FAQs & Picture Update

1. Are you really living in the Philippines?
Why, yes. I know that you’re used to me ghosting for no apparent reason, but this time I’m not just avoiding you because of selfishness and/or growing pains really just gone. I’m truly living [it up] in the Philippines. Want proof? This is our house:

That’s where I live with my brother, my son, our maid and our nanny. My brother would kill me if I showed his face on the internet, so here’s a of Riley at 14 weeks, with Cecil (our nanny) and Joy (our maid):

And another picture of Riley, just because I’m a proud mama:

2. Why did you decide to move?
Where do I start? There are sooo many reasons we decided to move. Here are just some:
- I love New York, but it burns me out, and after having Riley I realized I needed to reevaluate my priorities and my plans and make some big changes.
- I didn’t want to live with my parents or Rob’s mom, and we’d have to seriously downgrade our living situation if Rob and I were going to have our own place, raise a baby, and eat once in a while.
- I’ve never considered myself particular “Filipino”, and Riley’s birth made me realize that I want to get in touch with my “roots”.
- I decided to go the way of the conformist Filipino and get a nursing degree; it’s waaaayyy cheaper here, and a hell of a lot more hands-on than nursing schools in the States.
- The cost of living, in general, is ridiculously cheap here when you’re living off of dollars.
- I wanted to raise Riley the way that Rob and I planned to raise Riley, and not have to fret about people butting in with their “advice” and “suggestions” for the right way to do things. Because, trust, I’ll put you in your place for telling me how to parent, and if that requires making you cry you better take out your hanky.
- Another gratuitous picture of Riley, this time at 10 weeks old:

3. What’s it like living in the Philippines?
Um, different. Witness, for instance, foods you won’t likely see in the States:

Do not adjust your screens. And, no, this hasn’t been photoshopped. My brother and I picked up a watermelon that was called “Black Beauty” and cut it open to reveal – dum dum DUMMMM – yellow flesh! It was the sweetest watermelon EVAR, and it wasn’t sickeningly sugary sweet either. Kudos to whomever responsible for that one!

That second pic is of balot, aka fertilized and steamed duck eggs. I had a really traumatizing experience with balot when I was a little girl, and I haven’t been able to touch the stuff since then. I thought I’d try it again because surely the baby duck inside the egg isn’t as fully-formed as I’d remembered… right? Right? RIGHT?!

Wrong. I ran away, screaming, and Cecil ate the balot instead.

Okay, that last one is my brother’s new puppy, Simone, and no, we’re not going to eat her. In the past, though, it wasn’t uncommon for drunk men to steal a dog or take their own dog, skewer it, and roast it in the backyard. My dad, when he was here, looked around at all the stray dogs in our neighborhood and laughed. “I guess it’s not the uso [trend] to eat dogs anymore,” he said, eyeing a mutt that was sitting in front of our neighbor’s house.

4. You keep on saying that school in the Philippines is hard, but all your life you’ve been an overachiever. What gives?
Okay, so you know all those papers you complained about writing? And those exams that were all essays? And those times your teachers asked about your own opinion? You might have lamented them out of sheer laziness, but guess what? They made you think. They made you form your own thoughts. They made sure that (at least in the classroom) you weren’t just some mindless drone. Or maybe you were….

Anyway, my point is, in the States, it’s all about analyzation. Students are taught to think for themselves. They are taught to understand the relationships between things, to realize the universality of the world and the beauty of its chaos, to connect between the lines.

But in the Philippines, there is no connecting. What is there? Mindless, repetitive, regurgatative memorization. You read/hear a lesson, then you’re “quizzed” right afterward. No time to study. No time for your brain to build connections between new ideas. No time for information to sink in. It’s drill time. Add to that that it’s short answer, and there’s no room for your own interpretation of things (even if the subject is subjective), and that 75 is failing, and you can see why I have a lot of adjusting to do. Because if 75 is failing, then 80 is barely passing, and 85 is just doing decently – and I’m aiming for an academic scholarship.

5. What’s up with you and Rob? Is he living with you?
Rob and I are doing really well. He’s currently in New York, working and sending us money while also paying off some of my debts and saving up for his own plane ticket. We have Skype sex dates really often and we send pictures back and forth.

