It’s 6:08 am. Overcast and cool, probably 70˚ F. No air conditioning last night, didn’t need it. I slept with a sheet over me and the balcony door wide open. I have some ant bites on my ankles, which is a wonderful replacement for the frost bite that would have been Chicago’s alternative. Breakfast is a whole orange, peeled and sliced horizontally, a whole red apple – cored and sliced, a whole mango – sliced the way I’m learning is the only way to slice a mango, a whole banana – sliced into larger than bit sized sections, and half a pineapple – cut in a way that makes it look like a holiday decoration you’d hang from your porch rather than something you’d eat. All of this cost 120 pecos, just over a dollar. This is the second time I’ve gotten this fruit plate and I can’t finish it this time either. I’ll give some away to the kids that beg me for money. They seem to always go for the mango first. I don’t blame them, the mangos taste like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. They are soft and sweet and juicy and bright orange and inviting. I’m going to walk to the Ritzl gardens, maybe half a mile north of my surprisingly beautiful hotel (nestled in one of the many slums of Manila). I’ve got four hours until I have any real plans. The lack of sunshine today might be a bummer for me, but this whole place could use some rain. I’ve heard that there are massive droughts going on, and frankly, the place kinda needs a shower.
My first day I made the mistake of drinking the tap water. Stupid stupid stupid. I’m fine now. I’ve resolidified. Bottled water only, and no ice.
I’ve been waking up unbelievably early every morning, like a 12 year old at Christmas. Without hesitate, I walk around my new neighborhood, a stark contrast to northern Chicago. There is massive poverty, everywhere, but it is not morbid or depressing. I am greeted with wide-eyes stares that are quickly followed by toothy (and toothless) smiles as I wave and smile to strangers. “Good morning, sir!” the people say to me. “Good morning, Sir! Good morning, Miss!” I reply. Even the people sleeping on the street are happy and bubbly, either that or they are pretending to be happy. I’m not sure which, but they are damn good actors if it is the later. I give out fruit to the shirtless boys and girls who ask for money, tips to the street venders who sell me whatever food they think I want, high fives to the floods of laughing school children who fill the streets at 3pm, and handshakes to men and women on the street. There are security officers everywhere, so there is a sense of security, but honestly, they are just as happy to see me and shake hands as the school children, sometimes even more so.
I am only here for a week, but every second opens my eyes and makes me smile. And no matter what it smells like, or how uneven the roads are, or how absolutely crazy the traffic is, I’m loving every second of it. Every damn second.
The sun is breaking through the clouds just now. Gotta go be alive.