Sunday, 31 August 2008

Deep Questions

B: "Ryan?"
R: "Mmm?"
B: "Is there really a WKRP in Cincinnati?"
R: "...I've never thought about it before."


So I got to Palawan and headed straight for the jeepneys going to Sabang. Mine broke down immediately, which meant that I had two hours to kill at the market before catching the last one out of the city.
Mmm, markets.
Sabang was beautiful, and sunset isn't the worst time of day to arrive.
How pretty is this beach? The answer is so pretty.
Here's where I stayed in a nipa hut on the beach, for about $5 a night. I had electricity from 6-10pm, and the mosquito net was included. That's a bargain.
Here's a banca, which I decided not to take and hiked through the rainforest instead. If I get Japanese B encephalitis, I do owe Nurse Jane an apology.
I took the Jungle Trail, which is basically marked by spots of orange paint on the trees. Once again, I'm reminded that I'm not what you might call a hardy individual, as I tripped and sweated and cursed my way through 5 kilometers of dense foliage.
Here's the underground river, and nobody warned me that it's full of thousands of bats and swallows who screech and flap around as you pass underneath them. If there were pigeons, I would have leapt out and swam like hell.
See this look? This is relief at having a helmet and not being attacked by bats.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Good Morning, Manila

I'm back in Manila after a whirlwind end of the week - on Thursday, I went into the mountains outside of Cebu for a gay beauty pageant until 2am, went directly to the airport for a flight to Cagayan de Oro and - upon landing - started interviewing members of a group from a nearby town, skulking around the night market in Divisoria, and not getting beheaded or shot in cold blood all day Friday, then got a few hours of sleep before flying back to Manila on Saturday for a forum on trans issues in the Philippines. A bunch of the women invited me to hang out afterwards - and they were a blast, which is why I just got back. Now it's technically Sunday and 4am, and I should sleep, except that I forgot to buy groceries and (worse than that) deodorant, shaving cream, and shampoo to replace the set I threw out in my last hotel to make room for my books. That means I have to go to the mall first thing in the morning, which, at this rate, will probably be sometime in the mid-afternoon.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

No, Now

This sounds absurd, but I need to know how the Day After Tomorrow ends. SuperCat showed it on both ferries this afternoon (on the way to Tagbilaran and on the way back to Cebu) and both times, the trip was ten minutes shorter than the movie. I got to the tearful reunion, but it was unclear whether humanity survived or froze to death, and that seemed sort of important.

PS. Who shows a movie like the Day After Tomorrow on a ferry in the middle of a thunderstorm? I guess it's cinematically better than Hellboy, which we watched on the bus to Baguio, but the theme is sort of upsetting when you're reading about the Princess of the Stars sinking and nervously bouncing from wave to wave.

PS. Today, I saw the Chocolate Hills, rode on the back of a motorbike across Bohol, swooned over a tarsier, ate carabao stew, and made it back to Cebu. And all this, in approximately six hours in Bohol.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Welcome to Cebu, Now Go To Hell

Boo, coming from Palawan to Cebu is hard. Yesterday, I woke up at 6:30 and spent the day island-hopping and snorkling in Honda Bay. I saw angelfish and coral reefs and played with starfish and got the worst sunburn I've ever had in my entire life. I ate a bluefin tuna and shrimp and rice with my bare hands, and for dinner, I went to KaLui and took off my shoes and had another fish, with oyster soup, seaweed salad. fried camote, and shredded vegetables, with a half-melon full of fruit for a (complimentary) dessert. Aside from my sunburn, which was already painful by the time I went to bed, it was perfect.

Today, I had breakfast in a cafe that was approximately 100 degrees, caught a flight and paid like four times too much for a taxi from the airport to the YMCA, found that the dorm reservation I'd made wasn't made and they only had doubles available, found a fairly low-budget pensionne that didn't even make the Rough Guide's cut, and then ate something involving green beans and what turned out to maybe be pig's ears for lunch thinking that the ears were vegetables.

I want my island vacation back.

