Friday, June 30, 2006

One Turn Leads to the Next

Well as many of you now know I'm coming home September 1st to the 17th for a visit! I'm excited for this. Very excited. But don't get me wrong; I still got a lot going on here.

Since my parents and other friends left life has been busy, very busy. Work continues to surprise me every single day. At one stage I honestly thought the women’s group I have been spending so much time helping was going to dissolve. They have had more road blocks, and trees cut out from under them than I care to re-visit. Now I think they may stick it out, and if they keep doing that than success could be in their future. Maybe I should say they continue to surprise me with their drive. I've been to a number of schools as well, distributing environmental education books I was able to obtain and lucky enough to find funding to reproduce. I have been throwing myself full bore into the organic farming bit. It has such a strong chance to have a hugely beneficial impact on farmers here, possibly lowering their total input cost by up to half. Not to mention the environmental bonus. I've had three successfully test runs with an organic spray fertilizer. I have farmers asking me about it simply from the results of three short weeks of use at the Dept. of Agriculture and at the MRF (Material Recycling Facility) Demo Garden I’m working on establishing. In other words stuff is good. I have a full schedule up until the day I leave to come home, well except for a week in Manila for a mandatory Medical Examination. Fingers crossed for a clean bill of health.

So I mentioned I would have a list of "MUST DO'S" once I visit home. This list is more for my benefit than any of you....obviously. However, if any of you would like to assist me with completing any item on the list, please feel free.

  • Play a MINIMUM of 18 holes of golf, including an hour on the driving range (I'll need it).
  • Eat a number of large, juicy, medium rare steaks. Including one at Corpers 5'oclock club in Milwaukee
  • Drink a large number of micro beers, local beers, and Guinness.
  • Eat at Soup Brothers, Taco Bell, Subway, and Conohitos
  • OrderJimmy John's twice. One time eat it 5 minutes after fast you'll freak. Second time let the #9 "marinate" in the fridge overnight and eat for breakfast in the morning.
  • Go watch at least one Show (concert). (note: I'm already attending J5 on the 2nd at The Rave)
  • BBQ Wiscony style beer brats. Most important, eat 'em too.
  • Have a drink at the Pfister Cafe and Blu. Just cause I can.
  • Meet the new members of my group of friends, including; The Billingsley babies, Heidi's baby boy, and Doug and Jen's baby girl.
  • Two words. Frozen Pizza.
  • Drive again
  • At least one 2:30 am Ma Fishers excursion. I’m not saying what kind of condition I’ll be in, however if past experiences hold true, I won’t remember it.
  • Take a HOT shower everyday for 17 straight days. Some days may call for multiple.

(This list is subject to additions at anytime I see fit)

I'm also going to keep a "rough" schedule on here so people will have an idea of when I'm available and where I’m at. However seeing its two months away this is difficult at the time. All I know now are Sept 2nd I'm gong to J5 in Milwaukee, and Sept 9th and 10th are dedicated to D and Stephs Wedding. I’m still waiting to hear when the Bachelor party is…….

Here are some pictures that I had uploaded a while back but have yet to post.

Below: Two of my friends at the last Disco in my Barangay. They may or may not of had a large amount of Tanduay Rum. They may or may not be dancing in the middle of the national Highway.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Below: Eddie with his cock.
On a side note, shortly after this picture was taken his cock was killed in action. Eddie and I both lost money because of this.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Below: This is Po, he is a little crazy, but he's great. He just sits around the Barangay all day smoking cigs. If there is ever music on, watch out. He'll bust his groove. Next thing you know you just got served.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Below: Eddie.....Gwapo.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Vacationing in the 'Pines

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above: My gorgeous Mother, enjoying the Boracay sand)

I’m back. I don’t know what I’m back from. But I’m back. It seemed like my “normal life” hit the pause button about 4 weeks ago, than someone hit play this last Monday. The problem was it had to all move in fast forward to catch up the present.

What a month. May. Incredible. It started with Typhoon Celoy, only a level one when it hit here in the Philippines, my heart goes out to those in China who experienced it at a level five. I wish them all the best. I have never seen rain like that in my existence on this planet. I have seen it on TV, and heard about it from friends whom I know have experienced hurricanes. For me however, it was shocking. It rained hard on day one, day two the winds kicked up and it was still raining hard, day three I started thinking where the hell is all this rain coming from? Day four I had stopped thinking about it and was just in a state of amazement it could rain that hard for that long. Day five the rain lessoned and by the end of the day it was done. I later described it to my parents like a really bad thunderstorm that lasted four and a half days. I normally would have loved the storm. I would have taken refuge in my home with a good book, a few beers and my music and had a grand old time. However on this occasion I was waiting for two people to arrive from England. The storm was thus annoying me greatly because it was keeping me from my long reunion with my friends Mikey and Gwyneth. After a day and half of delays, some tricky (and in my opinion very lucky) changes in route they managed to slip into Iloilo during the storm. As with me living here, it was fate they made it. They went to Gwyneth’s family’s home in the town about 20 minutes from mine, and the next 3 days I spent there with them, just enjoying each other’s company and catching up. And of course watching Liverpool give me a heart attack in the FA cup final, luckily the result revived me. Liverpool, FA Cup Champions.

