Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: May, 2006

The Reddest Tape

If you don’t want to read my rant about third world bureaucracy, this would be an excellent time to navigate away from this page.

We made a trip to Manila on Monday to pick up our I-Cards. We had perfectly serviceable ACRs (Alien Certificates of Registration) but the Philippine government decided we need an ID card too (although they seem to go back and forth on that). We had been to Manila over a month ago, paid our fees and did all the paperwork. The I-cards were supposed to be finished in two weeks. So, we pull up to immigration on Monday, and I walk in with my little claim stubs.

The guard stops me at the front desk and tells me I can’t come in because I’m wearing shorts. It’s 90 degrees out. I’m wearing shorts, and I packed a pair of shorts. I go back out to the car and send Tiffany in with the claim stubs. She went to the line; there were 2 people in front of her. At least 30 minutes later, she made it to the front of the line. The lady at the desk said, “Did you pull your papers yet?” Tiff said, “I don’t know.” The lady left for about 10 minutes. She came back and gave Tiff back all the forms and receipts we had turned in a month ago and sent her to the third floor of the next building.

Tiff waited in a short line there, got to the front and handed them her forms. They said their computer was down, so they couldn’t check the status of the forms, but she could just hand them in and they would call her name when they were ready. She sat for a while; after a few minutes, they started calling names. Tiffany could see our pictures on the computer, and then they called her up and told her to turn in the stubs, which the lady in the first building had kept.

So Tiff went back to the first building and waited in line again. The guy in front of her took about 10 minutes. The lady gave her the stubs and Tiff went back to the other building.

Once she had her stubs, her forms were signed by the big boss man and she was sent to another table. The man there told her our papers were approved and we could come back on Friday to pick up our I-cards! Tiff explained we were from the provinces and needed them by Tuesday. He said, “I don’t know; I’ll check with the chief. Are you a missionary? etc.” Finally, we were told to come back at 10:00 on Tuesday for the 11:00 printing of I-cards, just bringing the stub.

10:00 the next morning, we were at immigration. First building, wait in line, lady looks it up in the computer, says we’re not approved. Second building, wait in line, sent to another desk, “you’re approved; go see Esther.” Wander around, looking for Esther. Told to redo everything we already did the day before. They look around for the forms, finally deciding they’re locked in somebody’s desk who will be there at 2:00.

2:00 we return to immigration. Second building, Esther’s desk. They look us up in the computer–ready to print. First building, wait in line for a long time. “They’re ready to print. Madam, I’m sorry but our printer is [unintelligible]. We can’t print right now.” Come back Thursday!

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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19%

Despite dozens of hours already working on computerizing the school library database, I estimate that I’m only about 19% completed with the task. I set myself back a little today by suggesting to the librarian that we remove from the collection a number of books that I had already catalogued. They were all just portions of the Living Bible, which we already have in our reference section. There were probably more that I could have removed, but that was depressing enough.

The progress is slow, because I not only have to enter the data into the database, but I usually have to make a new spine label for the book, because it either doesn’t have one or has one that is incorrect. Furthermore, most of the books aren’t in order currently, so I have to shuffle them around as I go along. The library is filthy, too. I think the students cleaned it at the end of the school year, but it started building up dust fast. The librarian came and helped me for a few hours today, and she also did a little cleaning.

preparation

I think it’s always a challenge for teachers to stay motivated during the summer, but I did a decent job today, I think. I was able to get a couple of solid hours of sermon preparation in this morning. I’m preaching at college church this Sunday. It’s Mother’s Day, of course, so I’m trying to do something along that theme. I’m focusing on Naomi, who is more famous as a mother-in-law than a mother, and about whom very little is explicitly said. So, I’m having to infer things about her culture from Ruth’s response to her. This is a bit stretching for me, but I think it’s starting to come together. Hopefully, tomorrow I can put a little more meat on the skeleton and polish it up a little.

I’m teaching philosophy this next semester, so I’m reading a real entry-level text to brush up on the basics of the material. The book I’m reading approaches philosophy from a chronological standpoint, so I’ve read up to the medieval philosophers right now. The text that has been used in that course in the past is arranged topically, so I’m trying to figure out how to integrate the two. I’ve actually toyed with doing a history of philosophy for half the semester and a more conceptual look during the second half, but I’m not sure I have the time or the skill to make both halves cohesive without being redundant. A lot of my reading done today was done on the move, as I followed Elijah on his wanderings around campus and frequently interrupted by “No. Elijah. No. No. Stop. No.” Such talent for cruelty to cats at such a young age!

