The weather is slowly getting better around here. The typhoon that went north of us was causing monsoon rains here, but it is supposed to hit land in China in the next few days, and I’m hoping that will lead to some better weather.
We started cross country today (finally!) and have about 30 kids signed up. I anticipate at least 1/3 of them will quit within a week. I know that sounds very negative, but I have logical reasons. Swim team will start in about two weeks, and a lot of kids are likely to change there minds when that becomes an option. Also, cross country is HARD. And a lot of our kids do not enjoy pushing themselves physically. Today was a light day: dynamic stretching and a 1.5 mile run. We had kids walking and complaining about the distance and hills. It’s only going to get harder! Our meets are 5k, so they haven’t run half of the meet distance yet. The weather is going to be our biggest challenge when it comes to practice. Our housing is situated at the top of a hill, so most long runs would leave us no choice but to go downhill. This is very dangerous during rainy season. The roads are constantly a little bit slimy, and with traffic on the main road up to our development it’s just too risky. We are getting creative, though, and have found a few winding routes that will take the kids through most of the housing. We can get in about 3 to 3.5 miles that way. There’s no choice but to run in the rain as well. Today it started pouring about halfway through their run. Luckily most rains only last a couple of minutes, and the kids don’t seem surprised by our expectation that they will keep going, regardless of the weather.
It has been frustrating to not have a consistent school schedule because of the rain and flooding. I find it hard to get into a good rhythm with my lessons and my students when we see each other for a couple of days then a day off, then a day on, and so on. I just start to build a relationship or get a feel for a class and we have a hiccup in the schedule. I spend more time reviewing what happened the last time I saw them than I do teaching something new. I look forward to the time when this will get better. This week we only had three days because of a cancellation and a holiday. It might seem strange, but this week felt longer than any 5-day week I’ve ever had.
On a positive note, I am loving the time I do get with my students. Here are couple of highlights from my week:
I gave my 8th graders an assignment to create a name tree as a preliminary assignment for their memoirs. I explained that the tree is a metaphor for themselves and we talked about what an analogy was. They came in and presented trees that absolutely blew me away! Trees with roots that were pictures of their families, the countries they are from, dates of birth etc., trunks that represented the things they feel will never change about them, branches showing ways they’ve grown, and leaves that show the things they enjoy and care about, but which might change over time. They took my explanations to heart and exceeded my expectations with their creativity and understanding. And they clearly had FUN with their homework. Every time one of their classmates got up to present the whole class would erupt in applause to encourage the speaker. I love how supportive they are of one another! I grinned like an idiot the whole way through their presentations – even the bad ones. One of the kids put a quote from Richard Nixon on his tree. I asked him if he knew who Nixon was, and he shook his head, “no.” I smiled and politely explained that he was a U.S. president that is not too popular because of some of the bad things he did when he was president. 🙂
In previewing a story about turning eleven, I asked my sixth graders how many of them are eleven. I couple of my students started to raise their hands then stopped, looking confused. Finally, one of them asked, “Do you mean our Korean age or our international age?” Now it was my turn to look confused.
“There’s a difference?”
They smiled and nodded eagerly. Apparently when you are born in Korea you are automatically already one. And if you are born at the end of December you turn two in January. Internationally, my students were eleven, but in their country they are twelve. I absolutely love learning these new things about my students, and I think they enjoy teaching them to me. Sometimes I’m not sure who the teacher is, me or them!
This weekend we borrowed Brandon and Danette’s car while they were in Taiwan for the holiday weekend. We rode with them to the airport in Clark and then took a slight detour on our way home to S & R. Clark’s airport is a really convenient and affordable place to fly out of, so most teachers prefer to use it rather than going all the way to Manila. Unfortunately, the heavy rains the past couple of weeks caused flooding and serious damage. Part of that damage was the collapse of a section of a bridge on the SCTEX, the main road to Clark. A trip that would normally take 40 minutes now takes an hour and a half with all of the detours. This was our first time going to Clark, and we did most of the trip in the dark, so we were pretty nervous about finding our way back. Road closures, construction, and other mishaps are not as well documented with signs as we are used to back in the States. We relied on a lot of landmarks and made it just fine. The trickier part was finding our way to San Fernando, where S & R is located. Jeff’s phone has been acting funny, and the internet wouldn’t work, so we pulled up a map on it while we had a wi-fi connection and just used that. You know, like people used to do before they had smartphones! We ended up finding it with minimal problems. S & R is basically a Sam’s Club or Costco. The prices aren’t stellar, but they have a lot of stuff you can’t get in Subic, and the bulk options are ideal. We mostly got dry goods, but we were thrilled to find a dog bed for Ringo. Okay, I was thrilled; Jeff didn’t get nearly as excited. For the first time since we got here, our cupboards are actually FULL. It’s a good feeling! After we finished our shopping, we hit the road to get home. The long trip and somewhat stressful situation of not really knowing where we were going had us both exhausted by the time we got home (11:00 PM), so we gave in to convenience over nutrition and go McDonald’s, then crashed early for a Friday night.
