Hello August!

Sorry for the radio silence guys (all three of you who read my blog on a regular basis). The last few days I’ve just been busy and writing dropped in priority as I was working on my tech writing class in the evenings and just felt ‘meh’. Today I’m feeling a lot more ‘with it’ and I’ll tell you why.

Six Sundays ago I left Oregon and said goodbye to everyone. My dad, step mom, and sister dropped me off at the airport and I was on my way. Six weeks by yourself is a long time to go without your family when you’re somewhere new. I made plenty of friends at work and on the weekends we went out and adventured, but at work we worked and chilled during lunch and breaks so it wasn’t social hour, unlike college where just about everything makes way for socializing. Here I spend most of my time outside of work working on my online class or writing for my blog, and if neither of those are happening, there’s a good chance I’m sleeping. Being a nineteen year old American college student hardwired in for “June through August means summer” I’ve been sleeping a lot. Today I slept in until 11:15. If I don’t, I’m a walking zombie, especially with this humidity; it’s still a lot to adjust to. Average water consumption is 2-3 liters or more a day since you sweat so much so being awake takes a little more out of you here than it does at home. So that has been my day to day.

However, today has been the day I’ve been looking forward to for the better part of the last two or so weeks. The day my dad and stepmom arrived in Cebu. I love it here. It’s a great place to be and this is an amazing way to spend a summer. But in some ways, you miss the old, especially when you can’t just decide at 10am on a Friday you want to go home for the weekend and within an hour after being done with class you’re already home. It was great seeing the city through the eyes of my dad who’s been coming to the Philippines for the better part of ten years and my step mom who has spent all but three of the last years of her life in this country. It’s like when you’re running and you’re ready to be done but you know you need to finish the hour and you’re miserable but then Eye of the Tiger comes on and suddenly every fiber in your being finds new motivation and you power through. I have eleven more days in the Philippines and while not all of it is lounging on a white sand beach with a do-nothing attitude, everything coming will be different than spending my whole day at a desk working. Life has shifted from down a gear from fifth and I’m excited for a change of pace even though I will miss my new work family.

Being here for six weeks is long enough to say I ‘lived’ somewhere other than Oregon and has helped me find that I may not want to spend a term abroad in Hong Kong or Thailand or Singapore. At ten to eleven weeks, I think it just wouldn’t be the right fit even though all three places are on my “to see before I die list”. With the program I will be working with I have a couple options and I think I may be looking into Austria or elsewhere in Europe (Germany, Denmark or Norway seems a little more my speed).

Just observing people here I notice how much I stand out from people, even fellow Westerners, than how little you blend in. I’m inches taller than a lot of people, I have blue eyes and curly blond hair, I’m white, and I speak American English. When people stare, I usually make sure I’m wearing my sunglasses and try not to stare back, the ‘Glancing away and quick check back to see if they’re still looking at you and keep looking away’ game. To a degree, you feel somewhat violated because in America we believe staring is rude. I believe in the idea that it is very important to be a stranger in a strange land and be as alienated as possible several times throughout life, but I think if this was the caliber of my travels related to school, I would be a little too uncomfortable for too long. I could do it and endure, but like picking the college you attend for undergrad, I feel like being as ‘at home’ as possible is worth considering. There is only so many times you can endure, “For you- white girl price” when you’re trying to buy something off a vendor on the street before you are ready to up and quit and keep walking.

It’s very possible I change my mind between now and then and I know having experienced this kind of environment for two weeks in 2009 when I spent two weeks in China with my dad (For perspective, I was in the 8th grade and was 14). Now, six years later, I’m a lot more aware of the world and some of the finer workings and I think it takes several trips where you’re this far out of your comfort zone to actually not mind things as much. Bottom line is I don’t know what is happening between now and my term abroad and some things could change.

On two fronts, the end is near and everything is set to coast. It’s August and the month named after Augustus is fairly jammed pack and busy and now it is here, and that my family is here I feel a little better about everything and I can just power through, even if Eye of the Tiger is only playing in my head.

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When Life Gives You Cabbages, You Make Coleslaw. Duh.

This story is not necessarily told in sequential order whatsoever. But bear with me. This has a point, I promise.

