Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Green Machine

Shortly after I got back from the states...

Lee: What are you making?

Me: Something delicious! I'm trying to suck up before I tell you how much money I spent in the states... (Clever. I know.)

Lee: Well, I hope you didn't spend too much money...

Me: Eh...

Lee: ... because I bought a stereo and an alarm for the car.

Me: Excuse me. You what?

Lee: *Big Goofy Grin*

Me: You bought a stereo...? And an alarm...? For tha..

Lee: For "The Green Machine!"

Me: The. Green. Machine...?????

Exhibit A

"The Green Machine"


You've got to be kidding me...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Survived Christmas 2009

I realize that people will make assumptions about me based on my blog entries, and that is 'unfortunate' because my posts are not intended to generalize the entire Filipino population.


The purpose of this blog is to illustrate the differences between the culture and lifestyle I was raised in, and the one I've been thrust into here in the Philippines. Not all of these experiences apply to everyone, but they all apply to me.


While spending the holidays here in the Philippines I attended seven different Christmas parties where I witnessed things like 'genuine generosity,' 'family bonding,' and 'heartfelt faith,' but these are things I have seen all parts of the world. Those are things that are not specific to the Philippines, but are representative of Christmas everywhere.


Therefore, I chose to focus my attention on the things that separate the Philippines from any other place I've ever been. And those things happened to be the vast display of homemade Christmas decorations, and the obnoxious and annoying... not so much, 'scary'... groups of "carolers," who don't so much sing, but instead blatantly ask for money.


Example...


Christmas morning.... Lee goes outside to take out the trash.


***


Boy: Merry Christmas.


Lee: Merry Christmas.


Boy: No. Merry. Christmas. Sir.


Lee: Merry Christmas.


Boy: You give me money. (Sticks his hand through the gate)


Lee: What? No. You give me money.


Boy: No. Carol sir.


Lee: You aren't caroling, you are just begging for money. Go "carol" somewhere else.


***


I'm all for Christmas, and giving and sharing; but I do not believe it is in the spirit of the holidays to feel entitled to something just because it is the holiday season.


Here in the Philippines, just like many other countries around the world, there are plenty of people who are less fortunate than others. These are the people that deserve a little extra help during the holidays, not the groups of perfectly well fed children that start ringing doorbells at 6:30 am Christmas morning.


Christmas should be a time to give and receive, but it should be something that is done from the heart, in the spirit of the season, not because it is expected of you. I can honestly say, that this holiday season in the Philippines has been a learning experience, and one that I will never forget.


I have been in the Philippines for eight months and I have experienced things that many people won't experience in a life time. Somethings have been challenging, and some have been life changing. There have been things I've never seen before... and some things I hope I never see again. All in all, it has been a privilege to share these experiences with you in 2009, and I hope there will be many more adventures in 2010.


Happy New Year!














Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Christmas is just a couple days away, but I feel like it can't come soon enough.

No place celebrates Christmas like the Philippines, so me, being the "grinch" that I am, could not have come to a worse place for Christmas.

Don't get me wrong... I don't hate Christmas. No matter the reason you celebrate Christmas, whether it's the birth of your Lord and Savior, getting together with family and friends, time off from work, Santa Claus, parties, having an excuse as to why you're getting fatter... whatever, Christmas is great. What I don't like about Christmas is the two month build up to get to that one day, and everything that's involved.

I don't like Christmas carols in October, or November... December is acceptable. Unless your name is Alvin and you and your friends are chipmunks, then I don't care what time of year it is, you better stay the hell away from me.

I hate cheesy Christmas decorations.

Christmas tree? Of course!
Lights? Great!
Stockings? My favorite!

Lawn ornaments? Especially the inflatable variety?? Unacceptable...


(My nightmare before Christmas...)

Not to mention the traffic, and the hordes of people at the mall. It does not make for a "holly or jolly Christmas" and it does not make me want to "grab a cup of cheer" unless by "cheer" they mean scotch, and then yes, I will have three large cups of cheer. (Actually, that totally makes sense... is that what that songs means??) And all you people standing in line at midnight the night after Thanksgiving you have lost your freakin' minds!

Most importantly I hate the stress of gift giving. Everyone is always complaining about getting their Christmas shopping done, and what to buy, and how they waited to the last minute, and their Christmas budget. Blah Blah Blah. It's excruciating. Is that what Christmas has become? Because if you ask me, it doesn't sound like, "the most wonderful time of the year."

Which reminds me, if I only see you once a year at Christmas, you aren't getting a present from me. First of all, I don't know what I would possibly get you, so the present you would receive, if I did buy something, would probably be some generic crappy present that would mean very little to you. Secondly, 90% of the people I know don't need anything anyway, and do you know how hard it is to buy for someone who already has everything? Shouldn't Christmas be more about helping others who could actually use it, and less about buying your great-aunt Sofie, who you never see, who you don't even like, and are embarrassed that you are related to, a present that will end up in the back of some closet along side every other piece of junk she's kept for the past seven decades? What a waste....

So before I conclude my Christmas tirade, and step down off this lovely soap box... I would just like to reiterate, that it is the behavior that this billion dollar industry called, Christmas, encourages that I don't like, not the things that Christmas is supposed to be about. The holiday season can really be a great time if you focus on the right things...

Also, I don't feel like receiving hate mail for my lack of Christmas enthusiasm. So just so we are clear... I don't hate baby Jesus... I don't even hate Santa Claus... although.. I don't really care for elves.... or snow, but there's no snow in the Philippines so not really an issue.

Whew... That might have been the longest tangent of all time...

So back to Christmas in the Philippines....

The Christmas decorations in our neighborhood had already started to go up when I got back from the states, the first week in November. It started out small just a couple here and there, and then it started to spread like a bad case of the chicken pox.

I fully intended on not participating....

The last couple weeks in November, the neighbors started coming around asking when I was going to put up Christmas lights...

Seriously?

I don't even think about Christmas until after December 1st. My neighbors didn't really understand this answer... so I finally just said I'd put them up soon. That made them feel better.
Plus, I didn't necessarily want them to know that the grinch lived on their street.

Two hundred dollars later we had Christmas lights and decorations...


Me: What's wrong with our lights?

Lee: They are LED lights.

Me: That's what they are supposed to look like?

Lee: I guess.

Me: It's ugly... but... we already put them up... and they won't take them back... which sucks because they were like $10 a strand.

Lee: $10 a strand?!

Me: oops...

...

Me: Wow, I really hate them. We are like one step away from being the Griswold's.

Lee: I've never seen Christmas Vacation...

Me: What?! You've never seen Christmas Vacation? Who are you? What kind of a childhood did you have? Get on the computer... we need to get it.

Lee: Eh... I think I've seen parts of it. I just don't really like any of the National Lampoon movies....

Me: WHAT! You probably just don't get get it... It's a level of humor you just don't understand.

.... You just don't have the intellect -
(At the same time)
Lee: Yes... I don't have the intelligilect -
Me: Wait... did you just say "intelligilect?"

Lee: Yes.. I was going to say intelligence... then you said intellect... and it got all confused...

Me: Yes, well it's obvious now that you do have the intelligilect for National Lampoon movies... my mistake.

Lee: Shut up.


Our Street...


A Creepy Manger Scene...



The symbol of Christmas in the Philippines... apparently... you can't walk five feet without seeing one of these stars.





This was at the beginning... Christmas decorations have since multiplied and my camera doesn't do justice to the neon glow of our neighborhood.

In addition to the plethora of Christmas decor, the Philippines has acquired more than a fair share of beggars in the last few months, and they come in all varieties.

***

Lee: I saw a guy with no pants on walking down the street today.

Me: Really? You don't seem very surprised. Is it normal for you to see naked men on your drive to work?

Lee: No, I was told he is here for Christmas.

***
Apparently, the native people living in the mountains make their way down around Christmas time in order to beg for money. The police try to enforce a proper dress code, although many aren't concerned with things like pants.

Many children come down from the mountain as well. Thankfully, they come fully dressed but they bring drums. They are quite persistent... running through the streets, tapping their drums and jumping on jeepneys to seek out the generous individuals.

This type of begging is one thing... it's an entirely different situation when people come to your house, ring your doorbell and disguise it as caroling.

In the Philippines children, and sometimes adults, go around the neighborhoods singing Christmas carols... sort of a lost art in the states. But here, they expect something in return... and they want money.

I was shocked.

First of all, I've had enough of this whole singing bit. Not to mention they are singing Christmas carols... only one of which I understand... and apparently it's the only one they know in english. Do you know how many times I've heard, "Wish we wish you a Merry Christmas?"

Secondly, I'm not going to pay someone to perform a service I don't want in the first place. Especially when it isn't deserved.

***

Lee and I walking around the neighborhood, taking pictures of the lights....

Kids: Carol Ma'am

*ignore*

Kids: Carol Ma'am

Me: hmm... Hi.

Kids: Caroling Ma'am.

Me: Well, then go carol.

Kids: Carol Ma'am. (holding their hands out.)

Lee: You aren't even singing

Me: You've got to be kidding... you can't just say carol.

Kids: Carol Ma'am.

Me: Are they serious?

***

This is the kind of crap I'm talking about. We had been told that once you start to give out money, they will be back every night ringing your doorbell repeatedly until you answer. Lucky for us... we don't have one. Suckers.

But they still "sing" at the top of their lungs and bang on the gate... so Lee and I have gotten in the habit of hiding.

