Stone Soup- When You’re Part of the Group That Is Just Giving

Yesterday (Sunday), a group of people from work and I participated in a weekend feeding at Rise Above Cebu. For about $80 USD, we can feed some 500 plus people a meal of rice soup with vegetables, and I think I saw chicken, which helps supplement limited resources. Rise Above is a community center with a library (no books), a small dentist center, a central kitchen, and they teach anyone willing to learn to help lift them out of poverty and hopefully into a steady job in the near-distant future. I’m sure there’s more, but this is what I saw.

Rise Above is right off the Guadalajara slum, only fifteen minutes by taxi from where I am staying, and the whole event was one of the most earth shattering and heart breaking afternoons of my life.

There was a lot to take in, and while I was actually in the slum for maybe 20 minutes handing out food tickets for the meal, I was almost floored by what I saw. Makeshift shelters that had been knocked down by some means and partially rebuilt with sheets of galvanized metal and miscellaneous building materials. ‘Solid’ structures were far and in between. Roosters and goats wandered around along side the local mutts, some of the goats were tied up with little bits of twine. Some of the children were half clothed, or not even wearing flip-flops, which is the preferred footwear of choice here (I got mentally really angry at Tom’s Shoes who built their business around the one for one model, where they donate shoes to children in need and I saw plenty of people who needed basic elements of survival. I’ve seen them focus mainly on Africa and there are plenty of other places in the developing world that could use a little TLC, too).

The meal was cooked in a giant cast iron pot. When empty, I could probably climb into it with another person and there would be room to spare. After all, we fed a decent number of people off a very well spent budget. The feeding was divided into two waves- 1) children and 2) the elderly. To receive a meal we took little tickets out into the slum and handed them out to the kids. No ticket, no meal. And for the most part, kids as young as five and six were already refining their con skills. By this, I mean we would give one kid a ticket for their siblings and when we would ask how many they would say, “Two. No, uh, four, no uh, five, no seven.” (Big families are very common here, small families, especially single children, are the rarity). And they would keep pulling tickets out of our hands until they had however many they wanted and would run away.

Some of the bigger kids would shove the littler and younger kids out of the way/to the ground so they could try and gain an advantage over snatching tickets. However, considering that I have significant height over the kiddos and they come up waist high, I held the tickets above my head and deliberately gave the tickets to the quiet kids who waited their turn and the littlest ones who were bullied by the bigger children. I may never be canonized as a saint, but I do prefer to go out of my way to dish up justice in whatever small manifestations I can. I know life isn’t fair, but when the kids instigate a Running of the Bulls just to get a hot meal, anyone’s inner saint shines through.

After the Running of the Bulls/ Handing out the tickets, we returned to the Rise Above Center to finalize the prep period. The tickets said they meal would be served promptly at 3:30 and at 2:45 kids started lining up outside they gate trying to work their way in. Little hands poked under the fence and several kids scaled a wall (by standing on a motor bike I can only presume) and were yelling directly at us to let them in (It was the cross between Mad Max and a zombie movie). There was a crazy fast exchange between the mob of kids and the volunteer staff at the center to get down, as well as some of the people from work relocking the gate as kids who were playing inside the fence were unlocking it to tease the kids waiting outside.

One of the management staff at the company I’m working with is Austrian, and her brother and her brother’s friend have been hanging out in the Philippines while I’ve been here and apparently to the kids, the friend looks like Jesus. (Almost 85% of the country is Catholic, and a total of 92.5% of the country is Christian according to the Census). Hearing the kids call “Jesus! Jesus!” as they waited for their meal was memorable- the Philippines is so devout in their faith that the people who came late to get their meal yesterday were those who left to the slum to go to Sunday Church. (To be fair, today, Monday, I was told I was the spinning vision of the Virgin Mary, so I think if I were to describe the Philippines it would be 1) “Saying hello in the local tongue us ‘Have you eaten’ / every, everything can be traced back to food and 2) they are very devout to their faith).

Everyone brought their own dishes and containers for food- I saw several regular bowls, a couple plates, various plastic food containers, leftover plastic ice cream tubs, and a handful of plastic pitchers and cups to take their meals in. My best guess is that each kid took their food back to their families and they all shared what little they had.

While I can only speculate, it was heartbreaking to see the slum. Years worth of garbage was everywhere (even the goats didn’t want eat some of it and goats eat just about everything). It was one of those instances where you just want to blindly rally the troops when you get home and do everything you can to make things better for these people. Guadalajara is unlawfully there. If the property owner decided they wanted to develop the land, they would have one week to vacate before permanently being displaced.

Moments like these lend themselves to reflecting on all that you have- both tangibly and intangibly, and reflecting upon your privilege. I was able to go back to my apartment, which has one person living in it despite people in the slums packing a whole family into a space this size. Running water, clean water to drink in abundance, electricity, a bed. I have food a plenty, both in the refrigerator and dry goods on the shelves to last me several meals. I have as much fresh produce as I feel inclined to carry back from the store. Most importantly, I’m here.

