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Intro

February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014

December 2014
January 2015


March 2014


09/03/14

It was another very exciting week here in Kalibo, both for work and for after work. The most significant event did happen on Thursday - since then I am the proud owner of a motorcycle here in the Philippines! But lets start the week properly.
Monday was my first language lesson in Aklanon language. My other Australian volunteer friends already took lessons and it was time to start as well. As my language coach I picked Erleen, the trainer for Peacecorp volunteers and of my predecessor in the PDRRMO. And what I can say so far, it wa a good pick. Language training with Erleen is quite fun. And even more fun it is to practice these new skills with the people at work. Particularly the 'Naila ako kimo ('I like you') phrase is pretty popular.
On Wednesday we got a visit from the regional manager and the country manager of our Australian volunteer program. It was a more or less scheduled visit to take place one month after my arrival at the assignment location. And I was looking forward to it. As you can tell I have settled in alright, both at work and in our new home. In fact I keep having an awesome time here and people having a good time with me too. So all good news. To my surprise I also got issued a brand new satellite phone as a sure way to establish contact if any of the many potential disasters strikes. It's a pretty cool thing to have. It comes with all contingency measures: power plug adapter for pretty much all countries. Plus a car charging adaptor. Plus one to connect to a car battery. Plus a solar panel. Plus a spare battery. Really no reason not to call in after an emergency. I kept playing around with it fully fascinated. Just not using it for calls, with the exorbitant rates it sure wouldn't be appreciated. So after all the visit of our two managers was a happy occasion with all happy news.
To be honest though I was eagerly waiting for their visit. For a private reason. I so wanted to have a motorbike during my time in the Philippines. If you have read my previous blogs you know how much motorbikes mean to me. A motorbike is a means of freedom. First and foremost. It is the vehicle of freedom to make your dreams come true, dreams of exploring, dreams of accessing the cooles spots, dreams of getting into the wild, dreams of connecting with people, dreams of just getting out there when you need to. The best year of my life I spent on the back of a motorcycle riding through Africa. In Australia the motorcycle kept me dreaming, kept me living, just for providing the opportunity to go explore, go relax. In fact riding a motorbike is my favourite way to relax my mind. It's like a drug - once you're on it you will never be the same again. And here on my assignment, the all important country security plan stated that any use of a motorcycle is prohibited unless the country manager approves of it. Suddenly my dreams were in the hands of another person, someone who seemed less than keen on approving me riding. So I did everything to meet other conditions. Patiently waited for one month as required. Procured a local Philippino licence as required. Went to a motorbike shop and saw the ideal bike for me. A 150ccm dirt bike of the local brand Ruso. So beautiful and affordable. The shop had three of them, a black one, a white one and an orange one. I had the money and was ready to buy just there and then. Full of excitement I notified the country manager of my intention. And she said no. No, wait till I come and visit you. So disappointedly I waited, another weekend went by without the freedom of a motorbike. And on Wednesday she came. And gave me her approval. Yes!!! Finally!!!
So Thursday morning, with my workmates just as excited as myself, four of us set out to return to the Rusi shop to buy the lovely orange bike we saw the week before. And in a moment I will remember for a long time they told us that all three bikes have been sold to other shops. None left. None. Waiting these few extra days was all that's needed to reduce the number of available awesome motorbikes from 3 to 0. In an effort to do business the shop owner phones the three shops who got the three bikes from Kalibo. Two of them were alredy sold. The third one was still there. But in a location from where it would take a week to get the bike back to Kalibo. Another weekend without a motorbike loomed at the horizon. They had other dirt bikes in the shop. But they were the latest model of the year and therefore unaffordable. Apart from being beyond the budget I was willing to spend to have a motorbike for 9 months, it as also not a good thing to do. In terms of how I am perceived here. How can a volunteer just afford the latest model of a brand new enduro?
