Saturday, July 31, 2010

Living




Living away from my home country isn't easy, but it's not hard either. When I think of how long we have "survived" and thrived as a family I am a little surprised myself. So much of our daily challenges are made bearable by our friends who live here. No one has family here, so we make our own. Friends who are single, friends without kids, friends who are our parents age, even our house help become a little part of what makes our village and raises our children (thanks Hilary, don't hate me Grandma). To me, the friends we make here make our existence joyous. They "get it," they can commiserate and what's best they can make it all better with a shoulder to lean on or an offer to help and more importantly an ear to listen!

I appreciate America more than ever and oh how I appreciate Utah. I miss the conveniences and the cleanliness and the beauty. I miss not being surrounded by poverty. I miss our families. I miss our friends back home. I miss the massive amount of CHOICE that America offers and the ability to tailor my life. I miss picking tomatoes out of the garden and Nate misses mowing the lawn. I miss painting my walls and watering the grass and tending to my home. Dare I say I even miss laundry. I never get to smell the fresh warm clothes as they come out of the dryer fluffy and soft (but I don't miss folding them! Not. One. Bit.) I miss Mexican food. I miss laying down in thick green grass. I miss the late setting sun. I miss chatting with the neighbors in the cul-de-sac. I miss cooking and baking. I miss shopping. I miss the sno cone shack. I miss days corn and Utah peaches and rupes root beer ice cream. I miss the mountains of Utah and the potato fields of Idaho. I miss the genuine simplicity of everyday life and the community of America.

To be honest, I miss almost everything and there are days that I would be happy to pack up and move home and give up the phenomenal private school, the amazing inexpensive spa services and maids and nannies and driver and cook and cheap nights out at amazing 5 star restaurants. I would quickly hop on a plane and forget about ever seeing the Great Wall of China or the cities in Japan and Vietnam or the beaches of Thailand and Bali or the warmth and hospitality of the Philippines. But those days are just that: days. Bad days, where I have clearly spent more time trying to make this place fit into my view of what it should be as opposed to just going with the flow of what it is. It's usually after I have had a dozen shop girls following me around trying to "help" or hearing the words "out of stock" one too many times in a day or sitting in traffic for 45 minutes to just go 6 miles or after a load of over-bleached laundry. But guess what, those things happen every day! I have heard that living abroad will either make you or break you. It breaks a lot of people. I hope it will make me. I hope it will make my boys and make my family. I think, so far, that it has.

I am happy here. I actually love it here! I am involved here and I am invested in my own happiness here. I can make a difference and I am grateful for being able to leave a footprint here. As an expat we live among so many cultures not just Filipinos. It's a beautiful thing where our children don't have a negative racial cultural divide and I don't think we could give them a better gift. I love our ability to travel and albeit the experiences are sometimes a bit comical, I still wouldn't trade it. I love that our children have ridden elephants and been to major historical sights. I love the relationship I have built with my husband here. It's been forged with steel by overcoming the challenges of every day life. Life isn't perfect here, it's not perfect anywhere. But it's pretty darn good. To be honest, when the time comes to venture "home" wherever that may be, I will be scared because to us, this IS home. It may not be the country of our birth (well, 3 out of 4 of us) or where our citizenship is but for now, this is IT! So I vow to try to "Keep calm and carry on," to make a consorted effort every day to appreciate what I have here to remember how lucky I am to come from where I do. After all this life doesn't happen to everyone.

5 comments:

SHELLS BELLS! said...

Great post, Melissa!

Julie said...

I love this post in every imaginable way.

The Homer House said...

I know what you mean and I feel a lot of the same feelings even though I don't live abroad-I live away from what I have ever known and what I loved. I miss a lot of the same things you mentioned; it's different being away in a positive way mostly but there are days that the negatives shine through. I get it.

Your boys are growing up fast, I can't even believe it. They are handsome little devils...I can see that Finn has some mischief in those eyes...like his dad! LOL

Team AC said...

Melissa,

So well said! When we were living in China it was exactly like you desribed. We LONGED for Western culture so much, and couldn't wait to get outta there, especially near the end of our 2 years.

Now we have relocated to Australia (although we're originally from Canada), and I tell ya, the grass is always greener on the other side! Although we have all those Western things back, now we are missing the relationships we had with our expat friends in China, the cheap massages, the easy transportation, etc. After doing so much travelling and living abroad, we don't quite feel understood here in this small town of people, many of whom have never left their state, nevermind the country!

Anyways, I think you're right to be really happy in the Philippines and to choose that attitude, even though things can get really annoying abroad! Keep it up, and enjoy the warm weather and that private school!

~Corinna

Sigrid Dimaano said...

Hi, I came across your blog while putting my little boy to sleep. I have to say that I somehow relate to your experiences living abroad. The only difference is that I am on the other side of the world. I am originally from Manila now living in Maryland. I've been here for 3 years and same as you, this is already my home although I really miss the chaotic and noisy streets of Manila.
I really appreciate your efforts in making a difference in my home country. I hope one day, I could also do the same to your beloved country.

Sigrid