Thursday, July 26, 2007

One week left

So i am now 5 days from the end of training and things are heating up. I am studying none stop for the Language Proficiency Interview and Training Assessment Conference to be held on Saturday, which is also the night before we all fly back to Manila for final debriefings and meetings with US and Philippine government officials, and then the formal swearing in. We are excited to say the least. We have been slowing wrapping up our tech and language sessions and are also preparing to do our community projects in our respective training sites this week. Craig and I have decided to facilitate a Mangrove cleanup which the elementary school in Tapon Norte which they desperately needs right now. It makes things a lot easy when you can just walk into a school here without telling anyone and ask the have if we can use the children all afternoon on a school day four days before we plan on doing it. All that and without hesitations the head teacher said "Yes" ( can you image the amount of paper work that we would have to do in the US.) Afterwords we are going so show finding Nemo and a video on Mangroves along with a poster making contest. It should be a lot of fun, because we are going to fly by the seat of our pants. Yesterday we had our final open water scuba dive before we received our certifications. all i can say is WOW!!!!!! We went back to Apo Island which is considered to be a top ten diving destination in the world. We did two dives and during that time we saw sea turtles, sea snakes, fish of ever size and color. Even for people that are good at concentrating (Which i am not) it was hard to stay focused on one thing because of the beauty around use. Our second dive we went to 70 feet along a wall that was about 100 feet high. It was at this point that i could look up and not see the surface and realized that i had been underwater for about a half hour and i still had another half hour to go before i reached the surface. The water was clear and the coral was magnificent and overflowing with color and life that stretched deeper than light would allow my eyes to see. Sadly i had to return to the surface but i have for sure found a new love when it comes to water activities. I did not decide to get my certification just for fun (not that it is not by any means) i did it because i believe that it will be a great tool for my job. The step i am getting ready to take after swearing in is the heart of what Peace Corps is. Living in community with others in a way that others might not find comfortable or easy. Just because i have been here for over two months and have studied various aspects of the culture and tech does not make what i am getting ready to do any less challenging. Soon the comfort of have Americans that are going through the same process will be some distance away and once again i will begin a new life. This life is going to be conducted outside the cultural norms that i was used to in the US and even in San Jose. I will be relaying on my faith and what i have learned so far. I still have a lot to learn in every area and i will still make mistakes and cultural bad chooses that i will have to deal with. There will be very bad days and there will be many amazing days and i am excited for every one of them. I do not know what kind of person i will be when i service ends but that is what i am excited about. -- David Walker Lumsden PCT San Jose Neg. Or. Phil. Batch 266

