Friday, October 26, 2007

Pamper Me

I finally decided to pamper myself today. I've gone to the steam room in our fitness area already. To me, that is very relaxing and just makes me feel good. But today, I thought I would splurge a little. I went to The Lotus and got a 1 hour combination of Swedish and Shiatsu massages. That was the best massage I have ever received. Not that I've had many but it was still the best. That lady covered every inch of my body from the top of my head to the sole of my feet. Well, almost every inch. She did skip a couple of spots. It was good though, y'all. And it only cost a whopping 350 pesos plus her 50 peso tip. 400 pesos equals $8.96. Not bad, huh? Before the massage I went to Fresh Air Salon and got a pedicure for 100 pesos or $2.24. Okay, you can stop hating on me right about now. The pedi was not the best I've had but it was good for the price. I'm trying to catch up with my husband who has had 2 massages and a manicure already. Between the two of us, we're going to try every joint around here.

I've been working out lately so I can finally lose all my baby belly bulge. I attend the two free aerobic classes here. One is powerkicking and the other is just a regular aerobics class. I also go to the gym and work out on my own. I am so sore! That's why I got a massage today. Hopefully, by the time we leave here I'll be in tip-top shape.

Okay, that's all I got for today. It's time to go to sleep. I have to wake up early tomorrow so I can go to church.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Crazy Conversations

Conversation yesterday with Alex, the driver:
Alex: Ma'am do you know Saddam Hussein?
Me: No, not personally but I know of him.
Alex: I don't understand what you mean. You don't know Saddam Hussein?
Me: Yes, I know who you're talking about.
Alex: Do you know his cousin?
Me: No
Alex: He's a very rich man and he's staying in your building. My co-driver drives for him.
Me: Really. Are you sure?
Alex: Yes ma'am, he has a penthouse on the 26th floor. Have you seen him?
Me: No, I don't know who he is.
Alex: Okay, ma'am.

We took a day trip to Tagaytay which is about an hour and a half. They are known for having the world's smallest active volcano. It's in Taal Lake. While there, Dwayne and Danae rode on a horse. Because Danae is so small, a young man helped lead the horse to ensure there were no accidents. The following is a conversation between Dwayne and that boy:
Horse Boy: What is your name sir?
Dwayne: My name is Dwyane.
Horse Boy: Dwayne?
Dwayne: Yeah like Dwyane Wade. (He used this example because Filipinos are crazy about basketball)
The horse boy then started to tell all of his friends that Dwayne was Dwyane Wade. So, the boy's friends greeted Dwayne as Dwyane Wade.
Horse Boy's Friend: Do you know Kevin Garnett? Do you know other basketball players?
Dwayne: No, my name is not Dwayne Wade. My name is Dwayne G-----.
HB's Friend: Oh, Dwayne G-----. I bet I can beat you in basketball.

Conversation yesterday with Lucy, the Yaya:
Lucy: Ma'am, can I ask you a question. Why do you use cocaine?
Me: (blank stare) Excuse me.
Lucy: I read somewhere that all Americans use cocaine and I was wondering why.
Me: Lucy, all Americans do NOT use cocaine. I've never used it or even seen it outside of drug prevention days in school.
Lucy: But ma'am I heard that all Americans use drugs.
Me: Lucy, that's not true. Trust me. There are some people in America who use cocaine but most people don't.
Lucy: Do you know anyone who uses cocaine?
Me: I know someone who used to but he's clean now.
Lucy: Ma'am, is he crazy now?
Me: No, he's quite normal. Thankfully, he was able to kick that habit.
Lucy: I also heard that when people smoke marijuana they go crazy too.
Me: No, that's not true. I know a lot of people who smoked weed (yeah I said weed but I'm going to omit the part where I had to explain that terminology) and they're normal people now. It was just something they tried in their youth.
Lucy: Ma'am, why would they try something that would make them go crazy.
Me: Lucy, they are NOT crazy now. They're okay.
Lucy: But ma'am, I know a man who smoked marijuana and now he's crazy.
Me: He got a hold of some bad stuff.
Lucy: But ma'am, I still don't understand why all Americans use cocaine.
Me: We don't Lucy. Let's change the subject.

These folks can give you a straight up headache. They are crazy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wild Children and Other Stuff...

Well, the death toll from the explosion at Glorietta mall is now 11 and over 100 people were injured. The authorities haven't figured out the cause yet. The three theories are:
  1. an LPG tank exploded
  2. terrorist attack
  3. this is the funniest theory to me and Dwayne. They said the septic tanks weren't working properly and haven't been maintained well. So, the explosion could have been caused by a combination of diesel fuel (from delivery trucks below the mall) and poop.
I guess we'll just wait and see what the final verdict is. The mall was open Saturday through Tuesday. Then, the authorities closed it today (Wednesday) so they can investigate the structure and ensure that it's safe for people to walk in. Um, shouldn't that have taken place before the place opened again? Whatever...

