So we we have the right to live do we? Do we also have the right to die? Doesn't that sound just a little bit like a paradox to you?
See, I'm thinking that the human race is getting a bit greedy now. Oh wait. We knew that already from when Eve decided her rumbling tummy was getting a bit too much for her.
There are no prayers or religious services and even the camp fire songs have been vetted for covert references to a deity. (First article, both taken from The Times)
What I don't really understand is why one would go out of their way to omit religious words when 'religious' camps don't exactly ban children from learning star consellations. I get the whole we-don't-want-to-pray-to-something-we-don't-believe-in attitude, but does it really need to be called an 'Atheist' Camp?
If these camps began denouncing, let's say, Allah, what are the chances that the 'following' would consist of people wearing Fitness First bags? Ok, maybe I went too far, but you get my point (if you understand my reference that is). Geez.
Seeing as my aunt and cousins had never been on an airplane before, let alone left the Philippines, nearly everything was a new experience for them. One example included riding the Airport Express, where, upon seeing the numerous mountains of Lantau Island, my cousin screamed 'Amazing!' (in that cute 5-year-old voice of his) which in turn resulted in laughter from the other passengers. Another experience for them was using the Octopus Cards. These innovative pieces of plastic are supposed to be a step forward in making life easier, but instead appeared to be a step backwards. Or in our case, no steps were taken at all - the result of getting stuck at the barrier.
The first day was spent travelling (for what seemed an eternity) to our hotel, eating KFC (of all places to eat in Hong Kong), unpacking and having a siesta. It was not until the evening - when our time was spent relatively constructively - that we did anything remotely tourist-like. We went to the Avenue of Stars to watch The Symphony of Lights across Victoria Harbour, which was basically a spectacle of lights accompanied by music; an enjoyable sight and a great photo opportunity.
(Most of) The next day was spent at Ocean Park. Queues for rides were ridiculously long, and with two (very impatient and irritable) children with us, there was no time to stand around waiting in line. So we walked, and walked till we reached the top of the mountain where we were to ride a cable car to the lower parts of the park. Waiting in line - my mum being afraid of heights - I spotted her taking deep breaths in between reciting the chant 'Face my fear' sotto voce to herself. If only I knew beforehand that one could easily have taken a bus from the entrance to the lowland I would have saved her a hell of a lot of grief and a near heart attack.
I wish I could share the experience with you (we videoed the whole of the excruciating 9 min journey) but it takes what seems like a year just to upload a short video, so you'll just have to take my word for what happened.
From the start of the ride to the end, my mum's eyes were kept firmly closed whilst she recited various chants including the ABC, Otso Otso and counting from 1-42 where she started again from the beginning after feeling the car jolt as it made its steep descent to the lowland. During this time I had my finger permanently glued to the shutter button, my aunt was sat still, staring straight ahead as if she had just witnessed the end of the world and my brother was very considerate and sympathetic towards mum sporadically screaming at various points, telling her that it was a long way down and that we had stopped because the cable car was broken. Could you ask for a better son?
Upon disembarking, my cousins headed straight for the kiddie rides, whilst I went point-and-shoot crazy at the panda enclosure. I was happy, my cousins were happy, but my mum was dreading the return journey on the cable car.
Back in Kowloon (after spending 6 hours in Ocean Park) we went to Ladies' Market (Chinese version of Portobello) and engaged in some light shopping.
Our final day was supposed to include trips to see the world's largest outdoor Buddha and Disneyland. But due to the long journey to the former (along with adverse weather conditions) we were not able to make it to the latter. The one time I didn't bring my raincoat (or even an umbrella) with me, Buddha took it upon himself to graciously send down the rain, and my, was he generous. After a few muggy shots and a couple of hundred steps later, we reached the top. Some high-five shots, a quick descent and a brief tour around Po Lin Monastery, we went back to Ngong Ping Village.
