Friday, September 5, 2008


Stepping off the plane into the sweaty heat of Manila many doors were suddenly opened to both Austin and me. I mean this in the most literal sense. In public as well as private places in Manila we can hardly open a door, throw away a banana peal, or pour a drink without several astonished Filipino looks wondering why on earth we find it so difficult to accept their polite assistance in everyday tasks. I’ve mentioned this phenomenon of magical opening doors for two reasons: First, and most important of all, I am most grateful for the generosity of our Filipino friends who are sharing their home and family with us. We’ve had two jam-packed days of loud family dinners, birthday parties and visits from relatives as evidenced by the awkward family pictures our host mom insists on including her two, 6 ft and pale white sons in. Second, outside the wonderful hospitality Austin and I have been coping with an uncomfortable dilemma in our attempts to explore an “authentic” neighborhood in metro Manila: it’s hard to find a way to safely and respectfully enter the slum areas of Manila to meet with some of the people affected by the organizations we have visited. For example, after we had a meeting with Gawad Kalinga Austin and I were troubled by the consequences of just walking into one of their project areas. Can we ignore our host family who does not feel comfortable letting us into those unsafe areas? Should we change into shoes and pants? How do we avoid being embarrassed if we are dropped off in a nice car in front of peoples homes just like a tourist attraction? After only several days in the Philippines it has become increasingly clear that downgrading our car, changing our clothes and assuring our host family of our safety will not be enough for us to simply walk into regular neighborhoods in Manila. We showed up on an international flight at the airport to visit the Philippines for vacation, that was indication enough to expect open doors at the malls and closed doors in the slums. Luckily we’ve meet some friends who have offered to show us their great work in communities all over metro Manila very soon!


Krystal Maria Wu said...

I love this idea: of doors being both opened and closed to you, literally and metaphorically. I am sure this will be a theme throughout your travels...I doubt it will get any easier, but maybe you and Austin will find ways to figure out how to go about your journeys in the most tactful possible, something that is difficult when you look, smell, and talk absolutely DIFFERENTLY from everyone else. You already sound like you're learning and growing...can't wait for more updates. (P.S. Yes, I am at work.) :)

LuAnn Wu said...

Hi Sam & Austin

I really liked your blog and comments about gratefulness. May God continue to bless you with health, safety, and many wonderful experiences!

Anonymous said...

GOOD LUCK! I hope you are filling up that passport :) I'm in singapore, so close yet so far! Let me know if you need anything! Love-Casey

lo said...

Austin and Sam, keep updating!! Also, who is this host family and how did you find them? Have you made it into the slums successfully yet?

Sam Baker said...


We'll post an update ASAP. We just go our our first internet in a while. YES we have made it into the slums. Tons of stories to tell!!!!

kozawa said...

Hey Sam and Austin,

Great photos fellas! It sounds like you guys are off to a great start to your adventure. Stay safe and have fun!


Lauren said...

Austin and Sam,

Boy am I envious of your travels, what an incredible way to experience the world in which we continue to mold for ourselves. If there is anything I have gained so far from teaching, it is that too often we underestimate the power of one small gesture in a world that is so much smaller than we think. My classroom is very diverse, no students from the places you are visiting but I truly look forward to hearing about your travels and sharing them with my students. Travel safely and know there are a lot of people thinking about you and what you are doing.

Cheers :)

jymdrn said...

hey. :) great to have met you. :) I'll link you up in my blog!

DR said...

Dude. who is the girl?? haha. jk sounds amazing mate. keep up the travels!

Mother said...

Hey guys, sounds like your adventure is really shaping up. It was great to talk to you today Austin. Can you believe how well your cell phone works in Bombay! We got your box this week, I put it in your room. I shipped your things to Meghan today (9/20).

post some updates to the blog with photos from India, especially want to see you at the Taj!