Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I’ve been pretty healthy here so far; one morning a couple of months ago I felt a little icky but that’s about it. Until this week. I’ve been seeing a lot of ads for cold remedies and thinking, “why would this be a time of year for people to get colds?” And then I got a cold. Not a bad one – it’s just unfortunate that I didn’t feel all that well on my birthday. I would have had to be much sicker to miss work that day though – after all, the tradition is to treat the office. Someone had a January 1 birthday and he bought lunch, so my pizza was moved to merienda time. I was a little worried that with so much food at lunch, people wouldn’t be able to eat two huge pizzas in mid-afternoon, but my worries were for naught. It was like lowering a chicken into a pool of starved piranhas. Those pizzas were gone quickly. And much appreciated! I made it through the day, went to bed at 8:30 at night, sneezed most of the next day and coughed most of the day after that, but now I’m fine.

The big news is that we now have a hot water heater! A new intern has come to live in our building – she’s working for our supervisor on his other businesses, not for Habitat – and since the water has been colder (and since she’s French? No, just kidding) I guess he decided to spring for it. Fine with me! Especially with feeling a little under the weather it was nice to take a hot (well, warm) shower (the hot water didn’t work on Tuesday night, and there was no water at all on Wednesday morning and a trickle on Wednesday night, but since then it has been pretty nice). I’m not sure we need it anymore – an RPCV emailed that he looked at the weather forecast and it appears the cool season may be over already (which would be early). But I’m happy to have it and will enjoy it for my remaining time!

And I should mention a new recipe – I had this at New Year’s dinner at the center where Mercedes works. It’s called Refrigerator Cake. Ingredients – graham crackers, cream, condensed milk. You layer the graham crackers (maybe 24 layers) and between each layer you pour some of the mixed liquid. Put it in the refrigerator overnight and the graham crackers soak up the liquid. Serve it cold the next day and it’s quite tasty. Another no-bake recipe!

I was reminded that I’ve been meaning to talk about the synchronized “Thriller” dance of the prisoners in Cebu (you can find it on youtube). If I were here for two years and not just six months, I’d make my way to see it. The jury is out (pun intended) as to whether this is cruel and unusual punishment, according to Lonely Planet. But now that I have been through the holiday season I think it isn’t – most holiday parties include some synchronized dancing, and on my daily walks for December I often spied groups practicing! It’s part of the culture, like videoke. I also read more about the fireworks – some Filipinos believe that the noise and explosions will drive away evil spirits and misfortunes.

A recent (for me) New Yorker contained a story by Paul Theroux about an older gentleman who goes back to the African village where he once was a volunteer. Paul Theroux was once a PCV! As was Chris Dodd; it was sad to read about his decision not to run for reelection – he was a big advocate for the Peace Corps. I also read about a play called, “Imelda, a new Musical.” Its run is over in New York but maybe it will be staged again somewhere; the review sounded good! More Peace Corps news – I was asked to do a writeup of the Habitat build for the Country Director’s quarterly report that goes to Washington. She texted me for my birthday! The CD in Morocco never did that.

I did an alumni interview this week (too bad it was the day I kept coughing…). It was good to put on my Princeton hat. I have another one next week as well. And while I am discussing alma maters I should mention a Wharton classmate who found me; we’ve been having occasional coffees. He’s the one who gave me the Asian Development Bank contact and he’s been giving me other tips about working in the region. You never know.

Now it’s on to Mindoro for a last weekend on the beach and quality time with Mary. The first time I visited I came back depressed about living in Manila while she’s in paradise. The second time I fantasized about what I would to if her foundation wanted a PCRV to do marketing. As I get ready to leave now, I’m grateful for my life in Manila. It was an adjustment, but I think it’s worked well for me. Working in an office has been a good transition to what is a likely next career move for me (i.e., working in an office). Working five minutes from the beach would probably have led to more culture shock upon my return (as it is, I am not looking forward to winter). I like going home to my own space at the end of the day – it’s been great for Mary to be immersed, but seeing Mercedes’s situation reinforced for me that I like separation. From Manila I have had easy access to other parts of the country – Mary’s left her island only for the two spa days. She may not have needed to travel as much living in paradise, and while she was supervising the construction it was hard for her to leave, and she’s had other reasons, but one of them is that she would have had to travel for several hours just to get here as a jumping-off point for anywhere else. Finally, I’ve grown to like Manila. It may still be the hardest place I’ve ever lived, but I’m glad I’ve had the chance to live here.

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