I must’ve missed the congregational memo because I did not know that there was a boycott of McDonald’s. I only found out about it through Green Mountain Jamie and then through Quaker Jono. Apparently the religious right whack jobs have a problem with McDonald’s supporting gays. But I’m not going to blog about that. That would be for my other blog which is in desperate need of material anyways.
I owe my life to McDonald’s. Okay, it’s bit of a stretch since I’m probably going to pay for it with some sort of heart problem later in life. Anyways, in 2003, I went to the Philippines on one of Michigan State University’s Study Abroad programs. Compared to what I paid at State, the prices were unbelievable. My housing--$80 a month. Food-- $3.00 a day. I understood the housing part of it pretty well but the board… not so much. On my first day there one of the first things I asked the desk clerk was where the cafeteria was located. Turns out the university doesn’t have one per se. Instantly pegged as the American now living in the dorms, they tried to anticipate my tastes by pointing me to the McDonald’s which was just outside the main gate.
Chowking and McDonald's at the Vega Centre as seen from Burger King.
My first experience there was a riot. No really… it was a riot. It had to have been the most crowded McDonalds restaurants I have ever been to in my life. There weren’t lines at the cash registers there was a crowd. And the funny part of it was that school wasn’t starting for three weeks. MSU is dead three weeks before the new semester. Where are these people from?
Great things about McDonald’s in the Philippines:
- Prices. A meal turned out to be less than $2.00.
- Clean up. People there tend to look at you if you throw out your own trash. Workers actually took the tray out of my hands to prevent me from bussing my own table.
- Variety. Want chicken and spaghetti? Why not head down to McDonalds?
- Cleanliness. Maybe it was just the one I went to but it was always sparkling clean.
Not so great things about McDonald’s in the Philippines:
- Portion size. While the sandwiches are the same size, the fries and pop were not. They start you out at kiddie size.
- No refills. It’s pretty sad—but that was my culture shock moment right there.
- The fact that it is McDonald’s.
Total cost: $1.62
I had no plans to make McDonald’s a frequently visited establishment but after trying virtually every “cafeteria” on campus and trying some of their “cuisine,” I found McDonald’s to be familiar, tastier, safer, and all for about the same price. Three fast food joints became my kitchen. There was McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chowking, which was located just outside the gate. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, at least one of them would be done at one of those places nearly every day.
Finding food in the Philippines, for me, was rough. As I had mentioned, the local cafeterias that were on campus were… blech. A lot of it was stewed something-or-another. I’m not saying it was bad food. The Filipinos there seemed to get along with it just fine. But after confusing squid rings with onion rings and sis kabobs with siska-chicken intestines, I was off trying to find more Americanized food.
Mmmm, sarap! Fertilized duck eggs.
Finding fresh and healthy food is hard to do and I could only do it by going to an actual grocery store. Three problems with that: 1.)Prices for vegetables there were about as expensive as they are in U.S. 2.) There’s nowhere to store them in my $80/month room which had no air-conditioning and was invested with bugs, lizards, and an occasional cat. And 3.) The veggies looked as though they were grown at Chernobyl (but they tasted good.) Chowking had a vegetable dish which I made myself swallow every now and then. Other places I found would have excellent and fresh food but going to them cost a lot. This one Italian restaurant which had the best tomato pasta salad I ever had charged about $7.00 a meal.
Still despite my efforts, McDonald’s managed to hook me in with their convenience and prices. Plus their corporate slogan was genius. That is until I came back here and learned about the American version. “I’m lovin’ it?” What the hell is that?
As a parting gift, McDonald's and the rest of the fast food gang gave me --- my first kidney stone.
I got home and I didn’t touch the stuff for almost half a year.