Category Archives: Manila

Leaving Manila…

A very rare moment here in our place:  Ellie is asleep, during the day, in her crib (!!!) and I have two (TWO!) free hands.  Have I mentioned how much I miss typing with two hands?

So despite being late in updating a lot of things (like trips from almost a freaking year ago, how home leave in OBX was awesome, how my running is going badly, how the podiatrist said I will need surgery in both feet, etc, etc), I figured now it’s a good time as any to update on the last few weeks in the Philippines.

It was tough leaving Manila, I left a lot of amazing friends behind that I miss dearly.  As much as being back in the US of A is awesome (awesome!), I wish I could have packed up all my friends with me.

Before leaving Manila, I got to do a lot on that last month…  I said goodbye to my Brazilian friend and her twin girls (cannot believe they’re a year old now!).

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I went to Puerto Galera for the first time and got to pack my diving stuff after a year away…  And yes, I got a couple of last dives in!  Yay!  Never got my 50th dive, but I did leave the Philippines with 49 dives under my belt – which is pretty good, considering there was a 9 month pregnancy in the midst of that.

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We stayed in Buri Resort, and it was lovely…

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Yep, we had our own plunge pool, and it was a two bedroom/2 bath/2 stories villa – which we shared with friends – with an amazing view!

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Then 6 moms, 7 babies, one yaya all took a flight then a boat over to Siquijor Island…

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And aside from a stomach bug I caught at the last night, it was lovely to spend a couple of days with them and to just relax and hang out with this view… 

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And with this pool.  We got two villas in Coco Grove, each with two floors and two full bathrooms, and it was perfect!

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Before leaving I ordered a Filipino quilt for Ellie at the AWCP Bazaar, since I wanted her to leave with something from the country she was born in.

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After almost 2 years, Karl finally got his braces removed!

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In the midst of moving madness, I thought it was a good idea to pull out this broken plug from our wireless router and electrocuted myself (I do not handle sleep deprivation well and make stupid decisions…).

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I took more cute pictures of Lily and Ellie…

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Our place got packed up and all we had left was ugly embassy furniture – and we won’t see our stuff for another year, until after we get to Brazil.

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I got one last shopping trip done in Greenhills.

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And had one last meal at my favorite restaurant in Manila, Alba.

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The pets hung out on our ugly now-uncovered embassy furniture…

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We went a few more times to Salcedo Market across the street from us.

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Had more amazing ice cream at Merry Moo (Salted Caramel, Honeycomb and Cookies & Brownies are our favorite flavors).

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Got more of the amazing fruit only found in Asia, like mangosteen…

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Lanzones…

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Dragon Fruit…

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Rambutan…

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I will NOT miss seeing the cow lechon every Saturday! (I’m a very much hypocrite carnivore – don’t show me the animal!)

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I had the worst haircut of my life by the same stylist who had given me the best haircut of my life…  This was my 4th time with the same stylist at Hair Philosophie.  I left in tears (then took scissors to it myself a couple of days later so I could wear it down again).

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Went to Legaspi market…

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Ellie wore her Department of State onesie (that Karl’s coworkers gifted him) to represent!

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I had a great goodbye party thrown by Una (sadly we didn’t get a picture with everyone later, we were too busy eating and chatting!).

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Una also gave us this super cool Filipino painting.  I will not miss the jeepneys!

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Una and Naomi came over on my very last day, and Naomi went all general on me and got me to get on to packing, and weighing every single piece of luggage I had, which means Karl and I actually had free time later for a foot massage and dinner.

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We woke up at 3am and left to the airport to what was (and hopefully will always be) our worse travel experience ever.  Cely, our helper and yaya to our pets, said goodbye to Lily and Lucas through many tears.

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Turns out what we were dreading the most, going through NAIA, was the easiest.  We were very mistreated in Japan, and kicked out of the Delta lounge because we had pets (even though they were quiet, and we were allowed to be there with pets as long as they were in their carrier), Lucas broke out of his carrier and almost escaped, and I had to McGyver the thing mid-flight…

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And this is how the inside looked like.  Somehow no one noticed and we went 7 more hours in flight with the carrier looking like this, got through a connection in Detroit and boarded our next plane with no issues.  He also pooped himself because he was so freaked out (Lily’s blanket that she had since the day she came home to us was sacrificed), broke his claw and had multiple cuts to his little nose.  I had to spend the rest of the time with a hand inside the carrier petting him.  It got very tricky when I had to hold Ellie with one hand to nurse her and had my other hand petting Lucas, with both Ellie and the carrier on my lap. 

