By this point you are probably thinking, "Okay, so what? What does this have to do with a rough weekend?" I realize you probably don't read this blog to necessarily hear my philosophizing, so should probably just get on with it and explain about our weekend.
Kerri and I celebrated our 13th anniversary a week ago. In the past we have gone away for at least one night to celebrate every anniversary. Often it was somewhere close to home, but other times it has involved a longer trip. We have been blessed to have family close by who have been more than willing to look after the kids for us. Obviously this year it is a bit different. We couldn't very well expect that anyone would make the trip here (20+ hours of flying) just so that Kerri and I could go away overnight. So we figured we would take the kids with us. No problem. Instead of a nice relaxing romantic getaway, it would be a nice relaxing family getaway.
I began to make plans a while ago, but right from the start found it to be quite difficult to plan for a couple reasons.
First, it can be very hard to find information about things here. Back in Canada I had a real knack for finding the best little obscure hotels that you wouldn't normally find, and some great places to go and visit and spend a weekend. I found some absolutely amazing hotels at great prices. Some of our best memories from the last 13 years have been those trips. It was just a matter of knowing where to look online to find them. After a couple of hours on the internet I could have a whole weekend planned out; a great hotel booked, a good idea of what activities and restaurants there were close by, and an expectation of what it would all cost. Very quickly into my planning here I found that would not be the case. While there are many great places to go and explore in the Davao area, I kept finding it difficult to find information about them. There are many resorts which would probably be great to go to and stay at, but either they don't have websites or the websites they have don't have as much information as I am accustomed to.
Second, I have known in previous years what Kerri has been expecting from a getaway. It has generally involved a nice, quiet hotel, good choices for food, and relaxing activities (rock climbing, window shopping, walking around, etc.). I was able to plan some great times because I knew that was her expectation. This year I really had no idea what she was wanting, because she didn't really know what she was wanting. She had a picture in her mind of a quiet resort, a nice beach, and a hammock, but other details were a bit more obscure. (Kerri and I have already discussed this, so hopefully I won't get myself in too much trouble for putting it in here!)
So with those things as obstacles, I attempted to plan a nice, relaxing family getaway weekend. I looked into several different resorts close to Davao, got recommendations from several people about where to go, and checked reviews of different places online. I sent out emails and text messages to different places to see what was available and to check prices. About the only thing I did not do was to go out to each place I was considering to check it out. Perhaps in hindsight that would have been good, but I decided not to because of the cost to go, the time required, and the lack of a clear idea what I was looking for, it probably would have been a waste. I would have come back with a list like this:
Resort #1 - Nice scenery, lots of palm trees, nice beach, warm ocean to swim in.
Resort #2 - Nice scenery, lots of palm trees, nice beach, warm ocean to swim in.
Resort #3 - Nice scenery, lots of palm trees, nice beach, warm ocean to swim in.
So I booked a resort (or thought I did - keep reading!). I chose based on some good reviews, a decent website with what looked like good pictures, and a list of good amenities. After packing up what we needed on Saturday morning we set out to go. We drove to the ferry port and crossed over to Samal Island, the place where the resort was located. We got off the ferry and went in search of the resort. We turned right. We drove down the main road around the island, searching for signs for this particular resort. We came to a place that I knew was further down than where we wanted to go. We turned around, thinking that maybe we should have turned left. We drove some more. We came to another place that I knew was further than our resort was. We stopped to ask a local person where it was. She told us to go back to the ferry port. It should be right there. We turned around. We drove back to the ferry port. We asked someone else where it was. They pointed it out. We had driven right by it, but before we had turned right or left. Need to pay more attention I guess (to be fair, as we were driving by it Julia did mention a sign, but I assumed that it was just an advertisement, not the actual place!).
We stopped and went in to check in out. We went to the front desk to check in, but they had record of a reservation being made. However, they did have several rooms available that we could stay in. The staff very graciously showed us the different rooms so that we could choose which we would like. I could tell from Kerri's reaction that this particular resort was not what she was expecting. It was busier than she was hoping for, and did not want to stay there. Considering that we didn't actually have a reservation, we left to find something else. (For any Davaoenos who may be reading this and can figure out which resort I am referring to, I want to say that we have nothing against that particular resort. It seems like a great place, the rooms were quite nice, and everything was clean and well maintained. It just was not what we were looking for!)
