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6 in Melbourne, 0 in Philippines

12 Dec


Over the last few months, I have learnt that Filipinos don’t feel the need to hold back on personal comments. If they think your skin is too brown, they’ll tell you. If you come into work with your hair looking like a witch, you won’t go under the radar. If you look skinny, they’ll tell you, but they’ll also tell you if they think you look fat.

Herein lies the inspiration for my blog post today. Yesterday, when I came into work, a girl from my office yelled out across the room “Karen, you gained so much weight in Australia”. When I vented to my usually understanding friend she looked at me and said “well you did gain weight”. A few more if these comments through the day left me feeling pretty flat and understandably a little fat too.

I actually don’t care if I am fat or skinny in Filipinos eyes. They have a very skewed perception of beauty where a dull pink brown colour from Johnson’s baby powder rubbed all over the face is a nicer complexion than tropical tanned skin, they think chemically treated poker straight hair with just a tiny bit of wavy regrowth is better than full natural wavy black locks and girls with muscle definition are macho. If you know what I look like, you can see why I think I might be rated a 0 in Philippines.

The problem I actually have with this situation is that my colleagues are perfectly willing to tell me about my weight loss or gain, my hair shortcomings and the way too brown spot I have on my nose from wearing sunnies walking under the hot sun of Darwin, but they aren’t willing to talk to me about my work, which is what I came here to do.

A comment will be made about my appearance nearly everyday while work I have done will barely get acknowledged. I never get feedback and my only way of improving is my own deep self-reflection. I know my colleagues have lots of problems with my counterpart who is their supervisor but it is never mentioned and the team kinda skates on this thin ice with no one addressing deep seated issues but fixating on superficial ones.

The work isn’t going that well for me here so for someone so used to being capable and assisted in improving, my confidence isn’t at it’s peak. So people’s personal opinions about my looks which I wouldn’t normally give a crap about really bother me here, especially when thrown in interrupting a conversation about work which is what happened just an hour ago. I promptly got myself out of my seat, my laptop in my bag, into a tricy and up the stairs into the safety of my apartment where I can give myself love and go back when I feel better.


Cross-cultural moments #5

6 Jul

Everybody in my office right now is eating corn, after they just ate bulido (kamote biscuits) and it is only 9.40am, which means breakfast wasn’t that long ago. Aileen after I said I wasn’t hungry at this particular moment…

Aileen: How often do you eat at work in Australia?

Me: Um once. For lunch. Sometimes I have a cup of tea in the morning and then in the afternoon I might have a banana or some nuts if I have yoga t 6pm

Aileen: *shocked* that’s sad. Like a third world country

Cross cultural moments #3

31 May

Mayor to Aileen: “The best way for Karen to learn Tagalog and Bicol is to get a local boyfriend”

Barangay Paradi-Jon Capitan: “Karen, do you miss your boyfriend? Oh you do? I’ll find you a local boyfriend so you don’t miss him anymore”

Everybody I ever meet ever: “Do you have a husband? I have a son/nephew//grandson/cousin/family friend/neighbour/guy I just saw down the street who you could marry!”

Oh my poor actual boyfriend back home buying me yoghurt cultures and iron supplements and quinoa. Don’t worry, my hair is too messy for marriage.

Cross-cultural moments #2

23 May

Agi: “Karen do you comb your hair?”

Me: “No. I haven’t combed my hair in years. I don’t even own a comb. Why, does it look bad?”

Agi: *silent for a moment* “….no….. just it is obvious that you do not comb your hair”

Side note: This occurred just a day after another work colleague offered to give my hair a treatment. A pattern is emerging and I think it has everything to do with my always messy hair.

Cross-cultural moments #1

10 May

Me: Aileen, can you please tell me how to say “do you have any bread without sugar?”

Aileen: “May pan ba kamo na wara asukar

Me” *repeats (well in my opinion)*

Aileen: *long pause, polite smile*…. why don’t I come with you?