Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Hands and Apple Pie

Happy Thanksgiving from steamy Manila! In elementary school Thanksgiving tradition, we spent the evening as a cast tracing our hands on bright-colored paper, adding legs at the wrist and a beak on the thumb, turning them into the day of thanks Turkey Hand.
We then spent 30 minutes wandering around, writing on each person's sheet why we are thankful for him or her.

In the meantime, Yui and I wandered through grocery stores and bakeries all around the Ortigas Center, on a desperate hunt for Thanksgiving pie. We were having Filipino BBQ donated from a local restaurant... no mashed potatoes and gravy for us, so we wanted to have a special treat made of pie and cool whip, to remind us Americans of home.

But unfortunately, no such luck... lots of cakes and pastries, but we only found one pie, and it was an "egg pie" (more like quiche) which wasn't: A. Enough for the whole cast, nor B. anything close to what we were looking for to be a Thanksgiving dessert.

So, disappointed, we headed back to our meeting room at the Ortigas Foundation, until we looked up at the building right next door, and knew we had found the perfect substitute.

That's right, the Golden Arches of McDonalds were a small parking lot away, and we went straight inside and asked if it was possible to order 110 apple pies. The shocked cashier ran away to ask the manager, who came back laughing and said, "40 minutes, 40 minutes." And so it was that we had a little bit of America on Thanksgiving in the Philippines, thanks to McDonalds global domination. And I can't lie, after barbequed chicken, soy sauce and lots of white rice, the deep-fried individual apple pie tasted GOOD.

Friday, November 21, 2008

back in Manila

So, almost exactly one year later, we find ourselves back in the bustling city of Manila. Actually, bustling is a severe understatement... think blood-pumping, jam-packed with people, belching fumes from the most chaotic traffic you've ever seen, thick, muggy air that was 85 degrees at 7am when we arrived, and the excited energy of 104 people, 99 of whom hadn't been here before, ready for their last big adventure together.

For Scottie and I, there is a lot that is familiar. We are staying with his same host family, Frank and Inez Reyes, and their two boys Patrick and Pa-el (short for Pablo Gabriel). Pa-el, who is adorable, said to us at dinner on our first night, in his charming Filipino accent, "Scott and Ellen, I know why you got married!" "Why, Pa-el?" "Because you have the same skin color."

We've dived right into our Community Impact projects... the cast is at seven different sites each day, for eight total service days here in Manila. My site is a Habitat for Humanity site, where we are working alongside Filipinos who are accumulating sweat equity, part of their 1000 hours required to qualify to receive a habitat home in the area we're building.

Two days of hauling cement blocks, and buckets of mortar, building walls with interlocking bricks which are a bit like Legos (and are an exclusive Habitat design, to be lighter so more accessible for volunteers, more appealing to the eye than cinderblock, and more efficient and sturdy). We only use mortar for every fourth row, and then pour a runnier consistency down into the vertical holes after every layer of three rows. Now we've got the system down to the point that our foreman can't keep up! We call him Boss, and his crew of guys who know what they're doing run around leveling our walls, laying water pipe and electrical lines, tying up rebar- the things they haven't taught us how to do (or don't see us qualified for), and we just keep hauling, stacking, and cementing things into place. We are building a 120-unit apartment building, the first of two on a government-owned lot in Pasig City. It is a pleasure to work next to Ching, a woman who is approved to live in the building we are building, once it is finished in the next eight months or so.

It takes us about an hour to get to our site from the Reyes' house, though without traffic it would be only about a 15-20 minute drive. We take either a taxi, or a combination of jeepney and tricycle. The taxi costs a little over two dollars, and the jeepney/trike combo is about a dollar. Its nice to know enough about the transportation system that we can get around confidently, even on our first day.

I was worried about jet lag with such a busy schedule for our first days, but besides falling asleep by 8pm the last two nights, I'm doing pretty well! Tomorrow is our big regional learning day in Manila, another day of stark contrasts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

North Platte, NE: Nov 10-17

Our last USA city! North Platte is the proud location of the largest railroad yard and track exchange in the United States. During WWII, they had a canteen in the depot for soldiers that provided free cookies, cakes, sandwiches and coffee, as the troop trains stopped for a 10-minute pause on their cross-country treks.

