I just arrived back in Leyte this afternoon and had a repeat of the feeling I had the first time I arrived here a year ago: holy crap, this is nice.
I was snapping pictures from the airplane, but had the aisle seat so gave up when I thought I got everything I could get. Then, right before landing, we turned into a beautiful scene of the mountains and coconut trees puncturing and brushing against a bright blue sky, but my camera was in the bag! Oh yeah, one more turn, and we landed on the runway facing the ocean, with Samar across the pond.
Riding in the van from the airport to Burauen was great, except for my daughter getting motion sickness and puking in my lap. Thank god for her favorite pillow to soak most of the blow. There were still 20 minutes of driving, so that's a lot of time to avoid the stickiness. Thanks wife for passing that on to our kids. Her daughter puked after a taxi ride to the mall the other day.
Anyways, riding through all that lush green was amazing. I know better, but it really feels like this is paradise. I don't really see poverty out here in the countryside. I know people are poor, but they're hard workers. For all the stereotyping I've done of Filipinos not working, this afternoon, I saw nothing but hard labor in the fields and along the road. These guys out here aren't lazy. I feel a little insecure with my flabby self, having taught Korean kids how to play "hangman" for the last 5 years, while these guys have done "man-work".
Even the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well out here. I was seeing it in Marikina City more and more, compared to the past, this trip. But now being in the countryside, all I see is people setting up small businesses or working as laborers. It's like it's the same thing I was always looking at, but I'm seeing it differently now. I don't know why. Maybe it's just the giddiness of being back, and actually looking to join their ranks. All I saw along the road were signs for lechon, and it made me feel really comfortable with the business we dove into.
Later in the day we got to visit our farm for the first time and I was really happy with that. Business is going well. I thought we were going to sell all 30 pigs at once and sit on a giant sum of money, but it's not going to happen like that. Instead, we'll sell 2~3 pigs a day and get the money gradually. Either way, as long as we're getting paid. I'm still waiting for my lump sum pension refund from Korea, so we're running low on what we brought, and could use the cash injection.
I don't know. It just never ceases to amaze me why everyone runs to the city, regardless of the country. I understand the attractions when it's a cool metropolis like Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, or a similar place in a modern country. But in the developing world, cities are dirty, polluted, crime ridden, stripped of culture, and such. Why would a Filipino rather work hard for pennies in a polluted city, than work for pennies in the beautiful surroundings of their home province surrounded by friends and family?
Similarly, why do a lot of foreigners opt for the large cities? I don't know. I loved what I saw today, and to me, this is where the real adventure is. To each their own, but you can't beat fresh air and scenery.
The Art and Science of Sailing (my first "glob" ever, so bear with me folks)
One of my hobbies that I should continue upon arrival back to my native land is sailing. Either windsurfing or "flying on a Hobie Cat", they are both a way to get a free ride off Mother Nature. For those of you that have never experience slicing through the water just using the wind and the surf, the Philippines have many beach resorts that offer rentals and sailing instructions.
I will try to briefly describe my 30+ years of sailing a Hobie Cat 16 footer. Unless you have questions about basic sailing, here is my way of having a great time, especially during inclement weather conditions. Hobie Cats are catamarans designed for speed and more speed. The profile (side view) is banana shaped with the two pontoons separated by a large trampoline. Usually a two man crew but can accomodate 4-6 adults for slow cruising. However, sailing solo is the ultimate ride, enabling the catamaran to "fly" at great distances. The leeward hull is the only one gliding through the water, while the windward hull is "flying" above the water. Sitting on the windward hull for counterbalance, you're trimming both the main and jib sails and handling the tiller to steer the leeward rudder blade, as it cuts through the water like a fast barracuda.
Can you picture yourself sitting on the windward hull, just at the "point of no return"? Beyond that angle (about 60 degrees), the trampoline now acting like a sail will accelerate the process of flipping the boat over. No big deal -- sailing catamarans is half swimming, half sailing anyway. Once you get a taste how fast you're going, out racing other skippers or flying the longest distance, it becomes very addictive. Believe me.......
My next blog is a little more advance sailing or taking more risk. For example, rather than sitting on the windward hull I would be standing with support of a trapeze wire, extending the full length of my body for counter balance. I consider myself a radical skipper with only a handful of us in San Diego, CA that would actually "play" out in the surf line. I paid dearly for that. More to come on my next blog.......
Anyway, here is a 6 minute video on the Hobie 16:https://youtu.be/39YCsV1o49o
Have a problem to open a current account in a Philippine bank. I sent an inquiry to several major Philippine banks and all denied me in the remote account opening. You need only personal presence. In addition 3 of 5 banks have requested the local ID, which can be obtained after 3-4 months to find in the Philippines. A month will be in Cebu, go to the bank are the two that do not require ID. If you manage to open an account without ID will write where.
Finding a place for retirement is a complex issue. We do not want to live in a big city. However, we must be able to quickly get to the big city to get access to medicine or the airport. We were on Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao, Bohol and Cebu. On each was that like and what does not fit. But the closest we fit Cebu. There is an international airport, medical, banks, large supermarkets and 2-3 hour accessibility by car pretty rural villages where there is little noise, pure nature, life is cheap and good diving. Yes, perhaps this is what we need.
It is so small 3-4 hours by car, that probably does not matter where to stay to live in the south of the island of Cebu. But at the last visit to the island of Cebu where we visited Maolboal we loved. We also found a few nice houses and lots to buy or rent, but decided to defer a final decision until the next trip which I hope will be soon. It's warm, and we have more sleet and cold.
Business looking for a buyer if there is a wish - welcome: 0)))))
And while working with a hired manager, but it still does not work like me or my husband. I guess it's okay, I do not know. I very much hope that our transition to the Philippines will not take more than 2 years.
So we decided. After 25 years of active service rashili retire and live for fun. It was difficult to decide, but now it has more problems to deal with. We live on this island of Sakhalin in the far east of Russia, north of Japan. The business of advertising production company, servicing companies operating in the oil and gas offshore Sakhalin. We have two children and elderly parents who need care. The state pension so little hope and wait until I was 55 years and 65 years to her husband does not want to, so do yourself rental income. Since we are not very large queries, we hope that it will be enough for our lives. To stay and work with the business that need to do something and this is the big question. I know that many businesses face the problem that their children do not want to continue their work. Here we have the same thing, one son does not want the other can not continue our business.That leaves two options or business to sell or hire a director for management. I read in a network of both. Unfortunately, in Russia, the market is not well developed businesses and the chance is very small. On the other hand find a quality director for management as it is very difficult to buy a pig in a poke do not know what will happen.
I've got an hour and a half before I leave for work to start another two to three week hitch of 12 hour nights working on an oil drilling rig here in Alberta. I couldn't be farther from the Philippines, yet it feels so close.
Everyday I read news from the Philippines and SKYPE with my family in Leyte. Every week or two I send money there and do the currency conversions in my head. The gossip of my hometown is all I have to worry about as there's no gossip here. I care more about the Canadian embassy's decision on my wife's visitor visa (coming up) or the Philippines DFA processing of my childrens' passports than I care about my possible tax issues or whether I'm a resident in Saskatchewan or Alberta. I ponder buying coconut land in Leyte under my daughters' names more than I ponder retirement in the Great White North.
The Philippines consumes me. Will Pacquiao be the same? Will Filipinos ever appreciate the greatness of Nonito Donaire?! Stephen Harper's a bit of a fag, but that Aquino is pretty cool!
As it stands, I'm a few days from the six month mark of not seeing my kids or wife. Getting their dual-citizenship with the Philippines has been a long affair, but will be over in a month or month and a half, depending on the system problems at the Tacloban office for passports. My wife's visa application to Canada was returned because the postal money order from Phil Post had poor quality bar-codes. Now we're waiting on the brother-in-law-in-Cebu to get us a bank draft in Canadian dollars since the banks in Tacloban don't offer that service. We'll re-apply through the PIASI service early-to-mid-to-late next week for that ever so prized Canadian visa.
If my wife gets the visa, I'm expecting to have her and the kids here by mid-March. If she doesn't get it (I just knocked on wood) I guess I'll take my month off in April to land in the Philippines and apply for the spousal visa instead. In that case I'd have to buckle in for the long haul of another year waiting for it to be approved. Yet that's confusing because scores of Filipinos here are telling me they got approved in three to four months! Does anyone else smell corruption? There are standard times for these processes and for the Philippines it's a year. I had a close Fil-Can friend tell me to name drop his dad's name at our local politician's office and it would be processed faster. My brother, who works in immigration, thought that's BS.
What a conundrum!
Hoping for the best, however, I wonder what will happen when my wife is here? Will I stop rooting for Aquino? Will I ponder the beauty of the Bahamas for a vacation over that of Palawan? Will I become more interested in the fighting career of Rory MacDonald instead of the "Filipino Flash?" Will I encourage my kids to learn French or Chinese over Tagalog? Will JOSE RIZAL TAKE A BACKSEAT TO DENZEL WASHINGTON?!!!
I have no idea what will happen once they're here and we're living happily together. But for now, for some strange reason, my heart constantly feels telepathically transported to the Philippines where my children play, probably barefooted, in our grass and gravel yard, and my monkey, Boots, harasses my mother-in-law, and the local gossip affects us, and the health issues piss me off, and where the gays teach my young daughters to dance and pose like divas; where cigarettes are fifty cents a pack, and the night blares with toads, roosters, dogs, and karaoke, not to mention those ever so peaceful crickets. It's so quiet...
For now, my heart is still in the Philippines. For later, where the F*** are those roosters?
When I lost my job as a slot bench tech at a local casino nearly 3 years ago, I took up the game of tennis again.
I started back in the 80's trying to perfect my strokes over the years but I still consider myself a 4.3 player. Any
thing above 6.5 is a professional. More advance players are too serious for my blood.....I wouldn't be able to
tolerate back to back tournaments in trying to climb that tennis ladder.
My style of game is that I play with anybody and everybody -- often times I've been asked to show them some
basic and advance strokes but I held off, thinking of my own struggles of htting that damn ball. I would rather
whack the ball from base line to base line without playing any games or keeping score. I really enjoy a non stop
rally, even playing a ball outside the lines. Long 30-45 minutes of rallying for about 2-3 hours and then I'm done,
like overdone. I'm a hurtin' puppy but I love it.
