All in the past week or so, I left the wonderful barangay I had learned to call home, traveled to Manila, reunited with all the Peace Corps Trainees in my batch, met my work partner, took an oath at the US embassy, and moved to a new island, with new host family. (Also, I finished Harry Potter for the first time.)
First, leaving my CBT (community-based training) site was even harder than I expected. I felt like I couldn’t (and still can’t) possibly express all the gratitude I have for the family that had taken me in those two months. The hardest part was saying goodbye to the three kids. I cried. A lot. It was mildly embarrassing.
Next, we were in Manila, gathered together at a very nice resort a good ways out of the center of the city. It was busy.We had information sessions most of the days and stayed up way too late, savoring the little time we had as a group. Also we went shopping in the heart of Manila and ate Chinese food. The one morning I had off, I slept more than 12 hours.
Then, our work partners arrived, 62 Filipinos from all over the country who had somehow been tricked into spending the next two years with one of us. For two days, we attended sessions together and worked on setting goals and expectations. It was exciting. And awkward.
Our last day in Manila, we took a 3 hour bus ride through heavy traffic to get the the US embassy. I didn’t have much of any feelings one way or another going into the event. I’m not much for ceremonies in general. But, it is kind of a big deal- it marks the official transition from Peace Corps Trainee to Peace Corps Volunteer. It was very formal, but I suppose it was nice. We heard some speeches, took an oath, introduced ourselves in our new languages, and in true Philippines form, performed some song and dance numbers. After taking a few hundred pictures, we loaded back into our buses and drove the 3 hours back to the resort.
Then, we all went right to bed, because, as responsible Peace Corps Volunteers, we had all packed the night before. Joke lang! (“Joke lang” is the PH equivalent of just kidding, used much more frequently.) Most of us packed at the last minute and stayed up entirely too late celebrating and saying good bye and good luck to our batchmates.
Now, I’m at my permanent site. I’m the only volunteer in my municipality and it’s strange telling people that I will be here for 2 years. For the first 3 months at site, we are under a travel ban- meaning anything but day trips is prohibited except under special circumstances. Again, I feel a bit like a newborn baby. I can’t speak the language and have no idea how to get around by myself- also, people smile at me a lot and take my picture.
But, this is still an incredible experience. Just today- I attended a Hiligynon-language Roman Catholic Mass, went to 3 malls, bought a computer, checked out a mountain resort, and ate some iguana. Tomorrow, I’ll be at work by 8 to participate in the LGU (local government unit) flag raising ceremony.
That’s all for now. More to come.