Of service

Our fancy hotel has a butler service. He first showed up virtually on my TV screen – only his body, above the knees and below the neck – wonder why he is headless. Maybe this allows us to fantasize that he is our favorite guy?butler

The butler also is behind button #1 on my phone and shows up, this time a woman, to check my room, bring my room service and what not. I wonder whether all live butlers are women. Serving is an art that the Filipinos have mastered well, male and female alike: my masseuse in Kabul and those in many other places of the world hail from here; my colleague’s mom is a nurse, one of the Philippines major exports; even the brother of our taxi driver who lives in LA is, he told us, “taking care of someone over there.”

Yesterday we arrived too late at our new hotel, after completing our third trip across town, to eat a meal at any of the hotel restaurants. Too pooped to explore the neighborhood eateries I ordered the only appealing item on the room service menu, beer-batter fish sticks and a local beer. After that I took a seas salt bath and watched TV right from the tub.

Breakfast on the 21st floor was arranged for all time zones and for people from other countries who only eat their own food. As a result it looked like breakfast, lunch and dinner were all served at the same time. I sampled pieces of Chinese, Arab, Japanese, and French breakfasts and left the restaurant too full for comfort. Buffets require such discipline.

The luxuries that surround us contrast starkly with the street kids that hang around McDonalds down the street and an enormous mall that is obscenely opulent with more food than whole villages could consume in a week or maybe even a month. The kids are barefoot and smoke what appear to be cigarettes. When a loud honking Jollybee (a McDonald wannabee chain) parade came by the children clapped. But none of the Jollybee people whose heads were hidden underneath giant plastic hamburgers and chicken patties, handed them anything edible.

The mall is big (though not the biggest one in Asia which I am told is nearby) and rather intense if you don’t like loud blaring music, cellphone company frenzies or frantic food courts. We were looking for a printing place, like Copycat or Kinkos but all we could find was a sketchy internet café – it looked liked a great source for viruses.

Lunch and dinner were Japanese – I am in seventh heaven as Japanese is my favorite cuisine. We are clearly in the biosphere of Japan with restaurants serving all my favorite foods both inside and outside the hotel, in the mall, take out, eat in and for breakfast.

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