Why Couldn’t the Chicken Cross the Road?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Now that I’ve relaxed sufficiently into my martini and popcorn and while the string quartet is on a break from its tasteful selection of Broadway/Sia tunes, let’s take a trip together down memory lane, to that time 20 minutes ago when I recorded a screaming cat fight, narrowly avoided arrest by the assault rifle-bearing policemen standing in the road, and then strode under said avenue with my Japanese linguist friend.  

Though I chose my words carefully there for dramatic effect, all of that did in fact just happen.  I love that I have some free time tonight!   

The day was chock full of busy again, and again I ate for the first four and a half hours of it while learning about country’s educational system.  How Filipinos can even drag themselves to school, by the way, is beyond me, as I’d be 900 pounds and sweating lumpia juice if I lived here.  

Regardless of my body’s inclination to lie comatose in a bath of adobo, my brain is still working and it’s finding it to be difficult to be okay- even more so after today- with mid-Millennium Spaniards.  Come to find out, when they colonized the Philippines in the 1500s, they declared all Filipino books to be the writings of evil spirits and chucked them in the fire, thus ridding an entire nation of its ancestral legacy.  Assholes.  I already have sympathy smallpox from teaching about the complete destruction of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, where the conquistadors (please don’t think I’m condemning every single Spanish person alive then, mind you) basically raped, murdered, and spread disease through the lot.  And then set up harems and slave trade.  This is not to condone the Aztec practice of, for example, having multi-day heart-ripping-out ceremonies or to revere the Incan practice of, for example, tethering starving alpacas to freezing Andes summits in order that their cries prompt the gods to make rain, but still.  Don’t burn books, you pre-Nazi Nazis.  

I keep looking for further detail into the Philippine colonization, but the Internet is being frustratingly USA Today-y and all I can find are vague, glossed-over paragraphs.  There was probably smallpox here, too, and there definitely was enslavement (and eventual mass murder) of Chinese workers, but it’s tough to find more detail without a library.  Since this is a blog and not a history book, I’ll cease and desist.  If you ever get your hands on a time machine, though, and can travel back to Magellan’s era, give those bastards a good, stern talking-to.  

Right, education system.

During the Spanish occupation, schools muddled along teaching life skills to boys and housekeeping to girls (could arguably be the same thing but I’m trying to subtly- well, I guess not anymore- point out the sexism) and that went on for like 300 years.  The Americans blasted in in 1898 and introduced English as the primary language of instruction, but then Japan’s imperialistic tendencies took over pre-WWII and knocked schools right back into being a Nihongo propaganda machine.  It was regimented and totalitarianism and bunk.  

Seems like they’ve recovered pretty well now, though.  

We got to visit one of the schools today, and it was pretty spectacular.  Though the national system is going through some significant change- until recently, Filipino kids would graduate from high school at the same age as our American 10th graders- the students we met today were unbelievable.  It was a Catholic girls’ school with a few thousand students

(side note: which is guarded by a statue of Mary who apparently has a potato gun arm for defense purposes, which I made up but which is hilarious)

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and when we toured classrooms and extracurriculars (and were treated to a concert and dance performance even though they only started the school year two weeks ago) we saw some definite thriving.  Apparently this school got the idea that it was cheating their girls to hold arts and athletic clubs with just any old faculty member who had the time or inclination to coach, so if they didn’t have them on staff already, they brought in experts in each area and started a Gift program.  The idea is, all kids have gifts, whether it be music, performing arts, creative writing, athletics, whatever.  So it’s the school’s job to let kids explore those areas in elementary and middle school so they can find their gifts and interests, and receive expert instruction in honing them.  By high school, they specialize and get really good.

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I love this program.  The nuns reported that since they’ve started it, kids have succeeded academically and are more likely to come to school each day, plus their dedication to their disciplines make for successful interscholastic competition.  It’s great stuff.  

Could’ve done without the standstill Manila traffic on the way home, though.  

Anyway, I sort of wanted to drape myself gracefully over the nearest cushion when I got back, but I arrived to an Internet pep talk from Chrissy that excited me enough to venture to the Peninsula for a meal and a proper drink.  

As it turns out, “across the street” is not as easy as it sounds.  When I finally found the hotel that I could easily see from my window, I looked for a crosswalk to safely navigate the eight lanes (which magically appears to be 17 lanes if your eyeballs hail from Manila) of Jeepneys and terror.  

Nope.

Fine.  There was a cacophony of plaintive screeching behind me anyway, so I went to investigate.  

Catfight.  I put the video on facebook.  UPDATE: No, I didn’t.  It didn’t work.  But it was weird.

Weirder, I didn’t know how to cross the road and was contemplating a dash until a nice man stopped to laugh at the cats with me.  I asked him.

“Oh, I will tell how to not do that,” he lilted with considerable charm.  

“You do not go across the street because I did.  I got the policeman to hold me and arrest me last night; he demanded one thousand pesos.  The road is not allowed.  Do not go.”

Since the policemen here look like guerrilla warriors (though they’ve been really friendly with their smiles of angels and their guns of steel) I decided not to risk it.  My new friend- who turned out to be a kind, nerdy linguist from Nagoya- and I decided to walk into the inexplicable, signless hole in the ground and see what met us.  

Oooh, a tunnel to the other side!  I’ll bet the joke chicken made it so he could cross without squash.

Success, and dinner, and martini, and sleep.

I’ve gotten to the other side.

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