Thursday, October 25, 2007

Josh Groban Concert

This was an awesome, awesome concert. The theatre it was in sat only 3,000 people so even a bad seat was a good seat. We had seats in the second to cheapest section and we still had an awesome view. Since we were in the very last row we could also stand when we wanted to without worrying about blocking anyone's view.

People were quite dressed up for the concert, in fact I think we were some of the only people in jeans. Most people were in dresses, slacks, suits, not much denim to be seen. Apparently this is somewhat common here.

If he comes back to Manila again, we would go in a second.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Starting to Look Like a House

We have windows!!! This, for me, is starting to make the house look more completed. I still have trouble believing that the home will be completed in just over a month but that is the time line I was given (if it is not completed, I am making the designer buy me dinner). There is so much dirt and debris around the house and I think once a lot of that is removed, it will be looking even better. We have picked out (but not purchased) most of our appliances including a humongous four door fridge which I love. I refrigerate a lot more things here because the heat makes items mold quickly (i.e., bread).

There are still vast areas of concrete (such as the entrance to the kitchen above) but all the walls are in. Next step is selecting tiles and paint. Thank god we have a design team because they will give us a few options as opposed to the giant wall of paint samples and tiles available at the local home improvement center. We tend to get overwhelmed with too many choices. We can't even decide if we want the floors: bleached, lightly stained, or darkly stained (the dark stain is more typical of an older home here).

I am still digging all the brickwork! This is outside on the lanai and the niche will have a light inside which can will look fantastic at night.

This week (likely tomorrow) we will start the arduous task of going through the items that have we brought from the states and determine:

1. What needs to be repacked and brought to the new house
2. What needs to be given to my in-laws (namely dinnerware)
3. What needs to be given away to people in the neighborhood/donated

All the items are in storage in a room that is very, very hot and smells like mothballs (used to deter cockroaches). Very unpleasant due not only to the task, but the fact that it will be a battle. There are a lot of items that I will want to get rid of and Ado will want to keep for reasons known only to her.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Furniture Shopping

We been looking for furniture for the new house now for a month or so. This is the first time in our lives that we have had more rooms than: bedroom, office, living room, and kitchen. Furniture shopping here is amazing and frustrating at the same time. Prices vary drastically from store to store for very similar items. In addition, as far as quality furniture goes, we have found the prices to be as high (and in some cases higher) than the states. The good part is there is some awesome furniture to be had here. We have gone everywhere from tiny roadside shops to a slew of the major mall shops and we are not any closer to coming to a decision on anything. The curse is also that some stores will look like crap from the outside and have great items inside and vice versa.

We went to Ethan Allen and while it had fantastic items, the prices were on par with what they charge in the states (which is not even close to cheap). We have had the best luck at Market Market when they had a Vigan furniture sale as well as Tiendisitas as we are looking for an older style of furniture. Many stores sell the item on the floor (the idea of a display model does not seem to be very popular here) which mean that not only do you have to hunt for an item you like, you have to inspect it as that will be the item residing in your home. I am hoping since Christmas is coming (it is already almost full blast here) there will be some good sales.

What we may end up doing is having some furnishings custom made. While this is in many cases the most expensive option, the work is unbelievable. For major pieces (our bench/couch/daybed thing) I think it will be worth it.

I wish delivered here. Not for the furniture so much, but for all the housewares & linens.

Disgusting S&R Bakery!

So, I realize that this is my billionth post about S&R. Well, remember how I referred to the bakery as "cruddy"? I will have to revise my opinion and say it is disgusting. Rancid. Gross. Possibly holds the cure for strep throat. Some family came by today with a cake for a small birthday celebration. They made the unfortunate choice of purchasing it at the S&R Bakery (Congressional Branch). Does this not make you sick to your stomach?

"Honeycrunch Cake"

Purchased today (about $8.50)

Expiration date is five days from now....

....but it is rotted and moldy!!!

