First off, here is an address if you want to send me something in the mail, which I would love and appreciate. All kind words will fill my heart in times of low and lonely moments during my service.
For letters only:
Casey Dov Weinman, c/o PEACE CORPS, P.O. Box 7031, Airmail Distribution Center, NAIA, 1301 Pasay City, Philippines
For packages only:
Casey Dov Weinman, c/o PEACE CORPS, 6/F PNG Financial Center, Macapagal Blvd., 1308 Pasay City, Philippines
Cavite Site and Initial Orientation (IO)
I’m in the Philippines! It’s really fun and exciting to be at IO after a lot of preparation and waiting. Initial orientation isn’t meant to cover everything. By itself, IO is supposed to prepare you for two years of foreign service. What IO IS supposed to do, is cover a wide range of topics and prepare you for the ability to thrive and survive the rest of PST (pre-service training) and your first homestay. We go over administrative tasks, get a phone and a debit card, complete immigration documents, follow through on medical information, and begin to study Tagalog as well as build our own capacity in our respective sectors. There are three sectors of PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) in the Philippines: Education, Community, Youth, and Families, and then my sector, Coastal Resource Management (CRM).
The site of our IIRR facility in Cavite, which is about an hour and a half south of Manila, serves as the base for our PST. During this time we’ve been going over everything from water safety to cultural immersion, language study, and CRM training. Our CRM technical sessions are led by our sector manager and staff, as well as some PCVLs (Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders), and focus on topics that include: the Coral Triangle and Philippine marine biodiversity, species and ecosystems at risk, fisheries, community-based resource management, and organizational development. We, the CRM trainees, have been absorbing a ton of information to prepare us for what may lie ahead. Coral reefs act as carbon sinks and hotspots for biodiversity, but often receive a lot less attention that rainforests. These reefs are critically endangered, and this brings tragic consequences to many Filipino livelihoods that are directly connected to the ocean and its resources. We are all becoming aware of the difficult and complex coastal resources and fisherfolk livelihoods situation here in the Philippines. Our job isn’t to save the world from climate change and pollution, but if we can help empower people and communities and get small conservation “wins” along the Philippine coast then that’s something to celebrate.
I’ve been in Cavite with the other trainees a little over a week now, and though I’m very busy with language and training sessions I’ve been able to squeeze in some general fitness and running during our afternoon breaks or early in the morning. There’s not really a great variety in running locations right now, but I’ve been able to do loops around our facility. It takes about 4 minutes around if I’m moving at a pretty good clip, and while the humidity feels a bit heavy, the thickness of the air provides me with more oxygen than the Missoula air that I’m used to breathing. My first run in the Philippines consisted of the Filipinos looking at me curiously while I dodged massive puddles and “swam” through heavy tropical-storm rains. During the wet season it seems that there will be no point in planning runs to try and avoid rain showers. Any runner will get wet out there, otherwise just don’t plan on running much.
Development Approach by the Peace Corps
Part of the reason why I decided to become a PCV is because I truly believe in the mission and the PC’s approach to development. Many organizations, USAID, Red Cross, etc, have their own approaches to development which are very valid, but the PC has some very commendable community-based and long-term approaches that I’ve highlighted below:
- focus on people, not things
- process is as important as the product (how you get there is important)
- bottom up, people defining their own development agenda
- long-term vision, no quick fixes or temporary approaches
- participatory and inclusive, everyone has a voice and should own the process
- capacity building, empowering the community
- sustainability, ensuring continuity of the work
Cultural Festival Day
On Wednesday, July 8th, we participated in a cultural festival that included workshops on cultural superstitions and rituals, song, dance, holidays, and food. While I was compelled to participate in both singing and dancing, these are important cultural activities that families do for a wide variety of occasions and I am trying to become more comfortable with both. Videoke is huge here, and at some point I’ll need to get on board with that and step up the the mic.
The food station was really interesting, I tried a handful of new native fruits, and continued my exploration away from being a vegetarian by tasting new carnivorous delicacies. I tried some sort of congealed pork blood which was served in gelatinous cubes on a stick. If there is such a thing, then I guess this would have been termed a blood kabob. The highlight for most folks, however, was the traditional delicacy called balut, an egg that has been incubated from somewhere between 15 to 25 days (or so?, maybe?). I had heard horror stories of eating these off the street, but in my experience the initial drinking of the egg’s surrounding liquid and then the following two large bites of incubated yolk, embryo, and other whatnot wasn’t actually too painful. I’m not necessarily trying to go out of my way for extra balut, but it’s something I could participate in for future social reasons. One experienced PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) mentioned that it is something often done at the beginning of dates or before a night out on the town due to the believed aphrodisiac-qualities transferred to the eater. I’m not sure what my thoughts are concerning that, but I handled the balut well this time and passed the true first major challenge to my experience here outside of battling jet lag.
Videoke gets its own paragraph because its sort of scary, strange, and dare-I-say-it fun. This may come as no surprise to people that know me, but I’ve never really been a fan of karaoke. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a bad singing voice, or because I just don’t love having a few drinks and then introducing myself to the rest of a bar by singing Billy Joel lyrics, but I don’t think I’d actually participated in videoke until arriving here. Of course, the best way to jump into a new experience is with a bunch of other fun and awkward people that are doing the same. It also doesn’t hurt to pick a well-known chorus jam, which is why I went with “Hey Jude” for my first rodeo with the microphone. A strange side-note to the videoke experience, at least for me, is the videos that play in the background of the lyrics. One minute there’s a scene from what looks like a Wii-character dance party, then there’s a video of a seductive lady in lingerie before a quick switch to clips from the 1998 Pacers/Bulls series. Not sure who picked those out for videoke, but…well done sir?
Philippines vs. American Peace Corps Basketball
Well, it’s been a really really long time since I’ve decided to “ball”, but it didn’t really matter because when you fancy yourself a quick point guard and suddenly find you’re taller than everyone else on the other team, your strategy changes a bit. I still ended up guarding the perimeter, but my past life of quick dribbles and drives to the basket have long since been forgotten and were this time replaced by a good amount of rebounds and points in the paint. I think I even tried to post someone up. The Filipinos were really good players, and a lot of folks from around the compound game to watch and cheer as American’s tried to remember what they learned in high school gym class. They took us down in the first half, but in the end the height of our PC team allowed us to come away with a win. I ran out of sweat during the game, and will spend the next few days trying to rehydrate.
things frequently seen: rainstorms/ rice at every meal/ heavy rain/ rice!
nowhere to be found: somebody not sweating/ sad faces
favorite new word: dalampasigan- seashore