today will be one of the longest days of my life.

i’m eight and a half hours into the manila day, and in another eight and a half hours, i will be on a plane back home. after a thirteen hour plane ride, i will be landing in vancouver three hours before i actually took off. that will make today, saturday the 7th of october, a day of 40 hours.

the first thing i will do after i return home (and drop off my luggage) is go to the comic book store. even though i was able to pick up some comics here, i am going through withdrawal. after that, i’m going to relax, read, and hopefully play some sudoku on my roommate’s nintendo DS. oh, the joys of lazing around. ūüėČ

as much as i long to see my friends, sleep in my own bed, and return to the world i know, i can’t help but want to come back here in the future. there’s still so much to see and experience.

next stop: vancouver.

– fuji

my hotel room is clean, and that can only mean two things: i just got here, or i’m getting ready to leave.

in less than 48 hours, i will be on a plane, heading east over the pacific back home. it only really hits me that i’m going somewhere when my suitcase is packed. everything is neatly folded and packed away to protect the expensive or delicate items of clothing. the only items that remain unpacked are two bottles of shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens stuff, pomade, clothes for the next two mornings, and the laptop.

while i know i haven’t seen as much as i would have liked to, i’ve also seen more than i ever thought that i would see. i’ve definitely learned more than i thought that i would here. as with any experience, the important parts are what you take away from it and what you leave behind (which hopefully doesn’t include your passport, but rather the impact you had on those you met, worked with, etc.).

with the storm off the eastern coast taking a turn for the north, it looks like i will be leaving makati as bright as it was as when i arrived. the lights are back on, and every now and then a bolt of lightning will flicker in the sky.

fuji

my trip to megamall

September 24, 2006

i decided to try and find the sm megamall today, so i did my research online, and discovered that it was only about a 10 minute walk from where i am working. i grabbed a cab in the early afternoon and headed over there by myself, because the others had to work tonight, and slept during the day.

my entire reason for going to the megamall is probably going to sound a little crazy. i went there to find comic books. upon arriving at the mall, i found a directory (6 floors!) and it turned out i was pretty much standing right on top of the stores i was looking for. i was actually hoping it would take me some time to find the stores, so i would be forced to look around a bit (as i’m not much of a shopper).

i looked around in the comic stores, but they were really busy, and i’m fairly claustrophobic, so i took off and walked around. unfortunately, it appeared that the rest of the mall was just as busy (think metrotown at christmas time). speaking of christmas time, the entire time i was at the mall (approximately 3 hours), they were playing christmas and holiday music.

i quickly found out that the higher in the mall you go, the less busy it was. (the comic stores were on the bottom floor.)  after taking a quick stroll through the mall (just to see if there was anything else of interest), i used the upper floors to make my way back and forth to the stores i was interested in.

i did buy a couple books, and found out that the new books were released on wednesdays in case i want to go back. after that, i found a drink and went to sit down in the food court to read. i read for awhile, and then¬†four young kids (5 or 6 years old?) came up and sat at my table, and started reading along with me (or¬†hopefully just looking at the pictures – the book was filled with profane language, heh). i said hi to them, but they spoke back to me in another language (i’m assuming tagalog), and i just shrugged my shoulders and went back to the book. they stuck around at my table for about five minutes, and then ran off somewhere.

i went to a couple more bookstores, but decided that since i still have two novels i haven’t finished back at the hotel, i should read those before i buy more.

after that, i flagged a cab, and headed back to the hotel.

today, i was a lot more comfortable with everything. in the cabs i took, i knew where i was going, if the drivers were taking the best routes – one of them didn’t take the right lane to get into the mall, and i called him on it. he then had to drive around the (long) block to get back to the mall.¬†on the way back, i knew the driver would have to turn away from the direction i wanted to go to make a u-turn up the road. he told me what he was doing, and i understood why.

in dealing with people at the mall, i still had some problems communicating ideas and questions, but for the most part, things went smoothly.

there are a couple things that are weird, and still make me feel like a foreigner. i went to a fast food restaurant to eat, and i waited for my food, but i guess they normally just bring it out to you when it’s ready. (that’s not normal, is it? i don’t really eat much fast food in vancouver) i also seated myself at the restaurant, which i found out (as i was leaving) is a no-no. the staff seats you where they feel it is most appropriate, and not where you want to sit. something else that makes me feel weird? i can see over most people’s heads here. and no, i’m not wearing stilts or platform shoes.

i’m going to relax¬†a bit before i go to bed.

