Sunday, 10 December 2017

Reflections. And a phone stolen!

It is 2am on Sunday morning and I have woken bright and early, my brain still in Manila time, 9am. I will write here, have a tea and go back to bed in the hope of re-synchronising to Spanish time. I got back home yesterday at 4.30pm which is 23.30 in Manila. In Manila time, I was travelling from 2pm on Friday to 11.30pm on Saturday! Flights of 3, 6 and 7 hours with relaxing breaks in between (often writing the blog).
I was met at Barcelona Airport by an Emirates driver who took me to Barcelona Sants station, part of the perks of travelling in business class. The other most obvious advantage is a seat which turns into a bed in the plane. 
I bought a ticket for the train to Girona, bought a tea in McDonald's Café and went to the platform. I also had a plastic bag with a few clothes and some cheese which the Emirates crew gave me as a doggy-bag. I also had my 22kg suitcase. I was super-tired. I was balancing a polystyrene cup of tea to stop it spilling. What am I getting around to?
I was chatting to two friends on Skype using my expensive Samsung S6 phone. When I wasn't using it, I put it in my bag. But I guess I left the zip open because when I took my seat in the train, it was gone. There was a guy who brushed past me when I got on the train, maybe it was him. It was so unfair! But who said life was fair?? I was still wearing the tee shirt that I slept in and my jacket was still in my suitcase so there was nowhere for the phone. The bag was full so it was difficult to close the zip on the side pocket.

Welcome back to Barcelona. I was in a small compartment in the train and my companions were so helpful. One guy opposite lent me his phone to ring 1004, the Movistar number, in order to block the phone. Another person gave me tethering so that I could change my Skype password. The girl who spoke to me at Movistar had a Colombian accent and I am rather fond of that sound. I asked if she was in Colombia! She said, "No, I am in Madrid". We laughed because she was indeed colombiana.

When I arrived in Girona, I decided to take a taxi to the Movistar shop to get a new SIM to replace the one blocked. But it was a fiesta yesterday, part of the puente  of 6th and 8th December and the shop was closed. So we just continued on to my home. For safety, I also changed my Google password. I rang Movistar again and they reassured me that the phone was blocked until I was able to visit the Movistar shop tomorrow, Monday. I started to think how stupid it was to be carrying around a phone which cost me 600 euros when there are perfectly good phones such as the J5 at a third of the price. My second phone which I use to connect to foreign networks when I am abroad is a J1, less than 100 euros. So tomorrow, I will buy a J5 or J7 because I need a decent camera and the camera in the J1 is poor quality.

Sunday morning 7am. I slept well, it will help me synchronise with European time!

Reflections on the trip...... My overall impression is of Nomel being cold and distant with me while being very warm and friendly with Joshua. This was rather unfair (that word again!) and I never understood why he did it. He denied it of course but I said to him that I was sure he knew what he was doing. His English is not bad so it wasn't a language problem. His mum made the same comment to him, calling it his "attitude". It hurt me. And then on the very last day, he switched on his smile. Maybe it is about pride, accepting money. It is as though he is bitter. Anyway, who cares? I am back home among numerous friends who are kind to me and Nomel is now back to being an icon on Skype. But I am sad because there is so much I can teach him (father instinct). Maybe we will do it on Skype. I think not.

I was a little shocked (but not surprised) when, on Thursday, we went to the supermarket to buy food and mum wanted to buy 4 antibiotic tablets at the pharmacy for her toothache. I told her they wouldn't help, she needed a course of a week. And anyway, she needed to visit a dentist. But she expected me to pay for them. I protested, I had given them a sum of money a few days earlier to pay for things like that, to save them asking me for money all the time. In the end she agreed to pay me back when we went back to the apartment, which she did. It was not a large sum, maybe about 4 euros. Next morning, I decided that I had been a little mean and I gave the money back to her. She accepted it without hesitation. I have to accept that this is how they are, their culture is totally different. I mean, not because they are Filipinos because there are many Filipinos who would insist on paying for their own medication - they have no money. But I receive numerous messages from Nomel with effusive thanks for helping them. Thanks from the family. Photos of happy smiling faces. When I got home, there were several photos of them on Skype in front of a wall where they had posted some paintings which I gave them last week, including a portrait of Nomel in oil.
For 130 euros a month (which otherwise would sit in my bank doing nothing), I am supporting a family of a mother and five children (Nomel at 23 is the oldest in the house. There is an older married sister but she lives separately. The youngest, two boys are about 10). I don't pay for food, but I pay the rent and a share of the electricity. And I have offered to pay for wired internet, ADSL because they use 3G only which is very patchy and slow. Of course, I often feel that they are taking me for granted - taking the mickey - but it only takes one message, one word and I realise how much they appreciate what I do for them. I am mistaken if I expect an English response. By paying the rent for a separate house, I enabled them to move away from the oppressive atmosphere of their grandmother's house where there was a huge family packed into a small space. There were many arguments because their father came to visit the grandmother.

