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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Feed a cold

I have a cold. Aside from the inconvenience, it isn't that bad because Grace is a really good cook.  She made me tea with fresh ginger.  She made home made egg drop soup, Lumpia - which is ground pork and finely chopped carrots and other vegetables wrapped in a pastry wrapper and fried - they look like taquitoes,  but taste better, and molo soup, which is a garlicky chicken soup with pork meatballs wrapped in a pastry wrapper, fried bananas, and crispy fried chicken. 


We need to go to the drug store and get something so I don't cough all night.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Clean Air & Cheaper Fuel

Many of the taxis are fueled with Compressed Natural Gas.  They have lots of signage saying they are a clean vehicle.  The other day we were taking a cab that needed to fuel up, so the driver pulled into a fueling station.  The attendant was a cute girl in a uniform that included red short shorts and a gold colored top, not metallic, just plain fabric.  The fuel was 24.5p per liter, which comes to about $2.18 per gallon.  The down side is that the pressurized fuel tank takes up most of the trunk, which was why we couldn't get the mattress in the trunk the other day.  Truck diesel is selling for about $3.16 per gallon, car diesel is $3.42, and regular unleaded is around $4  a gallon.

It was too hot to walk to the gym today, so we took a tricycle, which was just as well, because it started to rain just as we got to the gym, and if we had walked, we would have gotten soaked.  It is the rainy season here.  I was moving slowly this morning, so the instructor left just as we got there.  Grace asked the weight lifter types to show her how to do the exercises on our cards.  We managed to get through all our exercises.  We took a tricycle to the market and got veggies for lunch, and took a tricycle home.

All my digestive system issues are resolved and I'm back to normal.

Happy 21st Birthday to Joan and Jackie.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long Day

We walked to the gym, which is another mile further than we had walked before.  We paid for a month each, and the instructor got us started warming up.  This gym is much nicer than the 3 we looked at yesterday, and the instructor is very good.  I was very sweaty, but feeling energized, when we got done working out.  Grace said she felt like she was starting from scratch because she missed so many days working out when I started taking up all her time.  That's a good thing, because I haven't worked out since the Nautilus gyms in Albuquerque declared bankruptcy and left me with a worthless, paid up 5 year membership.

In the US, if I need to pay someone, I just go to my bank's online banking web site, set up a payment, and if I have the proper routing and account numbers, the payment goes to the person's account, no matter what bank they use.  Things don't work that way here.  It turned out that the easiest thing to do was to get cash from the ATM and deposit it in the landlord's account because he uses a different bank than I do.  The line at a branch of his bank was so long, I sat down and Grace stood in line for me until she was next in line.  Things are so much more difficult to do here.  My back would have been killing me if Gracie hadn't kept my place in line for me.

We took a cab to the LRT (light rail - old line from the Marcos era) and rode to a station to meet a guy who wanted to buy a modem Grace was selling.  They had trouble making connections, and it took the help of a traffic enforcement officer for us to find him.  Transaction completed, we crossed a very wide, busy street and climbed many, many stairs back to the LRT.  We rode to the place where the LRT intersects with the MRT (the new light rail line)  A whole complex of shops has grown up around the skywalks of this intersection.  We looked around, but didn't see anything we couldn't live without.  We have been looking for a new mattress.  The 3 inch foam pad I've been sleeping on was fine for just me, and I'm sure it would last for years with 80 to 100 pound filipinos, but the combined weight of two people has taken a toll on the pad.  We found a supermarket that has a second floor of Walmart type stuff, and a 3rd floor of furniture.  We got some small items for the apartment, but Grace thought the mattresses were too expensive.  We took a Jeep that is basically a mini box truck with window openings in the sides and bench seats along the sides, to the Mall of Asia.  The home store there was more expensive and they were pushing an innerspring mattress that cost more than my rent, so we went to the SM Department store.  They had a bigger selection than the SM Mall in Bicutan, close to our apartment, and we found a 4 inch, genuine Uratex foam mattress, on sale for 3199p.  The clerk used strapping tape ant the tie stuff they use to wrap things here to fold the mattress in thirds.  Then he carried it to the taxi stand for us.  He and the taxi driver wrestled with if, couldn't fit it in the trunk, and finally laid the front passenger seat flat and got it in the cab.  Grace and I squeezed into the back seat space that was left.  Our bed is smaller than a US Double at 48 inches by 75 inches, but Grace doesn't take up much space, and it seems quite big enough.  That leaves a bigger path between the wardrobe and the bed than if we had a bigger bed.  At this point, we like being as close together as possible all the time anyway.  Hopefully that won't change.  We put the new mattress on top of the old one, and had a very good night's sleep.

