Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines Day, Food, Otters and Friends.

Several times on this trip is has it me that I am the Philippines, but not in the Peace Corps.  The first occurred when I jumped on top of the jeepney to ride through the mountains to my favorite mountain town, Sagada.  Top riding was completely forbidden in the Peace Corps and if caught, you'd be sent home immediately.  It is by far, the best way I have ever ridden through those mountains.  Not only because you get a panoramic view as you travel, but I didn't get car sick at all!

The next time I realized I wasn't a PCV was when the bus accident happened.  I realized that if I get into an accident or get sick, I do not have PC there to take care of me.  It made me feel kinda lonely.
Becky joined me in Sagada and we gallivanted through the town, aka ate at all the usually good spots. One place had amazing french fries, but only did it advertise "famous potato fries" with certain items and others simply said "potato fries."  I wanted to make sure I got the famous fries so when I ordered my sandwich I asked the server to describe the fries, and after asking several more clarifying questions.  He looked me, exasperated and said, "Ma'am, potatoes are potatoes."  Which made Becky and I laugh hysterically.  He's right.  It reminded me that I need to just go with the flow, and that a lot of things are going to be beyond my control and to not nitpick the small stuff.

Before I arrived in Sagada I had texted the owner of  Sagada Homestay to tell her we were coming. She's used to peace corps volunteers, understands our limited budget and is very accommodating.  The room she gave us was a room that I think was originally a closet.  It was tiny, with  a small bed situated under the stair well.  The door was much smaller than the other rooms, and made out of particle board while the other doors were made of beautiful hard carved wood.  As dusk settled in, I searched for the light switch so I could see, and spend approximately 20 minutes searching the room.  I looked everywhere, even under the bed.  Finally I gave up, and embarrassed I had to ask for help.  "Oh! I forgot to show you!" said Karen.  The light switch was located in the common living room across the room from our door.  It was the only room without a light switch in the room.  Ya definitely was supposed to be a closet.  We had 2 tiny windows that opened up to a common sitting area on the porch.  If someone was sitting at the table next to our window, they could see straight into our room.  And one night while we were settled into bed, reading before we had to leave the room to turn off the lights, a man, from the porch, pulled open our curtain and had a peak.  From then on, we keep the windows closed.

Becky and I had a great time in Sagada.  I was able to visit my friend Zenaida who runs Gaia Cafe in Sagada, which is an organic vegetarian cafe.  I met her when I was living here before and we became friends.  I was surprised to see she had a baby tied to her front and learn that she was married.  So much has happened since I left.  When we went to yogurt house, they immediately recognized me and welcomed me back. Friday Becky and I took a nice hike to a beautiful overlook in Sagagda.  We were the only ones on that trail, only meeting locals living out in the woods there.  We spend a few minutes gazing at the valley below.  There were two little tiny towns nestled in between dozens of rices terraces.  We then realized we were starting to get sunburned and decided to hike back, and get something to eat, of course.

On Saturday, we took the bus from Sagada to Baguio.  It is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever seen, but one of the windiest I have ever been on.  Before we left, I searched for a jeep that would go to Baguio knowing I could ride on top and not get sick.  No such jeep existed.  We got up at 4am to catch the 5am bus.  Unfortunately, we were stuck in the way back of the bus and it was rough.  At the first rest stop, we both search for a remedy, mine was coca-cola, hers was sprite.  It settled our stomachs a little and gave us hope we could make it through the rest of the trip without vomiting.  Unfortunately, the two people next to me in that back row didn't have such lunch and spent the entire trip vomiting into plastic bags.  Rough.    Thankfully, about halfway into the trip a bunch of people got off the bus leaving  a lot of empty seats towards the front of the bus.  The rest of the ride was much easier.

As we made our way into the city, we passed familiar places like where my friends Tracy and Jane had lived.  We had a lunch at one of the good pizza places and then met up Deborah, another peace corps volunteer and did a little shopping.  We then met up with my friend Mark and another Peace Corps Volunteer, Ben, for dinner.  If you ever go through Baguio, you should try Oh My Gulay, another delicious and vegetarian restaurant in the Philippines.  My friend Mark so graciously paid for all of our dinners and tired from the trip, we went back to Debs house and almost immediately went to sleep.

