Monday, December 20, 2010

Six Months Later...

What can I say? Six months later and I still haven’t come to terms with my experience from over the sumer. Six months later and the memories compiled are filed in the depths of my brain only to be found when convenient. Six months and a few hundred dollars later I find myself fatter due to numerous #6 combos from Mexican restaurants (the drug of choice to preoccupy my mind at times). Six months later and I realize I avoid church when missionaries are scheduled to visit in order to save face. Otherwise I’d be that blubbering sap in the corner donating her life savings for some cause- any cause that promises relief, or become the angsty teenager in the front thinking, “These people, these Americans, they can’t fathom the poverty this guy is describing on the pulpit because they’ve never been surrounded by it.” But all the while I become angry with myself knowing that I have only scratched and sniffed the sticker of poverty.
So what do I do? I often think about the people we met along the way. Did the people at the rally ever get their demands fulfilled? Is Father Paulo still drinking his bright green yerba mate while watching over the seafarers? What about the Overseas Workers we met in Little Manila? I can only assume that they are probably facing the same horrible work conditions, along with thousands of other people around the world. And what ever happened to the people we met in Kaohsiung, the most poignant meeting of our trip?
Sometimes I wonder what was our purpose of going other than to travel to “exotic” lands and to gain experience in field. Personally,  I was hoping to see if my interest in women’s rights could turn into a passion. However, after finishing all of the required work and having plenty of time to mull over the excursion, it only seems fitting to point out the obvious: the study was not solely about me. It was about the interactions we had with people who are placed in difficult situations. The middle of August, which denoted the end of our course as required by our university, is not its ultimate conclusion, instead I now find it obligatory to share my research and experiences with others in order to help those left behind.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

From My Research Tumblr: A Proposal for Nintendo

   I have an idea for a new video game. But first, I would like to began by saying that I am no video game expert. My expansive knowledge of video games includes the original Sonic on Sega, Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and The Legend of Zelda on the ‘85 Nintendo Entertainment System. With that disclaimer, I am sorry if I don’t use the proper lingo.
      I want my game to be a mixture of SIMS (or at least what I perceive as SIMS) and some action game located in Manila. I think it is the perfect setting. From what I have seen, there are many obstacles that your character can face without the need for a gun or a knife (that way they can advertise it to children).
    The first trial your character must face is getting dressed. Tedious, I know, but it must be done. Will you choose your favorite pair of jeans that you’ll end up sweating profusely in? Or will you choose the linen pants? What about shoes? Well, first you must consider if it looks like rain. Since most of the streets flood due to poor sewage systems, will you want to destroy your favorite pair of leather sandals; be dangerous and wear rubber flip-flops (this means you risk getting cut by glass); or would you rather slop around in soaking tennis? Either way, you’ll feel the unsettling warm gritty water as you trudge to your destination (just tell yourself it’s warm because it’s hot here). Next is your top. No matter what you choose you are bound to look disheveled by the end of the day with huge sweat marks covering your back, armpits, and random bits that got caught in your stomach folds.  These are important choices since it will affect your character’s life points as the sun rises and the humidity increases.
      The next challenge would be transportation. Of course your character will be fit. No six-pack needed, just determination and a set of eyes. Walking would be the least expensive mode of transportation. He/she will be entranced by the way the impoverished live, but watch out for the uneven side walk (some large pieces tend to go missing). Understandably, life points will be deducted for stubbed toes and scraped knees. Another popular mode of transportation is the LRT, the metro. Unlike the one in Taiwan, the LRT is made of up three different lines, each requiring their own different coloured card. Someone with a time restraint or personal space issues, should discard the LRT and instead choose one of the various taxis. There are large taxis, small taxis, bright taxis, and dull taxis. All of which, will take you to your destination in a reasonable amount of time, but golden coins will be deducted. 
      What about the health of your character? Well, this would be divided into two parts: mental health and physical health. Choosing what your character will eat is important. You earn life points by selecting local foods such as the different meats (varieties of fish, and ‘different’ parts of the pig/cow), or eating from the amazing selection of fruit. If your character can successfully consume Balut, then he/she will receive 1up.  However, globalization does exist in Manila. Points as well as a substantial portion of gold coins will be deducted if your character chooses McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Starbucks, Greenwich, Jollibee, etc. Oh, let’s not forget hydration. There must be a hydration meter. Make sure you continually watch the meter, it will affect how fast one can get across town.
       Maintaining mental health points is the hardest task your character will have to face. Can he/she handle the unabashed poverty seen everywhere? Will he/she get frustrated, wasting time and energy cursing those in power that have creating the cyclical poor? Will the images of the gaunt faced grandmother licking her stick-like  fingers as she passed a donut to her granddaughter or the naked child sleeping face-down as a fly played in the blood from a scab on the child’s lower back haunt his/her sleepless nights? How will he/she respond to the endless piles of trash? Will he/she spout off philosophies of development then later throw trash in the street? Or will he/she wait to find the only trash can within seven blocks to “properly” dispose of his/her waste? Finally, how will your character react to the children living in the streets? Will he/she donate coins to a child, only to realize that he/she is now surrounded by other exploited children with the same pleading look?  
      Well, you may be wondering how do you win. Basically, each level is a race against time. To continue to the next level you must complete a number of tasks in a certain part of town. However everything must be completed by 10pm lest you find yourself locked out of your local residence and sleeping on the streets with no weapons (Now that I think about it, perhaps that means you automatically “die” if you don’t make it back in time since this is a weapon-free game).
      Wondering if scaling residential gates armed with barbed wire, or making your way through shanty towns will not be captivating enough to hold your interest?  Don’t worry, there are so many different socio-economic sections of Manila that it should entertain you or your child for weeks.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Post from Research Tumblr: What I Expect...

