What do you see?

In this city there are shiny, polished, air conditioned grocery stores with polished floors and coolers of meat and fresh fish on ice and refrigerated shelves of soft drinks and milk and eggs in cartons and fruits and vegetables wrapped in shrink wrap plastic and shelves full of processed, boxed, and canned goods. You might not recognize all of them, and you might not find some of your favourite things, but they are as modern and first world as anything you might see in other first world countries.

In this city, you will see 7-11 stores, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and also Chow King and Mandarin Tea Garden and the Nenay Bebing buffet.

In this city you will see high rises and gated communities with swimming pools and you will see shacks made from woven palm frond walls essentially leaning against each other, propped up in any open space the squatters who live in them can find.

In this city you can also see the palingke- the open market where you can buy rice from giant piles open to the air, fruits and vegetables, clothes, raw meat, fresh fish, and you will have to shoo the flies away. There are rows and rows of clothing… I don’t don’t know what to call them- stalls? inside there will be cots because some of the people sleep in their stalls. You can see just part of one of the fruit stalls in the background below.  On the road you can find motorcycles and taxis and jeepneys and modern four wheel drive jeeps and vans and produce trucks and the trikes (motorcycles with a contraption built around them for holding passengers), and carts like the one below, all sharing the same space and moving along the same roads, jockeying for position.

Last week on the way to church I spotted the man in the photo below at a corner. We passed him, and then got caught in the snarl of traffic and he passed us- he has just as much right to the road there as the cars do.  I was glad to be stuck in the traffic as it gave me the chance to snap this picture- only barely- I tried to take two in a row and he was moving at such a clip in the second shot he was already halfway out of the frame.

What do you see?


Poverty.  Hard work.  Can do spirit. Ingenuity. Hardship. Recycling. Economics in action.  Strength. Endurance.

I don’t know which of these is the most accurate. I don’t know what else I’m missing.  I don’t know this man’s story.  I’m curious. I would love to know more.  I would love to sit down and hear him tell about his life, his hopes, his goals, his experiences.  But I don’t know anything else about him beyond what you see here- he is  a man I passed and photographed from the window of my cab, a stranger.

Actually, he’s a fellow soul, an image-bearer of the Creator, and I am the stranger,  a temporary visitor to his country, a nosy American impudently snapping a picture of him from my cab.  What does he see as we drive by, I wonder.

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One Comment

  1. Kristina m tyree
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Love this. You always see beyond that which is seen. I do this as well quietly observing things around me , when I have time to slow down in this frantic hectic world. Most just go about their own business, concerned with their own stuff and take no notice of anyone who may be “shudder” different Thanks for your observations. It seems so interesting and exciting there. God bless you and keep you safe while you are away.

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