Close to perfect hellos

Flustered? Could be.

I'm writing this one from Cebu. I convinced myself that I had to write this entry.

There's a Starbucks right across my hotel. I may be finished with the seventeen stickers, but the family thought we'd all have a sip before going back up to the hotel. I was the one who had to order all five drinks and three desserts. I was amused.

Now, I perfectly understand that the folks here in Cebu speak pretty good English. Either that, or Cebuano - this province, after all, has resisted Filipino because it doesn't represent them at all, if I remember the drift right. You speak to them in the national language and they're most likely to answer in English.

The barista I was talking to, well, spoke perfect English - too perfect English, in fact. The shops across our hotel also served as home to a handful of call centers - accent training, morning nightlife and all - and I can't help but wonder if the barista serving me last night trained with those above her at one point. "One toowl dahk cherry mow-cha frahp," she'd go to the other barista, who had the misfortune of working the espresso machine in a surprisingly frantic Sunday night.

The other barista also spoke the very same way. "Your lah-tey's on the way," she told me, as I took my waffle and my sister's cake slice back to our table.

So, of course, I had to give my order in straight, conference call-style English. When I still had stickers to fill, I only said "isang tall dark cherry mocha frap," or something along those lines. And "salamat" too. Here, it had to be a long, slightly cheesy "thaaanks!"

"Here's your wah-drrr, Nick," the other barista said, taking the liberty of shortening down my nickname, perhaps because I ordered a bit too much - five drinks, three desserts, trouble - and because they almost called me Miko.

"Thaaanks!" I went, getting two glasses of water to bring the caffeine down.

Just as that happened, someone else came to the counter, asking for the same thing. "Woterrr plis."

Perhaps thankfully, the third spoke a bit more normally, as she chuckled and virtually gave me consent to take that photograph. And the security guard - who almost always has to moonlight as a guy who cleans up the tables - spoke in Cebuano, too.

I didn't know what to get amazed at. There's the disparity, the way Cebu seems totally different from the rest of the Philippines, or at least the places I've been in - middle of Luzon, tip of the country, Maguindanao - and even the radio stations, with reggae programming on weekends and, in some cases, programming that I'd die to do in Manila.

And there's the fact that the baristas got the drinks right, but the stickers wrong. I ordered a dark cherry mocha frap. My mom should get one sticker on the left side of the booklet. She instead got five on the right. Welcome to the most frazzled Starbucks branch I've ever seen.

And your responses...

are you obsessed with starbucks? Ive had a starbucks habit since I was 10. Every kid that was raised in Manhattan does. I don't think I've had three drinks in one sitting but I'm guilty of having two drinks in any given day. Sometimes its a ten dollar a day habit.

Anonymous Anonymous12/28/2009     

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