-fuji

first off, i’d like to congratulate my cousin Kim, who is probably getting married as i type this! i’m sorry i couldn’t be there!

its early sunday morning here, and i’m sitting here chatting with people back home and looking out across the hazy manila morning sky. today i’m going to try and do a little bit of shopping and/or sightseeing.

yesterday was a relaxing day. i caught up on a lot of sleep that i needed, even though i would have rather been out and seeing things. my back has been in a fair amount of pain since we got here, since i have to try and sit a lot at work, and the bed in my hotel is about as soft as wet wood. i try to lie on the couch sometimes, but that isn’t a whole lot better. (for those of you who don’t know, i was in a couple car accidents a while back.)

i was in so much pain some nights at work that when gabe mentioned wanting to go to the spa, i thought it might be a good idea. if you know me well enough, you probably know that i am fairly uncomfortable with people i don’t know touching me. i tense up, and it really wouldn’t do me a whole lot of good. despite feeling this way, i headed out to the spa (the place is actually called “the spa) with gabe and two of the other guys here.

the place was located at the greenbelt mall, and was classy and very clean. they served very strong (but extremely good) ginger tea while we were waiting, and now i want to know where i can get that stuff. when it was time to get our massages, it was a good thing i was tired, otherwise i probably would have tensed up and went into the fetal position. haha.

shortly after we got in there, someone started laughing (during the foot massage) and then everyone in the room started laughing. i was holding back laughs too, cause my feet are a little ticklish. about halfway through, all of a sudden i felt a lot of pressure on my back, and i thought, “how is that possible? oh my.. she’s KNEELING on my back?!” i’d have to say the best part was the foot and leg massage (hour long – highly recommended!). you never really know how sore your feet are until they actually feel better. i don’t know if i’d say the whole experience was relaxing, but my back feels a little better (still sore though).

after the spa, we went for italian food. i ate a vegetarian pasta in a mushroom and vodka sauce, which i wasn’t sure of when i ordered it, but it was really good. i also had dalandan juice, which is mango juice, if i am not mistaken.

food from actual restaurants and most goods are very similarly priced to those in canada, but the services here are cheaper. the spa cost about $40 for about 2 1/2 hours, and you can ride in a taxi for 25 – 30 minutes for under $5. Often, you negotiate the price with the cab driver before you go anywhere. It seems as though I get offered lower rates than the others I am with, but only when I am alone. Not sure if that makes much sense.

this part is more for my mother than anyone else: about 1/4 of all the taxis here are nissan sentras (one of my mom’s cars is a nissan sentra, same year as most of the ones here). my mom’s car has a lot of kilometres on it and has been pretty reliable over the time that she’s had it for all the driving she does. it looks like they know very well how reliable they are over here with the amount of them on the streets.

more about taxis: all of the taxis here are white, or white and green, and (i’m pretty sure) all of the lettering on them is hand painted. very few of them have the same (what appears to be a) company name on the side. i think i’ve only seen about two or three with the same name (except for the green and white ones). names of interest are “surrey taxi”, and “miss universe taxi”. if i see any others that are interesting, i’ll try and get a picture. all cars for hire (not just taxis) also have “how is my driving” on the back, and a phone number to call or text (for cellular users). i wonder how many contacts that line gets in a day. driving here is so crazy, i’m sure most of the calls are from people who are used to roads like we have in canada or the usa.

update on the hotel: no calls received over the last couple days. also, they finally brought me an ironing board. i think i ruined the varnish on their table (but i warned them).

i also found my favourite televison show on tv here, but its a whole season behind. i think a lot of american television is that way here. for fans of the amazing race, i think they are coming through manila (at the mall of asia) on the 30th of september (commercials are telling people to get down to the mall for the show). apologies to those of you in amazing race pools at work who probably want the inside scoop, but i don’t think i’ll be heading out that way.

i’m going to go get ready for the day, so i’ll post more later. hope everyone is doing well.

five star or motel 6?

