Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Scary World Of....

... Raw Veggies.

That's right. With all the adjustment to the new foods (dead and living) here and trying to find things that do not contain oyster sauce or squid, I have found something that completely grosses out the team here: RAW CARROTS.

I neglected to mention previously that a few of my favorite ladies on the project bought me a "hard boiled egg" which was a balut in actuality. It contained a real (but dead) half-developed baby bird inside. I almost threw up and that is not a joke. The balut is a delicacy here and everybody eats them.

However, today I brought peeled and thoroughly washed raw carrots as part of my lunch, and I thought poor Abby and Rax were going to lose it. No one there had ever eaten a raw carrot, or had even thought of possibly eating one. Finally Rax tried one and said "It's nice!" Maybe I should feel guilty for not eating the balut, but I really don't. My reaction would not be "it's nice."

Hey, Chris and Lisa - are my posts getting to be a better length for you now ;)

Quiz Time:
Which of these is NOT

Fresh New Video!

Alright, I'm trying to figure out the process for uploading video to Blogger...it's not as easy as it looks, considering I initially shot it as high quality as possible; the resulting file size rendering a death blow to most internet connections. I've got it scaled down enough to have it play on my system, which certainly isnt the best. Let me know if you have any problems viewing it.

This clip is of "normal" traffic patterns in the city.
No stop signs, yields, traffic lights, cops, etc...just one big multi-lane intersection of free-for-all fun!

Powered by Castpost

Here's the link to the clip if it doesn't play here.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Determined not to let this food thing lick me, today we went grocery shopping, and I spent the better part of the afternoon prepping, cleaning the veggies (we are talking individual leaves of peche soaking in veggie wash), chopping, storing, etc. I cooked a pumpkin and brown rice for lunch, which tasted very good, and there are some left overs for Tim to eat for one of his lunches next week. At least for this next week, we should be fine.
If all else fails, there's always fresh squid.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Man Cannot Live By Carbs Alone

Yes, I know... There is a National State of Emergency in this country, and here I am mostly disgruntled because I am finally realizing that all those times I couldn't eat the food I ordered because vegetarian meant plus squid, shrimp, etc. were not just anomalies. I think vegetarian in the Philippines includes seafood, and since we can't always communicate well enough to specify no seafood, we are in a bad spot menu-wise.

This is my second weekend in a row with a very upset stomach due to eating not enough, eating poorly, or inadvertently eating something in my food that made me sick. None of this reflects badly on the Philippines, since part of me expected this to happen. At home I eat exclusively organic food, vegetarian products, and I have to go through some strict adherence to food prep and sanitation standards to avoid being sick, because my immune system isn't the best. Given I'm used to that, almost everything here is going to make me sick unless I stick to as bland a diet as possible and never leave my apartment, except maybe to roll to and from work in a giant biosphere.

Tonight Tim and I decided a good remedy would be to just plan out our meals with the 4-5 things that we know won't make me sick (from past experience) and just cycle through those. Most of these will be meals prepared from grocery store bought food, since our last several meals ordered have been a waste of money which we cannot afford right now. Tim remarked that it will be like when we worked at camp with the same menu recycled each week ;)

For those of you interested, here are our planned meals to be varied for suppers:
  • Corn on the Cob and Pumpkin Soup
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  • Taco Salad
  • Squash and Vegetables
  • Pasta and Sauce
  • Homemade Avacado Rolls (sushi)
And, since Tim is not a vegetarian and once in awhile might need some extra meat, once in awhile:
  • Chicken/Salmon with potatoes and cooked spinach

We stuck around the area of our apartment today. We are a little bored, but things seem OK safety wise for now. Thank you all for your expressed concern!
Yeah, its been a bit of a frustrating day...

Having to be stuck in this small area for safety reasons, we decided to enjoy some of the provided ammenities of our building; spending some time in the sun reading books by the pool and then out on the roof patio. Decided to splurge on some room-service fare outside, which tasted fabulous at the time, but ended up making Kendra sick.

