I don’t consider myself to be a real expatriate. I love America too much to defect. My time is also quite a bit shorter than other expats here in the Philippines. However, for the past week-and-a-half, I have resided in the thick of Manila, a bustling metropolis of 6.5 million people, and gone about my days as if I resided here. Although I served a 2-year mission here, quite a few activities were prohibited, which are now free game. A few of these experiences have yielded humorous and sometimes uncomfortable results as I have continued to learn more about the culture I love here.
One of the biggest differences between myself and many of the other foreigners here is that I am not more than 60-years-old with a wife a third my age, or DOM (Dirty Old Men) as we affectionately refer to them. However, as I walked through the mall this past week with my friend Marje, I couldn’t help but feel extremely self-conscious that I had taken the very form of those I detested. What do DOM do with their time? Hang out at the mall drinking coffee. I was hanging out at the mall eating Dairy Queen! A close comparison! I wanted to yell at all the wandering eyes “We’re not married! Can’t you see she’s older than me (that’s hard to see since I tower over everyone by a head)! Stop judging me and let me eat my ice cream!” Even if I was old and fat, I don’t think I could ever become a DOM. The shame (365 million people in our country and you can’t find 1 person to marry you!).
That same day, we went to go see the new Mission Impossible film. The Philippines does well enough in English that they take their American films in English with no subtitles. Without sounding too much like a movie review, I’ll say that I enjoyed the film very much. It was laced with humor; some subtle and some not-so-subtle. It was this cleverly written subtle humor which proved problematic for me. I laughed out loud at many of these moments, as I’m sure most people would at an American cinema. Unfortunately, this humor was above most of the audience here, making me the only one to laugh in the movie. After a few instances, I just wanted to yell to everyone “Oh COME ON! It’s funny!”
One thing that the movie theaters do correctly is the food they allow you to bring in. As much as I love America, I will never pay for theater food that costs more than the movie you are paying to see, and outside food is not allowed. In the theater lobby here, there is a Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Dairy Queen in the same stall. What could be better than enjoying a movie while eating a taco or a pizza, or a pizza taco (it’s a thing). Granted, I still sneak these things into American theaters. The only difference being that I wouldn’t have to saran wrap a pizza and tape it around my waist or stuff other food under my clothes for fear of getting caught. It’s no fun trying to explain to the manager why I have Ben and Jerry’s “Cinnamon Buns” trickling down my leg.
Since the city is much too large to understand their bus system (please just get a train), I have been taking taxis to get around. Growing up in a smaller city, traffic is one thing I have never had to deal with. I firmly believe now that traffic would be a dealbreaker for me in any city I live in. Google Maps has forsaken me. It tells me only 15 minutes to my destination, but I arrive an hour later. I now only use maps to determine distance and then determine if I should triple or quadruple the ETA Out of curiosity, I walked 6 kilometers to a clinic I was visiting and took a taxi back. It took me 55 minutes to walk and about 70 minutes and 200 pesos to take a taxi. To walk in the insufferable heat for free and arrive sooner, or pay up and move at a sluggish rate? That is the question.
Many of my destinations consist of me eating something (if you’ve learned ANYTHING from reading this blog, you would know that). I have been so confused at the attention they give the food here. For example, doughnuts are taken very seriously. Hands are never used; instead, the finest silver is provided. Because nothing screams classy liking eating your custard creme with a fork. They are also a complete meal. I was surprised to learn in the states that dinner crepes were a thing. How about a tuna filled eclair? Or perhaps a glazed with your corn beef.
I love learning about different cultures . Every day is an opportunity to learn something new and unique. With as much love as I have for the Philippines though, I will never share their love Air Supply.