I bought a granite tile, about 2 feet by 2 feet to put on top of the wood cabinet so the stove won't burn the top.  We are going to go to the admin office and see if maintenance can drill a hole in the wood top for the gas line so it can be routed more safely.

It was a long day with lots of walking, but we got lots done and it feels good.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Experiences

We went to pick up Grace's stuff.  Her apartment is in a downtown type area, and there are many more services available.  She took me to the spa in her building and got me a massage.  I had never had one before, and it was a very nice experience.  Grace doesn't spend a lot on "stuff" but she does like things like a gym membership and other personal care kinds of services.  She thinks my apartment is in the boonies because there are not the number of shops and services available here.  The gym in the condo complex is pretty pathetic, and would cost us 1000p each, so we are going tomorrow to check out a gym that has better facilities and equipment and is less expensive.  There seem to be a lot more small, independent spa, massage, facial, nail, and various other personal care kinds of services available here than in the US.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Something to be said for more experience

Grace is very smart, and probably saved us from getting burned up in an LP gas explosion yesterday.  I told Jackie I didn't think she should put the stove on the new wood cabinet, but she said there was no other place it could go.  When she ran the hose from the cylinder to the stove, she routed it under the burner.  It looks neater that way, but the heat from the burner melted and damaged the hose.  Grace thought the routing looked wrong, and when she checked, found the melted hose.  I'll need to pick up a replacement at a building supply store.  A better quality than the original equipment hose will only cost 150p.  The sad thing is that the finish on the top of the cabinet is ruined from the burner heat.  I'm hoping the gentleman who made the cabinet will refinish it for me.  Grace and I talked it over, and the granite topped cabinets are too narrow for the stove, so we will have to use the wood cabinet.  We will have to find something fire proof to put on top of the wood to protect the finish, and provide some fire safety.

Since Gracie and I are perpetually joined at the hip now, she will be moving in with me, and Jackie and Joan will be moving out.  Grace is only 6 years older than the twins, but she has a little more world and work experience, so that she sees potential danger.  She was able to use the rice cooker to make a delicious chicken, vegetable, and macaroni soup yesterday, and a pork, river spinach, and vegetable soup today.  We walked down to the Jollibee for breakfast.  I'm estimating it is about 2 to 3 miles.  We stopped at a drapery shop to check on curtains on the way home, and at the market for vegetables that went in the soup for lunch today.  It is so much easier to get worthwhile exercise when we go together.  We are talking and telling funny stories the whole way so that the time flies, and the distance melts away.  Some of her stories about people making reservations are hilarious.  Unfortunately, a lot of American customers get irritated and are either rude, or abusive.  The funniest stories are about prank calls.  For example, one person spelled their "name" phonetically, "First Name:  Foxtrot, Uniform, Charlie, Kilo ; Last Name: Yankee, Uniform, Oscar"

I need to go see if Grace needs any help with the laundry.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Washing Clothes

Maybe most people don't care, but I think many of my American friends will find some of the day to day differences in how domestic chores are done at least mildly interesting.

