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Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday, July 30

I didn't wake up until 7, but I walked for an hour before if got too hot.  I was walking aerobically, not strolling, and I almost lapped a jogger.  Of course he had much shorter legs.   I got in a little more than 3 times around the complex, and did not use the elevator.  I need a shower!  I am going to have to swim tonight because I have a blister starting on one of my toes, and I don't think walking will be a good idea until it heals a little.  I guess all the stuff about exercise helping your mood is true.  I am feeling happier.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Very Good Day

Jackie and I had a talk yesterday and in the evening she went to talk to Joan.  By the way, her name is pronounced jo an  not Joan.  They were able to work things out and Joan came home last night.  We all had a talk about budgeting and how we can make things work so everyone is happy.  I was very glad Joan came home because I was really missing her.  We are getting to be good friends.

Today I went to St. Luke's and got the catheter removed.  So far everything is working fine.  I had an infection, and once that was cleared up, the problems went away.

When we got home, Jackie told me that one of her older cousins was scolding her and telling her that she needed to take better care of me.  Jackie told me I had better start exercising or she would kick me around the complex.  I walked around the whole complex 3 times this evening, and did not use the elevator, either down or up.  We are on the 7th floor.  Then we went swimming for a couple of hours, so I have had my work out today.  I'm supposed to get up early and walk in the morning before it gets hot and walk again from 5 to 6pm.  Jackie says for 2 hours in the morning, but I don't think that will happen right away.  Anyway, hopefully there will be less of me now that I have a good place to exercise.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where we moved

I was not clear on exactly where our apartment is, but after some checking, it is described as Bicutan, ParaƱaque City.  The complex is a condo development, and we are renting from the condo owner, not an apartment management company.  We have to pay 1400p a month dues on top of our rent.  This pays for the maintenance of the pools, grounds, and the security service and administrative desk persons for each building.  Our drinking water is a little cheaper here.  56p for 10 gallons, compared with 70p in Pateros.  The internet seems to work better here, although it is still slow and does die now and then.


Manila Map


The complex is a project of SM Development, which also built and manages most of the major malls in Manila.  The owner is an inspiring success story.  He started as a junk shop boy.  In Manila every block has one or more 24 hour junk shops.  Junk shop boys take wagons out around the neighborhood, and anything that is not nailed down gets picked up for reuse.  If your corrugated metal roof springs a leak in the middle of the night, you run to the junk shop and find a piece for a patch.  Things that look like scrap to me are apparently sellable to someone.

Here is his official bio.

HENRY SY, SR., Chairman of the Board, is the founder of the SM Group of Companies and is currently Chairman Emeritus of Banco de Oro Universal Bank Inc., Honorary Chairman of China Banking Corporation, Chairman of SM Investments Corp., SM Land Inc. (formerly Shoemart Inc.), SM Prime Holdings Inc., and Highlands Prime. Mr. Sy opened the first Shoemart store in 1958. The said store has evolved into a dynamic group of companies with four lines of business - shopping malls, retail merchandising, financial services, and real estate development and tourism.

Birthday Pics




Joan and Jayann





To Go Boxes for Everyone

Send in the Clowns



Hot Dogs on a Stick




A Small Part of the Feast



The Ravening Hoards
Not Scared of Clowns

Cake Anyone?










Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We Moved

We are in the new apartment.  Two of the older sisters came over Monday night and did all the laundry, then started packing.
This morning I packed my computer and my clothes.   Their brother and his wife packed up the rest of the apartment with lots of help from the older sisters.  The truck showed up, and before lunch time, we were at our new place.  The workers had not finished installing the air conditioners or doing painting touch-ups, so we had to wait until they were done to start moving things in.  The truck crew unloaded in the underground parking area, and we fed them lunch while we waited.  By 4pm everything was moved in, and the girls sent me to my room to take a nap while they arranged furniture.  The new air conditioner works very well and I slept for a couple of hours.  Jackie was responsible for getting everything organized and getting the move made, but the day was not without cost.  Jackie frequently feels Joan does not do her share of the work, and can have an acid tongue letting her know about it.  She does not see how physically tiring doing the laundry is, and that her sister definitely does her share.  So Joan had enough today and is spending the night at her sister-in-law's house.  Hopefully we can all get rested and back to a smoothly running household.  The new place is just enough bigger to make it feel more comfortable.  It is very quiet, and that is welcome.  Even though we are on the 7th floor, when we left a window open, thousands of gnats flew in to swarm around my compact fluorescent bulb.  We are all about conservation here in the Philippines.  Energy and water are very carefully conserved by most people, and we try to do our part.  Of course with the gnats, I will have to keep the window closed and run the air conditioner tonight.  I will see if we can get screens some time soon, so we can keep windows open.  I need to sweep the dead bugs off my bed, take a shower, and get some sleep.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Moving

The rental agent drove us to the scratched and dented warehouse today to pick up air conditioners.  We got 2 small units for about half retail.  Of course I have to pay the building maintenance staff to install them. but since our apartment is on the 7th floor, I really don't mind.  We took the agent and her 2 year old daughter to lunch at KFC to say thanks for the help.

We had a monster birthday party for Jayann yesterday.  She is 3, and is growing and getting cuter every day.  We had half the family here at our old apartment cooking all day, then there were clowns and balloons, 2 huge cakes, and take home boxes for everyone.  All the kids got some sort of small present as well, so as you can see, it was quite the place to be.  Jackie's older brother is a wonderful cook, and did a lot of the work, as well as his wife and Jackie's older sister.  After the clowns packed up and left, two of her younger brothers helped clean up after the ravening hoards, and I think the apartment was back to normal in less than two hours.  They als cleaned the common area where the clowns were doing their stuff.  We had one little girl who was terrified of the clowns and spent most of the time hiding her face.  Jayann was such a little lady, and so cute, taking off her shoes to come inside and putting them on the mat for outdoor shoes.  I hope to have pics up shortly, though that will have to wait until I have a better internet connection.



The birthday girl


Two Angels


The computer needs to be packed up.  Hopefully we are moving tomorrow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Moving

Someone really made Jackie mad the other day when she went to take out the trash.  I rarely get the whole story, but I think there have been a lot of negative comments from people with dirty minds, and she is feeling concerned about my safety.  So...we are moving to a secure complex with  multi-national residents.  The complex is a mix of rental and condo units.

We will be renting a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment.  Unfurnished, the rent is 13,000p per month.  Fully furnished, the rent is 20,000p.  That's about $382 unfurnished and $435 furnished at today's exchange rate.

I think laundry will be more difficult for Joan because she will have to hang things on the balcony to dry, and won't have a whole separate laundry room to work in.  I think weather will decide whether it is practical to wash too, since the balcony doesn't have a roof like our current laundry room does.  Having a girl's bathroom and a boy's bathroom will smooth out the process of getting everyone ready to go someplace.  Also, having hot water will take some of the shock out of an early morning shower, and be welcome when the cold weather months arrive.  One of the big positives is that there is a pool, gym, and lots of room to walk without dodging traffic.  The complex is very similar to any large US setup, but all the parking is under ground, so there are not sprawling acres of asphalt.  I hope to improve my fitness level and lose some more weight,  which will help my overall health.

So here are some pics of the new place.






Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Automatic? What's that?

I don't think automatic transmission is even an option here.  Everything, including the heavy duty buses are manual transmission.  How comfortable your ride is will be determined by how aggressive the driver is and how well they shift gears.  Thinking back to the post about a Saturday night jeepney ride, I think there were two things going on I didn't mention.  First, the driver was smooth and was not weaving in and out the way many drivers do, and second, he could shift gears smoothly.  Probably some of that has to do with how well maintained a vehicle is, and for the most part, if it runs, it seems to be good enough, but driver skill also has to be a factor.  Riding from Pateros to Guadeloupe early this morning, the driver was very smooth, and was not aggressively cutting people off, so it reminded me of the pleasant Saturday night ride.