Am I glad I went? Oh, 100% sure! I had a great time in Bangkok. I have so many wonderful memories of the three weeks in the Philippines, some memories not so wonderful, sure. But that is how life is, not a bowl of cherries. It is there to be experienced and I am so lucky to have the money and the time to travel. Nomel and I argued from time to time but his mum and the two sisters who came to visit were so nice. Joshua made everyone laugh a lot including the staff at the beach resort, I was very happy about that. It would have been very different if Nemia or Nomelyn had come to Bantayan instead. Joshua was obsessive about washing his face with whitening soap, he would spend a very long time in the bathroom and it would end up awash with water. He cleared his throat obsessively and spat. He urinated even when he had no need, in a bus shelter when we were only 100m from the beach resort, as if it was leaving his signature (I am too polite to say what that reminds me of). I even caught him peeing in the bathroom by the shower which was not an enclosed space. Nomel's attitude towards me was probably linked to Joshua because it was different when Joshua went home. I talked to Nomel about it - I told him that I didn't like his habits (none of us did), but the person was funny and very camp. But a big show-off and competition for me, I think.
But I regret nothing. Even the money I spent. It seemed that I was visiting ATMs a lot - I had to pay for most things in cash - but when I got back home yesterday and looked at my UK bank statement which is what I had been using, it did not make much of a dent because my private pensions arrived during the same period and balanced it out. Much of the money was in supermarkets and I do that at home too. I paid for the airfare and condo at Redwoods a long time ago - water under the bridge and it was for me anyway.
Oh, by the way, one of the people working at the beach resort was also a ladyboy. I thought she was really nice, I had quite a soft spot for her. I know I say "he" sometimes and "she" other times to describe our ladyboys but that is how it is - still a guy but it is normal to say, "she". Try saying "he" to describe a transgender woman in the UK, even in error and expect crucifixion in the press.
I cried on the flight to Barcelona when I listened to my music with a glass of wine, ostensibly abut my friend with the beautiful voice in Manila who I will miss. But it went far deeper than that. I used to do it a lot; an aeroplane, a little alcohol and classical music and sometimes I go to a totally different plane. There is a pain inside me which I can't explain, but it departs for a short time when I do that and leaves me in peace. I look terrible but I feel liberated inside. It's too complicated to talk about here and anyway I don't understand what it is, despite many attempts to do so. It is not depression, that is different. Maybe I wrote about it in my life story which I am putting up as a separate blog here, I can't remember. It is a big puzzle in my life. I imagine arriving at the gates of Heaven and rather like the answer in a TV quiz, being told, "The answer is...... ".
"Ohhh, now you tell me!!"

I will do very little and spend very little over Christmas. On 21st December there is a critical vote in Catalunya, I am desperately hoping that the moderate parties will gain power and restore calm and equilibrium to the region. And on 27th December, I go to Colombia again and I will write about it here, of course! If you have read my blog in the past about Colombia you will think I am a devil for punishment, but I love the country and the people. It's not just about my friend there.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Going Home - updated in an A380!

Wow, I have a story to tell you! I am in the Emirates Lounge in Bangkok Airport on the way home. The flight from Manila with Thai Airways seemed to pass very quickly - in fact it was about 3 hours. Now I have a 6 hour flight to Dubai, a change of planes, and then a flight to Barcelona arriving around mid-day local time (but evening in the Philippines). But I have the luxury of a bed in the plane so I hope to get some sleep.
There is so much to tell you about the last two days when we came back from Bantayan to Manila, some of it was a little nightmarish! 
If you to ask me if I had a great time, I would probably say, "No". But as for a huge bucket-load of experiences and emotions, I could not beat it. If I were to be truly honest, I did not like Joshua, Nomel's friend. He had some rather strange obsessive habits, one was urinating not in the regular place! And yet I have spent 3 weeks with him, plus mum and Nomel. And Nomel paid very little attention to me and lots to Joshua. Admittedly they could speak Tagalog to each other. This wore me down a little because I have to admit that I have a lot of love for Nomel, I cannot explain why. Almost in love. A young guy, 23, taking hormones to be more feminine, the most obvious result being breasts. A million miles away from me culturally let alone the obvious age gap. Does he manipulate me? I think so.
To be brutal, the family is rather tight financially, even with money I have given them to spend. But that is the way they are. I have cynical moments of course, but my heart rapidly softens. I have spent a fortune on this trip because they have no money and I have been paying for four people all the time.
I will tell you about our arrival back in Manila because it was truly awful...
The flight was delayed and we arrived in Manila Airport around 2pm. We searched for a taxi but it was complicated. Mum wanted to come back to Redwoods with me, Nomel and Joshua wanted to go home. I went to Yellow Taxis which are metered but there was an enormous queue. Then we went to fixed-price taxis... expensive. I had the brilliant idea to take a bus to the nearest Metro station at Baclaran which is what we did. I thought that, if we couldn't take the train, we could hail a taxi. The area around the Metro was terrible, like something out of Dante's Inferno. There were so many people milling around it was as if it was after a football match. The Metro station was totally packed. Joshua was getting very moody because he had wanted a taxi from the airport to his home. Then he started feeling ill. And then it started getting dark and we still couldn't find a taxi among the mass of traffic. Nomel was getting a bit panicky, saying that it was a bad area. I couldn't disagree with that. Finally we found a taxi which would take us all back to Redwoods. We abandoned any idea of taking Joshua back home. But now he was in a bad way, stopping the taxi to be sick (but in fact wasn't). The traffic was terrible. We got back to Redwoods at 8.45pm and I went swimming till the pool closed at 9pm as a way of cleansing myself from the experience. Then I went to the supermarket to buy food for supper. By the time I returned, both Nomel and Joshua were asleep. We ended up eating at 11pm. I was shattered by the experience. Next day, I had a headache but today was better. Nomel was being nice to me for the first time in 3 weeks (maybe I exaggerate). We all went to the airport and here I am in Bangkok. Now I will go and look for my plane to Dubai.
I found the plane to Dubai, I know that because I am now in the Emirates Lounge in Dubai Airport. I slept quite well on the plane, a 777, the spaces are not as big as on the A380 which will take me to Barcelona. The ride was very bumpy over India and it woke me early. My neighbour told me there had been a storm below us with lightning but I missed the display because I had been sleeping.
Dubai holds many memories for me dating right back to 1978 when I designed a network for monitoring fire alarms, access control in a huge new shopping mall here. I used to come here regularly up till about 2000 as I had a maintenance contract to look after my baby. After that time, they updated it with a newer system and I shut down my company anyway and moved to Spain. In parallel with this blog, I am writing about parts of my life, such as Dubai, and it should be complete around the end of the year. It started out as an autobiography but I thought that Blogspot would be an idea way of doing it. I have lots of photos which I will include. It's already written, all I have to do is transfer it across to the autobiography-blog.
I still feel a little tired so I will probably sleep some more on the flight to Barcelona. I usually adjust to the time difference very quickly, I used to suffer from jet lag but not now.
I am writing this with a cup of tea and a cookie! And now I will go to board the plane. The gate for me is right next to the bar, so within 5 minutes I will be on the plane!

I get three breakfasts when I change planes in Dubai! One just before arrival, one in the Emirates Lounge in Dubai and one when I leave Dubai for Barcelona in the A380 (I am sure you know that the A380 is sometimes called "super jumbo" because it is currently - and probably always will be - the largest passenger jet in service. Emirates has 100. I went to Toulouse on a tour of the Airbus factory once). There is wifi on the plane, so I am writing this about 4.5 hours away from Barcelona, somewhere north of Syria. We get a nice lunch before arriving and lamb is on the menu! I am so tired of rice with everything and the meat is either pork or chicken. Oh, or fish. The nightmare of Manila traffic is receding at 800km/hour. I don't think I will be going back in a hurry (3 weeks there was crazy). We have a headwind of 100km/hour.  

