Saturday, July 27, 2013

An alternative space-time continuum (part two)

Squawking roosters. Barking dogs. Motorcycle engines. Claustrophobic jeepney and/or bus rides next to fighting cocks. Children playing with your hair (yes that means on your head, legs, and arms). Constant stares and glares, never loosing eye contact.

From a western perspective, privacy is seen as a right, not a privilege. An empty row of seats seems more appealing to us than one that is currently occupied by two strangers. Many people are afforded their own bedroom, instead of sharing one with other family members. Public transportation, such as buses and trains, aren't utilized as frequently as personal cars or taxis. All in all, we enjoy our personal space.

This was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome when I moved to the Philippines. And it is something that will never fully change. Filipinos are extremely welcoming and hospitable people, sometimes to a point where you think they are coming off rude (such as the "hey joe" references that I get on a daily basis, which refers to G.I. Joe's back in WWII when many Americans were stationed here). They go above and beyond to make sure that you are happy. The constant interaction was something I was not accustomed to. Maybe this is because Filipinos place an enormous value on family, to the point where you often see sons and daughters living with their parents well into their adult years and some even after they are married with children. Now, some may view this as being overprotective, etc. But Filipinos would only use one word to characterize this bond: love. They love and value their connections so much that they are willing to sacrifice their space to ensure the happiness of those around them. They don't care what is going on around them, who is rubbing against them at the supermarket or on the jeepney, or whether dogs are barking outside and keeping them up at night. Because lying right next to them or sharing a drink with them are those who are most important to them.

Three months ago, I moved out of my host family's home and into my own apartment. I wanted a little bit more space to myself and the opportunity to cook my own meals. But my new place is only 10 feet away from my host family. I didn't want to give up the valuable relationship I had with them by packing up my stuff and moving down the road. Over the course of my 8 months living with them, I learned the importance of sharing a wall.

 Jeepney ride next to a fighting cock. You can see the tight quarters

 My humble abode

 View from my front door into my living room (to the right) and the kitchen in the back

My kitchen

CR (or "comfort room", AKA bathroom)

My bedroom upstairs

The basketball hoop I built for my host family for Christmas. Very pleased with my craftsmanship, but more pleased with the use the kids are giving it. They'll play well after the sun goes down!

I can now tune out the dogs and the roosters (the rain helps). Children play with my leg hair on the bus. These are just daily occurrences. Yes, sometimes they are frustrating. Yes, I need to be able to have some time for myself. But I've found that our interpersonal communications are just as important as our intrapersonal ones. And that venturing out of my comfort zone, affording myself less personal space, allows me to appreciate the environments and people around me on a greater level.


  1. You have a gift for writing, Andrew!
    Something you often found a challenge when in middle school! :) In your updates I feel like you are letting each of "us" into your heart and mind by the way you express what you are experiencing and feeling on this journey. It is amazing!

  2. Hey Andrew,
    My husband and I are scheduled to arrive in the Philippines in July 2014 and have been reading your blog like the bible!!! Thanks so much for being so specific and informative and honest|!!! We are learning a lot. Can we email? I am at since we have many questions!