Thursday, June 26, 2014
Let’s start with the journey: the layover in Tokyo was tops! Whitney- that sweet crackhead songstress- had been trans-Pacifically killing it, and a bunch of little things that I loved but had forgotten about in Tokyo were smack in my face again. Poppy, chick-singer version of Under the Bridge? Yes. Chili Peppers sans strife: weird and magnificent. Purple starbursty-thingies I haven’t found anywhere else? Yes. Little silver wrappers as carpet decor. I didn’t have time for any ramen, but did sigh a content little sigh of Nip-stalgia. Ohhhh, Japan…
Anyway, we finally got to the Shangri-La, our swanky-danky digs, around 11 p.m. and since that was almost a solid two days since I’d left Portland, I fell pretty heavily into the mattress. We were supposed to be at breakfast at 8:30.
I honestly have to pass over breakfast because it was just too wonderful. I could have happily eaten plates full of anything there, but I bypassed that station for sashimi, build-your-own-miso, and all the identifiables I could pile. Look! The dried fish is looking back at you.
Next we had an intro class on Philippine history, and that was pretty wild, too. I learned more in two hours than I have in the month of randomly allocated Internet sessions that I used to prepare myself for this trip. Like, did you know that the Spanish occupied the Philippines for 333 years, but wouldn’t let anyone learn the language? They basically just passed on their religion and a bunch of surnames, and it’s amazing to me how thoroughly Roman Catholicism has inserted itself into society while “por favor?” for example, has not. I mean, one of our hosts told us they celebrate Christmas for 4-5 months here!
Then I found out that the US colonized the islands (7,107 of them, whaaaaa?) in 1898, and although I am morally against the concept of colonization because there is overwhelming historical evidence of it being coupled with ravaging and tyranny, I did feel a bit better to learn that that’s when widespread education began. Plus later, during World War II when Japan had taken over and was doing all sorts of brutal things to the population, the US’s General MacArthur came and sort of saved the day. In fact, it is unbelievable how celebrated MacArthur is. There’s this giant picture of him hanging at the embassy and there are statues and roads named after him everywhere.
Did you hear that? We went to the embassy and met the ambassador. That was neat. I didn’t take any pictures because they checked all phones and cameras at the door, but they did give us some chocolate cake and a bunch of handy educational resources. Side note: my students were so jealous that I got to go on a trip like this. They couldn’t believe that kind of opportunity existed, and got all wistful and dreamy when they thought of me traveling halfway around the world. It’s moments like this that I wish I could SnapChat into their lives and be like, “look! See! Look at all these resources they just showed us for student travel, too. You can do this!” I’ll have to just show ’em when I get back, though.
Oh- and I did manage to take a picture of one of the ubiquitous Jeepneys, so you can see exactly what we saw if we were brave enough to open our eyes on the way there.
A horse-drawn tour of Intramuros was next.
Intramuros is the walled city from when the Spanish were here and being oppressive enough to know that they should build some protective walls in which to live. It was really pretty because it was magic hour so the light was gloriously illuminating all the old architecture, and I was able to snap a couple of decent ones.
Speaking of eating, our final destination last night was a Filipino culture show and buffet. The costumes and dancing were pretty awesome, and they did some audience participation at the end so a couple of my colleagues got to practice the Filipino national dance, which involves timing impeccable enough that if you make a mistake, they crack your ankles with bamboo. Some talent there.
This trip has been and will be quite wonderful, but I have to go to bed. I get the feeling that waking up at 1 a.m. to create a blog post might bite me at some point today, but if I also get to bite something- most notable the nationally famous pork or chicken adobo- well, I’ll be okay.