Notes from Manila

The Manila Hotel is a fine old place. True, it tends to run out of hot water in the mornings and the wifi was wonky until a lovely young woman at the concierge desk gave me a tip for resetting it–but it’s tremendously comfortable and inviting, with an exceptionally friendly staff.

The quality of the pianists in the lobby is variable, but I venture to say that is generally the case everywhere.

After the meeting today, I was so, so tired. Typing for hours on end is pretty tiring to begin with, as you will appreciate.

Fortunately, I was able to make a beeline for the pool when we got back to the hotel.

So there I was, in the steamy Manila evening, the sunset a lovely purple over the Bay, doing some water aerobics and feeling grateful for the water–just one incongruous note, the Christmas carols blaring from the swim-up bar!

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In Manila

When you get up at 5, having given up on sleep, it is a LONG TIME until the mall opens at 10!

I made my way to said mall when it opened and it did not disappoint–it was crazily enormous, maze-like, and contained a bewildering number of restaurants, all of which appeared to be of about the same quality–sadly, I could not bring myself to eat a Krispy Kreme outside of Winston-Salem–and music was blaring, and I mean, BLARING, from everywhere. After O Holy Night in the hotel, do I really need a reverberating version of Little Drummer Boy? On October 20?? I think not.

Mall

I went to the grocery store, as is my wont in every new city. May I say, as a native North Carolinian and long-time visitor to all parts of the Deep South, I have never, ever, seen so much SPAM or so many pork rinds in various flavors in my entire life?

The hotel, by the way, is smoke-free. From Oct 20 to Oct 26! ????!!! Except for one wee problem: it doesn’t seem to be WORKING. . . .

It was hot, very hot, and humid today, and I had decided to walk over the place, so by the time I collapsed into the hotel, I was hot, sticky, sweaty, and remembering why I did not love living on a tropical island. Also glad that Manila Bay looks good from a distance, because it stinks rather alarmingly up close.

Hoping against hope for sleep tonight, as serious work begins in the morning!

Scenes from Manila

The hotel is full of Jehovah’s Witness convention-goers.

At dinner the first night, a group of women are in the Chinese restaurant, asking for cheese wontons. Trying to explain to a mystified waiter what they are. To no avail, apparently.

Yesterday, on the way to the office, I passed by an intriguing looking bookshop. Bookshop AND dental clinic, all in one.

Every evening a young woman plays piano in the lobby. She has the score on her iPad! I guess I am behind, as I’ve never seen that before.

Yesterday morning, she was holding forth on a very emotional rendition of O Holy Night!

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Prayer for our times

From Sojourner’s Voice of The Day:

On The Ground

Put prayers on the ground,
so many prayers that not
a drop of blood can find its way
to the earth, not a drop
can leach into the soil or soul.
Put your prayers on the ground.
Make a place for God to walk
among the horrors and hopes.
There you will find us standing
in his wake, knee deep
in invocations and possibilities.

-Belle Fox-Matin

Late summer

On a summer evening some years ago, two of the South’s most celebrated writers, William Faulkner and Katherine Anne Porter, were dining together at a plush restaurant in Paris.

Everything had been laid out to perfection; a splendid meal had been consumed, a bottle of fine burgundy emptied, and thimble-sized glasses of an expensive liqueur drained. The maitre d’ and an entourage of waiters hovered close by, ready to satisfy any final whim.

“Back home the butterbeans are in,” said Faulkner, peering into the distance, “the speckled ones.”

Miss Porter fiddled with her glass and stared into space. “Blackberries,” she said wistfully.

—Eugene Walter, American Cooking: Southern Style

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New love

Thanks to my niece and a favorite, if as-yet-unmet, cousin, I am now officially obsessed with John Green (who wrote The Fault in Our Stars and a lot of other stuff I am about to read). I love the FAQ section of his website, in particular, this bit about writer’s block:

“I also like to remind myself of something my dad said to me once in re. writers’ block: ‘Coal miners don’t get coal miners’ block’.”

You, too, can fall in love with John Green here.