One last hoorah

We started off the week with a huge team building dinner on Monday night. The interns, management team, SEED students, and members of the community all came together for dinner and entertainment. A few students preformed for everyone and the night ended with a huge dance party! Although our time on the farm is coming to a close, there are still so many people we haven’t met or interacted with yet and this was a an awesome way to spend the evening with the entire workforce on the farm!

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Jill and I continued helping Jake plant and water seeds for his Need for Seed project. The seeds we planted last week sprouted, we were so excited! We are so happy that these seeds worked out and the seedlings can be distributed out to communities in need, such as the Aeta tribe that we visited in Zambales.

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We have also been helping the Japanese students practice their English. We held a conversational workshop with them to teach them basic English phrases and more about American pop culture and how that fits into American English. Its crazy to think we are the only native English speakers on the entire farm and everyone is wanting to learn from us but we are glad to help in any way we can! It was difficult at first to teach english since we weren’t very prepared with any lessons but once we got into the flow of conversation we were able to assist them with pronunciation and continuing a conversation. It was also another great way to get to know the Japanese better since they have been isolated from the rest of the farm in their work.

 

On Thursday night we had the despedida for Tibault, a French intern, and Ammy, a Filipino intern and our fifth roommate. Ammy has grown very close to our group on the farm and has even been group in with the ‘Americans’ many times. Ammy is from Mindanao and has to go back to start school next week. I wish she could stay longer with us but we will be leaving soon too :(. We sang Karaoke together and made the most out of our last night together!

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We spent our last weekend in Baler, and it was a great end to our summer! We went through MAD travel again and were able to reconnect with the MAD and Circle hostel people we had met in Zambales! We hiked up the Diteki River as far as we could go and went swimming off a wooden diving board. It was raining most of the time but we were already wet from the river so it made it all the more fun! We spent time at the Circle Hostel in Baler, which is new than the one in Zambales, and played games and made friends with a few British guys as well. Sunday morning we went to the beach and a few of us went surfing! It was so much fun and I’m glad we got to see some of our friends from MAD and Circle one last time before we left!

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Stairs, stairs, and more stairs

This week we were able to help out with many different projects on the farm so we kept busy. On Monday, Jill and I helped Laurence hang new nets on the community basketball court that my mom had sent. People from the community rushed to help us bringing ladders and flashlights. I can already see how excited they are for the new nets and I can’t wait until all the kids see them the next day. The basketball court is such a central part of the community and is constantly packed with kids or teams playing basketball, volleyball or soccer. I’m glad we are able to bring so much joy to the community by hanging on these nets. I’m sure Laurence will be dunking on them the rest of summer as well. IMG_2688.jpg

Jill and I continued our work on our Ecobricks project by creating a poster explaining Ecobricks. We plan to hang this poster outside the Sari’s to encourage throwing away the plastic trash in the bottles. We wrote the poster in both English and Tagalog to be able to communicate our message with the entire community. Now we wait again, for approval and feedback on the poster. But it is another step in our direction for progress.

In addition to Ecobricks, Jill and I helped Jake plant some seeds for his Need for Seed project. I might have mentioned it before but Need for Seed is another project through MAD that aims to collect seeds and donate them communities in need. Jake was able to get potting bags and secure a spot for our plants in the greenhouse in the animal farm. I’m excited to see how successful our seeds will be and if they are to be able to give them to communities like the one we visited in Zambales.

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This week we also helped out with the construction of the new Plush and Play workshop. We shoveled gravel and sand into bags and carried them over to the construction site to be mixed in with cement to create the second floor of the workshop. It was definitely back breaking work but we were glad to be apart of such a big project on the farm and contribute as much as we could. They have been working on the workshop since we arrived and will be working for a while more once we leave, but we were able to participate in the beginning of laying down the foundation for the workshop. Our hands and backs were sore but we felt accomplished at the end of the day.

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The rest of the week we helped clean the SEED classrooms in preparation for the new batch arrival and helped with some of the other enterprises as much as we could.

