Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

And now, back home...December 18, 2010

As I write this, we are back at the Hilton to get cleaned up and prepare for the return trip back to Louisville. Everyone on the trip is beginning to feel the effects of a week (for some of us, even longer!), of rough travel and hard work. And, now, we are facing about 30 hrs. of air travel to get back home. From Cebu, we fly to Seoul, Korea, then to Atlanta, and finally back home to good ol' Standiford Field. We were fortunate the last few days to have not had any more rain, and it made our travel up and down the mountain somewhat less treacherous. For those who have been following the blog, you will remember our description of seeing not one, but two motorbikes with six people on them. Then, day before yesterday, we saw a motorbike with three adults and four little kids on it--seven people on one motorbike! Couldn't believe my eyes, but Kandi Walker confirmed the number. I am convinced that there is a real opportunity and market out there for a "stretch version" of a regular motorbike. Wouldn't take much, maybe a foot of extra length, and they could put another 2-3 people on the bike. The lack of power doesn't seem to be any problem at all, and such a vehicle is eminently practical for the mountain environment. Some comments about the ubiquitous "Jeepneys", that serve as the transportation of choice for the masses. These "cars/trucks/taxis/etc., vehicles date back to the end of the second world war when American forces left much military materiel' behind, and the Filipino folks set about modifying and adapting them for their own uses. This has apparently developed into quite an industry. They build them here out of all sorts of components, and a variety of power trains. You never see two exactly alike, but they are all similar. Some even have stainless steel bodies that are incredibly fashioned, and are truly works of art. Stainless steel is a very difficult metal to form, but these guys do it with real class. So, stretch motorbikes should be no problem. Well, off to dinner, then the trip home.

Submitted by Thomas J. Clark, DMD

Friday, December 17, 2010

What to say?

The 2010 ISLP Cebu program is winding down; I am writing this in the Vienna Cafe, the night before we leave Cebu. To say this week has been a combination of awesomeness and a deeper awakening to the suffering that is inherent in the human condition, would be an understatement! Taking this moment to reflect on this program, makes me realize how happy I am that I chose to participate in this project to complete my master's practicum. Although my traveling companions for this trip have been great, it has been working with the students in the elementary school and dental clinic that have made this trip worthwhile.

I feel my group, from Banilad elementary, bonded over the three days we worked together and this allowed me to have a real sense of how determined these young people are, and how difficult their lives are. At times my experience of the heat and humidity found me wanting to retreat to the sanctuary of air conditioning, but I would remind myself that I was choosing to be here and my students did not have the luxury of retreat.

I shared many laughs and several tears with my students over our three days together. They worked so hard on their speeches, which was evident on the videos I shot on day 3. They asked me many questions, "Are you rich?", or when I told them I taught at the university, "Are you a genius?", and shared touching stories from their lives, like not having enough money for an Independence Day celebration or that one student had lost his mother.

Working with Banilad elementary and the dental clinic exposed me to harsh reality that lack of infrastructure has on quality of life, but still dignity, sense of purpose, and dreams can trump. I hope everyone who reads this takes a moment to cherish the simple luxuries we are blessed with in the United States and consider engaging or supporting others in service work to help those who do not have these same benefits.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thus Far

As of lately this has been an amazing experience thus far! Julie, Amanda, and I went parasailing at the Hilton on the first few days and we were all able to see the mountains where we were teaching in. Getting to know the entire group, at the Hilton, was a blast. Just being able to hangout with everyone and enjoy each others companionship was amazing. As soon as we went to Fords Inn I was interested to see the change of scenery.
On my first day I was at the dental clinic. I was able to shadow one of the dentist for the first half of the morning and then I had to sterilize the tools in the afternoon. When I was sterilizing the tools it was interesting to see the dentists interacting with the patients. Usually you are on the other side of a dentist chair and not actually helping out with what they are doing, so that is an experience in itself I will never forget.
Today, I was teaching for the first went great! The students welcomed us to Binaliu with a few dances and chants. We obliged them by getting on stage and embarrassing ourselves a bit and dancing with them. We later went in to teaching the programs. Luckily, we were able to finish the communication program early and just sit and talk with the students. Getting to know more about them, and hearing some of their personal stories were my most memorable moments of the entire day. I am so excited to see what the rest of this trip has in store for me and the amazing experiences in the Philippines I have to come.

-Alex J.-

Dental Clinic Operations

Today was the second day of our dental clinic operations at Paril National High School and other than some equipment issues, everything went pretty well. So far, I think we've seen around 60 patients,all of which were kids, with the exception that Melvin did some anterior restorative work on one of the teachers, today. Some observations: all of the kids seen range in age from 7-8 up to 17. Most have significant decay in permanent teeth, mainly molars. Indeed, it is not at all unusual to see teeth rotted off to the gum-line with either acute abscesses, or draining fistulous tracks leading to chronic abscessed roots. I had hoped that we would be able to do more restorative work this year, however, because of such acute needs, we spend most of our time doing extractions. Jay commented today that, we could easily spend all week on a very few patients, involved in comprehensive dentistry, and probably not even put a dent in the need. The way it works is: we have the school principals at each of the barangay schools pick out the 30 neediest kids from a dental standpoint, and each day, we see only those kids. There are four barangays that we are involved in. Given the experience level of our students and the circumstances that we work under, 30 patients per day is a nice manageable number. On any given day, my students range from second year to senior level dental students, with their individual skill levels very variable. In addition I also have 4 other students from various disciplines who serve in the capacity as dental assistants. We have four "operatories" set up and function without the benefit of x-rays, or alot of the other stuff that most dental offices would have. In spite of these conditions, excellent quality care is delivered. Last year, we had some officials visiting from the Ministry of Health, and they were very impressed with our field clinic set up, and the skill level of our students. They were also very impressed with the numbers of patients treated in the relatively short time spent here. We have been told that the government dentists only make it up into the mountain barangays maybe once a year, and then do no restorative work,or as far as we can tell, not much else, either. The roads are so bad that mobile clinic facilities can't make it up there, and the patients rarely come down the mountain for any care, either. So, the services that we deliver are very valuable to these communities. The question is asked,"Why are these kids in such bad shape"? The answer is very complicated. First of all, potable drinking water is very scarce. One would think that, given this is a tropical climate with incredible amounts of annual rainfall, water shortage would be impossible. The problem is, for the communities in the mountains, there is no way to collect this water for later use and no way to distribute it to individual homes. Certainly, municipal fluoridation is unfeasible. During the dry season(there are no seasons other than the wet season and the dry season), water shrinks to a trickle in the stream beds in the mountain valleys, is significantly polluted, and when used, sometimes has to be hauled by had up tricky mountain trails, sometimes for 3-4 kilometers. As a result, the people become essentially dehydrated, and replace the missing water with fruit juices, and soft drinks, neither of which promote dental health. General nutrition seems to be inadequate, and in many instances, the children exist on snack-food, which is cheaper than quality food, and certainly more convenient, requiring no cooking or preparation. Oral hygiene is inadequate, as well, with tooth brushes and toothpaste being relatively expensive. I suspect that there is also a genetic preponderance to susceptibility to dental disease, which also stacks the deck against these kids . Interesting thing, though, is that these kids are really tough and stoic. It is amazing what some of them must have suffered prior to our being able to treat them, and many of them never even flinch when receiving local anesthesia. Ocasionally, their situations present a technically difficult surgical situation, and in spite of it, they handle it very well. My students are flabbergasted by how cooperative and appreciative these kids are. Often, upon completion of whatever procedure was performed, the child will hug the student and thank them for their treatment. That sure doesn't happen much back home. So, this is a good work, a noble work, and well worth the efforts that we all put forth to make it happen.

