Last Monday was quite possibly the most eventful day I have had in the Philippines thus far. My stomach was full of butterflies as I packed a bag and piled into the jeepney headed to the Vista Venice Resort in Morong, Bataan. We would all be spending the night at the resort for a jam packed two days, which included two of the most anticipated events of our Pre-Service Training.
First up: the LPI. The Language Proficiency Interview is a 20-30 minute conversation between a trainee and certified tester. My tester and I spoke about my favorite books, I told her all about my family in America and host family here in the Philippines, I compared my experiences in South Africa to those here, and we even role played a situation in which I bought a gift and had to go to the store to return it without a receipt. Easy, right? Think again. Did I mention this all happens in Tagalog?! I was so extremely nervous prior to my interview, but the conversation flowed naturally and I was pretty confident in my responses. Immediately afterwards, my tester told me that I performed in both the Advanced Low and Intermediate High levels and would need to re-listen to my interview to determine my final placement (the interviews are recorded). I was only concerned with achieving Intermediate Mid, the benchmark we had to reach, so I knew I had passed! I didn’t even care about my final score. I left the room having mixed emotions; I was stoked that my LPI was finally finished, but I was super nervous for our Site Announcement which was now only 1 hour away!
After the longest lunch ever, it was finally time. Time for our Site Announcement! Each Regional Manager would take the stage and flash photos of our faces, one by one, to announce where we would be living and working for the next two years. The first region to be announced: the province of Benguet in Northern Luzon. The first photo to be shown: Brie, another Elementary Education Volunteer. The room erupted into cheers and claps as she ran to the front to place her photo on the map. Since it is rare for two volunteers of the same education level to be placed near each other, I began talking to my other friends about how excited we were for Brie. That’s when I heard, “Hey wait, Bridget, that’s you!”! As I looked up to the screen, there it was. My face with an arrow pointing to Benguet. After standing there in shock I realized what this meant; I was going to Northern Luzon (there are no beaches close by…), but Brie is my site mate! Like a scene straight out of a cheesy movie, we ran into each others arms excitedly. I’m pretty sure it was the best site mate hug of the day (sorry ’bout it, Jimmy and Saba). The excitement continued to flow through the room as one by one, everyone was called up to receive their site placement.I will be living in the “very remote, very rural” town of Kapangan, Benguet. My primary job will be to conduct remedial reading classes for the students at the school as well as to teach English and Science. I will be working at the central elementary school, but there are only 250 pupils with just 20-25 pupils per class. My town is 2 hours away from the city and any amenities (market, bank, internet, etc.), and there is little to no transportation within the town. The residents walk everywhere, even if that means walking over one hour each way to school. Thanks to the walking, I’m pretty much guaranteed to have a rockin’ bod after this, right?! Here’s hoping, anyways.
Despite the fears that I have going to site and the challenges that I will face during my service (like the fact that there are often landslides that block the one road in and out of town), I am super stoked because this highland province is known as “The Salad Bowl of the Philippines“. Many fruits and vegetables are grown there, including strawberries, Baguio beans (green beans), broccoli, and potatoes. I don’t think it could be any more perfect for my vegetarian self!
So, for the first time in my whole life, I won’t be living close to the beach. And that is happening while I live in country that is made up of 7,107 islands. It just cracks me up every time I think about it.
We leave our training community, Orani, on September 9th and head to Manila for a week where we will wrap up our training, explore the capital of this beautiful country, and meet our supervisors at a Work Partners Conference. Then, along with our supervisors, we travel to our permanent sites. Until then, I’m busy spending time with my host family, hanging out with my friends, and learning yet another language, Ilokano! Yikes! Wish me luck!
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
-Neale Donald Walsch