Rainbow Joy goes to school

Rainbow Joy made it to school on Friday, she has found my backpack a bit overloaded earlier in the week and opted to stay home rather than get squeezed into an over crowded pack!

The first class she met was my CF 7 class, CF stands for Christian Formation and 7 is because they are in the 7th grade. The class is studying wisdom, AKA Proverbs this year. The class loved meeting her and she loved meeting them.  The first thing they did was teach her how to solve “cubes” The girl in the front right is an amazing puzzle solver. She can solve them in seconds without looking!  Next Rainbow Joy read to them from the Bible. She felt sure this is what Thad and Ada would want her to do. They gathered around close to hear what she had to say.

Next we had Academic and Professional Writing with Grade 11. Rainbow Joy was a bit nervous meeting them because they are the oldest students in the school. They look more like grown ups than children. Once she met them it was a different story.

 

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She spent a few minutes with each group, reviewed their papers, and I think she even had some secret advice for Lance. The students were working on restaurant reviews as in an class assignment to practice the writing tools we learned in class. They compared and contrasted three food places that they had all been to. Ayo which is a little expensive but has healthy food, Jollibee which is a fast food chain for Filipino food and the chain that is  certainly least in my book, McDonald’s. Rainbow Joy was astonished to read how much they like the chicken at McDonald’s!

You may notice the many different kinds of outfits the students are wearing. Some are wearing the power blue uniform others are wearing traditional Filipino costumes celebrating Buwan ng Wika. Month of Language. Rainbow Joy was surprised to see the wide variety of outfits for both boys and girls. The Spanish missed the mark when they labeled the people here as lazy. Waray Waray, the name of the locals from this area, means nothing nothing. What I see in the clothing and in the food, more on food later, is meticulous detail! There is a great deal of lace work and needlepoint on many of the outfits. I see that same level of detail in the food.

Last but certainly not least is my fifth grade Language class. The reading part of Language Arts is taught by Ms. Stong. We are both in the class for the entire two hours and help each other keep order because there are 28 students in the class.

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Ms. Stong also had a couple of friends that traveled with her and she brought them to class. All of the animals agreed that their church friends back home would like to learn about the Philippines and so an idea was hatched. Half of the students will be writing Ms. Stong’s church family and the other half will write Ms. Camarro’s church family. The students are very excited about this project. I have seen the first draft of their letters and many of them have invited you to come visit them. Kathe G. will be looking for volunteers to reply to the letters. If you are interested please let her know.

Rainbow Joy really enjoyed her day at school and is looking forward to her next adventure!

Crazy first week and the best laid plans….

Maupay nga aga!

Good Morning!

 

I arrived here 9 days ago and it has been a whirlwind and a tiny bit crazy. The plan had been that my first few days I would observe and get my feet under me. After talking to the teachers covering my Christian Formation classes I realized that those classes had not begun yet and so my “CF” classes scheduled for Monday I taught and my other classes I gathered intelligence on. Monday afternoon I also ventured out in traffic for the very first time. While I was in Manila I realized that the lines in the road are considered suggestions and not many people follow the suggestion! I was warned about driving here from my new friend Romel and after observing Margie a few times I nervously ventured forth. I am please to announce I survived! Not only that but I have managed to get through a very busy intersection and cross traffic like a champ. If you are thinking no big deal, I would like to add there aren’t any traffic lights and few stop signs. There are no hard and fast rules like car to the right goes first. You just sort of wait your turn and guess.

The other American teacher was ill last week and so on top of starting my classes a little sooner than planned I covered many of her classes. I didn’t know which end was up at some points but God was good and through it all and used the stress to show me how the Filipino teachers regard me. On the hardest morning on of the teachers asked if she could give me a hug. Another teacher came in and asked if she could pray for me. I had messages from home with words of encouragement in the moments that I needed them most.

I my first lesson in Filipino culture on Monday. August is the “National Language Month” all schools celebrate Filipino culture and the language of Tagalog, which is spoken across the islands. The students are encouraged to wear traditional Filipino clothing throughout the month. Teachers are asked to wear traditional clothing the first day and may wear throughout the month. On my first day of school I wore a mylong. A mylong is fabric sewn together on the sides so that it forms a tube. You can use it as a blanket, or a sleeping bag. It is also used as a changing room. Lastly it is used as an outfit tied over the shoulder. I wore black leggings and black shirt under the mylong. It was very WARM, wonderful on a cold Connecticut evening but not so much in front of a class in the Philippines!

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First day of school and teaching in traditional Filipino costume! This mylong was loaned to me by Margie.

On Mondays there is an assembly and I was introduced to the school during the assembly. I a bit out of my comfort zone, I was in a strange country still getting use to the weather, and jet lag. I was wearing an outfit that felt strange to me and I had to go on the stage and talk t the students for a few minutes. I think a bit is putting it mildly! I was unsure what to say to the students so I opened the floor to them. I figure my as well answer what they want to know. “Ms, what is that on your face?” and so I found myself answering their pressing question about my cyst. Not what I was expecting them to ask! I have learned that Filipino culture is direct and that it is customary to be in each others business. This was not considered a rude question here. In America we would not dream of asking a question like that of a stranger. We start teaching our children at a very young age, “not to stare”, “We don’t ask people questions like that”, and other such lessons to protect the dignity of others and not embarrass anyone. Here the natural curiosity is encouraged. I am pretty sure the lower grades are taking bets about if a dragon lives in there. One adorable little guy greets me every morning and I have to try not to trip over him. He on the other hand is doing his best to get under my feet and make me stop so he can get a good look inside the hole. The other day he ran off shrieking, “I saw it I saw it!” Good thing he is cute! lol I am glad that the kids feel so comfortable with me. One parent told me that her shy daughter said that she was not afraid of me. These words gladden my heart!

Rainbow Joy had some adventures this week but I think I will have her adventures be stand alone posts while my posts will be reflective of many musings and stories.

I was given a tour of Tacloban and Palo yesterday, we went all the way to the San Juanico bridge. The Samar side is curved like an S while the Leyte side is straight like a lower case L.

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Throughout the tour I was also given a history lesson. The tour was kindly given by the school Principal and the school Registrar. Here we are at the MacArthur landing site.14012109_10153623053046493_52146979_n

 

 

 

 

 

I will have some other fun pictures  from our outing but I will save those for another post. I will share some of what I saw of the storm recovery. In 2014 Yolanda rage through these islands and the storm surge flooded much Palo and Tacloba. The official death toll is around 6000 but the people think it is more like 12000. People have shared stories with me of bloated bodies floating in the streets. I have heard stories of people who lost everything and stories of people whose creditors gave them a chance to recoup their losses and waited to be paid.

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Everywhere you look there is construction, between road repair, building repair, and new construction there are signs of survival / renewal. What I really admire about everything I have seen is the resourcefulness. I see a “Make do and Mend” attitude, nothing is wasted. Including the large boat that was stranded ashore by the storm surge, it is now a memorial/museum for visitors to visit.

I now have to focus on grading and lesson plans. I will write more later about about the fun parts of my morning out and share Rainbow Joy’s adventures.

Damo nga salamat

Thank you very much

 

What I learned today

First thing I learned was that I am living in a very polite and gracious community. We went grocery shopping a couple days ago and I purchased what I needed to make Chili. I picked out a small pepper that I am familiar with at home, or so I thought, a pepper that is mildly spicy. I cleaned out the seeds and cut the pepper up and put it in the chili. The pepper was significantly hotter than I thought.

Everyone ate the chili and said it  was good but a bit hot. It was a bit more than a bit!

The second thing I learned is that is NOT the same pepper from back home!

We decided that the remaining chili will be frozen in small amounts and used as a base for future chili.

I am happy that I got to spend a little time with the Chinese teachers over dinner. Once I am over the adjustment phase we plan to make our dinners together more fun by including games in our evenings.

The more time I spend with Katharyn, the other American teacher, the more I like her. We make a good team and value each other. She has a great sense of humor and love animals as much as I do. This experience is being enhanced by her friendship.

I chickened out from driving for the first time today, it was raining on and off and the mall that I wanted to go to was crazy busy. I did eat out for the first time since I have arrived. We went to a bed and breakfast after church. Katharyn ordered this fish soup that was a-maz-ing! It was a bit sour. I ordered a spice chopped up pork which was good.

Tomorrow is my first day of class and I am very sleeping. I will tell more entertaining stories later.

 

National Language Month

August is Buwan ng Wika month which mean for the month of August the schools here celebrate the national language and the Filipino culture. Starting Monday the students are encouraged to wear traditional Filipino costumes to school. The teachers will also be wearing traditional Filipino outfits. This morning Margie had fun sharing out her Filipino treasures to the two Chinese teacher and the two American teachers, I will be wearing a mylong, which is basically a tube of material that you can use for a many things including as an outfit. I learned today that they can be used as a changing room, a sleeping bag, a blanket and as an outfit. I will be using it as an outfit. I will have leggings and a shirt on under it and basically step into it bring it up and pin it over my shoulder. I think you will have to wait for next week to see that photo.

Carrying a 70lb suitcase upstairs with no handles is not easy.

What I did not mention in my first post was that my second suitcase managed to loose all of its handles on the way here. Thankfully Paul is a strong guy and my visions of carrying my stuff up all those stairs bit by bit did not come to fruition!

