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First things first

Here's a few key things to know about Manila proper.

One, it's hot. Not always, but generally. The heat outdoors can be sweltering under the near-tropical sun, but at least it's in open air; indoors the humidity hangs thickly; you breathe it in, swim in it, drown in it. It saps all your energy and even your thinking goes into low gear. But if you run the a/c all the time, you'll never get used to the heat. So speaking for myself, I try to strike a balance and run the machine only sometimes.

Two, you cannot escape the traffic. I will talk about this further in the future. I realize Manila is not as bad as some other cities, and that here at least there are a few rules still followed. Also, interestingly, here there is very little honking. But the congestion is a constant part of life and must be acknowledged. Anything you do requires planning and you must leave hours for getting there and getting back.

Third it the simply stoniness of the city. The concreteness, asphaltiness, pavementiness. Even the entire front "yard" of our house is thick, rough stone, with a little stone table and low concrete walls. Yet despite being so heavily paved, very little is available for pedestrians or bike riders: it's all about motorized vehicles.

Finally, the people, who everyone must mention. Eminently polite, they have politeness built into almost every interaction, not just with foreigners, but with each other. They seem to be kind as individuals; often somewhat effusive compared . . . well, certainly compared with Germans; and resilient as a people. They seem genuinely accepting of foreigners and while yes, there is a "white man's discount" in stores (Westerners pay more if they're not careful), it is not a disrespectful thing.

There is much more to be discussed. The beauty of many parts of the country (of which we have not yet seen much) outside the city; the pollution; the poverty juxtaposed with great wealth; the ubiquitousness of fried chicken... I'll try to get to some of these things on occasion.


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