Friday, December 29, 2006

Pictures from paradise

Nate and Holden exploring the beach

Holden and Felicity on the Loboc River

Holden and Mommy at the Chocolate Hills

Our bungalow on the beach

Daddy and Holden by the river

Holden on the beach at night

Which one is ours? Building sandcastles with the local kids.

Climbing on the boat after a swim

Holden after breakfast with Melissa

Mele Kalikimaka

Christmas in the tropics.

It was splendid, with only a few minor complications; like that sea urchin Nate insisted on stepping on. Ouch! I was lying down in our room, trying to recoup from "the sickness," that is what we are calling it for now, when my door is flung open and Holden says, "Mommy come quick, Daddy stepped on something!" I haul myself outside to see Nate sitting in misery with Felix, a helper at the resort, rubbing limes on his foot. He had taken Holden out to practice with the snorkel gear and stepped down onto a sea urchin. He then had to swim back to shore Holden in one arm the snorkel gear in the other and hopping on one foot. Must have been quite the sight really! Everyone was telling him to "Go wee wee on it," and while he was more than willing to do so to take the pain away, he didn't have to, so we waited and drank and waited...
This was on day one so needless to say, we didn't really go back in the ocean and stuck to land, rivers and swimming pools the rest of the vacation!
  • Holden has that childhood intuition of finding nice people and while out to dinner he spotted a beautiful little girl named Felicity. Miss Felicity who turns 4 in February and her parents, Jon and Eva, are from the UK but live in Hong Kong and were also on Christmas Holiday in Panglau. Long story short, we all hit it off spending the better part of the vacation together. We were grateful for the adult conversation and humor and Holden was happy to have a playmate again. Hopefully we will see much more of the Wrights in the future!

    We spent one of our days on an island tour which took us to see:
  • The Chocolate Hills: We climbed the 214 stairs to the top observation area of the 1,268 perfect cone shaped hills. Geologists have not reached consensus on how they where formed. The most commonly accept theory is that they are the weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay. At the end of the dry season, the hills turn chocolate brown, thus their name. The name Chocolate Hills was a little lost on the kids fully expecting to see something straight out of Dora the Explorer. Luckily we brought chocolate to celebrate the hills!

  • The monkeys, the Tarsier to be exact which is the smallest primate in the world. It measures from four to five inches (about the size of a credit card.) While the kiddies quite enjoyed them, we were more than convinced that they were the inspiration for Gremlins, especially when they squint their eyes (it's kind of scary!) Oh, and they can move their heads almost all the way around!

  • A boat ride down the Loboc River. A wonderful family we met here in Manila (they have survived here since 1989!!) happened be in Bohol over Christmas as well. We we met up with them and they gave us the scoop on the tour down the river and recommended a guide; Joseph. So, instead of taking the nice and easy tourist barge with lunch down the river, we opted for the small boat of adventure! We were able to go under and around the fresh spring swimming holes and waterfalls. In fact, Nate and Jon experienced a form of childhood Tarzan and took off up the cliffs with our guide to jump off above the falls and then again to slide down the falls. Eva and I (the responsible ones of the bunch) stuck with the kids and opted for a swim in the river.

We bought sea shells, had massages on the beach, met fabulous new friends, ate great food, had many drinks and enjoyed watching Holden have a new adventure. Amazingly Santa found Holden in Panglau AND Manila, and while Christmas wasn't quite the same without the food, family and snow. We did manage to have a Merry Little Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

8 medications and 10 contradictions...sick in Manila

Sit down and prepare yourself for a self-pity sob-story about how miserable it is to be sick in Manila over Christmas. We have been here a month and for the better part of the time, a nasty cough has been spreading through the brood. First Nate, then Holden and now to myself. Yesterday the cough was so bad it induced the dreaded vomiting episodes ( I know, gross, sorry!) Since we are leaving in a day for our wonderful "Jimmy Buffet Christmas" on the beach, I decided it best to call a doctor today for the "just in case it's pneumonia" thought that crossed my mind. I pulled out the big red bible, as Nate calls it, of numbers and info collected from the American Women Abroad program and started the search. I came across one doctor that makes house calls in our area... perfect! We texted him, because that is what people do here, text. Why talk to someone in person or on the phone when you can just text them a message. Everywhere you go people are texting...EVERYWHERE. In fact if a phone actually rings with a real call it is out of the norm. Not sure if this is a big city thing to avoid contact with people or just because you can't walk two feet without dropping a call. Alas, I am sure that will be a good topic for another blog.

