Week 2 in Manila has come to a close. It’s about 4p Sunday afternoon here, and I’m taking a little time in between writing postcards to write up a recap-blog. There’s been some good and some bad, and mostly just a general exhaustion, and starting to get to a point where I’m eager to get back home to the familiar comforts. But I’ll break it down into a few different categories.

Work

Work overall is going really quite well. The people we’re training are eager, quick learners, and really friendly. Though I’m tremendously curious what they say about us when we’re not around, or when they’re just speaking in Tagalog. It’s really interesting, because they’ll talk a mile a minute in Tagalog, and then you’ll hear a Spanish word and three English words. And I guess that most things that didn’t exist before the US had troops here don’t actually have a word in Tagalog. Like, there’s no Tagalog word for Email, so their word is email. But I’m partially convinced, despite their quick learning, that they’ll throw out a few English words in each sentence so we think they’re talking about work, but they’re talking about the leprechaun who’s helping out with training class. We had some (mostly minor) technical glitches during the first week that kind of hampered things, and created quite a bit of frustration both on the team here, and with our counterparts back in the states, but those issues seem to have gone away almost entirely. They’ve sent an IT guy out here to help with a lot of the lingering issues, and to help alleviate some of the communication/language barriers we have. Everyone speaks English, but some don’t speak as well as the others, and trying to get heavily accented English over a speakerphone created in 1987 back to the US and have everyone understand it….Yeah, that doesn’t work so well. So hopefully everything will be a little more copasetic from here on out. The dynamic will surely shift, as we’ve got the IT person arriving recently, Another person arriving midweek next week, and a few more arriving over next weekend, and the four people I came with are leaving this coming weekend. I think things will still remain pretty good, though.


Hotel/Home

So far things at the hotel are still pretty swell. My shower broke, which I wrote about last week, and they apologized profusely and gave me a few beers and some chocolates. Outside of that, everything is pretty standard — which is to say top-notch. I did lay in bed the other night, as I was starting to drift off, and finally looked around the room to kind of ‘take it in’ a little more. That’s what she said. I feel like I spend so much time out of my room (both good and bad, I guess) or when I’m in it I’m almost always sitting at my desk or sleeping, that I haven’t really realized that I’m living here for a month. Well, two more weeks. There’s some strange mental math that happens when you try to boil a month down into more manageable chunks. you spend your time concentrating on such small slices of the day, hoping that at some point you’ll step back and see the larger picture, with the realization that you might be going home soon. I love travel, but a month is a long time. So I finally starting thinking of my room in terms of my apartment, to better grasp the situation. Its definitely not home or anything, but given that it’s the size of the apartment I share with my girlfriend, there’s at least a minor correlation. Three more weeks…

It’s funny some of the things I miss about home. For one, slightly cooler temperatures. Denver does get hot during the summer, but after this heat for 5 weeks I think Denver is going to be a breeze. I miss cooking at home. I miss knowing everything. That’s not to say I’m a know-it-all…well I am, but I’m not actually asserting that I know everything. It’s a strange feeling, but pretty common when you travel to a foreign place, especially if you’re a rookie traveler. When I’m home, I know where to go for good food, I know general things to do pretty much anywhere I go, I know who to talk to, there’s no confusion about local products or services or how much to tip or who to tip, or any of that. I also miss driving. While the driving over here is some constantly amazing but contradictory combination of laid back aggression in which I’d never want to take part, I really miss driving my car. I miss my own bed. I miss feeling comfortable in the place where I live. I miss a place where I don’t have to put my laundry in a bag, where everyone doesn’t call me “Sir Jason” (Though I wouldn’t mind if they did! But let’s face it, having everyone open doors for you, call elevators for you, call you Sir Jason, with the 8 other people at every turn also calling you Sir when they say hello, ask you how you are etc — it really does get old.) I miss a lot of things. It’s difficult, in my opinion, to take a trip this long. At some point it goes past any normal vacation or work, and becomes a chore. I haven’t hit that point yet, and I’m trying to stay as optimistic as possible (which is easier than I make it sound, really) and enjoy my time here. So far that hasn’t been a problem. I’m still struggling, to a degree, with the work/vacation balance. I keep saying that I’m on vacation….two days at a time, every weekend. So I have to switch out of work mode on the weekends, and get ready to go exploring. It’s not something I’m terribly good at… Maybe these last two weekends I’ll be better at it — especially once I get to Vietnam!

