Friday, January 30, 2009
Often times I'll hear the term in close proximity to explanations of white guilt or suggestions of it. In the podcast, they talked about an article written about how whites will be a minority in 40-60 years and how the white population (split into a false dichotomy of NASCAR fans and yuppies) feels only one of two things: anxiety or white guilt. Speaking of white guilt, the podcast was surprisingly bent to the left and its almost as if the personalities were self-congratulatory on this idea of "post-racial" America, a kind of passivity in thinking something righteous is happening.
But isn't the term "post-racial" a euphemism of white guilt in and of itself to simply say "post-white supremacy?" This seems like any other feel-good, PC buzz-phrase, one that will leave lasting impressions on a white electorate that the difficult part is over, now that Obama is in fact president, and they will slide back into apathy.
I don't have any qualms with the term itself. I believe racial categorization is erroneous in that all humans are the same race, technically. This is simple and straight forward. But this is not how the term is being used. It would be nice if the implication of "post-racial" meant that we, as a society, have moved past race. But the mere fact that this term is only used in the context to describe the rise of the minority shows we are still a country obsessed with race, although in a more or less "post-racial" way.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I just wanted to reflect (and gloat)on some of the lists and statistics I have been keeping: projects I am working on, books I have read, exotic foods tasted and the amount of text messages I have sent and received (it's really worth sharing).
The first list I would like to share are the projects I am currently working on. As an education volunteer, I am responsible for teaching in the classroom as a primary project, but I am also responsible for secondary projects. I am currently working with a non-profit in California, Youth Community Service, and a member of their team to pair penpals and organize a book drive. I have a dear friend named Emily, who joined me on my Namibia trip, who is now working with YCS and 15 students of middle school age. It was actually her idea to pair 15 of her students with 15 of ours in a penpal relationship. After organizing some of our students, we plan on sending the first volley of letters this coming Friday. Her students are also planning a books and resource drive, which is awesome. Our school is in desperate need of fiction; our library is stocked with archaic encyclopedias, old medical manuals, outdated computer maintenance books and government issued textbooks. Last November marked English Month, the theme of which was "Reading First: Sustaining the Love of Reading." Well, most of the students avoid the library like the plague and it's obvious why. With donations of fiction books, the students will, probably for the first time in their lives, have access to materials suitable for pleasure reading.
As a previous post explained, I am working on a sustainable computer maintenance project that will protect the PC's in our donated computer lab indefinitely. Without being too repetitive, I have found a free application, published by Microsoft, called SteadyState. This application allows the system administrator (my co-teacher) to reinstall Windows and set it up with the applications he finds necessary and then "freeze" the computer. The computer is now ready to withstand any abuse the students subject to it: viruses, unwanted applications, changed settings. No matter what the students do, when the computer restarts, all changes are erased and the computer acts like it did the moment the administrator froze it. The life of the computers are now only limited to the physical life of the computers. Finding replacement parts will be another story entirely...
Speaking of computers, I am co-teaching a web design class with my ICT co-teacher, Sir Erwin. We are using Kopozer, an open source, free and always available programs the basis for our lesson. Open source have really made sustainable computer a dream-come-true. Open source means that the application is free and always available for download. So having free access to Kompozer for all the students to learn on is better than learning on Dreamweaver, per se, which runs about $200 a pop. This class will last throughout the rest of the school year.
That's about it for projects at this point.
The books I have read! I have done almost nothing but read in my free time. Here is a list of books I have read: Fear and Loathing in as Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson, Side Effects by Woody Allen, The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman, Freakanomics by Levitt and Dubner, The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain, A Long Time Gone: Memoire of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, The World According to Garp by John Irving, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, Sarah Palin: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down (I have no explanations for this one) by Kaylene Johnson and Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, a good portion of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and the first 50 pages of An Idiot's Guide to Judaism by Rabbi Benjamin Blech. Altogether, since August, I have read 3,600 pages.
For exotic foods, here is a complete list of all of the foods I have eaten here that I think are exotic and bizarre: Balute (14 dayold half-fertalized duck eggs), squid in it's own ink, danggit (filleted fried fish heads), fish eye balls, durian (the fruit that is banned from many churches because of it's stench), chicken neck and feet in soy and tomato sauce, fried chicken skull, BBQ chick gizzard and intestines, fried leaf, fish head soup, spicy pork intestines, pig brain, lapsung (cow blood soup with floating bits of fat, grissle and God knows what else), diniguan (the same as lapsung but with pig blood) and kinilaw (raw fish soaked in vinegar). The funny thing is that my dad sent me peanut butter from the states and everyone was concerned for my health for that (because of the salmonella outbreak) and not for anything mentioned above!
