Why the Hell Are We Here?
It’s been a while since I just sat down and wrote something about nothing.
I mean, it’s not like I’ve stopped writing as I have been putting out reviews and working on the site in other capacities. But to just sit down and write something not focused and not about anything, to basically jot down a random stream of unconsciousness which I used to be pretty good at, that’s something that has been missing for a long while.
So here I am, sitting in front of Word staring at a blank page and all of a sudden I started to write. The keys tap tap taping away on my keyboard almost to a hidden beat to hidden song in my head. I hit the back space quite a few times as I don’t like where my head is bringing my fingers. I start to write something and get lost in thought…
And what am I thinking about?
Well, I wish I had the time to get out a clean blank slate and some colored chalk and we could try to map out my thought process, but the point is I find my mind is racing. It is going on 4:30 am now and HBO is on the TV just loud enough to provide some background noise. I have lived over here long enough now that random noise is almost comforting. My daughter turns three this month (man I’m feeling old. How can I have a three year old?) My current ‘girlfriend’ is fast asleep in the bed and the rest of the house is quiet.
I try to concentrate. Focus my thoughts. Just what am I thinking about?
The first thing that comes to mind is an incident that comes to the forefront of consciousness quite often. Usually about the time I am sitting in the dark sweating because we are suffering through yet another brownout and wondering why I choose to stay in this dusty little town.
*NOTE:I find it quite ironic that as I was uploading this column we suffered yet another brown out. God has a very wicked sense of humor and I can’t wait to meet him and discuss these things…*
Drummer and I were walking around on a bar hop (shocker, right?) and found ourselves walking past Pick-Up on Real Street towards the Orchid Inn. We then asked that same question we ask each other a million times a night, “So, where you want to go?” and then stare at each other wondering where would be different.
“ How about Las Vegas” I suggested.
“ Nah, I’m tired of that place.”
“ Yeah, me too…*sigh* Maybe I’ll just go home early and get some sleep.”
About this time we were right in front of Orchid and saw a guy loading his bags into a back of a van. He slowly but deliberately walked towards the front of the van and hugged a girl goodbye and climbed into the passenger side seat. We walked right passed him and saw that look on his face. That disgruntled sad and depressed look of a man about to leave somewhere he didn’t want to. We had seen that look too many times before.. Hell, we had that look back when we were tourists!
“ Hey, how about Las Vegas Club?”
“ Sounds good to me, man. I love that place!”
Thinking of that incident reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago. Need to go find it, it seems appropriate to post it again…
So why are we here?
How do you define an Expat?
I mean, there is probably no larger group made up of more ethnic groups, more economic backgrounds, varied educational levels, numerous nationalities, wide (and getting wider) age groups, huge cultural differences, tall, short, bald, hairy, blue eyes to green to black, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…
I would wager there is not one identifiable common trait amongst them all to categorize into any definable group. It is a sociologist’s nightmare!
Webster’s defines the Expatriate simply as “to give up residence in one’s homeland.” Although there is more to it than that definitively speaking as it can also mean to be in exile or to give up citizenship of your homeland. While there are certainly foreigners in the Philippines who fall into those to latter categories, I don’t think that label sticks on most of us who choose to live here.
So then just what is it? What makes us an Expat?
It’s not the food…
It’s not the infrastructure…
It’s not the politics…
It’s certainly not the living conditions…
It’s not even the girls…
(Well, maybe it is that a little…)
I believe that the Expat finds here in the Philippines and Angeles City in particular, a community that is comprised of so much variety and diversity, mixed of course with the ever present horde of available Filipinas, thrown in with the lower economic burdens to live a comfortable life, the generally warm weather, and most of all the laid back lifestyle that truly defines the Philippines in the first place.
A line from an Outfield song sums it all up for me, “I only live for today, but I’m one day behind…”
This casual lifestyle where most Expats own an alarm clock but can’t remember the last time they used it, is perfect for a select few type of people. The qualities of which are not selected by where one is from, or how old one is, or what language one speaks, or what color one happens to be. No, the only predisposition one needs to enjoy this life is an appreciation for the small things and not get worked up over a few inconveniences.
An Expat has to learn to make do with what he has. An Expat has to learn to live simply and appreciate things when they happen. An Expat is comfortable where most others would not be. An Expat is a chameleon in a jungle of strangeness.
We all love our HBO but would live here without cable. We all love our homelands but feel at home elsewhere. We all love our families but love our extended families as well. (Many of us building families here abroad as well.) We all love our native cuisine but are satisfied with the food here. We all love fancy cars but find a trike also gets us from here to there.
Some of us are ex-military, some are current military, some of us are retired, some of us are working, some of us are married, some of us are single, some of us party every night, some of us never step foot in a club, some of us are hedonists, some of us are religious.
We all made a choice to live this life regardless of previous background.
It is not for everyone… Hell, it is not for most!
