Thursday, September 27, 2007

This is Sweden - The movie

Here's a 4-minute promotional clip about Sweden called 'Open skies, open minds' published on Sweden's offial homepage.

It had some press here since it includes some girl/girl action (don't blink, and no, no nudity. Dang). Otherwise it's....well, see what you think.

Some comments from

Signature: hannah, 26/9 08:02
The images are too short! If you didn't know beforhand that it was Sweden- you hardly have a chanse to notice it...

Well...yeah. That's pretty accurate. Who does, really? (It's also nice to know that someone out there spells worse than I do.)

Signature: Anna L., 25/9 23:11
As a Swede i found it a little disappointing, it was a bit like watching random slides from a neighbours vacation or something. The pictures didn't tell a story together, they just feelt random. like "Lets take som faces and put them with som naturepictures", no soul, no feeling, no humor, just some random photos

I agree and pity Anna's neighbours. Hope their holidays turn out better next year.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rewarding thievery

This is an old story that I found while sorting through some stuff I brought up from the basement.

It takes place in the early summer of 2000, when I was living in a room in C's apartment on Bjurholmsplan in Stockholm. I was having brunch with old-time friend N down in the small courtyard-like garden that had been wedged in between four seven-storey buildings. We were just about to start when a man carrying a pack of cigarettes comes out from a back door, apparently to have a smoke.

He asks if he can join, which he naturally can.

None of us have yet noticed that he is drunk as a skunk. Later we will be told that this man is the notorious Nisse, an on-and-off alcoholic who lives in the apartment above C. Nisse who watches Jeopardy with the volume cranked up so high you can guess the answers from C's apartment. Nisse who puts up signs in the elevator asking people not to smoke there and then happily puffs away himself. Nisse who gets so furious when C asks him not to roll his cigarettes (and spill tobacco) outside his door that he sends totally incomprehensible hate letters. But of this we know nothing yet.

That he's drunk becomes apparent rather quick. He is, when all said and done, not very keen on smoking (maybe he already had one in the elevator) but rather keen on having a chat. He tells us he's lived here (where "here" is, is a bit vague, he states three different apartments as being his home) for 34 years, he has been a pastry chef (lotta biscottis y'kno', but you wudnt kno' wha' that is*), that he fell and hurt himself two weeks ago and that he shortly (very shortly, we hope) will go back in to watch Formula 1 race.

But the point of the story, the reason I wrote this entry, is the story of what he just did.

He takes out a wallet that he "found" in the front seat of a car parked outside.

- The front door was unlocked, I mean, man, how the hell can you leave the front door unlocked when you got a wallet in the front seat."

We try to convince him that the best would probably be to put the wallet back where he "found" it, but he refuses. He is going to call the owner and then return it. Why he wants to do it this way (and risk being charged with theft) becomes evident when he tells the story of the time he saw a man forget his brief case in the street.

Nisse took the briefcase home, opened it, fund the owner's phone number and called him to arrange a meeting to return the briefcase. The owner of the briefcase was so grateful that he brought a bottle of fine french wine as finders fee.

Without actually saying it it all becomes obvious. Nisse wants another bottle. He is going to call the owner of a wallet that he stole from a car, banking on that the owner will be so grateful that he will give him a bottle of wine as finders fee.



*No, he didn't speak english, what he said was "Mycke krokaner vettu, men det vet ju inte ni vad de e", but those of you out there who does not read Swedish wouldn't get much out of that sentence.

Short status report

Just got internet to the apartment yesterday - seems things take a lot more time in Sweden than I remembered/imagined. Internet took two weeks to installed. Registration with the authorities is on six weeks+ and running. Before the registration is ready, all insurance matters, mail issues, car rentals etc is a major hassle.

Otherwise it's GREAT to be home, I have this really weird craving of getting back to the 9 to 5 rat race (why is it 9 to 5 btw, isn't it 8 to 5 in the rest of the world too? Is this Dolly Parton's fault?). So no culture shock. There's a few things that bums me out, I'll bitch about that sooner or later, but all in all it's just perfect.

I'm going back to work on monday. New company, same shit. They paid a bit more and since everything is so expensive here money matters quite a lot. Will miss my friends at the old company, but I'm sure there's some decent people working at the new place also.