The story was that the town had heard the train coming through was carrying local boys, so all the moms and sisters baked goodies and went down to the platform to meet the train. They quickly realized that the troops weren't the ones they knew, but was actually a platoon from Kansas. After their initial disappointment, one woman declared she wasn't going to bring her cake back home again... and the whole community followed her lead. They decided that it was the way that they in the heartland could support the war effort, but having a 10-minute morale boost for the troops that came through. And there were plenty that came! Over the six years that the canteen was operated, they served between 10 and 20,000 troops EVERY DAY. Keep in mind that sugar, flour, all treat-making supplies were rationed, and that everything was made by hand. It was a legendary stop for troops, and those 10 minutes stuck with many soldiers as they felt the appreciation of the communities that supported the North Platte Canteen.

As you can tell, this story is a source of pride for the town, and we watched a documentary on the Canteen, and then our host families brought tons of incredible food for a real Nebraska potluck, in the style of the Canteen. We even borrowed 1940's costumes for the staff from the local community theatre, to help set the mood for the dinner.

But Lloyd and Nola are the ones who really stole the show. This warm and wonderful couple has only been married five years (same as me!). They both lost their first spouses, and now play four-handed piano for parties and events. They work for free, but often get paid in restaurant gift certificates. Lloyd plays the low notes and Nola plays high- they tried to switch once and it didn't go well. They played a fun combination of old show tunes and Christmas songs, and had a steady crowd gathered round the piano for a sing-along. My favorite was when they played the song they always play before they go to bed every night, called "I'll see you in my dreams."

Lloyd and Nola came to both of our shows, and were such a touching impact on my experience in the city.

We had the unique opportunity of going to Ft Cody, which is one of the '7 Wonders" of North Platte. We had a ton of fun!

Not only did we see all of the kitsch in the shop, but we also saw the 2-headed cow!

We had so much fun that we eventually got thrown in jail :-(

Being the last US city, we also had to say goodbye to three cast members who aren't joining us in the Philippines because of health reasons. It was an emotional last few days, and now we're running on just a few hours sleep, catching up on the past six weeks sitting in LAX on a 12-hour layover. We're headed back to Manila, ready for four more weeks of adventure!

Sioux Falls, SD: Nov 3-9

I looked forward to Sioux Falls all semester because it was the closest city to home, and I hoped to have visitors! We weren't disappointed...

We were so happy to have Beth and Emmy drive down on Friday night to hang out with us on our host family day. We went to the waterfalls of Sioux Falls, checked out the sculpture walk downtown, and then saw the cast perform at a half-time show for a high school football playoff game. I was so glad that they were able to come and hang out with us--- its always so good to see the sibs. Missed you, Kato!

Thanks to M & D, along with Uncle Jonny and Aunt Linda, for making the long drive all in one day to come see the show and go to dinner with us! Scott and I had fun working on the swing dance, to perform in the show and surprise the fam.

Other fave moments of Sioux Falls:
We had our hunger and poverty banquet there, which is always a powerful experience for the cast. The volunteer team of students that helped plan it added another dimension... they wanted the various social groups to spend time working in the typical occupational environment of their economic status. The poorest group, representing the bottom half of our world population, spends the majority of their time getting food and shelter, and so they were given access to a dumpster full of cardboard, and needed to make a home for the 10 people in their family. Some of their family members represented those too young or old to work, and could only watch but couldn't help with the planning or building.

The middle class, about 35% of the group (which is those people in our world that make between $400-$1,500 annually) spend their work time doing mostly manual labor, and so in our simulation they helped the school we were at by raking leaves, and picking up sticks on the playground.

The wealthy class, the top 15% in our world, were given the task of making a business model for a non-profit organization. They worked around a conference table, and had snacks of popcorn, cookies and hot cider, as the others worked outside in a blustery fall day.

After their hour of "work", we went into the banquet, where the top percent has a three-course meal, the middle class has beans, rice and water, and the poor class shares one pot of rice, and slightly salted water.

There were two significant points of discussion in reflecting on the experience that have stuck with me: Laura Lynn from Nebraska commented on how frustrated she was that the middle class ate beans and rice only, because she thinks of herself as middle class. Its the difference between the relative poverty within a country, and looking at the percentages on a global scale. It was a new reality to confront for her, and a powerful moment.

