Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Christmas and a broken bike handle

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to everyone! This is the happy holiday season! Everyone is celebrating the birth of Jesus from the month of September to December! There are Christmas lights, caroling, nativity scenes, parties, food, dancing, and much more! You would think that it may be slightly uncomfortable for a little Jewish girl, celebrating Jesus' birthday every day, in the midst of the predominately Catholic Philippines- but it's not.

Last week the teachers at my school had a Christmas party where we exchanged presents, performed dance routines by department, and had a lovely feast with traditional Filipino food! I am proud to say that in between preparing the chop suey for the feast in the evening and practicing our dance routine to Feliz Navidad, I received a pedicure, manicure and had my make-up done for the big evening. This took place in the English department and I felt fabulous after wards. It was funny because the manicurist said to me, "you do your own nails right? hm?? I can tell." haha Also I am not used to wearing that much make up unless performing and working at Teatro Zinzanni, but they applied purple, pink, and gold eyeshadow along with red cheeks and lips. I think I'm beginning to fit in, or at least I'm trying my best! haha

So given the Holiday spirit I decided to give myself a bicycle- on Peace Corps budget of course. Rachael and I decided it would be exciting if we bought bicycles and rode our bikes home from Bacolod City- only 21 km. My teachers and family warned us against that idea because of serious construction and the dark, in their words "unwanted elements" that could endanger us. We disregarded their warnings and went ahead in search for the perfect, cheap bike. Before making such a large purchase I had to stop by the temple of kape and consider my options. If you are confused about my reference to the temple of kape, I am speaking of the glorious coffee shop, STARBUCKS! They just set up their first store in Bacolod last week and I was crying inside (tears of joy) when I met my friends, Rachael, Justin and Marlo there.

After Starbucks we went to the market to find affordable bikes- I mean cheap, but can get you from one place to another. After about an hour of haggling for 3 silver bicycles with awesome helmets (mine is red) we were on our way home. Unfortunately we didn't know how to get to the road that would take us back to Bago City. Justin offered to lead us to the superhighway first and on the way Rachael's chain broke. So Justin gave her his bike and Rachael and I were finally on our way back to Bago. The bike ride home is about 21kilometers, which is only about 13 miles. We timed our trip fairly well so we were leaving when it was NOT 100 degrees, approximately around 430pm. (Side note to indicate emotion at this time- EXCITEMENT AND CONTENTMENT- we were so proud of our smart purchase and ability to save money by riding our bike home) We were taking pictures, smiling, and singing our way back to Bago.

Then, we reached heavy traffic and congestion. The pathways were so narrow and there are no rules of the road! If you are able to cut someone off and speed ahead, go for it! As the night grew darker, Rachael and I became a little more nervous. We were about half way home, it was very dark and we had no lights. As were were passing over a narrow bridge, my pedal became loose right as a large semi-truck zoomed past me. My pedal fell off. SHIT! So we beckoned over some young boys with a bike and they attempted to slam my pedal back into place. It was a temporary fix and they said, "Ride slow, very slow." We had about 11 km left to go! No one in the Philippines actually knows exact directions, or distance- but that was my estimate. So imagine, now its very dark, my pedal is dysfunctional and we have no lights or tools to fix our bikes. We don't know how far it is to get home but we're slowly pushing our way towards Bago. For 2 little American girls, wearing flashy and unattractive bike helmets- it probably wasn't the smartest idea. We started to doubt our initial enthusiasm and seriously question our judgment to ride from Bacolod to Bago in the first place! BUT given our well trained Peace Corps mentality- which basically suggests that we go with the flow because you never know whats going to happen AND most likely you will have very little control over your outcome- we attempted to maintain a POSITIVE attitude.

However, after another 30 minutes of riding in the complete dark with jeeps and large trucks zooming by us on the narrow street, my bike pedal fell off again! At this point we decided to swallow our pride and attempt to catch a jeep ride home. Unfortunately we were a little too late. All of the empty jeeps were finished providing transportation for the night and the only jeep that stopped was completely packed full of people. We couldn't fit and our bikes definitely wouldn't have space. Finally a sweet married couple on a tricycle felt pity for the 2 ridiculous looking Americans who were wearing bike helmets, frantically trying to flag down a ride in the dark...and they offered us a ride. So we gratefully accepted their generous offer and paid them 200 pesos for their trouble. Merry Christmas to you! We tried to ride our bikes home and save 15 pesos for the cost of a jeep ride, and instead paid 200 pesos to go 7km. Very smart.

Well, we finally made it home around 8:30pm. At this point, Rachael's chain broke on her bike and I had only one pedal. Completely exhausted, we just went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I couldn't walk! My crotch hurt so bad from the bumpy road, I was positive I broke something! After a few days of healing, my pride and my crotch, the whole experience was more humorous than disappointing. When I share this story with my Filipino family and friends, they just laugh and say, "Charge it to experience." haha well I guess that's the attitude!

Akon Balay

Akon Balay
yes, family and friends, I live here!