Water Wars and Chocolate Fountains
Today was an incredibly fun day! We had arranged transportation in advance to visit the Ang Bahay Parola girls and our pickup was at 2:30pm, but we weren't really sure which activity we would do with them. We also knew that before going to visit them we had to make an exchange at the store of some casual pants for me (Tim had gone shopping for me on Friday and picked up 4 pairs of pants -found 1 style that I really liked, but the other 3 styles were not right - either too large or too small or cut for somebody 5 feet tall and 9 months preganant!). We had also tentatively planned to go to Circles for dinner. So, that was the agenda for the day.
We rolled out of bed just before 9:00AM, and I made us scrambed egg sandwiches. We followed this with Starbucks drinks in the mall on our way to Landmark. We were able to exchange the ill fitting pants and with the help of the salesladies found more colors of the same style I liked. (This amazed us ("Out of stock" should be on the Philippine flag) The entire process took about an hour, but we got what we wanted, so all was well.
After this, we turned our attention to what to do with the girls. I thought that maybe we would buy a pinata for them, but upon querying the staff, they had not heard of a pinata, and I didn't really expect them too, but thought that it was worth a shot. Next, we saw a lot of games and outdoor toys and then came to the water gun section (like super soakers). We both thought this would be a great treat for the girls (and the neighborhood boys that would inevitably join us), but we were a little scared. Although we would have our driver along, and he helps a great deal with the language barrier, we were wondering if we could really handle almost 25 girls plus an unknown number of neighborhood boys in a water battle that would be mainly in the street and partially on a basket ball court. We also worried about how we would refill the cannisters. Eventually we decided to hell with all our worries and just bought them.
When we got the guns home, we filled the bathtub and cleaned, filled and tested them. 6 of them turned out to be broken in one manner or another. So Tim ran back to Landmark (thank God, it's close by!) and was able to exchange them without trouble, so that was good. (We weren't about to be stuck in the middle of a serious water fight with over 2 dozen competitive little girls with a non-functioning weapon!) We put them in garbage bags, ate a small lunch, and headed down to meet our driver.
Here I will take a sidebar to describe some interesting conversations on the way over to the orphanage. We have received occassional criticism by readers of our blog that we are too critical of the Philippine culture and people or misunderstand the same. Well, you can criticize us for sitting at home (in America) and having no clue of what goes on in the world around us or you can criticize us for trying to adjust to a completely new and vastly different place all while accomplishing a difficult job. Everyone is entitled to his opinion and we can take it. The fact is that there is not a country in this world, including America, that isn't misunderstood. People might put down third world countries for not having amenities or sanitation they are used to. People often do the opposite for first world countries by assuming that they have no problems or issues whatsoever.
For example, our driver, Ike (who I adore) asked us on the way over some interesting questions. The first was "Are there orphanages in America?". I explained that there were, but that the situations can be different. However, all the same, there are orphanages, battered women and children's shelters, and homeless people. I told him that I feel less children are abandoned in the U.S., but a lot of that can be because of the criminal penalties for doing so. Nonetheless, it still happens. He then asked me, "Are there poor people in America?". Again, I explained that there definitely were. There are people who are very poor, and homeless, but that poverty is not to the extent or degree that we have seen here. I feel this is mostly because America is first world and they have a lot of infrastructure in place to help shelter people and feed them. Nonetheless, there are absolutely people who are off the grid and starving and on the street corners.
I bring up this conversation to point out that it is very typical on both sides of the ocean for people to misunderstand each other. Also, please note that much of the commentary Tim and I place on our blog, and the things that concern us or bother us, are often commentary on general social conditions in the world or general interactions between people of different cultures. Yes, there are things specific to Makati or Manila that do bother us. However, there are things that will bother people about any city. We love Philadelphia (the city we live in), but it still has a world of problems - both social and sanitary. Politcial corruption still exists, people spit on the sidewalk, urinate in the subway stations and blare loud music. Gentrification is starting to be a huge issue.
People figure things out by experiencing them firsthand, and if Tim and I post that we have a frustrating day because a certain business isn't running efficiently, we can't find our groceries, or because people walk too slow, it is because we've transplanted every aspect of our normal daily lives to this foreign environment and haven't decided to lock ourselves in our apartment (which many expats do). Don't take it as a general commentary that all people here are terrible. Those things would bother us at home too. Tim and I are curious. We analyze things and dissect them. We try to figure out why things work the way they do, and like everyone else, we occassionally get frustrated. But keep in mind that this is typical of experiencing a new place, no matter where it is, and that we don't often stop to elaborate on all of this, because a lot of the people reading this are our family and close friends who will understand the background behind the commentary and our reactions to situations we find ourselves in.
