A quarterly report I don’t mind writing

24 Jul

Saturday marked a very special occasion – it’s been 3 months since I moved to the Philippines! Cue applause, cheers, a few clever heckles, and oh go on then, blow some environmentally friendly bubbles as I go by you!

Not gonna lie, in many ways, this has been the hardest 3 months of my life. I’m pretty tired  of the same debilitating heat and suffocating humidity every single day, I miss spooning and hugs and kisses, my brain hurts from translating another language and yes there are times when I feel super duper lonely and can’t shake it off. But there’s something about milestones that make you forget all the crap and feel somewhat nostalgic about all the beauty and love I have experienced so far, so I thought I’d share some things I love about living in the Philippines.

  1. Greetings – Good morning Karen! Good afternoon mam! Kain na dito mamsir! (eat here mam and sir but I have no time for the “and”, I have customers to hustle!) Here in Philippines, hi or hello is never ever enough, every occasion needs a greeting far more grand and festive! Sometimes, when I am really in a stink, I walk home from work and by the time I’ve made it to my house, I feel a million times better after every second person on the street has bid me good evening as though we’re in a broadway musical or disney movie opening sequence

    Some well wishers. Please note another of my fave things – the crop top shirt fold, the best way to ventilate in summer heat

  2. Whatever you want, there’s always a way to get it done – People waiting to get on an overcrowded jeep? No problem! Hoy, kid, sit on your brothers lap! Strong looking dudes, get on the roof! Guy with chicken and machete, put them both in one hand and hang off the back with the other hand. Need to get a bed from one side of town to the other but have no wheels? 8 pesos and a tricy will do the job, just strap it across the top and watch your cargo cruise smoothly across town. No light bulb cover for that street lamp? As if that’s a worry when you have a plastic bottle and some scissors! It makes a spoilt Australian feel very humble when people here have so little to work with and yet get everything done just as thoroughly and with an even happier heart than their Australian counterparts.

    Getting transport done like a boss

    3 is not too many for a motorbike

  3. It’s a public holiday/birthday/anniversary/christening/any day of the week! Let’s celebrate it with a videoke party! – this requires no explanation.

    They start videoke training young here

  4. It’s always a disco when someone gets a text message – which is often. I know most of the lyrics to “I love you like a love song baby” by Selena Gomez, which I had definitely never heard of before I started working with Rosalie. I know it because she has it set as her message tone and when she gets a message, she let’s it play and against my free will, I find myself singing along and whenever I hear it, which is often in the Philippines as they have about 5ish songs on repeat wherever you go, which leads to…
  5. The soundtrack of the Philippines – Pinoys love the cheesy pop music. I will be so out of the loop with good music when I get home! Here is the playlist in order of played almost constantly to played during a break from those more frequently played:
    • Moves like Jagger – Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera
    • Rap Das Armas (club mix) – Cidinho & Doca
    • Papi – Jennifer Lopez
    • Any Nicky Minaj, Katy Perry or Guy Sebastian song
    • Love you like a love song – Selena Gomez
  6. Food is the true language of the world – people love to connect with me and with each other in general and the best, cheapest, and most hospitable way to do this is through food. I have experienced many moments where my colleagues seem to be taking a break from their real job of eating to do their incidental job of doing local government work. Most heartwarmingly, I have noticed when I am sad or lonely or have great big bags under my eyes from insomnia the night before, my dear friends at work hand me a turon or sinapud or bananacue or some garlic corn or peanuts or an ice cream sunday because that’s the best way they know how to comfort. I paid them back with a vegetarian dinner party on Sunday night and they all decided to become vegetarians if I cook for them!

    10am ice cream sunday on a brown out day

  7. Cute kittens and puppies everywhere! Oh and cute kids singing for me when they hear me speaking English

    Cute kid and cute ming ming together!

    Ridiculously adorable pup

    Cheeky kiddies

    Dang cute puppy having some lunch

    Tricy driving Ming Ming

  8. Constant and uninterrupted sensory stimulation – So I constantly feel the heat as I have said… that is a big one. But underneath the cheesy pop soundtrack is the sound of children playing outdoors and people calling out to each other across the street and dogs barking and cats crying and tricys just being tricys. My nose is tuned into terrible smells like burning rubbish and sewers and petrol and fumes but way more often to the faint smell of the ocean and of young coconuts, pansit cooking in calenderias and fish drying in the market and my favourite smell of various banana snacks cooking or being brought to me in a basket for 5 pesos a piece. And as I have mentioned many times, the beautiful colour that surrounds me always, my orange house and the yellow church next door and the green rice paddies and buko trees across the road and the white sand and unbelievably blue sea and the gorgeous white smiling teeth surrounded by a cheeky brown face of everybody around me.
  9. My new friends – these guys deserve a post to themselves. But in short, I am a volunteer in a remote location with no other volunteers anywhere near and no substantial expat community to speak of. This has been so good for me as it has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in the local culture and lifestyle and have good local friends, who if I didn’t hang out with, I would just be alone. Yanie, 21 and constantly taking selfies and posting them on facebook, but who is the new EA to the Mayor so her photo frenzy often is saved for the end of the day when she has finished her work. Aileen, who hated cats until I started forcing her to experience “pusa sa puso ni Karen” (cats of my heart time with Karen). The other day she said “stop showing me these, I am starting to love cats!” and she came into work all in a frenzy yesterday, blaming me for her sudden but urgent need to take pictures on her phone of kittens she sees in the street. And Rosalie who is looking for love in all the wrong places, but gives so much love to everybody around her, especially her little daughter Danish who we have adopted as the groups daughter. Rosalie knows everything about everything pinoy and I would have been sleeping on the floor without her help when I first moved into my place. And Sir Junie, or Fau Fau, my counterpart, who loves to laugh and secretly loves to sing karaoke and who somehow always turns up wherever I am just to make sure I am safe. Life here would be much harder than it is if I didn’t have these guys making me laugh every single day.
  10. Best pals

So Philippines you crazy cat. You’ve made me fall in love with you and I look forward to everything you have yet to offer me, good and bad!


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