We've done some work on the apartment, which is now starting to look good. We've moved around a lot of the furniture and re-painted so it seems a lot bigger (it's a lot smaller than the house in Phils, 66 m2). It's good enough for now, but sooner or later we'll have to get something bigger. Housing prices are crazy here now, so we'll see how it goes. We have neighbors who sold a flat just like ours and got equvalent to 475 000 USD for it. And, of course, if you want something bigger you have to cough up an extra couple of hundred thousand dollars. Now, I make something like 5000 dollars a months - how am I supposed to even begin to pay off the mortage in my lifetime? And it's not like we're going to buy a mansion. Just a four-room flat.

We've threw out our old (25 years old) couch, which is literally a pain in the ass since we have to sit on the floor. But there are lots of nice swedish second-hand sites on the net so I'm sure something will come up soon. Will also try and get a bunk bed for the kids, their beds are taking up most of the space in the kids room, and also they smell like horsesweat (most of our stuff is really old, things that I had when I was a kid or that I/Lotta bought really cheap second-hand as students). The we got a long wishlist of stuff on the fridge (a rug, a car, a bike for me, re-painting the living room etc) so as soon as the money start rolling in there'll be change around here.

Ok. Boring entry. I'll quit now.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

This is still Sweden

Back from 19 days in the Stockholm archipelago and still glad to be home, although I miss my friends (But I'm not really sorry, because they were very delicious cheesecakes).

Sweden is still Sweden. Ingmar Bergman is dead, may I say a fitting destiny for an 89 year old man who spent a lot of his life pondering over death. The Swedish news are the same. Apart from covering his death (which is about the only thing they cover), they also cover other countries covering his death. "Hey, they talk about us. Look, there's Woody Allen!. He's talking about a Swedish guy. Man, Woody Allen talking about a Swedish guy, saying nice things about him. And there's Ang Lee. Did you know that Bergman's death was the headline on Le Monde....? Oh, man." (SW had a similar entry when Steve Irwin died)

The nights are still white. The water is still cold. The august moon is already rising, making me think of Tom Waits. The wild berries still grow plentiful around the island were I was. Blueberries, wild strawberries, raspberries and some hybrid of blackberries and raspberries that my parents grow. I have no idea what they're called in English, but probably not blasphberries, even though it would be fun and maybe even linguistically correct.

The Swedish teeny terrorists are still the same. A group calling themselves "The Concrete Jungle Indians" are letting the air out of the tyres of SUV's and leaving notes on the windshields saying "Your SUV KILLS!". Which of course makes the SUV drivers pissed as hell and I'll bet ya they drive that baby round the block one more time to get back and the indians. Any teeny terrorist with a brain would of course start a group called "The Concrete Jungle Baboons" (this is funny because it rhymes with indians in Swedish), leave the tyres alone and put a banana in the tail pipe.

The only shocker so far is that you can not pay on the bus anymore.
I was going in to town with the kids to register with the IRS and become a proper swedish citizen again. So my dad gave me a ride (with a boat) to a bus stop on the mainland, still a bit in the middle of nowhere. I step in with the kids and take out my wallet. Busdriver goes:
- Eeeh, yeah, you can't do that anymore.
- What's that now?
- You can not pay on the bus anymore.
- So how do I pay?
- Don't you have a ticket?
- No.
- Oh.
3 seconds silence where I start to think of how to negotiate to buy the ticket when we get back to civilisation. Busdriver goes:
- Do you have a cellphone?
- Eh, yeah. (But I'm not giving it to you if that's what you mean)
- OK. Yeah, then you text H abc to 72510. It'll cost you 52 SEK (about 8 USD) You'll get a reply. That's your ticket.
So on the following two buses I had to take to get all the way in to town I did not show my ticket. I showed my cellphone. Makes me feel really out-of-date-old and really young and insecure on the same time.
- yeah-I-gots-a-text-says-I-can-go-onyebus-please...

When I got to town I bought me some prepaid-tickets.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

This is Sweden

Back in Sweden again.

It's 14 degrees and raining. Perfect summer weather. We go to the playpark. Huge, safe and surrounded by greenery. Three men are herding their young ones by the swings.

You take a walk without sweating. The air smells sweet. The cool breeze blows right through your moody self, but not through your jacket. It's quiet.