Someone in the Philippines must be making money.  I saw a Maserati dealership today.

St. Luke's Medical Center

St. Luke's Medical Center, Global Village, Makati

All I can say, is WOW!  Immaculate, latest equipment, knowledgeable staff, especially the doctors, and the most polite people you will ever have the honor to meet.  Jackie took me to the wrong location, but they said. "No problem, we don't have anyone for a kidney stone treatment, so the urologist will be happy to see you right away."  My close friends know how bad I am about blood samples...the tech was a magician.  He found the vein first try and didn't hurt me at all.  I was sitting up, and didn't even feel dizzy.  I had to have 2 blood tests and 2 different types of ultrasound.  My total lab bill was 10,000p and the doctor's fee was 1,500p.  So for a total of $250 I was seen by a specialist and got red carpet treatment the entire time.   I go back Friday to get the test results and hopefully get the catheter out.   It was comforting and reassuring to see that the doctor knew all about HIFU and was aware of all the potential issues.  The cleanliness and cutting edge equipment also help a patient relax and be confident they are in good hands.

So a big thanks to Jackie for insisting I go there, and to all the staff, nurses, and doctors who took care of me today.

We saw the daughter of former President Marcos touring the hospital today.  Jackie says the Ms. Marcos has served as a representative, and her brother has run for senator, so apparently the children are not blamed for their parents' actions.

A note added much later: Imelda Marcos, wife of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, is an elected representative from the district where Marcos got his political start. She claimed in an interview, that the 3000 pairs of shoes and panties was a gross exaggeration, but I saw pics of her closet right after they fled the country, and I'm not buying her story.  Much like many U.S. districts, people are willing to tolerate some level of corruption if they think the person represents the district well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Not a Fan of Chaos

OK, here is one area where I'm going to say categorically that I DON'T like the way things are done in the Philippines.  When I need to see a doctor,  I'd like to make an appointment, thank you very much, come 15 minutes early, and know that unless a disaster movie becomes a local reality, I will get to see a doctor.  My time in the Air Force lets me be adaptable, so if it is a competent doctor, I'm not traumatized if it's not the doctor I usually see.  Sometimes their are advantages to a fresh view point and another set of eyes.

I called St. Luke's Urology department, and they told me, come tomorrow 9am to 12pm, first come, first served.  Now I guess that approach has worked for Southwest Airlines, so maybe I shouldn't complain, but for the first time since I've been here, I am complaining.  Jackie says we need to be sure to be there before 9am or  I will not get seen.  In order to get there before 9am, we will need to leave the house before 6am.  If there is an unusual traffic problem, I'll be screwed, and all the effort will be for nothing.  Now I understand why it can be so difficult to get things done here.

ARRRRGH!  I am not a fan of chaos!  I'm going to a private hospital, paying full price, and I know I'm not getting off for $5 tomorrow.  I'd like a few of the amenities that should go with a private doctor and paying full price. if you don't mind!  I suppose this system works best with the local patient population, but I am not happy about it!

I really don't have any choice though because there is no way for me to find a urologist working from a private office that has their credentials verified in the way a doctor at St. Luke's does.  I've talked to my urologist in the US, and he isn't able to recommend a doctor in Manila, so we will just have to hope I get to see a knowledgeable and experienced doctor.  My US doctor did verify that the medicines prescribed by the surgeon at the Makati hospital are correct and appropriate for my symptoms.

And NOW for something completely different!

Jackie made a grilled pork dish with baby corn,  green beans, okra and uncooked sliced tomatoes for lunch that was the best thing she has cooked yet, and most everything she has made has been very good, so this was exceptionally delicious.  She is very good at getting the vegetables cooked just right.  She says she invented the sauce.  It reminded me of a sweet teriyaki.  She says she did not know how to cook until just before I got here.  Jackie says she learns best from following the instructions in a cook book.  This is reflected in her interest in "presentation."  It was so pretty, I felt bad that I didn't think to take a picture before devouring it.  She says she has a terrible time learning from someone explaining or showing her how to do something.  Jackie and I finished up the pork from lunch for dinner tonight.  Joan doesn't eat leftovers, so Jackie made her some sort of fish.  The grilled pork was so good, I didn't mind at all having it two meals in a row.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Too Much Excitement

Well, this is a medical post, so I'm sorry if there is TMI for anyone.  I was treated for prostate cancer in July of 2008 with a procedure called HIFU or High Intensity Focused Ultrasound.  Everything went as advertised, and after 5 1/2 hours on a table in Nassau, Bahamas I was cancer free.  The prostate was basically microwaved to death 2mm at a time, killing the nasty cancer cells along the way. A possible complication is some thermal damage to the urethra or the opening to the bladder, where the urethra connects.  Until Thursday night, I had no problems.  For no apparent reason, the tissue where my prostate used to be swelled and shut off urine flow.  This got progressively worse, until I woke up Jackie at 2AM and told her I needed to go to the ER while I could still walk.  We grabbed a tricycle and went to the Makati Hospital ER.  This is a government operated hospital, and Jackie thought I should go to a private hospital.  They were all so far away, I didn't think I could stand the ride to one of them.  In addition, there was no guarantee they would see me without a referral from a doctor, so I decided closest was best.  The triage nurse told me that I would have to pay because I wasn't a Philippine Citizen.  I said, "fine," so he put me in the system.  This starts with filling out forms by hand, in at least duplicate, using carbon paper for the copies.  Another nurse puts the information from the form into the one computer terminal in the ER.  After about an hour, a nurse took medical history and symptoms, and in another half hour, I got to explain the previous information to the surgery on-call.  She decided I needed a catheter inserted to relieve bladder pressure, and that I could get some tests and consult their urologist as an out-patient.  She did an exam and gave a commentary in Tagalog to her assistant, who furiously wrote down every word.  Then she turned me over to a nurse to inert the catheter.  Now I've had that procedure done before so I wasn't thrilled when he grabbed a plastic chair and pulled it in their break room and tried inserting with me sitting down.  I knew it didn't work, so I sat and waited for another hour for the surgeon to try it herself using a smaller size tube.  The nurse caused some trauma, and the blood in the tube was a little disconcerting, but I watched other nurses patch up a stabbing victim who was sitting in the same type plastic chair, in the ER waiting room, so I decided I wasn't as bad off as I could be.  Now Philippine health care is participatory, and you need at least one family member or Tagalog speaking friend with you.  The hospital doesn't have a central supply, so they sent Jackie to the pharmacy to get the catheter.  Then, the doctor was having some trouble threading the tube and injecting the water to blow up the balloon at the same time, so she called Jackie to help.  Jackie was not up to seeing me naked, with a rubber tube sticking out of the part of me she didn't want to see in the first place, and so the doctor had to figure out how to push the syringe plunger herself.  About 7AM, they were winding up the paperwork, and sent Jackie to pay my bill.  Now get this people, with NO medical insurance, my TOTAL ER bill was 200p...I'm not getting billed by the doctor or anyone else.  That's $4.35 at the current exchange rate.  The equipment was 20 years out of date, there were a LOT of people to take care of, but it seemed like the staffing was adequate, and everyone was doing their job, no one was gooding off.

The last Mayor of Makati has a reputation for efficient government, and was elected Vice President of the Philippine Republic in the recent Presidential election.  Jackie thinks his administration is responsible for the hospital being as efficient as it is.

