Tag Archives: travel

The Trip Part 2: Ayala Alabang

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Once Sara and I had adjusted to the time zone a bit, Sara’s Uncle Don took us out for lunch at the Asian Development Bank where he works as a lawyer. The ADB makes their business by helping Asian governments finance public works projects, like dams and bridges. The head office seemed more like a self-sufficient compound than anything else. There was a full-service garage with a gas pump, and the company store shipped in groceries from anywhere in the world for their international team of economic hotshots. The restaurant had a piano player and made quite the fine steak. From there we drove to Don and Judy’s house in the suburb of Ayala Alabang.

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Aside from the Spanish colonial architecture and security checkpoint, Ayala Alabang looked like a pretty normal gated community. There was a church, a community field, a country club, and even a small convenience store. The neighborhood is home to quite a few expatriates, as well as the staff that maintains all the houses. The wages in the Philippines are as such that houses like these will employ cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, or combinations of all three. Don and Judy’s house was no exception. They had a gardener named Nestor, a cook named Natty, and a housekeeper named Anning.

Judy and Sara with Simon, Jonah and Noah respectively.

Judy and Sara with Simon, Jonah and Noah respectively.

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Don and Judy's House

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Guest House

Guest Room

Guest Room

Now, if you know Don and Judy, you may have heard of their three boys, Simon, Noah, and Jonah. They are fraternal triplets and are 10-years-old as of this writing. They are very intelligent and inquisitive. They go through books like nobody’s business, and I think they came up with a plan to buy an iPhone through buying and selling beanie babies after I showed them my own device. Since Judy is trained as a teacher, she home-schools the boys in a small classroom in the second level of their guest house where Sara and I got to stay.

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Channeling my 10-year-old self, I thought it was very cool. Everything was very hands-on. They had charts to count in English, French, Roman and Mayan. For projects they completed relief maps of Africa and clay models of human skin layers. The construction of their tree-house was used to teach geometry. My personal favorite was their comparative novel studies. Simon, Noah and Jonah go through so many books that they were able to follow authors like Gary Paulsen, and made charts of all the similarities and differences between their novels.

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Natty, Sara and Anning

I must say Sara and I never ate as well during the whole trip as we had when Natty was cooking. For dinner there was food like stuffed peppers, chicken stir-fry wrapped in banana leaves, and curried beef. Breakfast included waffles, french toast, bacon and eggs. Sara and I should e-mail them for some recipes. However, I doubt we’ll ever get the presentation right!

The Trip Part 1: Enter the Philippines

Manila in the Daytime

Manila in the Daytime

You could almost drink the air. We flew Japan Air Lines. We arrived under the cover of night so we could see that the moon was a different shape. Customs and immigration were surprisingly laid back despite the “Death to Drug Traffickers” stmped on the customs slip. My friends and I tend to talk about how Canada and the US are different as we go back and forth. The philippines took those differences and multiplied them by a million.

Sara’s Uncle picked us up at the airport and took us on a harrowing chase through the streets of Manila. The architecture was a lot like the driving, accomplished with creativity and daring. Ragtag slums were punctuated with gigantic buildings of every shape and color, like an architect’s playground. A tremendous highway project lay dormant after accusations of graft during its construction. It seemed that no matter what people did here, no matter what obstacles they faced, they always managed to inject a little color and grandeur into the situation. It was a go-with-the-attitude married to the flamboyance you find in tropical places. After a while, we finally arrived at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Downtown Manila. Sara’s Aunt and Uncle had put us up there for two nights as a honeymoon gift.

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To start with, the hotel was utterly palatial. Giant marble columns gave way to wide palm fronds by the side of the pool. Our room overlooked all of this with a King-sized bed and two flat screen tvs. Sara and I had been to a Hilton or two in the past, but the service was unlike anything you would see in a Canadian Hotel. The staff would say Hello to you by name if you walked by. Sure, there were guards at the entrance, but their presence felt more like a courtesy than an imposition. This got me to thinking, is anyone served by presence of the gruff security detail? Now, I realize that Sara and I probably did not fit the profile of the people who wished to do ill to the hotel, but if someone was determined to do such things, is a stern grimace going to be the final straw that turns them back? In my opinion, a more relaxed hooligan would be more likely to inadvertantly reveal his intentions, and a frightened innocent would only provide a false lead and waste everyone’s time. Any thoughts?

