Tuesday, April 29, 2003

30 April 2003 - Bits and Pieces

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.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

April 24th - April 25th - Fruits and Metal

Thursday, April 24th – Pomelo: The largest fruit in the citrus family, the pomelo is considered to be native to Thailand and Malaysia, and the trees bear fruit all year round.

The pomelo fruit may weigh a kilogram or more, and is shaped like a pear or flattened globe. It has a very thick skin, light green turning to lemon yellow as the fruit ripens. Inside the fruit are large segments of pulp, each surrounded by a very tough membrane, which must be removed before eating. This fruit is a particular favorite of the Chinese in Southeast Asia, and is associated with all Chinese festive occasions, and finds a featured place in many Thai events as well. Pomelo juice is sweet, but not strongly so, and much less tart than its distant cousin, the grapefruit.
Soursop: The Soursop is usually processed into ice creams, sherbets and drinks, but fiber-free varieties are often eaten raw. The large, elongated, somewhat ovaloid fruit, can be up to 12" long and 6" wide and usually weighs several pounds. The fruit is covered in small knobby spines that easily break off when the fruit is ripe. The thin, inedible, leathery green skin cuts easily to yield the large mass of cream colored, fragrant, juicy, and somewhat fibrous, edible flesh. A typical soursop contains anywhere from 30-200 black-brown seeds, each about 1/2" long and 1/4" wide and enclosed in a separate "pocket" of flesh. There are known seedless varieties, but they are rare, and tend to have fibrous flesh. Soursop's are processed into excellent ice creams, sherbets and beverages throughout much of Central and South America. Sweet varieties of the fruit can be eaten raw, and are often used for dessert. Today, Soursop ice cream, marketed under its Spanish name "Guanabana," can be found in some gourmet supermarkets. Preserved soursop in syrup can also be found in many ethnic markets. The canned pulp can be pureed or blended in the home, and easily transformed into a delicious desert, although fresh pulp is more desirable. Immature soursops are often cooked, and eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and roots of the tree have various medicinal properties. Soursops are high in vitamins B1, B2 and C.
[Both of these were stolen off some web sites]
Friday, April 25th - I finally have a school pass so I don’t need to check in at the gate each time we go. That’ll be a blessing too, because while I enjoy a little chit chat between the kids and the guards, it’s really become excessive where we’re left waiting by the gate with 4 or 5 security types while the -only- person who can check us in is dealing with something else. At least this time that one guard didn’t keep asking about any friends of ours who might be wanting to adopt out their kid because he wants a little girls Just Like Rebecca. Ugh.
We also had Nicholas’s check-up today. I’m not quite sure what to think about the visit other than it was very short. I do know that he’s 37 ½ inches and 34 ¼ pounds. No shots until school, as long as he’s all caught up, not that the doc checked to see if he was caught up. But that’s about it. I also asked about Jonathon’s bites and he couldn’t tell me what they were from, or how to prevent them or if there was anything to treat them. Do you get the impression that I didn’t learn a whole lot? And it was a pain getting to Seafront. Not only was the traffic heavier, but upon arriving I asked Cesar to go through the gate, but the guards weren’t going to let him do that (it is, afterall, a rental car) so we got out of the van to go through the foot gate, only for the guard to see my badge and say we could go in with the car, etc etc. I said no thanks, as we were already 10 minutes late and waiting for the security check on the car would have made us that much later, but did ask them to just let the car through so it could wait by the clinic.
On the way to the school afterwards, we were pulled over by a traffic cop. We have reams of literature on what to do and not do when accidents and pull-overs occur. My first instinct was to call Ian on the cell, just in case the cop was going to do something he shouldn’t. Officers here are, well, how to put this without offending the honest ones. Most of them are a good amount corrupt, pulling over people they think they can scare some cash out of, taking licenses, generally being difficult. Afterall, there are no enforced traffic laws here. Oh, there are plenty of street signs, there are traffic lights, there are corners with huts of “traffic enforcers”, but in all truth, people do what they feel like. So to be pulled over by a cop is a worrisome thing, especially for expats in the times as they are.
At the end it was a painless affair. The driver was given a ticket and we were sent on our way. Only to discover from Cesar later that the ticket was for an unregistered car. How does that bode for the business of rental vehicles?

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Jonathon, April 20th, 2003 - Growing Up

Jonathon – April 20th: He’s finally cut another tooth, so he’s up to 13 with a single incisor. And he’s putting 2-3 words together.

Jonathon is still nursing (yes, still!) but it’s reaching a point where I question if he’s being cute or annoying. He asks to nurse which doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, and often I thinks it’s cute with a finger point to a chair or couch, but I do not tolerate him getting upset if I tell him to wait, or if he starts tugging on my shirt. But there’s such a fine line between one and the other that it’s hard to teach him which parts are OK.
He also has a nasty yeast infection. I’m going to be ordering some tea tree oil to disinfect his diapers or maybe I’ll have some luck in the local “health” stores, and I’ll need to find some monistat cream for his bottom so we can get rid of this entirely. It always starts off looking like a diaper rash, but rapidly descends to the misery of a yeast rash. I’m hoping the sun, which we have plenty of, will help disinfect as well as the regular vinegar rinses I the wash. Cross your fingers. Oh, I did do a weird thing that I don’t think will have any negative side effect. I crushed up some acidopholus pills and sprinkled the powder on his butt. I figure if you can eat it, putting it on the skin won’t hurt any. Right?
Something else I’ve found with cloth diapering is that his clothes still fit him fine. I’d heard so many stories of folks fretting about none of the clothes fitting anymore and I really haven’t had that problem at all. There are some pants that don’t, but for most changing his diapers didn’t have much of an effect on his clothes, and I’m pleased with that. One more thing.. my favorite diaper on him is the Map of the Philippines Hippobottomus diaper (http://www/hippobottomus.com) with a matching orange fleece cover. I’m not joking about the name. Kyla has excellent workmanship and the fit is amazing on both pieces. Check her out.
Let’s see what is he up to. He can climb the ladders at the playground on his own and loves to go down the big bumpy and twisty slides. He likes Raisin Bran which is good because of his low iron issues. A serving is 60% for an adult. He loves to swim. The Seafront compound has the Embassy pool. A large one for laps and big people. A little one that is 2 feet deep throughout. Perfect for Nicholas to swim, for fraidy cat Rebecca to splash in and just right for Jonathon to stand in by himself. He was in heaven. I have photos, but no PC yet. When we do get the PC, be prepared for an onslaught of new pictures.
April 23rd: He seems to have been bitten by some other nasty critter. Earlier in the month he got hard raised bumps on his arms, now he has large red hot marks on his legs. He doesn’t say they hurt, but they look painful to me and my best guess is that one time while sitting on the ground, some ants got to him. Poor baby. We’re taking Nicholas to the doctor on Friday for his 3yr check-up and I’ll ask the doctor about the bumps then.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

April 20th, 2003 - Happy Birthday, Nicholas!

Saturday & Sunday, April 19th – April 20th: Can anyone tell me what April 20th is? OK, this year it’s Easter Sunday, true, but it’s also the day that Nicholas has his big third birthday. That’s right, he’s three years old! And he gets to celebrate with all the fanfare of Easter.

In our case, that means church, an Easter egg hunt, presents and of course a cake. Saturday was a busy day. We spent a good deal of time marching from one bakery to another desperately hoping to find a Star Wars Jedi cake that could be make and even delivered, oh by the next day. Well, I think even we found our limit with the status quo of immediate satisfaction! Several places wouldn’t be able to do it by the next day, and only one place had any form of Star Wars and none with a Jedi. Arg. OK, this will teach me to avoid leaving anything to the last minute, especially during Holy Week. Happily, Nicholas decided he would like a Spiderman cake, and Goldilocks bakery could do it in a day, so with our fingers crossed we put in our order and Ian would pick it up Sunday afternoon.
I needn’t have worried because it all worked out beautifully. After a miserable time at church (Nicholas had a meltdown over part of a granola bar. Remember, he’s 3) we had omelets for lunch and then nap time. After naps was the Easter egg hunt in out living room with plastic eggs filled with gummy worms, then birthday cake. The cake was great. I mean really good! Very light chocolate cake with layers of chocolate chips and marshmallows all covered in an extremely light marshmallow/meringue frosting. There will be pictures up on his page when we get our PC. Which reminds me, apparently there was a dock strike in California a few weeks ago? Folks who’d left the month before us still don’t have their HHE, so it really is all a guessing game when we might get ours.
OK, so after the cake and ice cream where Ian gave the kids gigantic pieces that none of them could finish though I didn’t have any problem at all with mine, we hopped next door to the playground. The bug scope had been recovered from the depths of the living room couch, so it came along, holding the favorite examinee for the day, a dried up lizard. Oh, it’s only a couple inches long and I’m pretty sure it died of a heart attack when we found in the corner of the girls room, but it looked pretty cool up close. I took a ton of pictures of Nicholas and those will be put up as well.. when we get the PC.
Home again and we wrapped up the day with present opening where the girls both gave him homemade cards with boxes harboring jelly beans. I think the beans disappeared before the box hit the chair. Then he opened our gift which he already knew about since we’d bought it in the States. A 400piece Lincoln Log knock-off set. Now all we need is a set of little plastic horses and they’ll be set. He’s received a Blue’s Clues birthday card from grandma and grandpa earlier in the week but only opened it this morning and thought it was the coolest thing.
All in all, it was a good day for him. All last week we would ask him how old he was and he’d hold up 2 fingers. Then we’d ask him what Sunday was.. his Bufday! And he’s work diligently to hold up 3 fingers. It was funny because Saturday morning when he woke up and came over and stood on the couch saying he was 3 already. When I reminded him that his birthday was still a day away he stretched up tall and said “Me bih boy! Me Eee!” And you know, he does look every bit his age.

