Thursday, 10 January 2013

Holidays in the Philippines

Christmas wreath made from discarded books.
Over the past few weeks I have been welcomed into people’s homes, traditions and celebrations. It has been wonderful to learn how the holidays are celebrated in the Philippines. Christmas is a big deal here with the world’s longest Christmas season celebrated from September till the feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9th.  American holiday songs are popular and it has been funny to be walking around the town plaza listening to  “White Christmas” blasting from the Municipal Hall while I am already sweating at 6am, very different from growing up in Montana.

New experiences have included: great homestays with families, new foods (biko, lechon, lanzones), walking through a pitch black field at 3:30am to attend a dawn church service, wearing polka dots (good luck for the new year), fireworks and lots of new friends.
Mall of Asia in Manila

View in Santa Ana
Trying to pump water

My lovely hosts for Christmas
Pumping water is hard work

The famous Lechon!
Neighborhood child climbing tree to get a coconut (buko) for fresh juice
Good luck for the New Year includes 13 round fruits on the table.
While I have been missing my family and friends in America and Australia over the holidays, I feel so fortunate to be learning new things. I greatly appreciate the many wonderful Filipinos who have gone out of their way to welcome me and the new connections and friendships.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Great Ocean Road Trip

The Great Ocean Road Trip

Just before heading off on my Internship and Field Study in the Philippines, I was able to take a quick trip to Melbourne.  It was wonderful on many levels including good friends and a road trip on the Great Ocean Road including an energetic dog- Howard! We meandered through Geelong, Colac, Camperdown, past the Twelve Apostles, Lorne, Anglesea  and on our second day had a lovely tapas lunch in Barwan Heads.  

Great Ocean Road


Windblown tourist

Twelve Apostles

Sculpture standing guard

One of the coast's many lighthouses
Looking at Federation Square from a lane way

The scenery of the coast was spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see another part of Australia’s beauty.

Back in Melbourne it was great to be able to connect with a good friend who has just moved from the Bay area to Australia.  As I just passed my one year mark of leaving the US it was wonderful to hang out and catch up  on family, friends and of course dance info in California :)

Melbourne lane way art


Sunday, 16 December 2012

“It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

“It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

 The last few days in Brisbane were a mix of emotions as I packed up, ran errands, participated in the fantastic TEDxSouthbank Women conference, and said goodbye to friends.  It really struck me that in the year that I have been in Australia, I feel so thankful to have developed such a wonderful network of fellow Peace Fellows, students, lecturers, dancers, Rotarians, community members and strong friendships. It felt a bit strange not to be heading home to the States, but rather to be heading off on a new adventure with a whole host of Aussie relationships that I will be missing in addition to the ones already in my heart. At the same time, it is strengthening as I head into a new experience to know that there are new wonderful people to meet and build relationships with.

After flying through Kuala Lumpur, I arrived in Manila. I made it to my temporary hotel and checking in with family and friends, I began to get increasingly frantic warning messages about the incoming Typhoon Pablo.  I was supposed to arrive in Mindanao the same day as Pablo.  I delayed my plans, trying to stay on top of the news and in touch with my program director. A huge typhoon, Pablo tragically wrecked immense damage throughout Mindanao, especially in the region of the Compostela Valley., with the numbers lost continuing to grow. The region I am now it, near Cagayan de Oro in the north, and fortunately seems relatively back on track. While devastation is evident, were no causalities.  This is a far cry from last year at about the same time, when this area was struck by a flash flood due to Typhoon Sendong and suffered dramatically.  I have met families who in the middle of the night last year climbed palm trees and waited there for five hours until help came, seven months pregnant and with small children.  This year there was a forced evacuation in the area. Even though the bridge to one of the local sites was destroyed by the river, by Sunday when I arrived, it had been rebuilt. The raw loss is a good reminder of how thankful I am for the opportunities in my life, and the health and safety of my loved ones.

The resilience of the local Filipinos I have met is remarkable.  In a volatile land historically full of volcanoes, earthquakes and cyclones, there are still smiles- especially when I try to speak one of the local languages -Bisayan.  I have already met wonderful people, from Rotary connections in Manila who greeted me with dinner and tips about the Philippines, to unexpected new friends and an adventure to see the small volcano Tangatay. In the local community of Tagoloan where I am staying, families have shared their homes, their traditions and their meals. The lovely ‘Auntie’ next door, is making sure that I have enough home cooked food to eat!

 I am excited to be working with Dance 4 Peace-Pilapinas, the Philippine branch of a US organization.  While Dance 4 Peace is a young organization, the enthusiasm and dedication are evident.  My program director is charming, fast-walking, has a friendly greeting or word for everyone, and is an educator with a vision for peace and engagement in his country. In addition to teaching workshops, working on strategic planning and research, I have also been included in meetings for further partnership and learning about the local culture and traditions. 

Travel here is a definitely a challenge and one series of meetings last Friday involved multiple kinds of transportation:
-7 jeepney rides
-1 "tricycle”
-1 motorbike
-& lots of walking
All an education unto themselves!

I look forward to all the different kinds of learning while I am here and building a  new network of meaningful relationships. As the button I received at the airport says, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

With Prime the local Dance 4 Peace Director

Students at Midanao State Illigan City Institute of Technology dancing and learning

Tagoloan, the city  where I am living

With fun PeaceMovers

Print center 

Jeepney!  They are also named after where the family member is working and sending money back to the Philippines

Area around Santa Ana

Catch-up, Ketchup- or in Oz- tomato sauce

Catch-up, Ketchup- or in Oz- tomato sauce

The last few months have sped by! I thought that the first semester of my Master’s Program was busy, but that I was staying on top of things. That is until second semester snuck up with an extensive Peacekeeping role play, preparation for our Internships, Dance for Parkinson’s programs, ongoing Aussie cultural education  and generally a crazy schedule.

Though not in true chronological order (but in true Erica Rose style), over the next weeks I will be updating my blog with photos and stories from my adventures in Oz and my current escapades in the Philippines.
Making friends at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, look closely  for the fun surprise on my hat :)

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Rainforest Adventure

The school semester is speeding by and we are entering fall/winter here in Brisbane. I remain mixed up about directions, some words and weather, isn't it supposed to be spring? So far it just seems to be different shades of warm although now the nights are cool. Classes are going well, lots of reading! (lots of learning too :)  Rather than taking you through the pile of journal articles on my desk with titles like…. the Paradox of Trust, or State Sovereignty and the Articulation of Political Space/ Time, or another favorite-Paradigmatic framing of protracted, intractable conflict: toward the development of a meta-framework-II'
….I realized  I'm a bit behind on sharing some of my adventures outside of uni coursework.

Through the generosity of new friends and my Rotary counselor Pam I have been able to explore some of the areas around Brisbane. One of my first outings was a drive up the ‘Bruce’ (well really Highway 1 but like many things Aussie it has a nickname) to the Mary Craincross Rainforest   where we had a spectacular view of the Glass House Mountains, ancient volcanic plugs.   Before we walked into the rainforest the park staff advised us to apply a good dose of leech repellant- yikes!
Glass House Mountains

Immediately we were surrounded….not by leeches, phew! but by a rich variety of trees and plants with an amazing number of  different shades of green and leaf shapes.  I learned about the Catbird (bird that sounds like a crying baby- really) the Wampu (another bird), the Strangler Fig and Lawyer Vine- which has all sorts of prickly spines.  We even spotted Pademelons, six in total, sort of like a small version of a kangaroo.  After traipsing through a Palm grove and escaping leech free we had a lovely coffee in the rain at the mountain top cafe. 

