Sunday, February 23, 2014

In Rememberance of Moms birthday, Borrowing her car for a date with a Vegas Dancer.

I was working in Vegas and had only shipped my motorcycle down with me.

I had met a go go dancer and we planned a date the following afternoon for lunch.

I needed wheels, more than two, I promptly began looking for rental cars. Mom would have none of it and continued pushing me to borrow her car. Soon time slipped by as we bickered and she distrated me and with one hour left to find the meeting point I was stuck, and I had to borrow her car.

Off I went to the coffee place, I would park between a Mazarati and a 300z, in I walked. I found the Dancer and we chatted, sharing the same birth date we hit it off Immediately. She was impressed that I was a business owner, had my own house etc.
Soon our coffee ran dry and we decided to head out for her to show me the city.
Walking out in the parking lot bumping shoulders playfully she would walk up to the 300z. Sorry that is not my car, she walked over to the passenger side of the Maserati, her eyes lit wide and toyed the handle, no, not my car turn around.
There moms gem shown, a dull red Subaru Forester last washed when it was purchased a few years previously loaded with all her crap from stem to stern.
Not looking so impressed anymore she looked at me with questioning eyes and I would say "I told you I only have my bike, I probably should have just stopped and picked up a helmet, mom was in town and insisted I use her car.......
The inside was priceless, since I at least had time to throw most of the trash from the passanger floor out it was not all bad.
Other than the petty crap stacked between us on the council there was room for seating and to shift.
I Suppose the Buddah doll on the dash was a bit much, and Shiva hanging from the mirror was not the most impressive, especially swinging in the light on every corner and a coin here and there I guess for luck slid back and forth across the tray.
It was somewhat cool as it turned out "I like your mom I am into this sort of a thing" but no, not much else obviously would happen and I would always remember the Embarrassment of driving around the Subaru (Soobaruu) as she pronounced it with a GO GO dancer who thought I had a Maserati.

Thanks Mom I know your laughing and plotting again.

Happy B day

Friday, February 14, 2014

Scooter rental in Cebu Philippines, the ride south

After losing my fear for traffic I was ready for a second day of exploring. The Scooter ended up working out well and the mighty 125cc engine was enough to carry me and my passenger up to a zesty 80kph. Honestly I am not to sure I would want to go any faster with those tiny tires. I liked having the automatic better than the semi auto most common on small motorcycles here. 
I had ridden the semi auto on a handful of occasions just a few short miles playing in my girls village. I always had trouble with the all down gear pattern. The only negative I really could find with the scooter, which also had wider, more stable tires would be that my feet were slightly to big to sit on the platform and I found myself having to sit pee wee herman style. 
Day two proved to follow the previous day Filipino hurry, get ready and do nothing approach. I slept in and at 10am my girl was asking if we were going or what. Having rented a room in a decent hotel that I can only call a box with no real light coming from the window I had no concept of the time.
We would get ready and head to my gurls village to meet with her cousin and bro. An hour went by, then two, Keneth was apparently still sleeping. Glenn in trouble with is wife from us staying out to late last night was acting as if he would go, but we all knew it was show, he was whipped. 
After kenneth rubbed his eyes and filled his belly we would head off with Divis other brother Dave tagging along.
Being sunday there was far, far less traffic, more in American bad traffic level days. I had also discovered why Divi had not ridden with me the previous night, she did not think I had what it took to ride a motorcycle in the Philippines. Her brother Glenn had been the sacrificial lamb with his life apparently being of less value.
Now that she not only realized I did know how to ride (for the love off god I have been riding longer than she has been alive) but I also had the Filipino stamp of approval for riding like a jack ass she would be happy to jump on the back with me.