Good Friday, April 18th - Rizal Park

Friday, April 18th, 2003: This is Easter Week. Easter Week in the Philippines means everything is closed. Yesterday we tried going to Glorietta so we could order Nicholas a birthday cake and get some shoes to replace the ones he’s outgrown. No such luck.

It was locked up tight and from what we could figure out from the guard, it wouldn’t be open until Saturday. Don’t quote me on that though. So we went to PriceSmart instead and did a big shopping. Bought another interesting looking fruit that I’ve never heard of called a soursop and while we had a fruit salad with lunch, I held off on adding that since I didn’t want to ruin everything else if it turns out to be icky.
Made a huge Amazon order last night (hey, I have 2 pairs of jeans and one is tearing, and I managed to ruin a good pair of shorts this week when handling bleach), and talked to my parents. They are busy this week too, as Easter Week always is at St. Michaels. They practically live at church from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon. Today being Good Friday, they’ll be in chuch from 11 to 4 to do Good Friday service, but also for the three hours of the Seven Last Words. It’s much more exhausting than even Midnight Mass for Christmas.
Today we figured we’d do something outdoors. Less chance of it being closed. So we were off to Rizal Park. Dr. Jose Rizal was born in 1861 and killed in 1896 by firing squad. For a very simple background on him, check out http://www.univie.ac.at/Voelkerkunde/apsis/aufi/jorizal.htm or do a Google search for his name and read all about him. Every town in the Philippines has a street named after him, and here in Manila his bones are interred under a large statue of him at the park built in his honor. In another part of the park is the site of his untimely death. Actually, many people were executed in the area, a couple were strangled to death. How, you may ask? The plaque has an engraved picture of the device. Sturdy wooden chair with a vice to go our your neck, slowly tightened as you strangle. Pleasant.
Aside from all the death and misery that happened there, it’s a lovely park, well kept with open grassy areas in the middle along with pools reminiscent of the DC reflecting pools (though not nearly as large). Folks seem to hang around, having picnics and just enjoying being outside in the shade. It appears that the park is one of very few green areas in the city to be enjoyed by the public.
We walked down one side of the park and took in the sights. We passed ice cream stands and folks selling bobbles of this or that, but in the park itself is a Japanese garden, a Chinese garden and much to our surprise and joy, a Chess plaza. Groups of men gathered around players. We watched one game end (badly, I should add) and another one where a player just gave up. I’m not sure it was because he knew he couldn’t win. He may have just not wanted us watching. There were board mats for rent, though one wonders why since each table had 2 stone carved boards on its surface. There were also plenty of cats which the boys just adored and Nicholas nearly got his hand on one before I yelled at him to stop and he snatched his hand away. He wasn’t a happy camper after that. But honestly, there are cats all over (I can only assume the dogs end up as dinner somewhere) and at the chess plaza there were cats and kittens everywhere.
Along the way is the National Museum, the National Library, and at the very end a giant relief in a pool, of the Philippine islands. That was pretty cool. Must have been low tide though. Coming back down the other way there is a dinosaur playground (it’s exactly what it sounds like, but no, not for dinosaurs), a pigeon sanctuary with big bird hotels in several trees and a reflexology therapist in the same cave as the park police.
It was hot out (duh) so we got back in the car that magically appeared on the street and came home. We do plan to go back sometime, and to Intramuros, but preferably when it’s not a holiday with everything closed. After all, seeing the inside of the museum would have been nice and getting to play on the dinosaurs would have made the kids’ day. After the boys get up from their nap we plan to go swimming at Seafront.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

April 16th: Just getting into the groove

Wednesday, April 16th: We’re getting into the groove around here. Of course, now we’re expecting our first typhoon. Who knows if it’ll hit metro Manila, but it’s the earliest in the season a typhoon has hit here in a long time.

And we’re supposed to experience El Nino this year too (isn’t that every year? Sure seems like it). The rainy season is supposed to begin in June, but apparently our arrival has reset the power of nature. Oh well, what can I do? It is cloudy out, but that just means an earlier visit to the playground this afternoon.
Naptime and bedtime with Jonathon had been going really well, until today’s nap of course. He decided today that he didn’t want to lie down. BUT. The past 2 days have been like a miracle. I could put him down and tell him to stay and he would. I’d say I needed to put the girls down the bed, and he’d be in his bed (ok, he was sitting up flipping through a book, but would splat on the pillow the instant I walked in “No, mom, I wasn’t up!”) when I got back. I knew there’d be some trouble spots and today he’s in the crib for his nap, fussing loudly, but we’ll get through it. He’s also rather insistent on going to the potty a dozen times a day. It’s a lot for a little guy to work through. Add to that the new tooth that popped in last week (finally, an incisor!) and sometimes I’m amazed he knows which end is up.
In the past week I’ve had 2 people mention how one thought that I was the kids’ older sister, and another thought I wasn’t old enough to have kids.. or as many as I do. She seemed disbelieving when I told her I was almost 30. Ack. I’m almost 30. OK, I’m almost 29, but that’s almost 30!
We’ve been playing a lot of school this week. Spelling, reading, math, recess, lunch, it’s all part of our day with Katherine home for Easter week. It’s been good to have a schedule of sorts, seems like whenever I turn around, our day is being reconstructed. We have a lot of people coming in and out of the house too. Finally we have a working doorbell and now we have a spare cooking gas tank. We also had the gate for the top of the stairs installed a couple days ago and some techs came and added an antenna to our Embassy radio. Of course, now that we have a doorbell, no one will come to the house.
Did I mention that everything is delivered here? On Sunday, Ian called up a dry cleaner and they came to the door, picked up his 4 suit pants and delivered them back to the house on Tuesday. Total cost? P332. OK ok… About $6.50. This economy seems to survive on customer service. They’ll pick up and deliver anything. There are guards at every entrance to every building and every store within those buildings. They act as doormen too. Fast food places have real china, there’s someone to bring your food to you and someone else to clean up. Tips are not expected. We ordered pizza early on and it came to something like $8 for everything, including the spaghetti, drinks and garlic bread. Ian tipped the delivery guy P50 (About $1). You’d have thought it was a fortune. Sad thing is, here, that can very well be.
Ian was telling me a story last night about a co-worker of his. When his co-worker was new to the area, he had to get somewhere, but didn’t know how far it was. So he hailed a sidecar (a motorbike powered, but often bicycle powered, mode of transportation) that happened to be a bike. The co-worked is not skinny man, and thankfully the address was only 3 blocks away. But the driver was wiped out from the exertion of going those three blocks. Total cost? P50. The co-worker tipped him P100. Once the driver quit saying thank you, he added that the next day was one of his children’s second birthday. Now they could afford a cake.
So, on to our adventures. Yesterday the kids and I had the car, so we went to Glorietta Mall to meander around, look for a shoe store I’d seen once before that had perfect shoes for the boys, have a bite of lunch and let the kids play at the playground. We did all that as well as having some ice cream before we left. The cart was the same one as last time, but he had all different flavors. Cool! The girls got chocolate, Jonathon and I shared strawberry, and Nicholas had ube, the local purple yam ice cream. We’d had it at home from the Filipino store and even brought it to Katherine’s classroom at King for her going away party, and believe it or not, it’s excellent. And really really purple.
We had a new driver since ours was on holiday for Easter, and Ramon was a slightly more understandable person even with the heavy Filipino accent. Cesar is very soft-spoken, so it’s difficult to gather what’s he’s saying without having him repeat. Anyhow, Ramon was a little louder which made it that much easier. He also interacted more with me, asking me which area of Glorietta I wanted to go to, asking where he should park, giving me his cell number and asking me to call him when I was ready to get going. It was nice to have a bit more feedback. Cesar is a smooth driver, but it’s too easy to forget he’s there as he’s so quiet.
Anyhow, all was going well until we figured it was time to get going. I had a cell phone in Atlanta for a short time, but since then somehow I’ve managed to live without one. Well, now I own one again, for security measures more than anything. But you do need to recharge it periodically and mine had been sitting in my purse for a week. We left the mall and walked to the front of Rustans next door, across the street from the parking lot. I noticed the battery was really low as I was dialing, and I managed to say hello a couple times before the phone went dead. All right, think. We headed to the parking lot and figured we’d see him as we walked to the car. No dice. We found the car and waited. It was hot. Really hot. The kids sat down on the ground under some shade, but I wanted to be visible in case he was coming back to the car. Twenty minutes later, no driver, no phone and melting, I decided we’d go back inside the mall and use the pay phone to call him. As we’re heading to the door, I hear Ramon calling from behind. He’d heard me on the phone and had gone to the door to wait for us. Here I was thinking he’d thought he’d gotten a crank call and was off with his buddies. Oops. Teach me to go sit in the sun and fume, it was all my own fault.
Oh, we had lunch at Burger King. Katherine had a ham and cheese sandwich. Well, it’s what she wanted! The portions here are considerably smaller than what we have at home, we’ve noticed. The fries are the same though. You have to ask for lids on your cups. And someone carries your tray to your table for you. But we did have regular fast food wrappers.
And we never did find the shoe store.
One small note. I sure hope Ian decided to put up a few posts of his own about what he’s doing at IV. He tells me some great stories over dinner, but they just aren’t the same being repeated second hand.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Saturday and Sunday, April 12th and 13th: Local Flavor

Saturday and Sunday, April 12th and 13th: Yet another interesting weekend. Is this what we have to look forward to forever? How come I haven’t read tons of journals of travels around the world and the weird stuff that happens? I must be looking in the wrong places.

