Gahapon (yesterday) was a great day.
I woke up at 8:15 a little hung over. Quick shower, quick breakfast of rice and chicken leg at Manang's, then off to my 9am class at Institute for Informatics.
This is a foreign school, headquartered in Singapore. I would have preferred a Filipino school, but none of them offered the courses I want, so I chose Informatics. Today's class is Introduction to the Internet, the mandatory first class in the Certified Internet Professional Program. It's pretty basic, but enjoyable to hear the Philippine perspective on the Internet from my teacher and fellow students. This is the first week of summer vacation, and most of the other students are full-time Computer Studies students from the four-year colleges here in Cebu. They're using their summer break to take a fun class compared to the heavy math and basic programming of their regular college curriculum. They seem jazzed to be taking a class where they get to surf the net.
Today the teacher introduced TCP/IP, the dominant Internet protocol. I vaguely remember reading that TCP/IP was developed during the height of the cold war by/for the Pentagon, to be a reliable method of sending firing commands to US missile bases in the event that normal communication channels had been wiped out by a Soviet first strike. Gotta make sure we incinerate them in the unlikely scenario that they incinerate us first! Anyway, from that diabolical beginning arose the means for me to send out this newsletter.
After class, the teacher Rick took me aside and asked if I would be interested in teaching at the school. Is it possible he likes all the questions I ask in class? I have noticed that my fellow students don't ask many questions; must be a cultural thing. Sure, I'll bring my resume in (just happen to have it here with me in the Philippines.)
On the way back to my pension house I grabbed a quick lunch of rice, fried fish and vegetables. Most of the time I'm not really sure what it is I'm eating, but it all seems pretty edible (except for all the dishes full of liver and other internal organs which I'm not fond of, but have fortunately learned to spot a mile away.)
Next, hopped a jeepney to downtown, for a credit card advance on my VISA. In five minutes I'm walking out of the bank with more in my pocket than the average per capita income of the Philippines. Went back to my pension house and paid a week's rent, then back to school to pay for tuition for the next 3 months (the 5 class series comes to 9,888 pesos (US $201). Many Filipinos have asked why I'm studying computers here, since "It's so more advanced in your country?" I'm just learning basic programming, for which the teaching here is very adequate, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than in the states.
Another jeepney takes me to my friend Lorna's house. She lives in Sawang Calero, a poor barangay I call "fish town." It's right on the water in downtown Cebu, with a big dock where fishermen bring their catches, which get offloaded to a big dockside market. Like hundreds of other women in the barangay, Lorna worked from age 12 to 24 (she quit 2 months ago) as a fish buyer/dryer. She described how she would wake before dawn, go and buy a couple buckets of fresh fish from the fishermen, and then spend 2 or 3 hours cleaning and butterflying the fish. She would then spread them on a rattan fish rack to dry for a few hours in the hot sun. Once dry, she would sell them at a different market in the barangay and then go home in early afternoon, having earned 50-200 pesos for the effort. I might mention that the entire barangay reeks powerfully of fish, and Lorna says everybody who lives here is involved with the fish business in one way or another. Fish drying racks cover almost every available space, in the narrow streets and up on the roofs of houses, and there are fish guts in the streets, in the open sewers and on just about everybody's hands. I guess it'll be the rainy season before the streets get a washing (June.) Weak stomachs stay away.
As I walk toward Lorna's house, her neighbors start tittering "the foreigner is here!!" (methinks not many tourists make it to this part of town.) Even though I show up unannounced, her family is very hospitable, like I'm the long-lost son just back from ten years crossing the desert! I break out my camera and Lorna's young siblings and nephews/nieces shriek as they pose for portraits. Lorna has only one photo of herself as a child, and even that snapshot is incomplete because her dad had to tear part of it off to use as an ID picture...I plan to bring the snapshots back next week. Lorna decides she wants to start studying with me today, so she gathers her notebook and pens and we head to my pension house. We write up a list of what she wants to learn (mostly my suggestions, to which she agrees: reading (English), writing, arithmetic, vocabulary, grammar and computer. She dropped out of school after third grade due to family finances, and is enthusiastic about learning again. I ask her to write and write a few sentences so I see where she's at. We work through some of the exercises in the English workbook, do some vocabulary, and pretty soon it's 5:30 and I need to get to my evening class. Lorna is really excited about the studying and makes me promise we can do it again tomorrow. I'm bowled over...sure!
Back at Informatics, tonight's class is Program Logic Formation. This is an introductory programming theory class, which I took two weeks ago at a different school without much satisfaction. Rick (same as this morning) has invited me to sit in so I can pick up more of it. Fun class; tonight we're doing flow-charting, a technique to conceptually plan software programs. I'm definitely getting the basics here, but he gives us some challenging scenarios and it takes all evening to finish the three problems. Lots of talking and joking, these students work during the day, then come to class. Even though I think everybody must be pretty tired, they're surprisingly animated.
Back to Manang's Cafe for a dinner of rice, pork, some kinda weird vegetables and my favorite dessert, kalamay (sweet coconut rice cake.) Nap for an hour, then off for my favorite...hitting the clubs.
Tonight it's off to Mandaue, Cebu's gritty neighbor city, which I haven't checked out much before. Island Bar, pretty dead (I'm the only customer.) Magic Bar, busy with about 40 Filipino customers and some dancers up on stage. I stay for a couple beers, chat with another customer (he's pretty loaded), then off again. I stick my head in a few doorways, and finally stumble upstairs to Sunset Bar. Another quiet place with only 3 customers, Filipinos singing karaoke. A GRO sits at my table and tells me the club's history: previously named "Cowboy," it featured nude dancing, was packed every night, and got raided on a regular basis. It got bought by the present owner, a German, who toned things down and let the dancers keep their clothes on. The predictable result was a big drop in business. Still, I like it here and buy a drink for a GRO, Dimple. She tells me her long story (the usual, unfortunately, a baby born out of wedlock, leading to her current employment status.) I really enjoy talking with her and she's a pretty good karaoke singer. I hang out until 2:30, closing time, and then wander downstairs, up the street in the warm night to the Mandaue Hiway, and find a jeepney heading back to Cebu City.
My pension house bed feels great at 3am, then pleasant dreams of my adopted country.
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