Monday, July 16, 2007

For those of us who have lived in the US for most in not all of our lives we have seen that a dollar will not get you as much as it used to. We can buy three packs of gum before tax or buy a piece of fruit or vegetable, maybe a few pencils or other small items, but there are not many everyday things that we can get with a green back ( i know there are others you can think ofbut that is not the point). A dollar as you might guess can go along way in the Philippines. Here is a list of a few things that you can get: $1 is 45 pesos - I can eat a semi hot lunch and a coke for around 70 cents. - i can get a round trip ticket to the capital city about 30km for 60 cents - A pineapple is around 30 cents - Sam Miguel (Budweiser of the Philippines) is about $1.10 a Liter - A bottle of Rum is less (sadly enough) - A massage is $5 an hour - A taxi in the capital is 20-30 cents I did not tell you all those of kicks. One week ago i had a conversation with a local fisherman while completing one of my assignments and the talking soon turned to income. Come to find out that the average income per day for a fisherman in San Jose is around 35 Pecos (around 80 cents). With that money they have to feed their family, keep up their boat, and house, not to mention the other things that come with life. Now look at the list above again and look at a few more items listed below - A #1 (Big Mac Meal) at McD's is 115 pesos or $2.50 - A liter of milk is 64 pesos - A pizza is for one person is 250 pesos - A stick of deodorant can be up to 157 pesos - A generic supply of an average antibiotic for seven days will cost 1,300 pesos (infections are common for of the tropical climate) I is hard to complain about living off 90 cents a day here and soon, when i am living on my own i will be paid more than a teacher (whom will in many cases will teach a whole grade). This is not meant to make anyone feel guilty or anything of the like. It is only a chance show a little bit more about life here. The reason i am here is to help create and maintain coastal resources management projects that will in turn help fisher folk be able to better provide for their own families. This is not a process that will be able to happen within the time frame of my service it is one that will take many many years. But the realiality of life here push me more to be a part of creating something sustainable for future well being of the fishermen and the families. ------------------ This past week was a good a very exciting week because of the events that took place after language training. My other Cluster mate and I (there are only two of us in tech training in San Jose now) had a chance to spend time with school children to gauge their understanding of coastal and land resources around them. It was a blast! i had there complete attention for an hour and had a chance to show pictures of my life back in the US of which many of you where in. The school is small and un-air conditioned as you might expect and the high tide brings water right against the outer walls of the buildings as the ocean feeds minerals vital to the many Mangroves in and around the school. It will be hard to forget the experience. On Saturday all 13 of us went to Bias City to go Dolphin watching and "man was is cool!" we watched in amazement as large pods swam with and around the boat for about an hour until we retreated to a white sand bar for some swimming and lunch. We also visited a recycling program that the city had started and was highly successful ( this is a rare thing to see in the Philippines). The following day many of us had our first chance to preform an open water scuba dive. I know i have used amazing and cool before in this email but they are the best words to describe the event. For the first time i was 35 feet underwater swimming along side a wall of coral, watching a Bat fish the size of of large TV swimming next to me while also looking up at the seemingly distant surface that merely blurred into a florescent blue. Next week will be our final swim and test as we return to Apo island to preform two 1 hour dives. It has been 3 months since i left Portland, 2 Months since i arrived in the Philippines, and two weeks before starting a new life. There is still a lot to do but time is coming to a close for training, and soon i will encounter a new set of challenges and tribulations that will test me even further than i already have. Thanks again for your support. Talk to you soon Prayer Requests - Continued Motivation and desire to serve the Philippine people - Continued understand of language - For the other PCTs as they also prepare for the end of training -- David Walker Lumsden PCT San Jose Neg. Or. Phil. Batch 266

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A rally cry

The day before i was to leave Portland Oregon for a long journey to Tennessee and on to the Philippines i heard a CNN reporter talking about a missing aid worker in the Philippines. Turned out that the worker, Julia Campbell was a Peace Corps volunteer. The story did not end well with the discovery of her body in a shallow grave in the northern part of the country where she was visiting a scenic area before the end of her service. I arrived in country only about a month after the event, and ever since i got off the plane back in May her name has never been far from the minds of the volunteers, staff and many of the citizens of this country. The last time i wrote i talked about the concept of saving face and this incident surely put the concept into focus for many of us during training. What happened is seen by many Filipinos not as an accident or someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time, they see it as a national disgrace and it shows. Both through conversation with everyday people and those who i am close to. Her community deeply morned her loss and there is a national outrage toward the suspect as they ask " why this person?" This would not be the same from a national perspective if the victom was a Filippino. Because she was a forginer and one who was loved by many. She was respected by her co-teachers and childern she spen so much time with. The US media paid little attention to happenings while it remained national news for many days in the country. The effects of this are in many ways more obvious. Tourism dropped by 30-40% shortly after the murder in the area of the incident and there as been widespread interest in the coming trail for the main suspect. Even for those of us who did not arrive until after her death have been affected via tighter restrictions on travel. The previous week was a roller coaster ride to say the least. It was hard for many of us the accept that two close friends had returned home. I am sure that they are doing well but that is not to say that the change for us has been easy for our cluster. On Saturday those of us who remained went to a talent show meant to raise money for a preschool building in our adopted barangay Tapon Norte. Today we received word that we have been asked to help design and build the structure. For us this is a big privilege and one we are more than happy to assist in. To me this shows that our efforts to build relationships with the community during our short time in San Jose has paid off. But this will also make it harder to leave in two weeks. I am starting to realize that i will be coming back to visit as long as i am in the Philippines. On Sunday we began SCUBA training which was a good change of pace. We are 17 days from the end of training and the beginning of service and for many of us we are counting down the days. I have been planning some of the adventures and tasks that i will undertake in Maria along with strategies for all aspects of life ( i am not saying that i will follow through on the plans but i will try). We are going to be doing some education at the elementary school this week which should be a lot of fun. That is it for now i hope you are doing well. Prayer Requests for continued motivation for continued understanding of the language and technical componits to emotional and spiritally prepare for living on my own.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Concept of saving face

