Thursday, July 28, 2011

She does get embarrassed :/

I feel like over the course of my life, I’ve developed a relatively ‘thick’ skin when it comes to certain things. I grew up with a loving family that loved to give each other a hard time and an uncle that loved nothing more than to embarrass me.

So, generally, I don’t tend to feel too embarrassed (just a normal amount and move on) about things that happen here. I’ve done some pretty embarrassing things too- vomited off the back of a jeepney (in motion) while passing a fish market that SMELLS like a fish market, projectile vomiting right in the middle of a sidewalk in the middle of the day, falling off a jeepney (more than once), tripping in the mall, butchering the local language, spelling something incorrectly while teaching English... I could really keep going if you’d like.

Well today I experienced my most recent embarrassing moment and I must say this got to me jusssst a little.

So- all week the faculty has been preparing to sing songs in chorus at a ceremony that we had today. This particular event was an “Oath Taking Ceremony and Acquaintance Party” which was basically an induction of all class officers, club officers, faculty officers, and PTA officers.

And this ended up being a bigger even than I was expecting because we had quite a few important guests show up to watch: the mayor, the vice governor, the governor’s brother, the former governor, other important people too but its really not too relevant to the story.

Like I was saying, we have been practicing these hymns all week after school and pretty much all morning. I felt comfortable with the parts, its not like I had a solo or anything. I just had to stand up there and sing with the faculty. You wouldn’t think that it would be that hard, right?


I march up there in line with everyone else. We sing the first song, no problem. By the second song I was feeling slightly uncomfortable and a little bit dizzy. During the third song (And yeah, there were only 3 songs, we couldn’t have been standing up there for more than 10 minutes) my body decided to work against me. I started having tunnel vision and could feel myself losing my balance. Luckily for me the teachers around me noticed too and immediately grabbed my arms and called for someone to get a chair. About 4 teachers were fanning me and then grabbed me to move me to another chair as we filed off stage.

Of course the teachers were mostly laughing about my 'experience' but were generally concerned. They told me that I was really pale and ice cold. Once I was sitting down, I felt fine but they insisted that I needed to place my head between my legs so they actually shoved down on my back forcing me into a fetal like position while rubbing my back and me attempting to shout from my legs that I was fine and I would like to sit up straight.

Yes, the American is capable of ruining a short three-song performance. Yes, this ‘faint’ spell did happen in front of every prominent member of my community and my entire school. Yes, my faculty did offer to take me to the hospital but I politely declined. And yes, they did also tell me (jokingly I think) that I shouldn’t perform with them anymore since I ‘faint when nervous.’

I tried to tell them that I don’t faint when I get nervous and remind them about all the events that I’ve helped them with and spoke at but it’s no use. I nearly collapsed. There is nothing I can do about that.

This event was also quite documented so when it appears on Youtube, I’ll make sure to post you a copy for your blog.

For those who read this and maybe feel concerned about my well-being and empathetic to the terribly embarrassing moment that I experienced, thank you. You are kind hearted.

And for those who read this and didn’t even make it half way through without laughing (mom and Maggie), you’re a jerk. Lol.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Every morning, as I walk the incredibly short walk from my house to my school, I am generously greeted with plenty of ‘good morning, ma’am,’ or maupay nga aga,’ by students, neighbors, pedicab drivers, and miscellaneous adults simply standing around. Students zoom past me, panting as they attempt to get to the school before they are considered late.

The guard happily lets me inside the giant green gate to our school to which I awkwardly stand around waiting for the flag ceremony to come to an end if it hasn’t ended already.

I sleepily walk to my classroom, located on the second floor of the newest building at my school. My first class in the morning is a 4th year English class for advanced students. While students shuffle in, I put my bags down and chat with my co-teacher.

Everything has become routine at this point. I feel like a teacher now. I am a teacher now

Time to start the lesson. I walk from the back of the classroom where my makeshift desk to the front of the classroom.

Students immediately stand up.

“Good morning Teacher Celia, Praise Be Jesus and Mary,” the students recite in unison before I say anything at all.

“Now and forever,” I formally reply to their greeting.