Over the years watching so many videos and on court instructions (I'm cheap and self taught), my strongest
stroke has to be my backhand slice. Actually, it has something to do with confidence which my forehand, volley
and serve needs more tweaking. However, I do like chasing a wide shot off my backhand and then slicing it down
the line for a winner. The player opposite me just shakes his head in amazement. Hey, i just close my eyes and
and whack that damn ball! Sometimes I tell the ladies I need to check my pants when I hit a good one.....he, he.
Eye contact is my biggest problem. Or perhaps concentration is another word for it. I become lazy, not moving
my feet, like someone put super glue on my shoes. In spite of that, I thoroughly enjoy the game. I'm not out for
blood and often times, I really like to laugh at my goofy self whenever I miss-hit an easy one. Fortunately, at the
age of 62, I can still hang with the younger guns on the court.
Perhaps that is my blessing in disguise.
I have sponsored two young ladies to go to college there in the Philipinnes. Both were cam girls (I know scammers right?) Well one went for one semester then dropped out, but not before I had sent her tution for the next semester. The other young lady is in her first semester of her third year and soon will be starting her second semester. So I figure one out of two is not a bad average 50% considering I have never met either one except online. I know how hard it is for the average filipino to send their children to secondary school let alone college. I talk to her every week via interent to see how things are going. I'm by no means rich, and yes I'm married with four adult kids, and six grandchildren. Helped put my granddaughter through college and she graduated this year.Helped one grandson but he dropped out. Also my wife knows that I am doing this and doesn't approve or disapprove, saying it is up to me. Just hopeing that Ligaya can keep her focus and will continue until she graduates. Not all of us are ugly americans, ok maybe ugly but we still have compassion.
I recently had another weekend visit to my family in the Philippines. I'm a short trip away, based in Taiwan, but the visits haven't been as regular as I'd like. This was one of those day and a half plans, in Saturday morning, and out Sunday afternoon, just to fill the space between longer vacations.
Luckily, it turned into 2 and a half days, as my dad booked the wrong return flight for me to Manila, and I stayed an extra day.
Returning home is always interesting. My wife doesn't have a lot of money to work with, but time is on her side, as she doesn't work. She transformed our plain bedroom/living room into a very nice space, filled with dividing curtains and class. My 4 year old, Kira, was proud to show me her "bangs," as she finally had a haircut. My two-year old, Kiana, was a typical two year old, and as sweet as sugarcane.
One of the funny things about our house is that both my wife and step-daughter tend to have a lot of gay friends. These boys are really good with my daughters, and so as soon as we relaxed in the bedroom, my girls started showing off their dance routines and poses for the camera. I'll just say that they were 'fabulous,' and it's like having that TV show "Glee" produced right out of my house.
The first day, after not sleeping on the overnight flights there, we hit up the beach at noon, and stayed until the early evening, drinking Red Horse and having fun in the water. For the first time ever, both of my daughters were over their fear of the ocean, and allowed me to carry them into the deeper waters. They even attempted kicking and swimming, which made me think there's still a chance that they'll grow up to be oceanic beauties, exotic among Canadians. They've definitely got the tans.
I crashed early that night, but by the time I woke up, we were planning another day at the beach. I was nervous about it because I knew I would have to return early to get ready for my flight. I checked my tickets to get my timing down and realized my pops had made a mistake. He booked my flight to Manila at 7:30 instead of 19:30, when I normally fly back. In panic mode, I called Philippine Airlines, and they told me I could fly the next day, and pay the 1900 peso penalty the next day when I checked in. My daughters and everyone took off in their tricycle for the beach at that point, and I hadn't yet called Cebu Pacific for my flight to Taiwan.
That's when things got sticky. I was calling them ten hours before my flight was due to leave, had already paid for the initial ticket, and they still gave me a deadline of midnight to pay the penalty of 4100 pesos at a BDO bank, or I would lose the ticket. The problem was, the nearest BDO bank is an hour away in Tacloban, and it was a Sunday! I begged that I could pay the next day at check in to no avail, told myself, "F*** it," and went to the beach - without the stress of an early return home.
The second day at the beach was as good as the first, and this time I got to drink Tuba (coconut wine) with my basketball friends, and do some more swimming with my daughters. It was a great day. I got to rock Kiana to sleep for the first time in a long time, and we just had a lot of fun. I had more friends, and my daughters had more friends, and we had more fun.
At night, when we returned home, I called Cebu Pacific again. This time the girl conceded that I could pay at the check in counter five hours before my flight, but the phone ran out of load before we could finalize the flight details. I called back, and this new guy told me I COULDN'T PAY AT CHECK IN, and it had to be a BDO by midnight, to which I cussed his butt out, and hung up the phone.
After a splendid morning and afternoon the next day with my girls, I hit up the airport, and through some running around and scrambling, got the flight paid for, and secured the ticket. The Cebu Pacific staff at the Tacloban airport were helpful and nice, and I have no qualms with them. The company as a whole, however, is terrible. I understand that being a "budget carrier" means stiffer penalties and restrictions, but c'mon... .I've already paid for the ticket. You don't need me to pay by midnight at a BDO. I've flown with this carrier over 30 times. They could give me til the next day, as happened, but just feel like jerking me around. I hate that, and I hate them.
Unfortunately, I love their cheap fares! Aaaah.... I wish I could afford to be a man of principle, but I can't. I'm a slut for savings.
So that's my most recent adventure.
Shortly after I arrived back at Fred's he asked me to run an errand. I was to go to the nearest town to collect some stuff. Take the motorbike he says. I haven't
driven a motorbike for years, but what the heck. It's a half hour drive and as I pull in to town I get a rear tyre blowout. A guy points to it "Oh" he says, "You have a
flat tyre"........mmm........helpfull. Seriously though, this guy is good, He organises a motor trike driver ( resting nearby ) to remove the wheel, and a pedal trike
driver to take the wheel to the repair shop, "Give him 50p for the repair" he says. He comes back one hour later with the repaired wheel. " give him 50p for his fare"
the guy says. The motor trike driver replaces the wheel and I ask him "how much?" "No worries mate, forget it" he says. Well he doesn't say that exactly but
the message is the same. I press 50p into his hand. I get on the bike, thank everyone, wave goodbye, and I'm on my way. I'm thinking One hundred and fifty
pesos. Three dollars. I couldn't buy a cup of coffee for that where I come from.
The next day I go with Fred in the car to order some things from the hardware store. Fred is known here. Behind the counter is a woman and a young girl.
Right out of the blue Fred says to the woman "My friend here is looking for a girlfriend. Do you know anyone?" The woman flings her arm round the girl next to her.
The girl turns bright red and bends to concentrate more fully on whatever she is writing. The next day Freds helper goes to collect the material from the hardware store. When he gets back he reports to Fred, "Oh, the girl in the hardware store," we look at him, "She's interested." Fred turns to me "And that's how easy it is"
he says. I never did get back there and and left for home a couple of days later.
When I get back to the Philippines I'm going to the mall. I'm going to walk up to the most attractive girl working there. "Hi" I'm going to say. "I'm looking for a
girlfriend, do you know anyone who might be interested?" I'll smile. "Maybe you?" I'll say. At this point I may do the Groucho Marx eyebrow thing......Portrait
of me as a ladies man.
These days, here in Australia, when I walk through the shopping centres and malls, I'm invisible,
In the towns near to where Fred lives I'm surprised by the number of young girls who hold my eye, and smile as they pass by.
It may not mean much, but it sure beats the hell out of being invisible.
At some point in my trip I have to take a ferry. This is a big boat and full, and I think I'm the only caucasian on it. Soon I become aware of a group of kids,
smiling and peering at me from behind things. I go out for a breath of air and they follow me. A little girl about 5yrs old approaches me. She is so full of energy
she can't stand still. She has big eyes full of laughter and mischief, and a huge smile to match. "Hello" she says. "Hello" I answer. Encouraged, her smile
grew even wider. "Whats your name?" I tell her. "How old are you?" I tell her. An older girl about 12yrs bends down to whisper in her ear. The little one bounces
up. "Do you have a wife?" "No" I say. More whispering. "Do you have a ladyfriend?" "No" I say. "What about you? Would you like to marry me?"
Her face turns instantly to thunder. "NO !" she exclaims, and storms off. My mirth was off the scale.......Those Filippino kids.
Next time I go to the Philippines I'll wear baggy boardshorts, baggy singlet and thongs, and that's probably all Ill take. Maybe 7 kilos in a backpack.
In fact It's packed already :thumbsup:
What do you think ? Great title eh. Yep, it's a crowd puller all right.
Ok, well you have to remember that I only spent two weeks in the Philippines and a couple of days it rained, so I can't tell you much about the place per se.
So what you're getting is a teeny weeny glimpse through my eyes.
I didn't know much about the Phils but I did want to go and have a look. I thought it might be nice to keep a base here in Australia when I retire, but spend lots of time somewhere in South East Asia where the living is, well I don't know .............different.
I bought a bag I could roller or backpack and loaded it with about 12 kilos of gear, mostly shorts and short sleeved shirts. (remember that, I'm coming back to it later) I took a small backpack to carry on, with hardly anything in it. I have a light pair of zip-off cargo pants, which I think are great for travelling.
Ok, the Philippines (finally)
Leaving the airport building in Cebu was like walking into an oven. Very hot and very humid.
There was a friendly guy there all ready to usher me into a waiting taxi. I guess he was there in case I couldn't signal the driver myself or lift my 12 kilo bag into the boot ....mmm.......thoughtful.
Shortly (I mean very shortly) before I left for my 2 weeks in the Phils, I discovered I had an aquaintance from 25 years before who was living there already.
I contacted him and he said he would meet me at a hotel he recommended in Cebu.
That night he took me out to a few (what he called) girlie bars ......mmm......interesting. Those girls aren't shy. We returned to the hotel a little the worse for wear.... but alone.
We left for his place the following day. This was a surprise because I thought he would be on his way,
leaving me to scout the place myself.
He has a large 2 storey house on a very large block in a rural area. There were enough people around, including his wife of 20 years, to populate a small hamlet.
My aquaintance was now a friend, and a more laid-back, generous, easy going guy you could never wish to meet.
Now I have to come clean here and tell you that I had been talking to a lady I met on an internet dating site.
She was over 35yrs, had lived for a while in Europe and seemed very sensible.
She was as wary of encouraging me, as I was of her, which I took to be a good sign.
I left my new friends place to meet her in the town/city where she lived, and booked in to a hotel she recommended.
This was a posh place which was charging me 2500p a night and seemed to have more liveried flunkeys than guests. Very nice but not really my thang.
