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.
There have been lots of fun new things here in Manila that we did not have in DC. The biggest two have been the addition of an air conditioned car and a puppy: The Beast and Xena.
The Beast, while not the nicest car on the road, gets the job done. The high clearance gets through floods and over the bumps in the road, plus it has air conditioning. It was also pretty much my dream car in high school…in the same make, model, and year.
Then there’s Xena.
At 10.5lbs, she’s a goofy little ball of energy. In the four days we have had her, she has already learned sit and usually knows down. Her sweet skillz allowed her to skip puppy school and go straight to the family dog program for 4 month old puppies at BetterDog. We are just so proud of our little baby, what good genes she has.
She has been an excellent puppy so far. She doesn’t mouth on hands (yet?), she rarely wines in her crate, and she has only had
one three accidents in the house (update to 3, a few hours after this was originally posted). She can’t quite figure out how to lay on her bed and her floppy ears and mouth are always entertaining when she runs.
Cutest moment so far was when we were at the dog school evaluation. There was a large stuffed animal dog she thought was real. She licked it and tried to get it to play with her. Can’t wait to start puppy school so she can play with some (vaccinated) dogs!
Traffic is as bad in Manila as they say it is and drivers are crazy compared to home, but it’s kind of fun.
- Lanes are just guidelines (the picture does not accurately portray this, but I swear it’s true)
- Honking means, I’m going, I will be passing you, move faster, don’t go and probably more things.
- Pedestrians do not have right of way, you can see the fear in their eyes as they cross the street.
- If someone is adhering to a red left turn signal you can pass them on the right, get ahead of them, and turn whenever the traffic is clear.
- When in doubt, make a U turn.
- If the road is clear, gun it! 30mph will feel like 100mph.
- Only leave space between you and the car in front of you if you want everyone to weave around in that space.
- If you need to cross over 4 “lanes” to make an exit or turn, that’s fine.
- Jeepnys and mopeds do what they want.
- You can drive on the “wrong side” of the road if you really need to.
Now, today was my first day actually getting behind a wheel, so I will probably learn more rules in the coming weeks. I took it easy and drove Mark to work then drove myself home. I didn’t die or crash, so I would call it a success. Also, apparently there is a loop for Christmas, I will have to investigate what this means.