No, the new model was absolutely out of question. As beautiful as it was. Looking at it and dreaming of it, riding a motorbike on the weekend seemed to remain a far distant dream. Looking a bit closer though there was an orange bike sticking out. Hey, was that the last years model? "Of course" the shopkeeper said, "That's only 43000Peso". Within a split second it was all there again. The excitement. The adrenalin. The sense of adventure. There it was, my mororcycle. Beautiful and orange. An Enduro ready to go. Why the shopkeeper kept from mentioning this bike to us is way beyond me. It was exactly what I wanted. Just there. And he knew. And ignored it. Weird. However, a happy end to the story and a very happy Marco rode his own dream bike back to the office this same afternoon.
This little Rusi has not had a break since. Only when I got it did I realise how much a motorbike was missing from my life. It's been in use every day since. Including this Saturday when 5 excited people set out from Kalibo to 'break in' the new bike and go to Boracay, the beautiful island paradise just 70km from Kalibo.
It is hard to explain why I love motorbikes so much. To be honest, I don't need one here. Tricycles are a formidable way of getting around town. And there are plenty of public transport options to get out of town too. But it's not the same.
Reflecting back to my In Country Orientation 3 weeks earlier in Manila one returned volunteer gave us the advise to make time to reflect. Every day. Being here, here in this new country, making these new experiences, being together with all these new people is quite overwhelming. Also exciting and interesting. But having half an hour every day to step out of this exciting new world and sit down by yourself and think, reflect on what's happening and what it means, all that helps you to stay yourself. To not lose yourself in this new world. It helps building a rock to give you a refuge, something to hold on to. A baseline. And I totally agree with that.
I have lived in many different places. Back in Germany but much more so in Australia. What all my home towns have in common is a 'magic' spot. A place outdoors, quite, open, lonely, with a spectacular view. A refuge where I would go and find peace whenever I need some, where I could escape to and sit by myself and think. For me it is incredibly important to have such a place. And the best decisions in my life have been made in right that place. About Kalibo, the motorbike now provided the opportunity to find a place to relax and to access it at will. And the first morning I was just there. Excitement did not let me sleep a lot. So I left home early and explored. Went to the river. Was all by myself. Just at the mighty Aklan River as it peacufully completes it's journey from the green mountains of Panay Island's tropical hinterland and now leisurely flowing through the flat basin in which Kalibo was built. With the green mountains in the background this was the perfect spot. 5 km from home. And there and then, sitting on my motorbike and watching the river flow by, all of the last four weeks came crashing down on me. All the happy moments, the excitement. The people I met and who play such an important role in my life here. The realisation of where I was and how much I loved everything here. It makes a difference to reflect on everything around you and to have the time to realise how much you actually love it. And how happy it makes you. This moment and this spot alone were worth the investment, worth the struggle with procedures, absolutely worth getting a motorbike. And that was the reason behind my desire to have one. Access to these places. And access to adventure.
How does adventure fit in with a little 125ccm motorbike? The people I spend my time with  here, the SEALS volunteers and Jayfree are keen to explore, they know places and people. But only have Jayfree's little motorbike. And unaffordable public transport. Unaffordable for volunteers who do not earn a single cent. Being able to provide my own motorcycle incredibly opens a new world. There is room for two on mine and room for three on Jayfree's so there is the potential for 5 people cheaply going to places! And that makes all the difference. And today and yesterday, my first weekend having the bike, we made full use of that.

