August 1, 2003

Our Garden Gate

The picture is of our daughter Maya on her 3rd Birthday, standing in front of the gate that leads down to the beach at our property in the Philippines.

Located near San Fernando, La Union (SFLU) in northwestern Luzon, it is about a 7 hours drive north of Manila. The commute is terrible, but once there one enjoys spectacular daily sunsets on the Lingayen Gulf of the South China Sea, sandy beaches as far as one can see, and quiet surroundings (except when the local town Fiesta is on).

One year before this picture was taken, there was nothing here but the beach and 20+ truckloads of dirt. The credit for the fact that there now stands a lovely garden with Hibiscus, Mango, Papaya, Palm, Lemon, Orchids and dozens of other plants and flowers goes to my mother-in-law, who is an avid gardener.

More than a few of the expatriot community of retired and vacationing Germans, Swedes, Americans, Britts, Australians, and Dutchmen living in the area found the opportunity to "stop by" to visit and get gardening advice, not to mention carloads of relatives and friends (my mother-in-law was one of twelve children I'm told) while we were there from three weeks back in February.

Resting in the shade of one of two Nipa Palm thatched huts that sit on the property, I was able to cope with my technology-withdrawal symptoms by taking comfort from several facts:

1. You can get any beer you want - as long as it is San Miguel.
2. Beer is about $0.25 a bottle.
3. The local Internet Cafe has DSL.
4. They charge $0.63 for 90 minutes of DSL connect time.
5. Email and VNC allowed me to keep tabs on the shop.
6. Cell calls to the US were $9.12 for ~15 minutes.

Sadly, the fact that GSM works so well there allowed the shop to keep tabs on me from time to time as well. I walked our production manager through restarting our DC and Exchange server remotely when the power went out here in Redmond due to a transformer blowing down the streets.

While on the subject of power, we were without it in the Philippines only once for 20 minutes, though I heard from our neighbors that the grid is not yet sophisticated enough not to have to be turned off whenever the tropical trees have to be trimmed, which apparently happens off and on over the course of a few days at least once each year in their area. The fact that it is as expensive as anyplace here was also a surprise, and goes a long way toward explaining why relatively few people purchase an air conditioner despite temperatures in the upper 70s to mid-80s in the cool part of the year we visited. Now I know why mom built the Nipa huts...

Since this picture was taken, a vacation house for our family and that of my architect brother-in-law down in L.A. has begun to slowly rise on the site. I will post pictures of the house when I have a chance, but in the meantime, I hope you'll excuse me while I cut this short, find a beer from the fridge, and take a stroll out my garden gate (at least in my mind's eye).

Posted by Sean at 6:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack