Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Xmas to All

Or whichever holiday you prefer to celebrate. Or if you do not celebrate, I hope you have a good time anyway, and get what whatever you wish for in life.



Monday, December 18, 2006

'Tis the season

Jolly Santas smile from every frosted window

Snow covered Christmas trees sparkle with every imaginable decoration you can think of

Red-nosed reindeer relentlessly pull fake sleighs filled with fake presents over a fake winterland

And, oh yes,

This is a picture from my car after I left it on an unshaded parking lot for 30 min.


Almost Famous

If you read the PR-folders from the Swedish Embassy in Manila you get a picture of Swedish society, culture, industry, nature, climate and celebrities.

Yet they missed the most common thing Filipinos know about Sweden. It is not the Nobel Prize or IKEA or Greta Garbo or Ingemar Bergman or Ingrid Bergman or Björn Borg.

Definitely not Ingemar Stenmark or Peter Forsberg.

Not even the Swedish Muppet chef.

The two things that come in close of our winner is ABBA and Ericsson phones, which everybody knows of in this karaoke- and textmessage crazed country. But they don't necessarily know they're from Sweden. (To be honest, I guess most Ericsson phones are from China, but anyway)

What they do know is Swedish Massage, something most Swedish people never heard of (and I say this with confidence since I'm Swedish and can speak for the entire Swedish community, really)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Birds of Spray

Where there's people there's vendors. The sell all kinds of foods or products you can think of. And some you hadn't thought of. Last week I joined a school outing* with my oldest son to Manila Zoo. Outside the zoo there was a man selling - I shit you not - tree sparrows that had been spray painted red or green, in a vain attempt to make them appear more exotic**.


*I find school outings very educational. A month ago it was Sports day, which meant a 7am Saturday morning assembly to have the four-year-olds:
- go marching up and down the square
- pray
- sing the national anthem and
- take an oath of sportsmanship
before starting with the sports, which included things like peeling quail eggs and tossing water balloons to each other. This time it was the Zoo and a stage production of Aladdin. Mostly, though, it was waiting. Out of a 10-hour trip, 7,5 were spent on the bus or in a queue. The Aladdin show was great. The kids loved it. Manila Zoo, not so great. But of course, the kids loved it (and the outing was for them, not for me). I just have hard time looking at animal confined in a space so small they can hardly move - like a 3-foot Rufous Hornbill confined in a 1 m3 cage.

** Really, selling birds in the street is bad for a number of reasons (especially if you are the bird). On the flip side of this though, trade with endemic and/or rare species is a problem in the Philippines and elsewhere, so, given a choice, I'd rather see the introduced (as often regarded as pest) tree sparrows being fenced than a Philippine Cockatoo or Luzon Bleeding Heart

Storm Debris

- This is sort of old stuff -

Durian (Reming)* is gone. It left 1200+ dead (latest I heard was 1266) and over 100 000 without homes and/or crops.

It was supposed to hit us.

Not until 3.33 pm on storm day there was a report from that a high pressure area over the South China sea was pushing the typhoon south, out of the way of Metro Manila (and thereby Los Baños) . It would probably have hit Mount Mayon (where most people died) anyway, the eye going slightly north of the mountain instead of slightly south.

The days preceding Durian I thought about this entry, how I could interlace it with experiences from Xangsane (Milenyo)* after which we had a brownout for 15 days and I didn't write any entries. I never got around to really finish anything but the general thoughts were these:

It was striking how Milenyo sharpened the alertness of Reming. (A very remote allegory would be the annual Swedish epiphany that snow is slippery. Each year with the first snow there's total chaos, leaving 4 people dead and 50+ without their cars, at least until the insurance company can replace it, not really in the same league as this). Last time I heard and read about Milenyo but didn't think much of it - would probably mean a day or two or brownout and some extra cleaning in the garden. Before Reming came it was a totally different story, and not only for me. A brief summary:

Preparing for the Storm Xangsane (Milenyo):
1. Wrote witty blog entry (in Swedish) on what a piece of cake typhoons in the Philippines are.
2. Failed to buy even the basic extra candles, food, batteries, medicine.
3. Failed to charge batteries and spare lights.

Preparing for the Storm Durian (Reming):
1. A good two days in advanced we stocked up on food, batteries, candles, medicine, put gas in the car, got cash, an extra gas tank for the stove, three extra 5-gallon water jug ( in addition to the six we already have)
2. Wrote two not so witty blog entries (on the Swedish blog) on how intense typhoons in the Philippines are
3. Invited all the people I knew (and some I didn't know) living near "our hill" to stay in our house during the typhoon because of the risk of flooding and landslides (one family who accepted the offer had water up to their waists last time, but this time it was going to be worse)
4. Removing all loose objects from garden, carried anything that might be spoiled by water upstairs.

