Saturday, September 8, 2012

Milkshakes and Hills

End of August and Welcoming the –BER months:

End of August was a busy bunch of days. It began with a bittersweet gathering with lots of reminiscing, laughing, eating, and spending quality time with my favorite Peace Corps volunteers. We met in Manila because the lovely Phyllis was preparing to go back to the US. We began with wine, of course! After wine we went to TGIF to have some burgers and other cheesy delights. We sat there for hours but then we all suddenly started to feel like ice cubes. Guess it is safe to say that our bodies are not used to aircon anymore. I kept wishing I had a backpack filled with hats, scarves, and jackets… maybe I should rethink my decision to come home for Christmas… just jokin’! After dinner it was time for hugs and “see you laters.” Phyllis was a dedicated volunteer, one who inspired me (who still inspires me) with her positive outlook on life and a yearning to improve the quality of life of everyone who she meets. I will never forget listening to her talk about the comfortable reading room she created at the college where she was working. I am certain that students there will continue the dream that Phyllis began. Some successes may not be published for the world to see but that is the beauty that lies in the unseen. Her jokes are one of a kind, only ones that come from someone who should be the master of this universe. I miss you Phyllis, see you in HawaiiJ.

After Manila, I went to Lipa to meet my principal because it was time for Supervisors’ Conference. There were two volunteers, Katlin and I, who were chosen to go to the conference with our principals and help facilitate and share our experiences about working together with the new batch of volunteers who arrived in the Philippines in July. I think this is when it finally hit me that I have been here over a year already. Honestly, without the changing of seasons that I am used to in Wisconsin, the months tend to just blur together. Anyways… my principal and I were excited to share our story about how we make it work. For us, our success comes from simply lots of laughs and lots of conversations. The conference was four days and each day went really well. I was really proud of my supervisor, what an actress she is! She and I had to do a role play for one of the sessions, she was definitely the star. She also had to do a few more role plays later on with all of the new supervisors. Her personality lit up the room and really helped the supervisors understand the role they play in a volunteer’s journey.

In other news about the conference the hotel we stayed at was a great one. The food was great, the beds were great, and the hot water was so great. One night Katlin and I ordered room service- milkshakes were delivered to our room. I actually enjoyed my milkshake and took a bubble bath at the same time. The only thing our room did not have was carpet. Lately, I have actually been dreaming about rubbing my feet over carpet, or a huge fluffy rug. My Grandmother always had these fantastic feeling rugs in her bathroom. Growing up I always wondered why my grandmother’s bathroom was carpeted but now I am dreaming about it. Luckily, I only have to wait about 100 more days and then I can wear fuzzy socks and walk a thousand steps on carpet. Another perk about being at the hotel was that there was a small gym. I was able to run on a treadmill and see how fast I could run consecutive miles. Running around the streets of my town is great but I do not have a fancy gadget to clock my miles. I ran one night for 60 minutes. It helped boost my motivation and get me wound up to run the half marathon the following weekend. So, after sharing experiences and key ideas with new volunteers, deepening my relationship with my principal, eating way too much, having many one-on-one conversations with new volunteers that were each individually perfect, and taking a bubble bath, I will just say that it was a engaging four days.