Back in Philly the never-fail cure for any ailment is a good round of miso soup with tofu, avocado rolls, vegetable tempura and edamame (thank you, Kisso! -4th & Race). There's a Japanese place right around the corner, but wouldnt you know it- no edamame, no avacado, the tofu was super soft (read: slimy), and the vegetable temoura was found to have bits of fried shrimp and squid-- discovered after I got home, of course.

Plus, it seemed that every citizen of Manila was in the area for a Sunday stroll. Now, I've come to appreciate the Filipino culture as much slower paced, but walking around today was like trying to drive in suburban New Jersey.

Hey! Here's the pefect solution to a crappy day! Found this bottle of liquid goodness packaged with 4 free cans of San Mig Strong Ice beer! (Kendra won't touch either drink!) A full 2 days in the freezer, and we're ready to rock! Ahh..the memories of Barnaby's!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Live: From Ayala Ave!

Yesterday morning: Received under the door of our Unit a note from the building management explaining how traffic would be shut down around the area today due to: "...Makati City hosting a confetti parade and wreath-laying ceremony..." Hey! A parade! Sounds like fun!

After Kendra left for work this morning, I needed to go out to re-load my phone with minutes and to pick up some more groceries, so I prepped myself with my camera bag, fresh batteries and a newly formatted 512 MB CF card, just in case this "confetti parade" proved interesting from a photographers point of view.

Around 10am, Kendra called and said that her senior manager, Andy, had mentioned that this "parade" would be of political design and although the overall attitude would be peacefull, it may be wise for me to stay out of the parade route until it was all over. Just what I need to hear for further incentive for getting to where the action is!

About 30 minutes later, Kendra gets an e-mail from WorldCue, the global business travel agency used by Accenture:

"This alert affects the Philippines: A State of National Emergency has been declared after a foiled coup attempt in Manila, Philippines, Feb. 24. Security situation unsettled. Avoid protests & the Malacanang Palace area.

Authorities have detained at least two military officers who were the alleged ringleaders of a group of disgruntled soldiers and police who intended to join anti-government demonstrations in Metro Manila on Feb. 24 with the apparent intention of inciting a mass uprising. The decree suspends some constitutional rights, but the decision to invoke the order indicates the perceived seriousness of the situation.

It is rare that travelers and expatriates are directly targeted during civil unrest, but they can be targeted if they work at or patronize a business or government that is the direct target of the unrest. People may also be harmed simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas or other measures to control crowds."

I get a phone call- it's Kendra, who reads me this message along with a message from my Dad who is laid up at home with the flu and has seen this situation develop on CNN. I'm forbidden (by both of them!) from taking any pictures or from being in the area at all. Andy is concerned for her saftey, seeing that she is a high-profile expat, and will sending her home early with one of the guys to walk her home.

A parade is one thing: rioters, water cannons and tear gas are quite another. (Even as this is prime quality visual human drama, I'm not being paid to put my life on the line for a good shot!). So I head in the direction of home, managing to capture only 2 good images from the gathering Philippine National Police force (See below).

At home, I turn on the local news station to follow the events and see this:
Now this wasn't terribly close to our area, but the plan was for the former President to make her way down Ayala Ave to get to the statue of her murdered husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino -right past Kendra's building. I called her and said it might be a good idea to leave NOW!

As it turns out, as Kendra and her escort Jhude exited the building, the area was becoming thick with people on the street and with military convoys in riot gear setting up barricades.

She arrived home safely and we're watching the events unfold from the confines of our building. It looks as if the thousands of people marching down Ayala and around the statue have been a pretty peaceful bunch, but were glad to not be in the middle of it (we're seeing Kendra's building surrounded by masses of people on the chopper-cam as we speak). We'll see what the next few days bring.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Good Things/ Bad Things

Today (and this entire week, actually) have been very trying for me work-wise. We've had the typical dose of poor coordination, conflicting goals, and frustration, but with the added misfortunate of extreme bad luck. Oh well - we'll have this.

Today two nice things happened.