Even if it was going to be the worst storm ever, our house was fairly secure - out of the way for landslides, the flooding had to be at least 12-14 feet to reach our second floor, we had supplies -including water, food, medicine and lights - to last us for at least a week.

Storm Day Xangsane (Milenyo):
The day before a neighboring school was closed - orders from the HQ - while my kids school was open. I had contact with the president of our school and asked about tomorrow; will the school be closed tomorrow if we're on signal 2? (=class 2 typhoon 60-100 km/h sustained winds). Yes, no school if we're on signal 2. Next day I woke up at 6:30. L was already downstairs with the breakfast, and the typhoon was already at signal 3. Beside there was no way we where going to get out anyway, since the street had turned into a creek. The kids came down and were pleased that there was no school, but not so pleased they couldn't watch TV instead. I stood by the screen door watching the spectacle and jumped half a meter when a Pomelo (large grapefruit) was blown onto the screen bouncing back four meters onto the lawn. 20 minutes later one of our Durian trees was blown over the door. The Typhoon was now on signal 4 (more than 185 km/h sustained winds)(from what I heard later, not that I went outside and measured wind speed myself). . The wall facing the wind turned into a small waterfall when the rain was pushed through the closed windows by the wind. It looked like something I would like to think you would find in a upscale Japanese home and would have been great if the water was diverted back out again instead of turning the tile floor to skating rink.

What do you do under circumstances like that?
Bring out the camera of course. And the video camera (and putting towels on the floor and reading stories to the kids). I was aware that people probably were fighting for their lives about now, but there was no way I could get to them anyway. This is some of what I got:

  • This picture shows the view from the second floor. It looks out of focus, but the distortion is from the rain.

  • This is the same picture when the eye passed

  • This is our street during the eye

and the tree that fell on our screendoor

Storm Day Reming:
After a morning run of getting the last supplies I went briefly to work for a couple of hours. Schools were already closed even though the typhoon would not pass for another 18 hours. Kept a close eye on the development (As close as I could PAGASAs homepage went down around 10 am). At 2 pm we were e-mailed a memo that said that work was suspended from 2:30 onwards. We left only after securing plastic over all computers and printers (which we did not do before Milenyo). Went home, secured everything in the house and garden, sat in front of the computer trying to get information. At around 4 pm I read an article on Manila Times that said the typhoon would miss Metro Manila. Still, it was a category 5 typhoon, the early reports from Catanduanes were terrible. One interesting thing in all this was that one of the best places to get information was Wikipedia - they already had information on windspeeds, landfalls, forecasts etc - all the regular weather sites were almost impossible to enter due to heavy traffic. We had 13 guests that night. Had some dinner. Electricity went at 7 pm. By this time we were pretty sure that Reming would largely miss us, but in the dark you never know. Got a report from my brother in Sweden who confirmed the typhoon was going due west, passing around 85 km south of LB. Power came back briefly around 9:30 pm. Went to bed at 10. Slept most of the night, and when we woke up it was all over.

Aftermaths -Days after Milenyo
First Day: Went zig-zag trying to get cash, gas, food, candles for ourselves and for those in greater need than us. Succeeded on the two latter.
Day 2-15: Continued the search for cash (got it day 3) and gas (got it day 4, when I was running on fumes). Helped out as good as we could. Received rumours that new typhoons were coming (each day from 1-6, it was even in the papers, but it never came). Spent sweaty nights trying to get some sleep and hush equally sweaty kids. Trying to get information on when the power was getting back . When it came to most of Los Baños we were still without, first the rumour was that somebody stole the power lines, secondly (when the power had come back to almost all houses in our subdivision except for ours) that a transformer had blown. Got jealous and felt worse stricken when everybody else had their power back except for us. Fought a lot. Got sick of it all and went to spent a night at a hotel (and eat their marvellous breakfast).

Aftermaths - Days after Reming
First Day: Went to Manila to spend the day with L who's flight had been delayed 11 hours (After Milenyo they were all cancelled). Made to the airport on record time (after Milenyo an office mate spent 15 hours going the 50 km to the airport, if it weren't for the bags you'd probably walk faster). When we came home the power was already restored.
Second day: Went to the beach with some friends, all back to normal

I would like to have a poignant finish to this one as well, but I guess there isn't one (and that's why it took me so long to finish it).

Win some, lose some.


* Typhoons are named by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) on a rolling scheme where all nations around SE Asia get their turn to name Typhoons. This time it was Thailand who submitted Durian, last time Lao PDR with Xangsane. However, when a typhoon enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility it is given a name by PAGASA, Milenyo and Reming, respectively. It seems even if the Philippines submit the name such as for the severe tropical storm Bilis in July, it is still given another name 'onli in the Pilipines' (that time Florita)