Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm in between appointments right now, was wandering around Quezon City and found a bizarre little internet cafe to kill time in. It's tucked away somewhat improbably on a residential street, and seems to cater primarily to children under 10. Perhaps it's just a function of the time of day. In any case, the internet connection, though slow, is functional, and they're letting me charge up my recorder.
I've been running around pretty much non-stop since I've been here. Two appointments a day may not sound like so much, but trying to get anywhere in Manila is always a bit of an enterprise, so it gets exhuasting quickly.
It's also hard to keep my factions straight. You'd think that the left in this country has enough external problems that infighting would seem like a bad idea, but it seems to be an endlessly popular local passtime. I'm trying to remain as willfully ignorant as possible, but it complicates things. For example, I had an interview with a representative from one organization this morning. It went very well -- he was very friendly and articulate, sat and talked with me for almost an hour and offered to help get me in touch with other people. And yet, when I was leaving, I had to be vague about where I was headed, because I'm going to go talk to another group -- which to me seems very similar in political orientation -- that I do happen to know falls on the other side of a factional split.
To an extent, it's possible to stay out of it as a foreigner, but I do know that it could catch up with me that I've essentially been making contacts through two different networks. Ach, well.
On another front, I finally went to the dentist yesterday. The good news: no cavities. Even the weird hole in my back molar that I was trying vainly to convince myself was just a chipped tooth was, in fact, just a chipped tooth. The bad news: I'm looking at some wisdom tooth extraction in my near future. Again: Ach, well.
I'm in an environment where it's entirely impossible to think. The kids are kicking off. Not to mention reading over my shoulder, staring, etc. So, I think I'm going to give up on this post, try again another time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


So, this is my mass email style post to let everyone know that I arrived safely in Manila, after a long, hungry, uneventful flight.
(Side notes: Percentage of flights I have requested vegetarian meal for: 100%. Percentage of flights on which I have actually gotten said meal: 0%. On the plus side, they took one look at me towering over everyone else at the check in counter & offered me an exit row seat for extra legroom, which meant that I was actually able to stretch out my legs and get a bit of sleep)
It's crazy to be back here. I'm sleeping in the same room I was in last summer, so everything's simultaneously familiar and alien in my jet-lagged, half-asleep state.
It was funny even getting on the plane in San Francisco. I didn't even have to check where the Philippine Airlines counter was, just followed the hordes of people pushing luggage carts overflowing with Balikbayan boxes. Never fails to amuse me that flights to the Philippines have a higher baggage allowance than to pretty much anywhere else in the world. The airline industry has thrown up its collective hands in defeat.
My flight arrived early (despite PAL inc's reputation as P-lane A-lways L-ate, i-f n-ot c-ancelled) but the ridiculous lines to get through customs more than made up for it. Decided I was too tired to haggle, and took an official airport taxi, paying a premium for an easy life. You get thrown back into the city pretty much immediately upon leaving the airport. Slums, throngs, traffic. The route up to my friend's crosses almost the whole city via EDSA, so I went past little shacks built over the water, the looming, oversized billboards of Makati, the string of military camps in Quezon City, Tagalog coming back to me in fits and starts.
Lots of signs forbidding pissing and throwing rubbish. Lots of rubbish and piss.
And the air. It's hard to describe. Not so much the heat or the humidity, but the absolute filth of it. It just sort of hangs, drapes itself over you like a dirty wet blanket. The rains are late this year.
Does it sound like I hate Manila? Because I don't. I'm not really sure what I'm doing here. I feel like a fraud, an imposter. I would've rather had a few more weeks to recover from being sick, plan out my stay. But I'm here, and a part of me will always love this city, both in spite of and for all of its imperfections.

p.s. I have a cell number now. email for it.