Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ghost Management

We can't get to our money: that's the latest crisis.

I followed all the rules, of course. Went to Associated way back in March or April and told them I'd be spending these 5 months in the Philippines and to please put a note on it. But NO. As soon as I tried to use the card at a cash machine I was denied. Then Dave got an ALERT message that there was "suspicious activity" on my card.

He thought he'd taken care of the snafu. Not so much, it turns out. Still can't get at the funds. So here I am, halfway around the world, and I can't get at my money. It makes me more than a little frantic. The anxiety ghosts plague me all night, waking me up every two hours and chewing at my brain.

On the lighter side, I came down here to the breezeway to email Dave this morning and -- wah la! -- he was on Skype and we were able to have an impromptu chat. Then I ran upstairs to get Lizzie and the videocam and we got to see Dave and the cats and the dog. Tremendous.

At the same time, however, Lizzie got chewed by mosquitoes. Her legs are covered in bites, big mean super swollen bites.

I'm trying REAL HARD not to be the irritating American, all caught up in her rules and her need to keep schedules, to get things done yesterday. But it's very difficult to navigate this new culture, where people still do things the old fashioned way (by hand, cash and carry, and all of this after lunch). At least Lizzie and I now have cellphones, so we can text our new friends when we need help--with some assurance of a quick reply.

We're hitting major roadblocks not only with the money situation but also with Lizzie's potential school. They want us to have Franklin Middle School fax and send (via snail air mail) their required recommendation form, even though when I emailed them about this possibility back in March they said to get a letter of recommendation from her teacher... Not good enough. It took 3 weeks for a letter of invitation from the U of P to arrive for me, a slim airmail letter that weighed less than a gnat. Also, we need a "certified" health record for her. Lizzie can't take the test until we take care of all of these roadblocks.

Further, the semester starts on June 11 and they don't want us setting foot in their offices until we've passed a "voluntary" 10 day quarantine, because we're coming from a Swine Flu swamp. (There are 7 confirmed cases in Manila. 7. They'd die if they knew we had at least 3 confirmed cases on the SNC campus alone.) So all of this information passing happened because Chingbee was our emmissary, passing from the breezeway where we waited into the office and back again, at least 3 times.

I'm starting to think it might be a good idea to get Lizzie into tutoring or something instead of this. Butch (or maybe it was Chingbee) said that people here are quite reluctant to say no. They'll say everything but no. I wonder if Lizzie just can't get into the school, for whatever reason, and they just don't want to say no. Or if it's the same mountain of paperwork for anyone who wants to get into a private school--probably the latter. Just harder to do that when you're halfway around the world.

Yesterday we went to a massive mall to buy our cellphones, and Butch was a godsend because he fronted us the cash to pay for them--and to survive for a few more weeks without access to all our American wealth. He and his wife, Beng, took us out for lunch at a great Asian restaurant, and we've got leftovers to tide Lizzie and me over for a dinner or two.

Then they took us to the equivalent of WalMart and we bought a bunch of things for the apartment: a toaster, a special thingee that you put into a pail of water to heat it instantly (or in a matter of minutes) so that you can take a filipino style bath/shower--sitting on the floor and dumping the water over your head and body. It works! Plus scissors, and a paring knife, and a strainer, and a laundry basket... Butch lent us a transformer so that Lizzie can charge her DS and Beng talked to Lizzie about how to manage our sad ghost. (We need to let as much light in as possible, keep the windows open, use yellow flowers and nice smelling incense, and walk through the rooms disseminating happy thoughts. We also need to put a clear glass of water with salt in it in a corner or two, wait a few days, and then flush that water down the toilet.)

We capped off the day with a trip to Beng and Butch's house for ice cream and cookies. It was a wonderful way to avoid thinking about all the things I can't control--I can't thank the two of them enough for helping us out.


  1. How awesome all the help from B & B! Those little purchases will make the day-to-day practicalities a bit easier.

    You're doing an awesome thing! Hang in there. Sending my love,

  2. And so, now you've launched in earnest. Sounds like tides are turning: communication (cell texts; Skype visuals), check; sustenance (leftovers; ice cream; warm showers), check. Now to the schooling and the cash. All good things come in turn.

    Thanks for posting these pics--it's good to see Jose again. (Hi Butch!) You both look great. I'll e-mail you pictures of me, too, for kicks.