September 21, 2006

hello,

i just got up, and i’m a little chilly in my room. i’ve got the a/c up, because if i don’t it’s really humid in my room, and i can’t even store my clothes in here.

i wasn’t really planning on writing much more about the hotel, but rather just putting up the pictures. however, it’s interesting to say the least, and by the title of this post you may have gathered that it isn’t good stuff.

i work at night, so when i return to my room at about 7:30 in the morning, i put up the do not disturb sign and go to bed. i wake up when i do, which is often at different times. i try to get about 6 hours of sleep during the day so i am rested enough for work. every day (so far), the hotel will call my room and say something like “hi, my name is _______. we are unable to clean your room because the ‘do not disturb’ sign is up. would you like us to clean your room?”

i don’t know about you, but that’s a little shocking to me. they saw that i had the sign up, but they deliberately ignored it (and told me!). at first, i was nice and told them that i would appreciate it when i took the sign down, and gave them an approximate time. it happened again, and i was still nice about it, because i thought they were trying to be nice and do me a service. the next day, it happened TWICE. yesterday, after it happened for the fourth consecutive day, i went down and told them that i work at night and sleep during the day, and would appreciate it if they didn’t call me to clean my room. I asked them to write it down and put it by the phone so no one from hotel services would call during the day. i let them know that they could either call me after 4pm, or catch me on my way in or out of the building (because they always see me and say hi to me, and they all know my room number – even before i made a big deal about this).

i’m waiting for my phone call today.

so maybe that isn’t that bad, and i will learn to sleep through the phone calls if they continue. i don’t really want to unplug my phone, because it might be something important, or it might be one of the other people from my work trying to arrange something during the day.

yes, there’s more.

yesterday i returned from dinner (our first meal of the day), and was planning on relaxing in my room for half an hour before coming back down to leave for work. when i got up to my room, there were two of the hotel staff standing uneasily outside my room.

they asked me if i was the occupant of the room. i said that i was, and immediately began to think “oh crap – what now?” they told me that the door to my room had been found wide open. i knew that i didn’t leave it open, so i asked them if anyone was in there. they said they didn’t know, and made it clear by their body language that they weren’t going in first. i noticed that the light in the living area had been turned off. i had left it on because i knew that it would be dark when i returned to the apartment to pick up my stuff, and i just wanted to be able to run in and grab my bag if dinner ran long.

i wasn’t going to wait for the two hotel staff to go in, because it probably would have snowed in manila first. they asked me if i was sure that i wanted to go in, and i said “yeah, i need my stuff to go to work.” is there really a reason i should be worried? do people break into hotel rooms often and actually stay there? am i going to breathe in some toxic gas that somehow opened the door to my room? (okay, now i’m getting sarcastic.)

i went in and checked the place out, and returned to the door. one of the hotel staff asked if things were okay, and if they could come in to the apartment to make a call to the front desk. nothing was missing from my room, and after a call to the front desk, it was determined that the cleaning guy didn’t close the door on his way out. it was probably karma for me complaining about the phone calls.

there are other little things too. if you call the front desk for something, they say that they¬†will send someone up for you, or get you what you requested, but they don’t actually do it. i’ve been waiting four days for an ironing board. i don’t expect one to show up, so one of the other people from my office has told me that i can use his.

okay, enough complaining, even though that wasn’t my intention. just thought you all might find it interesting.

i didn’t do a whole lot of interest yesterday. instead of taking a cab to some place for dinner, we walked up the street to a place called “the fig and olive”, which was recommended by allan, a friend of mine from work who was here before me. the restaurant was fairly fancy compared to other restaurants that we had been to, but still reasonably priced. the three of us ate for what three people would eat a decent meal for in
vancouver.

today we are going over the travel agency to see if we can go away next weekend. flights to the surrounding islands are about $16 – 20, and some of the flights to the more popular destinations only take like 30 minutes. if we can manage to get away for a couple days, we’d like to, but work schedules may make it difficult to do so.

time to get ready.


fuji

hi!

it’s about quarter to three in the afternoon as i begin to write this. i just got up, but i’m not being lazy. most nights, we start work at 9 pm, and leave at 6 am. i told myself i would try to sleep until 4pm, but that wouldn’t give me much time to fill you in, so i’m up now.

yesterday, as i mentioned, we went to the mall of asia. it claims to be the third largest mall in the world, but i found out that it’s cheating a little. at least two of the three of us who went had been to west edmonton mall, and we felt that there was no way this mall was bigger than that. while this mall exceeds the actual size of west edmonton by about 400,000 square feet, west edmonton has about 200 more stores. personally, when i walked through the mall of asia, i thought it might be the other way around, because the stores here were like little boxes that a bunch of people crammed into. however, the walkways in the mall are very wide, and the mall actually takes into account the outside walkways, as many of the stores (over 50%) are located outside.

