No more teaching, and on to paradise

Well, that’s done with.

The past two weeks have been hell. Exams, marking exams, writing student reports, and then finally teaching was over. But no relief, as the end of teaching only ushered in a frantic 4-day rush to pack up all our possessions, throw them in boxes, toss them on a ship and hope that they arrive in Canada in one piece. Finally, finally it was done, just in time to hop into a cab and make a mad rush for the airport for our flight to Manila. We made it just in time, and three hours later we found ourselves in the jeepney and exhaust-filled traffic chaos that is Manila.

What’s a jeepney? Take a WW2-era jeep, cut it in half, lengthen it by a couple metres, weld it back together, toss a couple bench seats facing sideways in the back, and you have the Philippine version of public transit. Before it hits the streets, be sure to paint it silver and adorn it with a thousand multi-coloured pieces of flare to show your jeepney-driving pride.

We just spent one night in Manila, just enough time for Jen to meet up with her volunteer organization and to deliver her ten-tonne suitcase full of donated books for Philippine schools that had been dragging down the tail of the plane and throwing my back out all the way from Taipei. We spent the night there, and the next morning, caught another two-hour cab ride back to the airport where we hopped a flight to Boracay - Boracay, pride of the Philippine tourist industry, with white-sand beaches, turqoise waters, manicured resorts and countless requests for you to part with your money. It was a great time. We met up with our friends Dave and Yumi from Taipei and had three days of relaxation. But the resort scene isn’t what we came to the Philippines looking for, so after the third day we left the island of Boracay for the neighbouring island of Panay and caught a minivan south for the city of Iloilo.

The drive there was spectacular. Inland, the island was covered in green verdant hills shrouded in mist, with rice farms worked by water buffalo-drawn ploughs on the coastal lowlands. Five hours later, much of it through driving rain, we arrived.

Judging by the stares, not many tourists come through Iloilo. In fact we didn’t see anyone else immediately recognizeable as a foreigner the whole time we were there, with the exception of the many Koreans who travelled there to attend English school. We have in fact been generally surprised about the amount of English that there is here in the Philippines. The country is a strange mix of languages reflecting its colonial past - names are almost all Spanish in origin, but street signs and advertisements are almost universally in English, with the odd few written in Tagalog, itself a blend of local languages with Spanish. The resulting creole tosses you just enough recognizable phonetically-spelled Spanish words that you can almost fool yourself into thinking you understand it. We spent a day in Iloilo travelling around the nearby island of Guimaras, famous for its mangoes, visited a mango plantation, and came home with more mango products than I knew existed. Dried mango, mango jerky, mango pickles, mango jam, and mango poisoning. I’m not sure about the mango poisoning yet, but if such a thing exists, we’re going to get it in the next couple days.

This morning we caught a flight out to Puerto Princesa, on the island of Palawan. Palawan is to the Philippines what Borneo is to Indonesia and Malaysia - a remote paradise renowned for its natural beauty and biodiversity, covered in lush tropical jungle and ringed with pristine waters, white beaches and coral reefs. We’ll be spending the rest of our time together on this island, working our way north, and when Jen has to leave on the 19th, I just may spend my last ten days here as well.

Tomorrow my good old friend Evan Thomas, who many of you may know, is joining us, and we’ll be travelling together for the next week and a half. He’s on a vacation between getting called to the bar and starting his job with the big law firm. Which reminds me that I haven’t written anything about my plans after our holiday here. While Jen heads off to the island of Romblon to volunteer for two months, I’ll be spending another week in the Philippines and a couple days in Hong Kong before flying back to Vancouver on July 31st, this time to stay. This September I’ll be starting law school at UBC. So big changes in store, but I’m looking foward to it. And most of all, I’m looking forward to coming home.

One Response to “No more teaching, and on to paradise”

  1. Danielle
    July 15th, 2007 | 10:07 pm

    Hey guys! Taiwan misses you two sooooo much! I hope you guys are having fun and getting tan. I know you are. We will see you again!