It’s Go Time

Sara and I are sitting here in the terminal, waiting to go on our first trip overseas. I don’t know if I’ll sleep on the flight, I am that psyched. The first week of our trip takes us to the Philippines to stay with Sara’s Aunt, Uncle, and three triplet cousins. Those boys apparently have our trip planned for us, so I have no idea what to expect. From what I’ve heard, they reinforced their treehouse for me. There may be monkeys involved, I don’t know.

We’ll spend the next week in Tokyo, Japan with a day trip to Kyoto. I think this will be my first time in a city where I can go on a true museum crawl. There’s also thing called Anime that I am told I should check out.

If this post made it to the site, expect many more, hopefully with pictures.

Link Love

Here are some links I found in my travels this week:

Yamato toys is set to unveil a new line of products for the Macross event in Akihabara, including a 1/1 scale Fighter Pilot helmet. I’d be all over that thing if only I could fit my big giant head inside it. Via www.collectiondx.com

Ghostlightning over at “We Remember Love!” contemplates fan service outside the realm of pretty girls viewed at compromising angles.

We all know that the best Batman game was the one released on the NES after the movie came out 1989. An intrepid animator has created an intro for an 8-bit game based on the latest movie, “The Dark Knight”. This one will have you screaming “JUST PRESS START ALREADY!” Found via the Loony Blog.

Here’s an internet classic. The Smurfs are commies!

Some wicked mecha concept art found via espvisuals.

Someone has decided to transform a Japanese WWII Zero fighter into a Battloid.

It’s the Serenity crew in Lego form!

Fool’s Errant muses on the tropes and trends of Space Opera.

In Search of New Sci-fi

So after paying my library fines last week, I swore to myself that I was going to take out one, and only one book that day. Hopefully a light, entertaining jaunt that I could get through in a few days. Perhaps it was part of a series so I could enjoy those characters that I fell in love with again and again. Oh, and it had to have spaceships.

I decided to go with “The Shadow of Saganami” by David Weber. It’s actually the first novel in a spin-off series of the Honor Harrington Saga, which I remembered from the snazzy cover art I’ve seen grace the shelves of the bookshops from time to time. The novels star a female starship captain name Honor Harrington who spends most of her time kicking ass for an anachronistic constitutional monarchy out among the stars. While the novel didn’t directly star Ms. Harrington, it promised more of the same. A space opera full of shady political deals and massive starship battles. It seemed perfect. I took it home, cracked it open, and got to the beginning of chapter two before closing it again for good.

I realize that this might not be a fair review of the novel. After all, the book was meant for long-time fans of the series who were familiar with the universe, the terminology, and the characters. However, I didn’t get too far before I found that reading the rest of the book would just be a chore. The straight-laced characters seemed to have little to distinguish them outside the pips on their uniforms. I have a friends and relatives in the military, and in an industry where there is a culture of funny story battles, you’d think there would be more interesting ways to introduce a military officer character rather than having her checking over her dorm to see if she forgot anything. The dialogue was written in the same stilted American dialect that every major science-fiction universe has used since Larry Niven’s “Known Space” novels in the 1970’s. They also do that thing where they stop using contractions and use larger words to signify that they’re being sarcastic. They’ll say something like, “I am sorry I cannot acquiesce to your superior demands, O so-called viceroy of the surrounding sector and its principalities”. It makes me want to put my head through drywall.

So, back it goes to the library. My cousin recommended Neal Stephenson’s latest, so I think I’ll give it a shot. The problem is, I know why this series is a New York Times bestseller. The descriptions of the space battles are grand and detailed. If there is ever a TV show or movie from the Honor Harrington universe, I’d probably watch it (if only because David Weber wants Claudia Christian from Babylon 5 to play the title character). However, there was such an ennui in the tone of the book, like everything I was watching through the text had been done before. I find this is a problem with most science fiction after the 1980’s. As hard sci-fi concepts like computers and space travel become commonplace, writers put less effort into describing those things with the wonder and mystery that they used to. This is why I read older novels from authors like Heinlein and Niven. The novels still read like they are fantastic, even though the technology in them becomes dated by our standards. It’s important to remember that in science fiction, technology is more than just a way to get from plot point A to mcguffin B. They are symbols of humankind’s hopes and dreams.