Catching Up

July 2, 2014

Here’s a tip if you’re looking to drive in the Philippines: don’t.  Lanes and laws are merely suggestions and you’ll furthermore have to learn the intricacies of Honking as a Second Language.  There are all kinds of vehicular hazards like frogs and chickens and goats and water buffalo and millions of other people who appear to subscribe to the “look, ma- no hands”ing method of motorized transportation.  Also, everybody’s looking at the yellow-headed thing.

Here’s a tip if you’re looking to walk in the Philippines: don’t.  Not if you’re the giant yellow-headed thing, anyway.  I attempted to walk places twice today, and both were exercises in reevaluation.

For the first trip, I was supposed to meet Amanda and Stephany in the lobby at 8 in the morning in order that we walk to school together.  Naturally I had told Stephany not to wait for me because I know myself, and true to form I arrived at 8:07 and had to mosey along alone.  After walking almost 25 minutes in the wrong direction, sweating through my shirt, and performing wild circles of arm aerobics after slipping in, probably, sewage, I finally bit the bullet and hailed a trike.

A tricycle is this:


(Daggone it, I used to have a picture from the outside but can’t find it now.  The above was taken from an attachment to the bike, from the inside where I was lamaze breathing while traffic hurled itself at my exposed and wide-eyed self from all angles.)

In it, late to school and with theoretical poop on my toes, I looked like this:


Luckily school was really fun in that I got to teach a class of seventh graders who wanted to know things like “are American teenagers liberated?” and “why would Samatar poke that lion?” which incidentally is a hit story worldwide.  We took a bunch of selfies and I left school with enough time in the afternoon to get some chores done.


One thing I definitely had to do was hit a running store, because (embarrassingly enough) my sneakers smelled too rank to pack, and we’re scheduled for a fun run/zumba session on Saturday.  See, Colegio San Agustin- my host school- had a terrible fire a few months ago that completely destroyed their gym.  The remains and ashes are still there and it looks pretty awful.  True to community form, though, everyone’s banding together to raise some rebuilding pesos, and that’s what this Saturday’s for.  I’ll be the one limping the 5k that begins at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m.

Oh, side note: when the kids sang “Cups” to me and found out that Anna Kendrick is from Portland, they pitched fits of excitement and made me promise to try to get an autograph for the school.  Does anyone know how to do that?  Do you think she’d give a dollar for the gym?  They’re really, really cute and that might be helpful…

Anyway, right- I decided to walk to the mall to get some sneakers.

The first thing I noticed was that alone, I am the most popular person in the whole entire world.  I hadn’t been walking two blocks before a kid yelled “hello!” at me… from inside his house.  Every person I passed either nodded or smiled a “good afternoon!” and security guards with giant scary guns stepped aside for me.  Taxi drivers- well, this is nothing new- shouted greetings from their moving cabs, and passengers in passing jeepneys hailed my bewildered self heartily.  The weirdest, though, was the guy in the fortress auto, so named because that’s what it said on the side.


This dude traveled alongside me for almost the entire 2.1 kilometres to the mall.

Imagine walking unfamiliar streets when a gold van starts creeping along with you, sometimes slightly ahead, sometimes slightly behind.  Imagine noting this after five or six blocks, and wondering if it’s purposeful.  Imagine him then pulling over, and asking where you’re going.

“The mall.”

“Oh.  Is that way.”


A few blocks later, he pulled over again and offered me a ride.

“No, thank you.”

About a mile and a right turn later?

“You took wrong turn.  Mall up that way, then right.”

Do I have a good samaritan or walk stalker?  Without quality perception in my extra-sensories, I vowed to take a tricycle home.

July 3, 2014

“Do you have gay people in the United States?” asked the Batman-clad fourth grader, tugging at the sleeve of the dress I’d tucked into my pants because it was the closest thing I could muster that looked professional.

“Well, of course,” I answered, flabbergasted.  A couple of girls stroked my hair as I tried simultaneously to have the conversation and sign autographs.

“Oh, good,” he replied, “I’m gay!”

“Yeah, he’s a girl,” chimed in one of his classmates, matter-of-factly and with zero judgment in evidence.

“It’s true!” he said gleefully, and then thrust a paper in front of me.  “Sign?”

And hey, what a heartening display of acceptance.  Even more heartening was that it was not at all a significant moment in their day.  They were far more concerned with rubbing my hair and seeing if I would make faces back at them while Amanda presented.

Bad role model move: I totally did.  What’s the point in being able to move your eyebrows independently if you can’t show children ‘round the world?


Alright, let’s change gears here.

Metaphorical cats and dogs have become an endangered species in the Philippines, by the way, because in the past couple of weeks it’s rained all of them.  Our meeting with the mayor this afternoon had a downpour soundtrack that resembled a FIFA crowd’s roar.

Yep, the mayor of a city of a million.  Monico Puentevella hosted us the day after his State of the City address, plying us with sweets and stories of American athletes he’s met.  Lebron James?  Aw, fiddlesticks, fraternized with him at the Olympics for a photo op with Pacquiao.  Anthony, Duncan, Westbrook… no big whoop.  We could see he was kind of a big shot.

The godfatherly offer of protection further cemented Puentevella’s status.

“Any Filipinos giving you trouble,” he said, “decide if you like him first.  You do?  Hahaaaaaa, don’t call me.  You don’t?  Here’s my number, I have the police take him away.”

Seriously, a charming man and the perfect host.  It’s too bad how fraudulent I felt trying to eat the caramelized bananas while under the table shoving my dress back into my pants.

That’s right, my clothing was more shameful and secretive than a fourth grader’s sexual orientation.

And I’m proud to say that it’s so.

July 5, 2014

My last google search is “duck fetus philippines” because when I got home from dinner last night, I thought I’d write some blog before throwing myself sheetsward. I had eaten something, see, aptly called “balut” (because that’s the sound American bystanders make when they watch you eating it) and it seemed to call for comment.

Balut looks like this:


It’s a partially formed duck embryo that’s been hard-boiled, and it’s a delicacy in much of southeast Asia.

Freedom!  America!  Happy 4th of July!

Anyway, I ate it anyway before knowing that it was a duck- the eggs of which generally make me throw up immediately- but it turns out I didn’t get sick and could move on to the feast of pancit, fried chicken, a delicious beef thing that has a more specific name I forgot, and caramels that tasted like sweet, sweet, marshmallow campfire.

I have no idea how Filipinos continue to be so gosh darned hospitable, but we’ve been here long enough to conclude that it’s not at all a show.  Donah’s family welcomed us into their home last night for the aforementioned feast and I want that kind of hospitable warmth to be exactly what I remember about this place.  We couldn’t stay too late because we were supposed to run that early 5k, but it was wall-to-wall food and open arms while we were there.

Side note: the 5k did not start at 4 a.m.  I was buckets of nervous because, for starters, I look and feel the worst I have since college, which was before I discovered that secondhand cigarettes, firsthand beer, dairy, sugar, and a lack of vegetables were ruining my brain and my face.  Unfortunately, most meals here consist of dairy, sugar, and a lack of vegetables.  As stated, people have been incredibly generous to us, but that tends to mean five meals a day in which I feel obligated to partake.  My brain and body has responded accordingly, which is why I begged off the weekend trip in order to rest, exercise, and eat only the foods that I choose myself.

This is not as easy as it sounds, mind you.  The fetus was a spirit-of-adventure anomaly; I’m generally looking for anything vaguely vegetation.  Actually for lunch yesterday, I tried to get sushi and a salad at this Japanese place down the street, but I was FOILED because look at this salad!  It’s just mayonnaise- are you kidding me?!?!


And then the sushi was wrapped in cheese and drenched in sweet sauce, which was almost exactly the opposite of what I was going for.

I was also nervous about the 5k because I haven’t done any exercise since playing basketball maybe the Tuesday before school ended.  I’ve been trying to hit the “gym” at the hotel before school, but it doesn’t open until 6, there are only two treadmills (which are usually filled by 6:30) and they shake when I walk on them because there’s a 140 pound weight limit and I will only weigh 140 pounds if I spend a lot more time on the treadmill and additionally, cut off a limb.

I was also nervous about the 5k because I didn’t get any sleep because I dreamed many many terrible dreams, most of which I forgot but one of which definitely involved the embryo coming alive IN MY MOUTH.

It was a bit of a relief to find the race was not actually starting until almost two hours after we got there.  I’m zonked, so I’m heading back to bed rather than partaking.  I paid my entry fee, made a decent effort, and will quake through a treadmill workout at a decent hour later.

Despite the fetal fowl foray, I’m confidently conscience-free.

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