I am probably going to a private urologist for my consult because of the cancer/HIFU issues, but I got competent, basic emergency medical care for $4.35  Jackie brought the receipt from the business office back to the ER, and they gave us a clearance form so the security guard would let us leave.

Again, I think there is something to be said for the Philippine way of lower tech, more staff.  However, the majority of Philippine workers, in all fields, seem much more customer service oriented than most US workers, and I have yet to see someone being lazy at their work.  The triage nurse said his goal was to work in the US, and I told him that any US hospital would be lucky to have him.

We walked from Makati to Pateros, me jauntily carrying my plastic bag of bloody pee, and Jackie leading the way through the maze of alleys.   We stopped at two drug stores, and neither had the medicine the doctor prescribed, so we caught a tricycle for home, and Jackie made me coffee and a thick chicken rice soup that is the Philippine cure all food.  Then she went out to the BIG drug store to get my prescriptions and to buy food for the day.  I'm going to have to see if I can find a collection bag that will go under my clothes so I'm not stuck in the house for 2 weeks.

I am drinking water, and the tube is running blood free now, so as long as I don't have some horrible complication from the procedure or cancer at work again, I should be fine.  Joan just brought me a fresh cup of coffee, so I'll post this and sip.  I miss my roaster, but I have learned to enjoy Nescafe' like the rest of the world.

Jackie got back from the drug store, and market.  Half of my prescribed pills cost 3618p  or about $80.  Remember, I don't have health insurance, so that's not a co-pay.  Prescriptions ARE taxed at 12%  I'm guessing that is because they are imported.

I just realized that Jackie opens cans with an 8 inch kitchen knife!  I need to find a can opener the next time we go to the mall!  I should explain that cans are not a common container for things we use every day.  Most things come in some kind of pouch designed to be either single use, or emptied into some sort of container.  For example, a Coffeeemate refill or a pouch of tomato sauce.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 15

I have been in my apartment in Manila for a month.  It seems so strange, and yet in many ways, people are the same in many ways..

The night of July 13, we had a very powerful storm.  No lightning, but lots of rain and very strong winds.  It sounded like an angry giant was pounding on my bedroom windows.  The rain seemed to be coming from many directions at the same time.  I didn't get one window completely locked, and so I got stinging drops on my face from time to time in the night, and had a puddle on the floor in the morning.  Of course the power went out.  We did not have lights or fans until about 9PM on the 14th.

Here is a news article about the typhoon:


MANILA (AFP) – The death toll from a typhoon that hit the Philippines rose sharply to 53 Saturday, officials said, warning the number of dead could go up further with dozens of others missing days after the disaster.
In some rare good news, three fishermen were plucked by passing colleagues from waters off the Bicol region, after Typhoon Conson destroyed their boat on Tuesday, an army statement quoted survivor Victor Bordeos as saying.
"Our boat capsized and (was) torn in half during the height of the storm," Bordeos said.
Eight other members of the crew are among 43 people still missing in the typhoon-prone waters southeast of Manila, regional army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said.
Air force helicopters and navy aircraft are combing the calming seas to find the missing, he added.
Conson struck the main island of Luzon including the capital Manila with surprising ferocity overnight Tuesday after state weather forecasters incorrectly predicted that the typhoon would hit further north.
The first typhoon to batter the country this year destroyed thousands of homes, sank or damaged 62 boats, uprooted trees that crushed people to death, snapped power lines and disrupted aviation.
It took utility firms more than two days to restore electricity to a near-paralysed capital.
The government's National Disaster Coordinating Council on Saturday raised the death toll to 53 from 39 as the coast guard and other rescuers found more bodies at sea at the mouth of Manila Bay and off Bicol.
It put the number of overall missing at 85.
By Saturday morning the coast guard said it was still struggling to contain two oil spills caused by the wrecked watercraft, one of which severed an underwater oil pipe of a local refiner at the mouth of Manila Bay.
The Philippines is in the so-called typhoon belt of the Pacific. Up to 20 typhoons sweep through the country each year, killing hundreds of people.


I finally got brave enough to go out by myself!  I got up bright and early the morning after the storm. took a REALLY cold shower, and took a tricycle to the Pateros Jollibee.  Jollibee is the biggest fast food chain in the Philippines.  They have burgers, hot dogs, fries, spaghetti, fried and BBQ chicken, and all the rice dishes and soups you would not expect in a fast food place.  Their power was on, they had good coffee, and I had sausage and scrambled egg on a yeast roll, called a Pandesal.



I sat around for an hour and a half enjoying their airconditioning.  The armored car came to pick up their deposit, and believe me, they are SERIOUS about security here.  The truck looks like something from a  sci-fi movie battle scene.  Both guards were wearing body armor, and one had a brain bucket on.  He had an automatic 12 gauge   shotgun, and the other guard had an AR-15 style automatic rifle.  I'm not a gun guy, so I don't know exactly what it was, but it wasn't a Kalashnikov.  These two do not carry the bag so they have their hands on their weapons, and have them at the ready all the time.  The third guard does the carrying.  I walked home, and thought of stopping at the market to say good morning to Mr. Belza, but Jackie said he would have yelled at her for letting me go out by myself, so I'm glad I didn't.  It's about a mile home, so I had a good walk.  Here, pedestrians are walking at their peril, and must jump out of the way because the jeeps and tricycles won't stop.  Also, a near miss is a matter of millimeters here, not the few feet we think of as a close call in the US.

I went out again this morning, and walked to the market and back, so I got in about 2 miles so far today.

Hate to wait?  Don't come to the Philippines.  Lines are a fact of life.  Average wait time at the bank's ATM is 15 minutes.  There were 29 people ahead of me at the phone company, and I waited from 3:00pm until my number was called just before 5:00pm.  Almost everyplace that is doing any kind of customer service requires you to take a number.  Then they call the numbers over a PA system and tell you which window to go to.  There is often a big screen TV with the information too.  People here have adapted, and sit or stand patiently waiting for their turn.  Driving is a different story.  Some drivers try for symphonic virtuosity with their vehicle horn, even when it is obvious the drivers ahead of them would move IF they could.

Here's something totally strange.....I was COLD last night!  I can't explain it because I still felt damp and sticky, but I was COLD, and turned off my fan, grabbed my bath towel, and used it for a blanket.

Douglas Adams gives good advice.  You should always know where your towel is, whether hitchhiking the galaxy or living in Manila.  Most men carry something between a wash cloth size and a hand towel size all the time.  I have found that you feel cooler if your skin is barely damp with sweat than if the sweat is dripping in huge, clothes soaking droplets.  The towel helps keep the skin at the optimal level for evaporative cooling.  Vendors are everywhere, happy to sell you all varieties of perspiration control devices.  A popular variety seems to have many layers of a cotton material sewed together.  These are about the size of a pot holder, and come in many colors, but white seems to be the most common.  When I went to the Immigration Bureau office, a very aggressive vendor was trying to get me to buy a large hand towel size.  The taxi driver was irritated with him for his persistance, and locked all the doors.  They looked like nice towels, and the price was good, but I had a nice big, red bandana doing the job nicely that day.

A problem for Americans is the 46p to $1 exchange rate.  You have a lot of bills in your wallet, and so it feels like you have a lot of money.  Street vendor items seem very reasonably priced, but it all adds up, and more quickly than you think, so it is important to control impulse buying.  I do not give money to people begging.  This is strictly a practical matter.  If I give to one, 20 suddenly appear.  Jackie does give homeless kids a peso coin now and then, but not every time we go out, and I think they are kids she recognizes who live in the area of our apartment, and it is always when the kid is by himself.