Saturday morning we went to Seafront for the Easter party. Another taste of home with face painting, cotton candy, egg decorating, a sack race and an egg hunt. It was hot though, very hot. Thank goodness for the tents but even so we couldn’t seem to keep hydrated enough. The girls had their faces turned into flowers while Nicholas had a spider on his cheek. They had mini cupcakes and begged some yogurt drinks off a friend. All in all, a success with the kids.
We needed to head somewhere cooler, so we went to the Rockwell Powerplant mall. It really is a nice place to wander around. Cool, clean and not crowded. We discovered some new areas as the mall is like a bicycle wheel with a center, spokes and an outside ring. There are plenty of little alleys to check out and we found a Lush store. An honest to goodness B&M store. I passed it the first time then doubled back because I just had to pick up something. Well, bath bombs are pointless at this point (though I may stock up before our next post) because we have no tubs to soak in, but I did pick up a bar of shampoo for lifeless hair. We’ll see if it does any good in this humidity. We had lunch out at an Italian place and while the food was good, the boys were nor well behaved so it wasn’t that enjoyable. Oh well. Before heading home, we picked up a couple sets of padlocks for the window bars at home.
At home, we broke into the pomalo that I’d bought. It’s a grapefruit, without much of the tanginess. Not bad, though Jonathon wouldn’t touch it.
Today being Sunday, we went to church and being Palm Sunday, we were pounced upon when the van door opened by a dozen men and boys selling palms that had been tied and twisted and decorated into works of art. They were being sold for P25 each, so we bought one for each of us and entered church just as the priest was coming in and started blessing the palms of all the folks who had gathered in the back to hear the Gospel. The whole service was very short, especially for a Passion Sunday. We had the abbreviated version that lasted only 5 minutes. That was good, as I’d forgotten my missal at home.
After church we went to Glorietta. There’s a Rustan’s there and I needed eggs (we dyed all of ours yesterday at the Easter party and had to throw all the eggs out anyway since it was so dang hot out). And Ian needed new khakis. OK, need is a strong word. It’s true that some of his pants are wearing at the pockets and cuffs, but in reality he needed pants because he only packed 2 pairs to last him until our HHE arrives. He has suit pants but those are hot and way too dressy for his job here. We wandered around the mall for a bit then decided to check out the large department store next door since we’d heard that you can find some great deals. Well, you can find great deals if you’re willing to fight the zoo and you’re very thin. There weren’t many men’s pants bigger than size 30, but even more frustrating was that most of the pants didn’t list leg length at all. So, we left. Ian wasn’t handling the store well and the boys who hadn’t been behaving well already, were really starting to get annoying. Jonathon has begun a limp noodle act that he thinks is hilarious but most definitely isn’t.
We went back to the main mall and found an uppity store that had pants Ian liked. Cheaper than the $50/pair for Dockers, they still didn’t have Ian’s size. Ah, but not a problem here. They have on-site free alterations in about an hour. Perfect. Spoiled, you say?
Not so spoiled. We decided to have lunch while we waited and our first attempt at eating at the Jollibee (local alternative to McDonalds) was not going to happen with the crowd of people and the too loud obnoxious music. We skipped out of there fast and instead went to a food court. This food court was truly a unique experience. The stalls had offerings like piles of fish heads and one sported a full roasted boar’s head. Looking around, Ian didn’t see anything that the kids would eat except for a Shakey’s pizza trolley, so he picked up some slices then went to get food for himself. The first place he stopped, he placed an order and ended up trying elsewhere when everyone behind the counter… left. He has no idea where they went, but they all left the counter, leaving him standing there with no food. His second attempt was at a salad place where he ordered a fruit salad, and was given a plate of what looked like Caesar salad only with a mustardish dressing. He tried to pass it back and ask again for the fruit salad that he pointed at, but the woman said she didn’t understand what he wanted, gave him back the plate, and that was that. He was getting worn down, fast. Back at the table, he took a couple bites then pushed it aside. Ice cream. That’s what we were going to have. He picked up a couple of the local favorite dessert, halo-halo, which means mix-mix. And it’s not kidding.
See, at home in Virginia we have a Filipino grocery store where we’d bought some halo-halo ice cream. Vanilla ice cream with bits of various fruits. Yummy, to be sure. What Ian brought back from the ice cream counter… wasn’t. Mix-mix. A pile of shaved ice. Red and green flavored jell-o bits. Clear unflavored gelatin. Corn kernels. A small scoop of some yellowish ice cream (no idea on flavor). Small scoop of brownish ice cream (mocha? Not sure). Some stringy stuff we couldn’t identify and black bits of.. something. Some sort of cream poured on top.
If you have the option, pass.
At home, both boys took long naps and it made a world of difference for Nicholas in the afternoon. He’s been a bear in the evenings the past week, but after a 3 hour nap he was pleasant, and even better was he sat at the table like a human and actually ate his dinner. So much nicer than the whiney, floor-rolling non-eating monster he’s been at dinnertime. Oh yeah, Jonathon ate the pomalo. I just put it on his plate then ignored him and he almost cleared his entire plate of dinner. All the other kids ate their pomalo too.

Friday, April 11th

Friday, April 11th: It all started innocently enough but before I knew it, Katherine had rushed off to school with shoes in hand, a half eaten egg on the table, and her lunchbox still half completed in the kitchen. Now I know the purpose of the morning.

Around 10 a.m. we hopped over to the school and were told it would be fine to go directly to her classroom to deliver her lunchbox. Only to find out that we’d already missed snack time and there’s a tab system running at the school where she can sign a slip and get her food anyway. It’s nice to know the back-up is there should this happen again. Which it will, I’m sure. I also stopped by the security office to apply for my school pass so I won’t have to keep checking in at the front gate. The folks in there acted like I was just plain silly bringing my kids everywhere with me and not having a housekeeper. Ugh. Anyway, I’ll be able to pick up the pass the same day I bring Rebecca to the school for her K testing after Easter. Once we were back at the guard shack, we hung around for a few minutes to wait for the car. There was one very chatty guard who asked if we lived in Dasma village, what our family name was and if we knew anyone in the States who was giving up their little girl for adoption because he wanted to adopt a little girl just like Rebecca.
Have I mentioned yet how weirded out I am at times here?
We stopped again at PriceSmart on the way home to finish up the shopping for tonight’s dinner. It’s still Lent, so we’re having a lemon-butter shrimp concoction with button mushrooms over noodles. It sounds good, let’s see what actually comes of it. At PriceSmart they have plenty of “fresh” fish in piles including whole flounder, live crabs in a wobbly cage, and some catfish looking things in a big tank. Some of the times they’re swimming around, but other times it seems like they get drained and there’s just a pile of previously wriggly bodies. There’s always a big pile of dead crabs, blue and regular, and I’m not quite sure why. I’d always thought that crabs were supposed to be cooked alive. There are some packaged fish parts, and even big piles of cooked crab meat all wrapped up, but I doubt very much the sanitation level of the crab/preparing/cooking area so I think we’ll wait until our immune systems are a little stronger before trusting “pre-cooked” foods. There are red fish, blue fish, spotted fish, striped fish, long skinny fish (and I mean long, like 2 feet long but only an inch or 2 wide), and some that are plain old fish heads. It’s just like a Dr. Seuss rhyme. This is, of course, the favorite stopping point in the store for all the kids. And it’s mildly stinky which adds to the experience.
What cash we spend here will be mostly on food. How could anyone pass up a P28 pineapple? To do the exchange, double the amount and move the decimal point to the left 2 spaces. That’ll give you an approximate amount as the exchange differs daily. Anyhow, P28=~60c, for a whole pineapple. It’s helps to have local Dole plantations.
Mangoes are a hit with all the kids. Katherine, Nicholas and Jonathon like papaya. Katherine likes cantelope melon. All four like watermelon, grapes, apples and oranges. Only the girls like bananas though the boys keep asking for them which drives me nuts. Next on my list is the pomalo. I have no idea what it is, so don’t ask. I’ll let you know once I cut it open. Sounds like a cross between 2 other fruits though and the skin is much like a grapefruit, but the shape is more like a giant pomegranate.
Jonathon has several bites on his arm which I initially assumed were mosquito bites, but they aren’t fading and in fact they are hard to the touch. Small, but solid, and sometimes he says Ouch when I touch one. Of course he says Ouch when I brush his hair too, so who knows if they really hurt. One in particular concerns me as the red area seems to be enlarging and there are several smaller bumps around the larger one. All told, it’s still smaller than the size of a dime. I’ll keep an eye on it, and take him to the doctor if it doesn’t get better. While in the school secirurity office I asked one of the ladies if perhaps she knew what had caused it. She thought mosquitoes at first but when she touched them and I told her it had been a few days, she thought maybe cockroaches. Everyone together now… Ew.
At bedtime, just as we turned out the light, we heard a huge crash. I mean, huge. All the noise needed was the sound of crashing glass and I would have sworn that something big and heavy had come through a window or that one of the giant mirrors in this house had fallen. Ian and I were both instantly on guard. We turned the TV back on, turned on the light, made our way downstairs, examined all the windows and doors. All was still locked up tight and we realized that it couldn’t have been glass, and that it was local to our bedroom since none of the kids had made a peep. Ideas flew and what we finally settled on was that a tree branch or something equally as heavy must have fallen outside our window and landed on the metal roof of the carport.
Tomorrow, we’re buying padlocks for all the windows.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Thursday, April 10th - Weirdness All Around

Thursday, April 10th: This morning while hanging out the clothes to dry (it’s therapeutic… really!), a woman’s head popped over the wall between our house and the one behind. Yes, it was attached to a body and she introduced herself as Breanda, the landlord of our house. Apparently, our landlord lives next door. This house was a wedding gift to her, and now that all the kids are grown, they moved to a smaller home.