On Friday we left for our road trip through the north of the island. We arrived in Banaue Saturday morning just in time to see the sunrise, it was beautiful. After breakfast we were dropped off at the starting point for our hike through the rice terraces. We hiked across the terraces and through the village surrounding them and down to a waterfall. It was amazing to see the terraces that were carved out of the mountain two thousand years ago and to see how green and fertile the land is! The hike down to the water fall was verrry steep with SO MANY stairs but the waterfall was worth it. There was a cool mist coming off that cooled us down from our hike and we were able to relax and enjoy the view before the upward return hike that followed. It was definitely a difficult hike but we could manage and the experience was worth the sweat and sore legs.

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We then drove to our hotel in Sagada to rest up for our next day’s adventures. Our hotel, Misty Cafe and Lodge, had a cabin-y feel and was nestled into the mountains. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day of hiking. The following morning we woke up early to see the Sea of Clouds. It was such a breathtaking view that pictures or words don’t even do it justice, its a view you have to experience in person. We were up above the clouds and could not only see the sun coming up over the clouds but the clouds rolling down and around the mountains below us. It was a very crowded area but the view was stunning no matter the amount of people. We stayed until our whole view and ourselves were submerged in clouds before heading down the mountain to our next destination.

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We made a quick stop in the town of Sagada to see their hanging coffins. It was a 200 year old tradition, instead of burying coffins, they hang them alongside the mountains so their bodies and souls can be returned to the nature that they came from. I really like the meaning behind hanging the coffins, but since it is so difficult and costly there have only been 20 hung in the past 200 years in the area we visited.

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Our next destination was my favorite! We drove through winding mountain roads until we reached Buscalan. From there we had to get out of our van and hike the rest of the way up to the village, on even MORE stairs. Our legs were screaming but it was all worth it in the end. Whang-Od, an 100 year old woman, lives in this village and does traditional kalinga tribal tattoos. To get a tattoo from her you have to travel through the mountainous roads we did and hike up to her village and endure the pain of a stick and poke traditional tattoo. Laurence and I, of course, had to try it! Unfortunately, the line for Whang-Od herself was 30+ people long and there was no way we’d get fit in today. Fortunately, Whang-Od learned her trade was a dying art and has begun teaching her grandnieces so Laurence and I were lucky enough to get one from one of her grandnieces. They use a thorn from a pine tree and charcoal and hammer the tattoo into your body. Yes, it is as painful as it sounds. But luckily it only took 10 minutes for Marie to tattoo the scorpion onto my wrist so the pain was tolerable. The scorpion symbolizes the strength of a warrior and protection. Laurence also got a tattoo of the eagle serpent eagle on his back. He thought I was just being a baby during my tattoo until Marie began hammering the needle into his back as well. But again it was so worth it! We were able to experience yet another indigenous Filipino culture and way of life and learn even more about the country we had been living in for the past two months. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember, especially now that I have a tattoo to remind me daily ;).

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Zambales

This week we continued work on our Ecobricks project. We wrote social media posts to submit to Raf for the Facebook page. We are still waiting to hear back from the Management team about giving a presentation to them about our project. I now understand what students were saying last year about how slow things take to happen, since we’ve been waiting a week now to hear back. It is hard because we only have a few weeks left so we know we won’t be able to accomplish a lot at this rate but we are hopeful that we can create a good enough starting point so we can successfully pass it on.

One thing I’ve noticed that is different than being at home is their view on “feminism”. During the solidarity meetings we attend every Monday, kind of like a youth group meeting, Tito Toni mentioned how men are the root of the problems in society. In America our feminist movement is focused on empowering women and the sole focus is paving the way for women. But here they are focused on ‘fixing’ the men, and making sure they are honorable and respectful to women. On the farm you can see the success of this approach, there is little to no crime, drug use, abuse, and the SEED students are thriving in their enterprises, both men and women.

This week we had dinner at Tito June’s house again. This time we were able to spend time with their goddaughter, Malaya. She is the cutest and she was able to recite all of our names and answer our questions. We taught her a few dance moves to Despacito too! Being able to connect with more members of the community is one of my favorite things about being on the farm. Not only are we learning useful job skills but we are able to leaner about the personal stories and experiences from the people in the community.

