Learning to Flush

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June 21st 2008
Published: June 21st 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Alright, I don't have much time, so I'll gloss over my time in Phoenix as quickly as possible: Flight cancellation, slept in O'Hare, lost bag, wore same clothes for three days, went to meetings, learned from some enlightened cats, stayed with cool family, left.

Now for the cast of characters so I do not have to explain who they are in the middle of things:

Katie: My caretaker for this last week. She is from Michigan has been showing me around the Philippines this last week.

Yvonne: On of the other interns and someone I'll be working with a lot this summer. She's a film student from NYU and we've basically been together from the time we left Phoenix.

David: The other intern. He's been here a few weeks already and is in another community. I don't know him all that well and won't be seeing him too much, but next week we're all going to Bicol to see a disaster relief site, so I should get to know him better then.

The Tiongsons: The family I am staying with this week. They are awesome. They also have four daughters, which mean I have four sisters, which has been quite the learning experience.

Others I mention in future posts this summer I will add to the list.

Now for the Philippines. I got in late last Friday night with Yvonne. Since then, we have been adjusting to the culture, meeting the members of the church we are staying with, recovering from jet lag, and eating rice. Everyone has been quite welcoming and friendly to us. Hospitality is a point of national pride in the Philippines, and they are certainly living up to their reputation.

My time here, albeit brief, has not been difficult at all yet. Although the hospitality of the church I'm centered in along with the Tiongsons is part of the reason, the other FH interns and Katie have made my time quite delightful. Katie and Yvonne are super cool and a lot of fun, and David seems great as well, although I haven't spent much time with him. For someone like me who is quite quick to pigeonhole people as friends or foes, I am quite fortunate to be surrounded by likeable people.

There are somethings that I will need to adjust to, however, if I am to survive. For example, I will need to learn how to flush a toilet. Most toilets here use what is called the "pressure method" to flush, which entails pouring a bucket of water into the bowl when you're done. The pressure created by the brief deluge thus causes the toilet to flush. There is, however, a trick. One must pour the water just right to get it to flush completely, and I have yet to learn the proper technique to ensure a flush on a consistent basis. As a result, I have only pooped in malls and restaurants that have flushing toilets this last week. Luckily, malls are everywhere here. Seriously, malling is like a national pasttime here. I have been making progress though. Just last night, I successfully flushed the toilet twice in a row with the pressure method. This boost of confidence could not come at a more needed time as I prepare to leave for Bicol, a mall-less wasteland in which I will need to use the pressure method.

I also have to adjust to the language. The last two days I spent at language school getting a brief but helpful crash course in Tagalog, one of the two national languages. My progress is slow, but I'm learning. The Tiongsons have also been teaching me at the dinner table various phrases and words. I forget most of it and get frustrated at times, especially when trying to pronounce words which feature the "ng" sound, which I have had difficulty pronouncing in Tagalog. But all is well. I find solace in the fact that my feeble attempts at annunciating this cursed phoneme are a source of endless mirth and laughter for the Tiongsons.

Despite the difficulty of the language, the hardest part about learning Tagalog is that English is the other national language of the Philippines and most people speak at least some English. I really want to learn some Tagalog and use it whenever I can to show people that I value their culture, but it's just so hard when using English is so easy. This is probably my biggest fear: that I won't try to branch out and learn from their culture because they are so quick to accomodate me.

Some random thoughts to leave you with:

One has not seen a pimped out ride until they have seen a jeepney. I cannot possibly describe how awesome these vehicles are, so I will make no attempt, but hope to get some pictures later.

The government is so ridiculously corrupt, I can't get my head around it. Just this week, a television reporter was kidnapped by one of the seemingly countless rebel factions in the South after sneaking out of the protective watch of the military and getting too close to the bad guys. A few days later, the mayor of the city she was in negotiated her release and was dubbed a hero. Yesterday, he was arrested because he may have been in cahoots with the rebel faction, which is why they named him to negotiate. He says the police are just jealous that he got the credit for saving the reporter. So either the mayor helped kidnap her or the police arrested him out of spite. Yeah.

I apologize for the lack of focus, and hope to remedy this problem in future posts, but I haven't had a lot of time to gather my thoughts over the last week. Nonetheless, I will do better.

Beard Report

I look like a hobo and I know it. It is patchy and gross. Thankfully, there are remarkably few mirrors in this country, so I don't usually see myself. As I don't see myself, I feel no shame for how awful I look. Unfortunately, this lack of shame will not last forever if the beard continues in the direction it is going. My resolve is wavering already and I need something positive to happen in the next week or I fear I may do something rash. Thankfully, David told me he wouldn't shave if I wouldn't . I now have a partner in this. I am not alone.


28th June 2008

hang in there
It sounds like your having a good time so far, I just thought I could encourage you in your conquest of the beard. Trust me, the only way you will make it as a writer is if you grow a beard. Hang in there you can do it!
29th July 2008

Welcome to the Philippines. It's fun learning the flush technique. You'll get it sooner or later. That's great volunteering work you do, it seems. Have fun here :)

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