Jackie and Joan went wild cleaning yesterday.  No electricity is involved in their cleaning, and there was no internet to distract.  The living room is rearranged,  every item in the kitchen was taken of the shelf or out of the cupboard, the shelf cleaned, and then things put back in precise rows.  All the floors were scrubbed.  Joan can pick up the scrub rag with her foot and dip it in the wash water, then lift it up to ring out with her hands before she drops it on the floor and scrubs using her foot.  Our tile is so shiny, the reflection is dazzling.  Watching her work is like watching a dancer.

We had McDonald's fried chicken last night and Jackie cooked rice on the gas burner.  Liberty and Lannie were visiting, so she had to make two batches.  The electric rice cooker does a better job, but it was still good rice.  McDonald's is as stingy with the gravy as KFC, so there is not enough to really moisten all the rice.  I have to keep reminding myself to drink smaller amounts and more often so the rice doesn't stick going down.  We had dinner by candle light.  Liberty pulled rank on Lannie and made her do the dishes.  It was interesting to watch her, because almost everything she did was identical to how Joan and Jackie do it.  Also, I was surprised that 14 year old Lannie was just as thorough as Jackie, Joan or Liberty are.  Jackie says their mom taught them well, and would never allow anyone to get away with sloppy work or shirking.  In the Belza house, sharing chores does work because everyone does their share.  Jackie says that she was never as nice to her other sibs as to Joan, and if they didn't do their share, she made sure they did.  She implied that she used intimidation and coercion to get results.

Right now, they are cleaning my room, and have put the metal bed on end so they can clean under it.  I always try to keep my stuff picked up so we don't run into room mate irritation issues.  We wear indoor slippers and change into outdoor shoes or sandals at the door.  I wear my brown pinto slippers without complaint.  At one time, I tried to do the same thing at my house in the US and asked the kids to take off outdoor shoes at the door.  It wasn't a success.  I guess I wasn't as intimidating as Jackie.  I guess this massive cleaning is a monthly ritual, and would have happened independent of the power failure.  About 9PM last night, the power came back on, but the internet was not working until about 11PM.

Late last night I was helping Liberty do research for her brother Jhun's homework.  He does computer work, and did not have time to do his own work.  Luckily it was a Political Science topic I know about and was able to help.  Juhn is 15, and I've talked about him before, just couldn't spell his name correctly until today.

Rooster fighting is legal here.  I have not been, and don't ever plan to go.  I only mention it because right now there is a very loud crowd somewhere not too far away cheering for their favorites.  I haven't figured out what the schedule is.  Sometimes the roar of the crowd rises above the normal cacophony, and then I think,  "Oh there is a fight going on."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 13

Jackie made chicken curry for lunch today.  It was just great.

We went to the Mega Mall today to sign up for DSL internet.  The land line phone company here operates on the Ma Bell model that a lot of you are not old enough to remember.  Basically, the phone company has to evaluate your application and determine if you are WORTHY to have a landline phone.  You can't get DSL by itself, just like with Windstream in the US.  The land line is too much, and the DSL will be 3Mb and cost a little more than I paid in the US for 5Mb.  I will have to buy a wireless router so we can all use the internet, but I am waiting to see if I'm approved before I buy it.

It started raining while we were in the mall.  The malls are so big, you don't realize the weather has changed until you get to the door.  There is a very long covered walk from the entrance to the bus stop, and there were a number of umbrella vendors there offering a rainbow of collapsable umbrellas for 50p each.  We got 2,  one barely covered me and the other was plenty big enough to cover both Jackie and Joan.   Lines for the SUV taxis were too long, so we caught a bus, transferred to a Jeepney and walked to the local market to pick up things Jackie wanted for making dinner.  We caught a tricycle and made it home mostly dry.  New experience on the bus...A woman got up, opened up a book and started preaching in Tagalog.  I caught the words "god" and "loves a cheerful giver" then she passed an envelope.

I continue to provide endless amusement for the girls.  What I have been calling a "motorcycle taxi" is actually called a "tricycle."  I'm not going back and changing it everywhere I named it incorrectly, so just remember that when I say "motorcycle taxi" the correct name is "tricycle."

For my friends interested in cost of living information, regular gas is around $3.75 a gallon, bio-diesel is about $4.25 a gallon, and straight diesel is about $4.50 a gallon....roughly approximate conversions from pesos and liters.

10 gallons of drinking water was $1.50 this morning.

Monday July 12

Mrs. Belza sent Liberty with a Tupperware full of cooked veggies for our lunch today.  After we all shared the veggies over RICE, all had our fill, and there were leftovers, Liberty told me her mother said the veggies were just for me.  I told her I did not want to be 400 pounds and not able to find clothes, so I was more than happy to share.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday July 11

Going out last night was a different experience.  Perhaps I was not so stressed about the totally unsafe condition of the Jeepneys anymore, so I was not thinking about bald tires, riding on a bench seat with no seat belt, facing sideways, or any of the other things that seem overwhelming at first.  It was like I could see individuals, not just commuters, jammed too tightly together.

Now perhaps because I don't understand Tagalog, I am falling into the universal human pitfall of trying to see meaningful patterns in my environment, but here is what I thought I saw:  A father with two handsom young sons, taking them somewhere on Saturday evening and teaching them how to behave properly in public.  He was using humor and his example, but also telling the boys if they were not getting it right.  No yelling or hitting, but a gentle and firm father's hand guiding his sons.  I smiled watching them.

A good looking man in his 30's was sitting across from me.  A very frail lady boarded the Jeepney, and we both helped steady her so she could get to a seat.  We looked at each other and smiled.  I imagine we were both thinking the same thing, that this is how men are supposed to act, and it does not matter where they come from.  I imagined recognition from him as one of the good guys, and I believe he also felt gratified to know I saw him as a man who does the right thing.  We smiled at each other again, and I felt a brother bond with him for that moment.

Perhaps I'm just projecting my Pollyanna view of the world, but then again, maybe my vision was clearer for my rose colored glasses, not obscured by them.

Today we went to the small local super market.  We got mundane things like soap and toothpaste.  We tend to buy food daily, based on what we think will taste good that day.  We bought 10kg of rice.  I got a small lesson on choosing rice.  Apparently the smell is important, and the 39p per kg variety definitely smelled better than the cheaper varieties.  Besides type, the place where it was grown is also important.  The rice guy at the super market scooped it out, and was only a few grains off when he put the bag on the scale.  He put it in a doubled plastic grocery bag.  The girls carried everything else, and I schlepped the 22 pounds of rice for about half a mile to the regular market.  Mr Belza does not work on Sunday, but the pork butcher in the next stall does, so we got about 3/4 pound ground pork.  Adjusting your brain to realize that RICE is the main component of the meal and that meat is a flavoring, not the centerpiece, takes some time.  We also bought a lot of veggies.  Jackie says that meat is cheaper, so she has not used any more vegetables in her cooking than are needed to flavor the meat.

We looked at recipes on the internet together before we went shopping, and I lobbied a little for some veggies.  Jackie is busy chopping them right now, so we will see at lunch what she came up with.  We have to compromise because some things I like and on Jackie's black list and squid and fish sauce are on mine.  Joan seems pretty happy with whatever Jackie cooks, although she makes excellent pancakes and egg sandwiches herself.  I think it is mostly about maintaining the cooperative relationship they have, so both feel they are doing their share, so they try not to get into each others' territory.

Lunch was outstanding.  It was like a California mix stir fry, and absolutely delicious.  Joan thought the veggies were not cooked enough, but I thought they were perfect Chinese style, just the right balance of cooked and crisp.  My tummy is very happy right now.