For Caitlin from Arizona, she was most upset by watching us throw away the perfectly good food that was left over from the wealthy table. This is the hardest part of the simulation for me, because it is so tremendously wasteful, as we purposely make more than the wealthy class could eat, in order to throw away the leftovers, in full view of the poor and middle classes who are sitting there, stomachs growling, smelling the flavorful pasta and garlic bread. But, sadly, around 30% of the food in developed nations is wasted, and so to not represent that as part of the simulation is doing an injustice to the circumstances in our world. What I thought was really significant was the reaction of the middle class... they saw me throw away the wealthy class' food, and they immediately went cleaned out the dishes that held the rice and beans they were served, not leaving a bit to be thrown away. Those type of reactions, and the hope that it affects how much food we take in buffet lines for the rest of the semester, is why we do these activities.

Aberdeen, SD: Oct 27-Nov 3

In Aberdeen, many of the cast attended their very first Halloween Party! We had costume contests, carved pumpkins, and got people in the festive Halloween spirit. The road staff went as Dominoes, and we had a signal, so we would periodically line up during the party, and then knock each other down. Our party was on the 30th, so people could be home on Friday night to pass out candy with their host families.

Aberdeen is the home of StoryBook Land, and though it was closed for the season, they let us come in and check out the park anyway, posing in front of the statues and scenes of many famous storybook characters.

We did our immigration simulation in Aberdeen-- we start off with people getting passports, determining their citizenship status, and then we make it interesting by electing a mayor, proposing laws, taking citizenship tests, starting businesses, getting married... it becomes more of a simulation on government and social involvement. And it inevitably gets silly, and people get frustrated because some want to take it seriously and for others, its a game where its more fun to make a mafia, or kill the mayor with a letter bomb. It ends just as things start to get out of control, and the lesson is always in the reflection and analysis of what happened, what that says about our society, and about us as a group. After three semesters, I'm still not sure the activity exactly gets to the purpose of why we try to do it, but its really fun, and I hope its valuable at least for some people.

We held a Diversity Fair at the mall, and each continent had an information booth. We held an international fashion show, had contests to guess national anthems, face painting, language lessons, Name that Flag, mini-performances from our show, and even had a "security checkpoint" where you received a passport and ID card, and were scanned with a hairbrush. It was a lot of work, but ended up to be a huge success. It was fun to make a structure that really let people be creative and have a lot of fun within it.

It’s a small world after all

It really is funny how the world works sometimes. When you think of the probability of things happening, they can often seem so remote, but then…BOOM!...there it is. On our way from Cheyenne, WY to Aberdeen, SD, we had the great opportunity to stop by Mount Rushmore and then spend a night at a camp in the Black Hills. When we arrived at “the faces” as some of our foreign students have come to call them, it was a sunny, brisk day with a biting wind blowing. One of the rangers gave us a tour and shared some fun facts about Mount Rushmore. Did you know that it was originally going to be faces of old west legends? The sculptor talked them out of it though and we ended up with four presidents who helped being about the unity of this country.

As we finished our tour I hear someone yell “Scott Enebo!” I thought that this was odd since no one ever uses my last name here, and so I turn around and see a park ranger walking towards me with gun, badge and everything. “Oh crap” I think…my first thought was that one of our students had done something stupid and that they needed someone in charge to bail someone out or something. But as he gets closer, I realize that I know him! It was Chris Chaffe who Ellen and I travelled with as students in Up with People. As it turns out, it was almost 11 years exactly that we were at Mount Rushmore together as students and here we were connecting after all of those years. Was the world sending a message? Who knows, but I can say that it was so great to have such a surprise.

After this we went to the “Outlaw Ranch” and had an overnight stay with the entire cast in cabins. It was an amazing night where we ate good food together, played games, toasted marshmallows around a campfire and played pranks on each other while running around in the woods. It was just what the cast needed and a fun way for us to just unwind and have fun. In the morning we woke to a herd of deer in the pasture and dozens of wild turkeys too. With our brains recharged, we headed back on the road to Aberdeen, SD.

Cheyenne, WY: Oct 20-26

We were so excited to get to Cheyenne, WY, where we were lucky enough to stay with Jack and Karen Sapp. We were so spoiled the whole week, having fresh smoothies delivered to our bathroom, delicious hot breakfasts every day, and lively, fun-filled conversation every night. Julie was in town two evenings for dinner, since she commutes to Cheyenne for her job once a week, and it was wonderful, as always, to spend time with her.

Our regional learning for the cast was to hang out for a few hours with the Laramie County Community College Rodeo team- they talked with us about their rodeo events, shared some theory, answered our questions, and then taught us (or at least attempted to)how to rope cattle, tie goats, and try out riding a mechanical bull. The cast got a kick out of seeing Scott's bull-riding footage from the Sapp-Stone wedding (on You Tube- search amateur bull-riding and he is the number one video!). Quite a few cast members thought it would be fun to pretend to BE cattle, and the college cowboys roped their legs. It was a pretty stupid idea (and a few people got ankle rope burns) but it was hilarious to watch!

We had a fun crew drive up from Denver to support us and see the show: Lisa, Collins, Jules & Jon hung out on host family day for a fabulous brunch and a visit to the fall festival, where we raced in the corn maze, went on a hay ride, and watched the pumpkin cannons in full force. We ended the night with a legendary Karen Sapp dinner, and a fierce "peanuts" competition. Phil Worcester, who was hosted by the Sapps while he set up Cheyenne, graciously gave up the guest room and slept on the couch while we were in town, and he and Lisa, Jon and Scott, all bravely faced the intensity that is a Peanuts game in the Sapp household.

The week was over all too quickly, as we had a long drive ahead, with an exciting overnight planned in the Black Hills!

Salt Lake City

We took the cast to Temple Square, where the Mormon sisters gave tours in many cast members' native languages! It was fun to see Seung-beom, our South Korean student, getting his own private tour of the complex.

Our stay in Salt Lake was impacted by organizing the tradition of Cast Appreciation. Ten staff members were hosted with the owner of the movie production company, Feature Films for the Family. His enormous house very generously held a lot of rehearsing, planning, and baking sessions to get ready for the big day.

In addition to the surprise set-up and the self-deprecating mini-show we prepared for the cast, we also this time made a "Cast B Lounge". You could get mixed "drinks" (made with combinations of fruit juice, sparkling water, and Red Bull), play a slot machine, get your shoes shined, have a massage, eat a cupcake, brownie, cereal bar or bagel, or play a little blackjack (complete with a Native American dealer!) I think we possibly had more fun planning it than the cast had getting appreciated.

Our show facility was in the suburb of Murray, at Murray High School. Many cast members were excited because the auditorium where we performed was the very same facility that High School Musical was filmed in! You could recognize the space especially in the audition scene.

On Sunday, after recovering from an exhausting week, we drove out to the Great Salt Lake. What a great place to film a thriller movie with its rolling fog and spooky mist, even in the middle of the day. We barbequed in the evening, and enjoyed our success!

Colorado Springs: Oct 6-12

Highlights from our week in the Springs:

Visiting Garden of the Gods -- these gorgeous red rock formations were a huge hit with the cast. My favorite was the "Kissing Camels"... a few years ago one of the camels was hit by lightning, and now it looks more like a camel kissing a turtle.

Touring the Olympic Training Center -- they only drain the pool once every four years, during the summer Olympics, so we got to see a rare site at the center- a completely empty pool. Our tour guide was a female weightlifter... she's been living at the center for over 10 years training to be an Olympian. Unfortunately she only qualified for the team as an alternate, so she didn't get to go to Beijing. She's going to train for four more years, give it one more shot. I can't imagine that kind of one-track focus... talk about putting all your eggs in one basket.

Being based on the base of Fort Carson: We were there for the week to honor military families. Our bus driver Marv was thrown for a loop when his GPS didn't work anywhere on the base. It was grayed out completely like it didn't exist.

Great Big Sea: we drove up for a concert at the Paramount Theatre in Denver... always a good show!

Hanging with the Enebos: we went hiking with Chris and Gene on our host family day. They came down to celebrate an early birthday with Scott, brought cake for the cast, and then on Sunday we saw Seven Falls, and went for lunch.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hurray for Photos

Well, after much slacking and procrastinating, Scott got his act together and posted some pics. Be ready for some serious blog action in the near future. Here is a photo that never got posted but is totally fun.

It just made me laugh!