XC Party and Pamulaklakin

Friday Jeff and I and our cross country team had an end-of-the-year banquet at California Pizza Kitchen. It was the perfect end to the season. Because we outlawed soda all season, we decided to reward the kids for all their hard work by purchasing their first drink of the night. They absolutely loved it. We handed out silly awards, like “Never Sweats,” “Beast Mode,” “Mr. Fashion,” etc. The kids tried to guess which award would go to each runner, and they did a pretty excellent job guessing. It was a great way to reflect on all the highlights of the season. At the end of the year we’ll have an assembly for all athletes where we’ll give out the MVP awards. Fridays awards were just for fun. We wanted each runner to realize how special they were to the team, regardless of running abilities.

Our lone senior, Jessica, showed up with a giant box from Red Ribbon, a bakery chain in the Philippines. Inside was a GIANT cake that read “Let’s Go Razorback XC.” It was so sweet of her! She was our captain this year, which was ideal because she had the experience we didn’t. Had it not been for her, there would have been a lot of things that could have been missed or ended in disaster. For instance, she knew how dorms and showers worked at the schools, and she organized the ordering of team jackets. We’ll really miss having her around next year.

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After dozens of pizzas and pasta dishes, about a case of soda, and 2/3 of a giant cake were consumed, the banquet — and our cross country season — came to an end.

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Saturday a few of us decided to hike the Pamulaklakin Trail, which is just right outside our development. A native group called the Aetas live in the jungle and offer guided tours for a small fee. Craig, Brandon, Lauren, Jeff and I were feeling ambitious, so we decided on the 2-3 hour hike. Our guide was Rosario, a 57-year-old mother of six, all of four feet tall, if that. She showed us different plants and trees the Aetas use for medicines. There were leaves for bug bites, joint pain, and more. One tree produced leaves with undersides like velcro, which are used for camouflage. Rosario cut bamboo and made straws  for us and cut thicker stalks of bamboo that were full of sweet water. She also cut smaller pieces of hollow bamboo, which could be pressed against your hands to make a whistling sound. Brandon was the only one of us who could actually make this work.

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Different tree barks were also resourced for ailments. One kind of  bark was used to make shampoo. Rosario cut off a chunk and took it down to the river where she soaked it and began rubbing. Instantly, a soapy foam emerged. Using this shampoo also helps keep bugs away. Why are we not bottling this and selling it?!

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Rosario led us through the jungle, hacking away bamboo and vines with her machete. Maybe going at noon, the hottest part of the day, was a bad idea… every time we stopped to clear the trail mosquitos swarmed our bodies and ants started crawling up our legs. Aside from these “nuisances,” the hike was fantastic.

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The Aetas live in the jungle, but don’t get any ideas about loin cloths and savagery. They dress just like we do and are often seen on the roads to Subic and Olongapo. Really, the only ways you can differentiate an Aeta from anyone else is their very curly hair, slightly darker skin, and short stature. And even these qualifiers aren’t guarantees that a person is an Aeta.

After hacking our way through the jungle, getting eaten alive by mosquitos, and sweating profusely, we emerged onto a simple dirt road, which, turning left, led back to the trail entrance. If we had gone right, Rosario explained, we would be about 45 minutes from the Aeta village. As much as we wanted to see the village, we were pretty exhausted and decided to come back another day for the village hike and a picnic. Rosario insisted we return so she could show us around and cook for us. Well, if you insist, Rosario… 🙂

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Ups and Downs and Good Eats

Jeff and I held our last cross country practice on Thursday, and I have to admit it was bittersweet. I’ve been complaining about spending so much time at practice and being behind on school work, but when the reality of our season ending finally set in, I was already missing it. I’ve loved building relationships as a coach and watching our runners improve every day. We decided to take all of our athletes to the last meet, and everyone was very excited.

So it only seemed appropriate for a typhoon to pop up Friday.

