Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Week of Classes

First day of classes for second semester started on Monday, October 29.  I had only a week to prepare for my courses in addition to jumping through all the hoops on becoming a new employee at Foundation University.  There was very little instruction on learning the ropes around campus; like setting up my user id accounts, email, payroll, contracts, and finding my way to my new office and classroom studio.  Not to mention my class times changed in the schedule three times in two days.  So it was hard to get anything close to organized well before the first teaching day.  Thankfully, Ray and Amy were familiar with it all and basically gave me the orientation one should receive upon being new.  Oh well, that's just part of the pace of living and operating on "island time".

I was happy to receive my uniform on time.  All full time employees and students at FU must wear a uniform. For women, we are suppose to wear two different shirts: one pink and one blue that alternate depending on the day of the week.  I didn't know this rule, so I ended up wearing my pink shirt two days in a row and was politely notified by my colleague that I was off rhythm.  I chuckled at the thought of myself sticking out like a sore thumb, obliviously walking around campus and being the new, foreign instructor wearing the wrong color shirt!  I'll get it right next week.  As a side note, the uniforms were specially tailored and fitted to me.  They took my measurements and sewed it within two days.  A perfect fit!

MWF = Pink Shirt and T TH = Blue Shirt

The campus is quite beautiful.  The president of the school, Dr. Mira Sinco, is an active gardener.  In her 80's, she has a reputation for being the only president that can be caught deadheading the flowers or pulling weeds as she walks around campus.  In the center of the campus is a tasteful Japanese inspired water feature and pond with fish.  Not sure if the species is koi, but it has the same affect.

Looking out from the fourth story and architecture studio classroom.

The architecture studio classroom and students.
On Monday, I taught my first studio to six students.  After going over the syllabus and expectations for the semester, I issued their first assignment.  I am impressed by their respectful nature towards their instructors.  They are positive and genuinely motivated to learn.  As a general formality, students address their instructors by saying "ma'am" or "sir" before their name.  And it is common for students to announce "good afternoon ma'am" or "evening ma'am" in passing around campus.  Overall, the characteristic of the Filipino language is gentle and polite.  It's refreshing to hear softer and more melodic tones of the Visayan accent.  I am not expected to teach or speak Visayan, rather the students are suppose to learn and speak in English.  Even though most of the students have a good grasp of the English language, there is a heavy accent that I strain to fully comprehend all that is being said.  This takes patience and awareness to pay close attention to the dialog.  My first impressions after these first few days, leave me excited to see their potential this semester.
My architecture office window is located on the top left corner of this building.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I got a BIKE!!... and other musings

Yes!  I am independently mobile now after purchasing a mountain bike from a local shop.  One of the teachers at Foundation is an avid biker and knows a good place where the shop will build a bike to your specifications.  And considering a local Filipino making those requests, the bike is reasonably priced.  The first peddling destination forced me out of bed at 5am Friday, to beat the heat.  I met up with Ray, Amy, and Mark (the teacher) to go trail riding up to the next town west of Dumaguete, called Valencia. (Map reference)  The total ride from my house to Valencia was only about 6 miles, but because the terrain lead us through a patchwork of residential yards, cow pastures, and basically the rural beginnings of foothills, was challenging in the humidity, to say the least.  It put a smile on my face, however, dodging coconut husks and maneuvering past baby chicks and livestock loosely tied to makeshift fence posts or palm trees.

Transporting a newly, purchased oscillating fan for my bedroom.  It was bulky and awkward, but a successful delivery on the new bike!
 After that early morning workout, we decided to stay indoors during the hotter part of the day to create paintings for a collaborative show arranged by an emerging Dumaguete artist, Hersley-Ven Casero.  The portrait sketch of the boy in the painting will be rendered 100 times by different artists.  Because the overall concept of this work is about stealing images off of the web and claiming the work as your own artistic property, I chose to appropriate, Rene Magritte's "Son of Man".  To the right, Amy paints in the manner of Roy Lichtenstein.  Well, done.  I thoroughly enjoyed this assignment and working with acrylics again after so many years.  Can't wait to see the final 100 pieces all hung together in a couple of weeks.

On Saturday, Ray, Amy, and I biked 18 Kilometers south of Dumaguete, to the Dauin Marine Reserve.  (Map reference)  This was a beautiful place to relax by the Philippine Sea and flipper around the coral reefs.  As you can imagine, hovering above the reefs to observe the life below, was a silent and mesmerizing respite for the senses.  I could float there all day and get lost in this world.  This experience inspired the sketch below, but it doesn't compare to the brilliant colors of dark, velvety blues and ultra violet whites contrasting against brilliant neon yellows.  The corals themselves were not like you see on TV, they were a murky, earthy hue.  A wonderful day indeed, timed perfectly before the beginning of the first day of classes.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


One of the other residents at Balay Sa Alumni is a Japanese art instructor who teaches pottery and sculpture.  Most everyone I run into who asks me where I am staying, immediately exclaim, "ooooh with Takeshi-san? - lucky you".  This comment is almost always accompanied with a little smirk.  Apparently Takeshi has made a lasting impression on the Foundation staff and instructors, for better or worse.  He is an expressive fellow, who typically has a comment about what types of bread or vegetable to buy and at which market.  He prides himself with "knowing" the better ways of maneuvering the city to suit his needs.  With that being said, he's been a very generous and informative person to share the common spaces with.  Typically, when we are both in the kitchen making our separate dinners, he will offer me part of what ever he is cooking.  I'm not sure if this gesture is an act of kindness due to the humble meal I just cooked, or if it is just part of his cultural make up.  Either way, he was happy to share his yogurt making recipe with me.  With this exchange, I can now start making my own yogurt!  I'm really excited for this because it was something I wanted to try while living here.  Thanks Takeshi-san!
Takeshi explains his most recent work, a clay sculpture, to Ray.

Takeshi's art studio.  This is a new building located about 50 meters away from the back door of Balay Sa Alumni.  Takeshi insists that we drop in and work with clay sometime.  I will take him up on this.

The front door to Takeshi's art studio.  The building envelope is a well-ventilated system of bamboo.

Takeshi's scrolled poetry, written in traditional Japanese bushed ink characters.  This was a beautiful surprise as I entered the house the other day.

Markets, Food, and Parades

Upon my arrival, Ray, Amy, and I toured most of the central business district of Dumaguete.  We also perused an excellent farmer's market a little north of the core.  After purchasing a few essentials, like fresh mango and rambutan, we ventured out to find a tasty snack called budbud served with mango.  Budbud is a sticky rice that is rolled in banana leaves and smoked.  It is served by drizzling hot chocolate over the rice after the banana leaves have been peeled away.  An acquired taste; the rice takes on a smokey flavor, but is complimented by the sweetly, drizzled chocolate.  This was one of my first authentic Filipino delicacies.  I'd try it again after my pallet has adjusted.

We arrived Dumaguete during the tail end of a two week festival honoring all the towns in the province of Negros, Oriental.  What does this mean exactly?  Well, there were a ton of people who had traveled from their respected town/city to celebrate a commonality of being from the same province, but to also distinguish each town/city character attributes.  The closest thing I can compare it to is the Minnesota State Fair.  Not that Dumaguete hosts a bunch of carnival rides, but there are definitely parades and "food-on-a-stick" to be eaten while watching an incredible fireworks display over the Banica River.  Needless to say, the city was charged with that energy for the first few days.

My Living Accomodations

Foundation University was generous enough to arrange my living accommodation at the Alumni House (or Balay Sa Alumni).  The house is located one, narrow street north of the main campus.  Only a short walk to where I will be teaching, this arrangement is the most convenient choice considering my short stay.
The house is nestled next to Foundation Elementary and High School buildings, and to the west, a lively karaoke bar, where all the greatest ballads are put to the test by dedicated and true karaoke enthusiasts!  It's normal to hear one of Balay Sa Alumni's Filipino caretakers confidently practicing her next heartfelt, karaoke favorite while she's going about her daily routine.  I applaud her audacity!

 Inside, the house has a working office in the front, for the Balay Sa Alumni's director. There are four rooms that can be rented for a few hundred Philippine pesos per night.  My room is the first one from the office area, directly off a central dining space and opposite the galley kitchen.  The place is kept very clean, because of the onsite staff.  They wipe the floors down when they are dusty and the bathrooms are washed down about every other day.  It's been nice to have this service, as I'm still settling into this new city, climate, and all the cultural differences that can put a wrench in mundane chores.


Arriving Dumaguete City!

I arrived Dumaguete City two days after traveling from Seattle, Washington to Cebu, Philippines.  I flew into Dumaguete with Ray and Amy Villanueva from Cebu to make the transition and way-finding much easier.  Ray and Amy are my friends and colleagues from Seattle.  They are married and have been working at Foundation University for a year.  Ray has been teaching architecture for two terms.  He is my connection to Foundation University and has made it possible for me to take this professional leap abroad to teach.  Thank you Ray and Amy for trailblazing this rare opportunity and making a smooth transition to the Philippines.
Above: Amy (in green) and I (in peach) have just landed on Dumaguete soil.  This is my first ride in a pedicab.  Dumaguete City is the capitol for Negros, Oriental and the largest seaport and city in the province.  It has approximately 150,000 people within the city limits and is nicknamed, "the city of gentle people".  It is also known as the motor city of Negros Oriental.  Many residents own a scooter or motorbike, or run a pedicab business.  The narrow streets are congested with these modes of transportation.
Above: the pedicab driver.  Drivers have to pay attention at intersections because there are no stop signs.  Traffic weaves around each other like a steady, flowing current.  Surprisingly, there are few accidents because everyone is driving in defense of the rest of the drivers.

Below: That's Ray.

Regional cartoon tourism map of the east shoreline, Negros Oriental.  Notice the motorcycle identifier for Dumaguete City.