Before I departed for the Philippines, I was not sure how my life as an intern would take shape. In my mind, there were three options, all entirely based on television and movie renditions of working.
Would I be memorizing coffee orders for every staffer in the building and making hourly Starbucks runs? Or maybe I would be being working for Miranda Priestly, sacrificing my dignity and my personal relationships in order to please an impossible-to-please fashion mogul? Or maybe I would be singlehandedly saving the world from malnutrition.
Shockingly, none of my assumptions were quite accurate. What I have been doing instead has been a range of graphic designing, writing publications, and taking work trips to various locations and events for the institute.
Since July is National Nutrition Month in the Philippines, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) has been keeping me busy in and out of the office. I spent a grand total of three hours working in front of my monitor and the rest of my time was dedicated to attending a variety of events, launches, and even a talent show–it turns out that Filipinos love pageants.
The 43rd Annual Seminar Series
July 3rd through July 5th consisted of the 43rd FNRI Seminar Series, an annual event in which the employees who conduct research and carry out field work report on their findings to other FNRI employees as well as other members of the Department of Science and Technology-our umbrella organization- as well as partners form various companies and other entrepreneurs. The series was hosted at the Crowne Plaza in Manila, a posh hotel with large ballrooms made to accommodate large groups such as ours.
For those three days we listened to speeches from many important figures within FNRI such as the director of the institute and other department heads, including Dr. Milflor Gonzales, the head of the department in which I work. Additionally, we listened to talks from researchers on topics ranging from malnutrition trends in different regions of the Philippines to the effects of multi-micronutrient fortified juice on hemoglobin levels of Filipino schoolchildren to methods of better fortifying brown rice for prolonged shelf life. I was entirely unqualified to listen to these talks, but it was fascinating to witness the wide variety of research being completed within FNRI to achieve better nutrition throughout the country.
An additional perk was a delicious ramen shop that we found in a nearby mall. We liked it so much that we went twice in the three-day period. My wallet might have been empty afterwards, but my stomach and heart were very full ❤
Oh My Gulay!
The seminar series fell within the same week as FNRI’s 70th anniversary. On the day of the anniversary, there was the launching of the Oh My Gulay! project. Gulay is the Tagalog word for vegetable, and the project was to raise a vegetable garden outside of the FNRI building. My division kicked off the project in early April to test whether it would be possible for Filipinos to raise their own backyard vegetable gardens that could produce enough food to sustain a family. On July 6th, the project was kicked off with our partnering company East West Seed and broadcasted on national television–and one of the IWU interns got her five seconds of fame on Filipino television!
Full of local vegetables, such as ampalaya (bitter gourd), sili labuyo (wild hot peppers), and kangkong (swamp cabbage), as well as more familiar ones like eggplant, string beans, and spinach, the garden is lush and packed with a variety of delicious, fresh veggies. One of the perks of my job is getting to pick and take home some of the newly-picked produce to cook for dinner.
What’s Up, Beaches
For those who are worried that I’m not having nearly enough fun here–fear not. The FNRI interns managed to sneak in some vacation time on the weekend. We flew to Boracay, a small island in the south, and spent three days being beach bums, eating far too much, and befriending stray animals. I guess the whole interning gig isn’t too bad when you are in a country like this!