Sunday, 24 August 2008


So I'm doing all my traveling this week, which is how I spent most of yesterday bumping from Puerto Princesa up to Sabang in a way-overloaded jeepney full of vegetables, rice, cartons of nonperishable foods, and about thirty people. Still, when I finally got there, I rented a nipa hut on the beach for $5, washed off in the South China Sea, jogged down the beach for rice, grilled fish, and San Mig, and then went for a midnight swim. It was probably the most beauty I've seen in 24 hours, ever. I stood out on a sandbar for like twenty minutes just staring up at the sky, which is literally blanketed in stars and cloudy galaxies, which I don't think I've ever actually seen that clearly before. (I'd like to say that I slept peacefully afterwards, but that's not true. I woke up once in the middle of the night and had to pee and almost killed myself trying to get out of my mosquito net and almost woke up everyone on the beach when monitor lizards kept running over my feet en route to the bathroom and I almost screamed.)

I woke up at dawn to grab coffee and a banana pancake (yay!), then hiked through the rainforest (apologies to Nurse Jane) on the Jungle Trail to the Underground River. Somehow, I managed to get into the first boat that was leaving, tour the river, hike back along the Monkey Trail (and by hike, I mean periodically sprint), and catch a jeepney back to Puerto Princesa, where I'm spending the night before Honda Bay tomorrow. Also, there's a total 'mo working at the front desk of my inn. It's a good thing I brought a very damp version of my survey. (I got soaked in my own sweat hiking 5km to the river, then once again hiking 5km back.) And then I changed shirts and reapplyed deodorant, and then I got rained on and soaked again. Anyway, I'm going to polish off my shopping, because the outdoors isn't working for me today.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

On Color Schemes and Gay Porn

I don't know how I just found this out, but the Red Power Ranger does gay porn for Sean Cody. Congratulations, your childhood dreams are either fulfilled or destroyed forever.

So basically, the pink one was the girly girl, the yellow one was Asian, the black one was the black guy, and the red one was the porn star. Um, fitting? (The blue one was just a straight-up geek, but you can't have a plaid Power Ranger, and anyway, it's probably a reference to the fact that he was depressed or drank a lot on Sundays.)

This is Desperation, Loud and Clear

I went down to the neighborhood where I'm doing research by way of walking, taking the LRT, catching a tricycle, and then walking again, only to find that my interviews today were postponed until tomorrow. In desperation, I ended up trying to find queer people all by myself, which is how I spent my afternoon looking for lesbians in a women's jail.

I'm officially in trouble.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Plan B!

Between Hurricane Karen and the red-alert security in Manila this week, I keep thinking of that nifty post office oath about the rain and sleet and snow and bears. The difference is that postal workers are delivering mail, while it is increasingly unclear what I'm doing in Manila aside from running all over the place, getting wet, and being searched by police on the LRT. The activists I've hung out with have been fun and educational, it's just that the work I got a grant to do has been slow going - like, glacially, to the point that it's basically stopped.

I've got a burst of interviews tomorrow and Friday, and then I'm going to the Visayas and Mindanao until the end of August. And when I return, I'm tweaking my research plan and basically just barnstorming neighborhoods, clipboard in hand. It'll either be really intrepid or comically unsuccessful, but it's probably going to have to happen.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Everyone, Go Out and Buy Insurance

I'm telling everyone I meet to go buy insurance from Blue Cross, Blue Shield, who just unexpectedly deposited 90 pounds in my bank account to cover that crazy expensive rabies vaccine that I got before coming to the Philippines. Unfortunately, "everyone I meet" mostly includes hawkers and tricycle drivers in Malate, so I don't know that this will really pump up their sales. But still, much appreciated.

Sagada, Ban Yo, and Banaue

I decided on Saturday evening that I was going to hike out to the lookout at Kiltepan, which is a couple miles outside of Sagada. I did it without directions and ended up hiking through this alpine wasteland, where it rapidly got foggy and felt like I'd wandered into one of the grainy sequels to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except not so much in Texas as in Appalachia. The funniest part was when I got near the top of the mountain, turned a corner, and found myself standing about twenty feet in front of a bull. I noticed that the bull wasn't tied or chained to anything, and was like, "just walk past it, and pretend it's a cow with horns." Reflecting on it, I realized that nature dishes out stuff like horns for a reason, and that would be like an insect being like, "ignore the predator's terrifying eyes, and pretend it's just a monarch butterfly." Then it grunted, and I did the awkward backwards retreat and decided to hike back to Sagada.

