Saturday, October 2, 2010

Embarking on my very own ‘kasdo en Philippine’

To explain the reference, “kasdo” is Pohnpeian for “movie.” And “kasdo en Philippine” is what they call Filipino soap opera sagas, which are very popular in Pohnpei.

But what, you may ask, does this have to do with me?

Answer: I’m going to the Philippines!

Actually, as I type I’m already halfway there. I’m writing from the Guam airport, which is easily the swankiest structure I’ve seen in a year. I’ve already had many adventures so far today, including leaving Pohnpei for the first time in a year and seeing/landing in Chuuk for the first time (the lagoon islands and Weno are quite lovely from the air), and eating Burger King (eh, not so impressive).

But why am I going to the Philippines? Shouldn’t I be in Pohnpei shaping young minds and interacting with my community?

Well, yes. Yes, I should be. And I will be doing so again in one week’s time, if all goes as planned. But the The Peace Corps is sending me to the Philippines.

Why?

For an eye exam and to renew my reading glasses’ prescription.

!!!!!

Yes, I’m flying many, many miles on the Peace Corps’ dime for an eye exam. And this is simply because my prescription is getting old and Pohnpei doesn’t have the technology to read, prescribe or treat my particular ocular malady.

The official term for what’s happening to me right now is a “medevac”—which is shorthand for a “Medical Evacuation.” Which clearly does not bring to mind a visit to the optometrist. But, as my wonderful and attentive PCMO explained to me, Peace Corps is responsible for my health during these two years. If I have a medical problem, they will treat it. And if that problem requires facilities or procedures not available to me at site, they will get me where I need to go so that we can resolve the problem. So, rather than conjuring up terrifying images of emergencies and life support, a medevac is basically just an extension of the really exceptional health care insurance that is the Peace Corps Medical Office.

So back to my kasdo en Philippine. The plan is this: I’ll be staying in Manila for a week because of flights. The only medical business I have to attend to are a visit to the optometrist and whatever necessary follow-up visits I might need. Other than that, I’ll be hanging out in my hotel, shopping in the malls, eating in the restaurants, and reading in the caf├ęs & coffee shops. Which is what the characters in these films do, pretty much. (Expect not in the period-piece ones, obviously) So I’ll have a one-woman show, literally. A mini vacation with a medical overlay. Which is a really exciting surprise. (I say “surprise” because I found out two days ago that this was the plan.)

The only downside is that I will honestly miss my island, family and school. Yesterday was slightly crazy trying to plan for the week of my absence, but my coworkers and family members have all been nothing but obliging. As soon as everyone realized that no, I’m not horribly sick, they all god excited about my trip. I’ve gotten many bits of advice on what to buy, how not to get cheated, and how to stay safe. At least 5 times people have told me not to wear “jewels” and stick my hands out of car windows because thieves will chop off the bejeweled hand. If it’s a tall tale, it’s a powerful one here.

And speaking of hands, it is tradition here to shake hands with a person before they leave on a trip. So even a trip as short as this one looks to be, everyone I know gave me a strong handshake with earnest blessings for my journey. My American Dad will also be happy to hear that my Pohnpeian Dad gathered everyone around to bless my journey before I left the house. Although I don’t think he used the exact term “travelling mercies,” I’m sure that he meant it.

And my trip has been blessed already – due to a conference in Thailand, Bruce, our post’s fabulous AO (Administrative Officer), is on all my flights until Manila. So I’ve had a great travel buddy to help me navigate the various stop-overs and transfers that are part-and-parcel with travelling in the Pacific.

But now it looks like we’re boarding now. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ve got a nice information packet for my medevac. Guess what that’s stored in? You guessed it … a manila envelope!