Heavy rain in the Bronx last weekend

It rained all weekend long, from Friday night to Sunday night. I can’t remember the last time it rained this hard here. It reminded me of downpours in Georgia from when I lived there as a kid. The sound was comforting, even if the rain ruined our plans for the weekend.

Typhoon Conson Not So Bad, But Meralco Dropped the Ball

I just finished (sort of) my first experience with typhoons, and my first typhoon in the Philippines.  It has been, and is continuing to be, an interesting few days.  I don’t have any interesting photos to share, because there wasn’t really anything interesting to take photos of.  Honestly, this typhoon was no worse than the average hurricane I experienced in Georgia.  There were branches laying around, lots of leaves that needed sweeping up and on the ridges some of the smaller trees (3 – 5 inch diameter trunks) had snapped off from the high winds.  There wasn’t a lot of rain.  No more than an average storm anyway.  I was underwhelmed.  That was my experience in the Antipolo area, which is east of Metro Manila.  Being up in the mountains, it seems to be shielded from the brunt of bad weather.  It didn’t flood here during Ondoy either, from what my in-laws tell me.  Unfortunately, after finally having a chance today to look at the news online, it seems like other people weren’t so lucky.  It’s a bit hard for me to find sympathy for the fishermen who didn’t come ashore when they knew a typhoon was coming, or for the guy that drowned while trying to save a herd of pigs in a lake, though I think I can understand his reasoning.  I do feel bad for the other people that died though.  I have a feeling most of them live in houses that aren’t built very well, and then there were the accidents like the carpenters that had a concrete wall collapse on top of them.  So, don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m not downplaying their deaths.  I’m just relating my own experience during this event.

With the storm being so relatively mundane (compared to Ondoy), I can’t help but wonder why the power went out for so long!?  Really, what’s going on with you guys Meralco?  The night the typhoon hit the greater Manila area, the power began to flicker.  I wasn’t too surprised about that, since the power lines are on poles here.  I also wasn’t too surprised when the power went out entirely at around 1 AM.  In fact, we were watching a zombie movie called Dead Snow on my laptop at the time.  It’s supposedly one of the greatest zombie movies ever, and what better time to watch it than on a dark, stormy night?

We went to bed around 3 AM, with the sounds of the wind howling and the rain sheeting down to rock us to sleep.  When morning came two and a half hours later, the sky was a little overcast, but it was clear.  There was still no electricity but I was cool with that.  I’d figured the work crews wouldn’t head out until morning.  There was no running water.  That was disappointing.  So, we went back to sleep.

Later that day we got up and went to my brother-in-law’s shop to have a light lunch.  Still no electricity.

We sat around all afternoon, chatting, reading, getting in some of that quality bonding time, but there was still no electricity when the sun started to go down.

When it got too dark to see, we brought out candles. By then my laptop battery was almost completely drained and I wanted to conserve the battery on my iPhone, just in case.  So, there was nothing to do but sleep.  We used the last of the water we’d stocked up on to wash up and then at 7:30 PM we went to bed.

Around 1 AM we got up and checked, but there was still no electricity.

At 5 AM this morning we were up again, because we had to be in Eastwood by 9 AM.  Still no electricity.

By then, the fact that there was no electricity was really working my nerves.  We’d found out from family and friends that the power had been off all yesterday in Pasig and in Mandaluyong as well.  Why was there such a widespread outage for such a low key storm?  A friend told us that even after Ondoy, the power was up and running after just 3 or 4 hours.  It seems absurd that the power outage would last that long with such a relatively light storm.

The power being up 3 to 4 hours after Ondoy could be misinformation, but on our way to Eastwood we passed a news stand and one of the papers had a front page article showing a housewife trying to prepare a meal by candle light.  The title said something like, “Welcome back to the Dark Ages”.  Given how sarcastic the title was, I think our sentiments about the power situation were shared by quite a few people.

While in Eastwood I ran my iPhone battery all the way down while reading a book on the iBooks application.  My other cell phone was almost dead too by the time we headed home.  So was my wife’s phone.  We’re job hunting, so that’s not a good thing.  It sucked to think about heading home to a house with no electricity, no water, and nothing to do once it got dark.

So, on the way back from Eastwood we kept an eye on storefronts and house windows, to see if we could see light.  Things were looking good but we were still holding our breath for what we might see in our own neighborhood, which is a little ways outside Antipolo.  And… there was light!  When we crested the last ridge before our neighborhood (which sits in a valley), we could see house lights everywhere and we breathed a sigh of relief.  At least we could recharge our gear and have some entertainment.