***

Lee: Psst. Psst.

Me: What? (Walking toward the living room)

Lee: Don't. Move.

Me: Why? Is there a spider?

Lee: No. Listen...

Kids: Caroling! Caroling!

I hid behind the wall... while Lee stayed very still, sitting in front of the window, wide eyed on the couch...

Lee: Do you think they can see us?

Me: I don't know... just wait... maybe they will leave.

***

After a week of hiding we decided there had to be a better way...

***

Me: Maybe we should just sit on the balcony and throw water balloons at them...

Lee: No... then it would turn into a game... and they would always come back just so they could dodge water balloons... Dog poop?

Me: Can we light it on fire?

***

After another week they started to wear on our defenses... but I had decided that once it got a little closer to Christmas we would start handing out some coins.

Lee runs in from outside...

Lee: I saw some coming! I think they saw me.

I immediately hid behind the kitchen door, and then we heard the little voices. But they were actually singing... and they sounded so small...

Lee's eyes got really big...

"No," I whispered.

Then he gave me the sad look...

"No. Not yet."

Then came the pouty bottom lip...

"Ugh! Seriously? We said we weren't handing out money for another week!"

Head nod...

"Fine!"

***

After that we started to give out coins more regularly and it was kind of a relief not to have to hide so much. And we were able to sit out on our balcony again, which rocked!

Me: So... I brought the jar of coins up here, because I figured we'd get carolers... but I don't want to go down there to give it to them... do you know how many times I'll have to walk up and down the stairs? Is it bad if we just throw them from here?

Lee: Nah...

After the first two groups of carolers we had successfully thrown coins at children without causing any major injuries...

Lee: Yeah... I can't do this... I feel like a complete ass throwing money off the balcony.

Me: You're right. Damn.

So we digressed... back to hiding.

***

"We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Haapppy Neeewww Yeeaaar!"





Friday, December 18, 2009

Giving Thanks

Well, the holiday season is here...

Actually, it's been here in the Philippines since September 30th... the first day they started playing Christmas carols over the loud speaker in the mall. Annoying? Yes.

Don't get me wrong... I like Christmas carols... well, most of the time. But only between the days of December 1st and December 25th.

There are many important holidays in the month of November, that are often over shadowed by the Christmas charade. Like Thanksgiving... and my birthday.

We are spending the holidays in the Philippines this year and so far so good!

There was Thanksgiving... which we were slightly worried about... since it is an American holiday. But about a month before Thanksgiving the stores started to stock up on turkeys, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and many of the other traditional fares which encourage us American's to a day of laziness and gluttony. The only thing we couldn't find was sweet potatoes... which really didn't bother me.

When it comes to Thanksgiving my plate still looks like it did when I was a child. I make myself try one bite of everything... just in case my taste buds have magically transformed in the last year... but I really only like, turkey, mashed potatoes, and rolls.

Sweet potatoes...? Sick.

Gravy...? Blah.

Stuffing...? I would rather die.

Pecan Pie...? No way.

Pumpkin Pie...? I will consider more than one bite if I can top it with the entire container of cool whip.

Not only was it our first Thanksgiving in the Philippines, but it was mine and Lee's first Thanksgiving as a married couple.

Me: Is there anything special you want me to make for Thanksgiving? You know... something that your family traditionally has every year? My mom always makes that strawberry salad... so I'm going to make that, and...

Lee: No.

Me: oookkk...

Lee: All I want is fooootbaaall. (In a very whiny, pathetic voice that should have only come from a toddler)

But he was right... we definitely missed football.

And I didn't even get to eat allll daaay as usual! In my family we get together around two, we... eat ...watch football ...snack ...sleep... maybe get outside and do something if we can move... and then go back for round two.

This year, in the Philippines, we did Thanksgiving as a group with all the expats from Lee's company. Since Thanksgiving isn't a Filipino holiday, they had to work that day... so we didn't get together until six that evening. But we still managed to stuff ourselves silly.

(There is a picture floating around somewhere of Lee and his plate of 5 pieces of pie... when I find it I will post it here for your viewing pleasure.)




Tuesday, December 15, 2009

boogle me this...

Driving down a street in Manila... I came across this...

Based on the fine print it appears to be some type of internet cafe/kinko's...??
But boogle?
What does that even mean...?
I'm confused.

Only in the Philippines...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Only in the Philippines...

Almost everyday I see something that I'm not sure happens any where else in the world. (If it does... I haven't seen it any place I've ever been.) So it has inspired the phrase, "Only in the Philippines..." and we use it often.

For example, we were driving home from the golf course last week and there was a man in a tricycle with an infant in one hand, and holding on to a flailing chicken by the legs in the other. Dinner I presume.

Me: Do you think you would see that anywhere else in the world?