(I guess I'm not a caviar and canapes type. More a meat pie and chips kind of bloke.)
We met and she showed me some of the sights over the next couple of days.
She rented a car and driver a couple of times to take us to some popular sightseeing places. It was comfortable and relaxing and cost about 3000p for about
4 hours. (I lost track of time)
I learned (but not soon enough) that, while I am wary because I am careful, she is wary because she is paranoid, and I have to consider everything I say to her
in case there's something she could interpret as insulting, offensive or that might indicate that I would take advantage of her in some dastardly way given half the chance.
She spends a few hours a day with me, arriving about 1pm and leaving about 7pm. A couple of days she cancells due to bad weather or headache.
I move out of the posh place and find another 5 minutes walk away lacking the formality but being very, very friendly and having every thing I need for 1000p
My lady friend is not happy because I didn't go with her recommendation and she thinks I moved because I couldn't afford the posh place, not that she said as much, but by now I feel I'm getting to know how she thinks. (later she confirmed that she thought I was watching my budget)
Funny really because I took heaps of cash (way too much) and would have been happy to spend it all on enjoying ourselves. In truth there wasn't much to spend it on. A few meals in nice places, taxis, cinema, massage and manicure.
She did help me check out a couple of places, the like of which I might be expected to live sometime in the future.
One was an apartment (I would call it a townhouse) It was at the end of a terrace of 4. Brand new, 2 storey, 2 bathroom, secure car parking but no yard to speak of. 10000p per month with 1 yrs lease. I could live there.
Next was a three bedroom house, single storey, 2 bathrooms, small yard, about 15 yrs old. 12000p per month no lease required. I could live there too.
I've lived alone in Australia for a good few years now and this place is not without risks. There are reports of home invasions frequently. Wherever I lived I would have to make as secure as possible but gated communities just don't appeal to me.
Next day my female friend phoned me to say she had a headache and couldn't come.
That's it !!!! I checked out and returned to Fred's place. ( you remember my new friend Fred?)
I left from the bus station in an 8 seater bus. The 12 of us weren't too uncomfortable. He told me which village to get off and said I should ask the motorbike taxis
on the street corner to bring me. " One of them will know where I live" Sure one did.
I converted my roller bag to a backpack and we set off. Really I should have lowered the straps on the backpack so that it rested on whatever was behind me.
As it was, its weight nearly pulled me off the bike a couple of times as we swerved to miss pot holes on the rutted road, but I managed to stay on and we were soon within the welcome sight of Fred's gate.
To be continued......
What's mine is yours??
So it should be mentioned that we are not present on our lot on a daily basis. We have good friends that live across from our lot and help ensure that we do not have any squatting action going on. However, on one fine day a few weeks back, my friend heard some "whack whacking" going on.... and walking down to see what was going on ....noticed someone trying to cut one of our trees. After convincing them to move on.... the guy did.... he moved right on to my friends property and started one of his trees..... again, he was convinced to move on. This happened after a few months of inactivity on our lot.
'Houston', we have a problem!
My friend rings me up and alerts me to this likely now becoming a regular occurence since it seems that without an visible signs of ownership, the locals will begin to encroach on our land like "Kedzu in a monsoon".
So this is a new one on me... they know the property is owned... through chika chika, they probably know every last detail of the transaction and it has only been a few months so they could not have forgotten all that.. right? Well, my friend, who is much wiser in the cultural ways, goes on to explain that it is not viewed as stealing or anything like that... with there being no activity on the lot.... the locals simply see the lot as "unattached" and the resources going to waste. It seems, that this land could sit there for years and be untouched, IF the locals have a face to put with the land... once it was sold and we did not make ourselves known to the locals... it is now considered "unattached" and free game. In this social culture, even land needs to be represented in the social realm.... titles... deeds.... tax declarations... all mean nothing... unless there is a face and personality attached to the land.
Putting a bandaid on the problem
Well, with us abroad, we brainstormed, with our friends, how best to combat this issue and nip it in the bud. What we arrived at was simple. We contacted my asawa's parents and asked them to make regular trips up to the land. Hang around it... chika chika with the neighbors.. very simple steps intended to put "faces" with the land. They agreed and also, on their suggestion, made Visayan signs that kindly requested nobody cut the trees. They made the trip up the next day, hung their hand made signs.... immediately locals seemed to come out of nowhere with curiosity over who they were, what they were doing with the land... how many children they had... basically like an inquisition, my inlaws satisfied their undeniable need for personal info about the people "attached" to that land. All in all, the plan worked flawlessly, as my father in law learned that he knew one of the families from way back and that got the ball rolling. The inlaws reported that they made the visit and had renewed old friendships with some of the neighbors and that not only would those folks not be touching our land, but that they would police it against others as well. I encouraged my inlaws to make regular trips up to the land (all expense paid of course) even to grab a red horse or two and hang out up there once in awhile and keep that relationship going strong. They have done so and to this day, nobody interferes with our land and no more "whack whacking".
How to cope?
I recognize that unlike where I am from, where neighbors are mostly useless obstacles to your high priced view, in the Philippine culture, the social interactions effect your life in countless different ways. My first real introduction to this was when we were unloading our container full of personal belonginings... for nearly the entire 8 hours... we had a throng of neighbors surrounding the streetside unload... just watching. I asked my asawa, what is up with that..... her explanation basically, clued me in to the inquisitive nature in her culture, where the people are accustom to knowing everything about everyone in their neighborhood. Well, this was their one and only chance to learn alot about me as they watched everything I own being offloaded. I had a few options for how to handle this.... could be pissed with concern that someone was staking out a burglary.... or embarrassed that all of my personal belongings (yes, there were laundry baskets with underwear showing) were on display for the entire community (it seemed) to ogle over...... or I could laugh it off and make light of the situation... possibly using their attention to, in a way, introduce myself. I, of course, chose the latter and though this was a long hard day in a hot humid land.... I made sure I played with some of the kids in the "audience"... shared some candies... basically, took the opportunity to break down the very clear social barrier that seemed to be standing between myself and most of the crowd. We made many friends that night and to this day, we have not had ANY troubles in our rented home... no break-ins, nothing, nada along the way of crime against us. We smile and say " Maayong Buntag" every morning (like a million freaking times).. and "Maayong Gabii" at evening... I smile more than I EVER have and that goes a really long ways. Joking with the kids all the time... just keeps those social barriers down which is all good. Just the same as in the western working world," The ass you kick today, may be the one you need to kiss tomorrow".... just always be respectful and you never know when or how it may be paid back to you.
Building relationships for the long term
Using those sorts of experiences, I see my relations in the bukid following a similar path. I will not be the "unsociable" foreigner... that nobody can identify with.... I will, as I always have, occasionally spring for a few beers and some balut and just "hang out". Basically, I place alot of emphasis on "fitting in". The more I fit, or blend into the surroundings, the less likely I am to have a target on me and honestly, I have alot of fun with it so it is all good! I am not a particularly charitable person, but I will pay for a job well done.... I am however a compassionate person, that will more than likley support someone, silently in need, over someone asking for help. I will not purchase friendships in the bukid, but I will share when and how I decide to do so and completely on my terms. I find that, in my experience, there is a mutual respect that develops if you "teach a peson how to fish", instead of simply "buying them a fish"... it takes longer to teach them... but if it works, the relations are stronger and longer lasting. If it does not work for a particular individual, well, at least I did not waste a fish on them. I am investing in my family's future in this location.... we may have all had our share of experiences where we are at odds with the neighbors.. .and I think it goes without saying that in the Philippines, there is a way different level of risk of being "at odds" with anyone. Good relationships with the neighbors is not optional here, it is essential to your long term health in many ways!! Something to never forget.
To be continued.......
I will update this particular blog segment as I hit the ground and see how things go... I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us, as foreigners to take an active role in this social culture. So many intangible benefits result and over something so simple and painless to do as associating in a respectful way with those around you.
Roofing Material Analysis
I saw my selected roofing material posted in a thread recently, which prompts me to share the selection and the associated process. Our design will not have a great deal of roof coverage, however, our most high ranking criteria is to ensure long term durability, low maintenance and lastly noise reducing and insulative values.
Our criteria for selection were cost, appearance, ease of installation and maintainability. Cost was one of the more complex to assess as we need to bear in mind how the selection impacts substructure design and cost, as well as long term maintainence costs in order to understand the complete "cost" for each material.
After much debate, the supplier we selected is Onduline. I think the best way to summarize our process is in a very basic pro's and con's for each of the three materials we compared.
NOTE: This is a delta comparison only, as individual location, installation fees, supplier relations and negotiation strength all play in to the actual costs, I did not list the "bottom peso" cost. I find that you can get quotes etc., here in the Philippines, but until the job is done, you cannot accurately state costs since we have that ever present concern over there being a "misunderstanding sir". As part of this blog, it is my intent to share the various costs of the selected materials in the final summary. As with any of my entries, I STRONGLY encourage each to research extensively each aspect of your project and make the decision that is right for you. This is not a sales pitch for our selected product as it may not be suitable for every application.
Plain corrugated metal roof panels
PRO's: Low cost, readily available, ease of installation, low cost of installation
CON's: High maintenance (need to paint before installation and in the future, vulcaseal sealer around screws), loud during rain (minor concern), no insulative value
Tile roof material
PRO's: Appearance more high end, maintenance low, insulative value higher (due to subsurface required), quieter in rain.
CON's: High cost, high cost of installation, additional materials required to support tile material, insulative value higher than metal, increases to structural component strength to support added weight.
Onduline fiberglass panels
PRO's: Cost slightly above metal panels, Installation cost same as metal panels, slight insulative advantage over metal, slight noise reduction over metal, low long term maintenance, apparent ease of installation
CON's: New material for workers to handle, learning curve should not be long, More expensive fasteners (screws and caps)
So the pro/con list makes the decision pretty clear, for us, as even when I assigned costs to the cost related criteria, the Onduline panels came out only marginally higher than the metal panel option. I like the screw/screwcap installation method and would likely add some vulcaseal to the screw caps as an added measure of leak resistance over thermal expansion. Also, as I looked further into the various options, I was encouraged by the lack of propensity for the fiberglass material to acrue mold. Of course, the metal would be resistant as well, but require re-painting. The tiles, possibly not so resistant without regular maintenance.
We were not able to find a reliable source for developing cost comparison data for regular asphalt shingles. Our structural design will support this material as a selection and we intend on seeking a source and looking into this material to round out our comparison, when the project is underway.