After the conference Katlin and I decided to go back to Manila for two days. I had to stay in the area because it was silly for me to go back to Marinduque for one day and then leave again to run the half marathon. One day, we walked around the grocery store for a really long time. The whole time my mouth was watering as I was walking down the international isles wishing I had more money to spend. I almost bought this dry mix of yogurt cultures. It would be great to have yogurt back in my life but it was way too expensive. We did buy this chex mix muddy buddies mix. It tasted exactly like puppy chow! We also went to Mall of Asia, which is just way too over stimulating for me, but I needed to buy some gels for the race. I was really happy when I found the same brand I bought in the states; I did not really want to use a gel that I was unfamiliar with, who knows how my stomach would have reacted. There was also a new Forever21 at the mall. This is my favorite store in the states so I had to check it out! After walking in circles for awhile we finally found the store. At a glance, everything looked marvelous and very pleasing to my eyes. However, as I began to search for maybe one new shirt or pair of pants I quickly realized that style had changed since I have been gone. I was awed by the belly shirts, the bright neon colors hurt my eyes and I was not exactly sure how to put an outfit together with pants that go up to my boobs. Then, there were thousands of lovely patterned sports bra looking pieces of fabric, I think they are suppose to be paired with a very low cut v-neck shirt, or maybe worn solo with the high rise pants, I am still unsure. There was also a very large collection of shirts that had wings down the sides. After laughing with Katlin about how unfashionable we felt, I decided to just buy some new headbands.

Finally it was time to go to Laguna, where I would run the Milo Marathon. I had talked to some ladies in Manila about a good hotel to stay at in Laguna so even though I was traveling alone, I felt comfortable knowing I was going to a recommended hotel. I arrived on Saturday, the day before the race. I was excited to pick of my race shirt and just relax the day away, preparing my muscles for the challenge. I had two things on my mind the whole time- one was obviously if I could get myself across the finish line and two was thinking about my best friend. She was getting married the same weekend, the one who is normally by my side doing crazy things like running marathons. I normally do not feel alone but I really did that day. I wanted my best friend and my sister by my side. I also was not sure how I would feel racing without my dad, little brother, and boyfriend cheering me on. I really had to talk to myself and make myself believe that I could still do it without all of these very important things in the mix of the challenge.

On the morning of the race I woke up at 3am. The race started at 4:30. I prepared myself and then walked to the starting line. It is a whole new thing, (but I am getting used to it now) living my life as a minority. As I approached the starting line at the Milo Marathon I quickly realized that I was the only blond, the only white person, one of few women, but I seemed to blend right in to most onlookers… maybe because it was pitch black. I noticed I was different before others did. Maybe that it how it normally goes- the minority (in whatever way it may be) notices the differences first. I actually started stretching and warming up like the people around me just so I could blend into the group. I began reflecting about some pretty deep things and then at 4:30 on the dot we all started running. My heart was pounding faster than ever. I was a little nervous but I knew I could do it. It did not take long for me to find a running partner. After saying good morning and exchanging a few words, we decided to run together. It was more difficult for me to speak Tagalog when I was so focused on not running too fast too soon and talking to myself about how I better run the entire way. Luckily for me my running partner was an inspiring one because he was running barefoot. I just kept telling myself that if he can do it I can too. Like I expected, the sun came up as we ran over the half way time marker. I felt great as I ate a small banana, drank a little Gatorade, and slurped down my hammer gel. Aside from the fact that I really wanted my family to be around one of the corners, the hardest part for me was the hills. There were so many! My positive talk going up each hill was that I was using different muscles to get my body up that hill so it was giving some other muscles a rest. There were many beautiful things along the way- the scenery, the other runners, and the high fives with strangers! After the race, back at the hotel, I was also asked by a family to join them for lunch. I already felt really good and happy after running the race but having complete strangers take me in as a friend to enjoy a meal was the perfect ending.

Part of the intramurals meet. The track and fielders. They all run barefooted.

A project I did with some beautiful ladies at the Hope House. After all of the magazine coils are glued and in place, you pop the balloon and it is a small bowl for little treasures. 

My amazing principal at Supervisors' Conference. 

The education Resource PCVs. We all had a great time working together!


& Puppy Chow... 

This is the only photo I have of the race. I am still smiling even after 21k of hills. 

Grammar project using modals. Occasion #32583920 where I felt totally impressed by one of my students.

Now, as September begins, I am busy planning a training that I will do next weekend with some of the education college students. I am also gearing up to join some of my students at the Girl Scouts encampment next week- should be a thrill! My Frisbee is still floating in the breeze as my students are always playing. Life is good. 

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