The night before we were up until 4 am talking with Ximena, Daniel, and Pat and then unpacking. We didn’t even realize what time it was because of jetlag (it would have been 3 pm back home). We slept for a few hours, then showered and headed out with Daniel to see Subic and Olongapo and do some necessary shopping. Before we even left, my right eye began to bother me, and I was sure there was something in it, but I couldn’t see anything. At times throughout the day, it would bother me so much that I couldn’t open my eye. I began to worry that my eye was getting seriously damaged by whatever was scratching it profusely.
Daniel was an amazing tour guide and shopping advisor. He took us all over town and back and forth to home a couple of times to drop of the things we purchased. Before we left for town, we went up to the school and met Ms. Edna – our hero – and other staff. Ms. Edna is the one who answered all of our questions and helped us with all our paperwork before we arrived. We got our lap tops and Daniel showed us around the school. It’s different from home where the building is all interior. Here, the hallways are outside and there are giant courtyards with picnic tables and benches. Each classroom has an outdoor entrance. The building is staffed 24/7 with guards at all entrances, and they can let you into the pool or workout area any time of day or night. My classroom is HUGE! And from what I hear, my class sizes will be very very small, about 10-15 kids. I have my own laptop and my room is air conditioned, so you won’t hear me complaining too much! Jeff’s gym is not air conditioned, but it has giant garage doors all the way around it that can be opened during the day. His dress code is also very relaxed, so he can wear gym shorts and t-shirts every day. He doesn’t actually have a classroom, but he has a desk in the teacher’s lounge. I don’t envy him. He will also be teaching one section of 9th grade world history as well.
After we saw the school, Daniel took us down into Subic. There are two malls very close together, but one is on the Subic side of the river and the other is on the Olongapo side of the river. These two sides of the river, though only separated by about 50 yards, could not be any different. The Subic side is run just like it was when it was a navy base. There are strict rules about driving (you can get pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign for a full 3 seconds), and in general, it is very organized and clean. The Olongapo side is true Philippines. It is chaotic, noisy, and kind of dirty. The cars are jam packed on the streets and people wander where ever and when ever. Just across the river from Subic is the 12th street slums. It is hard to believe people actually live there. This street floods every time there is a high tide, so the people are constantly living in the water from the river. Mind you, the river is not-so-affectionately named “Shit Creek.” We have heard from other teachers that the children of those slums have horrible tape worms and other sicknesses.
Daniel took us to both of the malls to do some shopping. He had great advice on what to buy and where, so we were able to use our settling-in allowance well. We received 20,000 pesos to get settled in, and so far we have used just a little over half. We have purchased organizers, pillows, trash cans, cleaning supplies, food, hand towels and wash cloths, dog food ($$), and other odds and ends. Most products here are very very cheap. Dog food is more expensive than back home, as are most electronics. Plastic products are not as well made as in the States.
The malls are pretty impressive. Apparently, hanging out at the mall is a revered past time for young Filipinos. There are tons of stores and restaurants in them, as well as grocery stores and movie theaters. They blare American pop music and sing along. All Filipinos seem to have wonderful singing voices. Watch out, American Idol!
We ate lunch at a two-in-one restaurant which served both seafood (Clawdaddy’s) and New Orleans style cuisine no matter which restaurant you sat in. Jeff was quite happy to have American food so available. His first meal in the Philippines was a steak. The margaritas are insane here. They come in the same glasses we have back home, but they fill the class with a MOUNTAIN of frozen margarita and top it with a cherry and an umbrella.
At lunch, we discussed what would happen next, and I said something quietly to Jeff about wanting to go home and rest because my eye was bothering me so much. I had trouble focusing on all the things Daniel was telling us and showing us because my eye hurt and I could only look in certain directions. Daniel overheard me, and the next thing I knew, we were at an eye doctor (in the mall, of course) getting my eye looked at. It turns out it was a sty. It hurt so badly because it was on the inside of my eyelid. The doctor, who saw me immediately, told me to put a hot towel over my eye to relieve the pain. When I came back out front and Daniel asked what we owed, the employees shook their heads. I owed nothing. I had no appointment, I waited zero seconds, and they were charging me nothing. What!?
We went to one more grocery story for dog supplies, and then we headed home. Funny tidbit: all of the grocery stores also play American pop music. It’s like being in a club while perusing for canned goods. Both Jeff and I were exhausted (jet lag) when we got home in the early afternoon, so we took naps before dinner. I woke up just as tired as I was when I laid down, but my eye was feeling quite a bit better. A driver from the school picked us up, along with 3 other new teachers, Ximena and Daniel, and Erin – a 4th year elementary teacher.
We had dinner at the Lighthouse, which is in a hotel. It was very nice! We sat outside near the pool and watched lightning over the bay. It’s rainy season here, but everyone keeps commenting on how mild the season has been. It has been hot and sunny almost every day we have been here, just a couple of light showers. I had chicken stuffed with crab and Jeff had Mongolian grill. So much variety! We stayed pretty late, talking and having drinks. The veteran teachers and principal filled us in on our students and the school. About 60% of our students are Korean. Many of them come from families that put TONS of pressure on them to be perfect. The go to school, then to clubs, then to more schooling, then do homework, and have weekend tutoring and studying. Other students live with host families while there real families are back in Korea. I feel so bad for them, either way! The teachers overwhelmingly agree that behavior is not a major issue. The Korean students are extremely respectful. On that note – the Filipinos all call us “sir” and “ma’am.” It’s really hard to get used to!
After a few more drinks, we headed home, dropping teachers off at their houses. There are 2 separate areas where teachers live. One area is very close to the school (where we live) and the other area is about a 15-minute walk to the school. It a retirement community, actually. Those homes are a little bigger and nicer, but without a car, we would be walking in all types of weather with computers, papers and books. I’d rather be where we are, for now anyway.