A Change of Focus

A lot has happened since I last posted in March. On April 30, Saiff Solutions, Inc. closed our call center. After 9 months of operation, we were still not profitable. Many people succeed in the call center industry here in the Philippines. We did not.

However, our company is still operational, and we are now focused on our original work – technical writing. Dindin and I moved to a new house, which is quite a bit less expensive to rent but in many ways better than our old house. Dindin has been working full time at a call center in Manila. I’ve been back and forth quite a bit between Tagaytay and Manila.

It seems that Sydney, our female shi-tzu, is now of child-bearing age, and in heat. Yeesta, our male, is now singularly focused on becoming a father. I think that is the most dignified way I can describe his behavior. In fact, he is so focused on this one goal that he often does not eat, nor does he allow Sydney to do simple things such as stand up, drink water, eat, or walk around. When we lock one of them in the cage to give Sydney a rest, Yeesta, instead of eating or drinking, stares at her and pants heavily. It’s all very cute, and should thankfully be over soon. We’d be very happy if Sydney got pregnant, and I guess we should trust nature’s way, but it seems now equally likely that they will both get injured and no puppies will result. Yeesta seems to be trying to make up for a lack of technique with enthusiasm. By technique I mean an understanding of which end of Sydney is which.

Yeesta is not the only one with a new focus. I am focused on having sales conversations with potential customers for our technical writing services. Moving is of course, quite disruptive. For example, three weeks after our move we finally have Internet at home. We had wonderful help. Dindin’s mother and aunt spent 2 weeks packing and unpacking, and then his father spent the better part of a week doing various carpentry projects. In our commercial office, he transformed our 16 caller cubes into 8 tech writer cubes, now painted in two-tone blue, just like our logo. In our home office, he built two beautiful desks.

Regarding everyone’s favorite topic here in the Philippines – traffic – I’ve noticed two promising developments. One is that traffic is getting a lot more attention in the news, and there seem to be more plans and projects to improve it. Of course, this has surrounded an epidemic of blaming the poorest. Everyone has been noticing that even the slightest rainstorm causes flooding in Manila, tying up traffic. Government officials and many in the media have blamed the squatters who live near the small and large waterways in the capital, who allegedly live too close to those waterways and also dump their trash and waste into said waterways, clogging them and causing flooding. It is a complex situation and the squatters, not all of whom are poor, are partly to blame for the situation. But I suspect that industrial waste dumping is a far bigger problem, and is getting almost no attention. However, there are now significant government efforts underway to both improve water flow and unclog waterways, and relocate squatters (not a simple matter). While these problems are difficult and unfortunate, I am pleased to see the increased attention and action.

The other promising development, seemingly at odds with the first one, is perhaps illusory. I have been driving to and from Manila 1-2 times per week for the last 2 months. I have experienced less traffic in the last 2 months than in the previous 3 years. Much less. In part it may be due to school being out in the summer. Summer here is approximately March-May, and in the past I tended to either avoid the Philippines or avoid Manila during those months. However, summer has been over for a month or so, and school has been in session. Maybe some of the traffic improvements have actually already had a positive impact. Seems unlikely, but it may be so.

I am travelling in about 9 days to the USA, for 3 weeks. In addition to business meetings, seeing friends and family, and putting my San Francisco condo on the market, I will be attending 2 special events: my 35th high school reunion, and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Saiff Drugs, my father’s pharmacy in New Jersey. A few months shy of 50 years ago I celebrated my 3rd birthday in the drug store (or so I’m told, I actually don’t remember the occasion). Congratulations to my father, Ivan Saiff, my mother, Barbara Saiff, and the entire Saiff Drugs team!

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