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My Second Anniversary

You might ask what Anniversary. It is not of my marriage to Elena, which will be this summer; it is my second anniversary living here in the Philippines. On December 6, 2007, I walked off the plan in Davao and started my new life.

Now, you will be thinking, what changes have occurred, well many? Living here is a constant adjustment and learning experience. There is the culture, the food, the driving and the daily living in a country with so many differences. If you have been a follower of this site, you have read of many of my observations, experiences and my life here.

To me the biggest difference to adjust is the language. Yes, many speak English here, but the quality of English varies and we need to understand, English is not their first language. It is not their second language either. For most it is their third or fourth.  To most here in Davao, their first language is Bisaya, their second is Tagalog and many speak a third or fourth dialect or language.

Another difference is the heat. I grew up in New York where we enjoyed all four seasonal changes. Then I lived in California where there were mainly two seasons, the hot summers and the cooler winters. From there I moved to Florida. In Florida we joked there was two seasons, over populated and not over populated. One person called it Gray heads and less gray, since Florida is the Mecca for retirees.

Here in the Philippines, it is hot and humid 12 months a year. The only cool days are if it is cloudy with lots of rain showers. Then the next day the sun evaporates the water and the humidity is even higher. There are cooler places up in the higher elevations such as Bagio on Luzon or up in Bukidnon on Mindanao.

Then there are the foods. Even though there are comparable foods to American items here, there are some items imported, there will be many things you cannot get here.  With Restaurants, there are some that cater to the foreigner palate, most here, serve Filipino food. Even at home, unless you are a good cook, or your wife likes to experiment, you will be looking at a lot of plain white rice.

Postal service is another big difference. There are no outgoing mailboxes. If you want to mail something, you have to go to one of the few postal locations.  For mail delivery, that is a flip of a coin. There have been many times I have not received a card or letter from America, and if it does come, it usually takes weeks to months to get here.

Insects and rodents are something to get used to, if that is that word. Ants are everywhere and they might be controlled, but never stopped. Mosquitoes are another problem, especially since some carry the Dengue disease.  Cockroaches fly here and at night you might hear a buzz as you see this big back thing fly into your house or see them scurrying across the floor. Rats will try to find their way in. Some are cute little things a few inches long but some are the size of a cat.

Dust and dirt is another common item to control. In most homes, every morning the soft broom is used to sweep all the floors. The other day we washed my can and put a cover over it. The next morning the cover was removed an hour before I left the house and it already had a light coating of dust.

Traffic is another item to get used to here. There are many Jeepneys, taxis and motorcycles on the streets with the driving being a controlled, or not so controlled chaos.  Good thing most of the time, vehicles do not drive at high speeds. As a driver, you need to watch for Jeepneys pulling out to taxis crossing lanes for a fare to motorcycles zigzagging and passing you on every side.

We are not to say life here is wrong because it is the way of life here. You can bitch and complain or just get used to it. They will not change the country to fit an expats needs.

Another item to mention is earning a living. I am a well-qualified Computer Architectural Project Manager. I am also able to manage or work in many areas but finding a job here is almost impossible. Opening a business needs capital and trying to make money on the internet is very difficult. Even keeping this site going has its costs for registration of the domain name and paying for hosting the site. Then there is the time spent thinking of articles of interest and answering the comments and emails.

If I could go back two years ago, would I have made the same decision? Probably I would, that was when the economy started to tank, there were no jobs available in the Architecture and housing industry, and my big priority was being with Elena. Since I could not afford to live in America, I came here to live with her in her country. I do wish I could earn more to give us all a better life, but it does not look like it is in the cards. I earn practically no money with American in Davao.

19 Responses to “My Second Anniversary”

  1. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, Gee, you make me want to go home! No, just kidding. I have only been here a month now and althought I am reasonably comfortable, it’s not home (the states).
    I don’t know if I will ever drive here. I imagine jeepney’s and taxis will get old sooner or later and I’ll break down and buy a car. The trafic thru a taxi windshield is enough for now.
    Food is a big priority with me, because it’s a comfort item. If the food makes me unhappy, then I’m unhappy about everything else. I’m lucky in that my wife lived and worked in Ohio for 6 years, so she has been exposed to my foods and tastes. She actually enjoys American cusine and is a good cook, so I’m pretty lucky. Still, the foods are hard to get and we work at keeping the kitchen equipped.
    The mosquitoes are a problem for my daughter. She reacts to the bites by swelling and brusing. She had the same reaction in the states, but that does not make it any easier to see.
    Well enough complaining. All-in-all I like it here and will stay for at least a few years to finish my wifes college education, then we’ll see.
    Keep writing, the articles are great.
    Steve

    • Bruce says:

      Steve,
      I did not mean it as a dismal report for here, just stating the facts. Too many write about this being Paradise with bikini clad women on the beach delivering you beverages with umbrellas. There is good and bad here. We decided to move here for our own reasons. Many because of the lower cost of living. Just like relocating anywhere, you need to accept the difficulties and differences.

  2. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, by the way… Happy 2nd Anniversary in Davao!!!!