I own a washing machine, but it is more like the one my mother had in 1953 than a modern automatic washer.  First, remember that if I want hot water, I have to heat it on a stove.  Second, no place is plumbed for an automatic washer.  That means I have to use a washer that can be wheeled around.  Grace and I put the washer in the shower and used the shower head hose to fill the washing chamber of the machine.  You add bleach and washing powder, let it mix, then add clothes.  You set a timer and the clothes agitate for that time.  The machine works more by shooting jets of water through the tub than by mechanical agitation.  When the timer stops, you pull the clothes out and get as much water out of them as you can, then put them in a big plastic tub of rinse water.  You put a liquid in the rinse water to help get the soap out.  There has to be hand agitation and then wringing out the rinse water.  Next, you put the clothes in a second rinse with fabric softener.  After a little soaking and hand agitation, you ring out the clothes as well as you can, and then put them in the spinner.  This is the second tub of the washer.  While the spinner is getting out as much water as possible, the water comes out a hose, which is why we put the machine in the shower.  After the spinner is done, you take the clothes and hang them to dry.  We pointed a fan at our drying rack to help speed up the process, which in 80% to 90% humidity is on the order of 24 hours.  Strangely enough, Gracie and I were laughing and talking the whole time, so it really wasn't a terrible chore.  If you have more than one load, you add more soap to the wash water before you start the agitation.  After about 4 loads, you need to change the wash water and both tubs of rinse water.

We found that the wash water needs to be changed more often, and that 3 rinses work better than 2.  By getting all the soap out of the clothes, it helps them dry softer and without the stiffness we had in our first batch.  We are changing wash water after 2 loads now.  Joan says she changes wash water after every load, and we can see conditions where that is a good idea.  It seems like the wash water for a load of whites isn't that dirty and can be reused.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too busy living to write about it...

I wish I understood the randomness of the universe.  Just when I thought I was going to be crushing on Joan forever and that I was doomed to unrequited love, I met a real sweetheart at the mall.  Grace and I have been going and doing so much that I haven't had time to write.

Just some random observations here...I've never been so well taken care of, and it feels pretty great.  Gracie hasn't cooked a lot, but she has good natural instincts and everything she fixes tastes great.  Walking in the morning is much more fun with a partner.  We walked 7 times around the complex today and I was much less tired than the day I walked 5 times by myself.  We worked out at the gym in the complex, and Grace was teaching me exercises.  I think some of the work with a free bar is going to help with my nearly constant back pain.  I had to step lively to keep up going up the 7 flights of steps.  Having a partner to push me is going to help me get better fitness results.  We have a similar sense of humor, like the same music, and right now, our favorite movie is "The Wedding Singer."  A couple days ago, Gracie was helping me learn a new song.  She has worked doing hotel reservations for a while, so her English is excellent, and she doesn't complain about my slowness learning Tagalog.  We both would rather take a taxi and be comfortable than save a few pesos and be crammed into a Jeep.  Sometimes tricycles are necessary evils, but I thought it was funny that I had ridden tricycles more than she had.

Life is a lot more fun with someone to share it with.  Things have been moving pretty fast, and I'm fine with that.  I hope to have many years of disgustingly happy reports for you that require insulin because they are SO sweet.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

One Way Mr. Sy Got Rich

I was at SM Mall in Bicutan today, fighting with a store about returning a router.  I had never needed to use a stall in the mall restroom before, but I have been fighting a stomach virus for a couple of days, and had to run for the restroom.  Guess what?  You have to buy your own toilet paper...5p for a small packet, and oh, a toilet seat is just an extra expense... something that will wear out and has to be cleaned, you know.  So now you know how to become a multi-millionaire.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A Spanish fort and the original Spanish walled city are close to the Immigration office.  Joan wanted to see them, so we walked over and had a look.  They have some guides in what looks to me like Spanish American War era Spanish Cavalry Uniforms at the entrances to the old walled city.

History lesson, boys and girls.  The island of Luzon, which is where Manila is located, was originally the home of an Islamic kingdom.  (This bit of information makes the current religious and political tension between Catholic Majority and Islamic Minority make a lot more sense.)  The Spanish defeated Rajah Sulayman in the late 1500s, razed his palace and capital, and built a wooden defensive fort.  Around 1570, work was begun to replace the wooden fort with stone fortifications.  This fort is still standing.  You can see where the cannon would have been.  The walls are quite tall, and about 8 meters thick.  In 1593, the old walled city that became the Spanish Colonial capital was built.  A large part of the walls are still standing today.