We chatted for a bit about how hot it was and how it’ll just get hotter and then the rains will start in June, and she asked how we liked the house and if there was anything that needed to be done. I brought up the doorbell again and we’ll see if that actually gets fixed now. She also offered to have her gardener come over to plant some grass and get things growing. That would be nice. Apparently there used to be an avocado plant in the yard and all sorts of flowering bushes, but it seems that no one has done anything in this yard for a good long while. I should water but it just doesn’t seem right when there’s so little clean water here, to use it to water dirt.
So around 10:30 we got in the car and Cezar drove us over to Glorietta Mall for a change of scenery. We wandered and found the children’s clothing section (the malls here like to do themes for different areas), and we popped into a toy store where I finally found little individual sized inflatable pools for the boys to use in the shower as bathtubs. I think they’ll be perfect. I also picked up another blue bouncy ball for Nicholas. After all, you can never have too many balls and this way we can return the one we’ve borrowed. There’s an indoor playground in the mall that the kids enjoyed but it really was teeming and much too small for the 40 or so kids there. The slide was great though and Jonathon enjoyed climbing the ladder then zooming down the slide. We picked up some ice cream (3 single cones, for ~$1.25) and ate it outside. Melon ice cream for Rebecca (it was orange, what else did you expect?), mocha for me, and rocky road for Nicholas. It was really good and while we were sitting and sweltering, Henrietta (a woman we’d met at our playground) stopped by to say hello. It was odd since we really had nothing to say. I know she’s Czech, married to an Australian who works for a French pharmaceutical company, but that’s about it. We shared some minor pleasantries then she left. We found the car in the lot and headed home, stopping by the little Rustans to pick up some milk.
Jonathon couldn’t keep his eyes open in the car, but when I went to lay him down for a nap, he’d have nothing to do with it and screamed for a good 45 minutes. What is up with that? He was literally passing out in the car.
The playground was an interesting time today. But first, a little background. We do not receive mail at home. All our mail is routed through the Embassy, where everything is x-rayed and checked over before being picked up in the mailroom. Receiving packages at home is a no-no, especially packages we aren’t expecting and packages with nothing written on them.
OK, so while we’re at the playground, I saw the rental van leave the house and figured Ian was home, so I sent Katherine back to say hello. She made it to the door (which was locked) at the same time a small pick-up truck was at the house. One man, of several, wanted to give her a package and have her sign for it. Smart thing that she is, she tells them that she’s not old enough to sign and her dad isn’t home yet and the rest of us are at the playground. Then she came back to tell me the tale. I became concerned, I mean, who asks a 7 year old to sign for a package? I’d seen the truck moving slowly down the street and it had Dasmarinas Village on the doors, and there were other guys carrying other packages and it was all very odd. I reminded Katherine that unless one of us is with her, she’s still not to speak to strangers, even though the Filipino people are extremely friendly and talk to every child they see.
A few minutes later, Ian came over to the playground. He hadn’t heard the folks with the truck and hadn’t heard Katherine knocking in the door (with a house this size and no functioning doorbell, it’s an easy thing to miss) but he became concerned when I told him the story. Unexpected packages are not something to mess around with. When we returned back to the house, the package that Katherine had been expected to sign for… was lying by the front door. OK, this made both of us a little nervous. Ian picked it up and moved it to the grass and poked at it a bit, commenting it was squishy. Just a note… NEVER do this. He took a chance that he shouldn’t have. After staring at it a few more minutes, he decided to call the Embassy and see what he should do about it. Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is all overkill, just throw it away, or goodness why not open it. Well, I shouldn’t have to explain the reasons, so there. So, he called and was told it didn’t sound like too much of a concern. He grew bolder, and brought a knife to open it up. (Again… bad idea). A minute later, he came into the kitchen and produced….
Plastic garbage bags. A whole lot of plastic garbage bags with a bunch of rubber bands to tie them. It would seem that part of living in this neighborhood is that they provide waste collecting materials. Interesting. Next time we’ll know not to bring out the bomb-sniffing dogs.
OK, so back to the playground. Before we left for our garbage bags escapade, Ian and I were chatting while the kids played, and a woman approached us with a pad of paper and pen and asked us for Katherine’s name. Say what? We prodded a little more. Why? So she can be invited to a birthday party. Um…. OK. For who? *mumble mumble* Who? *mumble* I’m sorry, who?? *mumble Brendan Macapagal* Uh… OK. Who’s that? She pointed to a boy playing the playground who looked a few years older than Katherine. What’s going through our head… We don’t know you, we don’t know this kid and you’re inviting our daughter to a birthday party? So we ask… will it be held here in Dasmarinas? No, in Forbes Park (the next neighborhood over and the only swankier one than this one) OK, last question, when is it? May 14th. Not a clue as to what we’re doing that day, but we ask if it’s a Saturday.. and she doesn’t know! Alrighty then… this is a secretary of some sort. Social secretary? Multi-functional yaya? Odd, to say the least. Ian gives her our address for an invite and our phone number (the wrong number I might add, he still doesn’t know what ours is, but that’s just fine in this instance. He swears it was intentional, I’m not so sure, but it’s the same thing I would have done).
Need a little more weirdness to this? The President’s name is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

April 7th - April 9th: Into the next week

Monday, April 7th: It’s a holiday here, so Katherine and Ian are both home. Originally, the holiday was supposed to be on the Wednesday, but last week the government decided to move it to Monday. I guess such things are easy enough to do here.

We gave the driver the full day off today, and he went home after bringing us home from church yesterday. It’s odd, not quite knowing what his real hours are, or even his days. I imagine that when we hire someone as a personal driver (this one came with the rental car, how terrible does that sound) we’ll have a better idea. As far as I can see on the rental agreement, he is ours to use every day up to 10 hours a day. But this guy has a family of with 6 kids, all small and 2 of them born Christmas Eve, a year apart. From what I’ve gathered from other Embassy personnel, it’s not uncommon to have drivers work 10 hour days, 6 days a week. Goodness, I think we’ll try to be a bit more humane than that, seeing as they only earn about $150/month.
Last night, Jonathon woke up sometime in the darkness and when Ian got him, said he was trying to open the bathroom door. I figured that he was trying to get out the wrong door, but this morning when I looked over (yes, he slept with us the rest of the night) he had somehow taken his diaper off in the middle of the night. Everything is still dry, but I suppose I should put another on him. Do you suppose he was actually trying to get to the bathroom?
Jonathon has become very huggy lately. He’ll willingly sit on Katherine’s lap and give Rebecca big hugs and when daddy comes into the room he gets a big “Daddy!” and a running knee hug. Just this morning when Katherine woke up he said “Abaf!” and gave her a big welcome hug. What a sweet boy. And while he still nurses several times a day he can be distracted if need be. Even this morning when he woke way too early I knew that if he started nursing that was the end of sleep for me. So while he wasn’t pleased that I said no, he did fall asleep a few minutes later, until 6 a.m. Nicholas’ speech has come a long long way in the past 2 weeks. Last night, he was even understood by other people who’d just met him. That’s a BIG step. Katherine is having some issues, probably extending from the stress of starting a new school and the effort of trying to make new friends. At the beginning of first grade at King she would behave well at school, but be a little bad attitude at home, and that’s what we’re dealing with again. It’ll pass. Rebecca is just thrilled that she has been making friends at the playground.
Wednesday, April 9th: Bits and pieces.
OK, so I tried to make the house a little more homey today. We spent some time changing sheets so there’s a little more color to the kids’ rooms other than the institutional white of the sheets and covers. I think it made a difference. I also finally put away all the clothes that were piling up all clean and folded in the crib.
It’s always a bit breezy outside. You definitely notice when the breeze quits, but when it’s there even the 92 degrees at 9:30 this morning is bearable. Yesterday it was breezy and overcast and we took a walk around some of the neighborhood because it was so nice. Rebecca collected some flowers that had fallen off various trees. They now grace our table as a floating flower bouquet.
You know, I’m getting real tired of people trying to hawk their help onto our shoulders. When I’m ready, I’ll hire a housekeeper. I know they’re only trying to help, but really it seems like they’re done with these people so they’re trying to push them on us. Enough all ready. I don’t want a yaya and I don’t want a live-in and I don’t want to be pushed into hiring anyone.
Sometimes, the kids remind me of why I have them. Besides Jonathon’s new penchant for running up to people, arms outstretched, when they get home to give them a whomping big hug, this evening he did that to his brother as they passed one another, and Nicholas didn’t push him away. The two of them just gave each other a big hug, danced around for a minute, then went their own ways. I’m happy I was there to witness it.
Katherine seems to have made up with a schoolmate. From day one she has said that one little girl was giving her problems. But today they apologized to each other (I asked why Katherine was apologizing and she said she couldn’t remember. Of course I asked if she couldn’t remember or she didn’t want to tell us. Never did get a real answer.) and apparently decided to start over. We’ll see how well it goes.
Nicholas is even more attached to his blanket than ever. For the first time he has expressed himself in terms of emotions. When we were being dropped off for Shoppers Day, we insisted he leave the blanket in the car and he told us quite clearly that he was not happy. As we were leaving the center, he knew what was coming and said “Now Dihdis ‘appy! Abap ‘ar!” Yes, you still need a full-time translator.
Our washer and dryer are outside the back door and thankfully there’s an overhang for when the rains come. Right now, I’m having a great time hanging clothes to dry on the lines and finally have plenty of clothespins. The biggest problem I’m having is with all the leaves that blow into the washing machine even with the lid closed. And the dust and dirt that settle on top of the dryer make it a poor place to pile either wet or clean clothes. I think I need a couple more laundry baskets.
Oh yeah, I think I’ve found our doorbell. Perhaps it’s the pile of metal and wires on the counter in the “dirty” (aka second) kitchen. Hmm.