The weather improves. 20 degrees, sunny. We drive to a nature reserve near my parent's house. The roads are wide, well-paved and virtually empty. Nobody's there. A box by the entrance offers free 20-page color pamphlets on green areas in Stockholm. You choose the spot in the sun to have your snack on. Old red-painted wooden huts are scattered in the landscape amidst the violent yellow rapeseed fields and hazy blue-green oat. The soft green of the shallow lake is the birds alone.

It's like you never left.

And right now, like you never want to leave again.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Relatively Peaceful

Just a short report from the midterm elections here in the Philippines that took place today. I was watching one of the local news channels to get some info on who won. Well, the results are not finished yet, but what I did find out was that a chief of police reported that he thought that they had been able to show the international observers that the elections where relatively peaceful. So far 191 poll related acts of violence resulting in 114 deaths of whom 11 were candidates.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Att: Dalek HQ, Epilogue


two days after the extermination sign was posted at the entrance of our subdivision, someone posted another sign next to it:

There's something cooking here, and I'm not talking about the 'roadkill surprise' over at the eatery.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Att: Dalek HQ

I found this sign at the entrance of our subdivision. I'm all for it, I hate those dogs, they hate me. (At least they crap in my yard all the time). What really got me though was it was not called for the concerned citizen to catch them or even kill them. We may "exterminate [them] by any means". As my youngest sons favourite dinosaur says: Let's use our imaginations....


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.



Friday, February 23, 2007

4 figures

Two nice things happened:

1. This site has now had more than 1000 visitors (suck on that, Yahoo/Google/MSN). My competition can be screened here, if you're in to those things.

2-4. I not only got a job, I got three. And none of them were technical writter.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Hope sprains eternal

So, I’m out of a job again, and moping about it.
The last couple of days I’ve been hooked on job sites, international and national. The international are clearly more interesting – but I seem to have chosen the wrong career to be a player on that circuit.

The national are a bit more discouraging careerwise, (Sure, I could be a English tutor for 2$ an hour, but it wouldn’t cover my transport cost of going in to Manila) but the do offer a smile now and then.

Here are some of the positions offered:
13. - Technical Writter(Proficient in Adobe Framemaker)

-Graduate of any IT related course -at least 1 yr experience as a technical writter -Proficient with Adobe PageMaker - Very Good oral and written English
Location: Makati - Manila Salary: 20k-35k

They do need one, don’t they?

39. - Guidance Head

BS/AB Psychology graduate; with MA units; effective counseling skills; 3-5 yrs exp. as Head
Location: Molino 3, Bacoor - Cavite Salary: Upon Interview Date: 16 January 2007

My head has 32 years of experience, are you sure I need a psych grad as well?

14. - Mixed Signal Equipment Engineering Engineer

REQUIREMENTS: Candidate must possess at least a Bachelor's/College Degree in Engineering (EE/ECE) or equivalent. Knowledgeable in Basic Circuit Analysis, Test Methodology, and Basic Test Equipment Maintenance. Proficient in Test Debugging, Test Equipment Operation, Handler and Prober Operations, Use of Test Instruments, Word Processing and Spreadsheet, and Unix Environment. Willing to relocate to Laguna Location: Calamba - Laguna Salary: negotiable Date: 5 January 2007

OK, I’m not an engineer, but I’ve lived in the Philippines for over a year, should make me as good with mixed signals as anyone. Too bad, I hear engineering engineers are the best (as opposed to the low-life non-engineering engineers)


4. Ilustrator
Those who can provide illustration and image for the children's English book
Location: Makati - Manila Salary: negotiable Date: 13 January 2007

Three words. ”With a melon!?”.

6. House Parents
Couple to work together as house parents for former street children and orphans in a cottage at the South Campus of Christians' Haven. Man and wife must be dedicated, active, born again Christians.
Location: Manticao/Northern Mindanao - Near Iligan City - Misamis Oriental Salary: 7K + 5K/month Date: 28 December 2006

Well, as long as I don’t have to actually gice birth to it…


48. Part-time Tutor for Computer
We are looking for professional who would like to teach the following computer applications: 1. Autocad 2. Adobe Photoshop 3. Visual Basic 4. C++ 5. Corel Draw Interested applicants may send their resume via email :
Location: Paranaque - Manila Salary: negotiable Date: 18 January 2007

Thanks, but no thanks. I was a teacher once and had an Abobe Photoshop in my class. I can’t teach those bastards anything.