UPDATE: We went back to S&R this week and showed the bakery manager the pictures and the original receipt. She was very sweet and offered us a new cake free of charge (which we declined) so she instead gave us a store credit. Way more than we were expecting--we only went back to let them know they had rotten merchandise on display. Although I still will not buy from the bakery, their service was top notch. We went back over two weeks later with a digital camera and receipt and they went above and beyond.

Moral of the story: S&R = Great Service, Scary Baked Goods

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More Reasons to Love S&R

We went to S&R yesterday for groceries as well as looking to price vitamins because they 1. sell the huge Costco size bottles and 2) have better prices than Mercury Drugs (the local drugstore here). There were no vitamins to be seen yesterday which was completely random as their selection is usually really good. I asked a girl stocking the shelves and she told me there were no more vitamins in any branches. At checkout we asked one of the supervisors who informed us that the vitamins were only temporarily not being sold and they expected to have them back on the shelves soon (it was over some random paperwork with the Food & Drug Bureau). Not only was she helpful, she even offered to take our number so she could call us when they are back on the shelves! How nice is that!!!

Another side reason I love S&R is the uniforms their checkers wear. An odd thing to me about the Philippines is all the check-out girls (always women--never men) at grocery stores are in a uniform that includes a skirt, stockings, and heels. I think for a job that requires you to stand on your feet all day, it is insane to wear heels! Even low ones are insane! My feet used to ache at the end of the work day and I spent 8-9 hours of it at a desk! I cannot imagine working retail in heels! I love that the checkers at S&R are in: jeans, polos, and sneakers. That to me is an appropriate and comfortable uniform for standing on your feet all day. I love it.

Only reasons for me not to love S&R are the cruddy bakery (I wouldn't want to buy anything from it--soft baguettes and dried up pies are the better of the offerings) and the way I can get excited about an item to then find it slightly off the mark. For example, yesterday they had Triscuits which I love and hadn't been able to find for months and months (I blame Mom for my love of Triscuits. Growing up, this was our junk food). Unfortunately they were cheddar flavor. I did not even know Triscuit made a cheddar flavor. Blech. Once I find plain triscuits again and parmesan flavored goldfish crackers, I will be set for junk food.

On a random aside, while I cannot find tricuits here, I have found some great olive tapenade and tahini paste (two items I used to bring back from the states) as well as a very decent Indian restaurant. Life is looking up.

The Rest of the Story...........

I finally found out the rest of the story. N was trying to stab R because he thought R was spreading a rumor that he was giving away cement from a project that my mother-in-law hired him to do.

That's it. Cement here is same as the states--a fairly cheap item. Life is back to normal I guess because N was back on the site yesterday working. R filed a police report so that way if she appears dead the police will have an easy time solving the crime.

All this over a rumor about cement!!!!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Curse of Not Speaking Tagalog (Yeah right, like this would happen to anyone else)

To truly appreciate the bizarreness of tonight, I will have to start with dinner. My father-in-law was going ballroom dancing so he was dressing up and headed down first for dinner.

When I go downstairs, to the living room I see him arguing with one of the guys in the neighborhood (N). My father-in-law keeps grabbing (as it appears to me) at his crotch. A random guy (R) who I have never seen is sitting on the ottoman so I ask him what my father-in-law is doing. He tells me the neighborhood guy has a knife. I am already confused at this point. My father in law gets the big scary knife from N's pants and that is when N decides it would be a good time to take a swing at R. They start fighting with my father-in-law (who will be 79 next month) trying to keep them apart.

I decide to be of some use and hold back N (who is too nice to hit a woman) until R gets away from my father-in-law and starts coming forward to attack N at which time I decide I will get a big man from outside. (While the fighting is happening, Ado is nicely tucking away the knife and the maid is taking my mother-in-law to the courtyard to make sure she doesn't get hurt). The only guy I can find outside (the streets are randomly very empty tonight) is the maid's son who is 21 years old and stands at about 6'. Unfortunately he can't weigh more that 160 or 170 pounds, but pickings were slim.

