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7 - Shopping

Journey 6


Lips close around a lover's seal,
Much more than just a kiss,
And doors in hearts
Swing open wide,
Secure and safe in this,
Souls escape and flying high,
Free as birds inside the breath,
They rise to meet,
In a long moment of play
With their own reflection,
Absorbing the warmth of another sun,
Sharing, knowing another love.
Two spirits, dancing as one,
Lost in the clouds of ecstasy.
To some, maybe, it's just a kiss.
But you and me, I pray,
Such bliss.

We went shopping - Mayen wanted to buy presents for her family - we were going to fly south to her province later in the week.
OK, before we go into the "golden goose" theory - I know all about that - and now I have seen, first hand, the desperate poverty here as well - it is cruel - really hard for people. Mayen, on our first day, calmly walked into a shoe shop and bought herself some new slippers [posh flip-flops] with my money - I'd given her control of it - hadn't worked out quite what it was worth - she enjoyed the feeling of having money for a change - I enjoyed the feeling of generosity - what is mine is hers. Making a peso here and there is as instinctive as breathing. Amidst all the religious slogans pasted everywhere, their faith is a sugar coating for the very bitter pill they consume daily, just scratching a living.
But - with exceptions of course - they are wonderful, sweet and joyful - bahala na - they would say - I love the country and the people - Mayen I would die for. I didn't enjoy feeling like the golden goose, nor did I wallow about in my new found role as benefactor, courtesy of the exchange rate - I am all too well aware of my own struggle back in the UK - all relationships are a trade off in some respect - I don't mind this one tiny bit - I am hopelessly, divinely in love and Mayen is a wonderful, kind, bright, humorous girl, full of joy despite her struggles - and I don't doubt the genuine love she has for me - it's just in her terms, through her eyes - as much as she is the answer to my prayer, I am the answer to hers.

Shopping here is an unbelievable experience. Due to the struggle for employment and the horrendously low minimum wage [£3.00 per day!] stores are hopelessly overstaffed - by devoted, conscientious and stunningly beautiful and courteous employees - desperate to cling on to their jobs. Nothing is too much trouble - everything is folded, packed in a meticulous way - and all with such a genuine smile - it's amazing.
We bought baby socks for a new family addition - baby shoes - there's a baptism happening, but poor Mayen will miss it - accompanying me back to Manila - she has to resume her work. Chocolate - very expensive - lots of chocolate, T shirts for a brother's birthday. I already had some gifts for mum and dad - some perfume and cologne.
I was touched earlier to see Mayen, in her room, sort through all of her clothes - hard earned - to find what she no longer needed - to pass on to her sisters or nieces.
Bought a new battery for my cellphone - you can probably get anything in Manila - every nook and cranny outside the big SM malls is crammed with every conceivable type of shop, work shop, repair shop - everyone scratching a living in their own little niche market - and working hard as well.

We had lunch in the open air on a deck of the mall - Gerry's - it was the franchise owner's birthday - some of the staff were partying outside as well - I made the mistake of ordering a "western" dish - a club sandwich - it was awful compared to the succulent, fresh food that Mayen ordered - of course there was enough to go round - a delicious Buko Pandan - lime jelly, condensed milk and scrapings of fresh Buko (young coconut flesh) Masarap! a word I think I got to use more than any other - delicious!.

Did I hand you the key to my heart?
Or, maybe you saw it lying there -
Mostly buried in the mud?
One lucky reflection,
Shiny serendipity,
Glinting in the sun light,
Catching your eye.
Or have you always owned that key?
Just how old is destiny?
To me, an eternal mystery.
And just what is it I feel
As my heart begins to open?
A burning desire -
To love you,
A desire I allow
To consume me
With it's heat,
A flame to be protected
But never fully enclosed,
Never denied liberty,
The oxygen
That keeps it bright.
Hope -
To dream with
Through the night,
Hope -
That rises
With every new dawn.
Faith -
That lock and key
Together should be.
Faith -
That one is you,
The other - me.
But wisdom reminds me -
There are no guarantees
That do not extinguish,
There is no security
That does not dim,
No mechanism
That might not seize,
A grape may shrivel
On the vine.
For love is alive -
It breaths -
It moves -
And glitters with
Ever changing brilliance -
It fascinates -
It lures -
It listens -
As free as the wind -
It does not like restrictions -
To be clothed in
Anything smaller
Than its universal size.
Gentle yet strong,
Master yet servant,
Free yet full of need,
Destination and journey.

No pictures from this day - in the afternoon we travelled north to Quezon City to visit Mayen's sister there (she has sisters in a lot of other places as well.) We used the MRT [Manila Metro Rail Transit System.] Very hot, humid - noisy - we strayed into an area of the platform reserved for children, women, disabled, or aged - the guard blew his whistle at us and we toed the yellow line waiting for the train - which was air-conditioned. It was a relief to get on board. Travelling almost the entire length of the route we got out at Quezon City and hailed a cab to take us to the house.

The sister, Adelaide, embarrassed and giggly - with two children - Precious and Vincent, ushered me in to the house to sit down. I was privately bewildered and amazed to see an array of all sorts of general household goods hanging around, as if on display - cards full of small shampoo sachets, plastic tubs full of lolipops, cans of this, packets of that. Were they into smalltime crime I wondered, lightheartedly? Shoplifting?
Then I became aware of a plastic chicken wire grill covering the window facing the street.
The explanation for all these goods - this was some sort of shop. A concept I had not come across before is that every street has its sari-sari store - it means "almost anything" - where the children come for the treat of some sweets and the neighbourhood can get all the things that you run out of at inconvenient moments.

I chatted to the neighbour from across the road, who was just emerging from the enclosure in which his prize fighting-cock was held. They're into that in a big way - but mercifully I didn't see any of the fights - just heard and saw the cockerels - especially hearing them in the mornings - it was like a call to prayer - crowing near and far - summoning people into the day. We sat ouside the store front under the awning - in the warmth of the early evening. Dusk happens very early here - it can be dark by 7.30 pm even in July. The neighbour told me that he had a Baldwin piano in his house - nowadays it wasn't played and it was rather the worse for wear because of the rats.
He knew Mayen well as she had lived here with her sister for a while when she first arrived in Manila seeking work - he confided in me that she came from a good family - she was a good girl. Travelling the 2 hour route we had just taken became too much and so Mayen left here and moved into her present room.

As we ate our delicious evening meal that the sister had prepared - a chicken stew and rice - masarap - the husband, Audie, returned home from work. He was an "FX" driver - [a chunky four wheel drive vehicle for hire as a taxi cab.]
We chatted briefly and then, after his day of exsertion at the wheel, very kindly offered to drive us both back to the MRT station.

Exiting the railway system at Magallanes (Manila) we immediately became embroiled in the evening rush hour - this was about 9.00 pm - the traffic was horrendous - fumes filling the air, stinging the eyes and throat, car horns creating a wall of sound - chaos - but the daily chaos here - a long line of busses blocking the traffic as they waited to fill up with passengers - jeepneys, tricycles all stopping and starting as they passed us - hoping to pick up the foreigner - we eventually got into an air-con cab and sat out the traffic in relative comfort.

That evening, already fed, we retire early to the hotel room - both feeling rather tired from the days travelling about. We wrap ourselves around each other in the heat - with the room air-con left on all night - a sound that reminded me of the ocean.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


Tim Cumperhttp://www.bebo.com/Ellumbra

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