But enough about motorbikes, summing up the week, it was a great week again. Culminating on Saturday when 5 of us on two bikes went all the way to Boracay to enjoy some time and relax in a tropical island paradise. I was happy to cover the costs for all five of us, the fuel for the two bikes, the ferry fares and snacks. Because the guys loved it as much as I do to get out and do something. And they wouldn't have the funds to join. And we're talking about $15 all up. Which still, over here constitutes a considerable amount of money.
What I learned in Africa - exchanging money for happiness is always a good investment. Money can buy many things but it can also facilitate happiness. Going to Boracay made 5 of us happy. Even though coming out of my meager volunteer allowance.
Next week will be rather busy at work. There are a couple of important meetings planned. Some reports to be completed. And trainings to be prepared. But I know, before and after work I will be sitting on my bike with a big smile behind the facade of my new helmet. During these few precious minutes nothing else matters.

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Seals volunteers love freshly picked Pomelos

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Picknick during a village fiesta

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Boracay is fastly becoming a famous hang-out-spot on weekends

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Boracay Islands turquoise waters are just unresistible.

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Coconut is another one of the good food the land provides


16/03/2014

As time goes by I get more and more routine for my life here in Kalibo, feeling settled somewhat. In a way it is a normal working life. Be it in the Philippines or back home in Australia. You still get up in the morning, go to work, come home for dinner. And do it all again the next day. As an extra bit of routine my life includes the weekly language training every Monday.
Last week was very productive in terms of work. The main element of my job here is the design of a Flood Early Warning System. And last week we did get surprised that there is already an established GIS system in the province that we can use to create hazard maps. Another surprise we got when we observed our friends from the Department of Science and Technology installing and calibrating the automatic sensors to measure the water level in the river. These senors are surprisingly sophisticated, broadcasting theyr measurements straight to the internet via GSM networks. There are a few things I have in mind to improve the system of calibration, particularly the random definition of the sensor's zero point. But still - what an awesome system to have access to in the Philippines! There will be a meeting with the guys from the Department od Science and Technology to discuss the approach and I shall prepare a good and hopefully convincing presentation to make our case.
Anyway, as work trickles along at a relaxing pace, life after work is busy. It is a very different daily routine here. My days start much earlier than in Australia. And also finish much earlier. I usually get up at 6am. To go to the bakery and buy something freshly baked for breakfast. Every morning they have different things to the morning before. Sometimes banana bread. Sometimes peanut muffin. Or cheese cupcake. So it does add variety to my breakfast. Sometimes I leave home early too to go on a little joyride with me new motorcycle. I love doing that in the early morning. When the air is still fresh and cool. And traffic is easy. A loop past Kalibo Airport, along the small roads of some Barangays (villages). Where people are already up and busy with their lifes, shops are open and little items for breakfast are ready to be sold. Such as noodle sandwiches. Or sweet rice wrapped in banana leafes. Things are either rice or baked. There is not much traffic that early in the morning so my presence is unusual. And people follow me with their eyes. I am kind of camouflaged wearing long pants and a full face motorcycle helmet. But I'm sure people can still spot me as a foreigner. And will wonder what my business in their little Barangay may be.
Just outside my window is a strange celebration. A wakening of a dead. He died over ten days ago. And now his friends, his family, they stay awake all night, every night to - well I dont know, to remember him? It seems to be a happy get together though. There is lots of food, there is lots of alcohol. In fact so much that people keep throwing up. There is gambling. There is also music and singing. Through the night. It's been going for 10 days now and still no end in sight. It does cost us some sleep, particularly for my housemate Jen.
Saturday morning I took my opportunity for the first time to go on a small overland motorbike ride. Just by myself. It feels good to ride my bike without passenger, the little Rusi a real light weight then and consequently heaps fun to handle. The road to Libacao is mostly gravel. And I went there, up in the mountains of Panay Island, into the rain forest. It was raining. But rain doesn't matter. Because it is such a hot climate. Rain actually pleasantly acts as an air con. The road turned muddy a few times but my little lightweight bike just flew through it without any hint of trouble.
Besides the fun ride, the bike is in use every day and quite often also for purposes of work for the Seals volunteers. When we go to training courses. Or for leisure. It's usually a group of a few motorbikes and way too many people on them. I successfully limited my bike to a maximum one passenger. Other bikes you see in the Philippines with 4 to 5 people sitting on them. Somehow 5 people do fit onto a little 125ccm bike, it's amazing.
So my Seals friends and me spent most of last weekend together. Saturday, after my joy ride to Libacao, they all came over to our apartment to hang out. We trained Aklanon language for a while. We went to the market to buy food for dinner. A big whole tuna and a lot of small fish. And rice. We cooked it all and it was delicious. We also watched movies afterwards. Till after midnight. And again in the morning. And during most of the Sunday. We did have a projector from work, attached to my laptop we could watch the movie beamed onto our big naked living room wall. A short cable connected the laptop with the AUX-IN socket of our cheap chinese radio and, way more powerful than you would expect from that radio, the sound of Hollywood boomed through our small apartment complex. Finishing the left over from Saturdays dinner and having some coffee in between, it was a relaxed weekend. Jen spent it on Boracay to complete her diving course. Later that evening we all joined Lesther's mother for her 59th birthday party. And had more delicious and calory rich food.
It is this sort of thing which I really like on my Philippine life. Things are low key. 8 young people spending all weekend together. Completely unplanned. And without drinking even one drop of alcohol. And still having a good time. Things just happen here, they are rarely planned. And that makes it so good.