I thought of something else to say. I am sure you will worry about my sanity when I talk about being in love with a 23 year-old guy in Manila. So I will explain. I feel love towards him rather like a father to a son, nothing more than that (well, OK not totally honest). But one evening we booked a Karaoke session in a small room, exclusively for us. And Nomel sang one or two songs very beautifully. One was a Carpenters song, I am not sure if this is the title... "Love me for what I am.." Nomel's voice is rather like that of Karen Carpenter but a male person with a female singing voice as opposed to a female person and masculine voice. I explained about Karen Carpenter, how she died very young. But Nomel singing this song blew me away, it was wonderful. And it was almost like falling in love. That is what I am saying.
I haven't mentioned Nemia, another of Nomel's sisters. I met her last time I was in Manila and she wanted to come to Redwoods to see me the last day I was there. She is very sweet and it was very nice to see her again. And finally Joshua went home and we were just family, what a relief!

Monday, 4 December 2017

A boat trip

I'm writing this during a late lunch on Monday, our last full day here. My friends are having a typical filipino lunch with the inevitable rice but, because it is 3.30pm I just had a tuna sandwich and tea. Very English! I'm sure I've lost weight on this trip but there's nothing wrong with that. I'll soon put it back on over Christmas in Spain!
Yesterday we booked a boat trip to Virgin Island which is about an hour away. The sea was quite choppy and because Joshua cannot swim and Nomel and his mum barely at all, we reached for the life-jackets. They were totally useless, all the straps were missing. We continued on our way but certainly, Joshua would have panicked if he had been thrown into the sea. On the way back it was very calm so there was no danger.

What we hadn't been told was that the island is privately owned and there was a landing fee of about 500 pesos for the four of us. We even had to pay extra to use a table. The hotel advertised a "barbecue" but it was nothing of the sort. They had provided polystyrene containers with cold rice and meat all enclosed in a plastic bag - no cooling. There was a very mean supply of iced tea. The food was awful, the chicken not cooked properly. I warned Joshua not to eat it as he gnawed at red chicken meat. Later he was ill. But we had a very nice day despite that. When I complained about the bloody chicken, the response was not to take it very seriously. We got back at about 4pm.
In the evening we went back to the mini-disco. Mum likes to dance! Later Nomel came together with Joshua who was making frequent visits to the loo, and the ladyboy friend who he had been visiting on the night of the motorbike (I am still upset with myself about being so angry. Time for a little self-forgiveness I think.) We all danced together and had a super time. It is funny really. I think Mila likes me rather a lot and I have a bit of a crush on Nomel despite the fact he is a guy. To all appearances, when dancing he is a very attractive girl who I like a lot. Or maybe I am a little bit Bi. Wouldn't that be the dream. I marry Mila, buy a house for us and we all live happily ever after. Don't worry, I am only joking.... I hope! If I move abroad it would be to Colombia where I already speak the language. I can speak bits of Tagalog but I have no idea what my friends are saying when they are together and I would have to raise my level greatly to be able to follow the conversation.
Joshua is a very strange guy, I can't say I like him very much and it has been a little stressful living with him. He has obsessive habits such as washing his face with whitening soap. Once he is in the bathroom, expect 20 minutes of sloshing water. Mum would have preferred that we were all family but he was a companion for Nomel and they seem very happy together. I suspected at one stage that they were an item but Nomel assures me that it is not the case.
But I am waiting for the result of the elections in Catalunya on 21st December. Crucial to the future... and my future. I am also plagued by the uncertainly over Brexit and my status as a UK citizen in the EU. But that may be resolved around the end of the year also because the UK is eager to get going talking about trade deals.

Looking ahead, we will catch a ferry back to the main island at about 12 or 1pm which should  get us back to Cebu at around 7pm. I've booked a hotel near to the bus station which leaves us plenty of time to catch our flight back to Manila at 12.30. Then Nomel and Joshua will go back to their homes and Mila wants to come with me back to Redwoods!! Then Nemia, Nomel's sister will come with Nomel next day to Redwoods.


Saturday, 2 December 2017

Rather a disastrous day!