Lee: Only in the Philippines...

Me: I mean, do they even sell car seats in this country?

Lee: Definitely not.

***

Then yesterday, I was in the front yard when a carabao (water buffalo) passed by. (Fairly normal. I live in Texas... there tend to be cows around from time to time... cows... carabao... whatev.) But... he was pulling behind him two large logs... on those logs?? A washing machine. I stood there with my mouth open... too shocked to run get my camera... I'm seriously hoping that happens again.

***
Then there is always the signage. Inevitably, there will be a translational error...


"What's your step!!!"

***

And then today, while stuck in traffic on our way to Alabang...

Me: So... is it just not important to have a license plate here?

Lee: I don't know...

Me: I see so many cars with no license plate... and then some of the ones that do have a license plate have that dark shield over them so you can't read them anyway...

A few minutes later....

Lee: HAHAHAHA... well look at that...




Me: Awesome. Only in the Philippines...

These are just a few of things that have happened in the last couple days... so, I decided to share these, and keep you updated with, "Only in the Philippines..." It keeps me entertained over here... you never know what you're going to see next.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

God Bless America

I had been away from the states for seven months, so there were plenty of things I missed. My family took me out for Mexican food as soon as I landed, and we made a pit stop at Target on the way home. (Oh, Target... how I love thee...)

I have to admit I went to Target eight times in two weeks. Most of the time I didn't really need anything... I just wanted to touch stuff.

I also made a list of all the things I wanted to eat while I was back, and I can say I succeeded in eating every single thing. The list is as follows:

Mexican Food
Milk
Corn Dogs
Turkey Sandwiches
Ranch Dip & Ruffles
Eggo Waffles
Blue Cheese Dressing
Pizza
Babe's Fried Chicken
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Carmel Rolls
Coca Cola Ribs
Taco Salad

As you can tell... I'm a real health nut.

I even enjoyed going to Walmart! Walmart... the place that used to spark minor panic attacks... (you should see the Walmart by my parent's house... I swear it houses a whole different breed of people.) ... now seemed to have an awe factor. They have everything there! There is a whole row dedicated to paper towels... Did you know this? At my grocery store in the Philippines, they usually have about five rolls in stock... total. At Walmart you could buy a life time supply of paper towels in one trip. Amazing.

While there were things I missed about being home there were definitely things I could live without. Although, most of these qualities can be found worldwide... it makes my skin crawl when fellow American's illustrate these behaviors.

1. UNNECESSARY RUDENESS

On the airplane from Japan to Dallas...

Sweet Japanese Man: (In broken english) Excuse Ma'am. Where can I put carry on? Full here. Is there room in other bins?

McBitchy AA Flight Attendant: Ugh! I don't know... is there?

Sweet Japanese Man: *confused*

McBitchy AA Flight Attendant: Is that your bag? Ugh! That's to big to carry on anyway.... take it to the front.


McBitch... right?! I'm sorry... is it not your job to "attend" to passengers on the airplane? It's in her fancy freakin' job title... if she's not going to be helpful, then we should just call her what she really is... a rude, overpaid waitress.

She continued for the entire 12 hour flight... I wanted to say something but my fear of being kicked off the plane and left in Japan was far too great.

McBitchy AA Flight Attendant: Can I get you something to drink???..... CAN I GET YOU SOMETHING TO DRINK???... CAN. I. GET. YOU. SOMETHING. TO. DRINK.?

And later...

McBitchy AA Flight Attendant: Chicken or Beef. CHICK-EN oooorrrr BEEEEEEEFF....

Seriously, American Airlines should consider putting people with some patience on international flights where 75% of the people don't speak fluent English or even consider some bilingual staff.

I mean, the pilot could speak Japanese... or at least he could say, "Welcome to American Airlines flight 060, thank you for flying with us today and we hope you enjoy your flight." (Ok... who am I kidding... I don't know if he said that. But that's what he said in english... so I can only assume...)

Not only that, but generally the Asian cultures go over and above expectations when it comes to service... so they are probably shocked when someone in the service industry is so rude.

Way to go McBitchy... you just made us all look like a bunch of assholes. I'm sure every Japanese person on that plane, who has never been to America, is just thrilled to meet us now.

I seriously considered writing American Airlines a letter.

Me: Maybe I should write American Airlines a letter and tell them how rude their staff is, and how they aren't making a very good first impression on people. After all, they are called, "American Airlines."

Lee: Yeah, you should totally do that!

Me: Really? You think I should?

Lee: Of course! Maybe we will get a free flight!

Me: What....?

Lee: Yeah! I called the Jack in the Box 800 number one time, to complain, and they sent me coupons for a bunch of free stuff!

Me: Yeah... I don't think it's the same.

***

2. STUPIDITY

Red Neck Man - Looook honey, we have our own TV screens!

