Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dad Visits the Philippines

For the picture gallery of the trip, click here!
Months of waiting and my dad finally arrived; two short weeks and he is now back in Phoenix. Needless to say we had a very fun, meaningful time together, traveling throughout the central Visayas.
He arrived in Tacloban where he met me on a very raining morning at 7:10. After getting the baggage sorted out, we jumped onto a jeepney and realized we were, in fact, sitting next to each other for the first time in 17 months.
We met up with a friend for a day in the city, seeing Imelda Marcos' infamous Santo Nino Shrine wherein she kept the Marcos' many gifts from Asia and beyond, including this very fancy chair made of 100% silver than our tour guide encouraged dad to sit in. The museum also includes collections of ivory given by Mao Zedong, tiled Gucci leather walls imported from Italy, Austrian crystal chandeliers, a fountain made of local corals and a chair used by the Pope. Unfortunately, her legendary shoe collection is kept in Manila.
After the museum, we went for a pretty fancy Italian dinner, the likes of which are quite uncommon for Peace Corps volunteers, and we gorged ourselves on fine pastas and delicious wine.
After our Tacloban excursion, we headed down to San Juan to join the teachers in celebrating their Christmas party and to partake in a celebration of our own:
Interesting side story, dad had taken so many photos since I had last recharged the camera that the battery had been dead all day. After lighting the candles for the last evening of Hanukkah, I tried turning the camera back on, hoping we could capture this moment. The camera turned on, took one photo and then died again. This, my friends and family, was our own little Hanukkah miracle in the Philippines. Please appreciate how the last picture was of our Hanukkah celebration and the next is of the Pig roast we dove into that same week.
The Christmas party provided a few firsts for dad: his first time meeting my counterpart, Sir Erwin, my supervisor, Ma'am Rachel and my old friend, Mr. Lechon (roast pig)!
After leaving my site the day after the Christmas party, we embarked on a 16 hour excursion through Cebu City to Dumaguete so Dad could meet my tita, my host-auntie who took such great care of me throughout my pre-service training. Dad was enchanted with Dumaguete. On our way back to my site, we stopped for a night in Cebu City so dad could get a truly "urban" experience.
We spent Christmas eve with my host family, joining them for the midnight mass and returning home for the noche buena, or meal at midnight. Waking on Christmas, we immediately started eating and didn't really finish until we passed out later in the night. The one break from feasting and drinking we had was going to the celebratory Christmas day cock fights. Dad said he had more fun watching the people than the actual fights.
For the sake of relevance, as this is my blog and not my father's, I will spare the rest of the itinerary and details.
It meant the world to me that dad came all the way to the Philippines to see me, my family and my projects. I cannot express the pride and validation I felt when I gave him a tour of the school and the computer lab especially. Dad and I have never needed a preoccupation to spend time together. We have become adept at both deep and shallow conversation with nothing but time on our hands; I believe it has to do with the hours upon hours we have spent in the car together during road trips.
I can't express my gratitude to the time, money and sheer willpower this trip required; it single-handedly legitimated my efforts here and made me feel as though I had not been living in a vacuum for the last 17 months.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hanukkah, Night 4

This afternoon I found a children's book which my grandma sent me, explaining Hanukkah. I gave it to my host mom to read as she has always shown interest in my religious (read cultural) observances and the book did a great job of simply explaining the Hanukkah story.
She read the book and immediately started asking me questions about my family's traditions, as I always described my family as being reform and more lax than conservative Jews.
I decided I would finally bring down the menorah and show her the motions.
Mommy Esper is a very devout Catholic and a pillar of faith in my community. However, she is possibly the most respectful person I have ever met regarding different faiths, with a natural curiosity and reverence for learning others' beliefs ("As long as you believe in God," she always says). She was very excited when I brought down the menorah.
After reviewing the book again before I started lighting the candles, she called the menorah and shamus by name and took a real interest in the Hebrew prayer that I have had memorized since I was a kid. I thought for a minute and said it has something to do with "God bless...Hanukkah." It was good enough for both of us.
After indicating after the prayer that that was about it, we both sat near the menorah and I reminisced about Bubby's latkes in Vegas, dreidel games Colin and I invinted as children and, of course, geld (chocolate coins).
I also explained a Jewish teaching that my good friend Emmy told me when we were in Namibia together (she's the one who donated five boxes of books). I took a match, lit it and said that in the Jewish tradition, fire represents God as it always points to Him. No matter which way you direct the match, the flame will always point up. She said that that is the reason why they light candles during mass for prayer.
We decided that once you whittle away the little differences, Catholicism and Judaism really had a lot in common -- both pointing to God. And there it was. She and I solved the World's pains and agony in our little rural town in the Philippines.

Father and Son

My dad is leaving for the Phoenix Skyharbor airport in less than 12 hours. He will fly to Honolulu and catch a connecting flight to Manila, stay the evening in Manila and catch another flight to Tacloban, where I will be waiting.
Indeed, the endless months of anticipation have finally come down to the last two days. Tomorrow morning, I will head to Tacloban, stay the night, and wait for my dad at the airport early the next morning.
I cannot convey the excitement I am feeling. He will be here a little under two weeks, during which time we will visit my host family in Dumaguete (my first time back since training), Cebu City and make it back to San Juan in time for Christmas Eve with my family here. It's going to be a bit hectic, but the hours of transportation will give us a chance to do what we love best: yakking it up while heading down the open road (or ferry route as the case may be).
Aside from the general enthusiasm I feel about seeing my dad again, I am looking forward to his visit regarding two aspects in particular.
This trip will be his first to a developing country. This experience will be his first encountering absolute poverty, seeing some things that seem outlandish and exotic and, if I can get him drunk, his first time to eat balut (boiled duck fetus).
Secondly, he is the standard by which my growth and changes will be measured. After the last 16 months or so, I am certain I have changed, developed and grown in ways I cannot imagine, of which I have lost track. I am excited to see what shocks or surprises him that I see as being completely normative. To what have I become jaded? I will learn from my dad's reactions.
I may not update the blog for a while as he and I will be on the road, but I promise there will be pictures.
P.S. Dear mishpuka, I promise he will return in one piece.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hanukkah in the Philippines, take 2

