Where to start? I have two days of material to make up for given that I didn't get a chance to post either Friday or Saturday night. What happens is that I run all day long, I have these great stories, and then I sit down at the keyboard in the evening and all I can write out is two paragraphs. I'm super tired, and I cannot articulate my stories very well. As such, I put it off for a day hoping that I'll have time the next morning. Two days in a row of going 110% doesn't bode well for posting.
Friday (11/05/2010): Adventures of Cane Man!
Let's just say that when I get older, if I am unable to walk without the assistance of a cane I will be disappointed. Walking is a super awesome thing, and once it is taken from you (even slightly disabled), many things in life become exponentially more difficult.
The first part of my day was spent attempting to figure out how to actually use my cane. Do I use my right hand and compensate by shifting my balance to the right when on my left foot? Do I hold it in my left hand and have it replace my left foot all-together? Both seem to work equally poorly for me, so I ended up attempting to synchronize the cane with my left food. In order to not keep weight on the foot, I actually have to walk about 1/8 of my normal speed.
Of course, as soon as I walked in the office I was dubbed "Dr. House". At least this gave me an excuse to act belligerent today.
The rest of the day was an exercise in concentration - the pain medication that the doctor put me on turned out to make me extremely drowsy. Combine that with desk work, and it was a long, tough day. The day went something like: start to drift, hobble up to the break room (5 minutes, typical 1 minute walk), grab a drink of water, head back to desk, work for another 45 minutes, repeat.
This went on until 3:15, at which time I had an appointment with the Orthopedist. That was a wait of almost 1.5 hours for an appointment time of 3:30. Neato! Anywho, the doctor took at look at my leg, asked me a few questions, and said that I shouldn't need an MRI. Instead, he told me that the arch on my left foot had completely collapsed. Turns out - plantar fasciitis after all.
The doctor pulled out a pair of Spenco arch supports and asked me to put them in my shoe. Immediately I went from hobbling around on a cane to be able to walk with a minor discomfort. I was amazed in the night/day difference in the arch supports. Unfortunately, I'll have to wear some arch support like this for the rest of my life. I also asked about my right foot, and he assured me that it will do the same thing in a matter of time.
Also, while at the hospital, I managed to have my local phone stolen. I learned the slang term of GSM in the Philippines as such today as well. GSM typically is a signaling protocol used in many mobile phones in the US and around the world. However, in the Philippines, this is known as Galing Sa Magnanakaw - Stolen Mobile Phone. All of the cheap cell phones that are for sale at Green Hills are GSM. The vendors typically purchase cell phones from someone looking to upgrade, because they need the newest model after all. Then, the vendors turn around and sell it at a deeply discounted price.
Stolen. Please don't try to call me on my local number for the short term until I can find a replacement.
The day ended positively with a beer, and then more work at the hotel until about 11PM that night.
Saturday (11/06/2010): James vs. the Volcano
Saturday's trip consisted of travels to Taal - the smallest volcano in the world! The trip was a travel to Tagaytay, about 51km from where we are in Manila, a 30 minute boat ride across Tagaytay lake, and a 45 minute hike to the top of the mountain to see inside of the volcano.
Above is a quick visual of the distance as well as the lake itself. If you see, you travel to Tagaytay, and then have to boat over to the island.
The trip to Tagaytay was rather painless - however, we had to go down to the lake front on a very small, unkept, winding road. The road itself had several road hazards - potholes, fallen rocks and other debris, and other cars. This road had cars going both ways, yet was barely big enough for one car. Every .2km, we had to carefully squeeze by another driver on the way down. Our driver did a great job of navigating this road. But we made it to the bottom, and then our trip began.
The boat ride was nice and relaxing. Unfortunately, there was a fair share of garbage in the lake itself. Once we got to the other end, we took a few moments for a nice photo shoot. Once disembarking off of the boat, we were accosted within seconds by locals selling random stuff to us. We purchased local hats and a surgical mask. The hats were necessary - it was good to be sheltered a bit by the sun. However, the surgical masks were billed to us as a way to prevent smells.
Me: What smells? Vendor: Horse shit and sulfur. Not good. Must buy now.