Maleny  was next on our itinerary, a quaint town in the hinterland with a Sunday market and small arts and crafts shops.  My favorite was this woodworking shop where you were invited to touch all sorts of finished and unfinished pieces of furniture. Then off to the Sunshine Coast, where I was treated to an iconic Aussie lunch at the Alex Heads Surf Lifesaving Club complete with the chance to watch a “Nippers” race in the surf.  (kids in surf lifesaving youth programs)  Combined with a swim in the ocean before heading back to Brizzy it was a full day!

Notice the note at the top...

Pademelon, none of my pictures turned out as they hopped too fast!

Alexandra Heads


Friday, 2 March 2012

A Fortunate Life

Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens

It so happens that when I was a child in Missoula, Montana one of my babysitters was Anne, a lovely Australian woman whose husband was pursing graduate study at the University of Montana Forestry Department.  Our family received as a gift from them several classic Australian books.  For many years they stood high on a shelf in our living room- tempting tales of a far off land.  Before departing for this adventure down under, I made a point to read them- one of which included A Fortunate Life by A. B. Facey ( 
Facey grew up in the Australian outback, had no formal education, taught himself to read and write, survived fighting at Galipoli, found the love of his life and  definitely lived  fully.  Throughout the book he talks about the importance of the people he met and the relationships he formed.  Despite many hardships he says, "I have lived a very good life, it has been very rich and full. I have been very fortunate and I am thrilled by it when I look back.''

University (Uni here) is in full swing, and as I am meeting people from around the world I feel so lucky to be living my own fortunate life.  The other Rotary Peace Fellows are all wonderful intelligent people with interesting stories, open hearts and  all with diverse backgrounds. It turns out they also like to dance :) Even after a long week, we had a fun night salsa dancing outside  in the city square.

My classes are their own international community with students from places like- Burma, Iran, Ethiopia, Iceland, Germany and Columbia and we are already engaging in stimulating conversations and I am learning and unlearning just as much in class as well as outside of class.  So far I am taking: Advanced International Studies, Ethics and Human Rights and Principles of Deep Seated Conflict Resolution.  Class structure will vary from lectures, tutorials and discussions to full role plays including a full war crimes tribunal. One professor described our primary skill as being reading, and yes! we have lots of reading to do which is challenging, complicated and fascinating.

Today was full and varied.  After waking up to the early, bright Queensland sunlight I went for a quick walk by the Brisbane River.  I then headed into the city or CBD (central business district) to take company class with Expressions a contemporary dance company.  The dancers are fierce, totally committed and some of the friendliest I have met.  It is amusing to me that in the process of literally turning my life upside down I am also finally getting the hang of handstands- go figure :)

After class I caught the bus- specifically the GLIDER  which I call the “flying squirrel bus” as it is blue with a cartoon picture of a flying squirrel, back into the city and then headed to uni campus.  In completing some of my orientation requirements, I had to attend a Safety Down Under Workshop.  Hmmn- a full on powerpoint with photos… Watch out for: crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, rip-tides, spiders, snakes and crazy weather. Oh, and yes magpies- which during spring happen to swoop and attack bicyclists.  Adventure!

This afternoon I attended a compelling seminar  presented by Ms. Mary Grahm on  Aboriginal Approaches to Peace and Conflict  Some of the things that I learned are that Aboriginal law is tied specifically to the geography and the dreaming stories of each place and that there are multiple perceptions of time that are not linear. While in Australia, I look forward to learning more about the ancient and living culture of the Aboriginal people.

 I am immersed in an incredible international community while living in a beautiful place with its own rich history.  I am full of gratitude for my opportunities to continue learning, growing and challenging myself. From the lively members of my local Rotary Club, Brisbane Planetarium (, to the other Peace Fellows, professors, dancers, leaders in the dance community, and new friends across communities- I feel fortunate in my developing Aussie relationships and connections and hope to continue to share A.B Facey’s outlook as reflective of my life.

Our building 

Local wildlife

My first kangaroo sighting

Community art project- New Farm Park

Fig Tree