Taking a glance back at my blog posts I’ve come to realize I don’t talk much about my actual job. I do in fact, have a job here!
My Job Description:
I’m a CRM PCV in the MAO of an LGU. I work on PCRAs, CRMPs, IECs, and sometimes SWM, with MFARMCs, BFARMCs, POs, 4Ps, BFAR, DENR, DSWD and MENRO.
Makes sense right?
The Philippines, and Peace Corps both LOVE acronyms.
In plain english. I’m a Coastal Resource Management Volunteer, and I work in a Municipal Agriculture Office in a Local Government Unit of a Municipality. I work specifically with the Fisheries Unit. Agriculture is a way bigger deal here- which if you think about it is kind of odd considering they probably have more water than land, right?- Anyways, Fisheries/Coastal Resource Management work is often split between different departments. My counterpart is the Fisheries Unit, but offices like the Municipality Environmental and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) also work on Coastal Resource Management.
Okay, but what do you DO?
I live on an estuarine bay that is known for kasag (blue swimmer crabs), tahong (asian green mussels), and silag (anchovy), among others. Our fisherfolk use a plethora of different fishing gears to raise or catch these different organisms. As a major source of employment, as well as a major threat to the well-being of the bay, fishing must be appropriately regulated. Fisherfolk also must be appropriately organized so they can make the most out of their fish catch, and protect their livelihood. I try to help make this happen.
BUT as a Peace Corps Volunteer my work isn’t just limited to the time I spend at a desk, in the mangroves, or under the sea. As my sector manager reiterates, two of the three goals we have as Peace Corps Volunteers have absolutely nothing to do with my 9 to 5. Peace Corps is also about being a point of cultural exchange for both Filipinos and Americans; and thanks to the internet and the growing presence of a global community I would say that my sharing of Filipino culture doesn’t stop at just Americans.
So here is what I do, as told through one of my more successful weeks at site.
Monday: I wrote communications to two of our coastal barangays about household interviews. This is one of the first step in developing a Coastal Resource Management Plan for the Municipality.
Our Coastal Resource Management Plan will outline problems identified by the community, a socio-economic profile of the coastal barangays, the status of our natural resources, and finally a plan to address problems and resource management for the next 5 years. Putting together this document is a huge on-taking and has been one of my primary projects for the past couple months. After these interviews we will conduct habitat assessments on our mangrove forests and seagrasses. Then we’ll conduct participatory coastal resource assessments and we’ll hear from fisherfolk and community members where their resources are, and what they need. All of those activities are just the data collection portion of this process.
Tuesday: My Host Kuya explained to my officemates that I was ‘like the chicken’ as he helped me move to my new grown up chicken apartment closer to work. He explained that I was moving because I’m ‘taree’ (a grown up chicken) now and I can roam around, but of course I’ll come back to visit the coop.
Wednesday: We conducted our household interviews. There was such a great turn out that we ran out of response forms!
Thursday: I entered some of the data I collected from household interviews, but spent the better part of the day talking to my coworkers about Filipino and American culture.
During these conversations I not only learn more about Filipino culture, but I also learn about American culture as it’s perceived and questioned by my Filipino friends. It’s interesting to hear what pieces of information spark curiosity in a brain that is culturally wired so differently from my own.
I’ve gotten expected questions about American weather patterns, American holidays, and food preferences (“wait, walang rice?!”). But I’ve also gotten unexpected questions like why Americans are so independent and do things like move away from home at 18, how is our police system organized (There’s only the Philippine National Police, no smaller departments like NYPD), how accurately American movies depict certain aspects of American culture, and what sort of crops we harvest.
I have to admit some of these questions sent me running to Google! The United States is a massive country it’s not easy to summarize our customs. Crop harvest varies depending on the region. What would you say the ‘american staple food’? The common guess here is bread.
So no matter what I’m doing whether I’m at my office or roaming around my Municipality, I’m constantly sharing my world, and the world is constantly sharing in return.
Peace Corps tagline is ‘the toughest job you’ll ever love’ and it is such an accurate description of the job I have here. Getting technical things done is tough when you don’t speak the language. Working in a new environment takes adaptation. Trying to understand an unfamiliar culture, demands acceptance that some things aren’t meant to be understood. I spend many days having my views and personal opinions stretched and skewed by words, and actions. This forces me to look at something I thought I knew, in an entirely different way. It’s exhausting, and exhilarating.
Peace Corps is not what I thought it would be, nonetheless, I love my job more and more everyday. It’s a tough journey I am proud to be on. It’s an experience I know will leave me changed in ways I never imagined, and I look forward to every day as I grow in unexpected directions.