Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One Flew over the Cocks Nest

It has been some time, well over a month, since I have last posted. I am sitting here pondering where to start this post. I know before it is finished it will be long. Like most things, at least for those of us who aren't overly gifted in this writing department, it is easiest to start at the beginning. So that is what I will do, start at the beginning. Where is the brining? Oh yea, as my last, very short post mentioned, my Christmas was grand (see below). It was quickly followed by a very crazy New Years. Spent with nearly twenty other volunteers, all of whom in prime condition to bring in 2007 in spectacular fashion. I brought it in three nights in a row, or should I say three sunrises in a row. After that weekend I realized I may still be young, but I am no longer 19. My body hurt.
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On Nogas Island, on the Eve of Christmas Eve. No power, no people (except us), no worries.

Speaking of being young, I am now officially, in num
bers, closer to 30 than I am to 20. I don't like this one bit. In representation of this I did nothing special for my birthday this year. I bought a couple cases of beer for my friends, and a 4 kilo fish to cook up (pictured below). That was the just of it. It was enjoyable, the night ended early, and for the most of it I tried to pretend it wasn't really my birthday. It’s funny, when you are a little kid you want everyday to be your birthday. I think it was only a year or two ago and I still wanted many days to be my birthday. I have now officially crossed over to thinking of one birthday a year is far too many. Regardless of my negative birthday feelings, I had a grand birthday present awaiting me. I just had to hold out one more week, and in that week do a lot of work. I had 5 great friends arriving in a week. First I had a full plate of work to do.

My Birthday Present to myself


December and January have proved to be great months with regards to my projects at site. I started December off knowing I would be quite busy. My counterpart and I decided to organize a competition of sorts for the yearly Municipal Festival, Salakayan. The competition would tie in the work we have done in schools on environmental education, educate the community further, and prove as a fund raiser for Solid Waste Management and Environmental Education in the schools in the upcoming school year. This competition is to be "Mutya Ng Kalikasan," or Ms. Nature. The overall concept is similar to a regular beauty pageant. which there are plenty of here in the Philippines. However we have added some other twists as well. The gowns must be constructed of all recyclable wastes and native plants. The talent must have an abstract link to the environment, the production numbers are informative, interpretative dances, regarding different aspects of environmental education. Of course the interview potion will pertain to the overall concept of the program. 100 percent of funds earned will go directly to the schools Solid Waste Management budgets and environmental education. Also each of the participating seven high schools is partaking in a recycle drive competition to see who can collect and sell the most recyclable waste to the local junk dealers association. All and all it is a good project, with lots of ground and prep work needed have it go off successfully. Thus my nervousness of being away from work for seven days while my friends were visiting me, just weeks before the program D-day. I did manage to accomplish lots of prep work and after being back from my vacation it seemed to have paid off. With only four days to go all is on track.

Of course this wasn't the only thing that was occurring in my working life in the past two months. It is funny how some things just fall from heaven into your lap. I have had a relatively good service in the Peace Corps thus far. My host agency has been extremely supportive and I have had the funding needed to complete some worth while projects. However what occurred at the end of December made me feel a bit guilty. There are other volunteers who are not near as blessed as me in regards to their support at site. The Chargé d'Affaires's ("vice-US Ambassador’s) wife had come to visit my town; while she was here we started talking about aspects of Miagao, and obviously potent ional development projects. The Major had mentioned a pottery village that I had visited a number of times and this is where I conversation led. I have often thought this village would be a great site for a livelihood sustainment project, however with only five months left at site I didn't feel I could acquire the funding and support to launch a full scale project, and a half effort one would only leave the village in worse condition. After a long discussion, a number of emails, some other random contacts, and a quick project proposal, all in the midst of my work with Ms. Nature and the holidays I was able to procure a sizable grant from the US Embassy. So sizable that at first Peace Corps was not going to let me have it because it would have been 2/3 the amount of their total from the US Embassy for all volunteers in the Philippines. Once again I was back to emails and phone calls and I was able to procure it outside of the regular Peace Corps funding. The only catch is I have to stay until the funding for the project has been spent, and the project is well established. Thus I am extending my service. As of now for 3 months, however this could change to an additional 2 or 3 months (5-6 months total) depending on the progress of this project. Regardless I believe I will be leaving the Philippines by the end of 2007. (Note: This does not mean I’m going home, but simply leaving the Philippines. I have a lengthy trip planned; however I will get to that later this year.) Once the Ms. Nature ends, on February 5, I won't be letting up much, but diving full bore into this livelihood sustainment project. All and all I like this work a lot. Its nice to be really busy, the days fly by and I sleep quite well at night knowing that I am doing, or at least trying to do, some good in my town. I do know that for the most part the pottery sustainment project will be my last major project here in Miagao. I may get my hands dirty in a couple of other small ones but nothing as big as this. Thus, even more so than others, I hope to make it very successful. It is the American in my wanting to leave behind a legacy. Saying that sounds terrible. That is not why I am doing it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit it would be a nice bonus as well.