An additional consideration for me was that I did not find the Onduline material until having made the decision to go with metal panels, so my roof support structure design worked with that material, and substituting the Onduline was a simple task without changes to much of the completed design.
Our experience with Globe WiMax internet connectivity
We assessed our internet access options in 2010 and after considering PLDT, Smart and Globe, we arrived at Globe WiMax as our selection. PLDT, was immediately dismissed for not having enough lines available on our trunk run (Valladolid, Carcar City) and even at that, you needed to accept their phone service and overall, we were not impressed withtheir phone asistance in conveying all this info to us. Smart was not selected simply because in our location, we regularly have dropped calls on our Smart cell phones and since you access the same cell tower transponders with their broadband, we expect that the service would have been equally poor for broadband.
Price was virtually identical for Smart and Globe broadband at 999/995 php per month for up to 1 mb speed. We selected Globe, they came out in a couple days, installed the antenna and modem, no problem, all worked as expected.. .service staff were very friendly and professional. (wore booties or took off their shoes, while inside our residence). We had occasion to use their customer support a few weeks later (stopping in to report the problem at the Carcar office) when the service would not connect, they came out next day and swapped out the modem, all was great after that. Only thing was, we tried calling our Carcar office and could not get an answer, so went to visit them and learned that they do not answer their phone since all calls need to go to Manila..... Strange, but OK, whatever. A call to Manila setup that next day service call anf at no cost to us. One other time, we tried to get hours of operation from the local shop and were told to call Manila... get this, while we were standing in the Carcar office, the Carcar staff could not tell us their hours of operation... they advised us to call Manila.... Bordering on bizarre now..... So in front of them we did and then I could not resist informing the local stasff of their hours of operation.... Last but not least, as we are outside the country, our family experienced some PC problems and we were not able to use the internet connection this past month, so our lead family member went into the office and asked to put the account on hold for three months unti lwe returned and could sort out the PC problems... they sent someone out (note, the local office did have this ability as they did not in 2010)... the tech said we needed to re-format our PC.... OK, sorry, that is not happening on the word of a Globe tech so we wanted to go on hold..... The local office said, you must be there in person( able to caht with them using the technicians cell phone)... we said whatever, and our family member went in to put it on hold... they then said, "sorry, cannot do this from our office"... What? You told us to come in here to put it on hold... , again, smiling.... "Sorry, you need to send a letter to Manila." So we get this feedback to us and we call Manila ourselves and after 30 minutes, long distance, no answer... we send our family member to the Carcar office and then call our own cell phone and put the Carcar Globe person on OUR phone to talk to them. They reinforced that a letter needs to go to Manila for a hold on the account.... Said we could not get a response from Manila and then were told, OK, we can do it, but you will STILL need to pay your monthly charges...... (can you see me turning red at this point?) We said, the hell with it, we are past our 1 year contract so just cancel it and we will return the equipment..... No, cannot do that, we need to remove the equipment ourselves and you need to pay the costs of that removal. At this point I get on the phone and ruin the whole situation by telling the bayot on the line to cancle our account as we will not be paying it any longer, get your equipment off my property at your expense and within a week or it WILL be removed and returned to your office... to which I got, "No need to be angry sir, but actually, we can pickup the equipment at no charge and because you are mean to us you are now blacklisted and can never get a Globe account again. I reply that this suits us fine as we are no longer interested in your poor version of customer support, so shove this service up you're a&&. I wrote a summary of this experience in a Globe feedback message to Manila... we got a return email the next day apologizing for clear breaches of the customer service policies and were advised that our account was not blacklisted and we could return whenever we liked. It is unlikley that anything at the Carcar office has or will change... but they told us what the queue cards said we wanted to hear, and in a sympathetic tone.
ALL that said, when we get setup to start work on the project, the same criteria for evaluation may still lead us to the best operational internet connectivity being Globe so we will return to that service unless Smarts' signal strength has improved. Possibly using a usb dongle so that I can access while at work on the project. Our experience with Globe connectivity was fine for a long time and only when our PC had an issue, we could not rectify from afar, were we faced with the challenge of ending a service we did not currently need. The moral of the story is that we try to base our opinions and selections on the package as in this world, all service and support is a crap shoot at best and therefore, not a factor. I suspect that this story could have just as easily been about Smart, I suppose and as time has passed, we have learned of very few positive experiences with PLDT... so the worse of all evils is often times the selecitions we are faced with.
What are some other's experiences? Anyone use Smart or PLDT and have a positive experience? Anyone have any positive customer support experiences at all? :thumbsup:
Among the many things we all have in common as we learn and adjust to another culture is we inherit family that is often times, not as vested into adjusting to western cultural idiosyncracies as our asawas may be, and also, may require much more adjustment on our parts. For those residing abroad, of course, this is not nearly as impactive on your life .. at least not on a daily basis... but for those that are in the Philippines... and those in particular that live near this new extended family... sometimes challenges abound.
Like most, I have read my fair share of others experiences in this area, most not good, but many are success stories. I have also known people, personally, that have had both good and bad experiences with extended families. I have no idea if there is any kind of difinitive rule in how to improve your chances of the relationship you develop turning out positive, but I will share here, my experience and some of the insights I have into how I may have helped it to be a positive experience.
Extended Family... where does it end?
As I and my wife were dating, I was fortunate to be working in Asia and I could then spend long periods of time with her, and her family, and really get to know them before there was a commitment. I knew in Asia, that when you marry, you possibly gain more than only one person that will potentially have a major influence in your future life. Some you will welcome, some you may not... they are all part of a package though, so the strategy of dividing and conquering should not be implemented... in my opinion. For me, having traveled for work extensively over my career, I have lost contact with so much of my own family that being welcomed into my asawa's was refreshing... as long as it was not exploited, I was happy.
Of course, we should all say this, but for me, it is really the first time in my life I can mean it about my spouse. I appreciate her so much, we rarely argue anymore, since getting past our cultural adjustments. What are cultural adjustments?? For us, mostly her understanding that I valued her opinion and that she had a say in our decisions and my understandding that everything I introduced her to was so new and strange on a grand scale... that I needed to understand that and have patience as she grew to take it all in. My asawa has never asked for anything, ever.. even today, I anticipate her wanting something and nudge her to getting it. I am not sure how much influence she has had over her family, but I sense she laid down some very strict edicts early on and manages their "adjustment" to me herself.
Her mother and father have never asked me for a single centavo... this includes never asking my asawa to ask me for them, not even hinting around that they needed help of any kind. They are a simple couple, very VERY fiscally poor their whole life, but in my opinion, rich in their love for their children and in their character. I also, never approached any family with offerings that were in any way excessive, by Filipino standards. ie: I only give gifts during Christmas and only on birthdays of the first degree family. In return, my inlaws have turned out to be some of the few Filipinos that I know will tell me the truth... eaning, in their opinions on thigs I talk with them about... no, they do not speak English so conversations are challenging, but we find a way as both sides are interested and patient in trying to build a repoire. I have respect for them anf their lives and they do for me and they are some of the few that do NOT think life in the USA is all gold paved streets and money trees in every yard. When we moved to the Philippines... I am not sure how it first happened, but they moved in with us... from their bamboo hut in the forest, to our rental house in Carcar. I think it started as my wife and son missed them, and they missed my wife and son... so the move in was kind of like.. .visiting and then it turned in to not leaving.... honestly, I was wrapped up in our resto effort and the next thing I knew they had not left... but I was fine with it just the same. Some adjustment was required though. For me, I had never shared a house with anyone other than spouse and children. So having inlaws running around was a bit wierd for me.... bathrooms were backed up al the time.... suffice it to say, we do not share the same ideals for home maintenance and cleanliness... not that they are dirty, but hey, maintaining a bamboo house with twine and tape is a bit different than doing things the right way. For me? Our son was 2 the last time they saw him, and now he was 6, mom in law trerats her 23 yo son like he is two so imagine my challenges in trying to get her to let him dress himself etc.... So they and I adjusted.. .we found that happy middleground... but I feel we are lucky to have had the patience on both sides to do so. They have a place in my life until the pass... they are great freinds, FIL is a fun drinking buddy and MIL stays busy all day doing stuff she enjoys doing.. washing clothes and cooking... .we laugh and have fun so no reason for them to be anyplace else in my opinion.
My asawa has 3 sisters and one brother. she is the middle child of 5.
So, brother is the easiest... he is 23 and works his a$$ off, never feeling as though he has done enough for us...and we get along really well. He also, never asks for a centavo and in return, I anticipate things like fiesta time and slip him some pesos for fun once in awhile... he lives with us also and is a HUGE helper that is eager to learn... and VERY useful when he and I go out to get materials or whatever. He does not speak English but again, we find a way to communicate becuase we both want to be able to do so.... he is learning English from me and I am learning Visayan from him.
Younger sister, well, although she did not ask us, this one was the recipient of my asawa's feeling responsible to put her through nursing school... we agreed and my asawa managed the payments to her and the reconciling of expenses... when we hit tough times in 2008/9, we asked the sister to get a job to help with expenses and her repy was to be insulted at such a request and to quit school 2 years into a nursing degree.... turns out she was also engaged to a Filipino mariner, who is capable of funding her continuing education. We then knew why the asawa was having trouble getting acurate receipts from her... long story short, my asawa and she do not speak much and my asawa will not allow any gifts etc to her anymore.
Older sister 1: Historically, she never asked for anything, but did alot of hinting about their needs... I joked one time and told her with 5 kids, no job and an often unemployed spouse, maybe she really needed was some birth control... not a joke she found funny. When we moved and started our resto, we hired this one as she was pretty bright and in need of a job... who isn't. She worked ...ah... OK, not a real shining star but reliable and fairly able to remember instructions so all was good.... UNTIL.... as she was a waitress... my asawa managed her.... and when she would not stop breastfeeding her 3 year old in front of the customers... and my asawa asked her to move inside.. .she let lose with a tirade that she was dis-respected, she left and never came back.. me thinks she had other issues with her sister, but who will ever know.. .the Christmas list got 1 shorter on that day, as well.
Older sister 2: Always wanted money.. .from day one, to the last day she was allowed in our home. The asawa banned her when she caught her stealing makeup out of our bedroom.... for me? good riddens as she was always a pain in my a$$.. .seemed to only want want want and one time when we were opening an LBC box that came after us... .she started fist fighting with another sister ofver a pair of shoes.... every nest has a rotten egg I guess. Another dropped from the Christmas list.
