Morning Walk

I started this blog with the idea that it would be a travel blog.  That idea is not dead (neither am I) but I have not been traveling much recently.  Not that I am stuck at the old homestead, in fact there is no longer  “an old homestead”.  I have moved to the Philippines (Angeles City, Pampanga) full time and have been settling in.  The next few blogs will follow the blog “Mystery”, in that I am still walking, and on the same route as the ‘Mystery’ vegetables.  I never did find out what happened and I asked the doorman at the hotel about it and he didn’t even know what I was talking about.

The Philippines is a poor country but I would not suggest it is third world.  There are rich, middle class, poor and destitute people that inhabit the country.  It is much the same in many ways as the US.  There are obvious areas of significant wealth and the business centers with 60 story buildings in Makati (Manila area) could be mistaken for any downtown center in the US but the poorest areas are significantly poorer.  I will never get used to children sleeping on a piece of cardboard on the side of the street.

Every morning I try to walk at least 5 Kilometers to maintain my ability to move around and to keep my weight under control.  A morning walk in the area I live in can be a bit of an adventure, sometimes boring, sometimes scary, sometimes comical.  Las Vegas may be the quintessential “city that never sleeps” but Angeles City in the Philippines qualifies also.  I generally start my walk at six am but the streets are already buzzing and the markets have long been open.  I take the same route daily because it is known, bustling and relatively safe; at my age safety is an issue.  There are other expats walking the same route, probably for the same reasons.  There are also beggars, lots and lots of beggars.  They range from women with little babies to people with one leg or no legs at all. After awhile you get to recognize them and they recognize me. I have become a part of the scene.

One sad aspect is that if you give to one by the time you go 20 yards everyone has you marked.  Shortly they are coming out of the cracks in walls and they know YOU. It takes a week or two of brusque refusals for them to stop blocking your path looking for a handout.  I have since learned that contributing anonymously to a trusted group that serves the old peoples home or the street kids is the best way to help.  On my walk I don’t take a wallet or money.  I have a USB drive on a necklace that has ID, my local address and phone contacts, medical history, family contacts and my will.  The only thing to protect is my watch and my phone.  Reality.

When I was young I was taught by my military father to stand tall, shoulders back and head held high, pressing on with purpose. In Angeles I walk with my head down looking for the next hole in the sidewalk that will break my leg if I step in it, or the next big crack that will cause me to trip and pitch me on my face. Think of hop-scotch with holes and obstacles instead of chalked squares. I constantly glance up to see what is in front of me. I don’t want to knock over an old lady with a used McDonalds coffee cup she wants me to put a few pesos in, or run unaware into a gaggle of street kids waiting to mob me and pick my pockets.  I need to walk into the street because a trike driver has parked on the sidewalk, but with care because there are dozens of motorcycles zooming down the gutter and a foot farther out the jeepneys are growling along looking for their next rider to contribute 10 pesos so their daily income.

Did that sound like a complaint – if so gotcha! That is real life not the sanitized version of Beverly hills. The real people are not hidden from view and the city does not have billions of dollars of debt to fix their problems and the people do as they can. This city is real, in your face and alive. I love it. For the few that might find it interesting I start at Garfield’s Last Stand Bar (I live near there) and walk to MacDonald’s  on MacArthur Blvd then turn right and walk to Robinson’s Place mall, have a cup of coffee and walk back (google maps https://goo.gl/maps/QbfAkdpeEkF2 ). I will take some pictures over the next few days (aren’t cameras in your phone a wonderful invention?).

The next few blogs will be the local area and a bit of Christmas. Christmas starts around the first of November in the malls with lots of decorations and sales galore. The Philippines is 90% Christian with a very heavy Roman Catholic presence. There are carolers at the gate every night and they expect a few pesos. I have a number of stacks of pesos (10 to a stack) which is about 20 cents US which is given to the carolers as a thanks for their entertainment and they will probably be back for more quite a few times before Christmas. I am sure cookies and chocolate would be more appreciated but when the word got out there would be a lot more carolers.

