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