Well, I think the rainy season is finally here. There have been nights of thunder and lightning, but little rain for the past fortnight now, but in the last couple of days the rain has come down big time. We have a nightly rainstorm at about 8 or 9 in the evening. Each night the storm is a bit stronger and lasts a bit longer. They say rainy season usually hits in late June, but this year it's on track for an early start. Each evening the rain is preluded by severe thunder and lightning - the 'car alarm' kind of thunder and the "was that a camera flash?" kind of lightning. The jagged streaks across the sky last for an amazingly long time and each one is clearly visible to look at - although commonplace.Work here is kicking along nicely, although for those reading the newspapers, the Department is coming under some seriously heavy fire, especially Compliance, and it all leads right back here to one Australian woman living right here in the Philippines. I'm always in the tick of things aren't I?Last night's dinner was a superb reminder of home: medium cooked beef tenderloin! Yum! A real taste of Australia. Speaking of Australia, I was at the Hard Rock Cafe the other night and caught a few snippets of the Rugby Super 12s final. Actually it was a rather amusing evening and I have added a couple of extra photos in the "funny sights" album. Sorry about the low quality, they were taken from a mobile phone.The apartment building had a 3rd birthday mardi gras the other night, they had dinner, drinks, desserts, costumes and a salsa band. I popped in after work to have a look around. I made the mistake of loitering at the back and was, of course, accosted by one of the organisers who decided the only real way to enjoy myself was to be dragged onto the dance floor and thrust in front of a dancing female human being with the quick introduction "This is Adam, he works for the Australian Embassy. Now you're having fun!"It appears across the entire range of social classes here in Manila, a woman's only goal is to save the nearest man (and his wallet) from getting bored. If I'm not chatting with the strange woman sitting beside me, why would I chat with the strange woman dancing in front of me? Funny. Depressing.The helpfulness of the locals here is also somewhat annoying. No matter how busy or loaded with bags or dripping wet from the pool, every single employee 'attacks' me with "Hi Sirrrrrrr! How are yoooooooou?" It seems innocuous enough, but it becomes very intrusive and you very quickly learn to ignore it and speed up your walking. Especially when they travel in packs! Is there an echo in here?
Philippines - The America of SE Asia
I'm seeing more and more about the local social culture and I have a few observations . American culture is so strong here it really overpowers the asian influence - I'm not talking about the thousands of years old 'asian culture'. I'm talking about the modern geo-political indicators of what makes Asia Asia.There's a strip of fast food shops across the road - it really hit home that this is more America than Asia. First there's 'Jollibee' the bee mascot is Disney cute and the burgers and fries have that unavoidable Asian sweetness baked in. The second place is Delifrance - good quality sandwiches. Third we have our homage to China - 'Chow King' "We'll keep shovellin' if you keep swallowin'!" The food, as you can imagine, is a fairly greasy low quality imitation of the usual Chinese, fried rice, sweet n' sour pork and wonton soup. But here I really see how alien the Chinese culture is here - no chopsticks, no mystery oily condiments in unlabled bottles and no sign of anything exotic.Lastly we have 'greenwich' (probably pronounced "green-witch") and there's only one way to describe it - their value-meal consists of 2 slices of hawaiian pizza, a small serving of spagetti bolognese, a piece of fried chicken, a garlic stick, gravy and a coke! Ouch!Since Philippines has been mostly ignored on the tourism front, they haven't yet go to know all the bad stuff that comes with hoards of dumb tourists. Foreigners here are business people. Thus the locals have developed a what my colleages advise me is called "the power of white". It means, no matter who I'm talking to, I'm still "Sir" or "Sir Adam" (I like that one.) It seems to me there is a sense of over-respect and envy of the whites. They're overly helpful to westerners - and overly forgiving. The rude passengers I see at work make me cringe!Other signs of Asia are also visible - the lack of industrialised reforms like pollution control, zoning and urban renewal means, like so many other Asian cities, right outside your house is smog, a cracked footpath and a million skyscrapers.There are still a few things that I haven't seen elsewhere. Humans are the cheap resource of Philippines (like many other Asian countries) and in every aspect of work here, automation is minimal in favour of cheap labour. It takes four people here to do what one person and a laptop would do in Australia, but here it makes sense, it's the most economically viable way of conducting business. The other thing the security guards - they're everywhere, and armed. For example right outside my building, which is a typical apartment building, are two guards 24 hours a day. One carries a mirror on a stick, which he uses to examine the underside and boot of every vehicle. The other carries a shotgun. There are armed guards in front of EVERY building. And they don't carry sidearms, no that's for the police! These guys carry machine guns and shotguns!
One week in Manila
Well, one week after arriving I have finally settled in to my apartment and my job. I'm spending my time travelling between my apartment and the airport. What a place! The pollution is the first thing I noticed, it's full on! Luckily it's not affecting my hayfever!The people here are very friendly and after a few logistical screwups I'm loving it. It took a couple of drinks before I realised San Miguel light beer is light on calories, but full strength alcohol!OK, I'm not writing very coherently at the moment. More to follow soon...