Many people would be driven mad living here. The first cold shower they would take would be the last as they would pack up and leave on the next plane available. The first time their place was broken into they would get the hell out of dodge claiming crime was rampant. The first time they got into a wreck they would sell their motorcycle and head back to their homeland where “everyone knows how to drive!” The first time there was a black out they would go back to where infrastructure was a word that actually meant something…
But the Expatriate remains.
The Expat finds a lifestyle he is comfortable with and chooses to stay in a dusty little town with limited resources and a million things that piss him off daily. For at the end of the day when he looks ahead to tomorrow, he recognizes there is no other place in the world he would rather be.
I am sure many of you are now saying, “Well, that’s all well and good. A lot of romanticizing and colorful speech describing a cowboy attitude works in generalities, but what about you? Why are you an Expat? What made you decide to throw it all away and live away from your homeland?”
Easy question – Hard answer.
I am not a draft dodger or deserter. Indeed, I spent 12 years serving my country in Army Intelligence (don’t bother, I’ve heard all the jokes…) from 1984 to 1996 – moving away from my home town of San Jose California at the tender young age of 18 years and one month. My roots in California ran deep and still do. My whole family lives within a 2 hour’s drive from each other with three sisters all within 30 miles of one another. I had a beautiful studio apartment with a large pool in a great part of town, a good job making 60,000 a year with stock options (Hell, on paper I was a millionaire for a brief moment in time), I had a gorgeous Korean-American girlfriend who had eyes towards marriage, and a nice 1966 ford Mustang sitting in the garage. I had it all…
Or did I?
The rat race was getting to me. The 18 hour days 6 days a week with a meeting on Sunday to plan next week’s activities at my Start-Up didn’t seem as fun anymore. The tech market was crashing and the company was re-organizing…AGAIN. They kept throwing options at me but moving to Tennessee was not my idea of a dream job anymore. My apartment was 950 a month and the landlord was talking of a rent increase as he was looking to retire soon and wanted his tenants to foot the bill. Gasoline at the pumps was creeping over 2 dollars a gallon. Owning the 66 ‘Stang was like paying alimony; every month some money was needed to put into her to keeping her running and not complaining. The girlfriend, although looking Asian had an American attitude, was pushing a little too hard for me to put a gold band on her finger.
It was time for a change. It was time to be where I was happy. This rat was leaving the maze and going straight for the cheese… It was long past time to think outside the box.
A few calls and e-mails and I was employed again overseas, this time in Korea. And with ticket in hand I had it all lined up, a major change in local and back to Asia where I loved. I planned it all out. First a month vacation in the Philippines (where I had ALWAYS felt comfortable) and then I was up to Korea for my new job. My flight to Manila from San Francisco was on September 13th, 2001.
Two days before my flight a few fanatics flew some people into the Pentagon and the Two Towers taking the wind out of my sails and my life’s course was once again changed.
Not to sound to callous as I realize my losing a job because of a governmental hiring freeze and the grounding of all flights is miniscule in tragedy when compared to the massive life lost, but I was upset on many different levels. I had a major decision to make…
I decided to throw caution to the wind and take the vacation anyway. As soon as the airports re-opened I re-booked my flight and I was in Angeles.
I was never happier as I realized I had no ties keeping me anywhere for the first time in my life. One month turned into two and I wondered what it would take for me to just stay. I started to hint around to a friend that I would be willing to stay if something opened up. Just that one small whisper into a friend’s ear had four job offers in front of me. When the dust settled I chose to work as a manager in King of Diamonds as I had an affinity to that club and the Kokomo’s group in general. How different my life would be had I chosen one of the other places!
Anyway, that job led to many other offers as I took to it like a fish to water (I tell everyone that with 12 years in the Army and time spent as a preschool teacher and my fondness to party, I had spent 35 years training for that job) and I thoroughly enjoyed my 10 months at KOD.
Among many groups and independents offering me work, one place that approached me was the Insomnia Group. This was run by two friends of mine and they literally offered me a dream job that I couldn’t refuse. I would work on the computer for most of the day for their Internet company with emphasis on web site development and graphic design (a favorite hobby of mine) with an additional responsibility for promotion and writing (another task I enjoy) materiel to promote not only Insomnia Group but Angeles City in general and then when night came I would open and run Insomnia Night Club for a few hours at night.
How can life get any better?
I did a small stint at Pick-Up Disco, but then fully in Insomnia again and working my two loves. Computers and the club which, contrary to popular belief, does not get old. At least it does not for me. I love last night in Insomnia as much as I loved my first night in King of Diamonds two plus years ago. The Pick-Up was a change but not quite the right fit for me as I feel more comfortable in the go-go bar than I do the disco. Minus the drug use, I’m more of a Jeff Spicoli than a Tony Manero, if you catch the reference.
Three years later in Insomnia it was time for another move. This time to stop working for the man and make a go of it myself. Life is now a little riskier and I feel a little like I did back in the start up days of WebMD, but I’m happier now more than ever.
Bottom line I now live and work exactly where I want. Maybe one day it will grow old but for now I have zero regrets. I love where I am and what I do.
I am happy in Angeles.
I am living the life.
I am an Expat.