I was talking to some of the other interns about them coming to visit Oregon. And we were trying to convert money without calculators and it turns out just the air fair round trip is what students pay here on average for one year of university. (By American standards university is cheap and to Filipinos, they think college is ridiculously expensive, as does every American student). I’m very convinced that after my stint in the dorms this year I want to have enough extra space in my next living arrangements at least for couch surfers. So friends who road trip or travel abroad have a place to crash. You never appreciate a place to sleep with running water to take a shower quite like you do when you’re traveling. I would happily share couch space and floor space for stories.

You never fully appreciate all that you have until you start giving what you have, whether it is your time or your resources, It really drives the point home.

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Long Day// Long Post: Whales, Welts, and Waterfalls

My day started dark and early at 3-something am. Today’s excursion had us adventuring down to almost of the opposite end of the island all to see these gentle giants, the whale shark, and since it was a holiday, we wanted to be in the first batch or two of people out on the ocean to the creature that inhabits the 100 peso bank note. This meant rise and shine to catch a taxi to the bus terminal for a 4am bus. The big draw was the whale sharks, but that was not the only thing we did today.

And I made a map to show how much we traveled relative to the size of the island. Over 300 kilometers total today, or just about 190 miles all in all. So, without further adieu:

  1. Oslob, a three-hour bus ride.

The whale shark, butanding and balilan here in the Philippines, is one of those animals you just have to see in your life time and I was fortunate enough to do so today. While for the most part this was a very touristy things to do (our fellow boat mates were from Holland) and I heard no fewer than a dozen languages while I was there, this was one of the cooler things I’ve done this trip, this whole day was, but seeing the whale sharks up close really made you feel tiny, much like standing near the Spruce Goose . The average whale shark weighs 10 tons, has a mouth about 5 feet wide, has eyes the size of quarters, and can be over 30 feet in length. And whale sharks have beautiful white leopard spots on their backs that contrast magnificently against the azure of the water. Seeing one swim under the boat (a double outrigger that seats eight) and being able to look all around and still see the fish was breath taking. You could look out over the water for miles and see the next island over, which is Bohol, where I will be in two and a half weeks, lazy white clouds, and crystal clear ocean. Many people dream of retiring in a place like this, and I got to spend my day just soaking it in.

  1. Tumalog Falls (phonetic: tomb-a-log), Short motorcycle stint to the top, walk down a steep hill to the falls

From what I can gather, there is no available information on the height of this waterfall, but it is very tall and very wide. It’s what the professionals call a “horsetail” waterfall meaning that the water stays in contact with the bedrock for a majority of the falls. It’s hard to tell since the vantage points are different, but I think it is safe to say that Tumalog Falls is taller than the South Falls at Silverfalls State Park (which is 177 feet) but I can’t say for certain. Our entire walk down was steep and the whole way in we weren’t looking forward to walking out. The downgrade had us wondering if the whole thing was worth it, but we trekked on.

The falls was gorgeous- the water was an electric blue and cyan and the early morning light caught the mist on the falls and made a fabulous rainbow as butterflies and dragon/damsel flies fluttered around. People from work are asking when I’ll be back to the Philippines next and after today, I’m wondering when I will be back. My trip is barely past the half waypoint and I’m already looking forward to the next round of adventures after I have a baseline of familiarity with Filipino culture. Some work staff are already asking if I would think about coming back and interning for the company next summer which just makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. I do love it here.

Before I left Oregon I thought I would just “like like” it, but being here for two weeks when Oregon Winter is in full swing would not be a bad thing. When we were done with the waterfall we feared the trek up the mountain to get out and I suggested we hire some of the waiting habal-habal, or motorcyclists to give us a lift. For less than one American dollar each, we swiftly made it to the top where I enjoyed a coconut that was machete cut open while we waited for our original guides.

Today, after two different runs on bikes, it was the first time I noticed welts and scratched on my legs and ankles from the venture. Not quite burns, but likely the result of me climbing in and out of boats and on and off bikes. I am not the mot graceful of human beings and it showed.

  1. Simala-Lindogon Church, by fancy air-conditioned coach that offered pristine views of everything, about an hour, and then another habal-habal up a different mountain.

This church should really have its own Wikipedia page and it’s curious that it doesn’t. From what I could gather this is a monastery (lots of stairs) for ‘Mamma Mary’. This castle-church look, no seriously, look is impressive from an architectural standpoint. I have no idea how big this is and it was still under construction while we were there today. We arrived right in time for mass, which was projected across the grounds by loudspeaker, while people waited to see the museum and light candles for prayer. We skipped the line since this place was about Disneyland level crowded with tourists and mass attendees so we wandered around and saw sculptures of different saints and depictions of Jesus’s Crucifixion. The saints were grey stone and I recognized some, while the Crucifixion images were painted gold. Because of how we toured the grounds, we actually saw the New Testament unfold backwards.

We caught a ride on our hired habal-habal halfway down the mountain where we got in a van to head to a different part of Cebu City than where we started. From my estimations, this van was designed for maybe 12 or 14 people and 18-20 had actually been piled in, what with children sitting in laps, and what not. Our driver was a “Leave no survivors” type as he weaved in and out of traffic on the main road. There would be two lanes, one in each direction, and there could be a motorbike coming in the opposite direction and a car next to us and our van would squeeze by. His driving style could be summed up as “Hang the code, and hang the rules. They’re more like guidelines anyway” meets how the Knight Bus drives in Harry Potter and the Prisoner, Muggles click here if you don’t know the scene. There were a couple close calls where we were inches and seconds away from hitting someone or being hit ourselves.

