Wednesday, 19 March 2008


My bi-monthly trips to Immigration in Intramuros are almost always noteworthy. Usually I invite friends along to join in the journey. Aethan, Roy, Darz, and Yucel have accompanied me in the past. Since there is usually a few hours to kill waiting for the processing to be completed, it is more enjoyable to kill that time with someone than alone. I went again yesterday, alone, but didn't remain that way for long.

Because I got a late start I was prepared for a horrible experience like last time where, if you remember, I spent hours just waiting to hand officials my paperwork. All of that was completed within fifteen minutes yesterday, and most of that time was me just filling out the extension form.

So I crossed the street, had lunch, and meandered around the ruins of the Aduana, or customs house. Constructed by the Spanish in the 1820s, it was rebuilt in the 1870s after earthquake damage, but has remained in ruins since American bombing in WWII.

Because yesterday was not only the first day in over two weeks that wasn't overcast, it was also the hottest day so far this year (and today isn't looking any cooler), I didn't spend a great deal of time outside at the ruins as I was, as my mother and Edson would say, melting. It didn't help matters that the cab ride from Makati to Intramuros was like a sauna from hell. I think I lost six pounds on the trip. The a/c was on, but the coolant hadn't been checked in...well, who am I kidding? has probably never been checked!

Fortunately, they've built a Starbucks into the wall in Intramuros. I say fortunately for two reasons only:
1. It is just across the street from the ruins. (Aren't Starbucks locations "just across the street" from everything?)
2. Because it is built into the wall (read: 300 year-old massive stone construction) the air conditioning probably doesn't have to work all that hard, so it should be nice and cool.

Inside were a lot of familiar faces from the foreigners at Immigration, biding their time in the a/c while waiting for their visas to be processed as well. While I was waiting for my tea a fellow foreigner asked me if I too was waiting for the folks at Immigration to process my visa.

That's the only reason any foreigner is here...and, for that matter, probably the only reason this Starbucks exists, I said.

Now, I should pause here to note that, contrary to what people here expect, usually we foreigners don't spend a lot of time amongst ourselves. We tend to ignore each other exists, unless we work together, etc. We already know that for the most part, if we just hung around each other all the time, we'd just end up complaining a lot, and we'd never really have much of an experience of the people and places in which we are living/working. So we ignore each other. The next person who asks me to set them up on a date with "another foreigner friend" should read this. I don't have any! Well, I have one. One. But he's taken!

Anyway, the guy I was speaking with is Antonio Graceffo. We sat down and chatted for the next hour until his visa was ready. He's a writer who has done several books and countless articles, on his adventures in Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Cambodia. Now he's here working on yet another book. We had a great chat, exchanged business cards, I gave him my blog address (so he's probably reading this...haha), and he encouraged me to Google him. I did, and if you clicked on his name you probably have already figured that part out for yourself.

So, despite what I said above about foreigners not usually wanting to spend time together, our conversation was really enjoyable, so Edson and I will likely be meeting up with Antonio. That'll just mean people will see Edson with two foreigners. Wow! We'll almost be able to see the fire shoot from their eyes in envy!

Anyway, after he left to retrieve his passport I waited for a while more for mine, keeping myself busy observing the world around me...because that doesn't require a great deal of energy, which keeps me from melting.

It doesn't keep me from taking pictures, though!

Here are some from the waiting area of Immigration:

Charming, eh?

Once I had my passport back with my visa extended for another two months I hailed a cab, and guess what? It was a brand-new cab (new car smell) with lots of freon (or whatever they're using now) for the a/c! It was a delightfully chilly ride home!

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