I mentioned in my previous post that Nomel had hired a small motorbike but in fact she took out the rental mid-afternoon and it was due to expire at 1am the following day (meaning Saturday - I am writing this with a beer at 7pm Saturday evening). She decided to take full advantage of the bike and, after supper, she and Joshua went out for what Nomel called a "stroll". They said that they would be back by 1am which was far too late for me anyway. I wanted to go to bed at 11pm because I slept very little the previous night due to their late return from the disco. Instead I sat with mum until about midnight and we went to bed. I fell asleep but, almost as if by a clock, I woke at 1am to find the room totally empty, not even mum was there. I started to get anxious about the two girls; I had no idea where they were. I thought that maybe mum had gone out to look for them. I sent a text to Nomel, no reply. I rang three times, no reply. I started to become very anxious. At 1.40, Nomel sent a text message to say that they were in the home of a friend, the phone was muted, sorry to make me anxious, back soon. Why was the phone muted? Normally it is to avoid receiving calls. Mum had in fact been in contact with Nomel by text but she didn't tell me and she wasn't in the room to reassure me. I think, I am sure wrongly, that I had intentionally been left out of the loop. He saw his mother's text but not mine.
Unfortunately by the time they calmly drove up to the hotel, I was ready to explode. And much to my regret, I did so. At that point mum walked up the street, she had gone out to a bar being very frustrated about the missing girls. The argument continued into our room, I said repeatedly that I didn't know where they were and that I was worried. This is the Philippines and, although this is a small island, my imagination had been running riot. Nomel got very angry, at one point throwing things across the room. His voice was very masculine and aggressive. Then mum joined in. It was crazy. I pleaded with Nomel to make up, forgive each other - I apologised for being so angry with him but to no avail.

I think we all finally got to sleep around 4am. Mum was talking angrily at Nomel about his attitude, "arrogant" is probably the best word.
We woke at around 10am and peace prevailed but I had been very shocked by Nomel's bad temper (but I can talk!) I postponed the boat trip to the next day because we were all so tired.

I went swimming and then the staff came out to call at me, the friends wanted to go on a "land tour" of the island and was that OK with me. I agreed but it was a total nightmare. I should have known what to expect. The roads are terrible, some are simply tracks, and the transport was a trike (the correct term is tribike, a motorcycle with sidecar which takes up to four passenger). It was a truly awful jarring experience. Two places we visited, an eco-park and nature reserve were totally boring, there was nothing happening. (I have some photos in my Nikon camera - I will add them later). This was funny, we stopped by this blue tarpaulin sheet which obscured the sea beyond.

We left at 2pm and arrived back at 6.30pm. I said to the hotel staff who suggested it that I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy. We were very lucky because a big storm has rolled up as I write this and the rain is pouring down. Imagine if that had happened when we were in the nature reserve or simply travelling in the tribike. I should be grateful for small mercies.
Now I know you are going to be asking me again.... What am I doing in the Philippines with an arrogant, ungrateful ladyboy when I could be having afternoon tea with that nice young woman who does the flowers at St George's? And my answer is that it is an exciting adventure. It hurts sometimes, a holiday it is not. I had the same experience with Nini in Colombia but I would not have swapped that visit for the world - so many fantastic memories. The same here. And I'm going back to Colombia for 2 months on 27th December - a devil for punishment! But she is married now so maybe that has calmed her hispanic temper. And I think I know why the experience is very similar between the two. I give them money (to pay for rent basically) but I think it injures their pride and ironically, they take it out on me. And both have fathers who have flown the nest. I had a long chat with Nomel's mum while we were waiting for them to return from their bike ride and Mila said that he missed having a father. It has rather inflated his importance because it is as though he has taken the place of his father. But Mila is still head of the family and I will be communicating with her more in the future. The money goes to her bank account.

