Monday, February 20, 2006

Manila trip - Part 2

The next morning, I had to get up really early because Paulo had warned us that the traffic was really bad and we had to factor in half an hour to an hour for traffic jams. After battling through crazy traffic, finally we reached our destination. The first school where I had the training session was next to President Gloria Arroyo's residence (also known as 'the palace'), so security was very high around the school.

We were warmly received by the principal of the school, who led us into the seminar room, where I was greeted by a bunch of very friendly teachers -- my audience for the morning. The presentation went good. It was an eye-opener how different teachers in the Philippines are from Singapore teachers, in terms of their way of thinking and the way they process information. Their concerns included things like the lack of a laboratory to carry out experiments, and other such factors, which I had never come across in a Singapore school. Also, they were very receptive towards the activity-based teaching of Science that I covered in my presentation. It was amazing how in spite of limited resources, the teachers were passionate enough to learn about how other countries were teaching science in schools. I was flooded by questions from them.

Since it was my first presentation in front of an unknown group, I tried to be all serious, and test the ground first before I...errr... became myself. I realised that many teachers had questions for me but were too shy to ask me. So I opened up a word document (the teachers could see it on the projector screen) and typed the sentence "Shy teachers, you may email me your queries at (_my office email address_)." They started laughing and one of them walked over to me and asked, "How old are you, Miss Sayesha?"

"25." I said.

"Oh! That's very yong!" She exclaimed.

I love that cute Filipino accent. "So yong!" :)

Even Paulo, an ardent lover of candy, would exclaim now and then, "I want kaandy. Who has kaandy?" And he would sulk like a kid till someone got him his candy.

After the session, we sat down for lunch with the teachers.

I noticed something that looked like bittergourd pieces immersed in liquid tofu.

"Sayesha, you must try this dessert!" Said the principal.


"What??!! Dessert made of bittergourd and tofu? Ek toh karela us par tofu chadha??" I tried to put on a smiling face.

I was thinking of ways on how to politely decline her generous offer when she said, "It's made of yong coconut and pandan jelly."

"Oh!" As soon as I realised it wasn't bittergourd in liquid tofu, I attacked it with a vengeance. As soon as I had the first bite, I almost kicked myself. For even letting the thought of skipping that yummy thingie cross my mind. Honestly, it was the yummiest dessert I'd ever had. The principal told me it was known as buku salad.

So I skipped the rice and vegetables and prawns, to make sure there was enough room for me to gobble down three bowls of buku salad.

"Sayesha loves yong coconut, eh?" The principal smiled.

"Yeah! Yong Sayesha loves yong coconut!" I thought to myself and went back to my precious buku salad.

After lunch, we had to rush to the airport to receive the speakers for English and Maths. They had not had lunch, so we took them to a restaurant, where Paulo happily tucked in another round of lunch. We stared at him in disbelief as he said, "Very hungry, yeah?"

The restaurant had mango-sago dessert, and I remembered falling in love with it in Hong Kong, so I did not mind ordering just that. It was nice, but not as yummy as the one in Hong Kong. Sheesh, I miss Hong Kong.

My afternoon session was to begin soon, and we quickly dropped off the two speakers at the hotel and made our way to the second school. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we were in for a surprise. The school had a huge welcome banner displayed for us.

"Oh my goodness! I exclaimed.

Paulo started laughing.

"What??"

"Hahaha! You know they were even going to arrange for the school band to welcome you, but some last minute thing came up and they could not."

Thank goodness they did not! I'd have been embarrassed to death if there had been a welcome band for me! But all the lifts in the school had banners with my name on it! Whoa, talk of an ego boost! They even gave me a framed certificate at the end of the session, as it said, 'for having shared her expertise during the lecture-workshop on Teaching Enhancements for Science.'

This school was better funded than the last one, and I was really amazed to see that even the teachers had a uniform. The session also went pretty well.

The model of the respiratory system (picture on the left) I had made to demonstrate model-based learning, became an instant hit.

I passed the model around the room, and the teachers had a cool time tugging at the 'diaphragm' and making the 'lungs' inside the 'ribcage' inflate, and then letting go of the diaphragm to see the lungs deflate.

The teachers were also very excited about the science CD-ROM games. One of the male teachers shyly asked me if he could play one of the games I had demonstrated.

"Sure, go ahead!" I said.

He had such a blast, finishing all the games, with some help from the other very excited teachers. Finally, we were done, and I had another round of teachers congratulating me for 'being a speakerrr at such a yong age'. I really felt like a pampered princess, thanks to the teachers and also Paulo. The way he fussed over me totally spoiled me.


