Friday, September 28, 2007

Cultural Differences with Pets

I was talking to a friend here about my Rottweiler and the large amount of dandruff he has. Since he had a Rottweiler also, I was getting tips about diet, grooming, etc and trying to figure out how to cut down on the flaking. I mentioned to him that the dandruff had started to occur sometime after neutering and that this may be a factor. He stared and me in shock and told me I was cruel to neuter the dog and if I didn't want him to have sex with other dogs I should just keep him in his cage more.

1. I think caging is mean
2. My friend thinks caging is normal
3. I think neutering is normal
4. My friend thinks neutering is mean

I still do not own a cage for my dog. My dog still has no testicles. The dandruff is still there but improving slightly now that we have switched to the food recommended by my friend.

Public School in Manila

Today was my first trip to a public elementary school here. I was not optimistic going in due to all the stories I had heard about public school here. Paying for a lunch tray (regardless of whether you brought your lunch or not), classes of 50+ kids per teacher, and cleaning the classroom during school hours were some of the less disturbing stories I heard. Most disturbing was a story about a fifth grade math teacher who hits the kids when they misbehave or do not do their homework. Obviously corporal punishment is illegal here but the kids told me it happens a lot. Other common punishments include grabbing kids by the hair and making them squat. While these are likely isolated cases of a few psycho teachers, the fact that it was anywhere was disturbing. The two kids we know in the class have been instructed by us and their parents to tell us immediately if she raises a hand to them and we will go to the police.

The school we visited today was actually fantastic! We were there to talk to the teacher of our godson (who had contacted his mom about him misbehaving in class). The school was clean, the classrooms were brightly painted, murals decorated the hallways, plants filled the front, and most of the classrooms we passed by had teachers actively engaging their students in learning. It was way, way better than I had expected.

We spoke to two teachers, both who seemed very happy with teaching and seemed to care a lot for their students. One of the teachers when we came in was selling food to the students but this is apparently quite common here (teacher salaries are horrible--even worse than the states). The only disappointment with the school (besides the abusive teacher who we did not meet) was the restrooms. Although we did not go inside, you could smell urine from about three classrooms away. All in all I was quite impressed. We had been to a local catholic school for a couple of events and this public school blew it out of the water in terms of facilities and staff.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yet Another House Update

The front window was put in (above the foyer) as well as some of the tile in the pool. In addition, the brickwork inside the house is started (but not completed). I still cannot figure out if we will make the optimistic turnover time (somewhere between November and Christmas) or end up with the contract turnover. All in all, I am still in love with the design team for our house.

We found our designers by looking at open houses in different areas. We found a house that we LOVED the style of in Ayala Alabang and after some hunting got the name of the design team. We called and they agreed to do our home (usually they stay in Ayala Alabang where there is more than enough work to keep them busy). Thank God they agreed because I am still in love with the style the do. The brickwork is awesome as well as the ceiling in the foyer. The popular style now in the Philippines is a modern zen house (lots of slate, metal, huge windows) so it was great to find a team that specialized in "antique" (as my mother-in-law calls it) homes. I also like that there is a lot of recycled bricks and old wood which appeals to me both ascetically and environmentally.

My only fantasy is that I will win the lotto prior to turnover so I can hire them to do the interior design as well.

Monday, September 17, 2007


We have always been big wine drinkers. I do not have a very sophisticated palate (I am not the person to talk to about the age of a grape or the subtle currant or cherry flavor that exists in a wine) but I have always enjoyed trying new wines and drinking a fair amount of it. In San Francisco we kept our wine in a bar that was located in our kitchen (much to the chagrin of my father who groaned that the temperature was too high in a kitchen and it should be moved to the basement). Philippines has created a whole different situation for wine.

Here it is hot. Not just a little warm but HOT. We have been keeping our red the fridge. When we drink wine, it is poured out cold from the fridge. It got to the point that we had too much wine to fit in the fridge(my father who has connections at wineries sent us home with a case of fantastic wines) and keeping it on a shelf in a hot room seemed like a horrible thing to do to a nice bottle. We broke down and today bought a wine cooler. I am in love. It holds 34 bottles, has the temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit (I am bad with conversions), and can be locked. All in all my perfect wine fridge. We were going to wait until we moved to the new house but decided to get it now. We had thought about buying one in the states but it always seemed like a frivolous luxury for our $7 bottle of wine from Trader Joes. Here, while still a luxury, it has definitely moved into a slightly more necessary purchase.

Again, since my palate sucks, I have no qualms about keeping white and sparkling wines in the fridge.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Josh Groban!

I am excited....we got tickets today to see Josh Groban next month for his Manila concert. We have close to the worst seats in the house as the good seats were Php20,000-25,000 (about $400-500) per ticket. I am really, really excited!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More S&R Shopping!!

Today we went to S&R (the Philippine's answer to Costco) for their three day sale and for the first time it really felt like Costco. It was crowded beyond belief and the lines were 10 people deep. Ah, reminded me of home.

Their stock was awesome! There were maybe 15-20 different types of ice cream (pints as well as ice cream bars), tons of vitamins, shampoo that comes in large bottles, lotions, chicken taquitos, Kirkland brand cranberry juice (which I love and drink like water), Snapple, Starbucks iced coffee drinks, refried beans, I could go on and on. Disappointingly, they still do not carry tampons so I will continue to be the freak that brings a bunch back from my trips to the states. I was really happy. I wish their dairy section would improve a bit but that is minor compared to what they have. Price wise, most imported items are within a couple of dollars of US prices which is nice. We also needed to buy two new tires as we had a flat last week and they had a killer selection. (On a side note, bonus of the Philippines is there is always someone hanging out on the street that is down to change your tire for a couple bucks tip).

Most of the times we have shopped here the lot was empty and there were no lines so the crowds excited me a lot. Most of the Costco type stores opened in the past apparently closed down so it is great that this one looks very successful.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

House is Getting Closer!

The house is still coming and we are hopefully still looking at a Nov/Dec turnover date.

We actually have a roof now which is great and from the second floor there is an awesome breeze.

The pool is coming and tiles will be put in sooner than later.

Today we will continue on our quest for good furniture. I think we are heading over to Ortigas today to look. There is a specific piece of furniture for outside that I am looking for (this giant round rattan chair that can seat two to three people) but have not yet found it. We went to Union Sqaure yesterday (a furniture store off T. Morato) that can make it based off photos so I will bring that in. The only photo I have is:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just Perfect

The last few days in Manila have been that perfect blend of clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Just fantastic to wake up to!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Signs in Singapore

Singapore has the coolest signs.

At the Zoo

At the Zoo

At a Park

At Sentosa Island

In the MRT Station

The Secret to Avoiding Traffic in Manila

I have finally learned how to avoid traffic in Manila--leave the house at 7:30am on a Sunday! We had an early appointment today and then wanted to do some furniture shopping. There was absolutely no one on the road! I think Sunday will be our new shopping day (although Ethan Allan was closed but it is just as well as we can not really afford that anyways).

We got lost on the way to Tiendesitas so we stopped to buy chicharon (because that is what to do when one gets lost) and asked directions from a nice family stopped there. Not only did they give us directions but had us follow them there!!! What a nice family! I cannot get over how sweet that was.

At Tiendesitas I found my dream dining room table...dark wood & light woods, weighed a billion pounds, no seams. Unfortunately the table was Php40,000 (about $850). This table will have to remain a dream a bit longer.