The idea of hospitality is one of the strongest moral obligations that native Filipinos hold sacred. With in this more is the concept of "Saving face." A Filipino is keen on this idea. When you walk in the door of someones house they will always offer you food and clear a place for you to sit. They will go as far as to rearrange their schedule to make sure that they are meeting some one's needs or expectations I have found this to be very true during my time in the communities that i have started to call home. The family that i am currently assigned to in San Jose are some of the kindest people i know. Almost no one works yet they let make me feel like guest every time i come home. Sometimes my bed will be remade and my room cleaned (even if it did not need it). Food always seems to be closer to my plate than the rest of the families. Not to mention the way they cook has changed to suit my more American need to veggies on my plate. One morning i woke up early to get to another part of the province only to find that Germin (my host mom) was up much earlier and she would otherwise be, cooking on the stove. I asked her why she was up so early and she look at me with a puzzled look and said "I am making your packed lunch for the trip." This included friend chicken, mango, rice, pineapple juice, and an assortment of bakery goods. The reason for this is two fold. One again is hospitality, but underneath that is the saving of face. They do not want to be seen as not taking care of a guest (more so for an out of county guest). In the eyes of a native country person if I or any other guest was not taken care of to the standards set by the culture at large shame will be brought on their family. If we as Americans set up an event at a place that was found not to be conducive to the event as a whole even if it was someones home we would move it to a new location without much hesitation if the opportunity arouse. Even this would be seen as losing face. "My place is not good enough," or "I was not a good enough host." An American perspective might be and i say might be "I understand that there is a better place will be good for this event'" or " that is OK maybe we try a different event here in the future." I am not saying these are the responses of every American but this might be a typical response to the situation at hand. This is a concept that many of us struggle with because we want to be a part of the commuity and a guest. ----------------------------------- I am now back on Negros and am about three weeks away from finishing PST and the begining of my two years of service in Maria, Siquijor. Yesterday the remaining members of our cluster had one on one time with the Country Director Karl. I really enjoyed my conversation with him as it ranged from the training to Memphis Blues in the early 40's. I have alot to do in relation to my language skills and therefore that will be the primary focus for me during the remaining weeks here in San Jose. Spending the time that i did on Siquijor was good but i also saw where my challenges where going to come from early on. Maria is somewhat isolatated. Transportation stops at about 4pm and the other citys are not easily accessable. It takes about 90 minutes to get to one of the main cities on the island and for a city boy like me that will be very very hard at frist. But that is ok because i did not join the easy and comfortable Corps i joined the Peace Corps. The name invokes Challenge and personal dsicovery, and Maria is going to offter that challenge. I hope everyone is doing well and i still miss each of you. david lumsden

Monday, July 2, 2007

So i know i sent and email yesterday but to tell you the truth i could not hold in my excitement. Siquijor the island where i will be living for the next two years is also known as the "playground of the Visayans." I am on cloud nine right now. When my name was called my hands where shaking as i walked up front to place my name on the map along with others. I have now met my supervisor and we have started to discuss my future two years and it has only made me more excited, am motivated about what the future holds. Along with me there are three other future volunteers on the island. The island can be rode around by bike in about 5 hours, so there will always be someone near by if i need to get away for a bit. Now this does not change my point of view about the challenges that are ahead because of where i am going to be. This is still going to be hard and things could change at anytime but if things do work out, i believe that i will be happy where i am going. These next five days will continue to reveal the many aspects of what life is going to be like starting in August if all works out well and i pass my training. Last week was kind of stressful because it was mid pre-service training assessment week. We had a language test that was taped along with interviews, self assessments, staff assessments of trainees, and much much more. This will all go into our files in Manila. So it was good to get the week over with. Another bit of positive news is that there was a joint meeting and discussion between the PST staff and our cluster about the events that had taken place and the toll that i had taken on us and the staff. The meeting went really well and after awhile people felt comfortable enough to open up about the subject and it was obvious to the staff that things needed to change and they have. No one has gone home and the cluster remains whole but there are some new things that are being done both spoken and unspoken and for right now that is the way it need to be. I pray that this is the last time i will have to mention this subject. Over the weekend we took a trip out to a small island with one of the most amazingly beautiful coral reefs that i have seen. At one point i was swimming in the middle of a school of Jack fish numbering around 300. I would stop swimming and they would start to slowly circle around me and the another PCT. It was amazing and inspiring. It was also a chance to spend time with the other trainees C. It was a time to take stock of where we were and where we are going. Things here are very overwhelming right now and these emails which are already long enough only cover a few of the things that wish i could talk about. Cultural aspects of life and the realities of life both the good and the bad, life and death, and the simple things that make the day go by more some of many other happenings that i to omit. More specifically my family killing our pig at 5:30 { talk about an alarm clock} in the morning or me tripping as i got off a bus and commando rolled over a parked motor bike (you know......... the things that add stories to our lives). These are the events that impact my everyday but can not find the time to talk about. I know these emails are jumbled at best. Thank you for caring enough to read these. I hope to talk to you again soon. Maayo Gabii (Good Evening)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Adventures

