Last summer, I had just returned from Taipei and I was all set to spent summer break 2015 in Manila. When I planned it as a summer break activity, it made a lot of sense.
Things have changed! Now I’m here in the Philippines, this time as a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines. I still have my return ticket, but I no longer have my own home to return to, and my work situation has changed drastically. Over the last week, I’ve wrapped up my duties as a teacher, chucked all of my earthly belongings into storage, and made arrangments to have my townhouse sold while I’m gone. I know it sounds straightforward, but it’s actually rather crazy pants.
I buried a statue of St. Joseph in front of my townhouse, as they say you’re supposed to, hope it brings some holy intervention to my home sale. I didn’t do the prayer on the card though, because it was all about torturing the St. Joseph statue until the actual saint in heaven prevails upon God to make the sale happen. Gross. When I was a teenager Fr. Ryan used his homily to tell us that God doesn’t need coersion to act, burying the statue seemed a little blasphemous. I mean, I buried the statue, but I didn’t do the prayer. Guh.
I really hate moving, especially since I have to confront junk boxes that I created the last time I moved and hated it. You know, you start off packing and organizing, but near the end you start packing all-purpose boxes, and those all-purpose of random necessecities ends up turning into boxes of junk. It’s not a good situation.
So usually what I do when I get to the stage where I’m dealing with junk boxes is that I dispair and then sit down and pout and then don’t make anymore progress. Luckily this time I had my sister and friends there to keep me on task. Thank God for them, H and my friend B, for solving problems for me, and also for K who lent his expertise in lifting and keeping the storage unit tight.
When the day came to leave, it wasn’t a panic. In fact there was time for a box of croissants. B came and took some stuff away in his van, I locked up the storage, and my sister dropped me off at the airport.
It’s a 10 hour flight from Seattle to Seoul, and Korean Air has big Boeing 777s with high ceilings. Their service is super attentive and considerate and the food is good. Good as in, how can I get my lunchbox reheated rice to taste as good as their sealed packages for individual use? Can I just buy those? Also, can I buy that just-add-hot-water seaweed soup for my lunches? I got bibimbap a couple of times, and a beef stew on rice.
The first flight attendent that served me bibimbap asked me if I had ever had it before, I was like, come on. The second one that served it to me started with a long, complicated explanation of bibimbap for ignorant gringos. “It’s a korean style beef with mixed vegetables, with the sesame oil, and the hot pepper paste” and I think that they designed that explanation to steer non-koreans toward the pasta option. Sorry, I think the pasta option is always a mistake on an airplane.
I have a policy of alwasys ordering the native food on the plane. So if I’m flying an Asian airline, I choose the Asian option over the “western” option. Back in 2000 my friends gasped when they heard me order the Chinese breakfast on a China Air flight. They gasped again when they saw their “western” breakfast was greasy sad limp eggs, greasy sad limp sausage links, and a roll. They asked me, how did you know to order the Chinese breakfast? I told them that I had figured that Chinese people were better at making Chinese breakfasts, which consisted of 粥 congee and fun stuff to put in it.
By the way, it’s bullshit to call things “western.” “Western” is just a euphamism for “other people’s bullshit stereotypes of Americans.” They will say that it’s NOT about Americans, but get real; it’s not a Mexican Breakfast or a German Breakfast or a French or British or any other country of the “Western” world.
So when they offer you a “western breakfast” it’s really “their bullshit stereotype of American breakfast.” Same with other “western food” or “western toilet” or whatever. It’s bullshit and I got no time for it.
Anyway, the flight from Seattle to Seoul was 10+ hours. I watched a couple movies (Wreck It Ralph, Nosotros los Nobles) and started a couple more but then got bored in the middle.
When I got to Seoul I found a mool naeng myun, because I am an addict. It was the worst, cheapest, sorriest mool naeng myun I ever ate; (no beef, thin veggies, barely cold broth), which is to say that it was still pretty good.
I have never seen more surgical masks in public than when I went to Seoul this time, probably due to the MERS scare. People put them on as soon as the plane landed, and I heard some Chinese girls behind me comparing the social higherarchy of different kinds of surgical masks.
When I boarded my flight to Manila I was battling to stay awake. Apparently I passed out and when I woke up again 40 minutes later, they were apologizing for the long wait on the runway and saying that they now finally had the green light to take off.
Two hours later I was on the ground in Manila. T-Mobile messaged me saying that I had free unlimited text and internet (not high speed, though). I spent kind of a long time in line to turn in the yellow form that says something like “I don’t have MERS” and then breezed through Immigration with my NEW PHILIPPINE PASSPORT. I had to stay cool though, didn’t want to draw too much attention.
I got my checked bag off the conveyor belt and then waltzed out of customs and found my Cowsin D and Kuya G waiting for me. There was some traffic and a stop at McDonald’s (I got a diet coke) and then back to the family compound on Lunas St.
What’s next? Tagalog lessons and quality time with relatives; discovering my ancestral/new homeland for six more weeks. When I go “home” to Seattle, it won’t be home, but there will be a party and a road trip and another moving adventure, so there’s that.
By the way, there will be plenty more blogging now that I’m not teaching.