1st Annivesary. Reality v Expectations
Your problems, your fears, your flaws, and all of your positive traits go with you no matter where you are. Going abroad may be the answer for some or the beginning of the end for others. If you are not in paradise at home you will not find paradise here.
Wow! Has it really been a year already? Time flies when you are having fun, huh? Well, where to start… I had planned on retiring to Cebu, I went for xmas 2011 to check it out, and enjoyed it. Big enough to have fun but not Manila big. But then I met Melane online. Not on a dating site, or a bar ha ha. A mutual friend thought we would like each other – and she was right! I changed my plans mid-stream and went to Panay instead of Cebu. I figured if we did not hit it off I could always go to Cebu, so no worries. Hmm… it has been a year and I am still here with her. We slipped right into the most comfortable relationship I have ever been in. Exactly what I was looking for. I did not want to be a sexpat and just party all the time. I wanted to find a nice girl and settle down… wow I can’t believe I said that! But yes, it was time to settle down. So last week in Boracay, on our 1 year anniversary – and Valentine’s Day, I asked her to marry me. She must not be very smart because she said yes. Now to plan a wedding. (Valentine blog https://expatinphilippines.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/valentines-at-boracay-and-a-marriage-proposal)
I am going to ramble for a while. I wrote a 7 month look back (was supposed to have been 6 month). I will try not to repeat too much but probably will. (7 month look back https://expatinphilippines.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/reflections-on-my-first-7-months)
People ask me if living in the Philippines is what I expected. That is kind of hard to answer because I really don’t know what I expected. I had absolutely no problem with stopping work. And I don’t understand people who do. There is a mindset difference there. My dad never wanted to retire – and I never wanted to work. I am loving doing nothing, or doing whatever I want. I highly recommend it. I could be the textbook case on how not to retire overseas though. I planned virtually nothing. (yes, I realize in my 6 month look back I said I planned things – but I was wrong!) I don’t really have much monthly income, and cannot retire for another 5 years. I had no idea where I was going to live. And now, a year later, still don’t. The Philippines can be a cheap place to live, or you can easily spend as much as in the West. It is up to you how you want to live. I am in a bamboo house. But we have running water, so it is not as rustic as you might think. (not potable water, but running water) I am living about the lifestyle I wanted. Not exactly where I wanted – but the way I wanted. And except for the noisy neighbors, I am happy. But some days when I am walking the path across the rice fields, I look up at the banana, coconut, and mango trees and wonder how the hell did end up here!? Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could. So somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good.
I really think this is a great life for me but it is certainly not for everyone. Most people don’t want to leave their comfort zone. I never really had a comfort zone – I just cruise through life one day at a time. I was in college, got married, worked, had kids, joined the Navy, was a single dad, it was just life. I did stress over stuff in my youth but later I learned to just live. The expats that are the happiest seem to be about the same. Some of the guys bitch and moan all the time and don’t seem happy here – and I wonder if they were happy anywhere. It is not as glorious & paradisaical as some say, and it certainly is not all doom & gloom as others say. Your attitude makes it what it is. I came with an open mind and a good attitude and I found friendly people and a comfortable life. Now I just need to convince Melane that when I complain about the heat or the bugs I am not really complaining… Americans just like to bitch about the obvious things we can’t change. It is just in our DNA, I think.
The Two Travelers and the Farmer
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.
“What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”
“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town. Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work. Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk.
“What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.
“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”
“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
That really sums up life. Your expectations and attitude will create your reality. The Filipinos are generally a happy people. Most are poor, have large families, and keeping a roof over their heads & food on the table is a constant struggle. But that is no reason to be unhappy. They are happy for what they have, and enjoy their friends & family. The Western world could learn a lot from them. But my family was about the same back in the US. I knew a lot of people that were money driven and had horrible relationships etc. But most of my family is pretty laid back. Some have more money than others but no one really cared. We would get together on holidays and just enjoy visiting. My kids seem to be about the same – I hope they stay that way.
