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I am soooo getting spoiled here! At work I have a little man who comes to greet me every day and carry my belongings in to work. The walk from the cab drop off to the office is almost a half mile, but it’s a pleasant walk. I can never remember his name so I call him Pedro. Sadly, whenever I can’t remember the “helps” name, I give them a name, usually something in regards to their physical nature, like PePe. Pepe is this sweet, young boy who comes to clean our house once a week. He is soo nice and always has a big smile on his face. He never understands a word I say, so I always have a long conversation with him while he’s cleaning. For some reason, I am inclined to speak to the people here in what little spanish I know. I figure they can’t understand me in english anyway, so I practice my spanish.
Every door is opened for me by guards, a driver or doorman. If I really wanted something at work, all I would have to do is ask and someone would get it. I usually don’t ask. As a matter of fact, I usually fight the guys opening the doors. I can get my own door!
The class structure if evident by the fact that we have a 2 bedroom condo and then we have a mystery third bedroom, the maids quarters. It even has its own bathroom and shower, although it’s very small and reminds me more of a bathroom at a campground. Our maid doesn’t live with us, but I definitely enjoy him coming by to clean once a week. I wonder if I can get my hubby to do that as well!
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The main way for the general population to get around is a Jeepney. These are colorful bus-like trucks that each follow a regular route to move people around. I think the different owners of the Jeepneys are in competition about the decorations on their Jeepneys. Most have some sort of bless written on them or a picture of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Many has this fabric decoration that hangs from the rearview mirror area that looks like a huge thong from a sumo wrestler that is little dangly puff balls hanging from it. They usually have written on them somewhere the destinations they visit as well. It’s a nice way to figure out where that Jeepney is going.
They all have a name of some sort hanging from a shiny silver plaque on the front window. I get a kick out of the names. Sometimes you can tell its the persons name and othertimes its a short word or description. We have one that just hangs out by our condo that is named Souvier.
The importance of this mode of transportation is noticable by how crammed they get during rush hour. The lines for Jeepneys are crazy long when its time for everyone to go to work or come home. They are also usually crammed with people inside and occasionally will have 1-3 people hanging off the back. It makes me miss my car. We don’t have to take one, but I would love to try if I can get a local to take me somewhere.
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Food has been interesting around here. They eat tons of pork. I am not a fan of pork, except the occassional bacon strip or ham sandwich. At work, because we work all night long, there isn’t much of a selection for lunch. There is a McDonald’s, a 7-11, and a few local eateries. I have only braved a few of the local places and I did try the pork. It was barbeque pork on a stick. It wasn’t bad if they cooked it long enough. Its a bit like teriaki pork.
I was able to find a place that has lumpia….a veggie lumpia and a pork lumpia. Its pretty good except that I have this certian guilt about fried food every day for lunch, however hunger pangs usually over shadow that guilt.
They have a thing for a fish called milkfish, they call it Bangus. You can find it just about everywhere. I like fish but milkfish doesn’t sound very good. Its also boneless. Isn’t fish without bones basically a slug?
They use fish for flavoring, which is understandable. Anchovies and sardines do make for a flavorfull addition to alot of things, but the cultures finesse at finding new ways to add fish flavor has baffled me. I swear, at the store the other day, I saw a bottle of fish syrup. It did look kind of nasty. The “tuna fish” ailse at the store is amazing. It spans an entire row and they have every kind of unusal fish in canned form.
Anyway, there are a large variety of american style eateries around here but most don’t quite hit the mark. The McDonalds has the usual fair, although somewhat limited. They have also added their own tastes to the menu. They have rice available in hockey puck type or packages, and they have pork hamburgers. The pork hamburger is called a McDo. I tried it…I didn’t like it. Its a small hamburger with a mayo and ketchup sauce. It wasn’t very palatable. They also have McSpaghetti. I haven’t tried it yet, but they seem to have spaghetti available everywhere. They also have gravy available at McDonalds. They like to eat it with the rice and a chicken “filet”. The filet is not white meat though, its more like thigh meat. They also have a pinapple pie for desert, like our apple pie desert. The cheese is odd…it has a funny taste to it that I can’t stand. The other girls don’t mind it as much but it reminds me of american cheese slices that have sat out on the counter for a few hours. The pizza at Pizza Hut is the same weird cheese. I wonder if the cows eat something strange.
