Ta Da

Recently a friend asked me, “where the hell are you and what are you doing?”
And it just happens lately I have been doing quite a bit of work making maps and charts as part of creating a State of the Coast report for my province here in the Philippines. Let me share with you all just some of the “what” I have been up to.
But First here’s some maps of where I am…

Alblay relative Position, citation

albay and its water-cited

As for what I have been doing… Beth and I have both gotten certified as scuba divers and have been exploring the sea. Sometimes I even work underwater….

Which can be beautiful
DCIM103GOPRO

And interesting… here I am extracting a crown of thorns sea star…
?????????????

However, I spend much more time in my office…

my officejjj

Working through documents and requesting more from other agencies…

My desk…
the databasejj

But it has started to pay off… as my office mates now have access at there finger tips to all sorts of data… which I have tried to make easily understandable by creating graphs, charts, or maps.

Wind Chart, final

Storm signal, Final

Temperature, Final

or perhaps more interesting…(anything interesting here?)
Fish harvest Chart 1

The average daily catch information was gather through participatory conferences... the annual production number come from the governments database.

The average daily catch information was gather through participatory conferences… the annual production number come from the governments database.

But besides all these charts I have also been involved helping another volunteer and her fisher-folk establish a giant underwater rosary. This has involved some interesting moments…

does she look concerned to you?
BEFORE

DURRINGjj

after

This is just a short summary of what I have been up to…

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Potpourri

So it’s been a while and while I won’t be able to catch you up on all the happenings I am going to start will some bits and pieces as they pop into my head. Some of these have been half formed thoughts I’ve been working on for a while but I never do so… here you go
Golden Arches,
McDonalds, in the US I would hardly notice a new store being put in or calculate how my much easier it would be to get to the new shop, but here as a Peace Corps Volunteer it seems as if nothing could be more comforting than a meal that reminds one of home. When I initially expressed interest in the Peace Corps I imagined going to a country without McDonalds, perhaps a place without electricity or paved roads, but the Philippines has all that. But although I am thrilled to be getting a McDonald’s I wonder what it says about the state of development… pavement, electricity, and fastfood, but still most city and provincial government documents are made on typewriters…
So Yes, I want fries with that, but I wonder if we should be hoping for a different type of development…
Beth and I were talking one night dinner about development about the impact of technology and its relationship with poverty and about how things are still the same here as they were in the 1970’s but things are also very different(McDonald’s for instance). Things are the same here (and perhaps in most developing countries, or perhaps poor neighborhood’s in America) as in the 1970’s, people are still hungry, lack basic health care, living from day to day, washing their clothes by hand, living with little shelter in an area that regularly floods etc.. But things are also different, people have florescent light bulbs, they have a cell phone (maybe a computer), the electricity is more reliable, and the cheapest food available might be processed and full of refined things and other things meant to preserve the refined things. The world has been developed in typical western style, even the most poor seem to have more material goods, have become better consumers, use the internet, and now can recognize not only Coke, but apple products as well (in case you missed it, the Coca-Cola brand value was recently surpassed by Apple as the world’s most valuable branding). But siting here in the Philippines, a country much more developed than the typical Peace Corps post, we still haven’t unlocked the secret of living wages, safe and sanitary housing conditions, or a great education.
Washing Machine
There is a TED talk I think about often that speaks of this a little bit, its call the magic washing machine by a guy named Hans? He talks about the ability of the washing machine to change a women’s life and how its presence defines one level of development. But I would be shocked if there were more washing machines than televisions (here or anywhere), even though one leads to the empowerment of women, significantly adds to the amount of free time a household has, and supports kitchen table conversation, interacting with other humans, having a social life, and most importantly clean laundry (TV’s provide me with distraction, attempt to sell me stuff about every 30 seconds (subliminally) and every 4 minute through more overt methods, are a gathering point where people can be together without talking to each other, shares with me thoughts about hip trends, the breaking news in the life and death of Michael Jackson, an occasionally between al that offers a moment of insight). Sure TVs connect to the other side of the planet, but they disconnect us from the people around us, right at our side; so I wonder, would the world be better off with half the number of TV’s (we can take them out of our bedrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms probably), and double or triple the number of washing machines? I wonder how one would motivate that change…
Underwear
I am going to order some boxers online, mail them to my sister and then have her ship them to me here. Telling you I am buying new underwear here on the internet it less awkward then buying it here. At the mall here, every rack of clothing or aisle in the store has an attendant whose job it is to suggest items, ask what you would like, search for the item you need. Browsing is not really a thing. Most of the time it’s okay, but I cannot handle being offered briefs and boxers from 10 different men and women at once (the racks are very close together, one for each brand), and then trying to sort out what they cost and what size I need all in half sentences.
Pricing
44 or so Peso is one dollar, but pricing is a pretty interesting game here. A coke is about 10 peso (so a quarter) and a haircut (they do the edges with a straight razor…) is 30-50, so that’s 3-5 soda’s, in the USA a coke is 1.50 so times 5 is $7.50, the price of a haircut on a lucky day, but not too far off as a ratio. But for the price of one American soda you could get 4 cokes and a haircut here…I don’t really understand that… btw I like the haircuts here better, they pay more attention and keep trimming until its perfect… the coke is probably better too, well it seems that way to me.
Enough for now, next time I’ll try to talk about what I am doing here…

And Thank God the shutdown is over… what a great example of American Exceptionalism….

