The Rest of March

27 03 2010

Hello once again from San Fernando!

Yesterday marked my being in the city for 3 weeks and things have definitely progressed nicely so far. While everything was overwhelming and terrifying at first, I’ve definitely come to enjoy this city a lot more, day by day. It’s a very ‘alive’ place, with street markets every night, plenty of events, and tonnes of friendly people!

Work-wise, the last couple weeks have become a bit more serious, as Firth and I have begun looking into the variety of ongoing environmental projects and drawing from them our workplans for the next 5-ish months. Our workshop at the city’s sanitation conference in week 2 went well, and week 3 has been focused on reading old reports, touring some future project areas, and beginning tasks on the larger liquid and solid waste management projects. As is pretty typical here, we were thrown a pretty huge curveball regarding our workplan; after we had already finished it and submitted it, our boss here in San Fernando suddenly told us about this other huge project that was to be our focus, rather than everything we had already spent time discussing! (The huge project is for both Firth and I to essentially single-handedly implement a new decentralized solid waste collection and segregation system for 2 new barangays {1 for each of us} by the end of June or so!)

While frustrating, this ever-evolving, always-changing environment has also been one of the excitements of working and living here thus far. For example, yesterday, Firth and I had planned to arrive into work, read documents in the morning, and then begin our monthly report in the afternoon. Instead, our boss, around 10am, comes up to us and says, “You want to go on a tour of a sugarcane wine-making operation out in the country?” We protested about our work that needed doing, but he brushed it off and said it would only take ’30 minutes or so’. So we went out there, drank several glasses of delicious “basi”, then spontaneously decided to go to the nearby university and tour their beekeeping operation, meeting an old Canadian guy in the process and scoring a free (huge) lunch in the school cafeteria. The ’30 minute’ trip had turned into a 3 hour one!

The other neat thing about the office is how many vendors just randomly walk in and start peddling their wares. There have been clothing vendors, snack vendors, lunch vendors, fruit vendors, peanut vendors, and even 2 guys who walked in and burst into song – hoping for tips! Its pretty bizarre, though often works in our favour, so no complaints here!

Outside of work, we’ve been keeping busy as well. There’s a cheap gym above our office that we work out at 3 times a week and a badminton club down the street we play at the other 2 days a week. We also bought a chess set and I’ve been teaching Firth the art of taking 3 hours to play a game (Aaron should appreciate this!) 😛

Last Friday night, we were sitting quietly at home, but the noise level outside was unprecedented, so Firth went out to investigate and came back in a rush to inform me there was a once-a-year bikini contest going on down the street and we had to dress and go immediately! Before leud images pop into your head, the event was more of a beauty pageant with less clothing and was packed with families (yes, also lots of old scuzzy white men, but that’s beside the point). There was also a super-sketchy ferris wheel that went ridiculously fast and tonnes of roulette-type gambling booths – where even 6 year old kids were slapping down money! We’ll definitely keep our ears open and hope more events like that pop up in the future! 😛

At that sanitation conference, we met a young French guy named Pierrick, who is also working in town for the next 4 months with an agricultural think-tank. We hung out last night and will again at the town’s Earth Hour celebrations tonight (which Firth and I are involved in – we have to do a speech to announce the ‘commitment signing ceremony’, should be interesting!). It’s been fun seeing another young foreigner who isn’t an old white sex tourist!

We’re also moving out of our current place this week – it was definitely nothing special, always filled with various insects, and hot and noisy from its proximity to the national highway. We found a place that offers the same layout and amenities, but on the second floor (i.e. not susceptible to rainy season flooding), way cheaper (7500pesos vs. 12000 for the old place), and in a way nicer area that’s closer to town and has a nicer beach! Definitely looking forward to it!

I’ve gone on too long again so I’ll end it here. Next week is Holy Week and Filipinos take it seriously – we get the whole week off! Unfortunately we can’t do any major trips because apparently the whole country shuts down, so I’ll have lots of time to post up more photos. Until then!




One response

9 04 2010
Aaron S.

Wow, looks like you’re having quite the experience. What you said about the vendors reminded me of India a little, minus those guys breaking into song. It’s pretty cool that your boss insisted on other stuff besides work, just make the best of that because you never know how long that will last.

As far as your chess playing goes, I hope Firth isn’t taking up after you haha. All you need now is a clock and Firth should be on his way to victory.

Hope the rest of your work term will be just as eventful as what has passed and keep going with the blog!

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