And then it poured rain. It sucked, but I had to change anyway, because there's this French ex-pat who does a buffet every Saturday in this cabin in Sagada using ingredients from the market that morning, and I wanted to show up not covered in mud, blood, and rain. It was hella good - the vegetable soup was the best I've ever had (and I take soup very, very seriously), and there was granary bread with spicy mole, beans with shavings of ham, pasta carbonara, chicken and sesame seeds in eggplant caviar and yogurt, and roast pork loin, then coffee-laced pastries and coffee. It easily made up for all my previous face-offs with nature.
The next morning, I hopped a jeepney for Bontoc, which I shared with about a dozen women and a bunch of bushels of peppers and cabbage wedged between our legs. When we got to Bontoc, I had to climb out a window. And then I caught a hollowed-out bus for Banaue from there, and as soon as we passed the viewpoint for the rice terraces, this helpful nun motioned for me to follow her off the bus. I took some pictures of the rice terraces before heading down to Banaue, and then we had a really pleasant walk together down to the village.

The only problem was that it wasn't Banaue, it was the viewpoint outside of Ban Yo, which is about a day away by foot. When I looked at her incredulously and was like, "no, I'm not going to Ban Yo, I'm going to BANAUE," she was like, "oh, you'll have a hard time catching another bus, because it's Sunday. Come to my church!" so I hiked all the way back up to the viewpoint and sat watching the mountainside for another bus, trimming my nails with a cuticle scissors to keep from hyperventilating. One finally rumbled along and I scrambled to put away my bathroom bag and get myself together, then flagged it down and hopped aboard.

It was a luxury bus, and it was empty except for the driver and navigator. They kept stopping and dropping off packages and picking stuff up. It may have been a drug run, but they let me ride along for two hours for only 100 pesos so I'm not complaining.
I have about 50 variations on this picture, taken from various altitudes along the hike from the viewpoint down to Banaue. It was 5km and I didn't have an iPod, so it was either that or run from the roosters that kept jumping out of the underbrush.
Okay, so this is a wedding in Bocos that I got dragged into as I was looking for a woodworking shop in Bocos Village. There was dancing and a helluva lot of food, and it was awesome.
And then I went to buy Christmas presents for David, Mike, Kelly, and my mom, and the woman I bought them from was like, "it's a shame you're leaving tonight, you should really explore the rice terraces" and her son, Claudius, offered to take me. The kid just turned 13, but he was like the best guide ever - he pointed out all the different types of rice and how you could tell when they were ready to harvest, and we spent almost two hours walking along the dirt walls of the rice terraces, climbing up to a bunch of Ifugao huts, and trekking up to the waterfall you can see from Banaue. It was maybe the highlight of my trip, even though the last twenty minutes was spent sprinting through the rice terraces trying to beat the downpour. I thought about writing a strongly worded letter to the manufacturers of Sketchers to complain about their traction in muddy rice terraces, but that might have to wait until I get back to the UK.

A Dozen Interviews vs. My Life

I like to think I'm pretty plucky about things like this, but when I got to the part where a busload of civilians were summarily executed as they begged for mercy, I reluctantly decided that I should probably cancel my trip to Mindanao at the end of August. I was still planning on going in spite of the scattered bombings this weekend, but between the roaming bands of rebels who are indiscriminately killing civilians, the militias that citizens themselves are forming, and the deployment of Filipino troops to take back the cities, it might be a bad idea to visit this stretch of cities at the moment.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Baguio and Sagada

I have so many good stories from this weekend! And good pictures! You can't recap a long weekend of solo adventuring in narrative form because it either ends up being half-hearted or exhaustively boring, so I'm going to put up my favorite pictures for the highlights.