We lunched at a restaurant in SM Mall, which is probably the biggest shopping malls I have ever been in in my life. It was full of shops and pop up vendors and people, natives and tourists alike. From there we went on to our next stop.

  1. Lapu-Lapu Shrine on Mactan Island, by taxi

This was another one of those “You’re here so you might as well,” when it comes to sights of Cebu. King Lapu-Lapu was chief of the native tribes when Magellan first arrived to the island. On April 27th, 1521, the battle of 50 Spanish Explorers with guns versus 1,500 natives with bamboo spears was fought, as Magellan tried to convert everyone to Christianity (I saw the Magellan’s cross a few weeks ago). Spoiler alert: Magellan died. As my dad says, the shrine commemorates the running out and death of the first Westerners, but also marks the later comings of Christianity and Catholicism to the country. Like the figures from the Crucifixion, Lapu-Lapu’s statue had been painted gold, and faced out toward the bay and the setting sun.

One of my “rookie” mistakes packing for this trip was not bringing a smaller bag with me. I used my school backpack as my carry-on and brought a shoulder bag under the assumption I would be taking my laptop to work everyday. I haven’t needed to, but I still have this four sizes too big bag I’ve been schlepping around, which is very counterproductive when you’re on the back of a motorcycle or else wandering around on foot and trying to avoid pick pocketers. In the courtyard around the shrine there were a dozen or so vendors peddling wares and I noticed the collection of shoulder bags that fit what I was looking for- something big enough for keys, my phone, peso coins, some water, and not much else. I found one I liked in the beautiful blue with a red, yellow, and orange pattern on it asked the price. 250 pesos, or about five and a half dollars US. I wanted to test my luck and see if I could get the price down. I ended up paying 200 pesos, or about $4.40 for the bag. While a dollar US isn’t that big of a deal, 50 pesos here is a meal or two and I’m very proud of my first haggle (and a successful one at that).

Today I watched the sun rise over the ocean and the sun set over the mountains. I’ve been up for the better part of 20/21 hours by now. My adventure was about 14 hours round trip and it was amazing. I can’t wait to see some of these places again in the future and eventually swim with the whale sharks.

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This Time I Wore A Helmet

All things considered, it’s been a very low-key couple of days. It was a short work week (Friday is a holiday) made shorter by the fact I needed to renew my tourist visa so I don’t create an international incident next Thursday when it actually expires [I kid]. My workday ended at 4 and one of my co-workers who is from Austria originally, took me to the immigration office. I would have gone on my own but it turns out the Bureau of Immigration is actually in a big mall in uptown and most taxi drivers know the mall but not that immigration is there (things I learn in hindsight.) So it was another adventure by motorbike. And this time I wore a helmet.

I have mad respect for people of motorcycles. They weave through traffic, and there seems to be no traffic laws here for the most part, and tend to dominate the outside of any lane and just squeeze by. I was convinced my knees were going to scrape along the concrete barrier as we crept past a semi truck. Much like the cat saying, “If I fits I sits,” the motorcycle equivalent is “If I can slide through I ride through.” I’m getting over my nerves of being on a bike and didn’t close my eyes this time and fear for my life [slight exaggeration, it is, after all, very safe]. I was even a little silly and put my arms out like wings and pretended I could fly (There’s a lyric by Death Cab For Cutie that I’ve always been fond off that mentions it so I had to try it).

 

Anyways, I got my stay extended and there’s now a neat little sticker with my name on it in my passport. I have stamps for June 21st in Japan, and June 22nd for the Philippines and now I have a nifty sticker from Immigration with my name of it that allows me to stay until August 23rd. Granted, it’s ten more days than I need but it’s certainly a cool accomplishment- I lived somewhere long enough this summer I had to extend my legal status to stay. I got a lovely piece of paper stating I do not exist on any ‘Hold Departure, Blacklist, Watch list, and/or Intelligence Derogatory Records.’ Cool souvenir? Do I plan on faming it when I get home and hanging it in my dorm? You betcha.

 

Aside from the passport renewal, nothing interesting has happened because this weekend will be three jam-packed days of adventure. My day starts at 3am tomorrow (Friday) (noon, July 16th, in Oregon). I know we’re going to the southwestern end of the island, and it’s at least a three-hour bus ride. This trip is a work/play excursion so I’m not in much of a rush for anything and as long as I make it back to my apartment at some point, I can’t say that I care what happens in between departure and return home as long as I don’t have some disaster story of “This really shouldn’t have happened to us.” No international incidents while I’m here. Saturday is up in the air and Sunday we are working at the business’s philanthropy in the afternoon. Friday marks the half way point for my trip and it’ll be down hill from there, two final weeks of work (I just finished week 4) and then two weeks of ‘vacation’ which is still family/friends/adventure and being a sometimes tourist.

