Monthly Archives: August 2012
Someone I know shared a blog article that touched me so much that it pulled me out of the rut of non-blogging that has plagued me for the longest time.
Said blog article was written by Chelsea Fagan. She described her feelings when she was living abroad for the first time. Her descriptions made me think of my own feelings when I lived abroad for the first time, from 2004 to 2010. At first glance, though, one is inclined to think: what could I–a post-depression non-profit worker born and raised in a third world country–have in common with a Caucasian woman from a richer and bigger country?
The most obvious is, we’ve both been exiles from our own countries at one point in our lives. She considered herself an ex-pat while I called myself an OFW. Tomato, tomato. Or as they liked to say in Cambodia: “Same same, but different.”
Her statement that probably resonated to me the most was the one about leaving the home country. She said that when ‘we leave our home countries, want to escape ourselves’. At the start of 2004, I was 31 and felt stranded. My career and relationship were going nowhere fast. I had an inept boss who came to his position through nepotism whose main task seemed to dismantle everything my former boss built–including us, the staff. My relationship was… well, I’ve said enough about it. I was ready for a change; there was, in fact, another job waiting for me a few months down the line.
So when the opportunity to travel to Cambodia–on holiday– came, I grabbed it. Four months into my ‘holiday’, I decided to stay. This decision baffled my parents–mostly my mother. After all, I had no family and friends in Cambodia. I didn’t even have a job offer.
But I stayed there, eventually managing to start a new career, a new relationship–a new life in this new country. I identified with Cambodia and its people because like me, the country and its people were both in the cusp of change. We were both looking for ways to reinvent ourselves. And for a while, we both did. For someone who had lived a somewhat sheltered life, this experience was exhilarating for me–the delicate process of building my new life.
Even the trips to the local market, where I got to practice my shopping and haggling skills in Khmer, excited me. As Ms Fagan described, I felt that this process changed me in a fundamental manner. It’s like I’m discovering all new sides of me–my personality, my social skills, and my other capabilities. As the days drew by I felt more confident of myself. I felt almost invincible–sure of my knowledge that whatever happens the rest of my life, I can say that I am capable of taking leaps of faith and landing on my feet unscathed.
I also related with her fear that life–in my case life in the Philippines–has gone on without me. My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were getting older. My friends were getting married and having children. I had a list of god-children whom I haven’t met yet. My grandmothers died when I was abroad. People slowly became a part of a checklist that I carried with me whenever I was in Manila. People that I made sure I met for lunches, dinners, or drinks before I returned to my new home. I began to find it harder and harder to talk to people who used to be my good friends.
(To be continued)