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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Finding a Table

Today I set out to find a small table or desk to allow me to use my laptop more effectively when writing. My current arrangement involves lying on my bed and awkwardly typing with my laptop to the side of me on its cooler pad or alternatively placing my laptop on my stomach to type almost burning a hole through my clothes.

I set out with purpose to the only second hand furniture store in the area. I was disappointed to find that the only slight possibility was a heavily marked basic square wooden table with the price conveniently obscured standing outside the store. I asked the heavily armed guard at the door what the price was. He turned and summoned a shop assistant who in turn asked someone else who looked me up and down and announced confidently 4000 (about £56.)

I said that that was far too expensive and went to leave as the first shop assistant told me they had many more upstairs. I followed her upstairs and saw that there were some very nice desk tables also priced at 4000 meaning that the first one had been heavily inflated. I have become accustomed to this as "foreigners" are normally charged at least double the standard price. I was questioned about my nationality, job, length of stay in the Philippines etc and informed that my grasp of the local language was very good. This is all standard small talk in the Philippines so if you are a private person don't come here!

I thanked the assistant and left. I walked past the old "shoe man" who sits on the street next to a pillar in the same spot from morning till evening everyday mending peoples shoes for a small sum (30p.)He is always very cheerful and I was pleased to see that today he had at least 15 pairs of shoes on the ground in front of him, sometimes its just 2 or 3. The people collect them from him later in the day.

Then I walked past the again heavily armed and with much spare ammunition security guards outside various banks most of them saying "Hello Ma'm" with a smile and a nod.

Arriving at a department store I went in search of my table allowing the armed guard at the door to search my bag on entry. On finding a suitable new desk table for under £20 I was asked for ID in order to purchase it. This seemed a little odd as I was paying for it at the time and I didn't see how them seeing my ID would help but I've learned not to argue and I had my Driving Licence so I handed it over. I was informed that I would not be issued with a receipt but a claim form and that when my table was delivered later in the day the driver (doubling as the sales man that had sold me the table) would swap my claim form for the receipt.

When I was given and asked to sign the claim form I noted that I was signing to say that I had "received the item in good condition," which obviously I hadn't as it was to be delivered later so i pointed this out and declined to sign the form. The sales man gave me the only copy of the unsigned claim form anyway and said it was my copy?! I then tried to pay for delivery but was informed that I had to do this when the item was delivered...

In the shop, there were 4 female check out assistants squashed into the booth which was about 1 metre square and all were chatting to each other whilst customers waited patiently, this again is normal and interruptions are not usually welcome so its necessary just to wait.

On leaving the shop I went into a few other shops and observed a sign which said something like "There are many beautiful and lovely things here for you to look at...But if you break it consider it sold." I think this used to be an English shopkeepers rhyme which has been somewhat lost in translation.

I walked past 3 local men working who all stopped work to stare at me before announcing "you are so beautiful" as I hurried away. Being beautiful here doesn't have a lot to do with being beautiful.

Another security guard smiled and raised his half drunk mug of coffee to me announcing "coffee" as I walked past his shop. I smiled and politely declined as I wasn't sure if he was offering me some of the coffee he was consuming or was offering to make me a fresh cup. Its quite normal here to be invited in to peoples houses when you walk past and normally the first comment on entry is "Let's eat!"

On heading back after my relatively non eventful trip I was nearly ushered into a waiting Jeepney by an usher that somehow knew my first name(a Jeepney is a metal bus thing without windows that serves as the local transport here) It always amuses me how locals seem to allow themselves to be ushered into Jeepneys even when they seem to have had no intention of going in the direction taht the Jeepney is heading in as if they are just wandering around without an intended destination.

I caught site of some street food that I took a fancy to although I had no idea what it was. Probably some form of rice cooked ten different ways as rice is the staple here and served morning, noon and night. I bought a sample of each item from the very enthusiastic vendor and then gave him a Gospel tract which he took eagerly (instead of throwing it in the nearest bin like a Westerner!)

Then I walked back to my house passing the now very quiet and subdued dogs that yesterday burst through a gate, which I'm assuming should have been locked, and scared myself and a few street children that happened to be passing half to death as they growled and snarled at us.

Acknowledging the guard at the entrance to my road(who seems to be the only unarmed guard in the entire area) by raising my eyebrows which is the normal greeting, I arrived at my house.

Back at home and whilst waiting for my table to be delivered, I decided it was time to start a blog as so many interesting and strange things happen here every day.

As they say, It's more fun in the Philippines :)