Clueless Wife - Yes, how do you make it work? (Poke Poke Poke)

Red Neck Man - Ma'am. Ma'am! We can't get our TVs a workin.

Less Bitchy Flight Attendant: Sir, the screens will begin working after take off.

Red Neck Man - Yeah... we can't make 'em work.

Clueless Wife - *poke poke poke*

Well, Clueless Wife sat directly behind me... and continued to forcefully poke her screen... aka... the back of my head for 15 freakin' minutes.

(Yes, please poke the screen as hard as you can... that will make it work... good thinking... idiots.)

Red Neck Man - Technology these days....

No sir. You are just a moron.

***

3. PARENTAL INCOMPETENCE

Nobody likes to see people with babies on long flights. Especially me. I have very little patience for strange children... especially the crying variety. Inevitably, there are all always crying children on my flights... and they always sit near me. Honestly, I think God is punishing me.

Well, low and behold there is a crying child on our 12 hour flight. But what can you do... babies cry. So, yelling at a baby won't do me much good... plus, then I'd be the asshole and not Lady McBitch.

So I put in my head phones and turn up "My Sister's Keeper" as loud as it can go.

12 hours and one giant headache later... we get off the plane.

To my surprise... "little crying baby..." turns out to be a freakin five-year-old. WTF?!

If I would have known this, I would have flung the kid and his parents out of the emergency exit a long time ago! I see no reason why a five-year-old should cry for 12 hours straight... that ladies and gentleman is why they invented NyQuil.

***

4. DOUCHE-Y-NESS

At the bar....

Douche - So... you come here often?

Me: Seriously...? That's what you're opening with?

Douche - Haha.

Me: Yeah. Funny. But to answer your question, no... I live in the Philippines. (The best part about this is..."I live in the Philippines" sounds like the equivalent of "No, I'm busy tonight... washing my hair." But... this time it's the truth! Awesome.)

Douche - Philippines huh? Crazy.

Me: Yeah, so... anyway... nice to meet you. (Trying to be polite... dying to be a bitch.)

Douche - When do you go back?

Me: Soon. Well, have a good night...

Douche - Well, I don't see why you can't have one crazy night... ya know.

Me: Excuse me...?

Douche - Yeah, you know.... live free.

Me: Live free....?

Douche - Live free... one night before you go back to the Philippines.

Me: Wow... I didn't think things could get more awkward, seeing as how this conversation began... but it definitely has... So I'm just going to say no. For multiple, multiple reasons.... No. The most important one being I'm married.... ( A flash of the ring.)

Douche - Married?! (A long drink of his beer... and he's gone.)

Moral of the story? A wedding ring is kryptonite for Douche-Man. If I would have known how powerful this thing was, I would have started wearing one years ago... seriously! It works way better than saying you have herpes... or that you're a lesbian... believe me... I've said both. The scariest thing you can say to a 25-year-old man is marriage... keep that in mind.

***

5. SNOBBYNESS

Dear Young People of Dallas,

Congratulations on being better than everyone else. You must be very excited for yourselves, and thankful for all those people who made this possible. Starting with your yuppie fathers... because really, if it wasn't for his credit card you'd be living pay-check to pay-check in your "high powered" corporate entry level position.

Secondly, you should thank your employer for giving you such a fancy title... "Junior Executive" or "Associate Manager" sounds so much better than "Copy Maker," "Phone Answerer," or "Ass Kisser." No amount of bragging to your friends would make those titles impressive.

And last but not least, you should thank each other. Because without your fellow Dallasites you wouldn't have a bunch of over-dressed, unappreciative, and small minded idiots to compete with. It is this "Keeping up with the Jones's" mentality that has made Dallas what it is today, and America for that matter.

Your Biggest Fan,

Keely


In the bathroom line... at the bar...

Me: I like your hat.

Snobby Girl: (Looks me up and down... rolls her eyes...) Thanks....

Me: Ok... well, I don't really like your hat. But I couldn't stop staring at the chunk of feathers attached your fat head so I figured I should say something....

(Ok, you're right... I didn't say that. I'm not that ballsy... and I don't have a death wish. That chick was way bigger than me... she would have squished me... plus, my shoes were too cute to take them off and beat her with them.)

God Bless America... we need it.

:)



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Japanese Conspiracy

Like I said in the last post, I went back to the states for a few weeks.

Normally, I would have done something obnoxious like start a countdown of the weeks, then the days and then the hours until I was kissing the ground at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, but I was surprising two of my best friends. And since they are two of the three people that read my blog, I kept my mouth shut. Which is a really a miracle in itself.

On my way to the states I had a 5-hour lay-over in Japan, which was really quite torturous since I couldn't catalog my every move via Facebook, Twitter or TUH because of my covert operation.

So I wrote the following in the airport...