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Impacts On Our Lives Change Us

A Friend Recently retired. I am very happy for her and as I reflected on our relationship I thought about the impact she had on me. I sought a hobby of sorts and instead had my world opened up.

I was retired and bored out of my mind. I did not need or want a second career track but needed something to occupy my mind and since some members of my family were very artistic I thought it might be fun to take an art class. Since I wanted to build a dynamic 3 wheeled motorcycle I thought the class listed as “welded metal sculpture” in the art department was the ticket. So I enrolled.

The first class was familiarity with the equipment. The instructor, Cindy, chose the people that she used as demonstrators carefully. Who has experience, hands raised, we were eliminated. The chosen assistants didn’t know what a wrench was, certainly not a welding torch. When the torch was lit (pop – FIRE) they jumped and threatened to quit on the spot, but Cindy kept all. Cindy encouraged some great artists like Laurie and Gaye and Collin and Barbara and dozens more. She turned me and many others from “I am not and artist” into people that can express themselves through the arts.

The rare talent of teaching each student according to their needs allowed each or us to reach our full potential. I will never be a Cindy DeCecco or a David Smith or a Colin or a Jeannie or a Laurie but my eye has changed, and my world has changed. It has effected my daily life but more important it has changed how I travel.

Now when I travel I spend much more time in the museums where I travel. I look for the native art and the contemporary art of where I am traveling. It makes me all the better personally and increases the enjoyment of my travels tenfold.  My third eye has been opened. My world has been changed. Now I look at the colors used, how things are constructed, the relationship between the people and their environment.

I live in the Philippines (an expat) and there are 7107 islands in the archipelago. There are a dozens of distinct peoples and the manner of living is different from place to place. The local market tells it all. A great place for travelers to see much in a somewhat convenient environment.

Go to Thailand where the temples will open your eyes to new wonders. There are 99 Temples in Bangkok alone, you can spend weeks there or jump to Vietnam and visit the Opera house or the Cao Dai temple. Siem Reap and Anchor Wat in Cambodia are not simply incredible (they are that) but have by their being created a pub street and a night market for the tourists that is amazing in itself. Stop in Phnom Penh and go to the incredible museum there and if you have the courage go to the “Killing Fields” to understand totalitarianism. Learn about the melding of Hinduism and Buddhism and the beliefs of the Khmer people

My love of travel and what I get from it has been changed by one person. Cindy literally changed my life and now she is retiring. She is too young to retire but she is more than an instructor she is an incredible artist. She will have more time for her art, but those of us that love her, past and present are losing something profound. Those that will not to get to experience her are going to lose the most as will the college.

If you are someone that travels what do you travel for? If its just to get away there is so much more. If you seek learning and adventure seek a mind altering experience first (no not drugs).  Don’t take pictures of whats in the travel guides, they have been taken.  Take a (one) tour bus to get orientation then dig out the personality of where you are. Experience, learn, enjoy. I am 73 and it is never too late. Get out and see something – if there is a life after this you will have something to talk about. At least you can describe the wonders you saw to others when you can travel no more.

There are those, sprinkled here and there through time that impact more than their immediate circle. Cindy is one of them. She changed my life and my view of the world. I traveled to see before Cindy. Now I travel and understand – the seeing is a bonus.
God Bless and Thanks.

 

Posted in Art, Cambodia, Life, Old Age, Philippines, Thailand, Tourism, Travel, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , ,

Mystery – Why is this here

Mystery Veggies

Having asked the question  I admit I have no idea why its here but it is ominous to me. As an old dude I think about things that happen to anyone but particularly old folks.  I am seeking comments, guesses and general input. I do not take this lightly. If were mine it would probably mean I dropped it while having a stroke or heart attack so I am serious about my concern but will probably never know.

