Welcome! I'm Brad, a retired American high school teacher who has been living in Cabanatuan City, the Philippines for two years. My adoptive/adopted Filipino family, the Javier-Aldonza-Guevarra-Academia clan, as well as the kind staff at the hotel where I live, have been friends and helpmates to me during this time. It has, for the most part, been a very enjoyable stay. This blog was originally set up to keep friends and loved ones back in the U.S. apprised of what I'm experiencing Phlipside. Some Filipino friends read it as well, and now that the blog is part of an expat blog network, I guess "friends who are not yet friends" are occasionally included in the readership! Will post at least once a week. Tap the lower floors above for earlier posts, and, as ever, click the pics to embiggen them.

Verdant 24-7-12.

You can reach me at boan.song@gmail.com ūüėÄ


Passing 10,000

I was going back over the material concerning the "transfer" of the Philippines from Spain to the U.S. 120-odd years ago, and malaise set in. Tinged with nausea. We went and did what we had been roundly criticizing the colonial powers of Europe for doing. And we used the talking points of those European powers to excuse ourselves. I can't write about this business now, don't have the fortitude for it. Might get back to it later.

There were critics of the American move back then, some of them fierce, like Mark Twain, who wrote:

"True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world. . . ."

Janiah defeating me in a memory game.

The "10,000" in the title of this posting refers to the number of "hits" the blog has received since it was begun in the middle of last June. Dividing the number of 10,070 on the counter today by the number of days active (490, give or take), I find that the blog receives an average of 20.5 visitors a day; this is gratifying, reader, more than enough to keep me pecking away.

Lara remained in San Jose City with her grandparents after All Saints' Day because of an opportunity there for her to receive free of charge the human papillomavirus vaccine, which guards against 4 strains of the virus that causes cervical cancer. It was a good find, because the vaccine normally costs more than P5,000 (about two weeks' pay for the average Filipino). Unfortunately, the agency making the offer to residents of SJC arrived in the city late, and now the anticipated two days of school absence for Lara has turned into a full week. She will have some catching up to do, for sure.

The Avanza has been shop-side for more than two weeks now, so this morning I sent a friendly email to Sir Sherwin asking after the car's status. Hopefully we'll have wheels again soon!

That's about it from Phlipside this posting. The day temps are still topping out at about 90F here: have read about morning frosts and the scent of wood smoke in the air from fb friends back in Massachusetts; and, yes, nostalgia seeped into this old noggin.




The Earth Is Moving South of Here

Photo sent by Jheng from San Jose City.

It's All Saints' Day; Jheng, her children, and her husband's family are camping out at the gravesite of Jheng's Larry, who died suddenly of a blood clot in his brain a little more than five years ago. They have brought food, cleaning equipment, flowers. I really like the idea of setting apart one day each year to remember, with dear ones, dear ones who have passed away. It's a renewal of the consciousness that these people are always with us: guiding us, celebrating with us, reflecting with us.

Five hundred years ago, Protestants saved some rites and customs of the Old Church. But by and large they dropped this holy-day with it attendant customs.

Philstar/John Unson

Three strong earthquakes have occurred on Mindanao, the large island at the southern end of the Philippines: a 6.3 on Oct. 16, a 6.6 on Oct. 29, and a 6.5 yesterday.  Three days ago, the 6.6 killed at least 8 and injured many more; yesterday's 6.5 did the damage seen above (fatalities have not yet been  reported).

Mindanao is a few hundred miles south of Cabanatuan on Luzon: no earth-shaking was felt here on any of the above dates. From its northern tip to its southern tip, though, this vast archipelago is vulnerable to seismic and volcanic activity. In this particular section of the Ring of Fire, a continental plate to the east of the islands is traveling west, and a continental plate to the west of the islands is traveling east. The result of this currently is a major strike-slip fault just to the west that is locked (not good), and continuous subduction to the east, as the Pacific Plate pushes the Philippine Plate under the Eurasian Plate.


