Sign Language: You Know You’re Back in America When….

…you see signs like this.


Really, I can have ice cold wine in 7 minutes?  Welcome back to the land of innovation and new ideas.  You’ve gotta give that to the States.  And I was just getting to a state of reluctant acceptance that the red wine is always chilled in Manila.

I know.  I probably the only person you know that hasn’t seen one of these things.  But, then that’s the point.  I’ve been away.

Final Glimpses of the City

Time to add the closing bracket on our experience of Fort Bonifacio.  From our initial First Glimpses of the City much has changed since the first few months of stepping precariously across empty wasteland plots.  However, in recent months the view of our kitchen window has changed little compared to other areas of the Fort. Documenting further progress involving going up to the roof on the 55th floor of our skyscraper. I put this off until the last day. The vertigo feeling is both scary and exhilarating, but mostly scary. Especially alone. But eventually… up I went.

Here is the view from our roof over the window-blocking new building:

It reveals more vacant grass patches, but not so many anymore. Every patch is really just the footprint of buildings to come.


Yes, that’s SM Aura in the background. Although the shopping center and cinemas are open, you can see the continuing construction on the tower as the offices are not completed yet. Here’s a close up of Aura, in striking contrast to the older, poorer district immediately behind it:


Lastly, the last patch of green grass – that WAS planted lawn not wasteland – that used to be our easy access into the center of Fort Bonifacio by foot – is now well on its way to becoming a car park. And that is sad. For me that was the nail in the coffin of my disenchantment in living here. Between the growing traffic, blocked sidewalks, noise, dust and pedestrian hostility, I have reached my proverbial shit limit on the construction story that I have tried to embrace whilst I lived amongst it. Perhaps its just human nature that when we know we need to make a separation from something the protective walls come down and we allow the negative in to help push us away. Or maybe I’m just sick of people trying to run me over!


Robert’s Farewell Party

How do you say goodbye to a large staff of almost 100 who have worked together as a team for over two years? With a big, slap up barbeque and video karaoke party of course!


Carpenters, painters, drivers and technicians getting ready for the big feast


Corn and fried tofu on its way


Smoking us out with bbq chicken


More food appeared from all over …along with more hungry guys


Part of the great team that is FM Manila. We will miss you guys!

And no goodbye party is complete without a tribute video.  With apologies to Psy!

OK Kids. Time to Put Everything Back in the Box….


Men at Work

Its surprising just how noisy 8 guys with tape guns can be.   The clunking, scraping and stretching sounds rip across the room like fervent roadscrapers, manically shoveling paths through snow.  A kind of Stockhausen-esque aleatoric composition with its own cacophonic melody.  Concerto for Tape Dispenser in G minor.    I could barely hear myself think above the din.

Drowning in stuff!

Drowning in stuff!

The more soft furnishings that disappeared, the more it echoed.  It took two days to put everything we own “back in the box”…some of it literally and some of it figuratively… and a third day to get it out of the apartment and out of our lives.  At least for a while.


As if enough wasn’t going on already, the window cleaning platform showed up. For the first time in two years they cleaned the windows properly. Great timing!


And then the boxes started to disappear

We are packed out and sort of back to square one with our home space, except now we aren’t  expectantly looking around imagining how the space with develop around us, we are remembering our lives in that space and in all of the things we did in the Philippines.





I never in my life thought of living in the Philippines.  Its just not on most people’s maps or bucket lists (unless they’re Filipino of course).  It has been both surprising, fascinating, frustrating, ugly and beautiful.  Its hard to even remember my impressions and expectations when I first arrived, and yet when I glance back at my own blog from the first few days, I really feel the extent of 2.5 years here, everything we explored, loved and hated about living here.  Despite the frustrations with traffic and food quality, it has been largely a very positive experience that I am so glad to have had the opportunity to experience.  It my own small way I feel ownership for the land, people and language.  Made in The Philippines will forever mean something more to me.