So you see our extended family is small... my asawa must have laid down the law to those beyond this small subset of family as we do associate with them, but only under certain circumstances... like, we never invite them all out to dinner... we bring a small contribution to their homes and dfecline invites to go out to dinner.. .and harmony exists... as far as I can tell. One notable exception is an aunt in Cebu City that provided my asawa with a place to live when she was attending high school in Cebu City..... this aunt is grerat and was an essential part of my asawa's success in life and drove her to attend college. We do not miss a Bday or Christmas gift for her.
So I assume there will be some similarities to others experiences, I will now lay out my plan for the future as while I do not intend on supporting extended family forever... no matter what, I am ok with her parents needing help... nonetheless, we will try to "teach them to fish" and that plan is as follows:
The Independent Future
So we are committed to having her parents and brother as part of our immediate family unit, the sisters are on their own. That said, I am of a strong opinion that unless incapacitated, which none are, then they should "learn to fish for themselves". In our master plan, we will have our resto back up and running... in that resto, we will need produce, chickens, eggs, goat, goat milk (cheese), and several other products that could be purchased from our family. Our home site will have a goat house, a chicken house and alot of crop capacity. In addition, we will have a rather well equipped workshop that is developed through the project. Therefore, the plan is, to eventually turn over the workshop operation to the brother and see if he has what it takes to make a profit on shop type work, welding fabricating etc. He is a certified welder now and like many Filipinos,.... a natural mechanical "McGuyver".. .can he learn to interpret cost vs profit and be a success? I will be looking over his shoulder every step of the way towards finding out, but his time on our property is tied very strictly to him succeeding on his own with my shop. With the parents, their forte is farming crops and raising livestock. Our choices for both will represent needs for our resto so that they will have a small, but consistent customer base to start, and then their money all comes from this operation... With me being their accountant and technical advisor, as with the brother, we will see if they can grasp the profit/cost/loss concepts or not, but their long term residencs with us is not tied to success.. they are self-motivated and driven and proud and do not need my external motivation.. .they will succeed or not on their own capabilities to learn.
Of course I hope for this grand family plan to be a success story, but in reality, I am giving it a 50/50 chance on all counts. The investment for me is only my time as if they are not trying to run all of this, the workshop will still get built, the goats, chickens and crops will still be raised for our use... it is only an opportunity to expand this effort to increase family income and to offer an opportunity for a future for the brother.... his options are limited and he knows it.... only time will tell, but I am happy to give it a go as I said, additional investment is nil and only my effort to help them learn and grow.. .so I am happy to invest my time.
An important component of our experience being mostly positive is that my asawa is a very strong willed woman that will not tolerate those that are against working for a living. She rose from the same nothing her siblings were raised in and knows how hard it was to do so and against all odds. Before we met, she was on her way to realizing her career aspirations in hotel/restaurant management, hence one of the underlying reasons for why we have incorporated a resto into our lives. That is her dream realized and she deserves that and so much more. Without her strength in family matters, we might easily have had a much different outcome. I am disappointed in the fact that her sisters have taken the positions that they have, but respect my asawa very much for not tolerating anyone taking advantage of us.
That is my family experience... and how I hope to return my respect to those that deserve it.
What? not rushed?
What I mean by this is the design of the structure needs to reflect how you want to use it, but also, work well in your site. There are so many factors that could be considered when developing the overview of your project. I use formal engineering based brainstorming and logic tools to identify and process these criteria... but even without those formal tools anyone can make lists and pare them down to define the design that meets their needs and this step is so important to perform BEFORE you start further down the path so that not only you save time and effort, but your end result is inline with your dream you started with, for both you and your family. The "not rushed" mantra carries over to all subsequent stages of the project as well... most of us know that life happens at a much slower pace i nthe Philippines than where most of us originate.... I think it is one of the reasons we are here, right? Well, embrace that concept, expect that of the resources you will need to interface with and do your best to not allow it to frustrate you. How I deal with it is to have as many different aspects of the project running concurrently as possible, so that when you hit a wall, say, "sorry sir, no cement today"... well, you have rebar bending to do, or excavations or woodwork.... with a solid plan in place, you can efficiently run so many more aspects of the project in parallel and before you know it... irreguardless of the obstacle, you and your team reman productively working towards the goal.
A long process for us
If I were to think back to when we started this process of building a home in the Philippines... I think it would take us back 4-5 years ago. At that time, my wife and son were celebrating their first anniversary of arriving in to the USA. They were still like kids in a candy store, enjoying all that life had to offer. My wife was getting her first job in the USA, our son now knew more English than Visayan (the preference was he would stay bi-lingual, but that did not happen) and was loving kidergarten here. In general, there was no reason to think about leaving our comfortable home in Oregon anytime soon. We knew we would eventually end up relocating, but for now, life was good. We had plans in the background to use our annual Philippines visits to lay the groundwork for an eventual retirement in the 2015-16 timeframe... plenty of time. My wife actually was torn on the decision as everything in the USA was still so exciting for her.
A Turning point, like no other
Well, for those that suffered through it... 2008 is about when all hell broke loose in the US economy and depending on where you were in the food chain, it was more likely than not that sometime in 2008, your livlihood would be challenged. We, like many had saved for that rainy day, but when the layoff happened, we never imagined we would need to dip into those reserves. Hell, in my entire life, I had never been unemployed, or disabled nor ever collected any sort of aid along that way.... this year would be different though. Month after month, no interviews.... no responses to the countless resume's sent out... when the responses did start coming in a sad reality was about to set in... I was facing sparse opportunities after 8 months of unemployment, that were on a pay scale less than half what I had worked my way up to. You think, this cannot be.. .impossible, a fluke... then another and another.. same... it seemed a new baseline for my skillset was being structured and it was nothing like before. Of course, in the end, we all know now this was not like any other recession and a massive reset was underway throughout most every aspect of the economy, on a global level. All along, my wife was also going through an unexpected experience of her own... this grasnd land of opportunity was fast becoming a wasteland of despair.... friends she had made were losing their houses, bagging for help from everyone and anyone... she came in to the USA, experienced all the glory of the "good life" and then witnessed the downfall that so badly affected so many of her friends and their families. What a ride it must have been for her.
Form here, it can only get better... right?
My career up to this point was in industrial manufacturing and factory automation.. a very competitive and fast paced world which required alot of my time and dedication.... well, I was having a hard time with the dedication part following an uncerimonious cutting after years of "dedication". I finally got an interview that changed alot.... I signed on as a contractor with the Boeing Co. Yes, it was a 5 hour drive north, but hey, it paid well and seemed to be enough of a change in pace that I could rally myself around and ... well... re-dedicate to it. Now I was away from home during the week, but the income was getting us back to where we needed to be..... then the aerospace industry caught up with the rest of the world's economies and in 2009 I was again cut... damn.. I liked it there too. Faced with again, bleak prospects, we made the decision to sell our home (worst time in history to do that) and get the hell out before we went down that road again. Who could know how far things might go? So we made the decision that changed everything and in 2010 we arranged for all our belongings to be containerized and shipped off to Cebu as we started our new adventure in life. Having seen the good and the bad of the western world, all in a very short time frame my wife was all on board for returning to the land where, as she says, "you can survive without work".
Establishing a baseline
All this time out of work and looking... gave me time to also break away and work on our house design. So many considerations needed to be factored in, but as I brainstormed what I and my wife were looking for on every level. One area of focus was on how the house would function not only as our home, but with extended family everyplace... how would it function with that dynamic? I had lived in Asia for 10 plus years at that point and been around the Philippine family for weeks at a time and I knew, the "what's yours is mine" mindset would be a challenge for me to handle. My wife had also expressed some concerns and so that was the basis for the start of our design... we knew, we needed to have three distinct "regions" of our home. A region for utility use, ie: laundry, workshop, helper residence/CR, etc. A region for us three.... private, not accessible from other regions, safe and a place where if we put something on a shelf it will be there a year from now without worries. (you simply NEVER know what some people may think they deserve) and a third region for what is inevitable, entertaining extended family and friends especially during holidays or other family occasions. withthese basci criteria, we arrived at a three level home and on a slope so that each of the three levels were accessible from a common EXTERIOR stairway.
With a solid foundation, all else proceeds
Once this concept had been arrived at I had months of floor planning, then electrical and plumbing design, material selection, etc. Many construction mthods and materials avaialble and readily used in the Philippines are different than those which I am accustom to in the USA. My overriding mentality was efficiency in every possible way. Using every resource until it could not be used again, ie: water, from grey water recycling to extensive rain water collection, solar and wind energy.. etc. The months turned into years and in the end, I have a completely detailed set of engineered plans for our home. We made extensive use of the most commonly available materials, reinforced concrete, we integrated dual voltage electrical provisions, plumbing is designed such that we have a grey water system separate from the black water system. The grey water system exits the structure through a sand/bacteria media filtration "scrubber" before feeding into the garden irrigation system. We will collect as close to every rain drop that hits the structure as is possible and have large capacity for storage of this resource. We use the slope of the property to every possible advantage and one of these ways is through rainwater collection to the highest point practical so that a natural gravity feed is in place for rainwater useage.
Throughout my design effort I knew I needed to seek out and adhere to Philippine building codes wherever possible. In MOST cases, as it applies to structural requirements, I found that the code in place for the Philippines was antiquated, however, very strongly based upon older USA standards. More modern and robust methods and design practices exist and were applied to my design. Now I know what many of you may be saying... WHAT? building codes in the Philippines? Why care as clearly nobody else does... well, one thing ... one important thing for you to remember as a foreigner..... you are, often times, not viewed as "everybody else" and if you want to avoid the potential of showstopping issues down the road... you have to remember that at some point you may be held to a higher standard.. .so be prepared for that. As I go into the permit application stage, I want my design to be without reproach as city engineers review it for approval. (Also a quick note, I have a different floor plan, than the actual build plan, that I am submitting for permits, as I do not want my actual floorplan available to the general public)
The first actual step we will perform once on the ground in Carcar is to apply for a fence permit. Construction can begin as soon as the application is filed and fee paid. From there a couple weeks later we should have that permit and then we apply for the house construction permit and follow the same process.... timing is not an issue as we have alot of excavating and layout work to get through before the first footing is poured. We are all about doing these things above board, but to ensure reasonable processing speed, we will take my Autocad drawing files and provide them to a city engineer, who will doctor them up as required (mostly, add any localized notations etc. that I may have overlooked) and walk them through the submission and approval process... a small fee for engineering services will get us an expiditing through the approval process and more importantly, an ally in the city offices should we need anything expidited in the future. Networking is a very important component of the business world and even moreso in the Philippines... it really is "who you know"... and if your reputation in the local community is a good one, then people will want to associate with you, which is of course a very good thing in many cases.