 

Work is amazing in more ways than I could have imagined when I left Oregon almost a month ago. I’ve gone from not thinking I was qualified or interested for working at technology based companies like Google and Twitter to bookmarking summer internship forms and their announcement schedule for the next round of recruiting. I’ve also looked into Marvel Inc (I do love me a good superhero flick) and Lucas Film (STAR WARS COMES OUT IN 153 DAYS). Interestingly enough, I wasn’t just looking at West Coast United States locations and was looking at positions all across the globe, which is not necessarily where I was a month ago. It was more of just a lazy daydream of It would be really cool if and it never took off from there.

Less than a month from now I’ll be back in Oregon, probably sleeping off the jetlag. Here’s to a kickass weekend.

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In Which I Refer To A Fictional Character As My Significant Other

There are many lists floating around of best places to eat in Cebu. I always take these kinds of list with a grain of salt because different travelers, depending on place of origin and travel experience, have varying degrees of “You should totally go out of your way to eat here.” It turns out a lot of the reoccurring names are within a short distance of my apartment, so half of it is just getting out. Tonight I went to Casa Verde, which is listed as ‘American’ food and features a couple of Filipino items on the menu. I was skeptical. ‘American food’ is normal. Unbeknownst to me, I have apparently really craving tortillas like a fiend as I got the chicken fajitas, and I have to admit, there were pretty top notch all things considered. Most of the tomatoes are green here and Filipino chickens just taste better. This is what happens when chickens run and aren’t stuck in cages for days on end. Was it memorable? Yes, but only because I saw a couple cats, and a rat did run across the stepping-stones into the bushes. I swear the cats are getting lazy.

Our dinner conversation was memorable too. There was a beautiful little parrot/ parakeet in a roomy cage that started singing while we enjoyed our meal. I’d gone out with HR who’s been my ‘tour guide in residence’ whenever we go adventure. I’m almost twenty and she still gets nervous to let me cross the street on my own and usually hangs on to my shoulder bag as a precaution. I’ve been adopted. It comes in handy when I get distracted and look around at buildings and people and take everything in. There have been a couple close instances to a “Game Over Frogger” where I was reeled back onto the sidewalk with only minor whiplash. Coincidentally, this is why my parents dressed me in overalls when I was little. Before the eyesore of backpack leashes for toddlers were a thing. Anyways, I kept watching the cat who was sitting on the stone railing watching the bird and I was asked, “Do you like birds”? to which I said Enough. If I’m trying to sleep and they’re making noise, I want to shoot it. To which she laughed and said, “Your future husband better watching out.” I was dying of laughter. It was a well timed line for both of us.

And speaking of romantic interests-

Romantic Inquiry Number One: Saturday we went to Tops. This was the crazy motorcycle adventure. My guide had asked if I was married. I was honest and said no. This was rookie mistake number one. By the end of the conversation I was under the impression by guide was trying to play matchmaker on behalf of his son. With my experience in the US, we tend to avoid personal awkward questions and stick to general small talk like, “What do you think of the weather?” And “What brings you here?”

Sunday I ventured to the cat café. Which I thought sounded promising. It was a twenty-minute walk from my building and I thought it would be a good chance for me trek on foot and explore. The café was underwhelming. Despite being on a bunch of “Must go” lists, the cheesecake was pretty good (and adorable) but the cats were mean. I followed the rules, didn’t disturb a sleeping cat, approached the furbies like wild cards, and one of them bit my hand. Not hard enough. I was disheartened. I miss my furbaby back home, beautiful Gwin, and I was hoping a few kitty pets would make me feel better. Instead I got to deal with a sourpuss. All in all, it was a wash, but worthwhile for the fact I trekked out on my own and because I took a taxi back, by myself, for the first time ever (look at me and all my firsts this week, I’m adulting).

Romantic Inquiry Number Two: My cabbie spoke broken English. Conversational, but it was slow going and sentences weren’t quite structured traditionally. The first question was where I was from. I felt like an outsider and an obvious standout. I would bet my cab driver didn’t get a lot of white tourists. West Coast United States. North of California. I said, guessing that California had enough landmarks that it would at least provide some idea. And no sooner had I finished ‘California’ I was asked if I was married. Second time in two days. While I was hung up on trying to guess how old I came across here, I decided to play up my answer and spin a tale. I hesitated before I answered and then said, Uh, no. Boyfriend back home. And BAM rapid fire questions, being asked the next as soon as I finished. He’s, uh, British. And we’ve gone to school together for the last six years. I was thinking of all the times I’ve been teased about my love for Harry Potter. I figured might as well. At least it’s a conversation and my driver won’t think I’m rude for not answering the questions at all and sitting here awkwardly. So I went on. He’s tall, dark hair and green eyes. There was a pause for the next question. He and I travel when we aren’t in school. Pause for the next question. He plays Quidditch and has a pet snowy owl.

