August 01, 2012

Typhoon Stories for the Dinner Table

The realities of living in Southeast Asia are many, and they usually make great stories around the dinner table. But none are quite as lively as typhoon season stories. Much like “fish stories” of fishermen, typhoon tales always grow more intriguing with time: the water gets deeper, the waves are higher, the people drowning more desperate and the heroes are more gallant and brave.  They are those stories we all thrive on hearing and although we roll our eyes at the exaggerated details, we find ourselves re-telling the story to another person with our own details added for flair.

This is one of those stories. (So start the eye rolling now!)

Last year, September to be exact, we had our second REALLY big typhoon come to visit Manila. The others kind of just turn into a large extended rain storm and people go on with their lives. September I ended up trapped at the Embassy and had to wade in the waste deep sewage and garbage polluted waters of Manila bay to get home.

(Its true…if you want to read the details…look here: )

This Sunday there was a large storm come through Manila…I did not complain because we drive an SUV (yes those environmentally unfriendly, beastly, take-up-two-parking-spaces vehicles come in handy sometimes)  and I could drive right through the puddles. Secretly, I love to see how big of a splash I can get and WHO I can get with them (shhh! Don’t tell Lady I admitted to that)…ok maybe that is not much of a secret. It was also nice that not many people were out on the roads, they stayed home in fear of the storm…scaredy cats!  But after a wind howling, window pain pounding storm  over night, we woke to trees down and debris everywhere. Work  on Monday was quiet as only 1 in 4 people could even make it from their homes to work. It rained all that day and Tuesday too. Each night we would go to sleep with the howling wind as our lullaby.

Today, I left the house around 0530 to catch a plane. Lady Hiva headed to work around 0630. About then she and all my staff start texting me that traffic is horrible and then later that there are flood waters going to work. The waves, just like last year, were coming over the sea wall and flooding the area. The difference is that last year those waves were tall as the coconut trees…so a little less power (their fish stories are not as going to outdo mine from last year), but there was still lots of flooding. Wisely, Lady Hiva turned around and went to work in the satellite office. I boarded the plane to head to Iloilo, one of the cities in the middle region of the Philippine Islands, for a meeting.

The ride was scary! We could not even take off for almost 30 minutes because of weather (should have been hint #1). Even the take-off was sketchy. From the time we lifted off the ground until the time we landed the plane pitched left, dove right, dropped a little then balanced again. Adrenaline surged with every jolt. (You know it is bad when you start to think if everything in your life is in order if this plane goes down…or how I am going to hold my legs up so they don’t get smashed by the seat in front of me.) Then all I could do was laugh. It was not a funny matter, but all the women on the flight would squeal in fear each time the plane moved suddenly. In the Philippines their typical surprised yell is more like a yipping sound a small dog would make… “Aye! Aye! AYE!” With so many making the sound, I could not help but laugh because it sounded like a chorus of yipping. I noticed the guy across the aisle from me looking at me weird. I must have looked so deranged. The plane felt like it was going to break in two and I was laughing like it was a ride in a park!

I was glad to be on solid ground.

All day the rains continued. Lady Hiva and I constantly texted about weather conditions in the cities we were in. After work I wanted to go buy bottled water (I REFUSE to pay for the overly priced bottled water they put in the little refrigerators in the hotel rooms) and some toothpaste. But every time I went to leave the hotel it would start torrential rains! I tried to take photos of it with my phone…but it just does not capture the sheer power of it all.
The Storm. that roof is of the palenke that I wnet to explore

These photos don't do it justice

Look at those poor trees

Finally I was able to leave and I walked over to the palenke (market). It is a smaller town than Manila so see a white man walking by himself is uncommon—or at least not as common as in Manila or Cebu. So I had plenty of people staring…but it was alright, I just stared back! (Again, maybe a bit on the deranged side). The market was fun to see. I even was able to walk through the meat section without gagging at the smells. I was proud of myself. Either I am getting used to the bizarre (most often unpleasant) smells or the rain calmed it down a bit, because it was not that bad. After trying to buy mangoes twice and being quoted an astronomical rate I decided just looking was what I was going to do. The colors and faces and action of a market are so fascinating to me. I wanted to take a photo with my phone, but decided against it because pulling out a smart phone and showing everyone what is in my pocket I figured was just an invitation for them to come take it. I had on a t-shirt and a pair of old jeans with paint all over them (that is what happens when you pack at 0430 and don’t turn on the light because you think your wife will sleep longer if you are quiet) so I felt like I fit in…as long as they did not notice my height…or my shoes (I had on my work shoes still that was all I brought)…or my skin color…and accent.  So maybe I was not so good at blending. I guess we will just keep staring at each other! HAHA

This market was like a labyrinth of  booths that just kept going. I was enjoying my time. However, just as I got way back in the middle, far enough I knew I was a long way from the exit, the storm knocked the power out. So now it was pitch black and I realized there was not an easy way out and maybe this was… awkward. So act calm, smile, but walk swiftly towards the light where there was bound to be a door!

So now I am sitting in my hotel room, listening to the rain pelt the roof and the windows and looking at photos of Manila all my friends have posted…so the stories begin. (Listen close because next time they won’t be the same!”

News link for the flooding in Manila:

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