Earth Observatory of Singapore

For the first time in my life I experienced a shaking of the ground back in April, just a day shy of my 61st birthday -- it's likely that I'll go through more such rumblings before shuffling off this mortal coil!


The Price of Palay

One of the rice fields on my way to the duplex.

The night before last Bernie, Jheng's uncle and a jeepney driver, was pulled over to the side of the road and beaten by two men in an act of road rage. Six of the family, including Jheng, took Bernie to a police station to file a report; they were at the police station for some time and got little sleep. I read about it yesterday morning in Jheng's text and decided to pick up some shortbread and malted milk cookies, bring them over to Bernie at the duplex, and commiserate with him. The three grown children of Bernie and Des -- Mich, Michael, and Mirasol -- were downstairs on that side of the duplex this Sunday afternoon, and told me their parents were upstairs sleeping. I left the goodies with them. Apparently Bernie was not too badly hurt.

On my way back to Fred's, I looked out over the rice fields and thought about the recent trouble of the farmers. Palay, or unhusked rice, is at its lowest price in 8 years. A kilo sells for P12 (about 24 cents) today; it sold for P20 a year ago. The government here recently removed all restrictions on rice imports, in exchange placing a 35% tariff on all imported grain. The tariff, however, did not offset the removal of restrictions, and palay prices took a nosedive. Rice farmers here in Nueva Ecija, the #1 rice-producing province in the country, are very angry.

An Australian I've chatted with, Rick, owns with his Filipina wife several acres of rice in Talavera, just north of Cab City. I ran into a British acquaintance, Eric, at the mall while I was picking up the shortbread and cookies for Bernie, and Eric told me that Rick and his wife were studying other crops that might be planted instead of rice. Producing the rice crop costs him more than the selling of the palay brings him, and the government is not yet making noises about readdressing its grain import policies.



Palay, bagged after being dried, at a government-sponsored cooperative on the Maharlika Highway in downtown Cabanatuan.


Lara w/ teacher and classmate.

Janiah at *kidzoona*.

Morning buddies.



My rotisserie chicken guy.

On the road with Mr. de Leon.

Lara and her halo halo.


Tagalog Musings

Mama Luz is feeling better. The aching no longer brings tears; she is still on her back much of the time, but she really does seem to be on a slow mend.

I get over to the duplex almost every day. Lacking a car, I use the method of transportation I used before I had wheels here: the trike. There is a trike stand just across the street from Fred's, and I know a few of the drivers there well. I celebrated with them at their Christmas party last year, visited a couple of their drinking parties this past year. They were happy for me when I got the car; now they are happy that I need their services again while the car's in the shop.

Trike drivers are the maverick cowboys of Cabanatuan. Listen, most people I've met and gotten to know in the Philippines have a job they landed through a connection within their extended family -- or gone to work in the family business. (The strictness of the rules against nepotism in the civil service here is necessary in a country where "nepotismo" in the private sector is common and accepted.) . . . Trike drivers, though, are solo artists of the open road, wily by nature and beholden to no one. They work their own hours; they know all the bypasses and shortcuts in the city; they can usually repair their own motorcycles and carriages. The hackney license they shell out P1000 a year for is their license to be free of connections, of obligations. (Yes, I'm attempting to romanticize them; they're great guys!)

On another note, my, ah, study of Tagalog has been less than exemplary, less than desultory, really. I have plenty of phrases, a few complete sentences, and these get me some grease with the locals, who then communicate with me in their superior English. "What's the use?" is really no good excuse for not putting an effort into at least becoming haltingly conversational in the language, however. Janiah's English is better than my Tagalog, at this point.

Tagalog (Ta-GA-log) is a strange but interesting language. Across the top in the graphic above, read "subject," "direct object," and "indirect object" instead of the gobbly-gook provided. Those are the pronouns, with the intro words -- ang, ng (pronounced "neng"), and sa -- for these various types of nouns. Note that "we" has inclusive and exclusive forms: one word when you include the listener in the "we" and one when you don't. The verbs of Tagalog have tenses and imperative forms, but apparently lack a subjunctive, and cannot be turned into participles (when the verb becomes an adjective) or gerunds (when the verb becomes a noun). Really, this language is easier than English or Chinese to learn.