We took a different route to the Immigration office today, which makes sense, since we don't live in Pateros any more.  I think it is probably more difficult to get from Pateros to anyplace in Manila than from anywhere else.  The trip was more pleasant because we got an airport cab, which was nearly new.  The shocks were in good shape, and the air con worked great.  We went past the Manilla Yacht Club on the way to and from.  It was nice to see masts swaying against the sky.  On the way back, I saw the US Embassy.  It is truly impressive.  It is right on the ocean, so the water and anchored ships made a great back drop.


Today, it cost me 11,000p, and I'm legal until Oct. 12.  I had to get an alien ID card, and that was part of the expense.  I used the expediter again to avoid having to stay there all day.  He asked for another 1000p today because the clerks wanted a share of his business, and of course he can't do anything for you if the clerks won't work with him.  With all the "fees" it is about $4 a day to stay here.  I will be really short now, so the diet may get more extreme.  LOL

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Have I mentioned how much I hate Windows lately?  Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit itself seems to be fine.  I run it in a virtual machine using VMware Fusion on my iMac and Powerbook Pro.  It is just all the nonsense getting stuff connected and working together that frustrates me.  The silly wireless router I bought will only run its install disk using Windows, so I started up a VM, started Windows 7 and started the install disk.  I could never get the thing to run successfully...and by the way, D-Link's instructions don't make sense to me...but I followed them to the letter, and to no avail.  I can use the device and connect to the internet using Airport under Mac OS, but I can't get into the router to configure it and put in a password so people can't steal our internet and drain off our band width.  I sent an email to D-Link.  Hopefully they will give me a solution before too long.  So I guess it really isn't Windows fault, but I still HATE Windows!

I have to go to Immigration tomorrow to see about getting a long term visa.  Maybe they will be nice and it won't take all day or cost 1,000,000p

Went to the mall by myself

Well, I feel at least 9 today, I went to the mall by myself.  Of course I was able to ride the bus to the downtown YMCA in Des Moines back in 1957 and never worry about a thing.  They were electric buses, with overhead wires in those days.  So smooth and quiet!  I really thought the diesels that replaced them were a step backwards.  My friends and I did all kinds of things that parents today would have a panic attack over.  We rode our bikes between 3 and 5 miles to the closest swimming pool.  It really was a pretty cool time and place to grow up.  I am always amazed at how many people from my HS graduating class still live in Des Moines.  One of them was mayor the last time I checked.

I grabbed a tricycle to the mall.  The ever resourceful driver pointed out that I took up as much room as 2 people, so he asked me to pay 2 fares.  Now I am bigger than most people, but I am getting smaller.  I tried on pants today, and I have lost 4 inches off my waist since I have been here.  I had 2 cheese pancakes (which really didn't taste like cheese), one egg, bacon, and black coffee.  Jackie slept in, and I was hungry, so I didn't wait for her to make lunch.  I guess I could tell her mother on her...Mrs. Belza promised to hit her if she didn't take good care of me....but everyone hates a tattle tale.  I did a lot of mall walking, bought a wireless router, 2 new, SMALLER pairs of shorts, and some groceries.  I tried to call Jackie and Joan to see what they wanted me to pick up, but either their batteries were dead or they didn't have any minutes, so I did the best I could.  The stupid router will only setup in Windows, so I have to start a VM to run the install CD.  Also, I forgot to check, and it needs an adapter plug, so I'll have to borrow the one off the iron until I can buy another one.  I need to get 2 because the printer also needs an adapter.  The normal Philippines plug is 2 cylindrical prongs.  The new apartment has all US style receptacles.  I dragged all the stuff home with minimal squishing of bread, and no egg breakage that I could see.  I think I'm going to try to cook dinner tonight if I can get a little help from Jackie with the rice and some vegetables.  I got a pork roast marinated in BBQ sauce and a mix to make some more sauce for the rice.  I'll cube the pork so I can cook it in the sauce, hopefully with some veggies.

I'll have to try for 5 times around the complex tomorrow, since I took it easy today...although there was quite a bit of walking and I did walk every inch of all 3 levels of the mall before I went to the grocery store.