Rock Star Status

Today I had the most pleasant experience at Binaliw. We got to the school and were greeted by plenty of dances and smiling faces. I must admit that I had some apprehension about stepping out of my element as a dental student and becoming a teacher, but I was up to the challenge. The children were very attentive and we had much in common. I love to sing and dance, as well as most of the students there. After going through the planned lessons, we shared with each other dances and songs. I taught the kids in my group how to do the Dougie, and they were so excited to learn something from the U.S. and in return teach me. Another interesting thing that kept recurring was the children's fascination with my hair. One of the students asked me was my hair "inborn" or a style. Another couple of girls came to sit by me and play in my hair. I felt so special for someone to want to be so close to me and generally were interested in learning about me. The people of Cebu are genuinely loving and caring people and I felt that to the max at the best school, BINALIW!!!

Tiffanie, 3rd year dental student

A picture says a thousand words...

-Lauren Hendricks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 1 in Mabini!

We just returned from Day 1 in the schools. My group consists of Dr. Hart, Julia, Lauren, Wyatt, and Ryan was our dental student for the day. We are in Mabini Integrated School, and we had an absolutely great day. When we first arrived, they had a reception for us where different ages performed and danced for us. It was such an amazing experience to see how excited they were for us to be there. They were so thankful and grateful for our presence, and it was the perfect start to the day.
Then, we toured the campus which boasts what they call a garden, but we all agree is more like a farm. They grow their own vegetables and herbs for the community. We visited all the classrooms and ended our classroom for the day and where we will spend the duration of the Communication program. The school ranges from preschool to grade 6, and then years 1-4 of high school. We were with year 4 students today, and we had so much fun with them! I am so excited to spend 3 days with this classroom teaching the Comm program! They were very intelligent and eager to learn our Communication, JA, and Education programs. We taught them cheers, and they taught us some in return. We had a great day at Mabini, and we cannot wait to spend all week there with the kindest people I have ever met.
This has been one of the best days I have ever had, and I am so excited to meet more Mabini students throughout the week!

Staci K

Day One in Paril

The ride up was a little scary at times, but after moving a few rocks we made it up to Paril National High School. We were greeted with singing, dancing, and American flags waving in the air. It was truly an amazing experience and set the tone for the rest of the day. A few members from the dental team (and Kandi) joined in with the students for a final dance and then both teams went off to work in the clinic and the classroom. Our team consisted of Anna, Greg, Melvin, and myself for the day. We started off with Comm and the students definitely favored the "Beach Ball" game. We discovered many students had amazing voices from asking their hidden talents, question number four on the ball.  We breaked for lunch and the food was very interesting. My favorite new food was the Jack Fruit. We were entertained with a few dances varying from Justin Beiber "Baby" to local favorites. We ended the day with JA and Education and the kids were a lot more active in the second half. They really enjoyed role-playing and were extremely creative with their anti-bullying skits. All in all a great day and can't wait for tomorrow! - - Julie Gingles, JA

Day One in Banilad

There are not even words that can explain how amazing today was. I was in Banilad Elementary school working with the fourth graders. For all three programs, Communication, Education, and Justice Administration, we worked with the same classroom. Tomorrow, we will be working with the same students in the morning but get two new classes for the afternoon. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by some of the 6 and 7 year olds with a whole Christmas production. They sang several American Christmas songs including "I wish you a Merry Christmas" along with some songs in Cebuano. It was so incredibly touching. They were still extremely shy this morning. I got them to warm up to me by singing them "You belong with me" by Taylor Swift. As uncomfortable as it was for me, they LOVED it and finally joined in. The most touching experience that I had today was when a little girl, barely wearing her uniform, tried to give me her bracelet right off of her hand. So far, every single person I have met here would be willing to give any of us in need literally anything they had. These people barely come from anything yet they are willing to greet us with all of these wonderful things. After completing our morning program we went to about 10 other classrooms in the school to teach them the CARDS cheer. I am going to need a day to prepare myself for another 10 more cheers. Never knew it was so exhausting! I cannot wait for day 2 in Banilad and to meet some new students.
-Kara Keeton, Justice Administration

Day One Photos

More photos added to Flickr

We have uploaded more photos. To view photos on flickr go to:

We will add photos daily.

I pulled a tooth!

The day started quite early today as Lauren and I woke thinking it was 6:30 am, but once we turned on the TV we soon noticed it was actually 5:30. While at first I had wished I was still sleeping, I was eventually happy to be awake to take the fun walk with Dr. Jackson. As we walked the streets of Cebu City we saw some walking to work I assume and children making the hike to school. My favorite part was seeing the gated communities, the houses and scenery was so beautiful and reminded me parts of the United States. For the days at the school today I was at Paril in the dental clinic. I had been warned of the bumpy ride up the mountain, but enjoyed seeing the city and scenery as we traveled further up. When we finally arrived at the sbychool we were so kindly greeted with a ceremony put on by the students and faculty. It was an amazing feeling to see so many people as welcoming as them. The rest of the day I assisted in the dental clinic and witnessed some amazingly brave children. They barely even complained of the shots and didn't whimper when their tooth was extracted. While the entire day was very rewarding, my favorite part was being able to pull a tooth! The entire planning of this trip I had been wanting to do something like that and was even more excited once it happened. I was scared I would do something wrong, but was very excited once I finally extracted it. Tomorrow we will be going to Binaliw and I can't wait. We have been planning a long time for this and I already know its going to be an amazing experience.
-Leigh Anne Hendricks -Communications

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dental Clinic Set Up

We made the journey up into the mountains to set up the dental clinic in Paril, this afternoon. Took the long way in, as the other routes we inaccessible due to the rain and some local construction. Today, it didn't rain, the atmospheric clarity was incredible, and the vistas along the way to Paril were gorgeous. We stopped once ant took some pictures. Everything is so green and lush. There were a couple of places along the way where the road had badly washed out and Pursing's van bottomed out, but we were able to get through with no apparent damage. I tell yah, that Toyota van is one tough piece of machinery...........My old record for the most people seen on one motor bike was broken today--the old record was five on a single motor bike, but today we saw not one but two different motor bikes with six people on each. Crazy!!!! The set up went pretty well, but one of the dental units has a problem with a leaky three-way syringe, on the water side. This syringe is used for rinsing away debris from the operating field and is very important in helping not only the visibility, but also air-drying cavity preps,and as such is an indispensable piece of equipment. Anyway, what is leaking is the Schrader valve inside the syringe housing. Now this is the very same valve that holds the air in your car tires and resides in the valve stem. A phone call back down the mountain to Tom J. resulted in the acquisition of 6 new Shrader valve assemblies, but we will have to acquire a tool to remove the valve from the syringe tomorrow. There is a big tire store across the street from the Ford's Inn where we are staying, and we will try and get this tool in the morning before we head back to Paril. Tomorrow, we see our first patients.