74. - Native Speaker(part time or full time)
Qualifications: 1. Preferably with teaching experience 2. Hard-working and dedicated 3. Competent to train ESL Teachers 4. Punctual and with high sense of responsibility
Location: Cebu City - Cebu Salary: very competitive Date: 13 January 2007

If it only hadn’t been in Cebu. I speak native, like, fluently…


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Txt u l8r

I have a hard time throwing stuff away, so before I go ahead and delete the messages from my inbox, I will share some of my favourites with you:

List of 5 outstanding text messages sent to me

5. Category: Most obvious denial of the t9-function
Sent to me by one of L's acquaintances before a meeting in Mega Mall. It's just unusual 2 c a txt usin an xtra lttr her n d pilipins.

- wat name of backery?-

4. Category: Most creative use of umlauts, occasional uppercase letters and grave accents.
Sent to me from yaya C when she obviously thought I needed some cheering up. Well, it worked, maybe not in the way she intended though.

As thè
möön winks
at ü
ì wish
ü tight
i HöPe
ür dAy
wäs Qüitè
f0r n0w
i bid ü,

(The runner-up for that one was: Ängels usuälly shöwer gräces eärly in the mrning, sö i göt up erly 2däy 2 ask dem 2 täke cäre öf u,guide u in whätever u dö & prötect u whrevr u gö.Gudm0rning!!)

3. Category: Necks of kin who hates hip hop
Sent to me when I was trying to reach helper G

- Sory sir’dis not [G],I’m knees of [G].nd I’m nt n d house -

2. Category: Priceless Portmanteau.
Sent to me from above mentioned helper G

- Ok norblem by. [G]. -

1. Category: Don't ever give your number to people you don't know.
This was sent by a guy named Alex. I met him and his friends at the town park when I'd just gotten here. They were students from San Pablo, talked about their lives, played some with my kids, were generally nice people. After a while they asked if they could have my number. After a week or so, Alex sent me this, totally unsolicited text.

- I oftn catch myslf constantly wondering hw u r, sittn alone w/ my mind set s0 far..Reminiscin abt ur smyl, ur voice, Oh my!…im missin u 2 much!-


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Time to cut your hair and get a job

Sometimes a single word changes your understanding of a different culture.

My youngest son, 2,5 years old, goes to a toddler school. Their theme for the week is "Community Helpers". We happen to have an "educational poster" of community helpers. (Educational posters are very common here, we have stuff with plants, musical instruments, national heroes, numbers, letters, fish, you name it)

Yesterday my wife L asks my son J how school has been.

He goes "Fine."

She turns to the poster and points at a police officer and says "Do you recognise this guy?"

He goes "Pig."

I'll tell ya, them kindergartens in the Philippines teach the kids at a completely different level.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Politeness, epilogue

Small item, in reference to an earlier post.

I wrote some on my book today, and had to look up the word fuckup in Wiktionary to see how it translated into other languages. The only available translation? Sure enough, it was the Russians.


Friday, January 12, 2007

New costume, same shit

I was going to write something funny about radio in the Philippines, but ended up with a reminder of the governing methods of the country I'm living in who ousted their dictator in a spectacular non-violent revolution 21 years ago. Apparantly Malacanang put out a press release from the Cebu Citizen's Press Council with regard to the ASEAN Summit being held in Cebu at the moment:

Cebu Press Council appeals for sobriety among media, local officials
CEBU CITY – In an effort to show the best side of Cebu province, the Cebu Citizens Press Council (CCPC) called on the media and local officials Tuesday to show a greater sense of responsibility for an excellent media coverage and a successful hosting of the four-day 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit which opens here Sunday.
In a resolution, the CCPC appealed to media practitioners to show a deeper sense of community in reporting and commenting on the news during the four-day summit and for public officials to show restraint in their disagreement with what it called specific media lapses or practices.
“The CCPC hereby appeals for greater sense of responsibility on both sides, the press and the government, for excellent media coverage and for a successful hosting of the summit,” the resolution said.
Meeting en banc for their fourth quarterly meeting at the MBF Cebu Press Center in Lahug, the CCPC noted the vast importance to the country in general and Cebu in particular of the 12th ASEAN Summit.
It also cited the major stake of the Cebuanos in the event which is expected to provide unprecedented opportunity to showcase the best of the province to foreign visitors.
“The Cebu media can greatly help in presenting Cebu’s rich heritage, culture and values; its advances in governance, education, and technology; and the attractions of the province as tourism and investment destination,” the CCPC resolution said.
The CCPC likewise pointed out that public officials should also put off public discussions of their grievances and misconceptions about the summit so that their actions could not fuel negative reporting by the media.

