos of fish, 2 pigs, and 40 cases of San Miguel pilsen.  There was bingo, dance numbers from employees (thankfully I wasn’t forced to do anything), and the gift exchange.  It was a lot of fun because since I am working at the municipal agricultural office I don’t really have much interaction with the other arms of the government.  So, I was able to talk to and meet people from the accounting dept, engineering, etc.  I plan on going to Iloilo for Christmas with two guys from my barkada because they have family with a house there.  I will be leaving Guimaras on Friday morning (X mas Eve) and will be spending the weekend there eating and drinking.  I hope to be able to meet up with some other PCVs during the evening to catch up.  For New Years’ I will be going to Boracay which is a tiny island about 7 hours from me.  Since, there are no flights available I will be taking a 6 hour bus ride to the northern tip of Panay island and then a boat to Boracay.  I am really looking forward to it because there is going to be about 60 other PCVs from all over the Philippines descending on Boracay.  I have been reading some news and there is massive flooding in California and tons of snow in the Rockies… It is been about 88-95 degrees here everyday with minimal rain, so I cannot complain too much.  It is much better then my college days in Milwaukee not seeing the sun for days on end.
Dason lang

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

first few weeks at site

To all back home, I am sorry for the lack of consistency of my posts the last month. I have been trying to get on some sort of a routine now that I am here at my permanent site. Today, Tuesday, is the start of my third week of work here. The first two weeks have been interesting to say the least. My first week was the most difficult week I have had here since arriving in country. I definitely took for granted having other Americans around me during my training in Banate. It was nice to have multiple volunteers with us in training because it seemed we were all in it together. When one is at their site, you are all alone and need to depend on yourself for everything.

I am the only volunteer in Buenavista (my municipality) and as far as I know the only American/foreigner as well. So, my first week was hard to adjust to new co workers, a new municipality, etc all without any really support from anyone. On my first day, I introduced myself to the mayor and numerous other government officials in Ilonggo. They were all very surprised that I could communicate in their native language, even though my speech was less than 5 mins. I am working for the Philippine government at the municipal level. There are 4 steps of government here in the Philippines: Barangay’s (make up municipalities), Municipal level (make up a Provence), Provencal level, and finally National level. My office is the municipal agriculture office or M.A.O. We are responsible for obviously agriculture, fisheries, solid waste management, and numerous other environmental concerns. There are about 10 people in my office and I have been assigned a counterpart, Gerard and a supervisor, Jonathan. Jonathan is the M.A.O or head municipal agriculturist for Buenavista. I will be concentrating on fisheries management, setting up a marine protected area, and doing baseline biophysical assessments my first 6 months or so.

My first two weeks I have been going around to the 17 coastal barangays that make up the coastal part of my municipality. I come to the office everyday around 8 and meet my counterpart and we usually make it to 2 coastal barangays and interview the barangay captain. We are gathering baseline data..such as the number of motorized and non motorized bancas (boats), number of fish pens, types of fish coral, mangrove coverage area, number of fish ponds. We have finished about 10 barangays and today I have been making a template and doing some serious data entry.

Some other interesting events that have happened in the first two weeks of work include: Meeting the governor of Guimaras (the name of my Provence/island I am on), getting on the basketball team with the mayor and other government workers in a league; our team name is WHITEHOUSE with jerseys, referees, scorekeepers, etc.. trying to explain to tons of Filipinos that I am NOT a mormon or some sort of religious missionary, buying a mountain bike to get around since were not allowed to ride motorcycles, eating lunch everyday with the 6 or so women that work in my office, some of the meals we have had dinguan (pig innards soup with the blood as the broth), and kinelaw (raw sardines soaked in vinegar).

Since we had a three day weekend for Bonfacio Day this past weekend I had booked a flight to Manila to meet another volunteer for Thanksgiving. We were not able to get our hands on any turkey, but we had a great weekend roaming around the city. It was the first time that I was able to get to Manila. We had initial orientation there, but we were outside the main city proper and not able to go out exploring. I am not even going to try to explain the complete and utter chaos that is Manila. I have never in my life seen a city like this and I have been to New York, Chicago, London, etc. The sheer size and scope of the city is completely mind-boggling. There are so many restaurants and bars that choosing one makes for a difficult task. We made a trip to the PeaceCorp office which is in a different part of the city, so we took the LRT (pubic rail system) and we had to literally squeeze into the train, 12 cars all shoulder to shoulder. We picked up some materials for our sites and walked around for hours checking out the sites. We also made it to a PBA game, which is the professional basketball league in the Philippines. The stadium holds about 12,000 people and since we showed up a little late we were relegated to the upper view seats for 30 pesos per seat (less than an American dollar). The game was awesome..back and forth the whole time with a last second 3 pointer that missed, but would of forced the game into overtime. Filipinos really have a passion for basketball and the atmosphere was really excellent. We wrapped up all of our nights going to bars and checking out live bands which seem to be everywhere. I have some pictures from the weekend, but I left my camera in her purse because I was in a rush to catch my flight. I will be getting it back for New Years, so I’ll have to wait to post them here. Ok my lunch break is now coming to an end..gotta get back to more data entry.
Dason lang

Monday, November 15, 2010

Training is Tapos na!

