Saturday, 5 January 2008

Back in Taiwan after a Filipino new year.

New Years Eve in the Philippines is truly something to behold. Even though I was in a remote barrio where the locals have no money - the fireworks display at midnight was astounding. All over the country was a cruscendo of noise and light as the clocks slipped past midnight. I was sensible and stayed away from the lambunog (coconut wine) this night as, frankly, I'd become scared of it. Respect the lambunog man!! It tastes quite good as far as spirits go but it's very potent.

Filipino Scum

As a white guy (Americano) in the Philippines you're a millionaire. Even though I dress like shite, live the same lifestyle as them, eat the same shit with my hands, drink the same water, shit in the same minging hole, piss in the same bushes, sleep next to them on the floor, forage for the same jungle treats and take the same local shitty transport - I'm still considered a millionaire. However, I can see some sense in this. As I was chatting with a factory worker here I was informed that for a 12hr shift, you're looking at 200peso (£2.50). Not too good eh? After a while this starts to get on your nerves as many people tap you for money.

I'm familiar with this now having been in Asia for a while but you still have to be careful as things never appear as they seem. Take the other day for example. I'm quite a gregarious guy and I'll talk to anybody. I went for a walk alone through the barrio ensuring I was carrying no money in case I got robbed.

I was invited to sit down with a family on New Years Day to drink some booze. I declined the drink and just chatted with these people. They warned me not to walk anywhere alone! They then produced a baby and informed me it was the bairn's birthday. Other than them saying this was a birthday, there was little other indication. They went on to demand a 100peso birthday present insisting that I'm rich and they're poor.

Honestly, I don't know how this sounds but it's all a ploy to get money out of Joe (they call all white guys Joe). I had no money on me but they didn't believe me. Things got a little nasty as I tried to back out of this ridiculous situation. Never mind, all ended well and I escaped unharmed. What got me though is the blatant expectation of money for nowt! They will tell you anything. Birthday? My Arse!

Imagine this in the Western World? Invite someone to sit with you and devise a ludicrous ploy to aggressively extort cash from them. Not exactly civilised eh? But, poverty can be the driver behind some pretty desperate actions. By the way, all these men and women wore jewellery, watches and had motorbikes and cell phones! Can't be that skint then!

Confused

I'm back in Taiwan and it's nothing like the Philippines. I've missed Taiwanese food. I've also missed ZiTing. I'm currently sitting in her house using the net as she's cooking oyster omlettes all day and night. I really don't know what I'm doing. Two days ago I woke at 0400 in the blackness of a warm jungle night looking at the stars and listening to the insect chorus. I then caught an early bus to Manila. Two days later and I'm enrolling on a Chinese language course at Cheng Kung University. Strewth man! This lass in the Philippines kept saying I have a brain like scrambled eggs. You know what? I reckon she's right. I originally intended to stay for 2-4 months in the Philippines but lasted a whopping 3 weeks.

So on Monday it's off to school again. I'm unsure were my life is headed and I'm dubious about the value of being able to speak Chinese fluently unless I decide to live here. I can get by pretty good now with spoken Chinese but I can't read much and my use of the four tones is atrocious.

I picked up a little Tagalog in the Philippines as I barely met any Expats in the places I visited. However, other than having my cell phone stolen the other thing of interest is that I met an ex-army lad who currently lives in Ashington. He was on a normal holiday in the Philippines and had no interest in visiting remote jungle shit-holes and going native. Shame really as he was great crack and I enjoyed my day boozing with him on a floating bar anchored to the sea bed. This bar was great as dusk approached. You could see many schools of dazzling fish shimmering in the sea below. This, coupled with the palm tree clad mountains silhouetted against a blood orange sun made us feel like two extremely fortunate Ashington lads at Xmas time. He asked me if I would swap this for a night in Pegswood Club. We both laughed at this as we dived into the warm sea with young Filipina beauties and proceeded to down another cheap bottle of beer. Haha, I think we both knew the answer! I'm telling you it's paradise out here. 

On Xmas day I phoned my Mam and Dad in England. I also spoke briefly to my brother Mick who had proposed to his girlfriend Sarah (I've never met her) the day before on Xmas Eve. She must be deranged as she said 'Yes' and agreed to join our family. I'm wondering when and where the wedding will be. Perhaps I can act as a translator for any Chinese guests. I suspect I'll be required to go home for this. It would be great to see the family again although I don't think I could linger too long in England anymore.

I'm now going to take my bird's (I think she's my lass although we haven't finalised the details) motorbike to Jiali (Of course you all know Jiali in between Cigu and Madou) and read an English newspaper with a cup of coffee in a little cafe that I know. I'll get stared at all evening but I'm so used to this now that it's like water off a duck's back.

Oh yeah, on the island of Mindoro, I was offered a job by an ex-RN submariner. I decided to decline since you'd end up drinking and shagging yourself into an early grave living there.

My travel insurance expired and even though I ripped half of my foot off in the jungle I still can't be arsed to renew it. This could come back to haunt me someday!

Chinese:

Qing Wen, Cesou zai nali? (Excuse me, Where are the toilets?)

Ji Zou ran hou zou zhuan (straight on then turn left)

Xie xie (Thankyou)

Tagalog:

Aro pute guapo (You are white and handsome) Salamat (Thanks)

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