If expectation management is the key to happiness, then we came to the Philippines well prepared. Good friends from all three of our previous posts have either served or lived here, and a friend from our Nairobi days now calls the Philippines home. We did not know exactly what to expect – as so much of one’s experience of the Philippine capital depends on where in the city one lives – but, based on what they shared, we had a fairly good idea.
Posts tagged ‘friends’
The one thing D had meant to do but didn’t before leaving the States was to sharpen his skates. Ice hockey is likely not the first sport that springs to mind when one thinks of the Philippines. In fact, the country’s national hockey team only participated in its first official international tournament two years ago. The team finished third in the second division at the 2017 Southeast Asia Games and remains unranked by the IIHF. Once D found out there was a hockey scene in Manila, he endeavored to get on a team before arriving in the Philippines.
A few weeks before S’s departure for Manila, D spent a weekend in New York to see friends and bid farewell to the city he’s always called home. D had planned the trip months in advance to coincide with his favorite band’s three-night stand at a small venue in the far-flung reaches of Brooklyn. When he had conceived of the visit, we had thought we’d be traveling to the Philippines together. Even with the benefit of hindsight and our imminent separation looming, however, it is unlikely that D would have missed seeing the Slackers take a leisurely stroll through their extensive career catalogue.
Somewhere between the haphazard backpacking days of our youth and the meticulously planned vacations our parents favor lies the perfect balance of trip planning. Showing up in a new town without pre-arranged lodging or definite plans and only a vague timeline for departure still seems conceptually exciting but is no longer practical, especially when we travel with two little rugrats in tow. After years of travel we’ve learned to throw together a pretty good trip at the last minute with only minimal research — an approach that is not without drawbacks.
A friend of ours is fond of saying that there is no such thing as cold weather; rather, the problem lies in poor clothing choices. Junebug, for one, disagrees with this sentiment. It does not matter how warmly we dress her or how much we play up the fun to be had with fresh powdery snow. The last few months she got her first taste of a proper winter – with snow and temperatures in the teens during our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and a snowstorm in DC this weekend. To say that she did not enjoy her exposure to the frosty weather would be an understatement.
Munchkin’s rapid descent into superhero obsession took us a bit by surprise. We consciously limit his screen time at home, but parental controls are no match for playground fads. As soon as Munchkin entered pre-K in the fall, his fealty to Paw Patrol and P.J. Masks was overcome by an overwhelming interest in Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and the like. At the library, he would pick out simple comic books for beginner readers; superhero-themed clothing began to multiply in his wardrobe; and the Disney/Pixar films D would sometimes watch with him on the weekends gave way to comic book-inspired cartoons.
The tendency when one is serving overseas is to use each posting as a springboard to explore the region, to travel around the continent one calls home for a few years. In Africa, this strategy hits two snags. First, the continent is immense. Second, with the exception of a handful of hubs, intercontinental flights are unreliable and expensive. Serving in eastern Africa, for example, South Africa was accessible but the countries of the Maghreb not at all.
We hit the sweet spot with last year’s Halloween celebration. Munchkin was obsessed with The Three Little Pigs for most of the year. Dressing up as the little pigs to his bad wolf was an easy win, and the wolf costume S’s mom made for him got plenty of use before and after the holiday. This year, Munchkin’s tastes have evolved too fast to keep pace.
The first thought that struck D on arrival in Prague was that the city was overrun by Russian-speakers. The Armenian taxi driver who picked D up from the airport and could barely string three English words together; the management company for the apartment D had hastily booked on hotels.com; the students and old ladies exchanging news on the street corners; even excluding the massive Russian tour groups, D heard about as much Russian during his first couple of hours in Prague as he had in Minsk.