The Voyage Home, Another 39 Hour Day


Next day.  The second to the last of this Philippine trip.

I woke up early to find that the Gonzaga Bulldogs were on a live stream.  It was 6 in the morning in Cebu, half time of an evening game in the states.  I watched that as Praxy got ready for the day.  Game over at 7am, so we went to eat breakfast.

The Maxwell motel has a great free breakfast.  One of the best I’ve ever had in the Philippines.  Most motel restaurants suffer from low traffic and indifferent employees.  So the food is invariably cold and poorly prepared.  Many times with inferior ingredients.  Not so at the Maxwell.

Next door there is a culinary school.  The motel has worked out a deal where the students prepare and serve meals.  I’m guessing the motel provides the ingredients and clients and the school provides everything else.  Win-win.  And another win for us customers.

Those students are eager to please.  Everything we ate was cooked perfectly, hot from the stove, and tasty.  Brought to us by smiling student with one teacher watching over them.  It was funny watching a young man learning to be a waiter.  He had a heck of a time with balancing plates and was obviously very nervous.  I gave them tips the first morning on waiting on foreigners as they didn’t bring us any water.  Next morning, they were offering water to us with smiles.  We tipped them well.

Back to the room for prep, then off to the new Shoe Mart mall, SM Seaside.  We wanted to visit this “largest mall in Asia” to see for ourselves.

I wasn’t very impressed.  For one thing, it’s so darn big it takes forever to find the store you’re looking for.  Another, the stores are very upscale.  Prices were high and there wasn’t a lot of shoppers.  A third, as it was new, there were still many stores under construction.  I don’t hold that last one against them.  It will fill.

There were many foreigners in the place.  The only people that could afford it.  Lots of youngsters window shopping.  I got a big charge out of watching people learning to ice skate.  And an empty bowling alley.

Praxy went in to get new frames for her glasses.  Nothing fit and the prices were outrageous.  As much or more than the US.  I bought a new set of headphones for my computer as one channel quit on my nice Sony noise-cancelling ones after one cruise, two Philippine trips, a trip to Arizona, and 1/2 dozen Idaho trips.  Plus I used them daily at work.  No more shopping.  (I was able to fix them when I got home!)

I did stop in the local Burger King for lunch.  Notice a pattern in my blog?  I love eating hamburgers.

Anyway, a bunch of foreigners showed up for lunch and we congregated for a chat.  Lets see; Washington state (myself, Praxy showed up a little later after eating ANOTHER halo halo), Arizona, St. Louis, Detroit, Ohio, San Diego, Texas, and North Carolina sitting in the same area chatting.  Others off to the side that chose not to join us.  The guy from St. Louis, Dale,  and I spent a lot of time talking, we are now FB friends.

Dale was touring the Philippines and was wistfully looking for a place with good, inexpensive seafood.  Well, you just can’t get any better than Eastern Samar.  I suggested he take off for Tacloban and then explore Eastern Samar from there.  He is reading my blog and I hope to hear back from him if he takes off that way.  He’s retired and just wandering around enjoying himself.  I’ve got 5 more years at least before I retire.

Since prices were high, we took off after lunch for the Robinson’s mall near Osmena Fuentes.  I knew of a couple of inexpensive shops there for glasses and yep, they had what Praxy needed.  Twenty five dollars covered it.  A LOT better than $200.  That gave us time to shop up some things we wanted to bring back to the states.  My beloved pork and beans.  Dried fruit.  Facial soap.  Hand lotion ( Yeah, the American brands are MUCH better in the Philippines.  Not near as much water, as in waste filler, in them).  We tightened up our luggage with goodies so our clothing wouldn’t slide around so much (HA!).  Later, it gave US customs an excuse to thoroughly inspect our luggage in Seattle.  They let us go as we had nothing illegal.

Back to the motel, our last night in the Philippines for this trip.  It was and is a decent motel.  Location is reasonable with restaurants, both American and Philippine, nearby.  Ayala mall is long walk away, but doable.

Since the Maxwell didn’t have a refrigerator, I improvised.

IMG_2856Two Red Horses on top of a suitcase in front of the air conditioner.  They didn’t get very cold, but Philippine beer is brewed to taste good when it’s warm.

I made reservations for the final night, leaving at 9pm for a motel close to the airport.  ACE Penzionne.  Prices were high here as well.  It seems that the Eucharists and their pilgrims had every single inexpensive room in the whole area of Cebu City.  Argh!  So we got a fancy room for $27USD across from the Guisano Island Mall Mactan.  A great room for the price, with a few odd wrinkles thrown in.

Wrinkles.  Yeah, all motels seem to have them in the Philippines.  Misty Blue had a floppy shower head and odd acting power cord for the air conditioner.  Duptours had a 15 minute wait for hot water.  Maxwell had a very balky water heater and the WIFI wouldn’t work.  I had an ethernet cable that fixed that problem. Yep, I’m prepared.  Four trips to the Philippines have given me insight.

ACE had a beautiful bathroom with a divider between shower and the rest of the bathroom.  However, there was a little hole cut in the divider to drain the sink and toilet area into the only floor drain that was the shower.  But, the low point of the bathroom was next to the toilet.  So the water flowed through the hole when you were taking a shower and puddled around the toilet.  I put a plug in the hole.

I thought something was odd when the valet put two bath mats in the bathroom, arranging the second one carefully on the sill between the bathroom and bedroom.  I couldn’t figure that one out.  Until we started showering.  He knew a swimming pool was about to form!

Now why would any place have a set up like that one?

Oh well.  It’s the Philippines.  Exactly like Mexico.  It’s up to you to deal with a problem, not the motel staff.  If you don’t like it, move.  No refunds.  Your choice.

Through all this, Bill and Chona invited us over for lunch at the Mactan house.  They are seriously considering selling the place and I think that would be a good move.  It is a long way from everything excepting the fireworks factories.  Two weeks ago it took them over two hours to get from there to Chona’s father’s house (Martin’s) in Mambaling.  Horrible traffic day.  The only other close thing is the airport, but how many times a year does a person use that place?

We had a great lunch and afterwards they took us back to the Guisano mall across the street from our motel.  We shopped around a bit, then crossed the street for hopefully a little sleep.  I got a little.  Maybe 45 minutes.  Praxy didn’t sleep a bit.  We just get too keyed up thinking about the upcoming flights home.

I snuck out on an open door and shot a couple of pictures before the sun set.  Both bridges.

New bridge

New bridge

Quite a bunch of rather…er…not so fancy houses in the foreground.  You can’t see these at all from the road near the mall.  I don’t know how the people get back here.

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Old bridge

Not a bad view looking towards the old bridge.  Downtown Cebu is in the background.  This is the route the fast catamaran takes when it approaches Cebu from Tacloban and the northern parts of the Philippines.

Jhitter came by with the van at 9:15 to take us to the airport.  Been quite a while since I’d seen him, it was nice to chat a bit.  He works a Dell call center for the US there in Cebu.  His English is excellent with little accent.

Off to the airport.  Nothing unusual that I haven’t covered earlier except…YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY THE TERMINAL CHARGE IN CEBU.  People have been telling me online that the terminal charge is now included in your ticket.  WRONG!  You still have to come up with 750PHP each before they will let you into the screening area.  Philippine travelers, you’ve been warned.

No problem.  I had totally expected that and I was totally ready.  I’m not a dummy, I could clearly see it wasn’t included on my ticket.  A former airline employee knows how to read ticket charges and those charges are spelled out at the base of the ticket.  I’ve argued with people about it this year.  Everyone going in had to pay.

The only thing I could figure was that the terminal charge was being paid by the airline out of their fare.  Nope.

I suppose it is possible that the terminal charge is now included on the tickets as I purchased mine in June.  However, terminal charges were supposed to be included at the start of 2015.  Everyone I saw had to pay in Cebu and get the receipt there in th terminal.

We brought back an additional $100 of Philippine pesos for the next trip.  We also have plenty of small change for taxis and motels as those places don’t have change in the middle of the night.

Midnight rolled around, another thirty nine hour day began.  Flight about 1/2 hour late, no biggie.  We had a 12 hour layover in Seoul.  I’m going to take a break (I caught Praxy’s cold) and finish this later.

9:30am 1/28/2016

1/29.  As I mentioned, our flight was a little late, about 30 minutes or so.  Not a problem.  I managed to get about 1 1/2 hours of sleep on the way to Seoul.  Not bad for me.

We deplaned, went through customs, and found the tour kiosk near the baggage claims area.  They have several tours available, but we wanted the longest they offered that day.   Turned out to be the Gyeongdeokgung (I’m glad I only had to type that and not pronounce it) palace tour.  On to a bus for the one hour ride to Seoul.

I’m always impressed at the sheer size of the city of Seoul, South Korea.  Five miles from the airport you start seeing apartment houses.  Row after row.  Mile after mile.  Town after town.  It seems to me that relatively few people actually own houses in Seoul.  Those houses are clustered together and there is hardly any space between the few that you see.  Real estate is at a premium, at least near the city.

Traffic moves along pretty well for a large city.  We arrived at our scheduled time, even after waiting 15 minutes in a long line of slowed vehicles.  Finally, the Gyeongdeokgun palace came into view.

In front of the palace

In front of the palace

It was built in 1405, and burned during the Korea-Japan war of 1592.  Restored in 1609 and is in the process of being upgraded in 2016.  It will be another 30 years until all restoration is completed.  Why that long?  The site is huge!  It covers the area of 80 US football fields.  There are a throne room, banquet hall, servants quarters, meeting rooms, relaxing rooms.  You name it.  Anything a medieval king could want.

The weather was also very very cold.  Maybe 10F above with a fairly stiff breeze.  I froze.  Praxy, on the other hand, was wise.  She borrowed a coat, supplied by the tour outfit.

IMG_2883I should have been as wise.  I had on long underwear a four layers of clothing.  OK, unless I was out in the wind.  She seemed pretty comfortable, even though she was coming down with a bad head cold at the time.

Some of the interior art works.  These are original and quite valuable.

Deer artwork

Deer artwork

King's receiving room

King’s receiving room

Throne room

Throne room

IMG_2891Standing out in the sun like this was almost unbearable in Asgad.  Hard to believe it’s the same sun.  After an hour, back to the warm bus.  YAY!

We had to pay for lunch on this trip.  $7.00 bought us a wonderful lunch of beef stew with all the Korean trimmings.  I should have got a picture, but there is the usual kim chee, pickled bamboo, pickled cucumber and onions, and swiss chard.  We were starved, so we cleaned up our stew plus the stuff on the condiment tray that was to be added to your stew.  It was weird, no one else from the tour hardly touched their condiments.  I guess it was because it all looked strange to them.  We had eaten all this four years before and knew how tasty all the goodies were.

We then had one hour to explore the nearby Myeong-dong market.  Lots of fun looking around.  Praxy got some salt and pepper shakers and street food granola.  I took in the sights.  We cautiously got back on the bus a little early.  They threatened to leave without ANYONE that showed up five minutes late.  Too many people making too many flights and too many different times, the company wasn’t taking any risks.  Cost for a cab one way was $70 USD if you missed the bus.  No refunds.   Everyone was there on time, we left two minutes early!

Back to the airport at 3pm.  Through customs and then a 3 1/2 hour wait.  Hmm.  I’d heard that you could get a free shower at Incheon airport if your layover was more than 3 hours.  We qualified at 12 hours.  Since I was still chilly from the tour, I searched out the showering area.  Upstairs and look around.

