Friday, March 24, 2006

Mental Excercises on Friday (Super-Size Post!)

It hasn't been widely publicized, but Tim's main camera has been in the shop here in Manila for almost a month now (lost in the non-urgent-ness of Filipino business). For those of you who know Tim, this is practically cause for a nervous breakdown. Now he does have a small Powershot camera to take pictures with, but this was wearing thin. Today he decided was the day to buy a new camera and employ his bargaining skills at the same time. Tim got a Canon EOS 350D. He did a great job of price comparing and bargaining for some extra ammenities for his camera. I'll let him fill in more about that experience and I'll jump down to fill in more details on the dinner we had tonight...

This is Tim -
As some of you may know, I've done some studying of graphology, or handwriting analysis. I used to be pretty good (about 3 years ago), butI haven't practised for a while and have gotten fairly rusty, but one thing you always remember is that your handwriting varies greatly day-to-day, based on psychological state, emotions and stress.

This has to do with what? Buying stuff.

I've been on this mission to upgrade my photo gear to a "real" camera, of SLR style, with interchangeable lenses, pro-level resolution, etc. It's quite an investment and one that I did not want to take lightly, so I did plenty of research even before we came to the Philippines. Now that we're here, in an area of about 3 square blocks, there are about 3-5 different vendors of the types of cameras I was looking at, so I've been bouncing back and forth comparing prices, products and deals. But then it all came down to today. I wanted to purchase this new 'toy' hopefully before our trip to Subic on Saturday, so I woke up this morning with a specific plan in mind.

Instantly that plan changed when the vendor I had chosen was suddenly out of stock. It changed again when a vendor that I hadn't even noticed before offered me a great deal. It changed again when I called Kendra to tell her about it, and she brought up several points about the deal that I had not even thought of. At this point I was 99.9% done with the whole frickin' plan and was going to go back to 110 film and flash cubes.

I decided to give up and get the final things on our list for Saturday's trip. At the checkout counter, I was still mentally doing summersaults about this decision about the camera that involved so much money, so I was barely paying attention to the transaction, until I realized that 2 of the 3 people (there's always at least 3 people at each cash register here) were intensly scrutinizing my credit card and the receipt I had just signed. They were comparing my signatures on each. After a few moments, they asked me for another form of I.D., to which I offered my Pennsylvania Driver's Liscence...good thing I decided to keep that seemingly useless piece of plastic in my wallet while overseas! Again, more scrutinization of the signatures. Now, previous to this, I had noticed that my signature had been under some transformation due to the whole exprience of living and operating in a foreign country, but it had never come into question before, and I was just imagining what the added stress of the day was doing to it's shape and form!

What really threw me was their next request: "Sir, could you please re-sign your reciept so that it matches the signature on your credit card and I.D.?"

There they were...both my credit card and driver's liscence on the counter in front of me - and 3 sales girls behind the counter paitiently waiting for me to accurately forge my own signature. I did OK. It looked close. Such is the non-confrontational, "no problem, sir" culture of the Philippines. And if you wish to know a graphological tidbit, it's much tougher to forge a signature thats written methodically and slow, as opposed to a big, fast scribble, even if it is illegible.

It was after this that I got my mental game back on. I realized that even though customer service issues can be the bane of my existance sometimes, that I was going to get nowhere just giving up on it. Long story short: I went back to the vendor that I had just met today - worked out a deal for the camera, the kit lens, extended grip with extra battery, lens hood and four 128 MB Compact Flash cards for only slightly more than what the camera alone cost in my original plan.

Mental state: Repaired.


After buying the camera, Tim received a phone call that his original camera would be fixed and ready on Tuesday. Now he has three of them and I think that I am going to give them names.


Tonight we had a really great time at restaraunt in Mandaluyong City. I met Kendra, Keysi and Sam outside her building at 6:00pm and walked to Sam's (robin-egg blue!) car a few blocks away. We continue to be amazed at the skill of the people who drive in this area on a regular basis. Putting your vehicle into a situation that would normally cause a near fist-fight in New York (or a shoot-out in Philly!) is totally commonplace here , and happens about once every 5 minutes. We once again witnessed "crossflow" or "lane-splitting" where a 4 lane road (2 in each direction) suddenly becomes a 3 lane/1 lane situation based on who has the most guts to cutover into oncoming traffic. Wow!

Thanks to Sam's expert navigation, we arrived at Galileo Enoteca, an Italian deli and wine celler in one piece. One step into this place and we were instantly transported back to Philly! The cheese, antipasto, and wine of the Itlalian Market in South Philly, mixed with the super-cool ambience of an Old City BYOB. We were loving it!

We walked through the brick wine cellars, complete with Italian paintings on the walls before we sat at our table. Our waiter, Jeff (a Jeff? in the Philippines?) brought us a delicious assortment of bread, cheese, olives and coldcuts. We ordered a bottle of red wine (480 pesos -$9...refills were 80 pesos- $1.60 each). We also ordered pasta, some with meatballs, others with sun-dried tomatoes. After a while Sam's girlfriend, Ginia, arrived and we all had a great time.

We gave Jeff a hard time, because he seemed to disappear for long stretches at a time and seemed to forget our round of coffee. He made up for it by bringing us all a shot of a lemon-peel liquour, which was good but "drew a line down our throats", which is the Filipino version of saying it burns as it goes down. I also ordered an Italian hot chocolate, which is similar to a chantico drink at Starbucks, but not quite as dark and very very smooth.


This is Kendra - We really did love the dinner and we love hanging out with the people from the office. Sam and Keysi are both so generous with their time and want to take us to places that we will like.

Likewise, Sam's girlfriend, Ginia, was really awesome! Imagine a very diminutive girl who first seems like she will be passive and not say much and then she busts out with the most perfectly applied American slang and imitates Paris Hilton saying "that's hot!". A few seconds later you realize that she drove herself to the restaurant. That's right - she drove in this zoo - and you really love her. In fact, you wish you could be just like her. But it just wouldn't be quite as cool if you were not 5 foot and 85 pounds... the effect is lost. :-)

Thanks to all for a great evening! And we'll be posting again late Saturday/early Sunday as we return from what should be an amazing trip to Subic Bay!


At 8:22 AM, Blogger Isabel's Mommy said...

It has to be so interesting experiecing their daily lives there. Is it anything like when you traveled there as a tourist in January?


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