“Amen,” they finally declare before taking their seats.

At this point I can officially begin my class. At this point I’m no longer stumbling through lectures. I confidently breeze through my lesson until I hear the bell ring, wishing I had just ten more minutes.

If I think about where I was during training, or even during my first few months at the high school, I dreaded the idea of teaching for an hour. I’m not a teacher. I’ve never been a teacher. I don’t know how to teach. How am I possibly going to keep kids engaged for an entire hour? How am I supposed to teach them something new everyday? I don’t even know that much about English!

It’s remarkable how much I’ve changed in that aspect.

I waltz away quickly racing to my next class in order to not keep them waiting. New class. New lesson. New greeting. I gather my thoughts and bring myself to Advanced English mode and prepare myself to teach my 3rd year students the importance and practicality of business writing. Before I know it, the bell rings.

Next, I have two 1st year English classes back to back. This is where I’m challenged. The kids are 11-12ish and act like it. They are noisy, silly, and love to act out. They also, sadly, have little reading comprehension so coming up with English lessons for them is a work of art. The kids require constant discipline and seem to always want to test my patience and their boundaries.

Don’t worry; I let them know whose boss!

Before, the younger kids really intimidated me. I had a hard time gaining control and I hated the idea of being a ‘mean’ teacher. I really wanted kids to like me so I tried to be nice and ask them nicely to be quiet. …. Well, like I said, that was before.

By the time the bell rings after the two back-to-back 1st year classes, I am utterly exhausted and pretty much running to my last class before lunch, Journalism. My last class is usually a breeze.

It’s time for lunch and reflection.

To be honest, at this point, I thought I would be crazy. I really didn’t feel confident that I could spend five consecutive hours with kids before lunch and could … actually enjoy it. But I do. I really do. There is rarely a day when I come home and I’m frustrated because of the kids, because of my teaching. Even on my worst days when the kids are really really bad, I still want to be there.

Even leaving training I felt unprepared. I didn’t know if the training I had received had really prepared me for adequately leading a class. At this point, I don’t really know what I was expecting. Someone can’t tell you how to feel comfortable in a classroom, its something you just have to figure out on your own. I don’t know how many times I tell my students that confidence comes with practice yet this was a difficult lesson for me to learn.

I think growing up and going through college I always thought that the one career that would definitely never be for me is teaching. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to attempt to teach obnoxious kids everyday. Now, I don’t know. I can’t say that I want to be a teacher forever but there are days when I think how exciting it must be to be a teacher in the states with resources and text books and students that really understand English! I bet it’s fun.

I even find that my brain thinks like a teacher now. If I go to a bookstore, I find myself looking at books that I think ‘my kids’ will enjoy. I’ll spend hours in the afternoon researching (yes, I know this is a luxury that most people do not have here) one lesson so I can present the material the best way possible. I’m constantly thinking of projects I can do with the kids.

Teaching may not be for everyone, but I think it’s definitely worth considering.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to make Taco Pasta

So- we took taco pasta, improved it, and made it awesome.

10 minute Taco Pasta

1 package of noodles (I used the spirally kind)
1 can of diced tomatoes undrained
1 can of corn drained
1 can of red kidney beans drained but not rinsed
1 package of taco seasoning or whatever you've got
1/4 - 1/2 can of water
cheese and sourcream if you want

1. Cook your noodles and then set aside. I just put the noodles in a strainer and then used my pot to make my 'sauce'

2. Dump the taco seasonings, tomatoes, corn, kidney beans, and mix together. Add a little water.

3. Add your noodles to the pot and mix together. It should look amazing.

4. Put some pasta in a bowl and then add some sour cream and cheese if you want/can.

5. Eat.

6. Repeat step 5 as often as needed.


Monday, March 28, 2011



I’m not exactly sure where I plan to go with this blog but it’s definitely something that’s on my mind this morning. I’ve spent some time chatting with some of my best friends at home and dieting has come up as part of the conversation with all three of them. I’d say that’s not uncommon. People diet, they want to look thin, they want to be healthy, etc.

