Thursday, September 25, 2014

First Week: Travel, Typhoons and being a Teacher

Well I've been in the Philippines for just a little over a week now and I think it's about time for a blog post. It'll be a long one, since I've been slacking in my blogging so far. Here's what I've been doing all week. Monday was spent in the air and in airports; since I crossed the international date line at some point I actually landed in Manila on Tuesday night after leaving New York on Monday morning. In the airport I was picked up by Fray, an employee of the church here in the Philippines and an excellent friend and guide. Manila is a fantastic city. It reminds me of New York City, except in Manila I would be much too afraid to jay walk, and the people in the stores are much more polite. I only spent a few days in Manila, and one of them was lost to jet-lag, as I settled down for a nap and ended up sleeping all day, an accident I've repeated once or twice since. Mostly in Manila I wandered around the lovely grounds of the Church center, an island of greenery in the busy metropolis, and sat in the Starbucks down the block, trying to get used to people calling me "Sir".

 The Episcopal Church Center in Manila. By the way, there are dogs everywhere 

 Filipinos are good at Graffiti 

Metro Manila peaking up from behind the trees of the church center 

On Thursday evening I was sitting in Starbucks when it started raining, the kind of downpour I associate with short summer storms back home. I tried to decide whether I should get wet or try to wait it out, and after about 20 minutes decided to just get wet. It continued for four days. This, I would learn, was Typhoon Mario. The next day Fray drove me through it for the six hour drive to Baguio, through the flooded streets of Manila and the rain soaked roadside towns where children sat with fishing poles to catch tilapia in the rising swampland. So my first introduction to Baguio was to a grey city with water running in streams down the hilly streets.

 Typhoon Mario flooding the streets and yards of Manila

Long rainy drive

I have since found Baguio to be a beautiful city. Brightly colored houses crowd each other on the steep hillsides, overlooking the steep and narrow streets where brightly colored jeepneys (a kind of public transportation looking like a stretched out jeep, driven with the aggression and abandon of a NYC cabbie) battle for space with cars, motorcycles and pedestrians. Wherever there is a break in the slightly ramshackle buildings one can see lovely views of the Cordillera highlands.

I am staying now in the Easter College Hotel, in one of the four rooms maintained by the School of Hospitality. I haven't started teaching yet, that will begin on Monday. This week is intermurals for the high school department (Easter College has an elementary department, high school, and college) so yesterday was a pep rally and field day, and today and tomorrow is given over to ball games. I was asked to judge the cheering competition, which was truly impressive. Each class had planned and choreographed their own cheer, complete with matching shirts, and painted arms and faces. The theme for this year was super heroes, so I was privileged to watch the classes being led in their cheers by Wonder Woman, Hulk and Batman, among others. Since that introduction to the school it has been my pleasure to walk out of my room in the morning to be greeted by groups of students saying "good morning sir"

So that's all for now, mostly I've been exploring Baguio, sitting in the canteen drinking coffee, and practicing the guitar. Next week will be challenging as I begin my teaching for real, but I am excited for it to start, and it seems that the students are too, I've been approached by several of them asking when I'm going to start and if they'll be allowed to join.

These lovely people have been showing me around

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I'm still fundraising. Any amount donated is greatly appreciated, checks can be sent to Mission Personnel, attn Yanick Fourcand at 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

Thank you and blessings from Baguio!