In Manila, there are always people selling stuff on the streets, between cars, wherever they can fit. Today I saw a man selling odd things. He had about 5 bicycle tires, some headlights, and one fishing rod. What? Hey, if crackheads can sell one t-shirt out the pack or one roll of toilet paper just to get a hit, these poor people can sell whatever will make a buck.

I took the kids to the children's museum today. It's called Museo Pambata and was pretty nice. The problem was that children from a nearby school were there for a field trip. Those kids were nuts. When I was little, my mama always had that talk with me. You know the one. "Don't you go in here acting like you ain't never been no where. You betta act like you got some sense." Apparently, these children's mamas didn't have that talk because they were definitely acting like they ain't never been no where. They were so wild that they made my poor babies nervous. We tried to stay away from them but they were split up into groups. So, while we were in one part of an exhibit calmly enjoying ourselves a herd of children would explode into the room. And, what did the parents do? Absolutely nothing.

After the museum, I told the driver we needed to get lunch. I decided to treat the yaya and the driver to a little lunch. Why did these fools start naming the more costly restaurants when I asked what was nearby. On their dime, they go to Jollibee (Like McD's), McDonald's, Chowking, or some other fast food joint. On my dime, they start talking about T.G.I.Friday's, Italianni's, and other nicer restaurants. So, um, we went to McDonald's. We're already employing them and helping them earn a salary. I am not trying to spend a lot of money on lunch. Was that wrong?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Makati Mall Blast Kills 3...

So, I got a phone call today from Dwayne asking if I felt the ground shake. I didn't but then asked if it was an earthquake. He said there was an explosion or something in Glorietta Mall. This is the mall that's connected to our building. The mall he walks through every day to come home from work. The mall we stood in last night to watch Anna Wintour's Mango fashion show. The mall the kids and I go in a few times a week because it leads to grocery stores and a play area. The mall we've enjoyed dinner in at Hard Rock and T.G.I.Friday's and a few other restaurants.

Sadly, at least 3 people lost their lives. Here's an excerpt from GMA News

(Updated 2:30 p.m.) At least three people were killed while several others were hospitalized after an explosion of still undetermined origin rocked a Makati City shopping mall on Friday afternoon, initial reports said.

Police Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said initial information showed that the explosion emanated from the Luk Yuen Noodle House at the first level of the Glorietta 2 shopping mall.

Metro Manila police spokesman Supt. Rodel Sermonia said the three fatalities, who were not immediately identified, were killed on the spot.

"Initial reports show we have three dead on the spot and several wounded. We don't have the exact number of wounded people," he told dzBB radio.

Radio dzMM said the fatalities were a male and two females.

An eyewitness told GMANews.TV that it sounded like a powerful firecracker blast, and then a thudding sound was heard, like that of a ceiling that had collapsed. Shoppers scampered out of the mall, some of them crying, while police agents rushed in.

The explosion was heard near the Glorietta 2 mall, from across the Landmark shopping center, near Ayala Avenue, in the financial district of Makati City. There were unconfirmed reports of injured persons.

There may be more casualties since this just happened about an hour ago. We were advised to stay in our apartment for now. Dwayne is still at work.

We thought we had traveled to somewhere safe. But, there is no safe place except in Jesus' arms. Because of that, I do not feel uneasy even with my babies napping soundly in their beds. I know in whom I trust. I know that God can and does always protect us. And, even if he chooses not to, blessed be His name.

But for now, we are all okay. Keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What can you do for less than $250 a month...

Okay everyone, say "Hi Miss Lucy". She's sitting by Brayden. Miss Lucy is the kids' yaya (nanny). She's been working for us for a week. She doesn't live with us though. She works from 8 to 5 Monday - Friday and is available other times if needed.

What does she do? Glad you asked. Her primary responsibility is to assist me in caring for the kids. She prepares lunch for all of us and sometimes dinner too. She irons our clothes (including undies) which is Dwayne's favorite thing. Basically she does anything needed around the house. In my opinion, she babies Brayden too much. He is very independent and doesn't really want to be held and protected but she does it anyway. So, he's somewhat annoyed with her most of the time. She's learning to leave him alone though. She's also somewhat of a tour guide for us in this area of Metro Manila. She's introduced us to very nice, and not very crowded, parks. She also clues me in on where to buy the best veggies, fruit, etc.
**Sidenote: We actually live in Makati City, not Manila but it's considered Metro Manila.

Do the kids like her? Yes, actually. She does (and lets them do) whatever they want. I'm trying to change this attribute but Filipinos love small children and tend to seriously spoil them.