The last few weeks here in the P.I. have been by far the busiest and most exciting since I have arrived wayyy back in mid August.  I think I will start with the LPI... We took the LPI a few weeks back during our last week of training in Banate.  It consisted of a lady from the PeaceCorp office whom none of us have ever met giving us our exam.  She was born in an Ilonggo speaking region, but grew up speaking Cebuano or another dialect.  It was a little difficult to understand her because she had a little different accent than my teacher and the people in Banate.  It was about a 35-40 minute conversation between the two of us and it was also tape recorded.  She asked me things like: "tell me what you do for fun."  "Describe your host family and your family in America."  "what is the role of the PeaceCorp" "explain your training and permanent site"  I came out of the gate really well and about 20ish mins into the conversation I started to struggle a little.  She gave me a card and we did a role play in which I had to ask about the important spots in town. (Home,Market, Bus station, where to get clean water, etc.).  When we stopped it was a great relief to finally be over and I wouldn't get my results until the next week.  Also, she refused to say ANYTHING in English, so I had to keep telling her to "hinay hinay lang" which means slow down and "liwat" which means repeat, quite often. 

Our last weekend in Banate we had a handog which is a sort of thank you for all the families who hosted PeaceCorp Trainees for the past 11 weeks.  It was pretty emotional, there were a lot of tears and it was difficult to say goodbye.  We all have developed deep bonds with our host families and I know I will never forget them and the amazing hospitality they showed me.  My host mom gave a little bottle of Lambonog which is a distilled spirit from the palm tree as a going away present.  As I was saying goodbye the next morning I gave my host sister a hug (3 yrs old).  I picked her up and as I was pulling her away from me she slapped me right across the face and it wasn't a love tap.  But, you would have to know her to appreciate the "kind gesture."  I was sad to leave Banate, but also very excited to move on to my next site and challenge.

We went to Bacolod City which is about a 1 hour bus ride and 1 hour boat ride from my training site for our Counterparts conference and for our swearing in ceremony.  I think we arrived on Sunday and we got to know our counterparts and did numerous activities to try and plan out our next two years.  Swearing in was on Thursday afternoon at the capital.  It was really cool...we pulled up to a Filipino drum band playing and excitement filled the air.  There also was MAJOR swat and police presence because of the anti American sentiment and also because Harry Thomas; ambassador to the Philippines swore us in.  The ceremony lasted about 2 hours and we had a little reception afterward.  My camera died during the middle of it so I wasn't able to get that many pictures.  We found out our LPI results the next day, and I passed with a score of Intermediate Mid.  The highest score out of the 12 CRM volunteers was Intermediate High and there were 4 out of the 12 of us who did not pass the LPI.  They will have to retake it every 3 months until they pass it.

I am now at my final site in Buenavista, Gumiaras and have just completed my first work day!  I used a typewriter to do our weekly calendar that was most definitely older than my parents.  My counterpart  had to be teach me  how to use the thing.  I had to get up in front of the mayor and numerous other government officals and introduce myself and why I was here all in Ilonggo.  It actually went very well because nobody expected me to speak their language.  So, I got a crazy stares, laughs, and a good ovation.  My counterpart put me on a basketball team with other g'ment officals in a league which we play 2 times per week.  The mayor is on my team too, however we lost by 2 points tonight.  Afterward I was invited to have some soup and Coke with the other team (water district).  That is all and since I do not have to work tomorrow (hero's day) I will be going to some beaches.
dason lang

Saturday, October 30, 2010


We finished our community project finally!  It was quite the process in which we began brainstorming and throwing ideas out the first few weeks we arrived at our training sites.  I believe I have described in previous posts that we had a budget of 2,000 pesos (46 dollars) in which to draw from.  The other sub cluster of CRM trainees here did a mangrove nursery while we opted for an MRF.  Partly because our barranguay does not have any mangroves, just an extremely polluted beach.  Like I said before, we hired Lenny the carpenter which cost us about 1250 pesos including labor.  He was able to construct our MRF in about 2 days which was pretty quick since he worked alone.  He finished our MRF late last week and we held two education sessions for the on Tuesday and the other on Thursday.  The first session was very rained like crazy an hour before and during our entire presentation so therefore only 10 people showed up.  Out of the 10 there were only two kids and we had planned a trash segregation race for the kids so that idea was tossed out.  But, on Thursday we got a break with the weather and the people came out in droves.  I think we had over 40 people at apex of our presentation.  I personally presented on four common myths here in the Philippines regarding burning ones trash.  We also touched on the lifespan it takes a banana, can, bottle, plastic, etc to decompose from the earth.  We talked about composting and we were able to have our trash segregation relay because there were plenty of mga bata (children).  Finally for the finale we sketched out some trees, "bularan mrf", etc on a big poster and had the community paint it.  We hung it behind our MRF and that was it.  It felt really good to know that we have left something tangible behind for the community to use and hopefully when more funding comes they can build on / improve our current structure. 

painting banner

MRF shot w/ community

This week is pretty much free for us except for the fact that we have our LPI on Thursday afternoon which nobody is looking forward to.  Cannot wait to get that thing done with and move on to my permanent site on November 7th.  On the 6th all the trainees and their host families will be going out to a restaurant to celebrate the 2.5 months we spent here and to say thank you.  We will be presenting a slide show, videoke of course, with lots of food, and games.  Tonight my neighbor is hosting a Halloween party at 8 PM, so it will be fun to celebrate with my fellow trainees.  It will be interesting to see what everyone dresses up as because our resources are quite limited here in Banate...  That is all for now!
dason lang-

