We Wish You a Merry Christmas aka Give me 10 Pesos

Our First Meeting
What a beautiful child, I thought to myself. I smiled and she smiled back. She joins me as I walk home from work. I stroll leisurely across the campus and the beautiful child begins to sing. "We wish you a merry Christmas. We wish you a merry Christmas. We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Glad tidings we bring.." She knows the entire song. I do not. We continue walking and she begins singing "Jingle Bells" Again she knows the song. I do not. She holds out her hand and as I don't have any food in my bag and I do not give out money, I simply shake my head. I smile and we part ways.

The following day I ask one of my colleagues how she handles "carolers" She knew right away what I meant and asked, "street kids or carolers?" She doesn't give out money either and she told me to be extremely careful if there are a group of "carolers". I thanked her as she confirmed what our safety and security officer had already told us volunteers.

Second Chances
There is that beautiful girl again. I smiled, greeted her, and continued walking. We pass each other. She turned around and followed behind me changing her original course.
"We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas. Give me 10 pesos." 
"No" I thought about the food in my bag...
She turned back around and continued on her way. I guess she was busy today. It happened so fast I didn't even have time to offer her the food in my bag.

The Third Time is the Charm...?

Twelfth Month

One aspect of Peace Corps training is learning about Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA). During training, part of conducting PACA was creating a seasonal calendar with the teachers, pupils, and parents in the community to identify key events in the year that impact each group. An emphasis was placed on times of the year that are particularly stressful AND particularly joyful. Twelfth month fell into both categories. Christmas preparations and parties, end of year bonuses, and competitions dominate the final month of the year. Here is a brief recap of some of the activities the pupils, parents, teachers and I engaged in before vacation began yesterday.

Journalism Competition
The competition was a 3 hour bus ride away and pupils and teachers were gone for five days. We had competitors in the editorials and feature writing categories. They slept at the school hosting the competition, had intermittent access to water and the comfort room. We did not place in this competition, but the teachers were very glad that the pupils gained experience even though they said that the conditions were "very difficult". I would call that an understatement.

Dance Competition
This was an afternoon trip. The competition took place at the local university campus. We placed second in the group competition and one of the pupils from Grade VI - Rizal placed first in the individual competition.

Choir Competition *This is a funny story and illustrates just how much I laugh at myself here. 
I was delighted when I was invited to attend the choir rehearsals. It was fun to interact with the pupils outside of the classroom and I got the opportunity to spend some time getting to know the choir director. During one of the rehearsals I asked Sir the date of the competition and if I could attend. He said yes and that he was going to invite me so I was mildly embarrassed that I had invited myself before he extended the invitation.We were discussing logistics and Sir said we would all meet at school and travel together. Yay!
The day before the big competition we have this conversation after a dress rehearsal that I think went well.

Sir: I know it is inconvenient but we are meeting at 5:30
Me: 5:30?
Sir: Yes. Is that okay?
Me: I will see you at 5:30

The day of the competition I wake up at 4:00 as usual, but unlike usual I prepare to leave the dorm at 4:45. The water is not on in the dorm yet so I pack my toiletries to bathe at the school and proceed to walk down the path that leads to the road where I will catch the jeepney to the school. It is dark. I am legally blind. My glasses are steamed up. Big scary carabao is sleeping in the middle of the path that leads to the road where I will catch the jeepney to the school. Said carabao lifts its head in time to prevent me from tripping over it and falling flat on my face. Instead big scary carabao startles me, I jump and I stumble into a pothole. I laugh and tell Mr. Carabao to keep our secret and I continue on my way. I limp  to the jeepney and arrive at school, but nobody is there. I wait. I bathe. I wait some more. 2 hours later, Sir arrives at school and I ask him what time  we are  leaving. He gives me a look like I know I told you this yesterday, and says once again 5:30. Yes, he meant 5:30 pm as in 30 minutes after the school day ends inconvenient. I thought he meant 5:30 am as in 2 hours before school starts inconvenient. He tries not to laugh and he apologizes. I laugh hard and loud and tell him no apology is necessary.