I can’t say that I was any different. I had my gym membership that I utilized. I went to yoga every week. I ate wheat bread and wheat pasta and flax seed and wheat grass (I will never ever like wheat grass) and other frou frou ‘I live a healthy urban lifestyle stuff....’

Well, let me be clear. I still ate pizza, and French fries, and consumed way too much beer on a regular basis, but when I was in the mood, I would make healthy decisions. And I would feel guilty if I went overboard with my food choices**

I dieted before vacations, tried to eat balanced meals, exercised hard at the thought of being in a bathing suit and weighed myself before going to bed and as soon as I woke up in the mornings.

Oh how things have changed.

While talking to my friends, I realize I barely know what a diet is anymore.

My lifestyle here has drastically changed. I don’t own a scale. I don’t own a full length mirror. I rarely wear makeup. I brush my hair if I think about it. (I went about 4 weeks without a brush because I thought I lost it... It was under my bed)
I could be 30 lbs heavier, 10 lbs lighter, exactly the same weight; I really have no clue, and frankly don’t really care. Okay, I care but not nearly as much as I used to.

If I eat McDonalds 2-3 times in one weekend, I’m not plagued with guilt. If I spend all day lying in my bed doing nothing, who cares? If I spend an entire day drinking with friends and family here, that is perfectly okay. I eat whatever I want to eat. I don’t ever exercise. I eat pizza every chance I get.

And you know what? I don’t have a single PCV friend that would make me feel guilty about this. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not. We miss food and we like to eat. Period. In fact, I woke up this morning and immediately texted a volunteer that I thought it was a frozen yogurt kind of afternoon.

And obviously, she agreed.

I figured if I get really fat, Filipinos are going to be the first to let me know. If you gain a significant (or not so significant) amount of weight or lose, you will know.

You. Will. Know.

‘Celia, you look sexy today, not chubby like when you first arrived’

‘I think you are getting fatter, you must really enjoy the Philippines’

‘If you don’t eat more rice you will become too thin’

‘You are big like (can’t think of word but stores air in their cheeks as if imitating a hamster)’

Thank you people of the Philippines! Without you, I would have no idea if I was gaining weight or losing weight. No really, thank you. I have thick skin now.
Oh man, I’m making it sounds like its awful here. So, let me mention that I am told I am beautiful at least once a day (assuming I make it out of my house). And remember I told you that my standards of being ‘put together’ have dropped drastically....

Mahusay. That’s the word for beautiful. I am not exaggerating when I say I hear it every day. I love it, who wouldn’t? So people who read this back at home, for the first three months after my Peace Corps service, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me how beautiful I am everyday and then start weaning me from the compliments slowly. Thanks, I’d appreciate that!

So yeah, diets. I don’t think diets really exist here. You’re either fat or your thin or somewhere inbetween and that’s just how it is. Some people live healthier than others... that means they might exercise once a week, but trust me, everybody eats cheese lumpia and lechon and rice. Sugar is still added to everyone’s spaghetti. They still mix their tuba and/or beer with Coke.

So, what does this mean for the Philippines? Is it less of a beauty obsessed country than the U.S.? Personally, I don’t think so. Like I said, they notice if you are fat or thin, and they notice when they think you are beautiful (if you are foreign and you have light skin, you are beautiful)*** It’s just different. Some people might argue that media has a stronger influence in America maybe? I also disagree. In fact, idols here have an incredibly strong presence as well as ‘western’ style. Don’t even get me started on Justin Bieber... Maybe we are just more vein in America? Nope, try finding space to look in the mirror at the mall.

It’s just different. Economics maybe.

Okay- that’s my mini tangent on diets and lack of diets in the Philippines.

**I did not feel guilty any time there was a food challenge (e.g. 4 Krystal burgers, fries, and a coke challenge, a hamburger on a cruise ship challenge)

*** I feel like I need to make a quick mention about skin bleaching. Filipinos are obsessed with light skin. It’s actually difficult to find lotion, deodorant, or even soap that doesn’t have a ‘lightening element’ in it. Bleach. No different than tanning beds at home, just opposite.