Wel, the BBQ pork turned out pretty well.  Jackie was scandalized that I don't peel potatoes and didn't buy my argument that all the vitamins are in the peel, so I had to take my diced potatoes and peel them.  I made too much, so Jackie took some to her cousin, who lives in the next building.  They (someone is always hanging out at her cousin's, thus the plural.  I just don't remember who Jackie said was there today.) thought it tasted OK.  I don't think Joan liked it very much, but she was polite and ate some.  At my house while the kids were growing up, the rule was that if you cooked dinner, someone else did the dishes.  It turns out that the Belza family rule is that the person who cooks also cleans up and does dishes.  I think that was designed to encourage neat cooking and cleaning while cooking.  Anyway, I started washing dishes, but then Jackie told me she would wash up later.  She didn't think I was getting them clean enough, and decided to do it herself.  I did NOT pull an Adam and pretend to be clueless about how to wash dishes.  I could tell she thought I was "doing it all wrong" and had a hard time not laughing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kitchen Cabinets

We have much less counter space here than in the Pateros apartment, and no cabinets hung on the wall, so it has been very difficult for Jackie to put things away, and to cook.  She ordered a custom made cabinet base, and it was delivered tonight.  It is made of solid Mahogany, but it is not stained and just has a natural gloss varnish.  It isn't like any Mahogany you have seen.  The grain is lovely.  The craftsmanship is outstanding.  I believe Jackie paid 5500p for it.  Now as soon as we figure out how to route the gas hose to the stove, cooking should be much easier.  Jackie is having a bed made for herself and Joan out of the same kind of wood.  The gentleman who does the work was telling me that he worked for an Italian oil drilling company for 30 years.  He has worked all over the world, but mostly in Africa.  He did work on a project in pre-war Iraq, and was a representative at the ceremony where Saddam Hussein cut the ribbon on project completion.  He was telling me about having to learn to speak Arabic in order to work on one project.  He also invited me to come to his shop and have a drink with him.  So many people here are so interesting as well as kind and hospitable.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Posts Have Gotten Boring

I have not had anything significant to say lately.  I'm keeping up exercising every day, and I climbed the stairs faster than ever today.  My little fitness hills are pretty tame compared to people training for 5k, 10k or Marathons, and it seems repetitive to tell about my little daily routine.  I have a new insanity developing, as those of you reading between the lines have certainly deduced, but I'm not talking about it.  I don't want to jinx it.

While I don't get a lot less from Social Security than I did when I was teaching, it is less, and I am always running out of money before I run out of month.  Hopefully there will be no emergency medical expenses or moving expenses and I will be able to pay everyone on time.  The cost of living here is helping.  I just have to be more disciplined.

I don't think I mentioned it before, but the apartment across the hall in Pateros was occupied by Mormons on their mission.  I never met them, but I sent over a plate of pancit (noodles) after Jayann's birthday party and the plate came back clean the next day.  Jackie lived there longer and had met the people.  She and Jhun thought they were a little strange, but kind.  Like most people here, Jackie and Jhun are culturally Catholic.  It took quite a while to explain about Martin Luther and where the term "Protestant" came from.  Of course I can't help myself when there is a teaching opportunity, especially when History is involved, so they heard all about the Reformation.  It turned out they were cool with "Protestant" churches, but like me, they had trouble with extra books and especially Golden Tablets no one else ever saw.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday August 6

Slept late today, so I swam instead of walking today.  200 meters freestyle in 25 meter increments with huffing and puffing between laps.  I hate that I let myself get so out of shape.  I used to do 200 meters without stopping for a warm-up.  I'm going to check into the gym and see if my association dues cover it.  I need to work on upper body strength.  Maybe it is a good thing I don't have a boat to sail.  I think I would have been too out of shape to manage the sails by myself, without power winches.

It is overcast and somewhat cooler today.  Joan's cousin said there are 2 typhoons on the way, so we will need to get some extra food and water and some flash lights.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday, August 5

I walked today.  The toe and knees are better after taking a day off yesterday.  I did do quite a bit of mall walking last night.  We needed towels and other stuff for the house.  Joan rode with me in the rear facing tricycle seat on the way to the mall.  My pulse was racing from having her so close, and she looked so pretty, I didn't have time to worry about falling out.  Maybe the driver was taking it easy.  The roof didn't quite cover my knees, and I had a wet spot from rain dripping off the roof onto the hem of my shorts.