Tonight marks the first night of Hanukkah and, like last year, I have chosen to celebrate privately in my room. Thanks to Grandma Pickle for the menorah and candles that were meant to arrive just in time last year but wound up arriving in plenty of time this year!
I added some other goodies sent by the moms (the Chieftains and stocking) and a snowman from Malena, to complete the holiday mood.

Update: I spent the evening watching the candles burn down and texting the other Jewish volunteers. Most of them forgot but we had a shared communal moment through SMS.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Digital Divide or Should I Bring a Laptop for Peace Corps?

"Should I bring a laptop?"

This might be one of the most common questions asked by people leaving to join the Peace Corps and there really is no correct answer. However, from my own experience, having a laptop was infinitely valuable.

I served in the Republic of the Republic of the Philippines, a technologically advanced country as far as the developing world goes. There are a lot of buzz words and phrases in development, one of which is the "digital divide". The digital divide essentially states:

The term digital divide refers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen.

The digital divide, and Peace Corps service in general, often conjures images of Africa, of stick huts, of telecommunications technology not exceeding that of the Pony Express. And of course, in some parts of Africa, and in some service assignments, this is true. However, my experience serving in the Philippines was quite different.

Most of Southeast Asia has benefited greatly from the .com bubble, which burst in '99, '00. During the bubble, millions and millions of dollars worth of fiber optic cables were strewn throughout SE Asia as the Asian Tiger markets attracted seemingly endless capitol investments in manufacturing and telecommunications infrastructure from around the world. As the Asian Tigers collapsed, so the .com bubble burst. Much like the railroad boom and bust of the 19th Century, which left thousands of dirt cheap and accessible railroad lines networking the United States, so had SE Asia millions of miles of fiber optics built by companies now long gone.The skeletal remains of late 20th Century telecom technology was then cheap, accessible and ubiquitous. For example, when I got to site, my students were already addicted to facebook, playing Farmville, using twitter and keeping a blog.

When I left for the Philippines to begin my Peace Corps service in the education sector, teaching high school, I decided against bringing a laptop for a number of reasons:

  1. Theft, the laptop being a liability

  2. Unreliable power/inconsistent voltage

  3. An obvious economic disparity between myself and my host family

  4. To idealistically ween myself from the technological dependence I developed in college

However, after my first month of Pre-Service training (PST), it was obvious that I needed to get a laptop. In my opinion, it is essential for Peace Corps volunteers to have a latop as they are assuming the role of a professional development worker. Indeed, for as many reports, projects, lesson planning and countless hours of boredom every volunteer inevitably encounters, a laptop is virtually essential.

I wound up buying an Asus eee PC 900 after a month into training. Netbooks are the perfect computers for volunteers as they are small, inexpensive and often times running Linux, which is impervious to the abundant viruses in developing countries. Recent developments in internet technology, essentially Web 2.0, give the netbook a leg up as social networking, photo sharing, online versions of Word and Excel and many other traditionally desktop-based computing has moved to the cloud and are free. Of course this all requires an internet connection.

The digital divide was nowhere to be seen in my small, rural community of about 5,000. I lived 10 hours from the nearest movie theater, yet I had wifi both at home at at my host agency, which indicates broadband, but not necessarily fast internet. I had a download speed of about 30 Kbps; downloading a 10 minute youtube video typically took 3+ hours, but it's internet nonetheless. This speed is definately fast enough to run cloud-based apps, such as gmail, yahoo mail, google docs, blogging engines and other services like Skype phone calls, delicious and evernote.

In fact, I highly recommend doing most of one's work in the cloud while in the Peace Corps. For example, I keep all my word, excel and powerpoint files in google docs because they are always backed up there. Power-loss is frequent and working on documents on the cloud is a great way to protect one's self from data loss due to power-outages. Secondly, theft is always a possibility and if one's laptop is stolen, the documents and photos are safe and backed up on the cloud.

This brings me to another important topic: backup. Backup is easier now more than ever, with external hard drive prices plummeting and online backup solutions like Carbonite and Mozy gaining popularity.

When leaving for Peace Corps, it's a great idea to leave backups of all your important files at home in a safe place. I brought my entire photo library with me on an external hard drive and I accidentally formatted the drive; just because something is stored on an external drive does not make it backed up! Fortunately I burned backup DVDs of my photo library and left them at home and can restore them when I get back. But I was photoless during my service.Now that services like Carbonite are available, I would suggest doing a full online backup, so all your data is safe in the cloud, for the full two years at $50 a year. Priceless assurance that if your laptop is stolen or destroyed during service, everything will still be there.

This ain't your grandpa's Peace Corps. The digital divide in many regions of the world is shrinking with the same rapidity that governs Moore's law. There is no reason to limit one's potential output because he/she didn't bring a computer. Chances are, many people in the communities to be served will have plenty of access themselves.

