Monday, August 25, 2008

I've been horrendously sick the past several days. I was more or less bedridden beginning Friday, and though I'm definitely on the mend -- and today have been able to go about most of my business -- I'm still feeling a bit shaky.
I got a whole battery of blood-tests done to see if I carried something exciting back from the tropics. I'm still awaiting the final word as to whether this was a generic- or name-brand- illness, but in the meantime, I'm just grateful I got over it so quickly, and I have a new (and inevitably fleeting) appreciation for every moment absent of excruciating pain.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Adventure Tsinelas

After 6 months, 6 countries, 2 conflict zones, 1 hand restitching, and who knows how many miles walked and rivers forded, I decided it was time for a new pair of sandals.

I'm finding myself a bit sentimental though. The old pair and I have been through a lot together -- from the floods of Manila to dirt-track crossings between Shan State and China -- and despite their girlish exterior, they've always served so well that I dubbed them the "adventure sandals."

I thought they deserved some kind of memorial. Goodbye Tsinelas. Goodbye Asia. Hello grad school, starting again tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Portrait from Agdao Market

This is a woman named Lita Midrano, who I spoke to this June, on the day rice prices broke 50 pesos per kilo in Mindanao. Midrano complained the subsidized rice provided by the National Food Authority for p18.50 a kilo was very poor quality, but she still waited in line for hours, because she couldn't afford not to.

She was angry, and along with other mothers and grandmothers in line -- women old enough to have lived through decades of war in Mindanao -- she started talking, half joking and half serious about rioting and revolution. How high, I asked, would the price have to get?

“With rice a reaching 50 pesos per kilo, we’re already getting very angry,” she told me. "But before getting angry and starting a war, we have to eat. And so we wait in line.”

Friday, August 15, 2008


Back to California, after a long, parched, uncomfortable but uneventful flight. I'm worn out, but happy to be back in my room, watching desperate flight of the last (I hope) of the ants that had taken up residence in my computer.

Notes from Manila:

It's been a brilliant exit from the Philippines.
Absolutely torrential rains, and a completely flooded out street. (On the plus side, you know who your real friends are when you kinda really need someone to go out into the flood and find a taxi for you so you don't have to take your bags to the corner in the rain).
I'm flying Philippine Airlines, which has its very own international terminal. Meaning, no mitigating factors for the PAL experience. Over an hour wait to check in. Nowhere to get a magazine apart from the Christian Bookazine Corp. , and you can't even buy a bottle of water past security to take on the flight.
And then the power goes off. They've got some kind of generator, but it's still incredibly dim, and apparantly bathrooms are not a priority area. Best of all, the fancy, "hi-tech" sensor-controlled toilets and faucets do not function, and have no manual back-up (except for the charming attendent who ran out to get dippers full of water).
The power's come back, hence the wifi. But, ach, it's like packing into three hours all the things I hate, but will invariably feel slightly nostalgic for, about the Philippines.
Next stop, San Francisco.
[editors note: true to form, the touted free wifi does not actually work. So this won't actually go up until California]

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It's been a fairly grim week. So hot I miss the rain. 2 journalists have been shot, one fatally. The Dengue fever season is in force, and it's seems to have even reached into my home -- the friend who lives in the next room over has been prostrate this week, with all the symptoms of dengue, having to go to the hospital for repeated blood tests. The only consolation is knowing that if he had contracted one of the really dangerous strains, he'd already be dead. Instead, the worst seems to have passed, but it's frightening, and not least because I live in the same conditions, getting bitten by the same mosquitos.

This is not to say I'm living in a state of misery. I get out, even have the occasional productive day, but I've been feeling a little, shall we say, distracted...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Monsoon Blues

View from my roof yesterday
It can be very, very difficult to get anything done when leaving the house involves wading.