Friday, 1 December 2017

A Disco

A year ago, I was writing about Nini, my friend in Colombia. And we had one spectacular argument in Cartagena de Indias because I insisted she return to the hotel with the tour rather than stay alone at a disco.
Last night there was a disco in an open sports area near to the port, part of a local fiesta but I had checked it out the previous evening and the sound level at the low frequencies was horrendous, far in excess of anything I have experienced before. I went reluctantly but, at the entrance, I kept on advising that it could damage hearing. Nomel would not accept this advice and even quoted a trike driver nearby, "He says it is OK". Not wanting to make too much about my years in TV as a sound engineer, I have to admit this wound me up greatly and I was angry with him. He got moody with me. We all went into the disco area (remember, this was outdoors). We took a table and I put ear plugs in. The beat, an artificially low thump assailed my body, I could feel the sound inside me and it almost threw me back in my chair. It was quite unbelievable. I stuck it for about 10 minutes and then left with mum. We went to a small disco near to the resort where we are staying. We were there the previous night, I will post some photos later. There were two young girls (hehe, real girls!) who worked there, dancing erotically with lots of wiggling bottoms. They were so beautiful. Mila and I drank beer and danced. But little by little we became anxious about the two ladyboys, Nomel and Joshua. We were hoping they would accept that the outdoor disco was all that I feared but they never came back to the mini-disco. Mila and I walked back to the resort. She was in contact with Nomel but at midnight they still had not returned. I will explain, the port area is not very far from the resort, I guess a walk of about 25 minutes but it was dark and we usually took a trike. At 12.30, I fell asleep and woke at 1.30am to see the bed still empty. I phoned Nomel, "Where are you?" They were still at the port area waiting for transport.
In the end, they arrived back with apologies at 2am having walked down the dark street through the woods, not a good idea. I was rather annoyed inside, but not to them. We quickly fell asleep. This is a dilemma, I felt responsible for them although I was with mum, for two reasons. One the seriously damaging sound levels and also the fact that we had left two young not terribly sensible people at a disco. Of course the usual response is, "We are not children". I guess my response would be to say, "Then act like adults!"

Unfortunately I am tending to rise to bait when Nomel attempts to score points off me, I think it is a kind of competition with him. At breakfast, I suggested an island tour next day which was posted in the bar areas. Nomel said, "Nooo. We were going with a friend of my mum. Maybe you forgot". This wound me up but maybe I should ignore it and put it down to "lost in translation" but even allowing for that, it was rather patronising. Or maybe you, dear reader, are thinking I am being too sensitive. This led to an argument because I said that he was always doing it, attempting to score points, but we made up soon afterwards. We are going on the boat trip which I have organised, I wanted to lay on the excursion myself, I prefer it that way. And anyway, it is not expensive. I will take lots of photos!
After lunch I went for a walk taking a few photos. Nomel and Joshua wanted to rent a motorbike so I said, "Well, you can!" But they wanted me to join them. It took a lot of persuading to explain that I was very happy in the resort, I had ordered some tea and I had plans for another painting. Oh, I didn't say, I did a watercolour of a boat parked on the beach, gave it to the staff here and they put it up in the bar. When Nomel, Joshua and mum disappeared, I was a little worried whether Nomel could handle the bike so it was a motive to join them. I think they wanted me to drive but I don't like the roads here, full of potholes and a variety of strange wheeled transport coming in the other direction, bikes with sidecar, trikes, small motorcycles.... and very few cars!


Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Island of Bantayan - updated with photos

I'm writing this around mid-day on Thursday, the last day of November. I'm on the terrace of our room and I'm looking out over the kind of beach that one sees in the travel brochures. A coral reef which ends about 100m from the shore depending on the tide. The idea of tides is a strange concept for one who lives close to the Mediterranean but back in the UK, sometimes the beach would be so flat that the sea would be a distant shimmer.
This morning after breakfast I swam out to the edge of the reef. I found part of the beach which was clear of coral "rocks" so I was able to walk out to a perfect stretch of water for swimming. I remember snorkeling off Jeddah on the Red Sea and the sudden drop into the depths at the edge of the reef was spectacular.
Yesterday, I spent a large part of the day organising money. The owner of Grass Residences had sent a 9000 peso refund by Western Union and I thought it would be a simple matter to present the reference number and my passport and collect my money because I have often sent money by Western Union. But it was a huge performance and I still don't have the money 24 hours later. The local agent said the was a problem and could I phone Western Union but there was no reply from the number. The ATM across the road was not working either and I needed cash to pay the resort. I had to reassure them that their money was guaranteed by when we arrived on Tuesday. So we had to take the hotel trike to Bantayan town where I could draw the cash - a 20 minute journey. And I put a photo of that on the previous post. The Western Union office in Bantayan town said they couldn't process the transaction because it was already initiated with the agent in Sta Fe, the town where we are  staying. So I got rather frustrated with the Western Union agent. But at least I could go back and pay the resort in cash.

