Welcome and ‘Paalam’!

24 02 2010

Kumusta ka! (Hi, how are you?)

Thanks for visiting my blog! Throughout the next 6+ months, I’ll be relating highlights and adventures that I’ll most certainly have while living and working in the city of San Fernando, La Union, the Philippines!

I should start, though, with a little about me and how this all got started. Well, as I’m sure you all know, I graduated with a B.Sc. Environmental Sciences from Royal Roads back in Sept. and had been looking futilely for work until late January, with no hope in sight. Then, one lucky Wednesday, an email came through my inbox from a mailing list I subscribe to from a non-profit called “Sustainable Cities” advertising the fact that they needed someone urgently for one of their CIDA-internships in the Philippines. (http://www.sustainablecities.net/)

This excited me, as I knew CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) internships were very prestigious and I had already applied to other relevant ones with different groups. (The way they work is that CIDA gives grants to various non-profits like Sustainable Cities to hire youth for international development contracts. You can check it out here:
http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/acdi-cida/acdi-cida.nsf/eng/JUD-330132840-NHG).

Figuring their urgency helped my case, I applied and, sure enough, was interviewed Thursday and hired on Friday! The entire next week (the first week of February) was spent in training here in Vancouver, with the other interns that the organisation is sending to various other cities (2 to Colima, Mexico; 2 to Chihuahua, Mexico; 2 to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; 2 to Dakar, Senegal; and 2 to San Fernando, Philippines {one of whom is me!}). It was great to meet like-minded people – all of whom have ridiculously impressive resumes – and to gain more clarity on what exactly it was that I am travelling there for and how exactly I’m supposed to be successful.

The other interns and I

L-R: Firth (Phils with me), Emma (Colima), Afton (Dar), Eric (Dakar), Ryan (Dar), Keri (Chihuahua), Me, Caitlin (Colima), Meghan (Supervisor & Former Intern), Corine (Dakar) (Missing: Eric {Supervisor #2} and 1 other Chihuahua intern not yet hired)

Since then, the days have been a hectic flash of me trying to suddenly go from unemployed, videogame-playing bum to “Project Officer – Local Initiatives” for a city on the other side of the planet! Vaccinations, visas, travel insurance, housing, plane tickets, medications, banking details, buying travel clothes and gear, learning about the culture and practices of the Philippines, and learning all about basic travel safety and things to be aware of are just a few of the many topics I’ve tackled in the last couple weeks, all while balancing the need to see all of my friends at least once and attempting to take in the Winter Olympics at the same time!! Needless to say, its been crazy, and getting progressively more so as the departure deadline (March 3rd!) nears to within a week! There’s still a tonne to do, but I’m definitely a lot more confident and excited than I am nervous (which was the opposite when I was first hired).

As to the job itself, I still don’t know too much about the specifics of what I and my fellow intern (a cool guy named Firth with a ridiculously imposing resume {Harvard-educated, amongst other things!} who I will be living with and likely referring to a lot) will be doing, but the gist of it goes like this: I will be assisting local staff for 6 months in community mobilisation initiatives (i.e. environmental outreach, youth & women engagement, etc.) and working on supporting local initiatives to strengthen San Fernando’s urban infrastructure, including their new landfill and septic waste treatment program. The emphasis, I think, will be on the landfill (with Firth likely to focus on the septic treatment), although I’m still not too sure what that exactly will mean for me, as the city’s landfill is already built, but I’ll find out soon enough!

The reason we’re going there in the first place is that Sustainable Cities has a mandate of promoting urban sustainability by engaging various businesses, non-profits, and city governments from around the world to exchange ideas, create demonstration projects, and help each other in achieving their goals via their “PLUS” Network (Partners for Long-Term Urban Sustainability), which San Fernando is a part of. In fact, San Fernando seems like they have an impressively ‘green’ resume already, including their new ‘green’ landfill, converting city bike taxis from 2-stroke to 4-stroke engines, combating illegal fishing, and apparently very recently becoming ISO 14000 certified! You can check ’em out here: http://www.sanfernandocity.gov.ph/#

Even without having more detail at this point though, its safe to say this job is right up my educational alley (I learned a thing or two about landfills and toured one during my time at Royal Roads; likewise for sewage treatment), which is an incredibly lucky anomaly for CIDA internships (most of the internships approved by CIDA are related to things a B.A. or B.Comm. could do better than a B.Sc., like community development, medical work, business development, etc., which both means that I’m not intensely interested in it and that the field of competition is waaay larger).

The best part of all, of course, is that I’m being paid to do it! There are lots of similarly great environmental volunteer positions around the world, but I have, to this point, not been rich enough to afford to drop thousands of dollars on them (e.g. a environmental volunteer position with Global Volunteer Network costs at minimum $1000 just to be there {for 2 weeks, with costs increasingly substantially with each additional week} – not including flights, vaccines, or any of the other major expenses incurred when travelling to a distant part of the world!). While I certainly won’t walk away from this internship rich, I will have enough to live comfortably in the Philippines and probably have a bit left over to travel with afterwards! In short, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity, both to develop personally & professionally and to begin my life’s work of promoting environmental preservation!

After the 6 months are up, I hope to travel around Southeast Asia for at least a couple months, and, if all goes well, I’ll blog about that here too!

Now that you’ve got a good intro, the rest of my posts will be more experiential, relating any developments at work and all the great scenery and adventures I experience! 🙂

I’ll post again once I’m settled in at San Fernando!

See you all in 8ish months!

Paalam! (Goodbye!)

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4 responses

5 03 2010
Mike P.

Hey, can’t remember your e-mail address, so I sent something to your facebook. I assume you’ll still be able to check that.

6 03 2010
Tom

Congrats Julian! I heard the good news from David.
It seems like you’ve found something that combines the best of two worlds. Not only are you employed in a field directly related to your degree but you’re traveling the world at the same time.
Who knows, when you’re done touring the world, maybe you’ll be applying your experience to judge grants at CIDA someday.

21 03 2010
Dennis

Hey Julian:

Didn’t get to talk to you before your rapid departure to the other side of the planet, to wish you a safe trip, and all the best, on what will surely be an exciting and rewarding experience in your lifes journey. Your blog is a great idea and way, to keep your friends and family back here, informed and with a sense of sharing in your esperiences as they develope. Keep it up! Keep us informed. Be safe in all you do. The pics are great. More please! Dennis.

29 04 2010
Nicole LeBlanc

Nice to be able to check in and see how you are doing. Enjoy your time in the Phillipines.

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