Fortunately, we hadn’t restocked our fridge yet.  There wasn’t much of anything in it to go bad, except for some milk.  Maybe the eggs are bad now too.  I don’t know.  Unfortunately, I think we may have just lost a month’s profit on business related foodstuffs we had in our freezer.  Things that are supposed to remain frozen don’t do too well in the Philippines heat when the power is out for 30 to 40 hours.  I don’t know what time the electricity came back on today, but it wasn’t soon enough.

Meralco… you disappoint.

Not Quite What We Had in Mind

Going to Phuket was something my wife and I had really been looking forward to.  We were excited about the beach and the food and whatever entertainment we could find.  We got a few suggestions from friends as well.  We started making plans well before we went, but somehow those plans wound up getting thrown out the window.

The problem was the weather.  We booked our tickets and accommodations about a month in advance so there’s no way we could have foreseen what was going to happen, but we made the most of it.

The trip from Singapore to Phuket was standard.  Nothing special.  It’s a short flight.  There is a time zone change of one hour, but that’s not too bad.

When we got to the airport in Phuket we had to get past the horde of people trying to sucker us into taking a ride in an expensive taxi.  Just outside the door there were people holding laminated signs advertising their services.  Most of these guys want 600 baht.  I recommend going to the right just outside the door and walking straight until you cross a small road and are at a taxi stand.  The official airport taxis are multicolored (red/yellow I think) and have set fees and set maximum fares for destinations.  You’ll pay about 400 to 450 baht for most destinations there.  No point in letting yourself get ripped off unnecessarily.  The airport taxis are new and clean as well.

Once we got underway I was surprised by how similar Phuket was to the Philippines.  Even the driving style was similar.  Apparently the lines on the road are just a suggestion in Thailand.  Also, when we started following the coastline the driving barely slowed, despite the severe curves and the fact that we were just a few feet from long drops down to the ocean.  At least the roads themselves were in good condition!

Patong Beach could’ve been a town in the Philippines.

The architecture was a bit different, but the feel of the place was similar.  It really reminded me of Antipolo.

As for the weather, it got progressively worse.  When we first arrived it was overcast and drizzling.

Throughout the day the rain would lighten or stop, then come down in heavy showers again.

The second day was about the same.

By the evening of the second day though, the rain started coming down more and more heavily and it was nonstop.  I can’t be sure but it seemed like every time I woke up that second night it was raining, and the whole third day it rained too.  About an hour before we left for the airport the streets started to flood.

This set the tone for our trip and we spent less time on the beach (because there was no sun and the surf was rough from storms) and more time exploring the town and eating.

Of course, we didn’t get to see everything and we’re definitely planning on going back.

(More on Phuket tomorrow)

Beating the Weather in Singapore

If you’re coming to Singapore, bring light clothing! Oh, and pack an umbrella!

Singapore is located in the tropics.  It only takes one step outside of your house at noon to be reminded of that.  Well, sometimes you don’t even have to leave your house to figure it out.  This place is hot all the time, and it’s especially hot during the summer.  The temperatures seem to constantly hover around 32 to 34.  I think I noted on a weather site that the temperature drops to 29 at night here, but that’s only outside.  The buildings are constructed in a way that they hold the heat, so the ambient temperature in your home might stay at 31 to 32 all night even with the windows open.  Complicating matters is the humidity, which averages about 75%.

Also, it rains quite often.  It seems to rain about once a week, if not more.  It’s supposed to be even worse during the rainy season, which is from November to December.  Though, from what I remember from this past year, it’s raining more now than it was then.

Sometimes it rains just a bit.  Sometimes it rains a lot.  What’s good about the rain in Singapore is that it usually rolls in quickly and is gone just as fast.  If it rains, it might rain for 30 minutes and then an hour after it stops the roads will be almost dry again.  There are times when the rain is more prolonged and may be off and on for a day or two, but not as often as the short showers.

I love the rain here for two reasons. First, it cools everything down. In the days leading up to a good storm it usually gets hotter and hotter, sometimes touching on 35. Then the clouds roll in and the rain helps to cool everything off. The second reason is simply personal. I love a good thunderstorm! The overcast days, the gray of the clouds, the rumble of the thunder and the flash of the lightning are calming and thrilling at the same time.