A Day at the Beach with the 4th Year

Saturday, November 28, I joined my fourth year and Sir Erwin on a beach outing. We went to our favorite spot (and the only sandy spot for many kilometers), PNOC, referred to as "penok" but stands for Philippine National Oil Corporation, who owns the lot.
The decision to go to the beach that Saturday afternoon was made at about 5:00 p.m. the evening before and I didn't know it was happening until about an hour before, when I received a text from my counterpart, Sir Erwin. This is usually how I find out about things and I have learned to be quite flexible.
Anyway, I took some transport out and met the students and sir Erwin already preparing BBQ fish, caught fresh that morning, and other delectables: kinilaw papaya, dugo sa baboy (congealed and BBQ'd pigs blood), pancit and butong salad.
We stayed out until about 5:30 when the sun started to go down. We had a blast: eating, playing games, building sand volcanoes (see below), having a chika, singing, eating.
To see more pictures from that day, please check out my picasa web album.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Birthday ni Sean

I spent my 24th birthday in the Philippines. My birthday was a reminded how valued I am here in the community. Friday evening at 5 o'clock, when schools got out, all of the students sang me happy birthday as members of the citizens army training (CAT) program brought me flowers one-by-one. All the way home, students called out to me "happy birthday in advance Sir Sean!" Even as I went out that night on a walk, all the students I saw wished me a happy birthday in advance.
Later Friday night, I went to a small karaoke house called Pajog ni Bebe, or Bebe's hut, with Sir Erwin, Sir Villbon and Sir Roy where we were entertained by live music. After the musicians performed, we had our own chance to play the instruments as the musicians sat back and had a few beers cheering us on. This was the first time I had an opportunity to play the bass since training in Dumaguete, over a year! But I think playing in instrument is like a bicycle, it's easy to get back on and ride.
I woke up Saturday morning, my actual birthday, to my host mom busily preparing all my favorites for lunch: fried chicken, chicken curry, spaghetti in coconut milk with tuna, lichon, fresh apples, mangoes and grapes and of course, her famous chiffon cake with homemade butter-icing. My family here really loves me and my host mom and started calling me son as I have been calling her nanay, or mom. She calls me her menopausal baby :)
Anyway, we sat down for a long lunch and photo-op at about 11a.m.
Please check my Picasa web albums for pictures of the event at home.
All in all it was a very memorable birthday and an event that made me feel at home here more than ever.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao

This is the first piece of sports writing I have ever done (and probably ever will do).
People in the United States may not be familiar with Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, but he is a household name here in the Philippines and a national hero. Today he rewrote boxing history by becoming the first person ever to win seven world titles. He is the welterweight champion, hailing from General Santos, Mindanao, Philippines.
A lot of my friends and family back home might find this surprising, but I have become a casual boxing (as well as ultimate fighting) fan since arriving in the Philippines and I spent today, Sunday, watching Pacquiao's latest match against Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto.
But the truly remarkable thing about Pacquiao's fights is not what happens inside the ring, but outside and on the streets.
I have been told repeatedly by many different people that when Pacquiao fights, the streets of Manila, a city of almost 1.6 million, are empty and the crime rate drops to zero, according to the Philippines National Police. I can certainly attest to the affect Pacquiao's fights have on my little town: the streets were almost completely empty, accepting children playing games outside, many of them pretending to punch each other. I had decided to go for a little walk just to get out of the house and wait for a couple rounds to advance. It was incredible to walk down a stretch of a few blocks and hear the same TV station tuned in, the sound leaking through the windows and to the street. I could literally walk the entire town and stay updated on the fight. Talk about surround sound. And no matter where I was in town, I could here periodic eruptions of cheers emanating from the auditorium where people where gathered to watch the match as it was meant to be seen, as a crowd.
To many Filipinos, watching Pacquiao is a patriotic obligation and watching him win verges on the spiritual. The best part of the experience is that there are two celebrations when he wins. His fights have most recently been taking place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the satellite feed is typically a couple hours late here. All those in attendance in Vegas and watching live on HBO, many times overseas foreign workers (OFW's), or Filipinos working abroad, and expat Filipino-Americans text the verdict back here. Many here celebrate before the match even begins here over the satellite feed and again when he wins on the international rebroadcast.
One of the more humorous aspects of this match was the surname of Cotto. Here, in the Visayan dialect, cotto means lice and coincidentally, Pacquiao does commercials here for Head and Shoulders. We all got a good laugh when posed the question by a co-teacher, "How can Pacquiao expect to win against lice only using Head and Shoulders?"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How (not) to write about Africa

This is just too good not to share and my friend from Peace Corps, Jasmine Sawers, passed this along to me. It is a satire piece written by Kenyan-born Binyavanga Wainaina. It is a remarkable commentary on Western literary attitudes toward the continent and reveals a lot of ignorance I had participated in when journaling and relating my experiences back home during my study abroad in Namibia and South Africa. I must say that this kind of commentary extends far beyond the continental borders of Africa and is applicable nearly everywhere when writing about the developing world. Below is a video of a reading and a textual transcript following that. I encourage my readers to laugh along with the observations, but also think about in what ways this piece reveals your own attitudes. One of the best ways to help Africa, and the world at large, is by shifting our superiority paradigm as Westerners.

Always use the word "Africa" or "Darkness" or "Safari" in your title. Subtitles may include the words "Zanzibar", "Masai", "Zulu", "Zambezi", "Congo", "Nile", "Big", "Sky", "Shadow", "Drum", "Sun" or "Bygone". Also useful are words such as "Guerrillas", "Timeless", "Primordial" and "Tribal". Note that "People" means Africans who are not black, while "The People" means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts - use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African's cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it - because you care.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can't live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love - take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off intothe sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.

Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas. The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted expats to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.

African characters drawingAmong your characters you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good. She must never say anythingabout herself in the dialogue except tospeak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all delinquent. These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction).

Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa's situation. But do not be too specific.

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

Describe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the "real Africa", and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing aboutAfrica is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.

Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. They also have family values: see how lions teach their children? Elephants are caring, and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Never, ever say anything negative about an elephant or a gorilla. Elephants may attack people's property, destroy their crops, and even kill them. Always take the side of the elephant. Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents. Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humour (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or chimpanzee or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil).

After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa's most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or "conservation area", and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales. Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa's rich heritage. When interviewing him or her, do not ask how much funding they have; do not ask howmuch money they make off their game. Never ask how much they pay their employees.

Readers will be put off if you don't mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical - Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces. When writingabout the plight of flora and fauna, make sure you mention that Africa is overpopulated. When your main character is in a desert or jungle living with indigenous peoples (anybody short) it is okay to mention that Africa has been severely depopulated by Aids and War (use caps).
You'll also need a nightclub called Tropicana, where mercenaries, evil nouveau richeAfricans and prostitutes and guerrillas and expats hang out. Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

Text courtesy of

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things Fall Apart - Sayang

So I am trying to crack a dilemma I am currently facing. We have recently done an inventory of our equipment here in the ICT lab and have come up with, among other things, nine dead hard drives. Herein lies the crux of teaching ICT in the developing world: while working technology is a boon for the quality of education, when the parts wither on the vine, so to speak, we are left with nothing but plastics, heavy metals, mercury, lead and silicon, none of which can easily be easily recycled. As these parts gather in landfills, the poisons seep into the ground water and the plastics take an eternity to decompose. At what environmental cost can we price the value of computer-assisted education? We have roughly six dead motherboards, two dead sticks of RAM, said nine hard drives and four dead monitors, all sitting i the lab, waiting for God knows what.
If we were in Minnesota, we could simply bring these parts to the Stillwater prison facility to be recycled by the inmates there. However, we live 10 hours away from the nearest place that could potentially recycle these parts: Cebu City. And I'm not even sure that they have a facility.
I've been thinking about this problem a lot; if we could find a way to recycle, or even downcycle, these parts, computer-assisted education wouldn't put such a heavy toll on the environment and I could sleep a lot better at night. I thought to crowd-source and ask the readership of my blog if they have any ideas for projects or ways to solve this problem. I have readers in 65 countries with almost 2,000 absolutely unique visitors since last January (according to Google Analytics). The web is a powerful tool, no doubt and I hope some of my readers can offer some advice and/or links.
I was thinking that a recycling project, turning these parts into something else, could be a great way to rid our lab of the parts as well as create a small income-generation project for the students involved. Some feasible ideas I have stumbled across thus far:
  1. Hard Drive Platter Windchimes -
  2. Hard Drive Magnetic Art Projects (thanks @unteer)
  3. RAM Stick Keychains -
If any of you, dear readers, find any other ways to either recycle or downcycle our dead computer components, please pass them on as links in the comments section below (so others can find your contribution in subsequent Google searches on the topic).

-Picture taken from

Monday, November 9, 2009

365 Days At Site, 365 Days To Go

Today marks the one year anniversary of my arrival at site. I wish that could be enough said. Its implication carries so much meaning and gravity for me but I cannot count of it my readership reading between those lines, so to speak. Maybe it's not something I can articulate and it may not be something I want to articulate in its fullest capacity. It feels like a personal victory and something I want to keep close to my heart.
But I am not blogging to explain how I don't really want to describe what this milestone means to me. Today I dropped some Aquino's (500 peso bills) and bought the teachers some ice cream to celebrate. One distinction I would like to make is that in Philippines culture, the celebrant is charged with throwing the party, a bit of a reversal of what we do in the US. So I bought ice cream for the teachers as a twofer, my anniversary today, Monday the 9th, and my birthday on Saturday. I am hoping this one-two punch will excuse any big purchases that might be expected the Friday before my bday.
We all had a nice time having a chika, or chit-chat and the teachers couldn't even believe I have been here for a year already! I must say, neither can I.
Time as a measurement (as opposed to a mechanism) expands and contracts when considering different lengths at a time. 365 days into the future seems long though 365 days into the past seems like no time at all, and here I am on the razor's edge in between and in the pocket. Today feels like a magical day: an advent and an ending, and advantage and a blending.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hot Springs

I joined my host mom and some of her friends today to go to a day-after wedding lunch party in a town nearby. The trip was interesting, however, when we left the party and stopped at a mainit, or hot springs about 20 minutes from out house. I had no idea these springs existed, but it's nice now to know they are there in case any visitors ever feel like a hike. The springs wreaked of sulfur but the smell became less overpowering as my nose became more habituated to it. Anyway, here are some pictures of the springs.

The caretakers of the springs also had a pet monkey with which I was quite enamored.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Barber of Santa Cruz

I went to get my monthly haircut today, at the same place, by the same person. The only difference was that there were two other guys in the salon and I'm usually the only one in there. As the barber began prepping his clippers, comb and razor blade (yes, they use a razor blade to trim the edges and it's awesome!), the two guys came over and just stared at my head. Before this would have just made me uncomfortable or angry but it's all part of the package deal here. Anyway, as the barber started clipping my hair, the two guys just stood in amazement, slack-jawed, staring at my falling hair. I can't even begin to guess at what was going through their heads, if anything at all, but there they were. The barber, totally unfazed by my being there because I'm a regular, told them to have a seat. They backed away slowly, mesmerized by the back of my head. As the barber finished up, the one sitting nearest to me started pointing out spots the barber had missed and the barber graciously went back over those spots. I then paid my 50 pesos (about $1) and left.
I learned today that a haircut can be a communal effort and that I have grown more at ease living the absurdity that is "the fish bowl." In a bizarre way, I think I may miss all the attention when I get back home and become just another white dude.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween - Some Scary Stuff

