Not a moment to soon…:-) Chapter #1: Manila+PG+Aninuan

First thing first, I must say I had to write this Blog ages ago, I know, but all the time we had more important things to do and as a non-English speaker I had enough from English late at night after my chores ended so I had the sickness of postponing…Never a good thing, but we all have it every once in a while, I’m sure! ūüėČ

In addition to that, I’m not a big fan (not at all!) of blogs and that’s my first one ever to¬†participate¬†in, but I believe it’s very important that I will share my thoughts and¬†experience¬†here exactly because of the fact that I’m not an English speaker! In that way, maybe other people struggling like I am in the problematic field of Marine Biology will consider applying for the ZEP program (aka programme) and I hope that the fact I’ve survived, made loads of fun and even acquire valuable skills will encourage them.

Another¬†confession I must share with you, it was my first big scale trip ever, that far and for so long away from home sweet home Israel, and I have really enjoyed myself! I want to tell you guys that Israel is truly a lovely country with a vast verity of¬†sceneries¬†and great and diverse people (even if they’re rough around the edges) so don’t believe everything you hear on TV! For the¬†skepticism,¬†you are more than invited to visit and see it for your selves! ¬†But in some way, I really fell in love in The Philippines in a way that I can’t even explain…Maybe it’s because the every-other-evening basketball games (so I‚Äôd won‚Äôt miss it), maybe because of the sweet people, both locals, the ZEP‚Äôs and ZOOX’s team, maybe it’s the tropical weather and landscapes above and under the water (Marine Biologist after all), I really can’t say! All I know is that I‚Äôm¬†truly¬†asking myself: HOW COME I DID NOT DO IT EARLIER?!?!!? Got plenty of reasons but not even one good excuse! So now I’ll try to sum my reasons to apply for the ZEP program and my first impressions in The Philippines…or at least try to sum it…

My story starts like everyone else in a very long flight to SE Asia, but before that I want to stress some thing…I’m not a kid freshly out of undergraduate school or something even close to that. For the last 6 plus years I’m working at Tel Aviv university, finished my M.Sc. long time ago but I’m sorry to say that after a while I didn’t feel content with my job. After all the initials difficulties of setting up a well¬†organized¬†lab and¬†multiple¬†research areas I realize that the Uni life might not suit me…Too many dead corals and other animals, too many unpublished articles that made me see clearly the insignificant of some¬†researches, and that’s even before talking about the lousy salary…and I don’t have high expectations! So, I did my own research and came to the understanding, combining with my green awareness, that actually I prefer to work in conservation and rehabilitation of coral reefs habitats and leave the dead-end Uni! My research showed me that if I want to change my field of¬†occupation¬†I must do a voluntary work abroad. It’s something that nobody will tell you, at least not in my Uni and I guess that in some others, but I’m¬†recommending¬†all of you first degree student to do so, even if it’s not the area that you are interested in do it for the experience, so you don’t have to do it when you are 33, paying rent and bills and have an adults job and other stuff on your mind!!!

As a coral reefs marine biologist from start it felt like home, even though there is not much similarities…Manila was stuffy and stinks, reminded me some parts of Tel Aviv (not the best ones) and it was a bit sad to land in The Philippines and straight away see all the poor kids begging for money…:-(

Immediately we fled from there…I’ve met the lovely Meg on my first night there and on the day after we hocked up with Wai, my ciggi buddy! We bonded so much to the point that we almost missed the bus and the following ferry to Puerto Galera…We¬†literally¬†ran all the way and got on it in the last minute, truly a stroke of luck! At that point the¬†mosquitoes’ battles started…You should have see the looks that we got from the locals still catching our breathes, smearing¬†repellent¬†on us while sitting on the Banka rail in front of everyone because there were no available seats…A bit awkward! More about mosquitoes’ battles see Wai’s blog. Don’t be discourage, with the proper training you too can be a mosquitoes terminator! For a small fee I can send you tips and secret¬†techniques…;-)

Soon as we hit the dock JJ and Chloe rescued us from the mess there, the caring and helpful individuals that are the skelaton of the ZOOX team. It’s funny how the locals are so calm and quiet but at some occasions, like in the well-known basketball games (see later)¬†and others, they can really cause the feeling that hell breaks loose- but even that they do in a positive way!

