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

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