Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Department of State on surviving the tropics

After the monthly stipend that allows me to live in third-world opulence, the best thing the U.S. Department of State Fulbright program has given me is the U.S. Fulbright Fellow Orientation Handbook. More specifically, Appendix F, "Helpful Hints for Life in the Tropics," which consistently proves its ability to brighten the blackest moods with deadpan proscriptions for dealing with equatorial horrors.

Cockroaches, meet your doom..

Here are some of my favorite hints:

1. "Schisto parasites, carried by snails, may be present in freshwater lakes and streams and can cause a very unpleasant disease."

Is anything more vague or cryptic than this?

2. "The sun is very hot and can burn you quickly, especially between noon and 4 pm."

Really, surface and core temperatures of 11,000 and 27 million degrees Farenheit, respectively, don't sound that hot. Thanks for the tip!

3. "Iron all clothes which have been hung outside. This kills the larvae of flies before they can burrow into your skin."

Oh the humanity! I actually considered turning down my grant because of this one.

4. "[Cockroaches] eat clothing, books, and furniture, as well as food, voraciously. They do not only crawl, they fly as well."

Truer words hath never been spoken. I'd like to add that they also hiss, menacingly.

5. "A mixture of mashed potatoes and boric acid is lethal to cockroaches but this is a dangerous poison and must be kept away from the reach of children and pets."

So many questions here. Why mashed potatoes? What about baked potatoes, potatoes au gratin or TGI Friday's Potato Skins? Don't you have a host of new problems after you've chucked gobs of toxic potatoes all over your house?

Now, some hints I would have included if I were writing the Orientation Handbook:

These mosquitoes have learned from the best.

1. Human papillomavirus, carried by erotic masseurs named Penelope, may be present in the masseurs' nether regions and can also cause a very unpleasant disease.

2. Change sponges regularly. They are a favorite burrowing place for tiny worms, which are not what you want to be squeezing onto your dirty dishes.

3. Expect mosquitoes to be faster and more intelligent than North American bloodsuckers. They have the cunning and patience of the Predator, they almost always bite below the ankles, and you'll never catch one in the act of biting you.

Sun, fun, babes, bugs, basketball, worms, parasites, VDs, graft, corruption, bribery, pollution, pools of sweat. It's Manila! What's not to love?


Anonymous NYC Teacher said...

The Peace Corps doc(in Paraguay), when asked about symptoms of the human papillomavirus, just said:
"Watch for a wart on your wand."
This, of course, would qualify as an "Unhappy Ending."

The cockroaches must be the ones that Pacino was ranting about in Scarface.

What about the terrorists? Didn't they say anything about them?

12:32 AM  

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