We stopped to eat our early dinner and found ourselves frantically running around Kowloon picking up our bags from the hotel, getting on the MTR and the Airport Express, only to find at check-in that immigration may find it suspicious that three British passport holders were travelling to the Philippines and not back to London. And so my mum embarked on a trek from check-in A to J to get our tickets from Manila-London and vice versa printed out. As if she wasn't tired enough. It was, in one word, stressful (to say the least).
Did I mention that I was wearing a very fashionable coned-bamboo hat the whole time? I got my fair share of stares AND looked cool. What more could one ask for?
Although, I have to say, my cool head gear was trumped by my cousin's:
How could I compete with that?
My brother's definition of 'fun'
Can you feel the love?
'Tis bagyo again
Yes your mum wants you to come with us to pick her up.
Where is she?
She's at KTV (Karaoke TV) with her friends, and she wants you to see what it's like.
So we set off for Makati to pick up my mum. When we arrived my first thought was that we had stepped over the threshold into Sin City. Everywhere there were neon lights, so bright that I couldn't actually read what any of them were advertising. There were also a lot of really pretty young girls (not always a sign of sin, but in this case it was) with men old enough to be their grandads, most of them being foreigners. I suspect that this is the place that many tourists come to if they want to have a good time.
We didn't know where we were actually going and couldn't contact my mum as (wherever she was) she had no signal. After walking around for a bit we stumbled upon the (shady) entrance to KTV. We turned down the long basement corridor and found ourselves encountering another batch of beautiful young women dressed, I can only assume, as if their clothes had got caught in a shredder; not to mention the fact that they were sprawled all over one another.
Initial thought: Where the hell has my mum brought me?
We were directed to the private booth (don't jump to conclusions) where my mum and her friends were singing karaoke. I instantly noticed that many of them had been indulging in alcoholic beverages, some more so than others.
Long story cut short, we stayed for another two hours where I was subject to an interrogation by a tipsy (off-duty) police officer, at the receiving end of some really crude stuff, although I have to say that some of my mum's friends had good intentions announcing that a minor was present. We finally left but, to my disappointment, not to go home. Not only did we stop over at Starbucks but also to each of their houses to drop them off.
We finally got home at 4am. Man, was I tired.
A member of our extended family refused to return home this morning for one reason only - that being that there was no alcohol on the jeep. He had been drinking the whole day and tonight he was seen banging on the door of the house opposite to us.
Him being my gran's nephew, she took pity on him and called her other nephew (she has about 20) who's a member of the local 'police force' so that he could sleep off the alcohol in a prison cell, rather than out in the rain. If he was left to himself he probably would have either:
1. Hurt someone
2. Hurt himself, or
3. Get hurt by someone for shouting till the early hours of the morning
So she called for back up.
They arrived, 5 of them, with poles of wood (I assume to ensure that there would be 'no trouble') and tried to get him on his feet (he had been lying on the floor in the pouring rain outside our gate), but he refused to leave. After 15 mins or so of them trying to negotiate with him, of my gran asking what an onlooker was looking at and of her requesting that 'wag nila bogbogin' (translation - they don't beat him to a pulp), a police van (it actually looked more like a wagon) arrived and 10 other officers(?) helped get him into the vehicle.
We just hope that they keep their word...and that he will come to his senses and go back home in the morning once he's sobered up.
The priest who blessed the house was abit taken aback by how many children were present (I don't blame him). After blessing the house he stayed for a bit and we started talking. He thought my brother was my husband! After I (duly) corrected him, he still believed that I must be married. See, the strange thing is that in the Philippines I don't look 14 but 25. Who'd have thunk it?
All I have to say is 200 people (at least 50 being children), a house blessing, catering (including 3 large roasted pigs), 30+ people needing somewhere to stay = manic house turned hotel, a closed street and me becoming a temporary babysitter, maître d' and photographer for the day.
I'll get back to you once I have the energy to type another wor...
The tour ended at my godmother's summer getaway hut on her farm, and after a hearty dinner and an earful of Videoke I went to sleep.