Philippine Travel Log: John’s First Day in the Big City

We all got up fairly early for our first day in the big city.  I had stayed up far too late the night before, but it didn’t matter.  We were ready to rock.  We started the day by calling Uncle Mike to wish him a happy birthday.  It was still the evening of the 5th – his birthday – in the States, even though it was the morning of the 6th in Manila … so we weren’t too late.  John was excited to make the call, and I was hoping he’d say “Happy Birthday, Uncle Mike!” … but no joy.  He said a couple hi’s and bye’s, but nothing of real substance.  However, Mike was thrilled to get the call, and I was thrilled when later that day I discovered that he’d updated his Facebook status to say that he’d talked to his new nephew.  How cool!

The phone conversation was very brief, since I knew it was pricey.  Turns out the 3-4 minute conversation cost like $20 (whoa!), but it was worth it.  Couldn’t be out of the country for Mike’s birthday and not at least call.

After phone time, John got his first ever bath, which he absolutely loved.  I was all about his playing in the tub, and so was Faith (who was the parent administering the bath).  The only problem point was that he decided it was cool to stomp in the water and make it splash, but that was SO loud, we weren’t comfortable with it.  Faith was pretty hesitant to push back on this behavior too hard, though, for fear that he might throw a big tantrum or lose it in some totally inconsolable way while we were in the hotel.  This fear actually dominated the first few days we were in Manila together, and absolutely put us on eggshells more than once around him.

After bath time, Faith and I threw on some clothes and we headed downstairs for breakfast.  We were a little apprehensive about how John would do at the Jeepney restaurant, where we’d enjoy massive breakfast buffets the week before, but we wanted to try anyway.  It was included in the rate for our room, plus it was evidence of civilization I’d been looking forward to.  And, as it turned out, John did great.  He finished before we did (a by-product of our getting his food first), and got a little restless waiting for us to finish, but I can live with that.  He also sat in a high chair, which was a whole new experience for us, and that was interesting.  Again, he did quite well.  Truthfully, we were already starting to learn that, by and large, this is a really well behaved kid.

After breakfast, we went swimming.  John looked so cute in his swim suit, and Faith was all about indoctrinating him in the water.  He had demonstrated some fear at the beach the week before, so we were sure it would be a fairly slow process.  But we didn’t think he’d be as scared as he was.  He was even afraid of the kiddy pool at first, and wouldn’t go in the big pool at all.  By the end of the week, of course, he was all about swimming, but not at first.  Faith and John spent like two hours out at the pool, but I was more conservative, knowing that I’d fry like a fritter if I stayed out there that long, sun block or not.  So, after an hour or so, I went in to play on the computer a bit – and even then I got a slight burn.

By the end of this round at the pool, John was all about the kids pool, and tentatively getting into the big pool a little.  We had some cups and a little swimming fish to play with.  He promptly tossed the fish on the concrete and broke its propeller, so it was a fairly gimpy fish.  But it was still fun to play with for the week.

Once we’d had our fill of swimming and switched back to street clothes, we decided to go to the mall.  There are three malls effectively surrounding the hotel, one of which dominated our time far more than the others.  It is called Glorietta.  We weren’t sure how John would do there, because it was pretty flashy and was always crowded with lots of people.  But we had seen a play land there when we were there before getting John, so we thought we’d go over and check that out to see if he’d want to partake.

The first thing John loved about the mall were the baloons.  It seemed like everywhere we went, there were baloons tied on sticks poking up about the “skyline”.  Every time he saw one, John pointed them out.  It was clear we’d eventually have to get him one.

On the way to the park, we found little cars that little kids can ride in for a quarter or whatever.  I have always thought that these were really lame, but John (like the other kids there his age) was all over it.  So, we paid the meager amount to get a token, and he rode in the little taxi there.

John riding in the kids taxi at the mall

John riding in the kids' taxi at the mall

He looked like he was having fun, but only marginally, and I was thinking that it probably wasn’t his thing.  However, when it came time for him to be done and let the next child ride, he got all fussy and didn’t want to relinquish control of the vehicle (so to speak). He sat down on the floor and started balling.  “Oh oh, here comes the next meltdown,” I’m thinking.

Faith didn’t hesitate.  Remembering the advice the houseparents at the orphanage had given us to just move him to the next thing, she scooped him up in her arms and we continued walking down the mall.  Almost immediately, he stopped crying and resumed looking around at all the sights.  My wife’s a genius!  Later she shared with me that she’d reacted to the fear that he would lodge himself inside the car and we’d have to pry him out, creating a huge scene.  So, she had thought it would be better this way.

Our next stop was the playground in the mall.  John was happy to be there, but was fairly reserved.  It was clear he was mad at us, but wanted to play.  He played by himself, fairly non-enthusiastically, and Faith wisely suggested that we just leave him to it so that he could get over his beef with us.  It worked.  We sat off to the side of the park, kept our distance, but kept watching him.  When he would look at us, we would wave and/or encourage him in some way.  Eventually, he warmed back up to us and was all kissie-kissie.

After the play land, we got John a baloon at a stand nearby.  Then, John discovered escalators.  This made the play land pale in comparison.  Clutching his baloon, we went up and down and up and down the escalators – at least a dozen times.  He was tentative at first, but eventually got quite bold in jumping onto the first moving step, and then jumping over the last one as it disappeared into the floor … his new baloon in one hand and my hand in the other.  Last, we ate lunch at Jolibee, which I’ll describe more later, and headed back to the hotel.

John’s nap was next on the agenda.  He literally slept with his baloon by his bedside.  Faith took advantage of nap time to visit the business center and use the computers.  I think I slept with John, having not gotten much sleep the night before.