One is that Andy, the senior manager at the delivery center, took me for a lunch to get away from the frustration to a place called Piadina Passion Food. Andy is the farthest thing from a vegetarian there is, but he took me there where they had plenty of veggie options because he is thoughtful and probably also sick of watching me eat reheated soup at my desk each day. Previously, Andy enjoyed the company of Todd (another expat from the project who spent several months in Manila recently), and so he is getting used to me - a girl. I'm sure it was a little easier to be buddies with Todd and go drinking with him, but I hope that we can still develop a good friendship!

The second thing is that today I had an interesting encounter with the person at my office who was collecting donations for the Leyte victims. Tim and I decided to donate. I called him to see where he is sitting, and he said he would meet me on my floor. We met in the elevator bank and I gave him the folded up money. He brought his business card so I would know it was him, which I thought was really cute. The funny thing was that he seemed shocked that I was donating and shocked by how much. I didn't consider it to be extreme, but I'm glad that he is happy and I hope they can put it to good use. It made the day a little better to be able to make someone else happy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When Children are Forgotten...

...each Day becomes their Last Supper. (billboard in Makati City)
Yesterday I had the privledge of being able to meet and speak with a Filipino man who is preparing for his first trip to the U.S.A, where his fiance awaits him in Illinois! You can read their story and experiences together and apart on their blog site. Talk about a long-distance relationship!

Currently, Julius is anticipating his visa application interview on March 13, and they have asked if I could aid him in preparing him for that critical appointment by tutoring him in his English and communication skills. We spoke for an hour yesterday out in Glorietta Park,-I asked him a million questions and helped him with some of his pronunciation...it was very cool to learn so much about someone in so little time! I have complete faith in his ability to do well in an interview setting from what I saw yesterday, and we'll continue to get together each week to work on his presentation and communication skills.

(I know there are several people out there thinking, "what?! Someone's asking Tim to instruct them on communication?" -Hey! I do what needs to be done! ...and my B.A. degree is in mass electronic communication, not human communication! Though, I did do quite well in Abnormal Psych junior year...)

Some images from the past few days.
I've been trying to get away from mall-world Makati, and it sure doesn't take long to get a sense of the physical proximity but massive chasm between various classes and lifestyles here. Sometimes there's barriers, sometimes not. A filthy canal of unimaginabe stench seperated from shopping areas by a row of trees and flowers - A man selling individual cigarrettes from an opened pack on the steps of a an office high-rise. And we already mentioned the 3-year old girl in a leg cast selling flowers to the guy driving the Escalade. Sometimes it's really hard to look at.

I'm thankful for my camera. It allows me to experience aspects of life through it that I would otherwise not want wish to witness. I guess that lens is my barrier.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

One night in Cavite

Hey! Look! It's us! It's about time for a shot of Kendra and I...I've got pics of everything else here except the authors of this fabulous blog! See- still alive! (several hundred miles from the Leyete mudslides) Still healthy! (Tim is still healthy due to his amazing immune system... Kendra is not doing so well, but is trying to recover before another difficult week coming up.)

This weekend we had the pleasure of spending more time with George, Vanessa, Rene, Crystel and Verna (if you don't remember, they took us on our first excursion out of Makati to Enchanted Kingdom and then to an amazing dinner at dampa).

George, Rene and Verna picked us up outside of our building Saturday evening and drove us to a restaraunt in the Roxas Blvd. Baywalk area of Manila, pointing places of interest around the way. For dinner we had lots of rice, vegetables, fish and steak. Afterwards, we drove to Verna's house, where Vanessa and Crystel were waiting for us. Rene then drove George back to the hospital where he was scheduled to perform an operation. We then watched as the Vanessa, Verna and Crystal opened up the multiple bags of gifts that we brought with us from their friends and family back in the U.S. They were very appreciative of the gifts and tried on alot of their new clothes. Kendra and I then went to bed in an upstairs bedroom (which was very generously given to us to sleep in - the rest of the family slept in the not air conditioned living room!), falling asleep during CNN's re-broadcast of The Daily Show with Jon Stewert, Global Edition.

Woke up the next morning to cats meowing, roosters crowing and a some raven/macaw-type bird making a massive racket (the black one in the top left cage in the picture). Vanesa made us a superb breakfast of eggs, bread, coffee and mangos before we headed off to church.