It was true.  I showed my boarding pass and was instantly given a towel and sent to a shower room.  Wow.  Hot water.  I could have stood there for an hour, warming up after that very cold day in downtown Seoul.  Change of clothes and I was refreshed for the remainder of the 39 hour day from Cebu to Pomeroy.

It’s no wonder Seoul Incheon is considered the best international airport in the world.  I firmly believe it, although I don’t have knowledge of most international terminals in the world.  For what it’s worth, the ones I do know:  Manila, horrible.  Cebu, mediocre.  San Francisco, Los Angeles, fair.  Seattle, Hong Kong, good.

But…Great terminal, boarding areas, and signage.  Easy through customs.  Free city tour or off site motel, and/or showers for long layover passengers.  Motel available (very expensive) on site on the international concourse (don’t have to clear customs to stay there).  Plenty or restaurants and shopping.  Simple, easy to follow transfers between concourses.  Aircraft congestion is lessened by plenty of wide taxiways for the aircraft.  Four runways with no obstructions or restrictions on all eight approaches.

Two hours till boarding.  Praxy was on the computer, I was bored.  Time to do a little looking around.  Perfume store.  Leather store.  Expresso shop.  Super expensive bar.  (yawn)  Healthy drink shop.  Fancy clothes.  Restaurant, nope still full from lunch.  (sigh)  Toys.  Too expensive and too uppity, all of them.  Oh well, cruise through the ultra-expensive duty free liquor store anyway.  Bottles of this that and the other at anywhere from $50USD to $400 USD.  No way I’m buying anything here.  Double take.  What the flipping heck?

Ginseng liquor

Ginseng liquor

I’d seen worms in tequila bottles, but how could I NOT buy this?  Ginseng liquor at a duty free shop with a big ole gnarly root in it.  21,400 Korean won.  Not bad at $21USD.  Since I still had a pocket full of won, this was a great excuse to thin that lump down.  I knew I could transfer it to my luggage in Seattle at customs, then clear security in Seattle with no liquids in my luggage.  It would make it home easily.  Done that with chop sticks four years earlier.

Boarding at 6pm for the 6:30pm flight.  And, we wait.  Finally, they take off four containers and pulls someone’s luggage out and reload the containers.  So we leave at a little after 7pm.  Why am I bringing that up?  Because, it meant another half hour sitting in the Boeing 777.

Our ride across the Pacific

Our ride across the Pacific

I don’t care how you slice it, 10 and one half hours in a big aluminum tube is a long time.   Asiana’s seats are very comfortable compared to say, a jeepney or a Duptours van.  Still, after ten hours, my butt gets sore.  And I have a lot of trouble sleeping.  I should have taken my Valium, but I hate taking stuff like that (I’d make a lousy drug addict).  Next time I will for sure.  I slept maybe a half hour during that 9 hour and twenty minute flight.  Misery.  Too tired to watch a movie, so I listened to music.

Finally, Seattle.  It was a rare clear day in Seattle.  I got to see everything as we came in.  The Olympic mountains, Space needle, Ballard locks, Puget sound, all of it.  One of the few times I’ve been in Seattle when the weather wasn’t cloudy and/or rainy.  Sweet!

Not counting the three hours we waited in Cebu from the motel to midnight, we were now five hours from the Philippines to Seoul.  12 hour layover including the city tour.  10 1/2 hours on a 777.  That’s 27 1/2 hours with maybe 2 hours total of sleep.  And Praxy was now suffering from a nasty head cold.  She was doing a lot of sleeping, but not feeling the best.

Customs.  Quite easy now in Seattle.  Everything is on the computer and your passport gets scanned before you approach an officer.  The usual paperwork is now filled out using a touch screen.  No problems.  Until we picked up our luggage.

We got singled out.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because we were from the Philippines.  They asked about food and I’m not ever going to lie to those people.  To get caught can get dicey and besides, I’m a Federal Government employee.  We are expected to be honest (it can be grounds for dismissal from your job, laxly enforced nowadays), although we all know that many are not.  The paper customs declaration had asked if we had food.  The on screen one didn’t.  I checked the food box on the paper one, so I think they spotted that and asked to look our stuff over.

There are certain items that are banned from entering the US.  I know most of them, but something can always come up that I don’t know about, something recent.  I had checked the US Customs website while in Cebu and figured we didn’t have anything questionable except some pork.  In the pork and beans.  But I knew that small amounts of processed pork, or a little bit of cooked pork (like bacon) is OK.  I was right up front with them, telling them I had canned pork and beans in the luggage, plus other processed foods like dried fruit and granola.  Once they understood that, they put our items on the conveyor without a visual inspection.  We got through immediately with a smile from the agents.  It pays to be up front and honest with US Customs.  They know instantly if you are lying, and if they can be bribed, it would take one helluva lot more money than I’ve got.

They didn’t even ask about alcohol.  Each person is allowed a 5th.  We were well under that.Because of all of this, Asiana only checked our luggage to Seattle.  So, we had to haul it upstairs to the ticket counter and re-check it.  Come to find out Alaska Air had a luggage counter downstairs just past customs that we missed.  Oh well.Back through security and time for more waiting.  Noon.  Our flight to Boise connecting to Lewiston left at 4:30pm.  So five hours in Seattle.  We ate a little lunch and hung around.  Praxy got into a little adventure, you can ask her about it.  Hilarious.  Funny things happen when you are exhausted.The trip from Seattle to Lewiston takes three hours and was uneventful.  I sure hope that Horizon Air reinstates the late afternoon flight direct from Seattle to Lewiston.  I know exactly why they changed their schedule to it’s current mess (former employee here).  It’s for marketing the Seattle and Boise flights in a way that “saves” them money.  I doubt if it works.  The flight from Seattle to Boise was full.  16 people from Boise to Lewiston.  Looked like five or six on to Seattle.  It doesn’t look to me like their plan is working quite as they had planned.  Many people are now driving to Spokane, we almost did that.  Oops!Two quick stops for groceries and gasoline in Clarkston, then on home arriving at 9:30pm or so.  Now we are 27 hours to Seattle, plus another 9 1/2 while in the USA  including Customs.  That makes thirty six and 1/2.  Plus 2 1/2 hours until midnight makes a 39 hour day.  Yup.  Because of the international dateline, we spent 36 1/2 hours on January 25th getting home.   We cheated a bit and missed the last hour.  Bedtime at 11pm.  Thirty eight total.  For myself, I got about 2 hours of sleep in that time.  Praxy slept more, but was ill with her head cold.Praxy slept the clock around plus three more hours.  I was up at 9am.  It’s now Friday and I’ve got my internal clock now set to Pacific standard time.  It took three nights.   10 am and my sweet wife is still asleep after being awake in the middle of the night.  It takes her about a week to adjust.That’s about it for this trip.  I usually end up with another post as I come across things that I missed.  Ulp, here’s one.

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A Red Banana-nanana

Google says there are almost 1000 types of bananas in the world divided into 50 or so groups.  This is a red one that I tried while in Asgad.  I wished there had been more than two, one for Praxy and one for me.   Delicious.
I must have eaten twenty different kinds while in the Philippines.  This one was second best tasting.  Sweet and firm.  Many are sour or have a weird texture.  Some, plantains, are not sweet at all and could be a potato substitute.  One of the sweet harder ones makes up the banana-que that you see on street corners.  If cooked right, yummy!  Rolled in brown sugar and roasted over charcoal.  Something you just can’t find in the US.So, what’s next?  We’re talking about it already.  Maybe to the Philippines next December but I doubt it.  My annual leave is getting a little short for a two month trip and one a month trip, given the logistics, is out.  We are toying with visiting one of Praxy’s friends in Australia near Melbourne.  If the airfare comes in right, I think a month there could be a go.  Looking for $1200 out of Spokane to pull the trigger on that one.  Right now $1400-$1800.  Closely watching fare sales already.  Too early to book November and December 2016 anyway.And I have a daughter that is thinking about marriage in the summer of 2017.   When she firms up her plans, I’ll make mine.  Might have to save up some money for that!  And I’ve about forgotten what a full winter of snow and rain is like.  Darn.My sisters both have told me they’ve enjoyed following another one of their brother’s crazy adventures.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed it as well.Traveling the Philippines is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.  For those, blogs like this are the best way to get a peek at it.  Most “adventure” and “tourist” sites give only the positives of traveling.  The Philippines or anywhere else for that matter.  Beaches, food, sun, glamour.  That’s the Philippines, right?  Well, I try to show the real deal.  What it’s really like from a foreigner’s perspective.  Beaches, food, sun, and glamour all right.  PLUS…Heat, humidity, and rain.  The complicated logistics of traveling around an island nation.  Friends, family, and fun.  Hard work and frustration with the system.  The rewards of generosity from abroad; new houses, medical clinics, agriculture buildings, and town halls; and our more modest donations of books, OTC drugs, and piglets to people who can’t even imagine affording any of those.    Birthdays, holidays, lazy days.   How a pudgy, balding, sweaty, “cano” struggles to adapt to an environment totally unlike his permanent home in the good ole US of A.Been fun.  Unless I think of something else, see you on my next adventure!11:15am  1/29/2016  Pomeroy, Washington, USA

Posted in 2011 Idaho chinook tagging, 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Sometimes I Kinda Wonder…


IMG_2731 

Praxy decided it was time to plant her new flowers she bought in Tacloban.  Bougamvilleas. (spelling checker can’t find it).    And, a tropical rain shower came through.  The type that simply dumps on you for about 10 minutes.  You can see the rain pelting down on and around her.  It put 25 gallons of water in our barrels.  And soaked Praxy to the skin.  She didn’t care.  She was planting flowers.  That’s the only thing that counts.  Besides, the rain felt good.  It’s always warm here.  (Am I repeating myself?)

OK, where did I leave off.  Hmmmm.  Oh yeah.  Sunday morning the 27th.

A normal Sunday around here.  Some people go to town on the jeepney.

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We stayed home and worked bit on the house.  Suddenly, an idea popped up.  I don’t know where it came from, but a bunch of people decided to head to the beach.   Praxy and I slathered sun screen on each other.  No way we were going to miss this.  Everyone pitched in for some lunch and off we went.

Sorry there are no pictures.  Somehow, my waterproof beach/snorkeling camera didn’t get packed and I’m not about to risk my nice Canon SLR or video camera down there unless I’m in attendance.  So, a verbal description.

A bunch of us got together and set up a tarp.  This was no easy task as the sea breeze was a steady 20 mph or so.  Six people teamed up and got it anchored.  Then off for the swim.  More like a dog paddle.  The swimming areas are very shallow, you have to look hard for anything more than a couple of feet deep.  The Pacific ocean breakers fall about 200 yards off the beach.  No problem.  Praxy and I sat and relaxed in the shallows as young children frolicked in the water around us.  The kids are not allowed in the ocean unless an adult is supervising.  High tide brings rip currents in the shallows, plenty strong enough to run off with an unwary child.  Lots of adults, the kids went crazy.  And worked up a huge appetite.

Leftovers from the Christmas party were on a table.  We all stuffed ourselves.  As we sat watching the ocean, the tide went out.  The swimming area became inches deep.  “Hey Ken, want to go out and explore?”  Hell yes!!

