I had my first official co-teaching experience on Thursday with a first-year class in Iloilo City National High School. It went well for the most part, although my co-teacher and I could have used a little bit more time to plan. We covered the different sounds that can be made with the letter "a" in the English language. The students seemed to enjoy hearing the words pronounced with an American accent, and for most of them it was a new experience for them to practice English with a native speaker. At the end of the class period we had the students play a "pass the message" game, which is the same as the game "telephone" in the U.S. In small groups, the students were given messages which they had to whisper down the line until the last group member heard it, and would have to tell everyone what they had heard. Once the students understood their instructions, they had a lot of fun repeating the sentences, but had a hard time remembering them, and by the time it got to the last person, the message usually was very different from what it had originally been.
The game of "pass the message" is actually a good representation of the way news and gossip spread around communitites in the Philippines. This concept is called "chika-chika," meaning everyone knows just about everything about each other's lives. But, like "pass the message," the story tends to change along the way. And for us Peace Corps Trainees in Iloilo City, the effect is doubled, because we tend to stick out as the only Americans in the neighborhood. Additionally, most of our host families know each other or are related, and the PCTs are a favorite topic of discussion. So, I get a lot of questions about my co-trainees and I heard all about how Leanna is a vegetarian and Andrew hadn't done his laundry yet.
Meanwhile, info about me gets passed around too, so when I go to language class on weekday mornings, I hear, "So, Kelsey, my host family tells me how much you looooove milkfish!"
"Um... yeah it's pretty good."
"Well at dinner yesterday the main topic of discussion was how much you love it!"
"Kelsey, I heard your family was coming to visit in about a month! I didn't know the Peace Corps allowed that!"
When in reality I had just mentioned the likelihood of my family visiting at some point during my two-year service. Of couse, chika-chika doesn't just take place among the host families. The two education clusters in Iloilo tend to have a LOT of spare time between sessions, which we spend reading, playing cards, playing cell phone games, and discussing other trainees. Who has gone home already? Who has gotten sick? WHO already has a Filipina girlfriend??? But, you know, it's all just chika-chika!