when we first arrived, dennis wanted to eat, and made it clear that he was going to church’s chicken. i found this rather funny, that he would come all the way to the mall of asia (which really wasn’t that far away), and go to church’s chicken. i guess it turns out that it was the only church’s in manila, and it’s sort of an inside joke with him and his friends at work. he even took a couple pictures outside. after that he told us he was ready to get back on a plane and go home, because he’d already accomplished everything that he’d come to do.

after we ate (i found some pasta down the way), we started to make our way around the mall, not really knowing where we were going, and not really looking in any stores – just walking around. like west edmonton mall, the mall of asia has a skating rink inside, complete with a snowy mountain backdrop. we watched for awhile, and noticed that most people weren’t too comfortable with ice skating. after a bit, simulated snow fell from the ceiling and onto the ice surface.

we soon discovered that about one-third of the shops at the mall were food. most of these were located outside, but there was a food court inside as well. the mall was kind of sectioned off into 4 different areas per floor, like they had encouraged certain shops to be located in certain areas. all of the cellular phone and computer shops were located at one end of the mall, all the kids related stores (clothes and toys) were in another part, and all the entertainment shops were in another. it made things easy to find, and probably also encouraged competitive prices, as i can see why you really wouldn’t want to walk from one end of the mall to the other if something was a little more expensive.

all of us did buy something at the mall – i purchased some books. they were a little cheaper than i could get them for in canada, but that’s not really why i bought them. i just needed something to read.

dennis and alan ate again – i was too tired to eat – and we decided to head back to the hotel, as it was getting late, and we were to meet the others at 8pm. when we came outside to flag a taxi, we noticed that you don’t just flag a taxi and go home, you have to stand in a LONG line. cabs pull up every 30 seconds or so, but we still waited about 30 minutes before we were able to get in one. we returned to the hotel at 8pm exactly, all a little tired.

after that, it was off to work.

remembering back to when i was a kid and first went to west edmonton mall, there was a sort¬†of magic about the whole experience. maybe it was because i was a kid at the time, but at the mall of asia, all i really notice is the¬†overwhelming commercialism, the exchange of money. but then again, this isn’t¬†really a mall that you hang out at, or go to the amusement park or the wave pool. you really feel out¬†in the middle of nowhere, and all you have left to do is spend your money.

i wouldn’t ‘say that things are extremely cheap here either.¬†most of the stores are selling very mainstream items, and might be a couple dollars cheaper at the end of the day, but you’re paying fair market value for everything. (a rolex was selling for 500,000 php, the equivalent of $11,227.00 canadian dollars.) i was told to go to greenhills for the good deals. but then again, there are supposed to be a lot of knock-offs there. i’ll probably make it up there soon, but i’m not much of a shopper.

i haven’t really found out what the fire was. perhaps i’ll keep an eye on the local paper to see if anything shows up. it probably wasn’t big news, and the papers a covered in news stories about martial law in thailand.

there’s other things that i want to share, but i’ll have some more time for those later. right now i’m going to see if i can locate a comic store in the area (i’ve got names, i just need locations!). if i can, i’ll probably be making a trip tomorrow.

-fuji

September 19, 2006

there was just some crazy explosion or something about a mile or¬†two away from the hotel. there’s a lot of smoke and flames, but it’s not too windy so the smoke is just going up. i’ll see if i can get some pics up in the next little bit before i go shopping.

update: pics added!


anyways, i have to iron my clothes now. updates as they happen.

September 19, 2006

alright, so where was i?

after i got up we met down in the foyer, and took a couple cabs to greenbelt iv. sounds like some space station or a planet out of star wars, but really, it’s the mall. there are four sections to the mall, and you kind of have to walk across the street to get to the other sections. greenbelt iv has the upscale and expensive shops like louis vuitton. we didn’t really go there to shop, so i didn’t see much in the way of stores.

greenbelt was very modern, and very busy. i’m not sure if we’d have a mall in the vancouver area that really compares. i guess metrotown is as busy as greenbelt. hopefully i can come back here during the day and get some decent pictures.

we went to a restaurant named cena to eat. it was located in an outdoor section of the mall, where there seemed to be nothing but restaurants. not really a food court, but about 30 small restaurants with modern decor. You probably could have found any kind of food you wanted if you tried. the food at cena was good and reasonably priced. i bought a fairly large pizza for about five dollars.

