I apologize in advanced that this post appears to be long. The reason is because it will cover my last three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). I have been very busy and Wi-Fi has been hard to come by and when I have found it, I have only used for preparing to teach (more on all these later on). Even my dad sent me a text on WhatsApp saying, “We have not heard from you in a few days. How are you?” It took me a whole day later to respond that I was busy but would send updates later that night. I will try to make this post less wordy and more pictures based because I have so many from the last few days.
On Tuesday, Francis and I took three different modes of public transportation to go to the McCarther center (more on public transportation to come: but for now learning this system has saved me between 75 Pesos to 425 Pesos which is about $2 to $10 US per day). For those of you who do not know much about the history of the Philippines I will provide a brief history. The Philippines just like Singapore was a small group of people who lived on the water and used it as a means of life. They fished, traded and lived in small groups before colonization by the Spanish. For many years they were a colony of Spain until the people rose up to throw out the Spanish influence. Right before Spain was knocked out, America (not taught in most US History classes) came in and laid claim to the island. They held control making the Philippines second class US citizens (think Puerto Rico) because as you cannot see in my pictures McCarther wrote in his decree that, “Our goal was to remove the yoke of imperialism in the Philippines”. Pretty ironic when you think about it, eh? The good news is the Philippines were eventually able to get their independence for good a few years later when the US was forced to surrender and withdrawal their presence and influence in the Philippines (you can look up the specifics if you want). Francis wanted to take me to the McCarther center, which is the location of the US surrender and withdrawal. Francis wanted me to understand the history and the public transportation system before he left for Shanghai on Wednesday.
Old American military Jeepneys are used as buses and there were two types of taxis, bicycles with a side car and motor scooters (like motorcycles that run on batteries) with a side car. There were also car taxis but those could run you between (100-500 pesos depending on where you were going). The Jeepneys (bus) would take you 7km for 10 pesos (1 USD is 45 pesos) and an additional .50 peso per km after. The other two nonstandard taxi cars would only take you from town to town within Tacloban for 10 pesos.
The Jeepneys have an “honor code” system. The bus to Leyte was full, so I stood on the back with another young man around my age. When it stopped we handed our money to someone sitting inside and waited. What happens next is almost like the children’s game telephone. You tell the first person where you are going to and they tell the next person etc as the money switches hands at least 1 but as many as 9 times. When it reaches the bus driver he repeats the destination to make sure it is correct and then and passes back your change along the same path in the opposite direction till it reaches you. As of this riding I have been on four Jeepneys and have not seen anyone including the bus driver cheat anyone of their money. What a great system.
|Sitting in side Car|
After attending noon mass, Sister Judith approached me and asked me if I would be willing to teach 7th and 8th grade math that afternoon. She had received in the mail an offer for her students to compete in a scholastic country wide math competition (think America Mathematics Competition, those six question math tests that were more of puzzles that one could solve by knowing shortcuts and seeing tricks of math that were not taught in school). I was to teach a lesson to prepare these students for the exam. I gladly accepted and worked with Ms. Clarisse and her math classes. As we were doing math many of the Nuns came into my class to take pictures of the students and me. When class was over Sister Judith was waiting outside to speak with me. She was smiling eagerly and said, “I hear you also study religion. Would you make a presentation for my college classes tomorrow about basic Hindi, basic Islam and basic Judaism before I teach them in the next weeks?” I gladly accepted and spent from 7pm that night till 11pm then again at 8am till 10am putting together PowerPoints on these three religions. Who would have known that I would be making lesson plans on this trip? I had to go to three different coffee shops in order to get sufficient Wi-Fi to make these presentations. (If you are curious to see these presentations I have saved copies on my computer, but will not upload them here because I promised to be short.