But the sounds are pretty daunting. I'll try out a new sentence on a Filipino, feel I've hit every syllable of that sentence, then note bafflement in my listener. ("Oh, you are trying to speak Tagalog?") There are the inflections. Double vowels are not diphthongs; both vowels are pronounced. When "ng" appears at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it is pronounced as English speakers pronounce it at the end of a word, without any hard "g" sound. And it goes on.


Too many English teacher words above, I know. Admire for a moment this neighborhood goat.

English is a West Germanic language that has undergone several changes, and grown in vocabulary through a steady accretion of "loan words," over the centuries. Most English loan words come from medieval French, Latin, and Greek (sergeant, sincere, synthesis); but English is a glutton for new words, and it's borrowed from dozens of languages. Tagalog is a Malay language that has also changed over the centuries; its loan words, unsurprisingly, mainly come from the languages of the two colonial powers that have held sway over these islands -- Spanish and English.

Asul, biernes, edad, gobyerno, lapis, pamilya, sapatos, siyudad, unibersidad. If you have a year or two of Spanish under your belt, you can probably parse out these Tagalog words, especially if you take into account the fact that the Tagalog alphabet contains no "c," "f," "v," or "z." I've noticed, in my own poor perusings of the language, that at least two Spanish words seem to have been borrowed in an interestingly subversive way. "Seguro," Spanish for "sure," means unsure in Tagalog; and "derecho," "to the right" in Spanish, means straight ahead ("diretso"), in Tagalog.

Though it is the first language of only a quarter of the population (see my posting on languages in the Basement Archive), Tagalog is one of the two national languages of the Philippines. The other national language is English. Both languages are taught in the schools, and so three-quarters of the population is to some degree trilingual. (Lara, Janiah, and Aaron have Tagalog as a first language, so they will become merely bilingual.)

English words have worked their way into the Tagalog language, even in cases where there are non-loan words with the same meaning. But Filipinos have changed many of the words, often by cutting them off at the knees. For example, "Choco" is chocolate; "McDo's" is McDonald's; "aircon" is air conditioning; "unli" is unlimited; "resto" is retaurant.  . . . . In Cabanatuan, many restos offer unli rice.

I'll keep writing stuff down, but I doubt I'll ever go at Tagalog the way I went at Chinese. Most folks have (some) English here, and I seem to be past my hit-the-books days. Still, I hope to become haltingly (flailingly?) conversational in the language by the time I reach my mid 60's.



Mama Luz.

Four days after Luz Javier was taken by Jheng and me to the hospital, four days after she began dosing with several medications to beat back the blood infection she had contracted, her back and legs were still causing her a great deal of pain. Jheng took her to a massage shop for a professional rubbing over. It didn't help much, Jheng texted me last night. 

I awoke at 5:30 this morning, fired up the machine, and quickly noticed the message from Jheng: "Were here now at the hospital we rushed mama luz she's in chest pain." The time signature was 1:27 AM. It's 11:00 AM now; Jheng and her siblings are at home getting some sleep after a sleepless night. Luz could hardly breathe last night; word is she now breathes without discomfort, but she is to stay put in the hospital for the time being. There have been more tests, and changes in her medications may be in the offing.

And I'm without a car in an emergency. My agent took his sweet time arranging for repair of damage sustained months ago; it went to the shop the day before yesterday. (Jheng had warned me that once it went in, it could be weeks before we saw it again, so I wasn't exactly pushing hard for speedy action.) Mariel came by in a trike this morning to pick up money; Jheng was down to her last P200, what with the new testing for Luz. Hospitals Phlipside are strict in their billing practices. I remember the time not so many months ago when Jheng was raising money for the family of a Triskelion member who had died in a hospital; the hospital wouldn't give up the body to the family until the bill was fully paid.