I woke early the next morning to try to make it to the bus station to see if I could get on a wait list for one of the 1st class buses.  When I bought my ticket the day before, all the first class and deluxe buses were booked and I had to settle for a regular bus.  Thankfully I got there early enough and was able to get on to a 9am first class bus, and I was beyond happy.  After the previous day riding in an old cramped bus getting car sick and then having sit next others getting carsick, the 1st class bus felt like royalty.  This bus has large reclining seats and they give you water and a snack.  The best part is it is non-stop so I got into Manila about 2 hours earlier than I would have in the other bus.   I spent most of that bus thinking about all that had happened that week, and worrying about my friend.

When I arrived in Manila, Melissa (a former RPCV who now lives in Manila) suggested we go to this nice movie theater.  It was the nicest theater I had every seen.  The seats were literally recliners and the ticket included popcorn.  It also had servers with menus so you could order food while watching just by pressing a little call button.  It was the perfect way to unwind from my trip up north.

The next day I was beat, so I spent most of the day resting.  In the afternoon I headed to the Peace Corps office to see everyone there.  I made my rounds greeting everyone, but mostly hung out with my favorite person, Boni, who was also my boss.
Boni and I

Boni and I are the same age, so we seemed to be able to communicate quite well.  He's also worked with Peace Corps for more than a decade and knows how to handle Americans quite well.  He is one of those hardworking, driven and compassionate people I would occasionally meet here.  I think sometimes it is easy to give up on dreams here in the Philippines because they are a lot more difficult to attain, but Boni is one of those people who keeps pushing forward and I admire that in him.

From Manila I went to Palawan to visit my friend Debra.  Debra was a peace corps volunteer who decided to retire here.  Palawan is a lovely island, and I feel incredibly lucky to hosted by someone who knows all the great spots and has a car to drive me around.
Deb, making a funny face while showing me around!

Highlights of the trip were a butterfly garden, shopping for pearls and souvenir ,  dinner at an amazing Italian place run by real Italians, hanging out on a secluded private beach but my favorite part was playing with rescued baby otters
Cute beach resort in Palawan. excuse my finger

We went to Debra's friend's house.  She's a complete animal freak and so the villagers will often bring her animals they find need help.  The most interesting animals she has are 3 baby otters that were rescued by a farmer who accidentally killed their mother.  As soon as we pulled up to her yard we could hear them  crying to be let out of their pen.  And as soon as she let them out they started running all over the place tackling each other until they all are tumbling together in a ball of fur and tails.  We then took them down to the river and watched them as they slashed around.  When they got tired they come up to you crying and letting you pet them.  when it was time to leave the river, Diana would yell, "c'mon boys!" and they would come running towards her.  I had never gotten that close to an otter.  I had only seen one once in the wild in Vermont on Lake Champlain in Bridport.
Baby otters, so cute!

The following day we drove around town and did some errands.  I wanted to buy some souvenirs to mail home, but didn;t realize how incredible expensive it is to mail things home from here.  I was hoping there was a cheaper option, but there wasn't.  All-in-all, it cost more than $100 to mail the stuff home.

I am now in Cebu City at a hostel for the night.  Tomorrow I will take the morning ferry to Ormoc in Leyte an area that was devastated by the typhoon.  I am really nervous. There are 2 reason why I am nervous: 1) I am nervous about seeing the devastation there and my reaction.  This country was my home for 2 years and to see such suffering will be very difficult.  2) I am not sure how I will be able to handle it all physically.  This will be a  nice post cancer treatment test.

I don't think I will have access to the internet the entire time I am there so you'll have to wait a week for pictures and updates.

Today is Valentine's day and I spent the day traveling from Palawan to Cebu.  I then took myself out to eat at Pizza Hut (ugh) and ordered the Valentine's special, simply because it came with a toblerone, which was later switched to a sundae because they ran out of toblerone, but I didn't mind especially since they served it before my dinner.   So Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!


  1. Sounds like you are having a good trip. Happy Valentine's Day! I'm jealous that you are in shorts and I'm watching the snow fall outside and having a snow day :)

  2. Looks like you are finding - and spreading LOVE everywhere! xoxo