28 May 2003 – Floating Down the River on Memorial Day Weekend.
Tropical Depression Chedeng has graduated to Tropical Storm Chedeng as it moves right over our little island, dumping plenty of rain throughout the area, causing 7 deaths so far and flooding roads, homes and businesses all around.
The airport is leaking through the ceiling into drums, the Embassy canteen is leaking through the bottom of the floor-to-ceiling windows, even Ian’s unit is dripping. In the case of the airport, it’s been leaking during the rains since 1994. Which has to make one wonder. If there are 3 people to check you out at a store, security officer (or 2 or 3) at every doorway, and 10 gardeners working on the playground, could there be enough people to patch and rebuild the roofs during the 8 months sans rain? We’re on day 3 of Public Storm Warning Level Two (gusty winds, bring inside things that might get knocked over, good chance of flooding), with waves of heavy rains and winds that wake us at night. I sure hope we get used to this or it’s going to be a very long 4 months of interrupted sleep. The gloomy weather sure helps the kids sleep better though. Jonathon didn’t wake until 6:30 this morning. It makes our days rather long and yesterday we played Candy Land, Uno, and Go Fish. We put together a puzzle, practiced the piano, watched Veggie Tales, and I had time to make meatballs for spaghetti. Time that would normally be spent at the playground can now be dedicated to dinner preparation. Well, we can peer at the playground from our windows and we’re watching our lawn revitalize with this drenching. Today we’ve read, played Simon Says and Hearts and done a good amount of cleaning up so far.
We received our car last Thursday. Can you hear the *sigh* of satisfaction from there? And the first day, Ian drove home from Seafront. Since then, when he’s home, he does the driving and while it’s still an adventure, it’s not nearly as impossible as some would have you believe. Granted, we haven’t driven through flooded streets, and I’m not willing to drive the main thoroughfares (there is no way I can split my attention between the kids and the other cars and buses), but for regular trips around we’ll be just fine. The school and PriceSmart are in an undeveloped (but planned) area, and the church and little groceries are right outside the neighborhood gates. Close enough and easy enough to drive even for me. OK, I haven’t actually tried it yet, but soon! Really! I promise!
On Friday I had my first drive in our van. I joined Ian at a Junior Officer function at Seafront. Junior Officers from all the Embassies were invited for a Memorial Day swim party. Little did we all know that the rainy season would begin a couple weeks early, as it was drizzly before I left, and by today, well, I already mentioned what today is like. We didn’t swim, but we did speak with some other JOs, one in particular from a province near Beijing and he was just wonderful to speak to. He even gave us some tips on visiting the Great Wall and what some of the differing views about the Wall are within China. Very interesting.
You might be wondering where the kids were at this time. Well, it was typical playground time, so we asked the housekeeper to come in the afternoon instead of the morning, and she watched them for a couple hours at the park and then made them mac&cheese for dinner. By the time we got home, they were eating and all was well. The kids had a great time because unlike mom, she played hide-n-seek with them. This won’t be a common occurrence, but there will be times when 4 small kids don’t fit into a required engagement that even I have to go to, so it is nice to have a babysitter when needed.
On Sunday, we were invited to another Memorial Day party, this time with the kids at a JOs apartment. I guess we didn’t really think this through all the way. An apartment with a small living room. Four well-behaved but energetic kids. There were 20 other people already there including a half dozen other babies and kids. The coffee table was covered with cream cheese poppers and nachos with all the dips and loads of drink cups. Six kids had it as their eating table too. It was cramped. And since it was raining outside, the playground next door wasn’t an option. Thankfully once the kids all ate, one of the ladies (with twin 4 year old boys) offered to take our 3 older kids to their place with her own, and let them play there instead. We took her up on it and it instantly opened the place up. Kids may be small, but they still take up room! We had a good time with just Jonathon to watch since there was another little toddler who took up most of his time. She was fascinated with his red shoes and he was overprotective of them, taking them to the shoe pile to try to hide them from her clutches and following her around saying No no no no no and Mine ‘oe! Eventually they found some plastic coasters that appeased both of them, but they were playing with 3 which did cause some intermittent issues.
On Monday, being Memorial Day, we had planned on going to Lake Taal in Tagaytay. It’s a volcano in a lake in a volcano. Sounds cool and it’s only just over an hour south of Manila. But the rains that were spotty over the weekend hit with full force Monday morning and we cancelled the trip. If we had a driver or had been there before or had even been on the South Super Highway even once, it might have made a difference. But since none of those had occurred, it just didn’t seem smart to take our can on who knows what kinds of roads, with who knows how much flooding, only to get there and be drenched anyway. Some other JOs had planned on going too so we were all pretty bummed. But, not to be stuck at home, Ian braved the traffic on Edsa and we went to yet another mall in our area. As an aside, I’m getting mighty tired of malls. Malls are built one next to the other and they are all gigantic. I don’t think there’s enough cash in the general populace to put a nick into the merchandise supply. This time though we eased our way to Robinson’s Galleria, which also has a bowling alley, movie theaters and an entire floor food court. Getting in the underground parking, the attendant asked for our license plate #. We don’t have plates yet, so she asked for his license (?) and then gave him a plastic parking card. As we were leaving the car, a service guy came up and offered to wash and vacuum our car for us while we shopped. It seemed like a legit business offer, but we passed and did our mall walking for the day. When we were ready to leave, we piled into the car. And Ian couldn’t find the parking card anywhere. Uh oh.
So we drove up to the exit window with the clear sign stating “Lost Card P200” and we prepared to hand over our P200. Well, you should have seen the look that crossed her face. And the concern that set into mine. We were asked to pull up and over to the side. Two security came by. One stood guard after asking for Ian’s license again, another started filling out an entire page of paperwork which Ian was asked to sign, all this along with paying the P200 and additional P20 for the parking. Finally he was given his license back and we were free to go, but it was entirely uncomfortable. In the States we would have simply asked what the purpose was for the information gathering and refused, but here with all that’s going on (general corruption, an undercurrent of dislike for Americans and the fact that we were “in the wrong”) it’s not wise to ruffle any feathers unnecessarily. Someone asked me if we felt safe here. In general yes, but there’s enough to keep us always on our toes and it does not compare to safety within the U.S. borders, even in the big cities. There’s a low rumble of unease that permeates everywhere we go and everything we do.
You know (and this is totally off topic) I bet someone out there is wondering about that odd encounter at the playground with the birthday invitation. Are you wondering if we actually got an invite? Yes, Katherine did. Are you wondering if we went? No, we didn’t. It all seemed very wrong to us and even in the States we would have declined such an invitation.