Air Shipment Has Arrived!

When you leave for post, your baggage is limited to whatever the airlines deems as the rules on how much you can take.  Usually these days this looks like 2 suitcases of no more than 50lbs each, plus a small carry on suitcase, plus a personal item.  That a total number of items per person of 4.  There were three of us, so that was going to be at least 12 items to count in and out of every taxi and transportation experience from door to door.  Then Robert’s very kind and very cool cousin (Yay! for Susie.  Thank you…thank you…) used some of her air mileage to upgrade us to business class.  This is always a great thing, but when you have 24 hours of flight ahead of you, the upgrade way surpassed “great”.  We also got business class baggage allowance which gives up to 3 pieces each and more generous poundage.  We ended up with 13 pieces total, and alot less carry-on/personal items to schlup around.  Even with all this crap in our entourage, it still doesn’t equal that much stuff to live on for up to 3 months while we wait for our household effects.  Its amazing what you really need to bring from a travel printer, to cameras, personal important documents, etc. etc. before you even get to clothes.

To help with this situation, the government provides a welcome kit for your home when you get there.  Think saucepans, sheets, towels etc.  It also allows you ship a small amount of personal effects by air.  Extra clothes, office equipment for me, really useful household stuff etc.   Anyway…the air shipment arrived last weekend!  I will gloss over the experience of discovering the packing job that was done and some of the unfortunate consequences… and just move on to how great it was to get three huge cardboard boxes full of long lost treasures from distant NJ.  Here are a few pics:

P.S.  Our main stuff is due to arrive in March.

What’s for Dinner?

I’m not new to Asian foods or cooking with Asian ingredients, although my knowledge of Filipino food was almost non-existent before I knew we were moving here.  I’m trying to get familiar with a lot of the most common dishes that I see around.  Its very meat-based with vegetables (mostly) taking a back seat….unlike Greek food which uses a lot of veggies…so I am not as eager as I usually might be to try cooking it.  But that’s a sweeping statement and when our kitchen stuff gets here, I promise to be more creative and give it a go.

In the meantime, my quest since we’ve been here is to try all the different fruits as they come into season. Mangos and pineapples here have an excellent reputation, and for good reason…they are delicious.  Bananas come in many different varieties, large and small…yellow, pinkish and green.  Turns out a proper tree-ripened banana tastes great really ripe.  (Chicquita bananas taste starchy and weird if you let them go completely yellow…so that was a great taste treat surprise.) Giant bunches too!  Its fruit smoothies for breakfast here, practically every day.  Gunabayo (or Soursop) is an aggresive looking green fruit that is showing up in the markets.  I had to google “exotic fruits” and scroll through pictures in order to identify it.  Here it is:

Turns out Soursop is a lot more delicious than it looks and it smells wonderful.  Also, it seems to have been part of a number of medical experiments to test its alleged power to kill cancer cells and the results are very positive and interesting. The fact that you probably didn’t know that is a subject of a lot of controversy.

Tonights dinner is going to be a Capon from a free-range farm in Northern Luzon (We went to a wonderful weekend organic weekend market – post to follow); vegetable rice; green beans in coconut sauce; fresh mango salsa and Soursop for desert:

Small Calamansi limes are everywhere and add a sour component to a lot of dishes.  They’re smaller than key limes, taste “limey” but have their own distinctive flavour:

Just cut a few of them in half and squeeze away:

I used them to add to the mango salsa (look at the colour!):

And to add flavour (along with garlic) to the oven-ready Capon:

Bon Appetit!

Sign Language: Child Abuse?

As we learn our way around the different neighborhoods, describing where we mean by memorable landmarks has been the way to go.  Yesterday, I said to Robert – “You know where I mean, next to the place where they blow up babies…” and realised that it needed a photo!  So here you are….

BTW, Philippinos are very kind, gentle and good with kids (honest!)