After siesta, we had some excitement.  The doorknob to the girls' bedroom broke, and they were stuck inside until the landlord came with a big screwdriver and pried the latch open.  I thought about trying to kick the door open, but then thought better of it (humiliation factor if unsuccessful, ya know) and waited for the landlord.  Fortunately the girls had their cell phones, but I think they ended up having to yell out the window.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10 12:15pm

I have a date tonight.  I feel like I did when I was 17 and going out the first time.  Joan has agreed to chaperone.  To meet "respectable" girls here, you must honor custom and tradition and behave respectably.  That means no PDA, I'm told.

Glorious or gory details, within the limits of good taste of course, will follow.

Nothing to tell...she stood me up.  I'll be interested to hear what happened.

Joan and I ate dinner at Chow King.  I had Orange chicken.  It came with a fried egg, over easy, a big plate of rice, and the orange chicken.  It was outstanding.  The sauce here is quite a bit hotter than at typical chinese places in the US, but it was very good.  Joan had some kind of soup and some sort of rice dish in a big bowl.  With 2 large pineapple juices, the total was 182p which with the current strong dollar trading at about $1 to 46p comes to about $3.96  I was not stuffed, but comfortably full, which fits well with my over all goal to slim down.  A LARGE drink here is about the same size as a small in the US.  I can't comment on whether the obesity epidemic has traveled here with the American fast food places.  People seem to be all different shapes and sizes, and I have no wish to stereotype.  I have to say that I have not seen any 300 pound, plus people here.

Monday July 12  1:30pm
She claims she had a migraine.  Joan talked to her at length and told me that she was not the right girl for me.  I have to take my "siste's" advice on this.  Joan tells me to be patient, and she will find the right girl for me.  I told her that maybe she should not set her sights so high, or she may be like my mother and never think anyone is right for me.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Invitation to the "Provinces"

Today Jackie's uncle invited me to go to "the Provinces" with him early Saturday morning and come back on Sunday.  He is her paternal uncle.  He is retired Philippine military, and like everyone else in the Belza family, he is a very nice person.  When you have a Filipino friend, you become a friend to the entire family.  He has needed to borrow the motorcycle I bought for Jackie quite a bit recently, and apparently it has made life a lot easier for him to be able to use it.  He doesn't seem to have problems with it falling over like the girls do.  I was a little reluctant until he mentioned swimming in the ocean.  I'm guessing it will also be quieter..yea!

Jackie says there will be many transfers to make the trip, and that I will need to take food with me because the bus will only stop for very short bathroom breaks.  Boy am I glad I got my old man's bladder problems fixed when I had my cancer nuked.

Here, "the Provinces" refers to anyplace outside Metro Manila, but it usually implies the family home village or farm.  Jackie says her father came to Manila at age 16 to try to improve his quality of life, so I'm guessing we will be going to the family hometown.  I am pretty excited about this because it is the kind of experience you can't buy.  You can't see this aspect of a country sitting at the Hilton pool or in the tourist district, or even at the "cultural center" where everything is an authentically staged performance.  It gives me hope that I really am a good guy because the whole family seems to like me, and it doesn't feel like it is directly tied to the things I bought Jackie or the economic benefits my supporting her for a few months have given the family.

My lack of linguistic skill is driving me crazy.  I hate just being able to nod and smile.  On the other hand, I used to talk too much anyway.  I just wish I could understand what people are saying while I'm listening.

Friday 07/09 10AM
Well, it turns out the trip was not a definite thing, which is just as well, since my stomach is not behaving today.  I think I may not be drinking enough water.  It is so hot, it's easy to get dehydrated.

Automatic time stamps insist on US dates and times.  It is a lot of work to edit each one, so I'm going to start putting a local date/time at the start of an entry.  I am exactly 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight time.
For example, 10AM on July 10th here is 10PM on July 9th in the US Eastern time zone.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Too Darn Hot

The prospect of spending the day in our sweat lodge was just too much for me, so Jackie, Joan, and I went to The Mall of Asia.  It has a full size hockey rink, they rent skates, and you can skate there.  It used to be he biggest mall anywhere in Asia.  Now, it is number 2 in the Philippines.

Wikipedia says:

"The SM Mall of Asia mall grounds consists of four buildings interconnected by walkways; the Main Mall, the Entertainment Mall, and the North and South Carpark Buildings.
The Main Mall includes shopping and dining establishments and the food court. The Entertainment Mall is a two-story complex, a majority of which is open-air, facing Manila Bay.
The mall's 5,000 parking spaces are divided across two, six-story parking buildings conveniently designated the North and South parking buildings. The South Parking building houses the mall's official SM Department Store, while the mall's supermarket, the SM Hypermarket is located within the North Parking building.  (NOTE: Free standing supermarkets don't exist here, or at least I haven't seen one.  They are one of the anchot stores of all big malls.)
One of the mall's somewhat-unique features is a 20-seater tram traveling around the mall grounds to ferry shoppers around."


                                            



 Pretty impressive, isn't it?


                                                    
















This is the main entrance.


                                              













It's nice and cool by the skating rink!

I really don't know how you would shop there unless you figured out what stores you wanted to visit and drew yourself a map or flow diagram.  We were just wandering to keep cool, but Joan couldn't resist a giant pink stuffed rabbit with a big red heart.  She is starting work again, and I'll bet the big bunny took everything she will get in her first check.

We ate lunch at a place called Max's which is famous for roast chicken.  Jackie and I  each had a leg/thigh quarter with a good sized helping of RICE, and some veggies wrapped in a spring roll wrapper.  Joan had fried eggs with pork and RICE.  We got an appetizer that was a soup with veggies and shrimp to put over the extra RICE the girls always order.  I was full after my chicken, RICE, and half of my salad thingie.  I hate having impaired hearing because it is so hard for me to get the names of things correct without asking about it 6 times.  I tend to write when the girls are sleeping, so then I forget to ask the name.  Sorry.  Anyway, the girls finished up all of lunch.  There was this weird dessert that seemed to have random stuff on top of shaved ice.  I recognized the coconut and the hunks of red and green jello, but then there were hunks of stuff that looked like fruit, but were basically tasteless, hunks of something totally unrecognizable,  which was also pretty tasteless, and mung beans.  I think there were a couple of a seed that tastes like chocolate, but maybe that was my imagination.  Ice tea here is like tea colored, very sweet, but very weak, lemonade.  "Unsweet" isn't an option.  Jackie told me it was considered a good restaurant, not a fast food place.  The chicken was wonderful and the service was excellent.  Tipping is the custom, but at a lower percentage than typical in the US.  Jackie has always figured out the tip, and I don't know the formula she uses. You are expected to hand the tip to the waiter, not leave it on the table, which is considered impersonal and rude here.

Table manners:  Eating any rice dish with your fingers is perfectly acceptable.  Joan eats almost exclusively with her fingers.  The way Jackie eats, the fork is in the left hand, a soup spoon in the right.
The fork is used to hold food for cutting or push food onto the spoon.  The spoon is used to cut in lieu of a knife, and to shovel food into your mouth.  People here eat very fast.  In the US, I'm considered a very fast eater.  Here, I'm a real slowpoke.

Pics from today's outing:  OK, here are pics from my cell phone.  I know some of you think I'm alone in a hotel and just grabbed some pics of cute Filipinas off the internet, but I actually do have friends here.  Even though they are twins, Joan is noticeably taller than Jackie.