As for texting, the Philippines is the SMS, texting capitol of the world. Since August, I have sent 5,306 messages and recieved 6,714 messages. Word.
So there is my "lists and statistics" update for y'all. Hopefully I will soon have a special on my house, with pictures!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Part of the hardest thing about being away for so long is the fact that we have little access to current trends in…well, most anything back home. Keeping up with music, movies and books has become a challenge one must proactively tackle constantly. There is a great way to remedy this: the internet.
[Note: let me take this opportunity to explain that by internet access, I mean very rudimentary access. Yes, my internet is faster than dial up, but not much more. Watching YouTube is a far and distant memory as it takes about 20-30 minutes to load a 5 minute video. Even engaging in a video skype call is oftentimes garbled is displaced artifacts and pixels; the call quality of voice-only skyping is hit or miss. This picture demonstrates the mess of cables and boxes, the functions of which I will never know, which keeps the internet going at my house]
So, being that I do indeed actually have said internet connection, I can read the latest on the New York Times website, keep up with Facebook gossip and even read music reviews. Being out of the music loop, at this point anyway, is one of the hardest things to deal with, culturally speaking. There is (or was) a great website called pitchforkmedia that specializes in independent and alternative music reviews. Although I don’t consider my tastes too outlandish, Pitchfork usually reviews all of the upcoming albums I am most interested in (and has done so quite respectably). I saw, just last week, that they had a top 100 albums of 2008. Great! I can see what I’ve missed since August without having to sift through all of the review pages.
Again, having an internet connection implies that, despite how long it may take, I can download some movies and albums. I decided the best way I could spend a Saturday morning (and afternoon and early evening) was downloading the three top albums as listed by Pitchfork.
The top album was Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album. After the first listening, I fell asleep. After the second, I was bored. The point of this post is not to review the album. What I am implying is that, after the second listening, I deleted the link in my web browser to Pitchforkmedia’s website.
Being out of the loop is absolutely ridiculous and boring. I really need some new music and have no idea where to start. I miss having friends that could just plug their iPod into my computer and download whatever they were listening to in a matter of seconds. But I suppose that is one of the many faceted sacrifices one makes when joining the Peace Corps.
But of course there are worse things. The volunteers of my generation are quite spoiled by large-capacity multimedia devices, such as iPods. I mean, I have over 13,219 songs I can listen to at the push of a button. Consumerism (and obsession-based collection) has transcended the material and has seeped into the world of media. I am constantly looking for something new (though I always take time to go back and spend some intimate time with my old favorites). But still, I feel a little guilt while I sit there, spinning the wheel looking for an album to listen to out hundreds that I have. This must be juxtaposed with stories from two of my former professors, one who served in
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, just because a volunteer has internet doesn’t mean that volunteer is getting up-to-the-minute American cultural calibration. Despite the best, fastest and most ubiquitous technologies we have at our fingertips, we are still on the other side of the world, “turning on, tuning in and dropping out,” so to speak.
I imagine that when I return to the
Monday, January 12, 2009
7:00 – arrive at school via bicycle and usually sit outside of the office, waiting for it to be opened. I will usually take this time to address any business on the internet I need to take care of.
7:30 – Flag Ceremony: singing of the national anthem, a pledge of allegiance, the singing of the provincial hymn and any announcements.
7:45-9:45-There are two class periods herein.
9:45-10:00 – coffee break for all the teachers
10:00-12 – classes
12-1 – I bike home for lunch and then return in time for classes.
1-4 – classes
Every class period is started with a mandatory prayer (usually an "Our Father" but depends on the teacher).
Either the teacher or I will first address the class. I have been trained in CLT method teaching, or Communicative Language Teaching, which transfers the role of the teacher onto the students themselves. While there is still lecture, we take time for group or pair work wherein students ideally practice English with each other. While make it a requirement that the teacher does not codeswitch, it is difficult to make sure the students are speaking only English. The co-teacher and I will take on different roles depending on the lesson plan, which we co-author before class. Below is a sample of a lesson plan we have used in the past with the second year. If this is the kind of thing that does not interest you, skip ahead.
Expressing Feelings, Opinions, Agreement, and Disagreement pg. 208
1. The students will be able to express agreement and disagreement by parallelism, determine and evaluate the objectives of a speaker, express and utilize variations of tone to express feelings and attitudes, use cohesive devices to make the flow of thought smooth and effortless.