Fast forward to 5:30 pm and we are all gathered outside of the school laughing, joking and taking pictures. The competition is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm so we are in no rush. The competition begins at 8:00 pm.
I quickly size up the competition in the youth category (5-14) Team 1 is no competition. Team 2 is no competition. We are team 3 and we ROCK! I clap, scream, cheer, and whistle. Team 4 uh oh definite competition. Team 5 uh oh more competition. The adults (15+) compete and there is a clear winner. The judges deliberate. Third place goes to not us (yippee) Second place goes to not us (YIPPEE) We know we have won it and we are already screaming. First place goes to us and the crowd goes wild. We are truly a hot mess - running, jumping, clapping, screaming, cheering and whistling. One of the girls claims I am their good luck charm and I smile. PhP 10,000 is the prize money. The adult winners take pictures with the youth winners and we climb back in the jeepney to go back to school. I stay on the jeepney and continue on to the dorm. I am so not a night person and it is well after 10:00 pm I get off the jeepney and consider taking a pedicab, but decide to walk like I usually do. After I am off the road and on my path to the dorm I spot Mr. Carabao who is thankfully not sleeping in my path. I laugh as I say "Good night Mr. Carabao". Yes, I talk to the carabao, the cows and even the horses.

Grade 4 Teacher Party
What is a Filipino party without karaoke

Class Parties for Grades 1-6
I attended as many as I could for as long as I could

Grade 2 Teacher Party
Awww crabs. I love eating wonderfully delicious messy crabs!

District Party
A mandatory 8 hour party attended by the teachers and principals. Teachers from each school perform a song or dance, and facilitate parlor games. I am sooooo glad our school was assigned to perform a dance.( I even taught the teachers the cupid shuffle) Retirees and New teachers are honored. Politicians stop by to deliver "inspirational" messages and extend Christmas greetings. Teachers order delivery from McDonalds and KFC. Yes they deliver here and I have pictures to prove it*. We sit at assigned tables and eat all day during and between all of the other activities.

* I am blogging from an internet cafe so pictures will be uploaded at a later date



Please keep those affected by the storm in your thoughts and prayers throughout the holiday season and the new year. Over 1,000 are feared dead and 400+ are still missing. For the time being, the Philippine government has not requested international assistance but the Philippine Red Cross is coordinating disaster response.  

Philippine Red Cross
Cash donations:
Account Name: Philippine Red Cross
Account Number: Peso: 00-453-0018647 Dollar: 10-453-0039482

In-kind donations:

Philippine National Red Cross
Bonifacio Drive, Port Area
Manila 1018, Philippines
For inquiries, email: fundgeneration@redcross.org.ph or call Hotline 143 or (+632) 527.0000.


Try Something New for 30 Days

Twelfth Month 3, 2011

For those of you who don't know this about me, I love TED Talks. I am even more addicted to TED Talks here in the Philippines than I was in the US. I don't know how that is possible, but it is. I watched this talk on the 21st of Tenth Month and it has been on my mind ever since (Please watch the talk before or after continuing with this post) It was the perfect Talk for me that night for two reasons: 1. I was looking for a blog challenge for myself and now I have discovered it. I will try something new for 30 days and blog about each month's new endeavor. In theory I will do this for the duration of 2012. I will let you know how it goes. 2: Before I even heard the talk I had already decided that I wanted national novel writing month to be part of my future.So here is where I need some assistance. I have already prayed about and decided on some of my 30 day challenges, such as scheduled daily prayer, scripture reading, and the aforementioned NaNoWriMo challenge, but I am eager to hear and willing to try challenges suggested by others. If you have a suggestion please let me know in the comments section, via linked in, twitter, or even facebook.


Everyday is Thanksgiving

Eleventh Month 24, 2011

I recently received a text message asking me how I explain Thanksgiving. I have never explained Thanksgiving before, but my response to the text was simple: Thanksgiving is a day set aside for giving thanks. 