Friday, October 22, 2010

another week in Banate & brownouts

Maayong adlaw!
Another week down here at my training site here in Banate and two more weeks left until I leave for my permanent site on November 6th!  It was another ordinary week for me, with the only highlights being that our community project has started to finally come together.  As I have said in my previous posts our cluster is working on an MRF (Materials Recovery Facility).  So, we have been meeting with the head engineer at our municipality to see if we can work together.  Since, we only have 2,000 pesos as a budget for our project we have been trying to get the municipality to at least match our contribution.  But, since elections are happening on Monday they could not free up any funds for our project.  We drew out a "blueprint" of the MRF and got the ok from the mayor and head engineer late last week.  So, on Monday we went out to find a carpenter who actually was at my Host Family's house last weekend doing some paining, unbeknownst to me.  He speaks absolutely no English so it was rather difficult to get our message across of what we wanted him to build.  We showed him our sketch and he went out and purchased some materials (bamboo, nipa, and some sheet metal).  The MRF is 9 feet wide, 4 feet deep and 8 feet tall with the nipa roof sloping at a downward angle.  There is room for 8 rice sacks to collect 4 reusable materials that the community can bring.  It is located at Barrangay Hall, for those of you reading and don't understand what a Barrangay is I'll try and explain again.....The Municipality or city that I'm living in is Banate and it is made up of over 10 Barrangays or "neighborhoods."  Our cluster is living in Bularan Barrangay and every Barrangay has a hall where they conduct meetings and the like.  So, we built our MRF inside the walls of the hall which is sort of a central point for our Barrangay.  Next week we will be having an Educational Activities like trash segregation, information on backyard composting, the reasons why recycling is a positive activity for communities, etc.  I will be posting pictures of our activities and our MRF next week so everyone can see what I am fellow trainees will  be leaving behind here in Banate.  Our ultimate goal is for them to improve on the MRF when we leave and they get more money freed up.  Then finally set some sort of way to pay back the people who bring in the scrap or pool the money for projects for the greater good of the community.

I don't think I have touched on this subject and if I have it hasn't been in depth.   We have brownouts here in Banate on a regular basis which means NO electricity.  I know some of you out there think that because I'm in the PeaceCorps that I shouldn't be complaining.  Like my host mom says, "brownouts..its a part of life for the Filipino."  But, I am going to do some venting here..... I don't mind  the brownouts that are even every day because they usually only last a few hours.  But, on Wednesday and Thursday we had back to back brownouts that lasted from 8 AM to past 5 PM.  Our classrooms are cement houses that trap in heat and when you have six large Americans in a small room sitting in Filipino chairs with no electric fan it becomes very uncomfortable.  Let alone trying to pay attention and comprehend a foreign language, your brain tends to shut down quite fast.  I will be purchasing a sweat rag tomorrow when I go to the city because at this rate my white t-shirts life span has been cut in half.  Looking forward to implementing the MRF into the community next week and my next post will include some pictures.
Dason lang-

Monday, October 18, 2010

san joaquin trip

Hello to all out there,
I have been pretty busy over here in my little corner of the world.  A lot has happened since my last post on Tuesday I think it was.  First off.. I added the address you all can send packages and mail to.  If you really feel generous and want to send me a package of some kind there are some instructions... First being, ANYTHING that gets set to me goes through Manny (the mail guy) in Manila.  He opens up everything; letters, packages, etc. So no illegal contraband of anykind please.  Second, when sending a package the sender needs to PREPAY taxes, duties, and customs and make an itemized list of the contents of package.  If not, I will be stuck with the bill and when your making 120 american dollars per month it...lets just say it will be difficult for me pay.  I also added a picture to show some sort of contrast because life here in the Philippines is not all clean beaches and sunsets.  The poverty here is very real, my Nanay(host mom) told me the Philippines ranked as the 7th poorest country in the world in a study done this month.  So, I felt like I needed to show everyone who reads this blog what a "ghetto" looks like in a 3rd world country. 

Wednesday was like any other day here, same old thing with language and tech sessions and copious amounts of sweat.  Thursday was my day to present to our tech class... Every trainee had to pick a topic back in August to research and present and I presented on Solid Waste Management.  Luckily, last week we had a "resource volunteer" come and stay with us at our training site.  He has been here in the P.I. since 2008 and has helped to implement a great Solid Waste Management program at his site in Northern Luzon.  Sidenote...for those of you who have been following the news, his site is currently getting hammered by typhoon Megi.  I'm not sure if he was evacuated or if he stayed to ride it out, but all volunteers/trainees have been receiving tons of text messages warning us about the typhoon since Friday.  But, anyway he helped me give the presentation to our tech class and we used examples of what has worked at his site. It went really well and he gave us all lots of ideas and resources we can now use when we all go to our finals sites on November 6. 

On Friday, we went to San Joaquin,_Iloilo  It is about a three our van ride to the south of our training site.  We were put up in a nice resort for one night too!  But, we were there to snorkel three MPA's (Marine Protected Areas) and to conduct coral and fish assessments.  We did this for extra practice because our training site only has one MPA.  Even though it was only a three hour ride on the SAME island, the people of San Joaquin speak a different dialect than the one we are learning.  It was similar to Ilonggo, but there were definitely some different nuances.  It was a great trip because we were able to get back into the water and as I said above practice identifying fish and corals.  Most of us will have to conduct these assessments when we make it to our final site.  At least for my final site...Buenavista Guimiars their last assessment was done in 1997.  So, it makes it difficult to see if your reefs and fish are in decline or improving if you don't conduct assessments for over 12 years.  We returned to Banate on Saturday evening and I spent Sunday hanging out at the "resort" in town with some other trainees.  We did some swimming and I got some reading done too.  We only have about 3 weeks left here in Banate and the rest of the time will be spent implementing our community project for our tech class.  We also have an LPI (Language proficiency interview) between November 2-5 to see what "level" our language skills are at.  Someone from Manila will be comming down to interview us for about 20 mins in Ilonggo... which is going to be very challenging.
Dason lang