Up in the mountains, our community water supply is a co-op that consists of a distribution system form a bnatural spring fed source higher up the mountain. As with anything in the Philippines... this system suceptible to corruption. As I learn more about the situation, I learn that we need to make an attempt to have the water service run to the lot with a meter BEFORE I show up. Even then, the ongoing distribution of water and associated rates are candidates for ways to separate me with more of my cash, unfairly. We knew this early on, hence the extensive rainwater collection integrated in to the design. We will make an attempt to get this water service installed as more of a plan "B", with rainwater and bottled water to be our plan "A" as it has been all along. When situations like this are encountered... I have had far greater success in the Filipino approach of avoiding confrontation... so if we are extorted either at the onset or at a later stage.. .we simply will decline installation or if later, stop using... no problem. I will not succumb to blatant extortion based on my race. Earlier I mentioned that I will make use of some minor engineering services to pace my permit applications through the process... this is in reality graft... but there are some services rendered and it is not expected in order for the permits to be approved.... this level of corruption is consistent with what I will end up complying with, like it or not, but blatant pay me because I have something you need???? No thanks, I will find a way not to "need" what you control. Again, patience is something that can go a long way and eventually, they may come around and if not, then their loss.
Closing out this post I want to remind folks, this post is located within the "Pre-planning" category as all I discussed is still all about our thought process in preparation for the work to start. An insight into the many aspects of the project that were considered, reserached and deliberated upon during the various stages of planning. Clearly, alot to consider....
Thank you for reading! :thumbsup:
As I searched the internet for blogs and sites that helped me to learn more and add value to my design for this project, I often came across good information, but without a familiarity withthe author, I was not sure how to take some things. As with most of those authors, I am not a professional writer. So in lieu of me becoming one for the purposes of this blog.... I thought it might be helpful to provide more insight into my background, both in terms of what I have learned throughout my career and in terms of areas I was deficient in and needed to do alot more research in order to plan effectively.
As I write subsequent updates, it occurs to me that some of my plans may seem excessively over thought, to the casual observer. Or potentially, some may view them as flat out unneccesary. To this I can only reply that I am most definitely a "work smarter, not harder" type "A" personality. That said, I have also taken on previous home projects that required grunt work from sun up to sun down and kept up just fine. So, although the vast portion of my career has been behind a desk and computer screen... I have extensively worked in the trenches and it is there that I enjoy myself most. I recognize that this mentality runs in direct opposition to most of the helper candidates I will potentially work with on this project and I can only hope that I am able to adjust, on the fly, as required to make everything work out. Push where I can without exceeding some sort of boundary with my team. Lower my expectations to a level that works for all involved... you get the idea. For me, and throughout my life and career, it has always been about planning…. to a very high resolution. I learned the hard way that doing it right and taking longer the first time is most always faster than doing it twice. Sometimes that is value add and sometimes not. Sometimes just doing it over and over is still faster than planning first, but not often. If a plan does not work?, then what have I lost… planning time? I am fine with that as planning offers me a piece of mind that I need to move forward. I need to ensure that every "good" idea I have is incorporated as to me there is no greater frustration than to finish a project and realize, "Hey, I forgot to incorporate that one great idea and now the project results are not as I had hoped". So, yes, there is a lot of thinking and re-thinking here… there is a lot of effort into "fool proofing" the various tools and techniques I aspire to teach to my helpers (if I get any), but as I see it, the potential reductions in waste and lost materials.. .the potential in increased quality and robustness of the structure.. .are all worth the investment into planning. I know full well that some of my ideas may not work with the resources I may be saddled with…. But I had to try…..to not try is the first step towards failure in my mind. Also worthy of consideration is that as a laborer on this project myself…. Working at a detail level and then needing to back out to the overview level to address issues that arise is not an easy task… so having all my thoughts in a plan helps me with that constant shift of focus.
Many of my approaches to this project share techniques and strategies that I have made solid use of throughout my career in manufacturing. In addition to my background as a formally educated mechanical engineer, I am a journeyman tool, die and mold maker with a sizable manufacturing/machining engineering background. All those years of logical process related thinking are hard to overlook when planning this project. So, for example, while many might say, "Hey, Filipinos bend rebar with a pipe and a piece of wood all the time… why not let them do it their way?"…. I say, that is a correct statement, but it is also fairly reasonable to state that they, often times, end up cutting corners, wasting material and taking way more time to produce the same component as could be done with a bending fixture/tool designed for this project. And since the manufacturing engineer for this project is the same person ans the architect/structural engineer… how about we blend engineering requirements together with commonality in design so that instead of hundreds of different rebar shapes and lengths, we are able to accomplish the structural requirements with say…. 15 different bent components and the rest straight. Now, we can produce the hundreds of stirrups, for example, in advance and making use of rainy days, so that when the sun is shining and concrete is a flowing, nothing is waiting on the bending and cage construction process. Efficiency is the name of my game…. Cost efficiency, time/schedule efficiency and quality efficiency. Not to mention the quality control that is built into such an approach… if 10mm bar is specified for a stirrup and a production setup is in place to produce that… then the risk of someone not remembering what size is needed and grabbing the 6mm bar instead, is mitigated.
Our overriding mantra throughout this project is Efficiency through intelligent design. We will make use of every natural resource we can harness, from rainwater storage to renewable energy to incorporating the excavated stone as building materials. In order to eventually develop a more productive gardening aspect of this land, a composting station will be another of the early projects setup to again, make use of every resource as efficietly as possible.
One aspect I will delve into at length in another post is the relationship that MUST be established and preserved with the locals….and with that thought, there are a couple easy things I do to build that relationship:
1). Learn to speak in a (for me) softer and more laid back tone and speed
2). Never let them see you express anger in excess.
3). Learn to speak even the most basic of Visayan words and phrases. The positive effect and impression of this effort on locals, is nearly immeasurable and is viewed as a level of respect for them, their culture and their country.
4). Working like a dog if you are capable. Seriously, this is easy for me after a brief adjustment to the climate, but seeing a foreigner doing something more than hold a beer in front of the aircon simply blows most of them away. Even if it is not for the long term.. .seeing a foreigner doing manual labor alongside a Filipino is priceless in it's ability to help the locals assimilate you into their world.
For me, blending in is not only a more comfortable day to day environment for me, but it also provides so many other more intangible benefits such as security, fairness in your dealings and just all around fitting in better provides me with a good feeling, as well.
Our main, long term, power plans will include the rental of a pole transformer. We currently rent a smaller capacity unit, at our current location, and it works extremely well for us. Cebeco, being the local power supplier, brought us out a transformer, hung it on the pole and ran the supply lines to our current home. We had a local electrician provide the feed off of this to an auxillary 110vac box and we have dual voltage available in certain areas that we ran new supply boxes. The new home will have a more extensive dual voltage implementation as we know over time, through attrition, we will invariably replace 110vac appliances with 220vac units… so the electrical design not only accounts for this dual voltage at the outlet end in some cases, but also in the distribution panels layout so that specific circuits that may switch to 220vac are wired as such for later conversion. We needed to purchase the dual voltage meter and mount ourselves, which we will transfer to our new residence.
Let's face it, costs of electrical usage in the Philippines are among the highest, of not only developing… but ranking right up there with DEVELOPED countries. For us to approach a project like this and not consider inclusion of renewable resources into the design would be a mistake. I am NOT an electrical engineer and to make up for this deficiency, I have spent a great deal of extra research time in regards to this aspect of the project. While I may not know all there is to know on the topic, my goal was to ensure I designed a safe and efficient system that I could build and expand as needed… I think I have a plan that achieves that goal. Renewable energy resources costs have lowering rapidly in recent years as more production capacity comes online around the globe. With China and the USA dominating global production capacity, a slowing in reduction of costs actually is being seen now as Chinese production pricing is set less upon "cost plus margin" and more upon simply undercutting higher USA component costs.
During the research phase, we learned that our location in Cebu, while is technically located within a zone that will receive some of the highest proportions of useable solar energy, we realized that the reality is that clouds find there way into the equation more often than not and while we are incorporating solar into our plan, we are not particularly optimistic over the resulting output we will track when it comes online. During my career, I have worked to develop manufacturing systems for the burgeoning solar industry and along the way have a solid understanding of the requirements for assembling panels from individual cells. Using this knowledge, and in order to reduce initial investment, I sourced individual solar cells direct from USA manufacturing facilities, procured the connecting ribbon, solder and encapsulants and can source the glass and frame locally, in the Philippines. Sourcing direct is possible since during the manufacture of solar cells, and inherent to the frgility of the product, production is classified at various levels. Class "A" cells are the most pristine and are the main product supplied for the highest quality panel build. Class "B" cells are classified based on only cosmetic imperfections, which are most often knicked corners and chipped edges. Class "B" cells will have passed the same output capacity requirements of class "A", with the only differences being the aforementioned cosmetic flaws and the price… HALF the cost of a class "A", generally speaking. Beyond that, the classifications then reflect drops in output capacity. I sourced all class "B" cells and as I inspected them upon receipt, I was actually shocked to find that the level of flaw that put a cell in the the "B" class was really VERY small in most cases. This effort will hopefully result in my not having to absorb high shipping costs to get high quality components into the Phils for construction of my solar array. (everything easily fits into the LBC box) Solar systems are pretty basic and aside from the cells, and my desire for load monitoring capability, battery storage and inverter capacity was designed into, procurred and shipped with my cell components.
Wind generators cost is also dropping fast nowadays and with our location, at a higher elevation, wind is likely to be our most productive alternative energy source. A nicely sized generator fit into an LBC box and along with some load balancing capacitance, the remainder of the system can be installed in parallel with the solar installation. One very important difference is that with a wind generation system, you need to address the issues associated with too much wind/power generation. This is accomplished through the incorporation of a feature into the system that when the system is fully charged, switching occurs and the energy is used as a braking mechanism to slow the wind generator, lessoning the risk of system damage. With solar, nightfall is a natural "brake", or power flow meter, as is covering the panels. Additionally, I have designed our support pole to be configured such that we could easily lower the wind generator in the event of a Typhoon, further lessoning the chances of catostrophic damage to the system due to high wind speeds.
