Monday, April 30, 2007

Going home

I doubt that anyone actually reading this blog don't know we'll be going back to Sweden in July (and L in August).

Not to much to say about that. I'm happy about it, I will miss some stuff and don't miss even more.

What I have noticed since it was finalized:

1. My willingness/ability to cope with the cultural differences have been spiralling steeply downwards. Before Belgian friend J was leaving at Christmas I asked him how he felt about it. He said "I try not to think about it. I did that when we left Vietnam, and it just pissed me off". Now I know exactly how he felt. Like when Yaya C disappeared. A year ago I would probably have tried to smooth things over to make it work again, now, I just don't care anymore. Or yesterday when one of the baggers smashed my olive oil against my car. It took them 20 minutes to replace it. A year ago that would be (slow, but yet) service. Now it's just irritating. A lot of things go from quirky or cute or different or "when in Rome..." to plain annoying or incomprehensible or "...get out while you still can" .

2. More often than not, when you tell Filipino friends or acquaintances or just people you happen to meet, you often feel that you've offended them. Like when I went to see J's doctor for a check-up on the TB. Suddenly the air was filled with a notion that I was not really there to check up on my son, but rather I had taken some time off work to come down and insult him, personally.

There, not a single joke. I'll get back on track soon.


Saturday, April 28, 2007


Thanks to J. who went to Cebu with her parents for Easter, I finally got my new guitars (one semi-acoustic wrinkled-back bass guitar, one semi-acoustic shell-backed guitar). The old one, an "Original Lumanog" that I bought for something like $40 i a shopping mall near Manila gave up the ghost the day before a Christmas party I was going to play at . To be precise it gave up the bridge and saddle but it doesn't sounds as catchy. I ended up playing "Deck the halls" and "Joy to the world" upside down on a right-hand guitar. Fun, still. Sounded good? Not so much.

So I got in touch with this guy where I previously bougth a filipino bass (a bit like a
guitarron) on Mactan Island, just off Cebu. This island is known for three things:
- Magellan died there, killed by Filipino hero Lapu-Lapu and his men.
- It has an international airport (oh, yes, airports, let's click on that link!).
- It is the best place in the Philippines to buy guitars.

They didn't have left-handed guitars though, so I had to order them, and then it took them two months to build them and then a while longer before I could find someone to pick them up. So it was four months without guitars. I didn't realise I missed a guitar so much at home, but as soon as I went somewhere I started playing anything with strings (after 20 minutes of trying and failing miserably at tuning it). So they were VERY welcome.

I am oddly proud of these guitars, although I had absolutely nothing to do with the manufacturing. The one who did was Eddie T. Pangatungan at OponGuitars, a very nice man. The kind of guy that makes you oddly proud of your purchase. I think it's best symbolised by his last mail to me after I wrote to thank him and say the guitars were beautiful and safely at my house:

"Thank you for appreciating our guitars. It is our privilege and pleasure to have served you satisfactorily. Thank you for doing business with you."

I AM welcome.


Also: The link to friend G's photogenius on framefive has been dead for a while, but is now feeling much better. Here it is.

Also also: There are a lot better pictures of the guitars (or ones like them) here. And if you ever want to buy a guitar, I can really recommend Opon. Just mail or call ahead of your left-handed.

Also also also: The leg is looking and feeling much better.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Let's just ignore them -or- More pictures of other parts of my body

That's it. I'm never going out in the sun again. Not that I have been today, but around lunch I discovered that my chest thought it had, like this:

Apparantly Jean-Claude got the best of me and caused an allergic reaction, so I went back to the town hospital to see another doctor, Dr Pua. He was a very hands-on man. When he saw my boil he ordered me to the ER and started picking away at the boil/pus/wound with a tweezer while humming a merry tune. And I, I must admit, called his name out loud several times. PUUUU-AAAAAAAAAA.

You do have these interesting conversations with doctors when they're pounding away at you:
Dr Pua: So how long have you had this?
Dr Pua: Well, boils are bery common in summer

He prescribed me with something else, Clarithromycin, which I have no idea what it is but let's say Zach Braff of penicillin. Wimpy, but does a good job. And I swear I'll kick his ass if it comes down to that.

And, on the picture front, stay tuned. Next week it might be I-got-some-fungi-growing-in-my-groin-week. It is, also, bery common in the summer.


