First off, Mabuhay! And hello from my home The Philippines!
For my non-Filipino readers, Mabuhay literaly translates to “to live” or “long live” in Tagalog, but we Pinoys often say it as a welcome greeting to visitors or when we start a formal greeting to a crowd.
JG and I have now been officially home 21 days, and as predicted it has been a long three weeks of adjustments and getting by. It isn’t all bad, of course it always great to come home, most importantly to see people you’ve missed.
Oman was a blast, and it really snuck up on us on how we found ourselves loving it like a second home; more surprisingly finding it difficult to leave. But like many of the Expats living there, and have eventually left, we were all just meant to pass by, citizens already belonging some place else.
I could just lie and say that everything is coming up roses, but as I mentioned we already knew that we had a lot of things to get used to again, both the good and the bad. I’ll keep dragging writinng on the bad as long as I can in this post, I just wanted to first highlight the good parts.
Eating Pinoy food and delicacies is definitely a positive part. Getting access to pork is really awesome, you can of course get in Muscat but at a much expensive price. But here it’s just everywhere. Today I got to eat Filipino style pork barbeque, ate it with vinegar on the side. Also had numerous breakfasts involvng Tocino, which is cured sweet often from the pig’s shoulder, rear or loin.
The other day, we passed by a stall that sold Bagnet (crispy deep fried pork’s meat) all the way from the Northern parts of the country. JG couldn’t help but point at it loudly as if seeing a celebrity in person, “Uy! Bagnet!”
For me, I really like now being able to wear “tropical clothes”, or as my husband would call it, my-attempt-to-look-like-a-European-on-vacation. I really have no idea by what he means by that, but in Muscat although it wasn’t really illegal to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts, I was still mindful of their Muslim culture and conservative views so I always tried to keep it as wholesome as possible. Not that I dress like a tramp now that I am in a more liberated place in terms of clothing, but it is nice not worry whether my skirt is too skimpy or not having have to wear sweaters over my tank tops especially during the humid afternoons, or that sticky moment when you know it’s about to rain.
As for JG, I think he is okay settling back to work in the home office, but more than that he is excited about finally getting a chance to go back to school. Years ago, he did not really have the financial resources to go and while we were abroad he never really had the time to do so, which is why he really made sure to set aside some money, making time, and is really looking forward to starting Graduate school next month.
Okay now that I’ve filled you in the good parts, I am sighing loudly as I dump on you the not so good ones. Like I kept saying, we already knew that the differences between Oman and here at home will force us to readjust to the many stressful aspects of living in a busy, very congested, urban city. The last time we came home for a month long visit we underestimated how living in a quiet laid-back city like Muscat has changed us, believing years of growing up in chaotic Manila couldn’t possibly be altered in just a couple of years.
So this time we told ourselves that we wouldn’t make the same mistake and just take things slow. But boy were we just unlucky. The first few days upon our arrival, it rained almost non-stop, last week three typhoons consecutively passed by the Phililppines. We did not mind it at first, we kind of missed the rain, as it only happened once or twice a year in the Middle-East. But in Metro Manila, rain, even a drizzle, meant some flooding, which consequently leads to heavy traffic, which in turn something we rarely came across in Muscat.
To make matters worst, we came home during a time when our capital is experiencing a public transportation problem brought by several issues concerning the train lines that go around the city.
This means commuting is like going through a struggle. JG and I have a small house just outside of Metro Manila in the mountains of Antipolo City, the capital of the province of Rizal where my husband grew up. In an ideal world where traffic runs smoothly, it would take about 30-40 minutes. But because it would take you at least an hour to get a ride, plus the hellish traffic, it takes us about 2-3 hours, sometimes four to get home. That means getting up at four in the morning so we can get to work by nine. That means at least six hours of our day, for five days a week, sitting in a jeepney.
We used to be able to do this before we left for posting, surrending wasting hours of our youth doing nothing, reading, or at the very least catching up on some snooze in the commute. Perhaps because like every hard working Filipino we really did not have a choice, perhaps because we just accepted that was how things are. But I guess four years in a place where the longest we’ve been stuck in traffic is 40 minutes tops, does shorten your patience a bit, perhaps it’s because you are given a glimpse of how much you can do in 2 or 3 hours, just sitting in a vehicle makes you realize all the time you are wasting away.