We waded out into ankle deep water for the two hundred yards to the break area.  The ocean had left a lot of old reef and rocks exposed.   I got to looking around and found a snail looking thing in a crevice.  “That any good to eat?”  A machete was out immediately and a neighbor, Maravic, pried the large snail thing out of it’s hidey hole.   They asked if we were looking for edibles.  Hell yes again!!  It turned into a treasure hunt, with the Pacific ocean crashing 20 feet away.  Barnacle looking things.  Limpet looking things.  More snails.  White clams.  Soon my hands were full as everyone pitched in to find goodies for us to try.  Kids and adults.  After about 20 minutes, we had our hands full.  It was also obvious to me that I was getting a nasty sunburn.  Time to head home.

Clams into water to get rid of sand?  Check.  Everything else soaking to keep it alive?  Check.  Appetite?  Check.  Dinner time?  It seemed forever, but it finally rolled around.  Time to cook.  Neighbors gave us advice on cooking these things as it had been ages since Praxy had done that.

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Some of these require long cooking and a lot of preparation.  The pill bug looking thing.  I’d eaten them before and pronounce them tasty.  We gave those away.   The non pill bug looking things require a quick blanch and fall right out of their shell.  They are delicious, mild clam tasting.

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The “eyeball snails” are incredibly good eating.  Andrew Zimmern needs to try them.  Nothing at all like escargot, which have a bit of a gamey bite in my opinion.  Almost lobster like in flavor, eyeball snails have a hard shelled plug they pull in to defend themselves from predators if they are pulled off their rock.   I saved the eyeballs as a souvenir of one of the best days I’ve ever spent in the Philippines.

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Cooking away.  With that many different critters, it was cook and eat on the fly.

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The white clams are the best clams I’ve ever eaten.  Really.  And no, that isn’t because I was hungry or enjoying the day.  Mild, no sand, no waste, easy to remove from the shell, perfect with a little calamancy juice(a small citrus fruit similar to a lime).   Two pounds would be a perfect meal for me.

I want to go out on the reef again sometime.   Maybe when my sunburn has gone down.

New moon is coming, that means LOBSTERS!  Maybe next week.  They are caught at night by net.

It’s a shame that the people here can’t afford to eat these goodies.  If they get them, they try to sell them to people like me.  People with big appetites and deep wallets.

Next day, another fruitless trip to Guiuan trying to find supplies for working on the house.  We decided enough was enough.  Time for a journey to Talcoban.  We needed new windows, and stainless steel bars for security.  Nothing like that around here.

Up early the nest morning to catch a jeepney.  The first one went by at 4:15am.  No room.  So we waited for the second one.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, a little after 6:30am, here it came.  Loaded as bad or worse than the first.  Solid people inside.  Three in the passenger seat.  Five on the hood.  A couple of guys on each running board. (how can the driver see to drive?) 50 empty cases of empty beer bottles on top with maybe fifteen people up there.   Boxes and packs as well.

Alright, time to man up.  Get on or stay home.  We got on.  No place for me but hanging off the back.  Not even any room on top.  Praxy disappeared to the front.  Much talking and arguing went on up there and suddenly people were scrunching up inside.  They made a tiny bit of room, took the extra “seat” (a board) out of the doorway and Praxy shoehorned a place three people in front of me.  (The driver was incensed that Praxy had to ride on a hot jeepney hood [she is very, very popular around here.  I had to stand on the back!] and forced people to make room inside, which they did.  Don’t ask me how they did it.)  One guy crouched on the roof behind the empty beer bottles to make room for me to stand on the back deck.  The board was reinstalled, passengers reseated, and we took off.

The guy on top, me, and the guy hanging on beside me were exhausted by the time we got to Bogton.  My right hand went numb.  The guy beside me, an older gentleman, had his right hand go numb as well.  The guy on top, his legs were getting stiff from crouching and dodging palm fronds.  He couldn’t stand or sit on the bottles because the tree limbs would have “low bridged” him.  Misery.  It was a slow drive, maybe ten miles an hour.  Those jeepneys are licensed and registered for 30 people.  My guess is there was at least 50 on board.  Plus freight.

People waiting at Bogton got one helluva kick out of seeing me, the local “cano”, riding on the back of a stuffed jeepney.  I was just glad to get out to the highway safely and get off the jeep.  Cost was pretty reasonable, about 30 pesos for the two of us.  My hand was so numb I could hardly dig out the payment.  It wasn’t a limo ride, but it worked!

We waited about an hour and a Duptours van finally stopped for us.  We knew the driver, Victor.  Paid 150 pesos each for the ride to Tacloban.  Note to Philippine travelers.  Try to avoid the back row on one of the Region 8 minibus/vans.  Very rough ride back there.

The ride in was uneventful and took a little over three hours.  In Tacloban at 10 and it was too early to get a room.  The motel by the Duptours terminal was nice enough to store our bag so we could do some shopping.

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Motel in the back, a nice one.  I’ll write up a review for Trip Advisor later.  Both restaurants near the terminal are marginal.  Better food on the next block east, a Jo’s Chicken Anatto.

Anyway, we took off to a hardware store to pick up windows and stainless rod.  Which we found easily.  We had all our shopping list fulfilled before we even checked in to the motel!  We thought about going back the same day, but decided against it.  It was time for me to reconnect with home and Praxy wanted a massage.   The masseuse showed up almost immediately, so I decide to take off for…McDonald’s.  I hadn’t had a hamburger for over a month except for the one at the Misty Blue Boathouse.   No beef hamburger since the states.  The place was totally packed, I had to wait in line for about 1/2 hour.  Tricycle rides each way were 20 pesos and I got my burger fix.   Finally, I uploaded the blogs you’ve already read. 

Tacloban is booming.  I think it is because of the large amount of typhoon Yolanda relief money that has been pouring into the area.  For instance, four years ago there were around 1,050 tricycles registered to ply the streets of Talcoban.  This trip, I saw tricycle numbers up to 1,900.  That is an almost 100 percent increase in tricycles.  Daytime traffic in Talcoban is crazy, almost like Cebu.  Lucky for us, Tacloban is a much smaller city than Cebu.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of relief houses and apartments being built in the area.  And a huge, brand new, hospital.   While everyone still talks about Yolanda, the scars are quickly disappearing.

First trip to Guiuan the next day was at 5:40am.  No way!  We ate a leisurely breakfast that was included with the room, food quality only fair. Then, Praxy made an announcement to me.  “I saw a flower and garden shop on the way into Tacloban and I want to get some flowers!”  Oh boy.  Rent a tricycle and we retraced our steps. 

Sometimes, I kinda wonder.  We found the place alright.  Right where she said it would be.  No way she would have missed a place like this.  A huge nursery with greenery and flowers everywhere.  Her eyes glazed over as she looked paradise over greedily.  Stepping away from the tricycle, she stepped right into a deep, muddy, puddle!  No problem, nothing could get her down.  Muddy shoe and all, she bought four of those flowers I don’t know how to spell.  We returned to our motel room, lucky we didn’t check out, and she washed her shoe and foot

Downstairs to Duptours and we booked four seats.  Two for us and two for the flowers, windows, and steel.  Someone else had booked the other back seat for two boxes, and another seat for a large suitcase.  The gal up front had another seat reserved beside her for her shopping.  So the return was half people and half freight.  The van companies don’t care what is in the seat as long as the seat is paid for.

I also saw a “firefly” brand fan that runs off of batteries for 8 hours sitting in the waiting area at Duptours.  Might have to get one of those on the next trip.

Easy return to Asgad.  The van to Bogton, then rent a tricycle for 300 pesos to Asgad.  Expensive trip, but the road is rough and the driver is unlikely to get fares for the return to the highway.  We paid it gladly.

Next day, we started on the windows.  I’m not going there now.  The title of the post will be Window Woes.  Nothing in the Philippines is easy, except for shopping in Tacloban.  And for me, getting sunburns.

4:55pm 12/31/2015  Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines.

Posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Window Woes


How about portal problems?  Or Framed by a frame?  Juked by a jalousie?

I’m going to keep this part brief.  It’s purpose, aside from me venting, is to warn other people or foreigners that try to get work done in the Philippines on ANYTHING.  Houses, automobiles, motorcycles, or work on your body at a hospital.  Buyer beware!

We pulled out an old window.  While that may sound simple, it was a hassle.  The wood in the frame is exceptionally hard.  Nails bend in it.  But we got it out.  Bent screws came out the right side as the wood was soooo hard, screws wouldn’t penetrate.  So off to Salcedo to buy 1/8inch drill bits for pilot holes.  I eventually broke both 1/8 bits in that wood and we fought a new frame in to find that the new frames were one half inch narrower than the old ones.   Grrrrr!

One good thing came out of it.  Tiki eggs were tucked safely at the bottom of the old channel. 

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They are about one quarter inch long on the long axis.  The one farthest to the left is a little dark on the top.  That is the head of a tiki gecko embryo inside the egg.  Two were dark, two were clear.  Looks like the little females lay two eggs at a time.  The spot these two females chose was excellent until we came along.  There were also four broken shells, babies that had hatched out earlier.  They rolled like crazy so I confined them in a jar lid with toilet paper to keep them still.  I hope they aren’t dizzy or addled, they rolled a lot for a while.

Next day, in to Guiuan to buy one half inch spacers in the form of molding.  Brought them out, painted them.  The next day, replace all the windows.   WRONG.

Somehow, one half inch and one half inch are two different things in the Philippines.  Nothing worked.  Now the gap was one quarter.  What the heck?  So we hired Imone to plane down our painted spacer.  His power planer quit, so we resorted to a block planer.  And, it still didn’t fit.  We were forced to use pliers and carefully trim the edges of the window jalousies.  And it went in.

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Struggling all the way.  I tried a trial stainless steel bar to find that the spacing isn’t going to be correct.  A welder will have to finish this job.  But at least the window is functional.

We did another window across the kitchen and found that one half equaled one eighth.  So, no spacer at all.  Those windows are hanging by a thread.  A windstorm might remove some of the panes.  Egad!

Totally frustrating.  After asking around, we found that the contractor rushed the window part of the job and used inferior framing wood that was not properly sized or aged.  It’s twisted in the frame, requiring that every single window now be hand cut.  Also, our house had poor supervision while being built as Praxy and I weren’t here to oversee the construction.

Two other solutions.  1. Take all windows out and use the window glasses wherever they will fit.  We would have to replace a bunch of windows at the end as many window remnants would be way to short.  2.  Pull everything out including the wooden frame.  Hire a concrete contractor to come in and cement the window frame size perfectly in every single window.  It takes a week for the concrete to cure and put the new jalousie window frames up using concrete anchors.  Then we’d have to replace every single pane.  Some people in the barrio have done this already.

We’ve cried uncle, deciding to leave window replacement off the work list for the time being.  At one window a day plus library and security bars, we will run out of time before we run out of windows.  We will concentrate on the library and security bars.  Time to hire a relative to do the work now and after we leave.  If a window breaks, we’ll have him do it on the spot.  Let him fight ‘em in.  I’m sure he has more patience than I do.

We now need more parts.  Off to Guiuan tomorrow for more drill bits and a different size of spacer.  And hope for the best.

We had two and one half days off,  the afternoon of the 31st, New Year’s day, and Sunday.  So we’ve been lounging and making plans.  I’m going to try to rent a motorcycle tomorrow so we can get things done more efficiently.  If I can’t rent one, progress is going to be slow. 

