Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Years & Cultural Sounds/Faces

So I am back here in Buenavista after a great New Years extravaganza.  As I mentioned in my last post we went up to Tibiao on late Thursday evening after we all finished work.  It was about a 4 hour bus ride through some pretty big mountains for Philippine standards.  The first two hours of the bus were very windy and all the divers here drive like they are trying to outrun the police… So needless to say we all had white knuckles trying to just stay in our seats.  We arrived in Tibiao where Sam was first assigned, but was transferred to another site for various reasons.  However, her old host family has lots of family in the states which means they are pretty well off.  They let us stay in their beach house right on the water with a flat screen tv, cable, screens on the windows, pretty much everything you would see in an American house.  They had a cook prepare us an amazing dinner and we sat around playing cards and watching an NBA game on t.v.  We woke up early the next morning and Sams old host family arrange a municipal vehicle to take us to the port to get to Boracay, about 2.5 hours.  They refused to take any money from us for the food, lodging, or the ride.  I know I sound like a broken record, but the hospitality in this country is unrivaled.  There were 7 of us, including myself, so it wasn’t like there were just a few people either.  They dropped us off at the wharf and we took a quick boat over to Boracay.  We took a tricycle to our hotel and I started to experience some mild culture shock because of the vast amounts of tourists walking around.  Old guys wearing nothing but speedos, girls in bikinis, etc.  All of us are living in mostly in rural province areas where everything and everyone is extremely conservative.  Everyone wears shorts and t shirts at the beach and obviously you don’t ever see another American.  There were people from Europe, U.S., Canada, and Australia it truly seemed like we were in another country after only a 20 min boat ride.  It reminded me a mix of Cabo San Lucas and Hawaii.  The beaches were amazing…white sand and clear blue water.  We spent our days hanging out at the beach swimming and our nights roaming around from bar to bar.  On New Years Eve we watched a great firework show from the beach.  There were two bancas about 50 yards out in the ocean launching fireworks.  We were able to eat some really good food as well.  Some decent Mexican food, pizza, and American breakfast!  It was a welcome change from the fish and rice that I get fed sometimes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The bus ride home was pretty miserable.  It took me about 8.5 hours to get to Iloilo then another hour to get back to my house.  But, the weekend was well worth it.  There were about 50 PCV’s from all over the Philippines, so it was nice to see old faces and also meet other PCV’s.  This week I will be working on putting together an IEC (information education communication) presentation for some schools or whoever wants to listen.  I am trying to take some initiative because everyone seems to be in a fog from Christmas and New Years.  I have my last regular season basketball game today, with playoffs starting sometime next week. 

I was talking to my parents on Skype the other day and was explaining to them the different sounds and faces Filipinos make during regular conversation.  Here are some examples….  If someone is talking and they cannot hear what your saying they will open their mouth (very wide) and tilt their chin down into their chest instead of saying “ano” which means what.  When passing someone on the street you don’t usually say good morning, afternoon, etc, but you raise your eyebrows at the person passing by.  When I do this they get a big smile on their face because it is something one can only pick up on after living here for a long enough time.  If your trying to get someone’s attention you don’t say their name or say “hey” you make a kissing noise with your lips.  You keep repeating the sound louder and louder until they turn their head and acknowledge you.  The sound is similar to when one would call for the attention of a dog back home.  The last sound/facial expression is if you ask a Filipino the direction of something, like the bathroom, he/she wont give you verbal directions, but will just point with their lips in the general direction of the thing your asking about.  If you continue to prod and ask for more specific directions they will sometimes point with their hands and say “didto” which means there, or “dirat lang” which means just there.  That is about as specific as you’ll get…needless to say I have spent over 10 mins just looking for the restroom.  I know when I get back home after my two years I will be doing these gestures involuntarily and my friends will think I am crazy….  That is all for now.
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Christmas in Iloilo&Guimbal

Christmas has finally come and gone here in the Philippines.  Filipinos have a real affinity for Christmas and you start to hear the Xmas music in the malls around September.  So, the build up to the actual day is wild.  On Christmas Eve, I went to Iloilo city with a few guys from my barkada.  I got there around 1 in the afternoon and walked into a house filled with 60 plus Filipinos from infants to lolas and lolos.  We ate some lunch which was a couple pork chops with rice.  It was nice to finally eat some pork because my host family here in Buenavista does not allow pork because of their religion.  We played some games (basketball treasure hunt) until it was dinner time and then ate a giant dinner.  The friends that brought me had to return back to Buenavista because they are married with kids so they were spending Christmas day with their in laws. 

