Wednesday was supposed to be an R&R day according to our itinerary (which I'm sure exists solely as something for us to NOT follow) so we convinced Ferdie, Freddie, Jolie, and Maricor to take us to the beach. None of them seemed at all enthused about going to the beach but it's almost as if it's been a competition among the staff here to see who can show the Americans the best time and once they caught wind that we wanted to go to the beach they all wanted to join in on the trip. For as blazingly hot as it is here, we seriously couldn't figure out why they wouldn't be hitting the beach every chance they got... by the end of the day though, I'd definitely gained a new perspective. So we all hopped into the Red Adventurer and stopped about halfway there to pick up Pastor Jolie..
. who we discovered runs a small "restaurant" on the side of the road where he'd been up all morning preparing food for us and his routine customers... when we arrived to pick him up there were probably 12 different pans sitting out on one of the tables for us to select from for our lunch at the beach. The three of us had NOOOO idea what ANY of it was and tried to judge what was best based on smell--- but the odor of the tilapia that Jolie's wife had just bought out of a bucket strapped to the back of some kids bike that was riding by was overpowering everything else. I was already queasy and I knew exactly what was gonna happen. So we pointed at what looked... edible... and of course they dished it into tubs to go, threw it in the back of the hot van where it proceeded to cook for the next hour on the way to the beach... and was then unloaded onto a table where it sat in the direct sunlight for the next two hours while we swam. So maybe I'm a little neurotic (alot?) but between the sights of the meat market and the extreme heat--- it's all about enough to turn me vegan. honestly. BUT... just about the worst thing I could do is refuse to eat and make Jolie think I'm unappreciative or that his generosity is not good enough I revert to plan B... load up on as much rice as I can, try and pick out the vegetables that I can atleast convince myself haven't become an E Coli haven yet, and hope they don't get too wrapped up in the "see-what-strange-foods-we-can-make-the-Americans-eat" game. Thankfully I could blame my scorching sunburn for making me feel sick and not wanting to eat much and choked down the rest
. Ok-- enough about my ridiculous neuroticisms... those in and of themselves could be a whole entry, stay tuned...
Us paleskins lathered up the sunblock all while unsuccessfully trying to explain the necessity for such a product to a crowd that simply could not understand and were fascinated by our already acquired sunburns and then ran for the South China Sea! As soon as I hit the water, I realized why Filipinos do not consider the beach an oasis on hot summer days... the water was BOILING HOT. Even in the water up to my shoulders I was still sweating... it was horrible and not refreshing AT ALL. It was a strange contrast to be swimming around and eventually adjusting to the water to the point that it was just barely detectable that it was slightly cooler than the air around us... barely detectable. Most of the rest of the day was collecting shells on the waters edge or finding refuge in the shade of the tents. Walking along the shore, there was a lot of debris scattered about that Maricor explained just weeks prior had been huts set up either for rent or as small snack shops... all flattened by the most recent typhoon. Ridic. It was a pretty relaxing day despite the water's inability to cool us down and it made tons more sense to me why Filipinos really aren't all about the beach scene.
The past two days we spent in Margot, about two hours from Binalonan
. Yesterday we toured the Clark Air Force base that had previously been an American base but in '91 troops pulled out and is now owned by the Filipino government... I think. Sometimes it was really difficult to understand Chito's explanation of everything but I think that's how it went. And it was really difficult to get a sense for whether or not our presence there was viewed as a positive thing or a negative thing... as well as the reactions of the Filipinos when the American troops left. Alot of it was also tied to the eruption of Mt. Pinotuba in 1991 that forced alot of families from surrounding communities to leave their homes. Much of the time spent visiting families in Margot, one of the Barangays (towns) nearest to the base, also revealed first-hand stories about the consequences of the eruption. The biggest problem really though for their community is proper garbage disposal. People living on the tops of hills just throw their trash down the sides despite the fact that there are homes built at the bottoms of the hills. I'm sure you can imagine how this story ends... Yet people seem unfazed by the growing trash pile and seem uninterested in finding a solution. It baffles me. And also causes me to go through a bottle of hand sanitizer in a day and a half.
We were lucky enough though to be visiting Margot during their annual barangay festival! We played carnival games with the kids, witnessed some disturbing karaoke (Filipinos LOVE LOVE LOVE karaoke), and listened to some traditional storytelling (in Pampanga, a regional dialect so I couldn't even pick out Tagalog words..
. it was great fun). ANNNNND the boys tried Bhalut, which is basically boiled chicken fetus... they take the egg JUST as the chick is starting to hatch, boil it, and eat it. Now let's talk this out. I could probably handle this on a good day... but buying something this disgusting at a carnival, out of a dirty bucket of half-hatched eggs, from a carnie that wasn't wearing a shirt and only had three teeth. I'm a brave soul, but not that brave. But of course the boys have to be macho and buy some... walk over to a dark area (superb idea i must say... although I snapped a shot of it with a flash so they could see later what they ate and there is clearly visible blood vessels, a foot, and a few feathers) and choked it down. I stood at a safe distance in case there was pukage, but thankfully it was unnecessary... although they quickly ran to buy themselves drinks to wash it down. Disgusting. We unfortunately had to leave today before all of the festival events were over but we did get to see the parade where one of the family member's daughters that we visited was competing to be Miss Margot was riding in. We wished her luck and headed home to do some laundry and catch up on sleep (and internet!) because we have an EARLY day tomorrow... we're heading out to Saragosa with Dr. Uncle Roger (Josie's brother) and a medical team with an entire supply of Hepatitis B vaccinations. I'm not sure what the whole plan is but I'm guessing that they're just assuming we're okay around needles... I'm just praying that Zach and Myles aren't going to be suffering any delayed effects of the Bhalut.
Overall I'm doing really well-- other than sweating constantly, and every now and then REALLY craving a #12 from Jimmy Johns. Everytime I have a wave of homesickness or am just feeling overwhelmed, Chito will crack a joke or I'll witness something ridiculously Filipino (like an old man riding a Carabao (water buffalo) down the highway) and be reminded of what an incredible place I am in and the incredible people that I'm sharing with. Despite my omnipresent neuroticisms... I would not trade a second of any of my experiences so far.
Love to you all.
I can't believe I made it almost three whole days without internet! I've been spoiled thus far since Josie and Chito have internet here in their home but we took a day trip to the beach (yay!!!) and then on to Margot for two days.