We were invited to a New Year’s eve party, but didn’t attend.  You can’t sleep in the Philippines on New Year’s eve unless you are deaf.  Firecrackers, motorcycles, banging pot lids, anything to make noise.  And a new one on me, chainsaws.  Revved up with no muffler, a perfect way to wake everyone up.  Of course we were awake.  The party we were invited to was after midnight and neither of us wanted to get up, even after the people sent someone to remind us.  They didn’t hold it against us and in the morning, this showed up.

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Most of the front shoulder of a pig, roasted the night before and still warm.  Plus the bread.   Nothing else for it.  I sliced it all up, ending with about 10lbs of excellent, tender pork.  We gave the bone and about 2lbs. to our next door neighbor along with a bunch of the skin.  Then, I fired up the charcoal grill and finished cooking the rest as it was a little under done.

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Plus a couple pieces of beef that was given to use that morning.   If we had a freezer, this is about a week’s worth of meat, maybe more.  We’ll have to give more away.  We gave a couple more pounds to other neighbors around us with more of the skin.  The skin is a delicacy around here.  I know where that skin has been laying so I’m not interested.  I’m sure it won’t hurt me, but I just can’t bring myself to eat it.

Noon time and another party for us to attend.  This one was easier as it was during the day.  Us old fogies have to get our sleep, you know.  We had someone show us off  to the party.

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A very brave little skink, the locals call it manananglaw.  It was sitting on our gardening trowel next to our stove and didn’t move a muscle when Praxy walked by.  Weird as most lizards around here flee at the slightest disturbance or movement towards them.  I was able to get my camera and get a couple of good shots of it staring me down.  I firmly believe I could have reached down and grabbed it, 40 years ago I’d have done just that.  It’s big enough that it would have defended itself by biting.  While uncomfortable, this guy wasn’t big enough to do any real harm with a bite.  Body length of about six inches with about another five of tail.  I now don’t pester wild things like this, just get pictures.

A couple of weeks ago, I rescued one of these out of a bucket.  We had captured a snail thingy called a ganga and I put a couple of inches of water in the bucket to keep it over night and hope it might expel sand.  It crawled out, the neighbors got a laugh out of that.  We never saw it again.  Anyway, I left the bucket when we went to town.  Upon arriving home I looked in the bucket and a small manananglaw was in the bucket with just it’s head out of the water.  Another inch of water and it would have been a goner and I would have been bummed out at my thoughtlessness.  I reached in and grabbed it out, it didn’t struggle a bit.  Glad to be out of there!  I relaxed my grip to look at it more carefully and it shot off my hand in a panic and it was aimed at our open front door.  I herded it out the front door and I haven’t seen it since.  The pictured one was much larger, maybe twice the size.

The ganga snails are a delicacy around here.  Everyone that saw it mentioned “good eating” and I was totally looking forward to giving it a try.  They have spikes on their shells and are good at climbing, especially climbing out of buckets.  It takes a strong lid to hold one in.  Praxy used to know this but had forgotten over the years.

Its two hundred and fifty yards to the ocean from our house as the crow flies.  I wonder if the ganga made it home?

Ah well, on to the party and lunch.

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Another picture of Pilar in Asgad.  I mentioned her four years ago in an earlier blog entry.  She is now ninety one, and still pretty perky.  No one could remember the name of the lizard but her.  Her daughter is on the right.  Pilar doesn’t drink much hard liquor any more, so I bought her a bottle of Red Horse beer.   She really enjoyed sharing a beer with me.  I enjoyed sharing one with her.  Another good memory.

The water rose about four feet into this house, destroying cabinets, furniture, and the television set.  Five families cowered on the stairs and tables during Yolanda.

Speaking of memories, the town mascot has a new home.

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This buoy came ashore from the Pacific ocean before Pilar was born, perhaps in the nineteen teens or nineteen twenties.  It’s now just inland of the destroyed Catholic church in Viejo Asgad.  The tip is buried and large pieces of church rubble make it a sort of monument.  It’s old location?  Well…

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This is all beach now.  Our old house (behind the buoy), the tennis court, trees, gone.  Long gone.   Sand and a bits of rubble.  Buoy now fifty yards inland.  We compared some pictures, the ocean’s edge is now 150 yards further out and the beach is lower.  Maybe over the next hundred years or so, the Pacific will deposit replacement sand and build the beach back up.

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One last picture from 2011.  The edge of the new beach is even with the old foundation of the church.  The church has been bulldozed into a breakwater for the town.  Ugh.  A break-water, chairs around the buoy, and paver stones.  Ignominious memorials to a once beautiful church. 

2:30pm  1/2/2016  Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines

Posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Two Weeks to Go


We HAVE to leave Asgad on the 22nd of January.  No later.  This gives us three days to make our flight in Cebu.  You might think I’m being overly cautious.  Not really.  The wise, experienced traveler’s adage in the Philippines is “Never take a ferry to catch a plane on the same day”.  Given our remoteness from Cebu, we need at least a second day to cover the trip from Asgad to Ormoc. 

We are taking a ferry on the return for a couple of reasons.  Most importantly, I can’t get on line to book a reservation.  That means if we have excess luggage, we have to pay an exorbitant amount for it.  The aircraft would most likely be an ATR, which allows only 20 kilos each before you start paying excess.  I KNOW we have over 40 kilos of luggage.  It’s just easier to deal with the ferry in this case.  Getting from Asgad to Cebu is a full day if everything clicks smoothly using Van Van’s or Duptours plus the ferry. 

What can go wrong?  Canceled ferry due to rough seas.  Canceled vans due to flooding (it’s the rainy season in Samar).   Traffic accident blocking the road.   Ferry broken down.  (Heaven forbid)  Earthquake.  Jeepney broke down so we can’t get out of Asgad in a timely fashion. 

Ha ha on that last one.  That EXACTLY happened to us on our last trip together to Guiuan.  We found a jeepney (turned out to be an unscheduled third jeepney) that was not full and we hopped on it on Monday the fourth.   About 1/10 mile short of Jagnaya, it broke down.  Something in the driveline seized and, although the engine was running, the jeep could not move at all when the driver released the clutch.  It was stuck comically square in the middle of the road on a hill.  I suspect the rear end seized up, less likely, driveline u-joint seized up.  As it was fixed quickly, I doubt if it was transmission related.  Anyway, Praxy and I started walking for Bogton, a little over two miles away.  We got there and were looking for another jeep and the second scheduled jeepney via Asgad showed up with school kids piled everywhere.  At least 60 on board, probably closer to 70.  Most got off and we got on.  We went about our business and bought supplies for the library and house.

The third day is the relaxation day before the trip home.  We have a 43 plus hour trip from Cebu to Lewiston to look forward to, including a 12 hour layover (read hangover) in Seoul.  Then a 1 1/2 our drive to first Pomeroy, then home.  We want to be rested before that journey.  We could get a room in Seoul for free, but it really isn’t worth it.  Neither of us could sleep while in the motel in Seoul, even though it was clean and quiet.  We have opted for the “Seoul City Tour” instead.  We both totally enjoyed the last tour.  Seoul is a beautiful and interesting city.

Whack whack whack pound pound pound.  New shelves going into the library, replacing the marginal job we did ourselves.

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This is a huge improvement over my lame shelf and hollow block idea.  Shelves installed by professionals.  The job is amazing, far beyond anything I could accomplish.  2pm in the afternoon and the job is just about done.  It’s just as well.  The kids are getting impatient.

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This group was waiting last night and we had to turn them away.  One little boy cried.  Another large flock came by later.  Praxy had painted the front door and the paint was too green to allow kids near it.  Another bunch came by in the morning and we had to show them out as well.  The books are piled everywhere in the house as the carpenters work on the shelves.  We don’t want children in the way of the construction.  We’ve promised tonight.  I hope it’s done.

The carpenters are so good that we are thinking about hiring them next time we are here.  The owner is currently building the agriculture building nearby.  I’m planning to put in a temporary store room behind the house so we can stow things out of our way.  It will be on a foundation, the start of our addition out back.  Maybe half of the floor with a building on a portion of it. 

We are going back about 15-20 feet for a bedroom with bathroom, full kitchen, storeroom/pantry, generator room, and stairs to an upper level.  That upper level will have a screenable porch for dining or sleeping and water tanks for the kitchen and new bathroom.   Gravity will supply plenty of water to bathroom and kitchen if we use large diameter pipes, maybe 3/4” or so.  If we want pressure, I’ll add a pump and pressure tank.  Much as I like hot showers, I’m not going to bother.  Too hot here.  I might put up two tanks, a reflective one for cool water and a dark colored one for warm water.  There will be a cistern to catch the rain water a sump pump with an easy-to-clean filter to raise the water to the roof tanks.  If we decide to get hot showers, then we’ll put in an “on demand” electric heater.  That will require a pressurized system.

I’ve now had a lot of time with the locals around here.  Time to write about them.

There are two classes of people living nearby with an easy way to distinguish them apart.  One group has plenty of money.  One group doesn’t.  The group that has money is very small.  Maybe ten houses including us.  Every one else is almost hand to mouth.

Three of us (Praxy and I are included here) are well off.  People that have businesses or steady good paying jobs.   Own nice cars (ours are in the US, though).  Perhaps their children work abroad and send money home to their parents.  Several others have good jobs (not in Asgad) and live a higher standard of living.  These people have TV sets, a couple have cars, all have motorcycles, most have electricity.  Their houses tend to be more modern, a dead giveaway is the houses are painted.  A select few have air conditioning and hot water.

You’ve kind of seen how they live by looking at my blog and looking closely at our house.  Better food, able to purchase supplies and keep their houses up and looking good very easily.  Can get to town at will.  Yeah, I know I said it’s difficult for us to get to town, but we can go anytime we want because we can afford to pay someone to take us there.   The big difference, most other people cannot afford any extra trips to town. 

What about those other large group of people?  The ones without money.  Those are the lives that I want to try to share with you.  What is life like in a Philippine province that has over 60% of the people below the Philippine poverty level?

Siera (SY-rah), OIIIEEE DOUGHNUTS!  I asked Praxy to ask her for her name.  She is eight years old.  It’s 2:45pm on Wednesday as I write this and she is out peddling her doughnuts because they all didn’t sell this morning.  Her family can use the extra money.  Her grandmother cooks up the doughnuts and Siera sells them for 4 pesos each, about 9 cents in the USA.   Praxy asked for freshly cooked ones (or fancier ones) and the price jumped to 5 pesos. (We can afford this, many people could hardly afford that one extra peso!)  Now we are at 11 cents.   She gets up very early every day, including school days.  Praxy pointed out to me today that Siera had got plenty of sleep last night.  She was animated and smiling.  Sometimes she is dragging herself around the barrio like a zombie.

Her parents have a small farm near the old barrio.  They raise vegetables to sell around here.  As no one has much money, no one pays much for vegetables.   It might be noted that poor people and Praxy and myself are about the only people that eats much vegetables.  Everyone that can afford it buys rice and fish.

This meager income buys; food to eat, electricity or gas to cook the doughnuts, Siera her school uniform, clothes, medicines (good luck on that one), soap for body and clothes, supplies to keep their house repaired, drinking water, you name it.  I assume she has siblings, very unusual for a family to have less than 4 children.

