The moment I received the email inviting me to join the Peace Corps as a Coastal Resource Management Volunteer I knew I was going to say yes. But replying to an email is easy, just a few keystrokes and clicks. There was no way of truly envisioning what I was signing myself up for. All I knew was that I had to find out.  Finally, 4 months later, I am beginning to do just that.

Arriving at IO

I’m finding out that it’s waking up at 6am to enjoy the crisp fresh air before the heat of morning kicks in. It’s embracing that sweaty is no longer something that happens on hot summer days or after a tough work-out, it’s a chronic condition. It’s having merienda at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. And it’s tiny red ants marching in and out of everything you own. It’s videoke, it’s Jolibees, and it’s only just beginning.

Peace Corps Philippines has three different sectors: CYF (Children, Youth and Family), Education, and CRM (Coastal Resource Management). Right now we are all together at initial orientation getting acquainted with each other and the Philippines. This includes dancing at Disco Disco night, and learning Pinoy games and pastimes, including videoke.

Pinoy game night

Of all the Pinoy games and pastimes, videoke has to be my favorite (so far). Videoke is very different from its American counterpart, karaoke. Videoke actually has absolutely nothing to do with being a good singer, or knowing the lyrics, or even knowing the tune! It is all about your ability to put on a show with confidence. There are thousands of songs to be performed in English, Tag-lish, and Tagalog. We learned a song called Picha Pie (here is the link for your videoke-ing enjoyment). Picha is not a tagalog word, the –za sound in pizza is just difficult for Filipinos to pronounce.  So Picha Pie is a song about Pizza and it is sung to the tune of ‘I will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor. I’m not quite sure why this didn’t make it back in America but it is truly a work of art (see full translation here). Also quite different from American karaoke, videoke is not something you just do at parties, or bars. Videoke is a part of the Filipino way of life and almost every household comes equipped with its very own! Family gatherings, office parties, solo, even in department stores, videoke is EVERYWHERE.  So I’m looking forward to all of the videoke-ing I will get to partake in over these next 27 months.

Merienda: mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks

Aside from videoke we have started our Tagalog studies, begun learning about the Philippine environment, and internalizing what it means to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.   On top of the formal seminars and meetings, every day in this beautiful country is full of learning and full of surprise. I am never quite sure what Filipino habit or daily ritual will emerge in my routine and force me to experience the world in a new way. Whether it is greeting strangers on the sidewalk with ‘Maganadang umaga po’ or growing antsy for mid-morning merienda at 9:45am. My world is changing and it’s only the beginning.

Stay tuned!

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