Observed: Feral Westerner & How to Ask ‘Why’


More things I have noticed or thought about lately. These installments will decrease, I’m sure, as the Filipino way of doing things slowly just becomes “the way of doing things” in my little world.

  • I posted some pictures on facebook of interesting things I saw at the market in Baguio (called the “Bazaar” by everyone in town). Aside from the open air raw meat, live aquatic creatures, and animal parts we’re not used to seeing, probably the most shocking thing I saw was a white guy. He was late 60’s, tall, lanky, leathery skin, shoulder-length rust-colored curls, bushy beard… and he was wearing a brightly colored loincloth! I think he went AWOL during military service, joined a mountain tribe, and never looked back.
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  • I visited the market daily. One stall caught my eye each time I passed. While most merchants sit people-watching for want of customers, this vendor couldn’t catch her breath. At first I reckoned it was some kind of gambling racket and she was a bookie. But the crowd demographic didn’t add up – young, old, tall, short, women, men, girls, boys all waving money in the air and shouting while in the rest of the place you could hear a pin drop (yeah, right… but you know…). As happens frequently, I could contain my curiosity no more. I unleashed it on a young woman – probably about my age (gosh… how much longer am I going to be able to say that?!). It went like this: What is everyone doing here? Buying things. Yes, but what? Whatever they need. Okay, but why are there so many people?  Because everything is cheap here. Everything? Everything they sell is the cheapest?  Yes. What are you buying? Sugar. Oh. Okay. Thanks.
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  • Pronoun confusion. My friends in Mexico did this all the time with English, perhaps because he/she and hers/his and him/her are all so similar. That it cracks me up to hear men accidentally described as she/hers/her and women described with his/him/he shows just how deep gender runs in our culture.

    My favorite part of the day lately: evenings - enormous clouds and stunning sunsets.

  • My little sisters are hilarious. The middle one doesn’t Facebook. She thinks its creepy. She almost doesn’t internet. She doesn’t want her pictures or anything about herself online. (Sorry, Bean). We finally caught up on the phone the other day. After vehemently reacting to my food stories (Well, there ain’t no way in hell Mom is eating that shit when she comes to visit you!), she told me a story of her own. Thanks to her experience working with the mentally ill, she was asked to deal with a suicidal, drunk woman one morning. In response to the woman’s complaints, my sis reports telling her “Well, NORMAL people don’t drink at 8 o’clock in the morning!”  To the woman’s dumbfounded look, she said, “Well, what? I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. It’s true!” Only my sis! (The woman reacted positively to this straight talk, and the story has a happy ending.)

  • Key phrases. People here speak English fairly well. Like any other place, however, they are practiced in the phrases they use the most. Since I ask a lot of questions, I confuse a lot of people. For instance, my inquiries about “what is going on?” don’t mean anything to anyone. (i.e. The electric shower isn’t working. What is going on? The bus is late. What is going on?)  No one will ever answer that question. I discovered the magic workaround the other day. Why.  What is going on? “Ten minutes.” No, but what is going on? “Okay, ma’am. Okay, ten minutes.” Okay, but WHY? “Because the water is out. We wait for delivery. Because the bus has a flat tire.” Oooooooooooooohhhh. Okay.

  • Woke up to the sounds of “Feliz Navidad” being played by a live marching band at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. You know you’re a genuine midwesterner when this song reminds you first of Taco Johns, then of Christmas.

  • I went down to see the parade. Bizarrely, there wasn’t anyone watching it.  Just a bunch of marching bands and pre-schoolers ambling down the street as people bustled to and fro.  Two parades later (reportedly, Baguio is parade crazy), I found out why.  Candy.  The candy throwing parade had heaps of gawkers.  Oh.  And it wasn’t at 8 a.m.

  • More bathroom/personal responsibility ranting. Come ON people! In the shared hotel bathroom some jerk of the female persuasion couldn’t be bothered to move her used toothpaste and shampoo sachets from the back of the toilet to the trash. Just eleven inches to the right and let gravity do the work. Seriously! Grrr! Be responsible for your mess! A country doesn’t clean itself!

    To illustrate the observation below...

  • Curious practices surrounding beer drinking. One – for some bizarre reason people think the lip of the bottle is dirty. Your beer bottle will invariably be served with a napkin poked down inside and wrapped tight around the lip. Drinkers will remove this and thoroughly wipe the rim before taking the first drink. I tried to explain that the beer-making process is fairly finicky and therefore highly sanitary. Any “dirt or germs” under the cap on the bottle lip would ruin the beer. So it’s not there. Because otherwise beer would be spoiled all the time. I didn’t overcome any superstitions. Two – the guys I have been drinking with lately require two glasses and a spoon to consume a bottle of beer. One glass to pour the beer into, a spoon to scoop up the foam that forms, and the other glass to deposit the foam. No, the second glass never makes it into the bloodstream. I showed them how to tilt the glass on its side and achieve a foam-free pour. My lesson fell on deaf ears.



3 comments

  • December 5, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Now that’s some down right hilarious observations and sharing!!!

  • December 3, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Alright!…I get observations part II … so how the hell do I find Part I ???
    You will never understand the little routines surrounding the drinking of San Miguel until you have done a tour of the brewery — then you will get it.
    And … there is a reason for a head of foam, if you don’t know that either, then … switch to Vodka Tonics.

    Let me know what you think of the rice terraces. Where did those people go?

    • December 4, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Ha! At the bottom of the page there are links to navigate to older entries. They are pink and have an arrow. If you’re on the most recent entry, you can only go one way! 🙂

      San Mig brewery tour?! Where?! How?! I’m in! Will hopefully get to the terraces outside of Bontoc in Maligcong tomorrow!

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