Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mt. Pinatubo

Last Saturday we headed up to Mt. Pinatubo with our friends Jeff and Jaime who were visiting from Chicago. We thought we were going to be in for a long hot grueling hike up a volcano. Instead we barely survived the roughest, bumpiest, dustiest jeep ride you could ever try to imagine up to a trail head where we enjoyed a twenty minute, easy, mostly shady hike.

The view from the top of the crater was beautiful. After a few pictures we headed down for a much needed swim to rinse of the dust from the ride up. The boys are happy they can now honestly say they have gone swimming in a volcano.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What They Don't Tell You

For those of you who are thinking of visiting the Philippines I've come up with a list of interesting things about the Philippines that were never mentioned in any of the travel guides I read before moving here.

1. Filipinos love music. I mean they LOVE music. Mostly easy listening it seems, and eighties new wave. Steve has compared living here to walking around in a musical, and that seems appropriate. While out shopping recently a particularly moving song came on the sound system, as if on cue-every one of the staff joined in the singing. Steve encountered Ricky Martin in a taxi recently, which is only odd because usually it's a little softer. Some standout favorites we've noticed while riding in taxis around Manila are: Air Supply, Richard Marx, Journey, Heart (esp. "Alone"), The Eagles, The Cranberries and Dido. I don't know if I should be as proud as I am that I find myself singing right along with them. Initially the grocery stores seemed to be on the easy listening train, though it seems that toy stores opt for hardcore rap, replete with explicit lyrics while you are shopping with your young children.

2. I've yet to figure out the method of how the grocery stores are organized. If I find the peanut butter, I feel like jelly should be a given. But no, not even close. Many things are like this. You would think if you find the ketchup, then you've found the mustard. Again, no. To make things even more confusing, certain things (say, cereal) are found in more than one aisle of the store. You may find some varieties of one kind of food (maybe cornflakes) after looking everything over and making a decision based on what's in front of you, you then head 10 aisles over and discover what you really wanted (muesli!). This may seem like a small thing, and really it is. But mix in an over abundant staff, hordes of other people blocking the aisle and a good dose of blaring music (think rave) and you've got a recipe for a serious headache. I'm sure there's a very logical system, but at this point I'm doubtful I'm going to figure it out.

4. Speaking of shopping. Generally speaking, Filipinos are superbly helpful and accommodating. Never in my life have so many people wanted to help me when I'm out shopping. Need a bathmat? Instantaneously forty will be displayed for your approval. A pair of underwear for your three year old? A parade of helpful staff are there with every style plus suggestions for any and every other clothing item that might strike your fancy. Once you've made your selections you head to the cashier where your items are carefully rung up by one cashier, while another one, after carefully inspecting the price tag, checks (literally) the tag with a red pen. The items are placed in a bag which has special tabs that are tied closed (no exception!). You sign two receipts and a third one is stapled to your bag. If you're buying electronics, it's going to be a longer process as it -naturally-needs to be tested and purchase double checked in a different department completely. Meanwhile, another employee stands by with a notebook making sure everything is taken care of properly and duly recorded. As a side note I need to mention all women employees at one particular shop are dressed in sea foam green dresses (not unlike a flight attendant) with pearl earrings, and a lot of makeup. Now that I'm thinking about it, it seems like they can't ALL be wearing the same outfit in ALL stores, but in my mind that's really how it seems. I'm going to have to look into it. Either way, it's kind of awesome.

5. Filipino names are all across the board. Steve gets to talk to a lot of people at work, and thereby gets to hear more names than I do. I'm not embarrassed to say that I enjoy asking what the best names of the day were. After quizzing Steve and perusing various magazines, here are a few favorites: Dingdong, Baby James, Tootsy, Love, Jon Bong Jovi, Ice Cream, Beam, Camry and M5. The latter a particular fave to Steve. I am in no way making fun of these names. Quite the opposite. I love the idea of naming your baby after something you really love or a happy sound. If I had a baby here maybe I would name him Little Cupcake, or maybe I would hyphenate and go with Cutie-Face. Too bad we're not having any more...

6. We are lucky enough to have a dishwasher in our house. While at Ace Hardware yesterday, Steve discovered this is a somewhat uncommon occurrence. He was looking for general cleaning supplies, and asked where he could find dishwasher detergent. He was promptly surrounded by a helpful group trying to figure out what he was after. After being shown various kinds of dish soap (the kind you hand wash with), cans of Ajax, and even laundry detergent, the group of employees called over the manager. With nearly the entire staff gathered around him, he tried to explain what he was looking for. The manager also suggested the Ajax was a good idea. Can't you just picture the whole thing? Hilarious!

Our friends Jeff and Jaime are coming to visit tomorrow, I probably should have written this earlier. Still, I think they'll enjoy the first hand experience.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guess Where We're Headed!

Wow, I guess I've fallen off of the blogging wagon. I'm going to take a new approach: Shorter and more frequent posts. I promise. At least I promise to try.

We've been in Manila for over a year now. We have less than a year before we leave. The big news is where we're headed next- Finland! Pretty sure it's the polar (pun intended) opposite of the Philippines. In ten short months we'll be saying goodbye to our days of worshiping the tropical sun and hello to freezing temperatures and pathetically huddling together in the sauna. Actually we are super-duper, extremely, really, excited! Our neighbors will be Santa and his reindeer, and it's the perfect jumping off place for some great destinations. Woo-hoo!
See you soon!