Monday, March 21, 2011

That time Palo flooded

Wednesday night, nearly a week ago, I lay awake in my bed battling it out with a mosquito that I couldn’t seem to smash or convince to fly away and let me sleep. Around midnight, I turned on my light and decided I had to do something about this bug. Suddenly, it decided to disappear. Typical. I stared at my bed for a moment trying to decide what to do.

I noticed some water dripping down the side of my wall making a small pool of rain water on my sheets. This normally happens when it pours. Instantly distracted from my initial problem, I moved my bed so that way it wasn’t touching the wall and then put a small cup on the floor to catch the water. The sound of the rain crashing onto the roof makes me sleepy.

There was still no sign of the tiny terrorist keeping me awake.

An easy solution came to me. I would simply wrap myself in a mosquito net. I was too tired to fight anymore and just wanted to get some rest. And I did, until about 4:45 a.m. This is when someone stormed upstairs, and urgently moved around the balcony. I am typically a heavy sleeper but this woke me up. Normally, my family is great about being quiet while on the balcony as to not wake me from my deep slumbers.

After a few minutes they were off downstairs again and I was back to dozing again.
The next time I woke up was around 6:30 a.m. and this was due to my eyes burning. To this day I have no idea why they burned but it felt like someone had rubbed Icy Hot or toothpaste on my eyelids and around my eyes. They burned while they were open and they burned while they were shut. This is a mystery still to me. Eventually after 2 days the burning went away, but I have no idea what caused it. Again, I decided I was not ready to get up.

The rain was still heavy. I knew I’d be a little late to school. I closed my eyes and tried not to focus on the burning sensation in my eyes.

Around 7:00 a.m. I received a text informing me that Leyte Division Schools were closed due to flooding and to pass on the message. Jack pot. I could lie in bed all day. I decided it was time for some coffee and a bathroom trip downstairs. As usual, I stood up, opened my eyes just enough to find my flip flops and then clanked down the stairs. Before I reached the bottom step, I hit water.

If I wasn’t awake before, I was now. I realized there was nearly two feet of water separating me from the kitchen and bathroom. I walked back upstairs enough so I could see the street. Water. The roads that normally make up my town were now rivers. There were people walking around, water nearly to their waists.

I didn’t know what to do. So I just stood there in shock and disbelief for a minute. I went upstairs and decided to text some people that live around me and see if they were flooded as well. It sounded like Palo was the worst. I heard my family sloshing around so I went downstairs, knee deep in water, and stood in the kitchen with my family.

‘Kaon na Celia’

Why not? I grabbed a plate and helped myself to spam and rice and ate together with my nanay and host brother by candlelight. After breakfast, I joined my family on a short adventure into the street to see Palo. With each step I took closer to the street, I had to roll my shorts up further and further. By time I was in the river road, my shorts were wet anyway. The water was almost to my hip.

I looked around terrified. Someone smiled and shouted my name from two blocks upstream. I gave a friendly wave. Kids played in the currents and seemed to enjoy their new water roads for the meantime. Life in Palo went on. Families who lived in one storey houses simply evacuated to the high school or to stay with families who had a second level.

Morale was not destroyed. Families were still laughing. People were still walking around the streets, trudging through water with umbrellas to keep the top half of them dry I suppose.

I retreated to my room where I spent most of the day. Without power, I read and slept most of the day. I began the day in decent spirit but towards the end of the day, I started breaking.

I had no way out of Palo. I couldn’t even leave my room without splashing through muddy water. I had no idea how long there would be water in the roads. One day? Three days? Seven days? How long was I going to be camping out in my room?

I know I was not in any immediate danger but I still felt anxious. I felt uncomfortable. Most of all, I felt bored.

By the end of the day, I had cracked. I broke down and I cried. I am pretty sure I sobbed myself to sleep Thursday night out of sheer boredom.

When I woke up on Friday, the water was gone. Palo was a muddy mess but there was no more water. I don’t remember the last time I felt such immediate happiness.