It's been a weird couple days. Some kind of crazy things have happened that I wouldn't necessarily like to get into on this public forum. That said, I spent most of today laying in bed thinking about what's been going on. The fact that it's Halloween doesn't help much, it's the holiday that gets the holiday season (including me and my brother's birthdays) rolling and it's going to be really hard to be away from home.
I've spent today thinking that I might not be able to muster whatever it is that needs mustering to make it through another year. Come November 10th (or so), we will have been at site for one year, a total of 15 months in-country. I know my blog is typically optimistic, but looking at another year sometimes feels like looking down the barrel of a gun (to be dramatic about it). There are days that are too lonely to describe, days that seem like friends are too hard to come by, days when the weather is too hot and humid, days when it won't stop raining. There are days I don't want to speak the language, eat the food, or even be outside. There are days, like today, I sit in my room waiting for the sun to go down just so it can come up again, sleep and malaria medicine-induced dreams breaking up the monotony. I never realized before that both boredom and homesickness can inflict a physical kind of sting.
But then again, there are days when my coteacher, Sir Erwin, the students, the principle, my host family and others really make me smile, and when they make me smile, it feels like my mind is being hugged. I'm certain I will stick it out, but on days like today, when I'm feeling less than invincible, it's at least a little liberating to entertain the thought.
Again I have been thinking about grad school. Frankly I am so terrified of the GRE that I won't even want to attempt it, but then again, I have lived in a foreign country with cockroaches the size of matchbox cars; what is a standardized test going to do to me? I'm still looking at the University of Denver at the International Communication program, emphasis in international journalism in new media. Seems neat.
I think I should stay in the States a while at least. Since 2007 I have spent appx. 12 months in the States and I'm getting a little road weary. It could be one possibility of what's causing my slump. But in the end, Peace Corps is not about the adventure or excitement. It's a job, plain and simple. I have duties and responsibilities here; it's just like any other 9-5, except in the developing world.
I miss Halloween in the States. I miss Halloween with Brian, Kari, Aaron, Jay and Malena, I miss the Cider House. I miss watching Nightmare Before Christmas and going to the pumpkin patch (no matter how old I got) with the moms. The holiday season is a tough one and I don't think it's going to be any easier this year.
Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Red Cross Donations

So today I collected the donations contributed by the local government unit and my high school for the victims of the recent natural calamities here in the Philippines. All together the two agencies donated 751 pesos or $15.98 U.S. This may seem like a meager sum however the tough economic times has been felt world-wide and my community is no exception. In fact, the economic crisis has arguably hit the developing world exponentially harder, affecting those living on humble monthly budgets far harder than those in the developed world. That said, I am extremely proud of my community banding together to support their kababayan, or countrymen, up north. I sent the money as a direct donation to the Philippines Red Cross this afternoon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Exotic Shells, a Test, the Office and a Halloween Surprise

I'm going to chase this feeling. Tonight we had some pretty exotic (and fun) food. I can only assume what you must be thinking. After reports of eating duck fetus, pig brain, chicken feet and cow blood soup, this must pretty out there, right? Well, it's not exotic in that sense; what we had tonight is called kinhason in the local dialect. I'm going to let the picture speak for itself. Please excuse the quality and orientation as the pics were take with my phone; I would get such a scolding from my web design professor from sophomore year.
Before I get ahead of myself, I walked home from school today to find a huge container of these things swimming around and crawling all over each other. I told my host mom that they looked like aliens but I was anxious try them. My standards for "fresh seafood" have risen substantially since I have been here.
If you look closely, there is indeed a safety pin to get the delicious inside out. It's a giant shellfish with tiger-ish looking stripes. These things were seriously HUGE, some the size of my fist, and we had to fish them out with the safety pin. I turned out to be quite adept at jiggering them out. Once removed from the shell, a lumpy piece of flesh, trailed by some sticky intestines which slurped out, you get the morsel as seen in the top picture.
One must carefully remove the intestines because, as my host mom put it, they are walay lami or not tasty. I tend to trust her 100% when it comes to these things so I made a little intestine pile at the side of my plate. As I have formerly described, Filipinos by and large will never let any part of the animal go to waste, so having a moment like tonight, when my mom warned me not to eat the entrails, reminded me of that Farside cartoon with the native american holding up a nondescript piece of buffalo saying something
to the tune of " we use all parts of the buffalo except this." When nanay says not to eat something, it is heeded, no questions asked.
The insides were delectable. It tasted like clams but 100 times richer and very tender. The entire time I was eating I was trying to imagine how they would taste in the San Francisco clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, which made me a little homesick for a second, but it was hard to stay that may, my mouth, nostrils and mind trying to wrap around this crazy-tasty food! To the right is a picture of my brother Johny going crazy with the kinhason. He asked me what we call them in English, to which I replied "sea monsters." He just laughed and that's when I snapped the photo.
My host mom said these become available about twice a year and this is the first I have seen them. I'm excited for a repeat performance. But now that she knows I like them, I'm sure she will keep a watch for them. She's so awesome when it comes to making things I like and keeping an eye out for them at the markets.
In other news today, I gave my first big test, a unit test on computer troubleshooting. All in all I am very pleased withe the outcomes as the class average score was 77.15% for the whole unit, passing! It's an indication I am actually doing my job correctly. I have learned that tests are not only an assessment of the students' comprehension and attained knowledge, but also of the teacher's abilities to pass on that knowledge. So I am giving myself that grade as a teacher; in other words, I get 77% on my ability as a teacher. There is room for improvement, but I am quite satisfied as a first attempt. My counterpart, Sir Erwin, even taught me how to set up an Excel spreadsheet to automate the grading process. I have never had a reason to fire up Excel, having majored in English, but I think I am getting the hang of it (he still has a lot to teach me).
I started watching The Office, seasons one through three, that I had previously ripped onto my computer. Just seemed like it was time to watch them again. Memories of sitting at Aaron and Jay's house with Brian, Kari and Malena started pouring in and it felt like we were all watching them together on Aaron's monitor just like the good old days. After a few days of obsessive watching, I felt like I had not only reminisced about my college social circle but also saw friends I hadn't seen in a long time: the characters. At the end of season three, I felt like I had to say goodbye again. But it was a weird feeling, it wasn't sad at all but a very sweet feeling that I'm not sure I can explain. I have spent the last three years with these characters and it's as if they were just stopping by to say hi, just to me. Naturally I began wondering what the old gang has been up to more recently than season three, so I found and acquired season four, which I am now devouring! Boy do I feel behind the times. I have discovered a means to acquire season five and by then I will finally feel caught up. I thought the Dinner Party episode at Michael and Jan's place was one of the best written episodes in a long time.
I will also soon be acquiring Arrested Development :)
Today, I also received a Halloween package from the moms and, aside from the assorted Tootsie bag from heaven, I got a TY bear named Haunted. Now my bear from last year, the guitar-wielding Treatsies, has a friend. Honestly I have no idea where the TY bear thing came from; it's a new tradition since I have been in the Philippines, but you know what? I think it's dang cool. Thanks moms, and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blast from the Past

