Monday, March 17
People in the Philippines don’t seem to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and I forgot to wear green.
Lily picked me up at my hotel at 8:30am and we headed to a big shopping area where local crafts are sold. We had a new driver who I called Fearless Fred because of his ability to drive in Manila traffic. I suppose there are lanes to drive in but most of the drivers tend to treat them as fantasy. This is, hands down, the worst traffic I have ever seen. There are few stop signs or stop lights or even police directing traffic. Picture two (or three or four) lanes of traffic, in both directions with people trying to get through or turn left or right with no stop lights or signs to give permission to move. People just stick the nose of the car out into traffic, slowly, and keep moving forward, til the cars coming at a right angle give way. Fred negotiated this beautifully but at times I was terrified. I used a technique I learned in Sofia, Bulgaria traffic — brace myself, close my eyes, and repeat that mantra “don’t look, don’t look.”
As many of you know, I import international jewelry and sell it with part of the proceeds going to international library projects. So shopping in Manila had a beneficial benefit as well as being fun. We went to the Green Hills Shopping Center where, in additional to stores you can see any mall in North America, there was a bazaar in the basement with people, mainly Muslim women, selling from small booths. All the booths were organized by category, purses, clothing, etc. – and my target, jewelry. Pearls seem to be the specialty and many of the sellers have exactly the same product. I tried, as always, to find something unique and I think I did. Those of you who shop at craft fairs I go to can judge for yourself.
We went from there to the University of the Philippines, a huge campus. Lily is Director of the Law Library so we went there first. There are, I think she said 20 University schools and each has its own library, in addition to the Main University Library. When Lily took over, she raised funds from previous graduating classes to renovate many areas of the library. There are four floors and no elevator so staff and students stay thin going up and down the steps every day.
I had books and another Native American rattle to present to the Director of the University Libraries, Rodolpho Tarlit. When we tried to see him we learned that he was in an all-day staff development meeting to celebrate the 92nd birthday of the library. We were invited down to the meeting in time to hear the end of a presentation honoring a previous library director. The presenter spoke mainly in English but as soon as she was telling the punch line of a story about the previous director, she switched to Tagalog. I later asked Lily why and she said it just sounds better in Tagalog.
On to the Engineering Library which has a HUGE, colorful “I (heart) MY LIBRARY” and a lovely slogan “A University is a group of buildings surrounding a library, and without a great library you don’t have a great university.”
From there on to the Quezon City Public Library. The library is on one floor and was very busy. There is an “American Shelf” provided by the US Embassy and a shelf with materials and caregivers who deal with the people with disabilities. They want to expand this to include materials FOR people with disabilities. Two staff are learning a little sign language to make those with hearing impairment feel more at home.
I had a lovely conversation with the library staff who want to come to the US for an ALA convention who wanted tips on how to get a visa from the US consulate. Our country is suspicious, rightly so to a large extent after 2001, but sometimes they seem to go overboard, assuming everyone who visits the US either wants to blow us up or stay forever. I’m not sure our consulates understand that some people just want to come and enjoy and then go back to the country they love and share information they received. Unfortunately, I’m not in much of a position to help them.
After my huge breakfast and similar lunch, I had no desire for dinner and still feeling jet lagged, I called it a day and let Lily and the driver head back to campus. To bed even earlier because Lily is picking me up at 5:30am for the next leg of my Philippine adventure.
A word about food. I eat mainly vegetarian with some fish – luckily so. Vegetarians would have a great deal of difficulty getting food here and vegans would starve. These people are carnivores. Almost every dish has some kind of meat in it. Fresh, uncooked vegetables are rare. Some buffets have salads but many just have many kinds of meat dishes. I am loving the fish but missing the fresh salads.
Off to Cebu City and the National Library’s conference tomorrow.