Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pictures of my house

I finally was able to get a quick enough Internet connection to be able to post of pictures of my new place.  I am sure you all had a vision of what this place should look like.  But, this is what about 40 American dollars per month gets you in this beautiful country.  I think my rent is about 1/2 or 1/4 of your IPhone bill..... It is "studio" with a bathroom and a kitchen that two people can fit into at a time.  Simple living at its finest... 

View from the front door, cement floors throughout

My bed and a few chairs for entertaining

My bathroom complete with Filipino toilet that you bucket flush and a bucket shower. PeaceCorps style


Aloy, fish my friends and I cooked for my first night in my new apt.


WOOOW, this guy has been pretty busy over the past few weeks.  It is a pleasant surprise to the sometimes lethargic pace that work gets done around here.  I’ll start off this post with the CRM related activities that me and some other PCV’s have assisted me with.  My counterpart and I finally finished off our barangay fishery profile that we started in the middle of November.  For those of you who forgot or don’t have any idea what I’m talking about I shall explain again.  We have 22 coastal brgy or “neighborhoods” if you want to put it in American lingo.  So, my counterpart and I went around to the majority of them and he finished off the last few this week.  Every brgy has a captain that acts like the mayor.  We first interview the captain since they know everyone in his or her brgy and asked them about the number of bancas (boats) used and how many were either motorized or non motorized, the type of fishing gear each fisherman used, the natural resources, and the main type of seafood caught.  If the captain didn’t know all the data then we would go to the local fishermen and ask them the questions the captain couldn’t answer. This gives my municipality (brgys make up municipalities) a basic picture of fisheries in Buenavista.  I believe the last fishery profile was done in the 90’s, but I don’t really think there was one done ever.  This was a good project for me because it gave me the chance to show my face to all the captains who you need to know if you want to do any activities in their brgy.  Also, it helped me practice my language because 90% of fisherfolk speak zero to very minimal English. 

Jensen, Stephanie, Morgan, and myself conducted a coral reef and seagrass assessment last week on the 24th (my birthday) and 25th.  We did this to get some baseline data on the area because my counterpart and I are proposing to put an MPA (Marine Protected Area).  This would outlaw fishing in the “core zone” of about 50 hectares to allow the coral, seagrass, and fish stocks to increase.  Many of my fellow PCV’s have anywhere from 1 to 17 MPA’s at their respective sites and I am trying to get one up.  So, that tells you a little bit where Buenavista’s priorities lay when it comes to setting up MPAs.  It was mildly successful only because the visibility in the water was subpar.  However, we were able to get some basic data on the propsed MPA and the coordinates that make up the core zone.  I just finished writing a 6 page report on our findings and the implications of our data if an MPA is not set up.  The next step will to have my counterpart read it over because reports and proposals follow a specific format that I am still not used to.  After that, we will have my boss sign off on it, then present it to the mayor and if he likes what he sees he will toss some cash our way to get started.  After they mayor, its on to the provincial government for perhaps more funding.  This will give us some start up money to be able to work with until I can start writing my VEG grant (volunteers for environmental governance) in the beginning of May.  I am hoping to get around 2-3 thousand in U.S. dollars which would be enough to get the MPA up with a very good chance at it being successful for years to come.  It would be great for me to leave something tangible for the people here to build off of when I leave. 

I do have one more piece of good news.  I was at a fisheries meeting at the provincial capital last Monday and my counterpart and I found out that we got the 50,000 pesos we requested to start a tilapia in bamboo cages culture project.  A quick explanation…we will buy about 3,000 fingerlings of tilapia and culture them for about 3 months until they become fry.  Once they become fry we will then give the fish to some local farmers that have applied to our office for the fish.  It provides an alternative livelihood for farmers (upland restoration) and gives them another skill to be able to earn income.  My counterpart already trained the farmers before I arrived here, so all the ones who applied for the fish know how to do aquaculture already.  The farmers will rear the fry for around three months and then sell them to the local market at 100% profit.  We give the tilapia fry to the farmers for free, so it’s a really good source of income for the farmers who are able to participate in the culture project.  We start this project in June, so right know we are scouting out some potential sites for good water impoundment areas to rear the fingerlings to fry. 

Social activities n such.. My Filipino friends here at my site had a birthday party for me.  My boss let me use the nipa hut that I usually work in to host the party.  In Filipino culture the birthday person has to buy all the food and beer for everyone, which is definitely different from US culture.  So, I have my friends 1,500 pesos in the morning and we went out to do our assessments while my friends cooked food for my party.  The menu included kinilaw (raw fish in vinegar), baka (cow skin soup in bone marrow broth), a whole turkey, and some grilled squid.  Jensen, Steph, and Morgan paid for the beer which saved my bank account.  It was a nice night and I’m really lucky to have such good friends here at my site.

I went rock climbing for the first time with Morgan on the Saturday after our assessments.  We found this adventure tour company on our lonely plant book and made reservations.  We were picked up in Iloilo and driven out to this national park with guides.  It was pretty intimidating at first staring up at this giant vertical wall of limestone that I was expected to climb.  But, I got the hang of it after a few tries and really enjoyed it.  Morgan and our guides were making it look easy and I’m sure I looked like a complete idiot to them as I fell repeatedly. After we went to eat some dinner with what I thought was one of her teachers from training.  We got to the restaurant which strangely happens to be one of my favorite places to eat in Iloilo and all of my friends from my training group were hiding in the corner…surprise!  We had dinner and went out to some bars around the city, it was really nice to see everyone again since were all kind of spread out now.   

After lunch today I will be going to the hospital to get my eyes checked.  I am starting to think I need glasses because I have been trouble reading things from a distance.  My eyes have gotten progressively worse since I graduated from college.  So, I am gonna go see what the doctors opinion is later today.  Thats about all the updates I can think of.
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