I think I’m really getting a more crystallized idea of what to do with my Missions 1 course.

vulnerability

This will be a little repetitive of a previous post, but we worked today to distill a list of a few key characteristics of healthy relationships in the Philippines. Here’s what we came up with:
1. It is good to greet a person. This is usually done with a handshake, although women may use beso-beso and very close friends may embrace. Asking someone “Where are you going?” or “When did you return?” are just formalities that don’t necessarily require a definite response. However, when someone asks “Kumusta ka?” they are expected to listen to the answer with genuine interest.
2. Generosity is one of the trademarks of a true friend. If someone has the power to help a friend and refuses, that may be considered offensive. Similarly, you can expect that your friend will loan you anything you need.
3. It is appropriate to drop in on a friend unannounced, although it’s okay to call or text ahead. When you arrive, your friend should stop what they are doing and give their attention to you. If they are eating a meal, they should invite you to join them.
4. You shouldn’t isolate yourself.
5. When you are at a friend’s house, you should make yourself at home.
6. You should address even strangers as manong or manang, if they are clearly older than you. It’s okay to use tito and tita with those who have children older than you. You can refer to the very old as tatang or nanang. If in doubt, use the younger term of address.
7. You may offend a friend if you decline an invitation without a valid reason.
8. You may offend a friend by violating their trust.
9. You may offend a friend if you deny them something—if they ask for help and you don’t help them.
10. You may offend a friend if you talk about them behind their back.
11. It is okay to approach someone directly if you have a problem with them, but you should be careful not to hurt their feelings. It is also okay to use a third party, if you don’t feel comfortable approaching the person directly.
12. If there is a sickness or death in someone’s family, a good friend will stay with his friend to comfort him and assist him.
13. When you go on a trip, it is appropriate (and sometimes expected) to bring back pasalubong for your friends, usually food items.

We also did some reading about exposure and concealment of vulnerability. It’s hard to really define Philippine culture on that continuum. I think people here generally try not to hurt other’s feelings, but in some ways, they can be more blunt than Americans. I thought of a situation where a man came into a meeting and began to present what appeared to be somewhat of an insurance scam. I think the American response would have been to thank the man and dismiss him. The response here was to ask lots of probing questions that revealed that the deal probably wasn’t completely reliable. Without specifically demeaning the presenter, they made it clear that they weren’t interested in his offer.

Also, Filipinos do seem to be interested in competition at least at some level, and they also seem willing to compete in things where they don’t necessarily have a great chance of succeeding. The prime example of this is videoke. I could relate numerous instances of people singing loudly in public despite an apparent lack of singing talent. However, I am curious now. In some societies, students do not take tests if they think they will fail and do not turn in written assignments if they feel that they will do poorly on them. I don’t have enough information to say if that’s what’s happening here, although there certainly are a number of students who fail to complete their requirements.

More interviews

I did some airline ticket shopping today. Our area director wants me to go to India in July to teach some courses. The idea excites me, but it is 3 weeks of missed classes here and, as far as I can tell, a big chunk of change to get there.

We interviewed two more cultural consultants today about relationship issues in the Philippines. Some answers come back with striking consistency, but on other questions, the answers are all over the board. Sometimes, we are so enculturated in our culture that we have trouble identifying its characteristics. We think there’s nothing that would interest a foreigner, because we assume they do it the same as we do. So when we ask, “How do you greet a friend?” we get answers like, “Oh, just the same as you do.” That’s not very helpful, and it’s probably not very accurate. I guess that’s why we’re trying to get various perspectives.

One question that’s pretty important but gets varied answers concerns our status in The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines. Some tell us that we are on a par with the general leaders, which is what almost seems to be the case in actual practice. Others say that we are on the level of the pastors, which is probably what the ideal situation would be.

places I’ve been

duckpin bowling

Friday is date day for the Sumpters, so we took off this afternoon to Urdaneta. After lunch at Pizza Hut, we surmised our entertainment opportunities. Wesleyans here don’t really go to movies, at least not the Wesleyans who teach at the college. Tiffany didn’t feel like going swimming, so that left bowling. Urdaneta doesn’t have a real bowling alley, but they do have duckpin bowling. Duckpin bowling uses smaller pins and smaller bowling balls, which makes it much harder. On the bright side, you get to roll three times per frame. Still, they say that any score higher than 100 is a good score. We didn’t have any good scores today. The bright side is that it costs 15 pesos a game, so you can pretty much bowl to your heart’s content.