Who? Jasper van der Pijl
What? A fertilizer study on different doses of phosphor for tomatoes
Where? East West Seed, Lipa City, the Philippines
Why? My trip to Thailand last year made me enthusiastic about South-East Asia.
I arrived just before Christmas. They celebrate it very differently here. No Christmas drinks parties, but a whole evening of watching singing and dancing. And needless to say, the karaoke equipment gets wheeled out! I joined in a few performances myself, including a traditional folk dance. Even my rendering of the Dutch song ‘Shalalie, shalala' was appreciated, and is still sung in the office every now and then.
I am staying just outside Lipa City, about one and a half hours' drive from the capital, Manila. My trial is in full swing at the research station. The tomato varieties have been given different doses of phosphor and now we are waiting to see how this affects the final yields. Because the planting didn't go entirely according to plan, I discovered that the people here are not as direct as Dutch people. A ‘yes' doesn't necessarily mean that something will be done, and no one ever really says ‘no'.
And yet the business culture suits me very well, and relations with colleagues are very cordial. Several times a week we go out for a meal or a night out, or we go for a hike or to do some sightseeing. You get to places which you would never normally see as a tourist.
It is a great experience to have this sort of contact with the Philippines. For instance, I was allowed to stay in the house of my colleague's parents-in-law, where he lives in with them, along with his wife, children, brothers-in-law, sisters and their children. It is hectic, but also incredibly convivial and it's lovely to see such close family ties.