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

extra time

I have some extra time this week so I'm throwing up an extra blog post for all my fans out there.  Need to ask a question to everyone who reads this blog first though... If you have a skype account please leave your account name on the comments.  I just bought a webcam when I was in the city last weekend, so I would like to be able to see and talk to you all.  But back to interesting things going on here....not much as happen since my last post on Saturday/Sunday.  My cluster has a current Peace Corp Volunteer that is spending the week with us. He is stationed up in Northern Luzon (the island where Manila is) so it took him 12 hours on a bus to get to Manila.  Then he took a 1 hour flight to Iloilo for those of you who still dont understand Iloilo is the BIG city next to my site.  Then my site is about a 1 to 1.5 hour bus ride from Iloilo.  The Philippines is not that big, but if your site is rural then traveling makes for a bitch.  Anyway he is a great resource for questions because he has been here for two years already and will be extending his service for six months to see some of his projects through.  He speaks the language fluently and told us to not rush with the language, that it will come in due time.  Tips from people who have been through the "ringer" are always very welcomed.

Monday was U.N. day so our local high school put on a parade during the A.M.  Our language class went out to watch the parade, which was cool.  Every time there is a parade, party or "pisto" there is a beauty competition.  So, the end was brought up by MISS U.N. 2009 and in the car in front of her were the candidates for this year.  Filipinos love these pageants, parades, competitions and the like.  During the afternoon we of course had our tech training and Elliott presented on the Bantay Dagat (coastguard) who protect MPA's (marine protected areas) if your site has one.  Ben presented on fisheries management, both presentations will be very important in my day to day routine at my final site.  I am going to be setting up and maintaining an MPA and the Bantay Dagat is responsible for protecting it.  I also will doing alot of fisheries management, doing a fish census when I get there in November.....Comparing the results to the data that they currently have and see how the fish are trending... 
Tuesday we had GRAMMER day which is always very tiring.  We learned how to use the affix PA which designates a command.  We went through which is called "actor, object, and beneficiary" sentences all in the past, present, and future.  We were given example sentences and then we had to write our own and present them to the class.  Grammer is definitely the most challenging part of Ilonggo because the verb always is the first word in the sentence, the structure is completely different from English.  Tuesday afternoon we got more shots and had a lecture from the PCMO (peace corp medical officers) on nutrition and drinking.  Drinking here in the Philippines is a way of life.  I have walked to my language class NUMEROUS times at 745AM and there are fishermen in barkadas' (drinking circles) trying to get me to take shots of rum.  The alcohol is extremely cheap here and is quite plentiful, many volunteers develop drinking problems during their service....  The vast majority of locals do not comprehend the concept of alcoholism, so it can make for a deadly combination.  However, drinking with co workers and government officials is a great way to bond and develop personal bonds/friendships which go a long way in getting things done.  If you don't develop relationships with your co workers and other officials who are put in charge then you will never see tangible results.  The Irish think they have a legendary drinking reputation, I challenge any Irishmen to come to the Philippines...
I will be presenting to my fellow trainees on Thursday on Solid Waste Management.  So, I have been doing quite a bit of research and using our current peace corp volunteer for advice.  He spend the first year he was at his site planning and implementing SWM programs and had tremendous results.  Tomorrow we got more language training and then we will be going out to interview the local fishermen on what types of gear they use, how much their average catch is, and other fishery related questions.  I can't believe I wrote this much because nothing much as happened here in the last three days.  The heat is still completely crazy and the humidity is never under 90%, but some things never change.
Dason lang

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My new Haircut

Well I am now back at my training site (Banate).  I returned home on Sunday afternoon after about a 2 hour trip from Buenavista, Guimaras (my permenate site).  This week was filled with lots of activities for language and also CRM. 
For our language class we are starting to get out of the classroom and interact with the people on the streets.  In my opinion it is a superior way of learning because we are forced to speak Ilonggo.  It also is always nice to get out of the classroom and outside anyway.  On Monday our assignment was to go to the local high school and just talk to students.  So our cluster, six of us walked over to the high school and sat down and tried to have a conversations.  Filipinos are very shy, especially the girls.  When I would try to talk to one and ask them their name they would just smile and put their hand over their mouth.  I had to keep repeating myself until they would finally answer.  Once they start to talk though it is hard to get them to stop.  There was a fundraiser going on at the school to raise money for their audio visual room.  They had "weddings" for 5 pesos.  As per usual, all eyes were on us being the only Americans in the entire school.  A girl approached us and asked if we would get "married."  So, Lindsay and I went up for fun and we were given rings and I had to put on a jacket that went half way up my wrist.  Lindsay didn't even attempt to put the wedding dress on.  After the fundraiser was over we walked around the school some more and played kick kick with the kids.  The game involves a .25 sentablos coin and they wrap it around a piece of plastic and it is held together by a rubber band.  You kick the coin in a circle and try not to let it hit the ground.  Think hackey sack, but instead of a ball you use this coin.  On Wednesday we were all assigned to go to different place in the town and interview people.  I drew the Pali Pali which is the fish wholesale market.  I had to ask a guy who worked there what kind of fish they sold, where they came from, etc.  I was speaking to him and the next thing I know there is a crowd of 30 people standing around me watching me interview this guy.  I have been here for about two months and I still haven't gotten used to the attention that I draw.  People constantly stare at me, adults and children both.  I'm pretty sure in Filipino culture staring is not considered rude because they don't even try to hid it.  People literally turn their entire heads as I or a group of fellow volunteers walk by. 
On the CRM front we had our big presentation to the mayor and other government officals on Thursday.  We have been compiling tons of data: soci economic surveys, coral reef, seagrass, mangrove assessments, fish census, etc in order to implement a community project at the end of October.  So Sam and myself were assigned to present the fish census that we conducted about a month ago.  We had a pretty good turnout, about 30 people came listen to our presentation.  It went ok... We found that 77% of the population here think  that trash is a major issue, but when we asked what kind of community project they wanted us to do they all said alternative livelihood projects.  Example of an alternative livelihood project would be making a purse or bag out of trash and then trying to sell it at the local market.  Since we are supposed to do something C.R.M related we were very hesitant in agreeing.  We put in lots of work and all of our data pointed to Solid Waste Management.  So, we ended our meeting with no community project that we could all agree on.  We had another meeting last night and we finally convinced them that we would help set up a MRF (materials recovery facility).  So, the next few weeks we will be trying to find a site, holding community meetings, and teaching people about our MRF.  We will be trying to get the community to segregate their glass, aluminum, scrap metal, etc and bring it to the MRF.  When a family gathers enough items to bring to the MRF it will be weighed and logged in a book.  We need to coordinate with a local company to establish a regular pick up for the MRF.  Once the items are picked up from the MRF they will be given pesos depending on how much "scrap" there is.  They will consult the log book and money will be distributed to each family based on the amount of scrap they brought to the MRF that week or month.  
On Thursday evening after our presentation, all the male volunteers decided to shave mo hawks.  I was the last one on the bandwagon because my hair is not exactly ideal.  But I included a picture below to show everyone the hair that I am now sporting.