April 5th - April 6th: Weekend #2, Shopping galore

Saturday: April 5th: Shoppers Day at the World Trade Center. See how it all gives the impression of being Americanized? It’s a twice yearly affair put on by the Embassy Council of something or another.

A big warehouse type room filled with vendors of local crafts, children’s clothes, jewelry, food stuffs (including an entire spitted calf, yes, head and all), raffle stage and an entire row of handmade quilts. While we did our duty of buying a booklet of raffle tickets, I also picked up a small wooden tray of local wood inlayed with mother of pearl while Ian bought a marble chess set. The kids were able to use some molding material to make bugs and other objects that were then fired and turned into erasers. They thought that was pretty cool. Honestly, we’ll have a much better idea of what we’d like for our home and what we’d like in general from the local crafts in November when the next Shoppers Day occurs. Until then, we spent our time looking and making notes.
Afterwards we went to yet another mall, called Greenhills. What a change from Powerplant. It’s a local mall, huge with many different wings, and packed to the gills with items and people alike. It’s indoors without the nicety of air conditioning and we ended up in the software/hardware section where Ian swears 90% of the inventory was pirated. Every 3rd person was asking Ian if he wanted to buy some DVDs, and in general the place made us hot, uncomfortable and exhausted. We attempted to get a post-paid phone for me but decided it was too much of a hassle, so attempted a prepaid but the folks were so disorganized we just left. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have better luck. But on the way home we decided maybe PriceSmart had a phone section so we swung by. No luck, but we did restock our fruit bins. By the end of it all, both Ian and I had headaches and decided it was a combination of too many things to count.
A short while later, Wendy Trott came down the street bearing goodies. Apparently, of the 15 raffle tickets we’d bought, 3 of them were winners. The package of ladies clothes was interesting as it was no where near my size, but it also came with a very lovely hand fan. Something I’d been looking at during Shoppers Day, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle keeping away from the kids. Another package had a dinner for 2 at a local restaurant, a free game of pool, and a lovely necklace. And the third package was a set of Christmas decorations! A gold wreath, a set of nativity figures and a gold embroidered stocking. I guess it was worth it, especially as all the proceeds from the raffles went towards charities like Operation Smile. We’d bought one book of tickets, and 3 books paid for a child’s operation.
After dinner, all the kids piled into our room for a movie night with popcorn and sodas. After Jonathon knocked the 3rd cup of soda over, we put him to bed, then called up grandma and grandpa at home to talk to everyone. I was falling asleep around 6, but when we called I woke up enough to chat for a good long while. Thank goodness for IVG lines! One of our favorite jokes seems to be telling my parents what they’ll be doing that day. After all it’s already Saturday night here, so the day is done.
Sunday, April 6th: Went to church this morning at the San Antonio church just outside the barangay walls. It looks like something right out of the southwest and inside it’s very classical and simply gorgeous. There’s even an organ, though we didn’t see it but it sounded electric. Well, it’s better than last week where there was no music at all at the chapel. The Mass was interesting. The entrance and recessional were not sung, but all the other parts were. The Holy, Holy was even straight from home, while the Our Father was sung in Tagalog in a simple yet almost haunting melody. All the spoken sections and the homily were in English, as was the Communion Hymn, but many parts were sung in Tagalog and certainly added a refreshing feel to the Mass. The churches here print up a new mass program each week with everything (but the homily) that is said during the service. It’s a big help for Katherine to follow along, but the songs that are sung were on an overhead projector. Unfortunately that takes away from some of the beauty of the altar, but it would seem that they will be moving to a powerpoint presentation in the near future. Welcome to the new millennium! Jonathon really enjoyed the music, singing along whenever he could, and even when he shouldn’t. Each time the music ended he’d put up his hands like Where did it go? and say Gone? (or is it Done? I can’t tell). Nicholas was tired and sat on daddy’s lap most of the time. The girls were very well-behaved and as the recessional was ending Katherine was in awe over the little priests that were girls and around 8 years old! No dear, those were altar girls. She says she wants to be an altar girl too. That doesn’t surprise me one bit as both girls have already said they want to be everything. In Katherine’s case, I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulled it off. We did discover via the bulletin that we have 2 options for Easter. There’s the Vigil Mass on Saturday night that begins at 9 p.m. I can only assume it’s supposed to continue through midnight in order to officially ring in Easter. Or there’s the 5 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday. Yes, that would be daybreak. Ian has already nixed that one and says we can go to a regular Sunday service but I really don’t want to miss it. I’ve never been to a sunrise service, all we need now is the beach.
Right across the street is a mini shopping center with a pharmacy, meat/specialty store, grocery, Starbucks, hair salon, florist, engraver, nursery school and video rental store. It’s a smidgen too far to walk in the summer heat (which runs from end of March to mid-September) but it seems a good all in one place to go, unless you need tools.
Went to Glorietta Mall with the Trotts. It appears to be right across the street and a nice middle ground between the overpriced Powerplant Mall and the grungy GreenHills Mall.
At 4 p.m., Casey Graham came by to us up for the pool party/BBQ at her house. She and her family used to live in the house we’re in now but they have 5 kids and this place really only has 3 functional bedrooms as the one downstairs is right by the front door and has the guest bathroom in it. In other words, it needs to be neat all the time and her older kids are all teens. The two don’t mix. They’d had 2 kids in one room, 2 kids in another room and the last one housed in the dressing room in the master bedroom. OK, they needed some more space. But WOW. They’re new home is simply amazing. Not only does it have a small yard and pool, but the house is stunning. There’s a semi-circle driveway to the front door, and when you walk in, you’re in an entrance way. Not just a little place to drop your shoes, but a long, wide hallway with openings on all sides to a variety of other rooms. To the right is a small hallway to a bathroom and a small den. Further up on the right is a side hallway (much like a side street) that has the stairs (both up and down, downstairs was a TV room/den and a pool table, upstairs were all the bedrooms), a doorway to another small room that was used to house toys and at the end of the side hall was an entrance to the kitchen. Straight ahead from the entrance hall was a double door entry to the dining room which was the size of a large living room (which opened to the right to the kitchen, also the size of a large living room as it had 2 full walls of counter space but also an island, an eat-in table and plenty of additional room to walk around everything). And to the left in the front entrance way, was the double doors to the living room. With ceilings 2 stories high and enough room for a full set of living room furniture, a large round circular table and chairs and room for more furniture around the corner. All the windows were bordered with dark wood and I tell you, the house was stunning.
We weren’t the only ones invited. The Trotts were there, as well as a few other couples, one who had just arrived on Thursday. Not surprisingly, they were totally wiped out before they arrived and only stayed a short while. The kids were able to swim and the food was excellent and we all had a great time. One of the Graham children was adopted from India and another is in the process of being adopted from here. The older one is in 1st grade at IS, so Katherine sees her at the playground.

April 3rd - April 4th: The end of the week

Thursday, April 3rd: What a quiet day. We were up at 5:30 to get Katherine ready for the bus at 6:30. Without a hitch, the bus came and she was off for her first day at the International School of Manila.

