Friday, November 26, 2010

Belated Thanksgiving Wishes

Happy Belated Thanksgiving Gang,

I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday. I myself ran late (whats new - right?) and missed dinner with the family. I worked until 4:30 am Thanksgiving morning and didn't get to bed till about 7 am and woke way late, just plain overslept.

The last few weeks it has been almost as busy with my business, especially the last few days, before this major down turn in the economy. So I wasn't even able to reply to emails or send out a Thanksgiving letter till now.

One thing I really miss is the Gang emails of everyone sending me what they were thankful for. It sort of became a short lived tradition for me to read the list during my family Thanksgiving dinner. It was hard to keep up. I've tried to get people to respond on the website but people just haven't followed me over there. My direction has also changed so I am not writing as much as I use to, mostly politics now, which hasn't helped either.

So this is my list of what I am thankful for this past year 2010.
I am thankful that I have been able to maintain ownership of my houses and that Euclid has backed off with the threats.

I am thankful for the terrific tenants I have, one will be with me for 12 years in March.

I am thankful I am still self employed.

I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful that I gave my first speech. I finally got over the hump.

I am thankful for my parents health.

I am thankful for my brother in law still being here.

I am thankful for my friend Jeff's healing.

I am thankful that a majority of Republicans won this last election.

I am thankful for the countless friends I have.

I am thankful for the opportunity of being able to go to the Philippines.

I am thankful for how wonderful the trip to the Philippines went.

I am thankful I have very little debt.

I am thankful for my sweetheart Ruth, very thankful, she is a blessing.

And I have to say it again, I am thankful for my many friends.  I am blessed to have so many great friends such as you!

                            Belated Thanksgiving Wishes,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

my friends the Filipinos

Hey Gang, Yes, I am still writing about my trip I took last month, it made that much of an impression.

I'll get back to the traffic and maybe conclude this thing in the next few days. I am saving the best for last as the saying goes, so you will have to wait to read about Ruth.

A few of the things that really stick out in my mind was what the Filipinos think of America and Americans. Almost everyone I met the first thing they said was OH American, rich, lots of money, here corruption. In America you can buy a nice car and drive anywhere.

Everyone thinks highly of us for our charities and spreading freedom.

And quite a few after only a brief conversation said I was their ticket to come to America.

Ruth (she is the friend I went to visit) and her friends are all Christians and most dream of coming to the US. I was told by her brother Pastor Jun that all little kids dream of going to America.

The house we stayed at had a tiny convenience store in the front room. You don't come in, just order what you want from the window. I bought a bag of chips and gave him a dollar. I said is that OK. He replied that's to much. I said well in America a bag that size would be a buck so keep the change. He looked at it and said this is going on the wall.

Numerous times I was saluted. Kids yelled at me HEY JOE!

I was even told by a worker at the airport that I look like Tom Kooz. After three back and forths of who's Tom Kooz I finally figured it out when he said movie actor - Tom Cruise.

I received an email from a family that Ruth and I stayed with. The email said, We miss you, its our first time to have an American visitor in our house.

I never traveled over seas before this and never realized what a big deal it is, at least in the Philippines, for someone to meet an American. And friends don't worry I represented America well, well... OK so they did call me Mr. Bean quite a few times for making them laugh and doing silly things like trying to eat a banana leaf, hey it was in my dish, besides that though, I was a good ambassador.

I even made googly eyes at a few Muslims, especially at the two Muslim women with a boy at the hotel. They looked at me as if they just saw George Bush himself. I waved and as the elevator was closing I made a funny face at them. Then there was the old Muslim woman sitting with, I assume her daughters, in front of us on the plane. I had that old woman laughing so hard but her daughters gave me looks that weren't to endearing. Oh well, the old woman liked it, she seemed so sweet.

In all I found Filipinos very friendly, hospitable, hard working and an allie of ours. I made friends quickly and everywhere, even on the plane going to and from. I really enjoyed my stay, I miss them.