I have so much respect for my neighbours and community. I didn’t last 24 hours before feeling helpless because there was two feet of water in my house. People had houses ruined, livestock drown, coffins float away, and yet they were still the same happy people they were the day before. Maybe you’re thinking they are used to this type of thing but Palo hasn’t experienced a flood like this since 1964.

And the ironic part about everything is this flood happened right after a big tsunami warning... yet, completely unrelated. Welcome to the Philippines... where you just never know what is going to happen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A blog for Maggie

I thought I would post a quick blog specifically for Maggie. She was nice enough to send me her thoughts on my blogs that I’ve written so far... so since I’m on a blogging streak anyway, instead of replying to her message privately on Facebook, why not make this a blog? (Thanks Magz- I need all the blog ideas I can get )

So here is Maggie’s message to me. I am justifying publicly posting this since she was going to put it on my Facebook wall. And that’s basically as public as my blog!

“First I want to say I tried to post the following on your wall and then a message popped up that read "your post can not exceed 1,000 characters".. k whatever face book rules! ill send it as a message then. so here ya go-

so im catching up on your last 3 blogs and thought id post my thoughts: 1. referencing your life in the Philippines to pop would probably do that here but being there makes me wonder if youre starting to lose it just a little 2. not wanting to admit this but reading your pop music references to your life all im thinking is "hmm she kinda has a point- it is like being a billionaire...they are who they are.." (ok maybe im losing it a little) 3. tsunami warning- so we must be sisters because i, like you, felt very oblivious to all that was happening until the thought of how very close you were to all the nightmare hit me (basically grandmas text letting everyone know you were safe)... i too am so sorry for all of japan and yet so thankful you were placed elsewhere. 4. seriously, still got that sore throat huh? k.. had to note that. 5. uh i find myself translating some of your blog via the scratch paper i jog down all the lingo you fill me in on, but for all of your other followers it might be a nice side note to explain what certain things mean (like chica) lol 6. GLOBAL MEDIA CENTER/LIBRARY?! awesome celia. im literally tearing up smiling and reading your most recent blog knowing prayers and support from all of those you confided in with this dream for your school could actually be coming true and in such a much larger way than you or any of us could have ever imagined! I wont get my hopes up and i know you wont either but man..this could be AWESOME!

....OK so this is my mini blog on the thoughts of your blog lol. once i reached 5 points i was going to try to just make 10 but then i thought when i got to number 6 (which was long) that 10 could be a little extreme. but hey, it was this or responding in great length to each of your blog posts and that could be exhausting too lol. cant wait to read more tomorrow. i love you. glad this was your "refined carbs" for lent”

Sweet message, right? Okay- here we go:

1. Yes, Maggie. I think it is very obvious that I am losing it just a little. Thank you for pointing it out though. Lol. Although, I did not reference a Bieber song or a Taylor Swift song – when that happens... just shoot me.

2. If you found my pop music references slightly true or insightful, I don’t necessarily think it means you are losing it. It just means you understand my brain still which makes me happy!

3. Perfectly normal. And I am glad that grandma can still make sure to keep up with me and keep everyone at home updated. She is magical. Seriously think about it, she keeps up with everyone. We have a great grandma!

4. No. Lol.

5. Keep reminding me of this! I guess I assume people will figure things out via context clues.. but yeah you are right, I can put footnotes at the end.
(chika chika – small talk)

6. Indeed, indeed. I wish I had more to say about this but things have been crazy so there hasn’t been much as far as updates go. You’ll understand as I post more blogs.

My thoughts to your thoughts:

1. I appreciate that you read and respond to my blogs. You know I’m not always super motivated to write but knowing you read and have genuine interest in what’s going on is super inspiring for me. I am so glad I have you as a sister and best friend.

2. I enjoyed reading your response. I can tell that we are sisters by your conversational tone in the message. I think our brains operate the same way. You should write blogs too. I’d totally read them.

3. I love you and miss you.

4. I think I’m going to go eat some rice, bread, pasta, and sugar. :D

I suck at blogging

So- I know I should have posted a few blogs already...

I promise to give a real blog soon, but I have a decent excuse (at least for Thursday)...

So prepare to see blogs within the next few days about my the flood in Palo and my Cebu trip!