"You tell me wherever you want to go. I will arrange the van and the driver." And he wasn't making empty promises. In the next few days, he really stood by his word. I was surprised to see the number of vans and drivers he had access to. I'm sure if I'd asked to be driven around in front of the US embassy in a cement-mixer, he'd have arranged for it.


So after the incredibly exhausting day, he asked, "What do you want to do now?"

"Err... I don't know... I'm feeling tired..."

"You're tired? You want a massage?"

Visions of big guy Paulo crushing my bones to pulp floated around in my freaked out head.

"Massage??" I think I let the horror show on my face.

"Yes, I will take you to a spa."

"Ohhhh! Spa! Yeah, spa sounds good! Phew!" I heaved a sigh of relief.

So we drive around looking for spas. Paulo also made some calls to find out which were the good ones.

We arrived at one, and he said, "You stay in the van. I will go and check it out whether it is okay or not. Okay?"

"Errr... okay."

He was back in a couple of minutes.

"No good. Too many Japanese businessmen. We will go somewhere else."

So finally we decided on Macapagal (isn't that Prez Arroyo's middle name?) spa, which we'd seen at the seafood place we'd gone to for dinner the previous night.

Sheesh, this reminds me I completely forgot to write about the gay crabs from the previous night!!


Yes, I said 'gay crabs'.

Well, I was walking along the seafood marketing with the agent's agent D, admiring things like this giant eel on the left (have you ever seen anything like this????), when this guy thrust a crab in my face and said something in Tagalog. He looked very pleased with himself, and I freaked out and asked D what he'd just said to me. She said, "Oh, he's just trying to sell you the gay crab."

"Gay crab?????? What on earth is a gay crab???" I was utterly amazed.

"You know... like there are male crabs... and there are female crabs... there are also gay crabs... very tasty... very popular!"

"Hang on, D. Let me get this right... aren't gay crabs a subset of male crabs or female crabs?"

"Uhhh... Well, I dunno exactly... but this is what we call them. Gay crabs."

The man was still holding the apparently gay crab in my face, and I backed off and said, "No I don't want your gay crab. Thanks!" and got outta there as soon as I could.

So where was I? Oh yeah, the Macapagal spa! Each one of us decided to get a massage. Only problem was that they only had four rooms, and there were five of us.

"How about kowpul jacuzzi?" The masseuse suggested.

"No!" I politely declined. Sheesh! Couple jacuzzi it seems. Not yet!

Due to the lack of rooms, one of us had to sacrifice getting the massage. Everyone turned to smile at Paulo (come to think of it, we really bullied him).

He sighed and agreed to waiting around for us.

The massage was phenomenal. Exactly what I needed at the end of the day. Manila has a tipping culture, so we all tipped 10%, but my Marketing Manager was so pleased with his massage that he tipped 50%!

It was very late, and I wanted to catch some sleep in preparation for the next day. So we decided to get dinner from the McDonald's drive-thru. We were all eating in the van itself, and I was having a tough time balancing my chicken, my fries and my drink. Paulo finished his meal within a few minutes and offered to hold my fries for me.

"I will protect them for you." He said.

"Thanks. Just make them you don't protect them by storing them in your stomach." I said.

His right hand man, who was also in the van, started laughing and exchanged some words with Paulo in Tagalog, which Paulo translated for me later. My man here says, "You speak very clearly. He can understand you. Even though he does not know much English." The right-hand man nodded. He insisted on holding my drink. So there I was, sitting like a princess in an old van, eating my chicken, with Paulo holding my fries and right-hand man holding my drink. I was gonna have a tough time adjusting to my tough life in Singapore once I was back.

Finally, we were dropped at our hotel. As we got into the lift, my Marketing Manager still could not stop talking about how his massage was so great and how his tip was justified. A lady got into the lift just as he was saying, "Honestly, Sayesha, she was the best I ever had! I have been to Thailand, Indonesia, Bali, but she was the best. Very strong woman. Knew exactly what I wanted. That's why I tipped her 50%." The lady in the lift was giving him very very strange looks, but he went on and on and on. I was wishing like Sita maiyya, "Dharti phat jaaye aur main usme sama jaaun!" or rather "Lift khul jaaye aur mera floor aa jaaye!" Luckily, it happened soon, and within minutes I was in the comfort of my room and tucked into my cosy bed.

But just before I went to sleep, I remembered something that one of my friends had once told me, “When you’re on an overseas business trip, you tend to think about things that you otherwise wouldn’t.” I never really identified with what he said. I’d never been on an overseas business trip before.