As the title of this blog suggests, I adhere to the tradition of conservative Friends in not celebrating holidays. Every day is a blessed holy day as given to  us by God.That being said, being in a foreign country for Thanksgiving has made me very aware of the actual holiday and I dedicate this post to God and to all of the people for whom I am thankful.

I am thankful for life, health, and strength. I am thankful for long walks in the sunshine. I am thankful for tuko, the gecko, who makes me laugh with his nightly serenade. I am thankful for the frogs who greet me at my doorstep in the evening. I am thankful for my medical kit. I am thankful for colleagues who encourage me to teach and learn. I am thankful for parents who trust me to teach their children. I am thankful for children who trust me with their thoughts and ideas. I am thankful for ink pens and letters from friends.  I am thankful for authors who dare to put radical ideas in print.I am thankful for books. I am thankful for my Sony Reader. I am thankful for Project Gutenberg.I am thankful to God for it all.

A Thanksgiving Devotion for 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I praise You God, that the things that happened in my past, both enjoyable and painful, are raw materials for blessings, both in my life and in the lives of others. I choose to look beyond my past and present troubles in this temporary life - and fix my eyes on the unseen things that will last forever. I praise You for the eternal glory these things are piling up for me as I choose to trust You.
Author Unknown

Thank You
I am thankful for friends and family who lift my spirits and keep me grounded.

I have been the recipient of so much love, generosity, kindness and support. I am thankful for that love, generosity, kindness, and support; It has sustained me.

Thank you Mountain View Friends Meeting
Thank you Raenell
Thank you Kathryn
Thank you Rosie
Thank you Shar
Thank you Patty
Thank you Constance
Thank you Karen
Thank you Amy B.
Thank you Jane
Thank you Gail
Thank you Jaron
Thank you Evelyn
Thank you Jerica
Thank you Alarice
Thank you John

I received a text message today wishing me a Happy Tofurkey Day from my friendly neighborhood vegan. I am thankful for that text message. It made me smile. Thank you Kevin.


Teacher Training 1

Tenth Month 23, 2011

This has been a very busy week. The pupils were preparing for the second quarter periodical examination and I was preparing to facilitate my first teacher training at my permanent site.
The topic for this training was basically working together to make English fun. 45 of the 52 teachers, the principal, and the district supervisor participated in the training. Before we got down to the business of learning how to work together, the school Filipino Dance Troupe honored us with two performances.
Filipino Dance Troupe

Filipino Dance Troupe

I started off the day by presenting the teachers with a silent challenge. 45 teachers and the principal had to arrange themselves in a line in order of their birthdays (month and day) WITHOUT TALKING. I am proud to say that they accepted and met the challenge. It was a great fun way to start the day and it made it easy for me to segue into my expectation that throughout the day we would all  listen when someone was speaking.

Birthday Line
 We spent the first half of the day exploring ways to work together to better serve the pupils. I presented information on the Myers-Briggs Trait Indicators. We completed a cognitive inventory, analyzed the results and completed amazing personality trees. We learned about ourselves, each other, our different preferences, and the effects of our preferences in work situations. I was impressed with how each teacher approached the activities. They consistently produced conscientious and thoughtful work. The personality trees exemplify the seriousness with which the teachers undertook the tasks of the day. Each tree was unique and truly reflected the fundamental beliefs (roots and trunks), skills (leaves), achievements (fruit), strengths(flowers), and challenges (thorns) experienced by the teachers at my site.

hard at work
Personality Tree

Personality Tree
Personality Tree

The second half of the day was dedicated to strategies to make English fun. This included a lecture and presentation on library development because convincing a child to read is much easier when they have access to a variety of interesting and provocative literature. The activities that the teachers enjoyed most were human scrabble and the closing read aloud, a planned oral reading of a book or print excerpt, usually related to a theme or topic of study. I always enjoy conducting a read aloud, and the teachers enjoyed discovering all of the fun English activities that can be planned around a carefully selected book.