OOIIIEEE PANDESAL!  I don’t know much about this family.  But what I do know is that 2 pesos, 4 cents, does not leave much of a margin for profit.  On a good day they might sell 50 or so around us.  If the rolls don’t sell today, you’ll see them for sale tomorrow.  I can tell when they are day old, but I don’t complain.  The young man that sells them doesn’t like the job.  But mom and dad have to stay at the shop in Asgad and sell their rolls there.  So he is out here almost every morning at sunup, selling with little enthusiasm.

Outside, I see the local street walker, Miguel, walking aimlessly.  He is about 30.  When he was 16 or so in high school, he was a good student.  Then, a bad fever hit him.  It fried his brain.  He walks around town all day long.  Back and forth.  Sometimes down on the beach.  He has a little house outside of town because of his outbursts.  He is given injections of something every thirty days as he gets violent without it.  Everyone watches out for him, including me.  I was the one that spotted him heading for town one day to see his father and grandfather.  He was nearly twenty miles away when he was picked up and returned home.

We’ve hired a couple of relatives to work on the new windows.

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Presco and Imone.  Presco (in blue) works odd jobs around town.  He has eight children at home.  Four are his and his wife’s, four others are from his brother.  His brother was knifed in a drunken argument and died on the spot several years ago.  His wife wasn’t capable of caring for a family.  So Presco and his wife took the kids.  Presco is a busy man.  Youngest child at home is 12 years old.  One is in college.

Imone is 80 and still going strong.  When he’s not working in his garden he does odd carpentry jobs around the barrio.  He wasn’t available the last couple of days and I helped Presco.  Amazingly, Imone was busy harvesting coconuts.  No kidding, this 80 year old man STILL climbs coconut trees for a living and he’s good at it.  I was flabbergasted when Praxy told me this morning.   His grip is not strong enough to put the screws into the coconut frames on our windows.   Presco or I have to do that.  But he can climb, evaluate coconuts, and cut them out of the tree.  

Three evenings ago three of the locals dropped by while I was eating dinner.  I recognized the man immediately, he is in charge of the sewing project (funded through Australia) that sews up backpacks and such to sell around this area.    They seemed a little ill at ease, but warmed up to us quickly.  They had a request.  A Donation.

The bags are selling, but not quick enough to keep four sewers busy.  But, they have people that are interested in working and want to earn more income.  They also have plenty of building materialsBut, a serious problem and that is where we come in.  A female piglet is 3,000 pesos in Guiuan.  $63 USD is WAY over their ability to afford.  “Would we be interested in sponsoring their project?”

I couldn’t see any reason why not.  I told them, “You build your pigsty, then show it to me.  If I’m satisfied you are serious, I will buy you a piglet.”  They were ecstatic and left with huge smiles.  Praxy told me last night that they are making rapid progress.  We’re going to walk over and check things out this afternoon when the weather cools a bit.  I’ll pay for that little piggie next week some time I suppose.   It might say “wee wee wee, all the way home!”

They need a sow to start what they hope will be a thriving business selling pigs for butchering.  Some locals near us got a couple of sows a year ago.  They got their piglets all right, then sold every last one of them including the females.   One of the sows wasn’t fertile, so they butchered it around Christmas.  One sow and no piglets in sight.  Looks like the business is about dead.

I pointed these things out to our visitors.  They assured me that they would only sell males until they had enough females to keep their herd going strong.   I also told them it might take a while before they see much money.  They were OK with that as well because of the sewing.  We’ll see.

1/9 8:20am.  We visited the up and coming pig farm last evening.  The framework is up and they are getting ready to dig the septic tank.  They don’t have enough money to roof the whole thing, but I don’t care about that.  Since when did a pig ever worry about rain?  They will have enough room for 10 stalls and a work area for the ladies.  Looks like they are indeed serious.  They will get their promised 3,000 pesos before we leave.  I’m off to the bank in Guiuan on Monday for more money!

Next door is a family of eight living in a house exactly the same as ours.  Mom, dad, five children, and one daughter-in-law.  The oldest son has a good job cutting coconut lumber running a chain saw.  The rest of the family lives off of him.  None of the younger kids go to school.  Mom works outside all day long washing clothes by hand and cooking over a wood fire.  They can’t afford electricity, propane, or a stove.  Yet.  I think they are working at it.  Mom and dad have a miniature sari sari store in the front room of their house and it seems to do a decent business.  Yesterday I bought a box of matches as we were about out.  48 matches in a little wooden box for 3 pesos.  They probably paid 2 pesos for the box of matches in Guiuan.  1/9, Indications were leaning that direction and we found out for sure this morning the newlyweds are expecting.

Three other miniature sari sari stores are nearby.  Everyone trying to better themselves a bit.  A larger one sits 100 yards away, owned by one of the wealthy families here in Asgad.  They do the most business as they have the most inventory.  We buy ice from them for our cooler.  Only four places in town have enough money to buy a freezer, and they all sell ice to help defray expenses.

Two doors down to our left is another one of the few people that have a good job in New Asgad.  Ramon drives a jeepney from Guiuan to Borongan and back three times daily.  One day off a week which he spends here in Asgad.  He gets a percentage of the payments by riders (in Puerto Vallarta Mexico, for instance, it is 30%).  I suppose he makes quite a bit on good days, like around the Christmas holidays.  He and his family are doing well.  All kids go to school and frequent our library.   They have a motorcycle and a television.  No electrical power.  But WE have power.   Praxy paid to get us hooked up and it was expensive.  Maybe two hundred US dollars or so.  Praxy allowed Ramon ran an extra line to his house from ours.  They pay the bill (except they won’t this month as we have used a lot of power while working on our house) which is 30 pesos per month and they also watch over our house while no one is here.  You’d think the power company wouldn’t allow two houses on one meter, but no one seems to care.  I’ve seen three or four on the same meter.  I guess the power company figures any power sold is better than no power sold.

His wife Maravic will run our library.  She also does odd jobs for us like laundry, cooking, and, of course, watching over our house while we are gone.

Behind us is a man that tends a huge garden and orchard.  He was named the “Farmer with the Cleanest Farm” in the barrio.  Farming is his only job.  I frequently see him hauling vegetables and fruit on a large wooden backpack to market, wherever that is.  He also planted stuff in our yard, which we pulled up.  The Philippines recognizes squatter’s rights and we and other neighbors are concerned that he might try to legally take land from us.  If he plants and grows without our permission and we don’t stop it, he has a case for acquiring our land.  So we’ve planted bananas, papaya, mangos, sweet potatoes, sun flowers, and all kinds of things out back.  I haven’t seen him messing around on our property since we arrived.

I told Praxy to tell everyone, “If he plants anything in yours or our yard, pull it up.  Throw it on his property.  The plant is his, but the ground isn’t.”  We probably wouldn’t have had any problem with him and his plants on our yard if he had asked.  I think he knows the laws and did it intentionally to see what would happen.

4:15PM  1/8/2015  Nuevo Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines

Down the road, a crew of five is hard at work.  I was busy and couldn’t photograph the work until after it was done.

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A water line from Viejo Asgad to Nuevo Asgad is finally going in.  The end of the line will be about 100 feet from our house and Praxy wants to add a line to the house and we may do it before we leave.  If that is the case, we have another project.  Getting the line into our bathroom.  It is the only place in the house that has a drain, albeit the floor drain in that room may be partially plugged.  I think I’ll borrow a toilet plunger and check it.

Here at the house, a fence and gate are going in.  Praxy is disgusted that the local boys think our yard is their local playground.  Not necessarily their presence, it’s that they inadvertently step on Praxy’s well loved (doted upon) flowers and plants.  So a man has brought in on his back three five seven  nine eleven (Crap, that man has been busy!) long stalks of bamboo and something should be built by tomorrow or the next day.  She may be fencing off the whole back yard! 2:00 pm 1/9. Well, most of the back yard.  We have two guys out there working on the fence.  They want it to look good (and that will mean it takes longer and the get more work) so they are splitting the rails. 

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It should look pretty sharp.  Those bamboos cost us 50 pesos each delivered to our house by these guys.  The same bamboo would be horribly expensive in the northern US.  I’d guess over $30 and perhaps much more.  The man in the foreground is splitting the end of the bamboo.  When the split is long enough he will put it over the steel bar and pull it through.  Works great.  The guy in the background is cleaning up the ridges and spikes.

Back to the people.

Two very very old people walk by on the road every day.  Going south in the morning, and north in the evening.  Praxy tells me they have a little farm just outside the barrio.  As slow as they go it’s a long walk.  But, they don’t miss it.  Sometimes the man stays on the farm.  They hardly speak, they just go about their business.  I could set a watch by the lady.

Presco scrounged four of our old window jalousies for his house.  The price was right.  We said, “Here, take ‘em!”  I made sure he had the best ones and I lubricated them with WD-40 before he left.  I hope he can make them work better than we did.  I’ve been told they need to be moved regularly or they seize up.  We haven’t been here enough so, the windows went south.  All are now replaced except in the library.

Here comes my point.   The people around here are some of the happiest that I’ve ever seen.  Sure, they have their problems.  Next door the little girl got in big trouble a few nights ago.  I think it was because she followed Praxy and I to the beach without permission.  A few days back a husband and wife got into a tiff down the road.  But, it went away. 

They really don’t know what money is.  So they don’t know greed or miserliness.  They don’t sweat it much if something breaks.  They really don’t care that anyone around them (like us) has more money than they do.  They don’t have any.  Period.

They wouldn’t know what to do with money if they had it.  If a windfall occurs to them, chances are it will get squandered on frivolous items.  Or worse, turned into a long, drunken party.  I’ve seen both happen during my travels.  It saddens me.

Because there is little money, people live off of one another.  The twenty peso notes passed around a barrio get used until they are brown and nearly see-through.  Larger bills are almost always newer and many people rarely see anything larger than a 100.  Presco was mightily impressed that we had a bundle of brand new twenties (leftovers from the carolers) and that is how we paid him.  Easier for him as he doesn’t have to find change. 

Philippine welfare?  No such thing, really.  A pittance.   The true welfare program around here is to sit on a street corner and beg.  That is very unreliable, so you don’t see it outside a larger city.   Individuals that cannot get by because of illness or injury are always attended to by the neighbors.   Rice, fish, vegetables, and bananas (plentiful to the point of being a nuisance) find a way to the needy.  The needy try to pay back as best they can with work or anything extra that they own. 

Social Security?  Kind of.  Older people get a meager amount.  It will just about cover buying a month’s worth of cheap rice.

We don’t give money away unless the people involved are in dire straits.  We do pay well for work and food though.  We try to hire different people around us to give everyone a little bit of help.  We know they appreciate it.  Everyone wants to work for us.

It’s up to the individual and/or family to sink or swim.  Individual and/or family; this explains why families are so close here. 

Parents that can, sacrifice to send their children to school.  The ambitious students continue on to college if their parents can afford it.  The less ambitious or unlucky turn into laborers.  The successful children send money to their parents and younger siblings so they might succeed.  And the circle starts.

You see these children throughout the United States.  Working.  Many in the medical field, but in other jobs as well.  Fishing industry, restaurants, motels, construction, etc.  Some marry foreigners as they have to be educated to learn a foreign language.  I hire some of the wives to mark fish in the spring.  It is through that connection that I met my wife.  Which has brought me here to Asgad.  The circle continues.