So I was sitting in the park earlier this evening, minding my own business, when a student I had last year walked up to me. After catching up a little bit, him complimenting me on my improved Visaya and I complimenting his improved English, he told me was was going to college in Manila and was back in town for his grandpa's funeral. After asking him about how school was going, he told me he is a computer science student now and is about a year ahead of his peers. He told me all this and concluded it by saying that it was because of the class Sir Erwin and I taught and, specifically, because of the web design class I had introduced to the curriculum last school year.
Current Song: "I'm Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves

I'm still alive!

Might as well blog. I know a lot of you have been emailing me asking me about things ranging from if I received your letters to if I'm still alive. Well, I'm still alive and all is well. I think it's safe to say that the affects of Parma and Ketsana have settled and the country is slowly building itself back up. In fact we have had some pretty pleasant weather here in Southern Leyte. I have been told that the snow has started to fall in Minnesota and while it's been hot as b@ll$ here, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Christmas spirit is in full swing and it still strikes me as strange, even for my second time looking out on the sunlit landscape, palm trees blowing in the tropical breeze, that it's still so HOT and we are listening to "Jingle Bells". This December will be my second Christmas away from home. I'm certain my most memorable experience will be my dad visiting me from the 16th to the 28th! More on that another time. The most memorable thing that happened to me last year was a phone call from my friend Jess who was medically evacuated last November.
This brings me to another point I've been stewing over and wanted to share. Jess has now been readmitted to the Peace Corps, this time serving in Ukraine. The funny thing is, she is in the same batch as a friend from Augsburg who was in my German classes and roommate of a very close friend! And if the world were not small enough, they are in the same batch as my brother's friend's older brother! All that compounded with the fact that my friend from my Namibia program is now in the new batch of volunteers here in the Philippines leaves me truly admiring how small the world (and how incestuous the PC world) can be.
As far as projects go, I have finally finished setting up the computer lab to my liking; I finished this last month (mid-September) and have been focusing more on my library project. We now finally have all the donated books encoded into our online library system, which includes 607 books (and my Gramma promises that more are on the way!). Otherwise, I have been trying to come up with a way to help out the victims of Ketsana and Parma; living so far away from the site of the disasters and not being able to leave my site for more than a weekend makes it difficult to go off to Manila for a sustained cleanup effort, much like me and Brian's trip to Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. After doing some research, I found that there is a way to send money electronically directly to the Philippines National Red Cross (bypassing any sticky fingers along the way) and have been collecting spare change at the Municipality Government Hall and the High School. I am still in the process of collecting so I don't have any figures, but the boxes are getting pretty heavy!
The country director of Peace Corps Philippines, as well as my regional manager came to visit me at my site. It was an honor to host them in my humble little town and show them around the school, orienting them about my projects. They were very pleased with my progress and creativity with my projects as well as the glowing report the principle, Ma'am Rachel, gave them. The country director even asked me, towards my close of service, to help rewrite training material for future incoming batches to incorporate ICT content and include strategies for incoming trainees with no teaching experience. I was quite honored.
Some other things on the horizon, I am just finishing teaching a unit of computer troubleshooting and I couldn't be more proud of my students in TLE IV. While they still struggle to express themselves in English, their English comprehension is something of which the English department here can be very proud. They have the best comprehension I have seen here at the high school. I am thrilled I get to work with them for the entirety of the next semester (the new semester begins Nov. 3 after All Souls' Day) teaching them web design. There is still a whole semester left and I am beginning to miss them already! Jane, is this normal?
Come December 7th-11th, my batch (or what's left of it) will all meet up in Manila for our Mid-Service Training (MST). The reason I say what's left of it is because a slew of close friends have been leaving for various reasons including my good friends Jasmine, Loren, Jeff, Cassie and some close calls that have (at this point) decided to stay. Of the original 69 people in my batch, there are 53 left I think, mostly people from my training group in Dumaguete.
I'm super excited about my dad coming; it will be a litmus test to see what changes I have undergone as he will be the person with a base of comparison I will have seen in over 16 months. I am thinking we will visit Bohol, Cebu city, Dumaguete and parts of Leyte. This will be his first venture into the developing world and I couldn't be more flattered that he is coming; often times, the intimidation of going to a developing country outweighs the reasons for going (recall my blog posts of the dinosaur spiders, typhoid, typhoons, earthquakes, etc.). Anyway, as I told him, I'm still alive so it can't be that bad, right?
I'm not homesick anymore. Of course I miss people and I have some MAD food cravings, but the Philippines has truly become my home and it's where I feel like I belong. This feeling is compounded by the fact that I am still a resident of California, my dad has recently moved to Arizona and my friends are spreading to Wisconsin, Virginia and as far as Oxford, England to study (yeah, Brian for a Rhodes Scholarship, and I know him!). Actually I am feeling kind of...I really don't know the word. I was looking at a picture from graduation with a friend here. The picture is of me, Brian, Aaron and Jay. As I pointed across the photo, I found myself saying, "Brian got a Rhodes scholarship, Aaron is in law school, and Jay is running for congress in Wisconsin. And I'm in Peace Corps," still waiting to start my real life I suppose. But that's fine. Fine indeed.
K, bye!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Natural Disasters