I woke up to sunshine and birds chirping, showered, dressed, and settled down with my bowl of cereal to watch CNN. Routines have been formed. My phone alerted me that I had a text message – a rare occurrence… even rarer at 6:30 AM. Brandon passed on the news that school was cancelled. I was in shock. The weather was perfectly fine, but any time Zambales is under a signal 2 typhoon school is cancelled. I’m honestly sick of no-school days. We’ve missed so many days that I feel really far behind which leads me to feel inadequate as a teacher. On top of that, I had been really proactive and planned all of my classes for the next 1 1/2 weeks, and now my plans were completely ruined. Book Week starts in a week, and my students publish children’s books to share with the lower school students. This one cancelled day threw off all of my plans.

Normally, I’d be excited for a day off, but coupling my botched lesson plans with the likelihood of our last meet being cancelled had me pretty disappointed. Sure enough, by noon we had word from our AD that the meet was off. I knew the kids would be bummed and Jeff and I felt the same way. We still have our end-of-season party to look forward to, but it’s impossible not to feel like the season just sort of fizzled out instead of ending with a final push to show how hard everyone has worked.

The weather stayed decent all day Friday, and most of us grew stir crazy. Jeff, Brandon, Dave, and I headed up to the gym to play badminton, which was a lot of fun. I probably haven’t played since 8th grade.

Saturday brought on more boredom. It was raining, and we were out of things to do, so several of us went to the movies (about $3 a person). While at the mall, we realized that Ms. Philippines – newly named MS. WORLD! – would be making an appearance. Megan Young is from Olongapo (5 minutes from our school) and lives in Subic Bay. We were on the third floor right about the stage when she arrived, so we got to see “the most beautiful woman in the world” from a distance. Pretty cool!

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Sunday morning Jeff and I planned to have a breakfast of bacon and eggs. I got up early and went to set the bacon out. When I grabbed the bag, I noticed that the thawed bacon was a lot bloodier than bacon normally is, but I didn’t think much about it until it was time to cook. I mentioned to Jeff that it seemed weird, but he showed me the label: bacon sliced pork. (At this point in retelling this story to our veteran Philippines friends, everyone groaned. The mistake I am about to explain is one made by every rookie.) As soon as the “bacon” hit the pan, it was clear that this was NOT bacon.

Here in the Philippines, pork belly is a very popular food. Pork belly is basically thickly sliced “bacon” that isn’t cured. It’s just raw slices of pork, all laced with fat. Mmmmm Mmm! Not so much. The entire house smelled like a pork chop. We made the best of it by separating the meat from the fat and adding it to our eggs. I was really looking forward to some nice, crisp bacon. 😦

On a high note, we ended the weekend by celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with a bunch of the other teachers. The sky was clear all day, so we decided to have the meal outside. Of course, as soon as everyone had arrived it started to rain and we made a mad scramble to get all the tables and chairs inside. This was more amusing than disappointing – if there’s one thing you MUST accept in the Philippines it’s the unexpected rain shower.

We all crowded into Lauren’s apartment for our meal, which was DELICIOUS! Mashed sweet potatoes, numerous salads, juicy turkey, stuffing, even cranberry sauce straight out of the can (reminds me of Grandma every time I see it!). I’ve been missing fall weather and food – especially pumpkin-flavored coffee. Erin made a “pumpkin” pie. Really, it was squash, but she added spices and it tasted exactly like pumpkin pie. I was in HEAVEN and consumed three pieces… and took one home.

Crowded into the apartment, we all laughed and reminisced about our Thanksgivings back home. It reminded me of seeing my family all sprawled out around my parents house, watching football and eating, eating, eating. One of the Canadian teachers, Craig, joked that he imagined U.S. Thanksgiving to be just like the family football scene from Wedding Crashers. Well, maybe he was joking…

Just like back home, everyone left stuffed and with a huge plate of leftovers in hand. Can’t wait to do it again in 5 weeks – the American way…which is exactly the same as the Canadian way.

Meet 3 and Spirit Week

We had our third cross-country meet last weekend at the same school where our second meet was held. This time the course was different. Our middle school runners did a 2.5k and our upper school runners did a full 5k, which was two loops of the same course the 2.5k ran. This route was MUCH hillier, and you could tell the runners were struggling with that change. Thankfully, Subic is pretty hilly, so our team had a lot of practice on hills. On the downside, the week prior to the meet we had horrible weather and didn’t get much running in. When we did run, injuries abounded. Our team at the meet was the smallest yet with so many runners hurt. Still, we took home 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 places in the middle school boys division and 9 and 7 in the middle school girls group. It was awesome hearing them announce Brent Subic over and over again. I hope next year to be hearing that for the top spots, but we run against some HUGE schools that have large talent pools. Aside from ISM, we took home the most awards. They’re a very large school in Manila, so it’s hard for us to compete with them, but we manage. Jeff and I were both really proud of how our kids did. They worked their butts off!