I left Iloilo to meet my parents in Manila the same day that Mikey and Gwyneth left for Boracay. I would be seeing them there in two days, my parents and sister in tow. While in Manila waiting to pick up my parents I managed to find a bar that was televising what was billed as a match of great possibilities of greatness. Champions League final. Arsenal vs. Barcelona. All I can state on this tender topic to my friends Bryan, Mikey, and Phil is my heart goes out to you. I heard the referee had a Barcelona tattoo on his ass.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above: Road damage after the typhoon)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

My parents arrive! After almost missing them at the airport because of the previous stated match, I found them. It was great to see them. We didn’t linger in the thriller, Manila. That city puts me on edge. So off to Boracay we went for four days in one of the best resorts on the island. It was lush. My Dad discovered Tanduay Rum, my Mom and Sister discovered fresh mango margaritas. All were happy. My family met my friends Mikey and Gwyneth and got along fabulously. Mikey, my Dad, and I drank and complained about them shopping, and the girls shopped, spent money and lay in the sun. We did do some fun stuff in the sun. We all did a tour of the island by boat that included some fun snorkeling adventures. Mikey and Gwyneth couldn’t resist the Jet Ski’s so they rented one for a while, Mikey says he let Gwyneth drive, I don’t believe him. Why? Well they both came back alive, that’s why. And of course my Sister and I had a bonding moment two hundred meters in the sky, while we parasailed together.

Boracay was fun. However the real adventure for my family began after we left the touristy paradise and I introduced my family to the real Philippines, including places and people. So after a short bus ride (only 10 more minutes Mom!), our first stop in the real “Philippines” was my first host family in the Province of Capiz, Municipality of Sigma. It was a short stay, only one evening, but was the first of numerous amazing meals we had. It was also my family’s first experience of the amazing hospitality of the Filipinos.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above: Mikey and Gwyneth in a hamock on Boracay)
(Below: My dad might have had to much Tanduay Rum, and was getting "frisky" with the statue, my Mom didn't aprove)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above: Boracay's White Sand Beach, directly in front of the resort we stayed at.)
(Below: My sister, Tricia, and I having a sibling bonding momment in the sky.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Below: Tricia in Boracay)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The next morning we were off again, but this time I was going home. Home to Barangay Damalisan, Miag-ao. After nearly ten days of being away I was eagerly waiting arriving home, however I think the real expectations lied on my family’s shoulders. This is where their Son/Brother had been staying for the past year. I think it would be suffice to say that once they arrived in my Barangay, Damalisan, that my Family began to understand why I enjoy it here so much. Mind you I didn’t have time to see this initial enjoyment. After arriving I was on another quick trip back to the city. My friend Jen was arriving from Switzerland that evening. A few hours later I was reacquainted with Jen after nearly three years and she was meeting my parents for the second time on a second continent.

Jen and my Sister made quick friends in my Barangay and were persuaded to enter a Barangay Volleyball League game. By league I mean just lots of fun. I sat with my parents in the “seats” of honor and watched and laughed as they played. The next two days included lots of swimming and playing, some cock fights, much more eating, hikes were accomplished, native products where purchased, landmarks were seen. It was good.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above left: Cake made for my family and Jen, obviously I wansn't welcomed.)
(Above right: My Sister and Dad enjoying there first Cockfight.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above: Mom and Dad on a hike to go visit waterfalls in Miag-ao.)
(Below: My sister getting to know the local Carabao, water buffalo)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
(Below: Tricia with her new friends)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