The doctor shows up a few hours later, with his doctor bag in hand and goes to work. (I cannot tell you how nice it is to have a doctor come to your home, no having to get ready, go out, find the office, wait in the waiting room, wait in the examination room, etc) He asks questions about the cough, when it started(2 weeks ago), what time of day it is worst(all day, every day), if it is bad just in the hotel room or out and about too(it's bad everywhere), and on and on. Good news, it isn't in my chest, I guess this means it isn't pneumonia or bronchitis. In addition, I have no signs of a cold or the flu, he is perplexed...completely. He hears the cough, sees the misery, and suggests that it might be, wait, he never told us what it might be. Instead he writes a prescription for an antacid (he asked if I have had heart burn or acid reflux; I said "no"), a prescription for an allergy antihistamine (he asked if I have allergies or asthma; I said "no"), a prescription for a cough suppressant (makes sense, I have a cough), a prescription for a nasal drip sore throat spray (again, no nasal drip or congestion), a prescription for a saline solution (wait, it gets better) and a prescription for nebulizer tubing (yes, he left us with a nebulizer).

In addition, we were given various bits of advice the following are our favorite tidbits;

"since we don't know what is causing this cough, we need to see what is going to work best to combat it." (Call me crazy, but how will we know what is causing it if I am taking 8 different kinds of medicine to combat it, shouldn't we start with one or two and work our way through the list?)

"this is probably a combination of distress, the air (pollution) and the air conditioning in the hotel room."

This was followed by "you should stay in the hotel the next couple days until you leave town" (wait, I thought it was the aircon) and "you should open the windows a little here and get some of the moist air in" (again, the pollution is outside those windows)

There were many more, but I'll leave it at that. He was a nice man, and he tried to help, and I'm pretty sure he was even a real doctor! Sorry to tell you all, I don't think we will be having any children in the next three years. If a cold is hard to treat here, imagine a c-section!

Nate and I decided to only get a few of the many prescriptions the ones that seemed necessary...the cough suppressant for one. So $100 USD later and a trip to 2 different pharmacies because everything is always, say it with me, "out of stock!"

So, here I sit with a nebulizer, I'm not even sure what it does, or if it is helping but I'm sure a big dose of fresh sea air and sun will make all the difference!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


We are finally getting out of the city! We are going to Alona Beach in Bohol for Christmas and Holden is ready with his new snorkeling gear!


One thing we have found to be true here...everyone has a maid. No while we were excited for this on more than one level, we have found it to be almost essential here! You laugh, but urban living is not easy! Sure there are many benefits to city living: the view from our place for one, the shopping, that's obvious, not to mention that there is always something going on in a city, the details of some things I will leave out, because who want to hear that election season here means protests, bombs and shootings of politicians right down the street? Not anyone reading this!
We are finding that things aren't that easy. Grocery shopping requires a trip to numerous stores to get everything you need since you hear "out of stock" everywhere you go. In addition, produce and breads don't last very long in the humidity here, so trips to the grocery are frequent if you plan on having fresh food. Laundry starts to pile up, and it needs to be taken to "lets talk dirty" (yes that is what it is called) or "jet wash." I can only imagine our schedule after the Holidays with Nate sleeping during the day, Holden's playgroups (3 a week), my photography and women's organization activities. Last week we scheduled a few interviews for Yaya's (nanny) and All-around Helpers from a list we got from the American Women's Club. We fell in love with one woman name Divina. Of course, being a diligent mother, I sent her previous employer an email asking about her. Below is what she wrote back:

When Divina came to work for us in 2003, she had not been employed by expats before, and she had not worked for some time as she had been raising a family. In almost no time, she became indispensable to us, an indication of how bright and observant she is. Divina consistently demonstrated initiative in identifying tasks that needed to be done, rather than having to be told to do something. In fact, she often gave me gentle reminders of things that I needed to do, such as paying the gardener or making sure that my son had money for lunch at school!