Human Scrabble The winning word(s) Mountain Bike
I am pleased to report that God blessed all of my planning and preparation. The comments that the teachers took the time to write were very reassuring, and I look forward to future trainings with this dedicated group of educators.


One Month at Site

Tenth Month 17, 2011

I think this is an appropriate time for me to describe the school where I am assigned, and to share a little about the schedule and practices that I find interesting.

The School
The school has a total land area of 10,000 sq. m. Its location is the main contributing factor to high participation rate of 157% Parents from nearby barangays send their children to the school because most of the parents work at a nearby university.

The school is a complete elementary school in a second class municipality in the province of Laguna. It is a science and math pilot school (since 1990) which serves as training partner of four local universities in many projects and extension services.

The school is managed by a Principal III with 2,227 pupils, 53 teachers, one utility worker, one clerk and traffic aid.

 The Office
Teachers clock–in (an actual time clock and card) and sign an attendance book in the office when they arrive. The time cards are on a wall placed behind the teachers’ pictures and identifying information. Each teacher has a space on the wall with his/her picture, along with the following information:

Name Regina Renee Ward
D.O.B. 3-23-1971
Address Lopez Avenue, Los Banos, Laguna
Blood type: B positive
Degrees Earned: B.S. EdM MLIS
PRC No (teaching license number)
Original Date of Appointment 9-17-11
TIN No(Tax account number)
Phone # / Contact #

All of this information is on display and is placed on top of the time card which is concealed. Interesting.

The Schedule
Every morning when we enter class after the daily flag ceremony (7:15-7:30), we follow an established routine.

The morning routine: Prayer, greetings, lessons, recess, lessons, prayer, lunch.

Prayer: Let us pray. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord God, You made the world and promised to love and care for us. You sent your only son Jesus to save us, that whoever trusts Him will not be lost, but will have life that lasts forever. Thank you Lord for the kindness and generosity you have showered us. (Not a typo)

Bless us today with intelligence and wisdom to understand our schoolwork and activities; love, patience, and humbleness for our parents, teachers, classmates, and others; and peace, joy, and happiness may reign in our hearts forever. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Greetings: Good morning Ma’am Ward. Good morning classmates.

Lessons:             07:30 English
                            08:30 Math
Recess:               09:30 The students purchase snacks and drinks 
Lessons:             09:45 Filipino
                           10:45 HEKASI (Social Studies)

Prayer: Let us pray. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Angel of God my guardian dear. To whom His love commits me here.
Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guide, to rule and guard. Amen.

Before we leave to go home for lunch, the students recite in unison:
Good afternoon Ma’am Ward. Good afternoon classmates. See you this afternoon.


The afternoon Routine: Greeting, lessons, prayer, farewell, dismissal

When we return from lunch, the students recite in unison:

Greeting: Good afternoon Ma’am Ward. Good afternoon classmates. It is nice to see you again.

Lessons:             12:30 Religion - for Catholics, Muslims, & "Born Agains"
                            13:00 Science
                            14:00 English (Grade 4)
                            15:00 Music Art P.E

Leader: Classmates please stand up. Are you ready to pray?
Class: Yes, we are.
Prayer:  Let us pray. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.  
Angel of God my guardian dear. To whom His love commits me here.
Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guide, to rule and guard. Amen.

When we leave for the day, the students recite in unison:

Farewell: Goodbye Ma’am Ward. Thank you for teaching us. Goodbye classmates. Cleaners today (insert the names of the cleaners for the day) See you tomorrow.

Dismissal:      Primary grades 15:30
                        Intermediate grades 16:00
                        Faculty and Staff 17:00

Miscellaneous Information that I find Interesting
Along with the core subjects, character building is on the pupil report card.
The pupils receive individual grades for each of the following:
1.     Honesty
2.     Courtesy
3.     Helpfulness and cooperation
4.     Resourcefulness and creativity
5.     Consideration to others
6.     Sportsmanship
7.     Obedience
8.     Self reliance
9.     Industry
10. Cleanliness and orderliness
11. Promptness and punctuality
12. Sense of responsibility
13. Love of God
14. Patriotism and love of country

*Class sections are determined based on grades. Rizal is the top section. In order to be in Rizal, a pupil must maintain a grade of 85 or above in each subject or they will be transferred to a lower section. Rizal sections can have no more than 40 pupils. My other sections have about 65 pupils. Seating is also based on grades. Row 1 Seat 1 is reserved for the top student.

