Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Over here the sun sets at 5:15 more or less, which is why my afternoon yoga classes begin at 4:30. It's just a nice, cruisy and rather mystical way of putting a final dot on the day (and often-times to also mark the beginning of the evening's shennanigans :-))
So this year instead of indulging in the Halloween candy spiral, I started the day at 7AM (no alarm clock required) with a composite 20Km bike ride: to and from town (in search of ingredients for my upcoming Spanish food night) and to and from Pansukian Resort, my friend Gai's place (www.pansukian.com). The excuse? A dip in her large ocean-front swimming pool followed by lunch. I thought we were getting the leftover Thai chicken panaeng curryshe kindly offered, but instead she had prepared a small feast, offering me the leftover chicken in a tupper wear to ride home with (hmmm no need to think up dinner now!) So I got back home in time for my daily 4:30 PM yoga class: made up of the usual suspects, Although I might add I do also love the beginner classes, particularly when they're made up of 5 sexy French surfers (he he). After all that cycling and swimming and eating and stretching, I was so exhausted I was in bed by 20:45, not even hungry, so left the curry for the next day, which was today.
An early night like that leads to an early start like today's: 6:30 AM bangka pump boat ride over crystal-clear turqouise waters to Dako island for an early morning surf :-) Can't beat the warm salt water substituting for the early morning shower...just immersing yourself and feeling that "je ne sais quoi" in the waves crashing down on me. I caught some waves, actually, but mostly paddled, which is fine by me. The exercise was in for the morning. Riding back as the sun started to burn on my back, I felt exhilirated. If only every day could start this way. A little light breakfast before sweeping the floor and lighting the mosquito coils, turning on the fans and getting the zen music for Sunday's morning yoga class at 10:30. Hmmmmm it was great. Had 2 new students today who will be joining tomorrow's full moon yoga over on the platform rlooking out onto Cloud9....it's the raised wooden walkway that leads out to the surf. So sunset takes on a whole new dimension when that big, fat, beautiful full moon shines down upon your deep, even and relaxed breathing. Can't wait!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
As a young girl I loved gymnastics, and apparently was quite good at it. However, being on a scholarship in my school requiring a minimum B grade across the board and after-after school gymnastics training until 7PM did not really gel quite well. I started losing ground on the studying front and was promptly reminded by my parents that school and my grades came first. And so much to my dismay, I abandoned gymnastics after almost 4 years, at age 12.
Much has changed since then, and my body certainly is not the same, however, if there is anything to show for all those years of ballet, tap and gymnastics, it is a love of exercise and a flexibility maintained to this day. Yoga is to me not just an opportunity to tune into the here & now, to re-tune my body and to combat stress. It has also become a reminder of that dream I had as a child to slowly chisel my body and perform movement with grace. It seamlessly combines the physical and spiritual aspect that does me such good, with my other love: performing arts. Throughout my careers at P&G and managing the Spa, I ended up joining the teaching programmes for staff because I enjoyed being onstage and helping others learn what I had learned. And so, now comes the time to unite all of those things into one: yoga teaching.
It was never my plan. As the story goes, I was quite happy to learn and be the student, and for the past 5 years have gotten fairly good at it. Funnily enough, my local friends arranged a merienda recently that was to be preceded by a yoga class. Unbeknownst to me, I was to lead the session (while I thought it was the host fo the house who would be leading) and that was soon to become the beginning of what I can now say is turnign into a bit of a following. I always thought the Spa would be successful here, with massage and some beauty treatments. I also thought the yoga would work and envisaged bringing in some friends to run retreats and such. Now, whilst I still believe that is how it will be, I also know I will be getting my yoga teacher training in order to run the classes myself the rest fo the season. I am excited about my project and love the fact that it is not just the women who are keen to join the classes, but also the surfers, for whom yoga is such a great complement to their time in the water. And surprisingly to many, is often something they have all tried before and quite enjoy.
So bring on the challenge, and bring on Siargao Spa. Watch this space! :-)
My main objective when coming to Siargao this time around was to fulfill a long-time dream of volunteering at a school where the means are scarce and where a contribution, however small, may have a significant impact. I've been coming to Siargao for 4 years, and fell in love with the school near my friend Gai's resort, in the town of Malinao. After meeting with the Principal and explaining my plans, all seemed to be arranged and being almost 8km away I figured what better way to keep fit than to cycle there and back daily. The plan was set...or so I thought. As I returned home that afternoon, my other friend Susan who also runs a resort beside where I am staying asked me if I had been to the local school here (in the town of Catangnan, beside Cloud9 and only a 5 min cycle away from my place). Now I know why. This 2nd school is really quite neglected and needs all the help it can get. As she then pointed out, it's a lot closer (so now the fitness is confined to a daily 4km cycle into to the market for food and upplies instead). This 2nd school has 160 students split between grades 1-6 and only 4 teachers. And to be honest, they were so glad to take me in with my offer, how could I resist. And that is how my 3 days a week volunteering began (cause the other days they teach in Tagalog or Visayan and do other subjects). The Principal at the other school fuly understood as she had been a teacher in Catangnan previously and knows how neglected it is.
