I’ve never really meant for this blog to be a travelogue, but I have to say a few things about being here in Manila.
I’ve discovered that no matter how long or far the flight, I can’t sleep worth a darn on an airplane. Out of the nearly 30 hours it took to get here (21 in the air), I was able to grab only a very fitful 3-4 hours of sleep. Even though the business class seats lay all the way down to be a ‘bed’ it was more like trying to sleep in one of those hospital chair/bed things than a real one. When I arrived, I tried to say up a little longer just so I didn’t start acclimating to the time change too much — it’s exactly 12 hours from home, so noon is midnight, and vice-versa. When I did finally succumb, I slept for 16 hours straight. I woke up just in time to get a car to our office, so at this point all I’ve seen of Manila has been at night.
I’ve travelled outside of the USA before, but mostly to latin countries like Mexico and Puerto Rico. I’ve had some scares in taxis in those places, but neither holds a candle to Manila. Traffic here is incredible, and the idea of lanes seems to be more of a suggestion than a rule. That dotted line down the middle of the road is for motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, or even pedestrians. Drivers here must be much better drivers than in the USA, simply because of the spacial awareness the need to maintain so they don’t run over someone or bang into another vehicle.
Security is a big concern here as well. Hotels and businesses hire their own security firms, and many of these would almost qualify as mercenary armies. For example, the hotel where I stayed, while being a 5-star property – was surrounded by private security. This security team was carrying assault rifles, shotguns, sidearms, and batons. There was a security checkpoint to enter the hotel property where the cars were searched visually and with bomb-sniffing dogs. K-9 teams were also patrolling around the entrance of the hotel. It was certainly an eye-opener for this American, and makes me appreciate the USA even more.
The Filipino people that I’ve met (with the exception of one cab driver) have all been very easy to work with, very nice, pleasant, with a ready greeting everywhere I’ve visited. My new team of employees here seem to be excited about starting work, and all have been very welcoming and friendly. If there was a problem with what I’ve seen in the Filipino people so far is that they’re too nice – one aspect of the job we’ll be asking them to do will require a certain amount of assertiveness.
I’ve heard and read that it would do many Americans good to visit other cultures. I’d expand that by saying it should be a culture other than those closest to the USA (e.g., Mexico or Canada). A visit to Asia in particular will bring home exactly how different things are outside of the USA. Not different in a bad way, either — people are people no matter where they live, and it’s alway easy to find some common ground and interests. I’m looking forward to the remainder of my stay. I’ll post a few more observations next week if I can.