Thursday, April 26, 2007


These are my legs. As you can see the one on the left sports a tanned, succulent look, while the right one is pale and skinny. Now which one would I prefer? Tan and succulent? Skinny and pale?

To make matters more clear, these are my ankles. The right one looks so smooth it reminds me of a Hillary Clinton joke*. On the left the bones seem to be bursting through the skin any moment.

To make matters more gross, here is the villain in the drama. It started out a tiny black spot, grew a ring, added some height and then just went mad.

After this rather painful but otherwise harmless condition (the boil was eating away at my periosteum) the entire leg swelled up, so today I went to the doctor, who for the second time emptied it for me (first one I did myself). In the category "most disgusting things I have seen coming out of my body" it ranks pretty high. Thank godness the eyes and arse are on opposite sides of the body.
Then he cleaned it up again and prescribed some penicillin. He didn't say it out loud, but I could see it in his eyes that the prescription was for the Jean-Claude Van Damme of antibiotics. To prove my theory I kept the presription in my wallet and just asked for the "short belgian" penicillin when I got to the pharmacy, and they served me right up. So now I'm back on track, and the pain is not so bad unless I sit down or get up or stand up or lie down.


Namely "Hillary, are those your ankles or did you just take a dump in your socks?". (Jon Stewart was trying to prove that the presidential candidates had not yet stepped over the line in attacking each other. The same segment contained "Obama, you smoke so much your lungs are the only authentically black thing about you")

Friday, April 13, 2007


Des, Felix, Lala, Leni and Mike negotiating the garbage in Tanza.

Black Saturday came with a totally unplanned but very welcome birdwatching trip for me in Tanza, Navotas, just north of Manila. The purpose of the trip was a waterbird census, aimed in particular at Chinese Egrets.

Chinese Egrets looks more or less like any other egrets, but they are rare, and getting rarer (Vulnerable on IUCN Redlist). The total breeding population is estimated somewhere between 2000 and 3600. The main reason for their decline is habitat loss, due to reclamation of tidal mudflats and estuaries for industrial use, infrastructure or aquaculture.

Yet, just 45 minutes from Rizal Park (downtown Manila) we found 74 of them. And a part of the explanation is the thousands of tons of garbage that is flushed out from Manila each day. Sometimes conservation works in mysterious ways.

The group (Des, Lala, Felix, Pres. Mike, Leni, Propgerry, Jenny and me) met up at Aristocrat on Roxas Boulevard where I, still sleepy from getting up way too early in the morning, was scammed of P40 from a very nice young man "collecting parking fees". I did not break my mood though, he did a good job. When everybody was counted for and stocked up on bread and water the caravan headed north, through the labyrinths of Navotas. We parked by the school and headed out towards the ponds. The area had been dredged since the last census two weeks ago, so we had to take a detour by the coastline. The detour offered a balancing act on an 8-foot high, 8-inch wide concrete wall and some crisscrossing between beach visitors who looked a bit bewildered about what we were doing there. We reached a stilt house village and met the Barangay Captain at his Sari-Sari store. He again told us about the dredging and arranged for a banka to take us across the dike. My shortest banka ride yet here in the Philippines, about 5 meters. By then all hardships getting there were forgotten, because on the other side of the dike, the Chinese Egrets were waiting for us. Lots of them.

The beach looked like a garbage heap. Not the kind of area you would think of as a bird refuge. I'm not saying that the birds like the garbage (unless it's edible) but it keeps the people away, and as bad as it looks it gives the birds some space. The currents in Manila bay go counter-clockwise, bringing tons of garbage. As a result, all good beach resorts are south of Manila, and the best birding spots are to the north (Puerto Rivas in Bataan has been coming out as no 1 (in the Philippines) in the Asian Waterbird Census for years.)

The egrets were being totally insensitive about our efforts to count them and kept flying back and forth leaving Lala with a lot of addition or subtraction posts in her notebook. My suggestion to shoot them after they had been counted (to avoid any double-counting) did not go well with the others. Some people just can't think outside of the!

A small plover with an orange head gave us some identification problems. The first call was Kentish Plover, but there was no black on the neck so we had to decide on either Lesser or Greater Sand-plover. After much deliberation on whether the neck, bill and legs were slightly longer or shorter, or the head was slightly rounder or more angular, compared to a bird which we only had a picture of, we settled for Greater Sand-plover. Later on Des caught up with us and provided a much easier identification technique. If the bill is half the length of the head, it is a Greater Sand-plover, if the bill is a third the length of the head it's a Lesser Sand-plover.