***

The Japanese are conspiring against us. I'm sorry, but it's true.

First of all, what's up with those funny letters? Nobody understands that business... I find myself staring at airport signs thinking that if I look long enough, maybe I can decipher the code. Think about it... they did this on purpose.

And that whole bowing bit? It turns into a series of bows that just becomes awkward. They bow, I bow, they bow, I bow, they bow, I bow... it never ends... and it makes me look stupid. Their plan, I'm sure.

Now, if things weren't bad already... get this.... They all decided to wear masks now. I can literally feel the symptoms of H1N1 taking over my body right now... just by looking at them.
They are weakening my defenses.

Also, look what I found in the bathroom...

Yes. That is a toilet
Yes. It's a hole... in the ground.
Yes. I took a picture in a public bathroom.
And no, I don't know how to use it either.

Those things should really come with an instructional video...

The upside to the Japanese bathrooms? They have super powered hand dryers, made by who else? But Mitsubishi! Awesome. I've been hanging out in the bathroom for a large part of my layover... which kind of makes me sound creepy and weird... or it's all part of the plan to keep us distracted.

To make things even worse... it took me about 30 minutes to find food. If you know me, you know what happens when I get hungry... it's not a pretty picture. All the signs and directories pointed me to shopping and smoking areas.

So basically, they want to take our money and/or give us lung cancer... They hid the restaurants behind, "Narita 5th Avenue." I had to wade through Chanel, Gucci, and Burberry to find food. They obviously know my weaknesses... well played Japan, well played.

I should have been more prepared when coming to Japan, that is for sure. I didn't learn any Japanese... I am only here for 5 hours... but I should have at least learned, "Thank You," or "Excuse Me," or something polite, even if they are conspiring against us. I blame it on my "arrogant americanism," but it's not my fault it's in my blood.

On the upside, not knowing Japanese led to some awesome conversations in the restaurant which included me speaking English, the waitress speaking Japanese, pointing, sign language and bowing. Most incredible.

Also, what the heck is a Yen? I mean I know what it is, but I need to know the value in relation to an American dollar, or a Filipino piso.... even a Euro.

Lunch = 2000 Y

My expert math skills... a.k.a... punching randomness into my phone says, that equals $176 USD.

Now that can't be right... I'm either deliriously tired... or a little bit drunk... probably both. If that's the case my spicy shrimp bowl, glass of wine and an orange is way over priced. Japan is expensive.

This only heightens my suspicions....

***

P.S. - After much needed rest, and a bit more sobriety I figured out my lunch cost about $24 USD... I think.

P.P.S. - Happy Thanksgiving from the Philippines!!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vacation Cliff Notes Style... Well, sort of.

I haven't written in a while... mostly because I've been in the states, which was marvelous and terrific and wonderful and every other word that means awesome! I have plenty to say about that... but I have yet to finish the stories of my vacation. Stories which involve Lee being a sucker... adventures of searching for the perfect hotel room... toilets with super powers... a prostitution beach and a potentially deadly floating bar.

Sounds like a lot for one vacation? I know.

The point is... I have to finish these stories before I can write about anything else, because everything must be in chronological order... because I'm OCD like that. So here is the rest of our vacation... in Cliff Note form. Enjoy!

***
"Lee being a sucker"

Many a blog entry has been written due to the things that come out of Lee's mouth... Example...

And here is one more....

Lee is a sucker. Plain. And. Simple. He's the guy who listens to the wild tales of homeless people and every con man's sales pitch. (One time... Lee bought "VIP" tickets for a club in Vegas, from a guy on the strip named "Z." Eighty dollars later we found out that there was nothing VIP about it. Not that I was surprised. Never trust a guy with one letter in his name...)

So.. these people know he is an easy sale...

Souvenir Selling Lady #1: Ma'am you buy from me! Ma'am you buy!

Me: I'll look, but I'm not going to buy. Thanks.

Souvenir Selling Lady #2: Sir! You buy from me sir! I'll give you good price.

Hassan: No.

Souvenir Selling Lady #3: Sir, you buy from me?

Lee: Ok.

Souvenir Selling Lady #4: No Sir, you buy from me. Sir!

Lee: Ok.

Souvenir Ladies: No, Sir.. buy from me. Sir please, please buy from me.

Etc... etc..

Within ten seconds he was surrounded by five women... he was trapped.

When he emerged he carried 4 koozies. (Although they are really more like baskets than koozies... so not really very practical.... but hey, if you ever need a beer size basket, Lee's your man.)

Me: You're a sucker.

Lee: Whatever. These are pretty cool.

Me: *silence*

Lee: Ok... But they surrounded me! I didn't know what to do! How did y'all get out of it?

Hassan: We just said no.

Lee: (defeated and pissed) Yeah, ok... I'm a sucker.