Some PCV’s from my training group were already in Guimbal for Christmas, which is a municipality about 45 mins from Iloilo city.  So, I took a bus to meet up with them after my friends had left to go back to Buenavista.  Guimbal was in the middle of fiesta that lasted until Chirstmas day…great timing!  So, we went to the town proper and did some drinking and catching up with each other.  We ended up staying at the PCV’s (Elliott) host families’ house in Guimbal on the night of Christmas Eve.  The girls got the bed and guys got the floor…the tile floor.  On Christmas we got up and roamed around Guimbal looking for a resort/pension house to stay at because there were more PCV’s coming so we all couldn’t fit at Elliotts house.  After going to three different places we decided on the cheapest one, no surprise there. The place was 250 pesos for one night and it was one of the seedier places I have had the pleasure of staying in.  Concrete floor, an electric fan that was so loud that you could hear from outside the room, all sorts of interesting bugs who took offense that we invaded their space, no windows, and a bathroom with mosquito larva in the toilet…  We reserved the room and went to meet some of Elliotts Filipino friends to play some soccer at the local high school.  We ended up playing for a few hours and it was good to get some exercise in since all I have been doing for the last few days was eating and drinking.  After soccer we all went back to “resort” to bucket shower.  The other PCV’s arrived and we went back to the town proper for the last day of the town fiesta.  There was a dance competition going on when we arrived and there had to be close to 1,000 people watching.  There were no seats left so, we stood for a while to watch and ended up back in the same area as the night before….hanging out drinking and shooting the breeze.  After the dance competition was over the dance floor was opened up for the disco.  There was 6 PCV’s that made the trip, so needless to say we stuck out a little bit.  We decided to go out on the dance floor which also doubles as a basketball court.  As soon as we all started to dance a giant circle started to form around us.  We kept moving around the dance floor, but wherever we went we couldn’t seem to prevent another circle forming around us.  After dancing we met the vice governor of Iloilo province, Guimbal is a municipality in the province in Iloilo for those of you readers who are confused.  He had his own table with a waiter and everything.  He fed us lots of free beer and snacks until about 2 AM then we decided to head back to our rooms to pass out.  Woke up the next day feeling a slight pain in my head and I do not think I was the only one either.  5 out of 6 of us made it out of the rooms for lunch and we spent the day at hanging out at the beach listening to music.  2 of the PCV’s headed back to their sites because they had a long trip ahead of them, but I decided to stay on more night since I was only about 2 hours from my site.  The last night in Guimbal (day after Xmas) was very uneventful compared to the first two.  We went to a Multi Sectoral Christmas party to eat dinner and start the night.  Then we all went with Elliotts host sister to a resort to meet and hang out with some of her friends since we all are very close in age.  We called it a night pretty earlier because we all had to travel back to our sites the next day. 

I arrived back here in Buenavista on Monday afternoon for the last regular season basketball game which we won 90-83 which gave us a regular season record of 6-3.  Playoffs start after the New Year and there is a cash prize for first and second place, but its not about the money its for the love of the game!  This week has been really slow for CRM work because of Christmas and New Years sandwiched together.  I will be going to Boracay for New Years as I mentioned on my last post.  Since it is about a 6 hour trip some PCV’s from my area and I will be stopping in Tibiao which is about 2 hours from Boracay on Thursday evening…..then heading up to Borcay on Friday morning.  Looking forward to returning here to my site after New Years with some work to do because it has been really slow at the office.  I also plan on getting an Ilonggo tutor when I get back to site next week to advance my language skills.  They are improving, but not at the rate I would like them to.  My goal is to be able to not use any English by the time August comes around, which would mark the 1 year anniversary of my arrival here in the Philippines.  My comprehension is far ahead of my speaking skills which definitely need improvement.  That is all for now, I hope to be able to write about more CRM related tasks in the near future. 
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