No I did not put it there. I really just encountered it on my daily walk which is the extent of my exercise.. I am sure it was from the same fruit and veggie stand that I stop at every day on my way home from daily walk. I saw it, passed on by and then it hit me – no one just dumps at least 500 pesos (about 10 US dollars)  100 meters from where they bought it. So I went back and took the picture. The veggie stand has only been open for an hour or so. It rained last night so this is todays buy for tonights dinner. I had my little bag of todays food in my non camera hand so I know from whence I speak.

Mystery Veggies Lewis Grand

It is in front of The Lewis Grand Hotel, Don Juico Avenue, Angeles City, Philipines if you wish to google earth it and join me in a headache. Maybe it will add to an ongoing novel for someone. “The Veggie Bag Conundrum”.

Posted in Blogging, cameras, food, Life, Mystery, Old Age, Philippines, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

reboot – now an expat

I have been on a hiatus, not a TV show as the word is generally used but a great blog HIATUS. I started this blog with 2 thoughts in mind. Just because one is advanced in years does not mean they should commit themselves to the old folks home and stop living an adventurous life. The other is I intended to do a lot of traveling and wanted to share my adventures. I failed to recognize that a commitment had been made to readers and that less travel did not necessarily mean less adventures. so to my followers I apologize and off we go.

Since my last post I have settled in Angeles City in The Philippines. I am now a legal resident with a fantastic jumping off point to more travels in South East Asia – SEA. Starting to blog again required an assessment. Just because I wasn’t going to travel all the time did not mean I didn’t have a purpose any more, just a slight modification. As an Ex-Patriot (Expat – one living as a resident in a country they are not a citizen of). I am an American citizen who is a legal resident of the Philippines and have a resident-retiree visa. Sort of like the American green card.

The Philippines is a beautiful country full of wonderful people and an incredible number of places to visit. With 7107 Islands it offers boundless opportunity for blogging. There are a number of expat blogs and a few vlogs. Since my views and observations are bound to very from theirs (different places, different interests, etc.) I will offer my perspective. I will often comment on what expat life can be like for someone that at home would be “over the hill”. Since a great deal of the impetus for “old not dead” is to get people of a certain age out of the retirement chair and into the travelers seat. It is worth noting that one of the reasons I chose this area to live in is the large number of old guys similar to me that live here also.

So we will start in Angeles. Until the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 the United States had one of the worlds finest Air Force Bases just outside of Angeles City, called Clark Air Force Base. Clark was badly damaged by the eruption and at the same time the US was contemplating whether to maintain the lease for Clark. Opinions very on what went on but in the end the base was returned to the Philippines and it is now the “Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone”. The runway is now the basis for an international airport and the remainder is a variety of commercial and Philippine government uses.

I live about 100 yards from the perimeter road that surrounds the economic zone and the area has build up to provide living and entertainment support for the area. It is a haven for retired military who were once stationed here and for those that like the atmosphere. I will address expat life interspersed with the traveling I work into my budget. I am committing to post a minimum of one per week. We shall see how it goes. Coming up in the next few weeks are a view of expat life, The wonderful “Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone” and branching out from there. Manila is an hour away and as one of the most densely populated cities in the world has a thousand faces and is a new Asian tiger with one foot firmly planted in third world issues and the other tickling the possibilities of greatness as it struggles to keep up with its own growth.

Coming up “An Expat in Angeles” (still old – 73 as I write this, and obviously not dead)

 

Posted in Blogging, Life, Old Age, Philippines, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

On The Move Again – A forgotten post and humorous now in retrospect

Having just posted “My Bags Are On Vacation” I am going to try to be more consistent. [failed that big time] From the first week of September until the end of November I was working on minimizing and getting to a point where I have what I need and little else. Far from successful I got 95% in a 6×12 box cargo  trailer and had to flee. Now in a relatively small apartment 7700 miles away I have yet to learn my lesson but I am getting closer.

