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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sagada

Around Easter time the Philippines shuts down for a couple days and people enjoy a national holiday called Holy week. With the extra time off given to us a group of 11 volunteers went up to the Northern part of the Philippines called the Mt. Provence and visited a town called Sagada. It was absolutely amazing. At one point while driving to Sagada we drove over a 7,000 ft mountain pass. I had to buy a sweatshirt at one of the towns because it was so cold. The air was dry and clean, there were pine trees covering the mountains, and some of the mountains had been turned into rice terraces.
In the town of Sagada itself there is a rice terrace that is over 800 years old. On one of our adventures that week a group of us hiked down a mountain through a small village and across the rice terraces to get to a beautiful waterfall. We spent a good part of the day swimming in the pool, climbing around the rocks, jumping off the rocks and enjoying the refreshing mountain atmosphere.
Another day we hired a tour guide to take us into a cave. We spent 6 hours crawling around on our bellies through tunnels, wading through water, climbing up and down ropes to get where we needed to go and marveling at the formations inside the cave. It was an amazing experience.
When we weren't enjoying the natural aspects of Sagada we were walking around the little town looking for food. There was fresh made yogurt available. And I'm not just saying this because I haven't had yogurt in 8 months, but this really was the best yogurt I've ever had. It was so smooth, creamy, sweet and delicious. I think more places back home need to make fresh yogurt and serve it as part of their menu. It's the best thing I've put in my mouth in this country! There were also some pretty good cinnamon rolls at the bakery. They were the size of a hub cap. Yes, I had my own. Twice.
After our week in Sagada I went to Manila for a conference with my counterpart that I work with back in Pambujan. It was very exciting to her, because it was her first time ever being on a plane. I'm sure it was a nice treat being in a hotel room with a/c! I know it always is for me.
There should be a little more to come soon. My dad and sister are coming to visit in a couple weeks. We are super excited to have the chance to hang out. Good times!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shannon

It happened, I'd been nervous and anxious about Shannon's visit for months. I knew the months leading up to her visit that her visit would change things. I knew they would change for the better either way things went. It was a pretty sureal feeling watching her get off the airplane. I'm not sure I really knew how to react. But she came out, we kissed, and I heard a bunch of people in the background go "Aww!" Cheesy, I know, but that's how it happened. We spent the first week of her time in a place called Alona. Which is on an island called bohol. there are white sandy beaches, bars lining the beach, and lots of little boats sitting out in the water waiting to take people scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin watching or just a ride. There were also many other things to do on island, but we found it so relaxing to just sit and enjoy each others company and really didn't get out that much. We enjoyed the nice air conditioned room, pool and restaurants close by. After that week we took a day of traveling to get back to Pambujan. She was greated with lots of open jaws, hello's and mabaysay's. It was so nice to have her company in my house. It brought out life that I didn't know excisted. One of the afternoons I left her at the house so I could go for a run. When I returned, half the street was standing in front of my house, kids were yellin, jumpin, and fighting for a good spot so they could get up close and listen to Shannon. In all her wisdon and glory, she was spreading some good western culture. Half of the kids thought that Shannon's name was Awesome. All the kids were jumping up and down yelling "Rock On!" and I think Shannon had Justin Timberlake blairing to set the mood. That night a small group of boys had picked enough flowers for all the mothers in Pambujan and gave them all to Shannon. The entire night we heard the boys out front "Aute Shannon, Aute Shannon"! We'd go out front and there would be another boquete. I'm not going to lie. I was a little jealous, I never got flowers when I first got into town. The whole street seemed to light up while she was in town, and since she has left her positive energy has remained. Kids and adults are still asking about her, and I'm sure they will be talking about her for years to come. More adventures to come! Pictures too!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Address

Kelly Taylor
Brgy 1
Pambujan, Northern Samar
Philippines


It's small enough around here that there aren't numbers on the houses, and street names are there, but nobody really pays attention to them. The best street name in town is Colon St. Haha! This place cracks me up sometimes.

