Travel Adventure: Manila, Philippines

September 17-23

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Day 1 - Layover in Tokyo:  Embarrassed to say, but one the things I was looking forward to most on this trip were my layovers in Japan. My mom was an exchange student to Japan in high school and I've grown up fascinated by the country.  One of my dreams is to travel around Japan, playing golf, eating sushi, visiting historical sites, and sip on Japanese whiskey.  While in the airport I was able to find a sushi bar where I was able to scratch a little bit of that Japan-travel itch--though I was left only wanting more. 

Day 2 - Finding my feet in Manila:  We were greeted in Manila by tropical storm Fung-Wong. The rain was coming down in bucks and didn't let up for two days.  I made the mistake of ignoring any weather forecasts, assuming it'd be muggy, but nothing I couldn't handle with my regular wardrobe. One of my first purchases was an umbrella.

In the morning I met with the other members of my team, Patrick Green and Monica Martinez, in the hotel lobby and we traveled around the city gathering all the last minute supplies we needed for the summit. We met up with Jim Sill for lunch, he was there leading the pre-summit workshop on video making.  I always enjoy getting to spend time with "Silly," and hearing about his latest adventures. 

Day 3-4 - Philippines Google Summit:  I found myself awake at 4 AM.  Rather than try to get a few more hours of sleep, I decided to go ahead and get up and start tinkering on my keynote and sessions for the day.  We headed over to the school around 6:30 to finish setting up for the event.  I loved seeing the excitement on the teachers faces when they arrived for a PD.  It's not that often that you see teachers excited about work on the weekends.  

Keynote Feedback

Keynote Feedback

My keynote went OK, definitely not by best. I found myself making some changes to it immediately afterwards.  Though I really like telling my story, I think there needs to be more calls to action, and more relating to the audience on their level.  It's interesting presenting a similar talk at different places around the world. Each group reacts to the antidotes and jokes differently.  

Patrick's keynote on "The Relevant Teacher" on the second day was great.  The talk was very polished, and he kept returning to key phrases that made it easier for the audience to stay with him as he moved from story to story.  I took more notes in his keynote than I have in any of the previous Google Apps summit sessions. My favorite moment was when he talked about the power teachers have to take almost any resource and use it in the classroom. His example of this was a video and asked the teachers how would they use then in their class--the creativity started pouring out!  

Overall, the teachers who came to the summit were great!  They were active in the sessions, engaged with the messages, and eager to take their learnings back to the classroom.  

My one big failure, however, was my session on Google Drive. I tried to teach a group of teachers how to get started using Google Drive.  I went into the session thinking this was a no-brainer. I was underprepared, the activities were not engaging, and I even found myself confused by my explanations. Apologies to any teachers that had to suffer through that with me.  

Day 5 - Time for an adventure! Any time I get to travel to a new place I try to squeeze in a little time to explore the surroundings. We were staying in one of the business districts and it felt like any other city (Starbucks, gastropubs, and retail shops). Getting out of the city and really see the Philippines was a must. 

After waking up early to watch the Seahawks squeak out a victory over the Denver Broncos I met up with Monica in the lobby where our tour guide would pick us up.  

We traveled 100 km South towards the Taal volcano.  Along the way the driver stopped at a pineapple field and a local shop where they sold Kopi Luwak, or Civet Cat, coffee. The coffee is made by collecting the droppings of the Civet cat, who feed off the coffee fruit. The coffee is then cleaned and roasted. Because all the coffee I tasted in the Philippines was different from what I was used it, I'm not able to saw how it's different.  I read when I got home that the practice is now frowned upon by PeTA because of the conditions the wild cats are kept it. Needless to say, that will be first and last time I try that.  

Even though we don’t have electricity, we still have the facebook!
— Taal Volcano Tour Guide

We arrived at the shore of lake Lawa ng Taal and were taken by boat over to the mountain. We docked at a village where the  people choose to live on the land illegally. According to our guide, living on the mainland is too expensive and it is difficult to find work. There is no electricity and the people survive by selling refreshments, dust masks, and horse rides for tourists unwilling to hike the four kilometers to the summit.  Our tour guide was proud to share that even though he doesn't have electricity, he still has a Facebook account. They travel to the town and charge their phones and batteries and use a simple wireless data plan to access the web.  If you doubted the importance of social media and the web before, you should rethink your position. 

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While hiking the mountain we used the excuse of wanting to take a picture as an opportunity to catch our breath and grab a drink of water.  Along the trail we came across volcanic heat vents where sulfur steam leaks out of the mountain.  At the top we found another group of locals selling water, cigarets, photos, and the chance to hit a golfball into the crater below. We passed on all four. I would have taken them up on the opportunity to hit a golf ball, but I was deterred by the idea of polluting a national park.  The view of the rim of the crater was incredible! Below you could see you could see ares where water boiled because of the vents below.  

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo

We enjoyed the view for 45 minutes, then it was time to head back.  After the boat ride back across the lake we had a local lunch waiting for us.  We were served grilled tilapia freshly harvested from one of the lake's fish farms and chicken adobo, one of the countries renowned dishes.  Other than a sunburn and some dirty boat shoes (I forgot my sneakers), it was a great day! 

Day 6 - 26 hours back to SFO:  My flight from Manila to Tokyo was cancelled so Delta had to get creative to get me back to SFO.  For my first leg I flew from Manila to Nagoya, Japan--located in the center of the country. I had a delicious bowl of ramen, picked up a few souvenirs, and boarded my flight to...Detroit! For some reason, the fastest from Tokyo to San Francisco was through Detroit.  Because I'm a fan of airline miles I was okay with the plans. As I sit writing this I'm somewhere over Nevada with only a little while longer before I'm back home. If you include the layover it'll be 26 hours of travel since taking off from Manila. I look forward to being back and getting to spend a few days with Elizabeth before I have to head out again. 

In all, a great first adventure to Asia and I can't wait to get back!  

Next trip: Maui!