Arrival in San Fernando

7 03 2010

Hey everyone,

Firth and I have successfully arrived in San Fernando. Its hot and
crowded and wild!

Am currently in a net cafe here with Firth at 12pm on Sunday.
Yesterday was brutally hot but today is a bit nicer. The flight was
good – great legroom and decent food. I got to Manila at 4am Friday
and staff people from San Fernando were already waiting for me
(unexpectedly!), so they took me around Manila while we waited for
Firth to land at 10, then drove 7+ hours to San Fernando on a busy
small road and stopped for street food every so often. Great scenery
on the way. Our accomodations are about 10mins drive outside of the
city and aren’t anything special for sure – bathroom, kitchen, small
backyard, and a large entrance/bedroom/tv/dresser (2 beds) and an AC
that doesn’t work very well. It was pretty dirty and doesnt have
internet access and has lots of mosquitoes (not to mention a seedy
“nightclub” and “massage parlor” about half a block away {we saw some
like 50 year old aussie men with 20-something girls on their arms in a
nearby restaurant last night, ugh ugh ugh!}, so that sucks, but we
cleaned it up now and its a little less scary 🙂

First day was pretty overwhelming, city is always crowded wall to wall
with people and cars and temperature is exhausting. We start work
tomorrow at city hall, where they have a big banner hanging out in the
square saying “Welcome Julian and Firth!” – its pretty neat (but also
kind of scary, as it means expectations are high!). Filipino people
have been nice so far, most speak decent english, dont stare at us
openly, and so far I haven’t felt unsafe or targeted.

Theres a vibrant street market selling tonnes of delicious looking
fruits and veggies that we’re gonna buy later, and lots of grocery
stores and drug stores for other stuff. We tried some lanzones (sp?)
and demortis (sp?) – the former being like a delicious lychee and the
latter being a starchy, sweet, bean-pod-like fruit that’s good on its
own or in cereal.
Our biggest problem so far is transportation – a round trip Jeepney
ride is 20 Pesos each time and takes like 20mins, so we have to plan
our trips into town to make sure we can get everything at once.

Exercise will also be interesting – its definitely too hot to jog! We
found a badminton club, but its pretty pricey, so we’re going to try
and join the badminton club and see if we get a discount.

No upset stomach or anything yet, just perpetual dehydration, so so
far so good!

American culture is pretty ridiculously pervasive here – nothing but American pop on the radio and it seems that Filipinos just LOVE US style junk food (they’ve got McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Jollibees, Chow King, Happy Tummy, and others, all of which serve the same burgers/chicken type stuff).

First impressions were of sheer terror! We came in at like 730pm on
Friday, so it was dark, hot, crazy busy everywhere (a festival had
been going on, we learned later) – I feel like I went through major
culture shock symptoms on that first day! But once we emerged into the
light the next day and today, I’m feeling much better about everything
– the city is vibrant and colourful, with Jeepney horns (Jeepneys are
awesome, by the way) sounding constantly, and smells of food wafting

My vegetarianism died at 6am on the day I landed (I landed at 4am), as my guides took me to a McDonalds serving nothing but meat, and
thereafter I’ve had it in a few other dishes. Oh well! I’ll keep
viewing it with guilt, but will nevertheless partake.

Any preconceived notions I had were completely blown away
immediately. The biggest was that I didnt think the city would be so
busy, large (geographically) and vibrant. What I realise now is no
picture of a Filipine city or street does it justice, as they come off
much quieter than they actually are! The other thing I didn’t expect
was how focused Filipino cities were around 1 main street (the
national highway). While San Fernando does have side streets, most of
the cities we passed on the drive north were literally all along the
highway (i.e. the city was 1 block wide and 50 blocks long). Its
certainly neat from a planning perspective, as all of life happens on/
along the street – and it works! The other neat thing so far has been
Filipino driving. It looks chaotic (as I’m sure it is similar to in
any other developing country), but it just works and works so well!
The horn is pretty much the answer to everything, who needs traffic

Ok I’ll leave it there for now and update sporadically from now on. I’ll post pictures soon too (I’ve taken tonnes already)


P.S. for David – There’s a kid playing DotA beside me in this net cafe, its pretty awesome 😛




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