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.

:)