Lack of successful communication has always been one of my problems with our relationship, and now that we’re apart I’m realizing that the biggest hurdle to our mutual understanding has been my ego. I’m a writer, and I love the English language; Rob’s pretty terrible at English, but he’s awesome at communicating. I was too snobbish to see that a lacking in one area didn’t necessitate a lacking in the other area. I was too egotistical and stuck-up to give him credit even though he fully deserved it.

I’ve realized just how lucky I am to have him by my side, even if he isn’t technically “by my side”, and that lesson is one reason I’m so glad we have our little guy:

6. How is Riley adapting to the Philippines?
Since we’ve been here, Riley’s gotten his first fever, his first cold, and his first bout of eczema. His pediatrician says it’s all very normal and happening just as it’s supposed to happen. And aside from these episodes, he’s the happiest baby you’ve ever met. He’s constantly entertained, amused and educated by a bevy of people who are speaking different languages, repeating the alphabet, counting, watching educational TV, repeating the names of colors, and exercising with him. He’s still as easy-going as ever, still loves to babble to people and be held by people and cuddle with me – but he’s also becoming fiercely independent. He loves sitting in his bumbo chair all by himself, and playing with his hands, and grabbing his feet, and rolling over, and attempting to crawl. He’s four months old and loves it when you stand him up on his feet, like he’s standing on his own. He responds to his name, laughs all the time, and reaches for you when he wants to be held. He’s more than doubled his birth weight, grown almost 8 inches, and loves reading time. In short – Riley? He’s doing awesomely well. But I have a feeling that would be the case no matter where we were.

7. Are you living in the city? In the country? Are there, like, cows and goats and shit where you live?
We live about one hour away from the capital of the Philippines, Manila. It’s urban enough that there’s a 7-Eleven and a 24-hour supermarket within a few blocks of our house, but it’s country enough that it’s not uncommon for people to leave their houses in house dresses and flip-flops. In fact, flip-flops are the footwear of choice in these parts.

One of the best parts about living here? There are street vendors that walk past our house everyday. They sell fresh bread and donuts, ice cream, balot, fried peanuts, and desserts. The less mobile street vendors sell fish balls, Japanese sweet corn, and freshly caught and fried calamari (to name just a few of the yumminess). And you can have a meal out of these street fares for about a dollar.

But yeah, getting back to your question: there are no cows or goats nearby. There are, however, lots of chickens and roosters.

8. How are you earning money?
I’m barely earning anything at all, but the little that I am earning is from freelance copy-editing. I’m trying to land a few regularly-paying writing gigs, but when isn’t that the case? All I know is, I’m kick-starting this “attempt” at making a living via writing into high gear. Rob’s moving here in April or May, and before that, I want to have secured a coveted writing and/or editing position or two.

9. So you’re there as a tourist, right?
For the time being, I’m actually here illegally. I haven’t yet filed for dual citizenship (which I’d planned on doing asap), and the reasons for that are purely logistic, i.e., I need my dad’s birth certificate and it’s lost. The Philippines is so corrupt that you need an inside man just to get your own papers from the government, so this process is taking a lot longer than I thought it would take.

No matter. When I finally do file my paperwork, I just have to pay a fine and everything’ll be fine.

Still, I think that deserves another gratuitous pic of my baby:

10) What are your impressions of the Philippines, thus far?
I feel like I have a lot to say about this, and I’ll probably say it all in due time over at In The Fray. For now, though, I can’t help but feel like moving to the Philippines has been the best decision I’ve ever made for me and my family. Not only are Rob and I given the opportunity to chase our dreams to the best of our ability, but we’re given all the love, respect, compassion, understanding and support necessary to see our goals through to the end. All this makes it possible for us to be the best partners, parents, and people we could possibly be.

4 responses to “FAQs & Picture Update

  1. love this post. riley = insane cuteness.

    i’m desperate to get in touch with my roots as well (the best i’ve ever been able to do was stay close to the community back when i was in LA). i’ve only been to the philippines twice and the last time was almost 20 years ago. so i’m living vicariously through you. =)

  2. @ Teresita – THANK YOU!!! I’ll definitely keep updating on the major culture shock!

    P.S. Do you know of any Filipino shrubbery that smells just. like. weed. when burned?

  3. Your answer to #10 is so interesting to me, only because I come from this notion that people in 3rd world nations come to the US and not vice versa, looking for all of those things you mentioned. To each his own.

  4. @ Renee – To each his own, indeed! :) Ya know, you’re not the first person to say this. My boyfriend’s family didn’t hesitate to say, “You’re doing this backwards! People leave there to come over here!”

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