I said at the beginning I said I would start at the beginning. I did, but I have to regress a bit now. In the midst of all this work, I had four crazy "AmeriKanos" visiting me and one crazy Frenchman....wait, I mean Englishman. I always get those two confused, seeing how similar they are. The Englishman arrived on a Saturday night, with the Americkanos arriving the following morning. The cast is as follows.

Justin Pete Kyle

John Tin Tin

Within hours of them being in the Philippines I had them at a one cock derby. The infamous cockfights. In retrospect, if timing would have allowed, they may have enjoyed this mindless slaughter of poultry much more after having spent a handful, or even one, night in the Philippines. Particularly a few nights at my home, where it is encircled with cocks of different colors and sizes. All making the very same sound at very irregular hours of the morning and night. Within minutes of being at the cockfights I could tell I had my friends culture shocked to the extreme. It was a joy to show them such a different aspect of the culture so early on. They were also jet legged, no matter how much “Extra Joss” (Filipino Red Bull x 10) I fed them. Eventually, after breaking even, we walked out. Justin thought he may have been the reason for us leaving, but I assured him that falling asleep and knocking over a few beers was not enough to get kicked out of a cockfight.

The following day a party of epic proportions was thrown. Since having returned from my gallivants around the Philippines with this cast and crew, I have returned to hear continues rave reviews of this party. “Better than fiesta” sums it up quite well. Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of people, and of course Videoky. Also, upon insistent requests of Kyle, a 31 kilo tuna. For those of you who are metric impaired that is 68.2 pounds of fish, all cooked between bamboo poles over a charcoal fire. The party went late, and being Monday some of my friends were wondering how the music was blaring and the videoky screaming at 1:00 AM, without there being complaints of neighbors or cops showing up. I quickly told them two of the local cops were there. I also explained “Bahala na” to them. Come what may. It’s a grand Filipino concept.

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Tin Tin, Justin, and Kyle standing in aw of this grand fish.

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Tin Tin continuing his friendship with Uncle Eddie

The two days following the party were full of hikes, swimming, boat rides, snorkeling and diving. It was seeing the heart of the Philippines, the nature and the culture. There was riding on the back, top, and sides of jeepneys and trikes, watching why locals can climb and swim better the foreigners, playing with water buffalos, finding out that Kyle is not an ocean buff, discovering temperamental monkeys, finding that cold showers in the tropics are not always nice, John beginning to get his beat down by the Filipino sun and weather, and so on and so forth. All and all it was tiring, but it would prove to be nothing more than a slight warm-up, if not a relaxing beginning to what would follow for the final four days of the trip.

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Pete and a water buffalo, the water buffalo wasn't was smelled.....

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Justin looking down at me and the falls, he and his brother would later have faild attempt at back flips

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Kyle in the Miagao mountains. Lookin' Good. Your going to bring what back? And do what to them?

On the Thursday after there arrival we woke up early (yet again) and headed for the tropical paradise island of Boracay. Here we would no longer be a freak show of six white guys walking around together. We would be normal again. If only for two days. As a matter of fact we picked up one additional white guy in the form of Jeremy, my friend and fellow volunteer who lives on the island north of there. The two days in Boracay were crazy, with me getting far to intoxicated the first evening, with gentle persuading by the others of course. We did have to ditch Kyle and John, they were being a bit of a bore and we had to give them there overall space for the night. However later that evening Kyle provided us all with enough quote worthy material for years to come, even if he does not recall it all. The second evening was a bit tamer. Through interesting events we ended up at a male model show. Some of us called it quits from there, with an early wake up coming the next day. Others stayed and enjoyed the male models. I was not in the latter. With the early wake up we all headed to Kalibo, for the famous Ati Atihan festival. This is where things really started turning into a big daze. Red Horse were drank early in the day, and late. Drums were beat upon. Dancing was done. Friends were made. Sleep was NOT had. Two days and nights of this foolishness. Many stories were created. All of which are beyond the ratings of this particular blog. It was a great way finish my friends trip and to send my friends off. I may not see them again for two years, but I will remember that week, perhaps not the last two days, but that week for the rest of my life.

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That is a can of Red Horse in Kyle's hand. The rest you can decipher for yourself

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That deciphers it for you. I believe he was approving of the singer to his back. They almost made it big.

John also approving of the singer

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We were trying to get Tin Tin drunk enough to take him here. We did. The problem was we were to drunk to remember where it was

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This photo requires some back ground. Before I left for the Philippines, almost two years ago, I met up with Erin (the girl pictured above) in Madison. Eric (the guy on the T-shirt) was also with me. We did the normal chat and meet thing. After she left Eric turned to me and said “I give her two weeks and she is back in the States.” Of course one evening I let this slip to Erin. Since Eric couldn’t make it here himself for her to flip him off, his picture would do

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Tin Tin making friends....He does that so well.

That Monday morning, after the last night of Ati Atihan my friends from America went home, much to my disappointment. It was a delight having them. I loved showing them where I have been living and it was great to spend so much quality time with a group of people I genuinely missed and genuinely enjoy spending time with. I can't wait till the next time were together to do it again. The bonus however was that my Englishman friend, Stuart "Tin Tin" Skinner, stayed. Stay tuned for the next episode our travels. Also to come will be more pictures from the above mentioned vacation along with some alternative commentary from the Kanos........