Initial Training

Picture1

Sure something’s about the Philippines may seem different, but many things here are the same.  For instance, yesterday when my brother asked me for help picking out the important parts of his reading, I told him that I could not give him the answers, but I could guide him a little.  I told him that in general, in order to understand any given situation, one must ask: Where? When? What? Why? and How? I explained that if he could identify the answers to these questions he would probably understand what was happening.  As we worked I was thinking that approaching a report in this fashion was uncommon here, although I am not sure why.  As we then worked through the questions my brother’s father came in and was observing my lesson.  He heard me explain for the 10th or so time that these questions are important, and then when his son started to challenge again, he said something along the lines of, this is similar to the basic reporting we do as police at work, 5 W’s and an H, adding who? to my list (which I had just forgotten).

 

In that moments I felt many things:

First I was surprised by my ignorance, just because people live more simply does not make them less intelligent,  although it does limit their access to information.

Second I was happy to see our similarity, happy that the father seemed to understand where I was coming from, that I was on the right track.

And Finally I was proud, not only because my lesson was on the right track, but because the father had approved of my lesson, he had defended it.

 

Long story short, the people of the Philippines are more like us Americans than one might expect on the surface, but in reality our humanness makes us similar.  We all love, we all hunger, and we all dream.

My time here in Sabang is drawing short, on Sunday I will find out where my permanent site will be, however we have already experienced so many things, from new foods and a new language, to snorkeling in the mangroves and among the corals, I have been having a good time and have stayed healthy.  Until next time, watch out for the rain.

Picture2

Initial Training

So I have been in the Philippines for almost a week and I wanted to check-in with you all. So far we have mostly been just getting introduced to staff and other trainees, however we have in the last day started our first real training sessions. I will be working on a little longer summary of what we have been up to in the next few days and will hopefully be posting it before we head off too our real training site. Beth and I found out that our training sites will be pretty close together, only a few kilometers, so that is great news. Otherwise everything is going great! To my parents: I will work on figuring out Skype in the next few days, I will send you an email if it will work.

Have a good one.

Prepared

Our stuff is in storage, our cars have been sold, finances are in order, apartment is clean, and Bags are packed; so to answer the question, “how are you feeling?”, I can only say, “prepared”.

Sure, I don’t really know what the future holds, but as a veteran, I’ve gotten past that. I remember the younger Kevin, questioning the plan, wondering what will happen next, and I am not sure if it is maturity, naivety, confidence, or competence, but I don’t have a whole lot of butterflies in my stomach.

So as I am feeling prepared, I hope that after these introductory blogs you are feeling prepared as well. I will miss you, but I think Beth and I are as prepared as we can be, and so I guess it must be time to go

Our Problems, some theory on the brain

For whatever reason, I think that whoever is reading my blog should be informed about some of my thoughts on environmental problems, how we construct and address them, and sort of my reasoning for joining the Peace Corps.

I apologize for not citing references!!! Many of the ideas I am sharing here are not my own, and were taught to me at the UW, or else ware.

Environmental problems are social constructs, meaning that we create and identify problems based on our perception and judgment of environmental conditions. As individuals we each see those conditions differently, and so our construction of problems varies. Let me give an example: When somebody at a chemical company was attempting to create a new gaseous coolant and instead created Teflon, he could have viewed the conditions as a failure, a problem, but instead they noticed that the surface was slippery and saw the conditions differently, as an opportunity.

Environmental problems are similarly created, and viewed in our mind. We take factual data from the environment and view it through a lens. The accuracy of the lens is wholly dependent on our understanding of the data and how we interpret its interactions with other data we have. And importantly, because our understanding is never perfect, our lens is not only likely flawed, but can be actively distorted through messaging from various sources that influence how we value the bits of information we have.

Let me try to explain this:

When DDT was created to kill insects, we valued its killing ability greatly and it was a solution to insect infestation. Then we read Silent Spring and our lens’s changed, we started to understand that we didn’t have all the facts about what DDT does, we started to be able to value its negative externalities, and we started to view DDT as a problem.

SO although we had the same environmental conditions on the farm or wherever, one day we thought DDT was a solution and the next, it was a problem. Think about using fossil fuel, fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, nuclear energy, marijuana, LSD, Alcohol, corporal punishment, logging, mining… you get the picture, you make the judgment (you probably just did), and you designate something problematic or not, actionable or not.

And so, based on my view of the world, my construction, I think one of our core problems is climate change. I believe we (as a population) miss value its impact, and so our construction is not aligned with our facts. I want to address this, not by getting bent out of shape about fracking, which may or may not be a good way of accessing natural gas, or pipelines, which may or may not be a good may of moving oil, but rather by getting bent on addressing the root of climate change; fossil fuel use. And so to learn how to get American’s to drive less, to turn of light, etc… I am going first, to learn how to get people to act on more clearly defined and apparent problems than the mysterious “climate change”.

I hope that by learning about another culture, and a different set of problems, I pick up the tools to influence people’s lenses.

Well that’s enough of that..