We are now in our third week of full time language and culture study. For Dennis this means that his waking hours are scheduled around 8 hours of study a day, both in and out of the "office." I have 6 hours of study a day which is a bit of a challenge as I endeavor to manage the homefront at the same time.
Some of our study tasks are actually really fun. We are to have a certain amount of exposure time each day; time when we go out and actually experience the culture. This could be as simple as going grocery shopping with the intent to try and speak the Tagalog that we know, or watching an interaction take place in the market. Last week Dennis and I hopped on a jeepney and went down to Quiapo market to experience some culture. We had been there before on our immersion excursion trips when we first arrived here, but finding our way and doing it all on our own was a whole different ballgame.
The week before Dennis and I went out together to a neighborhood market and bought some fruit and a couple of bags- using our Tagalog and the cultural tidbits that we've learned to haggle for a good price. It is an art.
Here's a funny little story for you. Every week we are given a set of questions on a particular topic as a part of our Philippine cultural study. It is our job to find a Filipino and ask our list of questions before our group discussion time on Fridays. Last week the topic was "Household Duties of Men and Women." Our questions explored gender roles in this culture and helped us discover some of the cultural values that exist here.
Dennis interviewed one of the guards at the gate of our neighborhood. One of the questions was about why more Filipino women work abroad than men. Our ears are starting to get used to hearing the accent here, but sometimes comprehension is slow for us even when people are speaking English. The man Dennis was talking to waxed eloquent as he explained about women and men working abroad. He lapsed into Tagalog and Dennis carefully took notes although he had a hard time following him. The man kept using the phrase "peanut shell obligations."
When we got to our discussion class Dennis brought the phrase up. We were hoping we had stumbled onto something really deep and meaningful about culture. But when he mentioned it to our Filipino teachers their faces wore question marks. Everyone was trying to figure out what the phrase could mean.
Finally I turned to Dennis and said, "So, how did the guy say it? How did it sound to you?
Peanut shell obligations?" I said the phrase with a thick Filipino accent (as best I could anyway). Suddenly one of our teacher's face lit up. She waved her hand in the air, "I know!! I know what it is!!! Pea-nan-chull obligations!"