Sunday, May 15, 2011

Patience is a virtue

Maayong adlaw mga partes!

Its been quite a long time since I have posted a blog update, and for that I am sorry.  According to my blog its been since March, 8th the last entry was put up, yikes.  However, I have come to work today (Monday May, 16th) ready to redeem myself for the lack of regard for my blog and its loyal followers.  So much has happened since early March here I really do not know where to start.  I have settled into my place rather nicely and only need to purchase some curtains and some flooring to make it complete.  I have been doing some “cooking” which entails pasta, fish and rice, and lots of peanut butter and bread.  Also, summer has been here for the past 6 weeks.  This is my first summer here in the Philippines and it has been pretty treacherous.  The heat and humidity are stifling; it is really similar to Southeastern summers with the humidity.  However, the one thing most Americans take for granite is AC, which we do not have much of here in the Philippines. So, there is not much relief except for taking multiple showers.. usually one in the morning, one at lunch, and one before bed.  I have developed a few small heat rashes that I also got during training when we first arrived here in mid August.  They have not been too bad, just have to throw some ointment on them and put some baby powder to dry the area out.  So, I shall transition from my ranting about the heat to some CRM work I have accomplished in the past 2 months.

I just came back from 20 plus day trip around the Philippines for work travel that has taken me to Calatagan (Morgan’s site) for a environmental youth camp, Manila (where I missed my flight back to site), Bacolod city (5 day long Project Design Management training, and Sagay (week long Volunteers for Environmental Governance training).  Starting with Morgan’s youth camp.. I spent 3-4 days prior to going to her site preparing lectures and games for the kids.  There were 5 PCV’s that pretty much ran the entire camp from morning till evening.  I presented on some various topics which included: Materials Recovery Facilties/ Recycling, Interconnectivity of Ecosystems, Water Saftey Training, and Tropical Reef Fish.  The camp went really well except for the last day when we took the entire camp (80 kids) snorkeling at a mangrove island.  The US Ambassador to the Philippines, head of PeaceCorps Philippines, and the head our sector (Coastal Resouce Management) were there as well.  So, Morgan had to leave the boat where we were helping kids snorkel to meet everyone.  Due to lack of communication which tends to happen here every once in a while.  Me and the other 3 PCV’s were stuck on the boat for over 2 hours waiting for the rest of the kids to come snorkel.  We got on the boat around 9 AM and finished with the snorkeling at 2:30 with some gnarly sunburns to prove it.  However, we were rewarded for our hard work at a cocktail party that was put on by the Ambassador, PeaceCorps, and USAID.  The party was held at the clubhouse of a golf course in Calatagan.. I know what your thinking…. PeaceCorps Volunteers and golf courses shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence or even same paragraph.  But, Calatagan is a really nice municipality which is pretty affluent due the close proximity to Manila.  The party was awesome… free food and beer and we got to “mingle” with the Ambassador, our Country Director, and some high ranking USAID people.  Some of the kids from the camp got to come as well, which was a great experience for them.  The camp gave me some motivation to start working with kids at my site.  It was awesome to see how much the kids learned and how into the camp they were.  I have been doing all fisheries work here and I hope to start working more with kids in the future.

The 5 of us at the youth camp... Peace Corps Volunteers planting trees, shocking

Water Safety Lecture

 I departed Calatagan to go to Manila to catch my flight back to my site (for 1 day) before I had to go to Bacolod for PDM.  However, usually a 3 hour bus ride took over 6 hours and I missed my flight.  So, I just stayed in Manila for two nights and grabbed a flight straight to Bacolod instead of going back to my site.  This presented one problem…I brought enough clothes for one week.  I was planning on going back to my site to grab more clothes before PDM and VEG conferences which were back to back.  I was not going to be returning to my site until May 14th, I left for the camp on April 21st.  Needless to say my clothes were pretty ragged and disgusting by the time I came back to site yesterday.  I was the brunt of many dirty/vagrant jokes during PDM and VEG.  PDM was helpful… all counterparts and PCV’s came to receive training on how to properly design a project that can be implemented and become successful over the long run here.  The project that my counterpart and I worked on was the implementation of our MPA.  We came up with a pretty solid plan that we are going to try to implement throughout the next few months here.  We also received training on the various types of grants and funding opportunities we can apply for a PCV’s in the Philippines to help assist us with projects down the line.  (Best part of the training)

After Bacolod the PCV’s and counterparts took a two hour bus ride north to Sagay City for VEG training/ coral gardening.  Sagay has a giant marine reserve and three well managed MPA’s with great corals.  The first four days were lectures about how they established the reserve and other ways they manage it.  The last 3 days were the best because we were all able to get out in the water.  The first day we visited an MPA on a nearby island and had lunch and did some snorkeling.  We meet with the community members who are really environmentally conscience.  The last two days were coral gardening training.. Tyler and Elliott (two other PCV’s) put this whole thing together and therefore get a major props and a shout out on my blog.  We went around a reef and found fragments that had fallen off corals and were in the sand, but still alive.  We then cut the corals into smaller pieces and wound them into a rope about 50 ft long.  Also we put more fragments into mesh nets that were tied to pvc pipes which we then zip tied to a table underwater.  Lastly, we did coral transplantation in which we made our own epoxy and “glued” on the broken off corals to a barren rock.  Our trainers were local Filipinos that were the authority on coral gardening, not only in this country, but in SE Asia.

Our banca during coral gardening.  Looks like a postcard

Me swimming under the coral ropes, PCV's & counterparts put  together 15 ropes with coral frags attached.

Me tying the rope to metal table.  There are about 25-30 little coral fragments tied into the rope.
Now that I am back at my site.. Actually, only for today because I am going to help another PCV on Tuesday- Friday with assessments because he is also proposing to implement an MPA at his site.  So, I will be leaving this evening to make the trip to Jensen’s site.  We will be doing seagrass/coral assessments and fish identification as well.  It was nice to be able to attend these conferences with my counterpart to put us back on track again.  We were staring to fall off a bit before the conferences and I can see he is motivated again to get our MPA implemented. 

CRM plans for June: The first week of June I will start to write a VEG grant for funding for our MPA, meet with the mayor to secure 25% of the funding from the LGU (Local Government Unit in which I work in)  which is required to get VEG grants.  Set up a meeting with the Department of Education head to see if I can start to get into some high schools and set up an environmental club for high school students and out of school youth.  Lastly, we will be setting up our Tilapia hatchery here in June as well which I spoke about during my last blog post.  So, things are starting to get busy which is a great thing! 

Vacation/Social Plans: I will be heading back to my training site.. BANATE for fiesta on June 24th.  Really looking forward to seeing my host family whom was so good to me during my first three months in the Philippines.  It seems like so long ago when we all left for our sites in mid November.  I have booked a trip for 4th of July weekend to go SURFING in San Juan with Morgan.  It is about a 4-5 hour bus ride north of Manila.  First time I will be able to surf since I left the states, almost 10 months.  I booked a trip to Vietnam in February as well.  Hope everyone enjoyed reading about a few highlights of my life in these last two months.  I will try and be more diligent when it comes to updates. 
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