Pretty uneventful day today. I think the heat and humidity are starting to get to me because I spent a good chunk of time laying in bed today doing nothing, sleeping occasionally. Part of it was because I'm a little wiped out from the weather but part of it is also because I'm kind of bored here to be honest. I already described how far out in the middle of nowhere the wife's family's house is so it should come as no surprise that there's nothing to do here. The kids love it since they have their cousins to play with and a place like this is great for them because kids love playing outside, climbing trees and such but for a white city boy from the US...not so much. I brought a book to read ("Opening Day; the Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season") but I can only sit around reading for so long, especially on the furniture here. Let me tell you about the furniture here; it's very uncomfortable. It's all handmade out of bamboo and looks really cool and was fine the first day or so but by now my body is sore from constantly sitting on hard wood. The tricycle ride to Dagupan City yesterday was very unforgiving as the seats are small and made of wood and the roads are very bumpy so my ass is really sore from that. And the beds are the worst part. The beds are also handmade from bamboo and there no matresses which normally wouldn't be a problem if I were used to sleeping on my back but unfortunately my sleeping habits are to sleep on my stomach or on my sides. And that just does not work on a bed made of wood. My two hip bones are bruised from pressing against the wood. I am trying to be the proverbial gracious guest so I have not complained about any of this to anyone but I'm not sure how long I can hold out. When you come to a place like this you quickly realize some of the things you take for granted in your cushy life back home and right now one of those things I'm realizing is the ability to just sit on a cushioned couch or chair or sleep on a soft matress. It's no big deal for these people as they've done it their whole lives so it's normal to them. But for us spoiled westerners, it takes some getting used to.
One thing I forgot to mention from yesterday is that on the way to Dagupan, we stopped at a hotel/resort type place nearby to check it out in case staying at the wife's parent's place just becomes too difficult for me. It actually looks really nice, air conditioned rooms, comfortable beds, swimming pool, pond out back to go fishing and only 2,000 pisos a night (about $40). I guess the wife must have mentioned some of my discomfort to her mother because after we looked at it, her mother said to her privately "Why not just buy an electric fan and a mattress, it's cheaper". I'm learning quickly just how wide the chasm is between how we in the "rich" countries view money vice how people here do. Spending $40 on a nice hotel room with a pool, air conditioning and mountain views is considered cheap by our standards but to some people here, it's a frivilous luxury, something totally unnecessary. We decided that we may end up checking in to the hotel next week for a few nights, if for no other reason than just to get a little privacy and have a mini vacation with the kids since they have a pool and fishing pond. It's funny, before I came here I told the wife that I would prefer to stay in a hotel nearby rather than try and rough it at her parents place but since I got here my better insticts have prevailed and I'm determined to stay at the house as long as possible, if only to prove that I'm not a wuss. And honestly, it's not that bad here. I spent enough time in the field when I was in the Army that I've lived in a lot worse conditions than anything I have to deal with here. Hell, my first 2 weeks in Kosovo I took showers with baby wipes. In some ways, life here is a lot like being in the field actually. I shave outside with a little cup of cold water and a mirror and brush my teeth out there with a bottle of water as well. Baths are a little easier. The bathroom is a little empty concrete room with a bucket. You fill the bucket with water and use a little scoop type thing called a "tabo" to wash yourself. No hot water but it's so frigging hot here that you don't mind using cold water. The worst part about it is that it's so humid that the second you're done, you're already sweating profusely again. The sweating here is really annoying. I may be from New England but I've spent time in some very humid places, places like Georgia, Florida and Honduras and Italy gets extremely humid in the summertime, almost unbearably so. But let me tell you, those places have NOTHING on the humidity here. I sweat 24 hours a day, nonstop. I've taking to carrying a washcloth around with me everywhere - I call it my sweatrag - and within 30 minutes it's completely soaked so I have 2 or 3 that I rotate. We're in the rainy season here right now so occasionally it pours down and cools off a tiny bit but not much. They have one electric fan in the house and they've pretty much given it to me full time. When I sit in the living room, they turn it on so it blows directly on me and at night we sleep with it in our room. So far I'd say the humidity and constant sweating are the hardest thing I've had to deal with.