*These observations are true for my site. They are not true for every public school in the Philippines, but are fairly common.


Host Family - Laguna

Tenth Month 9, 2011

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy

This post is dedicated to families; happy, unhappy, and in- between. Many of us have at least two families. The families we were born into and the families we have created for ourselves. Those who are called to marriage acquire yet another family when they marry. Some, like myself, also have a spiritual or church family that we hold dear. In addition to these families that we have in common, Peace Corps volunteers also have host families; and in Peace Corps Philippines, volunteers have two host families.

After completing training in Bataan, I was assigned to a new site in Laguna and assigned to a new host family. This family compound consists of three homes with different wings of the family in each home. Deceased parents A and B had six children. Three of the now adult children live on the family compound in homes with their own families.  There are 14 members (4 children, 10 adult) in the family living on the compound aside from the neighbors occupying the rental rooms.

House 1 includes the eldest son, 49, his wife and two of his younger children ages 24 and 21. The oldest child married and has moved, with his wife, into a home of their own. This is my "official host family".

House 2 includes the widow and son, 13,  of the second eldest son in the family. Two female relatives attending university also live in this house.

House 3, where I live, includes the three children, ages 6 and 8 of the eldest daughter. The eldest daughter works as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) and lives in the United States with her boyfriend. The children live in the house with me and a "house helper" who cooks and cleans for the children. The father is absent, and lives with his other mate and children here in the Philippines.

During my first week, the house helper left for four days to attend to matters with her own family.
Imagine eight-year-old twin girls and a six year old boy left to their own devices for a school week.

Please hold my biological, spiritual, and adopted families in the Light. Please hold both my Filipino host families in the Light. I miss my Bataan host family every day and long to see them soon. I am just getting to know my Laguna host family, and pray that we develop a healthy relationship.

Laguna host family

The youngest member of the Laguna host family

My housemates

Host Family - Bataan

Tenth Month 9, 2011

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy

This post is dedicated to families; happy, unhappy, and in- between. Many of us have at least two families. The families we were born into and the families we have created for ourselves. Those who are called to marriage acquire yet another family when they marry. Some, like myself, also have a spiritual or church family that we hold dear. In addition to these families that we have in common, Peace Corps volunteers also have host families; and in Peace Corps Philippines, volunteers have two host families.

I miss my Bataan host family and consider it a blessing that we keep in touch. They will always be my first family here in the Philippines. I never did manage to get everyone in the same picture, but I did come close.   

Bataan host family members
You read about this amazing woman and the birth of her son
The youngest member of the family


An Open Letter to a Young Woman or 1 Timothy 4:12

1 Timothy 4:12 "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
       My dear friend, you have indeed set an example for me during training. I was truly impressed with the way you spoke, behaved, and treated everyone during our time together. Thank you for looking past my serious and often off-putting demeanor. Thank you for your kindness, your manners, and your loving spirit. May God continue to guide you and may this verse encourage you if ever you become discouraged.

Blessings and Peace,
Regina Renee


Catching Up

Eleventh Month 2, 2011
First, some catching up is in order. As I stated in my previous post, I refrained from blogging during 
Pre-Service Training for a variety of reasons. At this time, however, I would like to share a brief snapshot of training and share the highlight of my training experience.