  3. Hi Bruce, you give a less than rosy view of life down there, but it is warm! I know the humidity is high, but up here in Austria we are cold and dry (just like Canada in winter). I think I would prefer the heat. As for the food, I can sympathize. A lot of what I was used to over in Canada is not available here in Europe, so I just have to dream about it! And your traffic problems are no worse than ours – can you imagine sitting every morning on the Autobanh in a 10 kilometer long stall! Traffic over here is horrendous. In the summer, they even let the kids free from school on different weeks, just so the roads don’t become clogged with holiday makers. So, is the Philippines looking better now? 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      John,
      As I replied to Steve, I do not want to just talk about the good here, but more about the differences. I feel bad for those who move here and after a year or two return to their home country broke and disillusioned.

  4. Gene and Viol says:

    Hi Bruce,

    I really enjoyed your article about the first two years of life here. All or most of your experiences really hit home. As you know, I’ve been living here in the Philippines for almost seven years. It never gets any better in most cases-but it does become easier to tolerate and more enjoyable as time goes by.

    If you ever consider it necessary to return to work in the states, be sure to look at the Angeles area before you do.
    There are many jobs available inside Clark air base for us foreigners. They don’t pay like the states but P1,000 plus per day is better than a kick in the pants.
    There are many beautiful homes for sale or rent and also apartments in the area here that are very affordable.

    Nice part of this area too is that there is nothing lacking in the way of American foods and other products. With the many malls with grocery stores inside and the duty free stores inside Clark most anything you can think of is available.
    Anyway, it’s just food for thought.

    We hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas. Just remember, you could be back in the states and up to your eyebrows in the debt called the American Dream.

    Gene, Viol, and Ynna…

    • Bruce says:

      Gene,
      I hope over time this country and life will get better, there is so much potential here with the skills of the people and the resources.

      About relocating there, our family ties have us here. I do not think Elena would be willing to move so far away.

      I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas too and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

  5. Ken says:

    Bruce,

    Hang in there!!! Gene made a very valid point about the so called “American Dream” I’m sure your quite aware of that having lived in both New York and California, I lived in Southern Cal in the 1990’s for about 5 1/2 years and Wow!!! was it ever expensive.

    I hope things will get better, I feel that you will find a way to ensure that it does. Still, I agree that with your professional background there should, even in the Philippines be work available at decent wages. Sometimes we have to take a step back and re-evaluate our decisons/situation and make adjustments, if that adjustment means relocating to a different part of the country or even temporarily going further abroad then so be it.

    Best wishes, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years…..

    • Bruce says:

      Ken,
      I have thought about looking for work in other parts of the country or even abroad, but that means I will probably be away from Elena. My main reason moving here was to be with her. Until things get too difficult living here with her in Davao I will stay.

      Merry Christmas and a HAppy and Healthy New Year to you and your family too.

  6. Lonnie Carreau says:

    Bruce,

    You brought up a lot of valid points. I did not see it as complaining at all. I had thought seriously about retiring there, but my short trip has made me reconsider. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there, but I would find it a big adjustment to live there and it would probably be even harder when I am older. The things that I could see bugging me the most would be the traffic, the heat and the crowded conditions. I think Americans tend to have a larger sense of personal space.

    -Lonnie

    • Bruce says:

      Lonnie,
      I am glad you see it as info and not complaints. Everywhere you live has good and bad points. Here, the crowded conditions vary where you live, the traffic is bad, but you get used to it and the heat, well I have lived in the desert in Southern Cal and then the humid tropical Florida. You do adjust and fans help.

  7. Hi Bruce,
    Know what you mean im in year 3 and some things will always shock me but generally things seem to blend in to be normal. But cant wait for friends to eventually arrive as it will be a bit odd seeing from people who havent had the experiences of all creatures small and large.

    Although the wild life does fascinate me and things like my wife coming into the house going waahh after putting rubbish in the bin to find that knocking the bush a preying mantis about 4″ long had walked onto her arm. Does keep things interesting and an ideal photo op 😉

  8. *lynne* says:

    Congrats on this anniversary! And here’s to many many more 🙂

  9. Kevin says:

    Bruce,

    Hopefully things will turn around and get better. Maybe you could sell some stuff on your site that is unique. Take care.

    • Bruce says:

      Kevin,
      I would have no problem selling things, but not sure what unique items would be of interest. If there is anything people are interested in having from the Philippines, I have no problem purchasing, packaging and shipping.

  10. roger says:

    Bruce,
    With yr skills it should be possible to find some opening in Davao. How big is the population? Is there any manufacturing there or technical development? Are there any overseas companies making use of the cheap skilled labour?

    Lateral thinking may be the answer. Maybe you could set up an internet cafe for pinays looking for love, employment overseas or something. Nil desperandum!

    • Bruce says:

      Roger,
      As per the 2007 census was about 1.4 million. With all the college graduates, there are many qualified unemployed Filipinos here looking for jobs. For me I need to find a company that probably needs me for my nationality, my knowledge of American business practices or to draw in business of other expats. The chances of this is probably very slim. Many of the benifits I can bring to a company can be filled by a Filipino and their wage needs are less than mine.

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