Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whetting our appetites

Welcome back to the GSE Philippines 2009 blog. I'm your host and writer, Max Bowen.

Today we sampled the authentic Filipino cuisine at JNJ Turo-Turo, a lovely little restaurant in Quincy. Being relative newbies to Filipino dishes, the staff was more than willing to make some recommendations, including pork spring rolls, pork in peanut sauce, deep-fried pork (are we sensing a pattern here?) BBQ chicken (best I've ever had), beef stew and delicious noodles. We topped off the meal with some sweet fried plantains. While we ate (and ate, and ate, and ate) we had the chance to speak to Alyssa, an exchange student from the Philippines who had been staying with a host family in the U.S. for the past four months.

Alyssa generously answered all our questions, which ranged from fashion to culture to holidays. We learned that while high school classes in the Philippines can have as many as 40 students, younger grades may only have a few. Geckoes are apparently not uncommon in the area, and if it's really hot one day, get ready for rain the next. Like Marla, Alyssa is a wealth of information, and we left with full stomachs and full minds.

We also talked about the presentations we'll have to make while we're over there. Along with a short three-minute presentation about who we are, we'll need to do a longer one on our own culture, since many of those we'll be speaking to will know little about the New England area. We were encouraged to each pick a different topic, such as education or geography, so we won't be stepping on each other's toes. A good idea; I've got some big feet! Photos and Power Point presentations will go a long way to improving our lessons on our homeland.

Well, that's all for now, but not for good. See you next time!

Max B.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Preparing for departure

Greetings, all. Here's the first post of the Group Study Exchange (GSE) Philipines blog. I'm Max Bowen, writer for the blog, and I and my teammates (Laurie Butts, Shelley Moylan and Jon Miguel) will be keeping you up-to-date on all we do as we prepare for our trip to the Philipines next February. There's a lot to do and not much time to do it in.

The GSE is a program run by the Rotary as a way of introducing young professionals like ourselves to different cultures and countries. While there we'll be meeting with professionals in our vocations, as well as learning all we can about the Philipines and the people who live there. Myself, I've only been outside the United States once in my entire life, so this is an experience that I know will have a profound impact on me.

On Saturary, Dec. 20 we met at Team Leader Doug Detweiler's house in Concord, our home base, if you will. This was our second meeting, and our first with Jon, a videographer who will be helping us to document the trip. We went over some of the paperwork we'll need, medical insurance, and so forth. Tagalog is the main language spoken there, and we'll be giving ourselves a crash course so we can speak some of it once we get there.

The real highlight was getting to speak to Marla Luzzi, a Rotarian who has participated in Rotary projects all across the world. She was really glad to meet us, and excited for the opportunity this trip will present. We spent the better part of the meeting bombarding her with questions on what the Philipines are like and what we can expect once we get there. Marla's a veritable treasure trove of Philipines facts, not only of the people and culture, but a few lesser-known tidbits that will no less prove useful.

Here's some of the Philipines 411 that Marla shared with us at the meeting:

* It's important that our clothes are always ironed.
* Many of the homes we'll be staying in will have servants
* Filipinos are known for being extremely hospitable.
* Many Filipino dishes have a tomato base
* In grocery stores, the prices are set, but in the market, you can bargain for the best price
* One American dollar is equivalent to 48 pesos
* Filipinos are very affectionate. Though it's not uncommon to see two women walking hand-in-hand, it doesn't necessarily mean they're lovers.
* Foods like chocolate and maple syrup are very popular in the Philipines.
* Avoid the water (very important)

Well, that's all for now. This Saturday we'll be heading to a Filipino restaraunt in Quincy, and I'll be giving you a full report afterwards.

Max B.