High Five!

(This entry was written on 20 August 2009 in my Multiply site.  I thought this is a good first post for my “official” blog.  One of the things I wanted to do is to have a blog and to be more courageous and brave in sharing what I learn, resent, feel strongly for or against, and what-have-yous to a wider audience – not only my family and friends.  And thus, this forum for my thoughts is born.)

It was 1,826 days ago that I first stepped foot outside of the Philippines.  This was the longest time I was away from home.  Today completes my 5th year here in these United States of America.

I have spent more than half of my 27 years away from my family, attending high school in Iloilo, getting my undergrad in Manila, and now, pursuing a PhD degree in Massachusetts.  It seems like I am a perpetual student, and indeed, we all are; as we continue on life’s roads, we learn and we grow.  We are students of life, and our experiences and challenges are our teachers.  I thought this is an opportune time to look back and look forward – to see what I have learned and to determine where I am heading.  Don’t be fooled by the seriousness of tone though… I intend to write down random stuff that comes to my mind in the hour or so that I have given myself to write down this blog entry.

  • Overall, I don’t think much have changed since I came here in the US five years ago.  I’m still single and still a student.  But if I go past that, there has been a lot of changes.  First, there is my weight.  I have never weighed so much in my life! Portion sizes here are just humongous, and being a third world citizen, you just feel bad about throwing away those extra food.  I have learned my lesson though.  Engaging in physical activities and setting training goals for myself helped me to be healthy.  I may not go back to my original weight five years ago, but I can say that I’ve never felt any healthier!
  • I have become at ease with “conversational” English.  So much at ease that my grammar and spelling has deteriorated.  I used to be so “anal” about using the right conjunctions and punctuation marks.  Now, I notice myself making a lot of grammatical mistakes, especially when I write.  Speaking in English does not guarantee you improve your language skills.  Actually, the first thing I noticed with most of my American classmates is that they are bad spellers!
  • Staying on the “conversational” topic, there are a handful of English terminologies that we use in the Philippines, but are not commonly used here.  It is recommended that you learn them in order not be spotted as an F.O.B. (fresh off the boat).
  1. C.R./comfort room = restroom
  2. college = undergrad
  3. elementary = grade school/middle school (and 5th grade, not grade 5)
  4. “See you later” or “later” does not literally mean “see you later.”  It is an alternative to saying “goodbye.”
  5. Same as “give me a second” or “a couple of times.”  They don’t really mean 1 second or twice.
  6. There are other expressions, but they seem to have escaped me.  Moving on.
  • TV shows are always on time (except for the occasional flash news reports, severe weather alerts and state of the nation or commonwealth addresses).  It is freaky how you stare at the digital clock on the cable box as it changes from 8:59 to 9:00 pm and you hear the jingle of your favorite show right on cue!
  • Thank God for the weather!  It is such a versatile conversation topic.  You can talk about it with a total stranger during a long elevator ride or expound on a weekend escapade to your co-workers without having to tell them details about what you did.  Just start with, “Wow, it’s gorgeous outside, isn’t it?” or “I heard we’ll be getting 12 inches of snow tonight” and conversation will flow smoothly and effortlessly.
  • Driving is so much easier here.  Almost everyone obey the traffic rules and respect the pedestrian (maybe not so much in the bustling cities) and the lanes are so wide that I think the two-lane road we have in our barangay is actually one lane in the Massachusetts turnpike.
  • I have become a caffeine addict.  The first time I didn’t get my morning coffee, I felt seasick.  I couldn’t last a day without it.  And it started during grad school.
  • Most people here are creatures of habit.  On my drive to and from school, I would see the same people doing their morning jog, or walking down the sidewalk, or walking their dog. Now that I don’t wake up as early as I used to, I don’t see them anymore, but if I do, it never fails.  I see them, and it seems like I’ve gotten to know them just by passing by.
  • I miss the convenience of having a mall that has everything in it.  In particular, I miss SM.  They just don’t have an SM-type of mall here (maybe in other cities or states).  This is something they should learn from the Philippines.
  • I would like to think that I have grown as a scientist.
  • When I first came here, it was the start of the baseball playoffs, and eventually, of the World Series. Fortunately for me, I was able to witness how crazy sports fans can be.  I do understand them though; even if I didn’t know anything about the Boston Red Sox, I got a crash course about the “Curse of the Bambino” and how it was lifted on that fateful Thursday night in 2004.  I would say that baseball is USA’s national sport.  Every region has their own team they are rooting for and I admire their fervent support.  And don’t get me started on American football!  I began to love football and the New England Patriots because of Tom Brady.
  • Sticking to sports, I find it a little arrogant of them to label every championship they have as a World event – and the winner as a World champion.  They are only playing against each other, teams from the same country.  I don’t get it.  (I can go on about America being a Super power and the political and social implications of these, but that would be a novela!)
  • One thing I admire about Americans is how they hold their elections.  I have experienced 2 presidential elections already, the first one a downer, with the Bush re-election in 2004, and the second in 2008 – one down in the history books.  There are no pamphlets, sample ballots or posters scattered on the streets.  They have regulations on where they can display campaign materials.  There are no blaring vans broadcasting to the entire neighborhood their candidate’s crazy jingles.  They have an electronic system for voting, and one knows the election results before bed time.  I’m not saying their system is perfect, but it’s worth emulating.  And I really believe it is about time we use those electronic voting system COMELEC purchased several years back and have them up and running.  I could go on and on, but I could always dream that someday, we will have this kind of system in the Philippines. Some day.
  • State parks!  I Love them!  It is such a great way to give your citizens a venue to enjoy nature while preserving nature.  Many of these parks are well tended and protect the wildlife.

…And my time runs out.  There are soooo many things I am thankful for and admire and criticize and cherish in these five years that has passed and I can’t cram all of them in this one blog post.  One thing I am sure about is what I would be doing in the future.  Cheesy and cliche’-esque as it sounds, I would love to go back to the Philippines and share everything that I have learned here.  It’s the one thing that has not changed.  Me and my lofty dreams of a better country.  My hope has not been washed out by cynicism and despair… so far.  I read about the comings and goings in Philippine society and it is not pretty. But it is not as ugly as others would think.  And that is what I am going to cling to.

Here’s to hoping I finish up soon and get things on a roll!

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One response

  1. ditto, ditto, and more dittoes!
    especially liked this “…being a third world citizen, you just feel bad about throwing away those extra food…” hahaha.
    and this “I miss the convenience of having a mall that has everything in it”

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