Thursday, December 7, 2006

Nagluto gid Kami tapos Nagkaon gid Kami (We Cooked Alot then We Ate Alot)

There's no getting around it, I've been busier in the last few weeks than I've been since I got here. It always bothers me that the times at which the most notable things are happening become the times that I am least able to write about them, and as time passes the moments slip further and further away from my mind.

As I mentioned before, Thanksgiving was amazing, and to see the pictures you must surely lose any thought you might have had along the lines of "poor allan, half a world away without family, taking his cold showers with a bucket". I spent Thanksgiving swimming and sunbathing on a tropical beach and eating excellent food in the tradition of good American gluttony.

We all gathered in Antique for the meal, at Kevin's house. Kevin, aside from being an all around great guy, is in his 3rd year of Peace Corps (he extended a year), and in training he was assigned to more or less play mother to us hatchling Peace Corps Volunteers as we had to learn everything under the sun as if it were brand new. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 people gathered for this celebration. Most of us were Peace Corps, however we were joined by an english-fluent Filipina named Renee and by Sylvia, a traveling Spaniard. For both of them, this served as Thanksgiving #1.

One volunteer, Lloyd, was well versed in the ways of preparing a turkey (he also took many of these photos). We arrived late in the morning with Turk, and Lloyd killed the bird, de-feathered it, and had it on a bamboo spit in under an hour. The locals shyly asked if they could take the guts to make Dinugayan, a dish consisting of re-fried blood, with them. I'm told they were very excited when this request was approved (though Lloyd himself enjoys Dinugayan, he knew that the rest of the volunteers would not have been excited to have it as a featured course).

The most work I managed was to sit with Lloyd under the umbrella outside by the charcoal pits and slowly turn one of the spits. Lloyd, being the head turkey chef, set up the pits initially and never left his post. I took rotations with Tim, Ian, and a few others.
Between the firey Philippino Sun and the fire this was a very warm job indeed, much like being in a dry sauna.

The feast was excellent. Perhaps, being so long deprived of good food, I am biased. But I would estimate that it was as good as any Thanksgiving feast I've had in America. The turkeys, cooked with lemon grass and herbs, we lovely. If you've browsed the pictures on facebook, you might have seen several volunteers licking the bamboo spit, and that would be why. The stuffing, though it came from a packet, did not taste like it.

We had mashed potatoes and mashed kilabasa (a native root that is very tasty, this was sweetened and tasted much like pumpkin pie). We had rice (of course) and truly more courses than I could remember. As per thanksgiving tradition, we had more desserts than I could conceivably try. There was pecan pie, apple crisp, pumpkin pie, and at least one other I'm forgetting.

Pleasantly tipsy I went swimming in the sulu sea, as smooth as glass, and watched the sun set on the horizon. Once it had, I discovered that the water contained an algea that, when disturbed by any motion, lit green. These particles were plentiful in the water, and every movement I made in the sea was trailed by glowing stars.

At night was made a small bonfire and answered bizarre Christmas trivia (well, other people answered). Then we went inside for some of Kevin's excellent green tea and peach flavored hookah (which he had brought over when last in the states).

These are just the facts of course. They don't truly contain the comradery of the day, which is, after all, what Thanksgiving ought to be about. It wasn't a thanksgiving at home. There was no similarity at all. There was not the vast and frequent gatherings of close friends that thanksgiving represents to me, nor the chilled air and fallen leaves. This was a different beast all together. But if you could not be with family and your closest friends at thanksgiving time, those who have served as your closest thing you've got for the past 8 months weren't so far off.

It was a beautiful time, and I don't expect I'll ever live another much like it.

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