How much do we pay her? 9,000 pesos a month. That's just over US$200. Most yaya's are paid roughly 3000-4000 pesos so she's getting paid well. She has worked for other expatriates and comes highly recommended. And, so far she's worth every penny.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Desperate Housewives...

don't know nothing 'bout healthcare in the Philippines. At least, I hope not because we had to take Danae to the doctor yesterday. Why? Because she woke up with rashes and blisters on her arms and legs. We had absolutely no idea of what was going on. The only thing we could think was bug bites. Only, the rest of us were untouched. But then we remembered. On Friday, we went to a couple of preschools to find something for Danae to do. She ran off playing with the other kids. Had to happen there. We still took her to the doctor though because Dengue Fever is common 'round these parts. And, we've only been here a week and she kept complaining that her legs were hurting and acting like she couldn't walk. So, to the doctor we went.

The doctor we were referred to by ARM (Asian Relocation Management) is actually an American woman named Carolyn Butler. She practiced in NY and NJ and went to school in the US. She's a blond white woman. Only, she says she was born and raised in the Philippines. She has absolutely no accent but I'll believe whatever she wants us to. The diagnosis is that Danae is seriously allergic to Filipino mosquitoes. She prescribed an antibiotic cream for her and that was the end.

Now on to pharmacies. I must give props to American pharmacists (esp Keisha, Marcus, and Lonna 'cause they're my friends). At these pharmacies, they don't say anything. They hand you your medicine and that's it. No instructions on how to use it. So, you basically have to remember what the doctor says. Or try to read the prescription since they give that back to you too. One of Dwayne's coworkers got a prescription for something. He didn't realize until he got home that they just put the pills in a ziploc bag until he got home. He had to wait until the next morning to call the doctor to find out how many pills he should take and how often. Let's hope none of us have to visit the doctors or hospitals anymore while we're here...just in case Desperate Housewives was telling the truth.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hair and Yayas

Yesterday, the kids and I ventured out a bit. We went to the grocery store where three ladies stared at our hair and kept talking to one another in Tagalog. Finally, the older lady asked if she could touch my hair. I said yes but she couldn't reach me because the stroller was in the way and I wasn't trying to move it. Then, she asked Danae if she could touch hers. Danae said "no, you cannot touch my hair". That was too funny but I told the lady she could if she wanted to. The lady said "no ma'am she doesn't want me to". Then she asked if she could touch Brayden's hair and I said yes. So she started massaging my baby's head until he knocked her hand down. I had heard before I came here that people would do that because they've never seen black folks hair before.

We ate lunch at Wendy's. They have about 4 of the same meals as the US. But, they also sell shrimp sandwiches, fried chicken, and rice of course. The kids ate fried chicken and rice. I ate a chicken sandwich meal. My kids tore that rice up too. An older lady asked me what was my nationality. I told her I'm American. She then stared at the kids for a while. Then she asked "what about their father's nationality". I said he's American too. She looked so shocked. I told her there are black people in America. She said "really I didn't know that". LOL!

Filipinos have no concept of personal space and will ask anything that comes to their mind. It's nothing to be asked your age, clothing size, family info, etc.

It's very common here to have some kind of domestic helper: driver, maid, cook, nanny. We don't need a maid because this building has people come to straighten up the apartment every day. We're being assigned a driver because Dwayne's company doesn't allow their employees to driver over here. But we are thinking of hiring a nanny or yaya as their called here. We interviewed a lady named Betty yesterday. She seems nice and the kids liked her. I've scheduled another lady name Lucy to come today as well. We'll see how that goes. Although we have a maid's quarters in our apartment, I really don't want anyone living here. We Americans like our privacy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Duck Embryo, Anyone?

We have seen exactly 5 black people since arriving in Manila. We didn't expect to see a gang of black folks so it's not a big deal. But because there are so few people of color around these parts, every time we go out we're treated like celebrities. People stare at us and point us out to their unsuspecting friends. We're allowed in the mall without our bags being searched. We never have to open our own doors or anything. We just have to deal with being stared at...intently. Because we do get MTV our here and have to listen to 50 Cent in between the Christmas songs at the store, even the Filipinos have stereotyped black folks. For instance, the waiter in our building asked Brayden where his bling-bling was. We didn't even know how to respond. A waiter at Hard Rock Cafe proceeded to tell us he visited Miami before and the black people were so nice much to his surprise. Crazy!

A few interesting things about Filipinos:
They will get all in your business. It's not uncommon to be asked personal questions upon first meeting each other.
Even out here, the color of your skin is a big deal. They prefer to be as pale as possible and are treated better because of it. So, in the stores there is a plethora of skin whitening creams and lotions. Pretty sad, huh?
They really admire Americans (for whatever reason) and will go out of their way to make you happy or to help you. We're always greeted as "sir" and "mum" (ma'am) and by everyone. They think all Americans are rich. I'm sure this is fueled by all the Hollywood images here. Yes, we still have to listen to stories about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. No escaping it.

A Filipino delicacy is balut. This is a "fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell." We've been told that we have to try it but that's not happening. Supposedly, it's an aphrodisiac. They warn you to eat it outside at night so you can't actually see what it is you're eating and to not consume this on an empty stomach. I was going to post a picture but instead just click here and you'll see and learn all you want to. Enjoy!