Friday, August 04, 2006

Top Ten....Number 1

So far we've had People (expats, locals and kids), Places, Food, Culture and History all adding up to a most memorable and rewarding experience. Our final item, as well as our very last post from the Philippines is an intangible subject and it goes to:

"The Process."

Process: noun: plural pro·cess·es: Etymology: Middle English proces, from Anglo-French procés, from Latin processus, from procedere
1 a : PROGRESS, ADVANCE b : something going on : PROCEEDING
2 a (1) : a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result
(2) : a continuing natural or biological activity or function

This would be the process of arriving, initial culture shock, then trying to adjust to the new environment, (adjusting to some things, loving some things and hating others), taking the entire experience into perspective, and then returning to "normal" life back in the U.S. What a process it has been already, and we're sure to continue learning from our experieces as we "process" them mentally back home.

I guess the very start of the process was Kendra bringing up the possibility of going overseas for her work more than a year ago. Even as I instantly knew it would be an unforgettable opportunity for the 2 of us, there were so many hurdles and issues that we had to discuss and work through- things that rarely come up for many people. The idea of putting our lives in Philadelphia on "hold" as we took up temporary residence in an unknown and far-away land brings up a whole sea of special considerations. Our house, our car, my job, our kitty cat, our fish, our families- all these aspects needed to be considered and thought hard about in ways that we hadn't ever before.

We went through several months of having put the offer out- that we would certainly go if asked- but uncertain as to whether the role was needed, budgeted for, or for what duration it would be if it were to go through. This was probably one of the hardest parts of the pre-move stage- not really sure if it was going to happen or not, completely in the dark about the country or what our living situations would be like, but excited beyond words, knowing that if it did happen, it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Then comes the green light- the whole thing is a go- 6 months to a year of living in Manila! Get ready! Everything now shifts into high-gear preparation and planning mode. Everything from the house to car to the cat is laid out in detail, we find out where we'll be living and what to expect. We pack. And plan. And pack some more. We visit Jefferson Hospital's Travel Medicine Center and receive dire heath warnings and multiple injections for all sorts of nasty ailments. I meet with my work and arrange to put things on hold, and pick right back up when I return. We spend Christmas with our families and schedule final meetings with our friends in Washington D.C. and also in Pittsburgh to say goodbye then ring in the year 2006 with friends as well. We pack some more.

Later, I spend my last day at work, a last walk around our Old City neighborhood, say farewell to Elora (our cat), and pack our carry-ons. We have one last big farewell/bon voyage party at Dave and Busters on Delaware Ave for all the Philly folk and say our goodbyes. The next morning we head to Philadelphia International and board the plane for our first 25-hour flight experience.

Then we're in the Philippines! This is where the process starts to ramp up in intensity. Getting through airport baggage and customs, getting our transportation to the Oakwood, getting our first glimpse (and breath!) of the outside world, checking into our new home-away-from home and realizing that this is where we now have to start living.

Learning to Live. Most of us do this gradually from the moment we're born- in very small steps and stages according to our wants, needs, neccessities and evolving maturity. It's rare that we have to suddenly figure out multiple procedures and processes in order to sustain life, health, safety and sanity. To be fair, we weren't in a life and death situation, we weren't on a deserted island, but literally waking up in totally foreign environment and needing to obtain basic neccesities like safe drinking water and food items isn't such an easy task when you step outside and realize you don't know the correct procedure for safely crossing the street.

Everything seems to hit you at once: "Wow! It's hot! And it's loud! And it's really hard to breathe! (so why is everybody smoking?). These people are really short! And they're all staring at me! Are there any traffic rules here at all? There had to have been 50 people crammed into that big jeep! 500 pesos is how many dollars again? And what's that coin with the hole in it? Oh my God, that guy has an M-16, and he's guarding a Starbucks! At least there is a Starbucks here- that's a comforting, familiar sight. Wait, what the hell is coffee jelly and why are the cups so small? It's really impossible for me to walk this slow- and I think I just ran over a small child. Ok- I just got body frisked going into a grocery store by a guy with a shotgun and a big dog on a leash. There's a pan of unidentified fish parts next to a pan of squid next to a big pink fruit with pointy spines. What did the doctor say about which veggies were safe? Check to see if that milk is pasteurized. I think it's printed in Japanese... Every one here is still staring at me.....".

That first day was something else. Culture shock is tough, but it was all part of the process. We eventually figured it out. We found ATMs and withdrew cash, safely crossed many streets, memorized the currency conversion and got (semi) used to being an obvious minority and general single points of attention everywhere we went. We boiled gallons of water and developed a solution for brushing teeth. We bought cell phones, voltage transformers and got our computer on-line. Kendra had her first day at work- even as most everybody seemed frightened or painfully shy. I ventured out and explored the immediate area, taking note of millions of odd situations.

There were a few bumps along the way. Kendra's efficient structure of planning and communicating didn't mesh well with the non-confrontational, laid-back, whenever-it-happens mindset of most Filipino's and we both had to work hard at dealing with custmer service issues. The rally/parade/riot/coup attempt on the anniversary of EDSA was an interesting few days, as were various bouts of illnesses and health problems.

But as Numbers Four (Filipino's) and Nine (ex-pats) on our Top Ten list attest to, we were surrounded by the most helpful, generous and understanding people we could have hoped for. They all went out of theur way to help us cope and adjust as well as enjoy and appreciate many of the beautiful and unique things about the Philippines and it's people. The Girls at Number Five have also given us so much joy and shaped our world perspectives even at their young age.

Kendra and I have learned so much about ourselves, each other and the world in these past 6 months and will always remember our time here and the process of relocating and adjusting.

This final paragraph will be a much-deserved "Thank You!" to our families and friends back in the U.S who have been such a support to us during this great adventure. You've cared for our house, our kitty cat, our vehicle and our fish. You've planned parties in our absence and scheduled time to get together during our flyback.

You've followed and interacted with our experiences on the blog- thank you for making this such a fun and personal way to share our thoughts and feelings and pictures with all of you (even when things became a little controversial at times!). Thank you, too, for keeping us updated on the going-ons back home and for always keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!

We're off to Australia in....2 hours!! We'll post if we have the opportunity to, if not we'll be back on U.S. soil on the 17th!!!!!

Here ends Tim and Kendra's Adventure in the Philippines.


At 9:25 AM, Blogger Isabel's Mommy said...

Wow! You have had such an amazing experience there...both good & bad, but experienes nonetheless. You have learned things that years from now you will realize touched your hearts.

Have a good time in Austrailia; pet a koala bear for me!

And when you get back & settled in and are ready to think of travel again, let's talk about a visit to meet Isabel this fall (if that will still work).

We love you both!

At 7:01 PM, Blogger ivankirk12 said...

Good day Tim and Kendra, my name is Kirk, a college student at Intramuros, Manila (near the Rizal Park) and i actually live at Makati (hmmmm just a 5-10 minute jeepney ride from the Ayala Center, the other end of the Makati Ave.)...

I enjoyed reading your blog entries about my country, and I feel glad that both of you were MOVED in some way or another with your stay at the Philippines...

I have to be honest.... as a typical Filipino student like me who believes that the philippines is a hopeless country to have a good life, after reading your entries, somehow i realized that there are many things about Manila that I should really be proud of, and there is still hope of finding true happiness here. I really appreciate the way you accepted the Filipino culture and of course the people here.

Years from now, probably I'm also in the same situation like the two of you guys, living and absorbing a different culture from a different land. Thank you, for making me realize, that the philippines is still a home to stay and worth living.

Have a nice trip to the land of the Koalas....


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