posted by saltybug.com 30/12/2014 0 comments

There is a kind of beauty in this process of discovery

The wonderment, the freedom that starting a new life brings. The rawness of emotions awakens you when you have been in a rut for so long.

I have been asked a lot by friends and family what I thought of Manila, when we went on our short trip recently. Can I see it working?

A city like Manila is not for everyone. But it is for me, and I know it is for SB. We both feel a surge of adventure the minute we get off the plane with the whole assault on the senses you get from the moment you breathe the air. We discovered this years ago when we visited Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and even Bornio.

Manila is a similar environment to the other cities in these countries we have traveled through. The same mix of scent, the sewage, the rubbish that is just abandoned on the sides of roads. The way it blends with the sweet smells of fresh fruit and cuisine. The mayhem of the city.

The driving is incredible. The gridlock can last hours and the ‘road rules’ are mind boggling. Think about being on a sideshow ride for an hour and a half. You’re never quite sure which way to look while being jerked around with the movement of the machine you are being protected in. Despite this, I have always felt safe (oh except that one time in a 4wd through jungle in Thailand where I actually thought we’d die, but we were cool…). I feel safe because you have to be so highly skilled to drive in a place like that. You don’t get car accidents, or people knocked off bikes. You get shared understanding and mutual respect. No road rage – generosity. So I would never in a gazillion years let my children be in a moving car without seatbelts but here, well there are no seat belts, and I am mostly totally cool with it. Also no-one drives at 100km p/h.

The physical presence of the place makes me so curious. It makes me want to be adventurous and I want to know about people’s lives there. I want to know how things have become the way they have, and what needs to happen to try and make things better for the displaced.
There is a lot of beauty and happiness here, but as with anywhere there is a lot of ugliness and sadness too. Just gazing out the car window taking in the intriguing landscape you get startled by sudden movement in a pile of rubbish on a roadside, as a bony arm lifts out of the chaos in movement. A shadowy figure sitting so still they are an oversight suddenly moves position. You wonder where these people came from.

There are so many intriguing gestures in Manila. One of the first things I noticed when we arrived were the little positive messages on walls and posters. Things like ‘be kind and caring’. A sweet reminder to be mindful of those around you in a place of such chaos.

On our last night on our recent trip, I was alone in our hotel listening to the Friday Night shenanigans around me. The hustle and bustle goes all day and all night. This is a party city if you want it to be. I took the time alone to reflect and this is what I wrote:

This place is full of contradictions. The old concrete skeletons of glorious buildings past, standing in the shadows of elegant new skyscrapers kissing the clouds.

The gritty grimy layer of pollution which shrouds the city, dressing every surface like and old friend it creates an air of gloom and sadness. The lack of any graffiti despite the gloomy surrounds that seem to beg for the distraction.

There are bright excessive lights in random patches on and around roadsides to celebrate Christmas. They give a momentary sense of a pristine wonderland.

Signs on building sites say ‘safety first’. Driving around I see the sight of construction workers perched on just-built walls, three stories in the air. No safety equipment in sight, not even a hard hat.

Glitzy buildings with working class people walking past. They casually ignore the sleeping homeless person who thoughtfully made sure they were on the side of the pavement so you can just walk by, instead of stepping over them.

Elegant horse-drawn carriages gracefully intertwine with the mayhem of traffic jams. They dance alongside the brash, imposing presence of the Jeepneys.

The lovely landscaped park surrounded by posh coffee houses, sitting amongst corporate buildings. Corporate workers walk with purpose ignoring the begging of the little boy who I wonder about now. Who is he? Where is he? Is he safe, warm, fed and tucked up in a warm bed? I think not and my chest feels tight as I kiss my fair headed babes goodnight.

Can I do this and keep my soul intact? Will it actually make me a better person? Will my children thrive here? Can this teach them at this young age, of the need to be involved, to be kind, and to be compassionate?

To answer the question posed in the beginning of this post – can I see it working. It may not seem like it from the other side of me, but yes. All of this mass of confusion is somehow so alluring to me. I need this challenge to reawaken me, and while I will miss my home back here, this is a well thought out choice we have made and as far as I can see, the only way to view it is with optimism. You cannot compare where we are going to our home and life here. What would be the point? Rather we need to focus on the possibilities, on learning a new way of living, and enjoying the ride along the way.

But first…we need to get through Christmas and BB’s 4th Birthday! 

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