30 April 2003 - Bits and Pieces:
Since we're settling in well, there's not much that's brand new that requires a whole post to itself, until we head to a spot like La Laguna or Intramuros. Until then, here are some snippets from our days.
1) We returned to Greenhills Mall on Saturday, April 26, even after the last time we went and said we weren’t heading back there any time soon. But, there was a big difference, as we asked to be let off by the entrance for the pearl market. Yes, the place was still packed, but here it was top to bottom shoes, clothes, knick knacks and in the center, pearls. Not just pearls, as most vendors had other stones as well, but the majority was pearls, several long aisles of them. After a while, they all start to look the same, but some were truly outstanding and the prices were pretty good. Of course we all know that the instant we white-skinned folks with money bulging in out wallets walked in the door, the prices doubled (at least), but even with that, where else can you get 3 freshwater pearl necklaces for $40? No, I’m no pearl expert, but it seemed a worthwhile use of our cash. I’m not saying who they’re for, so don’t ask. But the vendors were pleasant, none were harassing, and the entire visit was so much more pleasant than the CD/DVD section we’d stumbled into last time. We stayed long enough to have lunch. The food court isn’t anything to talk about, there was an assortment of Oriental food options and a taco place and being the Americans that we are, we headed for the tacos. I can’t say that the tacos were anything like what we have in our kitchen cabinet taco meal box. But since I’ve never had a “real” taco from somewhere in Central America, I can only assume that what we had was closer to the real thing. The shell was 2 layers of something heavily fried (very similar to a fried egg roll), the lettuce was soaked in some tasty dressing, the meat was.. well, we don’t quite know as most meat is unidentifiable, and the cheese was similar to mozzarella, but not quite. It was a taste sensation! And I can honestly say that no one got sick. Even with the little crawly things that periodically crossed the table we sat at. On our way out, we wandered through the knick knack section which housed bigger things than mere knick knacks. There were plenty of paintings, quilts, carved wood items, and some pretty nifty pencils that were made from natural wood sticks. They were big and clunky and I couldn’t help thinking we should have bought some for Katherine’s class back at King. Or maybe Jeff.
2) Oh, one other thing about Greenhills. They have a center outdoor court of sorts, where there was a band playing. And they were playing something resembling Big Band music. It was fun, the kids danced and as we walked about we saw in the section of covered bridge… chess sets for a local club! I think we’re going to like it here.
3) We made it to the big Santis which is the import store around here, and we’ve already eaten some of the meat we purchased. It’s excellent and now we know that while fish is fine from PriceSmart, choices like pork or beef tenderloin are best bought at Santis. I’m not quite sure what it was that I picked up last week from PriceSmart, but it smelled funky coming out of the package, cooked up like bits of curled thick ham, and tasted terrible. I’m sure that the product was fine, for what it was, but our palettes are not quite ready to meat the demands of local meat preferences.
4) On Sunday, I took Katherine to Glorietta and then over to Landmark to get some school shoes. Her tennis shoes are fine for the days she has gym (memo to me, she has gym every other day, buy another set of gym clothes!) and for going to the playground, but on the off days, she now has some lovely black Mary Janes. Landmark, if you can deal with the crowds, seems like the place to go for general clothing purchases. We’d gone to the Jarman store in Glorietta and couldn’t find anything to fit her skinny foot, but in Landmark, they not only carried Jarman, but at least a dozen other brands of kids shoes and we found some that fit her perfectly. She’d also wanted some additional sleeveless shirts and there was a big section of piles and piles of different shirts for kids. We found plenty for her, and for P1600 (~$32) we bought her shoes, about a dozen shirts for the girls and Jonathon, a shorts outfit for Jonathon, new swimtrunks for Nicholas, sunglasses for Rebecca and some other small items. Like I said though, only if you can handle the crowds. Folks don’t like lines here. I was waiting and a kid broke right in front of me. It’s not customary to look at the people you’re shoving out of the way, because then it’s like a confrontation. If they don’t look at you, it’s like saying *bump* “Oops, I didn’t see you”, and being a fake kind of honest. It’s frustrating. You can’t say anything because saving face is the be-all and end-all in this country and if you point out someone’s indiscretions, no matter how minute, they lose face and then you have to worry about any repercussions there might be. Did I mention it’s frustrating?