Filipinos are much sought after throughout the entire world for workers.  They are usually honest and caring.  Most important, they have a work ethic that can be trusted.  This comes from their upbringing here in the Philippines.  Working hard for little.  Making something broken work.  Putting forth effort on the details.  All of this for the betterment of family and friends.

Some of the money they earn both in the Philippines and abroad is sent home to their families.  A few workers send home nearly every penny they make.  They also send the “balik bayan” boxes, what we would call “care packages” or gifts.  These packages help their relatives get through college and help the family even more.   Foreign goods are usually much higher quality than things made in the or for the Philippines.  More siblings and relatives become successful and the family prospers.  The circle is near closing.

When the workers have finished abroad, a lot of them come home to live.  The foreigner wives usually stay of course unless their husbands move here.  The families become reunited and the circle closes.  A new circle starts with grandchildren. 

Praxy did this for her family before she came to the United States.  Helped her brothers and sisters.  All are quite well off due to my wife’s sacrifice.  Some are continuing on, their children are doctors, soldiers, teachers, computer technicians, etc., both in the Philippines and abroad.

The system seems to work.

And I’m now a part of it.

9:45am  1/9/2015  Nuevo Asgad, Eastern Samar,  Philippines

Posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Gittin’ ‘er Done!


It’s comical.  My precious little wife has turned this barrio on ear.  Her popularity, knowledge of the locals, connections, guts, and perseverance have got people hopping.  All over town.  It’s Sunday and they are working.  Working on the Sabbath.  I’m laughing my ass off.

A guy from the road maintenance crew showed up yesterday.  He is of course related to Praxy and he really likes and respects her.  She showed him our problem around our house.  Drainage.

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We are the lowest developed property in the barrio.  Our house is also built on sand and rock deposited by runoff going across the street.  It made easy work for the builders when they put in the foundation.  We are on fill.  The houses on either side of us are on rock.  Framing in those forms was very tedious and difficult.

The puddle on the right of the picture drains to the right of our house.  If it is REALLY full and the rain is pelting down, additional water drains strait to our house.  I’ve channeled it way as best I can.   Even dug a little channel along the front of our house.

No problem unless a huge rain storm comes along, the type of storm that a typhoon brings with it.  Our house could get flooded.  Even after all those steps to alleviate this situation, the fact remains.  Water flows down hill.  Take that one to the (stream) bank.

Today, the road construction man showed up again.  This time with two other guys.  Turns out he is a supervisor and the two other guys are equipment operators.  They looked the situation over carefully and saw our point.  Next time either a bulldozer or road grader comes through, we will have a custom dirt berm put up in front of our place!  They are also talking about installing a “canal” (concrete drainage ditch) to channel the water away from not only our house, but the controlling it as it passes the neighbors houses.  Last thing they said as they left, “Your wish is our command!”

It will be done.  Guaranteed.   The supervisor’s grandma lives across the street.

Another scenario started week or so back.  The locals here in the relocation barrio (Nuevo Asgad) have been rather…errrr…neglected.  The poorest of the poor are over here.  Their houses in the old barrio, before Yolanda, were near the ocean.  Of course those houses went the same way our house did.  The way of the dinosaurs, political honesty, and the 19 cent hamburger.  All long gone.

The houses are built, but there is no fresh water other than a private source at one of the sari sari stores.  Ester’s.  They have a well and sell drinking water for the local barrio.  That and the hand pump next door are the only choices the neighbors have.  Of course they can buy purified water (locals call it mineral water), but that is 35 pesos per bottle.  Minimum wage in the Philippines is 250 pesos a day.  As you can see, most don’t buy the mineral water.

The locals cornered Praxy at an impromptu meeting with their road block.  There was little or no effort being made to get water from the local water tower to the new barrio.  Could she help?

She talked to me about it and I gave her some coaching.  Not that she really needed help, but she likes to hear my opinion.  I have a pretty devious mind and see right through obstructions like this.  One advantage of my working for the US government.  Lots of obstructions to practice on.  After thirty years a person gets good at dealing with obstructions.

Two days ago she flagged down the barrio captain as he rode by on his motorcycle.  She cornered him about the water problems and held his feet to the fire asking for explanations.  After a very uncomfortable hour, he ended up assuring her that it would get done and get done quickly as there was funds in the barrio’s treasury.

Next day, the trench got dug.  Photo on my previous post.  250 meters from old town to new town.  I thought this might be something to placate Praxy, I call it “farting someone off.”  Nope.  Today, a crew is putting in the plastic water lines while they get soaked off and on by rainfall.   I have a feeling that there will be an available tap near here by early next week.  Locals will have to pay to get connected and pay monthly for water of course.  That’s not the point.  The point is: they now have the option.  It took a year.  It took Praxy less than a week to accomplish what no one else could do in a year.

If she wants work done on the house, no problem.  Someone will show up.  They expect to be paid and they will get paid.  Someone is available to do her bidding.

I was planning to check on the price of hose tomorrow, but now there is really no need.  We’ll probably put in running water next trip.  Getting a little late now as I only have 12 more days here in Asgad, maximum.  Praxy says she will leave with me on the 21st of January.  It wouldn’t surprise me if she comes back next August to check things out.

Ha.  Just now she and two other ladies left with a large bag of sunflower seeds harvested from our plants in the yard last summer.  The pipe trench is being filled and there will be a long line of sunflowers between the two barrios in a few months.  Providing the road maintenance crew doesn’t take them out when they come through while fixing our problem.  I hollered at Praxy to let her know.  When planting time comes her eyes glaze over and she can miss important nuances.  To whit, road graders are really tough on anything soft.  Plants, other than large trees, easily fall into that category.  Monocotyledons won’t have a chance as they aren’t very woody.

The library continues to do a booming business.  Adults and teens are becoming more frequent patrons.  Three college age girls showed up for their first time yesterday as they were home for the weekend.  “We’d heard you have a library.  Can we look around?  Can we get some books?”  “Of course,” was the reply. 

One of them gasped audibly as they walked into our library room.  They had never seen anything remotely like this outside of their college.  Yet, this was completely different.  Rather than all texts and reference as in their college library, there was reference and texts plus a variety of books, fiction and non fiction, available for free on loan.  They gave us their opinion that this is the only public library in all of Samar.  And here it was in their home town of Asgad.  Heaven!   After browsing for twenty minutes, they left with some recreational reading material.  A rarity in this country, let alone Eastern Samar.

Very rewarding to see and hear people enjoying themselves in our modest little library.

The contract working on the agriculture building told us he could build some cabinets for us if we supplied the materials.  We really need them, I think I’ve got Praxy talked into it.  The price is a little steep, but his work quality is excellent.  I’d rather pay a little more for something decent.

We went out back this morning and I took careful measurements for the addition we are planning. 

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Hmm.  And addition about 25 feet by 20 including a porch?  Dunno.  I’ll get a CAD program and map out some ideas when I get home.  10:35  1/10/2016

12:10pm 1/10/2016  still on a Sunday, no less.

We were minding our own business eating lunch and here it came.

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Praxy asks nicely for something and the response seems to be, “How high do you want us to jump?”  She replies, “You don’t have to do it now.  You don’t have to do anything special.  You don’t even have to jump!  Maybe the next time it’s handy.”  The response?  “We’re going to jump anyway, right away.  As high as we can.  Stand back!”

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Lining it up and…

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aside for the possibility of a puddle on the road in front of our house, the flooding problem has been relegated to history.  Not so for our unfortunate neighbors on the left of this picture.  We’ll see how that one plays out.   At least their house has more elevation above the ground.  Flooding might make access difficult to the hand pump.  That will always be an issue.  However, there will soon be fresh well water available from the old barrio to those who want it or can afford it.

Amazing.  The neighbors are trying to figure out how to keep Praxy here year round.  I’m hoping they don’t hide her or hogtie her on the day we are scheduled to leave.  There is NO FREAKING WAY that any of them could accomplish what she has done in the last few weeks.  A year wasn’t enough.  I’m scratching my head.

She just told me that Dada, the German man that is overseeing the reconstruction, wanted her to stay and interpret a week after Yolanda struck.  She wanted no part of that and we were reunited two weeks later as mentioned in my blog.   1/10/2016  12:30pm

1/12/2016  9:18am.  Time to do a little catching up.  We haven’t been doing much that is interesting.   Perhaps I should start a new post and call it “Trying to Make the Mundane Interesting.”  I suppose it had to come to this.  You can’t spend a month in the town of Asgad and expect exciting things to happen very often.   Not that I really care.  The last trip, because of Yolanda, was interesting in the extreme.  Stressful, scary, complicated.  Had enough of that crap.

We work around the house, then relax around the house.  Interspersed with trips to town for supplies or the beach for a swim and fun.  Maybe I’m starting to practice up for retirement and I’m just starting to figure out how to goof off for long periods of time.  I told Praxy before we left the states that I’m still too active to retire and sit here in Asgad.  This last four weeks has got me wondering if that statement was premature. 

There are a short list of things that would make it very comfortable around here and I could easily stay quite a while longer with their presence.  Refrigerator/freezer.  Generator.  Air conditioner.  (biggie) Transportation-motorcycle.  Kitchen.  Dedicated bedroom. 

Some other things can be lived without for a while.  Sooner or later you have to find some of these and they may never be truly available here in Asgad.  Internet.  Cell service.  Unfortunately, it will take a while to get all this together.  The main problem is we don’t have the space to put them.  Which cycles the discussion back around to an addition out back.  Which then cycles into cost of construction and time off of work to be here while the construction is underway.  There is NO WAY anyone should ever build something in the Philippines unless you are here personally to supervise the work.  Take that statement to the bank.

Presco showed up unexpectedly on Sunday and invited us to a party.  Manding (a title of respect to female elders) Pelar’s 91st birthday part, at her house in the old barrio.

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She is still very perky and a bit feisty in a good way.

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Great food and company.  Only close family here.  Glad I am included!  Not in this picture as I took this photo.  Catharine has uploaded a photo with me in it to her Facebook page.

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Afterwards, spirits.  Emperador brandy and El Hornitos tequila.  With tapos (fish, rice, and leftovers from the meal) and salt and calamancies for the tequila.  The tequila is definitely not for the young.  Tequila flavored liquor; strong, and hard as sin.  It reminded me of “Blanca” (white or new) from Mexico.  No thanks, I stuck with the brandy.  Glad I did.  Headache in a bottle.

Later on a half gallon of tubac (coconut heart wine) showed up.  So I finally got to try fresh tubac and all I can say is that it is definitely an acquired taste.  Not for me.   Pilar and Presco drank it all up.  Pilar really enjoyed herself, she was smiling every time I looked at her. 

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One last thing.  I finally got to meet Catharine Ogatia in person.  We’ve exchanged many Facebook messages and photos; it was great to talk with her.  She helps us with getting money channeled into the house when it needs repairs.  She received the library books at her home in Guiuan, the books that are soooo popular now that they are in Asgad. 

We worked together to help Dr. Andrews from the University of Notre Dame.  He contacted me through my blog requesting assistance.  A group of scientists were planning a return to Asgad and Eastern Samar last winter, a year after Yolanda, to take more measurements of the storm surge up and down the coast.  They needed transportation, food, and motels for their stay.  Communications were still weak in the area, and food and lodgings were an unknown.  First and best person I could think of was Catharine.

Turned out Catharine loved the job of organizing trips for foreigners and hopes more jobs like that will show up.  She escorted him and his fellow scientists from Japan around the area and provided translation services as her English is excellent.   Everyone was pleased with the results.