So we decided to head to another resort a little ways away which had been highly recommended to us by several different people (for our friends who recommended this resort, we understand why you would recommend it, but it just wasn't what we were looking for). By this point it was getting late in the afternoon, and I figured that we had better decide on a place soon, or it would be getting dark. We arrived at the next resort, which seemed like a really nice place. We were the only people there, so they had plenty of rooms available for us. We agreed to stay there and went for a swim while the resort staff set up our room. By this point it was getting to be supper time, and we were all getting hungry. I asked one of the staff about a menu, and was told that they don't have a menu for us to choose from. The food selection is set for us. And it would take about an hour and a half until dinner was to be served. This would be fine, had it been just Kerri and I, but our kids were a bit more selective about what they wanted to eat and wanted to eat right away. After explaining to them the way it was we went and showered off and got dressed.
This led to the next little problem. Before any of us had a chance to take a shower a cockroach was found in our bathroom. Now I know that cockroaches are harmless, and that you can find them pretty much anywhere, but that was not something we wanted to see. It was in the toilet. Who knew that cockroaches could swim so well? It took quite a while to get it injured enough that it couldn't swim so that we could actually flush it down the toilet. Then a bit later another was found. And another. Each was about 3" long. The kids were very concerned about this and informed us that they were not going to sleep on the floor. Instead they decided that it would be a good idea to share our bed. I didn't agree, but knew very well that my opinion did not really count at that point.
|Our family bed that night!|
|Trying to flush a cockroach down the toilet!|
Supper came a bit later. Next problem. The meal which was served to us consisted of a delicious chicken soup, bread, rice, cucumber/tomato salad, bananas, and as the main course: freshly caught fish, fried and served whole; head and everything. This was not at all what Daniel wanted to eat, and he was quite upset with the idea that this was to be his supper. We did get him to eat some of it, but none of us really loved the meal.
|Our meal, complete with fish heads.|
After supper we sat outside and watched as a really big group of people arrived. They seemed to keep coming and coming. By the time they all arrived there must have been 5000 of them (okay, maybe 30, but it seemed like 5000). Unfortunately they were not the quietest group of people. We heard them up until quite late. It was very annoying.
When we went in to get ready for bed I was sent into the bathroom to check for cockroaches. I found three more. Not what I was hoping for. Two were in the sink (eating the soap) and one was on the floor. I tried to kill them, but they are very fast and they all found a place to hide. Dumb cockroaches. It was all we could do to get the kids to go into the bathroom to brush their teeth and use the toilet. Then we all piled into the bed and fell asleep listening to the soothing sounds of people partying, crickets chirping incessantly, and the air conditioner getting ready to take off to orbit the Earth. Not the ingredients for the most restful night's sleep.
The next morning, after brief periods of blissful sleep, we were awoken to the sounds of people starting to party again. At 6:00. Not happy. They all left shortly after though. Breakfast was served. Again, a set menu. This time though it was more appealing to all of us. While at breakfast we decided as a family to leave the resort to go to another that we had been to before and spend the day there. We knew that there was a great beach and a great restaurant there. So we packed up and left. Or tried to leave.
On the way in we had gone down a really steep, really loose road. I hadn't thought much of it at the time. We made it down fine. Going up was another story. For those of you who have read our previous blog post about our lovely vehicle, which we have dubbed our unicorn, you will know that it doesn't have much power. Or traction apparently. We started up the hill, got a little ways up, and the back wheels (the drive wheels) slipped. No more momentum. We backed down and took a bit of a run at it. We made it a bit higher when the same thing happened. Back down again, and back up again. By this point most of the staff were there watching, cheering us on, probably laughing at the crazy white people who couldn't get up the hill. Two of them waited halfway up the hill for us to help push us when we stopped. We did eventually make it up and were able to leave. I guess unicorns aren't mountain goats.
We went to the other resort (the third of the weekend) and had a great time. Nice and relaxing, great food, and some of the loudest bad karaoke we have ever heard. By this point we were just happy to be able to salvage a bit of the weekend for the kids. We stayed for a while and then headed back. The trip back was pretty uneventful, thankfully.
