Finally, after being cut off from the rest of the world, we now have internet again! For those of you who were wondering where we had disappeared to, we have now moved into our own house. Previously we were staying with some very gracious and hospitable friends, while we searched for a house, and then while we set it up to the point where we could do important things, such as sleeping on something other than the tile floor, cooking food, and showering.
There are many things which we simply took for granted before we came. We didn't stop to think about all those things that you just have; simple things that you use every day, that you have had for years, and that you probably have multiples of. One of those things we discovered was towels.
We didn't have towels when we came here, so before we could really move in we had to go to the store to buy some towels, so that we could have showers. Now in Canada that's pretty simple. You just go down to your local WalMart, find the towel section, pick from among the many choices of types and colors and materials, then go to the cashier to pay. The most complicated part comes when the cashier forgets to deactivate the alarm sensor thing and the alarm beeps at you when you try to leave. Otherwise pretty simple.
Let me describe the act of buying towels here. First you walk down to the main road to catch a jeepney (the equivalent to a bus here). Being new to the city you don't really know streets, so you have to try to read the street listings on the side of the jeepney, decide if it is going to where you want to go, look to see if there is actually room for you to fit in, and wave it down to stop for you, all in the 3 seconds you have as it passes.
Then, assuming that you got on the right one, you have to dig through your pockets to come up with the change necessary to pay for your ride on the jeepney (8 pesos). If you only have a 1000 peso bill (the denomination that the bank machines dispense) you may be in trouble, as it is unlikely that the jeepney driver will have enough change.
You must then try to figure out where you are and where you are going while hunching over to try to look out the sides to spot landmarks you know. When you spot the place you are going you call out to the driver, who then screeches to a halt, stopping wherever in order to let you out.
You have now arrived at the mall. Hopefully.
You make your way across four lanes of traffic, which often actually involves vehicles 6 across, risking your well being as you don't have rights as a pedestrian. Upon entering the mall you go through security, opening any bags you may be carrying to allow them to check the contents. You proceed to the store of your choice, where you go through security again. You must then find the section of the store where the desired product is. Upon finding the section you are surrounded by several employees anxious to help you find whatever you are looking for, and often making suggestions for what you should buy. These suggestions are often contradictory to one another, as it seems that each employee is pushing a particular brand.
Once you make your decision the sales person will take it to the checkout for you. When you are done shopping you go to that checkout, and get in line to pay. The cashier scans your items individually, and gives you the total. You pay, and then your items are given to another person who checks every item you have chosen with the receipt. It is then packaged and sealed and you are free to take it. This process can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 30 minutes, so generally they provide chairs to sit in while you wait.
You now have your items in bags, and must again go through security on your way out. You find the proper mall exit, go out and either catch a taxi home, or repeat the jeepney adventure.
And that is just to buy one item or to go to one store. It gets even more complicated if you need to go to multiple stores, as some stores will not let you bring in bags from other stores. At these places you must first check your bags in before you shop at their store. This can be complicated, as you have to give some forethought to which entrance you want to exit from, and make sure you enter that door. You also have to plan what order you will go to the stores in. It is quite complicated.
Not every store is quite as difficult, but overall things take way longer here than back home. It is something that we are still getting used to!