It’s July 31st, 9:40 am here. Yesterday we rode our bikes to the immigration office in Olongapo and renewed our Visas. It is hard to believe that we had been here almost 3 weeks when the original Visa would expire. They have now been extended to September 9th. The process was quick and easy; fill out the appropriate form, show your passport, pay money (4,040 P = $90 for both) and have your visa extended. Actually Randal handled the transaction while I sat outside with our bikes and read. He had asked for 2 more months, but they included the 21 original days and just added enough time to make it a total of 2 months. We can extend again if we need or want to. After that Randal rode back to the boat and I rode over to the grocery store to buy yogurt, some veggies, fruit, and beans. There are far fewer fruit and vegetables here than in China or Hong Kong. I don’t know why since the climates are very similar. But I usually end up with green beans or spinach for my vegetable choices. They have eggplant, but Randal isn’t wild about it, and it does seem to take lots of oil to cook it. The broccoli often looks wilted and brown edged so I don’t ever buy it. Yesterday, though it looked ok, it cost $2.50 for a medium size single crown. Not worth it. We’ll eat beans and spinach. Funny what seems too expensive given buying a boat and making it comfortable and seaworthy isn’t the cheapest adventure on earth. And even though in Roanoke broccoli seemed like an essential, no matter the cost; here it isn’t. Salads here aren’t so great either with iceburg lettuce the only thing that’s used. So I usually order dishes with the interesting cooked vegetables like beans and okra, and yams, and that bitter thing I can’t name yet but am coming to recognise when I see it on my plate. I do see other veggies in the markets, but have no clue yet what they are or how to cook them. The one cooking/ culture book I bought doesn’t translate the local terms to anything I really can recognize, at least not yet.
I don’t have any photos of us biking, but I we do bike here the way we would have used our car at home. The area directly around the Yacht Club where we shop is very flat and the major road has a bike lane. There are several stores near the big Royal Supermarket (Subic version of a Wal-mart Superstore) including a hardware store with a bike rack out front. I lock my bike there and carry my panniers to the baggage claim stand at the grocery store. There are lots of "American" brands available. Fig Newtons, Kettle Chips, Del Monte lima beans, Progresso Soups, Campbell’s Prego mushrooms, Post Raisin Bran, Panteen Shampoo, Dove products, Mr Clean…all kinds of things. But no butter beans or pinto beans or frosting in a can though you can buy cake mix. No Gaviscon either. I have some of the Canadian Gaviscon if I get desparate, but it tastes so awful, I’d rather have reflux! Foreign versions of medicine don’t have sugar so taste bad to me. I am thinking I could mash it and add Splenda. I know that sounds terrible, but you should taste this Canadian Gaviscon, YUCK! You CAN buy Ubi flavored ice cream! That’s the taro ice cream I loved in China. It’s a purple color and I’ll send a photo of it next time. Yesterday I managed to buy more groceries than I could stuff into my pannier so had to tie the plastic grocery bag to my bike rack. Usually I take both panniers for shopping, but this was a spur of the moment trip. But it worked ok and I didn’t have far to go.
I haven’t needed to go clothes shopping since I did manage to accumulate a supply of sleeveless cotton shirts in China, and our pallet had some too. Nope, don’t need clothes.
Biking around Freeport on the main roads and along the beach is easy. They are wide, have a bike lane and not so many cars, motorcycle cabs, jeepneys, pedestrians, etc. In Olongapo everything is crammed together into narrow streets where the right of way goes to whomever is brave enough to go. Just like in China, if you make eye contact, you lose right of way no matter where you are going. If you’re riding down the main road and someone is leaving a side street, they will just come out. People walk off the curb into your path. Jeepneys will pull over and stop right in front of you. But it doesn’t feel unsafe. If I need to cross a rode I just signal, pull into the lane, and everyone stops to let me go. I don’t do it willy nilly, but sort of wait for an opening. Drivers give me my turn and don’t seem to mind. In the U. S. cars minded. Here bikes really are used for transportation so maybe that makes the difference. With everything to watch out for, including raised night lights in the road I luckily didn’t crash on when I rode over a set, it’s unsafe to sight see when you bike. We were riding back from the beach on a fun ride when I looked over at a beach side restaurant and didn’t notice the raised lights. BUMP BUMP BUMP, and the whole time I was marvelling that my bike stayed up. I did avoid the last three sets of lights, but learned my lesson about looking anywhere other than the road ahead. The night reflector/lights are at least 2 inches above the road and act like those horrible Iowa rumbles designed to wake you up before you sleep through an intersection. They have their good points, but not for biking. Luckily Randal had put wide sturdy tires on our bikes so they can stand paved road hazzards and dirt roads too.
Our friends the Nagles have their Diesel Duck, David Ellis, here in Sublic Bay too, having additional work done too. Dorothy showed me the way to the post office and then we walked to the Scuba Shack for lunch.