I think the quote I chose a few hours earlier explains my feelings left over from my previous visit in Taiwan. “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it. ” As I remember, the distinct smells of Taiwan teeter on the edge of tolerable and down right pungent. I am going to go out on a limb and suppose that the Philippines’ odors will equally be driven into my memory after this adventure.
     I recall the potent smells, the vibrant colors, the full metros (as well as no drinks on the metros. I learned my lesson), dry throats, and food that needed a well-adapted palate. To some extent this is what I expect from Taiwan. As for the Philippines, I have no cultural/architectural (maybe Spanish influence?)/communication references except stories of poverty. So that will be fun.
     I expect to be tired, and hungry once I get off of the plane, which will be immediately followed by a heat-stroke due to the intense temperature and humidity. Hopefully after recovering and slowly re-learning my way around, I can indulge in some interviews. I am slightly terrified of the interview aspect because I have no clue what to expect. For instance, this image keeps on reoccurring in my head, where the interviewee is telling this traumatic story that Oprah would revel in, and there I am either a) bursting into tears right along with the interviewee, grabbing a box of tissues for the both of us or b) just staring at her with a frozen look of terror on my face. Clearly, neither is professional, but both are highly probable.
     I am also not looking forward to the food; however, I promise to be adventurous. I expect the fruit and seafood to be AMAZING. I will truly be disheartened and famished if that is not so.   
     Lastly, I expect to go and come back all in one piece along with all my belongings that are also expected to make it back. I know this is wishful thinking, but I have heard positive thinking can make things come true.
     Now off to finish packing…

The link to my Tumblr is:
There you can find photos, notes, more thoughts, and interview transcripts from my research course. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Change of Plans --Well Not Really

As I said in my last entry, I made it into the Rennes program. Yeay! But those doubts I spoke of two entries ago were driving me crazy. As I went through the pre-orientation (and orientation) events I discovered that I treated the program like "old hat." Ho hum it's just going abroad, nothing to be exciting about. And that's just it! Yes, traveling is supposed to be exciting! It can be worrisome and tedious at times but if I am not passionate about going somewhere then, no. I am not investing the time. It wasn't until I had lunch with one of my professors around exam time, that someone actually questioned me about why I was going to Rennes. She said that I seemed to be so passionate about other things, and was so hesitant about my French. At that moment I thanked all the higher beings that someone had finally confronted me. Someone had actually broke through the artificial congratulatory study abroad jargon and cared. So instead of going to France, I'll be going to Taiwan again to research the feminization of migration to Taiwan from the Philippines this summer.