This afternoon we went back to the Western Union agent but again it was shambolic. Finally, I got through to Western Union and after a little while, handed my phone to the young woman, the agent. She spoke seemingly for ages but finally it seemed there was a breakthrough. I got my money. Then she photocopied my passport and I kept on saying to myself, "Don't forget to get passport back". But I think I was so taken aback at her request for 2 pesos for the photocopy, that I forgot to ask for my passport back. And it was only when I was writing about this that I remembered that she did not give it back to me. Big pause in writing blog to go back and retrieve passport from photocopier! Here are some more photos! As you can see, it is low tide and the reef is almost uncovered. The group is taking a boat trip and the boat is waiting at the edge of the reef. Later I sat on the beach drinking some tea and painted a boat as the tide came in. I used a chair from the hotel. Then, as dusk fell, I went swimming again.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Cebu - now with photos!

I ended the last post on Sunday evening, staying in Redwoods on my own. Next day, I did some shopping and had some lunch. Rivetting news! Then at about 4pm I took a taxi to our pre-arranged hotel next to the airport. Originally I had planned to take the Metro but in the end I was lazy and just took a taxi. Some of the journey was very slow but it rained  some of the time and it was door-to-door. My friends arrived later at about 9pm and I talked their driver in to the correct location as he didn't have GPS. We went out for some food and I was getting a little anxious about how much money I was spending but I need not have worried that evening because a chicken meal for 4 of us cost about 6 euros!
We slept really badly. The air-conditioning was very noisy and my friends insisted on running it despite the fact that it wasn't really needed. I won the argument at about 4am. The two girls also lie in bed chatting and using their phones for chatting after "lights out" and that makes falling asleep very difficult. We all exchanged stories of a bad night the next morning. Nomel said that he only slept 1 hour.
We were really lucky with the hotel shuttle bus, it was leaving at a perfect time, about 7.40am but we had to skip breakfast in the hotel. The journey to the terminal was only about 15 minutes. The hotel said that it was "not their policy" to print out boarding passes which I thought was rather mean-spirited and so we navigated the terminal with the boarding passes on my phone which worked fine. Swiping the screen moved between the four people.
We had our delayed breakfast at leisure air side and went to the gate. There was a late change to the gate but that was no problem. What shocked me was that at no time were IDs checked. I could have been anyone! And the departure was a shambles, we sat in the plane on the stand for an hour while the ground staff desperately juggled passengers. I think they had over-allocated some of the seats.
The flight when it finally happened was a little over an hour and soon we arrived in Cebu from which we would take the ferry to our final destination, the island of Barangay which is where I'm writing this now. First we had to take a taxi to the bus station on the mainland, the airport is on an island. We were very lucky withe the bus. We were running an hour late, of course, and we just managed to catch the last bus which would synchronise with the ferry (after hurried visits to the CR as they call it. In my simplified English, I call it a pee!

The first half of the journey was awful, most of it in second gear. We stopped for 15 minutes for some food but then the road was much better, up through tropical forests and then down to the port. The bus journey was over four hours. We arrived at the port in plenty of time for the ferry which left at 5.30pm - the crossing was a little over an hour, very slow. The resort offered to pick us up at the ferry port which was fortunate for me. I had misjudged how far it was from the port and we would have had a terrible time finding it. Our transport was a motor-bike with trike. We all piled in complete with our bags and we were soon at the resort. It is right on the beach and our room on the first floor is perfect, one very large double bed for the three, and one bed for me. By the way, I shared a bed with Mila in the airport hotel - it was fine! We are family! 
Our first night here, we all slept very well and we're now enjoying our idyll on a tropical island. The beach is rather disappointing because, despite looking absolutely wonderful, there are many loose "rocks" of coral under the surface which makes walking rather perilous and painful. What do I expect? The beach is coral. Maybe I will have to come back in 1000 years when it's all been reduced to sand by the sea.  
I just tried to upload some photos but it's not working for some reason, so I'll add them later.Now I've uploaded them!
One thing that was rather funny! I asked at the bar if they had any tea. They said that they had green tea and yellow tea. I asked what was yellow tea. They showed me a packet of Lipton's Yellow Label! I said that would be fine! But I waited for ever, maybe they were milking the cow. Then they explained that the packet they showed me was empty. Later I bought some Earl Grey decafeinated tea. The staff are very bright and intelligent so I don't like to tell a story which makes them appear stupid. One girl serving us is also a ladyboy, so that makes four of us. Plus one real woman, Mila the mum!

 Waiting at the ferry terminal

My friends waited in the taxi while I visited an ATM.