I put up a shower curtain today so the water won't get all over my bathroom floor.  The shower head is in just the wrong place.  Also, it doesn't pivot, so I swapped it out for one with a hose.  Unfortunately, they don't have the normal shower massage and pollenex shower heads available here, so there is no bracket to hold the shower head.  Since we all take water conservation showers, that isn't really a big problem.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday, August 3

I swam twice as far today as I did yesterday.  My knees are doing better, so I'll be walking again tomorrow.  I used the stairs again today.  I didn't start to feel tired until the 6th floor today.  I know these are small steps compared to you people who run marathons but for a very sedentary guy, it is big progress, and hopefully something I can keep up for the rest of my life.

I've been meaning to put up a post about food, and have forgotten to do it.  I have noticed that "wild" fruit is much smaller than commercial crops, but has much more flavor.  This is true of the bananas we have here as well as strawberries and many other kinds of fruit.  There are two grades of bananas that can be eaten raw, but both are from 2/3 to 1/2 the size of the South American commercial crop variety in US grocery stores.  The trees here have not been cross bred, hybridized, or anything else to increase banana size.  The fruit is firmer and more flavorful than the big South American bananas.  I used to get indigestion from bananas in the US, but Philippine bananas don't bother me at all.  The same thing is true of strawberries.  The giant US variety are nearly tasteless, compared to smaller berries from plants that haven't been engineered or hybridized.  Back when hybrid corn was first developed, farmers loved the bigger yields, but found animals were dying of malnutrition because the hybrid corn doesn't have all the nutrients of heritage seed varieties.  Today, corn based farm animal feed contains nutritional supplements to make up for what is lacking in hybrid corn.  If any gardeners read this, try growing some food crops with heritage seed and see if you don't agree that there is more flavor.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday August 2

Yesterday I walked 4 times around the complex in the morning, and 3 times around in the evening.  I also used the stairs both times.  This morning my knees were sore, so I went swimming.  I got in some good exercise, and loosened up my stiff and sore leges.  The water was nice, not as hot as in the afternoon, but not cold either.  I used the stairs both down and up.

Jackie and I went to the store and got some groceries, then we stopped by the drug store and got my prescription filled.  I had 3 boiled, small bananas for breakfast.  They are supposed to help keep blood sugar down.  I had a nice salad with some tuna for lunch.  It is 2pm, and I am feeling hungry.  I think I'm going to get a small bowl of cereal.  I had 2 egg, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for dinner.  When I was chatting with Jackie online, she talked about wanting to gain weight.  At the time, I told her extra weight starts creeping up on people after they turn 21.  Now she has gained some weight and is not happy about it.  She is only eating rice once a day.  I think she will have to start exercising for the "diet" to work, but we will see.

I've noticed that Honda motorcycles are the most popular with individuals, but the tricycles are almost exclusively Kawasaki.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday August 1

Jackie and Joan's brother, his wife, their son, and 2 cousins came over Saturday night, and an older sister brought Jayann to visit her mom and brought their youngest sister along too.  Masses of spaghetti were consumed, all the bananas are gone, the bread was gobbled up, and this morning the kids ate up my cereal. I was surprised because it was one of the "healthy" kinds and didn't have sugar, chocolate, or red color #4.

I walked 4 times around the complex this morning and I walked an extra flight of steps by going down to the parking garage to start and finish my walk.  I had an apple and some papaya after my shower.

Jackie is rearranging the living room, and she told me my room is next.

I hate the tricycles in ParaƱaque.  They are about 2 inches narrower than in Pateros, and they have an additional rear facing seat.  You really don't need "The Wild Mouse" or other amusement park rides if you have ridden in the rear facing seat in the rain.  Trying not to fall out at every speed bump or start-up is a full time job, and there is no safety bar.  The fare is higher, some ask for 8p per passenger, and some 10p.  The presumed "full load" is 5 people, so you have to wait for the seats to fill before you go anyplace, unless you want to pay 5 fares.  In Pateros, the fare was 5p and the "full load" was only 3, so when Joan, Jackie, and I went anyplace, we never had to wait for additional passengers or pay extra.