Sunday, May 22, 2011

Totally Spoiled

Yes, I'm totally spoiled. Not by my parents or grandparents - I think I was generally raised with good manners and such. But, when it comes to having two small kids to take care of, and living here in the Philippines, I'm spoiled.

I try not to talk about it too much ... lest you think I don't actually take care of my own children, which is certainly not the case! This weekend, we went to Anilao for my scuba certification dives. We stayed at: which is more upscale than most dive "resorts," but the facilities seemed sufficent for bringing two small children: clean beds, no charge for extra towels, and railings around the eating areas that Danger Baby (ie, Patch) could not squeeze through.

Greg wanted to come diving, too, to practice his new skills and so we could dive together. After all, as my dive instructor put it, we're lifelong buddies. (fyi - two important rules of diving: always exhale when ascending even a little bit and don't ever lose your buddy!)

The only real way for the two of us to travel 60 feet underwater together was to bring along Lea, our new nanny (yaya, colloquially). It turned out really well - we had a super fun time diving, and the kids and Lea had a super fun time splashing at the ocean's edge (rocks, not sand, in Anilao - but they didn't care). Obviously, bringing a nanny is a normal thing for a dive resort in the Philippines, because our bill even had a "yaya rate" that was 50% of the regular rate. Not really sure why Lea was half off, since she eats and showers just like we do, but I'm not complaining.

Diving is way less expensive here compared to other places in the world ... but for us, we'll probably equalize that out by brining our yaya. Price up, but I'll be happy to be spoiled for the next two years and enjoy some diving with Greg!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Can't Be that Patient!

Every parent of an almost-four-year-old has probably heard that phrase a million times. Today's refrain came after we had some good news - our shipment will arrive on Wednesday! It's been in the port here in Manila since April 30, and the Customs Bureau and Department of Finance of the Philippines have finally decided to agree with the decision the Department of Foreign Affairs came to four weeks ago: we are, indeed, diplomats accredited to Manila and thus allowed to receive our household effects duty free.

We had expected the shipment tomorrow, actually, but by the time the final OK came, the shipping company was already booked. Boo. So we have to wait to Wednesday for the shipping crew to be free.

I broke the news to William and when we counted out six fingers as the number of days until his Thomas Couple Trains (the battery powered ones) and his toy tools come, he just lost it, crying "I can't be that patient!"

I told myself at work today, when I heard the news of the delay that, what's the difference? I packed out December 27, 2010. Another 6 days on top of 5.5 months isn't that big a deal. But I realized tonight, that such conceptions of time are still beyond Wm's scope - anything that's further away from the day after tomorrow might as well be months or years away.

Plus, if you're only almost-four, and the majority of your toys have been packed up since you were three and a half, that means you've been missing your toys for 1/8 of your entire life! And about 1/4 of the life that he quasi-remembers. No small potatoes.

We're headed to the beach this weekend, so hopefully that will be some distraction while we all try to be a little more patient.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A trip to the cinema

I don't remember the first time I went to a movie in a theater, so I think I was pretty small. My mom says my first movie was Bambi.  I was apparently unconcerned about Bambi's mom, noting that he could always get another mother. (An especially touching thought on Mothers Day.)

Anyway, William and Patrick's first movie was Rio. William has more than enough attention span for a full film - he was complaining that it was so short. Patch started to get a bit touchy about an hour in, but with approximately 1 of the other 200 seats in the theater filled, a bit of baby noise wasn't a problem. (I highly recommend a similarly sparse crowd to others when one year olds go to their first movies.) 

William did get s bit scared a time or two, but it didn't stop him from storming off to bed (his new usual) at 7pm. In general, I'd say a good time was had by all.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

From the Royal Wedding to Osama to Peace

Yes, it was an interesting morning at church today. After a few trials, we've settled at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (

We started off singing "Jerusalem" in honor of Prince William and Catherine's wedding. Most of the clergy are Aussie, so have a Commonwealth-interest in things royal. A difficult hymn to sing, but a fun way to incorporate world events when living so far away.

Then the sermon focused (mosty, it was a bit rambling) on Osama bin Laden's death. I'm still chewing on two of his thoughts. (1) how Osama's "mixing of hatred and religion created one of the most powerful and dangerous cocktails on Earth" and how this applies in general to religion in the world. (2) how one should never rejoice in another's death: "we cannot applaud anything destructive and violent." I'm not sure if the sermon will be posted to the church website, but it's an interesting listen even if you don't agree with some of his points.

Thankfully, after that, a baptism followed. Who can't smile at a cute two-month-old baby? Or at the letter read from the baby's grandmother's parish priest in Florida? Or at how at this church they have the Sunday school class children come in, each dip their hand in the baptismal water, and then touch the baby saying "I bless you," for a blessing for a child from a child?

Appropriately to the sermon theme of the day, part of the baptismal covenant reads that, with God's help, the congregants will "strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being." Something we all - regardless of religion - can certainly work towards.

And then we sang: Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Maybe part of the new routine?

Our new household help have been asking me to purchase "Bygon" - I had no idea what this was, but on my last shopping trip saw it on the shelf and did some reading. Turns out, it's a bug spray for inside the house. Pretty hefty-duty stuff, too, since the instructions say not to enter a room within 30 minutes of spraying. Somewhat haltingly, I added it to my shopping cart.

This afternoon, Wm and Patch decided they wanted to join Greg at the pool (he does laps, the rest of us pack around until Wm gets too antsy and interrupts lap swiming for play time). As I was heading out with two boys in two pairs of green Crocs, Lea asked if she should spray the Bygon. Not a bad idea, since we'd be gone for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Out we went. Spray she did. Fourty five minutes later we returned to a bug-free house. Definitely worth remembering as part of the evening routine, if we can convince the boys of a pool or playground trip.

Monday, May 2, 2011

An underwater world of wonder

About three hours south of Manila, in a province called Batangas, I went on my first scuba dives this weekend. We dove three times on Saturday and one on Sunday, and, like the druggie who only needs one try to get hooked, I suspect the next two years will include quite a few trips to the myriad alluring dive spots in the Philippines.

Having read much about this country, the one activity that stands out in just about every account is that the diving is world-class. Most of the 7,000-odd islands are surrounded by coral reefs, and for fish the tropical water is like nectar to a hummingbird. Friends have been diving with whale sharks and manta rays, in Japanese warships and underwater caves. My first trip included none of this, but the reef off the coast near Anilao gave enough of a taste of the color and life that the submarine world has to offer that I'm sure I'll be back.

Coming into it, I was a little nervous - yes, I know how to swim, but the ocean is not a pool, and there's a big difference between the surface and 60 feet below. I was struck as we went down the side of the reef with just how far down it went - it's easy to forget from the shore just how vast the ocean is; when you're descending the reef and it goes down farther than you can see, it's a reminder of just how small you really are. At the same time, buoyed by a vest of air to balance out the weights around my waist, wearing a pair of fins and a mask that shockingly neither fell off nor leaked in over two hours of diving, it felt shockingly easy to move underwater. I always found snorkeling pleasant but tiring; it's not easy to dive down and hold your breath to see things only seven feet underwater, then come up and blast the water out of your snorkel before getting a breath of fresh air. With a scuba tank, all you have to do is breathe.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the pure clarity of the water. Raised on water in Galveston, this is not something to which I'm accustomed. Even Goa, perhaps more lush and green on the coast, is too polluted in the water to offer the perfect clarity of Philippine seas. Yes, I think I'll be back for more.