Week 8: Time to Come Home

The Work Week

Things at the office felt pretty routine. While that may sound boring, I think it points to having learnt my job and done it – no hiccups and without glamor. My bread and butter work of web articles was only briefly interrupted by an introduction to social media posting for the company. One other noteworthy part of the week is that I dipped into helping the Sustainability Department while my fellow American intern was on a vacation to Palawan (more on that later). This left a bit of a gap in work production which I ended up filling – and filling with some aplomb – which made sense as it dealt in producing a short article, rather than the research and internal presentations typical of the department. The few days of my final week promise much the same.

I won’t offer misty-eyed confessions on my time and work here, but one thing that bears expression is that writing in the voice of an informal woman to other women (the most common expression of the brand voice) has been a challenge for me from day one, and it remains one of the most difficult parts of my work here. It’s certainly made me feel like an overlarge, rough-cut, square peg a good deal of the time, but here we are. I got through it and put forward what I had to give for a company worth supporting.

(Not) Travel

After my recent, stormy visit to Bohol, it seemed like a good idea to visit Batangas, a nearby province where many go to escape Manila and enjoy some of the Philippines’ famed beaches. Except for a brief, cloudy walk along Alona Beach, this would have been my first and only time on the shore of the archipelago, but – wouldn’t you know it – the country is awfully wet in the height of the rainy season. It rained and occasionally thundered (with only sub-hour interruptions) for four days straight, and that was enough to keep me in the apartment and out of the struggles and discomfort of public transport. Instead, I enjoyed a few days quiet and relative comfort (the furniture doesn’t fit me very well and one of the chairs made a concerning creak when I first tried it weeks ago), while my roommate was off in Palawan. There was succor, however, in knowing that it could have been significantly worse; my roommate was most likely subjected to the same weather, but with the added sting of having bought a plane ticket and lodging for several days in perhaps the most sought-after spot for beach-going in the entire country. In the end, I enjoyed my time alone, and used it to reflect on my travels, catch the things that escaped my writer’s journal, and plan what to do once I return to my life in the US. It’s been good to be here and learn what I have, but my sister spoke the heart of my sentiments after I shared with her some stories of weak coffee and cockroaches. “Time to come home” she told me – and she was right.

Lightning Round

It’s pretty hard to find parmesan here. Only some big markets have it, and even then it’s just a few small wedges that are even more expensive than they would be in the US. The cost of postage to send a postcard to the US is less than half a dollar. Even at a church where there are specifically English and Tagalog services, the English Mass will still have a significant portion in Tagalog. I found this a little startling because the church had a flock of the mid- to upper-class, and, by and large, these are the parts of Filipino society that speak English most often and well. Manileños are legally prohibited from cutting down trees – even on their own property. There are few birds of prey here; in all the places I’ve been and all this time I’ve seen only one. It was on the coast of Bohol. The many roosters kept by tethering on the sides of roads or wherever they can be fit is indeed for cock fighting. This was confirmed by one of my officemates, who said, “People keep them because they think they can win a lot of money.” I once passed by a small – or large, depending on how you look at it – arena specifically for this purpose. 1-peso coins are silvery and 5-peso coins are either silvery or a yellowy color, depending on the age. The newer, silvery 5-peso coins are also nearly the same size as the 1-peso coins, which means you have to constantly check for correct change – unless you’re quite fine-tuned to the difference. My solution has been to keep one sort per pocket; it only solves part of the trouble, but at least it allows for a quick grab when paying for something. If you don’t have earplugs or earbuds for a bus ride, you will suffer for it. What’s played is almost all American, but the range is from modern pop all the way to 60 years ago, and I have not even the faintest clue who would approve of the selections. I suppose in a country where karaoke and videoke (karaoke with a screen to offer aid in the form of lyrics) are enormously popular, there must simply be a collective taste in music that is beyond my primitive understanding. The amount of bugs at dusk amidst miles of rice paddies is – rather predictably – absolutely tremendous. It’s like one continuous, dense clump of gnats, except the gnats are instead much larger mosquitoes. Because of the oncoming darkness it would be difficult to say for certain, but everything at distance seemed darker than it ought to have been because of it. It’s a small miracle I didn’t receive even one bite.

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