I woke up the second day to a text from the Good Ambassador telling me that I could change my dollars for Filipino pesos for free at the Embassy. I just needed to drop my cash in an envelope for him to take. Turns out he'd left for the Embassy at 8am. However, Niles told me that the driver would be back to pick up the envelope later (how is this my life?!). He also informed me that I had a 10am appointment with the Good Ambassador’s masseuse.
It was at that point that I decided to
study for the
foreign service exam marry
an ambassador be grateful for
this most fortunate situation.
My first massage ever (by a professional) took place on one of the guest beds, which was all good until she got to my upper back. Having my head turned while lying face down made it hurt on one side, but the rest of the massage was nice.
|image from thechive.com|
Niles: “Excuse me, Mr. Kareem? Sorry to interrupt, but the driver is here for the envelope to take to the Embassy…”
Massage: ruined! UGGGGGHHHHHH! (not)
By the time the masseur finished the whole back side of my body and then had me flip over for the front, it was at least an hour and a half long massage. And Niles had already had the sauna warmed up! I ditched the briefs I was wearing for the massage, grabbed a towel and shuffled across the pool deck in my robe. And just as I was reaching for the door to the sauna, it opened, and the Duchess of Luzon came out! A slight variation in timing, and that could have been a REALLY awkward encounter. But she stepped out for just enough time for me to get my towel situated before she joined me. Our conversation taught me that she worked in hospitality training, she had 2 adolescent kids from a very previous marriage, and she was about my age (the Good Ambassador is much closer to my parents’ age… baller!). She told me that we’d hit up a couple of shopping centers after I had lunch, for which she would not join me because she was on a diet.
Earlier, the chef on duty had asked what I’d like to eat, to which I responded, “Fish.” I have no idea what kind of fish she bought, how she seasoned it or what kind of sauce she used, but that was damn near the best fish I’ve ever had in my life! I cleaned my plate and went to get ready for the mall.
Niles: “Mr. Kareem! You still have dessert. We have apples!”
I was expecting an apple on a plate, perhaps quartered. What I got: thinly sliced apples presented on fine china. Wow.
First, we caught a cab to Market! Market! It was the first of several cabs I’d take that had no visible seatbelt apparatus in the back seat. As we approached the main entrance of the mall, we joined the line to go through the metal detectors. Security guards were lined up doing quick pat-downs as patrons entered. It wasn’t until the Dutchess of Luzon noticed that I was lined up behind her that she told me I had to join the other line, which was all male.
On the way in, I saw a comforting sign.
No firearms in this mall. No sir.
The mall was pretty crowded, but we were able to procure a sim card for my cousin’s pre-paid phone (which I was borrowing for my stay), a battery for my camera (because in my
drunken mad rush to pack, I’d
somehow misplaced the battery when I was opening the packaging), a box set of The
Hunger Games books (for my parents’
Christmas present because electronic toys only last so long on trans-Pacific
flights) and a bottle of Johnny Walker Green (my uncle’s a fan, and I didn’t
have a chance to stop at the duty free shop).
The Dutchess of Luzon told me to stay put in the mall’s grocery store (because malls there have grocery stores) while she hunted down Red Bull for me. I happened to park myself right next to some sort of lechon restaurant. Lechon is a Filipino specialty: a pig roasted whole (head and all) and served in slices from the body with sauce on the side. The pigs head stared me down almost as much as the human passer’s by as I wondered how long the Dutchess of Luzon would take.
|image from ourawesomeplanet.com|
Our next stop was 168, which is a lot like Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Queens. Floors and floors of little shops and kiosks of cheap and discounted merchandise! And the worst wigs you’ve ever seen on any mannequins. Anything you could think to brand with Angry Birds, they sold (perfect gifts for my co-workers!). I found one shop that had "designer" underwear for 150 pesos (just under $4).
Me: “I don’t see sizes.”
Clerk: “They stretch!”
Me (pausing): “I’ll take 10.”
I quickly found that Filipino sizes are drastically different from American sizes. I found the cutest pair of shorts in a medium. Perfect length and made my ass look great, but then I had to zip them up.
Me: “Could I get a large, please?”
Me (2 minutes later): “Do you have XL.”
Clerk: “I’m sorry, sir. We have no XL.”
Yup. I’m too fat for Philippine fashion.
Back at the Good Ambassador’s compound, I had time for a nap before he came home and we went to a birthday dinner party.
The Good Ambassador: “Now, this guy’s father owns [major corporation you've heard of]. He’s bringing in some French chef from a famous restaurant with a 6-month wait list to do a 7-course meal.”
Dutchess of Luzon: “Don’t mess up again and call his wife Nadine. That’s his first girlfriend. The wife is Sarah.”
The Good Ambassador: “I know. But that’s the 2nd girlfriend’s name, too. [Off my reaction] Oh, it’s fine. They all know about each other. Hell, they might all be there.”
Something that The Good Ambassador had warned me about is that basketball is huge here. And all throughout the cocktail hour, men were asking me if I watched or played basketball. I wanted to respond, “The only sport I follow even vaguely is football because you can see their jock straps through their spandex when they’re in their 3-point stances.”
The host announced that he was “mixing everybody up to stimulate conversation.” This involved putting me, Dutchess of Luzon, the young Ukrainian fiancée of a very rich older man and his wife at the far end of the table and the men on his end. Truth be told: I think I lucked out with my placement.
As the courses came out, more and more varietals of wine lined up on the table. It was actually a struggle to keep up with all the “you must try this one” and the “are you ready to sample this one?” offers. But I managed.
|image from greetingcarduniverse.com|
As The Good Ambassador was just announcing our departure, the host insisted that we come to the roof deck. For his fireworks show. In his back yard. And I mean, this was like mini-Macy's, need-a-permit fireworks. I swear it went on for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile the Indian guy, whom everyone was calling 5-6 (Indians were apparently notorious for making loans… they loan you 5, and you had to pay back the total plus 20%), had called up his brother in law and had me speak to him so that he could show me how to “really party in NYC!”
It would bring me immense joy to get a drunk phone call from my brother in another time zone at 11am, but when people start wanting you to talk to strangers on the phone at a party, it's definitely time to go.
We stopped at Café M where a yuppy crowd was dancing to popular music and friends of The Good Ambassador (who were far from yuppy-aged) were getting bottle service. I was immediately asked what I wanted to drink and told it would be on one of the older guys’ tabs. It's a simple formula for surrounding yourself with young, beautiful women, and it worked like a charm.
The Good Ambassador: “D. Kareem, these guys will show you a good time. Have a good night.”
There was another drink and a glass of wine (just as a favor to help empty the bottle they’d ordered) before we went to some club across the way. There may or may not be pictures of me somewhere stuffing a bottle of Absolut under my shirt. For some reason, that bottle came out before the Grey Goose.
Did I mention I woke up in my bed the next morning with my clothes and shoes still on? Yeah.
Philippines too far? Click here to check out the time the Crew invaded Boston.