PG is a nice town next to the adorable¬†village¬†of Aninuan, which was our training spot. A small and generous community and we had the¬†privilege¬†to stay at Analyn’s house, one of the most charming and caring ladies I’ve ever met! Always checking if we are comfortable and taking care of us during the long hours of training. Training era was rough, especially as a non-English speaker, but I’ve survived and even enjoyed most of the time! Actually, most of the topics were quite interesting and of course valuable to us in the future, and that’s even before talking about our great trainers, THE ZOOX TEAM, a¬†unique¬†group of people that always helped with everything! But I’m¬†pretty¬†sure that the moment we all waited during those days for was Analyn smile and the great lunches she made us or other activities we did out of class, like the beach clean up and the sea weed¬†survey…a moment of peace and welcome rest from concentrating in British-English…:-D

One of our assignments that I was worried about was The Green Fins¬†Training¬†Presentation. I can communicate in English pretty well and sometimes even understand much more than you’ll give me credit for, but I have never did almost an hour presentation in English! So obviously, I was a bit scarred about it…But except from a bit of¬†mumbling¬†and one or two English definitions that I’ve suddenly¬†totally forgotten about because of the stress in presenting it in front of a¬†bunch¬†of English speakers, it went well…I hope! It was mainly due to Sam’s support, another valued¬†member of THE ZOOX TEAM, and my group’s support. After that, I just kept on thinking that I will need to present it to the locals, also non-English speakers, so it will be much easier and I’ll have much more¬†confidence! So don’t you worry about that, it will be peachy!

One of my most favorites parts, and it takes a second to understand that about me, that I love sports! So it was no wonder that the majority of my evenings were in the basketball court located 10 meters from our home at Analyn house. I really missed my home team and the hours differences and the WiFi connection both made it hard to watch it so I was so happy when I heard about the locals basketball¬†tournament, all around the Philippines! You know, not a¬†professional¬†basketball games, but actually that only made it better and I’ve enjoyed almost each one of them and there were three every other day…AWESOME!!!

Another important issue to talk about here, and don’t send a picture of that to you mom back home, is transportation. At First¬†glance, it looks scary, but after a while using it I came to realize that tricycles are the best way for transportation all around The Philippines! It’s cheaper and easy to¬†controlled¬†(by the trained locals) and even fun! Of course, in most cities people already come to this conclusion that motorbikes are a great and easy way of transportation, but here the¬†Trike¬†really elevate it to the next level!

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and after a while we finished our training and now was the¬†beginning¬†of a new era: Our¬†responsible¬†adult role as Green Fins Assessors, each in his location. sadly, we had to depart Aninuan, Analyn and her family and even three of the guys (dearest Meg, Ing and Rietta- aka Malapascua Team) we were trained with, but we were very exited and¬†anxious¬†about our new role so we didn’t had the time to linger on it…and welcome the ride to Moalboal, Cebu. So…back to Manila! The ferry ride again was Freaking Hilarious!!! this time we had a western¬†strange¬†man that did some sort of yoga in front of everyone! BTW, that’s one of the locals’ qualities that I’ve learn to¬†appreciate. They will never say to him something about it, even if it makes them uncomfortable. They will just stay away and giggle behind their¬†napkin¬†or a sheet of paper. Charming people, really. Oh, and we almost got lost at sea because of engine problems, but they kinda fixed it and we made it to shore safe and sound. The Filipinos resourcefulness¬†in action as always!

Airport was another close call. Silly me, DO NOTICE THE DATE!!! A lesson to remember: When you’re ordering a flight and the page got refresh in the middle, start over!!! That way you will not need to pay triple the cost of the flight and almost miss it!

Well, that is it for now. Our next chapter will be the¬†magnificent¬†Moalboal, Cebu, working and making friends in paradise! Please wait patiently for this exiting one. we have another Jewish holiday soon, so¬†plenty¬†of time to do that! See ya all soon…

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