When I get back (10 seconds later), the mini fight is over and a third guy is bleeding under the eye (he may have been here the whole time...I am not sure). We get N out of the house. R is still sitting downstairs with the bleeding man. I make the bleeding man put Neosporin on his cut.

Everybody is talking and during this time, N comes back for round 2. They get N out and the Barangay chairman comes and everybody talks to him. Barangay chairman leaves. R is still here. Actually, at this very moment R is still here with bleeding man. I assume he is here because if he tries to go home then N will kill him. Also, I was given the knife which was disgustingly sharpened to a psycho point and is now residing safely in my nightstand. (Thank god that most people here do not have guns!!!)

Now, what is the purpose of this entry? Since I do not speak Tagalog, I have NO IDEA what this is about. I have no idea why these guys are fighting, why they are doing it in our house, and why they seem intent on killing each other. The people that speak tagalog well enough to translate for me at too involved with talking to people right now so I have no clue what is happening. R who hasn't spoken much since round 1 speaks great english but I figure he is a little busy right now with the man who is trying to kill him and likely does not want to be a translator.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

There are Good Things About the Groceries

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on the grocery situation here. I think it may still be part of the missing Trader Joes/Whole Foods that is getting to me. There are some bonuses of shopping here. One block away from us is a wet market. Here I can find most cuts of pork as well as some beef. There is an abundance of fish (which I never buy or look at but there is a ton). There is also a slew of fresh local vegetables and whatever fruit may be in season here. In addition you can but some staples: oil, rice, soy sauce, margarine (butter is not sold there), some spices, etc.

Also, within a 15 second walk of our current house, I can visit one of four sari-sari stores at which I can buy everything from cigarettes (by the stick or pack), gum or candy, rice, an egg or two, oil, vinegar, coke, beer, milo, shampoo, soap (body, laundry, or dish), etc. The list goes on and on.

I guess most of my frustration is comes from the fact that most of the items I eat are not available locally and even if they were I would be the only buyer. Case in point, Ado stopped by Taco Bell to grab me a taco. The lady asked her is she wanted crunchy or soft. Ado told her she didn't know what kind and the lady said, "Ma'am, you usually order crunchy." How sad is that? I am known at Taco Bell!!!! I can attribute some of it to the fact that since I am a funky foreigner I stand out, but the sad part is I am probably their best customer. Ugh, that is so embarrassing! Taco Bell!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Grocery Woes

Grocery shopping is just flat ticking me off lately (and by lately, I mean since I have moved here). No store ever has a constant stock of certain items (i.e., peanut butter with no sugar, powdered sugar) and it always seems like a crap shoot. For example, sometimes Shopwise & Unimart have great looking produce during one visit, and the following time, there is nothing to be seen. I wish there was one fantastic grocery store that stocked everything I wanted. Part of the problem is many of the groceries I look to buy are not staples in a kitchen here so they fall more under specialty items. Mushrooms in good condition are always a pisser for me to find as well as sour cream that is not in a liquid form.

I think the hardest thing for me to get used to is the amount of sugar in many items. Peanut butter is my big one but a lot of sliced bread tastes sweet as well as canned corn. We were looking for one can of corn and ended up buying an imported brand because that was the only one without sugar added. In addition, I miss bread. Besides sourdough bread and bagels, I have yet to see any rye bread. I also miss Kosher beef hot dogs (here they are all pork or pork/beef blends) and beef bologna (German style from a deli....not fat oscar meyer type).

Final evilness of the groceries here is expired food. It is unfortunately very common to see expired or just old (in terms of produce) still on shelves. I learned the hard way and now know to look and EVERY label to see when the expiration is. I do not know why they do not discount the items right before they go bad instead of letting them fester. The first time I saw this (it was about 20 pieces of bagged lettuce mix that had all rotted down to a small fist size amount) I thought it was a fluke and mentioned it to the produce guy. He looked at me like I was crazy so I left it and went away. I no longer shop there. Funnily enough, the store is Waltermart which reminds me of the evil chain in the states so it is just as well.