Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ninth Post

The Great Jeepney Strike

Fury at the steep rise in fuel prices has led to a two day transport strike hereabouts. No taxis, no Jeepneys. Just as well; it’s been raining cats and dogs. Consequently I have limited my outdoor excursions to those absolutely necessary. I was getting low on potable water and needed to go order some. I waited for a break in the rainfall before getting ready. The lull didn’t last long, so by the time I was ready it was coming down again. I slogged through some fairly deep puddles to run my errand. I had purchased a new umbrella a few days before when I suspected we were in for rain. The poor thing lasted one street crossing. With the taxis and jeeps off the streets, heavy trucks hauling cane move right along. I was standing a bit too close when one went by. The air turbulence broke all the threads holding the canopy to the frame. And it was so pretty, too. Sniff.

The roofs in this complex are corrugated galvanized steel. They’re gabled, some running at right angles to others. There are neither rain gutters nor downspouts. The racket created by water striking the patio at the junction of the nearest angle is enough to drown out the sound of my laptop’s speakers. It was two tropical depressions causing the water works. One moved on a northerly track to the east of the archipelago pouring water on the whole country. The other went by here to the west on a northerly track, but has now turned northeast and is pounding Central Luzon. There will be floods and washed out terrace plots from it. The noise awakened me several times the last few nights.

That’s a change. Before the rains came, the wake up call came from a lizard, a rooster, and the church down the street. To explain; there is a large gecko on the next property. He/she calls randomly in the dark hours. The family on the other side had a rooster who added to the early morning wakeup call until a week ago. I can’t help but think he wound up being Sunday dinner after losing his match at the cock fights. He did, however, do his job before going on to inglory, there are several chicks running around in that yard now. I’m sure the church is still issuing calls to the faithful in the wee hours, I don’t hear them over the uproar caused by the rain.

A Word or Two on Plumbing

There is no hot water in this building. I can buy and have installed an electrical heater for the shower. So far I haven’t seen the need. I do heat dishwater in an electric kettle.

The shower plumbing is a bit unusual but practical. There is the normal shower head and its control valve. Then there is a spigot located a bit above knee height. I’ve found two practical uses for it. Running water is not a 24/7 proposition here. Unless a building is equipped with its own elevated holding tanks – this one has ‘em – you’re not taking a shower until it comes back on. . . Unless, of course, you maintain a large tub (ten gallons or so) in your shower area which you fill every time the water is on. The spigot comes in handy for filling your tub.

The other use is washing your feet without having to remove clothing. This is the tropics and most of us wear as little as modesty will permit. I’ve had on shoes and long pants twice in the last two and a half months. Every time else I’ve worn sandals and shorts. Spritzing the feet down after a walk on these hot days not only cleans them, but it also cools them.

Bathroom fixtures are smaller than the ones I’m accustomed to. The toilet in particular sits about 4 inches lower than the ones in the states. They are you usually equipped with plastic seats. The seat here didn’t last long when my 190 pounds plopped on it. I found something considerably more substantial in a local building supply outlet.

Target for Subtle Crime

I’ve had two encounters with criminal elements in the past couple of weeks. A pickpocket skillfully sliced my left hip pocket with a razor. He hauled butt when he found a pocket pack of tissues to be the bulge rather than a well stuffed wallet. One of the witnesses asked me where my wallet was. I smiled and told her it was in California. I was a wee bit peeved. Those were new shorts and they now have a 2 inch slit in the left hip pocket.

The other incident was much more insidious. I saw a little girl – I misestimated her age at 6 or so – playing on the escalator in a local mall. I explained to her that she should be careful, it would be very easy for her to get hurt. Whereupon she attached herself to me like a limpet.

I made a purchase in one of the stores and asked the cashier to translate for us. The girl said she was nine, didn’t know where her parents were nor could seem to recall when she’d last seen them, and that she lived in the streets. I know there are a lot of kids living like that here, but they are an abstract until I meet one in person.

I checked my purchase at the courtesy booth and took her to a barbecue restaurant for a bit of pork and rice. I was busy on the old mobile phone during the repast. I needed to run down my police woman friend.

Once the girl and I met the lady cop, the decision was made that she belonged in the Filipino equivalent of Child Protective Services. The girl’s story began to unravel as she was going through intake. A police officer recognized her as being part of a scam operation.

A little prompting by a skilled, yet motherly, female interrogator got an entirely different story. Her parents send her out to latch on to strangers like she latched on to me. She was instructed to go to their home and stay with them for a few days, and then lead her parents to the quarry’s home. It also turned out she is twelve. The Murphy Game in spades.

I heard the warning to do everything in my power to avoid even the hint of having sex with underage girls. In this case, my concern for the welfare of what I thought to be an innocent child kicked over a pretty well laid trap and even better, I played a small part in putting the bait out of reach of her conniving parents for months, maybe even years. They went fishing for a pervert or someone who could be accused of being a perv to blackmail and got themselves an over-aged Boy Scout.

I did explain to my lady police friend later, that American pervs who grab kiddies usually off the kiddies after they get their kicks. She turned a bit green when she heard that even under that lovely Morena skin.