Saturday I was awakened at about 6:00 AM by something I hadn’t seen or felt in a lonnnng time: SUNSHINE! I held off until 8:00 before waking Jeff up to show/tell him the good news. It was like a dream! Determined to take full advantage of the sunshine (who knew how long it would last!), we took Ringo on a walk/hike to El Kabayo Falls. Erin, a lower school teacher that lives near us, joined us as well. The trail was pretty muddy and we had to trudge through water in a few places, but it was worth it to be outside and to see a local attraction. The falls were raging after all the rain. Swimming isn’t allowed in the Falls normally, but after all those rains it was definitely a bad idea. Ringo was thrilled to be outside. Round trip, it was about 5 miles. Considering the dreary days of the last two weeks, sunshine and all the sweating that goes along with it were fully welcomed. On our way back, we passed a building and heard monkeys. About 20 or so were on the roof and in the trees screeching and carrying on. I looked up and saw all of them staring at Ringo. Apparently, monkeys aren’t too keen on dogs. They didn’t come near us, and Ringo wasn’t interested in getting closer. He stared and kept looking back as we walked away. I think it’s safe to say he’s curious but not stupid. As soon as we were past the building they settled down. I tried to take some pictures, but they were too far away. We see monkeys pretty regularly now; I hate to say it, but it’s becoming almost common place.
After the trip to the Falls, Ringo was in dire need of a bath, so while I hosed him down, Jeff went into Subic to get his phone fixed and pick up a couple of beach towels. A group of teachers had planned a trip to the beach and we weren’t about to miss out. We went to a country club that has a beach because several of our teachers are good friends with some of the members. This place was NICE! Unfortunately, the beach was closed because the surf was too dangerous. We had to settle for swimming in the country club pool. 🙂
We met JJ, a close friend of several teachers, and he invited us all to his father’s birthday party later that night. We met his family – all so friendly! – and sampled some traditional Filipino foods. Jeff and I tried goat for the first time. The flavor and seasoning was great, but you have to watch out for bones.
After the birthday party, a large group of us decided to go do karaoke. This is a very popular past time in the Philippines, but there’s a twist: you can rent your own private karaoke room! It’s like a hotel room, but with a large tv, speakers, microphones, couches, and a bar. I have never seen anything like it.
Sunday I decided to get brave and venture out to the Olongapo market. There are several, so I got recommendations from some teachers and went to the one closest to Subic. I haven’t driven in over a month, and driving here is not like driving in Iowa, so I was more than a little nervous. A couple of other teachers joined me. We got lost, but we eventually found it, thanks to Dave’s smartphone. The market was a lot like I expected: stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and crafts. Normally people here stare at us when we walk through the mall, but I’ve gotten so used to it I hardly notice. If seeing foreigners at a mall is strange, seeing them in the market must be like a UFO siting, because I could feel every pair of eyes on us. No one is hostile or unfriendly, but it is a little uncomfortable. I finally got to try banana cue, which I have been dying to get my hands on. It’s a street food snack where they roll a fried banana in caramelized brown sugar. DELICIOUS! Sometime soon I want to try and go to the bigger market, which is on the other side of Olongapo.
While I was at the market and running errands, Jeff went and played tennis with some of the other teachers. We met back at home and decided to return the car to Clark that day rather than waiting and doing it on the last day of our three-day weekend. The trip there was simple since we (okay, Jeff) knew where we were going. We took a cab all the way back to Subic because we didn’t want to deal with the bus and it wasn’t TOO expensive. It was great to have the freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted all weekend. We planned to get a car all along, but now we know we REALLY want one. Cab fare adds up quickly here and taking Ringo on hikes/camping farther from home will be easier. All in due time.
After a busy day, we decided to stay in and watch a recording of the Lions vs. Patriots preseason game. Even though we already knew the outcome, it was fun to watch football. I’ve missed it so much, and I know there won’t be a whole lot of opportunities to watch it this year. As long as I can see most of the Hawkeye games and catch the Lions every week, I’ll be happy. Brandon, Jeff, and another teacher split the cost of a NFL package, so that should take care of the pro games. College, on the other hand, is a little trickier to come by.
On our way home, we had the cab driver stop at a convenience store, and while Jeff was inside, he asked me if Jeff was my husband. I told him yes and he asked how long we had been married. When I told him it was only about six weeks, he proudly told me he and his wife have been married eighteen years and have three children. I explained that Jeff and I have been dating for over seven years. To which he responded, “Oh, so you get married now because you are pregnant?” I almost burst out laughing! I told him no, I was not pregnant. “Why? You don’t want to be pregnant?” I smiled in the dark of the backseat. This is a common line of questioning here. It does not make sense to a lot of people that we are married and not having children. But this was the first time someone had assumed I was pregnant simply because I was married! 🙂 I realized once we got home that this was nothing culturally abnormal or inappropriate in his mind; his oldest daughter is 18 – the exact number of years he’s been married.
We had Monday off this week for All Heroes Day. It was a quiet one in the Mayrose household. I spent a good deal of time thinking of one of my greatest heroes: my grandmother who passed away a little over six months ago. I miss her and think of her often. Already I’ve told stories of her to my students who marvel at the fact that she was over 100 years old. Tomorrow, when I have them journal about their heroes, I will be sure to tell them more about her and what a strong woman she was. This way, she lives on.
Mostly I spent the day gettingt some school work done and Jeff worked out. Other than that, the day was uneventful. I know it seems like we never work, what with the weather and the holidays, but this will be our last short work week for about six weeks. September is devoid of holidays, so unless we have another typhoon or tropical depression, it’s nose-to-the-grindstone time here in Subic! I’ll be happy to have a settled routine – remind me of that when I start complaining about working too much in my later blogs. 🙂
This weekend marked the one month anniversary of our arrival in Subic Bay. It’s hard to believe it’s only been 30 or so days since we got here; it definitely feels like we’ve been here, known the people at Brent, and been away from our families and friends a lot longer than that. We are starting to get comfortable here, which is good. The weather has settled down (hopefully for good!), we have begun to feel adjusted at school, and our surroundings are familiar. Next weekend we venture off to Manila (maybe the third time is the charm and we will enjoy the city) with 20 or so runners for our first cross country meet. That should shake things up a bit; no chance of getting bored chaperoning teenagers around a major city!