After only two days, that were far too short, we relocated to the town proper of Miag-ao, to stay at my other host families home. Needless to say my Mother loved the change in accommodation; we all stayed at my host father’s brother’s house. It had all the need traveling accessories; air con, hot water, flushing toilets. My Mommy was at ease. This was also the time that she got to see one of my good friends play guitar and sing classic folk and country songs at a local bar. After his performance he sat at our table and continued a private concert for another two hours. I believe my mother put it best by saying he is a “national treasure.” If you were to hear Bobot Tisoro you would agree. He is brilliant. (Below: Bobot Tisoro performing at the Casa Monticlaro.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
(Below: My dad watching the performance)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Below: The day before Mikey and Gwenyth left they had a going away party and Gwenyth's Parent's House. We all got together one last time.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So with four quick days under our belts in Miag-ao, two in my Barangay and two in the town proper we were on the road again. This time to another Island. The fourth one in 8 days. This was to be a bit different than previously. It was the real Philippines, minus all the people I know. At a small resort, with limited electricity (four hours a day). But what the resort lacks in electricity it makes up for in location. Set in a small cove overlooking a number of deserted white sand beaches. I don’t think you could ask for a more tranquil spot. My Parents may differ, but I am the one who had been adjusted to the heat and bugs. Regardless they enjoyed it. The fresh food was amazing, sunsets stunning. My favorite part, for two days we had nothing to do. No ones house to go to eat, no appointment to meet, nothing to go see, only lay around, read, drink, eat, swim.

(Below: Jen on the way to Gimaras Island)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Of course we had one more cultural interaction to attend to. The day before my parents left we headed back to Miag-ao. You see they departure in the Philippines was timed very well. The night before they flew out, Miag-ao was hosting the cultural presentation for the provinces “Culture Month.” There my parents got to see native dances, tribe competitions and singers. It was an excellent way to leave there trip.

It was great, beyond what I am capable of writing in words, to see my family and spend two weeks with them here in my new home. Nothing would make me happier than to have them come back.

(Below: A Native Tribe Performance)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Once my family had returned to the States I had asked each write a brief synopsis of their feelings, experiences, and thoughts of the time they spent here. I wanted to post them on my blog to give a more rounded impression of their time in the Filipinas. Upon receiving them the other day in my email I read them and at the thought of posting them on my blog I was overcome with a very Filipino feeling. I tried to explain this feeling to my family when they were here. It is difficult for westerners to understand. I would say in the dialect, "huya ko." The literal translation meaning Ashamed. Now an easier word for most westerners to understand, or grasp, would be Shy. Shy was how I defined it for my first 6 months here, but I have come to believe that Ashamed is a better translation. I am going to post my Parent's and Sister's writings, however Huya Huya Ko. Now to throw in my bit of westerner I didn't pay them to write what they wrote. No I didn't blackmail them. I couldn't, everyone knows the dirt on my Dad, I think my Mom hides hers better, and my Sister is the good child of the family with none what-so-ever. So with no further delay....My family; Doug, Patty, and Tricia.

My Lil' Sister......Tricia

Family vacation, a usual destination for the typical American family: Disney world, Grand Canyon, the beach, now for the Banwart family we only like to travel short distances like Iloilo, Philippines. Maybe not the shortest of distances for a vacation but a well worth it travel. This vacation/travel was more then the typical vacation it was a life time opportunity because of the reason as to why this opportunity arose. That reason being my older brother Lloyd and his new home in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer. A year since the last I saw my brother has shown me his maturity and thirst for knowledge. Living and breathing in a new culture and society and truly adapting and becoming a loved individual are exactly what my brother has come to do. Though our trip was 2 weeks long the experiences and traveling in the Philippines was only the tip of what my brother has undertaken, yet this small sampling was magnificent and heart warming. I can truly say of the entire trip some of my most treasured times were in the small barangay Damilison were my brother lives. Just sitting around and talking with residents and playing with the little kids was incredible. My favorite observation, or even envy, lies in my brother’s capability to have learned and continue to educate himself in the local language. I loved to listen to my brother talk to locals and sometimes to see there faces in peer astonishment of his ability to speak so fluently. Seeing how Lloyd was taken in by this large group of loving and caring people, as though he was one of there own, was exceedingly moving. This only begins to speak of the generosity and caring people I had the true pleasure and honor to spend some great moments with. Though Lloyd's neighbors and friends were very excited to meet us, I really don't know if they knew how excited we were to meet them, and how much they truly have touched us. On this lovely vacation the views and scenery were breath taking, the food amazing, but I have to say that the true beauty was in the people. I think of my trip has an honor, an honor that my brother can be one of those truly rare individuals that can take on such a role and excel so well at it, honored to travel to such a breath taking part of the world, and honored to meet so many loving people. It may be another year or more till I see my brother again but a visit back to the Philippines may be in order!

