10. Life As We Know It

  1. 01. Giving It Away
  2. 02. Mind Games
  3. 03. Customer Service
  4. 04. Getting Down to Business
  5. 05. …And Not a Drop to Drink
  6. 06. The Commission
  7. 07. Service!
  8. 08. Instant Celebrity
  9. 09. The Pinoy Diet
  10. 10. Life As We Know It
  11. 11. Doctors’ Borders
  12. 12. Poor, Poorer, Poorest
  13. 13. Half Empty
  14. 14. Me and My Leg
  15. 15. Always Be With You
  16. 16. Going Underground
  17. 17. Decisions, Decisions
  18. 18. I Shall Depart
  19. 19. A Volcano within a Volcano
  20. 20. A Nod and a Smile
  21. 21. Not Fighting City Hall
  22. 22. Stasis in Places
  23. 23. Fond Farewells
  24. 24. Parting Shots

Adjusting to an unfamiliar place is never easy. This is especially true when reality is delivered in a relentless sensory onslaught such as Quezon City. As you may have gleaned, Frank and I have been struggling to adjust. Sometimes there seems no respite from ugliness, some of it subtle and frustrating, other bits overt and horrifying.

We have the luxury of taking our stresses out on each other. Each festival of bickering or outright argument has, so far, resolved into a more level-headed recognition that we are each experiencing the same strains. I could not have survived this on my own. It is difficult to see how anyone could.  A younger, single man might have sought solace in a range of tempting tonics and strange salves, possibly with favourable effect — but more probably not.

As for us, we are not about to throw in the towel, either on our assignments or each other. The options do come up, though. I am thankful to know our assignments will end long before our relationship does.

Occasionally, I benefit from a fit of grace that allows me to put things in perspective. In these too-rare moments I can see that Quezon City’s overwhelmingness stems not from it being new to me, but from my being new to it.

Continue reading 10. Life As We Know It

09. The Pinoy Diet

  1. 01. Giving It Away
  2. 02. Mind Games
  3. 03. Customer Service
  4. 04. Getting Down to Business
  5. 05. …And Not a Drop to Drink
  6. 06. The Commission
  7. 07. Service!
  8. 08. Instant Celebrity
  9. 09. The Pinoy Diet
  10. 10. Life As We Know It
  11. 11. Doctors’ Borders
  12. 12. Poor, Poorer, Poorest
  13. 13. Half Empty
  14. 14. Me and My Leg
  15. 15. Always Be With You
  16. 16. Going Underground
  17. 17. Decisions, Decisions
  18. 18. I Shall Depart
  19. 19. A Volcano within a Volcano
  20. 20. A Nod and a Smile
  21. 21. Not Fighting City Hall
  22. 22. Stasis in Places
  23. 23. Fond Farewells
  24. 24. Parting Shots

It’s almost ten o’clock. I am waiting for an eight o’clock workshop to start. I started this morning at home with avocado on toast and coffee. Since arriving two hours ago I have had three cups of instant coffee with artificial creamer to accompany the breakfast provided, a triple-decker sandwich of baloney, chicken, cream cheese and mayo.  A little later, morning “marienda” — food shared at the morning tea or coffee break, usually some sweet bread or other sugared snack — was two packaged chocolate frosting covered cakes. Lunch is approaching and I’ve already doubled my daily recommended calorie intake.

I gave up calorie counting about four weeks ago. Even with the best available internet connection, it still takes over an hour to enter my food intake and activities into caloriecount.com, on which I’ve relied for years. The experts say that of twenty-three Asian nations, the Philippines has the twenty-second best internet service. Only Afghanistan has worse. Somehow, that tidbit of information evaded my grasp when selecting the country to benefit from my volunteerism.

Mom used to call me a good eater. Put it in front of me,20160709_121221 I will consume it. It’s a problem, particularly in a land where they are constantly putting food in front of you. Wary of this, one of my first purchases here was bathroom scales. They are cheap scales, but I judged them accurate to within five pounds. I knew this because on first use the scales told me I had lost five pounds, and there was no chance of that being true. Continue reading 09. The Pinoy Diet

08. Instant Celebrity

  1. 01. Giving It Away
  2. 02. Mind Games
  3. 03. Customer Service
  4. 04. Getting Down to Business
  5. 05. …And Not a Drop to Drink
  6. 06. The Commission
  7. 07. Service!
  8. 08. Instant Celebrity
  9. 09. The Pinoy Diet
  10. 10. Life As We Know It
  11. 11. Doctors’ Borders
  12. 12. Poor, Poorer, Poorest
  13. 13. Half Empty
  14. 14. Me and My Leg
  15. 15. Always Be With You
  16. 16. Going Underground
  17. 17. Decisions, Decisions
  18. 18. I Shall Depart
  19. 19. A Volcano within a Volcano
  20. 20. A Nod and a Smile
  21. 21. Not Fighting City Hall
  22. 22. Stasis in Places
  23. 23. Fond Farewells
  24. 24. Parting Shots

Believe it or not, we are going into our seventh week here.  Frank has been more assiduous about counting the weeks than I. When he reminds me where the count stands, I reflexively subtract that number from thirty-nine to determine the weeks remaining. Not that I am desperate to get the hell out of here, not at all. It is just my nature to gauge the distance to the horizon.

Anyway, there is a fifty-fifty chance that we will move the horizon by extending our assignments. Nine months isn’t enough time to accomplish much, especially if one spends much of it learning the language. But that is not a decision for today.

Continue reading 08. Instant Celebrity

07. Service!

  1. 01. Giving It Away
  2. 02. Mind Games
  3. 03. Customer Service
  4. 04. Getting Down to Business
  5. 05. …And Not a Drop to Drink
  6. 06. The Commission
  7. 07. Service!
  8. 08. Instant Celebrity
  9. 09. The Pinoy Diet
  10. 10. Life As We Know It
  11. 11. Doctors’ Borders
  12. 12. Poor, Poorer, Poorest
  13. 13. Half Empty
  14. 14. Me and My Leg
  15. 15. Always Be With You
  16. 16. Going Underground
  17. 17. Decisions, Decisions
  18. 18. I Shall Depart
  19. 19. A Volcano within a Volcano
  20. 20. A Nod and a Smile
  21. 21. Not Fighting City Hall
  22. 22. Stasis in Places
  23. 23. Fond Farewells
  24. 24. Parting Shots

“You know, Frank and I are living and working together. Lest we drive each other crazy, I thought it might be a good idea if we worked different hours. I’m a morning person, so I thought I might work, say, eight to four, while Frank might work, say, ten to six.”

Vanessa chuckled. “Come to work at nine-thirty. Nine-thirty is better.”

I had been in-country long enough to recognise this as an absolute, unequivocal “No.” I also realised there was no point in arguing about it. There was a reason, probably a good one, but I would have to figure it out on my own. Continue reading 07. Service!