Her village would be about the end of any type of real traffic until the next town. The roads south were not in the best of shape with gravel dumped into giant potholes  it reminded me of home and our half assed road department.
On this road it would be filled with giant leafy trees which bared a resemblance to Maple trees, I felt like I was in Missoula MT save the palm trees mixed in. 

about an hour into the ride I would have a flat tire, they assured me someone to vulcanize the tire would be close by. So with Divi on Daves bike to lighten the load we went into the village to look for repair. The first place would be closed, and at this point we were concerned that I would need a new tire. The worn tire had a cut in the side and we thought it was tubeless. We would find that was not the case, filled it with air and off to the next shop which was a half mile away. 
The next place only vulcanized and had no tires. The scooter company I had rented from stated they would refund me money to replace the rear tire, obviously since that was not an option I would have the tube fixed and hope that was enough. 
My Girl had to use the bathroom and her Grandma was in this Village not far from the repair shop, so we would go there while my tire was being repaired. 
Her grandmother lived in a bamboo hut on stilts, she was elderly but still climbed the steep steps ever day. Inside would be evidence of her sons trade, restoring cars. Her recliner would be a bucket seat, how cool is that?
Her sons had there shop in her yard. They were building some sort of a frame and I chatted a bit, but my eyes were drawn to their welder.  To say it was primitive was a understatement. It looked as if something from the early 1800s, coiled wire wrapped in wood. I have no Idea how they controlled the amps but they seemed to do well. 
I as amazed and It really made me wish my father had seen this, how amazing that would have been for him being such a creative fellow himself.
We would bid a farewell and they were surprised a white man knew how to weld, waving in something of a quizzing manner as I left. 
It seems the popular myth here is that white man work inside office and pay everyone else to do their work. Apparently that work is not other done by other white men. 

We returned to the shop of the man repairing my tire. I almost felt guilty, while this was a breakdown it happened in such a beautiful location with wonderfully kept houses, little garbage and amazing foliage everywhere. I could only think what could make this better would be a table, umbrella margaritas. The repair would cost me .75 cents. 

Off we went headed to the white beaches. I would say we rode fast to make up time but that would be a lie, we merely road at the normal filipino near out of control speed.

We would blur thru more villages, see more amazing churches and friendly people smiling and waving at the white man.
We would stop only once for food. Now I love filipino food, wow do I, and street food is the best, but also the most dangerous for a foreigner who's stomach is not adjusted to the bacteria. 
Not close to the hotel and not wanting to squat over a hole in the ground with only a bucket of water to wash my bum I chose safe food and we ate at a pizza joint. 
Now things as you are beginning to know rarely work as I have envisioned. This would be of them, we were directed to a pizza parlor which was my choice asa the food would not be touched after being cooked, as safe as I could get. The trouble being the Pizza place would be more of a club, with four 20inch speakers out front pounding at the street to attract customers, it was quit deafening.
Inside would prove to be satisfactory other than the same beat dance music playing over and over again. The pizza tasted like Tonys store bought and certainly was not worth what I paid.
But alas, our bellies were full an we were rejuvenated for the remainder of the ride.
We carried on for another 45 minutes maybe to the beach, the stone stairs leading to the beach were  more like a ladder. I would not say the beach was white, but rather a urinary tract yellow. 
The beach would as always provide us with a stunning view however.

It was late by now, the flat having set us back a good hour but we would joke and play in the sand not wanting to ride home wet in the dark so none of us swam.
The ride home was quit uneventful, riding in the dark in the Philippines is not so bad. In the towns they have street lights and in between there are always houses s some lights besides your headlights are shed onto the road.
We would ride back at a bit of a blistering pace, with Kenneth thinking we were on the Isle of Man apparently.
However that pace would be short lived as I would get my second flat. This time we were about a mile from a shop, so I would ride with Divis Cousin and he would ride my bike alone being far lighter than I.
The shop proved to be in the best possible neighborhood I could Imagine. Quit literally it was on the edge of town in what could only be described as a hole.
It had the usual steel bars surrounding it which would prove to be a little ominous with the only light close being that coming from his shop mostly from the fire of his vulcanizer casing an eerie glow inside the poorly lit area.