It is pretty easy to be happy when you have enough money. Try being dirt poor and see what that does to your outlook. For example I bought a set of sheets, when I got here, for p3,500. Almost $80 USD! To me that is crazy expensive but it was the only decent set of sheets I found. But I digress… p3,500 for a set of sheets, and the sales girl who sold them to me takes over 2 weeks to make that much! And Americans want to bitch about $7.25 minimum wage… shut up and go back to work! One of the biggest problems I see is that the love of money is the root of all evil. Not money – the love of money. Big difference. Money is a good thing. It pays for the roof over my head, my food, my travel. I would not want to live without it. But I have never been driven by money. Or maybe I was just the original slacker, I don’t know.
The family in Antique, Philippines
Among expats we sometimes discuss, or laugh about, our families back in the old country. My sister thought I was crazy (she may still, and may be right), my brother seemed jealous, my kids never really said much – but they grew up hearing that I was retiring overseas. Whether they believed it or not… And my work mates think I am a pedophile. Well I am no pedophile. I am 50, my fiancé is 25. Younger, but not too young. And if the age difference was reversed, in the US I would be a “cougar” and it would be considered cute. Fuck your double standards. I may be crazy… but my brother is right to be jealous. He is smarter than me, and working until he can actually afford to retire. I got out before my health got any worse. I joke with some the expats and say that no “normal” person would move 8,000 miles away from friends and family. So in a way we must all be crazy. Or are we the sane ones that escaped the insanity? Let me sip some more rum on the beach and think it over.
Let’s see… how about some annual totals… Rent for the entire year was p36,000 ($820 USD). Tourist visa extension fees p26,220 ($595 USD). Wow compared to rent the visa fees seem high! Electricity p18,820 ($427 USD). $180 mail forwarding service. $96 Netflix. Water is free. We have a well, a pump, a tank, and an electric submersible heater. You cannot drink it but when you heat it you can take a nice shower. I did not keep track of any other expenses really. Maybe it would have been interesting to do so but the root word of retired is “tired”… so it ain’t happening! This is disheartening, though. With figures that low I should be ok on my monthly income – so how did I use almost half my savings in one year? I better look into that. Retirement is still 5 years away ha ha!
Speaking of spending too much we did do some nice traveling this year. 2 trips to Boracay, 1 to Bacolod, 1 to Palawan, 1 to Manila, and a bunch of day trips around the area. Is five vacations a year too much? Nah, I don’t think so either.
We are talking about moving soon. Most of the time I really like it here, and I know she likes being near family, but the continuous loud music is killing me. One of the neighbors must have gotten new speakers for Christmas because every night music is thump-thumping into our house. Some nights he does not turn it on until 10 or 11 at night, but plays it until 6 AM! And they live in the next barangay apparently. We lost power the other night and the whole area went dark – and the band played on. There are no noise rules out here so complaining would do no good, even if I knew where they lived. So it is time to move. I did not want to end up in a gated community but I think it may happen soon. People in gated communities tend to have jobs and need to sleep at night. It is just hard to find a community that actually enforces the rules they have. No hurry, but it is time to start looking around.
I’m eating well. Food is no problem. Maybe eating too well. I have lost no weight and Melane has put on some. I lost 2 inches, from my waist, when I first got here, but don’t worry I found them and put them back. I need to make myself get out and walk more. When I first got here we walked almost every evening. Now we are both lazy. (Shh, don’t her I said this but she sleeps more than anyone I have ever seen!) When I first got here it was hard to find a lot of the food I wanted, but now I know where to get most of the foreign foods I need. Cheese and bread are still tough. The Filipino versions are horrid and the imports are available sporadically. But cheese and bread are fattening and I need to eat less of them anyway. Right? Yeah… whatever. But I no longer buy cokes for the house. I drink Tang and water only (and some rum, of course).
Anyway it has been a fun year. We had a rainy season, the worst typhoon in recorded history, some fun trips, rum is cheap, and in the summer we actually got some of the super hero and action movies from the US at the theater. And my iPod still works. That is important.