Because of some insane (read: typical) Manila traffic, we arrived at The First Baptist Church of Manila halfway through the service. The pastor spoke about a 70/30 ratio of Tagalog to English, but was also very expressive with his gestures, so we got the jist of most of it. Afterwards, we were given a lunch of rice, chicken soup with soyote fruit, and dessert of papaya and banana bread prepared by the pastor's wife, who was George's aunt, and their cooks. It was neat to hear of the pastor's experiences at a Filipino church in Texas.

Then it was back to Makati, because Kendra had to get some work done. It was a very fun and interesting weekend, and we are both very thankful for the Repique's for their hospitality and generosity.

Here's Crystel, in her new dress from Raquel and hair clips from Kendra.
The group of us at lunch after Church.
Kitty Cat in Alley
Here's what normal traffic looks like in Manila.

The time:
A Lazy Sunday Morning
The place:
Cavite, Philippines
The characters:
Large Truck
The Pedestrian
Small Child Selling Flowers
(click to open a larger image)
We (Us) are headed down the right side of the street. The Large Truck in the middle of the road is coming directly at Us. The Rickshaw in front of Us is headed off the shoulder to avoid the Large Truck. The Bicyclist is crossing the road in front of Us, perpendicular to traffic flow. The Pedestrian on the shoulder is directly in the Bicyclist's path. The Jeepney is parked facing traffic on the right side of the road.
And the Small Child Selling Flowers is not visable in this shot because she is about 3 years old and is too short to be seen over the dashboard. (hence her broken leg - which Kendra almost can't bear to look at, wishes she could adopt her immediately, and no one seems to understand why this upsets her so much).
Absent from the cast of characters today - anyone remotely responsible for, directing, or otherwise concerned about the traffic or any of these impending collisions.

Wow! Talk about an incentive for good behavior! The ever-present threat of being sent off to Popeyes and turned into a value meal!!

Some cute quotes from from the day: Verna (never one to hold back her opinions) wondered aloud if Kendra's eyelashs were fake (they were not), then proceded to predict that if Kendra and I had a daughter they would no doubt be crowned Miss America.
Then, standing up next to Kendra at the table after lunch, the pastor of The First Baptist Church of Manila exclaimed, "My, you're a big girl!!" (He came up to her midsection).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Of Work and Tikka Massala

This evening Tim met Andy, Keysi, and I at the office and we walked about 20 minutes to get Indian food on Pasay Road in Makati. We had a lovely meal and got to know Andy a bit better, since our only exposure to him has been through work. He is an incredibly friendly and nice man and he is the senior manager at my work.

Tim and I walked home after that (again - an eternity with heavy bags and work shoes) and we passed by a very interesting section of the city with a bunch of outdoor restaurants and little kiosks selling things. The next time I have time, I want to eat there.

Tim did a lot more interesting things today than I did. Work was good but busy. I'll let Tim post some more of his pics and adventures from the day!

Today on my journeys, I encountered several interesting people and situations and thanked God for that elusive "photographer's luck".

Previously, I've come across several chess boards set up in public places, but never with any players. This morning I finally saw a group of people sittting around the chess boards across the street, so I walked over to investigate and hopefully get a few cool photographs. As I get closer and survey the scene, I slowly realize that this group is made up of half a dozen taller than average, black boot wearing, heavily armed men. Now, there's armed police all over Makati, in every entrance to every store and office building, but these were not looking like the police I see everyday. Nope, the group that I was purposefully walking towards, camera in hand, was none other than the Makati City S.W.A.T. Team.

There was no way to hide the fact that I was deliberatly headed right to this specific group, so I crossed my fingers and went right up to the pair at the table and asked if it was OK if I took a picture of them playing chess. Not a "yes", or a "no", but instead, "You'll have to ask our Commander." They pointed to one of the other men, who was seated on the ground, leaning up against a motorcycle, eyes shut, shotgun lying across his lap. Without even looking at me, he nodded his head and waved his hand. Not wanting to test the patience of this formidable bunch, I snapped off a few quick shots, said "Thank you very much, sir" (Salamat po) and headed in the opposite direction. (You can see that the chess board itself is owned by the S.W.A.T. team...no wonder why I never saw anyone else playing on it.)