5) Last Sunday we went to church at our parish right outside the Village gates, and asked about Religion Ed. It is offered, so we’re OK for the fall since Katherine will be ready to start preparing for First Communion. I wasn’t sure that she would be, seven is very very young for such an undertaking, but she’s adamant and has the drive to learn and understand that I believe will allow her to take on the responsibility. So, we went to Mass and picked up a bulletin, to read that the parish has determined there is too great a risk for priests to lay hands on children for blessings, for people to share physical signs of peace or join hands for the Our Father, or for anyone to take Communion other than in their hand. $10 to the first person who can figure out why! OK, I don’t really have $10, but if you guessed SARS, you’d be right. We’ve had 4 Philippine cases, three brought in from elsewhere, one right here. One neighborhood has offered flu shots to people. I guess they think it’ll help, but for trying to prevent a lot of hysteria, I’m not sure they’re going about it the right way. Do I feel worried? No, not really. I sure don’t walk around with a mask over my face like plenty of people here do. Of course, they could just be doing it for the pollution, so maybe it’s just an additional emotional incentive. On the subject of SARS, 2 teachers at Katherine’s school decided to take their springs breaks in China. They’ve been put in quarantine, but my thought is, who takes that kind of risk especially when you’re going to come back and know you’ll be quarantined and that you work around kids? OK, so they bought their tickets months ago and had this trip planned for a while, but still, is it worth it?
6) Ian attended his first official function last Thursday. He was supposed to have two last week, but the one on Tuesday he bailed from on accounts of the arrival of kidney stone #4. But by Thursday he was doing just fine, so he went to a program in the Ambassador Suite at the Embassy where there was a presentation of some paintings representing the loss of the Columbia. He said they were tastefully done, but that the function itself just felt long. He had plenty to chit chat about with some of the bourgeois, and one of the artists there is an interior designer and sculpture. Right near where the new ISManila is built (in the same area as the PriceSmart) there are grand plans to put up a planned mini-city complete with gardens, artwork, shops, highrise business buildings, etc. Well, much of the large outdoor art pieces seem to have already been placed as this sculptor has a very large green glass piece placed on one of the future block corners. Ian mentioned that it’s the large piece of glass sculpture in the world. It could be, but in my estimation, it’s not all that impressive. Big blocks of leaning green glass.
7) A couple days ago as I was putting out the trash, a woman was getting back into her cab parked in front of the house. She offered to sell me some fresh cut flowers. I told her that we’d just moved in and didn’t have any vases but that I would love for her to come back the next time she’s in the neighborhood. Long stem flowers, ones I have no idea what they are, but they hadn’t bloomed yet and looked just gorgeous. I can’t wait! Fresh flowers delivered to the door. I forgot to ask the cost of such a deal, but I can’t imagine it’s any worse than everything else around here.
8) The local word for Hello and How are you? is “Kumusta”. The Spanish ruled here for a long time in the 1800s. Can you see how “Kumusta” came from “Como esta” ? OK, sometimes the obvious takes me a while to figure out.
9) And toilets. Before going out, use the bathrooms at home. And flush every single time. In the States, you can get away with forgetting to flush, or not flushing to conserve water, but here where the water is barely treated, not flushing is not an option. Things grow. I mean, grow like there’s no tomorrow. It’s smelly and gross and just plain icky. We flush all the time now. I feel bad since it uses so much water, but honestly, it can’t be helped. PineSol seems to have done wonders with keeping the bowls clean, so we’ll keep using it. OK, when we’re out, finding a useable toilet is iffy. At the mall there’s better luck than at a fast food place, only most do not have toilet seats. Did they not come with seats? Did the mall have to pay extra for seats? Were the seats stolen? I’ll never know. Add to that, you have to pay for your squares of paper. OK, interesting enough. But the other day when we were at the playground apparently there are some potty-training kids. I have no problems with kids who’ve gotta go, but I do have issues with yayas who have them pull down –right- -there- and pee next to the slide or the ladders or any part of the playground. Two of them did on Monday! I couldn’t believe it. A third had their little boy go pee in some bushes against a wall. That makes sense, but who decides that right in the dirt by a piece of play equipment is the best spot? It’s a similar frustration to the yaya who took a dirty straw from a kid, and threw it on the ground. There are multiple trashcans at the playground, even broken down by kind of waste. But no, the straw ended up back on the ground, where he promptly headed for it again. He got distracted, but only so the next kid could go pick it up and stick it in his or her mouth. I’m really thinking of making a park clean-up day for my kids each week, because there is no reason for kids to have to step over all the trash that gets dropped. OK, rant over.
10) Lastly, P jokes. I’m not sure any of us will ever tire of them. Even though the local currency is the Piso (said Peso), it’s referred to as P. We have a cup by the phone for loose change. Yes, it’s a cup of P. Someone needs extra cash, we need more P. Ian and the kids can amuse themselves for quite a while with this.