Friday at work I had a meeting with HR. Not a “I’m in trouble” type meeting, but the “You’ve been here for five weeks and we would love to set aside an hour and chat about what you have observed while you are here, both at the office, as the Filipino culture as a whole, and just talk.” It was a light hearted conversation. My HR supervisor is the same lady who picked me up at the airport and who has been showing me around the Philippines while I’ve been here. My ‘host’ mom and apparently now adopted mother. We went adventuring on Saturday and she told her second youngest, “Be nice to your sister,” referring to me. It’s cute. I squee’d. I was honored. (This is where we start getting out of order).

But anyways, Friday after being home sick the previous day was a little wonky, I had a fine day at work, it was just slow going. I was trying not to over do it. My meeting overlapped with snack time in the management office and the Merienda (light meal) were burger type buns with canned tuna, smashed avocado, cucumber, lettuce and Laughing Cow Cheese slices. I was told to eat. And I did as we talked. It was mostly along the lines of “If we were to do this over again, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give yourself,” and the like. Coordinating my work opportunity that got me here, much like this story, happened out of order. So the sandwiches were good and I was happy to have fresh veggies. I knew then and there my next trip to the supermarket would yield the necessary things to replicate these little treasures. They were AMAZINGLY good.

Saturday my “host mom” and I started our adventure a little after 2pm, which by our standards, is fairly late, especially since we started at 3:30am only two weekends ago. We went to the butterfly sanctuary on the other side of town. The drive had us take the main road that goes by the decent sized mansions on the hill with a great view and in contrast with what I have seen this trip, I surprised to see such a strong cluster of wealth. The sanctuary was ‘meh’. I did get to go behind the “No entry” sign (thanks to our guide) to see the enclosure where they raise the butterflies until they’re big enough to fly out in the open. I always love being on the side of the sign the sign says you’re not supposed to be on. It was neat seeing the cats that roamed the property. Most of them had half a tail or less and they could leap to the top of an eight food fence in one jump no problem. I want to bring them all home with me.

After the butterflies, we went to Crocolandia. It original focused on the crocodiles but has since expanded into other animals of Cebu and is kind of a like a “zoo” but smaller. I made friends with a dozen brahminy kites, which are a type of sea-eagle (not making this up). For some reason or another I figured out how to replicate their call and spent fifteen minutes having a “conversation” with the birds very similar to how you “meow” back at your cat when it wants something. Croclandia had Filipino deer and an ostrich and a bunch of other critters. So there was no rhyme or reason to the animal selection. Still not convinced? They had a half dozen bearcats, or at the little girl who was with her parents called them, ‘cat bears’.

We had lunch at Cybergate Mall, which is on the roundabout near my building at a Mexican restaurant called Mooon (yes with three o’s). From there we went to Ayala Mall for dessert (which is worth the Google search because it is HUGE!). I joked that I should have been pushed around on a skateboard so I could focus on looking around instead of watching everything and walking. The mall just kept going and going and going like a maze. Dessert was a lovely selection of donuts with airy marshmallowy cream cheesy filling and they were to die for. After wandering around the mall, we ended up at a Korean café for second dessert and to see the sheer level of cute.

The upstairs level had two sublevels. The ground level and a lofted ‘upper level’ much like 10 foot square lifted forts with lots of cushions and pillows and a little table to enjoy your treats. The set up would have made an epic fort. All the while I had the whole day to think about the sandwiches from Friday.

Sunday was a quiet and lazy day. I slept in late, worked on my online class, and went to the supermarket for more water and things to make the sandwiches. And of course it didn’t go according to plan. The supermarket is always shuffling things around. Some genius put the iceberg lettuce and the cabbage heads next to each other. I didn’t know it at the time but I got a head of cabbage instead of lettuce from the lettuce pile. It’s like putting parsley and cilantro next to each other.

I got home and put groceries away and started washing my sundresses in the sink (the care tag says hand was only and it’s dry enough here it’s no too much work). By the time I got to lunch, it was 2pm in the afternoon and I was starving. I did my best to replicate the sandwiches, still not knowing at this point I had cabbage. It was as I was eating a sandwich I figured it out. I was frustrated. I was stuck with a cabbage and over the five weeks I’ve been here, I’ve tried really hard not to waste anything. If I have left overs from lunch, they go to the dogs before the proper trashcan. And here I was with a cabbage. What was I going to do with a cabbage?