And before I could explain or answer any more questions, we had arrived at my destination. I paid for the cab and went on my way. In all fairness, Harry was the first boy to break my heart. I grew up reading the series and got book seven as a midnight release on July 21, 2007. He was a childhood friend and I grew up with all the characters and actors as they told the wonderful story crafted by one of my personal heroes, JK Rowling. My freshman dorm room had Harry Potter posters and I’m sure my room in the fall will too. Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family is a holiday in my book and an excuse to veg out and work lazily in front of movies I’ve seen countless times. My mom knit me a Gryffindor scarf when I was itty-bitty so I could be Hermione for Halloween. Harry Potter taught me about the importance of friendship, about the evils oppression andcorrupt government, and that growing up is hard no matter your situation and walk of life. I wrote a post a while back about my parents reading aloud to me when I was in grade school and Harry Potter is what helped me enjoy reader in elementary school. JK Rowling inspired me to write and she’s the kind of person I want to be like as I age, because she’s an all around badass. [Link to a tweet calling out a jerk who was trying to put down Serna Williams after Wimbleton].

Do I feel bad for fibbing? A little. But I also know it would have been an even more awkward taxi ride if I said no and danced around questions. I do know only a little bit about the Philippines- Tarsiers and Manny Pacquiao and some of the more touristy spots I’ve been to already. For the most part I don’t remember the local names for food so that rules out a whole conversation, even though over half my conversations usually involve food or eating. Did I feel like a huge nerd for answering legitimate questions about a literary character? Absolutely not.

It’s certainly not the worst white lie I’ve ever told. I’m now in that awkward age where I still have to play along that Santa and the Eater Bunny are real for younger kids and if that isn’t lying, I don’t know what to believe any more.

I’m sure somewhere back home some of my fellow nerd friends are proud of me for saying I was in a relationship with HP, or at least would sake their heads, chuckle, and say, “Ya nerd.” Harry Potter is my life though. If someone is flipping channels and I hear any part of the movie I drop what I’m doing and run through the house just to power slide into the room and dive onto the couch. I deliver death glares if they change the channel. After all, Hogwarts will always be my home wherever I am in the world, at whatever stage of my life I’m at. Always. Until the very end.

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Have Passport, Will Travel

Douglas Adams writes. “A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” While I would agree, having proved it when I first got to my apartment and appreciating a shower to get the gross sweaty travel vibes off, the towel I brought also comes in handy with catching minor drips when I hang clothes up to dry and is particularly handy when it comes to wiping a coating of sweat off your face.

I would have to say the most important thing for a global traveler who isn’t leaving planet earth is carrying a half roll of toilet paper in your day bag. Riding around in the jeepneys, you inhale a decent amount of exhaust and city gunk so your respiratory system is always playing catch up so your nose is always slightly runny. But most importantly many of the restrooms are BYO toilet paper. After spending a couple runs at Warped Tour and a summer at Lollapalooza and Sasquatch, I learned how quickly TP ceases to be present. It’s a precaution that takes an iffy situation and turns it into the popular, “Come at me, bro.” Because like a Boy Scout, you’re prepared; it’s a small step that takes you from being fearful to fearless.

When you add a wet wipes to remove a layer of “I don’t even want to think about what I touched today” before a meal as you think of tourist spot door handles and railings you touch while hanging on in the jeepneys, you just feel better about everything. It’s very common I’ve noticed for locals to use a diluted form of rubbing alcohol as a catch all for “hand sanitizer” the wet wipes are a 2 for 1 since it is customary to pick meat off bones with your fingers and eating street foot with your hands is very common.

Throw in a couple hundred pesos and as long as you stay hydrated, you’re ready for just about anything.

After Saturday’s motorcycle adventure to Mountain View, I’ve been thinking about useful skills to have as I daydream about the next international adventure, which for all I know could be winter break, next summer, or later in my college career when I spend a term abroad for my degree.

  1. Have a better understanding of the metric system. For the most part, I understand that a kilogram is 2.2 pounds. But Celsius and distance leave me clueless. I know 0 degrees C water freezes and I know it boils at 100 C but beyond that, I am regularly question why Americans are so stubborn of not adopting the Metric system. Liberia, Burma, and Antarctica are the only places where Metric is not common, and Antarctica is heavily populated by science inclined people so Antarctica pretty much does.
  1. Be motorcycle savvy. I’m not saying I go home, become certified, buy a bike, and use it as a main form of transportation. After all, being aware of cyclists is a huge public policy and social movement, but I think at least being competent in something like a moped or similar scooter would make future travel fun. I can see having an idea of what I’m doing and not being afraid of someone asking, “Do you want to drive?” only opens the door to more adventures.
  1. Become open water dive certified. This one I can do through OSU. Open water, advanced open water, rescue, and even up to dive master. To a certain degree, I have to take a minimum number of credits to get my degree, and a certain portion is elective and whatever catches my interest. Considering that I’m less than half way through my stay here and I’m already thinking about when I could feasibly come back next (Maybe when the less than pleasant Oregon winter is in full swing), the Philippines has some of the best diving locations and reefs around the world. If I wasn’t working full time during the week and was somewhere a little closer to a dive location, odds would be good you’d have a hard time keeping me on dry land. I did the PADI training a couple years back and never finalized the training (some regrets). And unlike Luca Brasi from the Godfather, I would be swimming with the fishes by choice.I would make a bucket list of all the places I want to go, but the list would be pages long. There’s more of the world I want to see than I think I don’t.