submitted by Thomas J. Clark, DMD

First Day in the Schools

Today is our first day in the schools. I'm not really sure what to expect so far. I got a little taste of what it's going to be like at the school's by helping up the dental clinic yesterday at Paril. It was very interesting. Many of these children don't have much at home and there were about 50 hanging out at the school on a Sunday. They were doing so much in preparation for UofL visiting their school. They made special signs welcoming us and were sweeping out their classrooms. The children seemed very shy but I don't expect it to stay that way. Today I will be traveling to Banilad with some members from the communication team, Melissa and Justin, some from education, Leslie, and Amanda and I from Justice Administration. Our school is located in the city just a few short blocks away. It will be an interesting day and I am both excited and nervous!!
-Kara Keeton, J.A.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Larger Team Arrival in Cebu

KE 631 arrived at 23:40 local time, that would be at 11:40 pm, after around a 4.5-5 hr flight from Seoul, S. Korea, which was after a 14-15hr flight from Atlanta, and a short lay over at Seoul's airport. This airport is state-of-the-art, designed and laid out for the international traveler, and one of the better places that our team transits through. However, 14-15 hrs. on an airplane is a long time to spend in a close, confined space, and everyone is ready to get out and walk around some. The airport is loaded with the usual duty-free shops, and other places where you can find just about anything that might possibly be wanted. My impression is that, even though you can buy some things duty-free, there are few real bargains, and not many things that you couldn't buy cheaper at home from the Internet. So, let the buyer beware. Tom J. and I left the Hilton around 11:15 for the ten minute taxi drive to the airport, to meet our troops, along with Jade, one of the service staff from the hotel. Because of security constraints, we had to get special passes to be able to enter the terminal to meet everyone. As anyone traveling internationally knows, when you enter a foreign country, you have to pass through Immigration and Customs, where your passport is validated, and any taxable material goods declared so that the appropriate taxes can be paid. At times in the past, we have had some trouble with this, particularly in Belize, where even though the materials being brought by us into the country were for humanitarian purposes, and were going to be distributed free to the local folks without charge, we had to negotiate with customs officials what the taxes would be. Sometimes, this turned out to be a portion of the very goods we were transporting. I just chalk this up as the cost of doing business in that part of the world, but I wouldn't be surprised if our stuff didn't wind up on the black market in the local economy, where some local customs official profited from the "duty" that we paid. It's a shame that some governments don't think any more of their less fortunate citizens, that in essence, they don't see the irony of stealing the very things that would so greatly improve the quality of life of their most needy individuals, but rather, make a profit off them................................but, I digress.

Our guys arrived in good shape, seemingly no worse for the wear, made an uneventful check through, and loaded on a chartered bus for the trip to the hotel. The level of excitement was palpable. Tom J. and I both really look forward to this time. These are very special people and we love these guys to death. The Hilton had prepared a nice light meal for everyone ( it was now about 1:30 AM saturday morning). Some of us spent some time catching up on things, Melvin Washington and I talked until around 2:45. Then it was off to bed. Today was to be spent in R&R activities and resting up for tomorrow, and the rest of the week. Tom J. and I are both early risers, both of us usually up by 6 at the latest, but this morning, I didn't wake up until around 8:15, go figure....................Got up, showered, went to the executive lounge for coffee and a late breakfast. I have got to say a little bit about breakfast--this morning, I again had the "Eggs Benedict". Breakfasts here at this Hilton are the best that I have ever experienced in a hotel, anywhere, and as most readers know, I do get around. Anyway the eggs are beaten to a fluffy consistency that is light, fully 3/4 inch thick, lighter than air, and topped with a hollandais sauce that is then flame seared and lightly browned. The english muffin base is so fresh and chewy--melts in the mouth. The chef that prepares this is an ARTISTE!!!We also have the spectrum of fresh fruits and pastries. This island is noted for the quality of its mangoes. They truly are to die for, and we never have any that come close to this quality at home. But,...............I digress. Checked my e-mail(only had 99 notes to deal with, most of which was garbage, but there was some important stuff as well). Then was able to Skype BC and spend some quality time with her. Toward the end of this session, my daughter Carrie, in Austin, Texas logged on, and I was able to visit with her and her family for a few minutes. I have to say, Skype is one of the great inventions of our time. I am able to sit at my little netbook,using a free wifi link, and have a face-to-face video conversation with my loved ones back home, from anywhere in the world, for as long as we want to talk--free! It just doesn't get much better than that. In the early ISLP days, we would sometimes be isolated for weeks with no outside communication ability, but now, I can have instant communications back home, and it is truly wonderful.

Most of our guys have spent the day just resting and lounging around. Some took advantage of the lagoon off the beach to do some snorkeling or swimming, some took advantage of the wonderful beach refreshment service, superb drinks, and iced towels to cool down with after sun bathing, others napped, and so forth. It is about 5:30 pm as I write, and will soon be heading down to the beach, where the hotel has prepared a special treat for us later tonight.

Now, lest the reader get the idea that all we do is have fun on these trips, this is all the calm before the storm. Tomorrow, we will relocate to the Ford's Inn, which, although quite comfortable, is several notches below the Hilton, and much closer to our work sites. Tomorrow afternoon, I and my students, will be going up into the mountains to Paril, where we will set up our field dental clinic, organize our equipment, instruments and supplies, and get ready to start seeing our patients monday morning. It will be a busy, exhausting day, and tomorrow night we will all sleep, really well. So, until later.....................................................

Submitted by Thomas J. Clark, DMD

Day 2 in Cebu!

I don't think my body has fully adjusted to the 13 time change, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying this amazing place! We arrived to the Hilton yesterday just before midnight and enjoyed a buffett before we all (tried) to get some sleep. I can't out into words how delicious the food here in Cebu is some of the best food I have ever had! Everything is so full of flavor and I have never had fruit fresher than it is here.
Today was our second day here. We had the entire day to ourselves, relax, and hang out together. When we woke up it was raining, but by the time we had finished breakfast the rain had stopped and we were able to enjoy the beach. It did not take long for any of us to get the ocean to swim and snorkel. The water is so warm and clear, snorkeling was incredible. We some gorgeous and exotic fish, and we're pretty sure we saw either and eel or sea snake. The weather stay nice all afternoon until we dinner time. Due to the rain, we moved our dinner inside. Near the of our dinner we were entertained by an amazing local dance group that put on a great show for all of us. They showed us some of their native dances- their costumes, music, and dance were all equally beautiful and made for an astonishing show. They managed to get nearly all of us up to join in on the dancing, even Beth showed off her moves! And, yes, I got it all on the Card Cam! We depart at noon tomorrow for the Ford's Inn where we will be staying while working in the schools. Although I miss my family and friends, having my sister here has made this experience a thousand times more special and I can't wait to see what else Cebu has to offer. So far the experience has been truly incredible!!

-Lauren Hendricks, Comm Team

Finally in Cebu!

I am just now ending my first official day in Cebu and yet it feels much longer. Since I have never traveled with ISLP or gone abroad, I have been experiencing many firsts. The trip of about 30 hrs over here took a toll on me at first and I'm just now starting to get the hang of the time change. Luckily I finally did because there is so much I want to experience. Last night when we finally at the Hilton in Cebu, they so kindly greeted us with a buffet of delicious treats. Since my vegetarianism has hindered my eating habits some, I have found some amazing things to eat. While people have raved about the mangoes, I have to say the pineapple is the best! Beyond the food though, other events have been just as exciting. I snorkeled for the very first time today and took part in a Filipino show put on at the Hilton after dinner. This just means I basically learn how to "double dutch" the Filipino way, jumping over two long wooden polls, and very fun it was. The day has been very long and I'm ready for a lovely sleep before waking up to head to Ford's Inn tomorrow. Only on day 2 and I can already tell I will want to have many more traveling experiences just like this. Goodbye for now.