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This weekend has been my favorite so far in the Philippines. We went to Zambales through MAD travel. MAD (Make a Difference) is a social enterprise focused on ecotourism. Specifically, our trip to Zambales will help the Aeta Tribe by providing our time and energy in helping plant trees and by giving 30% of our money back to the community. We walked through the valley to the community Saturday morning. First we stopped and spent an hour planting 1,067 trees! Its so awesome to be able to participate directly in reforestation efforts.

 

After planting we joined the community for lunch and archery. I personally was awful, but it was fun to participate in archery again. Laurence and Kasie bought the traditional bows and arrows to bring home! The food was AMAZING and we were able to play with the kids and learn more about the community during lunch. Nanay Milyang, who is 96, and her 106 year old husband showed us their traditional courtship dance! We were able to join in along other dances and help pass the tradition of dancing down to their children during the process. Learning about this native community was very insightful in learning the history and resilience of the Filipino people. They lost their fertile land after a volcanic eruption covered their area in ash. But the Aeta people continued to have hope and with the help of MAD are continuing on their traditions and lifestyle with happiness. IMG_2676.JPG

During our trip we stayed at the Circle Hostel, which was founded by the co-founder of MAD. It was such a cool experience in itself to stay at the hostel. First, there are ecobricks all over the hostel!!! We were able to see the final product of the project we are starting on the farm! Also, the area is such a creative space and anyone can paint and add their mark to the hostel. Seeing the artwork from people all around the world and being able to add our own touch was another cool experience. It will be a weekend I’ll never forget!

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Ecobricks and Island Hopping

This week we continued our work with our Ecobricks project. Ecobricks are created by stuffing plastic bottles with plastic non biodegradable garbage to eliminate waste in the community and to be used as building blocks for community areas or other projects. We were able to research and create a presentation for the management team along with a rough layout of how we would like to address the community members. Towards the end of the week we walked around and spoke with community members, specifically Titos and Titas who own the saris (stores) to see if they would be willing to help us. We met with Raf again to go over our progress and discuss further options and suggestions. Raf mentioned the possibility of using Ecobricks to create benches for the community basketball court. We are really excited about this idea and hope the management team will be on board with our project! We will be meeting with them later on in the week.

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On Tuesday we celebrated the Fourth of July as best we could! We spent the afternoon by the pool followed by burgers at Hamlet for dinner. Then we headed to the Sari Sari for a few beers to end off the celebration! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find sparklers for the night but it was still a great Filipino/American holiday celebration!

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Jill and I also helped celebrate on of our Tita’s sons 6th birthday this week! We stopped by for dinner and brought him ice cream which he asked for every time we brought up his birthday the week before! We were glad to be included in the celebration, we definitely feel like family in the community.

We spent the weekend on Cagbalete Island enjoying the sun and island life! We went through Mia, one of the supervisors on the farm, company: Camp Isla. Her company takes tourists and locals around to different islands in the Philippines to camp and experience the island. We were able to meet and connect with many more and diverse native Filipinos that we have not had the chance to in the farm and see another part of the Philippines. The food was AMAZING and sleeping outside among the island sounds was such a cool experience. Every meal was served as a boodle fight, where all the food is laid out across the table and everyone eats with their hands. I left with a full tummy, burnt skin and many mosquito bites but it was a weekend I’d love to do all over again!

Composting

This week we started and finished a composting area in the farm with Emma, a French intern! We spent two hours every morning working on clearing the field, building the piles and scooping poop. We were so efficient and I’m surprised and how quickly and easily we were able to work through the field and build the piles. We are working to get money from the farm for bamboo to build around our piles as well. Hopefully once the compost turns into soil, the fermentation team will be able to use it for their plants and purposes. It feels good to finally start and finish a meaningful project on the farm!

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In the afternoons we continued researching for our additional projects and have been contacting French interns and farm staff about resources for projects, specifically the Azolla ponds that we have to work on. A lot of our time is spent waiting for responses and answers so we can continue on with our projects, but slowly we are making progress.

