Monday, June 28, 2010

Hello, Ma'am. I love you!

Hello, all. I have been in the Philippines, and specifically Cebu City, for just over a week now. Bridget and I spent just 24 hours in Manila before heading to Cebu City on the island of Cebu. A wise decision, I think, since all the words that come to mind to describe Manila have a bit of a negative connotation. The one I choose to leave you with is ‘gritty’. But, now we are in Cebu City. The Lonely Planet describes Cebu City as, “Preferable to Manila, but nowhere we would want to spend our holiday.”

Cebu City is a weird mix of poverty and megamalls. It is hot and dirty, with thick, sweet-smelling smoky tropical air sporadically punctuated with episodes of torrential downpour. We are staying uptown, in the nicer part of the city near the Ayala Mall. I have spent an ungodly amount of time at malls during the past week. The megamall is an integral part of the culture here. Almost all of the decent restaurants are located in a mall, and coffee shops with free wifi are located there, too. Our mall is three to four times the length of a typical mall in Seattle or St. Louis, and six stories high. They hold concerts here and mass on Sundays (most of the population in the Philippines is catholic).

Our hotel, Myra’s Pension, is lovely. The staff is great, and our room has a private bath, air-conditioning and cable TV. The people both in the hotel and outside of it are unfailingly polite, even when shouting at us from cars as they flash passed us. Hello's are always accompanied by a ma'am, and Bridget and I torn between " Hello, Ma'am. I love you. " and "Water for date you?" as the best pick-up lines. The front desk staff has been teaching us Cebuano, the local language. People are amused with our attempts and pleased by our efforts, I think, as learning the language isn’t really necessary with the prevalence of English speakers in the Philippines. Bridget and I are very amused by the unilateral insistence of the locals that ‘evening’ doesn’t start until six. We will occasionally call out “My-young Ga-bee-ee” (Good evening!) and hear, “NO! Hapon (afternoon). Not Ga-bee-ee yet!” We asked a man one day what time ‘ga-bee-ee’ started, and he stated very definitively without hesitation, “6:00PM.” One of my favorite moments so far was calling out politely in Cebuano to the jeepney driver that we had reached our stop and seeing all ten or so of the other passengers snap their heads in my direction, surprised that I had mastered that command.

The jeepney is public transportation that looks like an elongated hummer-jeep hybrid with reinforced metal panels and bright spray paint. You sort of need to know where you are going to ride one successfully. We have figured out how to catch a jeepney to and from work (CCE Foundation) and all the major malls. My favorite is named Jenny IV and is delightfully spattered in neon rainbow hues. We will be the jeepney to CCE daily this week, meeting with the staff and trying iron out the details of our research, so hopefully I will have a better idea of exactly what I am doing later this week to share with you.

Sending my love until then, Jenn.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kimchi and Ice Cream

Bridget (another student at the School of Marine Affairs) and I made it to Manila safely last night and found our guesthouse pretty easily. The plane rides were long and the food was.. interesting. For our snack, they served kimchi and ice cream, which I've never had served together. I'm trying to remain optimistic about the food in the Philippines but I am a little nervous. Oh well, we'll see. There's not much to say about Manila so far. It has a distinctly latin flavor to it, and reminds me more of Panama City than it reminds me of Bangkok. I've been told that the farther north you get in the country, the more you notice the Spanish influence. So, I'm curious to see how Cebu compares (farther south). We fly there tonight and from there will meet up with the CCE: the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, the organization that will be helping us with the logistics of our thesis research.

At the request of my mom, I will describe the work that I will be doing this summer. I am still in the planning stages, and will meet with my thesis adviser in a few days and iron out a few of the details. In the Philippines, ecotourism programs are a part of natural resource management, as many of the fish populations are overfished and ecotourism provides non-consumptive alternative sources of income to local fishermen. Or that's the idea. In some places, this works better than others. So I will be conducting interviews of communities where different ecotourism programs are located to find out why some work and why some don't. The goal is to ultimately discover factors that influence the long-term success of these programs.