Jackie, George, and Joan


                                                              Jackie and me


                                                          Joan and me





                                              Fashionistas strike a pose

Creepy Crawlies

There are lots of insects around.  Flies are omnipresent, but by taking out the garbage often, they don't seem to be a big problem.  We are on the second floor, and they don't seem to fly in the window that often.  The air resistance of screens is just too great, and we want every cc of fresh air we can get.  There are giant cockroaches, but I only see them one at a time, not in swarms.  I may get some boric acid to put behind the refrigerator, which is usually where they seem to come from.  There are tiny red ants that mysteriously appear in swarms if any garbage is left on the laundry room floor.  Joan's Clorox work seems to keep them at bay.  There is something that bites me on the knees and legs at night.  I have not figured out what it is yet.  It leaves a red bump, but doesn't really look like a mosquitoe bite, and I haven't seen any blood suckers flying around.  The little red ants bite, so maybe that is what is getting me while I sleep.  It or they got me again during my nap.  I'm thinking it is some kind of gnat.  Of course screens don't keep them out, so I'm afraid I'm on the menu for the foreseeable future.

I made friends with the girls' 15yo younger brother last night.  Like almost all Filipinos I've met so far, he is very insecure about his English.  I told him I wasn't here to judge, but that I wanted to hear what he had to say and communicate.  I tell all my friends here that they speak English better than they think they do and can communicate quite functionally.  We watched "Sixth Sense" together, and he enjoyed getting scared by the mumus. (ghosts)  I became his hero when I got my outdoor sandal and squashed a cockroach.  He hates and is scared of them.  He is a very nice kid, and I like him a lot.  I was just thinking how grateful I am to Gwen and all my UU* friends for helping me learn to appreciate all kinds of people.  We lose so much if we only get to know people "just like us."

*UU is Unitarian Universalist
In Charlotte, NC I attended Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church

If you'd like to know more about a non-doctrinal, non-dogmatic, all inclusive church, that is committed to social justice, check out   http://uua.org

We all slept later than usual, and it was dark when people started getting up from our siestas.  Joan has not felt well all day, and Jackie didn't seem in the mood to cook, so I suggested we go get something to eat.  McDonald's here has fried chicken, rice, and gravy in addition to the Big Mac, and HERE, McDonald's delivers!  Many other fast food places do too.  There are fleets of motor bikes with large boxes on the back, decked out in the corporate colors, and driven by uniformed restaurant workers. We went to the store by motorcycle taxi, and then walked home.  It was almost a pleasant temperature for a walk.  Because Manila is close to the equator, we don't have long summer evenings like you do in the higher latitudes.  It is dark by 7 here.  Many people run little convenience stores out of the front of their house.  Joan stopped at one on the way home and bought one cigarette.  They had a lighter tied to the security bars for the convenience of their customers.  Smoking is very common here, but no one smokes in stores or restaurants.  Jackie hates the smoke as much as I do, but Joan usually tries to go outside to smoke, so the house doesn't smell bad.  Joan says she would like to quit, but she can't.  Her rebel days left her with a habit she can't break.  I'm sure there is a lesson there some where.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Editing

I try to edit as I go, but I'm not always successful, so there are going to be errors.  I have decided that rather than just writing a new post if I want to change how I said something, I'll just update the post and make whatever corrections I think are needed.  If a post looks completely different than you remember, I probably made changes.  I hope that doesn't drive anyone crazy, it just seems like the best way to manage the blog to me.  After all, it isn't carved in stone.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homesick?

I guess I should talk a little about the psychological side of living in a very different country.

It is a lot less scary here than when I was in Thailand in 1973.  Of course I am living with regular people now, not out looking for bar girls, like I was then.  The impact of not being able to understand what people are saying is pretty profound.  It was worse in Thailand because the language there has the same tonal characteristics as Chinese.  Tagalog (ta ga' low) is more like Spanish or other word based languages, so it doesn't sound so strange.  The fact that many people speak at least some English makes every day life easier, but I still need an interpreter if I need to get into detail about anything.  At major malls, and in stores for major brands like Apple or Nokia, most store employees speak excellent English and can help you choose the right cell phone or computer.  At the National Book Store (similar to Barns & Nobel) the clerks had to call the "expert" to talk with me, and she really didn't understand what I was asking.  Jackie and Joan were a lot more help picking books to supplement Rosetta Stone and help me learn Tagalog.

If you were traveling with a friend or spouse, I'm sure you wouldn't have the loneliness issues I have.  Still, I am not homesick.  My state here is a lot like it was in Concord, still hoping to meet the right girl.  If I had not come here thinking I already HAD met the right one, it might not seem like a big deal.

Someone set off a few strings of Black Cats about 10:30 last night.  That was the extent of the 4th in my little corner of Manila.  Since all the big military bases have closed, American presence here is very small.  That may be a good thing, because everyone seems to have a positive attitude toward Americans.  I do stand out, and when we go out, I sometimes think Jackie and Joan are walking their pet American,  (Joan says she has never thought of me as a pet) because people DO stare.  However no one ever seems hostile, just openly curious.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4

Jackie made something that looked like Tandoori chicken, but it tasted even better, for lunch.  I took seconds.  It was HOT today.  About 3:30, I could not keep my eyes open.  I tossed and turned until 5:30 or so, and slept until 6:45.  After a shower and clean clothes, I feel much better.  For dinner we had something Jackie made with ground pork and minutely hand chopped carrots for the filling, wrapped in a spring roll wrapper, and fried.  Very tasty!

Let me talk about noise!  It is a constant assault on my senses, and today it really started to bother me.  Perhaps that's because I had not stopped to think about it before.  There are no rules against custom horns on vehicles, so you can get blasted with sirens, Star Wars sound effects, cruise ship horns, or anything else you can imagine, and it can be coming from a Jeepney, a bus, a taxi, or even a motor bike.  The common factor is 120 or more decibles.  People are in pretty much constant motion from 5am to 10pm, so there is almost always the sound of a motor bike outside my bedroom window.  I have the corner room, which improves air flow, but one side is on the street.  The apartment is in the approach pattern for the Manila airport, and that doesn't help.  If the wind changes, and we are in the takeoff path, I long for the relative quiet of approaches.

In my siesta stupor, I was dreaming about a QUIET place on the ocean, with no noise but the surf.

Normally I find I have less aches and pains after sleeping on my 4" foam pad than I remember from sleeping on the best mattress available, but today I feel beaten up and bruised.  I think it was all the tossing and turning from the heat.  I always hated fans in the US, but since the land lord said I could not install an airconditioner, fans are my friend.  They help keep the sweat evaporating and my clothes damp, rather than soaking.

Jackie says in November,  I will be wishing for some of this heat, especially when it is time for a shower.  This is not even the hottest part of the year.  I guess March and April are the hottest part of the year.  I think I will have to find someplace else to be about February.  Still, maybe I will get used to it, or decide to pay the price of an airconditioned apartment.

Pics

Well, as they used to say at baseball games, "you can't tell the players without a program," so now you can see who I'm talking about.

Getting pics of the apartment and other things I've talked about is more difficult.  I have to dumb my camera down to get files small enough for my anemic internet to upload.  I'm working on it.

Pics

Lannie

Pics

Liberty

Pics

Jackie and the beast.  It has given her burns on the leg and bruises in unmentionable places.

Pics

Joan and the infamous motorcycle, famous for serving up skinned knees.  It just seems to fall over all the time.

Pics

This is Joan's daughter, Jayann

July 4

Happy Independence Day!

Yes, I get to start July 4 before you do.  There won't be any fire works  displays or parades here.  The day has led to a reflective mood, so here's what I've been thinking:

Every July 4, there is a group that takes the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble of the US Constitution to shopping malls in petition form.  They see if they can get anyone to sign the "petitions." Sadly, few people recognize the source of the documents any more. Many people, especially in "red" states, get offended at the radical "crap." How sad.