On another sour note, the political situation back in America has many possible ways of going from very bad to worse, it seems. My sons think my alarm verges on paranoia, but I feel the run-up to the 2020 election, and the election itself, will be fraught with deceptions, strongarm tactics, "outside influence," and civil unrest.

It didn't take a special kind of demagogue to produce this moment in history; any kind of demagogue would do. Since Reagan the fault lines in American society have been growing ever more pronounced; the 2008 Recession sped up that pace. So now we have a president who won power, and who is maintaining power, by playing upon the divisions of a union at ebb tide, as a run-of-the-mill demagogue would. Our real misfortune, we may find out, is that our demagogue is not a pacifist; he is capable of inciting violence, and may become inclined to do so.

"The Second Coming" is 100 years old; written by W.B. Yeats in 1919, just after WWI, the poem presents a world in which "[t]he best lack all conviction, while the worst/[a]re full of passionate intensity." Today the worst have that same old passionate intensity. It remains to be seen if the best have enough conviction to right this mess.


Mama Luz

Photo by Jheng

Mama Luz, Jheng's mom, has septicemia -- a blood infection. We took her to the hospital this morning; she had been complaining of a "whole body ache," and was having trouble walking. After many tests, the diagnosis was made and many meds were prescribed; we picked them up at Mercury Drug on our way home. She is to have complete rest and is to return to the hospital if symptoms worsen; in addition, she is to return to the hospital after five days if she is not significantly better by then. This is a serious illness.

It is likely my days will be busier than usual during this time, and so I've shelved the entry concerning the U.S.'s decision to take over a country halfway around the world; it's a depressing entry to write, but one that I think is important, and I've put some study into the topic. Expect its appearance in the next week or two.


20 Minutes of High Anxiety

The scamp at Shakey's before . . . .

Jheng continues to help with Triskelion functions in the run-up to the Triskelions' 51st anniversary October 3 and 4. Today she is at the semifinals of a fund-raising basketball tournament; tomorrow she'll borrow the car to check out the venue for the provincial chapter's celebration in the town of Lupao. I've agreed to be a sponsor; Jheng said the chapter didn't have money for refreshments for marchers in the parade on Thursday, so I'm pushing their way the 50 bucks she said they needed.

Given all of Mama's busy-ness, I decided it was a good time to take the kiddos to their favorite place in the city, the SM Mall. Jheng's younger sister Marielle wanted to join us, and late Sunday morning I swung by in the Avanza to pick them up. We had a good lunch at Shakey's, the children had an hour of fun at *kidzoona*, (does one put a comma before or after an asterisk?) and I brought Marielle by the optometrist's to get her eyes checked (turns out she is farsighted; I got a good deal on glasses for her).

Marielle was in the supermarket shopping with Janiah; I was across from the supermarket with Lara and Aaron waiting for a bacon cheeseburger which we would bring back to the duplex for James. Lara reached for my ear and whispered to me that she needed to get more paper for school, so I handed her a P100 note, and she headed for the escalator, Aaron tagging along. Sundays are crowded days at the mall, and either on the escalator or in the large open space in front of National Bookstore, Aaron must have lost sight of Lara. About five minutes later Lara returned without Aaron, said she hadn't even known Aaron was following her. Marielle and Janiah were with us by then, and I thought, okay, he's still in the bookstore, probably engrossed in something he came upon.

Janiah and I went up to get him. He wasn't in the bookstore. And that's when anxiety set in, because it occurred to me that Aaron probably hadn't known where Lara was going. Janiah and I checked the park on the large second-level deck: no Aaron. Back on the first level we all cased the supermarket, thinking Aaron might have decided to join Marielle and Janiah there. No Aaron. Marielle was looking more and more alarmed and upset; I can't say I was taking this any more stoically than she.