Divina was a responsible, loving caregiver for my 2 children (my son is now 8 and my daughter is 5). She engaged them in lively play, arts and crafts and quiet story reading (her English is excellent). Divina even helped my daughter with her homework when I was not available to do so. She followed my lead regarding
discipline, not allowing them to be disrespectful or to run amok. Both of my children adore her (my son cried over her leaving, as did I!). More importantly, I felt confident in leaving my children in Divina’s care, knowing that if something happened, she would exercise good judgment regarding my children’s wellbeing.
Divina’s other duties included cleaning, doing laundry, ironing, and basically anything else that needed to be done.

Divina possesses many admirable qualities. She is absolutely trustworthy and honest, and I felt completely comfortable entrusting her with large sums of cash for payments to others. She never gets sick. Divina is calm and unflappable, as I discovered when she followed us to Indonesia after we moved here (she had never flown before, but simply got on a plane and came). Divina is pleasant to have around, without intruding upon our personal space. She is dependable and I knew I could count on her to never let me down. Every day I feel blessed to have had Divina as part of our extended family. We miss her already. I do not hesitate to recommend her highly!

Needless to say, we have hired Divina, she will be moving in with us once we get around to moving into the condo. We are excited to have her and think she will bond well with Holden and be a great help to us! We know she is not like many of the yayas we see around, especially at gymboree, who let the children be disrespectful and misbehave. With Nate home during the days and sleeping, I feel good about having Divina there to help out with Holden when I run out to take pictures, etc.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Happy Holidays

Since we were in a rush to leave the states, I neglected to get the Christmas cards printed, addressed stamped and sent out...sorry about that! Here are some of the pictures from the annual May family photo shoot. One of these might have made it onto a Christmas card...but now they are posted here to wish you all Seasons Greetings!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

These are a few of my favorite things...

I hope you all read the title of this post to the tune of The Sound of Music.

I thought it would be fun to share our tops and bottoms of Manila so far:

Top-the weather, at least for now, it is warm(not hot)and sunny. Perfect weather for a tan.
Bottom-it is very popular to be WHITE here. People bleach their skin to become more white! They carry umbrellas to avoid the sun. Hmm, may have to rethink the tan thing.
Top-the massages; they come to your room, it is really good, and it only costs $10 USD for 2 hours. What more is there to say.
Top-the shopping, I think that is pretty self-explanatory.
Bottom-the shopping (bet you didn't see that one coming) they follow you around...and it kind of makes me uncomfortable always having someone at my heels asking if I need anything.
Top-the fireworks, at least I think that is a top.
Top-the friendly people...always wanting to help, etc.
Bottom-the friendly people...always wanting to touch Holden and his light head.
Top-they know our names at Starbucks!
Bottom-we are very often the only white people around, and people stare at us, it is like being on stage 24/7. Kind of uncomfortable.
Top-they remember us everywhere we go, this can be handy; I left a package in one of the stores and I went back 3 days later and the second I walked in the door they were ushering me in to pick it up.
Top-everyone always says YES here.
Bottom-YES doesn't always mean yes, it also means; maybe, no, yes and no, kind of, lets see, ummm, etc. It actually is the universal word for anything you want it to mean. For instance, me: "could I get that shirt in red?" them: "yes." 20 minutes later because (Bottom: nothing is fast here) me: "Ma'am, I asked for it in red, this is yellow." them: "yes." Alrighty then, that made sense, guess I will buy it in yellow! In my mind thinking, hmm, maybe they think I look better in yellow than red....strange.
Top: how far a dollar goes here.
Bottom: how few people have a dollar. We met a security guard the other night, he might have been a police officer, I don't remember, but he makes $60 USD a month. A month people!
Top: how fortunate it makes you feel every single day that you aren't trying to raise a family on $60 a month.
Bottom: the many many many "street children" literally, out in the streets, begging for money. We actually saw a 5 year old carrying her baby brother and standing in the street as cars zoom by. I cannot bear to watch these things and while sometimes I can't help but give them money, I do know it encourages the unsafe behavior. I want to do something, I'm just not sure what yet.
Bottom: we miss our friends and family.
Top: we want them ALL to come visit. Hint Hint.
Top: I am tall here.
Bottom: everyone is very small here, and there are no pants nor shoes big enough for Nate.
Top: we found a ton of bras at a bazaar the other day that were great deals!
Bottom: they were ALL A cups....
Top: this goes with shopping...I bought 18 plates the other day for $3 USD
Bottom: I don't have a kitchen to put them in!
Top: I think we have decided on a place to live! It is the penthouse! It is across the hall from an ambassador (I can't tell you what country though).
Bottom: It won't be ready until February, so we are living in a hotel.
Top: The hotel folks are SO nice.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The 4th of July will never be the same