Sam and I presenting our fish census.
Ok that is all for now, new post to come next week I think.
Dason lang-

Monday, October 4, 2010

perm. site

Hello all its been a little over a week since I did my last posting I believe.  I have a lot to catch up on so I will try my best to share all the details of the last 10 or so days.  So, we had our supervisors conference last week in Bacolod City which is on the next island south of mine.  We departed on Monday morning, we took about an hour jeep ride, not bus, but jeep we had to cram 16 trainees into this jeep which made for a horrible experience going to the port.  We arrived at the port at around 8 AM for our "jet boat/fast craft" to go to Bacolod City.  As per usual here in the P.I. we left about 1.5 hours late and it was stifling hot.  Since, we were supposed to meet our supervisors that same day I wore some nice jeans and a dress shirt.  I thought the boat would have some A/C, think again... We were enclosed in this cement oven with MINIMAL air blowing out of the "vents."  I got up to go to the bathroom 1/2 through our voyage and the back of my button down shirt was completely wet.  Americans here are already stereotyped as stinky and sweaty and I did not help quell this notion.  We finally arrived in Bacolod city after about a 1 hour boat ride from Iloilo harbor.  We then were picked up by the hotel shuttle and taken to Sugarland Hotel.  This was by far the nicest place I have stayed in since my arrival in the P.I.  The A/C was cranking at a high level the rooms had zero roaches or insects to speak of.  There was even hot showers and flushing toilets!  Not to mention the food was unbelievable..pancakes, omelets, eggs for breakfast.  Acutual cuts of real meal, all the meat we get here is 60% grizzle and 20 % bone so you need to be extra careful about how you bite into the meat you are liable to crack a molar.  We had shots, met our supervisors, sat through boring (albeit necessary) lectures on safety and security.  It was the first time since Initinal Orientation that we were able to see most of the other CRM volunteers who are doing their training South of us.  There are three clusters of CRM trainees the Luzon group(northern most) Panay group (me, Central) and Dumagete (South).  SO we were all reunited except the Luzon group which was kind of a bummer.  In true Filippino style we went out drank copious amounts of Tanduay rhum and sang videoke...great times.  My supervisor seems to be a good guy who does not speak much English, but really cares about CRM. 

We left for my perminate site on Thursday morning.  We took that "jet boat" back to Iloilo harbor then a banka (pumpboat) across the Guimaras straight to MacArthurs Wharf to my Municicpalty of Buenavista on the island of Guimiaras.  We arrived at the Wharf and we walked to my supervisors car and of course it didn't start so we sat there for about 2 hours trying to start this thing.  I had to get out and push start it and I was meeting the mayor later that day so again I was dressed to impress.  Jeans and a dress shirt and they were soaked in sweat within 30 mins.  The car never started and we called for some guy to pick us up and he dropped us off at the municipal hall.  From there I met the Mayor who is a M.D. he said he was going to try to get us some scuba equipment which was great news.  I then went back to the office where I met some of my co workers, they all seem nice.  I then went to meet my host family who is really nice, but are 7th day Adventist which is an Evangelical Christian religion.  So, needless to say we do not see eye to eye on many things.  But, moving on... I met my counterpart (the guy I will be spending my day to day with) and he is friggen awesome!  He is about 30 years old and speaks really good English.  We spent the entire day on Friday roaming around my municipality in his mother in law car because our car was still dead.  He took me around to beaches, where the marine protected area will be, where they want to reforest mangroves, and just gave me a great tour.  Friday evening I went to church with my host family.  Saturday I did some more roaming around and my counterpart introduced me to some of his friends in the 'hood.  They are all really nice guys and we spend the latter half of the afternoon cooking SI SIG.  We all went to the market to buy the SI SIG and ingredients.  Si sig is pig face for all of you in the states, I watched the pork vendor carve this pigs head like he was cutting bread.  We bought 2 kilos along with eggs, garlic, peppers, clams, and shrimp for side dishes.  We first boiled the pig face and then grilled it then the chef of the house diced it up into little pieces and put it on a sizzling platter along with garlic, peppers, and topped it off with a  fried egg.  Think like hash browns, but instead of potatoes it was pig face.  Trust me it was AWESOME and would eat again in a heartbeat. I returned to my site on Sunday afternoon and was happy to return.  I did miss my host family and the friendly people of Banate.  I definitely have developed a close relationship with my current host family and am not looking forward to leaving.  My neighboors are burning tons of trash I can barley breath so I'm cutting this short.  Post again soon
Dasong lang-


