Holy Shrimp! This Scampi Happening!

Community based training is coming to a close and by the end of the day I will officially be a Peace Corps Volunteer. The feelings are a mixed bag right now, though excitement is definitely floating round the top. It feels like the hours before a Thanksgiving feast, I know something fun and special is happening in a few hours and anticipation is settling in like the rumbling of my pre-feast stomach. Is it two o’clock yet?

But there’s also a bit of sadness at saying goodbye to my 61 batch mates. We’ve been each other’s rocks, each other’s family for the past ten weeks. Tomorrow we will scatter across the country like grains of sand in the wind, only to ever all meet again at in-service trainings and that’s five months away at least. There is also a sometimes spoken, sometimes silently implied, notion that not all of us will return. We are volunteers, if it doesn’t feel right, we can always go home and inevitably some of us do.

And there is also a slight nervousness at becoming the new kid on the block again, in an office, in a family, in a foreign town. We are starting from scratch again, we only have an idea of what lies ahead. But at the end of it, will we have more than two years of amazing, life changing experiences that are ours for life. In a few hours, as I take my oath as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I know the feelings that will encompass me most: joy and pride.

Anyway, I have some last minute packing to do (2am flight!) and I need to get myself dressed up for the big ceremony. Oh, did I mention that after there is a feast? With a cheese station (heart skips a beat)! Okay, for now, here’s a little run down of what the last few weeks of community-based training:

Mon. Aug 22nd – Language Proficiency Exams (super stressful oral exam in Tagalog) and Site Announcements (Bohol, here I come!).

Tues. Aug 23rd – Begin local language lessons. After nearly two months of speaking Tagalog I started to learn Visayas. There are a handful of similarities and many, many differences. For starters, in Tagalog, we add the word po to most sentences as a sign of respect to whomever you are speaking to… in Visayas, there is no po, so we’re now training ourselves to be impolite in our current community in order to fit into our next one. Complicated stuff.

Sat. Aug 27th – Community Project Day! We had discussed several ideas for community projects—environmental education, beach clean-ups, alternative livelihood development—but given the time restraints, we ended up painting signs for the school and community. We held the event at the town’s basketball court which was nice as local kids just hanging out could come and participate. Signs were painted for the school (no parking, quiet zone) and for the community (for example: reduce, reuse, recycle).

Sat. Sept 3rd – My barangay (neighborhood) mates and I hosted a Handog para Host Family, essentially a thank you party for our host families! We had catering, corn hole, pin the tail on the caribou, a couple of giant cakes, certificate giving, photo taking, and of course, videoke! It was a meaningful and emotional day sharing memories and ideas of the past two months as a cross-cultural family.

Sun. Sept 4th – My despidida! Now my family turned the tables and hosted a going away party for me. There was videoke, delicious foods, cakes, snacks, and a whole bunch of family! A few of my fellow trainees stopped by, as did my trainers, and we belted out many songs together, in English, Tagalog, and some Taglish as well.

Weds. Sept 7th – We say farewell to our families and board the bus to Manila for our last week as Trainees. I say an emotional goodbye to my Titas and Lola, who walk me to the bus and send me off with a delicious baon one last time. Things are definitely bittersweet as we pull away. That afternoon we arrived in Manila, toured the Peace Corps office and arrive at the hotel to reunite with our batch mates from the other sectors.

Sat. Sept 10th – The plague (stomach bug) hits 20 of us volunteers and I missed the adventure day in Manila.

Sun. Sept 11th – We welcome our counterparts at the work-partner conference! Here we got to meet the person that is going to be our guide for the next two years in our offices. I met an enthusiastic and kind fellow named Alex, who is the head of the Coastal Resource Management Office where I will be spending my next two years. We spend three days discussing work-partner relations, cultural differences, and expectations for our roles as volunteers, and finally, we have arrived on today.

Wed. Sept 14th – Swearing-in… enough said!

Thank you all for reading. If you want to watch a live streaming of the Swearing-In or a posted video for the 48 hours, head to this link:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/peacecorpsphilippines

Peace,

S

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