Friday, December 30, 2011

Davao Weather Forecast

One of the more common questions that I get asked by friends and family back in Canada has to do with the weather here.  That question has both a simple answer and a more complicated one.  I will start with the simple answer.

It is hot and sunny. Always.

Seriously, it is.  Weather forecasters are the butt of many jokes in Canada, because it seems practically impossible there to forecast what the weather will be the next day, let alone the next week.  Here it is a bit different.  The forecast looks like this all the time:

Hot and sunny.  High of 33C.  Possibility of limited cloud cover.  Chance of late day rain or thunderstorm. Little wind.  Humidity between 80-95%.

This goes for pretty much any day.  There are some days which vary a bit.  Some days it only gets up to 31C.  Other days it may rain a bit for most of the day.  Some days it is cloudy all day.  Those are the days that we look forward to because 33C with 90% humidity feels pretty hot at times.  (There was one day that I can remember that I considered taking a sweater with me when I went out, but by the time I left it had warmed up!).  

We have actually gotten so used to the heat here that it has just become normal.  The other day Kerri was telling me that she was feeling a bit cold.  It was a cloudy day and was noticeably cooler then normal.  I checked the temperature on a thermometer to discover that it had cooled down to... (wait for it...) 29 DEGREES CELSIUS!  I think she even had goosebumps.  I ran to get her a sweater (okay, not really, but she was quite comfortable wearing jeans that day).

As for typhoons and tropical storms, we are located close enough to the equator that we are not located in a typhoon-prone area.  We did have a tropical storm warning here recently, but it turned out to just be one day of rain for us.  Usually when there is a typhoon or tropical storm in the Philippines it is quite a ways north of where we are.  In fact, for us here it seems that when a typhoon is passing through the northern Philippines our weather is not bad at all, often it is warmer and less rain than normal (which is a different kind of bad weather!).

Now, I can totally understand the curiosity which people back in Canada have about the weather here.  Coming from a temperate climate (which really means a cold climate, but they can't call it that or no one would live there!) one of the most noticeable differences here is the lack of variation in the weather.  It is the same day in and day out, week after week, month after month.  The concept of seasons is difficult to apply here.  It's like perpetual summer (which is mostly good...).

Back in Canada we had seasons.  It went from Summer (a week or so of hot dry weather) to Fall (becoming cold) to Winter (COLD! How cold? How does -40 sound?) to Spring (still cold, but with lots of snow too!).  There was a bit of a pattern to it every year, unless Spring didn't feel like showing up, or sometimes Summer stayed for 2 weeks.  Some years it snowed lots before Christmas, other years it all waited until after.  But regardless there was a change of the seasons.

The change of the seasons brought a whole topic of conversation.  How many times have you had a conversation that went something like this: (fill in the blanks)

Me: Sure is (hot/cold/rainy/windy) today, eh?

You: Yes it is.  Nice change from last week though.  It was too (hot/cold/rainy/windy) last week.

Me: I agree.  Hard to believe that it is already the end of (spring/summer/fall/winter).

You: No kidding. (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter) is just around the corner, eh?

Me: Sure hope it is better than last year.  Remember how (hot/cold/rainy/dry/windy) it was last year?

You: Yeah.  I heard that this year they are saying it is supposed to be a (long/short) (hot/cold/rainy/dry/windy) (spring/summer/fall/winter).

Me: (Hope so/Hope not).  After the (spring/summer/fall/winter) we have had it would be nice if it would (warm up/cool off/dry out/rain more).
That type of conversation is one which takes place in every Canadian workplace, social gathering, family get together, and church function.  Put two Canadians in a room and they always have something to talk about (and often complain about!).  I would imagine it would be similar in many other countries as well (except substitute "eh?" with the local catchphrase).

That kind of conversation doesn't seem to be as popular here.  Probably because it would go something like this:

Toto: Sure is hot today.

Tata: Yes it is.  Just like yesterday. and the day before.  And last week.

Toto: Now what do we talk about?

So please feel free to ask how the weather has been for us, but know that inside I am (laughing/crying/rolling my eyes).

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...or not.

Seems hard to believe that it is the middle of December already.  That means that we have been here for 5 1/2 months.  In many ways that time has flown by, in other ways it feels like a lifetime. 

It also means that Christmas is just around the corner.  Is it just me or did it seem to sneak up this year?  Perhaps it has been the busyness of life that has made it seem like that.  I mean, our life right now is crazy busy.  We were told before we came that the program would be intense.  That is the understatement of the year.  It's like saying that the Titanic had a little leak.  We are just managing to keep up with the pace of life that we are faced with.  So maybe that has something to do with it not feeling like Christmas should be here already.

Or, perhaps it is because outside it doesn't look at all like what Christmas has always looked like for us.  It is so strange to look outside and see palm trees every day.  There is no change.  No fall leading into winter.  No shorter days and colder mornings.  No frost on the car windows.  No snow, winter clothes, shoveling sidewalks, putting snow tires on the car, warming up the car, plugging in the car so it will start the next day, digging the car out of a snowdrift, getting your tongue stuck to a frozen pole.  All those wonderful memories of winter, Canadian-style (okay, maybe not all of them are fond memories...).  It has been really strange to anticipate the "winter" months, thinking that there are lots of things to get done before the snow comes, only to realize "Hey, wait.  I'm in the tropics."

Perhaps it is partly due to the extended Christmas season here.  I have been hearing Christmas music in the malls since August (seriously!).  Christmas displays have been up since September.  There have been Christmas lights up since at least then as well.  Kids have been out caroling on the streets for at least a month.  Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate how much Christmas is loved and celebrated here, but I am so used to the progression from back-to-school season into Halloween season into Christmas season.  I know that as of November 1 Christmas stuff will start appearing in the stores, Christmas songs and carols will start to be played on the radio, and Christmas lights and decorations will start to be displayed on people's houses.  This year it has been very different, and I think the length of time has something to do with it.

Maybe it is because our house doesn't look Christmas-y like it has every year for the past decade.  We have a tree up (a 3' tall sad looking Charlie Brown tree) with some of our decorations on it.  The kids have made a few decorations as well.  But otherwise it doesn't look all that festive.  We used to have boxes (and boxes and boxes) of Christmas decorations which I had to haul out of storage each year (not my favorite day of the year!).  We would decorate the whole house with lots of stuff accumulated over the years, some more sentimental than others, but all of it was ours.  It was a part of what made it feel like Christmas in our house.

Or perhaps it has to do with the distance that we are separated from family and friends.  Because that was always the most important part of the Christmas celebration - time with family and friends.  Our Christmas traditions changed a few times over the years, but even when the traditions changed the people stayed the same (with a few additions due to marriages and births).  Whether it was Christmas Eve at our house after church, Christmas day spent at various locations, Boxing Day with Kerri's family, or any of the family get-togethers leading up to Christmas, it was all about the family and friends; the quality time together.  This year that cannot happen.  It is not a matter of a quick trip in the car to visit.  No, instead we are oceans and worlds apart.

Christmas this year will look very different.  I know that it will be good - the four of us are here together - but it will be different.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cost of Living in Davao Part 2

Statistically, the most viewed blog post on our website has been the one I wrote a while back about the cost of living here in Davao City.  In fact, it is still getting regular hits from people who, I assume, are looking for more information before they come to live or visit here.

Now that we have been here for 5 months, I feel that I have an even better grasp of what things cost here, so I present a continuing list of prices here.  These prices will vary somewhat, depending on circumstances of course, but it should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.  (All prices are in Philippine Pesos, and converted to Canadian Dollars.  For those of you in other countries the exchange will be a bit different.  Sorry!)

Monthly electricity bill (using aircon some of the time): Approx P3500 ($82)

Monthly water bill: Approx P250 ($5.86)

Monthly internet (kind of high speed, sometimes reliable): P995 ($23.32)

A used vehicle (obviously will vary considerably, but we bought pretty much the cheapest vehicle we could find, so that is our reference point.  See our post from August 2011,, for more details): P120000+ ($2818.89.  This was much more than we had expected.  Vehicle prices seem to be even higher than back in Canada...)

Gas for a vehicle: P55/liter ($1.29/liter).  Diesel: P44/liter ($1.03).  While this is cheaper than we had been used to in Canada it was higher than we expected, and a shock for our American friends who were used to much less!

Two games of bowing for a family of four: P120 ($2.82)

2 liters of Coke: P44.55 ($1.04)

2 pizzas from a really great pizza place (delivered, including a tip): P600 ($14.05)

Tires for our van (pretty much the smallest tires ever made): P2000/each ($46.83)

Cost to get a wheel removed from the van, tire removed from the rim, new tire installed, and wheel put back on the van: P30/each ($0.70.  Yes, that is right.)

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino (tall): P160 ($3.74)

Movie admission at one of the nicest theaters in Davao: P135/person ($3.16)

Men's haircut (complete with shampoo, scalp and neck massage, straight-blade razor shave - best haircut ever.  Including a tip): P150 ($3.51)

A small jar of Cheez Whiz: P70.05 ($1.64)

1 liter of milk (processed for a longer shelf life, the most common stuff here): P62.70 ($1.47)

Jello pudding powder: P51.75 ($1.21)

Chicken breast (bone-in): P116/kg ($2.71/kg)

Kitten food (1.4kg): P274.15 ($6.41)

Loaf of good bread: P26.00 ($0.61)

All purpose flour: P48.50/kg ($1.13/kg)

Good quality rice (2kg bag): P78.50 ($1.84)

As you can see, some things here are quite a bit less expensive than back in Canada, especially when it comes to services.  Other things are a lot more than we had expected before we came here, most notably vehicles and imported consumer goods.

I will continue to list various prices every so often.  If there are any particular things you are interested in knowing prices for please feel free to send me a message below!