Alone I walked toward the middle of the first level, searching the thighs of the crowds, about the level at which I would spot the head of the five year old. No Aaron. Back at the supermarket Marielle and the girls were gone: great, I thought. Now I've lost everyone. I stood outside the supermarket for about five minutes, and then Lara and Janiah ran up, Lara in tears. A lost boy was on the fourth level at the administrative office; Marielle had reported our situation to a mall cop, and the cop told her a boy had been found.

The girls raced ahead of me; I reached the fourth level and scanned the edges of its vast open area for an office. Just as I picked out the sign high above a door, I noticed my whole crew exiting the door, Aaron holding Marielle's hand. He had been found bawling outside of *kidzoona* on the third level! On the ride home I mentioned to Marielle in a low voice that ten-year-old Lara had been crying. She quickly told me that she had been crying too; walking up to that fourth-level office, she was half-sure she would encounter a strange boy, and the thought set tears flowing.

I gotta be a better lookout when it comes to the children, especially when it comes to inquisitive and incautious Aaron. Jheng was understanding when I texted with her later, which helped me with my unease.

In the courtyard at Fred's, a tamarind tree had to be taken down because of wind damage a few weeks ago, and now a resurrection is taking place below my window. Does the new growth die eventually, or does a healthy tree grow from the old stump? Of course I've considered metaphorical implications here; I'm an English teacher. The cats now number 11 or 12; if I'm in my room during an afternoon, I still get occasional visits from Boudicca. Have plenty of free time this week, which my students have off due to the celebrations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the founding of their nation.


Polio Redux

I'll be referring to Jane as "Jheng" in future posts. That is her nickname and the common moniker for her. I could do the same for other family members -- Janiah is Beibung, Aaron is Bo, Marielle is Chiopai . . . -- but don't wish to confuse the reader: they will retain their legal names.

Anyway, Jheng has been very busy recently with Triskelion functions (you can read a post on the Triskelions in the Basement Archive). A trip to the provincial prison with care packages for the inmates, a cleanup campaign in three Cabanatuan barangays, trips to government offices with letters of solicitation to raise funds: these are projects in which a provincial chapter secretary plays a vital role. The trip to the prison was two days ago and the cleanup campaign is tomorrow. As I peck this out on the computer, Jheng and a colleague are buying provisions for a boodle fight in order to feed the many Triskelions who will be involved in the cleanup tomorrow.

A boodle fight I attended soon after I arrived in 2017.

A "boodle fight" is a traditional Philippine way to feed a large group of people. Cutlery and plates are dispensed with. The food, usually barbecued meats and rice, is laid out on a table covered by banana leaves, and people stand shoulder to shoulder as they eat with their hands. The use of "fight" is in jest: boodle fights I've attended have been very friendly affairs.  . . . Jheng today will be buying food for a boodle fight much larger than the one pictured above: its trestle table will be perhaps 10 yards long!

Folks in the States, you're reading and listening to news of a president who appears to have tried to extort dirt on a political rival from a foreign head of state by threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in already promised funds: you have no shortage of woeful, mind-bending political news. In the Philippines a different kind of woeful news has been in the headlines for the last three days: nineteen years after the announcement of its eradication in the country, polio has returned. A three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy have the disease.

If you're a germaphobe, or even if you're just a little skittish about your own health, the Philippines is probably not for you. The cities are not the cleanest in the world, and the tropical climate allows infections to start easily and spread quickly. Moreover, a host of diseases that are rarely if ever seen in the U.S. have a pretty good hold here: dengue, malaria, tuberculosis, diphtheria, e coli. About 200 Filipinos, mainly uncareful children, die of rabies each year. But polio was one the government thought they had extinguished, snuffed, wiped out. 