Many times I feel we have lost our way as a people and therefore, as a nation. Seeing how we live and do business against the backdrop of another culture gives a different perspective to things we take for granted as Americans. For one thing, our cars and excellent system of streets and highways gives us a mobility and independence that is not found in Asian countries. Shopping is so much easier! If you want to go visit Auntie Em, it isn't that hard to get to Kansas if you have a car and the gas money. Here, we are talking about many transfers, and all day to get from one side of town to the other. Admittedly, Manila is a town of 18 million, but if there was a US infrastructure, it would only take a couple of hours. Don't take that infrastructure for granted. It is aging and has not been properly maintained. If it collapses, the US could easily become just another third world country.

I know you loyal followers did not join to hear philosophy, but I hope you will excuse my musings today. I sometimes feel like I am from another America, when July 4 was almost a national holy day. My boomer generation had a lot to do with changing that, and I'm sad to say, it was not an improvement from my current perspective.

One final thought: With the exception of WWII, a US war economy is not good for the majority of the people. If we don't stop throwing money away in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could easily see our country go broke just like the USSR did. Thinking America is the richest and most powerful nation in the world is hazardous to our health!

Peace

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 3

Practicing what we preach today...we walked to the market instead of taking a motorcycle taxi. We got a charger for Liberty's cell phone, and food for lunch. The butcher shop makes up plastic bags of meat marinating in spices and sauce. You bring it home, heat it up, and use it to flavor your RICE. Today we got "trust me, you'll love it." It reminded me of some kind of Mexican meat sauce with a red chili base. The great thing about RICE is that it can absorb, moderate and neutralize a lot of flavors. I didn't love the texture, but it tasted pretty good. It may have been a variation on Menudo. Of course we were so hot from walking that we stopped and got ice cream, and juice on a stick for me, so we probably blew everything we saved by walking. Then, Jackie was tired, so we took a motorcycle taxi home. I ride in the side car with Jackie, and Joan and Liberty ride side saddle behind the driver. I'm sure OSHA, and many other agencies would be appalled. I am thinking that all our efforts to protect people may be pricing potential entrepreneurs out of even attempting to fill a market need. On the other hand, the chaos of Manila streets is a good argument for urban planning.

July 2

I helped Jackie's younger sister, Lannie, with High School English homework last night. I was more successful just helping and not doing the work for her than I was with Tansy or Danielle.

We spent most of today in taxis. I had to go to the Philippine Immigration Bureau to get my tourist visa extended. It was a very, very long cab ride. Lots of stop and go. The driver tried just about everything to get around the grid lock, so we saw some "interesting" neighborhoods.

Manila is a hot bed of free enterprise. Some cab stands have "expediters" who flag down the cabs and load the passengers. They expect 10p for the service. The cab drivers don't want to pick you up if you try to jump ahead of the expediter. We saw street kids stopping traffic so drivers could make tricky turns, and getting tips for their help. At one point, the cab driver tipped the security guard of a parking lot so he could cut through and avoid a difficult left turn. The design and engineering of streets is so bad, I'm amazed there isn't a continuous chain reaction accident 24/7 until all traffic is completely stopped, and then the motor bike riders would be going through any opening in the wreckage.

The fee to extend my visa until Aug 12 was 3200p. I could fill out the forms and sit and wait all day, but I chose to pay the greeter 4500p and he got my paperwork done in about 10 minutes. You have to have copies of your passport to document that you were there, and you have to pay for them. Someone is always manning the copy machine in the corner of the waiting room. I will have to go back on or before Aug 12 to get another extension.

After immigration, we went to the mega mall to pick up Jackie's computer. The touch pad on the Powerbook I sent her went out. The Apple Store in Manila honored my Apple Care warranty, so the repair didn't cost anything. I got her a mouse to cut down on wear and tear on the touch pad.

Joan, Jackie, and I ate at a place called Goldilocks for 380p. I had a boneless pork chop with rice and a ramen type noodle salad. We all had pineapple juice, and the girls each had a piece of chocolate cake. Goldilocks is a restaurant chain. It is difficult to explain what it is like...sort of a fast food cafeteria, but Filipino fast food.

Guess what? They still use CARBON PAPER here, and EVERYTHING is in quadruplicate!!!

I took Jackie and Joan to see "Eclipse" to thank them for wasting a day taking me to Immigration. They argue about which one of them is Bella. Jackie wants to be a vamp to be "everlastingly beautiful." We saw a first run movie for about $5 each. I was stuffed from lunch, but Jackie and Joan shared a popcorn.

I am going to run pics through software to make the file size smaller and see if I can post pics. My internet is terribly slow, and can't send the files.

July 1

At the local market I got ingredients for faux spaghetti...pretty much kid style, (what my kids Tansy, Danielle, and I called "sgetti") with garlic, ground pork..availability is the limiter at local markets... and straight tomato sauce. Jackie was not impressed when I didn't brown the garlic before browning the meat...old habits and shortcuts....I've always done them together.

Now I'm going to have to go to a supermarket and get the right ingredients to do a more authentic version. Of course this time I WILL saute the garlic first. Well, Jackie didn't think much of "sgetti" but Liberty ate hers and most of Jackie's. It wasn't the best I ever made, but it didn't suck. When one of her brothers came over later in the day, he quickly finished off everything that was left.

Jackies mother came over this morning and yelled at the girls because I was awake and dressed and coffee and breakfast were not in my hands. I tried to defend them, but she (gently) bonked Jackie on the head. I didn't understand a lot of what she said, but some of it was telling Jackie I'm handsome. (all moms, except one, have liked me, and 25 years later, that one admitted she was wrong about me) Now if the girl like me as much as her mom does, things would be great.

For those of you interested in accounting, I've spent 24,000p so far this month. Last night Joan told me that Jackie underestimated several key costs when we did the budget, so I gave Joan
4000p for laundry soap and whatever else we were short on. That's about 28000p or $636 so far, although 4000p was for durable things we won't need to buy again, so, as my friend Carol Wolfe Demko will tell you, they shouldn't be classified as expenses. Getting transactions into the right categories is one of the challenges and secrets of accounting.

June 27

There is an oily looking, black dust in the air that gets all over the floor. Someone is always sweeping or mopping to try to keep it under control. Jackie is OCD about keeping things picked up and neat. Joan attacks everything with bleach. Our apartment is always very neat and clean.

I bought a washing machine, but it is not like a typical American Automatic washer. There seems to be a lot of manual stuff required. Joan is often at work doing laundry until late at night. We don't have a dryer, and everything has to hang dry. There are racks built into the ceiling to hang things from. I was looking for "Gain" at the supermarket the other day to get the stinky out of my shirts, but while Tide dominates shelf space, other American brands are absent.

We were looking at an airconditioner yesterday to help cool things off so we can sleep, but the land lord would not give me permission to have it installed. It is so humid here. I don't think an evaporative cooler will help much, but we may get uncomfortable enough to give one a try.

I bought a compression shower curtain rod yesterday so the rest of the bathroom won't get soaked every time someone takes a shower. It was about 2 inches too long, so I will have to borrow a hack saw from Mr. Belza and try to shorten it. At least 2 showers and sets of clothes are daily requirements.

There is some discrimination involved in living in a working class neighborhood. I see it at the taxi stands and Jeepney terminals. We always wait longer than people going to more prosperous parts of town.

During the hottest part of the day, it is impossible to keep my eyes open. Siesta is a wonderful custom.