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Lets see here quite a lot to update since my last post.  On Saturday my neighbor across the street who is also hosting another volunteer (Dan) had a birthday party.  It was the the third consecutive weekend that I have attended a birthday party.  I am sad to say that my streak might end this upcoming weekend, but another volunteers host brother is having a b day party.  So, I will remain optimistic to keep my streak going.  I have lots of pictures from the party, but the Internet connection is so slow here that it just takes way to long.  It took me over an hour for my last post (balut) because of all the pictures I uploaded.  We made a trip to the city (Iioilo) in the morning to attend the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.  It was basically a place where they raised fish, sea cucumbers, seahorses, etc to either study and gather research or to release back into the wild.  It was pretty insightful, but the other trainees and I had a long night drinking so we were anxious for it to end.  After the tour we went to the mall to get some supplies.  I bought some floss, soap, deodorant, etc.  And after we all did our shopping we sat down for pizza and beer which was great although it costed an arm and an leg (400 pesos per person).  You can buy a whole chicken here in my town for 90 pesos.  We arrived back home in Banate in the late afternoon and I took a nap before the party started.  I was woken up to the videoke machine blaring out lyrics to "yeah" by little jon.  So, I quickly showered and made my way across the street.  Like always...there was a ton of food and I wasn't really hungry because I had gorged myself on pizza at the mall.  But, Filipino culture dictates you not only eat at these parties, but go back for seconds and thirds.  There was lasagna, spaghetti (always present because it dictates long life), beef ribs, fish, and some tasty desserts.  After we all finished eating the videoke started around 730 745PM.  Amie (birthday women) turned 28 and she is really cool I get along with her very well.  I had joked about her getting us a bottle of Tanduay (rum) and I guess she had one of the helpers go fetch one because there was a bottle waiting for us outside.  The men drank the rum while the women drank beer and we all sung videoke all night.  Some longer than others I think I called it quits around 1145pm, it was a blast. 
Sunday was uneventful just kind of sat around and hung out with the host family.  Went to the local resort with some other volunteers and went swimming in their pool.  Monday and Tuesday were just regular days as far as language goes.  For technical we spent Monday and Tuesday making a soci economic survey for Wednesday. 

So today is Wednesday for all of you in America....I have just returned from interviewing 5 households with Dan along with the help of our teacher for translation/facilitation purposes.  It was very interesting to see the different answers from the various people we interviewed.  We had questions such as: Do you think trash is a problem in your community?  Where do you get your drinking water?  Has the potable drinking water improved or declined in the last 10 years?  Please rate condition of your beach, reef, mangroves, seagrass...  The people who we interviewed who lived within 500 yards of the beach all had opinions on coast and the people who lived over 1000 yards from the beach (still really close) had no clue or idea what was going on with reefs or seagrass.  We will be analyzing all the data this weekend to put into our coastal environmental profile which is the culmination of all the assessments and surveys we have done.  We will leave a copy behind  for the mayor/municipal hall so they can identify their assets/resources, where they need improvement.  It is a blueprint of their city and how their citizens perceive problems and resources.  And if another volunteer is stationed here in the future it will be a valuable resource for them to consult.  I hope my final site has some sort of a coastal environmental profile  or else I will be repeating this again...not to the same degree tho.  My hands hurt now so I will be signing off.  I will try to post some pictures on my next post. 
Dason lang...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

BALUT experience

I had an interesting last couple of days here in the Philippines.  On a previous post I said I was going to eat Balut for dinner... My host brother decided to save it for dessert and after dinner we went outside ready to conquer this duck embryo.  Unfortunately, the egg was not yet mature enough so we were not able to eat it.  I was not that disappointed, but I had hyped myself up so much it was kind of a let down.  The topic was put on the back burner for a couple days and I kind of forgot about it.  But, on Thursday my brother went to the city to run some errands.  I am getting ahead of myself tho..  Thursday for lunch I had dinuguan- which is the innards of the pig in a soup with the broth being the blood of the pig.  The smell was much worse than the taste, I actually did not mind it and would be happy to eat it again.  After dinner on Thursday my brother informed me that he had picked up two balut eggs in the city and we would eat them immediately.  So, again we began the process again... we brought out salt, vinegar, and of course I had a tall glass of tubig to help wash it down the hatch.  The process is very tedious, you need to find the top of the egg where the embryos head is located and gently crack the shell.  You then peel away the shell and then you encounter a membrane which then you need to break and then your ready to eat.  (see picture below).  I could see the little head on the embryo which was quite intimidating.  My brother told me to shoot it like a shot of whiskey, but as a judged the size of the egg there was no way I would be able to do that, so that meant chewing.  I threw back the first 1/2 of the egg via shooting technique and got it down rather easily.  The embryo is surrounded by the "yoke" kind of like the yoke on a hard boiled egg.  So there is that solid texture accompanied by the mucus/chewy texture that the duck embryo has.  Then I applied more salt and vinegar and had to dig in with my hands and physically pull out the rest of the embryo/yoke out (see last picture).  I finished the entire thing until there was only the reminisce of the shell.  Took me about 2 mins. from start to finish. I was being routed on by my family and without their support the task might have been futile.   I brought pictures into class the next day and everyone was completely horrified.  Out of the 12 volunteers here I am currently the only one who has 1. tried and 2. finished an entire egg.  I wear this accomplishment like a badge of honor.  So, Thursday was the most interesting culinary experience of my life and I have lived to tell about it.  So, I encourage you all out there to try balut if you are every afforded the opportunity.  They said it is good for your joints...haha not quite sure how but this is the Philippines, dont ask questions just eat.