Johns baloon was never far from his side

John's baloon was never far from his side

Post nap, it was raining, so we played in the hotel room.  John discovered the clock radio and the phones pretty quickly.  Faith was also pretty quick to unplug two of the three phones (leaving only the bathroom phone actually working), so John could call all he wanted.  We liked the music idea, so we just began a strict regiment of limiting the volume at which he played the music on the clock radio.  The phones and the radio would be common toys for the whole week.  John also got a pretty big kick out of repeating “Stop the presses!” all afternoon.  Mom and dad got a kick out of that too.

John also discovered the clock radio, with which he absolutely fell in love.  He would exclaim, “Music!”, look at us, and point to the radio as if to ask if he could turn it on.  Of course, he could, and of course we would have to perpetually fight with him about the volume.  But it was fun to watch him discover new things.

Another new thing he discovered was the TV.  He decided it would be a fun game to turn it on and off repeatedly, until mom had to unplug it so that on/off wouldn’t work.  Kind of like performing a batteryectimy on his favorite toy.  I think the initial thought was that he would still be able to turn it on and off, but it wouldn’t actually do anything.  However, another 10 times or so, and we felt that even that wasn’t a good idea – my mom’s “That switch has only got so many flips in it” came to mind and I laughed out loud – so we forbid him to touch it all together.  However, days later when we actually wanted to turn it on, even after plugging it all back in (yes we thought of that), it didn’t work.  Faith started to panic a little bit, fearing that John had broken it and we might have to replace it.  I said I’d look at it more later, and we left it go.  The next day or so – and I’m so jumping ahead because I don’t see remembering to talk about the TV again in later entries – I realized that we had failed to plug in one of the FOUR (explain that to me!) plugs associated with the TV, so that’s why it wasn’t working.  Not because John had played light-switch-rave with it one too many times.

Another thing that bares mention was our general stress level having John in the hotel.  I think I already mentioned this, but I’m too tired to go back and review.  She was pretty stressed out by the prospect of John’s totally losing it in the hotel.  I wasn’t too thrilled about that idea either.  So, we definitely started out the week walking on eggshells around him.  That got me stressing about the prospect of spoiling the little guy.  I think the lack of sleep and new environment (having a child) was just making us delusional.  Writing about this now, both fears seem a little neurotic, but such is the life of newly adoptive parents, I suppose.  I don’t think either he or we will be scarred for life.

What about food?  Well, that’s pretty much the last variable of the day, I suppose, other than going to bed, which I’ll cover afterwards.

For lunch, we went to Jollibee at the mall.  I think I’ve mentioned somewhere else in the course of my ramblings that Jollibee is McDonalds’ big competitor in the Philippines.  Don’t know where else they are, but they’re definitely there … pretty much everywhere.  I think someone said while we were there that they also now have a few shops in California.  Rock on!  I’m all about competition.  But seriously, how many more fast food restaurants can America stomach (pun intended)?!

Anyway, John had his beloved spaghetti, Faith had fried chicken, and I had some kind of bacon cheeseburger thing with funky sauce on it.  It was explained to us that all fast food pretty much has sauce in Asia, because Asians like spices and something like a cheeseburger or fried chicken or whatever other American food someplace like McDonald’s or Jollibee would serve is bland without extra sauce.  For the record, I liked none of the sauces.  They all made me feel like I was eating fat sauce on something that was already bad for me – typically pork.  Faith didn’t like the fat sauce served with the fried chicken at McDo, but she did like the Jollibee equivalent.  Doesn’t bode well for the golden arches, I suppose.  And John liked (and ate while we were there) spaghetti at both joints.  The spaghetti is pretty different too – a very sweet sauce with hot dog chunks in it.  Not at all my thing, but definitely his.  What kid wouldn’t like that, though, I suppose.  I also got John pineapple juice with his Jollibee lunch.  Now there’s something you won’t find at fast food restaurants in America.

And for dinner, we broke away from the pork-seafood-rice tradition that characterized our trip, and went across the street from the hotel to Outback Steakhouse.  Woohoo!  And oddly enough, what we ordered were vegetables.  Yes, that’s right campers.  No steak for the fat one.  Instead, grilled chicken over rice pilaf and steamed veggies.  No butter.  No pork.  And no disgusting fish paste or sauce (which, parenthetically and most unfortunately, is what I meant when I said there was a lot of seafood in the Philippines).  Faith got veggies too.  John ate some of my rice with some chicken and veggies chopped up and mixed in.  And he was happy as a clam.  We had a giant American style booth there, though, so that made it a bit hard for him to eat.  It also gave him plenty of room to run around and get too roudy after he’d finished eating.  Didn’t help that we were next to a half wall, and the steps downstairs were on the other side of it.  So, at one point, he set an empty water bottle on the wall, then knocked if off down the steps.  Eggshells or not, that was discipline time.  He reacted fine.  I went down to pick up the bottle and met with first-confused-then-somewhat-stearn looks from the hostess who had been dispatched to investigate the rain of bottle terror.  All-in-all, it was a good dinner.  But then, the steamed veggies made me pretty tolerant of everything else.

So, eventually, it was time for bed.  John brushed his teeth, and tried flossing for the first time, which was pretty cute.  Faith then gave John his bath, and I got his jammies laid out.  I dried and dressed him while Faith closed down shop in the bathroom.  We then had story time, and prayer time.  John didn’t want to go to bed, though, and was pretty sour by the time we got to prayers.  Also insisted on switching beds from the night before, which, for some reason, annoyed daddy.  I guess I wanted the other bed ’cause it was closer to the door?  Something.  But either way, there was a little struggle there, but no big deal.

After John went to sleep, Faith got up and used the computer lab to get online, and I fell asleep.  And we called it a day on day 6.

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Family and Friends, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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