-Leigh Anne, Comm Team

Teach for Cebu

Remember that time...
we traveled for thirty hours.
we watched 5 movies in one sitting.
Leslie freaked out because she thought she ate 3900 calories in one muffin.
Beth yelled at 10 small Filipino kids to push our cart uo the hill.
we had a million extra supplies and so she thought it would be a good idea to take them to Paril.
Julie and I seperated books for an hour only to have Dr. Jackson tell us they are all going to one school.
we went parasailing.
the waitress knew Alex Jenkins loved Mai Tais.
Kara talked for two hours straught.
Beth and Melvin jumped across the poles.
Leslie and Staci thought it was two o'clock in the afternoon and it was 8 o'clock in the morning.
it was Melissa and Joy's birthday.
we sweat enough to fill a bath tub.
we all thought we weren't going to be able to sleep on the last flight and everyone did.
we saw fish laying out in the market.
we almost bought dead frog purses.

Amanda Weiss
Justice Administration

Day 3!

Day three and we are now at the Ford's Inn in Cebu City! The drive from the Hilton into the city was relatively short, yet scenic. Many of the houses, shops, busy street reminded me of Belize, but it was all new to Leigh Anne. She had never seen anything like this before. Seeing the people and city made her even more excited to work in the schools.
As soon as we arrived the dental students took off to Paril to set up the dental clinic. The rest of us unpacked the program bags and prepared for the school projects. Putting everything together is making us both eager to get to the schools and makes being here feel more realistic. It's hard to believe we are actually here, half way around the world, in Cebu, Philippines!
A group of us is about to leave for the mall. Tomorrow will be our first day in the schools and we can't wait to see more of Cebu!

-Lauren and Leigh Anne Hendricks

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Photos Added to Flickr

We have uploaded more photos. To view photos on flickr go to:

We will add photos daily.

Friday Morning in Cebu

Yesterday, we took our supplies up to Paril in the mountains about 40 clicks north of the city. Tom J. has already waxed poetic about the local traffic phenomenon, so I won't add alot to his comments about it, but I echo that there is no way on God's green earth that I would try and drive in this mess. If you have ever seen the photomicrographic movies of blood coursing through capillaries, and the jostling of the cells in an effort to get through, well, traffic here is similar to that. There has to be an organizational structure to it all, but, damned if I can see it. One thing really interesting is, you don't see vehicles with caved-in fenders, or beat up bumpers. Brinksmanship here is a high art-form. I swear,near misses of fractions of an inch are so common as to be eventually unnoticeable. Watching the bikers, both powered and pedaled, cutting through traffic jams is high comedy. Bikes serve as transportation for the masses. It is not uncommon to see a very small motorcycle (90cc or less)with four people on it, and these guys have no fear. These bikes are tough as nails, and although very small by our standards, quite powerful, and probably economical. Gas here is around $4 per gallon, so economy is important. A fairly common sight is to see some of these motorbikes that have been converted to haul even larger loads. Typically, a side-hack,(side car to the non-bikers among you), is fashioned out of rebar, the steel reinforcing rods used in concrete construction, or black-iron water pipe, and configured either for human or freight conveyance, and everything is hauled on these contraptions. I have seen as many as nine people on one of these, seemingly all happy as clams, and totally oblivious to the potentially fatal chaos around them. Pedestrians are a constant menace, wandering in and around the traffic, which is particularly hazardous at night. I tell yah, this is not for the faint-hearted! Pursing, our driver, is incredibly skillful, negotiating even the stickiest traffic situation with aplomb, and professional cool. The guy is a Christian, as manifested by the rosary and crucifix hanging on his rear-view mirror, but he must also be a practicing zen-budhist, to be so calm in the midst of potential destruction. He makes me feel relaxed, as his personal calm is contagious. He has a diesel powered 15 passenger Toyota van that he hauls us around in, and again, it is one tough, powerful vehicle, running up the mountain sides on roads( I use that term very lightly), that are scarcely passable with a water buffalo-pulled cart, in places. Let me digress here and say that the local mountain folk rely extensively on the aforesaid motorbikes--you see whole families on a's the one-year-old, hanging off the handlebars with dad driving behind, then, the 3 year old,and the 5 year old behind him, followed by momma hanging of the back with a rooster under one arm, and a big sack of something in the other hand, and they are going at, what looks like eighty miles per hour around these mountain "paths". One hiccup, and the whole family would be wiped out--no guard rails, and in some instances, a drop off of a thousand feet or more, inches fear, these people have no fear! The mountain roads are continually works in progress. Some stretches are paved with what looks like macadam, others, coarse gravel or local crushed aggregates, sections of gooey mud, and some areas are paved with concrete. Prior to this trip, I had not seen the process of the concrete paving. Yesterday, near the highest elevation of our route to Paril, there was a group of local guys installing the concrete forms to pour the concrete in. These were made of what looked like mahogany boards about eight inches wide, and from 12-15 feet in length, that were staked in place using rebar of around 1/2 inch in diameter.This would result in a slab-thickness of eight inches. The forms were placed to do roughly half of the width of the "road", with sections of around two hundred ft. in length staggard in such a way as to allow traffic to pass along side of the freshly poured and curing concrete, without disturbing it. Later the other side is formed and poured. Now, all of this is well and good, as long as it is dry, but yesterday's situation was otherwise. (more about that, later). I am not sure where the concrete comes from. Given the condition, and size of the "roads", I cannot imagine a concrete mixer truck getting to where the concrete is to be poured, so, I presume, it is all mixed by hand using the aggregates that must be hauled up the mountain side. The amount of hand labor involved in this process, then, is unbelievable.

It rained a good part of the night wednesday night. Joseph, the concierge here in the executive lounge says that we are currently under a tropical inversion, which is where the rain is coming from. In the five previous trips I have made here, this is the first time that I have ever seen more than just a sprinkle of rain. We made it up to the area where the road construction project was being done OK. The construction was past the "summit" of the mountain, so we were largely going down hill through the construction areas. Along side the concrete forms were stretches of out and out gumbo mud, but since we were going down hill, we had only a little slipping and sliding. As I said before, Pursing is a wonderful driver, knows his equipment well, and there was never any doubt about getting through. But, it was downhill . We made it to the Barangay of Paril, to the school where we will set up our dental clinic, and the place where some of the other multi-disciplinary projects will take place. It was raining..........some of the older boys helped us unload the supplies and stuff that we had brought up from the hotel. It rained.................Let me say here that the rain here is not like what we have at home. Each rain drop is about 1/2 inch in diameter, with attendant mass and momentum, and hits with a resounding splat. Newton, in describing what has become his "Laws of Motion", discusses the relationship between mass, velocity, and motion. The laws governing momentum were patently obvious, and we were parties to the demonstration thereof. The noise inside the tin-roofed building is unbelievable(and, I'm half-deaf. Even I thought it was loud!). The type of soil in Paril is not loamy, but moreover consists of a clay base laced with sand and small gravel. As such, it doesn't absorb a great deal of the water falling on it, and tends to run off with great vigor. No doubt, this is the principle reason why having a sustainable, potable water supply in the mountains is such a problem. Along side of the school is a little, what we would call a creek, at home. In all of the time spent in Paril, I have never seen more than a trickle of water in small potholes in the bottom of the stream bed. The term "raging torrent" comes to mind and takes on an unanticipated significance. The color of this once docile feature becomes the same as Starbuck's latte, with van-sized boulders being repositioned in the stream bed by the sheer mass of the rushing water. Anything that could float was being carried to who knows where, here and there forming temporary dams which with the backing up of the water, eventually were ripped to shreads, only to be reconstituted somewhere else downstream, where the process happened all over again. It continued to rain............