A drunk would stagger by, looking at me wanting to chat and get closer than I liked. I was a bit on edge and finally I simply told him to go as this would not end well. He reached in his pocket and thinking he was about to pull a knife I prepared to strike him straight in the throat. He possibly not being as drunk as he was acting and realized it was to his best interest to carry on, he would.
Our tire would be fixed shortly with the mans young daughter helping, we thanked him and the price had went up to 1.30 USD.
Happily we motored off wanting to pick up a bit of time and hoping in each of our minds that my quickly wearing rear tire would not allow another flat.
Soon we were back in Minglanillia and Divis brother would venture home with Kenneth, Divis cousin deciding to take us back to Cebu in case we got another flat.
His instincts should prove accurate, just as I was doing some lane splitting right as we entered Cebu I would feel the rear tire go flat yet again. Everyone loves a flat tire on two wheels in heavy traffic.
This time a shop would be only a few feet away, we stopped and quickly let them get to work, it was already 10 PM and way past my comfort zone. My rule when traveling in the Philippines was to try and be in a well lit area and especially someplace safe after the sun goes down. But alas the gods had different purpose for me and I would instead be where everyone wants to be in a bad area, broke down on the side of the road.

They would also have a rear tire to fit my bike, I was not interested as we were only maybe ten minutes from the hotel. Be damned if I was going to buy a rear tire and have this rag tag company not pay me back. Kenneth had them install a liner inside the tire instead. I would still be charged the outrageous night rate of 1.30 for the entire job.
Little more would happen the rest of the way, although Divi would choose to ride with her cousin not feeling safe with all the flats and to lighten my load a bit.
I was happy of course to make it back to the hotel with nothing more happening.
The following morning of course the man picking up my bike would try to tell me about the "brand new tires" on his bike. Obviously they were going to try the "look what you did to the sidewall of this tire" and blame it on me. With a quick Quip I made short work of that Idea and off they road, both of us being a little disappointed.
Overall I am happy with it though, the flat tires added to the adventure and the third one helped me get over my night time shady area jitters in the Philippines, maybe its a good thing, maybe not that remains to be seen.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Scooter rental in Cebu, the ride north

I was content to sit in a cheap hotel an grovel in misery suffering from a cold I had caught from the kids the previous day. I raised cain on a internet forum, this being my only entertainment for the day when a man I Message with from time to time asked me what then hell I was doing on  that waste of space when I was in another country.
He was right, I closed the forum and began searching for scooter renters that very instant. I would call around however the three major rental companies all seemed to want your passport. There was one not far from the hotel but the woman behind the counter recommended another service, so they would be my choice. As is the custom here service is usually amazing, an hour later I had a scooter in front o the hotel delivered. The website had promised new scooters and new tires, that was a little misleading.
The scooter was scraped up to the point the scratches could have been pin stripes. The Tires had massive cupping probably do to low tire pressure and were worn. The owner came along with the delivery and proclaimed "I used to repaint them or replace the plastic all the time then I decided why, the next renter would just add a new set of scratches. At this point I figured it was what it was and I wanted to get on with the day. MY GFs brother who was a motorcycle cabby in that smaller town was to come in with his Cousin to guide us on a northern tour of the island. I wanted to get going and wasting my time with another agency at this time would be a bad choice. Besides, if I had to hand over my passport I wanted it to be with someone credible. 
I was excited and I crammed my head inside their helmet, one size fits all they said, I knew better than that.
Now one thing you learn in the Philippines is they operate on their own time frame. To understand this you merely have to know that if they are hungry, they have to use the bathroom, or something of more importance comes up such as talking about nothing of importance with someone else,that takes precedence. Its ok cause the last one I am guilty of as well, the rest including food I can do without. 
Two hours before at 10 am when I decided to rent a bike her Bro and Cousin were so excited they could not wait. Now it was noon and I was wondering where they were "They decided to eat lunch first" was her reply. Like a five year old with his first bike I sat in the chair in my hotel room with my helmet on until my head started to sweat and I remembered my age.
When they finally arrived another hour and a half later I was more than ready. They teased me about the condition of my scooter, which lets you know its bad when a local teases you in a developing nation.
My Girl did not want to ride with me so instead her brother would, I found this a bit odd but whatever. In this country, and most countries outside the US it is not uncommon to see men riding together. Nothing gay about it, not that there would be anything wrong with that.