Dr. Amoloza and her family came to visit on Wednesday. We met with her over lunch and Jill, Kasie and I toured her family through the farm. Her two granddaughters loved the animal farm, it was so fun! Before she left, Dr. Amoloza had a meeting with Jill, Jake, Laurence and I and Raf, the founder of MAD travel. Raf gave us ideas for projects that can help tie into his social enterprise MAD travel. We will be working on building eco bricks and encouraging trash pick up in the community to build the bricks and Jake is planning on collecting seeds from the kitchen and community to give to areas in need. BFCR3395.jpg

On Friday we visited our fifth GK community in Metro Manila. This community is the newest one that we’ve visited and helped us get a glimpse into the way these people lived before GK came in and helped build them homes. One of the community leaders there just got accepted into the SEED school on the farm so he will be arriving in July! Its amazing to see the impact GK is having on so many lives in the Philippines, and I’m glad to play a part in their success.

Before and After in the GK community

On Saturday there was an auction on the farm to raise money for a community member’s brain surgery to remove a tumor. We all went and bid on items, I won a farmer’s hat which will be perfect when rice planting rolls around, and a MAD travel tshirt! It was great to see all the interns being able to pool their resources and raise money for the community!

 

Research and relaxation

This week was spent researching for our final projects and brainstorming ideas for what to do on the farm. It is a lot harder to find work on the farm when we are given little direction and everyone already has their specific sites and doesn’t need additional help. But, we are looking forward to helping with rice planting in July. Additionally, it’s been hard to think of projects that can be completed in our short stay that will not only have a lasting impact on the farm but will also be continued on once we are gone. Along with Emma, a French intern, we are planning on reconstructing and completing a composting area by the vegetable crops. This should take us about a week, spending a few hours every morning clearing the area and prepping for compost. Luckily, my internship spring semester provided me with information and knowledge on how to compost and tips on creating a successful composting pile. We are looking forward to creating and completing something meaningful and useful.

Additionally, we have noticed that Filipinos in general do not have any regard for waste disposal and the sidewalks, communities and farm is littered with trash. We are planning to attend a few schools that students from the community go to in order to give lessons on the environment and why it is important to throw away your garbage. In addition to school lessons, we are planning to create signage around the farm and install more garbage cans to encourage the community and farm members to properly dispose of their garbage. Hopefully this project and our effort will outlast our stay here and continue to encourage a clean and eco friendly farm village.

On Friday we had the ability to visit five other GK communities in the area! It was awesome to see how much GK has affected the lives of so many Filipinos and to learn about the progress of each individual community. They are all unique in their own way and have different sources of incomes and livelihoods. I am looking forward to learning so much more from each community we visit.

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Chickens and Volcanoes

6/12/2017 (Monday)

This morning Jill, Laurence, Jake and I woke up early before breakfast to go on a run. We were able to run down towards to the animal farm and explore a little bit more of the farm than we’ve seen previously. After breakfast we were given an official tour with Sophie, a MAD intern from Germany. There were other guests on the tour with us from the Philippines so we were able to hear their stories as well. We stopped into Plush and Play to learn more about that enterprise and the toys they are making. Plush and Play is one of the enterprises on the farm that utilizes the sewing ability of the Titas to create the first Filipino produced toy. After the tour we got to sit down with Tito Tony, the founder of GK. He told us the history of GK and his mission and vision for the community and SEED students in the coming years. One SEED student, Danilo also spoke to us. We heard his story during graduation but we got to hear more insight into how he felt about the farm and what progress was being made. Then we were able to help some SEED boys harvest mangos. It was hard but fun! They are collecting enough mangos to fill 14 crates for an order in Bel Air. The mango trees inside the farm are the most abundant and successful in the country so they are able to make a generous income on mango harvests.

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Jill picking mangos

After lunch we cooled off in the pool again. Having the pool so close to our rooms is very convenient but could be dangerous this summer. After dinner we went to the Sari Sari with the french interns. The Sari Sari is a little karaoke bar/shack a 5 minute walk down the road. There was no karaoke tonight but it was a great way for us to get to know the other interns better and their role on the farm. Jake and I talked to William most of the night. He is also an engineering major in France so it will be great to work with him in the future on any engineering programs on the farm. I also tried Red Horse for the first time, a popular Filipino beer. The saying goes “Red Horse kicks hard” and it definitely does.

