In case you didn't guess from my cryptic post title, I'm now a Peace Corps Volunteer, instead of a lowly Peace Corps Trainee. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. We finished up training by doing community projects, which I have detailed in the post below. Then we had our final language tests (I passed with Advanced Low, which is pretty good, although I still feel like a 3 year old when I'm talking to a native speaker who isn't my teacher). Unfortunately I got a fever and wasn't feeling very well my last weekend with my training host family, so I spent my last couple nights in San Jose somewhat miserable.
On July 29, we flew to Manila for our counterpart's conference and swearing in. While the Peace Corps in the past may have consisted of 3 months of training somewhere in the US, a plane ride to a destitute country, and being dumped off for 2 years by the Peace Corps Land Rover in a village where you didn't know anybody, it's quite different here and now (at least here, anyway). We spent a week going over expectations and setting plans with our counterpart, who is our primary co-worker and the one expected to continue projects when we leave. Despite my borrowing a sweatshirt for half of it due to the fever (you do not wear sweatshirts here, people thought I was a freak, I joked along that I had adjusted to the climate extremely well), the conference went well and I realized I'm quite lucky to have a counterpart who is extremely motivated and who I work well with.
On August 3, we went for a tour of the Peace Corps office, which is very nice, and then swore in at the US Embassy. The swearing in was quite a grandiose ceremony, apparently much more so than in previous years. Peace Corps Philippines is the 2nd oldest program in the world, and we are the 266th batch to swear in here, so it was pretty special that we got to do this. Numerous dignitaries were in attendance, the news media was there (apparently I got on the national Philippine news a few times, although I didn't see it), there was some fantastic singing and dancing by a Filipino troupe, and some truly inspirational speeches. This was followed by a fancy reception, and I was lucky enough to have my Mayor and Supervisor also fly up to Manila for the ceremony - definitely a good sign of municipal support for my being in town.
The weekend after, almost all the newly sworn volunteers stayed in Manila for a small vacation to celebrate and relax before we headed off to our sites. Despite being stuck in traffic in Manila for many, many hours while going to and from the resorts and airports we'd been in, I came away with a much more positive impression. Intramuros, the old walled city, and Rizal Park were great, to name a couple. The Mall of Asia is also extremely impressive, and unquestionably the nicest, most modern mall I've ever seen. Which is why the Philippines can really fool the casual observer, as most of the people here could never afford to shop there. I also watched the Simpsons in the theater - it was ok.
On Monday, we departed for our permanent sites, which for me meant a return to Negros Oriental. As expected, the first week was slow and I really can't report on much, except that I have a cool desk, and what seems to be an 8-to-5 job. My LGU (Local Goverment Unit) has an unnecessarily high-tech biometric fingerprint scanning machine that all employees use as a time clock. So every morning now, I stand in line, put my finger in the machine, and hear a robotic "GoodMorNingCraig". Not something I expected.
Right now I'm in Dumaguete on an internet binge, as you can probably see below. I've included a description of my mangrove cleanup project, and a story I wrote one night out of high frustration with the transportation here.
A couple of housekeeping items:
For letters, use the following address:
Craig Bosman, PCV
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 7013
Airmail Distribution Center
Pasay City, Philippines
For larger packages, I will have a new address, so they can be sent directly to my site. I'll email it out later.
Blogger's being slow with the pictures, so I'm going to try and put some new ones up on Flikr... check it out!