I was waiting for this past Monday for nearly 7 months and with nail-biting, heart-pounding anticipation, I watched my fate for the next two years be displayed on a screen along with my fellow batch mates. To announce our sites, our regional managers take turns describing different areas in the Philippines in a powerpoint. After each pretty, photo-filled description a map of the area pops up with a big pin in it, and in true Hunger Games fashion, our names are called out and our destinies are revealed. Most areas get a few volunteers at a time so this is also the moment we find out who will be our closest (read: BEST) friends for the next couple of years. Our MC’s work their way down the country, North to South, and everyone is screaming and cheering on their fellow volunteers as their sites get announced. As a group, we are like wild animals at a watering hole, shouting and hooting and drumming on the tables out of the purest glee and excitement. With every name that got called before mine, I felt my heart pound harder and harder. Where is my site? I wondered. We got to the second-to-last region of the country before my name was called and I was so shocked I almost missed it: Bohol, I am moving to Bohol! I’m so excited! I’m so excited! Wait… Where the heck is Bohol?!
So Bohol is the 10th biggest island in the Philippines, a little smaller than the state of Connecticut, and located in the Central Visayas region. Before Monday, I had maybe heard or seen the name in passing but hadn’t done any research on the island. However, since I now know it is going to be my home for the next two years, and I am currently in the presence of fantastic Filipino WiFi (seriously, better than what I had in the States!) I did some research. Here are some cool things I’ve found out about my island:
- Bohol is home to the chocolate hills (named so because their grass turns brown in the dry season, making them look like something delicious out of the Willy Wonka factory). There are between 1,260-1,776 hills. Why the variation? It’s a mystery to me, but I’m keen to figure it out when I get there!
- Bohol is home to the Philippine tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates. A kind of ugly-cute, nocturnal monkey with big eyes.
- Sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, and whale sharks are all visible off of Bohol at some point through the year!
- Off the Northern coast of the island is the Danajon Bank, a double barrier reef, only 1 of 6 in the world! Essentially it’s two huge (156km long) reef systems growing parallel to each other and filled with parrotfish, sea horses, sharks, and many other incredible marine organisms… much exploring to do!
- Oh, in Bohol, they speak Cebuano/Bisayas as their primary language… which I’ve already started learning! Walay problema (no problem)!
Anyway, that’s it for now but there will be plenty more to come once I move to site in just 3 weeks (there are rumors of festivals, running clubs, and excellent seafood)! In the meantime, I have two more weeks of training in my current location. Language clusters have been re-organized by our new locations and we have a little more downtime in the afternoons to make language our focus. My barangay (neighborhood) group is busy planning a community project for the weekend and finishing up our Coastal Environmental Profile (CEP) for the Peace Corps and local government unit whom with we’ve been working. The following week, we throw a thank you party for our host families, an affair that I can already tell will leave me close to tears. It’s a very bittersweet moment; being excited for the future while dreading the present becoming the past. My host family here has been wonderful and they will be truly missed. After all this, I’ll have a week in Manila that I’ll discuss in more detail closer to the time… then September 15th I pack my bags up and head to site!
Last but not least: visitors are most certainly welcome! Part of the Peace Corps mission to spread world peace and friendship includes a sharing of cultures, and having people come visit would be the BEST way to accomplish this goal. So start planning a trip and let me know when to roll out the red carpet!
Thanks for reading,
*** Note: the photos in this post are NOT mine, but borrowed from the ever so useful Wikipedia.