When I was much younger I had a sailboat in a slip in Quivera Basin in a Marina in San Diego. Although we knew it would never happen we used to plan trips and think about living aboard. The point is if you see a book you want to buy then you must find one on the boat you are willing to give away. There is no room for an extra anything. Forty years later my situation is similar. I have a very nice fully furnished apartment . It has a pool and standby power which is often needed for because “brownouts” are common place. There are cabinets in the kitchen and wardrobes in the bedroom. but there is no place for “stuff”. Stuff is not something I want a place for. Stuff is toxic.

Six months from now I may  want to move to Saigon (you call it what you wish) or Siem Reap. Bangkok may call again.  Guatemala is not out of the question. The point is this; my bucket list is long and my remaining years are few. I do not need to build in artificial pitfalls.

I am looking forward to visits from family and friends. I wish to share with them many of the cultural differences of countries in South East Asia.

Posted in Blogging, friends, Life, Old Age, Philippines, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

My Bags Are On Vacation

I am no longer a frequent flier by the airlines definition but I am a frequent Traveler. I make an overseas trip at lease once a year and usually more often. Last year I was literally homeless and so my belongings moved with me (except for a storage unit). I have never had a lost bag. Most of my travels are carry on only. Physical limitations keep me from being a “back packer” but my packing usually would  qualify.

Beginning my current trip I resolved to rent a “base of operations” somewhere in Southeast Asia. I also resolved to take much of what I need for civilized long term living with me since I had a generous baggage allowance.  I marked the bags well, both with multiple tags and permanent identification. I fully realize that the airlines only pay attention to a half inch by one inch bar-code sticker read by a computer as the bag flashes by at warp speed on a conveyor belt but I can’t control that.

So I checked my bags in Phoenix on Delta to Manila. My bags and I were going to change planes in Los Angeles to China Eastern and again in Shanghai before arrival in Manila.

I stood and watched everyone pick up their bags. I watched the last bag come off the carousel. I was alone. Jilted. My dreams shattered. I had no bags.

Some nefarious so-and-so convinced  my bags that it would be more fun if they exerted their independence and went on an adventure of their own.

The customer service lady at Shanghai Eastern was very nice and helped me fill out the “missing” bags form. She said they would find the bags and I could come pick them up. “Not going to work says I, I am on my way to Olongapo. “OK sir, they will be delivered when we locate them”

Since I had checked bags my carry-on was used for important papers and the more expensive electronics. Duh, no clothes. Not just no clothes but I had chosen to travel in heavy cotton jeans and a cotton shirt, not my dry overnight Columbia so i couldn’t wash my clothes before I went to bed and wear them the next day.

NEWS FLASH

An email from the nice lady at China Eastern. We have located your bags. They were left in Los Angeles. they will arrive here tomorrow morning and be delivered to the address you gave during the day tomorrow. YIPPEE

Upon their arrival, I had to sign for the bags before I could touch them. if there was anything wrong I could go to the airport and submit another discrepancy report. What I did notice immediately was the zip ties I had used instead of locks to tie the zippers together were gone and multiple wraps of sticky wrap had been used to secure them. 

Inside there was one of the nice little cards that the TSA uses to let you know they have been visiting. Something in the x-ray as my bag whizzed by caught their eye. Since I don’t keep a list as I pack and since this was a move not a vacation type of pack.

In this case I did remember a few things. I am an electronics nut (not expert, NUT). I had so much stuff in my carry-on that I had packed my Microsoft Surface and it docking station. Quick Check, there they were. Next AA and AAA rechargeable batteries for all the carp, along with dual voltage chargers. Uhhhhh – Uhuuuu not there. We cooperative Americans apparently flag things that the country they are passing through don’t like. I guess rechargeable batteries are a no no in China. I do remember this nice lady in Shanghai that kept saying “power bank, power bank” as I dug through my stuff. At least she shrugged her shoulders and waved me on as I was holding up the line, She could have arrested me since I did have a power bank I just couldn’t find it.