My Father......Doug

Hello there. Well my boy finally got me to leave the U.S. and see part of the world. We decided if we were to see our son that we would have to fly to the Philippines and visit him on his turf after 14 months. Lloyd met us at the airport in Manila, after 24hrs of flying it was really good to see him; he looked very content and well adjusted to his new home land. We all began our 2 week stint in the Philippines with Lloyd being our guide and interpreter for the Island of Panay. It started with four days in Boracay; a beautiful resort Island with soft white sand beaches. Lloyd didn’t seem much different at first but the more we were around him he really impressed me. His maturity and independence was almost overwhelming. Lloyd has grown up to be a fine, conscientious young man with a great ability to interact with all types of people. He really got our attention with is ability to communicate with the local population in their own language (Illongo). After the adjustment time at the resort we proceeded to see his Island of Panay by going and staying with host families and friends of Lloyd's. The people were extremely friendly to us and were extremely hospitable with air con rooms to sleep in and exorbitant meals fit for kings. The genuine respect, friendship, and complete acceptance of Lloyd and his family really impressed me on how well Lloyd has created a new and loyal loving family within the Philippines. Everyone we meet genuinely seemed to love and respect him, but wished he would allow them to do more for him. He is very independent but at the same time shows great respect, love and friendship to all the people that have helped him, work with him and just enjoy his company. His gift of becoming part of the community in which he lives and works really impressed me and showed me how great of a man, humanitarian, and loving person my son has turned out to be. This was an exceptionally and loving (quality time) trip that I totally enjoyed and hope if things work out that we could do it again.

My Mommy.....Patty

Well what can I say that Doug already hasn’t about Lloyd. We are both so very proud of him. To say the least my experiences were varied. You all must understand that my idea of roughing it is not being pool side. To say the least I loved Boracay. With much trepidation we headed inlands to meet the people that have become so much a part of Lloyd’s life & ours. The hospitality provide us was overwhelming! I can not begin to put into words the concern for our well being that was expressed by all that know Lloyd. Lloyd did share with us that of a fish bowl feeling most apparent when we went to a local market in Capiz, at first I was very uncomfortable; however after a few minutes & Lloyd speaking the language to the locals it became less intimidating to me. I really enjoyed watching the children watch us, curiosity is universal. In retrospect I am very glad we took the trip as a family. The country is breathtakingly beautiful, rugged, and hot and not what most Americans would even consider a vacation (other than Boracay). Never the less we were afforded opportunities to see & do things most others can only imagine; from riding in a dump truck up to a mountain village & hiking into waterfalls to our very own private late night concert by the local folk singer in Miag-ao. I wish he put out a CD, it was mesmerizing. The trip to Gimaras was rugged but I would not have missed it for anything. It was truly the Philippines at her most pristine. I know that Lloyd is safe, loved & looked out for, and doing what he loves, what more could a mother ask for? It is very hard as a parent to let your children go, Doug & I read some were that the two greatest gifts (& Hardest) you can give a child are “roots of responsibility & wings of independence.” Lloyd has great roots and we love watching him fly!
To my family, thank you. Nothing makes me happier than being able to do the things in my life that make me happy and to have that kind of support from my family.

Upon the Departure of my family I still had one more week of vacation left with Mrs. Jennifer. The same day my family left Jen and I headed back to my Barangay. They following day there was a Disco, with the uber loud speakers, and lots of drunk guys. I sat on the sidelines and watched the Dance, but Jen and all her new found friends, for she had many, busted their groove until 4:30 in the morning. At which point I was awoken and told we had to leave, the first trip to Boracay would be passing my house at anytime.

So me on less then 2 hours a sleep, and Jen on zero, headed to Boracay. My second time in 3 weeks. We had a fun two days of relaxation there, well mine was relaxation, I think Jen’s was spent shopping. Of course we had some fun nights out, and just a word of warning on the Long Island Ice Teas. Watch out. Than for the last night of my vacation, and Jen’s, we headed to a going away party of one of my friends. It was very relaxed and enjoyable.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Above and Below: Jen with her new friends)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Of course the next day getting Jen’s flight was not. It is the Philippines and Flights do get randomly cancelled…I guess. After a little bit of panic mode we straightened everything out. Jen was on a flight to Manila and I was on a bus home. I loved having all my guests over that 3 week period. It was brilliant. Most volunteers don’t get one or two people to visit them in two years.. I’m very lucky in that respect. I will also add that of the 7 people to visit me at my new home here in the Philippines all 7 have expressed serious idea’s of returning. That’s the Philippines for you. I’ve had friends from Europe and my family come visit, mind you I’m yet to have a friend from the States come and visit…..nudge nudge.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Quick Update

Hello all! I have not posted in quite some time. For those of you who have sent me emails I have not responded in quite some time. I want to say, I'm working on remedying both of these things. I have been on leave from work for 3 weeks because my lovely family; Mother, Father, and Sister came out to the Philippines to visit me. I had 3 great friends visit in that period as well, Mikey and Gwenyth from England and Jen from Switzerland. Needless to say it was a great 3 weeks, but I have a lot to catch up on. I will be working on a full, complete report for my blog that will have lots of pictures. Hope to have it up early next week. Also if you wrote me an email and I haven't responded yet, I will.

Hope Everyone is Great!