Last night I was asked a question that I hadn’t really asked myself, “are you homesick?” I sat for a second before answering because I hadn’t been asked this very genuine question yet and I was grateful to be able to give an honest answer. Yes.
Although we bid Manila high because of how welcoming people are to Americans, the warm weather, and the fact that you can get almost anything you want here, it’s still different in many ways. Just like everyone back in the States, I commute in traffic, go to the grocery store, eat out, drink on weekends, and take my dog outside. Yet, each thing presents a unique challenge, one that would be comical as a traveler, but hit me a bit harder when I realized, this is home – at least for now.
I already wrote about the adventure that is driving in Manila. To be fair, the novelty still hasn’t worn off. I follow all the rules at in the States and for the first time I finally get to drive the way I would want, without the worry of pissing someone off and having them get out of their car to yell at me. On the other hand, the commute is draining. I can’t somewhat mindlessly get to my destination like I could in the U.S., all attention is on the road. I will, however, miss the lights when I get back. They count down the green, yellow, and red lights, how do we not have this yet?!
Unlike the U.S., my trips to the grocery store never seem quite complete. We used to shop for the week at a single store, now it seems like we can hardly fill up a grocery basket and have to swing by 2-3 stores. You can get almost everything, but there are some hard to find items as well. For instance, I got extremely excited when I found a tiny thing of arugula, a staple of mine at home. Once we got home, I couldn’t just whip up a salad, first I had to soak the arugula and veggies in vinegar for 10 minutes. It was so delicious and comforting though. The vegetable/water problem also presents a dilemma while eating out. Can I order a salad here? Do I think the ice cubes are from filtered water too? On the plus side, I can have all the mangos, papayas and other tropical fruit I’ve never heard of that I want. Blender is in the mail to make some delicious tropical fruit drinks for some poolside relaxation. As if this wasn’t relaxing enough.
There are so many stray cats and dogs that I’m nervous to take Xena out, even once she is fully vaccinated. I’m also missing out on the neighborhood dog parks to make friends. We have a dog run nearby, but it doesn’t seem to get much use. I have been told that on the weekends people gather on High Street in the Fort with dogs. Will have to check that out after the last vaccine.
It’s the little things that make me miss the U.S. a bit, but I know that with time I’ll get adjusted, make more friends, and lose the homesick feeling. Right now I’m still in the getting to know people better phase, but another EFM and I have a plan for socializing during the day once summer transfer season has come to an end: Balcony Club. The townhouses where I live have balconies off every floor, but when on earth will I use the balcony off my guest room? I’m not going to make coffee downstairs and walk it up the stairs just to drink on that balcony, it’s both inconvenient and a bit small compared to the main balcony. See the difference?
Well, with Balcony Club, we will pick someone’s floor specific balcony and have a drink there. It will give us all an excuse to make the balconies nice, take advantage of them, and get to know each other.
There are also things here that I will miss when I leave. A huge help has been vet house calls. I text the vet the problem or update and he texts back with a time to stop by or a solution. Plus, it’s cheaper than the states – house visit, medicine, stool sample, inner ear sample, and microchip added up to about $60. Also, a helper. We will have someone starting in July who will cook and clean. I know I sound spoiled, but I despise household chores, so this is a big win for me. I’ve been told she makes more working for us than she would on the local economy, so I guess it’s not a horrible gig for her either. She will also look after Xena while I’m at work. Lastly, the travel. Though I haven’t taken advantage of this yet, I know it will be amazing.
Though it only happened once, I have legitimately been asked this question. To be fair, I am part of “the cult,” which is more commonly known as CrossFit. While people often use the word to critique CrossFit, the “cultish” atmosphere is what made me feel a sliver more comfortable picking up my life and moving across the world.
My CrossFit journey started in 2007 when Danny at CrossFit Sonoma County had a dream to open a box, or CrossFit gym. My first workout of the day (WOD) was Fran. It was a grueling 10 or so minutes of work, and I was hooked. Back then there were only a handful of us, all of whom were Danny’s friends. We worked out in the back room of my old gymnastics gym from 9-10pm and as you can see below, we had some fun.
I left for college a few months after staring CrossFit, but every winter break I would come back and workout at the box. By then Danny had rented out his own space. With that space came a big community and no more 9pm classes – I suppose that is a bit late. Though I wasn’t a CrossFitter at that time, everyone in the community always welcomed me for the month that I was home. As a bonus, I returned to college every year in shape for lacrosse preseason.
Fast forward 2 years after graduation. After constant discussions about joining a CrossFit box, Mark told me I needed to shut up or do it. I chose CrossFit Balance in downtown DC. My year and a half there changed my time in DC. The community they built and the coaches’ knowledge drastically exceeded my expectations. I found myself surrounded by people who share my love of working out and my love of beer, generally in that order.
Why is all of this important? Well, because what I have learned over the past 8 years is that the support I receive from CrossFit goes beyond the doors of the box. I have truly become part of a global community. When we looked at the bid list I googled CrossFit boxes in each city – it exists nearly everywhere. I did this because I knew that no matter where we wound up I would have a group of people who would welcome me and make a new place feel a bit more like home. I reached out to Primal Ape CrossFit prior to my arrival because it was recommended by another FSO. I have not been disappointed, the space is amazing (picture below) and so are the people.
Joining Primal Ape has helped immensely with my transition. I now have a daily workout time to help set a schedule and even a job offer. Without it I’m not sure how long it would have taken to establish a routine, especially since I would know even fewer people in Manila. I didn’t leave my community back home either, the coaches and athletes have offered to help with programming for me, discuss classes and coaching, and even visit.
On the surface CrossFit is a workout regime meant to get people fit for anything life throws at them. Yet, the willingness to pay upward of $150 per month speaks volumes about the fact that it goes beyond a general workout class. After college we lose that feeling of being a part of something like a soccer or baseball team. CrossFit makes me feel like I’m on a team again. In the end, it is the highly critiqued “cult-like” atmosphere of CrossFit that makes it a great match for the constantly moving lifestyle of an EFM…or someone who travels on business often, or wants to be a part of a team, or wants the strength to be able to pick up grandchildren, really, anyone, because everyone is always welcome. Maybe we’re not so cultish after all.