Earlier in the semester (after Taiwan), I was having a bit of an academic crisis. The time had come to choose a second major. The moment precise I had avoided since my second semester in university. It's funny to think about the meeting with my adviser now. I walked into his office, sat down, and gave him my transcripts. Then as if he had been cued, he reacted with a look of surprise as he once again realized that I was finished with the major (enough for two, really) with the exception of the capstone. *le sigh* I've got to eventually decide whether I want to graduate early or take on more classes (meh).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Taiwan Round One

Currently, I am still recovering from the Taiwan time shift; hence, getting up at 4am. I also had intended to write my Statement of Purpose for my French application, however I am terrified of my horrendous grammar. So clearly I have put it off.

Taiwan. What an experience! In my travels thus far, I don't think I have distinctly experienced the steps of culture shock like I have in Taiwan. I like to use the analogy of when I get tipsy/drunk. I start narrating the stages. Endearing, I know. My poor roommate, Brittany, had to endure my daily updates.

When I arrived there after a really long flight, it was hot, and muggy. Night in Taipei has tons of lights, at least that's what I deduced from my view outside of the van. Of course, I was hungry, so we went searching for food when we got settled in the hotel. Here's the cute part: We get outside and the smells are so different from ours in America. The people dress so posh like and everyone was Asian! (I think that's one of the things I like when I travel. I clearly am not Asian. So I can never hope to fully assimilate into society there, I will always be different since it is such a closed community. Grant it, I feel like I shouldn't celebrate my differences and try to be as culturally adaptable as possible- So I am told by people in the university-but I love being an anomaly.) So the first couple of days I was so happy. The plants were bright greens and pinks. The food was so health oriented, even the "fast food."

But then it happened, the dip. It was the night we went to the famous Shilin Night market. The smell of stinky tofu will forever be one of the banes of my existence. Additionally, the market is divided into two parts. When you get off the MRT, you first run into the food area with some carnival games, then cross two streets and you end up at all the stalls. Well, during this walk, there was a beggar. Sure, I have seen my fair share of beggars and there were plenty in the business district of Taipei, but usually these were people in motorized carts. I feel like if they can get a motorized chair then I don't really feel obligated to help them. But this person had no forearms. He kneeling and beating what was left of his arms on the ground along with his head repeatedly. Now, I know I am not the most humane person, BUT to see someone in that condition on the street is appalling. I wanted to vomit/cry/and then tackle the Taiwanese/Chinese government. I suppose it just ruined my night. How could one even think about purchasing souvenirs, or food when there were injustices like that yards away. Ugh, I am going to stop talking about it, it's upsetting me.

So downfall. Yes, I couldn't stand the smell of the food. I disliked the constant state of grime-y-ness even though it appeared clean. I missed open forests and fields. It was hot and humid. I wasn't enjoying my committee at all (It made the international law process as practical as a caucus race in Wonderland). I began eating at a bakery for lunch which I think helped. Eventually, things evened out and I found a happy medium. I loved the MRT through all phases. Love it!!

Now I am back in the States. Re-entry sucked because I don't think my professors realized that I only brought a carry-on, so clearly I did not keep up with my work nor did I prepare for the week ahead. It was really brutal.

But now I am better. Totz sure of it. One coping mechanism: eating tons of rice with chop sticks. Before I left for Taiwan, fat Kelsey was making an appearance. Now, I have a whole new perspective. Aka: I have realized that Europe is NOT the other half of the world besides the US. There are so many other places and I CANNOT wait to explore other countries. I have come to the conclusion that a)my ultimate dream is to be a travel writer, but the superficiality of such an occupation is meh, b) I think sociology (gbl prblms) should be my second major. It's always in the back of my mind as clearly demonstrated by my enthusiasm in Estonia.

Oh ps. got into Rennes! Horrah!!