See all the books on the floor in front of her?  She shrieked with delight when she saw our modest library.  She and another young man had stopped by to get some books to read.  Again, someone astounded at the selection and number of books.  Both of them.  They each took off with four, we couldn’t turn them down as they live in Guiuan.   Turns out he just graduated from college with a teaching degree and is looking for work.  Reading will pass the time.

We in the USA take reading material for granted.  Remember that next time you crack open a book.

10:45am  1/12/2016  Asgad, Salcedo, Eastern Samar, Philippines.

Posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Break Out the Cigars, We’re Grandparents!


Several posts back I showed you pictures of our displaced tiki gecko eggs from the window replacement project.  Today, we are now happily in the lizard farming business.

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We have a mason jar lid over the incubator so we could see a baby if it hatched.  This morning at 5:30am, nothing.  Later at 9:30am I lifted the lid.  There sat a brand spanking new hatchling.  Quick, lid down before it bolted.  I excitedly called Praxy over and showed her and covered it back up.  Third time I was ready with my camera.  Unlucky for me, the baby was also ready; to escape and it took off like a little scaly rocket.  After some maneuvering, I got a couple of pictures.  No way to pick it up.  It’s far far too small to try to handle.

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On the floor on the front porch.  About an inch and a half, including tail, of speedy, wall sticking, alert, frightened, gecko.  Any false move turned it into a greyish blur.  After these two photos, I scared it into a tiny crack in the joint between our rail and wall on the front porch so it would be safe.

I’ve got four curious little boys looking for it as I type but it is in a perfect hideout.  Not a chance they will find it as I’m not telling them where it is.  Because of a yolk sack, it probably won’t have to eat for a day or two.  I might take it that long to get over the fright of two excited foreigners plus two small boys looking it over.  I blew up the photo on my computer, that is a grain of sand next to the toe on the right back foot.

This little addition to the household is more than welcome.  Geckos are honored guests at our house as they eat bugs off of our ceilings in the evening.  I’ve watched them, tiki geckos don’t like fireflies and leave them alone.

As with all thing in the world, there is a downside to geckos in the house.  One night I got my head crapped on while in bed.  Most of their droppings are pretty tight, but this one was liquid and ucky.  Had to get up and wash my head and shoulders.  Ha ha ha on me.  Only time it’s happened in over a month, so I’m not too concerned about it.  Just a bad break.  Rather deal with that than mosquitos.

I whined this morning to Praxy telling her I was bored.  Not now.  This made my day.  We are going to take some time off to do some fun things.  We are borrowing a motorcycle for a day on Friday night and Saturday morning.  We’re taking Catharine out to dinner as payment for all the assistance she gives us while we are away.  Hopefully, Graham and Rowena get my text and show up as well.  We are planning to spend the night at the Misty Blue Boathouse, then drive up to see a marine sanctuary ran by another of Praxy’s relatives.  We’ll take his motorcycle if Frank doesn’t mind.  And my hand doesn’t act up.

Library is still very busy.  I thought the novelty might wear off by now, but three weeks in and it’s still going strong.

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We have to sign out books for the last two moppets.  Both are too young to write, but not to young to look at pictures and try to read.  They aren’t old enough to be in school so they come over quite a bit.

Some of the more popular children’s books are starting to get a little tattered.  Many are not really high quality and they aren’t up to being read constantly.  At any give time, over half of our inventory of children’s books are out.  And that is after limiting the kids to two each.  I also expect a lot of loss as people here do not know how to take care of books.  Most never get their hands on one.  Schools, other than the grade school here in Asgad, don’t have extra reading material.

I’ve already mentioned that children are not issued textbooks here or anywhere else in the Philippines except perhaps in private schools for the wealthy.  Those books are too rare and valuable for children to even handle.  Teachers are lucky to have one book on each subject in the entire school.  Teachers trade the books back and forth during the day and share notes at night.  Much work is hand copied on to a blackboard for the class to read and respond.

I’m now checking the gecko eggs all the time.   Want to see one come out.  Several times an hour.  A watched pot never boils, but try to convince ME of that adage!

3:30pm on the 13th of January.  It’s been unseasonably warm around here.  Weather like this didn’t show up until March last year 2015.  This morning was brutal, this afternoon has been much nicer because of a sea breeze.  I feel a little useless, but I’m not giving in to running around outside until the sun sets.  Joseppi, an Italian in Burak, had to go to the hospital yesterday because of heat exhaustion.  They sent him home telling him to drink more water.  That has got my attention.  Going to be careful.  He leaves for Italy sometime this next week.  After that episode, he might be looking forward to going home.

8 more days to go in Asgad.  If the weather cools, great!  If not, it could be miserable for me.  Last night was tough sleeping.  I was too warm most of the night and never pulled sheet over myself.  If the power had been out, I doubt if I could have slept much.

Frank is loaning us the motorcycle for a day and a half.  The weekend plan is on!  Yay!

We have a crew outside building a bamboo fence around the place.  Looks pretty good to me.  I’m of no use to the builders, so I’m staying out of the way.  Praxy is supervising.

The builders came to Praxy looking for a “loan”, meaning a gift of money.  To pay for schooling for their children.  School is not free here.  It costs about 1000 pesos a year for their two children.  Must be how the teachers are paid.

There is no way she is giving away free money, ever a true request for a loan.  Once given away, they will never be able to pay it back.  Everyone is broke.  Everyone is desperate.  Everyone is poor.  Everyone is in dire straits.  Well, you know what I mean.  To give money to one person will open the flood gates.  To refuse someone or anyone after a gift to one person, especially a relative, will create hard feelings.  So, people that want money from her have to work, unless it is a medical emergency.  They install windows, build fence, clean the yard, wash clothes, pull weeds, whatever she can think of.  What she DOES do is pay very well for a job well done.

She’s very tough about it.  People are very very careful about riling her.  As popular as she is, they know she can be like iron.  When she was younger, she worked her tail off to give a bunch of her family a better life.  She says she’s retired from working like that.

If she pays him the full 1000, it will be far above the normal rate.  I’m not worried about paying extra and it’s up to her.  I want to help the people here, but there are limits.  My entire personal wealth wouldn’t make a dent in the poverty in this province.

The library is a way of easing the tedium for the locals, if they choose to use it.  I’ve always enjoyed escaping the world into a good book.  I pulled a surprisingly good one out of our library and got about a third through it this afternoon.  If there is a sequel, I’ll try to get it in the next box.  There is a young man here that will love it.  Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind.  It’s thick at 830 odd pages.  Good way to pass a hot afternoon.  Too hot to go to the beach, in my opinion.  No shade.  Yolanda cleared the shade trees out.

That’s all for now.  I’ll see if I can come up with something else tomorrow.

4:20pm  1/13

1/17  Been four days since I’ve sat at the computer.

The morning of the 14th, I checked the gecko eggs hourly or more starting at 5:30am.  At 8am, nothing.  9am…

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I found a second hatchling behind the incubator waiting for me to life the lid.  This gecko wasn’t near as quick as the other and also a bit smaller.  I actually touched it as I herded out under the hollow blocks that make our cooking area on the front porch.  So cute.  I love reptiles.  Yes, snakes included.  Praxy thinks I’m a little weird.  Oh well.

The two other eggs will need at least another three weeks to hatch.  I’ve hidden them on top of our new cupboard so they can hatch in peace.  Some day, someone will find the incubator with the tiny eggshells in it and wonder about that crazy cano that raises geckos.

The locals say that baby geckos in a house means the husband and wife are getting along very well.  The babies can’t stand the turmoil.  We are doing OK, Praxy and I.

Besides our second grandchild, we got another new addition to the house

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The construction guys finished up with our new cabinet and hauled it in.  I was was waiting for them, but they  still managed to surprise me with the unexpected arrival.  It was almost too big for the room.  We had to turn it and work it around to get it stood up.  There it is.  Finally, something to help ease the congestion in our house.  Geckos eggs are on top, out of the way.

Remy sent us a balik bayan box of books for the library.  Good, clean romance and fiction.  Plus, something we needed and installed immediately.

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Insulated curtains!  The sun simply beats down on this window and two others, turning our little house into an oven.  The curtains drop the temperature in here at least 5 degrees and maybe more.

She sent this to Asgad, but LBC doesn’t deliver out here.  There was no phone and no address, the outfit had no idea how to contact us.  Luckily, our friend Ester from the sari sari store noticed it the other day and told Praxy.  She picked it up Thursday.  All boxes will have to go to Catharine and she can send them on.  It’s expensive to deliver them, but we have a bank account set aside for Catharine to take care of getting the boxes out here.

Next day, another arrival about mid morning.

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Our kitchen work table with two more shelves underneath.  The room is still crowded with luggage, but the additional space is great.   I was ready for this.  Praxy ran in all in a panic to get things ready.  She’d been working outside on plants and fence.  I had looked over the the contractor’s work area and saw that it was coming soon.  Had the room all cleaned out and ready.  We gave the old junky looking table to our very poor neighbors next door on our right.  They were thrilled to have it and put it in their living room.  We were thrilled to have it gone.

After cleaning up the house and taking showers, we hopped on the motorcycle and took off to the Misty Blue Boathouse in Guiuan.  We wanted to get there early as I have no desire whatsoever to drive a motorcycle around this area at night.  We watched the sun set while waiting for Catharine, her daughter Cacai, Graham, and Rowena.  We told them 5:30pm, but we didn’t care.  Both showed up around 6.  That gave us time to enjoy this.

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A flock of seabirds came through.  I’m not sure what they are, but the way they carry their head while flying makes me think they are in the heron family.  Social herons.  Weird.  The only time herons get together is at nesting time.

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Everyone showed up a little after 6.  The ladies had a great time chatting.  Cacai found one of her classmates to chum around with and us guys, Greg, Graham, and myself, drank beer and told each other tall tales and stories.  We a dinner of pizza, chicken, hamburger, and fries, and called it a night around 9pm.  I’m glad to say that on this occasion, the power never went out and we got a full night of air conditioned sleep.  Well, Praxy did.  I ate too much and was restless.

Next morning, up and at ‘em early.  5:30am as usual.  Praxy had been gazing wistfully across the bay, wishing to visit another island.  I can’t remember the name (Sang-An island), but the dock area for the it is right next to the Misty Blue.

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This is a pump boat similar to the one we took.  It has a small gasoline engine onboard and puts around quite nicely.

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Not much to see, really.  Greg had some land over there and we were a bit curious about it.  Turned out it was too close to the port on the other side and too much foot traffic nearby.  His land did have something rare in the Philippines, frontage to a dock that has water deep enough for a large vessel.

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This piece of junk was immortalized after Yolanda.  It was blown across the strait and the media photographed it said it was wrecked by the typhoon.  Not true.  It was old and worn out long before the typhoon.  The owner has been think about rebuilding it and has never got around to it.  After Yolanda, it was towed back here where it belongs.  “A boat is a hole in the water a person sinks money into.”

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Not a wasted trip.  Praxy found several breadfruit trees in the area and had our boat pilot get her some cuttings.  So now we’ve got breadfruit here in Asgad.  Our property is going to be cluttered with plants.  So many I’m thinking I’ll need a machete to get into the back yard next trip over here.

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On the way back, we cruised by this little setup.  I think those might be crab pots, and a little house to shelter in while waiting for the crabs.