My brothers egg, left.  My egg, right

the egg (vinegar in the bottle)


The last quarter of the duck embryo mmmmm

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

weekend updates

My room

RJ and his cakes

So some updates and pictures from this past weekend.  Our CRM group (12 of us) went out on a banka to do seagrass and mangrove assessments on Saturday morning.  Our survey sites were much nicer than last week, not too much trash and pretty decent visibility.  For the seagrass assessments we had a grid with 16 squares on it.  We randomly drop the "quadrat" and then dive down to see what % is covered with seagrass.  Our results average to about 18 % coverage which is pretty poor.  Healthy coverage is over 60%.  But enough of the boring technical stuff that most of the people reading this do not care about..

We arrived back home around 11 A.M. and I had to go straight to a birthday party for R.J.  He is the nephew of my host mother.  If there is one thing I've learned about birthday parties here in the Philippines it is that they are a BIG DEAL.  The two weekends I have been in Banate I have attended a birthday party each weekend.  I will be going to another one this Saturday, so that makes three weekends in a row.  My host family went to Iiloilo on Thursday to buy cake, gifts, and the other necessary materials.  There was massive amounts of food, drinks, and of course videoke.  7 P.C.T's were in attendance and we were looked upon to provide the majority of entertainment (i.e. singing and dancing).  I think I did about 6 videoke songs ranging from the Beach Boys, Micheal Jackson, and Hall and Oates.  It was alot of fun, but I had to leave a little early to go home and take a nap because we were up really early doing assessments.

Food spread at party, NAMIT GID!
Sundays here are pretty standard.  My host mom and brother go to church from 8-9 in the morning.  When they come back we all eat breakfast and then pretty much lounge around all day.  I do most of my language studying on Sundays where I can ask my fellow host sisters for help on the assignments I do not understand.  Everyone I live with speaks some English so communication is not really an issue.  Also, Sundays are spent doing laundry too.  I think it took me about 3-4 hours from the soaking of the clothes to the washing then rinsing and hanging.  It started to rain in the late afternoon so my clothes did not fully dry until Monday afternoon.  This meant wearing jeans on Monday because I had no other clean shorts to wear to class.  I think I have adjusted pretty good to the weather here, but definitely not enough to wear jeans throughout the day.  I have started negotiations with Lynn to help or have her do my laundry because she would be able to do it in 1/2 the time and get my clothes twice as clean.  So, we will see where that progresses as the week goes on.. 

Lynn and I doing my laundry
Host sister (Lynn), me, and our helper (Freezy)

Tapos na...


Friday, September 10, 2010

Pollution is a problem here...

Hello world...

Its been about a week since I last posted I believe.  The days are finally staring to move a little faster now that we are getting into the rhythm of school, tech class, and studying.  It is Friday afternoon here and I have some free time so I figured I throw up an update.  The week was relatively routine with language classes in the AM and tech sessions in the afternoon.  Some highlights...Food: I had pork chops for dinner one night which was probably the best meal I've had since I have been in Banate.  My host family went to Iloilo (the city) on Thursday to buy various items for a birthday party on Saturday.  They brought back me a Philippines T-shirt and 1/2 of a roasted chicken, which was quite delicious.  Lastly on the food front I have discovered the best street food since I've been here...Fish balls.  There is a batter composed of fish (don't ask me what type)  and the vendor takes about a tablespoon scoop out of the pot and throws it in a wok full of oil.  They are 50 sentablos per ball, so I ordered 20 for 10 pesos.  They have a sweet sauce as well as a spicy sauce to dip the balls into, excellent.  I will now be a sukisuki (regular customer) at the fish ball vendor. 

As far as language goes we have been learning numbers, how to order/get food at the market, composing simple sentences, and going over some culture things.  For instance, how Amercians are geared towards a monochronic time system while the Philippines is geared toward a polychronic time system.  We all went to the market as a class on Thursday and identified veggies, fruits, various types of fish, and meats.  I'm glad we were able to go with our teacher because the market is one of the most interesting places in town.  Getting there early in the morning is a key because everything is freshly butchered/caught.  There is an array of 20-30 different types of fruits and veggies.  Enormous hunks of pork and beef hanging from nails, whole chickens available for sale accompanied with their feet, intestine (which I've already sampled), liver, etc.  Some foods we can bargain down and sometimes they will throw in some extra when you say "pa aman."  But, I don't think any of my fellow volunteers and I are quite good enough to drive down a price/kg yet.  However, I was successful getting a few extra rambutons thrown in my bag. 

Technical training is going well.  We had our first rounds of presentations this week.  Dan did his on mangroves, Tyler on the coastal environmental profile, and Laura on seagrass.  I have my presentation in October on solid waste management.  Today we were finally able to get out in the water so to speak and do a mangrove assessment.  We made a box, 10 meters per side and surveyed the mangroves classifying them into species, diameter, crown width, and other technical categories.  It went well except for the fact the beach we went to was extremely polluted to say the least.  Bags of trash, broken beer and liquor bottles, rats, human waste was scattered all over the beach/water.  We had to go out 10 meters so we were about knee deep in the water and I have developed a little rash on my legs.  After we finished our survey we were packing up and the local children that live in the nipa huts on the beach were chasing down something.  It turned out to be a rat that they caught and beaten to death with a stick.  Also, the kids were catching larva and trying to get them to fight, pretty interesting....  I just hope my site isn't like the beach we went to today, very sad and discouraging. 

The kids on my street have fixed the basketball hoop that was blown down by the last typoon and are yelling at me to play with them.  So I will be taking off.   Lastly, I am going to be trying BALUT for dinner.  For you who do not know what it is type it in google... Next update to come soon

Monday, August 30, 2010

settling down in banate

hello there..... 