My typical schedule during training
First Day
I was able to observe the Sabbath

Second Day Fourth Day and Sixth Day
08:00 -12:00 Technical Training aka Teaching at the local public school
12:00 -1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 5:00 Tagalog Language and Cultural Training

Third Day
08:00 - 12:00 Tagalog Language and Cultural Training
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 5:00 PM Tagalog Language and Cultural Training

Fifth Day
08:00 - 12:00 Tagalog Language and Cultural Training
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
 1:00 -  3:00 Tagalog Language and Cultural Training
 3:00 -  5:00 Medical Sessions
Seventh Day
08:00 - 12:00 Tagalog Language and Cultural Training

The Highlight of Training (excerpt from my journal written 9- 4- 11)
Yesterday I went to the beach and spent the entire day walking along the shore and singing in the rain. Yes, it had to rain the day I go to the beach, but no matter, I had a great time talking with a friend I have made during training. As nice as my day was, my night was even better!
My host family in Bataan is so incredibly kind and welcoming. The host mother, R, calls me "ate" which means big sister and she treats me as such. A is R's younger sister and she is expecting her third child. A asked me if I would help her deliver her baby at the house. I told her I was not a certified midwife, but that I would be honored to help her as she delivered the baby. I read and reread Where There is No Doctor. I talked to a certified midwife and I prayed.

So, last night I return from my trip to the beach and go check on A. She is fine, with nothing to report. When I left earlier that morning, we had both told the baby that he (I had dreamed he was a boy) had to wait for me to return home before he could decide to make his grand appearance and he listened! I went to sleep around 8:30p.m.  and guess who was born at 12:45a.m. ? You guessed it... here is what happened.

10:48 I receive a text from R "A is not feeling well"
10:49 "I think she is giving birth now"
10:51 "I think she will giving birth now"
10:53 "Ate Regina wake up"
11:04 "A giving birth now"

Aside: Okay so lets clarify this picture. For those who don't know me, I sleep early and I sleep well. I  typically sleep from 8 - 4. I live in the same house with A and R. I am asleep in the next room. The room that has walls that don't reach the ceiling. The room that is maybe 5 steps or a bang on the wall or a loud shout away. R texts me at 1 peso per text for 16 minutes because A is in labor.  We continue to laugh about this nearly 1 month later and yes I saved all of the text messages.

I wake up walk next door and A is indeed in labor. Her water already broke and she is flat on her back grimacing, but barely making a sound. Perspiration is pouring off her beautiful face and I begin to pray. She labors until 12:45 and TW is born. I was given the undeserved honor of naming this beautiful little boy. He came quickly and quietly. A was absolutely amazing. She delivered an 8.5 pound baby in 2 hours without waking up a sleeping household. Both mother and child are healthy. Dad is on his way with the older brothers. When everyone woke up for breakfast they discovered the new member of the family. My heart is full of joy and love for this family.


Today I am a Volunteer

Ninth Month  17, 2011

Hello again. I know it has been a while, but I had a reason, actually more than one, for not posting during training. First, I did not want to post until I was certain that I would make it through training and become a volunteer. Secondly, I did not have access to internet at my training site. Third, training was very hectic and my leisure time was spent reading. Check out the "Books" page to see what I have been reading.

With all of that being said, I did make it through training and I am now a volunteer. I have access to internet at my permanent site. With training over, I now have time for blog updates AND reading. Yesterday I was a trainee, but today I am a volunteer. Please join me once again on this Friendly journey.


Life Verses for the Journey

Seventh Month 1, 2011

It is 12:40 am and my plane is scheduled to depart for Staging in Los Angeles, in exactly 7 hours. I am tired. I am not nervous. I am not excited. I am simply ready to begin/continue my journey.

Throughout my life, I have had several life verses that have guided me throughout different phases of my life. The verses that have become a consistent thread in my life are *Micah 6:8 James 1:19 and Psalms 30:5 I am certain that each verse will carry a deeper meaning for me as I confront the challenges ahead of me over the next few years. This week a "new" verse has been placed on my spirit. I am surprised that this verse has not been more prevalent in my thoughts prior to now because it directly addresses the question so many people, including the Verizon operator when I called to cancel my service, have been asking...

Q: Why Peace Corps? 
A: 1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

*Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly (prudently) with your God. 