I doubt we will have the opportunity to return.  We have so many competing places and relationships elsewhere and only limited time to visit, but who knows?  Maybe one day?  I know that even five years from now it will be a very different place.


This post participated in the Daily Prompt’s Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move


The IB Post It Note Study System


I am sure we’re not the first people to think of using a mirror and post-it notes to keep track of something, but I have to say that it was a really good study plan strategy. I noticed Latham liked to keep his homework on post-it notes sometimes, sticking them to the window when he had multiple assignments due. So for finals I bought a bunch of them in different colours, then we picked a colour-key (re-read, review, cram, exam) and put up a big calendar (pink post its) on the sliding mirror closet doors, covering the six weeks leading up to exams. Each week started on a Saturday because the weekend was the start of the lead in to the following week.

Then we added events, doctors appts and other key activities, included scheduled free time, and finally added the actual exams (red post its).   This formed the basis of all the “set items.” Then Latham created a yellow post it for every subject area he had to cover for every subject.  The goal then was to place all the subject study post its on to the calendar in a way that made sense based on the exam dates and all the other realities.  The photo is the final result at the beginning of the six week period.

It was such a great system because it was simple.  Every day he knew what he had to do and it broke up the overwhelming exams into daily bites.  It was flexible.  Things crop up and life messes with the schedule.  The post-its could easily be moved around to accommodate changes.  Plus it had the added bonus of being able to remove a subject once you had studied it, which has the same satisfaction as crossing something off a list.  What was really key was that it showed the possibilities and limitations of the six week period in a very visual way, illustrating how it could be done, but also demonstrating that if you don’t study a particular unit as scheduled you needed to find a way to fit it in somewhere else instead.

Regardless of his results which we don’t have yet, it set up him up to succeed and hopefully the results will reflect that.

So what do you think?  Should I pack some post-it notes in a fancy box with a DVD and sell it as an IB Study System for $49.99?!

A Last Look Around


I tried very hard to get us all away for Memorial Day weekend.  But there were just too many obstacles and in retrospect, although it was boring being stuck in the apartment, staying home really turned out to be the responsible thing to do.  But I wanted to take one more trip to see this country that is so much more than Manila, but so hard for us to schedule time to explore.  There’s so much I haven’t seen and wanted to:  Batanes, Bagio, Bohol… and the questions were:  With one more trip possibility left where would we go? Did we want to try to cross off from the wish list, or did we want to revisit something that we loved?  This question made me stop and think about all the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had over the past two years to explore the Philippines, but that recap really is a post for another day.  The bottom line is I wanted to be out in the Filipino countryside, away from the city, away from tourist traps and all the hyperbole surrounding them.  I really just wanted to go for a walk somewhere pretty.

Going for a walk in the Philippines isn’t always that easy.  In Manila I haven’t enjoyed walking city blocks.  The lights are out on every other corner, and even when they work the drivers pay no attention to pedestrian rights.  You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, which is not very relaxing to say the least.

We’ve had amazing hiking adventures here…some of my best memories.  But its not easy… not really a simple walk in the countryside…. and has usually involved a guide. Its hard to be a female foreigner walking around in small rural villages.  I end up feeling either vulnerable or voyeuristic.  But there was one place that I remember feeling very comfortable walking around and we never got to explore nearly enough – a pretty coastal stretch on Negros, near Dumaguete, where I was a Hammock Potato six months ago.  Now that was real countryside and walking territory without obstacles or issues, with a beautiful view and peace and quiet.  So it was decided that our last look around would be the familiar – Dumaguete and its peaceful cliffs and a little hammock swinging for good measure.  Here are some sights of the Filipino countryside that I will really miss.  I doubt we will have a chance to see them again:

Filipino Countryside

Starting off along the low grassy cliffs

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Past spiky "house plants" gone mad!

Past spiky “house plants” gone mad

With bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees

and bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees.

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows.

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows

Who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

 and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle

and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle