When it Rains, it Pours

I’m not trying to be depressing, just stating a fact about rainy season here.  When it rains, it pours.  It’s madness.  When I first arrived, it would rain for about 20 minutes and I thought to myself, “wow, rainy season isn’t that bad.”  I was questioning if rainy season had actually started.  Now I know, it hadn’t.  I also know that rainy season has officially started.  I wish I could video the extend to which it rains, but I don’t want to go outside.

I have learned to be very grateful for two things: my high clearance vehicle and a somewhat covered deck off my room.  There was about 1 foot of water on the road when I left work earlier this week. As all the low clearance cars were stopped and debating if they should go or turn around, my jeep plunged right in.  Then I got home and had to take Xena out.  She hates rain.  So, we decided to let her out onto the patio to pee.  Okay, maybe a little gross, but the ground gets wet and washes it away, I don’t have to get drenched (which takes only 5 seconds of standing in the rain), and I don’t have to deal with a drenched dog.

Rainy season does bring about cooler weather though.  The gym felt cool, going outside in the morning means not carrying Xena from one grassy patch to another so her paws don’t get burned, and I’m not sweating after 1 minute of being outside.

All this talk of Xena (follow her on instagram at xenawarriorboxer) and I haven’t posted any new photos of her.  She’s grown a LOT!  When we got her she was about 10lbs, now I think she’s about 20.  She’s fully vaccinated and can explore the world. We go to puppy school once a week on Fridays and she has gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go.

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She gets VERY excited to see dogs, and plays the way boxers do. Unfortunately, most dogs don’t appreciate her play style.  Poor girl, she will calm down eventually (right? In like 4 years…) Until then, I guess it’s soccer balls and big dogs for her.

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We are all looking forward to some beach time in dryer weather and family visits at the end of rainy season.  In the meantime, we’ll be outside as much as possible between rain showers.

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Biking in a Developing Country

When We lived in DC we biked everywhere.  Not because Mark and I couldn’t afford a car, but because it was faster (we also had Fred, my aunt’s ’88 pickup truck on loan for a year which we generally just used for the grocery store).  It was great to be able know I wouldn’t get stuck in traffic, I wouldn’t have to drive around for 20 minutes trying to find parking or have to pay for parking, didn’t have to pay for gas, and I got to enjoy the nice – and not so nice – weather.

Prior to my arrival in Manila I spoke to a handful of people about biking, everyone said it was not an option and that people don’t bike here.  The reason I was generally told I could not bike is that it’s not safe.  My first day here I bought a mountain bike.  It sat untouched near the front door for a little over a month, until last week.  Last week I pumped up, ok Mark pumped up, my tires, brushed off the dust on my helmet, threw on a sweet pair of Sperrys with socks, and hopped onto the bike.

  
I survived day 1 and even did a day 2!  I skipped day 3 because I had to work late.  So what was it like?  Well, it was quite warm.  I did have to stop a lot more than I would in the US and dodge a number of obstacles like push carts, people, mopeds, and jeepneys.  I have never smoked a cigarette before, but I’m pretty sure my bike commute added up to smoking one.  There’s a lot of smog coming out of cars and buses.  That being said, it was about 40 minutes faster than driving, liberating to pass all the cars, breezier than I expected, and I’m pretty sure that the roads are smoother here than DC.  Yes, that’s right, the roads were smoother than DC!  I’m also quite sure it wasn’t just the sweet shocks on my new bike.

Just like DC, I felt a common bond to my fellow bikers.  Maybe it was all in my head, but they still gave the friendly nod, and the general awareness of each other that was not as an enemy like cars.  This also goes to show that plenty of people bike every single day and how easy it is not to notice these bike commuters.  Sure they are all male here, but many of the bikers in DC are also male.

My safety, however, was a concern to my coworkers.  They told me to be careful since I am a woman, especially since I have a backpack on, which could make me look like an easy target.  I’m still undecided on this.  Okay, I didn’t feel completely safe at night, but there are always lots of people on the road and if I’m on a bike it might imply that I don’t have tons of money and may not make the best target.  This could be naive of me though.

All in all, I think it was a pretty positive experience.  I can get a mask to help with the air pollution, wear longer sleeves if the sun is beaming too much on my pasty northern american post-apocalyptic winter skin, and fasten a front strap to my backpack to make it more challenging to steal, and maybe just carry my knife in my pocket (not so sure about the last one).  

I learned that despite what everyone thinks, it is not too difficult to bike in a developing country. Just be smart, pay attention, be comfortable on your bike, and share with the world how awesome biking is.  It will, after all, help with the air pollution, which in turn makes biking more enjoyable. 

Are You Homesick?

Last night I was asked a question that I hadn’t really asked myself, “are you homesick?” I sat for a second before answering because I hadn’t been asked this very genuine question yet and I was grateful to be able to give an honest answer.  Yes.

Although we bid Manila high because of how welcoming people are to Americans, the warm weather, and the fact that you can get almost anything you want here, it’s still different in many ways.  Just like everyone back in the States, I commute in traffic, go to the grocery store, eat out, drink on weekends, and take my dog outside.  Yet, each thing presents a unique challenge, one that would be comical as a traveler, but hit me a bit harder when I realized, this is home – at least for now.

