Sea Section

June 30, 2014

I just took a video meant to illustrate what a cacophonous environment in which these kids are learning. I’m in a tenth grade economics class and if it were mine, I’d be standing with both arms curved outward but hands clenched in fists by hips, audibly growling at the atonal surround sound symphony.

Boy, do people work hard for education here. There’s a loudspeaker outside, where someone’s presumably herding a PE class, and since the rooms are necessarily open-humidity with airy windows that let in Bacolod’s battle of birds vs. business- yes, the auditory distraction is significant.

Adding to that is the visual. Stephany and I are perched on desks in the back, and while most students try to glance at us surreptitiously, the flirty kid keeps staring openly between winks and the gentle brushing of his neighbor’s arm. I kind of want to wink back at him but prefer to avoid international incidents and stay firmly out of jail.

Both students and teachers here are en pointe with their adherence to the focal Filipino tenets of warmth and generosity. The bonus today, though, is that we got to hang out with tiny people. Our day began with the flag ceremony, where we stood in front of 800 or so students as they sang, recited the pledge, and welcomed us with aplomb. Connie mentioned that the US and Philippines are the only two countries to recite the pledge, and that’s something I’m determined to look up once the Internet becomes a thing for me again. The ceremony was sweet, though. I do enjoy all the cross-cultural signs of “hey, we’re all human”… which in this case appeared a sing-a-long played and as first graders flailed enthusiastically while the older ones gestured ironically, eyes a-roll.

The best part, though (oh my lord, I’ve inhaled the Filipino teen-quivalent of Axe body spray and all my rejection parts are laboring) was the pledge of non-violence that students uniformly recited. They vowed to be peaceful, play creatively, and respect nature- among other important principles- and I must say that I like the hell out of those ideas. If we’re going to force a dictate down people’s throats, that creed should be the one.

A little tour came next, the highlight of which was the fun fact that papaya, apparently, retards male… feelings. Did I mention that this is a Catholic school? The seminary students allegedly eat just mountains of papaya, presumably avoiding oysters and #5 soup.

Oh, PS: I had pig’s blood and mango ice cream for breakfast:

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Another entertaining part of the tour was my habitual (nun joke) thumbing through of library books to see if any used to be mine. This is not a wealthy country, by any means, and a significant number of books and textbooks are old ones donated by the so-called first world. I like to check the in-cover stamps to see their origins, but thus far haven’t come closer than Virginia, 1987.

SIDE NOTE! Flirty kid just told me I look like Hazel Grace’s mother in The Fault in Our Stars, which I’m taking as a giant compliment – and preening, naturally- even though for all I know the part is played by a leprosy-addled gorilla. Good book, that.

Speaking of feeling loved, we can chalk up the pre-school/kindergarten visit as a raging success, too. I was late to the party as I was having a panic attack in the bathroom, once I realized it was a typical Filipino version (see here). I sorted myself out by fleeing, and ran smack into a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds who wanted to touch me and play. One of them skidded to a stop in front of me and I watched as his eyes grew wide.

“Are you from Hollywood?” he asked breathlessly.

I giggled. “No, I’m from Maine.”

“What?”

“The United States.”

“What?”

“Somewhere else.”

“Ohhhhhhhhh. Your eyes are silver.”

And with that, I floated into the nearest classroom, forgetting that my hair resembled a matted street lion’s. Because if kindergarteners think you’re special, then dammit, you are.

Boom. Bombardment of preschoolers. Giantest smacked kiss on my face with the best, tightest hug after a Himalayan climb into my lap. Selfie Central, 2014.

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We left, and I was feeling pretty good… much better than Geri, the Nursing Skills Manikin. Geri’s used in the school’s VocTech RN training program, and she’s awesome.

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Eventually the school day ended and we went out to celebrate Donah’s birthday at a fish market. After pointing out exactly which fresh seafood we wanted delivered cooked to our party, we had a table full of lobsters, crabs, shrimps, soup, blue marlin, and assorted drinks for 13 people and hell if we didn’t eat like death row gangsters. There were literal bags full of leftovers and it still only cost us like 60 American dollars.

By far the best day I’ve had in the Philippines. Killing it, nailing it, done.

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