Then I went upstairs to call and fire the housekeeper even before we hired her. Combine the two and I was glad Ian was still home to offer a shoulder to lean on. How will I handle when my last baby goes off to school? How will I manage being a boss to someone? Ugh, too much to think about. And all so uncomfortable. But boy did she looks cute in her uniform of a yellow ISM polo with khaki skort.
He took the kids to the park while I messed around at home, then around noon he went off to the Embassy to meet with the Ambassador and DCM.
Katherine was home from school at 2:30, did her homework and then we went to the playground where there was a passel of kids and yayas.
Friday, April 4th: A couple comments on TV viewing and various other items.
Gain: An infant formula, one marketed for 6+ months, one marketed for 12+ months. Sold as a brain-fortifying nutrition source, huge letters on can saying breast milk is best, with a tag on the end of the ad saying breast milk is best for children up to 2 years old. Thumbs up for this one!
Skin White Whitening cream: A cream that blanches the skin. Women rubbing cream all over themselves. It’s slogan? Defy color. Thumbs down.
Oh yes, today at the playground I was approached by a yaya saying that she’d heard that I was looking to hire a yaya. That’s funny, I haven’t talked to anyone at the playground and I certainly haven’t told anyone that I’m looking for a nanny, so it would seem that the rumors are flying already. It sure must look weird to them to see me with my 4 kids. Jonathon just loves the playground and going down the slides. He can climb the ladders by himself, even the 8 rung ladder to the bumpy slide, but I admit to being right next to him for that one. The 4 rung ladders he’s on his own. He’s putting more and more words together like “dihdis abbap” (Nicholas blanket) and just saying more in general. I think my favorite word to hear from him is nuts. He says it so perfectly. Nicholas is getting clearer and clearer as well and it’s wonderful. Of course the one thing he says perfectly clear is “Baby nurse!” Thank goodness we spend a lot of time at home. This evening when he was very ready to get into bed he said “Dihdis eeepy.” And in reply to my saying I loved him very much he said “Uv you ‘ery much” I teared.
The highlights of our day were receiving our UAB shipment and getting our water dispenser. OK, granted the dispenser didn’t give out cold water so we called the company and they sent over a new on (only to discover once the new one was installed that the actual problem was that they’d plugged the flat 220v plug into the flat 110v outlet, and all it had needed was an adapter to go into the round 220v outlet. Oops, like I was supposed to know to check that.) But yes, we got our UAB and the 7 boxes were largely clothes, so we have plenty of stuff to wear now and Ian doesn’t have to order more shirts from Penney’s. Of course, we also received our crib which they assembled. Now we have 2 fully assembled cribs and my child is sleeping in the twin bed reliably. Well, I suppose I can use it to hold clean laundry and for the naptimes he decides he’s going to fight me. Not like today where he was falling asleep at the table during lunch so when I brought him upstairs he just climbed into bed and conked out. Yes yes, I do still stay with him until he’s asleep. He’s so small I can’t imagine just leaving, he doesn’t understand it all yet and just calls out Mama if he thinks I’m gone. He’s back in cloth diapers, which I’m very happy with as disposables are just not nice to him.
And we had tuna sandwiches for lunch. I have a working can opener!
After some delicious Atlantic salmon for dinner (I was wary of picking it up, I mean, the Atlantic is pretty far from here), Ian headed walked over to the DCMs home for a meet and greet with a bunch of other JOs. After drinks and hors d’oevres, they were all corralled and played Taboo. I can see this will be a tough post.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

April 2nd: Checking in

Wednesday April 2nd: Today was a longish day. I was awake at 3 again, but managed to doze until 6. Around 9 a.m. we all headed over to the Chancery (Embassy to all you non-State Department folk) where I finally got my badge to wander around the grounds and buildings should I ever be immensely board. No, really.

Besides lots and lots of armed guards like Marines and PNP (Philippine National Police) there’s really little of interest to look at. We did see Ian’s cubicle, sparse and tucked away as it was while he faxed all the info to the school. It didn’t seem to matter to the Foreign Nationals who work in the IV lines. They crowded around, oohing and aahing over all the kids, commenting on their eyes and for the 5th or 6th time we were asked if the boys were twins. No, I’m not kidding. I honestly think they look nothing alike, but when they are both walking down the hall, I can’t imagine how 2 boys who are easily 4 inches different can be called twins!
So from the Embassy we went to Seafront. Seafront is a gated Embassy community filled with apartments and townhomes for smaller families, but it also houses the Rec Center pool, a future restaurant, the CLO (Community Liaison Office), the Transportation Office (will we ever get our boxes or our car?) and the FPO (Fleet Post Office) along with several other offices and the shops (metalworks, woodworks, etc). Oh yeah, yesterday we requested a gate be put in at the top of our stairs but it has to be custom made so with some specs written down, the builder is off creating a gate for us.
First stop was the Medical Clinic. We turned over our yellow cards, filled in too many forms, had a chat with the physician and guess what! I’d actually remembered to bring along Katherine’s physical form for the school and they did it right then! Something finally went right for the school. Even better, the office let us fax it right then. Sweet. The only thing that concerned me was when I mentioned keeping the kids out of the high heat sun and she looked at me funny and asked Why? Well, uh, they’re really pale and we just left a place where it was snowing and I’ve always known to avoid the mid-day sun because of the strong rays. She said I’d simply have to accept that we’re living in Manila now and being in the sun was a fact of life. Well, being raised in Africa, I still knew to stay out of the hot sun when possible and don’t see why it should be any different now. Letting the kids swim and play in the sun is one thing, but if we can avoid swimming at 1 and instead swim at 4, I say why not.
Off to get some lunch before our next appointment with the CLO. Well, there’s no place to eat on the compound but we find that there’s several options down the street outside the gates. The kids get their first taste of the true Manila as we traipse down the street in our obvious foreigness, on sidewalks that aren’t kept clear, next to the street that has jeepneys filled with people, the sounds, the smoke, the shops, the alleys, the air pollution that bounces off your face. Rebecca was asking for a bandana to cover her nose, a common sight on people in the street and in the buses (the ones without windows, much less air conditioning). After a couple blocks we found a pizza place, the name escapes me at the moment, where we had a choice of pastas or pizzas. Ah, pasta. The country seems in love with the concept. They haven’t quite gotten it right, but the idea intrigues them. You can buy pasta at 7/11, you can buy pasta at Jollibees (the Philippine equivalent of McDonald’s), you can buy pasta at KFC. Spaghetti, lasagna, macaroni, it’s all here and everywhere. We ordered, and had the lunch delivered to the table. Thank goodness the kids ate, even Jonathon. He’s been so so picky of late, but he ate a whole slice of pizza. OK, so the pizzas are only 6 inches wide, but he still ate. When we were done, they came to clean up our plates. Fast food served, cleaned up and eaten off real china. All 6 of us ate for $5. We also had some dessert. Mango slushie in essence, but what we thought was a pile of crushed ice was instead… well, how does one describe it. I would fathom a guess at hardened plain gelatin cut in little chunks. Think bits of Jell-o jiggler without the taste. It was interesting, and I’m just glad the kids like mangoes so much.
Lunch over, we did the return walk and went to the FPO to mail some letters and a package. Who knew that we should have kept all the Priority Mail boxes we passed on to friends and family? Went to the CLO, received a welcome packet that we informed the CLO would be amazingly useful if provided to each home prior to a new arrival. We sure could have used some of the phone numbers and information in the past week! We also asked if there was a list of available teen babysitters as we’re not hiring a yaya but would like to be able to hire someone on a one-time basis to watch the kids if we go to a function. Oh, doesn’t that sound important. A Function. Wheee. She was very helpful in calling around about the guarantor letter for the school and we discovered it isn’t necessary and there’s a standing agreement with the Embassy, just as Ian anticipated. Again we’re asked if the boys are twins. *sigh* No, they aren’t. I should be keeping track.
Off to the Housing Office. Our contact isn’t in, so we went to Transportation. This was a long visit, but Ian handled all the details while the FSNs came to see the kids and gave them paper and markers to color with. I was seriously running out of ideas for items for the girls to draw while Nicholas was falling asleep on the couch and Jonathon had fallen asleep nursing. It was a quiet hallway, I promise.
We finally got home and there’s something I have to say about personal drivers. They appear out of nowhere. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. We can be earlier or later than the time we’d specified and it doesn’t matter. We walk out the gate, and the car appears. It’s like magic.
Finally home, we discover we have a mango tree in the yard and the mangoes are even better than the ones we bought. After dinner we hop the kids off to bed and wait for the woman who manages the car rental we have so we can sign the lease for the month. After some discussion, Ian broached the topic of the driver we have now. We really like him and wondered if there was a way to hire him as our driver for the next 2 years. Ah, well. Not only does he work for this rental company, he’s also the personal driver for the manager! Well, that makes things sticky, but she’s willing to work out a split time program. It’s something we’ll definitely think about.

March 31st - April 1st: Getting set for school

Monday, March 31st: This morning when Jonathon woke up, he started calling for me which woke up Nicholas. So Nicholas got up and brought Jonathon to our room. I don’t know that there’s anything sweeter than hearing the pitter patter of little feet, followed by 2 little boys staring at you saying “Mama!”