I already wrote about the adventure that is driving in Manila.  To be fair, the novelty still hasn’t worn off.  I follow all the rules at in the States and for the first time I finally get to drive the way I would want, without the worry of pissing someone off and having them get out of their car to yell at me.  On the other hand, the commute is draining.  I can’t somewhat mindlessly get to my destination like I could in the U.S., all attention is on the road.  I will, however, miss the lights when I get back.  They count down the green, yellow, and red lights, how do we not have this yet?!

Unlike the U.S., my trips to the grocery store never seem quite complete.  We used to shop for the week at a single store, now it seems like we can hardly fill up a grocery basket and have to swing by 2-3 stores.  You can get almost everything, but there are some hard to find items as well.  For instance, I got extremely excited when I found a tiny thing of arugula, a staple of mine at home. Once we got home, I couldn’t just whip up a salad, first I had to soak the arugula and veggies in vinegar for 10 minutes.  It was so delicious and comforting though.  The vegetable/water problem also presents a dilemma while eating out. Can I order a salad here? Do I think the ice cubes are from filtered water too?  On the plus side, I can have all the mangos, papayas and other tropical fruit I’ve never heard of that I want.  Blender is in the mail to make some delicious tropical fruit drinks for some poolside relaxation.  As if this wasn’t relaxing enough.

There are so many stray cats and dogs that I’m nervous to take Xena out, even once she is fully vaccinated.  I’m also missing out on the neighborhood dog parks to make friends.  We have a dog run nearby, but it doesn’t seem to get much use.  I have been told that on the weekends people gather on High Street in the Fort with dogs.  Will have to check that out after the last vaccine.

It’s the little things that make me miss the U.S. a bit, but I know that with time I’ll get adjusted, make more friends, and lose the homesick feeling.  Right now I’m still in the getting to know people better phase, but another EFM and I have a plan for socializing during the day once summer transfer season has come to an end: Balcony Club.  The townhouses where I live have balconies off every floor, but when on earth will I use the balcony off my guest room?  I’m not going to make coffee downstairs and walk it up the stairs just to drink on that balcony, it’s both inconvenient and a bit small compared to the main balcony.  See the difference?

Well, with Balcony Club, we will pick someone’s floor specific balcony and have a drink there.  It will give us all an excuse to make the balconies nice, take advantage of them, and get to know each other.

There are also things here that I will miss when I leave.  A huge help has been vet house calls.  I text the vet the problem or update and he texts back with a time to stop by or a solution.  Plus, it’s cheaper than the states – house visit, medicine, stool sample, inner ear sample, and microchip added up to about $60.  Also, a helper.  We will have someone starting in July who will cook and clean.  I know I sound spoiled, but I despise household chores, so this is a big win for me.  I’ve been told she makes more working for us than she would on the local economy, so I guess it’s not a horrible gig for her either.  She will also look after Xena while I’m at work.  Lastly, the travel.  Though I haven’t taken advantage of this yet, I know it will be amazing.

One thing I’m undecided about is the signs, some are inappropriate but hilarious, others are Taglish (Tagalog and English) and thus, entertaining.  

The Beast and Xena

There have been lots of fun new things here in Manila that we did not have in DC.  The biggest two have been the addition of an air conditioned car and a puppy: The Beast and Xena.

  
The Beast, while not the nicest car on the road, gets the job done.  The high clearance gets through floods and over the bumps in the road, plus it has air conditioning.  It was also pretty much my dream car in high school…in the same make, model, and year.

Then there’s Xena.

  

At 10.5lbs, she’s a goofy little ball of energy.  In the four days we have had her, she has already learned sit and usually knows down.  Her sweet skillz allowed her to skip puppy school and go straight to the family dog program for 4 month old puppies at BetterDog.  We are just so proud of our little baby, what good genes she has.

She has been an excellent puppy so far.  She doesn’t mouth on hands (yet?), she rarely wines in her crate, and she has only had one three accidents in the house (update to 3, a few hours after this was originally posted).  She can’t quite figure out how to lay on her bed and her floppy ears and mouth are always entertaining when she runs.

Cutest moment so far was when we were at the dog school evaluation.  There was a large stuffed animal dog she thought was real.  She licked it and tried to get it to play with her.  Can’t wait to start puppy school so she can play with some (vaccinated) dogs!

Rules of the Road – Week 1

Traffic is as bad in Manila as they say it is and drivers are crazy compared to home, but it’s kind of fun.

  
Here are the ten rules of driving I have figured out in my two days here.

  1. Lanes are just guidelines (the picture does not accurately portray this, but I swear it’s true)
  2. Honking means, I’m going, I will be passing you, move faster, don’t go and probably more things.
  3. Pedestrians do not have right of way, you can see the fear in their eyes as they cross the street.
  4. If someone is adhering to a red left turn signal you can pass them on the right, get ahead of them, and turn whenever the traffic is clear.
  5. When in doubt, make a U turn.
  6. If the road is clear, gun it!  30mph will feel like 100mph.
  7. Only leave space between you and the car in front of you if you want everyone to weave around in that space.
  8. If you need to cross over 4 “lanes” to make an exit or turn, that’s fine.
  9. Jeepnys and mopeds do what they want.
  10. You can drive on the “wrong side” of the road if you really need to.

Now, today was my first day actually getting behind a wheel, so I will probably learn more rules in the coming weeks.  I took it easy and drove Mark to work then drove myself home.  I didn’t die or crash, so I would call it a success.  Also, apparently there is a loop for Christmas, I will have to investigate what this means.