That night at dinner...

Hassan: I swear, just about every straw I've gotten here is broken... these straws suck.

Lee: Yeah, and these toothpicks sucks too. Everything sucks here! They can't make toothpicks or straws... They spend all their time making shitty souvenirs.


Awesome.

***

After two nights at Coco Beach we wanted to check out something new. After riding through the choppy water in a death capsule we made it to Sabang Beach. We didn't have a reservation... but once we were safely on shore I decided the resort I wanted to stay in just happened to be the big white one... on the opposite end of the beach. So the three of us drug three suitcases, a beach bag and a computer bag through the sand and over the rocks all the way across the beach.


And that was only the beginning...

We then proceeded to look at just about every room in the facility... we went up stairs and down stairs, around the pool, through the restaurant, upstairs, then downstairs, to get a key, to unlock another room, to see a room that was under construction, to go back upstairs, to go back downstairs, and then do it all over again.



An hour later... we ended up in our a room a sweaty mess... but it was totally worth it.

Not only because the room rocked... but because it had a cereal bowl shaped bath tub in the middle of the room and a toilet with super powers!

I got in the bath tub immediately. Because seriously... what is cooler than a cereal bowl shaped bathtub? In the middle of the room? And I didn't even mention that it had claw feet! Of course... there was no time for me to actually fill the tub with water... so naturally I just sat in it. No water. Fully dressed.


Photo: Courtesy of Hassan... an unplanned action shot...


Then he realized you could see Lee's reflection in the mirror... so we continued with the cheesy photo shoot.

Then... we found the toilet. (Which wasn't too difficult seeing as how the bathroom only had half walls and there was no door. I made it clear very early on that any bath room breaks of the number "two" variety would need to be taken in the lobby bathroom facilities. ThankYouVeryMuch.) This was a toilet like no other I've seen. I didn't even get a picture because I was too shocked to think clearly.

Me: Hey! Come look at this toilet. It has a remote control!

Hassan: Sweet!

Me: Look all these buttons... what do you think they do?

Hassan: I don't know... let's find out.

Button Number 1....

Me: What is that?

Hassan: What's it doing?

Me: Oh no way.... a little arm is coming out from under the toilet bowl...

Hassan: It's squirting water!

Me: Awesome!

Hassan: Ok, try this one.

Button Number 2...

Me: Dryer.... very nice.... So, what do you think the smiley face button does?

Button Number 3...

Lee: What the hell is that?

Hassan: Hahahahaha

Me: Oh-my-god! Turn it off! The water is hitting the ceiling!!

Lee: The water is coming over the wall and getting everything wet!

Me: Smiley face indeed....

***

Soon after we got to the hotel things started to happen which ultimately led us to discover we were on a beach built for prostitutes.

Me: Hey... there are condoms in the mini bar! Condoms! What the hell? What kind of place is this?

This was Clue #1...

In the part of the Philippines where we live, girls don't even wear two piece swimsuits... they play religious songs in the mall... and they blast prayers through a mega phone throughout town. I have yet to see any form of contraception... even in drug stores... so you can imagine my surprise to find three condoms for 30 pisos in the hotel mini bar.

Clue #2... was found walking towards the restaurants and bars later that night....

Me: Check out some of these girls outfits... talk about sass! O.M.G.

Clue #3... at the "bar."

Me: So... there are a lot of older white men here with young filipino girls... Where do you think they are from? Do you think they all live in Manila?

Lee: Yeah, I don't know.

Me: They probably just come down here on the weekends.

Clue #4... later... at the "bar."

Me: Have you seen that girl over there?!

Hassan: Umm... yeah!

Me: What the hell is she doing? I can see her panties!

Hassan: I know. Did you see what she just did to that pool stick?

Me: Yeah... that's really dirty...

...

Me: So guys... I was thinking... and I think we are in a whore house.

It was like all of a sudden everything became so clear...

DING DING DING DING DING!!!!


(The next day we saw this sign in one of the bars... it used to say: "The most shooters in one night at the point bar 2,068 New Year's Eve 2006. Can you beat it?" Someone had since erased the "s" and changed the "t" to a "k"... and it now reads: "The most hookers in one night at the point bar 2,068 New Year's Eve 2006. Can you beat it?" Awesome.)

***

Dear Lonely Planet,
While I enjoy the assistance your guide offers while traveling in the Philippines, in the future I would appreciate a bit more detail when it comes to the description of beaches such as Sabang.

Your current description states:

"By day it's relaxed while divers dive and drinkers sleep; around sunset a metamorphosis takes place as watering holes open, barflies settle in, music cranks up and all types of nightlife emerge."

Watering holes open? True.

Barflies settle in? I guess you could say that.

Music cranks up? Sure, why not?