Really? A surgical mask to prevent the smell of horse and sulfur? Last time I checked, a mask prevented germs from spreading, but odors easily passed through said mask. My boss, a volunteer EMT, also confirmed this after we were duped into purchasing them. Hats: PHP 100, Mask: PHP 50, so no big deal.
The trip up the mountain was supposed to be via horse. So I mounted the horse and we started up. This was my first time on a horse, and I was being led by the owner of said horse. I was absolutely uncomfortable. First off, I felt bad for the horse. It was a small horse, and I'm 90 kilo. Secondly, the horse owner (also named James) was running alongside us guiding the horse while we were comfortably sitting on the horses. Not cool. So, my boss and I agreed to walk after about 10 minutes, and started to traverse the mountain. My feet were feeling pretty good with the arch support, so we started a rather brisk pace. After about 30 minutes, we got to the last leg of the mountain and my boss took off in a brisk walk. I have to be honest - he kicked my butt. I'm in better shape than when I got to the Philippines, but nowhere near this guy. He's also 25 years my senior, so I felt a bit silly by the entire experience. At the top of the mountain, I'm struggling to catch my breath, and he's just popping around.
I guess I have more work to do. Side note: I have lost almost 5 kilograms (~10 pounds) since arriving in the Philippines.
Got to the top, and took some nice pictures - mostly reflected in the video. Headed down, and by this time my leg started hurting again. I pushed it a little harder than I should have, and so I had to ride the horse on the way down. Not pleased with that, but I wasn't in a good position to walk anymore.
On the way down, the guy driving my horse started to tell me about his work. He only goes up and down the mountain once a day (so good for the horse, not too much work), and makes about PHP 50/trip. As such, that's all the guy makes in a day - about $1. This really depressed me, sitting on top of the horse and whatnot, so I tipped him PHP 1000. I thought about this as I was doing it - maybe it's a con in order to make stupid Americans feel guilty, but whatever - it's $22 dollars. I spend $22 on something stupid all the time - might as well make this guys day.
Get to the bottom and head back to Tagaytay. Our next stop is lunch. By this time it is 2PM, and none of us had eaten breakfast. The plan: Austrian cuisine. In many of the provinces, homes are converted into small restaurants where you can go and eat. This was a really novel concept - to go to someone's house and eat a meal. We arrived at the house and promptly sat down to eat. I had never had Austrian, so I was interested to see what would be on the menu. Lots of sausages and beer - so we have to do that! Sausage platter and local beers. Followed by Pizza! During that meal, I tried several new things that I have either never liked before or had bad experiences with in the past. The sausages came out with Sauerkraut, and combined with the sausage was delicious! I typically do not like kraut, so I'm going to have to rethink my position on this. The pizza itself was fantastic - had eggplant, onions, peppers, sliced tomatoes, and mushrooms. Oh my gosh - this pizza was fantastic. Add some chili peppers to the top of this pizza, and you had heaven.
I have to emphasize that the local brewery - San Miguel - has some of the best beer I have ever had. The pilsner is great, they have a dark beer (Cerveza Negra) that is delicious.
After lunch, we headed to a local massage place where I received a halot massage - this is a traditional Philippine massage that emphasizes natural healing. The massage itself was pretty good, but not as relaxing as it could have been. Why? Minor point - I was massaged by a guy as opposed to a girl. No major deal - the kinks were still worked out, but his hands were bigger and a little more tough than a woman typically is during a massage. Minor things, but I was still pretty relaxed.
Finally, we went to dinner - Antonio's. This is often rated one of the best places to eat in Asia. Their number one dish: Steak. We ordered food, and had an intro salad, a tomato bisque soup, followed by the main dish of an 800 gram steak (shared between three people). This combined with the wine choice made it one of the top 10 meals I have eaten in my life thus far. The food was absolutely delicious, the steak was amazing and was accompanied by garlic rice and a special steak sauce made specifically by Chef Tonyboy (Antonio).
After a full day of fun, we headed back to Manila on the drive home. I slept 9/10 of the way, only to wake up to come to my hotel, give my wife a quick call to let her know that I'm alive, and then move on to bed. I was absolutely exhausted from the day - I ended up with a healthy burn on my arms and a pretty serious burn on my hands.
In other news, I now have to begin finding fun things to do with my wife while she is here. Yesterday, I was given this list of places to potentially look at in order to visit. Any comments?