Randomness     Zambales ICare 2008                                                                                                              The Blob,  Vol. 3, Issue 11, December 2008
Wednesday December 3rd, 2008

Randomness

Yep, Settler's is alive and well here in Manila. You can see my favourite scenario on the right . . . :P
One of the fun things about living overseas is that I get two Thanksgivings every year. Unfortunately, as seems to be common of late, I forgot to bring my camera out. I also got to decorate some Christmas trees which was really cool. So close!
Diagonal left is the flag day at church. I was quite
happy to don the traditional Canadian costume for the parade! ;) Nathan (below) was kind enough to take the pics. If you ever meet him, be sure to ask him about the book 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye'. :P He's one of two single guys I've really been blessed to befriend here in Manila, though it looks like his singlehood is nearing it's end . . .
So I've been reading about Asperger's in preparation for a

presentation in my master's course in spec ed. It's really quite an interesting label on the autistic spectrum. One of my good friends in uni was diagonosed with it and I'm sure that a lot of my cohorts, including myself, also fit somewhere on the autistic spectrum. My friend went on to get his master's and he's a math genius. The thing that tends to make people on the autistic spectrum stick out is their social skills. One fellow (click here) actually has a theory that it's an extreme of the male brain which results from too much testosterone in the womb. The theory is especially interesting in light of the fact that social skills tend to be what are lacking for these people and that women don't usually get labelled with asperger's and that women are usually thought of as being more emotionally intelligent. Some people theorize that most IT workers fall into the autistic spectrum. For me, the whole thing comes back to
the philosophical question of what is normal? There's an acceptable social norm in every facet of my life, as a teacher with my students, as a teacher with my co-workers, with my friends when we're out having fun and any other situation you can imagine. Who decides what these standards are and why are we expected to follow them? The most enjoyable parts of my day are when I or the people around me go outside the social norms (a bit like in the show 'The Office'). It's just so fun to be yourself, right? The problem, however, is that many people want to uphold the social norms so they frown upon the people who go outside the box. How can these social norms be taught to people in the autistic spectrum? With large amounts of time and through many often painful experiences. It's not an easy road, so why do we ask all of these people on the autistic spectrum to follow us down this road? Why can't we accept them for who they are and let go of the social norms?

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Wednesday December 17th, 2008
 
Zambales ICare 2008

Every year our entire high school goes out in groups of ten to thirty students and teachers and spends a week volunteering in communities all over the Philippines. I was really excited when I heard about this program as I'd never heard of an entire high school doing such a thing in unison at the same time.
It was really difficult deciding which group to join. My main criteria was that I wanted to be in nature, farming and giving back to a community. I managed to find all three of these in the Zambales ICare group.
We stayed at a retreat centre called Mango Camp and we volunteered at a rural aboriginal school. The school has no electricity or running water and it doesn't receive any money from the government. We brought along books to start a library, sports equipment, some games, some flip flops and some

Video with Pictures (above)
  clothing. It might not sound like much, but the school has sixty children in grades one and two and their current one shelf library had many half ripped books on topics like medicine and geology (great stuff for ESL kids in grades 1 and 2!). Some of the children didn't have flip flops or shoes and of those that did, some of them were a bit shabby. The experience really forced me to ask the question how such an inequality can exist? I wrote a lot about financial help in my reflections with the students which can be found here. I mean, is there a good reason we have such an unequal distribution of material goods? The prime directive in Star Trek can be a nice smokescreen but is there anything solid to it? I do have a great appreciation for the simple life and I think there's a lot to be said against consumerism, but what can I say when I have six pairs of footwear and I see a fellow in the village walking around with a hole in his flip flops and a bloody foot? How did the world
Singing and Dancing (above)
come to be this way?
On Saturday morning, after ICare, I was out in Manila giving away spagetti, chicken, juice and Christmas presents to children in a shantytown. I walked through their homes and they were worse off than the drug dealing places they show in the movies. Dark, cramped and a bit scary. We actually ran out of food. What is that all about? That was the most precious spaghetti and chicken I've ever touched. I hope I never take such a simple meal for granted again!
It's easy to be overwhelmed by these inequalities and to become paralyzed into doing nothing. Unlike Hiro, one person probably can't save the cheerleader and the world, but like in 'Pay it Forward', random acts of kindness can go a long way. We can only do something with what's in front of us. I'm still not sure what's in front of me but I hope to sort it out more than I have. Merry Christmas Everyone! Love to all the earthlings!