When you see pics, some are going to say I live in the slums. All I can say is that distinction is quite subjective, and there are much worse places that are similar to the slums of Rio. I try to focus on the inside, which is always neat and clean. We have ceramic tile floors throughout the apartment and a small area rug in the living room.

Went to an open air market in Pasig today. Well, it's open except for a giant roof that keeps the sun off, but still terribly hot inside. Acres of whatever you might need or want. Apparently wanting to make a good impression on house guests is a universal wish. bought coffee cups, saucers, and pillows for the benefit of guests. Then we got some new pans for the kitchen and a laundry basket. Next we went to a K-Mart type store and got things like laundry detergent. We made Joan get color safe bleach, so hopefully there will be fewer colorless spots on clothes.

 market stalls under the giant metal roof


Good quality fruit and vegetable market stall

Typical street market

Loading everything into the side car of a motorcycle taxi was a challenge. Again, I provided endless comedy as I try to fold myself into the sidecar. "You are SO big" followed by peals of laughter is the comic relief of any outing.


All RICE is not created equal

We went to the local market today. Jackie bought squid, so I don't know what's for lunch, but it will include squid and of course, RICE. The food critic report - or emergency medical outcome will be posted later. Well, lunch was squid adobo, and I could only manage the rice. Wish I had Bourdain's tastebuds! The smell turned on the YUCK switch, and no matter what I did, I could not get my stomach to stay calm enough to try to eat it. Jackie said it was her mom's recipe and one of her favorites, so of course I felt terrible.

June 26

Have I mentioned that Jackie cosiders our place to be a "luxury apartment" ? I suggested a place closer to Jackie's school, but Joan didn't want to live there because it was "too fancy."

When I said Mr. Belza was hard working, it was a gross understatement. He gets up at 3 am to buy frozen chicken to sell in his market stall, works from opening at 7AM until 1PM, goes home, eats and takes a nap, then is back at work from 3 until the market closes at 9, cleans up the stall, and gets home at 10pm. Well insulated ice chests have improved food safety in the local markets. That's how Mr. Belza keeps the chicken cold. Of course buying the right amount for each day is very important to keeping his business successful.

Jackie says he has done this every day for as long as she can remember without a break or vacation. No wonder his kids have a great work ethic.

Jackie, Liberty and I ate lunch at KFC yesterday. Food, bevereges, and a dessert the girls shared was $8 Imagine a KFC with seating for 150 and an assistant manager who cruises the dining room checking on every table number if the food isn't out to you in about 5 minutes. RICE instead of mashed potatoes, and the gravy is 1/2 ounce plastic cups like you might find for ketchup in many American fast food places. Low fat is definitely a fact of the diet here, and I am benefitting from it. I don't have a scale, but I'm sure I've lost some weight.

Transportation


Manila Jeepney art

















To go short distances, you ride in the side car attached to a 125cc motorcycle. Longer distances, you take a Jeepney, which is a Mercedes truck that looks like a long, long old school jeep. There is a bench along each side of the bed, and there is a roof to keep the worst of the rain off. The Jeepneys run on set routes and drop you at a bus terminal, where you catch a bus to one of the big malls or other destinations. Some are ancient, some are airconditioned and show movies. People are cheaper than machines, so there is a "conductor" who markets at the bus stops and collects the fare. Keep your ticket! If they ask to see it and you don't have it, you must pay again. If you have packages to take home from the mall, you catch a stretched SUV along with about 10 other people. They run routes similar to Jeepneys, but the terminals are more convenient at the malls. If you are feeling prosperous, you can take a taxi, door to door. Sometimes, it is just not practical to do the commuting dance between different modes of transport, and especially when it is raining, a taxi is a lot more comfortable. If you don't have local friends who know the routes, a taxi will be the only practical way to go.

Motorcycle taxis


Typical motorcycle taxi.  They look a little different in different parts of town but in general, they are variations on this theme.


Cargo sidecar - This is how things get delivered to small shops.  Imagine every square cm of the deck packed with 2.5m tall stacks of crates full of soda bottles.  Now imagine that load doing 60kph down a one lane alley.

No emissions testing in Manila, and you can see the result.

We live to customize!

Expenses and first impressions

Is it less expensive? Well, some things are cheaper. The rent for our 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment is 8000 pesos, which is $182, but we live in Pateros. Pateros is the smallest municipality in Metro Manila.  We don't have hot water, and I would not be able to go anywhere without Jackie or Joan, because it is a maze. (my friends are twins)


Pateros, Metro Manila, PH



Municipalities of Metro Manila, PH

To live in Makati or other "International business" areas would cost
22,000p ($500) or more for a studio.

Malls here are at lest 4 levels and a mile long. There are LOTS of malls.

3 of us ate at a chain sushi place at a mall in Makati for about $20. Jackie orders food like
Lucy in "Two Weeks Notice." We were all stuffed and had food to take home.
No, we didn't eat sushi. Chicken Teriyaki, various tempura, a bento box, dumplings, and of course Joan ordered extra rice. It is amazing how much such small people can eat. Neither of the girls had eaten there before, so it was fun to watch them try new things.

There are lots of police officers and security officers every place. You form two lines, males on the left, females on the right to be checked when you go in the mall. No one is afraid to go talk to officers or ask directions. To go into the bank, the security officer on the outside of the door checks you, the officer inside the door unlocks it to let you in. Both are armed with automatic 12 gauge shotguns.

Sorry for the Faulknerian writing. Back to expenses...We have to pay for drinking water, delivered to the door in large plastic jugs, which look like they are bigger than 5 gallons. We use propane to cook on a single burner. A cylinder the size you use on a gas grill lasts 3 months.

Internet is 1000p If the exchange rate changes, that could be $21.74 or it could be $22.73 A strong dollar is definitely a good thing for the expat. I am waiting for the cable guy to come upgrade our internet today, so hopefully I'll be able to upload pics soon. ...I found out that cable internet is not available where we live. the sales person didn't know, but the installer did, so they just didn't show up.

If you insist on American brands, you pay American prices. I'll have to see what KFC is charging next time I'm out. There are many US chains here, from McDonalds to Dunkin Donuts. We eat at home most of the time because it is much cheaper. At American chains though, substitute RICE for french frys or any kind of potatoes for that matter, and there will be many things you don't see on the menu in the US.

American prices are also required to get typical American amenities like air conditioning, scrupulous and obsessive refrigeration of food, hermetically sealed and plastic wrapped food, hot water, etc. If you like camping and don't mind feeling a little grungy now and then, you can live like a local and save a bunch of money.

There are 6 Belza sisters and six brothers. Jackie is my internet friend, and she is joined at the hip with her twin, Joan. Their 17 year old sister Liberty usually shares the double mat on the floor with them. Sometimes they ask their older sister to cook, and she will stay over night.  People can't work until they are 18, so Liberty is in limbo land until her birthday.

Joan has a 3 year old daughter, Jayann, who usually stays with Joan's mom, but sometimes she stays here too. I am her big, and to her, dumb, teddy bear. She is disappointed I don't talk to her, and gives me a "you big baby" look. My vocabulary is terribly limited in Tagalog
(pronounced ta ga log)

So at times there are 5 Belza girls in one bedroom, and big old me in the other. They think Veng is the best cook, but I think Jackie does a great job.

Electricity is expensive here. We don't have 1/4 the typical US stuff, and the bill was 1200p last month. Water for bathing and laundry is another 1000p We anticipate both of those doubling with me here.

Jackie and I did the budget last night, and she thinks we can pay all the bills with 20,000p I just remembered that she left out taxi and bus fares, so I think it will be more.