It is Easter, and here in the Philippines the universe seems to shut down for two days. OK that is a slight exaggeration, however for Holy Thursday and Good Friday this city shuts down. Most of the population leave town. Being newbies here, we were the last to know so everything is booked out and we are left here for a few days of calm, quiet and space to just breathe.
So I have. We have spent two days hanging here at home, sitting on our new couch – yes we finally have a couch! We have used this time to properly establish our positions on said couch. A very important family task. We have been swimming in the pool, pottering around. I have stopped ignoring the growing pile of ironing, I’ve baked Hot Cross Buns and cooked roast chicken.
We have both researched to see if anything is open here, and we have found a few restaurants. Thursday night we headed out, catching a taxi with more ease than ever before. We got to Capitol Commons in about five minutes. The fastest taxi ride ever because the roads are empty. We had a fabulously chilled out meal, sitting outside in the balmy evening, listening to Boyce Avenue’s soulful sound sing out into the night.
Having this time to just relax got me thinking. I remembered conversations I’d been having with friends over the last few weeks answering their common question of ‘how are you settling in’. The simple answer is that we are settling in just fine. Of course there are lumps and bumps but this was our choice and it is totally on us to sort it and make it work. That is just what we are doing.
Any kind of big life change can be very exhausting. When doing something new you tend to expend a lot more energy, use a lot more brain power, and often you are also more physically active. This results in exhaustion. Life here is exhausting when you are getting used to everything, and it’s not just the expending of energy creating this exhaustion. The physical environment is so different here and that takes a toll. The heat and humidity are exhausting. The sensory overload is exhausting. The constant noise is exhausting. Travel anywhere is exhausting. Doing housework is exhausting – and required a lot more frequently here than home due to the black dust that is just everywhere! You get the picture.
For us what has been difficult is not having the children’s things here, no toys. So our house has been very empty without furniture and fun stuff which means boredom hits very quickly and way too much TV is watched. So we have been going out every day – That is exhausting.
Thankfully I met a new friend last week whose husband works with SB. She has lent us a few boxes of toys. Last Sunday we had a whole day at home! Our first real full day at home. It was great!
There are a number of similarities between life here and back home. The day to day stuff like getting up, getting breakfast, putting on a load of laundry. Supermarkets are set out the same, shopping malls are the same, except for perhaps their size, range of shops and having play zones in the middle of them. One we went to the other night had a carousel on a balcony, oh and they are so bright! Super bright.
While the supermarkets are very similar there is a difference between grocery shopping here and back home. Here it is rare you will get everything you need in one store. Grocery shopping might take a few days to complete because you often need to go to two or three different places. The time it takes to do this, means it isn’t always a one day task, especially when you have small children in tow. So a big change for us here, is the time it takes to do something. I have spent the best part of this past week travelling around the city to find the ingredients for my Hot Cross Buns. I still had my new friend make the mixed spice from her pantry as I could not find it and we missed out on the crystalised ginger that gives my buns a special taste. That doesn’t mean it isn’t here – somewhere. It just means I haven’t located it yet!
Because of all of this, how we use time here needs to be different. This is something we are still adjusting to. You see back home everything became a very natural process. You instinctively know how to plan your days and weeks according to your children’s schedule. You know how long shopping takes, when it’s best to go, how best to get there etc. You instinctively manage your outings around your routines so kids get fed on time, go to bed on time, and are home in the afternoon at a good time to get ready for the evening. This is all based on our normal patterns of behaviour, built up and learned over time and experience.
Over here I have to start learning all of this all over again. Not only that but we have to adapt to changing routines to fit in with life here. The days start later and end later. Something we need to adjust to, and that is sometimes a challenge. Having said that, some mornings I do appreciate having that time to chill out at home, without the rush (when school starts for BB it will change with 7.30am school starts). Last night when we were out for dinner, the children happily playing beside us, I commented that this is such a great part of life here. It isn’t something you would find so much back home when you have small children.
At the moment we rely on taxi’s and there are a couple of really good phone apps we use here. Grab Taxi is the most common and you get normal taxi’s with that. Uber is the other which is privately owned cars, clean, a little bit fancy, that little bit nicer if you’re worn out. The prices don’t vary much. What varies is the time it takes to get a taxi or Uber car. The time of day affects this, what is going on in the city affects this. Even your location and your destination affects this. The biggest issue however, is the internet and mobile coverage. If the weather is bad, too much smog, too much heat, too much anything it all goes off. No internet, no phone calls, or text. You are isolated for however long it lasts. When this happens you get the guard to stand on the street to flag down a car, if you are in a place where you have this option. So there is no ‘quick trip to the shops to grab milk’ for us anymore. No. It is a full scale affair, complete with packing nappy changes, and enough snacks to get you through should you be stuck in traffic for an hour.
Despite all of this, the development of our life here is slowly moving forwards. The children’s bunk bed finally arrived and it has been a very exciting affair. As I mentioned, we now have a couch to sit on. Such a small thing but it makes our place a bit more homely.
We are finding our way around. Last week I took BB to the Doctor. There is a process involved with that, but now we know. I was impressed with the efficiency despite the process. I was also impressed with the quality of care.
The children have started swimming lessons. The teacher comes here which is good, I don’t have the worry of getting somewhere on time.
We are learning how to combat the ferocious mosquitoes here, and the ants. We are establishing new routines and resetting expectations. So you see we are adapting gradually to this new home of ours. I stay very much focused on the here and now, trying to absorb and learn as much as I can, work our way around, over and through the bumps. I figure the sooner I have this town sussed out, the sooner things will become our new normal. In the meantime I enjoy this blend of being a tourist and a local. I could call myself a ‘Tourcal’ Ha!