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Another favourite beach hang-out near Numancia

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Village centre

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Finally getting approval to ride a motorbike - my new way of transport here in Aklan - a locally made Rusi 125ccm enduro bike. This picture was taken the first morning after buying the bike, excitement did make me wake early for a sunrise trip to the Aklan River.

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Chainsaw training lesson

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Installation of a rain sensor in the rural town of Altavas as part of our Local Flood Warning System


25/03/2014

It's been a busy week and a busy weekend. It's incredible that another week has gone so quickly. But when time is flying it usually means one is having a good time. And so have I most certainly.
There are ups and downs in my life in Kalibo. Last week I had a bit of a down time while attending a most uninspiring workshop about improvement of local disaster planning. There was not really anything I had to contribute and a big part of the workshop was really some activities of the participants where the facilitators could just simply wait for them to be finished. The workshop lasted for two days! And held in local language which I just started to train. On the plus side though, even in the most uninspiring circumstances you meet very inspiring people. In this case many municipal disaster managers and chiefs of local villages. And one fellow english speaking guy. He was born in the Philippines but his parents moved to the US when he was only one year old. He grew up over there, becoming a succesful business man. Having his first business already at the age of 16! End even though everything seemed to work out just fine he decided to return to the Philippines 8 years ago. Giving up his business, his success, his source of good income, even his family, mum and dad. Just to come back to Aklan and live the simple Philippino life.
In a way I do understand him. Money and business is not everything in life, I think we can all agree on that. When you're living in a place like the Philippines you can still live like a king even with comparably small amounts of money. Most people live of around $3 a day. I do live like a king for $15 a day. That includes lots and lots of food, fresh big fish from the market, lots of fresh sweet bakery products and lots of fresh fruit such as melons or pineapples. Even though my breakfast consists of incredibly expensive things like oats and milk and milo, I'm still staying in the $15 a day bracket. It also includes living in a luxurious big house and an internet flat rate. If I wanted to have all that in Australia I would need to work really really hard. And would feel kind of bad for lavishly spending so much money. Here I can pretty much live of not much. As my new ex-Californian friend does. What he earned back in his years in the states will provide a luxurious life in the Philippines till the end of his days. Why would he choose to continue working so hard for decades to come???
Another big topic of last week was the conducting of a flood emergency drill in the Barangay Laguinbanwa. Which actually happened today. But to make it happen we had to have one workshop to prepare and plan, one trial-drill which happened on Saturday and then of course the actual drill today. Spending three days in a small Barangay is in a way interesting. Because the lifestyle there is totally different to the life in Kalibo.  Laguinbanwa is beautifully located. Just around an hour west of Kalibo. On the Ibajay River. It is as rural as it gets. Lots of small bamboo houses, lots of green. Only one road leading through the Barangay. All else just narrow footpaths in between the houses. There are no distinctive property boundaries, just land and houses and people walking in between the houses as they need. Along the river it is even greener. There is a massive Balete tree on one spot where a small creek joins the river. The tree is so big that people fear if it falls, it will dam and relocate the river and flood the whole Barangay. Balete trees are special. Stories circulate they are haunted. No one will ever fell one. People don't even go near. Although this tree was indeed beautiful, majestically towering over the river, many hundreds of years old. A trunk diameter of some 4m. Maybe it is due to the tree and it's evil spirits. Maybe it's just bad luck. But Laguinbanwa has had far more than it's fair share in disasters. In average the river will flood the Barangay completely three times a year. Asking the residents how high the flood waters would be in their houses they made me raise my hand to represent the waterline. Higher and higher it went. When I reached my chest height they finally said 'stop'. That's it. Three times a year the flood rises that high that only my head would stick out of the flood water. The Barangay is all level, all flat. No area is spared. Not even their Barangay Hall. Being the official evacuation ground, no, even the Barangay Hall will be under water. The unwavering hope is not just written in the smiling faces of everyone, it is also reflected in the choice of items people bring along in their evacuation. In between all the rice and canned goods there was this one statue, big and heavy, standing almost a meter tall. It's a statue of 'Senior Sto Nino', the infant Jesus Christ. Someone brought little Jesus along amongst the most basic needs. A message of hope? It is stories like these, and you hear many of them, watch many of them, told by earnest but still smiling people with their kids running around us and a chicken on their arm, it's these stories that again and again take me back to the importance of my assignment. It's just a tiny detail in the big picture to make their village safer. There is not much I can do really but whatever it is, they deserve all support they can get.