6/13/2017 (Tuesday)

Today after breakfast we cleaned 2,000 duck eggs for The Golden Duck. The Golden Duck is another enterprise that specializes in golden duck eggs and duck burgers. The golden duck egg is a twist of the traditional Filipino salted egg where the eggs are flavored with turmeric, giving it the golden color. We met another french intern Marie, and a Filipino, Karen. They were so much fun to hangout with and made the cleaning much more enjoyable. We made plans to sing karaoke together at the Sari Sari the next night, I can’t wait!

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After cleaning we met with Mai and Lucas, another french intern, to go over our 7 day challenge. For the next 7 days we are required to complete the list of activities on our challenge. It is a great way to get to know the farm better and the community members. Jill and I also were assigned our community Tita, who will be our second mom on the farm. We spent the rest of the day exploring the farm and trying to complete things from our 7 day challenge list. Jill and I met our Tita, who asked us to call her Ate Carla. She has 5 sons, Victor, King, Clark, Naugt-Naugt, and Kai. They all live in one house with her husband and his mom. We learned they’ve been living in the community for about 9 years, which is right around the time it was built. Also, her husband painted all of the paintings around the farm, and their sons have picked up on drawing and their pictures are hung all around their house. The boys are so welcoming and lively, Jill and I played with them for hours, never getting bored. I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time with Ate Carla and the boys.

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After dinner we went to a despedida for one of the french interns. A despedida on the farm is a farewell party for anyone thats leaving after a long time. There is traditional Filipino food served on a long table and everyone eats together with their hands. It was such a cool experience and another great way to meet more interns on the farm.

6/14/2017 (Wednesday)

This morning we helped Tito Vick plant and water lettuce after breakfast. The boys misunderstood their Tito and we all thought we were planting rice. It was less exciting but we were still able to learn and experience another aspect of the farm. Tito Ver, the boys’ Tito, along with Tito Vick and other Titos are in charge of planting the vegetables on the farm. There is lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables that are all given a separate section of the farm.

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Watering the lettuce plants

After gardening, Jill and I wandered the farm for about an hour looking for the bees. We were finally able to find them with the help of two boys from the community. The bees here looked more like ants and there wasn’t any honey that we could see. Im hoping I can meet Jayson soon, who is in charge of the bees, and learn more about beekeeping.

The six of us went into the community after lunch and met Tita Celia, Danilo’s mom. She owns a small shop in the community with snacks and drinks, we will definitely be stopping by frequently for snacks. We made plans to come back the following day to have lunch with her. We got two new roommates today, Maiki and Xavi, they’re brother and sister. Maiki lives and teaches first grade in Singapore, but went to Boston College, and Xavi lives and goes to school in America. They’re Filipino and their parents are on the board of directors here at the farm. The farm has been a great place to build relationships and connections with people all over the world with people I would’ve never had the chance to meet before. Maiki and Xavi are so much fun, but unfortunately they’re only staying for 5 days 😦

The eight of us joined Tito June that afternoon to learn about his vermicomposting. Right now he is taking the sweet potato stems from the Bayani Brew enterprise after they use the leaves for tea. He places the bottoms of the stems at the end of his box, and distributes the smaller parts of the plant throughout a large box. In the box are African Night Crawlers that help break down the plants. When it rains, the rain and nutrients flow down to the end of the box where the stems are and once they start regrowing roots they are taken and replanted in the fields. And the excess dirt and poop are used for fertilizer for both the farm and to be sold outside. It is an awesome and perfectly sustainable system. I can’t wait to learn more from Tito June about composting. He also has the best dad jokes, and I’m looking forward to more laughs with him.

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After composting we went into the community and introduced Maiki to Ate Carla and her boys. We spent the next few hours there playing and entertaining them. Maiki was able to help us talk to Ate Carla a little more because she knows some Tagalog. After visiting with Ate Carla, we stopped by Tito June’s for a quick sing a long. Tito June is very good at the guitar and we were able to sing some of our favorite American songs with him. We finally made our way to the Sari Sari with Marie and Karen after dinner. We sang so much karaoke and it was so so fun! I might’ve gotten booed for my poor performance at singing Whitney Houston but I definitely made a name for myself in front of the French singing Friends in Low Places.