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Then we finally arrived in DC, bought a brand new car which we love, and headed to the start of our much needed rest in the Outer Banks, NC.

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Pictures from our home leave at the beach to come…

(And for the record, the last half of this post was typed mostly one handed.  This chick will not sleep for long during the day.  *sigh*)

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Filed under Foreign Service, Manila, Philippines, Travel

Bad Diplomats?

Our neighbor host parties (dinner?) next door at least once a week, always on a weekday.  Always ends close to midnight.  Their guests all leave at once, are always very loud, laughing and chatting and hanging out in front of our front door before saying their final goodbyes and taking the elevator.

When you take the elevator in my building, if you make a right, there are only two apartments – mine and the neighbors.  Mine comes first, and it’s about 15-20 feet from the main elevator, the neighbors’ are at the end of the hall.

Our walls are made of concrete – when my neighbors have their little events, we don’t hear a peep.  When you gather in front of my front door and chat loudly, however, the noise travels through my apartment reaching every bedroom, since all our bedrooms face the living room (video tour here), added to that, the wooden floors are great at making sound travel.

When Lily hears the loud voices echoing through our apartment, she responds the same as any dog:  she barks.  Loudly.

A couple of weeks before I gave birth, I finally decided to attemt to put an end to the loud noise, the last thing I wanted was to have a baby awake all night because of people hanging out by my door.  So on a Tuesday at 11:30pm, I went out and told the group of 10 people hanging out to please be quiet, we were trying to sleep.

The noise got better and for a little while, if there was anything, it would be passing noise, no one was lingering here.

Then it restarted.  To make matters worse, guests started going to the hallway to have lengthy phone calls, right in front of our door.

So sometimes Karl goes out and asks them to please be quiet, we have a newborn baby sleeping.  Sometimes I’m the one who asks.

Yesterday, the neighbor angrily accosted our helper to complain to her that we don’t own the common hallway, and we are bad diplomats for asking people to be quieter.  Because don’t you know such guest was the president of XYZ company?  And another president of ABC company?

Say what?!? 

Am I the only one that expects MORE from people in high positions?  Consideration for others is not something you’re exempt from just because you have money, but if you do have money, I expect you to set the example for everyone else!  And truth be told, let’s be honest, I don’t care if you’re the Queen of England!  It’s the middle of the week, late at night, if you want to be loud, do so in your own apartment where the insulation keeps my baby and my pets from getting aggravated!

It’s going to be really really really hard leaving Manila.  I’m going to leave an amazing group of friends behind, and board that plane with incredible memories.  But this kind of crap?  This sense of entitlement that some have just because they have money?  I won’t miss it at all. 

(Want a more drastic example?   The men who murdered George Anikow were granted bail 3 months ago, despite having coldly murdered the former marine and spouse of a US diplomat – the murder itself happened because rich kids were told what to do and did not like it.  It was all caught on video, but the video, where Anikow is seen running away, then tackled and stabbed by the four men, was not considered to be enough evidence.  And then one wonders how some of the richer folks here get this sense of entitlement.  Well, because they can.)

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Filed under Asia, Foreign Service, Manila, Philippines

Life in the Philippines: Stuff My Staff Says

I have shared these on Facebook, but realized I haven’t really blogged about any of it.  Call it “third world problems” because, really, in the first world, we’re nowhere near the right income to be able to afford staff! 

So here are a few recovered gems, thanks to my Facebook’s timeline…

My driver said I look sexy today. FML.

So after I posted that, I was told that it turns out here in the Philippines, sexy means pretty – who knew?  Even then, having my 60+ year old driver telling me I looks sexy still creeped me out.

And another senseless conversation in the Philippines:
Me: “ugh, traffic”
Driver: “stoplight”
Me: “I don’t know, the driver of the bus next to us got out and is smoking a cigarette. He can probably see something we can’t.”
Driver: “Buses here are diesel, ma’am”
Me: …


The Philippines is really an interesting place.  Because people here speak English, but yet, they don’t.  A lot of the local expressions make no sense in English, or just annoys us. (Like using “wait a while” anytime they want you to wait a bit.  Or saying “enjoying” even when there’s nothing joyful about it, such as “you’re currently enjoying a one hour delay on your flight.”  Or using avail for everything “Are you going to avail of this promo?”  Or starting every sentence with “Actually…”)  I think it makes it specially frustrating for English speaking expats, more so than if you go to a country where English is not widely spoken – at least then you’re expecting some communication issues.