II. Content and Materials
2. Materials: "Hello Goodbye" by the Beatles,
III. Procedures and Activities
1. Students will answer the questions on pg. 210. These will be turned in.
The format is officially from the department of education (DepEd). The nice thing about all the Edu volunteers using a standardized format is that we are currently building a database of lesson plans for future volunteers, something we do not yet have.
I have also been reading a lot. I started a book last night called The History of the Filipino People. Give me a dry history book any day, I have no why idea why I love this stuff. The following is a generalized description of the people of the Visayan region,
The Visayan is a hedonist. Give him a jug of tuba [coconut wine] and a piece of dried fish and he will sing the wilderness into
Yeah, I know I'm lucky to be in this region. Other interesting points of interest are in language. Looking at the history and origins of words here was particularly revelatory. There are words from Malay, Chinese, Sanskrit and English predominantly. The Malay is related to the "primitive Austronesian" languages that spread from the SE Asian archipelago and spread south through Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and many Pacific islands such as Hawaii and Guam (not sure on the last one). Interestingly, the word for umbrella in Austronesian is pajung, or payong in Tagalog (and Visayan). However, in the Cabalionon subdialect that they speak here in my town (a mix of Visayan and Surigaonon), they replace a "y" with a "j", which makes the subdialect here at my site truer to its origins as a branch of the ancient Austronesian language rather than Tagalog or many other dialects here in the
Cabalionon (Visayan & Surigaonon)
I love etymology. Also, before the Spanish came, the ancient Filipinos (around the same time as the Greeks and Egyptians) used a written alphabet based on Sanskrit. From what I have learned while studying under the tutelage of Professor Gustafson, this is not unlike the written language of the Khmer people of
Also, like the Mauri of
Reading this book is very enlightening. I came to the
Friday, January 9, 2009
When I first heard, I was concerned, but I wasn't afraid for my life or anything. The concerning thing that I simply could not communicate to my host family was that this act of terrorism was aimed at a nationality, not at specific people. I am an American. Obviously whoever sent that envelope wanted its American recipients to fear for their lives. Again, didn't matter who received the white powder, just as long as they were American.
Again, I just want to reiterate that the Peace Corps security officers are excellent and we, as volunteers, are not anywhere near harm's way.
But man, this got me thinking. Why did it feel like I received a blow to the stomach? This is 21st Century international politics, I'm just living it now, on the outside of the emerald city. I don't think I've ever been to a country where this was ever a concern. Blame cannot be place on anyone world leader. I don't know what has got us here, it certainly wasn't my generation, but it makes the Peace Corps and the volunteers that much more important. We are cleaning up the U.S. image abroad, one village, town and city at a time in over 130 countries with over 8,000 volunteers. This isn't just going abroad and teaching English, this is imperative diplomatic work at the same time. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but this is the reality of grassroots diplomacy. Obama supports doubling the size of the Peace Corps during his presidency...heck yeah. I have no idea how to finish this.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
But anyway, here I am, at site, having been here now for a day or two over two months. I am sitting in the school's computer lab, taking a break from working on a pretty intensive project. The lab here has roughly 50 potentially functioning computers. When I arrived, roughly four were operational and the rest were all muddled and beleaguered with viruses. Having a completely donated lab (courtesy of the Intel Corp.) that can't even turn on is about as worthwhile as donating 50 over-sized paperweights to the students. I have done some research and have found a free piece of software that essentially lets us "freeze" the computers into whatever state we leave them as. For instance, my counterpart and I have been reinstalling Windows, installing all free and open source programs (removing all of the pirated software they had accumulated) and "freezing" the computers. This way, every time a student turns on a computer, they have an experience much like when one firsts takes a computer out of the box. They can do whatever they want, even install 1000000 viruses. As soon as they log out, any change they made, no matter how minute, is disregarded and the computer returns to the fresh out-of-the-box state. This is the first project I have begun that feels like it's in line with the "spirit" of the Peace Corps. It is sustainable and promotes computer literacy for all, every time the user logs in. It's a time consuming process. It takes about fours hours per machine. But it's totally worth it. So far, my counterpart and I have finished 15 computers. It has been fun watching the students reap the immediate benefits of functional computers.
I know my emails have been slow. I hope this blog will eventually have everyone caught up to speed. I have uploaded more photos for every one's enjoyment.
Soon I hope to give everyone a day in the life of a PCV teacher here.