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6/15/2017 (Thursday)

Jill, Maiki and I woke up early this morning to help make breakfast at the Grassroots Kitchen. I attempted to make a couple dozen sunny side eggs but was failing miserable so I got demoted to cutting mangos. The boys got two more roommates today, Ryan and Kai. They are family friends with Maiki and Xavi and their dad is also on the board at the farm. They’re originally from Seattle but live in Malaysia. After breakfast we all went to the chicken slaughter which was very…interesting. I did not participate in any of the killing but I plucked about 5 or 6 chickens after they were dead. I think I found my calling in life as a professional chicken plucker because I plucked the chickens faster than anyone there. Besides the Filipinos of course, they can do a whole chicken in like 2 minutes.

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Once we cleaned ourselves up we met with Mia and Mai and began our tour of the enterprises. We went to Plush and Play first where we heard Fabian, the French intern who started Plush and Play, talk about the history and success of the business. After we had lunch at Tita Celia’s. It was delicious, but I couldn’t eat the chicken, I was still a little scarred from that morning’s slaughter.

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We toured the rest of the enterprises after lunch. We went to EriSilk Ambension first. There they make silk and cotton from silk worms. Their harvesting is sustainable and no worms are harmed in the process. They make scarves, headbands, towels and bracelets. Next we went to First Harvest, which makes AMAZING peanut butter. I will definitely be buying tons of jars while I’m here, it is so delicious. We learned about how the process works and the history of Tita Dell who is the head of First Harvest now. We then toured Oasis, the five star hotel on the farm. It is a really cool hotel that they are working on better marketing for currently. It was crazy to see these huge rooms when people in the community just a few yards away are living in houses smaller than one hotel room. But it is also another great way to provide jobs for community members and to generate income for the farm. After we went to the Bambo Villa to meet with Kuya Shannon, the CEO of the farm. He told us his history and how he got involved with GK. Another SEED student, Mais also spoke with us and told us her story. We heard her talk at graduation as well but it was cool to learn more about the progress of her enterprise.

6/16/2017 (Friday)

This morning we were supposed to help make lunch after breakfast but they didn’t need us by the time we arrived. We took advantage of our few hours of free time and spent a few hours at the pool. It was very relaxing but the sun tired us out quickly. After lunch we were given our internship program for the rest of summer. It was very confusing and overwhelming at first. It seems like we will be working constantly the rest of summer and we won’t be assigned a specific mission like we were originally told. I am a little disappointed because I wanted to focus most of my time on composting and the solar energy projects on the farm but this program will help us see every aspect of the farm and we will definitely be able to make more connections. We are hoping as the week unfolds the program becomes more clear and less overwhelming. We went to help the mango harvest in the mango orchard. King, Ate Carla’s son, was there helping with his cousin Sander. I think he is finally starting to warm up to Jill and I, since he’s been very shy every time we’ve gone to his house.

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We went to the community to watch the boys play basketball against community boys. The boys got yet another roommate, Shamir, who goes to high school with Ryan and Kai, and his cousin, Tim, from England joined us. The boys, specifically Laurence and Xavi, were total show offs during the game, but the community boys are really good and could keep up. Basketball is a huge community event here and the six of us want to repaint the court for them and get them new nets eventually. Jill and I stopped by Ate Carla’s to get our laundry and play with the boys briefly before bed. I will miss them the most when I’m gone, they are so funny and playful.

6/17/2017 (Saturday)

This morning Laurence, Jake, Jill, Amanda, Danielle, Jackie, Mai and I woke up early and began our trek to Tagaytay to climb the Taal Volcano. We ate lunch in Tagaytay at a restaurant called Bag-o-Beans which had an amazing view of the volcano we were about to climb.

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We took a boat to the volcano and hiked up. It was very steep and hot but the view at the top was totally worth it. The volcano is surrounded by lakes but inside the crater is also another lake. We didn’t hike down to it but it was such  beautiful view. We spent about twenty minutes up there enjoying the view and having a mini photoshoot. Everyone wanted pictures with the Americans, which seems to be a trend here. Especially since Laurence’s afro really stands out.

