Monday, November 27, 2006

It's official: Manila stinks

Well, the big surgery adventure is over, and it was not as bad as I thought it would be. For those of you who don't know, Abby has had an ear infection on and off since May and due to various factors, it ate a hole in her eardrum. After about two months of travelling to Manila every week to see the doctor, PC Philippines consulted with PC Washington, who decided she could reasonably get the surgery done here. We were skeptical to say the least because provincial hospitals leave a lot to be desired, like doctors, or equipment. But hospitals in Manila are a lot nicer, and we actually ended up going to the newest and nicest hospital in Manila. It was even nicer than Makati Medical Center, which is, as my host father explained, "Where movie stars go." I would say it was even as nice as an American hospital. So anyway she got top notch care, terrible hospital food and I slept on some kind of fold out chair that was really uncomfortable and of course, way too short. The doctor decided she needed to stay in Manila for a week, so after a little dicking around with Peace Corps, they put us up in what was to us a luxury hotel. All that meant was a private room with a tv and minifridge, but it was a lot better than getting stuck in a room at the pension we normally get sent to. She was in some pain, and rested the first day or two, but we did some Christmas shopping and saw the new Bond movie, so it wasn't a total loss. Other than that we stayed in bed until 2pm every day and ate some cheese.

Manila is kind of fun in small bursts, but it quickly gets old. The pollution gets you coughing after a few days, the poverty becomes depressing, the puddles of piss and street grime blacken the soles of your feet and you can't stand to see one more hooker. The area we stay in Manila is called Malate, which is actually a pretty nice area. There are a lot of hotels and tourists, some pretty good restaurants and even a few good bars. But with tourists come beggers and GROs (Guest Relations Officers [prostitutes]). Every fifth bar you pass is a GRO bar with a gaggle of little Filipino girls in small dresses standing outside (by little I mean in size, not in age), trying to get people to come in. In and of itself its nothing new, but seeing it over and over for an extended period of time, it starts to become depressing. And seeing these beautiful Filipino girls in their early 20s/late teens with fat, ugly white guys gets depressing too. The poverty there is also weird because Manila is way richer than the rest of the Philippines, so the poor stand out way more. Out here in the provinces everyone is poor, with the exception of a few people, so it's just a way of life. People are poor, but still generally happy, they have a home and a family, they still participate in daily life, going to the market, farming, whatever their thing is. In Manila it's by and large dirty shoeless kids, a good portion of which sniff something called "rugby," which is just industrial strength glue, to kill their hunger. Seeing a brand new car drive by a woman in rags putting her two kids to sleep in a pile of trash is fucking brutal. Top all of that off with the fact that Manila is drenched in piss and is full of terrible smells, and we were more than ready to come back to site after our week there.

Thanksgiving was really nice, we went down south on our island to hang out with some friends in their nipa hut. They built it themselves; its the traditional Filipino home, made of bamboo and nipa leaves. It's really nice though, they're out in the country a little bit, so it's quieter and more relaxed out where they live. Not that where we live is that crazy, but it's still a city. Since they're vegetarians we roasted a chicken at our place and brought it down, as well as a homemade apple pie and some Stovetop stuffing from home, and they made mashed sweet potatoes, fruit salad and green bean casserole. Top that off with a little wine and brandy and we had a feast. It was really nice and relaxing, and it was great to be able to pull off a semi-traditional Thanksgiving, since that is my favorite holiday and all.

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