Home is where I hang my mosquito net.

It's been about nine months since I've had my own place, and now I'm finally in charge of cooking my own meals, cleaning up after myself, and walking around the house in my socks. Laundry however is a different story. I have hired a wonderful woman down the street that does my laundry for p500 ($10) a month. It's going to be hard to beat that when I come back home.
For food I've been eating a lot of eggs and oatmeal. Lunch time I eat a lot of peanut butter, mangoes and bananas. I try to make a little extra food at dinner time the night before too. Dinners have been pretty frugal for the most part, but from time to time I splurge. I made some squid adobo the other night. Which is squid in a soy/oyster sauce with onions, ginger and peppers (one of my favorite dishes). Last night I had "fresh fish" I use quotes because I was up all night with a rotten gut, and a skin rash that covered my entire body. It was the fish. The meat markets are all open air, no refrigeration, and lots of flies and other bugs. Sometimes those markets can have the most pungent and putrescent smell a person could imagine. I'm coming home with a callused gag reflex. So I guess it's a gamble sometimes with what you get. However, I have had for the most part the best tasting, freshest sea food come from the same market. Right now I can get mahi mahi for $1.50 a pound, tiger prawns are $3 a pound, crab, tuna, and other tiny fish that aren't worth the trouble are a dime a dozen.
Something that I have really grown to enjoy are the sari sari stores around the neighborhood. I can walk out my front door and across the street and buy eggs, tomatoes, detergent, vinegar, minutes for my phone, rice, and insect repellent. it's all so convenient. It's nice to develop relationships with the people close to home too. I feel safer leaving my house alone when the people around know who I am. If anything, I've got the kids on my side. To a degree that is a little invasive. Most of the time at home I hear "Kuya Kelly, Kuya Kelly"! Apparently it takes time for the novelty of a new person in town to wear off.
School is almost done for the year. I'm looking forward to closure with this year. It's been very difficult. I'm not going to lie. I've had a hard time connecting with the teachers and getting into any kind of routine. I'm struggling to keep my head above water. I don't want to get into it right now, but I really miss my job back home (not to mention, most of all my friends). I'm excited for Shannon to be here soon. At this point she will be here in 10 days. We are going to spend a week on an island called Bohol. There are some cool geographical ornaments, tarsiers (worlds smallest monkey), scuba diving/ snorkeling, white beaches and some nice hikes. I've only heard good things about this place. I'm looking forward to running water, toilets that flush, air conditioning and a hot shower (even though cold showers feel better at this point). And a hug!
Thanks again for checking in with my blog and keeping tabs on me. I hope I have an opportunity to write more soon.

ps - yes, that's a picture of Jesus in Levi's next to his Harley! What a stud!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Waterfalls and Caraboa Poo

Hiking to a waterfall always sounds like a good idea. So we all jumped on the opportunity to go for a hike, and enjoy a nice, clean swimming hole. We left early Sunday morning to a town called Bobon (same town that Sto. Nino was in), and walked to the end of a road heading out of town, and into some rice fields. Eventually the roads stopped and we were presented with several rice fields to cross.
This time of year the rain has been heavy. So the fields are well saturated, and the soil mostly consist of clay, what I like to call "muck", and carabao poo (lots of it) (bogs of it). The parts of the fields that we could walk on were super slippery, narrow paths of wet clay. On either side of the clay was rice swamp. From time to time the slick trail would disappear and we would have to walk through the rice swamp. It was about knee deep, also slippery under the "muck", it created a suction cup effect and would swallow your shoe if you were wearing any, full of snails, poky things, and worms (all kinds of worms) (I'll explain more about worms if I ever get any, but until then I will not go there. You're welcome!). Also, did I mention the carabao poo pots.
We all had a good sense of humor as we crossed through the fields. We had to cross some streams, and the river a couple times. For the most part the bridges were fallen coconut trees with a bamboo railing. Most of the time. After hiking for a couple hours we came to the edge of a forest, and walked down some carabao trails following the river until we came to the waterfall. It was pretty amazing walking through a tropical forest barefoot, not wanting to stop and inspect the size of the bugs I'm walking on. Also knowing that there are snails in this country that can burrow into my skin, lay eggs and then raise a family comfortable in my sub-dermis. Thankfully it wasn't raining. Leeches come out when it rains (Stand By Me)!
The waterfall was beautiful. It's about a hundred feet tall, there were many different types of butterflies flying around. Many of them were the size, if not bigger than my hand. And we were surrounded by a variety of old growth trees, a rock face that the water fell from and a nice cool pool to swim in.
We spent most of the day there. We had peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch, and the filipinos had a mound of rice and some liver. Yummy. Actually, it's not too bad. After we had our fill of swimming and relaxing we began our trek back across the rice fields. Fortunately on the way home some of the muck had dried up from the sun, but it was still a nasty sticky mess. A couple hours later we were back where we started. Everybody was exhausted from the hike and the sun and excited to get home to eat dinner and go to sleep.
I had such a great time on this adventure. I kept thinking of all my friends back home and wishing you could be here with me. It's not often that I get to go for a hike, get some cuts and bruises, want food all the way back home, and enjoy some beautiful scenery. Just like my great weekends back home with you guys!
A pedicab ride, another long walk, a jeepnee ride, another jeepnee ride, and one last walk, then I was finally home. I boiled some water on the stove to pour into the 5 gallon bucket that I use to bath with, scrubbed the carabao and muck off my legs (twice), and then had a great meal to wrap up my day.
The next adventure is a cave near the waterfalls. Sounds like common things that live in caves in the Philippines are: pythons, fruit bats, huge blind crickets (they bite), tarantulas, beetles and anything else that you might see in an Indiana Jones movie. Also, there is another 3 day spelunking trip I've got lined up for next month!

Stay tuned. . .

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sto. Nino 2011

Seeing dark colored people paint themselves black and wear colorful outfits can actually come across as a little intimidating. I don't think the photographs really captured the ominous presence that these men gave off standing scantly clad in their native costumes. I was super impressed. For months when I came to Catarman to get internet, mangoes or see my friends, I would hear these amazing drum circles. They were loud and intense and really caught my attention anytime I was within a quarter mile. I didn't know what they were doing. For all I knew they were just having fun and beating on drums. Didn't bother me. It sounded pretty good, and I didn't live next to it.
Turns out they were practicing for the Sto. Nino Festival in Bobon. To accompany the drummers were dancers, who also practiced for months to get down the correct choreography and perfect their timing. All their practice payed off when it came time to perform.
Unfortunately, the day of the parade it rained like mad. I think it was the only day in the Philippines that I was cold, wet and tired. I loved every minute of it. Before the parade started, the troops were gathered near the church and waited for mass to finish so they could start. During the parade, the drummers pushed their drums on little wheels, and the dancers performed to the beat. After the parade the groups gathered in front of the church and had a dance competition. It was impressive to see the Filipinos working hard together. I've been to several dance competitions here. Mostly, they are hip-hop dance competitions. Always fun to watch. There were also lots of food vendors, and house parties around town. So we had a full day of listening to drums, eating food and shivering.
This particular Sto. Nino, to the best of my understanding was the celebration of the black Jesus. So everybody was painting themselves black. Later in the year, they celebrate the white Jesus, and paint themselves white. I'll keep you posted on that one as time unfolds.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So last time I was trying to upload photos, the internet cut out on me and didn't have a chance until now to post them. Sorry!
some people have also been asking for a mailing address, and that is:
Kelly Taylor
c/o Lina Surio
Hacbeng St. Brgy 2
Pambujan, N. Samar
Philippines

This will change in about a month, but I will still get the mail after I move!

You guys missed a crazy week over here. Lots of flooding, land slides, evacuated towns, days without power, and nice cool weather and cool nights. Hope you enjoy the photos!