Tom J. and I were surprised to find our equipment and supplies in generally excellent condition. The lockable closet that we had hired built last year to store our stuff in, was dry, clean, and for the most part, free of bugs, snakes, lizards, etc. We did see a couple of cockroaches, however. These magnificent specimens of some of the oldest and hardiest life forms on the planet, were damn-near big enough to put on a spit, roast, and eat(but that's another story, for much later). Our purpose for returning to Paril yesterday, in addition to replenishing our supplies, was to check the operational status of our electrical equipment, which worked just fine, and do do a complete inventory of the supplies that we left behind. The boys helped us to haul all of the stuff to another room so we could spread it all out and check condition and log everything. Did I mention the rain?......This process took until around four in the afternoon. One of the teachers at the school insisted that we take a break mid afternoon, come to her classroom, where she had some crackers and some Nescafe' instant coffee prepared for us. This Nescafe' grows on you and those of us who have made this trip before, have come to appreciate its refreshing character. The teacher kept apologizing for not having prepared a proper lunch for us,etc., and etc. We tried to reassure her that we had certainly not expected such hospitality, that we had come only to work, but she would have none of it. Such is the hospitality that has been repeatedly extended to us in this, one of the most impoverished places that we have ever worked.

By now the rain fall had pretty much diminished to a drizzle and we headed back to the city. We didn't get very far(remember the concrete construction area?). It had become impassable. Pursing tried, but it just wasn't gonna happen there. After a good bit of manuevering, we got turned around and headed back to Paril. There is another, longer way, back to the city, which we suggested, and we started that way. Didn't get very far until we were met by a guy with his two kids on the ubiquitous motorbike, who were thoroughly soaked. Judith, who was with us and fluent in the local languages(I don't know whether it was Tagalog, or Cebuano), talked to the guy and we were informed that there had been a land slide that had partially blocked the road ahead. Further discussion insued between Judith, Pursing, the guy on the motorbike, and a small crowd that had gathered around to see what was happening. This also, no doubt,provided some entertainment, for the local folks, to see what would happen next. Motorbike guy grabbed one of the passersby, who had a big machete, and they then mounted the motorbike, motioned us to follow, and proceeded up the mud road stopping every so often to see if we were still following them. They stopped at a little hut and dropped the kids off and headed on up the mountain side. We got to the place where a big palm tree had become undermined by all of the rain and had fallen across the road. Motorbike guy and machete man set to work clearing the obstruction. A comment about machetes: I have seen these in use all over the world. They come in varying lengths and sizes(thicknesses), and have to be one of the most versatile tools ever invented, being used to hack one's way through the jungle, mow the grass, harvest the rice, filet giant fish, etc. Machete man would take one whack at the shaft of the palm fronds, which were easily the size of my lower leg, severing it from the tree stump. Motorbike guy would then drag each piece off to the side, out of the way. He has no gloves and the palm fronds have these vicious spines that can rip the skin right off of you. Anyway, after a very short time they had cleared a path big enough that we could get by. We got a little further up the road and hit another rough stretch where the van spun out. At this point, I was in the front seat, and Pursing asked if I would move to the back over top of the right rear wheel, which, evidently was a drive wheel, because after that, we went through that mud hole easily. When I am tempted to think more highly of myself, I will remember that one of my most useful purposes was to serve as ballast, dead weight over a wheel for the purpose of traction. (sigh).................

Motorbike guy and machete man led us further up the road, which was a little more firm and solid. We came, however, to a fording point across a small stream, which was made quite large by the flood, and there was a group of people on foot, milling around, waiting to cross over. Motorbike guy and machete man said, "we're outta here", or words to that effect, and returned in the direction from whence we had come. By now, it was looking like we might be spending the night in the mountains. Tom J. says "what are you thinking?" and I say I'm thinking that we aren't gonna cross that stream any time soon. The thing is: you can't let stuff like this upset you. The circumstances really were out of my control, I didn't have anywhere I had to be, I wasn't doing anything else, and besides, spending an unexpected night in the mountains would make for great conversation fodder later on. So, while Tom occupied himself with his Galaxy Whiz-bang, I took a nap. Shortly, I was awakened by the sound of one of the funky little Suzuki all-purpose trucks grinding its way up to us from the opposite side of the torrential stream, which by now, had run down enough that he could cross it. We saw some of the folks were wading through the water and it looked like we could get across. Pursing mounted up and we proceeded to move on across the stream and up a particularly muddy stream-side stretch of "road" to more firm ground. We entered a region where there were alot of rice paddies, with active rice growing agricultural operations going on. I have seen the terraced dry rice farming techniques elsewhere in the mountains, but this was the first Southeast Asian style of rice farming that I have seen here. This is a beautiful area, and under other circumstances, I would look forward very much to visiting it again. We began meeting traffic from the opposite direction, and it was comforting, because it indicated that there were apparently no other impediments to our returning to the city. The rest of the ride back to the hotel was largely uneventful, but rush-hour traffic in Cebu City after dark is not for those with weak constitutions.(see earlier comments about the traffic). It was at about this time that I realized that I was totally "fried", and the hotel was a welcome sight, indeed. We headed for the club, had some finger-food, a couple of drinks, and were met by Eunice, the lady who has handled all of our hotel and group acommodations in the past. A great friend to us and the program, and we were genuinely glad to see her. We went over to "Manny O's" the in-house hotel restaurant, had dinner, said good evening to Eunice and staff, and returned to our room, where I promptly crashed.

Today has bent spent tying up loose ends and getting ready for the rest of of our group to arrive.

Submitted by: Thomas J. Clark, DMD

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I know we are working, but...

I know we are working, but it sure was nice waking up to 75 degree weather, sunshine, and an ocean breeze. Gosh, Cebu is so pretty.

Today, Wednesday, was another full day. We had some specific objectives for the day and fortunately we hit on most of them. Our plan was to eat a full breakfast and then 1) pick up or pharmacy items downtown, 2) confirm delivery of our dental supplies, 3) acquire other supplies from different stores around Cebu, and 4) reconnect with some of our colleagues in Cebu. We did all of those things.

The commercial says, “Ace is the place for the helpful hardware man.” That is true in Cebu, too. We learned last year that one of the best places to get things we needed was at Ace Hardware. After meeting Mr. Tiu, our local pharmacist, our driver took us to Ace. Driver? Yes, driver. Cebu is not a place we would want to drive. There is system and it does works but think of it this way. Imagine a four lane road with seven lanes in use. That sounds odd, but that is what works. The two lane road here has 4.5 lanes in use – the shoulder, the lane, the centerline, the lane, and the other shoulder. Jeepneys (buses here) and motorbikes mostly use the shoulder. Then you have other vehicles sorta in the lane and sorta in the middle maneuvering around traffic. A series of honks alerts others if you are passing or concerned. It really does work, but we wouldn’t want to be the driver. It actually is very hard to watch – it is frightening to watch. It simply amazes me there are not accidents. Anyhow, our driver, Pursing, who we have known now for more than a year, is wonderful. He took us to Ace and waited as we acquired more than a dozen items from our list. Items such as replacement bulbs for the lamps we use in the clinic, batteries, etc. After Ace we went to a grocery store to get a few more items and then returned to the hotel. Enroute we confirmed our dental supplies arrived.

