Decided that today would involve absolutely no strenuous exercise. A day to relax. Unfortuantely, I relaxed too much, falling asleep on the sand and waking up with near second-degree burns all over my body. Agony. I knew as soon as I woke up from a troubled, sunny sleep, that I was in trouble. That familar tight feeling of barbequed skin. You know later will be agony, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I pulled a T-shirt on 3 hours too late and ordered a delicious Yam ice-cream from the beach ice-cream man. It was a sweet purple ice-cream. Absolutely delicious. A massage woman came past. Looking at my knarled, minging feet, I realised I was in desperate need of a foot scrub. She told me she could give me one for P300. I lay on my front, and she went to work, stopping to gaze in horror at the ugly skin growth on the side of my big toe that all the Chinese divers were looking at with similar horror yesterday. It took some filing down, I can tell you. She needed a hammer and chisel to reveal the normal skin deep beneath, never mind a file. After she had finished I looked at my toe. Wow! I could see my toe again. It looked quite normal too. I was very pleased. “Now you need pedicure.” Said the lady. “No, it’s OK” I replied doubtfully. “NO. I need to give. Altogether P400.” The old lady clearly saw my ugly cracked and splintered toenails as a personal mission. She’d have probably done them for free. “OK…P400” I agreed. She went to work, leaving me at the end with the most beautiful feet I’d ever owned. Eager to show them off, I walked bare-footed and confidently down the white sandy beach, skirting sunbathers, palm trees and fat Americans playing frisbee. This was great!
I forgot about lunch. Went back to my room in the early evening and peeled off my clothes. My skin was bright red. I resembled a freshly-caught lobster, my skin gleaming with the promise of immense pain to follow. I showered and slapped on as much Nivea Moisturising Lotion as I could, finishing the bottle. I remember a time in Japan when I got severly sunburned. It seemed OK until the next morning. I was so hot, in so much pain, my skin so tight, that I had to have steriod cream and pop several pills a day. Mutsumi used to run me 5 cold baths a day and watch as I walked slowly, bent like an old man lest my skin crack, and eased myself into the bath. The water used to turn hot after a few minutes. It was agony. It was probably at this point Mutsumi realised dating an Englishman was a mistake. As the days went by I began peeling. My forehead was dark brown and creased like an old apple. It began peeling once as I was teaching my high-school students, revealing the fresh, baby-pink skin underneath. Mutsumi and her friend, Boring Nao, began to organise skin-picking parties in my honour at Mutsumi’s place. They would sit around me, clucking away in Japanese drinking green tea, each with a bowl in front of them where they would place my flakey skin. Sometimes they could tear away omelette-sized sheets. It wa embarassing. Back then I vowed to be more careful in the sun. Clearly I didn’t take my own advice seriously.
Coated in moisturising cream, I pulled on my favourite pair of old jeans (bought from Koh Samui in 2004 – the kind that you could live in everyday) a black shirt, and headed out for dinner. I dined at a beachside seafood place. I ordered a salad, and spicy prawns on garlic rice, washed down with a couple of glasses of Chardonney. Delicious. Feeling a little delicate, I decided to return to my room for a couple of hours before venturing out for a few drinks. A minute after I got back and had taken off my shirt and jeans and donned a pair of shorts, there was a knock on the door. One of the ladies working in Pyramid Bar was at the door, with her younger sister. They were holding a bag containing five duck eggs. I knew at once what had happened. The night before, I’d been asking around to see if Filipinos ate anything that would be considered strange by Western standards. I told them my stories: eating cockroaches, locusts, and crickets in Bangkok, whale meat, raw liver, intestines and cows tongue in Osaka, snake meat and snake blood in Jakarta, dog meat in Manado and Bunaken Island. I wanted to try a Filipino delicacy. “Ahhh, you should eat ‘balut'” The ladies said. “You can buy it here on the streets.” Balut is a boiled duck egg containing a feathered embryo, complete with beak. Just before hatching, these eggs are gathered and boiled. Now it was my turn to eat one.
I invited the girls inside and we all sat on my bed and cracked open an egg each. Peeling back the shell, I was confronted by a veiny sack. Pulling it apart I could make out a feathered embyro. I could see its head. Its eyes. One of the girls brazenly put a little chilli sauce and some salt on the top of the veiny sack, drank a little of the bloody contents around the embryo, then bit into it, chewing it down without a care in the world. I didn’t feel at all well. Just looking at the veins and the feathers made me want to throw up. You can’t eat it all in one go, either. It’s too big. I tried to think of something delicious, tried not to focus on what I would be eating. I bit down into the embryo with a sickening crunch of barely formed bones, and chewed. I could taste meat, like the black meat of a chicken. I could also taste veins, and feel feathers. I swallowed eventually, resisting the urge to throw up, and looked into my half-eaten embryo. Now I could make out little intestines and a tiny brain. This was more than I could stomach, but I was under pressure from the two girls, so I reluctantly peeled the rest of the eggshell off and finished the treat. It wasn’t delicious. I’ve had better desserts. I couldn’t stomach another one, and so watched in awe as the girls finished egg after egg. Then they left, happy, skipping into the night. I drowned myself in moisturising cream once more, and lay down painfully in my bed, trying not to think too much about what I’d just done.
Around 11:30pm I woke. I got dressed and headed down my path to Oops Bar. It was buzzing, full of locals, with a smattering of holidaymakers and a few seasoned sexpats. One of them in particular caused me much distress, just by looking at him, He was a huge bloke, squatting on a tiny barstool, with a huge, ugly face, swept-back hair and a pony-tale, covered in tatoos. I coudn’t tell whether he was American or German. Either way, he was a loathsome creature. His mean eyes were darting around over the bar, and his physique and manner could be compared to that of Jabba the Hut, surrounded by little Princess Leias. What was quite amusing was when the slug attempted to talk to a couple of attractive blonde German girls as they ordered drinks. They handled the unwanted attention well, before making their excuses. What was he thinking? He was way, way out of his league. Better stick to poor little Filipina village girls, I thought. Then a dark thought chilled me. Someone will be going back with him tonight. Some poor girl will have to sleep with him, to look at that huge, ugly face. Then I finished by beer and had a dance to lighten my mood.
I met some interesting people that night. Shared a few ‘dive ‘ stories. Talked to far too many Germans for my liking. The party ran later than the previous night. I again found myself propping up the bar at the end. It was nearly 4am. Time to go home and slap on the cream before drifting into a painful sleep. Silly Brit-abroad.