Dear friends and family,
I have been receiving scattered facebooks messages, tweets and emails regarding the affect of typhoon "Ondoy" on me and my site. Fortunately I am safe and my site was relatively unscathed aside from some moderately heavy rains (which did not flood anything) and strong winds (which were not even strong enough to blow down the ants' nest in the tree above the hammock that plagues me so).
The devastation felt in Manila has obviously made the international press and may have caused a lot of you alarm. Indeed it is sad, but we are very far away from Manila. Typhoon Ondoy had a heavier rainfall in it's short-lived stay than hurricane Katrina and while the death toll continues to climb and there are half a million displaced, all Peace Corps volunteers and staff are safe and accounted for.
As many of you may know, there is another typhoon coming, typhoon "Peping". Peping is reportedly stronger than Ondoy and has the potential to become a super typhoon, which sounds like a thing that can only exist in my nightmares. This storm will reportedly get a little closer to my site, hitting the island to my north-east almost directly. However, we will not bare the brunt of the storm and again will only be affected by heavy (but not flooding) rains and strong wind (and, undoubtedly, the ants' nest will continue to thrive). We get regular updates from our safety and security officer via text and have backup emergency action plans (EAP's) that we have all been throughly trained in since PST.
As for the 8.0 level earthquake in American Somoa, there is a lot of talk about a tsunami heading this way. Again, my site is opposite the ocean, protected by a small mountain range. While there may be cause for concern in other parts of the already battered Philippines, I am assured we are safe here.
Many Peace Corps volunteers are already mobilizing to collect donations, etc. at their site for the victims of Ondoy. We have been forbidden to enter many parts of Manila as they are still quite hazardous. Personally, It's a little overwhelming to think how we can help the effort in my little town, but I hope for clarity on that issue in time. Providing latent aid, as opposed to immediate aid, will still be welcome.
I am proud of my country as the American Embassy here has pledged $50,000 to relief efforts. Our government has also provided over $4 million worth in "dispatching medical teams and supplies [...], heavy equipment and helicopters [...]" ( I think it's important that Americans know where their tax dollars go and there is a lot to be proud of with regards to our government and it's spending. In fact, I wish the ways in which we disseminate aid money was more publicized.
Again, I am safe and healthy,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Adopt a Cluster and 149th Annual Foundation Day Celebration

I just wanted everyone to know that I will be a father, a father of five. I know some of you will be shocked by this news but I thought the best way to let everyone know is by broadcasting it on my bog. Indeed, I am adopting five volunteers to serve as a mentor (gotcha mom!) for them for a little less than a week to aid them in their training. I'm headed to Tacloban tomorrow morning to stay with a cluster as the new batch 268 volunteers proceed through their own Pre-Service Training (PST). I don't have too much to say about this experience as it has yet to take place, but I am pretty excited to be a mentor of sorts, a resource to ease their anxieties and an assistant to the technical and cultural facilitator, introducing them to Bloom's Taxonomy, a bit of education theory.
Peace Corps has really given me some great opportunities for expanding my outreach beyond that of my own site. The PC office in general is super supportive of this kind of work and it's often a real pleasure to work with them.
In other news, September 15th marked my town's 149th annual foundation day. The day was celebrated with a parade and other programs out in the park, as well as me sleeping until 11:30pm and missing many of them. I guess I should refrain from letting my subconscious know I have the next day off from school as it tends to take advantage of the situation. Fortunately I did not miss the cultural program, including both native and modern dancing and singing programs. Each governmental organization (local government unit (LGU), elementary, high school, the court, etc) was expected to contribute one of each: a song number and dance number. Below are some pictures an videos I took while observing the program.
The following is a traditional Sinulog style dance performed by the LGU complete with live band and fire dancers.

The following is a traditional dance called the Tinikling in which two sets of bamboo poles are used in an elaborate dance. The elementary school's rendition is spirited and all in good fun!

Below are some picture. More pictures are available at my Picasa web albums page.

One group gave a rousing rendition of Michael Jackson's "Heal the World", complete with candles!
There were some pretty cool costumes
Indeed, these are men

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reposting of Dan Greenland's "Language" Article

My best friend here in the Philippines, PCV Dan Greenland, just posted a really insightful artcile on his blog about the complexities, the use of, need of and future of language here in the Philippines and everywhere in general (9/8/09). I was so impressed I asked him if I could repost it here on my blog because it really disects the issue articulately and, from my perspective, realistically.
Here is a link to the original posting.
Before I left for the Philippines, I was instructed by Peace Corps to learn the national language of the Philippines, Tagalog. They gave me a free computer program (Rosetta Stone) and told me that I should do at least 40 hours. That might not sound like a lot since I had the entire summer to complete it, but there is actually a clock that runs on Rosetta Stone that only counts when you are actively doing activities, so it's very tiring. When I arrived in the Philippines, I was told that I would actually be learning a completely different language called Cebuano. For three months during training, I studied (kind of..) Cebuano and was fairly comfortable getting around and doing the basic life functions I'd need the language for. I taught in English only, so the language was mainly for integrating in the community, making friends, and performing everyday life functions like going to the market. When training was over, I was told that the island I was going to was actually not really pure Cebuano. The town I live in is surrounded by Waray-Waray speakers, and the language of my town is a mix of both Cebuano and Waray-Waray. Now, I am conversational in Cebuano and I can sort of understandWaray-Waray, and know basic phrases of Tagalog.

