July 2, 2014
Here’s a tip if you’re looking to drive in the Philippines: don’t. Lanes and laws are merely suggestions and you’ll furthermore have to learn the intricacies of Honking as a Second Language. There are all kinds of vehicular hazards like frogs and chickens and goats and water buffalo and millions of other people who appear to subscribe to the “look, ma- no hands”ing method of motorized transportation. Also, everybody’s looking at the yellow-headed thing.
Here’s a tip if you’re looking to walk in the Philippines: don’t. Not if you’re the giant yellow-headed thing, anyway. I attempted to walk places twice today, and both were exercises in reevaluation.
For the first trip, I was supposed to meet Amanda and Stephany in the lobby at 8 in the morning in order that we walk to school together. Naturally I had told Stephany not to wait for me because I know myself, and true to form I arrived at 8:07 and had to mosey along alone. After walking almost 25 minutes in the wrong direction, sweating through my shirt, and performing wild circles of arm aerobics after slipping in, probably, sewage, I finally bit the bullet and hailed a trike.
A tricycle is this:
In it, late to school and with theoretical poop on my toes, I looked like this:
Luckily school was really fun in that I got to teach a class of seventh graders who wanted to know things like “are American teenagers liberated?” and “why would Samatar poke that lion?” which incidentally is a hit story worldwide. We took a bunch of selfies together and hey! First almost whole day off!
I must say, I’ve needed this. We’ve been busting 10-13 hour days almost exclusively since we got here, with maybe one 8 hour day thrown in for “rest”. Combine that with the fact that the week before I got here was the last week of school, plus I moved out of my house and starting compiling (and thus communicating with) a database of approximately 700 teachers for the PEA, and I’ve been feeling- how shall I put this?- like I’ve wanted to rip a hole in the space/time continuum and lurch my way blindly through. So yes, finishing at 11 today was aces.
I decided to get some chores done.
One thing I definitely had to do was hit a running store, because (embarrassingly enough) my sneakers smelled too rank to pack, and we’re scheduled for a fun run/zumba session on Saturday. See, Colegio de San Agustin- my host school- had a terrible fire a few months ago that completely destroyed their gym. The remains and ashes are still there and it looks pretty awful. True to community form, though, everyone’s banding together to raise some rebuilding pesos, and that’s what this Saturday’s for. I’ll be the one limping the 3k that begins at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.
Oh, side note: when the kids sang “Cups” to me and found out that Anna Kendrick is from Portland, they pitched fits of excitement and made me promise to try to get an autograph for the school. Does anyone know how to do that? Do you think she’d give a dollar for the gym? They’re really, really cute and that might be helpful…
Anyway, right- I decided to walk to the mall to get some sneakers.
The first thing I noticed was that alone, I am the most popular person in the whole entire world. I hadn’t been walking two blocks before a kid yelled “hello!” at me… from inside his house. Every person I passed either nodded or smiled a “good afternoon!” and security guards with giant scary guns stepped aside for me. Taxi drivers- well, this is nothing new- shouted greetings from their moving cabs, and passengers in passing jeepneys hailed my bewildered self heartily. The weirdest, though, was the guy in the fortress auto, so named because that’s what it said on the side.
This dude traveled alongside me for almost the entire 2.1 kilometres to the mall.
Imagine walking unfamiliar streets when a gold van starts creeping along with you, sometimes slightly ahead, sometimes slightly behind. Imagine noting this after five or six blocks, and wondering if it’s purposeful. Imagine him then pulling over, and asking where you’re going.
“Oh. Is that way.”
A few blocks later, he pulled over again and offered me a ride.
“No, thank you.”
About a mile and a right turn later?
“You took wrong turn. Mall up that way, then right.”
Do I have a good samaritan or walk stalker? Without quality perception in my extra-sensories, I vowed to take a tricycle home.
And I’m here now. The stupid ramen place put a Creed song in my head, but I am otherwise unharmed.
So, right: big ole yellow thing signing off.