Quick Updates

Sorry for not posting in a few days! I was lucky enough to spend my birthday weekend on the island of Biliran in northern Leyte and haven’t been able to access Internet. Over the weekend, we wandered through hot springs, saw rice terraces, dove off of waterfalls, went snorkeling in clear water, got stung by jellyfish and unfortunately, eventually got sunburnt. It was an incredible trip, and then to top it off, tonight was Tatays birthday, so we celebrated all day and night with the family. Ill be sure to post pictures and other things in the next few days, but that’s it for now.

Thanks for all the bday wishes, I am so lucky to be surrounded with such amazing people, and I wouldn’t be here without you! Lots of love from this newly twenty year old!

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A Day in the Life

Now that I’ve been here for a bit, I feel like the best way to show you exactly what I’ve been doing is to show you exactly what I’m doing, via photos and a timeline.  So here is what I did today:

6 AM – Wake up and get ready

6:15 AM – Breakfast with Pamela (This usually consists of a mango, and then two bread/carb options; today we had a mango, slice of pizza, and bread roll with peanut butter)

6:30 AM – Meet my other partners under the arch to leave

6:45 AM – Catch our first jeepney from Tacloban to Palo

7:15 AM – Arrive at Palo Public Market, and buy food for the meal we would cook later on

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7:45 AM – Catch our second jeepney from Palo to Santa Fe

8: 10 AM – Takea motor bike from Santa Fe to our nutrition project (they are BEYOND fun to ride, sorry mom!)

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8:25 AM – Arrive at the San Juan Nutrition Project with the food, and prepare the meal for the kids

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9:30- 10:30 AM Serve the kids the food, and clean up

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(10:30 AM Usually we leave at this time, but today we had to talk to the principal of the school and the captain of the barangay about the upcoming nutrition seminar my friend Cam and I are putting on. These are also other pictures of the communal garden from around the feeding project area.)

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10:45 AM – Catch a motor bike back to Santa Fe

11 AM – Catch a jeepney from Santa Fe to Robinsons Mall

11:45 AM – Arrive at Robinsons  Mall and eat lunch with my partners

12:30 PM – Walk back to office after placement

12:45-6 We have free time to do whatever we wish now. For example, we go to the gym, work on upcoming projects, take a nap, shower, go shopping at the Mall, go on the internet, plan trips for the weekend, play at the orphanage…etc)

6:15 PM – Dinner with Pamela (Our nanay provides us with dinner every night, and just the volunteers eat together, not with the family.  A normal dinner is usually comprised of rice, a mango, and three main dishes.  Some past main dishes I have had are soup, okra, sweet and sour fish, chicken, sweetpork, shrimp, veggie omelets.)

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7 PM – After dinner, we have more free time to do as we wish.  During this time the center is closed, so we usually go and hang out at Cafe Lucias (an internet cafe), go to the movies, go shopping, or hang out at home.  Recently, I have continued to be jet lagged, so if I’m not going out of the house I will usually go to bed around 9.  I’m also not used to waking up this early, so adjusting to that on top of the jet lag is problematic as well.

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, it’s been a great week so far!

Living Large

It’s been a whirlwind past few days traveling and finally arriving in Tacloban City, but it is slowly becoming more and more normal. I am living in what other volunteers have described it as the “Ritz Carlton” of home-stays, because is has a television, a working shower and toilet, and wifi on occasion. Definitely a lot nicer than what I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise. The family that I am living with is extremely friendly, nanay (mom in waray) cooks the other volunteer and my breakfast and dinner. So far it has been delicious, and I even tried some fish…and get this, I actually liked it! She also home makes her peanut butter, which is by far the best tasting PB I’ve ever had, and I usually eat it for breakfast. I’m definitely enjoying making friends with all the other volunteers here, and they are mainly in their early twenties, so we’re all very close in age.

During my orientation on Sunday, I was able to learn more about VFV and one of the coordinators showed me around town. We travel by way of jeepney, which is the public transportation of the area, and are just really awesome looking buses. Downtown Tacloban has a lot of stores and restaurants in it, even a Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds.

Today was the first day of my placement, and I was working with two other volunteers. We bought food for the feeding program at a local market and then brought it to the makeshift kitchen to cook and serve to the kids. After the long journey back home, we went back to the office to relax and meet up with the rest of the volunteers.

The food here is generally pretty good, but they fry almost all of it, and what they don’t fry, they garnish with salt and sugar. I rarely get fresh fruit and vegetables unfortunately, but I’m trying to adjust while still being courteous to my nanay. The obesity epidemic definitely makes sense now that I’ve been here, and it’s only been a few days.

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, I’m looking forward to exploring so much more of Tacloban!

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Tokyo in 24 Hours

I wish I could stay for longer, but I mean the Philippines are calling, so can’t bail on them now…Overall, I loved exploring around Tokyo and just taking in what culture I could in the short amount of time I was there-the main places I hit were Ginza, Shibuya and Harajuku. Many people warned me about feeling jetlagged, but I’ve never really felt it before, so I wasn’t worried. Then it hit me like a brick wall around 7pm Thursday night, and I quickly passed out around 8, only to be wide awake at 6:15 with nothing to do. I proceeded to go to Starbucks (only thing open that early) and read until it was a suitable time to explore the city on my own for a few hours. Here is a compressed list of things I learned/saw:

1. Everything is smaller in Japan (cough, cough, the people). For example, beds, ceilings, silverware, glasses, cars, etc.
2. My body is not use to humidity, especially my hair. It’s going to be a struggle the next couple of months.
3. The metro is much bigger here than in the Bay area, but just as easy to navigate, even though it was in a different language-which is saying something.
4. Shibuya feels eerily similar to SF or NYC, as there are huge billboards everywhere with English writing on them, and it felt like the concrete jungle.
5. I stumbled upon a large park in the middle of the city, called Yoyogi Park. It was beautiful and peaceful and empty. It made me wish I could have gone on a run there.
6. I was shocked to find how many American franchise stores were in the city. To name a few I saw, there was Abercrombie, Forever 21, Dennys, American Eagle, McDonalds, 7-11, not even including the designer stores.
7. People would start talking to me in Japanese and then I’d say, “sorry, English?” They proceeded to talk in Japanese…this happened multiple times.
8. However, people here are very helpful! A few came up to me and asked if I needed help, because I probably looked seriously confused.
9. The subways are always silent because everyone is staring at their phone or sleeping.
10. I wandered into a protest on the streets of Shibuya, which of course was no big deal, considering I live in Berkeley.

That Christmas morning feeling

After countless trips to Walmart, REI, and various sporting stores throughout the greater Roseville area, I can honestly say I am ready for this trip (thanks mom!).  It has been a long time coming, and I woke up this morning with the same jitters that I get on Christmas morning.  During my multiple day trip to get to the Philippines, I will have layovers in both Tokyo and Manila, and I will arrive in Tacloban City on Saturday afternoon. 

This trip is made possible with help from the Blum Center, and contributes to my minor requirements for Global Poverty and Practice. I could not have thought of a better way to fulfill this requirement, than to work with the NGO Volunteer for the Visayans, based in Tacloban City.   While I am there for the next 7 weeks, I will be living with a host family and immersing myself in the rich Filipino culture (and food of course, I mean, I am a Nutrition major). As this is a pretty rural area, the internet will be spotty and I definitely won’t have it every day, but I will try to update this blog a couple times a week.  As a disclaimer, writing is not my forte, so bear with me and I promise to post as many pictures of my adventures as possible, so you don’t have to read through my rambling.  

Finally, thanks to all my friends and family for your support, you know who you are and I love you all!!