This week is the first anniversary for my husband in his new job …. The one that has brought us here to Manila nearly a year ago now. And what a year it has been! One of our goals in coming was to travel as much as possible and we’re staying commited. Though sometimes it’s hard …..
Now that we’ve been here almost a year we’re passing a significant milestone. Most things have been done once. The first 3 months when life for me at least crawled by and everything was new in an exhausting way. The “welcoming” gastro attacks. Our gradual inhabitation of the house, room by room, slowly claiming it as ours. The first days at school and changes of friends. First trips away and returns. The first Halloween and Christmas. Birthdays. The first visitors from Australia. The shift from calling Australia home to calling Manila home. Surviving our first wet with accompanying mosquitoes and unrelenting heat/humidity. First “winter” …. a wonderful reprieve! You almost forget how intense it had been. We remember now that it’s back! The first new friends. Gradually we’re carving out a new social network.
Still other things mark you being away in a different way. Significant things that you miss. My Grandpa died. My Mum got engaged (we haven’t met Kevin yet). Friends having babies. Little people growing up. Friends and family going through hard times that we can’t be there to help with.
Just recently I was in my local supermarket and I saw a woman several cash registers away who was clearly not local (we blondies are VERY conspicuous) with her 5 year old son and a facial expression I recognised in an instant. I just knew she was fresh off the boat. That mixture of utter frustration, despair, confusion, “what the hell is this place?” and “they call this bread!” as she scrutinized a loaf of local white bread. I so wanted to get her attention and provide some support. The bread here is generally AWFUL and the only decent bread (good and cheap) was only a shop away …. but she was too far away and we were on a time line precluding leaving the line. The other expats here and those that preceded and advised us have been lifesavers. The community really is amazing. There isn’t anything you can’t ask. To find myself on the side of giving out the advice was a turning point and helped me realise how far we have all come.
We still miss all sorts of things, most especially our outdoor lifestyle, but we’re almost at the point now of being closer to going than arriving. We can now say we’ll be home “next year” (some time). Things are largely familiar and thats far more comforting than I ever thought it would be. We’re thinking about what we’ll take home in both the physical and psychological senses.
I’m not sure exactly what has kicked of my reflections but I guess my internal compass is subtly changing direction, reorienting us all toward Australia over the next 12 months. I’m curious to see what shifts in attitude etc go with it as we head into our next stage. Suffice to say we continue to live in interesting times.