We took off straight into the heavy traffic. Lane splitting is the norm as is dodging between the front and back of cars to jockey for a better position. We went right to it and my heart was pounding, My experience lane splitting is little to say the least. Not only lane splitting but Cutting between the front of cars? Insanity I say!
Yet there I was, splitting and dodging wondering what the hell I was doing. At the light it would be the motorcycles at the front. At intersections where there are no lights, and that is the majority you imply weave between the other traffic and make your way. It seems crazy and disorganized but it starts to make sense as you do it. Speeds rarely ever reach up to 20mph and when you are you feel like you are doing 60.
There are two rules that I know of, one whoever is in the wrong always pays, which is usually whoever has the most money. The second is the biggest vehicle always has the right away, and they are not afraid to use this rule. You may be riding along side a Semi Truck and suddenly he comes into your lane, there is no waiting, you GTFO of the way or face the consequences. To over come this your actually start riding more aggressive and trying to stay away from the big rigs.
I admit I am nervous and at this point I still find this all insane, I ask my Gurls smiling cousin Ken how much longer in this traffic, "Two more hours only" He replies with a huge grin "Isn't this fun" 
Barrel of laughs I think to myself. 
I rode like I never had before, it became second nature to dodge this way and that. As a truck driver I drive by my mirrors, in this chaos you have no time to use your mirrors. A semi wheel buzzes inches from my hand, I swerve into the other lane and hear the familiar honk of a taxi as I come close to being a hood ornament. I speed up and dart between the two cars in front of me and I find the car on the right wants to push his way to his left. I go to my left between the hood and trunk of another car. This is dumb I think, I can just call the rental agency now and end this insanity. 
I am on the verge of a breakdown. My only gear is a helmet, leather fencing gloves and low cut hiking boots. 
I take a wrong turn and Glenn, riding behind me points straight ahead, I am committed, what to do? I turn straight not wanting to lose Ken an end up riding into the opposite lane of traffic. This is common but going straight between two other oncoming motos isn't and I feel glens legs grip my hips tightly. Ok that just sounds gay but it is the truth. That was fun I thought as Glenn screams in my ear "you only had an inch your crazy" that's right I am I thought and I started riding like I was. I made a game out of it, that is the only way I could enjoy this ride.
We finally would leave the city limits and hit two lane roads, better? No you still have the chaos and limited rules but your sides are now clear. Now you only have to worry about the buses coming into your lane passing forcing you to ride on the shoulder or the pedestrians crossing like frogger to the other side. Now throw in the mix of a peddling cab driver seemingly oblivious to the honking horns. In America this alone would stop traffic, in the South East Asia it is merely a second pause as you wait to shoot around him. They are not looking for a clear lane, rather a small oncoming car or motorcycle where they can use half of the opposing lane to pass from.
Two hours pass and we area still in little towns here and there. One thing about this country is you never really are without anyone, there is always a small store or a hut alongside the road. Towns the chaos starts all over again and the real crazy thing is many store fronts are only a foot or two from the edge of the road, some right up to the foot. People will be standing there oblivious to the traffic and only moving close to the store front when a bus comes along air horn blazing.
We stop in one of these towns, parking our bike next to a gutter carrying sewage away. My throat is burning and I wish I had my water bladder for my camel back. 
The three filipino I am with eat fish from the roadside grill. 
Right there all day long will be cooked fish with only a fan above to cool, or rather keep a breeze going to push the flies away. 
They offer some but I know something like this can be Russian roulette to a westerner. The person manning the grill also has what looks like  a Pom Pom to swoosh the flies away.