The egrets caught the most attention, but a cloud of around 2000 terns who were having a feeding frenzy out at sea, and small numbers of waders; Redshanks, Greenshanks, Terek Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers and Sand-plovers were adding diversity. Almost at the end of the shoreline, the majestic Far Eastern Curlew offered us a great view.

At the end of the mangroves we turned east. Again, we had to go around a bit since the good people who were preparing a dump site in midst of the mangroves and fish ponds would not let us pass through their area. The fishpond area offered more kingfishers, swallows and reed-warblers. The Striated Herons were abundant. Another cloud of terns were having another feeding frenzy. We happily left the counting to our president, who had been assigned with the terns. Propgerry discovered a Black-Crowned Night Heron in a tree just above us. When we passed back between the fishponds a single Black-Headed Gull landed on the water on the right side and three small "ducks" plunged down on the left side. The "ducks" turned o to be Little Grebes, according to Lala the first record of them on this site. Just 50 meters ahead a lone Marsh Sandpiper in a flock of Greenshanks added a new species to our list. After some 6 hours in the baking sun we reached the cool, soothing environment of our fossil-fuel driven metal containers, commonly known as cars, and headed home. A great day to be alive.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Golden Rules

Lone Gopher has been moping a lot lately.

But all bad things must come to an end.

So I’ve decided to restart my long string of incomplete entry strings with some new strings, hoping that my newfound bliss will help me to be more stringent. The first string will contemplate the basic principles of a good way of life. The first principle being:

Do unto others what you want others to do unto you

This rule was coined by a guy called Jesus as an upgrade to the old “love thy neighbor like thyself” rule, which had fallen into disuse, partly because of an absurd amount of sexual harassment charges.

Anyway, Jesus had a plan. If everybody followed this rule the world would be a better place to live in. So he gave away all his belongings to other people, banking on that other people would give their belongings to him. Lo and behold, 2000 years later the Christian Church is one of the richest entities on the planet. Because of that, this saying has subsequently been labeled “The Golden Rule” and has led way for pyramid schemes everywhere.

The re-invention of this rule awarded Jesus the title “Marketing Genius of the Millennium” at the EuroFair in Wageningen 998 AD, fending off great names like Charlemagne (who re-invented the Roman Empire and brought Europe back from the pool of mud it had been sitting in for the last 400 years), Romulus Popeil (inventor of the slave-o-matic) and Leif Ericsson, who just two years earlier had discovered America. Leif’s achievement was a bit hampered by the fact that he didn’t return to tell anybody, and, to a lesser extent, some non-Europeans apparently beat him there by, oh, 10 000 years. Jesus was also credited for getting his birthday designated as the starting date of the Gregorian calendar and, almost single-handedly, skyrocketing the sandal sales worldwide.

Go Jesus.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

TB 3

So Josef is now confirmed to have TB stage 3, which means it's active but not yet at a blood-coughing level (and as long as the drugs work will never get there).

Not the best present for Easter, he has to take three different medicines for two months, after that continue with two for four months more. Two them are to be taken on an empty stomach 30 min before breakfast (and any candy leverage that you might want to have in store). The last 30 min after breakfast. All three are reported to taste horrible, and may well bust his liver.

Anyway, on the flip side there is medicine (and we can afford to give it to him, which is not always the case). A hundred years ago in Europe or this year in poor parts of Bangladesh* we'd all go to a funeral in a year.

Tomorrow I'll write something funny instead.


* not meant to be rude to Bangladesh, 1,7 million people died from TB 2004. Pick any country you like. People still die from it in Sweden, but mostly due to complication/combination with other diseases/failure to medicate or take medicine.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I've been really lazy with posting and also returning e-mails (Karl, Micke, Daniel, Anders among aothers). Sorry about that. Some not-so-fun news.

Josef has tested positive for TB with a PPD-test (Purified Protein Derivate, the “positive” means he carries TB). We took the test when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor wanted to make sure no TB “was hiding” behind that pneumonia. We do not know when or from whom he got it (incubation can be weeks or years, tricky disease). We do not yet know if the bacteria are active or latent (if the TB-bacteria are causing his symptoms or if he “just” has pneumonia and the test “just” shows that he carries TB). Me, Lotta and our helpers got tested (x-rayed) yesterday afternoon. I will return today to get the results. I will inform you of developments ASAP. We'll also get a second opinion on josef's x-ray.

To be continued.