And so after speaking with the Catangnan teachers about my time and availability, I offered to teach English and help with any other subjects I could. That is how "math" suddenly came into the picture. If any subject can be deemed universal, it has to be math. Numbers are numbers, no matter what language you teach them in. And so, I was offered the chance to help teach 5th and 6th grade math. The teacher mentioned she only had 1 book, and it is the one she used herself to teach, i.e. the kids don't have a book. They follow what is taught on the chalkboard in front of them in a 60 sq metre room with dusty and often-times broken windows on either side. The slats on these windows, often missing, become peek-a-boo games for the younger ones next door when something exciting like a foreign girl comes to teach math. The students each have a spiral notebook and use pens. So my gift of pencils and erasers proved useful for math, considering the amount of erasing and re-calculating we often have to do (well, if my own personal experience is anything to go by). So promising I would take utmost care of the book, I took it home that night to review what is being taught, and thank goodness for that too! Dividing by double and triple digits, or adding, subtracting and multiplying fractions with different denominators is certainly something I can do....but so many years out of practice had me back with the pen and paper trying to figure it all out myself first, and then making a plan of how to teach it. Ay ay ay!!!! Ahhh if my math teacher could see me now, after so many after-school remedial classes I put up with (or rather SHE put up with!)
So as I arrived, all the students got up from their chairs and chanted in unison, "good afternoon Miss Teba, thank you for teaching our lesson today!!" yes...excalmation marks because they were screaming at the top of their lungs. One sentence... that is all it took to feel humbled and bring tears to my eyes. And so, slightly nervous at my performance and what mischievous business might be taking place behind my back as I wrote on a chalkboard, I set foot inside the classroom at 2PM on a balmy september afternoon to begin my lesson. Today: Dividing by double digits (traditional style... no calculators... try it: 68952 / 373) I won't say it was easy... after all, despite understanding some English, it gets harder to get why one must round 373 to 400 to guesstimate how many times it fits into 689... ya know how it goes.
And so, after 2 hours of explaining, trialling, practising and grouping teams to solve problems, one team against the other, I concluded my 1st day of school. It is hard not to feel humbled (yes, I know I am repeating this description but really no other word springs to mind), and at the same time so blessed for the superb education, facilities and opportunities we have received while growing up, that perhaps these children may never have. There is no videogame or computer to be seen anywhere, no track, tennis courts, swimming pool or library around, no swings or established playground (save the vast field facing the school with roaming carabau water buffalo) and no sophisticated cafeteria or lunchboxes anywhere... no swanky new back packs, tennis shoes or polo shirts to show off to your neighbouring student, no shiny cars to pick up and drop off the kids.... just 20 students in their best kept uniforms sitting eagerly (well most of them...I'm not gonna lie to you, the slackers are everywhere on earth!) and listening while their teacher explains and requests their work. After school is out at 4PM (after a 7AM start), it is time for "clean-up"...which means helping tear out the weeds in the garden. How wonderful a way to care for your school and feel involved with the place where you are at. These are the things that remind me of how important travel is. We learn so much from seeing how others behave and live, we appreciate so much of what we have and have had and often take for granted.
And I won't kid myself. Looking around and remembering how lucky I have been sometimes draws out pity. However, I have realised how the pity is sometimes unnecessary and at times comes too close to feeling superior. Indeed, it takes but a humble and natural gesture from a 10 year old island kid to make your world come tumbling down and drive you to realise how much you have yet to learn. I parked the bike outside the other day on a sweltering hot day and left it out in the sun. One of the children came to me and said "your bicycle is in a very hot place" and I dismissed it saying "oh it's ok....the seat will be a little hot later but that is fine" only to find the kid (Anna-Mae was her name, by the way) looking at me worried exclaiming "... but your tire might pop". A-ha! There I was thinking "whatever" and here is a 10 year old kid who's probably seen this happen a million times and knows that spending 35 pesos to fix it (60 cents) is something her parents cannot afford. I might be teaching math, but here's me doing comparative life learning.
Homework for me? You bet! I'll be in touch with my school very soon to try and get text-books donated, perhaps set up a pen-pal system and who knows... some teachers may wish to take some time out and volunteer over here. Every little bit helps. In the meantime, I plan on staying for a month, continuing with my Monday, Wednesday and Friday Math class.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
time. Who would have said it only 4 years ago!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Khai, the main attraction here (although I still think the draw here
is the Mekong). Cycling down a dirt road all of a sudden I could see
concrete face smiling at me, towering over the coconut palms and
various foliage along the path I was on, and seemingly coming up from
within the low hanging clouds. It was one of the 100's of massive
stone carved statues in Sala Keoku. This place reminded me of a coral
sculpture park I saw with my family in Forida. So this quaint little
park,has both the small scale flower pots along the edges of the
footpath as well as these massive hinduist and buddhist-inspired
statues dotted in between the pots.... making you feel like you're
somhow in ¨middle earth¨. It's not an old relic although the mold has
grown on the concrete giving it an air of wisdom and age that is most
becoming. After all, it was built in the 1970's by a fleeing Laotian
royalist. As I walked along on a very hot and humid afternoon I
noticed that all the statues, without exception, had very long ears
and huge eyes. Very large but oddly not disproportionate to the rest
of their features. How cunning, I thought. This must be indeed a way
of protraying the importance of listening and observing over the habit
of mindless speech. At least that as what I took out of my stroll
around the park. The wheel of life was also quite interesting in how
it depicted the different stages and influences on our lives, no
matter what hemisphere you may find yourself in.