After that, I kept running into odd and curious things. Like the street-side locksmith selling rubber stamps and the truck driver who was shaving while in the driver's seat with no water. I hope my photographs can capture some of the flavor of the people here


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blogger Expansion

Here's some bits of interesting news from the blog/web front:

I'm proud to have been made a part of Metroblogging Manila!
Here's what Metroblogger is all about:

"With almost 40 active sites, Metroblogging is the largest and fastest growing network of city-specific blogs on the Web. From San Francisco to Bangkok, from Karachi to Toronto, Metblogs are a hyper-local look at what's going on in the city. Our hand-picked core of regional bloggers give each site a new perspective on daily life; less calendar listings, more friendly advice. With Metblogs, you can read about life and times in your neighborhood, your favorite places to visit, places where you've never been, or get a feel for them all with the daily "best of" blog on the hub at metroblogging.com."

Hopefully, I'll be able to add a unique outsider's perspective to the Manila MetroBlog.

Photo Website
I've finally gotten off my butt and started updating my personal photo website, FourthFloorPhotography.com with shots from around the Philippines. I'll still be posting pics here that relate to our blog entries, but the best and most worthy will be put up on FFP. It's still a large work in progress, so please excuse any odd-looking design elements (I'm using the Yahoo!-based shareware software for the coding.)

(Legal) Domestic Spying
For about 3 weeks now, I've been secretly tracking all of you that come to this site. I've been using the Tracksy system, which isn't the most powerful by far, but it's free and I can see all of your IP addresses, operating systems, browsers, screen sizes, ISPs, connection speeds and cities where you come from, and whether you're a new or returning visitor.

What's cool is that you can see the pages and links that refer people to your site, such as the links on Jess and Andy's page, PhillyBlog, PhotoTakers, Metroblogging Manila and that "Random Blog" button on blogspot.

Another interesting thing is that it allows you to see the search phrases that have directed people to your site from Google, Yahoo!, MSN and BloggerSearch.

Here's a few that have found our blog and what pages they brought up:
  • "tim cody accenture" : (I'm assuming they were looking for a guy named "Tim Cody", but instead they found my mother-in-law's dog on this post)
  • "dafno itlalian grill" : This search picked up our New Year's Eve post
  • "philadelphia food" :This picked up alot of our posts including this one about Old City.
  • "kendra the girls next door" :Definately not looking for our site! But found the Old City post, too!
  • "sensual arousal" :Again, Old City's Terme Di Aroma Spa brings in the hits!
  • "kenbrook bible camp" :Picked our BlogSpot Profile

Needless to say, it brings some extra added insight to your visitors, and I recommend Tracksy to all blog users!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

As I mentioned yesterday, I had to wake up at 4:30am for work. (At this moment, all the women in my life who give Tim a light-hearted hard time for being so horrible about remembering holidays should start to smile...) When I went into the bathroom, I saw a huge card sitting on the bathroom sink! It was a Valentine's Card with a precious note in it! I went to give Tim a big hug and say thank you and he said "there are more gifts in the living room!" Well, I was shocked. I went into the living room and on the table was breakfast stuff laid out and two wrapped up gifts - a mother of pearl necklace and a seashell bracelet! I've asked Tim to take a photo of these items for the blog. I wore the bracelet to work today and will wear the necklace tomorrow!

Work went well. I came home a bit earlier since I went in so early and then went to the gym. I really, really hate exercising at the gym. However, it is the only exercise I'll get here given the air polution, so I'll do it. But for the record - I dislike exercising.

After the gym, I made supper which was corn on the cob and pumpkin soup with a glass of wine.

I am going to check my work email and get some reading done now. Have a Happy Valentine's Day to all of you since your's is just starting!

A dozen roses and a heart balloon showed up at our door today. It was from my baby! It was very nice to be able to celebrate Valentines Day together, even though she had to leave for work at 5:30.
Went to the fitness center with Kendra when she got home. Even for me, it's been a long time since I've exercised purely for exercise sake. Going to the gym reminds me of why high school was so traumatic and why I don't belong to any memberships in Philly.