We have a driver starting today. Yay! At 7:30 we arrived at the International School for Katherine’s testing which lasted all of 30 minutes. It seems they just checked her competence in Math and Reading and she did well on both. The Admissions secretary pulled her file and said all was well, so now there’s the wait to hear from the Guidance Counselor. Since we’re not homebound, we went to PriceSmart and signed up for some membership cards. Hey, it’s just like being at home! It seems like for families, it’s the only place to shop. Everywhere else the items are so small I’d have to buy 4 for a single meal.
All in all, a blur of a day. Nothing much going on. Just trying to adjust and while everyone seems to be doing OK, Nicholas and I are still having troubles. We’ll get there. Hopefully before we move.
Tuesday April 1st: Woke up at 3 a.m. after falling asleep at 8:30 last night. Must do better staying up at night. By 7 a.m. I was ready for a nap and the rest of the house was waking up. Amazingly, the boys slept all night, no peeps and Jonathon stayed in his twin bed with no problems. This morning he woke up and called for me once, but Nicholas got up and brought him to our bedroom. He’s getting good at this.
After a breakfast of some yummy and nutrition-free cinnamon rolls, we went to the playground next door where we were lucky enough to find a sprinkler on. Well, it was like Christmas for these four. They got wet, they got muddy, they ran around and did monkey bars and slides and finally we came back and stripped right at the door so as not to track mud. We have no bathtubs in this house, so we covered the drain and filled the shower stall with a few inches of water and they splashed around.
Not feeling real comfortable about the decision yesterday to hire Merlene. There’s something about her I don’t like, but can’t put my finger on it. I don’t want her as a nanny and that’s her primary focus, so I’m thinking we may be hiring someone else when the trial month runs out. Not that I can call around (or even want to, but it must be done to hire someone) when all the kids are around, but she doesn’t start until Monday so I do have a few days to figure out what the heck I’m doing.
Anyway, it’s been a busy morning already. The school called saying that the Guidance Counselor is back in her office and we can come by at 2:30 this afternoon, provided Ian makes it back from the Embassy in time. If so, Katherine will start school tomorrow, but if we miss it, we have a 9:30 apnt tomorrow morning and she’d start school on Thursday instead. Everyone is very organized here, but all a little disjointed in times and places.
The water people called and said they would deliver out water dispenser today instead of Friday, like they said yesterday.
And the repairmen came by to fix the stove since the burners weren’t lighting. Apparently all is well, but that the gas tank that it was connected to was empty. So we have a full tank we’re using now and an empty spare tank we need to get replaced.
So Ian gets home and as we’re walking out the door to the school for Katherine’s interview, the guys to fix our doorbell show up. No one around here knocks on doors. There’s a remote doorbell switch at the gate but just our luck, it doesn’t work. And people don’t honk horns at houses either (it’s rude). So we’ve had workmen show up and had to call the house because the bell doesn’t ring and we can’t hear anything over the hum of the air purifiers and air conditioners. Anyway, they come to fix the bell and we all wander around the house to see where the actual chime is. Oddly enough, no one can find it. It seems to not exist. No wonder we never hear the doorbell. But we’re walking out the door and the workmen can’t stay unsupervised, so we reschedule for tomorrow at 8 a.m. I wonder if we’ll actually see them again.
Off to the school! After wandering around the campus, brand new and really big since it goes from PS-GR12, we finally found the Elementary School Guidance Office. Katherine talks to the counselor for a few minutes then we all go in and describe her in 3 words (they teach this in psychology school?) so we pick Energetic, Smart and Inquisitive. I think that wraps her up very well. Of course then the counselor asks if there are any concerns and we had to be honest and admit she’s a huge chatterbox. She can be corrected easily enough but forgetting herself and chatting away is very common. Just ask her Kindergarten teacher at King. So we schedule Katherine to start the following day, as her teacher was in the office and okayed the plan.
All was going well so we checked out Katherine’s classroom and the Guidance Office staff sends us off to get Katherine’s uniforms, class items, release form for the bus and then to the transportation office to schedule her pickups. Uniforms? Check. Two yellow polos, one green polo, 2 skorts and 1 pair of shorts. Class items? Check. P.E. uniform and various pens and notebooks and such. Off to the office for the release. Ah, here’s where it gets juicy. The first thing she gives us is a piece of paper that is to be signed by each department as we go through. Well, we’ve already done the guidance bit and the uniforms and textbooks and it’s after 4 p.m. We try to get beyond the fact that we’re not going to go through all the steps all over again and we’re all set to get to the Transportation office, but suddenly we’re being informed they need a copy of her passport (I didn’t bring it), her physical has to be done before she can start (we were in Admissions yesterday, she never said it had to be done –today-) and they want a guarantor letter from the Embassy. Did I mention it was 4 p.m.? I start laughing at the ludicrous nature of it all and the fact that she didn’t mention any of this yesterday when she looked through Katherine’s file and said it was all in order. Ian starts getting angry as we now realize that the kid won’t be able to start school when we’d promised. We decide that she won’t start until Thursday, that we’ll do what we can with faxing info in tomorrow and hope that they’ll accept her Worldwide Clearance in place of a physician’s exam. Off to Transportation, get her set with a bus and go home.
On the way through the gate, a water truck went the other way. Hmm, guess we missed them.
After some yummy lasagna dinner, a gift by one of our sponsors for our arrival, we all conked out. Some earlier than others. I admit I was none too pleasant to Ian as I whined to fall asleep before 8 p.m.

March 29th - March 30th: Our First Weekend in Manila

Saturday, March 29th: Well, that was a useless night’s sleep! Jonathon managed to stay in bed for a whopping hour and half from 2-3:30 before deciding that he’d much prefer to be with us and nurse the rest of the morning. That was OK I guess since I was up at 3 a.m. too, but I’m wondering if this twin bed thing is going to work out.

Not that we have a choice at the moment so let’s hope tonight goes better. At least he and I got in a shower. This place doesn’t have bathtubs, but the showers are from one wall to the other, marble tile lined and have a very short step, so if you plug up the drain you can conceivably raise the water level a few inches and have a mini-pool. Not that it’s very safe as we all know how tile gets when it’s wet. We’re getting a bath mat in our shipment but we may need to buy one or two more. He slipped and bonked his head after not wanting to be held anymore so we’ll have to find an alternative soon.
Anyhow, by 9 a.m. we were ready to do something so we went next door to the playground which the kids thoroughly enjoyed, for about 15 minutes before complaining about the heat. Mental note, go to the playground before 9 a.m. Made it back to the house where Ian called up the Trotts who live 3 doors down. A short while later we went over to their home and met their son, their 2 dogs a Bichon Frise named Chubby and a Great Dane named Chewy. The dogs were a huge hit with all the kids even though the Great Dane is as big as a horse for Jonathon and the whip of a tail was mighty dangerous as it was just his head height.
We piled into their Ford Expedition and headed over to the nearest mall, called the Powerplant mall since it was on the space of a former power plant. Clever, huh? We wandered around and saw the grocery store Rustans, along with every sort of brand name shop in the hemisphere. There was also a food court on most of one floor. It’s a different sort of food court where the tables in the middle are designated for specific food places that act more like sit down restaurants than fast food. There’s an outdoor lot with rockwall climbing and trampolines and a paintball zone. There’s an indoor paintball shooting range. There was a line in the shop for cell phones and prepaid phone cards. Everyone here has a cell phone and this is the text messaging capital of the world. Folks talk on one phone while texting with another, it’s bizarre. There are signs in the street that say No Texting While Driving and No Texting While Crossing Street. Speaking of road signs, there are plenty of them with catch phrases and suggested behavior (Do Not Block Intersection, No Jay Walking), but few signs that are useful for actual driving, say street signs.
OK, back in the mall it was lunch time and I was aiming for something interesting but our hosts were headed for McDonalds, so that’s where we went with a pit stop at a French sandwich shop where Rebecca asked for a sandwich with lettuce, mayonnaise and cheese on wheat bread. Thank goodness she liked the Brie. At McDonalds we discovered that everything you order comes with a side of plain rice. And McDonalds serves plates of spaghetti, chicken and the new McDo (short for McDonalds) Rice Burger. I can’t say what was inside looked like meat, but more like a seaweed patty. And the part that would normally be bread was flattened patties of… rice. OK, I’ll admit that none of us was bold enough to actually try it. But I did get a chicken with side of rice, and Katherine got a plate of spaghetti. The boys had their standby nuggets and fries.
Took a drive by the local Santis for meat, the local pharmacy Mercury Drug, by ISM and the British School next door, and saw the large local Catholic Church called San Antonio. It’s too far to walk to from the house, so we’ll have to find something closer, especially since we have no personal mode of transportation yet. Jonathon fell asleep in the car around 1p.m. after we did our grocery shopping for more milk, fruit and various other items, none of them too exciting. At home, we plopped him in his room carseat and all for a nap. Feeling a little tired myself, I went and curled up on our bed where Nicholas joined me a few minutes later. Ian was stretching out on the couch, Rebecca found a cozy piece of carpet and (can you see where this is going?) Katherine got bored so curled up in a chair.
Before I know it, it’s 6:30 p.m. and the whole house is still sleeping and no one was happy to be awoken, least of all Nicholas. At first we were totally confused, wondering if it was 6:30 in the morning and the sun was rising or if we had saved enough of the night by waking in the evening. Thankfully it got darker and while no one really wanted to be up, wake up we did and to get our blood pumping we set out on a walk to find a school nearby that had a chapel. We figured that it would be a good adventure and keep the kids awake and I do believe that the biggest hits on the walk for me was to see the other houses up close even in the dark, and for the kids was to see the cockroaches scurrying around and the random stray cat. Earlier in the day Ian had made a quick map of where the school was and before long we found it and discovered there was an 8 a.m. service and a 10 a.m. service. OK, let’s be realistic. We’re still all going to be up way before the crack of dawn, and by 10 a.m. a 20 minute walk will be scorching. So we settled on the 8 a.m. and walked back, fighting to keep Jonathon awake and Nicholas moving and the girls from tripping over their own feet. We do know why everyone walks in the streets now which bodes not so well for traffic. The sidewalks are very iffy, if they’re there at all. Tree roots push up sections, parts disappear to driveways, trash pickup means some portions are blocked by bags, some ripped into strays, and no one clears the trees and bush branches from whacking you in the head. Oh right, trash pick-up. They do it twice. Not twice a week, twice every night. You can put out bags of trash at anytime and it should be gone within 12-24 hours. I’m not kidding! Everyone puts out every bit of trash from regular sized bags to little baggie sized waste. Apparently there’s a recycling truck that comes by as well, but we haven’t seen it.
So we made it back home to play some MasterMind and Chess and finally packed everyone off to bed around 10:30 p.m. in hopes that they would be better adjusted. The girls made it to 6 a.m. while Nicholas made it to 5 a.m. and mom and Jonathon were up at 3 a.m. But that’s better, right?
Sunday, March 30th: We thought we’d go to the 10 a.m. Mass at the chapel, but with everyone up around 5 a.m. and the day already progressing to warm, we marched out around 7:30 for the 8 a.m. service. We were there early, but needn’t have worried at Mass began around 8:10-8:15. There was no music at all, the chapel is outdoors so thank goodness for lots of fans, and everyone was silent. We were the only folks there with children, so every noise they made seemed louder than it really was. Mass was totally in English and very short. I spent part of my time outside with the boys since there was nothing to keep them occupied, not even missals as the weekly liturgy is printed out and Jonathon thought it would be great fun to chew it then rip it. But it was all very short and we were walking home by 8:45. I now remember back to my days in Africa and how Communion was run as a free for all as the entire church gets up and moves to the aisle at one time, but during Mass I’d forgotten, so it seemed like chaos today.
When we got home, Mike Trott called and offered us a ride to Mass which we had to decline. Around noon we walked down the street to their home where they had generously offered to host us for lunch. It was a welcome meal as last night all I’d managed to make was some salad and no one was hungry enough to eat it. And after lunch, the pool was open for business and the kids had a blast. Thank goodness I’d lathered them up in sunscreen as it was in full sun for part of the afternoon. Wendy Trott and I chatted while everyone else was in the pool and she’s a font of information and anecdotes. She did seem a little concerned when I said I wasn’t going to hire a yaya and wondered how I would attend Ladies Functions. Ladies Functions aren’t at the top of my list, so I’m not worried about that, but she was insistent that I would have trouble meeting people unless I would be able to get out without the kids, or even go grocery shopping. What I’ve been looking forward to instead is not functions, but rather hiring someone to do the basic housekeeping thereby leaving my hands free to play with my kids. That’s what I’m aiming for, so my ultimate hire would be someone who comes in part-time (say 9-3) with the option of staying longer to babysit if we need to go somewhere in the evening. But a nanny is not someone I want or need.