Well i have final made it my training site, and i already have enough stories to fill a book. Formal instruction does not start until tomorrow and i have already learned so much. We all boarded a seemingly normal jet plane on Friday morning bound for our new home. as we where coming in for landing we noticed that there did not seem to be any type of runway underneath us until the last second. We hit the landing strip so hard that the plane bounced back into the air before quickly landing again less that a second later. we all clapped and those who where afraid of flying could not even open their eyes. I for one kind of enjoyed the experience. Dumegette which is the capital of Negros Oriental Provence and has about 300,000+ residents had an airport that was no bigger than a normal one store house. We grabbed our luggage and got into our respective vehicles bound for our new homes. I as well as others where in a Jeepney which is are converted jeeps with to benches and no windows and a rack for luggage. as we where driven down the road it became apparent that we where in some of the most stunningly amazing places on earth. The water was clear, the fruit is so plentiful that it is almost annoying and the air was so thick that it reminded me of a summer day in Tennessee when it felt like you could cut it with a butter knife. Less than twenty minutes from the airport i arrived in San Jose. IT is considered to be a 5th city which means that out of a scale of one to 5 it is the poorest class. We got off the jeep to meet our new families and begin the process of integrating into our new lives. I have a family of 8 two sisters one brother and two husbands and 3 kids. I have been able to figure out the family tree so don't ask. One of the oddest things about my time here is that when i woke up my first morning here i heard the sound of a basket ball game. turns out for less than a meal at Chili's you can get cable which includes ESPN, discovery channel, BBC, Fox News and so one with local and other Asian channels thrown in so i got to watch the playoffs while eating breakfast. Go figure! Showering is an adventure in its self because all you get is a bucket of water and a dipping pale. But i have found it to be quit refreshing. the roosters in the neighborhood tend to start making noise at about 4 in the morning so i am in the process of learning to sleep with lots of noise and it is not easy. I have been swimming many times and i am continually stunned by the clearness of the water and how warm it is. The town is curious about these five Americans that have decided to live in their small town and for that matter i would be to! But the community is kind and welcoming. I love my family and the hospitality that i have been shown. My fears and stress have subsided for the time being and i am just enjoying life Many of you have asked for prayer requests so here they are: 1 For the start of formal training and my ability to learn the language and technical skills that i will need for the next few years 2 To live as a part of the culture and not apart from it 3 to manage my stress 4 to continue to have a focus on my faith 5 to work on growing relationship in my new home That is all for right now so i will date you as time continues God bless each of you. David Walker Lumsden

Thursday, May 17, 2007

flying south

No not silicon valley, This San Jose is at the southern tip of the island of Cebu in my new country. My sector group will be boarding the plane at about seven in the morning for a short flight down to the province Capital and then travel to our respective city and host families to start our training. I have receive word that i will be living with a family of eight in this small coastal town. Many of us including me are very nervous about all the adjustments that we are going to have to make over the next 48 hours. Yesterday we had our water training during which we preform rescue techniques in the case of sinking ferries, out rigger canoes or other various transportation methods. The US Embassy came in and briefed us on the various forms of threats and terrorist activities that take place in the country. Although most of these activities take place in restricted areas of the country it was still good to be informed of the many insurgent groups that have bases in the country. Things have been stressful and it is not going to get any easier as time goes on. This will also be the beginning of less frequent contact as it will be hard to get t Internet. Keep those emails coming "Bendisyonan, ka sa Dios" bless you by God David Walker Lumsden