San Pedro, where I will be staying starting next week
A catholic church in San Pedro
The Filipinos are beautiful people. I have so much to say but not so much time, so I will break down all my processing into categories and try my best to say what I want.
Things I am getting used to:
10 million people living around Manila have to commute at least 1.5 hours to work everyday. This comes in the form of tricycles, buses, jeepneys and train, and for me it is all of the above. Only the wealthy have cars, taxis are expensive and are usually slower if driving during rush hour. Sometimes the trains and jeeps are so full to have to wait for the next, and the next, and the next just to squeeze into a standing space.
The jeeps are abandoned USA army jeeps which are decorated as colorful and gaudy as possible, no windows, and low cielings (Dad and Dan, you would be croutching). My favorite is that you pay by passing up the money down the line to driver, because the people sit on 2 benches facing in towards eachother and enter from the 1 opening in the rear. They yell out something in Tagalog which I cannot yet understand and pass it on down the line, where the driver gets the change and passes that back down the line. It's great.
The tricylces are my favorite because they are not tricylces as Americans know it, but motorcylce-esque things with a side buggee attached. The buggee is no more than 1 foot off the ground and is usually covered, as is the extended back seat and front where the driver sits. They are so cute and so much fun to ride around in; the give an interesting view of the city. These are not found on the busy streets and are super convenient for short-ish distances.
Regarding the roads-- there are rarely painted lines and where there are they are ignored. The driving here is cray cray, but also very fun! Like Mexico, again (I find many links between here and mi Mex actually).
The only down side to all of this is that it is quite tiring. After 4 hours commute both ways one just feels grimy and sleeps McGee. The amazing news is that the trains and most buses and taxis have air con (the way they refer to air conditioning), which I'm finding is such a plus. I can't imagine such a crowded train without it, it already gets pretty stuffy!
These are the center of life in Manila. Why? Well, they have air con and they are free to enter. All of the train stations are connected to a mall. All the concerts are in malls because they have stages and watching areas (I happened upon a cultural dance and song show the other day in one and it's crazy to see people lining to balconeys and floors 5 floors up) (Another random fact: the Pussy Cat Dolls were in Manila last week in The Mall of Asia, and it's kinda wierd to see their promo poster of the girls half-clothed playing in a mall). There are just as many shops as the US malls and more, and many are Western companies (think Guess, Colombia, Gap, Dickies, Armani Exchnage, etc., andeven Gucci and Louis Vutton). There are also mass quantities of restaurants, many of which are also Western (McDonalds and Starbucks, but also suprsingly Outback Steakhouse, TGI Frid ays, Chilis, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Coffee Bean and more). I try to opt for the non-Western places to eat since we have been eating a malls often this week, but luckily even KFC or Burger King have different menu items to suit local taste (At McD, I got a coke float, rice and chicken nuggets). Lately we have been hitting up about 3 malls a day, and I'm sure when I go out to rough it in the community I will love going to the mall to rest in AC and have a flushing toilet.
3. Being starred at:
Yes, everywhere I go. Often in the not-as-nice areas, people will yell out "What's up Joe!" because that's what they call any non-Filippino, no matter the gender or nationality. It's kinda funny, but also a little bit stressful and weird. I was honored when the girls at the office pointed to my arm and said I had Filippino skin and hair, but my face and height do not fit in here, so I stick out (y también mi maestra de Tagalog dijó hoy que me parezco Méxicana, sip! Que honor!) . Ate Chill, a national who I will be working with a lot, says this is the Filippinos way of welcoming me, which I think makes it better in my mind, because otherwise I kinda feel like a freakshow.
It's so much fun to speak because the words bounce of your lips. Ex: Babae is girl, pronounce "bah-bah-eh" and lalaki is boy pronounce "lah-lah-ki." I don't know is dahan dahan, and beautiful is magandang pronounced "mag-ang-dung." Also my name fits in nicely with these repitious noises hehe. There's this cool litte "ng" thing in the words that you only pronounce at the end if a noun follows, kinda like a French liason. So magandang is only pronounced with the "ng" at the end if it is followed by a noun, like umaga, which is morning. This is the way they say good morning, Magandang umaga. So much fun to say! Also, the accents on the words are important because saying one word with a different emphasis on a certain syllable changes the meaning of word completely. Easy to confuse because the spellings are the same, but you can make some grave errors this way! Anyway, language class this week will be good and I love the teachers.
I though living in LA was bad. They say here it's like smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day! (LA is only one haha). When I scratch my leg, black is underneath my nails. When I blow my nose, black is in my snot (yes, gross). Where the FH office is, a not-as-nice part of town, It's really hard to breath. The vehicles plus industry and urban-ness combined is just terrible. So when I do yoga (I practice as often as I can in my room hehe), I totes notice a difference in my ujjayi breath (sorry if you don't know what this is), because I can't go as deep or exhale as long! Poor lungies.
5. General cultural norms:
This is a shame society, so respect for elders and people pleasing are huge. "Ate" is Mrs./Ms. and "Kuya" is Mr. and you use these before almost everyone's name (like Ate Chill, what I said earlier). You also include "po" in sentences when address an Ate or Kuya.
Similar to Indian and Latino time, there is no punctuality. I fit in in that sense :)
It is a touch-based culture, so yay people put thier arms around eachother, hold hands, and hug. However, it is not as much as mis latinos, no kissing cheeks and couples do not do more than hold hands in public.
Sleeping on transportation is expected due to the nature of commuting. Bam another one I'm a-ok with
To signal to come, you switch the Wester gesture upside down and have your palm facing downward and moving your fingers in a backwards motion towards you. The other way is the way to call a prostitute, so it's defs important not to mix those up.
On a side note, the fruit here is amaaaaaazing and exotic and delish mcgish! Jenn and I bought dragon fruit, rambuton, and piña at the market yesterday, and we eat little bananas and mangoes at every breakfast.
Please keep praying for me as I do attempt to adjust to these things plus the relationships between my fellow intern, Jenn, and supervisor, Katie. I am so excited everyday when I awake and realize where I am, but of course I am missing family, friends, and home a little bit.