Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hon, My Hat is Mildewing

One morning this week Jess exclaimed "My hat is mildewing!" as she looked in dismay at her relatively new hat purchased a month ago in Malaysia.  While many things differ between our native Gunnison, Colorado and places during our travels abroad, humidity is one of the most significant.  In Gunnison, new arrivals generally have a nosebleed before their first night has passed given the arid and often frigid environment.  Ever since we were in Northern Australia, we have endured a swampy, hot environment in which clothes (and people) never fully dry out.  Add to the mix our penchant to hang out on the beach in these environments, and our non-synthetic clothes begin to rot!

One such place has been the Philippines.  The Philippines are comprised of over 7,000 islands with a varied people speaking over 70 languages.  The primarily Catholic Southeastern Asian country had an interesting mix of first Spanish then US rule during the past four centuries and the smiling, welcoming, resilient people have elements of those as well as other Asian cultures in their everyday life.

As we have described in earlier posts about other places, our time in the Philippines is a series of contrasting experiences.  We may have days in which we are lounging in a resort environment, drinking fruity, happy-hour concoctions and nursing sunburns from too many hours of glorious, snorkeling adventures.  Then there are days like yesterday....

We began the day as we had the previous ones on Malapascua Island without Internet as a storm had knocked it out almost a week earlier.  We walked across the island following young men gracious enough to carry old ladies' backpacks to a small port.  Really, it was a place on the beach where a half dozen sea captains of local bangkas designed to ferry passengers across the sea lounged about waiting for passengers.  Our captain squeezed two dozen of us onto the wood platforms of his trusty banga and set off for the distant shore just under an hour away.  Nowhere were the common sights of fluorescent life jackets on this boat, perhaps attesting to the unique skills of the teen- and preteen- age boys assisting our captain by pumping out water almost, but not quite, as fast as it entered the engine compartment.  The captain and his crew chain-smoked their way across the Philippine Sea with indifference to either the gasoline fumes or hastily tossed propane tanks piled behind them.  Across from us we watched as two young girls picked lice out of each other's hair, a frequent sight on the island with two thousand residents but no doctor or real health care.  A young tourist joined in the grooming, and as they all flung their invertebrate finds into the air we could only hope we were not directly downwind in our nearby seats.  We arrived on land to clamber aboard a local, non-air-conditioned "chicken bus" as we like to call the busses on different continents that transport people and other assorted goods and farm animals.  These busses stop frequently as drivers compete to see which can get the most people squeezed into a small, humid, hot space.  Sharing seats with several others is common.  As we eyed the girls from our boat ride in their nearby seats, we could not help but check the heads of the variety of children placed adjacent or within our laps.  We almost burst out laughing when we heard from the back of the bus a rooster crowing as dusk approached.

Around seven hours after we set out, we arrived in Cebu City to air conditioning, hot water and a nearby mall.  Somehow the easy access to electricity and water was disappointing after days of rationing each and paying for each kilowatt used after the first one at our lodging on Malapascua. Health care and resources are challenging to acquire on most of the inhabited islands in the Philippines and it is so easy to forget that when we arrive at a place where they are at our fingertips.

Whether we are wet or dry, it is the incredible contrasts of our daily lives that educate us on this global journey.  While we could pay more and travel in relative luxury, we often choose the more local route for the experiences and conversations it affords us.  Our stated goal is to learn with humility (and give with grace) and such is hard to do from a fancy, air-conditioned, tourist transport.

Images are from the Philippines and include our most recent "porch" on Malapascua Island, a typical bangka ferry, and the luxurious Sea Dream resort in Dauin, Negros Island.

Posted in Tagbiliran, Bohol Island, Philippines

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