Monday, May 7, 2012

In not so breaking news...

In the last week and a half many thing have happened. Not all the things I had expected or planned to do, but a lot of stuff. I attended a city council meeting, wherein I met the mayor of Olongapo, James "Bong" Gordon.
From left to right: Me, Mayor James "Bong" Gordon, Ayah, and Mark Hopkins. Mark is my boss, and the reason I'm down here in the first place.
The first half of the meeting was the council's self-assessment for 2011. The second half, and the reason Mark and I attended, was to discuss the city's response to the proposal to tear down Subic Bay International Airport, and build a high-priced resort area. The city and the people at the meeting were unanimously against the destruction of the air port. 
An aerial view of SBIA

I've gone with Mark to meet with the hotel owners in the area, and sell them on the idea of working with us. So far, everyone has liked the idea and signed on. It helps that it's a good business model. And meeting all of these people requires a rather late schedule. Meetings don't happen until at least noon, and most initial business is discussed late at night in a bar. 
Me in front of one of the floating bars around here.  I didn't have a photo from inside one of the regular bars in the evening, so you'll just have to live with this.

I've also done some shopping. There's a brand new mall opened recently. It's not quite finished, so only about half the shops are operating right now. Maybe another month and most will be going. I've bought a couple of dresses, and three pair of wedge-heeled shoes. I had also bought a purse, elsewhere. 
View of the front of Harbor Point, the newly opened mall on the old base in Olongapo. 

The shopping around here is really fun. In addition to the malls, there's the public market. You can find just about anything there. 
The Olongap Public Market. This place has everything.

The public transportation around here is a bit different. They don't really have a bus system, and there are no trains that I've found. The cheapest way to get from one place to another is by jipnee. They have set routes, cost 15 pesos at the most, and you never have to wait more than a minute or two for the next one. In fact, I don't know as I've ever actually had to wait on one.
That weird yellow vehicle is a jipnee. The back is relatively open, and there are bench seats on either side. The maximum capacity of a jipnee is "one more".

Liberty Call Tours is also sponsoring a local youth basketball team. We gave them their uniforms a couple days ago. 
The team we sponsor. Or, at least, the ones who could make it. There were a handful that couldn't.

I also had my weekly manicure/foot spa and combination massage. The fact that I can get a manicure for about $1.25, a pedicure with the leg scrub for $3.50, and an hour long massage for $8.25 is amazing. The fact that the quality of work is fantastic makes me giddy with joy. Later today, I plan on getting my hair dyed. I'm currently without my hair color supplies, and it's been more than a month since I last dyed my hair. It's well overdue. Luckily, the salon where I get my mani/pedi done has a lovely fire engine-red that will work perfectly. 
Gratuitous photo of Ayah with a coconut. Ayah is my tour assistant, and primary photographer.

Another thing I've noticed around here is that all white people look alike. I'm sure at some point, most everyone has encountered a similar phenomena, somewhere. Accusations that all persons of a certain ethnic background/skin color/general area of the world are indistinguishable, one from another. Here, it's white folks. When mark and I walk into a place, almost everyone assumes that we're a married couple. This is, somewhat, to be expected. there aren't many foreign women around here. I think I'm one of a handful. And here I am, walking into bars with go-go dancers, with a man. What kind of woman goes into places like that of her own choice, unless she's with her husband? Well, me, for one. These bars aren't all that different from the bars I cocktailed and bartended at in virginia. Then, once they find out that we are not married, they think I'm his sister. I mean, really, we're both white, and we're there together, and we aren't married, so that's the only thing left, right? And since it's just easier to go with it, now everyone thinks that Mark is my brother. Well, it's better than him being my husband. I don't need another one of those anytime soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Beginning

I finally made it to the Philippines. After much deliberating, waiting around to take the next step, and then a very weird day of travel, I'm here, and settled into an apartment in Subic. It's beautiful here. The beaches are lovely, the water is clear, and the people are friendly.

Other than just being here, I don't have a lot to report. I've started meeting people I need to know, and discovered that a one-hour massage costs a whopping 350 PHP. For those of you unfamiliar with the conversion rate, that's about $8.25. Seriously. I paid about $8 for the best combination massage I've ever gotten. I'm going to be doing that weekly. The food here is delicious, and there's an amazing variety of western food available.

I've gone swimming a few times, but only at night, since I have no desire to get sunburned. I know, I know, sun screen. I wear sun screen. But, if I go swimming, I have to get out of the water every half hour, reapply my sun screen, wait 15 minutes for it to absorb properly, and then I can go swimming for another half hour before having to do it again. (Yes, I have to reapply it that often when I swim, because my skin is so sensitive, and I don't want to risk burning.) So, it's just easier to go swimming when there's no sun. Besides, the water is still so warm, swimming at night is wonderful.

Next week, I'll be going around and doing all of the fun things that we'll have available to our clients. I'll be meeting all of the vendors, and will be able to report on all of the amazing things to do around here. For now, I'm going to go down stairs and check on my laundry, and grab a glass of water. In this heat, you have to stay hydrated. It's been around 90 degrees or better since I got here.