Saturday, March 04, 2006

The merry men of Sherwood Forest come to Manila....

London taxi drivers are known the world over for being particularly vocal..whether it be on the subject of weather, politics or the latest soaps...The average London cabby can hold forth on almost any subject for as long as it takes to get to your destination.

Living overseas and being a terrible linguist I find that my taxi conversations are limited to those who speak good English...Hong Kong taxi rides are thus normally silent affairs...in Jordan the level of English is slightly better and so basic conversations could be held...i.e. where are you from, how long have you been here, do you speak Arabic...the usual things...sometimes I was caught off guard, including the time that the taxi driver decided he wanted to discuss the story of Dick Whittington and how much of the story was true and how much was fairy tale!

In Manila the level of English is such that every taxi driver is able and willing to talk...so far I have discussed Philippine politics (who doesn't here!), the wealth of the Marcos family, various people's lives who have spent time abroad - normally in the Middle East, The Da Vinci code and how the movie will be received here...and many, many other really varied subjects!

This morning, however, I was caught slightly off guard. British history is something that I feel fairly passionate about...there are some periods of time I know far better than others; mainly because they interest me more, but I am familiar with the workings of most eras.

This morning I had to delve deep into the back of my cranial filing cabinets and bring out the file on Robin Hood... the conversation started predictably enough with the "Where are you from question?"...once we had established that Scotland was part of the British Isles, we moved straight to Nottingham...for reasons I am still unsure of, then onto Robin Hood, then to King John and the Magna Carta.

Considering my taxi trip to work takes no longer than about 15 minutes, we covered a fair amount of ground...unfortunately my interviewing skills are obviously not up to scratch because I forgot to ask the vital question "where did you learn about all this?"

2 Comments:

Anonymous torn said...

I agree -- for my first seven years in Manila I travelled by cab almost every day and had the same incredibly wide-ranging conversations as you.

What do people say when you tell them you are from Scotland? My most common response was "Braveheart?"

What about the knowledge of geography -- isn't it incredible? I got the occasional "is that near Holland?", but generally cab drivers have a very clear picture of the world map, which I suppose derives from the balikbayan experience.

I often had rides that I was most reluctant to leave -- no sooner had we started a good conversation than it was time to part. I've sat in a cab for 5 minutes at my destination so we could finish some point or other. I've caught cabs all over the world, but I think Manila's are the best. Here's to you Manila cabbie!

9:44 am  
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