Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

August 31, 2008

A Poke in the Eye

Filed under: Manila — Donald @ 12:24 pm

Filipinos love malls; roaming around them window-shopping is a favorite pastime. At the moment they are particularly proud of the SM Mall of Asia, the largest in this part of the world, and a city all its own.

SM Mall of Asia 1

SM Mall of Asia 2

Some of the architecture actually has a bit of appeal, and I enjoyed a decent seafood risotto on a terrace overlooking the bay. As mall experiences go for me, that’s top notch. Usually the only things I like are the aircon and cheap steamed dumplings. Consumerist orgies and bourgeois pretenses at style make me nauseous, and when it comes to actual shopping, I’d prefer a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. But getting outfitted for the move to the province is one of the reasons for my stay in Manila, so shopping it has been these days. My major purchase is this cell phone, a Nokia 6120 Classic.

Nokia 6120

I’d hoped it would provide decent internet access in the hinterlands, but no dice. Everything is painfully slow and clunky even in Manila where I’m supposedly getting a strong 3G signal; good for only the smallest jobs and transactions that I won’t want to do on a public machine. Still, the organizer is very useful, and the sound from mp3s on the 2 gig card is remarkably good. The camera is awful (I took the mall pics above with it), but of course it does have the advantage of always being there for unexpected occasions. Should have snapped a few shots last night at the Cafe Havana; great live Latin music and dancing and tasty mojitos. Life isn’t all a poke in the eye. Cuba libre!

August 26, 2008

On the Hoof

Filed under: Manila — Donald @ 7:05 pm

Manila sidewalk trap

Manila sidewalk swamp

The streets of Manila can be treacherous; oddly-placed poles and their support wires, bizarre concrete outcroppings, the occasional unmarked pit that seems to descend straight to hell, vendors and café tables occupying many of the decent spots, and unpredictable traffic when you make the inevitable decision to walk in the street. My favorite sidewalk feature is the Kano trap; a deep hole that has been covered by some concerned soul with thin plywood. After a few weeks in the rain the wood is barely strong enough to support the natives; a guy like me is bound to be first to fall through. You quickly learn to watch where you walk.

I have been walking a lot lately trying to get to know my new neighborhoods, Ermita and Malate, and looking for the best deal on a hotel. The Victoria was intriguing; they are a short-time place but I negotiated a good daily rate. Maybe it is low season even on love.

Hotel Victoria Manila

In the end, the blocks between there and my hangouts looked excessively risky even to my poor judgment, so I gave it a pass. Searching all day led me to conclude that the deal I’m getting at the Cherry Blossoms is about as good as any.

My last couple of weeks in the US were a little stressful. There were great visits with friends and family, but most of the time I was prepping the move, which took about three times as long as expected. Boarding the plane was supposed to be my moment of great relief, but of course it wasn’t. The racks were full and my only piece of luggage would have to be checked at the gate. With a hasty connection coming up in Detroit, that looked very bad. It was. Security in Nagoya became alarmed when they discovered my luggage tag blowing around the cargo hold with no bag attached. Fortunately the bag contained nothing important, just three months worth of prescription meds, contact lenses, personal checks, and all of my clothing. Even more fortunately, Nagoya has one of the best-run airports in the world, and with characteristic efficiency the staff found my lost bag, brought it to the gate for me to identify, apologized for the inconvenience, and let me carry it on the plane. Welcome to Japan.

Since I was seated toward the front of the 747 and now had no checked luggage I was able to beat the rush to immigration and customs as planned. I cleared both in a total of about five minutes, putting me on the street to begin the celebratory carousing shortly after midnight. The next day I slept for 14 hours straight; a record for me and a good sign, I think. My lucky streak continued that night at the poker table where a crew of partying Aussies kindly funded a few days of my stay. Manila’s dark streets look even darker with a few extra pesos in your pocket, so I flagged a cab home. It took only three reminders to get him to turn on the meter.

August 21, 2008

Advice for moving to the Philippines

Filed under: General — Donald @ 1:23 pm

1. You do not have enough strapping tape.
2. You got more? Lots more? Great. You do not have enough strapping tape.
3. You counted boxes, measured the dimensions of each, and got twice as much as you calculate you need? Should have done that the first time, Homer, but better late than never. Oh, and you do not have enough strapping tape.
4. You just spent an additional $100 buying every large roll of strapping tape in stock at the store? Ok, now you have enough.
5. Your strapping tape sucks. It is the kind that always tears along the axis filaments, twists on itself, and forces you to fling huge sticky balls of it at everything in sight. Did you buy it at Wal-mart? Of course Walmart strapping tape sucks. Oh, I see, you bought it at the UPS Store. UPS Store strapping tape sucks. It does come in large sticky rolls though.
6. You are in hell. To escape you must 1) admit that you are in hell 2) admit that you will do anything to escape and 3) start completely over and buy at least five times as much as you calculate you will need of Scotch Extreme Application Packaging Tape. You must buy exactly this tape. Working with this tape will calm you down more than a triple bourbon. Yes, 100 proof single cask, not 80 proof ragwater. Trust me on this. I know tape and strong drink.

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