|Math Competition Form|
|My 7th/8th graders|
|My lesson of a shortcut they may use|
On Wednesday morning as you read a minute ago I woke up at 720 am in order to find Wi-Fi so I could finish my presentations. I worked at one coffee shop till 9am but then the Wi-Fi network got slow (many users had shown up), so I went to another. I did not have money for a second breakfast so I ordered a single piece of blueberry bread. The first class I taught was World Religions for the college’s Pharmacy Students. This class was 25 or so girls and only 5 guys. Sister informed them that I was well educated, not yet married, 21 and very handsome as they oohed and ahhed. As I presented the students took pictures of me and some even tried taking selfies with me. The presentations went well and after I was asked questions. The questions were not about the presentations, but instead were about me. We took many class photos (they all wanted to be in a picture with me (especially after I mentioned these were going on my website), to know my Facebook name (one must have looked as I presented, and failed to find Arya Espahbodi). They all even wanted to take me to lunch and offered to go with me into the city on Saturday so I could see more of the town and take more pictures. As we walked to lunch it started to rain and every girl asked me if I wanted to stand under their umbrella. It may sound like I am trying to flaunt my ego, but this is not the case. Filipino culture is very warm, everyone want to be your friend, they want to get to know everything about you, they want to help you in any way they can and they are happy to meet new people especially those with different backgrounds than them.
After lunch I came back to give my second presentation to the Psychology students. This class had two boys and about 12 girls. They asked much deeper questions the religions and about me than the previous class. This is probably because they were fourth years and the other class was all first years. I was asked if Hindi’s know what they were before each reincarnation. My answer will surprise you. I felt proud to tell them, “I don’t know, but I can find out.” That book I recommended earlier this summer, (Think Like a Freak) argues that the hardest phrase for anyone to say is “I don’t know” because we all want to act or seem that we know everything.
After class I took a Jeepney to Leyte Academic Center. I was going to meet with Ms. Magina. I posted a while back an article she wrote about her experience of the storm where she states only losing her roof and 8 feet of water in her house lucky because some houses had between 10 and 20 feet of water and were completely destroyed. Born in Tacloban, but later moved to American, she the founder of an organization named KUSOG TACLOBAN (literally means Tacloban Strong). This organization sends underwear and provides sexual health education to young women and young men (teenage and early twenties). I would be working with them tomorrow after my classes. I filled out paper work and got a volunteer shirt.
As Ms. Magina drove me back to the nuns she recommended Giuseppe’s Pizza. One of her Italian friends (who was raised in Sicily) had come down to Tacloban with her a few years ago and opened a restaurant. She explained it as good pizza and the only restaurant who would accept credit card I expected it to be expensive. However, some beers, 8 slices of everything pizza (which I intended to ration very well, but did not succeed) and mango banana cheesecake with homemade ice-cream my total bill came out to 13 US dollars. The beer tasted like Pabst Blue Ribbon, but it was actually a local Filipino beer named San Miguel Pale Pilsen. The dessert was hands down one of the best I have ever had. I would compare it to Virginia and Tia Esther’s Flans and my mom’s blueberry cheesecake. Bed time was soon after because Friday was going to be another early start.
|PIZZA AND BEER|
|NO SELF CONTROL WITH PIZZA|
Finally we arrive to Friday. This morning I woke up at 6:30 am. For those of you wondering how I am able to pull of such a feat, I have learned the key is to go to sleep before or at the latest 10 pm the night before. This morning I taught 9th grade math at the high school. Ms. Clarisse (who I found out teaches all the math classes from 7th to 12th grade) gave me her book so that we could first go over the homework she had assigned which was finding the domain and range, x intercepts and y intercepts and graphing functions. After we went over the homework and I answered a few questions I taught them about graph transformations. After we finished the lesson, a few asked me if I would be able and willing to help with some science questions they had. After this, I went with Ms. Clarisse to meet the other teachers in the teachers’ lounge. July is health awareness month. I worked with Ms. Clarisse, Sister Judith and the other teachers to set up for the event. I did the non-artsy stuff aka stapling streamers and holding up the cloth as ohers stapled it to the ceiling. Ms. Clarisse made the design you see below which translates to, “Stop Malnutrition and Hunger.” In the first of what would be weekly school meetings for health awareness month the students were informed about the importance of having a variety in their diet and not wasting food. (Also from Think like a Freak: America is the most wasteful country throwing out 41% of the food we buy.) Sister Judith reminded them that their job outside of their academics was to help spread these two ideas to others. Sister Judith also revealed the new student council which showed 7 girls being elected and only 1 boy (1 rep for each grade 7-12, a vice president and president).