Adventures

Our adventures, unfortunately, have been few and far between. Just a few hours ago I got back from an organized tour of Makati, Taguig, Pasay and Manila. It was just a 4 hour jaunt, covering a few of the most basic tourist attractions in the city. That tour gets its own blog entry, with photos!, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. Otherwise we’ve been sticking to a pretty standard routine. Since we only have Saturday & Sunday to ourselves each week, it’s tough to do a whole lot of touristy things. We’re also all pretty exhausted by the end of the workday, so it’s hard to muster the energy for much more than a couple 16oz curls, and shoveling food into our faces. I’m still disappointed by the lack of authentic dining options around. It seems to be that the general consensus is that since there are so many foreigners around here, we all must want our local cuisines, so that’s what exists. We spend most of our time at places like Tony Roma’s, TGI Fridays, and Outback Steakhouse. I’m torn, because there are some local Filipino establishments, but they’re all fast food. I have yet to stumble upon an authentic Filipino sit-down restaurant. part of me wonders if there are any at all. I know there are, but I just can’t seem to find them anywhere. Today on our tour I saw a lot of restaurants throughout the poorer areas of the city; sidewalk cafes and such, and I’m curious if those might be the only real authentic options. But then at half of those I saw nothing but American sodas and chips pinned up to a rack at the entrance. I guess at some level I’m caught in between my desire to experience local culture, with my fear that the only way to do that is to go into a poor neighborhood for a local cafe type of place, and then I’ll end up getting mugged or something. At any level, my disappointment really only lies with myself. I could easily ask at the front desk for something local, but I just haven’t yet. I guess the other side of that is the few times I’ve had a Filipino style dish from the hotel, it’s been mediocre. So maybe I’m unconsciously hesitant to do it because I’m afraid I’ll have talked a big game about wanting to try local food, and then find it awful, or something. Who knows. Two more weeks to put my money where my mouth is.

Upcoming

We’ve got another week of work next week, and it will be the last for Matt Tim Charmaine and Jenise. They’ve all been great to hang out with, and have done an awesome job training their classes. I’ve had a great time working as floor support. Robert arrived late last night, and he’ll be here until I leave as well, so just for two weeks. The rest leave on the 21st, and we’ve got new people coming in during this week, and over the weekend. So the dynamic will be changing among the group, but I think all the people here will still have a good time and enjoy our work and each others company. I’m hoping that either with the people that are coming in, or by myself, I can spend the entirety of next weekend on some form of tour. I want to see more of what exists around here without spending an arm and a leg and potentially risking my health by strolling through a devastatingly poor neighborhood. I’ve seen a couple of tours, one goes down south and explores a rural village and coconut plantation, and another that explores Corregidor Island, a strategic military installation during WW2. They’re not terribly cheap, and they take a whole day to complete, but there’s a chance I’ll never be in the Philippines again. And while I wouldn’t necessarily regret not taking a tour 10 years from now, it’s all about enjoying the moment and making these experiences the best that I can. So I’ll see if I can convince some people to go, and we’ll do a little more exploring.

I’ve got to make sure I save a little coin for Vietnam, still. I’ve got my eye on a tour down into the Mekong Delta so I can see the floating Market, and some of the great things down there. It’s basically a full two day tour with an overnight stay in Can Tho, and tours of some markets and local towns. It’s another $250, but Vietnam is a place I’m dying to visit, and incredibly eager to experience.

I’ll have more soon, including pictures and stories from the tour. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing a little bit more about the food, some of the more interesting cultural observations, and who knows what else. Thanks so much for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already. Just go to the homepage, scroll down slightly, and look for the “Subscribe!” heading on the left side of the page.

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