The answer came to me today while at work. It’s summer and the common solution to cabbage is coleslaw. Coleslaw. COLESLAW! I had vinegar and black pepper on my pantry shelf already and I had picked up another container of sour cream (they were out of milk, again) with the intention of making French toast one of these nights. I cut up the cabbage, drenched it in vinegar with a healthy amount of sour cream and the hope the dairy would curdle a little bit to get more of a buttermilky flavor. I cut up an orange and drizzled the juice over the slaw and it’s currently in the fridge melding flavors overnight. I took one of the left over buns from my failed attempt at tuna and veggie sandwiches and set it in a pan on low heat to dry out and toast while I made the slaw. I used the remaining amount of tuna and a little cheese for an amazing tuna melt that went very well with the beginning flavor profile of the slaw.

The answer had been in front of me all this time and I got frustrated with being stuck with a cabbage when in reality, I love coleslaw. My mom has honed in an amazing recipe and if I was ambitious, I would have replicated it. But life gave me a cabbage and I made coleslaw. Everything in the Philippines really does find its way back to food.

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Week Five 5-Count

It’s hard believe it’s Sunday and I have one week left in the office. I have one more weekend in Cebu and then it’s off to the “vacation” side of things.

  1. I am always amazed at how global the Filipino economy is. My juice comes from Cypress, South Africa or Australia. A lot of fruit is imported from the United States. The “Imported” section at the supermarket heavily focuses on goods from America, Western Europe and Australia before it does other parts of Asia. Laughing Cow cheese is one of the top brands for process dairy and Nestle rules the world manufacturing just about everything through some of their brands. Lots of goods from outside the country bare a very big “Imported” sticker on them when you buy them. Standing inline at the supermarket, more people will stand in the “10 items or less, cash only” line if they have more than 10 items or if they are just paying cash despite some of the other lines being shorter. I don’t quite understand it.
  1. I am amazing at the volume of American culture and Western culture that dominates clothing here. There’s not just the American brands like Guess and whatnot that adorns a majority of clothing, but also sports brands and cities. The Chicago Bulls, football teams, college sports teams and shirts like “I’m so glam I bleed glitter.” I see shirts like “I heart Cebu” and what not. But a very high volume is icons and logos that are very familiar after growing up in the US. I see American flags and Old Navy. I see Union Jacks and other things. It almost seems like if someone my age isn’t wearing a school uniform (which everyone wears here for school), half of them are wearing very American clothes. It’s equal parts alienating and welcoming.
  1. “Ma’am” is almost interchangeable able with my first name here. Every time I enter or leave any building, it’s always “Good morning/ afternoon/ evening Ma’am” when I go anywhere. Even by people who are my age, I’m not “miss” I am ma’am, which is very peculiar. Very common here by all means, but it comes across as noticeable if you have not grown up around it or are not use to it. All sorts of people are very quick to hold open doors and I happily say thank you and grin ear to ear on a very frequent basis. It’s a mannerism that is regional in the US but here is very commonplace.
  1. Tuesday night was when I first came down with the cold. Wednesday I was running about 75% and I stayed home Thursday with an awful fever and felt like I was hit by a car. I was miserable. By the end of the day I was feeling better and Friday I went back to work. After not feeling great Tuesday-Friday, I finally felt well enough to clean yesterday and got everything else tidied up today for the rest of the week. It feels good to fight back the chaos and for everything to be streamlined and clean.
  1. As part of my “spring cleaning” I sent some of my laundry out. Most people do not have washers and dryers here and if they do their laundry at home, they hand wash and air dry it. It is very common to have a Laundromat do your laundry for less than a dollar US per Kilo (2.2 pounds) and within two days; it is washed, dried, and folded for you. Summer 2015 marks the first time in over a decade I have not been self-responsible for my laundry and it feels very odd, I miss the zen feelings of doing your own laundry and folding. It was peaceful. But at the same time, being able to pick up laundry on my way home from work and not having to deal with any of the hassle is great too.

Today, Sunday has been a rest day. I’ve done a bit of work for my online class, did chores, and chilled. I’m sure in the next 24 hours there will be a recount of my weekend up. It’s been a whirlwind and I’ve been tired. So soon.

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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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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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