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Our 6th place finisher is only in 6th grade (the little guy in the front row with the HUGE smile), and this was the first meet he was eligible for. You’d have thought it was Christmas Eve the way he was bouncing around the day before the meet. I was bombarded with questions during class: What time do we leave? What should I bring on the bus? How many kids will be there? Do you think I can win? I really want to win! He’s a great kid with tons of energy and talent. And he has more drive and motivation than any kid his age. In a couple of years he’ll be placing in the top three consistently. That’s just my prediction, though.

This week at school was Spirit Week. It was supposed to be last week, but the weather caused two cancellations, so they postponed the entire week. Spirit Week is basically like Homecoming in the States, except there’s no big football game on Friday. Instead, we have a House Rally. The entire school is divided into two houses: Azure and Gold. This is a very common system in British schools. (Yes, just like Harry Potter.) Dress-up days were as follows:

Monday-Pattern Day

Tuesday-Career Day

Wednesday-Neon Day (picture above)

Thursday-Backwards Day

Friday-House Color Day

Aside from dress-up days, they had games, prizes, and food vendors at lunch. Then Friday morning we had our house rally. I had no idea what to expect. Jeff and I are both Gold, by the way. The rally was a series of house competitions, the first of which was a house cheer. The captains for each house design a cheer; then the whole house performed it. Apparently, Azure wins this every year. They are stereotyped as the “artistic” house while Gold is seen as more “athletic.” I think they put me in the wrong house, but oh well. So we did our cheer and they did theirs, and it was all very elaborate. The winner for this portion of the rally will be announced later today (Friday). Next, we had an obstacle course relay race for the lower school, which Azure won. Then we had a rice sack race, which started a competition to see who could make the longest line of objects in their house color. Jeff’s shoes and shoelaces were confiscated because they were bright yellow (“gold” is loosely defined). Azure had streamers as part of their cheer, so they had much more to add to their line. We lost. Again. The competition is all very friendly, and any teasing is done with a smile. Siblings are purposely put in the same house to avoid rivalries within families; the same goes for teaching couples.

I’ll wait until the cheer results are announced to post, so you can all hear who won. I know you’re on the edge of your seats waiting for the answer… J

Okay, results are in, and Gold managed to squeak out a win in the cheer competition! I’m pretty sure this was a pity win, but I’ll take it.

Aside from the chaos of Spirit Week, we also had World Teacher Appreciation Day, which I had no idea was happening. As a middle school teacher, I don’t get many presents for holidays, and I’m okay with that. It’s not like elementary school where the kids have one teacher; now they have eight teachers, and that can get expensive. So imagine my surprise and delight when several of my students brought me gifts! I was doubly surprised because I had no idea that it was a special occasion. My favorite gift was from a student that LOVES to read. It wasn’t even the gift that I loved; it was the little note: To Mrs. Mayrose, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Those of you who know my love of the Hunger Games know why this made my day. I also got a nice bar of chocolate from one of my students and XC runners. When I thanked him, he said, “Mr. Mayrose didn’t want it, so you can have it.” How thoughtful! Haha. Our principals also made cupcakes and surprised with a gift: we each get to order a polo in one of the school colors and with or mascot on it. They look really nice. Such a thoughtful gift!

It’s been a crazy, busy week, spending most nights at school or working until 10 or 11, and the weekend is FINALLY here. After spending the better part of my Friday night planning and grading, I’m ready for a break today (Saturday). The sun is out and the temperature is rising quickly. It’s the birthday of one our teachers on Monday, so we are all heading to the beach, dinner, and out for drinks. Should be a great day and a much needed break from the grindstone. Have a great weekend!

Side note: I had a dream last night that Iowa beat MSU handedly.  I’m hoping my dream is prophetic!