27 has dwindled down to 4. In just 4 months I will be ‘closing’ my Peace Corps service. With America on the horizon I find myself scrambling to leave my mark on Guimaras. Ideally I would like to be immortalized in the form of a natural landmark, something majestic- perhaps a waterfall or mountain, or maybe even an annual island-wide holiday that celebrates the work of Tyler. At the end of the day Peace Corps volunteers want to feel as if our service has been productive, that we have made a positive impact on our communities, and we will be remembered. Reality eventually sets in and I know that my projects will unravel, data I have collected will get buried in a dusty cabinet, and I will likely be remembered more for my coffee addiction or how far I could swim rather then my work with Marine Protected Areas. My true impact here will only exist in the relationships I have made with Filipinos: with my host families, my friends, my coworkers, with the students I have taught, the fishermen I have worked with, and the communities that I interact with daily. And while relationships are not as visible or permanent as a mountain, I am realizing that they are just as monumental and what Peace Corps is really all about.
My host mom (Nanay Norma) and I in Carles two weekends ago, she made my favorite- Lukos Adobo, squid cooked in ink. Also in Carles I had a chance to see my god son, John Lee (pic below), who is now one and a half years old!
Last week I conducted the first round of coral surveys for my thesis project, assessing coral cover inside vs. outside the Tan Luc Marine Protected Area to determine the impacts of illegal fishing. Unfortunately, while surveying I spotted several fishermen illegally entering the sanctuary. Meanwhile my coworkers assessed the sea grasses in the neighboring barangay, catching the largest mantis shrimp I have ever seen! (see picture below).
Several weeks ago, I traveled to Pandan Antique, the northwestern side of Panay island, to help a fellow volunteer conduct coral assessments on the Sebaste Shoal. While beautiful and diverse, the shoal is threatened from extremely destructive and illegal dynamite fishing. Surveying the reef was heartbreaking at times, transitioning from beautiful corals (some hundreds of years old) to barren craters, the product of dynamite explosions. I did enjoy seeing the new CRM volunteers (Lindsay and Ashley), whom I helped train almost one year ago, now thriving in their host communities.
I met up with some fellow volunteers in Binate this past Sunday to watch the Paquiao- Mayweather fight. We joined a small street-side viewing party, despite Pacquiao’s loss and the oppressive 100+ degree heat, it was a very memorable and fun experience.