In the afternoon we decided to go to the small house. Her parents have two houses; the big house and the small house. Here's the back story: about 4 or 5 years ago her parents had a friend who was selling a small plot of land in a great location and offered it to them first at a cheap price since they were friends. Of course they couldn't afford it so they asked us if we would loan them the money. It was only about $2,000 and as the old saying goes "land is the best investment because it's the only thing God ain't making any more of" so we bought it for them, as a gift. What makes the land so attractive is that it's on a main road, which makes a hell of a lot more sense to me after seeing the other house where you have to go down a dirt road, cross a small walking bridge over a river and then walk down a muddy trail through the rice fields to reach. So they got the land but since they have very little money they can't afford to build a big house on it so they've managed to piece together a decent little shack for a house on it and they call that the small house. The big house is the one we're staying at. Industrious folks that they are, they've also managed to buy a pig and some chickens that they keep on the land and although there's not a lot of land her mother has a garden where she grows vegetables to sell at the market. It's about a 20 minute walk from the big house to the small house and it was a very enjoyable little stroll. Along the way, every single person that we passed stopped dead in their tracks and stared at me like they'd seen a ghost. I'm getting the feeling that people around here have never seen a white man before. Just down the road from the small house, they're building a big supermarket and a couple other things which is a great sign. They've already started construction and have started widening the road and that means that the little plot of land that we bought her parents for a mere $2,000 will soon be worth a HELL of a lot more than that. In fact, someone recently offered them $3500 for it which they turned down cold. That little piece of land might just end up being one of the best investments we've ever made and here's the funniest part - when they bought it, they put it in the wife's name since we gave them the money for it as a gift. So technically, we own it. I'm not interested in making any money off it though, it's more for the wife's family to do with it what they want. As far as the other house, they own that land as well even though it's in the middle of nowhere. The wife says that there are plans to build a big bridge over the river and a big road connecting the land that the house is on and when they do the value of the big house will skyrocket so that's why they are doing everything they can to keep up the big house even though it's so secluded. From what I've seen so far, things move extremely slow here so I'm thinking there probably won't be a bridge or a road appearing here anytime soon though. Maybe not even in my lifetime.
Earlier tonight, I was sitting in the living room relaxing when suddenly Xavier started screaming "MOMMY! MOMMY! HELP!". I jumped up and ran into the kitchen and he was in the other bathroom which is basically another little flushless toilet bowl in an empty cement room in the kitchen. As I get to the kitchen, he comes running out of the bathroom screaming "SPIDER! SPIDER!". So I asked him what the problem was and he said there was a huge spider in the bathroom on the wall. Now this surprised me because since he's been here, he's really become quite a country boy, playing with bugs, climbing trees, petting all the animals, etc. so I had a hard time believing that he'd get scared by a spider. Sure enough, we looked in and there was no spider to be seen. He knows how much I hate snakes and spiders so he occasionally thinks it funny to try and scare me so I figured that's what he was up to and I went back in the living room. He stayed and continued to look for the spider and about 5 minutes later yelled to me that he found it. My curiosity got the better of me so I went in and looked through the open door in the bathroom and oh...my...GOD. On the wall was THEE biggest spider I'd ever seen in my life, even bigger than the one on the wall last night - and that one was huge. It was about the size of my hand when I spread out my fingers. Virginia's sisters were laughing at us and kept saying "Eh, those things don't even bite, don't worry about them" but I don't care. They tried to get it but it ran quickly up the wall and into a crack that separates the kitchen bathroom from the other bathroom and the shower room. Needless to say, I am extremely traumatized now. Every time I have to use the bathroom, I go in very slowly, looking for any sign of the gargantuan arachnid. I've named him Spiderzilla. Fortunately, it is normal for the men to urinate outside since we're in the middle of nowhere so unless I have to take a crap, I think I'll be peeing outside the rest of my time here.
Click here for Day 4