Later in the day we reconnected with colleagues here in Cebu. Some work for the school district and some for the hotel. It was a busy day. On Thursday we take all of our supplies to Paril, the base of much of our operations. Paril is a mountain barangay. It takes 45 minutes from our city hotel location to get there via paved and unpaved single lane roads that wind up and around the hills and mountains.  From where we are today it will take 90 minutes each way. In some places it is very bumpy. Once there we will unload our supplies and check on items we left there from last year that we will use this year. If all goes well we will be done with our advance preparations and will have a little time to simply wait for the students to arrive. We’ll see.

Submitted by Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1st Wednesday in the Philippines

Where to begin?? Dr. J. has pretty well discussed the first legs of our flight, so I won't go into further detail other than to say that having the Bose Q15 active noise canceling earphones added an absolutely unbelievable level of comfort on this trip. We had generally very smooth conditions, and there were times that there was no discernable sense of motion and with the headphones on, it was almost like sitting in the quiet solitude of my own study at home watching the aforesaid movies. I heartily recommend "Winter's Bone". Very poignant, and growing up in rural Kentucky--I KNOW people like that! Anyway, the point is: those headphones are worth every dime that I spent on them. I am able to sleep on these flights and it does enable me to stay in sync with the timezones. I am very glad that this is the case as it would be miserable trying to function without that capability. When we flew down from Manila last night, I didn't even know when we took off and woke up as we were taxiing into the terminal at Cebu.

A little commentary about the Philippines and Manila in particular: The island chain occupies a very significant geographical location for the Asian continent and serves as a jumping off point for Pacific Ocean excursions. Because of this, down through the years it has been repeatedly colonized and subjugated by various "super powers".Over two millinia ago, the great Chinese Emperor, Nu Sun, began actively exploring and colonizing throughout the Pacific, extending his empire even to the western coastal areas of both North and South America, establishing a series of seven trading colonies from what is now Washington state, as far south as the coast of modern-day Chile. The Philippine islands were also colonized at this time by the Chinese, however, the evidence suggests that this was not the first such colonization by the Chinese. Along the way, other foreign powers also made their presence known in the islands: at one time, even the Vietnamese colonized the islands. I was unaware that the Vietnamese were imperialistic, however, history shows otherwise. During the 1500's, the Spanish and Portugese became the subjugating powers in the Islands and the history since that time is pretty well known to most of us. After our visit to the US Embassy,(which I will return to later) Tom and I took a tour of part of Manila. As has been said, it is a huge city. We skirted around part of the old sea wall, which was built during the time of the Spaniards, and at present, is quite a ways from the the sea. It was largely built by slave labor. Tom and I noted, that for all of the angst that we as Americans have about our past and the use of slave labor in our nation building, every other great nation has always done that. Doesn't make it right, but is, nevertheless, a historical fact. The wall is massive and an amazing structure to behold. Manila has incorporated a significant amount of green spaces throughout the city, with numerous parks and open areas,and, given the population of the city and all that it requires, is refreshing, indeed. There is an interesting mingling of the old with the new, and the transition sometimes isn't that obvious.

To the Embassy: going to one of our embassies abroad is always a special experience and there are certain protocols that are observed. Tom and I both dressed in dark blue blazers, with our UofL Cardinal lapel pins, red cardinal polo shirts, kakki pants, etc. We wanted to look nice and reasonably professional. The US Embassy is across from the Bayview Hotel, where we spent monday night, and was a short walk from the hotel. It is surrounded by a secured perimeter, patrolled by what appeared to be Filipino Military guards carrying what appears to be H&K automatic assault weapons, and although their demeanor was stern, when spoken to, and asked for directions, they softened and were genuinely friendly. There is an area where people applying for visas to the US must go to be processed, however we were directed to the main gate for our entry into the embassy. Presently, with the tensions that are manifest in the Korean peninsula, everything is in a state of high alert. I suspect that the level of security at the perimeter is higher than normal, as a result. At the Embassy gate, we were met by local Filipino Security Guards that were designated by their uniforms as being United States Embassy Security Personnel. Since we had an appointment with the ambassador, we were registered at the main gate,surrendered our passports, were given visitor badges that indicated that we were to have escorts, and ushered into a holding area where we had to pass through a security gate, much like the TSA ones in airports. Since Dr. J. had a bag with gifts for various embassy officers, it had to be checked and passed. We were given seats and waited for our escort to arrive and pick us up. Shortly, a lady named Rose came and introduced herself and invited us to accompany her to the Office of Cultural Affairs where we were met by the Officer in Charge of that section. The embassy is a large compound, consisting of several buildings, some of which are undergoing renovation, and there is an older section being torn down and a new building being constructed. There were construction people all around, and without exception, they all had ID's and there were numerous security guards in the interior of the compound. We were met by Rick Nelson, the Public Affairs liason, and were escorted over to the main building to meet with the ambassador. Here, we passed through yet another security area, this time to be checked by US Marines. Our names were recorded and checked against a list to confirm that we did, indeed, have an appointment with the ambassador, and then were ushered in to the foyer of the ambassador's office. This was an elegant, darkly paneled room with art work on the walls suggestive of the Philippine Islands, and life thereof, some nice porcelain urns(maybe Chinese?)on mahogany tables, and large overstuffed leather couches and chairs, that were very comfortable. Glass panels in the walls facing the inner sanctum of the office, gave us a view of where the ambassador's business was being conducted. We had arrived about 1/2 hr. early, and actually were received a little before our scheduled appointment time. An official embassy photographer showed up and we were then taken in to meet the ambassador. The Honorable Harry Brooks, Jr. took up his appointed office in April of this year, succeeding Ambassador Kenne, the former US Ambassador to the Philippines. Ambassador Brooks is a big man, dressed nicely in a well-fitted gray business suit and a blue bow tie. He met us with an ear-to-ear grin and a genuinely warm welcome and firm handshake. Official photos were taken, introductions were made, but hardly necessary, as Ambassador Brooks had apparently already studied our dossiers in detail. Comments that he made to us indicated that he was aware of our past military connections, and made it a point to thank us personally for our service to our country. At the time, I didn't think a whole lot about those comments, but reflecting upon them now, I am humbled that a high government official thought enough about us to make those kinds of comments. There is an element of class in a person like that, one who does pay attention to detail, and it is extremely gratifying to know that persons of such caliber are in positions of responsibility, representing our government, and us, to other governments abroad. I expected this meeting to last about five, maybe ten minutes at the most, but Ambassador Brooks was in no hurry and everything was quite relaxed. It became obvious that he has a passion for foreign service, and spoke with pride of where he had been, and where he was from. We all compared notes in similarities of our respective pasts, and just how fortunate we are to be where we are in life. He then wanted to know, in great detail about the ISL Program. Again, evident in his comments was more than a passing knowledge of the program, but he wanted to hear from Tom and myself, firsthand, about our respective parts in the program, and how it works. We discussed the horizon-broadening experience that the program provides for our students, and the good that we have been able to accomplish through it, and that we function as de-facto ambassadors to the people of the Philippines and other parts of the world with the outreach of our program. In a way, it sounds trite, but in reality, it is true. I never realized it before, but Dr. J. pointed out that we were the first foreign visitors, ever, to the Barangay of Paril, and with that visit, we were able to forever indelibly etch on the minds of the people there, what Americans are truly like. Ambassadors, indeed!! Our meeting extended on to an hour. We talked about so many things, there is not really room here to describe. But, suffice it to say, we made some serious friends at the embassy, and who knows where that will lead? We then had an out-briefing with the public affairs people, who expressed concerns about the media possibly hounding us, and how to handle it, (ie., let the embassy do it!). We has an opportunity to see the hall where the Japanese War Crimes were prosecuted--so much history! Outside we saw the central flagpole in the court yard, with bullet holes and dents from combat in the Second World War. The flag was flying at half-mast that day, in honor of the death of a military officer, whose name escapes me. I think that it is significant, and important, that this flag pole has not been replaced with one unblemished, but serves as a reminder of the realities of that war and current conflicts, and our roles and responsibilities, past, present, and future. I am glad that it is still there. Ambassador Brooks suggested that, if we had the time, we should visit the Philippine and American Cemetery, as it was a very important site. 17,000 US and Philippine soldiers are buried there. It is an awesome and holy place. One can't visit a place like that and not come away with feelings of strong emotions. The horror, and the ultimate cost of human conflicts--we never seem to learn................