Here, people will rarely tell you “what, I don’t understand, can you repeat that?”  They’ll either give a reply for something totally random – like my driver above – or most often they will laugh.  Yep, just laugh in your face.  Now I know that when my driver starts laughing and I wasn’t telling a joke is that he has no clue what I said, so I just repeat it. 

Ah, life in the Philippines…. Conversation w my driver:
“On my way back from (working in) Libya I stopped in Thailand. But the women came to my room!”
“Rudy, I don’t need to know this!”
“Only U$24! But I don’t like. Afraid of AIDS”

No excuses for the conversation above.  Totally inappropriate if he was talking like that to Karl, much less to his female employer!  But Filipinos have no filter sometimes of what is really a boundary that you do not cross in the workplace.

I guess you realize your driver is too old for the job when at least once a week he totally forgets where you’re going. Less than 5 minutes after you told him and he repeated it back to you. Good thing I know my way around enough to go “uh, which way are you going?” “Hahahaha” “Rudy, it’s not funny, did you forget?” “Yes, ma’am, I forget!” *sigh*

Ok, so obviously my driver IS getting too old for the job (a friend even wondered if he ever gets somewhere then thinks “why am I here again?”), but the laughing as a reply?  A very very very Filipino reaction to avoid conflict.  It got to the point that I started saying “it’s not funny” or “do you see me laughing?” when I encounter that.  You can say I’m over this avoiding conflict thing, I just need to get things done!

Now those are my driver’s gems.  Our maid hasn’t had as many of those, thankfully.

“Ma’am, my husband complains I’m not sweet anymore, but it hurts!  I just do kissy-kissy now.  I told him to find a young girl instead.”

I totally nipped that one in the bud, and change the subject.  I’m so not going to be having a sex talk with my 56-year old maid!

My maid asked me today if milk comes out when I squeeze my boobs. What is wrong with our staff? I guess I should at least be relieved it wasn’t our male driver who asked the question?

A friend even commented “my doctor asked me that when I was pregnant, you’d be surprised!”  But my point was not the question that was asked, but who asked it – crossing a boundary here again, no?

And unrelated to the Philippines, but I posted this status during our trip in Laos:

Nothing like having the 3rd world slap you in the face, by ordering a coconut shake and having it arrive with a straw that has red lipstick marks on it. The straw that was already in my drink! Not only are they reusing straws but not even washing it first? So grossed out.

Yeah, it still grosses me out thinking about it. 

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Filed under Foreign Service, Manila, Philippines, Traveling in Asia

Ooops, I did it again…

Remember the day we moved to Makati, and I showed up at home with this

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Well, last night after dinner at the Ayala Park, Karl was ahead of me as he was stopping by McDonalds to get us sundaes (another oops…), and as I walked with Lily I spotted this scared gray kitten, completely terrified and alone.

I don’t need to tell you that when I waved my husband back across the street that I was not his favorite person then.  But how can I leave a tiny kitten left to die like that?  (And I think 2 kittens in 2 years in a city where there are strays everywhere is a pretty good number, no?)

So we brought him home, and under the light I saw how filthy he really was.  Off to the sink with some pet soap he went, and after lots (and lots) of scrubbing, and a total of three wash-rinse cycles (for real!), we got all the fleas and dirt out, and turns out the gray kitten was actually white…

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And he might look well fed, thanks to his longer than usual fur, but he’s a skinny little thing once you touch him – you can feel every single rib and spine bone.  But we solved that problem by quickly feeding him after the bath (yay for not having to bottle feed again!), and boy, was he starving!

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And I even cuddled with him a bit on the couch.  He purrs like no cat I’ve ever seen, and loves to cuddle and knead.  So different than the other kitten who was a feisty little thing!

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Karl’s mean cold heart finally softened too, and he snuggled with the kitten today.

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Of course, we can’t keep him.  Not only a newborn is entering our lives soon, but Lucas made it clear to us (again!) that he is in a one-cat family (nothing like seeing your sweet grown cat madly hiss at a tiny kitten).

Vet is coming tomorrow, and hope to advertise him for adoption soon once he gets a clean bill of health.  He’s such a little snuggly thing, that hopefully won’t be too hard for him to find a good home!  (Anyone in Manila reading this wants to adopt a kitty?)

 

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Filed under Manila, Pictures, Random