So we solved this by renting an apartment right next to the home office. Apparently many of husband’s colleagues have been doing this for years, some have even invested in buying expensive condominium units that they rent out when they are posted abroad. This saves the husband from the stress of having to go through the daily grind everyday, plus we told ourselves that we might as well spend the money we’ll be wasting for fare, on a place that can provide for a comfortable place to crash during the work week.
Which brings me to where we are now. At the moment I am sitting in an almost empty apartment, because all our stuff are still on a cargo ship somewhere between Dubai and India. The people running the building was kind enough to lend us a few things like a bed and a fridge, thus the getting buy part.
One of my main problems with this set-up is that we also opted to just live on take-out menus until all my cooking paraphernalias have arrived. This means staying healthy and eating right goes right out the window. Rice and a carbo-based diet is the ideal meal for most Pinoys, which is why joints that offer “all you can eat rice” are sure hits here. Meals usually cost around 150 php (roughly around $3). And what you will usually see is a plate 3/4 full of rice with the remaining quarter part for meat/chicken/vegetables. If it’s not rice, it’s noodles, or pasta. And since JG and I are trying to cut back on the carbs, we are left to just make do for now.
We have considered buying what we need, but it really seems impractical to have to live with two sets of everything once all our stuff from abroad arrives.
A note to fellow young diplowives. Leaving at the same time as our stuff is a rookie mistake for me, my husband said that it would’ve been better if we did it the other way around and lived in our last month in post in a hotel and shipped all our belongings ahead. Most especially since there you can easily get from one point to another, to get food etc. That way you get here with everything else at the same time.
We also predicted how it may be hard to get back into the circulation as far as social life is concerned. It is as if waking up from a coma, years passing us by, and realizing that almost everyone who were ones part of our almost everyday has found their own rhythm without you. They have all of course expressed how much they missed us of course, and took some time to see us, but mostly you can feel a certain akwardness brought on by years of not having seen each other.
Suddenly names and places, are unknown to you. My closest friends have chided to how my referencess, like in pop culture, are years behind.
Now I know why some Filipinos who have lived abroad have chosen to just completely migrate, because for some there really is no place for them here. Especially when they have established their own family and community off-shore. Of course we could not begrudge those we left behind to go off in our adventure, they love you just the same, they just learned and strived to live without you, and it seemed unfair to unsettle the normalcy they’ve established just so they can make room for you who suddenly decided to show up again. These things take time, a connection you have to rebuild and can never rush.
My situation has also left me to be in a place wherein I have left the same as I am, meanwhile everyone else in my life has gone through some major changes. Two of my closest cousins, and two of my best friends from college (married each other) have become parents over the six years that I was away.
When I saw them, looking at their adorable little kids, I couldn’t help but be amazed about the fact these once carefree crazy people have created human beings and are now responsible for their growth. I may have gone off in wanderlust and perhaps had some shift in perspective, but basically still the loud, sensitive, also crazy same old self. But that’s nothing to actually raising a person, for me that kind of thing forces you to be everything and anything you can actually be to provide the best chance for their children, admittedly a club that you can’t easily just be part of and relate to.
As far as my country is concerned, I mentioned that we here in the capital are having some transportation problems. But as the news says, we are at the brink of an economic take-off, and it seems a bit obvious to me in some aspects. High-rise buildings are popping up everywhere, and people seem to have more purchasing power judging from more malls, and the high-end signature establishments opening in them.
The transportation problem is of course effected because suddenly more of us can afford cars, for some the cheaper option of motorcyles, and so congesting the traffic even more. Nevertheless it’s still the same organic mega city that I know, filled with all sorts of people, and the method to its madness I have once again get to know.
JG and I are planning to see more of it, hopefully we find the time. And I for one is planning to explore Manila, and hopefully get to write about them. At least until all our stuff arrives…