Ironically, the polio vaccine itself, and inadequate practices concerning that vaccine, are the causes of these new cases. The World Health Organization in a report has described the etiology of this "other" polio:

"Vaccine-derived polioviruses are rarely occurring forms of the poliovirus that have genetically changed from the attenuated (weakened) virus contained in oral polio vaccine. They only occur when the vaccine virus is allowed to pass from person to person for a long time, which can only happen in places with limited immunization coverage and inadequate sanitation and hygiene. Over time, as it is passed between unimmunized people, it can regain the ability to cause disease."


photo: Rappler

My friend James is living with the consequences of his exposure to polio as a child, and those two children, too, will live out their entire lives burdened by the consequences: polio is incurable. The two children live more than 100 kilometers apart, and that is a wake-up call, for the cases apparently did not derive from one carrier.

The Department of Health in the Philippines has launched a ‚ÄúSabayang Patak kontra Polio‚ÄĚ campaign in the Manila area to increase vaccination compliance, and in time the campaign will be nation-wide. Only with a high compliance rate will the factors which caused these two cases -- and perhaps more in the near future -- be eradicated.




They Want to Widen the Aurora Road

Well, reader, I misunderstood the issue that led to the taking down of Mama Luz's foyer. The city government wishes to widen the Aurora Road, and Mama Luz was informed that at least the foyer would have to go. It appears now that the government wants the front few feet of the entire duplex to be removed; this according to Jane. The living quarters are cramped enough now for the 12 people who live in the structure; this change, which the government has the power to enforce, would make life very uncomfortable for my friends.

Mama Luz, and probably Des and Bernie, will soon attend a meeting for Bantug Norte (their barangay) homeowners concerning the matter. After this meeting it will be clearer just what the city government wants, and when it wants to do it. Jane is not optimistic. You see, the two families are squatters; they built on public land. More on this later, I'm sure.

It has been soggy, soggy, soggy here: downpours every day. On Wednesday enough barangays were in varying states of flooding for a citywide no-school day to be called. I offered to take Jane, Marielle, and the kiddos out for lunch. Jane wanted to try the halo-halo place that the rest of us had gone to during the weekend, so we ordered an array of dishes there and were pleased to find out that their food is just as good as the creamy concoctions they whip up!

In national news, today, the 20th, is the 47th anniversary of the imposition of martial law upon the country by Ferdinand Marcos. Student leaders and faculty at the University of the Philippines -- #401 of the top 500 universities in the world, according to the London Times ranking --  have signed a resolution declaring all Marcoses persona non grata and want all UP campuses to be declared off-limits to the family that still wields political power in this country (one Marcos ran for vice-president in the last election, another is currently a Senator, a third is a provincial governor). In the 1970's and 80's, thugs connected to the Marcoses systemetically murdered leaders of the protest movement against martial law, and many of these people were UP students. To mark the anniversary, a large papier-mache image of the deceased Philippine strongman was created at the entrance to the main hall of UP's Diliman Campus. Gotta love the anti-fascist movement. Everywhere.

photo credit: Nino Jesus Orbeta


Jane's Family Just Grew A Whole Lot Bigger

Over the weekend, Jane took public transportation to Paranaque, a city in Metro Manila, to see her father -- I offered her the car, but she said she did not want to have to deal with Manila's traffic. I've mentioned in a previous post that Jane, James, and Marielle had recently reunited with the father who had left them when they were small; he settled down in Paranaque and started a new family many years ago.

On this trip, the father wanted to take her to the province of Rizal, east of Manila, to meet the family from which he had run away after a terrible fight with his father when he was just 14 years of age. He had never gotten back in touch with his family until just recently, if I'm not mistaken more recently than his reaching out to his Cabanatuan children; nostalgia certainly put a grip on him this past year. Anyway, he has eight brothers and sisters, each with his or her own family. And so Jane had a great deal of catching up to do with this platoon of uncles, aunts, cousins, and children of cousins whom she had never met before! She sent me pictures; everyone in them is smiling, I was relieved to see.

The church where Jane attended the christening of one of her "new relatives."

Jane with (I looked it up) a first cousin once removed.

It was a remarkable visit for Jane. While she was in Paranaque and Rizal, I stopped by the duplex and offered to take the children out for halo-halo, that cold Philippine treat; Marielle joined us. A little restaurant that specializes in halo-halo is less than a kilometer down the Aurora road from the duplex; we were stirring our concoctions together and munching on fries within minutes.