Alternative power voltage
I selected 12 vdc as the system voltage as I have also incorporated a lot of 12 volt components into different systems on our project. (ie: lighting, pumps etc.) Additionally, switches, inverters, storage batteries, meters and other components were more readily available and cost effective when sourced for a 12 vdc system so that all factored into the decision. So this system will provide capacity in 12 vdc and 110 vac through the inverters. The system is designed for eventual expansion (ie: the wind braking system will support for units) and the distribution panel is configured to be in close proximity to the other mains electrical enclosures so as capacity potential is identified, I can selectively switch appropriately loaded circuits over to renewable as the system grows, without the cost of significant re-wiring efforts.
I will be residing onsite during the construction of our home. Since it is only I and my brother inlaw to start, we will setup an encampment that will suffice until we have our workshop structure in a livable state. To get us going, we will make use of a couple canopies we have, along with my favorite import… a rubbermaid brand plastic garden shed. The kind that is composed of several panels and assembles in an hour or so, but provides a solid floor and a reasonably dry space. For power, we have two generators that came over with us from the USA. This should work well for us as all of my tools are 110vac. I view this effort as an extended camping trip and that I am prepared for with all the enhancements to the great outdoors that may be needed. We will setup a cooking station and have minimal food and beverage storage as our supply train (asawa) will be arriving daily. To ease the grunt work aspect a bit and as the lionshare of our initial effort will be to excavate into the limestone slope, we have two jackhammers, several wheelbarrows and way more of everything in between.
While generators will be our workhorses until a temporary utility installation exists, we will also prioritize the setup of our renewable energy generation system. We have shipped over a small solar generation capacity along with a sizable wind generation unit along with all the associated componentry to complete the installation of both. All we will be buying local will be the battery storage capacity. (This renewable energy effort is a test bed of sorts for us and will serve to collect data that we will use in determining expansion of this initial capacity, as a power source for our home)
Home grown tools
Since we will be mining a sizable volume of aggregate onsite, I have designed a screen/shaker unit, similar to that which is used in commercial quarry operations, however, constructed of localized materials more inline with my home scaled operation. This will likely be our first build project as we get setup and running. In the long term, as we are on a slope, there will be an ongoing excavation for nearly everything we do on this lot, therefore, the segregation of this aggregate into usable size classifications will prove to be useful throughout the project, be it pathway aggregate at 3/8" minus or dust for use in rendering. We will make extensive use of larges in terrace retaining wall and drainage ditch construction. A simple electric motor with an eccentric balanced shaft will provide the vibratory motion, while the multi-level screening cells will pivot on the exit end and the input end will rest upon a set of junk car springs to provide for the required compliance in the design. To provide flexibility in function based upon the loading of the unit, a speed controlled electric motor will be incorporated.
We have sourced and will be taking delivery on a hollow block machine. We are using 6" block throughout the design and will begin production of blocks at the earliest stages of construction to build up a reserve. Our plan is to source Dolomite aggregate from the Sibonga region as a primary component of this manufacturing process. The crystalline structure of Dolomite provides a much stronger end product and affords the use of a mix that reduces the amount of cement required to achieve that added strength. The cost of Dolomite vs the savings of cement material is a negligible net gain… but for us, the strength and the fact that the product will turn out a consistent bleach white color is what we are after. In addition to the hollow block, we will make our own pavers and other finished stone materials onsite. I have shipped over volumes of stone veneer forms, tile forms, block forms and paver forms in the hopes that this will not only save us php in the long run, but also provide us with a consistent product over the long term.
A rebar bending station will be constructed as our project will make use of re-inforced concrete construction throughout. This station has been designed to take maximize the efficiency of my design, as it pertains to the forming and prepping of rebar components. Since this is a very detailed design, I made use of several very basic rebar shapes throughout the entire project, This will provide us the ability to work ahead of the construction effort (rainy day work) and to prepare rebar components in volume, and with consistency, without frequent and time consuming setup changes. The station is simple… it is similar to a tool board in that there are numbered pin locations for various bends and the bending tool is integrated into the design. All component bends have been designed such that when formed in the correct sequence, these are quite simple and fast to manufacture. Again though, as with most all of my efforts here, foolproofing the plan has been paramount. The project needs consistent quality and must reduce potential waste. Therefore, developing manufacturing toolsd, manufacturing instructions and plans…. Well, gets me headed in the right direction… getting workers to learn my tools and systems will be my most formidable challenge… this I know. In the end, these tools may be what makes it possible for fewer workers to achieve the desired results. Only time will tell and I have that, in abundance.
Composting and planting
As one of our eventual intents for this property is to restore a crop producing aspect, the soil requires a lot of amendment. Another stated mission, for us, is to "re-forest" the plot into manicured gardens, paths and walkways with an emphasis on balanced and sustainable growth plantings. (ie: coconut trees that can provide crop potential as well as bamboo stands that will support an endless array of projects)
From the very start, we will build and operate a composting station complete with a shredder, to ensure positive results from even the undesireable plant life we remove along the way. Additionally, as we have prepared for our project, we have propagated a nursery of sorts in our current home yard area. We have 100 plus coconut tree seedlings, cost: less than 10 usd. Starting them a year ago, we are looking at meter tall seedlings today. Literally hundreds of other flowers and plants in every size and shape container you could imagine are ready and awaiting their journey up the mountain.
I have made great use of my time back in the USA as we prep for this project. I found a resource here that I had never before tapped… HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS. Not by design [ really :hystery: ] but we happened to select an apartment for our stay that is very close to a HFT store…. OMG, where have you been all my life HFT??
Among the many deals we got, and more on topic, we got several large and powerful LED floodlights complete with solar charging cell and I gotta say… these things are bright. They are also equipped with motion detectors and being self contained, will be handy to mount around our work sight while we are still building the perimeter. Additionally, while planning ahead we arranged for a couple of Doberman puppies to be ready for us about the time we get to work… granted, they will not be the most menacing animals for a few months, but still a valuable asset even if only for companionship. I will go further into the security thought process for design as it's own topic down the road. Without much detail, our site is in and of itself a defensible topography, coupled with our efforts to assimilate into the bukid, we are not concerend with our personal safety beyond being dilligent and careful as you would anyplace. We have many non-lethal means of defense and deterrence should an encounter occur… all considerations in place but as with anyplace and anytime, crime can find you…. .but beyond what we have done, we do not lose sleep over it. I came VERY close to adding a solar powered electric fence system into an LBC box, but stopped short as our fence design on the perimeter will be adequate and we felt that an unobtrusive 10,000 volts around the perimeter might create enemies if they lean up against it, as opposed to the security value. For those interested though, quite cost effective solutions in that they are completely solar and generally less than 100 usd. (with like 250 ft of wire)
How the Plan Developed
My wife and I are planning to build our new home just outside of Carcar, Cebu, Philippines. I have started, and will attempt to maintain, this blog as an ongoing record of this effort. It is intended to also serve as reference material for those that may see similarities in our plan and while we certainly hope to avoid as many pitfalls as possible, it may serve as a window into our errors and corrections for others to learn from. We recognize that our plan and implementation is not for everyone and we may attract our fair share of detractors.... such is life, we only ask that the integrity of the blog as a record and tool for others be respected. My goal for this blog is that it will result in being a more informative and more detailed accounting of such an effort than will be found anyplace else. While simply not possible to include every consideration that went high points as I see them.
We have property inherited from my wife's family and while it is in an attractive mountain setting, it is landlocked and therefore, not much of a consideration for us as we started our planning in 2007. We relocated to the Carcar area in 2010 and we decided that we would test our concepts for an eatery business while continuing to seek out that perfect location for our house. We were very pleased with the results of our business efforts and although we needed to close it down due to some unexpected international travel, we learned what we needed to learn and that is, the business model is rock solid so with some enhancements, we will re-open it after our house is built.
We opted for mountain locations in lieu of beach or city properties. With that in mind, I was able to continue down the path of the design of the structure itself. Being a Mechanical Engineer, I understand clearly that a design is an evolving entity and as you think through the thousands of considerations, changes are made until at some point, time constrains you to start construction, knowing that there will continue to be changes through the construction phase. For us, however, we have taken over 4 years for me to whittle away at fine tuning the layout, studying various earthquake proofing design features, considering thousands of material options across the structure and really, getting comfortable with the design. Knowing we were looking for property in the mountains, I was able to stick with our original house concept that would best suit a sloping site and ideally, a slope downfacingto the south (to the sea on our side of the island)....a plus would be a SE facing down slope so the afternoon sun was not directly into the main rooms with the view.
So hard to do when the last person to see a property was me..... any other way and the cost would be so jacked up as to not be viable for us. You see, we are not hell bent on building at all costs.... we are only interested in realizing this dream within a strict budget. So, the first step in this process is securing a property to which we can build. As I believe that this step in the process is SO unique to every different buyer, seller and location... I will not spend alot of time on it other than to say, we had some MOST EXCELLENT help from friends we made in the area. Friends that had gone through this process on their own and so unselfishly shared their insights and guidance with us that we will forever be so grateful to them both. (you know who you are). Without such aid, we could very well still be looking. My asawa was the road warrior and I reviewd cell pics and really, we did not get too serious so in the end, our friends helped us, but our plan was for the asawa to find and do the first level negotiations to a point where we felt she peaked and then bring me in, at the risk of all negotiations re-starting... but our most valuable asset was time.. .we were not in a hurry and we knew that a negotiation that slowed could be sped up by any number of events.. .from one of the sellers greed suddenly increasing to an unforeseen death and burial that needed to be funded.... being patient can save you HUGE in the end and get you around all that non-value added cost inflation.
We will be returning to the Philippines in July of this year and after a year plus of attending to business abroad, I am "stir crazy" over getting started on this effort. Our property is as hoped for, on a SE downslope of approx. 40 degrees more or less. Absolutely perfect for the design that we began finalizing in Oct. 2011. By March 2012, I had all layouts, truss details, plumbing, electricals, networks, renewable energy circuit designs... hundreds of drawings all as final as they are going to get prior to the start of construction. When fully realized, the property will be home to not only our house, but our new resataurant structure, a workshop, an in-laws nipa style hut, terraced planting for crops of all sorts, and provisions for goats and chickens (what is a home in the Phils without a rooster crowing at 2am, eh). The house is three story in size, with the lowest floor to be the utilities/helper/laundry level, the main floor to be exclusively for us and the upper floor a partially open/covered space for entertaining the extended family. Our most important consideration in the design is that the lower and upper floor are accessible independant of the main living floor.... per the asawa, "I do not want people going through our home to get to these other parts of the house". No problem from me on that... I am not really big on the "open living" concept anyhow. The concept where people roam in and out of your house at will all day and night... it is not for us and thankfully, that edict came from the "boss". That said, we are perfectly fine with the in-laws residing nearby... they are fantastic folks that have never asked me for a single peso.
