Saturday, June 6, 2009
Swine Flu Carriers
Because there are now 3 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus in Manila, and at least two of them originated at La Salle University from students who traveled to (drum roll) the U. S., the Department of Health has suspended the start of classes for a week. We were supposed to start on Tuesday, that is, and now we'll be starting Tuesday next.
At first, it seemed like I would have to "self quarantine" myself for a week -- not meet my classes -- according to a bunch of texts forwarded to my new cell by the various branches of supervision that keep a loose eye on me. But now it's clear that we're all going to get an extended holiday.
This current excitement and fear makes me revisit a few scenes from earlier in the week. One day, Lizzie and I waited on the front porch of the apartment complex for our ride. The guard and her friends laughed with each other on the other side, casting sidelong glances our way. "Blahdiblahdiblah," they said, "blahdi blah H1N1 virus blahdi." And then they all smirked and giggled, casting sidelong glances in our direction. Now I understand it all: Look at those Typhoid Marys, they were saying, two little nuclear reactors of contagion. They were probably daring each other to stand in the same air space as us.
Those of you who've lived abroad know the feeling of being the "other" -- it's not a feeling that most Americans experience. Most of us live small, insular lives, seeing only a tiny radius around ourselves, assuming our world to be the center of all that is "normal." It's this insularity, which often breeds a sense of entitlement, superiority and (oddly enough) insecurity, that gives us the "ugly American" reputation. It feels tender and raw to be the "other," an object of scrutiny, curiosity, the butt of incomprehensible (inside) jokes, the source of contagion, someone to be feared. It's a valuable perspective, though, one that we should all live for a while.
It rained all day yesterday, Saturday, and Lizzie and I got to go to one of the malls near the University. It was the biggest mall I've ever been to, honestly. Lizzie and I only explored one of the 4 floors, and halfway, because we were a little afraid to lose our bearings and get lost. The good news is that my credit card works like a charm (unlike my debit card, which is still being a pooper), and retail therapy kicks the dregs of jet lag. Lizzie got some new jeans (we've discovered that this is a jeans culture--all the cool girls are wearing skinny jeans and Tshirts--and Lizzie's kicking me for making her pack skirts and capris) and I got a nonstick frying pan to make pancakes that don't burn and stick. We also got a strawberry lemonade candle to burn away the ghost, a thin fleecy blanket for my side of the bed, two DVDs that we found out we couldn't play on Lizzie's Mac (never fear, however, because my slutty Dell came to the rescue), some flip flops to wear ONLY when we're inside (house slippahs), and various other treats. We also, I'm ashamed to admit, ate lunch at a Burger King.
I've decided, after yesterday, to stop stressing/obsessing about the debit card problems. Since the credit card works, we can limit our expenditures (on groceries and such) to our trips to the mall and the local shopping center. If we need cash, we can get Dave to wire us some. And we can learn to live more leanly. It will be good for both of us.
I was typing this and a lizard scooted out from under the fridge, saw me, and evaporated back again. Too fast for me to get a picture.