Thursday, December 10, 2009


I can't believe how fast the time flies here. I've already been working for 6 weeks and yet it doesn't really feel like that long. I can't say I've really accomplished much but a few things of note have happened. Because we sort of randomly get students trickling in, most of the students that were here when I started have already left for Australia or back home. Both Korean managers quit and went home within my first month and the new guy is nice seems a little new to be running the show, thus the Filipinos in the office are the ones that really keep everything running.
I feel completely out of place here. Ya, everyone is nice enough but it is so obvious that I don't belong here and don't socially fit into any groups. The Koreans do the Korean thing, and the Filipino tutors all do their thing during the day here and then have additional jobs in the evening and on weekends. Since my time here feels a little like prison, I've started to work out again and have thus far managed to regain a little weight.
I'm not really an English teacher, or at least I've decided that it's not my calling in life. It's interesting but I'd much rather be teaching something else. In fact, my "conversation" classes are starting to become lectures on other topics which are way over these guys' heads. I'm having trouble staying focused on the task at hand. But then, nobody really tells me what to do even now. I'm not a student but in some ways I'm not a tutor either. There are tutor and staff meetings and I don't go to them. I'm not expected to and I don't even know when they are. I'm just this outside entity that exists.
The biggest dramatic issue though, has been the theft cases in the building. Students rooms (and mine, twice) were broken into and money and small valuables stolen. I didn't lose that much really, but I could've lost everything as I had my money belt just lying around in the open at the time... There was a lot of speculation going round with everyone convinced it was an inside job somehow. This all happened a couple of weeks ago and we finally realized that it was someone climbing up the back of the building (we live on the 4th floor) and getting in through the windows and thus bypassing the security that exists on our floor just for us. Since none of the windows have locks the only solution was to nail them all shut. This week the most trusted of the cleaning staff was fired as it turns out that he and another building cleaner (not part of our school) were involved in the thefts. No hard evidence but there you go.... So, for all the good I've been saying about the Philippines and all the care I've put into this trip and not having any theft problems at all (except that Moroccan incident), I was robbed twice here by my favourite people. I guess it's not a perfect paradise after all....

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dumaguete and Diving Apo Island

Had a 4 day weekend this past weekend. No, not for the US Thanksgiving, but I'll take it anyway. I figured that was enough time for a proper trip out to somewhere more exciting than around the neighbourhood and luck would have it that I have a friend not too far away in Dumaguete.
So I left early Friday morning from here in Iloilo first for a quick 1 1/2 hr ferry ride to Bacolod on Negros (the next island over to the southeast) and a 7 hour bus ride from there to Dumaguete. By the time I had waited for all the transport connections and got there it was a little over 11 hrs. My longest travel day in a long time. I think I'm getting old or something, we used to do those a couple times a week... A few interesting things happened on the ride, as is quite usual when travelling alone. The first is kind of strange but worth mentioning as it was a first for me. I had a half-retarded beggar lady of unidentifiable age kiss me on the cheek after I refused to give her money. I have never been kissed by a beggar before (and you'd think that after all the millions I've seen this would've happened sooner somehow) and the locals sitting behind me thought it was funny as hell.
The second was that a university student sitting next to me toward the end has invited me to come as a guest speaker to his class and say something comparative about southeast Asian cultures since I've seen so many. It's in Dumaguete so too far away to pursue seriously but it was an interesting thought...
In Dumaguete I was able to stay with Nicole, a co-Divemaster from Koh Tao. She's 50 and from Alaska originally with tons of diving experience. Very, very interesting person to talk to. If you think I've had an interesting life.... Anyway, back in Thailand we'd been talking and had more or less decided that the Philippines was a better country (even though she hadn't been here before) and we swore we'd meet up and dive together if we both ended up here. She's now trying to work her way into a job with a small dive resort in the area and so I decided to come see how things were going.
Dumaguete is one of the top diving areas in the country because of several good sites nearby, including Apo Island. I dove Sat and Sun, 3 dives each day and while it was expensive (1/2 months salary in the end) it was also the best diving I have ever done. I think I saw more species of fish in one dive there than I did in over 100 dives in Koh Tao. Seriously. The difference is amazing. I knew from diving in Bohol before that the diving was good here, but to come back as an experienced Divemaster and actually have a real eye and appreciation for the site makes such a huge difference in the enjoyment too. It's not even the best time of year for visibility and sightings of some species, but it was still great. 5 of the 6 dives were over an hour long too, as the dive profile usually followed a slope or wall at just over 20m for a while and then ended at 3-4m on top for a long look at the corals. I did get down to 38m looking for sharks (there were none though) and still got an hour dive out of it. But maybe the biggest and best difference of all was that there was only 6 or 7 of us diving and even if there were other small dive boats in the area, we never saw any other divers. To have it all to yourself, compared to hundreds on Koh Tao just does not compare at all.
I then spent all day Monday coming back and was totally exhausted Tuesday in class. A handful of students have just left so it is really quiet here right now. I just can't wait to go diving again during Christmas. I have my flights booked for Palawan already :)