OK, this section may result in some dissent, but I am NOT.... repeat... NOT hiring an army of 10%ers ( work 10 percent of the time) workers that I need to montitor every rebar tie-in, every concrete mix and every tool in my arsenal... I and my brother in law will begin this effort, as he and I work well together, can communicate fairly well and number one... I TRUST HIM. Yes, he needs constant guidance BUT, he remembers tomorrow what I told him today and even last month... he wants to learn and THAT is the key. I have learned enough online to know that I can not sleep under a structure that I did not see properly constructed.... and there are multitudes of examples of improper construction techniques and corner cutting in the Philippines. Most important to remember, once the concrete is poured around the rebar... you have no idea what it may hide and if the concrete was mixed too wet... well, the loss of strength will not show initially... just not worth trusting this to others in my opinion. Of course, we expect to draw a crowd of prospective hires, but I will be in no hurry to take on anyone that puts the project at risk in any way. I am a very motivated and hard laboring person and that will make up for alot of unmotivated folks that need constant oversight. This is our most significant unknown at this time..... so an overall schedule is impossible to pinpoint at the onset... .we have goals, but at this point, I am not committing to an overall schedule until we develop a labor pool and I can benchmark some of the effort.
Well, in conclusion of this introductory post... I will say that there will be mostly background info types of posts and then not much until we get underway in July. At that time this blog will come to life with pictures in support of the journey we are about to embark on.
Thanks and thank you to those that stay tuned!
On a high performance windsurfing board trimmed out for max speed, you're skimming the surface while hanging on for dear life. Just like everything else, the adrenaline coursing through the body can be quite addictive.
Trying to predict the behavior of winds dancing across the water in front of you is a real challenge but pays off when you anticipate its strength and direction correctly. This is especially important when you're windsurfing -- it's just you against Mother Nature and often times, you'll get slam when the winds are unpredictable with gusts of wind sneaking up behind you. When strong winds become really gusty, you need to let out some of the sail and lean back for more counter balance.
The windsurfer is fitted with a "diaper" with a metal hook attached to harness straps, which are then attached to the boom. This is where the balancing act gets kind of hairy. Both feet are secured into foot straps to prevent from launching yourself from the board. I'm strictly a flat water windsurfer, trying not to get airborne as much as possible.
One time while windsurfing in the Gorge (part of Columbian River), I nearly drowned by rigging up a larger sail than the rest of the fleet. I got slammed repeatedly, drifting down river in that cold and fast current. I finally touched ground, carrying the whole rig on my head, as I struggled back to my warm Jeep, about half a mile up stream. Thank god for Kaluia and coffee and quickly passed out for the rest of the day. Here is a video of a windsurfer racing a high performance trimaran.
In both Hobie Cat and windsurfing, I prefer flat water conditions rather than dealing with the ocean swells and chops. My last time out in the surf line, I made a mistake by hot dogging with my Hobie and paid the price. Yeah, I flipped it over as I jibed too early and ate it big time. The wave hit me broadside and I immediately bailed out from all the lines, sails, boom and mast. Didn't want to get knocked out cold as the boat was trashing about like a wounded shark. By the time it beached itself, one of the rudder blades was damaged. And that was the last time I played in the surf. It was simply too expensive to replace another rudder blade.
But ripping across flat water on a speed run is an absolute adrenaline rush. Once you get a taste of speed and at the same time, pissing down your shorts because it scares the chit out of you, then you're in for a thrill of your life! Approaching speeds of 18+ knots, the rudder blades will start "singing" or cavitating, as sprays of water hit you like a slap in the face. That afternoon with high winds (gusting to 20 knots), my brother and I were flying across Mission Bay, San Diego. I was the front man, handling the jib sheets from a full body extension supported by a trapeze wire. My brother was the skipper, steering and adjusting the mainsail for maximum flight time in response to the ever changing dynamics of wind speed and directions.
To prevent from capsizing or dumping the Hobie, we constantly trim both main and jib sails (sheet in/out) every few seconds and also shift body weight fore and aft to maintain maxium hull speed. We must also be constantly aware of swells and chops created by high wind as you see gusts of wind dancing across the water. Under those conditions with hull speed of about 16 -18 knots, the leeward bow suddenly plowed into this one foot chop. The leeward bow actually "pearled" under which literally stops forward movement of the boat. Remember, I was still hangin' my ass over using the trapeze wire. My "diaper" has a metal hook and designed for quick release from the "traps" but apparently not quick enough and I was immediately launched forward like a human sling shot. I "face plant" hard on the water, just barely missing the forestay (a steel wire rigging to support the mast). Dumping the Hobie like this is called "pitch pole" where the stern is pitched up and over the bow. In spite of landing hard, I unhooked myself and swam back to assist my brother righting the Hobie back up. We gave each other the "high fives" and off we went again for another speed run.
Speaking of speed, here is a video of guys on a very high performance cat, risking physical injuries just for the thrill of it (yeah, I would donate my left nut, just to be a crew member):
Some of you may have noticed the profile of a Hobie Cat (no -- not her profile!). It's banana shape with the bow having the leading edge sharp and narrow. Hobie Alter was a pioneer of surf boards in the mid 50's and transferred his innovated design to his new catamarans with similar rocker profile of a surfboard. Using light weight materials but built like a tank, the Hobie Cats were made to play out in the surf line.
When my fellow friend and skipper dared me to come out and play with him, I took his offer but didn't realize how fearful I was of the 3-5 foot breakers coming in fast and hard. This was in Cardiff by the Sea, CA right behind the restaurant called the Chart House. He quickly noticed my apprehension about going out solo and gave me a couple shots of tequila to calm me down. It was a life saver, a form of anti-freeze for my blood during that cold and breezy day at the beach. After a couple failed launches into the oncoming "soup" of fast moving water, I finally timed it just right and sailed out to experience the "ride of my life".
Good thing there was a strong side-shore winds (perpendicular to the waves) blowing steady at 12+ knots. It was ideal for us to power through the rising face of the oncoming waves. Nevertheless, I was already pissing down my wet shorts as I followed my crazy friend further out. Actually we were both crazy, the only fools out there trying not to piss off the local surfers by slicing their heads off. At four boat lengths in front of me, he executed a perfect jibe and caught an awesome wave, flying on one hull and hanging out on the trapeze wire -- an ultimate Nirvana of pure adrenaline rush. Meanwhile, my timing was still awkward and had to go further out in between the waves. By the time I made my jibe to catch a wave, he already beached his Hobie and signaled me in to join him. Rather than beaching, I performed a quick jibe and went out again. The hot babe on the beach was watching (OK, now you can check out her profile...he, he), probably waiting for me to flip the boat over in the surf line.
This time going out, I was "dialed" in. I felt more confident and trimmed my mainsail tighter, which gave me extra momentum to accelerate up this face of a five footer. At the top of the crest is when I felt pure weightlessness. I looked back to see the only part in the water was the tip of the leeward rudder blade. The rest of my Hobie was completely airborne. My heart was in my stomach, beating a million times a minute. It was sheer terror and also addictive at the same time. Go figure....! Later that day, my friend shook my hand and simply said, welcome to the club of hardcore sailing.......as we downed more shots of tequila with our two Hobie's sitting side by side, beckoning us to abuse them again.
Forget that! The winds died anyway and the hot babes were still smokin' hot over a tequila sunset. Talk about pissing down my shorts again.,,,,,,,,
(I have to rush through writing this, as I'm on an old computer at 711 with a short battery)
I had my much needed vacation to the Philippines last week to see my family after five and a half months of working in Taiwan. I had a great time with my wife and kids, and I don't know how much longer I could've waited.
My one and a half year old daughter, Kiana, was strange with me when she saw me. She must've thought she was dreaming, as she'd been laying down with mom. After 30 minutes she was happy to see me and calling for, "Dada!" She's at that young age where I worry she might forget me, or relegate my face to the computer screen saver.
My three and a half year old daughter, Kira, knew I was coming a day earlier when no one else suspected it. I wanted to surprise them, so told everyone I'd come on July 20th. On July 1st, while I was packing my bags in Taipei, Kira started announcing loudly and excitedly that, "Daddy's coming home! Daddy's coming home!" and walked around telling everyone. This is not a daily event. I have other stories that convince me she's a bit psychic, but I'll save those for when I have enough battery to get through a blog post.
My big worry for three years in Korea was that Kira wasn't speaking much. It seemed like she could have a hearing problem, was "slow," or just lacked exposure to language since we had no friends, relatives, or day to day people to chat with. After six months in the Philippines, she now speaks Waray-waray with the kids on the street, and engages in more English with the adults. Shy as always, she didn't want to let me catch on to it, but when I quizzed her from her daycare textbook, she was speaking in full sentences and answering questions she never would've before, even if she could.
This made me happier than anything else on the trip. I was thinking of moving them to Taiwan next year to be with me, but seeing how happy my kids are, Kira walking freely around the neighborhood to find her friends, and Kiana soaking up all the attention like a little starlet, I might just wait for Canada and try to visit them more in the meantime.
My wife and I had a fight about the pigs, but agreed in the end, favorably to me. Our three sows have just given birth, so she was excited to start making money off of them regularly. The problem, as I see it, is that the interest we pay on our debts is more than what the sows will earn. I told her to sell the sows and the piglets next month, then use the money to pay off some credits. She could eliminate 70% of our high interest debt if she did this, and focus on the garden instead. She fought me over this, but knowing that my math was correct, I made a stand. I said if I was just going to work for her and never have a say anymore in our finances, then it wasn't a marriage I wanted to be a part of. I said I love her, but if she's never going to listen to me, then I'll just leave.
After five minutes of thinking it over she was suddenly giddy with the expectation of growing vegetables in our garden rather than pigs.
All is well that ends well, so we'll see what happens. I had a great time helping deliver the piglets, playing with my kids at the beach, and spending time with my wife. I love the Philippines, but I'm ready for Canada a year or so from now. Maybe if we can put in our time there, one day we'll give the Philippines another go. For now, I'll just try to visit more. It's a really beautiful country, and I love it there.