Where else can you celebrate every Tuesday with fireworks! Oh, and Sundays and every other Thursday...I'll tell you where, Manila! I'm not sure if it is just the holiday season, or if this is a regular occurance but, there are fireworks going off almost every other night here. At home, particularily in Utah, you can expect to plan on fireworks throughout the month on July due to the 4th and then again with the 24th. They are spectacular here, that is after you get over the heart-wrenching jumping-out-of-bed-naked and hitting-the-ground because you have no idea what the heck is going on part! Yeah, so by night 14 you are totally used to it! I was just carrying the sleeping Mr Holden to bed and he said, in his sleep, "oh mom, I hear fireworks," and then rolled over into a deeper sleep.

Well, onto other news, we survived the Typhoon. Mainly since it didn't hit here. There was a shift in the direction at the last minute and it actually did a number on the region south of Manila. I am relieved, Nate is disappointed (don't ask me why he was looking forward to experiencing it!) and I am sure there are many more typhoons to experience in our future.

It is hard to feel the Christmas spirit when we are used to snow and cold for the Holidays, along with the chaos of our new environment but there is so much celebration here. We have heard every possible rendition of holiday songs you can imagine here, and we have slowly given in to the spirit of the season. I was insistent we aquire a tree and decorations and due to my bargain hunting skills, we got a killer deal on everything! Lets start with the tree, $24 for the fake beauty; it was the last one and we had to "patiently" wait for them to strip all the lights and decorations off of it, so we could haul it back to the room. The decorations and lights came from a supermarket/department store (yes, supermarkets and department store are combined here!!!) and after we were inspired by the "ugliest decorations ever" department were able to purchase the goods. The skirt, for the tree that is, came directly from a fabric market where the prices were unbeatable! All of this combined with Holden's helpful hands and WALA, the perfect little tree for our little family! We also bought these fabulous hand stitched stockings and paid pennys to have them embroidered! Fabulous!

As I had said before, Holden is having the most difficult time of all of us adjusting. This is largely due to our many great friends family and neighbors we left behind. He told me the other day that he like the big buildings in the Philippines but that he likes his friends in Utah. He also asks to go back to Utah a lot, I want to go to (insert favorite place here: nama's house, to see Nodi, play with Olivia, etc) We signed up for Gymboree classes the other day hoping to meet some friends in the direct area. While we were there, Nate and Holden did a little "free play" (don't let the "free" part elude you, it was anything but, "free" means without instructor!!!) while I signed us up. Some of you may be laughing since gymboree is much like gymnastics back home (and we all know how frequently we attended that last few months!) Anyhow, Holden and Nate made friends with Arianna and her mom Thea. They recently moved from London. They played so well together, but of course...they don't LIVE here, they live outside the city, but we have plans to meet again on Monday for "free play." Our first playdate with the new playgroup is Thursday and our Gymboree class is Friday...I will let you know how we all do!