It is interesting to note that in many of these conflicts, key players have a local history with the geographical locations, and people of the conflicts. Theodore White, in his book, "An American Caesar,the Story of General Douglas MacArthur", writes of the time that Gen. MacArthur spent growing up in the Philippines when his father was stationed here, and the impact it had on him, and his connection with the Philippine people. General Norman Swarzkopf,(hero of Desert Storm), grew up in Kuwait and Iraq. General Patton spent a lot of time in Europe and northern Africa, as a young man prior to WWII. One wonders about this. Destiny, perhaps? What does the future hold for us??

Today, we went shopping to pick up some supplies. This went well and we were able to get everything but new patient chairs. The dental guys will like the nifty little chest of drawers that we got for each station. Should make getting stuff organized a lot easier in the clinic. Tomorrow, we will haul it up to Paril and inventory what's there and make sure everything is in working order. We picked up our pharmaceutical stuff at the Southern Pharmacy. Mr. Tiu, the owner is a good guy, and gives us a break on prices. He was asking us all kinds of questions about the program, and what we do in Paril. Even among the poor, Paril is recognized as a place of grinding poverty, and a place where people suffer because of it. He asked me, "Why do you keep coming back?" Why, indeed?

If I have learned anything in life, it is the significance and value of trust. We should never, ever, promise anything that we can't deliver. I think that one of the reasons that we are so successful with our program is that we take this kind of responsibility to heart. Talk is cheap, and we never talk if we can't back it up. We return, year after year, because of the commitment we make to the people of the communities that we serve. But as faculty, we have a greater commitment to our students to provide an experiential framework, wherein they can grow, and experience the gratification od doing something for their fellow human beings, that really does make a lasting change in their quality of life. So, why do we keep coming back? Why, indeed?

Submitted by Thomas J. Clark, DMD

What an Experience in Manila

Manila is the epicenter of the Philippines. In other words, it was as if we were in Washington D.C. today. Certain things are important in Manila that may not be as important in other parts of the Islands. That sentiment is also true in the U.S. Some things that are talked about in D.C. are not talked about in Kentucky. Today, in Manila, we had our breakfast meeting with our very dear friend Paquito Claravall. Paquito is our in-country point of contact. He has set up most of our logistics, helped educate our students on Filipino cultures, and has guided us around as a family member. During our breakfast meeting we discussed our upcoming plans. He will travel to Cebu later in the week to observe our Cebu operations and meet with some of his staff that is based in Cebu. Our relationship with Paquito is priceless, and we are thankful for his continued willingness to work with us.

After breakfast we walked across the street to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. This is a very historic place. It was the location for Japanese war crimes trials and at one time it was occupied by the Japanese when they occupied the Philippines. The Philippines has been occupied by Spain and Japan.  The U.S. has also had a strong presence in the Philippines both before and after WWII. To be in the Embassy on December 7, 2010 is very special. As a veteran it was somber and a privilege.

We arrived about 30 minutes early for our planned visit with the U.S. Ambassador. We were kindly treated and then escorted to meet with the Cultural Affairs liaison, and later the Public Affairs liaison. These were people we had worked with via email to make these arrangements and to keep informed about our in-country activities. It was very nice to meet these individuals who have devoted their lives to Foreign Service. What a wonderful profession they are in – one that shares some of the same attributes as higher education.

Dr. Clark and I shared our program in great detail, had a few laughs with our colleagues in the Embassy, and then had the incredible honor to spend nearly an hour with the Ambassador. Wow. We were both humbled by the enormity of what was occurring. For me, a simple person that grew up free from wealth in Seattle – to be sitting in an Ambassador’s office in the Philippines seemed a long ways away from my humble but special upbringings. Yet, there I was with Dr. Clark. The first thing we discussed was service, our service. He sincerely thanked both Dr. Clark and I for our service to our country. As a veteran, this was meaningful to me since I was there on the heels of many others that served with honor for our U.S. As a peacetime veteran I feel fortunate to have served when there was no conflict (a rare period of time).

There were four of us in the room after the pictures were taken. Once we receive the photo I will upload it. The Ambassador shared his passion for service and his desire to expose more students, like those from UofL, to Foreign Service. This is why he was so interested in meeting us and why he was so interested in what we do. We shared our ISLP history and our work in Cebu. We also presented to him our photo book, a thumb drive (to the Public Affairs liaison) that contained all the videos and photos from last year’s program, a photo book of Kentucky, and our commemorative plate depicting the George C. Howe Red Barn (that one may put on the shelve to display). It was autographed by George himself. One of the few with his signature! We could see the sincere appreciation for the gifts. He understood the meaning of each of them. We also took the opportunity to invite him to campus, and we hope he will take us up on the offer in the future. As a person of color, and an Ambassador, it would be fantastic for our students to see him personally.

After about an hour of very engaging conversation and some light banter we departed to meet again with the Cultural Affairs liaison and the press/media officer. We provided her media information (facts and information), talked about our stay, and laughed a little. After about 30 minutes our new best buddy (the Cultural Affairs liaison) walked us out of the Embassy and back to our hotel. He was going out for lunch near our hotel.

In the Embassy we saw many things including the dents on the pole that holds the U.S. Flag. These were dents from WWII shells. We saw historical photos and stood in the same place as the Japanese war crimes trials. We stood where Emperors once stood many years ago. We also shared our passionate work with our Foreign Service colleagues. It was a perfect day and the perfect trip – and the reason we came through Manila this trip.

Upon returning to the hotel, Paquito was waiting for us to show us a small piece of the Manila history before our evening flight to Cebu. We also stopped at the Manila American Memorial Cemetery. Wow. I have never been to our nation’s cemetery, but this one was the largest one outside of the U.S. I was in Awe. Totally. Completely. I was there amongst the white crosses (burial markers) of those that died in past wars and service. Again, I was humbled beyond belief. 17,000 souls were buried in this cemetery. The U.S. Ambassador encouraged us to visit the cemetery, in part because of what it stood for and also because it was December 7th. We paid our respects to those that were there and then departed for the airport. I said a private prayer.

