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Woohoo, my first LiveJournal entry! I got tired of writing zillions of emails recounting my experiences, so I figured I’d start a little journal so everyone could keep updated :) And so I can remember everything, of course!

Here I sit in an internet cafe that Christianne has dumped me at for an indeterminate amount of time. Heh, well maybe “dumped” isn’t the most accurate term, since I did volunteer to sit out my sentence here. She is currently at the dentist (getting her teeth cleaned for $6!!) and I decided to come check my emails and log in some of my experiences here in the Philippines. So, let’s backtrack, shall we??

I made it here safely, with only a few small hiccups on the flight over. Heh, a week later I can call them hiccups! At the time they seemed more like earth-shattering, gut-wrenching, extremely irritating (think rubbing sandpaper on a gaping wound), test-Heather’s-patience-and-put-her-in-a-pissy-mood disturbances. My flight from SFO to Manila got canceled, so we were put up in a crappy Best Western hotel in San Francisco for a night…which didnt even have toothbrushes or amenities of any sort. And of course we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but a Dennys next to us. And we had spent nearly an entire day waiting in lines, trying to find out what we were supposed to do and how our luggage was going to be transferred, etc. Then we of course missed our connecting flight from Manila to IloIlo (the city Christianne is from), so we spent the night in the airport to catch a 5:15am flight…but of course we didnt sleep, so I basically went three nights without any decent sleep. And, not to mention, I don’t speak a lick of Tagalog, so I stood there mute and completely ignorant the whole time while my friend tried straightening things out…I was exhausted, stinky, cranky, and completely helpless! Ha. At least I got to play with my new camera. I had fun taking shots of all the cardboard boxes Filipino people use for luggage. Christianne’s Aunt Rose (who also travelled with us) referred to her two boxes as “Cartonites” (instead of Samsonite, get it? Haha).

But after some rest, I was able to truly appreciate the beauty here. The food is great…the seafood is fresh and plentiful. At one meal I tasted blue marlin, milkfish, tuna, and prawns! The people are very warm and friendly. It turns out my friend’s grandma had 11 kids! So she literally has something like 40 cousins here. And I’ll probably meet half of them at least. She also has MANY childhood friends that she’s been playing catch-up with. Most of these conversations are in their native dialect (Illongo), so I usually occupy myself by reading or sleeping (hehe, the first few days I had a hard time adjusting to the time difference, so I could be found dozing on any number of couches in her friends’ houses).

I’m also enjoying being somewhat of a celebrity…as the only white person for miles (ha, and of course I’m WHITE for a white girl), people constantly stop to stare, and sometimes wave. On our recent trip to Lambunao to visit Christianne’s grandma, we rode on a motorbike with a sidecar and took a tour of the city. Between gasping for breath between exhaust fumes and taking in the local sights and sounds, I enjoyed waving to all the passers-by who were frantically waving and smiling and pointing to their buddies (I can only imagine what they were saying — Look, look, it’s a white girl! Wave!)

Of course, there are things to adjust to…like taking freezing cold “showers”. They don’t have running hot water, and you use a bucket to scoop out water from another bucket to pour over your head. Brrr. The first pour always makes my heart stop momentarily, and I grit my teeth as I reach in to pour several more over my head so my body can acclimate to the temperature. Luckily it’s quite warm and humid here, so it’s not that bad, and after about 10 or 15 splashes, you get used to it. And everywhere you go, there are armed guards checking your bags. And you have to carry around toilet paper with you, since they don’t have any in the “comfort rooms” (what they call bathrooms – and believe me, they are far from comfortable! The public ones are usually dirty, cramped, and well, gross). Also, people walk around the streets with handkerchiefs covering their mouths so they don’t inhale all the exhaust fumes. And after 20+ years of wearing a seat belt, it’s hard getting used to NOT wearing one (most cars don’t even have them, and no one wears them if they do)…especially when everyone drives so erratically. Drivers use their horns incessantly, to warn people they are passing, to warn any possible loiterers to get out of the road, to say hey, we’re coming around a bend, you better get the heck out of the way if you don’t want to get plowed! I don’t think there are any traffic laws here. No traffic lights — people just pull out whenever and honk to tell people to make room. It’s crazy! Pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right of way. And there are no strict lanes. I’m surprised more people don’t get into accidents…though most people aren’t driving more than 30-40 kilometers per hour, so if a collision did take place, it wouldn’t be fatal.

In actuality, we are living like royalty here in IloIlo. It appears as though there are two distinct classes in the Philippines, the very well off and the extremely poor. We are fortunate enough to be staying with Christianne’s friends, Marilac and Jungi and their two kids, Patricia and Mickey, who live in a beautiful, spacious house even by American standards. Marilac and Jungi owned the compound where Christianne and her brother and several other families used to live in when they were growing up. They own their own granite business, so much of the house has beautiful granite and marble decorations and REAL wood floors. And they have a helper (a.k.a. live-in maid) who does all our laundry and cooks for us and picks up after us. It’s better treatment than we would get in a hotel! Patricia is only in the second grade, and she is so smart. She can carry on full conversations in English with me. I’ve already found out her favorite food (chop suey), color (pink), Disney character (Belle), movie (Princess Diaries), ok, well you get the picture :). In addition to English and Filipino, she is learning Chinese at her school, and she knows a little Spanish as well. And the kid is super adorable too, with all of her front teeth missing.

Okay, that is enough typing for now. I will discuss my travels to Borocay Island (simply beautiful) and wherever else Christianne leads me in future logs. Stay tuned!

4 Responses to “The Philippines Saga, Part I”

  1. kledus says:

    sounds like you’re doin’ well. don’t get sick! and make sure you bring me some kick ass liquor :)

    I’ll email you sometime this weekend…final tomorrow=rank

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow, wish I had someone to pick up after me all day, Sounds like you’re having a blast. Be safe, we LOVE YOU !!! Mom & John

  3. admin says:

    Hope you did well on your final! I’ve been on the lookout for Filipino liquor for you…do you like rum (or rhum as it’s called here)?

  4. kledus says:

    AHHHH final in 3 hrs. SCREWED AM I!!

    Rum is OK…not my fav but could be interesting. Stop being sick…that’s lame

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