*James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

*Psalms 30:5  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night,  but rejoicing comes in the morning.

If you would like to share your life verses, please leave a comment. Blessings and Peace.


How Are You Feeling?

Sixth Month 12, 2011

1. Lack of understanding; uncertainty.
2. A situation of panic; a breakdown of order.

I was in the dining room just after breakfast on 04/19/11 when I received THE CALL. My Placement Officer called to issue me an invitation to Asia. "Asia? Did you say Asia?" Confused is an understatement. I couldn't even speak and had to apologize for not speaking. Asia was nowhere on my radar. When my Placement Officer called on 04/14/11, he asked why I did not want to serve in Eastern Europe, and we had a discussion about the Ukraine and the limits of my tolerance for racist remarks and encounters. After that discussion, I was thinking why is he asking me about Eastern Europe, and as the conversation continued and we discussed dates of departure I just thought that maybe the Gambia was full and that I would have to wait past Sixth Month for an invitation. Random thought all that day and throughout the week as I wrapped my head around this invitation...Asia? Asia? Asia?

1. The feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one's hopes or expectations.

So I am sitting in the dining room with the phone in my hand thinking "Asia? I don't want to go to Asia"I don't sit very long because I received the call when I was walking out the door on my way to work. I have never been so happy to have planning first period. I quickly walked to work and sat down at my desk to find out which countries in Asia had primary teacher education training...Cambodia and Philippines. I know nothing about either country and all I do know is that Asia is not Africa. I had spent time preparing myself for the possibility of not being sent to the Gambia. I had spent no time at all preparing myself for Asia. I was deeply disappointed and I felt guilty for being disappointed. I was happy to get another invitation, but not happy about Asia. I looked at all of the information I could find for PC Cambodia and PC Philippines. My immediate thoughts... both have long home stays, but volunteers in Cambodia remain with a home stay family for the duration of their service (oh my).

1. A sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.
2. A feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc.

I wish I had asked my Placement Officer directly why Asia? Why the Philippines? Why not Africa? Why not the Gambia? I honestly believe that the not knowing contributes to my feelings of confusion and disappointment. I knew that I would accept any invitation unless I feared for my life in a particular country. I think that knowing why I was invited to this program in this country would alleviate some of my negative feelings. Yes, I could still call and ask, and I may do that before Staging (orientation). However, I think I passed up an opportunity to get a glimpse into the thoughts of my Placement Officer at the time he issued the invitation.

1. A feeling of anxiousness or apprehension.
2. A feeling resulting from anxiety or anticipation.

I was actually relieved to discover that I was feeling nervous. For weeks I didn't know what I was feeling, meaning I couldn't find the appropriate word to attach to my feelings. Over the course of a few weeks, several conversations with friends from PC Botswana, and e-mail correspondence with current PC Philippines Volunteers helped me to realize that I was feeling nervous.

With the exception of feeling disappointed when my Peace Corps service came to an end, I  have not experienced any of these feelings before in relation to the Peace Corps. Granted, I know more now than I did when I was invited to PC Namibia and PC Botswana, but that is only a minor part of this picture. I am nervous about the Philippines for several reasons that simply did not apply to my previous experiences. I am nervous about serving outside Africa. I am nervous about establishing meaningful working relationships with my counterparts and the other volunteers. I am especially nervous about the home stay situation in the Philippines...6 month home stay. 3 months of living with an unknown family during training and 3 more months of living with an unknown family after I am placed at my permanent site. 6 months with limited freedom and privacy. I pray that these home stay situations develop into positive learning opportunities.

As way opens... 

How am I feeling? I am feeling excited, eager, and overwhelmed. Despite the confusion and initial/residual disappointment regarding my placement, I am very happy to be given another opportunity to serve in the US Peace Corps. I know that I am blessed to have this opportunity. I am very aware of the fact that there are others who would love to serve and have not been extended an invitation. I am also aware that this journey is not all about me. I did not apply to the Peace Corps to travel to Africa. I applied to the Peace Corps because I have been called to serve. God has called me to serve, and as Friends say, I will proceed as way opens.