Now, the part I'm having trouble with is the, "all types of nightlife emerge." I feel that a more accurate description would read as follows:

"... watering holes open, barflies settle in, music cranks up and shameless old men can be seen with one, or maybe two, of the scantily clad ladies, of the whorish variety, whom stand post every few feet. "

Please take into consideration these changes before printing your next addition of, Lonely Planet: Philippines.

Regards,

Keely

***

If the sign wasn't enough, our suspicions of prostitution were confirmed the next day when we talked to some creepy man on a potentially deadly floating bar. Apparently, everyone goes to Sabang for one of two reasons... diving and/or "nightlife," and everyone knows it. There's no shame in it. In fact, I'm sure everyone thought we were the weird ones... 3 young Americans... 1 girl... 2 guys... and zero hookers. Hmmm....




Floating Bar. In theory... excellent idea. In reality... death trap. With every wave I thought the top level would come crashing down on us, as it squeaked and buckled under the pressure of the wind and water. Not to mention that I was almost thrown overboard trying to get to the bathroom. And I would like to point out that I was totally sober... imagine what happens when drunk people need to pee! That bar is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Then there is the slide... looks awesome I know. That is until the random little kids climb on board and start running around the bar, jumping off the second level, and shooting off the slide.

Me: There are kids... in a bar... this is inappropriate.

Lee: I know, right! I mean, I don't care if their mom's are whores... they shouldn't be here.

Ha! I love him.

***

Later that night we set out to find out all about Sabang prostitution...

The chef at one of the resorts told us you can get them delivered to your room for 50 USD a night. Interesting...

We also found out that there are no ATM's on the beach... which is strange seeing how prostitution is a cash based business.


Lee: I don't have much cash left we need to find an ATM, but I haven't see one yet.

Me: Well, they have to have one... it's not like hookers take credit.

Hassan: Hey man, we need to get some cash... do you know where we can find an ATM?

German Gentleman: Sorry, don't know. We came prepared.

Hassan: Ha... alright, thanks buddy.

Me: Sick.

The only ATM was in the town 30 minutes away. Now, that's just not good business...

***

Later, we got beat by a hooker in pool... repeatedly... she beat all three of us. A few drinks in and I started to ask her questions... I found out...

- She's 21... so legal... that's a plus
- She was "entertaining" an Austrian, who was actually about our age. He was there with his Dad. Classy.
- She taught me how to flirt in Tagalog. Well, not really. She taught me how to say "Nice ass," which in my book is more sexual harassment than anything else. But when dealing with hookers, one probably doesn't need to work on their pick-up lines...

***

So that's was our trip... all in all I would say it was very.... umm... educational.

Gah! This post was long... so much for Cliff Notes...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carabao Adventures

*Highlights of our Carabao cart ride Adventure*


Right off the bat... we break the axle on our cart... it was so Oregon Trail.

(I just Googled to find a screen shot of the Oregon Trail Game so everyone could remember what an awesome game it was... and Google told me I could play the original Oregon Trail Game! Online! For Free! I have been trying to do that for the past 30 minutes... Google is a liar. Now I have about 10 useless plug-ins and most likely a virus. Thanks a lot Google....)


***

On our way...


Stop for a potty break...


(Note to Driver: Next time, "Privacy Shield" should be held up a bit longer in order to avoid Keely getting drops of liquid poo on her forehead...)

***

Hidden Paradise


Photo shoot with a stranger begins...





(Note to French Man: I am not a photographer... Yes, I will take a picture of you, but no I do not want to spend 15 minutes taking your picture from various angles... (even though I did.) And no I will not put your camera strap over my head... it reeks of B.O. I am not an idiot... I will not drop your camera in the water. Additionally, you are certainly not a model... no matter how much you "adjust" yourself in your tiny man shorts, flex your abs, lean "seductively" against rocks, and stare off into the distance. Please stop. Not only are you embarrassing yourself, but I don't know how much longer I can keep a straight face...)

***

Me: That looks dangerous... I don't think we should go any further...

Lee: No, we are exploring. It's fun!

Me: Well, I'm getting parched... it's tiring being a pioneer...


"Exploring..."

(Note to Lee & Hassan: You guys are assholes. I am hanging on for dear life, hoping I won't get washed away in the rapids and you guys are laughing and taking pictures instead of helping me. And no Hassan, I do not look like a cat who can't get out of water...)

***

My husband... he has no fear of death...

video

(No... not death... just fear of something poking him in the butt. Awesome.)

***

Me: I don't want to go this way... I've had dreams about places like this... see all those vines... in my dreams they turn to snakes... and it totally sucks.

(Obviously... they didn't care.)

***
And to bring the day full circle... Lee sits down for lunch... and crack...


Lee: Wow... I'm really not feeling good about myself... first the axle and now the bench...

***