This has turned out to be a busy week! I did get all of my Peace Corps paperwork done – one big report per day – but I also had a lot of Habitat work to do! I somehow knew not to count the USAID chickens before they were hatched, and (at the risk of mixing my metaphors) that’s still up in the air. I had sent them the first disaster response proposal and by the time they said they would fund it, it was not only funded but completed. The latest proposal wasn’t going to be funded unless they said yes, but now that a month has gone by, Habitat has other priorities, and we’re going back to them to see if we can change the terms and still get the funds. In the meantime, they have a LOT of forms for us to fill out. And I might want to work for USAID? Well, yes, I might.
As long as I am on the subject of disaster, I should mention the Haiti earthquake. Habitat for Humanity is getting more and more involved in disaster relief, so a contribution there would be a good way to help! In addition to the immediate needs for relief, Habitat will help with transitional shelter and then, when the news cycle has moved on to other, more immediate disasters, Habitat will still be there, moving people into permanent housing years from now.
Which is why I am glad to be organizing that March build in New Orleans! I have a few takers so far – almost as many friends of friends as friends of my own, but at the end of the build I am sure we will all be one happy group! I read all the information on the web sites last month before setting everything up, and then the first people started to register, and I had to change the process. I think I have it ironed out now, but I will be spending more time on it next week to make sure. USAID and Habitat for Humanity New Orleans – lots of back and forth and forms and emails. So when I wasn’t working on Peace Corps paperwork I had more than my share of other bureaucracy!
I picked up the eyeglasses with my new prescription this week. Drum roll please – oh, no, nothing I was in love with, so no new frames. I also had my hair done – a trim, but it was all I could do for the past couple of weeks’ worth of posts not to write, “I have Peace Corps hair!” Thankfully, I will look more presentable from here until I get to my hairdresser in Chicago than I did last year.
I decided to stay in my digs until COS. I felt I had promised Mary and Mercedes that we’d all be together in the pension at the end, as we were at the beginning, and deciding that it would be easier for me logistically to stay here was tough. Of course, they understand and are completely fine with it – I just spent quality time with both of them and I’ll see them for dinners and at the Peace Corps office next week – but it was a reminder that when I get back all sorts of choices and obligations and commitments and demands and conflicts await, and that I still want to simplify my life. I wish I could stay here until I leave the country – leave my big suitcase here while I travel on the mainland, and go surfing with Julie from here that last weekend – but Tony has plans for my room. Oh well – I’ll probably stay in the pension, where it all began, which is fitting too!
I’m having my last rounds of favorite foods. The mango shakes, of course. The sushi place (not that sushi will be hard to find at home, but I feel it’s among the healthier things I eat here). Fresh-cut pineapple from the fruit guy. And a quick scan of this document indicates that I have been remiss in discussing one of my favorites – Shakey’s pepperoni crrunch pizza. The crrunch (yes, two r’s) is provided by potato sticks, an underrated snack food. Pepperoni and potato sticks – maybe I need to bring that back and share Filipino culture with Americans! Last night I had Inasal (grilled, Visayas style) chicken and that kangkong tempura I loved so much early on; hadn’t had it in a while. Julie, Charlie and Bill came too, and it seemed like old times at the Shangri-La food court! Tonight, it was fitting to go to Chow King for fried rice and lumpia – Julie and I went to the theatre for opening night of the new Jackie Chan movie! He has become our shared thing. The big screen! I can’t give it four stars, but she pointed out that it’s opening in the U.S. today too, so we saw it while people back at home were only dreaming about seeing it later in the day!
I’ll close by saying that the size of the regular Peace Corps program is going to double next year. This year, 70 trainees arrived in August – next year, it’ll be 140! That’s the impact of the new budget. The Peace Corps Response program here will be 50 percent larger next year as well, but of course on a much smaller base. This afternoon I had an exit conference with Milo, the Peace Corps Response Coordinator, and Tony, my supervisor. Three-way mutual admiration society for Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity Philippines, and me! I really think things have going excellently here, and so did everyone else. It’s nice to be leaving on such a good note!