Commencement Weekend

Sixth Month 3, 2011
Commencement Day. I did not attend any ceremonies, but I did take the day off from work, borrowed a car, and set out to cross off two more items from my to do list.
  • manicure/pedicure - ( overrated and I immediately regretted spending the money for something I could have done myself.
  • movie on opening day -  X-Men: First Class (I enjoyed the movie but, (spoiler alert) did the one black man in the movie have to die? Yes, of course he did.)

Sixth Month 4, 2011
Today I had an "appointment" to spend time with a Friend from Meeting. I planned to leave the house at 06:30, catch the bus and be at REI before 09:00. My plans went awry at 06:31, but the day went according to God's plan and was a blessing on so many levels...more on this later when I post about "walking".

Sixth Month 5, 2011
Sabbath. I rested in the Lord and allowed my emotions to surface. I will deal with the emotions later, but for now I have acknowledged the complexity of my emotions at this time in my life. Thank you Lord for your guidance and your love.


30 Days and Counting

Okay, so I have 30 days left until Staging (Orientation). I received my invitation on Fourth Month 19 and at that time I had 73 days until Staging. Now I only have 30 days remaining. So, what have I been up to, you ask? I am glad you asked that question. The short story is I have been completing paperwork, researching the Philippines, and enjoying time with friends and family. For a detailed account continue reading...

  • Aspiration statement and updated resume 
  • Pre-Arrival Questionnaire
  • Host Family & Site Placement Questionnaires 
  • No-fee passport and Visa Applications 

Enjoying Time with Friends and Family
Fifth Month 27, 2011
  • Completed reading the Philippines Welcome Book on the flight to Tucson, AZ to visit a friend from PC Botswana
  • Arrived in Tucson, AZ. Talked the night away with my friend.

Fifth Month 28, 2011
  • Breakfast at IHOP Yum green apple, raspberry, and strawberry lemonade
  • A trip to the post office to mail my IFLA membership application (Huge smile)
  • A trip to the Pima County Public Library (I tweeted my visit...RsquaredPCV)
  • Dinner at Guadalajara Grill with Rosie

Fifth Month 29, 2011
  • Souvenir shopping
  • Purchased a Starbucks Frappuccino (overrated, but I checked an item off of my to do list)
  • Blessed to attend Pima Monthly Meeting.
  • Received my first professional  manicure ( I think I got ripped off, but I checked an item off of my to do list)
  • Dinner at Caruso’s Italian Restaurant (spinach and seafood cannelloni)

Fifth Month 30, 2011
Returned to Denver, CO

Researching information about the Philippines
In the name of research, I checked out over 35 books, travel guides, language CD's, and maps from the library. I also e-mailed seven volunteers who are currently serving in the Philippines with my questions and concerns related to serving as an "older" volunteer, libraries in the Philippines, and African-American hair care in the Philippines. Please see the "Books" tab where I will list and discuss the books I read about the Philippines and during my service in the Philippines.


Headline News

Fifth Month 11, 2011 

I woke up this morning and turned on my e-reader so I could read the newspaper before work. On the front page of the International Herald Tribune was the headline "Ugly risk in Peace Corps life: Sex crimes and little recourse". For those who are concerned about my safety,  I am aware of the risks of being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  At this time Congress is being urged to increase oversight of Peace Corps. I am all for increasing safety measures to protect volunteers, and for training Peace Corps Staff on how to deal with sexual assaults in an effective, sensitive and respectful manner. With that said, I won't be using this blog to discuss any political issues. This blog is to document my personal Peace Corps experience. I will update you on the post-invitation phase of my experience with the next entry. Until then...


Magandang araw - Beautiful day

Fourth Month 21, 2011

I received my invitation to serve in the Philippines. This blog will chronicle my journey as a  Friend (Quaker) serving in the Peace Corps. I hope to document my journey with integrity.