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The Misty Blue Boathouse from the water.  Meanwhile back at the pool, swimming lessons were in session.

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A young married couple works at the Misty Blue and here is there little daughter enjoying a cool swim on Saturday morning.  Mom took pictures as another lady bathed the child.  I couldn’t resist a picture myself.  I love photographing babies.  Took me three tries to get what I wanted.  Much harder with adults!

Greg is very nice about the baby being at work.  She lays behind the counter near the cash box with a fan on her to keep mosquitoes away.  Whoever isn’t busy gets to hold the baby.  Praxy got her turn as well but I didn’t get a picture.

We had planned a trip to a relatives house about 25 miles away.  The weather turned bad on Saturday, so we stayed in Guiuan a goofed off.  Praxy got her hair and nails done and I shopped for motorcycles and picked up a few supplies.

Shopped for motorcycles.  Yes, I’m going to get one next trip.  The isolation out here is impossible.  Hard to get parts, food, and supplies, hard to visit friends and relatives, hard to keep from getting bored.  I’m going to buy one and let Catharine use it while we are in the states.  Problem solved.  I didn’t want to buy one and leave it parked in the salt air for many months at a time here in Asgad.  Renting is not available except from an owner.  Prices are quite reasonable.  The bike I like is about $2,500 new and similar to my bike in Pomeroy.  If Catharine can handle it, that’s what I’ll get.

On the way home, we stopped in Salcedo to visit some relative.  Relatives that attended Praxy and my wedding.  They were in town for a visit as well.  One of them is a builder and he had the tools and the knowledge to finish up our security bars for our windows.  That was the last project.  Everything on the house is done (for this trip) and we can leave when we are ready.  Yay!

Today was a lazy Sunday.  I washed my camera strap and backpack.  Both were suffering from sweat stink and I couldn’t imagine smelling that all the way home to the United States.  Praxy gave me lessons on hand washing clothes.  Actually, I didn’t mind at all.  A good skill to have.  Later, I gave her photography lessons.  A good trade.

I talked with the pig people today and they are just about ready for their piglet.  I told them they’d better catch me soon or I’ll be gone.  They’ll be here tomorrow for sure!

That’s enough writing for today.  I suppose the next post will have to do with getting ready to leave.   I’m ready to go home.  The rainy season is definitely over and it is hot around here.  However, it’s not too bad.  The humidity is down quite a bit.  The air is warmer, but I’m more comfortable.  As long as I’m not under the hot tropical sun.  Most everyone is hiding in their houses or in the shade today.  Can’t blame them!

Oh, two more pictures.  A piece of our old house.  I found it at low tide.

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A wall support.  And the floor migration route.

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Our house used to set right in front of the two story building at the left of this picture.  To the right of that is the temporary church.  The big open area next over is where the old church sat.

Two tons of floor now sit near the right edge of the picture.  There is a lone palm tree trunk with no fronds on the right.  The floor sits just behind it in that little clear area.  That is close to 300 yards of movement.   I’m assuming that it went inland, probably went right through the church with the waves, and then back out towards the sea.  It was on end as it went through the trees as it was much to wide to go through that grove just to the right of it’s resting place.

5:00pm  1/13/2015  Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines

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Some Things We are Leaving in Asgad


I haven’t been productive this morning.  At all.  I found a book in the latest box from Maryland, Boy’s Detective Stories.  In it, a short story written in 1906.  “The Thinking Machine: The Problem of cell 13.”  I first read that story from Scholastic Book Services in grade school, around fifth grade.  It’s about a highly intelligent man that is challenged to escape from a prison cell in one week’s time or less, with no time to prepare for incarceration.  I smiled the whole time I read it, for the first time in over 40 years.  It brought back pleasant memories.  I thought hard about the story less than 6 months ago and today I found it in the Philippines.

The author was drowned in the Titanic disaster, and several other Thinking Machine stories ready for print were lost on that horrible April night.  I wasn’t aware that this story was part of a group.  I’m now going to look for the whole book.  Ebay, here I come!

This might sound a bit like I’m “tooting my own horn”, but I think this could be important.  The people around here are coming to depend on us for help.  We are willing and have the resources to give aid and advice.  Something to think about if you are planning an extended visit to the Philippines or a move here.

Yesterday morning, the newlywed wife from next door showed up out front of our house.  Her husband had woke up Sunday morning to a terrible earache and could hardly function.  She had gone to the clinic, but they didn’t have anything or any medication to help.  “Do you have any painkiller or something else that might help?” was her plea.

It was natural that she would ask us.  We helped both her mother and father through a bout with the flu with Tylenol.

Even though we haven’t talked to him (he’s from Mindinao and doesn’t speak Waray or English), we were more than willing to help.  My dilemma: what do we give the man?   He needed to be back to work Monday morning sawing coconut lumber.

Antibiotics were out of the question unless the clinic recommended them.  I still have my two courses of ciprofloxacin from Can-Avid, but I wasn’t about to give them out.  Not that I’m stingy, it just didn’t seem to be the right way to go.  Maybe later, but not right away.

After some careful thinking about our stock of drugs, I settled on trying the nighttime cold medicine that we had purchased from Costco.  I hoped the antihistamine and decongestant, plus the painkiller in the pills might do the trick.  As he was in pain, the nighttime dose might let him get some sleep during the day.  The other ingredients might clear his head and relieve the pressure.  Since he was a big man, use two pills every six hours.

Sunday evening he came by and thanked Praxy personally.  It worked, and he only needed one dose.  He woke up refreshed and with no pain.  That’s the most he’s ever said to us, but I understand.  Language barrier.  Being there, doing that.

That’s the way it is around here.  People helping people.  I’m pretty sure some tasty tidbit will show up at our house today as a further gesture of thanks.

We went to a memorial yesterday as well.  Two years ago a man’s wife suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after typhoon Yolanda.  Lunch and beverages were served, and I spent a lot of time talking with the people that are starting the pig farm.

The business and brain end is coming from a man named Peing.  He wants to branch out and make things better for the community.  Cassava was his answer.  Expanding uses of the starchy root, perhaps making it into flour.

(Industrial business major from college speaking for a while) I’m not really hot on that idea and I let him know why.  Cassava grows abundantly here.  Any advantage Asgad gained could and would be quickly copied by everyone nearby.  Advantage lost.  Back to square one.

It’s very tasty, a cheap alternative to potatoes.  I suggested different ways to prepare it, my take on a breakfast skillet from the USA.  My latest concoction, garlic, onions, cassava, salt, pepper, chicken adobo, and an egg cracked over the top when it is near done.  Stir and eat.

But preparations have their limits and can be copied.  What else is there?  Something new.  An idea not from the past, the old overworked idea.  Something for the future, a new idea and a new start.  Then it hit me.  Praxy’s sunflowers.

They are growing phenomenally.

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This is about two and one half weeks of growth.  Only three days to come out of the ground as the soil is plenty warm here year round.  So three weeks in.  Wow.  I would guess they will be ready to harvest in six weeks at this rate.  Not bad.

They are the giant variety.  The flowers can be eighteen inches across and produce over a thousand seeds each.  They are hardy, just keep the caterpillars off of them and water them in the dry season.  Preparation for consumption is pretty easy.  Soak them in salt water, then dry them.  I’m not sure if they need to be slightly baked.  Probably would have to be baked in this country because of the high humidity.   A quick trip across a wok would do it.

To eat them do what the baseball players do during a game.  Stuff a bunch in your mouth and shell them with your teeth.  Spit out the shells and enjoy.

Philippine ingenuity will figure out how to crack the seeds open for kernels as we know them in the USA.  There is plenty of man/woman power here, just set up a bunch of people assembly line style and go.  Cook them in oil and sell them on the street.

Too bad I don’t have some examples of prepared kernels with me.  I wasn’t expecting this at all.  Pretty decorative flowers possibly turning into a cash crop.  But there it is.  A “ground level” start to what has the potential to be a tremendous hit in this country.

I’ll check to see if there are any packages in Cebu to send over to Asgad for the locals to sample.  No way there will be anything like that around here.  I’ll have to look for an import store from the USA.

Peing was a little hesitant, but I think he’ll come around once these flowers in our back yard mature and he tastes the seeds.  A little experimentation will get the salt water and drying processes figured out.  I’m going to mail preparation techniques to Catharine from Cebu so she can pass the information on.  Again, communications suck out here in Eastern Samar.

But there is hope.  Dada (the overseer of the relocation projects along the coast) told me that Globe has installed a 4G line into Asgad.  I hope I run into him this week and see if that did indeed occur.  (1/20 8:45am.  I ran into him on the 19th in Guiuan.  He told me high speed internet is now a fact in Salcedo.  Makes his life a whole lot easier.  I also passed him on the way home from Guiuan on the highway.  I was on Frank’s motorcycle, he was on a hired tricycle.)

We also talked about the backpack sewing business.  It is languishing a bit because of poor sales.  Praxy and I let him know we didn’t think they were being aggressive enough at marketing their items. 

My suggestion was a going to Guiuan and trying a consignment program with one or more stores there.  The Prince mall or the Ovo store.  Both sell dry goods and groceries, plus school supplies.  The idea had never really occurred to them.  I guess they think that people will walk out to Asgad and buy here.  That’s not happening and I let him know that.

I tried to give him some tips on how to convince the stores.  If the price and quality is right, they might buy the backpacks rather than consign them.  The store would then shoulder the selling risk themselves.  Peing was excited, he and his group are going to try this after the pig pens are up and running.  I was rather surprised that they hadn’t already done it.  I tried to sound positive and encouraging.  Attitude is everything.

I also know from personal experience that success is a lot of times built on failure.  The adage “success is 10 percent inspiration and  90 percent perspiration” is truly in play.  I told them to keep trying move forward no matter what.  Bags, sunflowers, or pigs.  Doesn’t matter.  All will require a lot of effort.

We went for a walk this morning and found this little family.

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Goats are not real common around here any more as most people don’t eat them.  No money here, but the cute factor had me snap this picture.  I find goat edible but a little too gamey.  It’s OK in a stew.  Goat cheese is something I can live without.

Business in the library has slowed down.  The novelty has worn off.  That’s fine with us.  The serious readers are still coming in.  College and high school students as well.

As mentioned before, the house is pretty much done for now.  It is comfortable, but by no means complete.

Dry season seems to have arrived early this year.  About six weeks early.  No rain for a week.  I find it much more comfortable with the lower humidity.  The temperature during the days seems to be about the same.  Cooler at night.  People are bundled up in the morning, some of them wear coats.

Praxy has been handing out seeds to anyone and everyone that wants them.  I know the flowers will be popular, but I wonder about the strange vegetables.  The cuisine seems to be very restricted here and people seem resistant to trying new foods and new ways of preparing them.  In other words, tradition here seems to be unchangeable. 

Go to Philippine restaurants throughout Eastern Samar and every one of them, outside of places run by foreigners, are selling pretty much the same thing.  All prepared the same way and all tasting about the same.  Lots of grease and sugar.  Displayed in glass cases. 

Households are the same.  The dishes are remarkably similar.  Go to a fiesta and you know instantly what you are getting and what it will taste like.

It’s no wonder I’ve lost so much weight.  I’ll try to leave that here as well!

Back to the title of this post.  I’m hoping that Praxy and I are making things better for the people in this area.  I’d like to think we are doing that.

1/18/2016  11:10am  Asgad, Salcedo, Eastern Samar

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