Sunday, April 3, 2016

Darwin Meets Gandhi

At the Manila Airport, with new insight into my generous humanitarian heart—it’s not quite as large as I’d like to think. Got out of the taxi some two hours before my flight and was greeted by a line on the sidewalk of about 400 people. Moving an inch every five minutes. Someone in a semi-official shirt swooped down and asked if I’d like to skip the line. “Really? You can do that?” “No problem.” “How much?” It’s up to you.”

In my perfect world, there’s no reason why I should have the privilege of skipping the line anymore then the next person in the line. But when it comes to survival, our humanitarian impulses take a back seat to our Darwinian nature. No way I could imagine making my flight, which would mean missing my next flight, which would mean endless stressful hours of trying to get back home with another flight waiting for me tomorrow morning. So without a second’s hesitation, I said, “Let’s go!”

He led me to a place where I went through a small security and entered the terminal. In fact, I think these long lines outside were due to this extra step of going through security just to enter the airport. From there, he showed me my line and I slipped him the equivalent of $20. Seemed more than he expected, but what did I care? And this line was long enough and slow enough—it was a full hour before I finally could check my bag. And here I began to curse United Airlines for demoting me from GOLD to SILVER status, as I could have skipped this long line with that privilege. But I stayed with the people and will be with them again cramped back in economy class for the 4-hour flight to Japan and another 9 to San Francisco.

It’s the end of a glorious three weeks in Asia. These four days in Manila were mostly indoors in the Conference Center with mostly American, Australian, Canadian, British teachers in the international schools. The mall walkway next to my hotel was filled with Old Navy San Francisco, Starbucks (of course), Chili’s, a few Filipino restaurants, the usual signs of American neo-colonialism and not even worth commenting on any more. I would like to note that the various Filipino service folks—hotel staff, restaurant people, security guards at the Conference and such—were uniformly friendly and affable. And it seemed to be sincere.

At dinner last night, talked with a colleague who had recently been to Bali and was describing the Barong/Rangda trance-dance she attended. So yes, traditional cultures in some places in Asia are alive and well, but not immediately obvious or visible visiting Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, Manila as I just have. Too much traffic, too much air-conditioning, too much Westernization for my taste (though after my blog “Banana Leaves and Ceiling Fans,” went to a restaurant in Bangkok with both! And the proof is in the photos below!):

So about to board the plane for some 15 hours of flights ahead, deeply grateful for all the opportunities to share my carefully-crafted vision of music, education and children with people open to hearing—and enjoying it by actually playing, singing and dancing. Now back to the nitty-gritty of school, family life, the complexities of actual working relationships after the fun of being the hotshot guest teacher and lecturer.


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