We head off and soon the traffic lessons and I can enjoy the amazing view. I have been this way before by bus but everything always looks different by motorcycle. On my left are some amazing hills and jungle, on the right is a small bus stop. Crazy but at this stop I took a picture with my Gurl nearly two years before and I smiled at the memory.
We tear thru some twisties and I stop more frequently to take photos now. No matter how many times you sees south east Asia you want to stop every 100 feet for another picture, it is that mind blowing.

I force myself to only stop for the really unique views. The churches here are always amazing and I love some of the modern houses with their bright colors. 
Storm clouds roll in as night approaches, I am nervous about riding at night but they assure me there is nothing to worry about. The roads here are actually pretty decent all seem to be paved and minimal potholes. What you do have to watch out for are brakes in the pavement where one left off an a new patch carried on. Here there is apparent no code a couple inches variances are the norm. So in the regard of the road itself at night I was not worried.
Not wanting to get drenched with only my T shirt as rain gear I coax them to turn back.
I was at this point kind of looking forward to the heavy traffic. Indeed before dark it increases but once we were back in the city it was nothin like earlier and we made it back after a quick stop at a local burger joint.
Tomorrow we would head south. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

A day with school children in a developing country

Some time ago I felt it necessary to help others with their education. I really am not sure where that need came from as I myself was a less tha model student. I was well known for skipping school and being suspended even.
I think as my life progressed, working many labor oriented jobs. While I certainly managed to scratch out a good existance with those jos as do any others, I am paying the price with aching joints and just a tired body in general. Knowing there could and should be an easier way to make money, I wanted to make a difference and to at least open one more door for children they certainly will need later in their life.
I started by helping a filipina thru college. She had a bad home life and no future as is often the case anywhere in the world. I would help her until her home life got better and I am pleased to say she would graduate college.
nearly two years ago I would meet my current girl who is a teaccher in the Philippines. I would fall in love with her stories of the children and wanting to help, I would send a monthly care package to the children in the form of various school supplies.
Recently I would find myself in the Philppines again, one of the most amazing places I have visited so far on this earth. I would venture to the town where that school was and would spend time with the children I had been helping. It is always fun to go back to a grade school with nearly everything made diminutive it is hard to imagine a time when you were that small certainly my swelled head never was.
Visitors are welcome at this school even though it has a locked gate. The kids are taught respect and as you enter each classroom they will say in unison "Good morning visitor" very cute.
I would spend most of my time with the kindigardners watching Ms Alcansado whip them into shape with a sharp voice and a dire looking index finger they would quickly pull up their chairs and look proper. Well we all know that is not true since little girls seem to like to be like that, and little boys usually like to pull hair, toss things and to generally not pay attention at all.
This is easily solved by putting the badd boys next to the prim and proper girls who only care about doing things right. Boys with their instinct of wanting to eventually get the admiration of the girls will soon start to do their school work feeling this may be a way to get their attention
The fourth grade class for reasons unknown was next to the kindergaren class. It was the largest class in school and being short a teacher a single lady was stuck with 82 children. She had to spend the morning in the office grading and the children were left to their own recourse. After listening to them do the usually grade school unattended antics I felt I may as well see if I could calm the tide.
Enter Shrek.
Be it white or large the kids quickly snapped to attention and I would find my usless trivia knowledge to be good use with kids I had little Idea what was being taught to.
I enjoyed it and I considered it an honor.
At lunch I asked the Principal what was needed, her reply "Everything"
Promptly I went to the local market and bought two boxes of pencills and several note pads. The strange thing here is every grade has their own specific note pad.
I woul return to school and walk to the second grade with one of the children and my supplies, she would ask what kids even needed a pencil and nearly every child would raise their hand how heartbreaking.
The sad thing is many parents here though very poor, still find enough money to by Cigs, booze and to gamble.
I guess things never change.
Regardless I will continue to send and help, children if anyone deserves a future as it is certainly not their fault the situations they are born into. If each person was to do good for the future I think we would eventually solve most the worlds problems.
I hope I made a difference and I hope to continue to, regardless I will use the old cliche "If it saves only one" I suspect far more than one will be effected and I hope that regardless of the path, they find success and make a difference themselves.