After this I took the Jeepney back to Ms. Magina’s office. However, when I got there (they have Wi-Fi my phone automatically connected to) I had a text informing me that I was not going to be allowed to help today because the women’s shelter does not allow any males to stay there or even volunteer there. I reached into my pocket to realize I did not have enough money to make it home. I only carried enough for a bottle of water and a one way bus ticket that mornings because Francis had reminded me to never bring all my money in case I got held up. I decided I would tell the driver up front and offer to go to my room and bring it down to him when we arrived (I had been the last stop the last two times I rode the bus and assumed I would again). I climbed onto the bus and asked him if that was okay. While I did this, an elderly man reached into to his pocket and tapped me on the shoulder. He said, I was going to use these 10 pesos on the lottery, I think helping a young man make it home safely is a better cause. I thanked him many times on the way home. I made it home around 3pm and took a long nap as it poured. I am going to go to a coffee shop so I can finally post this as soon as I finish.
Because it has been three day’s it is only fair to give three shout-outs.
The first person I want to say thank you to is my big Scott Waldman. Scott has helped me in so many ways. From listening and then offering advice on my rants: about parents, about school and grades, about people at school (both good and bad). Scott has seen me at my happiest moments and he has seen me at my worst moments (crying so hard I cannot even make my words into sentences). Thank you Scott you have been a true big brother throughout both my good and bad college experiences. Scott has seen a lot of good and bad in the world through all different people and his own experiences, so I know when he is telling me something he only says it because it is the truth even if it something that I may not be able to understand yet.
Secondly, thank you Matt Giatino. Matt and I have a very unique relationship. I can almost guarantee you that he initially did not like me (and I do not blame him, I was immature and could be seen as annoying at times my first year and a half of college). However, now that I have simmered down a bit and Matt has opened up a bit to our differences we have a great friendship. Matt and I have had many similar experiences with friends and family and this makes us closer. Matt has one of the most pure hearts I know as in he will put down whatever he is doing to help someone who needs his help. He has also battled through a lot of hardship. These three factors and is amazing beard (the main reason I have a beard now) make him one of my closest friends and someone who I look up to with much respect.
Thirdly, last but not least, Big T. I honestly could write a book about you. So instead I will list 5.
1. Your ability to always see the good in people, even when they are horrible to you or your friends.
2. Your honesty, if I or someone else do something stupid you are not afraid to tell them but you do it in a way where it doesn't feel like your goal is to make them feel bad or mock them.
3. Your love for your friends and family. You honestly are willing to be there for anyone and show them how much you care.
4. Your smile, your smile speaks to people it tells them you want to be their friend, that you are genuinely interested in being part of their life for more than your own interest.
5. Your sense of humor that makes any day even already good days even better. LOVE YOU T!
Thank you also to everyone who has been following along. The last things I want to leave you with are a few pictures I took on my way home today to show you some of what the results of typhoon destruction looks like. I am also working on a poem called My Relationship with Rain. Check in tomorrow, or later today (depends how long I stay at Coffee Shop to see it).
|The School (High School + College)|
|View From School|
|View From School|
|Storm left areas "empty"|
|Destruction visible from school|
|Delivering Public Service without Hesitation|
|People living on the Water were hit the Hardest|
|Basketball Courts are Everywhere|
|This doesn't need a caption|
|Remember when I said some buildings were like a fist|
|This boat came all the way to the road in the storm|
|The same boat as mentioned before|
|Everybody say Cheese|
|We stopped to get fresh Coconut|
|Sister and her new friend. (Coconut man's daughter)|
|Fresh and Pure Coconut Water|
|Some kids sitting outside|
|My Rice dries best in the middle of the Street|
|A kid who was playing "watch-dog"|
|Some Islanders going for a Swim|
|Take a bath wherever you Can|
|My Laundry dries best on the guard rail for the Road|