Our flight to Cebu was a short one hour. Checking in we were reminded of the 7 kg rule for carry-ons and had to check our carry-on. That was a bummer since we were both overweight (no jokes from any students now). Once on the plane we both slept the entire time.

Landing in Cebu was nice – it was just nice to be where we will be for the next 10 days. Tom Clark and I looked at each other, shook hands, and said, “We made it!” We both knew what we meant. We are here and our work will soon begin. It was sure nice sleeping in the hotel last night. I had a solid seven hours and woke up at 6 a.m. My body is almost in sync. – remember Cebu is 13 hours ahead of Louisville. I had a light workout in the fitness room and then started planning for today. More on that later.

Submitted by Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advance Team Arrives to the Philippines

It amazes me how adrenalin works. One moment I could be on the last four hours of a 28 hour trip, and the next I am pumped with energy and excitement. That can easily describe our (Drs. Tom Clark’s and Tom Jackson) arrival to the Philippines.

Every trip Tom and I are learning something new. This trip was a continuation of wifi and phone service networks along the route, as well as money exchange locations. But the real exploration came when we sat down in the plane that took us from Atlanta to Seoul. First, our day started about 5:00 a.m. in Louisville where Dr. Clark picked me up at my home. It was a very short drive from my home to the airport and we arrived easily by 5:15 a.m. There were very few people at the Delta Airlines counter so check-in went extremely fast for the both of us. We both had our backpacks, a small carry-on suitcase, and I checked a medium size suitcase that contained clothes and dental supplies. My small suitcase had mostly “gifts” I would need for our visit to the U.S. Embassy. For that reason I had limited space and needed to bring the dental supplies. I packed for five days, assuming I would do laundry twice during my entire stay. My trip is a total of 14 days.

The line at Louisville TSA security went fairly quickly and we soon found ourselves at the gate with about 90 minutes to spare. This was perfect. Sometimes the most challenging flight is the first one because if it is delayed it can totally ruin the remainder of the schedule. That has happened a few times before, but not this time. We arrived in Atlanta on time, went to the airline club lounge for snacks and coffee, exchanged some money, and then arrived at the gate. Korean Air does things a little differently, and our experience now with them helps. We went to the counter and traded in our Delta tickets for the Korean Air tickets and then just waited. We boarded early to obtain the prized overhead bin space and then “tuned-out” for the next 15 hours.

This was a 747. Not our favorite - that distinction belongs to the Airbus 380, but it was nice. Both of us didn’t have anyone sitting beside us. Can you say GREAT flight!? It is so nice not being squeezed in a full plane. Factor in that both Dr. Clark and I have the nice noise-canceling headphones – well, let’s just say we were happy. I think I overheard one person on the plane complain about the movies this time. You won’t hear that from Dr. Clark and I. We were in movie heaven with over 28 films to pick. I started watching “Salt” before we even left the ground. I then watched “The Expendables.” I took a nice nap midway during that movie. I think it was about an hour or so. All and in all I watched six movies on all the legs of the trip. The remaining movies I watched were “Inception,” “Cairo Time,” and I ended my Seoul leg with “The Enemy Below.” That is a 1950’s classic. On the Manila leg I finished “The Enemy Below” and also watched “Takers.” Now, there were many other movies to watch and several comedies and romantic flicks. Clearly I did the “boy” movie thing on this part of the trip.

The Seoul leg was 15 hours in the air…and it went by fast. Between the naps, the walks, the food, and the movies, it just did not feel very long. I paused the movies to walk around. I also drink a lot of water and exercise on the plane whenever I move around so the time seems to go quickly. This flight had 2.5 meals. The first was lunch and the choices were beef or Korean rice. I always take Korean rice. I do it for the adventure and to acclimate myself. After all, I am on a Korean owned airline. Korean rice, as they served it, came in a bowl. The veggies and such where in the bowl and I added the rice, sesame oil, and flavor (a tube paste) into the bowl and mixed. A dessert, roll, wine, and water also came with it – as does real utensils. Amazing huh?! Not really. We even had real utensils on the Manila flight. And, we didn’t have to take off our shoes. Isn’t it odd that security in South Korea is so smooth, practical, and effortless (as security goes) but in the U.S. it is far from it?

The second meal on the flight was dinner and I took the beef. The alternative was Korean fish, and fish is usually the one item I tend to avoid on a flight. Others may feel different. I took the beef and enjoyed it. That also had a roll, dessert, vegetable salad (good), and wine and water. The ½ meal was the famous “meat in a bun.” That came with water, tea, or coffee.

We landed in Seoul and enjoyed its awesome airport. It is designed for the transit and has many shops and cultural things to explore. Dr. Clark and I checked them all out. Not! We had a couple of hours and had a couple of tasks to complete. It was pretty cool since our arrival gate was 22 and our departure gate to Manila was 21. Still, we walked to see how much it cost to exchange money to Philippine Pesos. It was a horrible rate so we passed. I then needed to correct something on my Manila ticket, which went really fast, and then we went and hung out in the KAL (Delta Sky Team) lounge and had more snacks, cleaned up from the long flight, checked emails, and relaxed.

The flight from Seoul to Manila went very well also. It was a really nice Airbus 330 and had the better version of the entertainment system. It was much better than what we had on the long leg. Still, this flight isn’t short, even though I often want to think it is. It takes 3:45 to fly from Seoul to Manila. That is longer than Atlanta to LA, get the point? It would be a long flight if it were not for the longer one to get to Seoul. They had a nice meal on this flight (I took the beef since I already had the Korean rice).

The University of Louisville delegation will not fly through Manila. When they travel it will be direct from Seoul to Cebu. We came through Manila to meet with U.S. Embassy officials to promote and gain support for our efforts abroad. We also will tour a couple of the universities and spend some time with our host in-county and point of contact, Paquito Claravall.

Manila is a very, very, very large city. We arrived about 11:10 p.m., about 28 hours total time. Customs went well and the most important news came a few minutes later – my one packed bag with dental supplies arrived! I have been to the Philippines in the past and stayed four days before my luggage arrived. I was only staying a total of six days on that trip. In the Manila airport we found the absolute best money exchange rates so we swapped our USDs for PHPs, waited for the shuttle (about 20 minutes) and then road it to the Bayview Hotel (about a 15 minute drive).

Our day is filled tomorrow, and late in the day we leave Manila for Cebu on Philippines Air. Tonight the wifi is down in the hotel so I am using my back up aircard to submit this blog entry. I also spent some time prepping for tomorrow – some of those things we often do not see that we do before meetings or when promoting one’s campus abroad. I am also charging up things. Our two-pronged plugs are working fine (remember they must say 110-240v on the adapter. If it only says 110v then do not plug it into the wall unless you have a “converter.” Not an “adapter” but a “converter.” The converter takes the 220v system in the Philippines (or elsewhere) and converts it to 110 volts. Again, most newer gadgets come standard with 110-240v. Thus, the phone, laptop, etc., are all plugged in after the long trip.

Manila is incredible at night. What a fantastic city and amazing country. I can see why the people I have encountered in the Philippines have so much pride for their country and communities. We feel welcomed in many ways.

Be sure to follow the blog for more information. I will add some photos later.

Submitted by Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr.