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.