Illegal computers, Dengue and More

Trip Start Sep 18, 2005
Trip End Dec 20, 2005

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hi all,

Well I've now officially settled into my homestay. The people here are so amazingly nice. In my host family I have my Nana (the mother), Tata (The Father), Randy (the Son), Shelley (his wife) and Chingy (their son). Shelley is a graduate of Accounting but, given that there is no employment and the Chingy is only one years old, she is currently not working. This week Randy left for Northern Samar (an adjoining province) to find some work. Although they have very little, these people appear to always be so happy... it's really weird since in North America we have so much and very rarely are we happy... always bitching and complaining.
While my Barangay (neighborhood) would be beyond poor on American Standards, the people with whom I live, while mostly unemployed, would constitute the middle-poor class (if that ever were to exist?). Many of them have uncles/cousins/brothers etc... living abroad (mostly in the United States) who send money over in order to ensure that the kids are able to attend school and, at times, even University. Everybody's dream here is to move the United States... but many do not have the money to get a degree in Nursing, a profession in dire need of people back in North America.
The lower-poor class live in shanty towns near the port area of the town. Yesterday, I was provided a tour of the area and I could never come to describe the stench, desolation and absolute poverty that rules this area. It's really surreal. While I had two 'bodyguards', I was consistently surrounded by kids begging for money (stating that they wanted to eat... but many would use it to purchase Rugby... glue). The kids seemed especially interested in my backpack, watch and back pockets (which were empty). People were relieving themselves all around the bay... it really wakes you up to how lucky we have it back home. It goes without saying that you probably won't be getting any pictures of the street children... as I don't think my camera would last very long in that neighborhood.
I started my placement yesterday and I had quite a tumultuous first day. The government (with the support of Microsoft) is raiding government agencies who are 'illegally' using software such as Windows 98 or XP. Many of the computers currently in use in the Philippines have been donated, as are, and ensuring that Microsoft receives their usage royalties are not a main concern for the average Filipino who barely understands how to install the program onto their Pentium II computers. In short, the government comes into Universities, NGO's, Internet Cafes and will confiscate 'illegal' computers... stalling programs aimed at assisting the Filippinos.
Either way, the CSWD (Welfare Department) currently uses Windows XP; however, they did not know if it was legally or illegally. It turns out that a charity agreement from the Donor (Engineers Without Borders - at McGill University) exists and we had to have it faxed here. While the agreement states that Windows XP can be used, it makes no mention of Windows 98. Therefore, the CSWD, out of fear of the raids, has completely ripped all of the hard-drives of their computer... until the raids are finished. Therefore, there are about 25 computers that were used to teach less fortunate children the basis of computers that are currently sitting empty in a room... it's sad but I guess it's the reality of the situation.
In the afternoon I toured Leyte Landing, which is where General McArthur landed in 1944 to liberate the Philippines during WWII. The scenery here is really beautiful and I can't come over it.
Tomorrow I will be going out to the countryside to plant some rice (in the fields) as well as assist in a Medical Mission. We will be distributing medication as well as performing circumcision (don't ask).

I should probably let you guys go,


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