God Bless America!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Philippine Traffic part 3

I do have to tell you about the van ride in Cebu.
Ruth and I left the airport and went to a mall. After lunch and some shopping we decided to leave there and go to a bigger mall. So she found us a van that was heading there.

We get in this van that was parked in a large lot outside of the mall and we just sat. I asked Ruth whats going on? She said the driver is waiting until it fills up.

The van was a Nissan. It seemed just a bit bigger than the mini vans in the states but maybe it was just because all of the other cars are so small there. The roof was slightly raised, has a bench seat up front instead of the typical individual seats, behind that was a long narrow carpeted box that you could sit on, then three bench seats and each had a small jump seat attached at the end.

Finally it was filled with nine people and I thought OK three on each bench seat we can go now, but nope. The small jump seats were folded down. We waited until three more got on. That brought the total to twelve. I thought for sure we can go now, nope. We waited again until two more boarded up front, that made 15 and that shut the door. We were finally off. But then we stopped and picked up another passenger for a total of sixteen people and some with bags. Let me tell you, it was cramped.  All these passengers in an average size van with just normal tires. Try doing this in America.

I am just now reading the newspapers I brought home from the trip. There are two articles from different writers about the plight of what to do with the traffic, pollution and congestion. I am telling you, its that bad.

The Philippine government tried a novel idea awhile back and is thinking of renewing it again that most are against. Its called the Odd and Even. It bans any vehicles from using the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue ( EDSA), with odd plate number endings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and even plate number endings on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They are also thinking of raising the gas price so people won't drive as much and also the idea of not issuing as many bus liscenses. Another has government workers only working 4 days from 7 am till 6 pm. Or possibly vehicle reduction by taking off the road vehicles that are deemed unsafe but they are not sure what to do with the displaced drivers who make a living driving. None of these are sensible if you ask me. 

But it is BAD, one study showed that the thoroughfare EDSA could only accomodate 1,600 buses but about 3,000 use it now and that does not count cars, trucks and other forms of transportation. Makes me appreciate living in a live ghost town like Cleveland where the rush hour is 20 minute long on a real busy day.

Serious though I hope this doesn't come to America, whoops in a way it already has with proposals to raise gas taxes, the push to rid us of our big cars, and the EPA mandates, maybe we should send Obama and EGore to fix things.
More to come....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Philippine Traffic part 2

I saw other things that just would never happen in America. I remember what Ruth said when I was praying to God to spare my life on the bike ride from Dakak and back, She said This is just life, and I replied This is just frightening. I thought we were nuts for driving with three adults on a small motorbike but that was nothing, I saw four men on one. I saw a girl riding side saddle with her feet swinging. I saw another bike with a driver and then behind him was a man holding his dog. Old ladies. They just seem so relaxed. Ruth was right this is just life at least to them.

Then there are the tricycles. I still don't understand the laws of physics because they seem to be broken in the Philippines. I don't see how its possible to fit five adults, one child, two suitcases, two travel bags and a couple of small bags in a tricycle with a tiny sidecar. But we did it. One trike that picked us up had a small boy eating an ear of corn sitting in front of the driver. The child wasn't strapped in or holding on, no concern just busy eating and occasionally shouting to someone he knew. I saw some vehicles so overloaded with people, that some were sitting on the roof. Ruths brother in law drove us to the hotel in the back of his pick up. He gave us plastic chairs to sit on. This would never happen in America, you wouldn't make it around the block before some do gooder gestapo would pull you over.

They also have regular taxis, mostly mid-size to small Toyota's. One taxi we rode in was just zooming along. I had to peek at the speedometer to see how fast he was going. But to my surprise, the speedometer wasn't working and neither was the fuel gauge! And yes, they cram as many as they can in these and as much luggage as possible, somehow it all fits.

