June 11, 2004


I?ve been holding off with these blogposts, hoping for the arrival of our high speed internet connection in our house... eh. But alas, alack. Yesterday?s phone call (so many made by now that we have lost count) to our prospective internet provider (Auna) had revealed another fifteen day wait... with no promise that after fifteen days, we wouldn?t have to wait again another fifteen. Every time we call, we are asked a variety of questions: our telephone number, our address, my passport number, our bank acount number... and with each set of answers, a relay to another person who asks for this information afresh. At the end of a multiperson Q&A (in excruciating Espa?ol muy rapido), the inevitable response: we must wait fifteen days from the date of that call.

Our patience broken, we called a competitor (Jazztel), but they couldn?t offer us service since we originally contracted our telephone service with Telefonica (comparable to AT&T in the USA)... it was Telefonica who originally informed us that they couldn?t offer us ADSL because we have Apple computers and that thier internet service was incompatible with Apple. That didn?t make sense then, so now we were forced to return to Telefonica and probe more deeply into the conundrum of the apparent incompatibility. Luckily (such as is rare in this case), Telefonica has a departamento de idiomas... they can speak English (although we liked the searing challenge of deep immersion into tech Espa?ol), and we discovered that thier service is compatible after all. The installation price was high, but we figure it will be an insurance to have an installation guy set us up and untangle all potential problems.

The upshot: fifteen days or less. (I bury my head in my pillow and sob silently.)

I get a picture of hidebound bureaucratic systems both in government (customs, the post office, etc.) and in private business (at least in the larger scales... small business seems tight and responsive). It seems that every time we talk to someone in a system, we get different answers, different sets of criteria. It is possible that someone could get a run around if one doesn?t find a back door short cut or at least pursue multiple queries in order to exhaust most of the redundancy and noise in the system. The regulatory world here seems overgrown with weeds. No wonder there is are underground economies ("black money") and people live in parallel worlds of the law in excessivo (the garden oversown and untended) and the law in effectivo (the laws people actually do observe).

Enough carping.

There are many things I have wanted to write and show you all with fotos. I just don?t feel that comfortable in doing it in an internet cafe... or even in the homes of our friends here who have offered us access to thier computers (although we have accepted their generosity to pay our bills online, better to do this there than through the computers in the internet cafes). So as an alternative, let me here try to hammer out a few notes, stream of consciousness style:

-Yesterday, the procession of the Virgins (Corpus Cristi) occured here in the streets of Tossa. It is a celebration of communion of young teens, all dressed in white. The streets are festooned in designs drawn in flowers. For weeks, we saw people sorting flowers in cardboard boxes, mostly done by shopkeepers. Then on the fated day, the streets are colorfully articulated and as the children recieve the body of Christ, they walk through the colorful streets in procession, their virgin feet destroying the flowered drawings as they go, with priests and attendants burning incense and carrying holy paraphanalia along the way.

-Our neighbors (all elderly ladies, three) were preparing for the Corpus Christi by vigorously cleaning the street for days before the event. We showed one of them, Carmen (maybe 68 years?), our huose and my paintings. More than a few Spanairds are painters or poets in the margins of thier lives, and Carmen too, she painted in the top floor of her house. She was excited to see the paintings and she took us into her house to see her stuff. She partcularly like the fact that I used the antique linen that my mom gave me, especially how I let the monograms show in the way I prepared the stretched panels. Her house is like a museum. A member of the patrician class (her family owned a hotel once in Tossa), her house had linens, woven fabrics, paintings, furniture, and notably a few religious decorative artifacts that were rescued from the anarchy of the Civil War, a time when the church in Tossa (less than a block away from us) was sacked and burnt, the priests taken to the countryside and shot. Carmen shook her head as she told us about it "una pena", she said.

-Kiko and his team are repairing our roof at this moment. We have several aguajeros (leaks) from our rooftop terrace, and Kiko will tear out the planters and install an elastometric membrane (an innovation here) and a new tile deck too. Home improvements are rarely singular, so we have to have new doors made for that terrace, a job for our carpenter, Ramon. Ramon is beset with too much work. He?s also building panels for me too, bigger ones next week.

-We are still taking classes in Espa?ol ahora. Through these classes, we are meeting new circles of people:

Peit and Monique, a couple from Holland who have a house in a German community (kinda like a suburb of Tossa) nearby. Peit is a retired polymath his latest incarnation is a director and producer of television shows, some for the BBC. Great people they are, big smiles and curious, great conversation. I?ll have to recount Peit?s history sometime... I couldn?t do justice to it now... stints in South Africa, New York, several careers that he abandoned in succession once his thirst for new, fresh and challenging experiences prompted him so. He has an instincts that are rare and fine... a probing mind. The conversations with them are wonderful.

Elena is our teacher, a Catalan and self employed. She comes from a famliy whose business is in fashion (swim suits) but she wanted her own enterprise, one that matched her prediliction for languages. She?s been helping us negotiate the internet access maze. Yesterday, we saw her on the street after the Virgin Procession and it was great to show her our house. In Spanish class, you talk a lot and our lives are inevitably a subject of conversation, so it was nice to show her of the things we had been referring to lately.

-Emma is a young Brit who is staying here in Tossa with her Mom. Britian and Spain are interlinked over the years through tourism and it is not unusual to find whole comunities of expats here from Great Britian. Recently, we realized that Emma was a friend in a circle of people that included my cousin Joseph (Baby Joe, in Filipino parlance, as I had known him over thirty years ago when we were kids). I had heard that he was living and working here in town but I didn?t know how to find him. Finally, as my Uncle Bitan came into town for vacation (together with his girlfriend Ni?a, and his daughter, my cousin Carmela), we all went out in search for Joe... and since this is a small town, he wasn?t hard to find. What we found was another epxpat community of Australians (most of my family had emigrated from the Philippines to Australia eons ago). These twenty, thirty somethings from "down under" have the art of living inexpensively down to an art form. All have jobs locally, mostly in the bars and restaurants and also in the building trades. The typical pattern is work and play, the beach and the bars.

-I hadn?t seen my Uncle Bitan (Albert) for over twenty years. Our hair thinning, we linked up as if we had only seen each other only yesterday. His significant other, Ni?a, is supercool, smart. The irony of thier conjunction is that Ni?a is closely related to Imelda Marcos and Tito Bitan was manning the barricades, protesting Marcos when he was a student in Manila so many years ago. He was forced to leave the country and emigrate to Australia, and has since come back, a Filipino to the core. They both offer us a place to stay in Manila and the picture of inexpensive fabulous studios and multiple servants who attend to every need in a context of Manila high society is as tantalizing as it is confounding to our imaginations. Who knows? Maybe I?ll post this blog one day from Manila.

Alright, time to get back into the studio. More later, and much more once we get the internet connection in place. June 20th or before?

Posted by Dennis at June 11, 2004 4:51 AM

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