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After our hike back down we drove to Manila. We bathed ourselves in the bathroom with wipes, which definitely got a lot of looks from the Filipinos. We grabbed PIZZA!!! for dinner before meeting Maiki and Xavi. They took us to this really cool bar, Finders Keepers, in Manila. There was a live DJ and we danced the whole night. Laurence and his afro were living it up on the stage and everyone was recording him. We had so much fun and slept the whole bus ride back to the farm. We didn’t get back until 4am, but the day was definitely worth it.

6/18/2017 (Sunday)

This morning we slept in until lunch since we didn’t get back until 4 am the night before. Then we went into Angat to get more pesos, load our phones, and get chicken for dinner at Tito June. It took us about an hour but we were able to trike into town and navigate around by ourselves for the first time. We then had dinner at Tito June with a few of the French interns. It was very delicious and we had another sing a long with Tito June. Overall the day was relaxing and chill, just what we needed after our long weekend.

First Impressions

6/9/2017 (Friday)

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We have officially arrived in the Philippines! Our 15 hour flight was Hello Kitty themed including the toilet paper and the gate in Taiwan. It was very interesting and definitely made the flight go faster. Once we arrived in Manila, Tito Mon and Kuya Mellord picked us up from the airport and drove us an hour or so to the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, where we will be staying the first two nights. The drive to UPLB went through the city of Manila, our first glimpse into the Philippines. It was crazy to so clearly see the economic disparity prevalent in the Philippines. There were slums for as far as you could see that lead directly up to the sky scrapers of Manila. The hotel at UPLB was very nice and clean, but not having any toilet paper in the bathrooms is something we will have to get used to. After we settled in, Kuya Mellord dropped us off in Los Banos where we had Jollibee for dinner and explored the town and campus for an hour. Jollibee is like a cross between McDonalds and KFC, not very authentic Filipino food but still very good. Jill and I fell asleep around 6pm because of our jet leg and slept right through the night.

Photos from UPLB

6/10/2017 (Saturday)

This morning we woke up early for our 8 hour orientation lead by Tito Mon and professors from UPLB. We learned about Filipino culture, history and language. Learning about the Spanish colonization in the Philippines helped explain the similarities I’ve noticed so far between the Philippines and Central/South American countries that I’ve visited before. We had our first authentic Filipino meal for lunch and it was delicious! Following orientation we went to dinner at a restaurant with floating tables. I ate fish straight from the bone for the first time, it was an interesting experience! We were also serenaded by a group of 3 men, similar to a Mariachi band which was another example of Spanish influence. It was a great first look into the culture and food we will be experiencing the next two months.

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Dinner

6/11/2017 (Sunday)

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The six students going to GK woke up at 5am to head to the farm. We got in just in time to watch the graduation of the 44 SEED students on the farm. SEED is the entrepreneurial university on the farm that kids from the community and all around the Philippines attend to develop business and enterprise skills. The graduation was an amazing first look into the farm and how it functions as a farm village university. Two of the students spoke during the ceremony and we got an insight into the totally impoverished lives they used to live, and now they can speak up to three languages fluently and are creating businesses and futures for themselves, their families and their communities. Following the ceremony we had lunch in the cafeteria and met with Ate Joni. Ate Joni briefed us on the farm and what we we can expect during our time here. She explained that we will  have our 7 day challenge, which is a week of just familiarizing ourselves with the farm and talking to as many people as possible. Following the 7 day challenge we will be assigned a mission that we will work on for the rest of the summer. Mai then showed us to our rooms which are very nice and air conditioned!!! Our dorms are right by the pool so we took a quick swim before heading in to Angat for dinner.

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View from the pool

Mai took us into Angat for dinner, walking around and full body massages. We took our first tricycle ride into the town, which is basically a motor cycle with a side attachment and we all piled as many people on as possible. The city of Angat is very different than anywhere I’ve ever been. There are people out every where are open shops and carts selling things on every inch of the sidewalk. I feel very out of place since everyone was staring and yelling things at us to get us to buy something. Especially since we are with Laurence, who is tall and has a huge afro, we really stuck out in the city. But everyone has been so nice and welcoming to us, the Filipinos have truly lived up to their stereotype of being friendly and hospitable. I cannot wait to make many more friendships and explore more during my time here.