The dairy products come from New Zealand and Australia here. No one can seem to get over the fact that the milk isn’t refridgerated until its opened. I drink the milk in my coffee and don’t mind it, but I haven’t been brave enough to try a bowl of cereal.
The only places that have food that seems 100% like home are HardRock and TGIFridays. I usually go there when I feel like I need a homestyle meal. Until then, I am fairly content with just loosing weight!
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Umm….what? I am not sure what they expect of me.
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We arrive at this beautiful hotel, the Shangri-La. We notice that it is still decorated for Christmas, I guess around here they do Christmas until February. One of our guys has it made cause he has a room here. Although it would be nice to have the fancy digs, I think I feel more comfortable where I am at. Anyway, the other thing I noticed are the drug dogs at every entrance. I noticed one at our hotel too. The dogs look so board and lonely. It makes me miss my puppies! I don’t think they humanize their dogs over here as much as we do in the states. As we walk over to the Hard Rock Café, right between the California Pizza Kitchen and the TGIFridays, I notice that every business has a guard at the front door. I wonder why they are there and who they are turning away.
Anyway, we sit down to dinner, which was just like a Hard Rock in the US, and listen to a Filippino cover band. Immediately, I thought of that guy who sang like Steve Perry, Arnel Pineda, who put videos up on you tube, and ended up being so good that the remaining members of Journey invited him to be in the band. I really don’t like cover bands, but these guys were good. They did Silly Little Love Songs by Wings and the drummer sounded just like Paul McCartney. I took a video and the video is bad but the sound is ok. Um…this is freaking cool!!…so I was just looking for a link for the Arnel and I found a video of the band he was a member of in Manila…and guess what….it is the SAME band! How cool! He wasn’t in it of course, but the video I found was even at the Hard Rock Café. I found the bands website and yuppers indeed, it was them!
Once we got back to the Hotel the agenda for the night was to stay up as long as I could. I was shooting for 6 am. It about 5am, so I’ll be heading off to bed. I mean there is only so much You Tube and iTunes you can scavenge through before sleep starts to take over.
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Since I am basically under house arrest all day until things get more organized, all I do all day is watch people out of my window. You can tell that Manila was once a more glorious city…or at least this area used to be. The people are clean, very nice and professional but the buildings are a bit run down.
Looking out my window, I can see a sign from the Amazing Race in a building next to me. I wonder if was a past episode or something the just happened.
On the top of a building, I can see some laundry cages. I assume that they are for residents of the building to air dry their laundry in a safe fashion. They look more like dog pens to me.
Maybe if I am brave tomorrow, I will get out the binoculars I brought for star gazing and snoop around the neighborhood….maybe not.
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You gotta love this!! We can get a one hour, full body massage for 650 pesos. That’s about $13.73 in USD. If you want to pay extra, you can even have two ladies come to your room and give you a massage. I don’t know about the “happy ending” part, but you gotta wonder if they do that or if they are asked to do that a lot. Kinda creepy!
Everyone here is also talking about how cigarettes are about $ .80 cents a pack. One guy said that at those prices, he might have to take up smoking.
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Ok…this is driving me crazy…the clock in the hotel room is only on Military time. I hate Military time. I can’t find any switch to flip it over to 12 hour increments. I hope I am not late for anything because I don’t know what time it is. I did get the time difference down. I think of it as one hour behind us and then its the opposite of what it is here. Day or night. Get that??? If its 3 in the afternoon here, it is 2 am at home.
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The flight over was hell! For starters, the drugs the Dr. gave me to mellow out and sleep were crap. Oh, they made me tired, but I still couldn’t sleep so I was merely more exhausted.
The first and last of the three connections weren’t that bad. I have had a sinus infection that was moving to my lungs when I had to fly to Tampa. Flying sick is not recommended, and it is taking forever to get over it. Not to mention that half the people I know have had terrible colds that have lasted 2 or more weeks. Usually when you fly, your sinus and ears get really stuffy. On the flight to Chicago, all was good except for the coughing from the dry air. My cough was just starting to go away before I left.
The flight to Hong Kong started in a huge freaking plane. A 747 that sat 10 people in a row. I did have a terrible seat at first and then yesterday I was able to change the seat to a window seat so I was sooo relieved. Well…whatever I did, didn’t take, so I got stuck in the middle of the middle. I sat next to a college student taking a class trip to Hong Kong, he was pleasant and offered moderate chit chat. I did turn him on to ZeFrank.