I arrived in Baguio at 4:30am, caught a cab to the bus stop, and spent two hours there before taking off to Sagada. This is the bus stop, where I got a cup of coffee and a dense, melt-in-your-mouth slab of pineapple cake. I wanted to pick up another cup of coffee to go, so I went to a diner that was like the equivalent of Denny's. A fistfight almost broke out while I was there, which was fun. I was like, are you seriously holding your friend back? It's like a movie!! Only scarier, because nobody really had any idea what to do.
So these are the hanging coffins in Sagada, in Echo Valley. Ooo.
And this is the underground river, which I explored with my guide, Tony. It's when I first became totally caked in mud, which was a theme for the rest of the weekend.
And these are the coffins in Lumaging Cave, which I trekked to by myself...
...until I was like, "um, I'm alone in a subterranean cave with 500 dead bodies, and nobody knows where I'm at."

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Back to the Relative Safety of Five-Bar Cell Phone Service

I'm back from Sagada and Banaue, where I did a ridiculous amount of hiking and had a bunch of accidventures. After four days without a hot shower, I took the overnight bus from Banaue to Manila and got back at 4am, when I promptly took a shower, made a cup of coffee, and watched the sun rise over Malate. And then I started planning for my next vacation, beginning on Saturday.

Aside from cutting open two fingers while spelunking and possibly contracting dengue fever on a rice terrace, I also brought back like 200 pictures, because this trip easily had the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen, ever.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Grit Your Teeth and Say Adventure

Ha, I'm not going to have hot water for at least part of this trip. The upside is that as this whole Russia and Georgia thing slowly escalates into World War III, it's an awfully opportune time to be off the grid somewhere up in the Cordilleras.

A Series of Bad Choices

I hope it keeps raining, because it is hot like whoa and I can't write because I'm sweating profusely. It's all I can do to bullet point.

After my whopping one interview this afternoon, I wandered around the area by the Quirino LRT stop and bought a couple of carrots, a fistful of string beans, a head of cabbage, a chunk of squash, and a mango. When the woman saw the flies all over the squash and cut off the ends, I was like, why, how did you know I'm fending off illness? And then I bought deep fried eggs from a street vendor, and hereby deserve everything I contract from this point onward.

Since I don't have interviews this weekend, I feel justified grabbing a backpack and wandering semi-aimlessly north to see the rice terraces in Banaue and the hanging coffins in Sagada. I'm justifying this by telling myself that it's more productive than sitting around the guesthouse reading books that I could read when I get back to Oxford, and politely ignoring the fact that it's less productive than doing interviews. Besides, hanging coffins. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Girls, What's My Weakness? Pathogens. :(

The interviews went okay - my interpreter was really nice and put up with my nervousness, especially when it turned out that the first set of interviews was three people, in a group, which was slightly overwhelming. When you word questions badly, it's painfully apparent when three people - and your interpreter - look at you quizzically as you desperately, artlessly try to rephrase.

I got my first 4 interviews out of the way, which isn't so bad when I'm gunning for a sample of 32 people. Granted, it's going to be tricky finding 28 more people to interview, but I'm not going to panic about that until mid-September. For now, I'm going to concentrate on the fact that the nausea I chalked up to nerves hasn't gone anywhere, and I'm beginning to suspect that it's tied to the odd grinding feeling and sharp pains that I've got in my stomach. The fact that I got away with drinking tap water and eating fruit from the back of carts for two weeks was probably impressive, but I have a sinking feeling that this is going to be a puke-till-your-neighbors-hate-you type of evening.

UPDATE: I kept down dinner, except I've broken out in a sweat and full-body aches. Because sitting upright is starting to hurt my back, I think I'm going to go lie down, finish I Am Charlotte Simmons, and feel sorry for myself. (I was going to watch the first half of Friends With Money before I went to bed, but the thought of balancing a hot laptop and sitting jackknifed on my bed makes me queasy. And possibly sterile.)

UPDATE: I survived! I seem to remember waking up a few times in the middle of the night and might have been delirious, but it was a fleeting delirium. And no puking yet. This is obviously a sign that I should keep eating fried bananas from street vendors and oily lunches that have been sitting out on a counter all morning.