But things are not that easy. The way things work here in the Philippines is very different from how things are done in Australia. Here, patience is a much more important commodity for success. And some processes require a lot of it. Just in order to do a simple training course a full budget application to the Provincial Government is required. Budget just simply to cover the costs of lunch and snacks for the participants. These budgets go a long way around, have to get signed off and approved by a lot of people. So the application needs to be lodged more than a month in advance and we need to jump through lots of hoops to get it approved. And even when the budget is approved by everyone who has a say in it, it still does not mean the money is released. Quite often that last step of transferring the already approved money to us is linked to extra conditions. Conditions that involve supporting a friend of an important person for example. Or some weeks through the process, after some succesful signatures have already been collected, one person decides not to sign off. Just for a formality that has not been to 100% followed. Or often that formality has just changed last week. It stops the process and restars it from scratch. And everyone is patiently going with the flow and the system. It's just the normal thing to do.
Today was a pretty good day. We did start early in the morning with the Flood Drill in Laguinbanwa. Returning to Kalibo just after lunch there was not much work for the remainder of the day. So Jayfree and me, we took the opportunity to go to the bank and withdraw money that was donated to the SEALS from Australia. My predesessor Aussie volunteer Lauren did some awesome fundraising efforts back home to support our rescuers to renew their gear that has been used up or damaged during the 'Super Typhoon Yolanda' in November. We received 60000 Pesos, the equivalent of over AU$1500. This money will do a lot of good things here but to buy things we needed to get it off my local bank account. I was expecting to go to the bank, fill in a form at the counter, show my bank card and receive the money. The actual process was more difficult though. And as I understand it is the normal procedure from withdrawing money from your own account.
First, when we got to the bank, the door was blocked by a timber bar and the security guard had to remove it for us to get in. We were then directed to the small machine that prints numbered tickets. In order to get your number you need to type in your bank account number into the machine and also the amount of money you intend to withdraw. It is printed together with your queue number on the ticket. Also you need to sign the ticket and print your name on it. Done that, I was sitting down waiting for my number to be called. But no. Next step is to take this ticket and queue for the branch manager. She will check the ticket, her computer showing your photo and signature. My signature on the computer looked different to the one on the ticket. Of course because I did not think much of the queue ticket so my signature was very hasty. So I had to sign again. The bank manager now happy signed the ticked as well. And only then can this ticket be used to wait in the waiting area for your queue number to appear on the screen. When it did I went to the counter showing my ticket. And received the money straight away. At no stage was I asked to show andy ID or even my bank card. Anyway, handing over 60000 Pesos to Jayfree made him a very happy man. The money will go to replace the First Aid kits that were used up during the Typhoon Yolanda Response and also to repair and replace the radio equipment that was damaged last November.
I left work an hour early because we also started 1.5 hours earlier this morning to reach Laguinbanwa in time. It was the perfect opportunity to add some km onto my motorbike. It is now two weeks old and today finally reached the 500km mark. This mark is so significant because it triggers the first service and oil change and the official end of the break-in period. So tomorrow that first service on my little Rusi bike will be performed in the local Rusi dealership. I have to bring my own oil though because they don't sell any. They just change. During the break-in period a maximum speed of 40km/h was recommended. Which I did adhere to. From tomorrow on there is no more speed limit. In order to break through that magic 500km line today, I went on a little joy ride straight after work. To New Washington. The road there goes beautifully parallel to the ocean front. I love the ocean. And this is such a great road to ride. Riding a motorcycle still relaxes me, more than anything. The sound of the little 125ccm engine, amplified by it's phillipino made exhaust to compete against even Harley Davidsons, feeling the vibration of the nobbly tyres on asphalt and feeling the cool salty sea breeze through my open visor, riding that bike is one of my favourite activities. Usually it's impossible to ride alone. There are always people with you and always people who ride on your backseat. Today I was by myself. And it makes a big difference in the fun factor of a small 125ccm bike not to have an extra 60kg or so with you.
This week will most likely be less busy than the last. We had many courses on our schedule but all of them for this week got cancelled. Some because someone in the lign of sign-off persons refused to sign off on the budget for procedural reasons. Other just got cancelled for unknown reasons. So yeah, we will see how this week will develop.