A thick, sweet syrup full of fruit in the halo-halo Aaron and I chose needs to be pulled up with one's spoon into the shaved ice/condensed milk center. What you see at the top are egg slices done adobo style and corn. Yes, corn. It was delish.

In other news, the conference platform Cathy found for me to tutor upon has proven less than adequate. There are sound issues, and students have been unceremoniously jettisoned from two sessions so far. Also, it is slow. Enterprising Chinese had pirated this platform from an American company, but had not done a very good job of pirating, it seems. Perhaps they just need time to get the bugs out; at any rate, Cathy is searching for a better platform, and google has helped me to provide her with some possibilities.

. . . And the small foyer I've always known to exist outside the entrance to Mama Luz's half of the duplex had to be dismantled yesterday; city officials had told her it was too close to the Aurora road, and if she didn't take it down government workers would be sent out to demolish it. It had been a convenient structure in many ways; footware was placed there, clothes were hung to dry there, and the foyer provided a place from which to sell to passersby protected from the rain. It will be missed, I'm sure!


Swamped and Happy




As one of the runoffs on the second-floor deck of the SM Mall indicates, downpours can be pretty dramatic on Luzon. A string of typhoons is moving westbound north of the island, barging into Taiwan, Japan, and the Chinese coast. They themselves are by and large not affecting us, but their counterclockwise spinning is pulling southern monsoon rains up into Luzon: for the past several days it has been very wet here. Parts of roadways are under several inches of water, the umbrella is essential gear, and Boudicca seems quite indignant at the crimp this is putting into her outdoor time.

Speaking of crimps, the Chinese government put a big one into the few hours of tutoring I do online each week. The U.S.-based platform that the Chengdu-based tutoring service uses was just placed off limits to the Chinese citizenry, and Cathy and I had to scramble to find a new and suitable and "Chinese allowed" conference platform (Cathy, who has a high-pressure, full-time corporate job, is the founder and runner of the service, as well as a good cyber-buddy of mine). Well Cathy found one that is based in China, and we kicked its tires last night in a trial run. Not bad, though the earlier platform had seemed to be faster at pulling up "share" material.

I'm guessing Cathy and I are part of the collateral damage caused by the trade war that Trump and his trade crony Peter Navarro are currently waging against China. China's own unfair trade practices must not escape blame -- though it should be remembered that China's piracy of American intellectual property mirrors America's own grifting off of Great Britain throughout the 19th century. But add to the piracy China's subsidizing of export goods, its forced labor camps, and its manipulation of the yuan. The playing field is not level.

What Trump and Navarro are doing is wrong-headed. The tit-for-tat amping of tariffs between the two countries will cost the average American household, according to JP Morgan, more than $1,000 a year; jobs on both sides are being lost, and a record number of American farmers are declaring bankruptcy; more startling, a global recession directly attributable to the trade war is looming, according to many economists. The U.S.'s hamfisted approach was formed without the consultation of America's allies; it was with the help of those allies that we had made some progress in curbing some of China's unfair practices under the Bush and Obama administrations. Trump's egotism and vanity seem more in play here than whatever level-headed problem-solving skills he may possess. Going toe-to-toe with the other big kid on the block will play well with his base -- until the economy takes a nosedive.


I'm kinda creepy-looking here, no? But love Mary Jane's expression.

On a quite different note: offhandedly, more than three weeks ago, I asked Jane if she would marry me. Two days ago she said she would. Now we find ourselves, in the rain, in a very different relation to each other. I know: the age difference, the language issue, the cultural divide, . . . the age difference. I'm patient; she too is patient. Both of us have lacked closeness with another for a long time. I think both of us yearn, in the words of Robert Creeley's "The Rain," to

[b]e wet

with a decent happiness.


May the rain be good to you, too.






Find earlier posts on the 1st Floor!