Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thinking about linking

A little over a week remains before we board our plane and head off to the Philippines. For your faithful blogger Max B., the days have been filled with checklists, packing lists, and the occasional panic attack as I wonder what I'm forgetting.

Last Saturday we had our final meeting at Doug's house in Concord. We talked to Marla, peppering her with plenty of questions (as if we'll ever run out), mainly about finances and what we should and shouldn't bring. It was our last time seeing her before we leave, and she wished us a safe and happy trip. We also handled some of the last-second paperwork for our visas and talked about the intinerary.

This weekend we'll be heading to the Northeast Link, a conference for teams and team leaders in the GSE program. We'll meet other teams traveling to different places and learn about diplomacy and the opporunities that come with spending time abroad. It's an all-day program, and I expect to leave armed with a lot more knowledge about what I can expect from this trip.

I've checked out the conference's Web site, but the truth is, my mind is a week ahead of itself. I've made my packing list and making sure I've made all the preparations, called who I need to call, and taken care of everything with my job. Hopefully I'll only need to pack once, and won't promptly dump out my suitcase to make sure I have everything.

Well, that's all for now. Catch you next time!

Max B.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shelley's Service Project Philippines

According to Alyssa an exchange student from the Philippines, who we met during our dinner at JNJ Turo-Turo, the Filipino children love to receive American chocolate. Despite the team's concern over getting chocolate to the islands, I have organized donations from local businesses such as Shaw's of Auburn and Walgreen's of Worcester in order to have my first grade students participate in a service project. The Massachusetts first graders have packed little candy bags for their Filipino counterparts. They also attached small notes and a drawing of themselves. I hope the project promotes global awareness for both my American students and the Filipino recipients. I know that it was a success in my classroom because not one of my students asked to have a piece of the candy. They understood that it was to give and they felt good about it. As for getting the candy to the islands…well, I am still working on it. I am freezing the chocolate and I have purchased insulated bags. Any ideas beyond that are greatly appreciated. -Shelley
(Above Left: Jocelyn, a Massachusetts first grader, fills a bag with chocolate kisses for her Filipino friends.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


If you are like my first grade students in Auburn, Massachusetts, you may want to track the team's whereabouts. Below is our general itinerary:

February 6 – 8 FLY

February 8 – 12 Zamboanga City

February 13 – 15 Pagadian City

February 15 – 17 Dipolog City

February 17 – 19 Kabankalan City

February 19 – 22 Bacolod City*

*Side trips to Silay City and Victorias City

February 23 – 25 Antique

February 25 – 27 Boracay Island

Feb 27 – March 2 Kalibo

March 2 – March 4 Roxas City

March 4 – 7 Iloilo City

March 7 – 9 FLY

Counting down

Hello again, Filippino fans, and welcome to another edition of the GSE Philippines Blog.
As the days remaining before we depart dwindle, we're furiously working to make sure all the paperwork, doctor's visits and other preparations are complete. We hit a little snag when we learned our visa applications had to be redone. But all seems well, and it looks like the trip will go forward as planned.
Last Saturday we met at Team Leader Doug's house to go over the cultural presentation which Laurie had put together. I for one was amazed with the quality job she did, and the rest of the team seemed impressed as well. She managed to take out notes (which were lengthy in my case) and combine them into a short, yet informative package. It won't be easy, trying to talk about education, industry, pop culture and family life in just 15 minutes, but with Laurie's help, the task has become much more managable.
We also got a look at our itinerary and where we'll be staying. We'll be arriving in Manila, then hopping a connecting flight to Zamboanga City, then taking a day off at the Jardin de Lavina Hotel. We'll be staying in the cities of Pagadian, Dipilog, Kabankalan, Bacolod, Antigue and many others. I'm sure each one will have a wealth of new experiences for us.
Last weekend I had an epiphany of sorts. I was walking through Boston when it hit me that pretty soon, the familiar sights and sounds would be gone. Not for good, mind you. Things like seeing the Boston nightscape or going to the pizza place near my apartment, catching a movie with my friends or making the morning drive to my office, all these experiences would be replaced by new ones. It's something I'm looking forward too. I traveled to Ireland in 2007, and since then I've had a great desire to see more of the world. Just three more weeks!

'Till next time, I remain your faithful Philippines correspondent,

Max B.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fun with photos

The clock is ticking, and within less than a month, we'll be bidding the frozen shores of Massachusetts goodbye for the sunny isles of the Philippines. Time is running out, but have no fear, because the GSE Philippines Team has everything well in hand.

On Saturday we went to the home of Skip Doyle, a Rotarian from Northborough. Within his incredible studio, Skip took some first-rate shots of each team member, as well as some group photos. We all agreed that Jon's the most photogenic of the five (it was no contest), and that viewing the photos from the right angle can make all the difference. After the photos were taken, we had a brief viewing session where we selected the best ones for the trip brochure. There were some laughs as we gauged the best smiles and whether to use the casual group shot or the more formal picture (we went with casual).

All the needed paperwork has been taken care of (except for Max's passport, for which he has reprimanded himself harshly for), and we're fine-tuning our presentations on the different aspects of American culture, industry, and history to present to the Philippines Rotary. It's no easy thing, compressing decades of history and pages upon pages upon pages upon pages (that's no typo, folks; we've been doing a lot of research) of information into a three-minute presentation, but in the end, we'll make it happen.

There was a definite air of anticipation as we handed in our visa applications and perused the article about Shelley in the local newspaper. Everything is really coming together nicely. I'm definitely looking forward to this trip and the experience it can offer me. Just a few more weeks...

Max B.

Monday, January 5, 2009

One month and counting

Greetings everyone, and welcome to another installment of the GSE Philippines blog. A lot has happened in the past week, so let's get to it.

Like the title says, we're down to our last month before we board the plane for the Philippines. There's still a lot of work to do before we depart, and much of the meeting was spent going over the various steps needed to take. Perhaps the biggest task left before us is completing our Powerpoint presentations. We each assigned ourselves a different area of American culture to cover; Laurie will be taking history, Shelly will tackle education and family life, Jon will become an expert on pop culture, and industry will be my subject.

We decided to make next Saturday a work day and complete each presentation. These will be shown to Rotary members while we're in the Philippines, so it's important we do the best job possible. We also got a look at the terrific introductory presentations which Shelly and Laurie completed, and decided to combine them, using the best elements from both.

We got a look at the new brochures, and man, they look great! Each member has written a pretty in-depth description of themselves, and next week we'll be going to a professional photo studio for some high-quality brochure pictures.

The meeting was held at Marla Luzzi's beautiful home in Weston. We got to meet her family, and she treated us to a fantastic Filipino meal. We had adobo, (dark-meat chicken braised in garlic, soy sauce and vinegar and cooked until dry), longganisa, (Philippine sausage), sinigang, (pork, fish or shrimp in a tamarind stew) and delicious Filipino noodles. Desert was halo-halo, which translates into "mix-mix." It's a an ice cream with mashed purple yam, plantains and jackfruit thrown into the mix. As always, there were questions aplenty.

There's a lot of work still awaiting us, but we've come a long since we first met a few weeks ago. This is going to be a life-changing trip for all of us, and we're not going to stop now.

See you next time!

Max B.