We've now been here over a month, and though the job search continues (and I am still learning the ins and outs of getting around and handling social interactions in a different language), I thought I'd put a short update with a few observations.
- Here in Binan, using the Jeepney (which is the closest thing they have here to a "local bus system") costs 8 PhP (roughly 20 US cents) to ride one way for the entire length of the route. Unfortunately, you have to pay fare each time you get on a new Jeepney, as they do not give you any sort of transfer receipt like you would get in the US. I'll have to post a more detailed account of Jeepneys in a later post.
- Rice is available at pretty much any fast food location. Even McDonald's gives you rice as part of your meal! In fact, my current favorite place to eat, Chic-Boy, which serves CHICken and "baBOY" (Tagalog for "pig" or "pork"), has a promotion called "unli-rice." Some places call it "rice all you can," but it basically means you get as many refills on rice as you want with your main dish (for only 99 PhP -- $2.60 USD)! My favorite dish is the chicken sisig.... SARAP! (delicious!)
- All the Filipinos I've interacted with love it when foreigners use Tagalog. In fact, a lot of times they get TOO excited over it and begin speaking in Tagalog very quickly, making it difficult for me to keep up. Before I have time to say "Bagalan" (slow down) or "Uliten, paki" (repeat, please), they often assume I haven't understood and then switch to English... but often get too flustered and embarrassed to continue the conversation!!! This has happened to me most often in retail stores (like SM, where I had more than 4 customer service assistants "helping" me pick out boxers, complete with a lot of giggling and Tagalog comments I don't think they knew I heard or understood)
- Many things here can be bartered for... especially at kiosks or in open markets. A lot of times the items in the markets are imitation goods or somehow "defective" and can't be sold in retail stores in the US. Mostly it's the former more than the latter. Going to these open markets has been a great experience for me and has really helped my confidence in speaking Tagalog conversationally in "real-world" (i.e. not involving my family) situations. I still get a little nervous when using Tagalog, so bartering (which is just as dependent on HOW you say things as it is on WHAT you say) is a great way to "jump in the deep end," so to speak. It forces you to use speech, mannerisms, humor, flattery, and sometimes "fast talking" to be successful. As a bonus to relieve some of the pressure, if things go awry (for whatever reason) and you don't get the price you want, you can always go to another kiosk or merchant a few feet away and odds are they'll give you the price you like... with a little negotiation, of course!
That's all for now. I have a lot of drafts saved but they definitely need to be polished before I post. Until then!