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Not sure about the Australian connection - the 'Australian Eagle', a public bus linking Kalibo and the rural town of Libacao, and my little Rusi bike

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Another good day at the beach in Numancia - grilling fish

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During an Earthquake drill in a public school in near Banga

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Flood Rescue scenario training in Ibajay municipality

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Evacuees during a flood drill in Laguinbanwa

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Halo-Halo - a favourite snack of confectionary, ice and milk


30/03/2014

It's been a hot and humid day today. Clearly it is getting summer here in Kalibo with all the humidity and heat it comes with. Unavoidably. It's now 10:30pm and I am sitting in my room, still sweaty and sunburned from the day past. Opening the balcony door and the windows lets a whisper of cool air breeze through the mosquito meshes. The local radio playing some golden old songs as usual at this late time of day. 'Another day for you and me in Paradise'... The town outside is quite, sleeping. The usual noise of the 2-stroke tricycles has disappeared into the night as have the many voices of the Kalibo people and the barking of their dogs. Only crickets can be heard. The noisy busy town turns very peaceful at night. And I like the late evenings, mostly for the cooler air temperatures. Today we are lucky, there are no mosquitos around. So I can sit outside till late, leave the door open.

This week has been a very quite one at work. And so is the weekend. Jen is away at Apo Island so I do have the whole house to myself this weekend. It is for the first time and somehow it is not too bad having a whole house. It must be also the first weekend for me here with no plans whatsoever. We did plan to go hiking in Malay today but the hike was canceled by the organisers.
So what to do? Well, it was a good oportunity to do some exploring. I left Aklan today for the first time since getting here. I needed to go to the big city for some shopping and at the same time was looking for an opportunity to go on a longer ride with my new motorcycle. Okay, that was actually the main reason. However, Kalibo is a Provincial Capital but is still relatively small. There are two bigger cities on our island, Roxas, the capital of Capiz Province and Iloilo, the capital of the entire region. Roxas is only 85 km away from Kalibo so there I went. Riding a 125ccm motorbike means that still, 85km take 2.5 hours to cover. The slow going through villages and construction sites have an impact too. There is a lot of road works, still in recovery from Typhoon Yolanda damage. In fact the area between Kalibo and Roxas is the same area that Yolanda made landfall on Panay Island. Consequently the damages are still much more evident there than in Kalibo. Houses without roofs are many. Some houses are peculiarly leaning. Whole swaths of forest still have no leaves or only slowly growing news ones on the very few remaining branches. The wind velocity of Yolanda was so strong, it literally blew off all leaves and branches. Still today you see many ghost trees, just trunks pointing towards the sky like an army of fingers pointing towards the source of their misery.
What did I buy in Roxas? Well, a book. It sounds like a strange thing to buy. But there are no book shops in Kalibo. Nor have I seen any anywhere in Aklan Province. Roxas City by contrast has a big western style shopping mall.  Like the majority of all shopping malls in the Philippines it is Chinese owned and airconditioned and rather expensive.

