August 31, 2014

Hidden Valley

Manila is a pretty intense urban place.  There's not a lot of green space and there's a lot of traffic. And unlike our last post where we could cross the street and be at the beach, in Manila it takes a 2 hours drive or more to get to a beach you can enjoy.

So - when our Brazilian friends invited us to check out a somewhat nearby day resort that had volcanic pools, we jumped at the chance.









Hidden Valley is about an hour and a half away from Manila (provided you leave early and avoid most of the traffic).  We drove south along the expressway (SLEX) and eventually got off and drove through many cute towns.









As we strolled through the resort to the first set up pools, our friends pointed out all the changes that had happen because of the recent typhoon.








Many trees were down, but it was still quite beautiful.

























Hidden Valley has several groupings of natural springs pools.




















The water is slightly warm - which is quite refreshing.






There are also a number of waterfalls.  Some of the pools even have bubbles coming up from the bottom.













And of course all the fun made for a restful drive home!

August 30, 2014

Half a Century



I had a milestone birthday this month.
Usually as a Leo, I insist on celebrating my birthday the entire month.






But this year - in light of my milestone - I think I'll just celebrate all year.  



There are lots of things I'd like to do or learn or experience to mark the beginning of my second half a century.

 In addition to exploring this region and nearby countries (Thailand, Vietnam, China),













I also am planning to learn to scuba so that I can really check out new territories.



The Philippines has many wonderful dive spots that we will check out.











I spent the actual day in spa mode - a full day of all the pampering possible at the local spa.  It was very lovely and relaxing and I left feeling like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz before meeting the wizard.













And then I had a wonderful dinner at a new spot with my family















- and an Aviation cocktail.


A great way to begin!

WIDTOTO

There are a lot of acronyms out there that have become part of the regular language.  Words like scuba (self contained underwater breathing apparatus), snafu (situation normal, all f'd up), and fubar (f'd up beyond all recognition)  I particular like ones where the word has become such a part of regular language that the acronym origins have been forgotten.  Posh (port out, starboard home) comes from British travellers on their way to India and the importance of being on the correct side of the ship for each leg of the journey.

So - I thought it would be fun to create a new acronym and see if it could become part of regular language. The word I came up with speaks to the common practice that when something electronic isn't working and you can't figure out why, turning it off and then back on often fixes everything.  So - WIDTOTO - when in doubt, turn off, turn on.

Let's see how long it takes.

July 29, 2014

Our First Typhoon

It's now Typhoon Season and it's been raining a lot. We had our first typhoon the same week as my trip with the Ambassador - in fact, the trip was cut short because of the typhoon.  Our pilots keep us safe and made sure we got back to Manila well ahead of the storm.

The folks at the Embassy allowed people to leave early to get home and safe before the typhoon hit.

Typhoon Glenda came through Albay Province and then hit Manila.  It was a pretty big storm and there was a lot of damage.

The trees got blown around a lot outside our building.

The wind blew the construction fabric.



This crane wasn't locked down and instead swung around - it was a little scary.


You could see the big gusts of wind moving the rain.



We spent the day at our place, watching the storm and playing games.  The power went out all over Manila, but we are lucky in that our building has a generator.









A trip with the Ambassador

Whenever the Ambassador goes someplace, an FSO is assigned to be Control Officer.  That person organizes and coordinates the trip - checking in with the Ambassador's Staff Aide, as well as all the agencies.  Eventually (after lots of meetings, emails, discussions, changes, etc.), a schedule is created and the trip begins.


On this particular trip - we got to take the special plane - very cool!


We went to Legaspi in Albay Province for the first ever Special Olympics - put on by the local Peace Corps volunteers.

There was lots of press taking pictures.  And local dancers as part of the welcome / opening festivities.



They gave us local outfits to wear.


The Ambassador was interviewed by local journalism students.



We visited Cagsawa Ruins.  Very peaceful and lovely.


The town is lovely.


And at the base of Mount Mayon - an active volcano.



We were entertained by local singers with a rendition of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance!




The Ambassador gave an interview at the local radio station.



I loved flying in this plane!

Mount Mayon is just beautiful!

Permanent Housing and Getting Our Stuff!







When we first arrived in Manila, we were put in temporary housing.  After two and a half months, we were able to move in to our permanent housing.




We were able to paint before we moved in - which is great and makes it much homier!














I love our kitchen - it has a lot of storage - a pantry - and a big freezer!







It's great for the kids to have their own space - and good desk space for studying.













One of my favorite things is the abundance of shoe storage. Welcome to the land of Imelda!















Can you tell I love shoes?



Once we moved, we were able to get all of our stuff.  Moving day is always tons of boxes.





It's a nice reminder to see the labels of our great moving guys from Brazil!









My cookbook collection


And so the unpacking begins!  I know most people hate moving, and it's certainly a giant pain.  But I really like the inventory that one is forced to take each time you move.  Both getting ready to pack, and unpacking provide an opportunity to really look at your stuff.  Each time, we end up getting rid of items that no longer work.  And also fall in love with stuff all over again as you figure out where to put it.





One thing you always end up with is a ton of hangers.  When you arrive at a post, they give you just a few - so we always end up purchasing a bunch when we first arrive.  And then our stuff arrives and we have all our usual hangers. Then - when you leave post, your stuff gets packed with the hangers - you don't bring hangers in your suitcase. Then you arrive and don't have enough hangers and the cycle begins again.