Back to the day's adventure.
We decided we would start with a structured game to get the kids accustomed to using the guns, knowing that sooner or later, it would turn into a free for all, every girl for themselves, all out war. (Note to self: Next time, buy a big gun just for yourself for defensive purposes!)
When we got to the orphanage, the girls were all napping and very sleepy. They also had to complete their chores before they could play with us. So, we got everyone going and cleaning and met the two new girls that had arrived at the house. Mae Ann (one of the ones I am very partial to even though she doesn't speak much) was also back. This whole time we would not tell the girls what was in the garbage bags. We kept saying "It is a SECRET... do the cleaning and then we will go to the court."
As the girls were cleaning and getting ready, we noticed the the staff had given out some of the clothes and flipflops that we had brought previously. We were glad to see that they were out of some of the more dirty and torn-up clothes that they has been wearing constantly.
Eventually, it was time to go to the court, and so we all headed out. When we arrived, there were already a lot of neighborhood guys at the court playing basketball and there was not much room for us. But there was an elevated cement area that we could play on. It took me a few tries to remember the greeting to the locals who were playing in the area. I said "Magandag Umaga....(Good morning) No... Magandag Tanghali..(Good noontime)..No.... HAPON! (Good afternoon)". This brought a lot of smiles and laughter.
It took us about 10 minutes to organize the girls into the structured game, with Ike doing alot of translating the rules we had made up. Basically, we had 3 pairs of girls at opposite ends of the concrete and had them pass a ball back and forth. In the middle were about 6 girls each with a water gun. They were only allowed to spray the girl holding the ball...sort of wet version of a hot-potato.
This got not only the girls all excited for the water guns, but also the boys. We didn't have enough guns for the boys (we bought 24, just enough for the girls), but invited them to play anyway and get sprayed. So, after a few minutes, when the 'organized' game disintigrated into mass water-spraying chaos, we passed out all the guns and they ran all around, down the street and around the bend, spraying each other and laughing alot. We ran with them and watched out for traffic.
When the guns finally ran out of water, Ike and Tim went back to the house to refill them and I played some circle games with the girls. They had just returned from a 5 day camp and so they knew a lot of new little chants and songs. Here is a sample:
"Hey Ate (big sister) Kendra!!"
"Are you ready?"
"To praise the Lord?"
"PRAISE THE LORD!!"
"This is how you praise the Lord-
With hands up high and hands down low-
This is the way I praise the Lord...."
(And then Ate Kendra would make up a dance to which the rest of the song is sung).
"Praise the Lo-ord.
Praise, Praise the Lo-ord.
Praise the Lo-ord.
Praise, Praise the Lo-ord."
(and so on and so forth...)
Ike and Tim returned with the freshly filled guns. To make the game last longer we tried to start with two people with guns at a time shooting everyone in a tag game, but that, too, wasn't enough action for them, so we eventually just passed out all the guns again and let them play until the water ran out and everyone was soaked head to toe.
[Aren't they so cute and innocent-looking...just wait until they have you in their sights!]
[Michelle keeping her teeth clean]
We had great luck for games like this. We collected all the guns back and, amazingly, only one was broken, so we could use them again with this group and others. (We would have gladly left the guns with the girls, but they tend to lose things very easily...Tim brought a nerf football once, and it has never been seen since... and they will get more use out of them if we just bring them back next time).
When we got back, we showered and got ready for our dinner. A few hours with the girls always wears us out, so we were excited to go to Circles.
Circles is the restaurant at the Shangri La hotel in Makati. It was a wonderful place, with great service and a cool atmosphere. We really loved the food and ate a ton. We were excited for some excellently cooked fish, avacado maki rolls (made with brown rice!), broccoli, shrimp and some interesting pumpkin mashed potatos. For dessert, they have a fountain flowing with rich, creamy semi-sweet chocolate, that you let drip over skewers of cake chunks and fruit pieces. We had one of the attendents pour chocolate from the fountain into a dish for us so that we could dip our fruits back at out table. At the conclusion of our meal, I witnessed Tim - the choco-aholic supreme- find himself unable to finish the dessert. This was a first. He is currently on the couch dying of a full stomach, and I will make some tea for us now. As soon as Tim is able to go through the videos and pictures we have, we will post this!
Here's a quick video clip of the girls water fight in the street. Let me know if you can't view the clip, I'm working on a new video host server.