I do feel more and more acostumed to my new environment by now. Although things are so different from Sydney. Lately Jen and me cook a lot of fish. It is so handy to live just 2min away from the market that sells a seemingly unlimited supply of sea food. A whole tuna for dinner? Why not! And it is so affordable. Often we do not feel like volunteers here, it's more like a holiday. Yes, there is work. But there is also so much leisure. And with our allowance we can afford quite a pleasant life.

Due to eating so much fish now I'm pretty good in gutting and preparing fish too. It's incredible though how quickly the presence of some fish guts in our rubbish change the local fauna environment. We put it in a plastic bag and tie a knot into it. It's airproof as the ballon like appearance proofs. The plastic bag we pack into another plastic bag and close it with a knot too. These bags are then put into the backyard. And within an hour a whole army of tiny ants has found it, built a highway to it, has eaten through both plastic bags and is enjoying the remainders of our fish. It's an incredible ants highway, coming down many meters from the top of the neighboring building, over the 4m tall wall, along a TV cable and down our house wall straight to our rubbish bag. How do they know that there is some delicious food here? Can they smell it? Do they have a network of spies? If you move the plastic bag into another corner of the small backyard within minutes the entire ants highway is relocated. Unfortunately rubbish is not the only thing they find. Almost daily we have another ants highway into our kitchen. Whatever food is not in a plastic container or inside the fridge, they find it. And eat it. The new pack of oats packed in a really strong plastic  bag? It's still no match. They know what's inside, build their highway there and eat through the plastic. Just today I found another ants highway carrying little pieces of oats through the kitchen and into the backyard. And there are also roads into nowhere. Every morning there is one traversing through my bedroom. Coming down from the roof of the building, along the outside wall, through a tine crack in the window frame and straight through my bedroom into a tiny hole between the floor tiles. Every morning I take a broom and demolish the road, every other morning it's there again. Following exactly the same route as the morning before!

However, I do have help in the fight against the little ants. There is one huntsman spider in the house. First time I saw it as a relatively small spider in my bathroom. It lived there for a week or so, slowly growing in size. Giving me a scare every know and then when I forgot it's there. And then it disappeared. Just yesterday I found it in my bedroom wardrobe. Considerably bigger. Hope it likes ants for breakfast. More soldiers on my side of war are the many geckos. They are outside and inside, lightning fast. They come in through the smallest little openings under the doors or beneath the aircons. And just live with me. Pretty nice.

However, the best way to tackle those little ants is obviously the removal of all rubbish. It is a pretty cool system to do so. Every day between 5pm and 7:30pm there is a big dump truck parked near Kalibo market taking on all the market rubbish. Usually big rice sacks of things. We go there too most evenings with our little plastic bags full of fish guts and other things. There are two guys on top of the truck receiving their rice sacks full of market rubbish. There are lots more people around the truck too, wondering what the tall foreigner with the small plastic bag is doing. Usually looking at me and asking if we have any more rubbish. 'Not today' I'm replying, throw my little bag onto the truck and repeat the same procedure the next day.

The end of this week also marks the end of my second month in the Philippines. Time is flying so fast...

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Jesus watching over a small village on the Kalibo - Roxas road. In the background still visible is the small hill, cleared of tree by Typhoon Yolanda. The few trees remaining still damaged and leaning.

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The network of power cables create a fascinating pattern on each power pole.

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Out of the various transport options available the tricycle is certainly the most versatile one. Carrying 10m long bamboo poles? No chance in a truck. No problem on a tricie.

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One of the best inventions ever. Three-in-one coffee. A pre-mix of instant coffee, sugar and milk powder. Just add water. Very addictive!

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Catholicism and Christian belief is extremely common everywhere in the Philippines (Kalibo Cathedral)

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Another creature comfort to be found everywhere is Jollibee - the local fast food chain. It's not just the colour scheme that hints of competition with the 'Golden Arches' rival, it's their burgers too. Fatty and delicious.



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