Here I Go, Here I Go, Here I Go Again

Eep, I'm off to do the first round of interviews at my field site - I've done a couple with activists that were fine, but this is the first set I'm doing with my sample, through a translator, using a survey that I put together in a fit of genius or total stupidity. I'll know in about two hours, anyway.

Urgh, I'm so nervous that I actually feel a little nauseous.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Bills are Alive!

Somebody on the roof deck is watching what appears to be a remake of the Sound of Music, in Tagalog, set in the Philippines, filmed with a camcorder. And the guy who's playing the Captain Von Trapp role looks suspiciously like Bill Richardson.

Meh, Hillary's campaign debt doesn't pay itself.

The Travel Bug, Which is Preferable to Malaria

I'm officially sunburned, but I feel like I need to take advantage of the sunshine before the rain hits again and I'm back to slogging through monsoon water. Understandably, most of the bars and cafes on my street keep their tables in the shade, but there's a hotel across the way with a Starbucks and a sunny courtyard set back from the street that nobody ever uses. I've been sitting there every day and reading the paper, which usually takes just long enough that I'm drenched in sweat and beginning to feel pain. And I always sit on a ledge by a fountain, except the fountain is off and I realized that I've basically been relaxing next to a pool of stagnant water for three days as insects bite my arms, which is probably not the smartest idea. Luckily, I've heard that being incredibly good looking wards off malaria.

And speaking of malaria, I've gotten sort of bored with Manila (not the research, but the other few hours of the day where I hang out on my street) and I'm ready to travel. I'm networking with groups to do a sort of Grand Tour to Cebu and a couple of other cities with active LGBT groups, ending up in Palawan for a weekend of beaches before flying back to Manila. I'm pretty sure that a vacation during your fieldwork is about the polar opposite of a staycation, which puts me at odds with just about everyone, everywhere.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Like Candy for Pesos

Because I was a big lame-o yesterday and stayed in to watch Sex, Lies, and Videotape (which was excellent, and I can't believe I'd never seen it), I went out with a bunch of people from the guest house and ended up at Tia Maria's. While there, I somehow developed a crush on every vocalist in the cover band, including a gorgeous singer in red Daisy Dukes, a cute probably gay singer with a square jaw and dyed red hair, and a super-butch singer who had everyone guessing her gender until she spoke halfway through the set. That crush was the strongest. She had sideburns.

But after dancing with this married woman for a couple minutes, I excused myself to go outside and buy cigarettes. There was a little girl selling packs of cigarettes and individually wrapped candies from a wooden tray down the street, so I wandered over and crouched to see what she had. She shyly pointed to different packs as I tried to figure out what I wanted, and eventually, we picked out a pack of Marlboro Lights.

"45 pesos," she said.

I dug in my pocket and pulled out a crumpled 50 peso bill.

She peeked into her box and got a panicked look on her face, because all she had was a 10 peso coin. I was about to say that it was fine and she should keep the change, and her face lit up and counted out five candies and pushed them into my fist.

I could totally get used to this city.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Mid-Year Resolutions

1. I will not crack jokes about Clay Aiken fathering a child.
2. I will not point out that the mother of that child is named Jaymes.
3. I will only point out that both Aiken and the author of this article seem to have a six year old's understanding of where babies come from. Hint: it can't happen by being friends with a girl. After reading this profoundly asexual story, I'm totally unsure whether they were ever romantically involved or whether Clay Aiken is just a prolific sperm donor.

UPDATE: Geez, you have no idea how many articles you have to manually flip through just to make sure that "sperm clay aiken" never ends up in your Google cache. Anyway, it turns out that People reported on this in May, and Aiken is the sperm donor and she's like 50 and they're planning on raising the child together. Since I've already promised my genes to any and all of my favorite lesbian friends, I'm going to go ahead and say that that's pretty cool. But grudgingly, because it's Clay Aiken.

My Very First Filipino Homophobia

So today, I was walking down the street not even looking particularly gay (I was wearing a white Hanes tee-shirt and I guess my jeans were women's jeans from Express, but whatever), and these three old men start going, "hey, bakla, bakla, bakla!" which basically means, hey, queer, queer, queer! and since it wasn't particularly threatening and the term itself is less definitively hateful than the translation would imply, I just cocked an eyebrow and smiled self-deprecatingly. Surprise, it's one of the approximately five words I know in Tagalog.