Moving on to the next mode of transportation is the Jeepney, what the Philippines are famous for. These are a sight to see. Any one of them would be perfect for the local American cruise in. I believe they are like the OLD Volkswagen Beetle, where they all share a common frame but its the add ons that make them unique. Some had Rolls Royce grills, others brightly painted. They aren't that long and are narrow with a very low roof height. You have to bend to get in and out. They are very sparse inside and have two long bench seats on each side, some are padded some aren't. You sit facing each other, about eight per seat.

Finally the buses. Most if not all are independent not public. Ruth's brother Pastor Jun explained to me the different buses and why its better they are independently owned. Jun knew exactly which bus to flag down. He said some buses the fares are higher because there are fewer stops, other have more stops and are cheaper. Some buses are older and refurbished that might not be in the best shape and don't have air-conditioning. These have lower fares also. Some are for local, some for long distance. The bus we took to Ocean Park reminded me of something from Mexico. It was red inside and had red curtains with gold fringe.

Almost all the vehicles, from Buses to Trikes were individualized with different stickers, paint schemes, interiors, some had flowers on the dash. A lot of vehicles had Christian stickers or plaques.

to be continued......
Gotta GoGo!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Philippine Traffic part 1

Its already been two weeks since I returned from my trip to see Ruth and its taken me about six of those days to get back to feeling normal. It took six days because I just got use to the hours in the Philippines then had to readjust, add to it the jet lag, the change of climate from two weeks of sunny and hot to cool and gray, missing all the delicious fresh fruit and food, and of course I miss spending time with Ruth. Its a lot of changes for the body and mind.

So I should finish my story because I never did write about the most important and really the only reason why I went, to meet Ruth, and I need to. But first I will continue on and write about the traffic. The traffic, oh my the traffic. I mentioned this briefly in my other postings but not in depth.

I will say this... the first two days I feared for my life and my first reaction to the traffic was this is almost as organized as a demolition derby. If a person has bad nerves or hates driving or traffic this could push him over the edge. Its that crazy. Cars zooming through intersections, motor cycles squeezing down middle of lanes between cars, buses tailgating, vehicles crossing over into on coming traffic to pass. And in a lot places in all this mass of traffic were vendors or individuals walking between vehicles harking their goods, water, peanuts, paper and other stuff.

The only time on the trip that seemed fairly quiet was on the way to Dakak Resort. Everywhere else there were cars, trucks, buses, motor bikes and what ever other transportation known to mankind. The traffic never seemed to ease up, even at night you hear horns.

OH OH OH I forgot to mention something very important that makes this seem even more insane, with all this traffic and madness there were NO stop lights and stop signs, they only exist at major intersections and are far and few between. Some streets had speed bumps to control speed but that's it. I don't even remember seeing speed limit signs, maybe they have them I don't know.

The other thing that can fray your nerves until you get use to it is the noise and the horn blowing. To the person not accustomed to this you think everyone is mad at each other for cutting them off. Not so as the Filipinos would say. Horns blow for many reasons, to let some one know you are passing, you are are stopping, to go around, horns blow to pick up passengers, constantly horns are blowing but not one finger was raised and not one notice of road rage or anger. Even at the intersections with no traffic lights, everyone converges, crossing traffic continues until a driver creeps up enough for the traffic to stop and then they go. Even here no anger or fingers saluting were noticed.

Believe it or not though after a few days you start to relax and realize that this is as safe or maybe safer than in America, I am serious, I will get to that later. And I also sat back and reflected how socialist and unfree America is. Here is a country with so much traffic, few stop lights and signs, speed limits that aren't posted and yet I did not see one, NOT ONE, accident or fender bender. NONE! Even in the newspaper only one traffic death was reported and it was because a policeman was trying to give a ticket to a taxi for stopping in a no loading zone. The taxi not wanting a ticket drove off and ran over the policeman. So it just proves that many of the tickets issued in America are not for safety but strictly REVENUE! I will also add to this comment later.

to be continued.....

Gotta GoGo!!
Carey Masci