A few days ago, I wrote about feeling a bit disconnected from the reality of this whole coronavirus situation. Relaxing on a tropical beach for weeks on end – while the rest of the world spasms in pain – could understandably trigger some kind of existential crisis. But a trip to the local Philippine tire repair shop has helped clear my head.
It’s truly been months since I’ve experienced our ‘normal’ early retirement; lazy days of often mundane activity in various foreign countries. And in our years of ‘slow travel’, it’s often been the simple adventures and interactions that I most enjoy.
Sure, touring popular attractions is fun and essential. But it’s while shopping for groceries, walking a local beach or park or cemetery, or sitting in a cafe or church that one really gets the flavor of a place and people. Of course, we do those things when living a month or more in a given locale.
Explorations give hope
The coronavirus quarantines of the last two months made such activities impossible here in Malay, Aklan on Panay Island. The few necessary trips to market during that time were orchestrated and supervised and hardly felt natural.
But with quarantine now lifted, we are finally again able to experience a new place – and I am thrilled about that. Granted, things are different. Face masks are required, social distancing practiced, caution is palpable. Still, my front bicycle tire was flat.
I got the old, rusty, Chinese, folding bike road-worthy a week ago – as quarantine wound down. All seemed well until the slow leak became obvious. Fortunately, flat tires – and tire repairs – are common in this ‘motor scooter culture’.
I had noticed some moto repair shops on my trips into town during the quarantine. The nearest was probably a half mile away. I took off the front flat tire and started walking.
Waves, smiles, tire repair
Unlike the weeks of quarantine, the main road is now alive with activity. Lots of motor bikes and ‘tricycle taxis’, homeowners are on porches, in yards and drives and fields, small carry-out stores are numerous. In the first ten minutes I probably said hello to a dozen different people as I passed, and many children and waves. I’m certainly the only ‘tourist’ they have seen in weeks.
When I got to the first possible repair place – not reopened yet. I walked on; more double-takes and waves and smiles behind masks. Shortly, I arrived at Zaldy’s motor shop. A handful of scooters sitting in front, repairs being made, the concrete stained black from years of oil drips.
It was obviously a father/son operation. Dad promptly took the bike wheel I was carrying. I sat on a tiny stool and watched several chickens run around the scattered tools as he expertly removed the inner tube, submerged it in water to find the bubbling leak, and repaired it with the ‘vulcanizing’ (melting) machine.
Within minutes the tire was back on and inflated and tested — good as new. Total bill: 50 Pesos ($1). I gave him 100 and a big thank you which he returned with a smile. I made his day.
The little carry-out store next door had no ice cream in the cooler. “No delivery,” said the clerk. I started my walk back towards our home. After passing a few more small stores, I spotted one with a prominent refrigerator. At the window I procured a bottle of Red Horse beer – the first convenience store beer I’ve been able to buy in months. Ahhhhhh!
I sat on a stoop outside the store while the lady shopkeeper bemusedly eyed me. A couple other customers gawked at the masked gringo with beer bottle too. And I had a few celebratory words about quarantine ending with a young guy buying a bottle of rum before I headed off on foot again with my wheel.
After a few more ‘hellos’ and waves I made it back to our small resort complex. As I approached, it struck me how much I had missed what I’d just experienced in that last hour. Next, I look forward to riding the bike and more waves and stares as I explore and enjoy more of this area.
As always, be thankful & generous, happy trails, & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Slow travel explorations give hope.”
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