Thursday, February 28, 2013

Philippines, Palawan: Island Scenes

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I was fortunate to get a few nice shots traveling the islands attached to Palawan, which is the long, skinny island along the southwest of the Philippine archipelago; most of my trip was marred by rain, however, as a typhoon camped off the west coast of Palawan. The photo above is on a sunset bangka trip from San Vincente to the Blue Cove Island Resort, where I was scheduled to spend three nights. I left the next day, however, because it was terrible: my "cabin" had one small window, one small sliding glass door, and no ventilation so it was almost impossible to sleep; the beach was rocky and seaweed-clogged; and the food was awful.

The rain started up on my bangka trip to Port Barton, and did not stop until the day I took a van ride back across the island and south to Puerto Princesa. Aside from the interminable rain, Port Barton was a nice place. I mostly stayed at Eldorado Sunset Resort:

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Port Barton is a sleepy little town with a few roads, some sandy beaches and a handful of resorts. There are also small shops, flowers, and a bridge which leads to my resort, as well as Greenviews, next door.

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The bridge is at the end of Rizal St., which is the main road of every Filipino town, named in honor of national hero José Rizal, nineteenth century Filipino polymath and reform advocate during the Spanish colonial era. His execution in 1896 ignited the Philippine Revolution.

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Well, on Thursday evening, it looked like the weather Friday would be fine, so I booked an "island-hopping tour" for the next day, 9 AM. For the first hour, the sun was shining, the sea as smooth as a bedsheet. As we left the first island, however, the rains returned. We made it to couple more stops, but after lunch, I called it quits and headed back to Port Barton. You can see the rain and wind in action in some of the photos:

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Above is a shot of my personal island-hopping bangka, operated by Cap'n Win-Win.

On Saturday, I returned to Puerto Princesa, the capital and big city of Palawan, where I took up residence again at Puerto Aventura Resort (about which more later); the beach isn't much--not much more than a place to sit and read a book--but it makes up for it with a nice swimming pool. The accommodation is quite charming:

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Next time: we'll visit Puerto, ride a "tricycle" and visit the city's amazing market.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Yangmyung Graduation

Today was the last day of the 2012 school year, and it ended with the sixth grade graduation ceremony. It was pretty familiar: some of the graduates performed music at the beginning; then the principal handed out diplomas:

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A few special graduates were recognized, I assume for their high GPAs. Then there was a nice karaoke song as pictures of the sixth graders at work and play were shown and everyone sang along (okay, that was a bit different); finally, a chorale of rising sixth-graders sang for them.

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Then everyone went home. Including me.

I came home, finished packing, and am now waiting until it's time to go to the airport. About two hours.

I'll be in the Philippines for the next ten days. See you on the other side.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Science Teacher at Heart ...

... and a traveler by happenstance, here's a video that fits just fine. Enjoy:


Be sure to click on the fullscreen!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

End of School Year Gifts

The Korean school year begins on March 2, the day after Sam-Il (3-1, or March 1st), which is a holiday celebrating the 1919 uprising against Japanese rule. Since this year's March 2 is on a Saturday, the school year all across Korea will begin on Monday, March 4th. When the school year ends, on the other hand, is a random pin in a map, that varies from school to school, and year to year.

Generally speaking, second semester will end sometime around Christmas or the New Year (solar variety). Which is about two weeks after final exams. Elementary school stops before high school. Then, there is "winter camp", which I had for two weeks before going on my Vietnam vacation.

But I couldn't go on vacation exactly when my elementary school camp ended, because I still had two more sessions of my high school public speaking class that Friday afternoon and the next Monday, which suggests that high school camps are continuing on at least that long. It was considered law that Young-il HS camp will end before Seollal, or lunar new year. But this year, that's Feb 10, 11, and 12, much later than they would ever consider making camp run at Young-il.

Meanwhile, elementary and middle schools have a sort of mini-mester for "one or two weeks" in February involving handing out the new books, graduation, and what-not. Well, my school is doing this for three full fucking weeks! Except of course we get the Mon. and Tues. off during Seollal. In virtually every class, we're watching a movie. With Korean subtitles.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I don't complain very much. But this is absurd! A joke! I sit in the back of the room and fail to stay awake. And the truth is I would rather be teaching!

Okay, so let's change the subject. As it's end-of-the-year, it appears there is a Korean tradition (at least in elementary school) to give a small token of appreciation to your teachers. It never happened in my high school, which conforms, more or less, to my experience in America that teacher gift-giving drops off with age; however, numerous of the cute little munchkins I teach now have brought the little heart-shaped origami-style packets you see below, packed with up to three candies (preferably chocolate) and a short message, sometimes in English!

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Mostly from girls, but occasionally from a boy (or rather his Mom); the best part is the little hug that comes with it! Over twenty years as a teacher in the States, I have a massive collection of Christmas (and other) cards from children or families, and I treasure them, especially the ones hand made. So I was overjoyed to receive this Christmas card from a fourth-grader with a laboriously written English message just for me. If you want to read it, you can come over and look through my scrapbooks.

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Now, I don't wear Capri slacks, I don't part my hair in the middle, and my classroom slippers are leather Crocs; also, none of the students actually has a bouffant hairdo. Still, it's one of my favorites!