More here.


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)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Never Never Land

Once a month or so we go to a shopping mall halfway to Manila to stock up on crisp bread, ham, whole grain flour and other necessities of life.

Gopher Jrs love this. Not that they’re fond of shopping, but the mall also has a place called FUNLAND, where we take them for an hour or so while one of us gets some extra shopping time.

FUNLAND includes a trampoline…


…big plastic cars

…basketball hoops…

...a child-friendly assault course...

…a big container filled with plastic balls (a.k.a. The Germ Pit)…

Even I have fun there. But not all is mindless running and shouting. FUNLAND also have a place for reflection and contemplation. The Reading corner.

The sign says:

Children's Reading Corner will take you to never never land,
to the magical world of princes and princesses and many other faraway places,
but please observe the following house rules:
- This area is strictly for reading books only
- Playing is not allowed in this area
- Do not bring the books outside this area
- Request for an adult to keep you company
Our crew attendant are most happy to help you
And please return the books to its proper shelves
Thank You and Enjoy Reading

(Sorry about the poor shot).

Just a quiet place (as quiet as they get in Filipino shopping malls) to enjoy a good book. I personally think it's a great idea. But the again, the book shelves looks like this…

The sign under the "...No playing is allowed in this area..." sign is this...

And what they’re really doing is this...


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Filipino Experience

As of now, I will fail to post entries on two blogs instead of one. You will find a blog dedicated to my expat's eyes here


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You want to go where everybody knows your name

The last phrase of the theme of my favourite sitcom growing up has stuck with me as a description of a sense of home throughout the years. And being expat it is something you ponder about a lot. If you want some thought on it in proper English, the munificent Secret Wombat has had some entries on it.

This morning it happened again. My Yaya (nanny for my kids) told me there was a woman outside who wanted to sell me a fish.
- "She knows your name" C. said, which is code for "You'd better go out and talk to her"
So I did (and bought the fish)(and it was tasty).

I had never (knowingly) seen her before, but she knew who I was.

This particular incident is not hard to explain: I usually buy food that people bring to my doorstep. I figure I'm giving more back to the community that way. There's a good chance the woman knew someone who had earlier sold something to me. Maybe cucumbers. But it is part of a pattern.

Two weeks ago in the supermarket a man whom I've never (knowingly) seen before comes up to me at the check-out and says:
-"Sir, your lights are on"
After a split second of considering and dismissing the thought that this might be code for "Your fly is open" or "There's a huge bugger hanging out of your right nostril", I thanked him and said I'll be out in a minute to take care of it.

Now, did this man see me get out of my car? Probably not, why would he wait forty-five minutes to tell me? Then how, out of the hundred cars in the parking lot, did he match the one with the lights on to me?

A month ago my water distributor went out of business so I went to one of their competitors to ask them to start delivering water to me. I walk in to an office of a company I have never had anything to do with before, addressing a man I have never (knowingly) seen before and asked to have water delivered.
- “How many, sir?”
- “Five, please.”
- “Round?”
- “Yes, please.”
I pay him and sign my name on a receipt. When I start to fill up the address-part I am interrupted by:
-"It's OK, sir, I know where you live"

Not in a threatening way. Just pure service. But you do start to wonder why: Is it “It’s that guy that screams at his children all the time” or “It’s that guy that bought cucumbers from my cousin” or “It’s that guy that walks in the rain without an umbrella”.

Whoever you are, you are not a stranger, you can’t be. There is no such thing as anonymity (with a few exceptions, I know). This IS the land of "Hey Joe"(Which, by the way, is close enough) where you get cheery greetings from every Tom, Dick and Jhun-Jhun, but among these are also an impressive number who actually know who you are.

And it leaves me with a feeling of reassurance since I know there are people out there who obviously are looking out for me, but also a feeling of sadness because I realise that being home is not just where everybody knows your name.

You know theirs, too.