Tuesday, December 12, 2006

After Thanksgiving: the interim

The morning after Thanksgiving (which took place on Saturday, the 25th, as Thanksgiving is not a recognized holiday here) most everyone parted ways: Some before I awoke, some after, and some even left the night before, aboard a little-known 3am bus. By the time I stirred there were only a handful of us left. I alone was in the unique position of having no where in particular to go.

I planned to attend an aids workshop two days hence, and while the workshop was roughly an hour away from Antique, it was roughly 5 or 6 from my house in Guimaras. It seemed silly to go home just to turn around again, and so I had a day or so at my leisure. This particular night, I had conned Kevin into letting me stay once more in his sea-front bamboo house. However since Kevin, being the gentleman he is, decided to escort several of the departing guests as far as Kalibo, I more or less had the day to lounge around Kevin's neighborhood.

I spent the day wandering his local area, swimming in his sea, napping, and looking at the photos from the day before. During each of these activities, with the exception of napping, I managed to meet some of the neighborhood. Wandering to the nearest tsangay for a soda (which are not sold in cans here, but poured into little plastic sandwich bags and drunk through a straw) the owner was quick to whisk me into conversation. His tsangay, by the way, had a sign out front naming it the "Yurata Store" to which I thought to myself - "Yes. Yes I am."

Swimming in what I believe was the Sulu Sea, water as rough as a sleeping kitten, a nice local man joined me in the water for a conversation about who I was, where I was from, and what I was doing there. When you're a white foreigner people are just that curious.

When I sat in Kevin's house, looking at the 100+ pictures we'd taken between us, some of Kevin's neighbors came to the doors and windows and began peering in. My laptop, as much as the pictures, was a draw. So I did the only neighborly thing and invited them in to look at the slide show with me. I never had more than 6 in the room, but between the time I started and the time the slideshow ended, at least two would have come and two more taken their place, and as a result I got to see the slideshow about 4 times. It was fun though, we're more of a novelty than we realize and several people were trying very hard to figure out everyone's names, who was assigned where, and who was married to whom. I thought it was particularly amusing when the photos came around to our previous nights hookah session one man's eyes grew wide with shock, to which the woman to his left loudly proclaimed "tobacco, gaggo!" (it's tobacco, dummy!).

By the time Kevin returned, I felt I had lived a very social day. Eventually Tim (a friend and volunteer from negroes occidental) and Renee (the Filipina who joined us the previous night) returned from their day trip to Boracay. Together we all feasted on leftovers and watched movies in the house of Kevin's German neighbor (also a volunteer). When, during "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" Angelina, Jolie declares "I was never in Peace Corps." Renee, who probably hadn't heard of the Peace Corps until she met a volunteer, got quite a kick out of it.

The following morning I went up toward Kalibo to visit Sean, another friend and volunteer. I spent two days with him in good food and great company. Kalibo contained Latte, which just might be the nicest coffee house in the Philippines, and an excellent chicken house. All things considered these days past contentedly and uneventfully, with one major exception.

As we climbed the beach dunes, from a distance I thought is beach was horrible littered. It appeared to be covered in large plastic bags. Once I got closer the truth became clear; the beach wasn't littered with trash, but with sealife. It was along the shore of Sean's beach that I saw the largest jellyfish of my life -- over 100 times. His beach had become slimy with jellyfish bodies, each body smaller than most dogs, but definitely larger than most cats.

Up close, they were covered in small black spots. Their firmest portion, which I took to be the jellyfish equivalent a main body, contained some dark mass inside it if you made the effort to look through their gelatinous skin. I took that for some sort of brains, but I wouldn't know. Neither Sean nor I had a camera with us, and so the specifics just may remain a mystery. Sean swears that he visits that beach frequently and had never seen a single jellyfish before, which made sense once his host mother explained that it was now jellyfish season. They are commonly made into a meal in his area. It seems you learn new things every day.

I'm not sure if they were as bizarre as seeing the starfish that moved about with very flexible, spider-like limbs, but it's certainly close.

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