An Accompanied Tour

The dust bunnies have precious few places to hide in this partially furnished apartment.  So they roll down the edges of the hallways like something out of a John Wayne movie.  The brand new rugs throw up new lint, which feeds them until they turn into large tumbleweeds and the air conditioning blows them around.<Insert theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly>. After about 10 days of living in a cowboy movie, I decided living here without a proper broom and mop was not an option.  So, as previously mentioned yesterday, we set off in search.

Now we are a proud owner of an Orga Super Mop <read: metal stick with a cloth attached>…, which left me with the next reality of mopping all that floor space.  It is wonderful to have all this square footage to spread out.  I can’t hear the TV or other people’s phone calls, and there’s always a quiet corner to read or hang out and look at the view (a favourite pass time).  However, someone needs to clean it occasionally <sigh>..…

So accompanied by my new aforementioned mop, I thought it would be fun to get the job done and share a little more of our new home.  (There are five bathrooms, for goodness sake!)

So off we go starting in the kitchen:

Door behind leads to maids area, utility room and more bathrooms and toilet…not even going there right now..

And off towards dining room.. Note electric sockets in the kitchen.  We have both 110 and 220 and all electric gadgets are color coded, orange or green.  Make sure you plug the right one into the right socket or BANG!

And onward through the cavernous living/den area:

And then there’s the entrance way:

And the hallways:

Master (and other bedrooms):

And finally my -soon to be– office.

PHEW!  Maybe hiring a little help might be a good idea?!  What’s is going be like when we actually get our stuff?!  More photos then….

New Routines

I’ve meant to post several times during the last week or so, but as you can imagine, its been busy.  We’ve also been going to bed really early in what feels like an alcohol-free drunken stupor.  I guess the jet lag just takes longer when you asking you body to make this big a shift.

Its been interesting having the holidays as our first impressions of Manila.  The streets have been relatively car-free (sorta) but the shopping malls have been heaving.  Today is the first day of “normal” as everyone is back from vacation.  So we’ll see what “normal” looks like in the grocery store at 10am this morning when I go out shopping (again).  Here’s a few of our new routines as we work at making everything new around us feel like home:

1.  Exploring.  On foot.  We don’t have a car yet and as we are in a city, exploration is limited only by the soreness of our feet.  So we’ve done a lot of miles walking around our neighborhood.  We’re currently surrounding by many new skyscrapers.  Both residential and commerical, completed and in-progress.  In fact, there must be about a dozen new skyscrapers going up around up I count what I can see from each direction.  There are plenty of empty grass plots too, awaiting the construction on the next tower.  This area used to be an American army base, a long way away from the city center, but now it considered metro manila and catching up fast.  Lots of interesting sculptures around too.  Here’s a close up of the one in the first photo:

The three trees are a metal sculpture.  Pretty cool!

2. Shopping.  You can get anything and everything here.  We haven’t really begun to see the extent of it, but it clear that you get find almost anything…  As the main focus has been getting food in the house – as the cupboard is literally bare – we have done numerous foot tours to the nearest supermarket at a giant shopping mall called Market Market!.  MM is a four storey mall that includes a department store, a fashion bazaar, a furniture bazaar, restaurants, a food court, a mini funfair for the kids, 60 open air market stalls, and what must be 200+ stores.  Oh and there’s a big supermarket in the basement.  Shopping there on Christmas eve for basic food items was a nightmare.  Crowds like you wouldn’t believe.  But I’ve learnt that arriving at 10am when they open gives me about 1.5 hours of sane shopping time before the crowds start arriving for lunch.  The following photo doesn’t give any kind of idea of the masses of people, but when you are in the thick of it, whipping out your camera is not an option: Latham and I got a kick out of the sculptured hedges that were made into the shape of different animals with plastic heads poking out:On a completely unrelated note, here’s one more photo of the giant snails we keep meeting on our travels.  Latham’s head included for scale:

That’s all folks.  Off to buy a mop.  Sick of washing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees!