Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tacloban first Impressions

Hey Everyone,

This post covers the day before today. Yes, I will likely post again about today as well.  Professor Aguas and I are currently in Tacloban, Philippines. Before I discuss this more, I have a few food pictures from this morning.

Korean Barbecue


  • Sisig is Pig Cheek, a dish special to Pampana, Philippines (pronounced pampanga). Professor Aguas is form said place. 
  • Adobo (a chicken dish) that Professor Aguas sold for a fundraiser for relief for this same disaster and raised more than $2000 last year. 

After a very relaxing morning and the great lunch mentioned above we headed to the airport to fly out to Tacloban. 

Waiting for our Plane

When flying into to Tacloban you see both a country side with grassy plains, trees and mountains, but you also see an island that has been wrecked and devastated.


The first thing you see upon landing is a small strip of concrete with a building about the size of the PBK lobby at William and Mary. This strip holds four airplanes at a time and the small building contains four broken luggage carousels. These carousels that broke during the typhoon are stacked with luggage from all the incoming flights (because they do not turn). As I waited for my luggage I met and spoke with many people from around the world who had also come to do aid work on the island. Not limited to but including a lady from Feed the Children, US Navy members, Workers for the UN and many other organizations engaged us in conversation.

The second thing you see is a big flat open area with only flooring remaining. Can you guess what this is?

Still trying to guess, I know this is a hard one. If you can guess it right (please do not lie), I will be so impressed and give you $1 when I return (you can tip Dominoes for once). Really, I will. Keep thinking for a minute. Alright, have a hint. (Note: If you use the hint your winnings drop to $.50 though). It rhymes with Heather Renter…

This used to be the Weather Center.

Don’t let my word choice of wrecked and devastated fool you. Despite the results of unfortunate circumstances the people of Tacloban are strong, happy and proud of their home. These four kids were playing just outside the airport exit and when they saw us taking pictures of the sign one said to the others in English let us pose and they all began laughing, smiling and waving. At this moment I honestly can say I wanted to get out of the car and laugh and smile with them.


As we continued to drive to our accommodations (more on this to come later) we passed by numerous types of buildings. We passed all types of houses including but not limited to medium sized tents, small one room houses without roofs and small houses about the size of a town house. We also passed all types of street vendors, mostly food but also lumber and house repair supplies stores, bike and car repair shops etc. Most of the children were getting out of school and I remember a distinct pair of two boys (who looked no older than 4 or 5) running on opposite sides of the road racing home, laughing and smiling to each other with their backpacks on as they ran through heavy traffic. We drove on streets and bridges that you could still feel, could still see the results of typhoon destruction on. We passed by cars who looked like they had been totaled in an accident not once, not twice but three times (again typhoons work). In some houses the whole roof and infrastructure was gone in others the infrastructure (heavy metal) looked like a bent fist and was no longer doing its job. I could list a lot of sad things that we saw but almost every person we passed had one thing in common. They were happy, they were smiling, you know why? They were alive and they were grateful for this. My next post will include pictures of the city because it was hard to get these as we took our taxi ride to the city.

Professor Aguas had informed me in the morning that the hotels were all full of other people coming to do relief work so we would be looking for other arrangements. A little after four pm we arrived at Scholastic School (an all girl’s college that is ran and funded by Catholic nuns).

This is where we would be staying. They gave us a dormitory/room in the medical hospital for the nursing students. I must say it is much more spacious and clean than any dorm I have ever lived in at William and Mary. We talked with the nuns for just under an hour about our backgrounds and what we wished to do to help. I am talking with the head of the school tomorrow (I wrote this during day 1 of 2) about teaching a one week math curriculum because they do not currently have a math class. I will cover basic arithmetic, some basic algebra and basic geometry but try and focus on how these are useful to their studies, but more importantly every-day life. The school is thriving and now has around 630 girls in the program and they are studying education, nursing, psychology and other topics as well.

After situating ourselves in the room we decided to go find dinner. Here is what I ate: fried rice, vegetable lo mien, fried chicken and a few other small things. How much would you be willing to pay for this? Did I mention it is the number 1 fast food chain in the country (named Chow King)?

Done answering? The total cost was between $3-4 USD. Not mentioned above was that the quality and taste of the food was 75-85% better than the US equivalent, KFC. After dinner we went to the grocery store to buy bottled water (yes Joe, in some countries tap water is not safe, I will know if you read this because I am calling you out). All in all my first day was very tiring but I plan to get up tomorrow (again day 1 of 2 writing) and check in with the nun in charge of the school before going into the city later in the day to talk with some of the locals and hopefully getting my hands dirty in some aid work.

Today’s Thank-You goes to a woman with many names. Some call her V, some G, some Virg, Gia and others Virginia, Virginia Levia. At the age of two, my parents hired G to be mine and my sister’s nanny. G would clean the house, bathe us and cook for us. From the beginning I was very close with G and have pictures of a baby Arya on her hip as she cooked in the kitchen. As I grew up G was there and taught me many skills and life lessons. For example, G was the one who taught me how to ride a bike. How did she teach me this? By having me ride down-hill on Seward Road. I beat up that pavement badly and every time I would fall she would ask are you going to give up now?! The answer she wanted to hear obviously was no and I refused to quit. It was from this young age that G taught me to be resilient as well. Whenever I had a bad dream, couldn’t fall asleep or just didn’t want to sleep alone I go to G’s room. Sometimes she would hear me come in and we would talk till I fell asleep other times I would sneak in thinking I was clever only to be caught. G also taught me that showing love to strangers, friends and especially family you can be done in any number of ways as long as it is doing something you love to do. For G this was cooking and cleaning, for me it is teaching math so it is easier and more fun for others and helping others accept people with different backgrounds. G showed me what true love and sacrifice are by working with my family in order to provide for and eventually get her children to be able to come to the United States. G also is not afraid to be honest with me whenever I ask for advice. She encourages and supports me to do my best in everything I do, most notably school. Whenever something happens good or bad or in between the two, G is one of the first people I call. For this reason and many others (including those above) G is like a second mother to me. I love you G and I miss you. Thank you for helping mold me into the young man I am today.

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