Today, during my explorations, I came across the Manila American Cemetary and Memorial, a huge expanse of trees and grass with thousands of white crosses and names etched in stone, from those who died in combat from 1941-45. It was pretty overwhelming to see the rows and rows of crosses on the highly manicured lawn, I would just like to go back sometime later in the day when the shadows are longer. As you can see from the pics, it was a gorgeous day, but it didnt start out that way. I was up since 5am working on the computer by the window and just looked nasty outside. The ever-present smog seemed heavier, lower, and thicker than normal, and the sky had a sickly yellow cast to it. I started walking inspite of this, and as I walked, the wind picked up and chased the settling smog out and left a beautiful blue sky with bright sunshine and cool clouds. Hence my sunburn...
Other interesting things from today:

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday, Monday

Today it was back to work. Tim has been helping to make sure I eat by getting my cereal and juice ready in the morning and packing my lunch for me. This is very helpful, because we still have not succeded in finding "quick preparation" vegetarian options here. Almost everything we eat requires a lot of prep work, which I can do on the weekends, but not very easily during the week. I have been cooking supper usually when I return home, although I wouldn't be surprised if most of the cooking turns over to Tim once work starts picking up more and more.

I was excited to set up my area at work today, because I actually had office supplies and pictures from the shipment to set up. I had some stress relief toys that my mom got me for Christmas, and the people at the delivery center just loved them. In fact, they loved the blue stress relief toy a little too much and broke it! The girl felt so bad, but it was OK. I don't think the move was really easy on it. It caused its required amount of joy! I also had a few pictures of Tim and Elora to hang up, but no magnets or push pins. Well... as soon as the first girl saw a picture of Tim, my dilemma over no magnets was solved when she stole magnets from other people to hang the up. (They all love Tim, and said - like many other people - that he looks like Brad Pitt). I told them he looks more like Colin Farrel, which I believe it true, and also puts less pressure on me, because I don't have to live up to looking like Angelina Jolie.

Today was a good day. I really feel that I am making a difference in my role and helping as well as getting more management experience. However, I do have a meeting that starts at 6am tomorrow (due to coordination between several countries), and I have to be in the office for it. So, I am going to wrap it up, take care of some personal work I have to do, and get to bed. I have the coffee maker set to start brewing at 5am :-)

You'll never see this sign in Philly...If a Cooper Mini and a Jeep had a kid:Now, I know Filipino's are small people in general, but these are some really big stuffed animals.

Here's a thread from Phototakers.com regarding a few pics I posted.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lazy Sunday in Makati

Well, now that we have had a few days in the country to try to get over most of our lack of sleep and adjust to the major changes, I decided I better try to start getting on an exercise routine again. I have been all but inactive for the better part of a year now, and I knew it wouldn't be easy going. So, Sunday morning, I woke up and started with a brief 20 minute Yoga program to stretch out and check the state of my breathing. Both my breathing and heart rate are not what they used to be, but oh well.

After the yoga program, Tim went down to the gym with me. I put in a program to do 20 minutes on the eliptical machine. It was pretty difficult to finish as I was getting worn out and thought to myself "I know I am out of shape, but I do walk a lot - it shouldn't be this hard." I looked down and saw I was on the highest level of resistance the machine could go. No wonder!

After the exercising, I ate cereal for breakfast and made some of my "espresso" in the Starbucks coffee maker and Tim went downstairs to the buffet. I read the paper again while I had breakfast and also had CNN-World on. (Small luxuries of time).

After breakfast, we cleaned up the house a little bit. (The cleaning service doesn't come on Sunday unless requested). We then went for a walk around Makati. In my previous walks, I had just stuck around the Glorietta, but this time we walked further down Makati Ave to a section that had more of the local people or tourists staying in more of the mid-range hotels. It seemed like a safe area during the day, but at night it seemed like it turned into an area with a lot of after hours bars and strip clubs.

