Friday, October 25, 2013

A trick in the book that worked

I was talking to my new friend Becky, my room mate in my hostel in Tulum about how great it is here in Mexico.  I cannot describe the feeling I have when I am here.  I remember arriving in Cancun from Austin and I was just smiling at the fact that I am in Mexico; 2 weeks in and it still makes me smile for no reason at all.

We've all heard of tourist scams from everywhere and I have always been vigilant about this.  I have friend who has been scammed before and I guess you could say I know one when I see one.  So today in Merida, I have been here for exactly 5 hours now and I just got scammed.  I am happy to report though, that I have survived to tell the tale.

I arrived and was mesmerized by Yucatan.  The city of Merida was alot prettier than what I expected it to be.  It is colorful and it's like a movie set.  It is how I imagined a Mexican town would look like, low Spanish colonial style buildings, churches, and parks.

I took a walk and stood at a corner taking photos, looking very much like a tourist, and was just taking Merida in when a man came to me (when the story starts with "when a man came to me..." it's kind of a sign the story isn't gonna be good) and gave me a brochure of the schedule of events for the Mayan Festival.

I knew in me that I had to be careful but I also gave goodness of nature a chance and so I started talking to the guy who gave me so much information.  He was being really nice to me and I thought to myself, he's a bit too nice but take advantage of whatever info he could give me.  So I asked him if he wanted to have coffee so he can give me advice on how I should go about my travel from Yucatan to Chiapas.  We were sitting in the restaurant and he was writing down tips and giving me recommendations of things to do and where to go.

I was suspicious of the guy so I tried and took a photo of him with my camera just to see how he would react.  I thought, if he reacted negatively towards me taking a photo of him then he probably is up to no good.  He even thanked me and asked me to tag him on facebook and asked me to add him on FB! Hey we even took a photo together!

He also started talking about Dengue fever which I am not a stranger to.  He told me that there is a strain of dengue in Mexico right now that is really bad that there's this natural fiber that helps ward off the mosquitoes.   I thought, this would make sense since Citronella is a plant and it could possibly be a similar kind of plant that would shoo away mosquitoes.  He said I should get a shawl and a hammock of a material called Sishal.  He admitted that it is a little bit expensive but I have to think that it was a small amount of money instead of getting sick.  I guess this is the trick in the book that actually worked on me, since I was a sick-y kid.  I have had dengue 3x in my life and I guess I didn't wanna be sick in Mexico without my family and gullibe-y agreed to go to the store and buy those 2 things.

Long story short, it was a 20 minute sales talk about hammocks and shawls and Sishal fabric and they wanted to get MXP 1400 out of the 2 things.  I said this is too much and finally got them down to MXP 1000.  I thought to myself, if these fibers would keep me from getting dengue, I thought, hey, PHP3300 isn't too much money.  So after the purchase, I really didn't feel that bad but I kept thinking about it as I walked to the bus station to get my tickets for tomorrow.

Luckily, there is a tourist information booth over there and I was just asking about the routes of the bus and stuff like that and while carrying the heavy hammock, I asked if she's heard of Sishal fabric.  She told me that there is no such thing as Sishal fabric and when she saw my hammock she said it was just ordinary cotton.  My mind just went blank for 2 seconds and I said, I want to return this, what should I do?

She asked me to go to the Municipio de Gobierno and go to the Tourist Information Office and they will ask a tourist police to come with me to the place and TRY to get my money back.  It took about 15 minutes of waiting until the police came and we started walking to the place again.  The people who worked at the store was definitely a bit surprised that I came back with a police.  I think there was a little bit of an effort to deny that I actually bought my stuff there because they asked me for a receipt (which I stupidly did not ask for; I just wanted to get the purchase done with).  I said, I do not want trouble, I just want my money back; then I remembered that I gave them a signed 20 Philippine Peso for their collection on their glass cases and showed it to the police.  At that time, one of the staff or owner just took 1000 peso out of the box and gave it back to me.  Whew!

If am really lucky that I got my money back with no trouble at all plus the Yucatan Tourist Office were really helpful. I would probably have gone back to the place and nicely ask them back for a refund and make up some lame story that I lost my money blah blah I am so glad that I didn't have to do this; I guess what they did to me was technically not illegal.  They did give me products and didn't just take my money.  I would have probably let it go if it were really a real fabric that'd protect me from mosquitoes, but I guess oh well.  Lesson learned!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Standard Self Introduction

I did not have any luck requesting for couches in Chicago; it was a blessing in disguise because I got to book a really really nice hostel in Wicker Park.  When you stay in hostels or i guess meeting new people when traveling in general, its an inevitable fact that you will be introducing yourself over and over again.

I get a knack when people try to guess where I am from.  When people hear me talk, they couldn't quite figure out where I'm from.  I've been told a few times that I sound like I'm from Latin America, twice as Californian; and was onced stopped to be interviewed at the grocery store and asked if i were Hawaiian.

People can tell I am Chinese.  My looks sometimes work against me because people just assume I don't speak English and don't bother starting a conversation with me.  But when they do talk to me, I tell them "I am Chinese born and raised in the Philippines!"

There are a lot of perks being a Filipino-Chinese.  On our Chinese side, we tend to do well in business and learned how to speak Chinese.  Then on our Filipino side, we grew up with the Filipino culture which taught us how to be hospitable, how to have fun, overall Filipino niceness and kindness, but most of all, learning how to speak fluent English.  Although sometimes it is tough because we are always never Chinese enough nor Filipino enough.

On the other hand, you speak to a person who has never met a Filipino (which is odd, everyone would at least know 1 Filipino, we're everywhere! haha) or does not know anything about the Philippines, they are surprised that we speak good English; then I'd say "English is an official language together with Filipino.  Our news, newspaper, radio, school, textbooks are all in English, even movies don't have subtitles."

So they then ask me how many languages I speak so I explain 5, I learn 4 languages at the same time when I was younger then learned Korean when I was an exchange student in the University.

If the person I talk to is even more interested, here comes my geeky tour guide side and start talking about the history of the Philippines! haha  I really enjoy it! "333 years under the Spanish, 2 years under the British in between, the Americans came shortly after we won our independence from Spain, then Japanese came in for 3 years, then Americans came back which in total spent 48 years in our country.  Or in short, 300 years in the convent and 50 years in hollywood!  I could go on and on and on...

This is also where I explain that the Filipino language has 20,000 borrowed words and they would be so surprised when I tell them that we tell time of day, days of the week, month of the year and so many daily nouns  in Spanish!  Even our greeting is derrived from Spanish!

It's really cool that I get to introduce myself, my heritage, and my country (This is especially effective for me to personally promote the Philippine tourism which I am passionate about) over and over again.  I haven't grown tired of it yet!  I actually enjoy it.  It makes me realize how proud I am to be both Chinese and Filipino.