Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Today in the life

7:00 - Wake up groaning as the night seems to have passed way too quickly. Stumble into the shower then into the kitchen to toast up the last remaining pieces of the multi-grain bread I bought in Manila

7:30 - head into the office to check emails before heading out to North Cotabato province at 8am

7:58 - receive call from Haydee saying we'll be about 15 minutes late

8:15 - jump into 4x4 and start the drive to Pikit...start to fall asleep in the front seat, cursing silently that we aren't in one of the cars with extreme tinting on the front windshield, and have to wake up to put on some sunscreen.

10:00 - arrive at the first food distribution, and am put in charge of the Distribution Monitoring Checklist.

It's bloody hot and I'm glad that I don't have to spend time queueing in the hot morning sun. Have a chat with a Barangay (village) official to get the information for the checklist, then wander around observing the rest of the distribution.

11:00 - head to the 2nd distribution, and all is quiet on the western front. We're told that we'll be having lunch first, so we hike up a bit of a hill and sit down underneath a bamboo gazebo of sorts. And wait. And wait some more.

11:30 - the Barangay Captain's wife brings out a tray of rice, and three very fat and delectable looking mud fish (unfortunate name, tasty fish). We grab a bit of fish to add to our bastiles (which are also known as rice burgers - a column of rice with soy sauce marinated meat inside) and chug down the Pop Cola we're presented with.

12:00 - head back down the hill, where the crowd has gathered, and arrive just in time to see the first bags being unloaded.

I take on not only the Distribution Monitoring Checklist, but also five of the Exit Monitoring forms. I grab Joy, one of the local Municipal Social Welfare Department people to be my translator, as I've worked with her before. She (only) speaks Tagalog and English, so we have to find someone else who speaks Tagalog and Maguindanoan to complete the translation wheel. I have to hold my temper when I realise she's telling people the answers and ask her very politely to simply ask the question and wait to see if they know the answers or not.

12:30 - we leave before the end of the distribution as there is a simultaneous distribution happening a bit further back up the road.

12:45 - I grab another five exit monitoring forms and Joy and I get to work. This time it's not her that's giving away the answers, but people hanging around the white chick. I always find this frustrating but there's not a lot I can do about it really.

1:05 - Having finished my forms I wander around again, and hang out with some kids playing on the bags of rice.

1:07 - While some kids are born hams, others are not so sure about the camera...

1:15 - We head off, finished with distributions for the day, and back into the Pikit poblacion (town centre) to do our first market price survey.

1:45 - Hasna and I head into a fresh food market to ask the retailers about the price of certain goods, as compared to last week, and the reasons for either an increase or decrease. Our first stop is a stand selling fish and chicken...all parts of the chicken

(that's heads in the foreground, feet in the background...hope you're not eating dinner while reading this!)

1:50 - we head further into the market to find some vegetable sellers and have to walk quite a distance through different types of markets to find anyone selling casava and get a bit wet in the process as the strings holding up the tarpaulin walls are too low to hold the umbrella under (and too low for my head to pass under comfortably!)

2:12 - I thank my lucky stars that I wore my sneakers today as the market floor is quickly flooding with dirty water and fish guts.

2:15 - we make our way back to the first stall, and call for the car. There was something a bit odd about the first stall owner...a "lady", named "Dianne"...

"She" had already greeted us in a very deep voice, and I knew it was actually a man, but was just taken aback. With the quiffed fringe, the earrings and the eyeliner, I was actually more surprised of the effort "she" went into for spending a day sitting behind chicken heads. The Filipinos are very cool with cross dressing.

3:00 - we pick up Haydee who'd been doing another market survey and start the drive for home. The rain has picked up a lot and it's slushy going, even on the bitumen highway.

4:10 - as we're on the highway the whole way back, we make pretty good time into Cotabato City.

5:10 - After checking through my emails to make sure my security clearance for tomorrow has come through, I switch off my computer, say goodbye to the girls downstairs and head for home. The kids next door all call out "goodmorning Carly!" as I walk past. I make a note to work on that later. I love that no matter where you go in the world, if you ask "how are you?", kids will always reply "I am fine, how are you?"

And that my friends, is quite a typical day in the life of a field monitor here!

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