It was interesting to be in an area that seemed more authentic though. We ducked into one of the side streets and went into a tiny grocery store that had Japanese and Chinese food. We got some food for sushi, but nothing in the store had prices. We might have been a little overcharged, but it was still way less expensive than it would have been in the US and the store had no air conditioning and I was about to melt completely. (They charged us 175 PhP for a package of about 20 large seaweed papers and a Kilo of Chinese short grain rice). We walked back to the apartment at that point. It was pretty hot, and I wanted to go to the pool, since I hadn't been there yet.

I took some things to read and went to the pool to relax. We met another American there from North Carolina (previouly from Bucks County!). I ordered a bloody mary (my last one, because all tomato-based products I've tried here taste like ketchup ;) Tim ordered a Mango smoothy.

After about an hour or so by the pool, we went back upstairs. I asked Tim if he would go to the store to get some extra foods we needed (and I was hungry for pretzels). He went to the store, and I chopped up several mangos for him while he was gone and did some other food prep.

Later that evening, we had massages that Tim had scheduled for us in advance for Valentine's Day :-) It was a combination of shiatsu, sweedish and tension relase massage,. It was a very interesting experience. Because we are so much bigger than the people here in general, she ended up climbing all over both me and the table to get all of my muscle groups. Very good stretching massage once I got used to the strange feeling of having the therapist climbing all over the table.

Finally in the day, Tim and I made pasta (with a very doctored sauce to reduce the ketchup taste) and watched a show about dragons on the Discovery channel. I was very disappointed because I fell asleep in the middle of the Dragon show, and I had been looking forward to watching it all week.

I had completely bizarre dreams that evening. I dreamed I was in some strange high school/collage place again - there were aspects of both. (For whatever reason, I tend to dream I am in high school again when I am in times of extreme stress). In my dream, it was my senior year and I was going to graduate in May. However, I was about to leave for 6 months in India. I realized right before I was ready to leave that I would miss graduation and also that I hadn't made arrangements to take half my finals. Very bizzarre. We all know that is a dream, because I would have both of those things on my spreadsheet in real life....

Today's Hammarskjold Lesson: "To be pure in heart means, among other things, to have freed yourself from all half-measures: from a tone of voice which places you in the limelight, a furtive acceptance of some desire of the flesh which ignores the desire of the spirit, a self rightous reaction to others in their moments of weakness."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Look! It's our stuff!!

What a relief this sight was! After 10 days and 9,000 miles of various modes of transportation, 11 cardboard boxes full of our belongings showed up at our front door this morning. Much kudos to the MI Group for an amazingly smooth, efficient and proffesional operation from start to finish. 3 guys came up and unpacked our things, as I checked off the boxes and Kendra checked the individual items off her spreadsheet. Everything arrived in one piece and functioning (today's post is being written on our Gateway desktop PC that miraculously booted up and accessed the internet! Not realizing that our outlet at the desk was controlled by the light switch on the wall, I was about to toss the PC out the window until Kendra brought her level-headed perspective to the sitution. I have zero faith in consumer-grade electronics and even less faith in those running Windows).

As we were unpacking our things and putting them away, I noticed some activity on the roof a parking garage that's visable from our 10th story window (probably about 150-200 yards away.) Now I've had this view for about 2 weeks now, and I've never seen anybody or anything on the top level of this parking garage and I couldn't tell what was going on with all these trucks, scaffolding and piping, so I was quite curious. Got out the Canon Powershot S1 with the 32x digital zoom and took this shot:Couldn't really tell with that, so I waited a few minutes then zoomed further in:

It's a homemade, mobile racetrack for radio-control cars, complete with elevated control and observation tower! How cool is that?

Now here's Kendra:
I had a late meeting last night, so I arrived home particularly late, especially given we're still pretty tired from the time change. I went to sleep soon after and woke up around 8. Tim said that I could do the breakfast buffet, since he usually gets to do it (we get one buffet free each day via the negotiated arrangement with my company), so I took the paper and had a nice breakfast. (Those of you reading this who travel for work might identify with how nice it feels to actually spend time at a hotel reading the paper and having breakfast. I never have time to do this on the road, and when I see someone doing it at a coffee shop, I am jealous).