The end of the story? I wish. I realize that this is quite a long blog post. I really didn't plan to make it a long post. Normally I am a man of few words, but for whatever reason I can go on and on when I blog. Sorry. I understand if you want to be done reading this. Please come back later and finish the story though.
On the way back we decided that it would be a good idea to order pizza and watch a movie with the kids before they had to go to bed, then Kerri and I planned to relax and watch a few episodes of one of our favorite TV shows that we have on DVD. To go along with this Kerri really wanted peanut M&M's and crunchy cheezies. Instead of getting pizza from the great little pizza place we normally get it from, we decided to get it from Pizza Hut (yes, we do have a Pizza Hut here). Since the Pizza Hut is at one of the malls which is close to home, I decided rather than getting it delivered I would go pick it up. That way I could go to the grocery store to get the other goodies while it was being prepared.
I made my way to the mall, fighting the typical Sunday evening traffic. I arrived there and proceeded to drive into the parkade to park. Now you must understand that I hate the parkade at this particular mall. No, hate is not a strong enough word. I despise that parkade. I abhor that parkade. I detest that parkade. It is an abomination of vehicular storage. Why? Because you cannot see if there are empty spots unless you go down an aisle. But if you get down an aisle and find that there are no spots you are forced to back out of the aisle because they are so narrow you cannot turn around. Even a unicorn cannot turn around in that amount of space. Which is okay, provided the person behind you has not turned down the same aisle. Normally I just forget trying to get a space on a lower level and go up to the top level and can find a spot fairly easily. That works if it happens to be a weekday at 10:00AM when the mall opens. Otherwise good luck. So after finding a spot way up on the roof and making my way back down and into the mall, I then had to descend from the 4th floor to the basement and then go all the way across the mall to get to the Pizza Hut. I think that some of you in North America are actually closer to that particular Pizza Hut than I was when I parked my van!
I got into the mall to find it was absolutely packed. I don't mean there were a few people window shopping. I mean push-and-shove-if-you-want-to-ever-get-through-and-ever-hope-to-leave-before-Christmas packed. Imagine the busiest mall in your city on the last Saturday before Christmas and take all those people and squeeze them into a phone booth. That is what it felt like. Now I don't like crowds all that much, so I was a bit edgy (okay, truthfully I really felt like I was going to punch someone). I ordered the pizza and went to the grocery store (thankfully not quite so busy there). I found a big bag of M&M's and a bag of cheezies (but not the right ones - they were sold out of those). I went to the cashier, and after waiting in line for what felt like an eternity, my 2 items were scanned. The M&M's, to my surprise, rang in at almost 1200 pesos. To put that in perspective, that is about $28. I just about choked on my tongue. I told the cashier that I didn't want to pay that much for those. She had to get a supervisor to void that from the transaction, which took another eternity. By this point I could feel by blood pressure getting ready to cause my head to pop right off.
I went and picked up the pizzas, which turned out to be just slightly larger than a postage stamp. By this point I didn't care at all. I just wanted to be anywhere but there. So then I had to try to cross through the hordes of people to get back to my van. I was really hoping that God would either part the people like He parted the Red Sea for Moses, or at least let me walk on people's heads like Jesus walking on water. Neither happened. I had to push my way through the crowds carrying pizza boxes to get out.
I got to my van and decided to go to another mall, which I prefer, in order to get M&M's and maybe the right kind of cheezies. I made my way there in a foul mood. I had heard that there are times, when it is just not a good day, that you should avoid the malls. It's just best for everyone involved. But, I just had to go to one more. I went into the grocery store there, got the things I needed, and left, just daring anyone to say the wrong thing to me. I am not an aggressive person, but I just needed to unload on someone. By God's grace everyone around me left me alone and I was able to get home with my Christian integrity intact (although I am sure people could tell I was having a bad day). I came home and things improved (thankfully). I talked with Kerri while the kids watched their movie, then we got them to bed and were able to just relax, watch some TV shows, eat tiny pizza and hard-fought M&M's and cheezies. It was a good end to a bad weekend.
I know that one day we will look back on all this and laugh. Today is not that day.