I have finally settled in with my host family and town.  Things are going as smooth as they can for not knowing the language or much of the culture.  Sunday we made a trip to the "big city" of Iiloilo to get rain boots because when typhoon's hit the streets become flooded.  With the trash and excrement int he street I can imagine it is not a pretty site. 

Monday we started class.  With language being in the morning (8-12) then we go back to our host families house for lunch and ending the day with technical training (1-5ish).  Yesterday was the hottest day its been since I have been in the Philippines about 92 degrees with 95% humidity.  Just walking to class really drains your entire body and everyone shows up to class COVERED in a combination of sweat, insect repellent, and sunscreen.  The sun is more powerful here than in any other place I have ever been.  Your liable to be sun burnt from being outside just for 15 mins.

After class yesterday some volunteers and I decided to play some basketball after it cooled down.  I was not able to find them, so I decided to join a random game.  The lady(Gloria) who owned the land the basketball court was on came up me and was asking me all types of questions.  What are you doing here?  Are you a Mormon? etc.  I patiently explained to her what I was here for and how long I've been in town.  She was much obliged to let me play on her court after we had a 20 min. conversation in her broken English.  My fellow volunteers finally showed up to the court after I had played a few games.  Since I had already meet all the locals on the court I got to play with them while we took on the other volunteers.  All of the Filipinos either played in sandals or barefoot which is quite feet being that the court had holes all over.  As the game went on a massive crowd gathered...maybe about 60 to 70 people lined the court and trikes were stopped on the street watching us play.  The Filipino's and I eventually won the game, not because we got to 21 first, but because there was no more sunlight.  Pretty much everyone played shirtless and towards the end of the game the ball became extremely difficult to handle due the copious amounts of sweat.  After the game Gloria provided all of us with some cold tubig (water) which was a treat because most people here do not have fridges. 

I came home and showered and ate some dried fish, rice, and a fish stew...MMMMMMMMMM!  THere was a city wide brown out during dinner so we ate by the candle/flashlight.  There is a lady (Ami) who lives across the street from me and has Internet access and has a bakery attached to her house.  So, I came over to see what was going on.  There are always a ton of people over there helping bag various baked goods and watching T.V.  I assisted them for a few hours while there was no electricity and they helped with some vocabulary words.  Mostly they just laughed at me while I butchered the language.  THe phonetics of Hiligaynon is very very difficult to get down, but I have only been studying for two days now. 

We have a lechon (roasted pig) lunch with the mayor today.  So, I need to go take my second shower of the day and put on some pants blllllllah and a dress shirt.  Nothing like meeting the mayor of the town with a sopping wet button up shirt.  But, so far so good I'm loving Banate and the people are very welcoming.  More updates to come.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Ok so I just found out where I will be spending the next 3 months for training.  I will be going to a city called Banate, in the province of Iloiolo, and on the island of Panay.,_Iloilo 
I will be learning their local language called Hiligaynon.  I am a little bummed out that I did not get placed in the Taglog speaking group, but our teacher said Hiligaynon was not that difficult of a language to learn.  We will be departing from Manila tomorrow morning at 6 A.M. to catch a flight to our city.  Our city is classified as a 4th class municipality which means it is on the poorer side.  Cities here are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being the richest with the most resources and 5 having the least.  So, it will be interesting to see what awaits me when I arrive tomorrow.

Yesterday a bunch of us went to the Mall of Asia here in Manila.  It was the first time we were able to get out of the resort on our own.  A group of 4 of us (Sarah, Morgan, and Thomas) took a jeepney to the mall.  It was quite the experience hopping on the jeepney for the first time.  The round trip costed us 16 pesos which like less than a quarter, so very cheap.  Our driver was very aggressive to say the least seemed like we were always an inch away from hitting another bus or motorcycle.  Once we arrived at the mall Thomas and I immediately went to Wendys and ordered double cheeseburgers.  We got the combo meal and our fries and drink were ridiculously small.  I think I got about 12 fries accompanied with about a 6 oz. drink, however it tasted exactly the same as back home.  We stuck out like sore thumbs while walking through the mall attracting the interest of all the female workers.  I am not kidding when I say every 10 seconds someone would say to us "good afternoons sirs" with a big smile.  From what I can gather they are very happy go lucky people that don't have alot, but love life. 

A group of us will all being going out tonight because the Coastal Resource Management volunteers will be going to three different parts of the P.I.  So, we will not bea ble to see each other for a couple months.  I will continue to update as much as I can, but I do not know what my training site will be like.  Hopefully it will have some Internet access readily available, but with it being a class 4th municaplity who knows...  Well I need to run to grab some lunch so I am going to sign off. 
Until the next update..

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Hey everybody I thought I would try and do a quick blog post before we have to go back to orientation.  We arrived in the P.I. on Sunday night around 1 AM.  After a 2 hour delay in Detroit we made it to Japan about 12.5 hours later, then it was on to Manila for a 3.5 hour flight.  We are in a resort just outside Manila and they are keeping us held up in here pretty good for now.  I think we get to leave the "compound" on Wednesday to do some water safety training.  I am developing some close bonds already with some of my fellow volunteers.  THe food is pretty good so far, but since were at a resort I want to reserve judgement.  It is not even the hot season yet and the weather is insanely hot!  Some of us played soccer yesterday during a break and it was rather difficult breathing with the heavy air.  However, it did start to rain during the game which provided some relief.  Ok I have run out of time need to get back to orientation.  Will try do post something again soon.  Hope all is well back home inthe States
Salamat !