A few minutes after arriving upstairs, our stuff arrived! It was really cool that every item on my spreadsheet was accounted for and undamaged! Down to the last Category: Toiletries, Description: Vanilla Milk, Moisturizing Body Wash, 5.2 Fl. Oz., Quantity 1. We unpacked and put things away and hooked things up, and the place felt a lot more like home. We have items here from almost all of our family members and friends - things we got for Christmas and going away gifts.

In the midst of unpacking, my mom and dad and I got to talk live over AmericaOnLine Instant Messenger. They got a microphone, and we could hear each other like on the phone! It was pretty cool :-) Let us know if any of you have microphones and AIM and we can talk that way too!

After unpacking, we went to run a few errands. We needed another stepdown transformer for the coffee maker and I needed a new pair of sneakers. My pigeony feet tear holes in the sides of all my shoes and they need replaced after awhile. This was my first time mall shopping. We were like a spectator sport, but it was a little endearing. I have to say I have never had 10 people watch me try on shoes and then follow me to the cash register. Of course with an audience, my visa card would choose that moment to be declined. That was embarrassing, but not a huge deal. I used my American Express. I'm pretty sure that my Visa only was declined because they probably thought my card had been stolen with these recent charges in Manila. I logged a question about it anyway. Tim had the same audience at the hardware store and at Starbucks.

This evening I cooked dinner and took care of a few other things. It was a busy day, but a very good day. I think it was the first day I have had in a very long time that was not full of things I was obligated or scheduled to do. I'm not sure most people believe how little time I have to myself. That's probably partially my fault because I do a lot of things. But all the same - I had at least 4 hours today all to myself and it was amazing.

This is Tim again: We've found that some of our electronics can take any voltage in the range of 110-240 volts, so they will work fine in the 220 outlets here, but things like our coffemaker will blow up if given any more than 120. So, hence the return trip to the hardware store. Literally, there were 2 customer service people in every aisle of the store. After 3 people helped me pick out the transformer, a fourth person gave me a small basket to carry it in. On the way to the register, I was approached by a fifth employee, who inexplicably offered me by another basket and all 5 ended up following me all the way to the register.

Because of health concerns, we've been using bottled water to brush our teeth and cook with. Kendra came up with an ingenious solution involving our camping water dispenser. After a long afternoon of boiling numerous pots of water for 5 minutes each, we now have a slick clean water operation for the bathroom.Got that craving for a Big Mac and fries but don't want to brave the insanity of Manila traffic? Just call 24 hour McDonalds delivery motorbikes!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Back at the MDC

Hey there, Tim here.

Things are looking pretty good so far with our logistics. I was able to find a number of close ATMs and withdraw the amount of pesos needed to pay our duty for our shipment which we found out will be arriving on Saturday. We tried last night, but the ATM was out of peso notes. So I think we're set money-wise. Kendra was also able to get to the proper bank to deposit funds into a bank account to pay for some gifts she purchased on-line (a typical method of payment in the Philippines.) I was able negotiate to use our building's business center for free until our desktop computer arrives on Saturday.

Today Kendra went into the Accenture office...she says things went well and that she really feels her presence here will have a positive effect on the project as a whole. Everybody there was glad to see her again and to have her back in Manila. Never to settle for a dull working day, the entire building was evacuated for a fire drill. Of course, in this culture the whole ordeal took an entire hour, during which they passed out water and Oreos to those waiting outside.

I was able to explore some other areas of Makati after meeting Kendra at noon. In addition to the jeepney depot and a stray cat in a park, I found an area that was much more urban-city-like than the mall-world surrounding our building. It was nice to see some very authentic ethnic eateries and fruit vendors out on the street-- seems much more fitting for this area than Sony kiosks, Tower Records and the Hard Rock Cafe.

Jeepney Driver

Click to Enlarge: it says "Quick Stomach"

Todays Hammarskjold Lesson: "To seperate himself from the Society from which he was born a menber will lead the revolutionary, not to life but to death, unless, in his very revolt, he is driven by a love of what, seemingly, must be rejected, and therefore, at the profoundest level, remains faithful to that Society."