Weirdly, I was kind of proud of that.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Bless You, Guv'ment

I met with city officials today, and it was very briefly crushing. Basically, we realized that the best way for me to identify LGBT people is to tag along with trained enumerators, wait on pins and needles, and hope that the head of the household says yes when they ask if there are any LGBT people under their roof. And then I'd be like, CAN I TALK TO THEM!? and they would probably not be home, or the person would be like, no, or I would have fallen asleep by that point. So many possibilities for disaster.

But then I timidly was like, um, what about a snowball sample? and they were like, hey, we've got a dude here in our office who might be helpful and I was like, oh, no, that's not exactly what I meant. But they did, and he turned out to be incredibly friendly and helpful, and I've now got a variety of gay (and hopefully, lesbian) groups to talk to in the neighborhood, which will quickly indicate whether this project will be a smashing success or a train wreck.

If it's the latter, I hedged my bets by having coffee with approximately two dozen activists tonight. I was gladhanding and taking cards like the i-banker that I will never become, and it didn't feel dirty at all because I was doing it for Social Justice, so there.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

If All Else Fails, I'm Penciling in a Cockfight

I had my first interview with an activist this afternoon, and things like whether it was a "success" or "dismal failure" are irrelevant, for three reasons:

1. It happened. If everything else fails miserably, I have an honest-to-goodness interaction to think about that gave me a way better grip on what I'm doing and raised a bajillion questions to consider. (And so while it doesn't technically matter, IT WAS A SUCCESS!)
2. For it to happen, I had to tackle the Yellow Line, the Purple Line, and the MRT, take a jeepney to the University of the Philippines in Quezon City and find a cafe that I was unable to find on a map (but bravely/stupidly agreed to meet at anyway), then caught a cab, a jeepney, and the MRT and the Yellow Line back to the guesthouse.
3. The cafe has awesome carrot cake. :/

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Faster, Britney! Kill! Kill!


Today was mega-pleasant - I slept in, got an unexpected phone call from Marcel that basically made my day (by noon!), picked up some hella good lunch at Bistro Remedios that involved rice, something green and leafy, squash, and braised catfish, finished Different Rainbows and read a few chapters from Mapping Desire, hacked up a mango and read the paper, and then spent the evening in Makati, where I checked out that condo and hung out with Caroline, my possibly-roommate.

The downside to the condo is that the gym is what Caroline politely described as a 'prison gym,' meaning that it's just a couple of weight machines and a couple of men who looked like they could kill me. The upside is that it's actually on the outskirts of Makati, so the deck on the roof had a beautiful, sweeping panorama of the skyline, but across the street there were still a couple of carinderias where I got a plate of potatoes, carrots, and beef with rice and soup for $0.80.

So it'll be great if I can swing it, but it was worth visiting Makati regardless. If I can work around my research, I think I'm going to travel up north to the rice terraces and Sagawa, spend a weekend in Pawalan, and then hopefully do two day-trips to Cebu and (barring the implosion of the MoA and the elections that might set off another wave of separatist violence this week) Mindanao.

If there's one lesson I've taken to heart over the past few years, it's that one should strive to be at least as resilient as Britney Spears.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Moose, in a Landslide!

I know it's going to be a good day when I wake up and the CNN clips are more surreal (and let's face it, more awesome) than my wildest dreams the night before.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Mmm, Pain

Ow, eating fried bananas from a street vendor is not the best way to celebrate your figuring out a research plan. I almost barfed on the way up Taft Avenue, and I can still feel the oil corroding my stomach lining.

That said, it hurts so, so good.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Excitement! Terror!

One of the best ideas I've heard all summer was from Sarah, who went home for a summer between college and grad school to cultivate enough boredom that grad school would be like Disney World. Following her lead, I think it was smart to leave this past week for settling in, because after just four days I'm chomping at the bit to get started in a way that I definitely wasn't when I arrived on Wednesday afternoon. (Then, I was jet-lagged and overwhelmed and reduced to apologetically tipping anyone who helped me with my leftover dinars from the UAE.)