Something else to note. Stopping one bag caused both to be stopped and opened but only the one that took something from got the little note inside.

I am not complaining. A little inconvenience is worth the safe skies plus if I had checked a little better I would not have had banned articles in my bag.

NOTE: This blog is a little off my actual flight schedule. Moving, Christmas, and a horrendous gout attack have intervened. I will address the gout attack shortly as health issues are a really big deal with older travelers.

 

 

 

Posted in friends, Life, Medicine, Old Age, Philippines, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

The Killing Fields

I have told you about Rocky my Tuk Tuk driver and now friend in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Rocky is an independent businessman with the same hopes and dreams of any entrepreneur. He is also extremely proud of his country and its beauty and importance in world rice production and coffee as well as many other things. He was born at the end of Pol Pots Rein, however his family was heavily impacted by Pol Pot. They are still adversely effected by it today, but that is his story to tell. I was 30 and had heard of it but really didn’t understand it  Rather than try to explain something I can’t understand, I again defer to Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodian_genocide  .

Getting to the killing fields via Tuk Tuk is a trip through back roads and residential neighborhoods. There were no freeways to put it near conveniently and as with the dozens of other horror venues this one was selected because it was out of the way, near an old Chinese cemetery. Pol Pot and his henchmen did not want people to know about these sites much less what was going on there. As we arrived there today we rounded a bend, so to speak, in front of us was a large unpaved open area that appeared to be a parking lot. At the far side was a solid fence and an entry way. In the distance past the gate there was a tall building. There was no sign that I saw identifying the place at all. I think it may have been intended that when an individual comes upon it today that you not know what it is unless you intend to be there, It is not something you want to bebop into.

I opted .for the recorded guided tour and suggest that you do if you go there. As you start the tour the first thing you see and the only real “thing” is the very tall stupa. The tour itself is to different locations which describe what was there, such as the truck stop and the detention building, the offices and the store room. Every other stop is a mass grave or many graves, now sunken by time, and discussions of the findings. There are many other killing fields, dozens if not hundreds. Pol Pot did not want people to know what was happening. For years people would just disappear and loved ones thought maybe they were in jail or a labor camp or who knows. If everyone knew what was really happening there might have been more resistance.

This is a somber place. It is a quiet walk around the sunken mass graves of thousands of people. This one location is the main one so that people will never forget what was done here. It is a memorial to mans inhumanity to man. It is in short a warning to all people of all nations of what can happen when a government goes out of control. It is far from the only genocide in history – the one we think of most is the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, but there are others also.  This one memorial of  what happened in Cambodia is far from the only one here. Pol Pot had them all around the country. The others that have been found all have some sort of memorial or marker and there are others that have been referred to that have never been found because they are in the deep jungle or were too well hidden.

The photos of the killing tree for children is my worst nightmare. Often they would bash the child against the tree with its mother watching and then kill her and put them both in the pit. The fence surrounds the mass burial area. The thousands of wrist ties around the tree and fences are tributes from people visiting who were as shocked as I.

If you have the opportunity to travel I highly recommend Cambodia and this is one of the reasons why. Please don’t judge Cambodia based on this horrible chapter. It is an example of what can happen anywhere. People in America in 2017 are calling for the deaths of others because a charismatic leader told them that A is good and B is bad, death of a people has happened again and again because of lies and deceit. Good people everywhere may disagree about this or that in their political situation but this is a reminder that a powerful or simply charismatic leader can cause good people to do horrible things to their neighbors. I spent far longer at  this place than I thought I would and I thank Rocky for suggesting it. A note: This place and writing this blog brought tears to my eyes. It is more than one stop of many. it is life changing. Angkor Wat is incredible and I loved it, but it did not change my life. The killing fields did.

Posted in Cambodia, Life, Old Age, Politics, Tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,