My first few hours here were spent in a haze of heat and humidity. I had lunch and made it to the school in time for chapel. I met many of my new co-workers and a handful of my students. I felt so welcome. I also met the other USA teacher, she is from California and I suspect that she will feature heavily in my narration in the future. She took the time to fill me in on the potholes that she had already stepped in so that I could avoid them.

Friday I rested in the morning the Jet lag has not been too bad but it was rough to get up yesterday and I started writing this at 4am today. Marjie took me to the mall and the grocery store. The grocery is in the mall and so was a pharmacy. I was able to get something to help get my sinuses back under control. I saw some familiar items in the stores and I saw so not so familiar items! I can’t wait to go back on my own and be able to explore.

The mall part reminded me a bit of the Big E. There was a level of chaos churning all around me, and some strange smells floating through the air. Some exotic and a rather lovely and some that will take some getting use to.

I spent most of the afternoon at the school. I sat in on a fifth grade class and got a chance to talk with them for a few minutes. They are bright active kids and I can’t wait to engage with them more. I also got to spend some time with the principal learning more about how she would like to use my gifts and talents.

Everyone I have met is so excited that I am here and has made me feel so welcome. I am looking forward to cooking some meals and having the other teachers over for some fellowship and devo time. I thought since I am from Trinity that the first dinner should be Chili. Do you think Bonnie will share her recipe?

What I have learned about the culture here is that it is easy to offend, things that we think of as common place or joking could easily be taken as an insult or offensive. My prayer request would be that God guards my mouth and that my dry wit not offend.

Last night Marjie and I stopped by the WWII memorial it is an impressive sight. My brother had filled me in on the war history of this island. It was kind of cool to see the General’s footprints and the larger than life statues.

I have not taken any pictures here yet but I will soon. Now that I have unpacked and set things up nicely I will take some photos of my room and maybe even take Rainbow Joy out for a walk to show you the sights.

 

 

 

The adventure beginnings with some difficult “see you later”s

On the morning of August 1 st I calmly finished packing. Rather proud of myself for finishing the huge task AND getting a couple of hours of sleep. Then I noticed that the side wall of my smaller suitcase had pulled away. There was a gaping hole in my suitcase! This would be the moment that the panic began. I had been chatting with my friend MaryAnn on FB and so I typed the words, “my suitcase ripped” and burst into tears. MaryAnn sensed the panic in the words and called me. “We can fix this. It will be ok” She was right my cousin Tom and his family came to the rescue, and after a day of everything going wrong I arrived at youth group with 15 left to the night.

My kids piled on for a large group hug. After some prayer it was time to say goodbye and I was informed that I could not say goodbye instead I must say “see you later” I have been so blessed by these kids and I am so proud of all they have learned in our time together. Difficult see you later number one was done and it was onto difficult see you later number two, my parents. Yup that was hard to do but I know they love me and are so proud of me.

Went to sleep, yeah right, went to bed there wasn’t much sleeping going! Janet and I woke up at 5ish to meet up with Jan because my J’s agreed to take me to the airport. I depart in a flood of tears, laughter and prayer. I am not sure how I walked away but I did, and every time I looked back there they were waving. It was like they were sending me off to storm a castle and wishing me a good time doing it. As I sat in my seat just before the no cell phone light came on I sent one last text, “Do you guys miss me yet?” and then I was off on my adventure.

BUT I was not alone, you see the hardest goodbye took place on my birthday, July 31st, and my two favorite short sticky people gave me a treasured friend. He name is Rainbow Joy to remind me of God’s promises. She has two hearts, so she is a Time Lady (if you don’t know what the means find a sci-fi geek to explain it 🙂 ). One heart was kissed and I was prayed for by Miss Potato and the other heart was kissed and I was prayed for by Mr. Lad before they were placed into Rainbow Joy. She is wearing a cool Roar sweater, a bit warm for this climate but so far she has not complained, and a sparkly pink tutu that I totally wish I could borrow!

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She brought some Jr Mints to eat on the plane, she is a very thoughtful Leopard!

She kept a watch out for our plane at JFK and secured some sweet waiting seats for us in Qatar at Hamad International Airport.

I arrived in Manila and managed to make my way to Bethel International school with the kind assistance of Mr. Lee, he is a friend of the church here who moved to Manila and best I can tell he spends his time being very kind to weary travelers. I was one of four pick up or drop off to the airport in 24 hour window. He was so kind to me and ensured that I made it through the maze to my flight to Leyte.

 

Ever see on an old movie where they drive you out to the runway and climb moveable stairs and board a small plane? Well that was the flight to Leyte and I met some of the nicest people in the airports and on the planes. I had one year old twins on this flight. One in the seat next to me and one in the seat behind me. Good thing the flight was only about an hour. I did help entertain with a rousing game of peak a boo.

And then I arrived

to be continued