My other neighbor was a different story, this guy was a crabby, silent traveler who showed discontempt at every turn. Yeah, discontempt…my new word for a combination of discontent and contempt. He was a pain in the ass to everyone. For example, every time the flight attendant would come by with drinks, he would order Orange Juice, water and a cup of coffee, ¾ full. So, the attendant would ask if he wanted it black….no he would say, so she said, cream, he said no, then she asked if he wanted sugar, no, just a cups of coffee ¾ full. Isn’t coffee without cream and sugar called Black?
I had to get up a few times since the flight was almost 16 hours and every time I did, I got that look, you know, the one your mother gives you when you start goofing off in church. Mind you, I didn’t get up but once every few hours. I think he mother gave him that look a little too much as a child.
Getting off the plane in Hong Kong was an adventure. I have never really felt lost in an airport since I do a fair amount of traveling, but I did here. The airport smelled musty, hot and foreign even though it was newer and air conditioned. It was kind of like a ride at Disneyland, but not the same smell that brings back good memories, (like Pirates of the Caribbean) Just the kind that makes you want to breath a little less. To find my way, I just followed the crowds until I could find signs that made sense. The English portion of the signs were usually just one word, I felt I needed more adjectives. I would have liked a sign that said “Lost Americans follow Red Arrow”.
Once I got my ticket for the last leg of the flight, I found out that the flight was delayed. Joy! I was able to browse a couple of shops with fun stuff in them, but it was weird because all the currency was in Hong Kong Dollars. A cup of crappy coffee cost something like $31.00 HKD. It was really only $4.00 USD. I noticed that the public toilets had bidets in them. I don’t know but there is something creepy about a pubic bidet. I made a couple of new friends with other passengers who were from NC. One guy’s father ran call centers in Manila and he and another Filipino guy were kind enough to teach me some useful Tagalog. One thing they taught me to say was “I don’t want/don’t like” (ayaw ko), I guess it is what you say to street vendors who don’t leave you alone. Apparently, it works better than No.
The flight on Cathay Pacific to Manila was much nicer! The plane was nicer as well. There was leg room! Note to self….don’t like flying United overseas. They had a nice little meal that was neutral to American tastes and asian tastes. It was rice and chicken and veggies. Although, the chicken was thigh meat and very gamey. Not a favorite of mine. In my utensil pack there was a little spoon for my coffee and my first though was that they gave us our own coke spoon. It reminded me of the McDonald’s coffee stirrers of the 70’s, that people gold plated as coke spoons. Remember those from movies? I kept mine…I wonder if I could eBay it? Do they have listings for potential coke spoons?
The rest of the night was a blur. I couldn’t find my ride at the airport and my cell phone didn’t work. (it was supposed to) I didn’t know where I was staying…it was a bit scary. I finally found my ride and they took me to my hotel. Thank goodness the day is over! It entire journey only took 30 hours.
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Here I am, trying to get ready for this big adventure to the Philippines to open a new line of business at a call center. My nerves were off the charts. Will my animals be ok? Will my family be ok? Will I be ok? Will I train well? Will I be able to pack everything I need in 2 suitcases? Will my plane crash? Yeah…you name it, I panicked about it.
My suitcase issue ended up going well. I threw everything I thought I would need into the suitcases over the last few days. When I arranged it all, I actually had more room! I then spent the next few hours trying to find more stuff to take with me! Hooray! I love to take stuff with me! I always over pack, even to go to the grocery store.
I also had to sit Mario down and tell him how to survive without me for a month. We went over bills and duties and I made him a big chore chart so my entire world at home wouldn’t fall apart. Of course, he probably didn’t need it, but it made me feel better. I am sure the smiley stickers didn’t help. (ok..I didn’t really give him smiley stickers, but I thought about it) I also had to have a heart to heart with him should the plane go down, or I get kidnapped or something scary. I left him specific instructions that if the media needed a photo he was to offer one up quickly and it better be good! I didn’t want some crappy mug shot (like my passport photo) ending up on CNN. I told him to give them a picture that portrays me as a loving mother and hot wife. J
Now the waiting begins….I’ll try and get some sleep before I leave, hopefully I can sleep on the plane as well.