Posting regular blog entries has proven to be somewhat of a challenge. At my training site, cell phone service is hard to come by, internet is a whole other issue. I am now about a month into CBT (Community Based Training) and a month away from swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer at the US embassy.
CBT life is really good. I live in a gorgeous barangay and am surrounded by a lot of pretty cool people. I’m very busy. But, as a trainee, I don’t feel any of the pressure I expect I will deal with as a volunteer. I have training sessions twice a day, Monday through Saturday.
On a typical day, I wake up around 6 or 7 am to noises of a busy house mixed with dogs and roosters, and the occasional early-morning Videoke session. By this time, my host mother (nanay) and father (tatay) are already awake and busy. The kids are slowly moving and getting ready for school. Some mornings, I’ll walk to the beach with my nanay and to buy some fresh fish, right off of the boat.
I eat almost all of my meals with my host family. Everyone comes home for work or school and has lunch together. My host family noticed how excited I got trying new varieties of seafood, especially crabs. Now every time they bring home a new crab they make sure I get a picture.
By 5 or 6 at night, I’m done with most scheduled activities. Most nights, I’ll head right home and greeted by an excited group of children. Sometimes, I’ll go with them to the beach or play games at the house. If it’s rainy, I’ll stay in and watch TV (Filipino crime dramas, Filipino Family Feud, The Voice Kids), read, or work on Tagalog homework. We usually eat dinner late and I’m bed, freshly showered (tabo showered) underneath my mosquito net by 9 pm.
Before arriving in the Philippines, I really very little understanding of the work I might being doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I thought I might have the opportunity to participate in fun science-y things like coral gardening and would be talking to a bunch of fisherman. I wasn’t wrong, but now I understand the main goal of my service is local empowerment, within the framework of coastal resource management.
Here in the Philippines, coastal resources are managed more bottom-up and at a much more local scale than in the United States. In fact, many decisions happen at the barangay (the smallest unit of Filipino government) level. As a Volunteer, this is the level I will be working.
Of course, I will still probably get to do a lot of fun science-y things. Depending on the needs of my permanent site, I may need to help organize mangrove, sea grass, and coral assessments. However, I now understand that the science and data collection really takes a back seat to community organization and education/outreach.