At first, I was pretty angry that I had to keep relearning languages just to get by. By now though, I've realized that it's just a part of life in the Philippines. Everyone in town can speak a bit of three or four languages. English and Tagalog is taught in school, and the island is populated by Waray-Waray speakers and Cebuano speakers. Grammar and words from each language are used interchangeably. "Magtext na lang ko unya po" = "Just text me later sir" That phrase alone is a mix of three different languages. Learning language used to seem very mystical to me, but I've really learned how natural learning a language truly is. It's just a part of life really, and most people in town don't even realize they are combining four different languages when they speak. I once told Kim that language is a discovery, but for children it's even easier than that. They don't have to do anything at all really because picking up language is so inherent in us. The fact that different languages are being used is an afterthought so long as the meaning of the communication is clear.

Language is political. In the U.S., we have an idea of what is proper or standard English, and deviations from that standard are generally assumed as less academic, correct, and intelligent. Of course, no language, be it Cebuano or a deviation of English, can be superior or inferior to another language. It's a linguistic principle that all languages can equally express the environment of that language just as well as any other language. We have an idea of a standard English due to a long timeline of history and current cultural norms, but the fact that it's standard doesn't make it better, just the accepted standard. I think it's important to learn that standard because you will be judged by your language in the future, but it's not better or worse than Ebonics or Waray-Waray. The Philippines has its own examples. Take the national language, Filipino. Filipino is almost exactly the same as Tagalog, but it was renamed in order to garner support and create a sense of national pride for the language. Tagalog is the language used in Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines and the language of the capital, Manila. It's also the language of the politicians who decided that the national language would be Tagalog, because Senators here are "at large", so they don't represent a province or state like in the U.S., but the entire country. Making a national language in a country with over 80 languages could not come about without controversy, but I think the opposition had some good arguments on their case (although I'm biased). The opposition of Filipino/Tagalog becoming the national language were the Cebuano speakers because the Cebuanosactually outnumber the Tagalogs in the country. There are more native Cebuanos than Tagalogs, but they are not as powerful politically. The controversy is still alive in some aspects. In Cebu (second largest city after Manila, and where Cebuano derives its name) people still will play the national anthem in Cebuano instead of Tagalog. Also, some native Cebuanos refuse to speak in Tagalog before government members if they are called to court.

All this is interesting to observe from an outsiders point of view. I really didn't care what language I learned, so long as they didn't keep changing it on me. Now, I find myself identifying with Cebuanos and finding it distasteful when people from Manila come to the island and speak Tagalog as if they expect everyone to bow to their native language. This is a ridiculously ironic thought for an American and native English speaker to write, and the irony isn't lost on me. Nevertheless, it's annoying that all the television programs are in Tagalog and all the famous songs are in Tagalog. That said, there are even more levels to this language cornucopia. The Waray-Warayspeakers are expected to know Cebuano, since they are in theVisayan region and I find myself getting annoyed in Tacloban(Waray-Waray capital city) when I can't speak Cebuano. TheWaray-Waray speakers in my college are expected to at least understand Cebuano even though like 40% of the population are native Warays. We are all hopeless hypocrites really: I'm here because I am a native speaker of a valuable foreign language, I am fluent in a local language and despise the national language, and I want everyone on the island to speak the language I've already learned. What am I even saying anymore?

Basically, Waray is being squeezed out of existence by English, Tagalog, and Cebuano. My counterpart Jethol is aware of this and very passionate about saving the language. He has published stories and poems in Waray-Waray, and we have many conversations about the politics in language. I'm doing my best to learn Waray-Waray, and got a few books to do some studying. I can understand it pretty well now because the apartment I moved into is surrounded by an extended family of native Warays and I've been playing with the volleyball team who is also all Waray speakers. I forgot to mention that people tend to be drawn to others who speak their language, which is why every single member on the volleyball team is a Waray. The languages really aren't that different, but there is a different rhythm that people my Cebuano friends say they have trouble relating to. "Hin-kaon ka na?" Nikaon na ka?" The first is Waray and the second Cebuano for "did you eat yet?". They look pretty similar right? The thing that's tricky is the glottal stops... Waray has lots of quick stops and they speak it quite a bit faster. Cebuanos thinkWarays always sound angry, and it does kind of remind me of the difference between French and German, if you get my idea. (Maybe that's just my idea of it.)

Language is both simple and complicated. It's simple on the most important level: communication. It's complicated on the abstract levels: politics, culture, etc. Are we moving towards one universal language thanks to globalization (i.e. Internet, songs, tv.)? I would say most likely, given the statistics. In the past 100 years, we've lost over half the languages that exist in the world. As things get more connected in the world, we'll all probably speak some kind of Englishpidgin infused with tech. jargon and old cultural standbys. Lucky for the English speakers, but not so much for the Warays. That said,necessity is the mother of invention, and I'm sure that people will learn what they have to learn to keep going on.

For now, I'll stick to talking in a weird Cebuano/Waray mix and try not to become a raging hypocrite about who should speak what language. Language--any language--never really mattered anyway I suppose; it's what people are saying and meaning that's what has always mattered.
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