But now I know exactly what he was talking about.

When you’re in a strange land, surrounded by strangers, when your day is crazily packed, you rarely have time to think of anything else. But once in a while, your mind wanders off and you start thinking about things which you'd either never thought were worth thinking, or you were simply not in the right frame of mind. But somehow,an overseas business trip brings that side out, helps put things in perspective. Reminds you of long-forgotten little incidents, brings back lost memories, makes you miss people you'd never thought you'd miss.

And as I snuggled into the comforter and turned the light switch off, I found myself humming these lines I'd penned in my head some time ago:

And I ask myself at the end of the day
'Whom did you miss the most today?'



31 comments:

Anonymous said...

great read..i still think the custom officer complimented india when he said beautiful rather than you :p

ritzkini said...

:)
you had fun,dint you..
:)
the gay crab..was interrresting..
:))

renegadefade said...

youre giving everyone the middle finger in that photo with the model!
why sayesha why? :P

Vikram said...

Shit, the band should have welcomed you. It would have been such an awesome sight. hehehe

virdi said...

And I ask myself at the end of the day
'Whom did you miss the most today?'


Obviously the one whom you plan to get married when you are 60... Who else??? ;-)

V..

virdi said...

Now I am not calling you... :-(

You are not picking up the phone... You don't want to talk to me... Not 1 or 2 but you ignored my call thrice...

dost dost na raha...........

V..

Anonymous said...

Nice read ... i am sure there are going to as many parts as there are days .. rite ... :) ... looking forward to it ..

Anonymous said...

Haven't read the blog yet... just read the last few lines
"And as I snuggled into the comforter and turned the light switch off, I found myself humming these lines I'd penned in my head some time ago:

And I ask myself at the end of the day
'Whom did you miss the most today?'
"

I have a song on similar lines...wonderful song.... you want it? I'll upload it somewhere...

-Mitthu

Anonymous said...

Blog was the this missed the most...
sahi bola na...

Starbreez said...

what a great trip! :)

kel tamashek said...

wow, a trip to remember! and mktg mgr's antics never fail to crack me up... you sure he didn't get into any scrapes?

jade said...

part 2 was more eventful i feel:)
u must had good fun on this trip! i wonder how it is to be pampered like tht:) but good things dont last long and that why they are good things otherwise they would be normal..

Rohit Talwar said...

I'm here. Before The girl came. MUHAHHAAAAAHAHAAA.

Awesome. I love your posts.

So you're in the education sector. What kind of a job is it in Singapore?



And, uh, GAY CRABS! :D

Manish said...

is there any part 3 after this :)

V said...

Wow!

You seem to be a very very frequent traveller.AND a very good narrator about those travels ;)

Keep it up, Sayesha!

p.s.but for god's sake, change the link on the right.it's as simple as "sumedhprasad.com"
p.p.s.I just finished compiling my trip to kerela-photo-blog.If you're interested, you can visit http://sumedh07.zoto.com/galleries/keralatrip

Lalit Singh said...

Gay crabs.. lols

Anyways seesm u r having a ball over there... sahi hain... enjoy girl!!!

Harshi said...

Wow....what a time you had Sash! Paulo and everyone seemed very gracious. Gosh, I'd never have guessed that was an eel! I thought that seemed like a really nice furry little bed :-)). Young coconut and jelly. It does sound yummy! Loved the way you ended your post. :)

PS: Interesting...to meet with teachers in a different land. Yeah, I have seen teachers are usually so passionate about their work.

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

HAHAHA! What a trip you had! And I want that buku salad too! *Wails* It sounds sooo gooood! (sowwie...I'm a glutton...can't help:P)

It'd have been great had they played that band. Amazing scene it'd have been. ;)

That lift incident sounded SO funny!!! was wishing like Sita maiyya, "Dharti phat jaaye aur main usme sama jaaun!" or rather "Lift khul jaaye aur mera floor aa jaaye!"
ROTFL!!! :D

Rohit: Not everyone has become insanely free like you...and I've the my beloved studies, remember? I've my IAN which is too darn active these days.
And now, I've started making a lot of donations...gold donations, particularly. Naaah, I ain't becoming large hearted. It's just an evil scheme so that all ye poor people can bless me and I'll score super high marks. :D
So, enjoy everyone! The Girl is in a generous mood. :P Hehe.

Siddhu said...

Paulo is quite an interesting chap, what?! :)

Did u give him the link to ur blog?

Sayesha said...