we’ve been told not to drink anything but canned or bottled drinks to stay healthy. even the ice may not be safe cause it probably comes from the tap. it’s a little inconvenient, and i feel a little rude sometimes, but i guess i should try to be safe. i don’t want to get sick and not enjoy my time here, but i guess there is being a little too cautious.

after cena, it was off to my first night at work. the centre at which i am working is located directly on top of a mall. the mall is closed at night, so you have to go walking through the mall to get to and from work.

at work, i ran into lara, and we spent a little bit of time catching up when we had a moment. i found out that he lives just a few blocks from my hotel, and he said we should get together for a starbucks before work one day (yes, there are starbucks here).

i found out that i needed to return to work in the middle of the next day (instead of at night), so i came home, had a quick breakfast, and went to sleep. i got a bunch of good pictures from the taxi, but it takes about an hour to upload 15 pictures with the “broadband” connection, so it may be a little bit before i get them up.

i am going to the mall of asia today (i think), which is the second largest mall in asia, and third largest in the world. the sky is mostly blue (except for the haze), so it looks like it might be a hot one out there today.

i’ll probably write again tomorrow.

-fuji

touching down

September 18, 2006

hi!

sorry i haven’t written sooner. i’ve been having major problems getting connected to the internet in my hotel room. most of the time i can only access the yahoo.com homepage. i can’t access any sites by just typing them in – i usually have to search for them. i wrote up a long, entry that i had ready to post, but after i restarted the computer to restore the connection, the file disappeared. so let’s see if i can remember everything…

i traveled here with two other people from work: gabe and alan. i don’t work closely with either one back in vancouver, but i’ve known gabe for awhile. the first time that i’ve formally met alan was shortly after i checked in.

the flight was mostly uneventful, which is a good thing, i guess. i slept most of the way because the movie selection wasn’t all that interesting. on previous long flights, i’ve had difficulty getting to sleep/staying asleep because the attendants come by and bug you so much. that wasn’t a problem on this flight. the airline did miss my request for a vegetarian meal, which did become a small problem, because they discovered this just as they sealed the doors for takeoff. the attendant promised to try and put together a couple “franken-meals” for me, which turned out to be microwaved veggies. ick.

if i had to compare entry to manila to anything, i would compare it to going to the movies. at the movies, i buy a ticket, walk down the hall, and give my ticket to someone in uniform. they check my id to make sure i’m old enough to see the 14A movie, and let me in. in the philippines, i came with my ticket in hand (passport – which i did have to pay for), walked down the hall, gave my passport (along with my id) to someone in uniform. i was instantaneously admitted to the country! if it wasn’t for retrieving my bags, i’m sure the whole process would have taken no more than 5-6 minutes. it probably helped that it was 4:30 in the morning and there weren’t a whole
lot of people arriving at that time.

two more employees from vancouver met us at the airport. we all crammed into a van, and headed back towards the hotel. it was fairly early, so the streets didn’t have a lot of traffic, but it was definitely busier than 5 am in vancouver. buses were parked everywhere – it seemed as though there was a bus depot of some kind every few blocks. there were also a fair number of pedestrians, either walking around, or waiting for the buses to start running.

it was warm and muggy at 5 am. i was wearing my glasses (no contact solution on the plane), and thought that they might fog up, but it wasn’t humid enough for them to do so. i was told that the humidity wasn’t all that bad at the time, which was nice, but hopefully it doesn’t get a whole lot worse.

i checked into my hotel, had a shower, changed clothes, and explored my room. the suite is huge – as big as my apartment back home. i’ve got a couple televisions, a cd/stereo, stove, fridge, dishwasher, and an iron (sans ironing board).

i had some time before we were to meet for breakfast, so i decided to check out some local tv. about half the channels were american, and about a quarter of them i didn’t understand at all (except that they were in a variety of pacific rim languages). there was even a bullfight being broadcast on one channel, which i thought was a little weird and disturbing.

we ate breakfast at a place called “heaven and eggs”, which was, sadly, western fare. makati, the area in which i am staying, is very westernized, which isn’t a bad thing, but it feels a lot like los angeles. hoepfully i will get to see some other areas soon.

after breakfast, it was sleep time.. we all had to work later that night.

when i get a little more time, i’ll pick up from here.

and post some pics (if i don’t have too many problems with the internet).

– fuji