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Week Three 5-Count

This post is a hodge podge of small incidents and events that have happened in the last couple days that made it on to my prompt list and did not make it into an initial post:

1) Miranda wants to make tea. Instruction set A calls for one liter of hot water and X number of tea bags but Miranda only has a five liter container of water and an empty four liter container. Set B of instructions calls for a gallon of cold water for sun tea and Y tea bags. How does Miranda convert American instructions to units used by the rest of the world?

To be fair, I did realize the juice I’ve been buying comes in one liter boxes so I poured the last bit of juice into something else and filled the box with water, which I poured into the smallest water container I had and marked the outside with a sharpie as a make shift measuring cup. “Good enough” for what I need it for. In the end, I did avoid the more complicated means of coming around to my end goal of a liter of liquid. Ingenuity at its finest.

I am almost done drinking my first round of tea brewing so hopefully I will get the ratios figured out tomorrow when I make more. As for this round, a previous conversation with my mom resulted in “it’s so bitter. I just summon up the courage and drink a glass as fast as I can without trying to taste it.” To which my mom says, “You know, that is a skill that will come in handy in about a year’s time.” Count down to 21? 433 days.

 2) I recently saw the Confederate Flag painted on a jeepney. While these vehicles are blank canvases for pop culture and easily recognizable icons, seeing a painting of a flag that has been a hot bed issue for the US and resulted in the flag being removed from the South Carolina Capitol, was infuriating. In one of those instances of coincidence, I found out about the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shortly after it happened as I had a friend who was blocks away and was relaying information (the college he was at was under lockdown). I read up on the incident on international news sources before any domestic outlet had uttered a peep and all I could think was “Dear God i hope everyone is safe.”

With the state of affairs, skirting an incident like this was a relief in the sense that as soon as I had found out the shooter had been taken into custody, I didn’t have to worry about the safety of my friends on the other coast. The June 17th event happened between accidental deaths of two students who went to my high school and I felt very luck to not have lost someone else. It’s just one of those instances where the details come together enough where you can sigh in relief that everyone is okay before the Internet erupts in stories and you mentally preparing yourself for what this means for your job in a few months (social justice, current affairs, race, etc).

Seeing the Confederate Flag so out of context, half way around the world made me wonder if whoever painted it was aware of its meaning, or just went with it ‘because’.

3) The heat is back for the time being and the humidity is at a tolerable level. To combat the sweat, I put a couple of bobby pins in my hair every morning to keep the smaller curls at bay and I’ve reached this balance where sometimes more pins come out of my hair than I remember putting in and vice versa. I’m also finding them in unusual places around my apartment so it’s like a treasure hunt. Go figure.

4) One of my trips to the 7 Eleven yielded a Vitamin Water like drink that was strawberry-kiwi in flavor and the closest thing I could think of was liquified Otter Pops. Nothing says summer like Otter Pops and I was always fond of Strawberry Short Kook and Sir Isaac Lime and would sometimes enjoy two at once to mix flavors. The drink was amazing. And a nice find but I don’t think I will return to the brand. It was more sugary than I like my flavored water to the point I think I was drinking liquified Otter Pops. Oh the things that symbolize summer.

5) While I will likely never look cool walking away from an explosion in slow-motion (See T-Swift’s Bad Blood music video), I did feel cool as i fought to walk against a headwind this past week in a downpour wearing my oversized rain jacket as people all around me ran for cover of hit me with their open umbrellas as they walked by. In Oregon we tease we can spot who’s an out of stater by the fact they’re carrying an umbrella in the rain, I thought about how you could spot the foreigner because I didn’t have an umbrella like everyone else. Comparatively, the rain was a ‘drizzle’ and clothes dried within in minutes. The benefit of the raincoat was more or less the perk of pockets as my dress didn’t have them and I didn’t have my shoulder bag with me to throw coins and cash in as per usual. It’s more or less shower temperature anyways so it’s always refreshing. That is, until the dust sticks to you and it becomes sludge and grime.

 

There’s a decent chance there’s anther 5-count post in the next short while. I feel an “Apartment appreciation post” is over due. And I waiting for crumpled bills to flatten so I can go off on how cool I think pesos are.

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Oh! Brave World

As the ever wise Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Some days are scarier than other in my undertakings, and today’s was equal parts “I hope this isn’t how I die” and equal parts “awesome.”

It’s worth mentioning that one of my best friends has a personal vendetta against people who are not appropriately equipped to ride motorcycles and scooters. So much so it always comes up in the car on our adventures and has for the better part of three and half years, rubbed off on me. He was a combat medic in the army and whenever we see someone who’s under dressed, we say, “job security” and keep a running tally.  I fully believe if you’re going to zip around on a mode of transportation that has a higher horsepower than my first car, you should wear a helmet and dress appropriately, but you do you. You and your choice are keeping people employed. And to my friend, I’m sorry, look away now. This was not the case today.

Today was a late afternoon start where we went to the coolest fort in the Philippines, Fort San Pedro. It’s a triangular fort, very small, very cool, and worth the visit. A wedding was setting up and some European sounding guy wearing cargo pants and Chaccos was filming a documentary. There’s a good chance my company ended up in photos/ video for both. The fort is one of the top things to do in the Cebu. I have now completed some of the top things to do in the city. The fort, like a lot of things here, is over 500 years old. So old, that trees are growing on and around the walls. This raises “tree fort” to a new level.

We ended up back at AA’s barbecue for more meat on sticks. Last weekend I said I would in fact go back before I went home and that was not a promise I had to keep for long. After food we decided to go to Mountain View, which to the best of my understanding was a lookout point in the hills that overlooks the city, best to see at night. So we set off by taxi for the part of town that would end up to be our launch point to take motorbikes up to the overlook. Our taxi driver claimed the road was too steep and windy for a cab, which is a lie because when we got there, we saw dozens of tour groups in passenger vans, jeepneys, and those like us who got there by motorbike.

If I had been competent in operation, I would have had my own bike. But something told me the Philippines is not the place to learn on your feet how to operate something that outweighs you and kills hundreds of people a year, mostly by user error, in crazy traffic. So my group of six divvied up with guides on bikes and we were off. I thought “How bad could the journey be?” and I quickly learned.

It’s a six mile (roughly nine and a half kilometer) twisty, windy, mountain road with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. Apparently it’s a common route for motorcycles as at one point we were part of a pack of over two dozen. It’s also worth mentioning I had never been on a motorcycle before. Everyone else in my group had.

As we were taking off, the nerves and adrenaline brought me to the realization that I was hanging on for dear life wearing Birkenstock sandals (foot wear of choice), a sundress, shades, and my shoulder bag. Hindsight says this was not the wisest decision, but locals wear flip-flops and survive. The ride up was more terrifying than the ride down. At one point I saw my reflection in the rearview and thought of James Dean. “Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.” I certainly had the smug, rock star level of cool going with my Wayfarers despite my fears. Fake it ‘til you make it. I’m sure the van of Korean tourists behind us thought I was a sight for sore eyes.

Every ounce of panic and fear was worth it though. The sunset and the view were amazing. I could see all of Cebu City where I have been living for the last three weeks and Mactan Island across the channel where I flew in; I could see trees and hills below me and the sky felt closer than it does back home. The last bit of the ride over looked the setting sun and valleys with beautiful houses and the view at the top was breath taking and the last mile and a half of that ride will likely be the view of the summer. It was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The photos I took don’t do anything justice.

The ride back down was easier and less nerve racking. I could actually look around me and see people living their daily lives. The businesses that had three walls that opened to the street or no walls as they were little street vendors pushing carts. I saw a chicken cross the road.

My guide spoke decent English. It was a bit more challenging to understand as he asked me questions on the way up and way down to take my mind off the fear. “Are you married?” No. “Boyfriend back home?” No. “Ah so Philippine boyfriend then? My son is about your age.” Silence as I looked out over mountains and noticed cows grazing on the side of the road as I tried to keep bugs out of my mouth while I answered his questions. They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, but I think today was one of those exceptions.

 


Oh brave world with such people in it.

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In Which I Get “Schooled” In English and Enjoy Snack Time

I’ve been drinking tea in place of coffee for the better part of my three weeks here (*DRAMATIC GASP* THREE WEEKS?! I know. This trip is flying by). Today I thought if I could drag my body out of bed in time and get out the door with a few minutes to spare I could get an iced coffee as a treat to celebrate it being Friday. Little did I know that three weeks is all it takes for the brew to go from “Yea I can drink this with just a little half and half” to “If drinking coffee is what makes you an adult, I don’t want to be one.” I’m being overly dramatic but that’s what it felt like.

It’s a very common occurrence for me to talk to someone at work and for someone in a conversation to switch from English to Visayan and back to English. Usually to decide what the best English word to describe something is, particularly as I get more and more curious about the world around me. I’ve been saying for weeks, “You speak better English than I do.” And no one believed me. Yesterday, to the embarrassment of my high school diploma and spending a year in college (and having a fascination with language and words to begin with) I was schooled.

The word was “Viand”. I had to look it up. I thought it wasn’t English, but it was.

vi·and ˈvīənd/ noun literary

An item of food. “An unlimited assortment of viands”

The context was “things you put on rice”. It’s worth noting that that rice is a staple. As I’ve noticed, you have rice with other things for a meal here more times than not. Needing “viand” spelled twice for me to look it up was a split reaction in my head between “I told you so” and “Spend more time looking at words in a thesaurus before you really embarrass yourself.” It turns out it is “late Middle English: from Old French viande ‘food,’ from an alteration of Latin vivenda, neuter plural gerundive of vivere ‘to live.’”

Food and to live. I don’t think there’s a more fitting word for Filipino culture I’ve heard all week. Food, after all, is the center of every day here in the best way possible. In fact, some people from work and I went to Jolliebee (McD’s rival for Filipino customers) for dinner tonight. Between the three of us, I ended up dipping French fries in mashed potatoes and gravy. And yes. It was awesome.

If I thought Oregon’s weather was indecisive I had another thing coming. Like I said on Monday, I’ve been getting these minor headaches at work. Nothing major. Just inconvenient. I am fine. If it’s the weather (we’re getting outer bands of tropical storms making way for China, bringing with it heavy winds and rain) that’s causing my headache, I would be happy. If it’s the fact I’m not drinking enough water despite my efforts, I would be relieved. To try and get my head out of the fog this afternoon I ran down the 7 Eleven near work and got a juice box and a packet of chocolate cream filled Kola Cookies. It did the trick and I felt better almost immediately.

Was a lack of whimsy in my Friday the cause of my headache? Would the problem have been avoided if I skipped to my destination? I do not know. But I do have this half-baked theory that college kids are grown up kindergarteners in a lot of ways. We love naps and snack time. Sleep a lot. Love to color. We’ve reached the cusp of our lives where we watch some of the old shows and play some of the old games on generations old platforms for the nostalgia. Pokemon is cool again. Disney? We love it. Glow in the dark stars and pinwheels for giggles? Maybe that’s just me. I turn 20 in about two months and after today’s protest against coffee and leaning towards a juice box and cookies for snack time, I think my inner child is throwing a tantrum to get out. Peter Pan is coming to my window tonight to take me to Neverland. It’s also common for us to take cat naps on the couches at work during breaks.  I think I’ll take the Friday shenanigans and claim “I’m trying to reconnect to my youth” and maybe doodle a little more on my legal pad at work while I think.

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Remember, Remember

On my way to my desk today the notice board caught my attention since it had been updated recently and a page in particular caught my eye. Next Friday had been declared a holiday for Eid’l Fitr (the end of Ramadan, where the fasting ends) within the last few days. Enter a conversation about work holidays in America between my work supervisor who sits next to me and myself and it really got me thinking.

What really stood out was what being asked what traditionally happens on the anniversary of September 11th. I was almost six years old when the towers fell. My sister had just turned four. I still remember the morning and watching the news with my parents and my kindergarten knowledge of what the impacts of what I saw ‘meant’. I remember the 10th Anniversary less than I remember the actual day. But out of our whole conversation, the most interesting part was hearing about the event from someone on the other side of the world who shared what it was like watching the event unfold half way around the world.

It’s not an event old enough to be in middle and high school history text books and I have yet to take a college class that would mention the event so most of my knowledge comes from reading in the years since. I shared the photo of then-president finding out about the Towers by the Secret Service and Ground Zero that has since opened. For the summers I spent a week or two as volunteer staff out at camp, it always lent itself to time to think when I spent time with kids who were born after 2001 who will learn about the event in textbooks and were born into post-September 11th America. I was five. I don’t remember much of the 9/11/2001, some generations have “Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated”, my generation has this date and interacting with kids who were born after the date is the closest thing to “feeling old” I’ve ever experienced. If anything, it puts your own life in a timeline of perspective- a generation that will live in a world of the side effects without having witnessed the cause.

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A “Today in Adulting” entry

On my Facebook page I have this running commentary, “Today In Adulting” where I recount little things that happen as I edge into being a full fledged adult (to be fair, sometimes I realize I made it through my first year of college and still look around for a “grown up” and then realize I’m completely unsupervised. Scary, I know. Usually the posts recount things like “I just wrote my first check ever. Tuition and all that jazz is officially paid. I FEEL LIKE A GROWN UP” [October 2014].

Today, in the next entry of “Adulting” I struck my high school education from my resume to make way for my current internship. The rule of thumb I was taught this past year is that by your sophomore year, most of high school should be off your one page first impression, and I’m still holding on to two elements until something better comes along. 1) my first real job I had working for my dad. It was over three years and it’s the foundation of everything that has come after and 2) the music project I ran my senior year of high school to provide a space for teen musicians to play for an all-ages venue in my bar-heavy hometown. This, undoubtedly, was the first ‘big’ project that got me into business and set my on my current college track.

When I got home from work today I realized that where I’m living is my first ‘real place’ post high school. I say ‘living’ because this is the longest I have inhabited any one place other than living with my parents. My first year of college holds the ‘record’ but prior to my time in the Philippines, the longest I had lived anywhere was two back-to-back weeks I spent at summer camp as part of a leadership program. I guess as you get older, summer camp and sleeping bags get traded out for internships and resume lines. I spent ten years going to camp every year and I look forward to what the next ten have in store for me).

While many of my peers are moving into first apartments off campus or moving into a house they share with 3+ people, I realized my ‘first front door and key’ is in a country I wasn’t born in and by myself. (Look at me adulting). While it’s only for six weeks total, I am living here for an internship that I love. Prior to this position, I never thought about jobs at companies like Google or Twitter, but with everything I am doing, doors are being opened faster than I can map them. Sophomore year of college I have a job that has me living in the dorms again so this international adventure is a nice “in between” place.
Every day some thoughts just hit me and I’m mesmerized by where I am geographically or in my high school career. If I weren’t here, I would likely be at home taking a full course load and finding new shows on Netflix to marathon. Instead, I am where I am dividing my time between work, homework, reading for the joy of it (I’m pages away from being done with Stardust by Neil Gaiman), adventuring around, and sleeping. As I wrote here in May, I was hoping to splurge and read “for fun” like I did before high school and college leeched the fun out of spending hours upon hours with an open book.

While it’s 11:30pm local time and I have to be up at a decent hour for work in the morning, part of the being an “adult” is setting your own bed time. But seeing how I have a chapter left in my book and I don’t have to sneak a flashlight under the cover to read any more, bedtime doesn’t happen until the grown up is finished with her fairy tale. And this one has one of the happiest endings ever.

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