#Anon,
Thanks! :)
Sheesh I can't believe you're still hung up about that! :) Let me tell you, sir, that a girl ALWAYS knows. It's an extra sense she is born with. She knows who's looking at her, she knows who thinks she's pretty, she knows who's in love with her, she knows who hates her, even though all of these may not be explicitly displayed before her. But if you wanna think that he complimented India, go ahead, whatever makes you happy, buddy! :)

#Kini,
Yeah, I had a blast, in spite of the exhaustion! :)

#Rene,
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I knew someone would say that! Buddy, you try holding the model, making it work and clicking a pic of it working, with only two hands, and you will notice how awkwardly they position themselves! :D
Once again, hahahahahahahah! :D

#Vikram,
Hahahahahaha! I'd have freaked out man! A band is too much! :D

#Virdi,
You dhakkan! I don't 'plan' to get married to him! He's my back-up guy! If nothing else works out, then we will end up together, that's all! There's no 'planning'! Sheesh! :/
ps: Sorry yaar, office mein I keep my phone on silent mode, missed all three of your calls :(

#Anon,
Thanks! :) I dunno yaar... I'll go on writing and see how many posts it takes! :P

#Mitthu,
Sure do upload it! Would love to read it. I have to complete this one though :P

#Anon,
The suprise answer to the question is 'No'. I did miss the people on my blog, but not blogging as such. Even I was amazed at that discovery! :O

#Starbreez,
Yeah, it was fabulous! :)

#KT,
Hahahahahaha! He was a source of much comic relief throughout the trip. More coming up in next post! :D

#Jade,
Yeah, part 2 was more eventful. Part 1 was only half a day, and I was tired from my flight, etc. so could not do much :)
ps: Great point about good things! :)

#Rohit,
I'm a senior editor of children's books (textbooks and a science magazine) in a publishing company here. Work's really fun, pays almost enough to keep the rent and bills going, and makes me really really happy :)

#Manish,
Yes, there is a part 3. Sawaal yeh hona chahiye ki is there a part 4? ;)

#Tequila,
Not as frequent as I'd like yaar! My other trips were all holidays, this was my first business trip. :)

Yeah, I'll change the link yaar... getting too lazy! :P

#Lalit,
Hahaha! Thanks man! :)

#Harshi,
Yeah, I was totally pampered by Paulo yaar! Waapas aane ka mann hi nahin kar raha tha! :P

//Nice furry little bed

Hahahahahahaha! :D

#The Girl,
Oooh the buku salad was awesome! I'm gonna try and make it! Achha bana toh I will send you the recipe, theek hai? :)

#Siddhu,
//Did u give him the link to ur blog?

Sheesh nooooooo! I don't give my blog link to people. I always let it be discovered. Otherwise the posts start becoming too 'careful' and 'planned' if I know who's reading it, and then the joy of blogging is lost.

chitra said...

Ha ha ... glad to see that you enjoyed a lot Sayesha !! BTW, whom did you miss that day :) :) ??

Siddhu said...

Bt doesn't that work the other way round as well? I've poked a li'l (okay, more than a li'l ;) ) fun of a friend of mine, and I'm constantly worried she'll stumble upon my blog somehow. So ultimately planning ur blog is always on ur mind.;)

Shriedhar said...

nice 2 c ur posts bk.

im planing 2 read them in week ends :)

bye

Gangadhar said...

Wow..dat's a fantastic trip you had..

Greetings from
Gangadhar

Raj said...

Hey, i miss reading n commenting on ur posts. A li'l busy these days. I read half of the last post. Will read all these posts later. But it looks like you had lots of fun from the photos

:)

Sayesha said...

#Chitra,
Thanks! :)

//BTW, whom did you miss that day :) :) ??

Coming soon to a blog near you! ;)

#Siddhu,
Naah, it gets too complicated when you start thinking of who may be reading your blog yaar... for all I know, Paulo is reading this right now! (Hi, Paulo!) I'd rather not worry about all that and just blog in peace :)

#Shreedhar,
Thanks! :)

#Gangadhar,
Thanks! Yeah, it was really great! :)

#Raj,
Oye Raj mere dost, tu kithhe gaya yaar? Aadhe post mein patience khatam kya? :P Hope to see you back soon! :)

lil _kath said...

Oh you love that buko salad too huh?..so yummy^_^ i missed that kawaii..and of course our no. 1 mango juice.It looks like you really enjoyed your stay in Manila..that's nice!
I love all the pics. Sayesha..thanx for sharing!

love,
-kathy-

Rohit Talwar said...

Yeah. I'm sure it does! With such opportunities!


@ The girl..
Don't be so generous girl. Our ashirwad is with you babe. Because later you might start abusing me! :P

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