March 27th - March 28th: Mabuhay to Manila

Thursday, March 27th: What a cruddy night sleep. The sunburn really did not treat me well. I should know better by now. We decided to have breakfast elsewhere, and before we knew it, the clouds had opened up. We made it back to the hotel rooms before it really came down, and watched the sheets of rain from our balcony.

This didn’t make me very comfortable with our flight this afternoon. I also have a ridiculous fear of falling from great heights, as 17 floors up feels to me. Having the kids on the balcony made my heart pound, especially as things were a bit slippery with the rain. I found it easier just to sit and write some postcards.
By 11 a.m. the rain had stopped and we did a final walk past the extravagantly priced Louis Vuitton store. Who needs a $500 coin purse anyhow? Someone must. We also passed the quasi Duty Free store where I’d bought some dolphin shaped chocolate and guava/papaya scented soap. Yeah, I actually bought this stuff. But the soap smelled so good! I should have picked up the same soap but the one with the loofa inside. Probably would help me later with this sunburn. Anyhow, the shuttle eventually showed and I’m so glad we insisted on the early time. We were the first stop on almost an hour of touring the area picking up travelers from here there and everywhere. Eventually we did make it to the airport and had someone take our tickets to check-in and our bags to the x-ray while Ian went to do the amazing. He went to a separate desk and explained our situation in detail.
A half hour later (and some annoyed people in line), he had 3 new tickets with boarding passes in hand. Holy cow, everything went perfectly.
We meandered over to the gate only to find it all locked up, with all the stores around closed up. Was everything shut for lunch? How odd. So we went to get some lunch ourselves and learned that all the shops close up once the flights to Japan depart. Well, thanks a lot! Thank goodness we’d done our souvenir shopping at the resort. I’d picked up a small photo album made with some Hawaiian paper art and the girls had picked up hula skirts for themselves. At the airport with the rest of her money, Rebecca bought a hula doll as mother to the hula girl she’d bought earlier. All Nicholas came away with from this trip was a Warner Brothers beach ball. He wanted a big beach ball, that’s what he got and he was happy. And he had plenty of change from his $5.
Back at the gate and it was finally open. Thank goodness my mom was flying out today too so she could get past main security, but because this wasn’t her flight, they wouldn’t let her into the gate. Blah. We had to go in as early boarders with 4 kids and 2 car seats, so there was no hanging around saying goodbyes. It was best this way. We made it short and sweet and my mom headed over to her own gate to avoid getting upset in front of the kids. Ian asked if I was OK and honestly, no, I wasn’t. The longest I’ve ever not seen my mom is about 6 weeks. If they come to visit next Feb-March, this is going to be a year. This is going to be hard. Harder than I want to admit.
It was getting warm and not soon enough we were allowed to board. The seats were fairly cramped, but every seat had a TV screen and one of our movie options was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, so we were all perfectly comfortable. The overhead screens showed our flight path and ETA which I thought was pretty cool.
Nicholas was asleep before we left Hawaii soil and Jonathon conked out soon after. He slept fitfully so eventually I gave him a bit of Tylenol thinking that the air pressure or something was bugging him. Only Rebecca made it to eat a meal. The girls did manage to write letters to grandma on the flight. A couple hours later he calmed down and slept the entire rest of the flight. In fact, Rebecca finally fell asleep and Katherine did as well. I couldn’t have planned a better flight than 4 sleeping children for almost 7 straight hours.
At around 5:30 p.m. Thursday ended and Friday was on its way to closure. Hello International Date Line.
Friday, March 28th: What can one say about a day that never really existed? Oh, a lot, just you wait. We crossed the International Date Line to reach Guam and suddenly it was Friday evening and Thursday but a memory. The kids were sleeping while I filched all the snacks and foodstuffs from their trays into my backpack for when they woke up. It was a good thing too because even though we only had an hour on the ground in Guam, they were all hungry. It happens when you sleep through all your meals on a 7 hour flight.
I did stop in to the only store open and helped out the Guam economy by buying a set of BoJo Bo dolls. My good luck is coming any day now, I can feel it. Got back onto yet another plane and all the kids conked right out and missed yet another meal, which I admit, I pocketed everything but the spaghetti.
So we landed in Manila and woke everyone yet again, promising them that it was the last flight for a long while. We were 45 minutes early, in a swarm of people and our sponsor was no where to be found. Heading over to the customs lines we figured it was better to be actively doing nothing rather than passively doing nothing. After a few minutes we decided we were in the wrong lane and about to switch when Ian decided to go back to the gate and see if we’d missed the sponsor. Finally, she arrived, and we handed over our passports to the expediter and went to collect our bags.
Getting through customs and collecting our bags took about the same amount of time and before we knew it we were in a van heading out into Manila while our bags were in another van right behind us. I guess they were expecting us to have 12 bags (which we were allowed, but couldn’t fathom how we’d manage them with carrying Jonathon, pulling Nicholas and constantly telling the girls to keep up! Maybe on our next cross the world trip. In two years.)
Our barangay (aka neighborhood) is Dasmarinas Village. It’s a large barangay with lighted (but not well-lighted) tree-lined streets. Most of the homes are walled or gated within the outer wall. We pulled up our home and were in awe. It’s a white two-story with big columns and a carport on the side. There’s no real yard other than a small patch of grass in the front, but the front doors are stunning wooden French doors with lovely detail. Walking in there’s a huge L-shaped living into dining room with an extra bedroom/office to the right. Also to the right is the staircase to upstairs. Gorgeous inlayed floors on the stairs and the upper floor were the second thing I noticed. The stairs end in an upstairs den with a master bedroom to the left and the 2 kids bedrooms to the right (with a bathroom between them). Off the master bedroom is a dressing room that leads into the master bath. All the bathrooms are marble tiled. In fact, so are all the floors on the main floor. There are bars on all the windows and a full house security system. Part of life overseas. The furniture is all typical bland government issue but there’s plenty of it so no complaints. And we have a welcome kit that provides sheets, towels, pots, utensils and all necessary items. But, there is no crib here. Uh oh.
After looking around for a minute, our social sponsors from down the street came by and we chatted for a bit. Mostly though, the kids were getting wired and we were beyond exhausted. Broken sleep on a flight doesn’t make anyone well rested, so without being rude everyone headed home and we jerry-rigged a walled twin bed with chairs and pillows for Jonathon. There were no complaints from anyone as the lights went out.