So tomorrow I meet with a couple of researchers here in Manila, and I'm both pumped and terrified. Pumped, because I want to get this stuff underway. Terrified, because if they're busy and can't help me, I have no idea what I'm going to do here. I'm not at all qualified to wander into impoverished inner-city neighborhoods and knock on people's doors to ask them eighty questions about poverty. I outlined four backup plans tonight, but those were mostly to make myself feel better, because Plan E involves packing up and going to a city in southern Luzon where a friend of a friend is doing poverty research, and that's the only thing that's maybe dumber than what I came up with for Plans B-D. Anyway, wish me luck!

(Also, I can't find an International Herald Tribune to save my life, so if anyone has a copy of the New York Times crossword for today and feels like scanning it and emailing it to me, I will love you forever.)

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Deus Ex Machina

I just asked the guy who owns my guesthouse if I could stay for two months, and got the go-ahead. It's not ethnographically ideal, but let's be honest - living in a studio by myself doesn't really lend itself to participant observation, either. And the place has WiFi and a kitchen and is well-established, unlike the anonymous landlady who I would have to pay with traveler's checks (that I sort of neglected to get before coming to Manila) who has been pretty crap at staying in touch with me thus far. I consider all these things to be huge advantages in favor of the guesthouse. (Also, it's $270 a month, which is pretty sweet.)

And then the owner mentioned this to a French girl sitting out on the patio, who pulled up a chair by my laptop and explained that her roommate is leaving and there's a spot open in their four person condo. It also has WiFi and a kitchen and identifiable owners, and I could skip the traveler's checks because it's so affordable that I could just take the rent out of an ATM and try to not get mugged for ten minutes. (To put it in perspective, a week at Oxford should cover a month in this place.) The downside is that it's in the swank neighborhood that's about twenty minutes from my field site, and I would actually be sharing a room with this girl (but in two single beds, like Ricky and Lucy except without any Little Ricky showing up midseries). And I'd probably get out more than I would if I lived alone, since I'm prone to hermitude sometimes.

Anyway, it buys me time. I think I'm going to scrap the two apartments and stay in the guesthouse, and if this condo works out, I'll move mid-month and still save money. Oh, the kindness of strangers.

Insomnia and Fairy Tales

I haven't really adjusted to the jet lag yet, and my guesthouse is in the middle of Malate and that means Beyonce and Soulja Boy until the sun comes up, which is why I ended up sitting on the patio on the roof of the guesthouse at 5am drinking green tea and reading Grimm's Fairy Tales. (Behold, the finite joys of hostel bookshelves.)

These are awesome (especially Prudent Hans, where the Brothers Grimm take a stab at dialogue and the whole thing ends up sounding like it was written on LSD), but my favorite opening hands-down is this:

"Once on a time, a mouse and a bird and a sausage lived and kept house together in perfect peace among themselves, and in great prosperity. It was the bird's business to fly to the forest every day and bring back wood. The mouse had to draw the water, make the fire, and set the table; and the sausage had to do the cooking."

At 5am, that seems like an eminently sensible arrangement.

Good News and Bad News

Man, being alone with a seven to thirteen hour gulf between you and most of your nearest and dearest really lends itself to emotional instability. Yesterday was particularly rough - I realized that I still have a ton of work for this article (due on Tuesday), and found out that my attempted transfer was returned to my bank account in the UK, minus $150. And nobody can tell me what went wrong, because they said that's been mailed to my box in Oxford and I can sort it out in October. Fantastic.

The upside is that I looked at apartments, and I've got two reserved till Monday - one is in a student high-rise that's really lively and has a bunch of shops downstairs, but the room looks like a prison cell; the other is a little bit further from the university and slightly chaotic, but the suite is fully furnished, really cozy, and has a kitchen, bathroom, and sitting room. Meep. Neither of them have internet, but that's typical of most of the places I've found online, and they're both near internet cafes. Anyway, I think I'm taking the suite instead of the room, but I'm trying to convince the woman to throw in appliances for free because I'm cheap like that, and would feel karmically better if she could give me $150 worth of kettles, toasters, and microwaves.