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Retirement Resolutions

Corkboard with resolutions on it

Many expats make resolutions before they retire. We say we’re going to get into shape, eat healthier, or develop a hobby. After all, retired doesn’t mean dead! But do we follow through? I haven’t, so far. And that bothers me.

The Trouble At Home

Part of the reason I left the United States for the Philippines was a feeling that many things had become too fake there. And that the real things were getting too expensive.

In America, the Economies of Scale (the more you make the lower the cost per item) is a religion. Giant factory farms churn out pumped-up, bland meats and vegetables that are losing their nutritional values and flavors.

To me, the farmed food keeps getting more and more fake. The push by corporations to market more processed foods is getting out of hand as well. Even the things that everyone claims are “good” for you – low-fat foods particularly – are just loaded with sugar to make them taste better after the fat is gone.

On the other hand, “real” food from small farms at the farmer’s markets in Seattle where I lived was expensive and the markets were often overcrowded and inconvenient.

The supermarkets that specialize in “organic” and minimally processed food and foods with all-natural ingredients are also hard to shop in unless you make a bundle of money at your job each week. There’s a reason people call the Whole Foods supermarkets “Whole Paycheck”.

But I knew there was another choice. It would be a giant step for me but I was willing to take it.

The Philippine Alternative

Meat, eggs, and vegetables here tasted different and fresher to me when I visited the Philippines. I also knew that it was possible to get even farther from the factory floor here by raising your own chickens and even pigs.

They call Mindanao, the island Davao is on, “The Nation’s Fruit Basket” and I loved that. Local fresh fruit was really only available in the summer in Seattle. At other times of year, fruits and veggies come from South America, Mexico or Southern California. To ship fresh food that far, farmers pick it unripe and it’s “force ripened” later.

Mindanao is also home to hundreds of vegetable farms big and small. I wish I had a photo to show you of the vendor stalls where the local road intersects with the national highway. Fruits and veggies pack the tables of these local farmers and merchants. It’s amazing. And all of it is twice as fresh as the stuff in many Seattle supermarkets.

I wanted to live a more simple, healthier life. Living in Davao would be my alternative to “fake” America. I was sure that I could do without the things I loved in America and “make do” with what the Philippines had. What it didn’t have, I would just give up.

After all, this was a resolution and what’s a resolution without a sacrifice?

The Retirement Resolution

I figured that I would keep my retirement resolution by making some smaller resolutions to help me. Here’s what I thought would help: buying some land, building a house, planting a garden and some fruit trees, raising some chickens for meat and eggs, and maybe having some pigs off-site.

There they were, like on New Year’s Eve: a set of bright and shiny resolutions that I would follow to achieve the big payoff.

But there were complications.

When Life Hands You…Lemonade?

Many times, life hands you lemons and you just have to apply some extra elbow grease and reinterpret your idea of success. You have to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

Sometimes, though, life hands you exactly what you want and work for but things still don’t work out the way you planned. When that happens, you have to find a way to appreciate the lemonade anyway.

We bought a piece of land and built a house on it, but we had to cut down a lot of the existing fruit trees to build. We tried gardening but soon discovered that the soil we have, which is mostly the contractor’s fill used to level our land, is junk. We put off a real garden until we could improve the soil.

Then we built a piggery in the neighbor’s yard where we raised a bunch of piglets. But we were paying the neighbor rent each month for using his property and when you raise pigs “by the book”, it’s more expensive than how the locals do it. That means you can’t sell the meat at a high enough price to make a profit.

So we turned to chickens. The eggs were great but once again, we were raising our cluckers by the book and aiming for quality birds. Unfortunately, like with the pigs, the locals care about cost over quality so we didn’t make a profit.


The best-laid plans of mice and retirees often go Ka-Blooey! But we fell back, regrouped and, well, I kind of forgot what I was here for.

McDonalds became a twice-a-week treat. Chips and snacks from America found their way into our shopping cart each week. I had forgotten that I was supposed to suffer for the sake of my resolutions!

Lately, we’ve been doing better. We made a deal with a fellow to care for and breed our sow. He took five piglets in payment. We got any other piglets and have sold them or kept them for ourselves for meat.

There’s a small pen in the backyard now. We got the sow back last month and today we had another fellow come with his boar to breed with her. 

There are seeds coming in the mail for tomatoes and peppers. We’ve found the soil improvement ingredients locally and have a bin filled with compostables. One day soon, we’ll have some local veggies to eat.

Keeping Promises

What my wife and have to focus on now is keeping those resolutions, those promises, that we made to ourselves.

Maybe we won’t keep them all. I’ve discovered how silly it was to values andassume I could give up what wasn’t easy to find here. it’s now a game to find the things I miss the most about living in America – mostly foods. We also look closer at what the expat stores stock here for expats from other countries.

For instance, the British HP Sauce is much tastier than America’s A-1 Steak Sauce. German mustards I find here are much better than most of what I had in America, too.

So the retirement resolutions have changed a little but I’m enjoying the lemonade life is giving me.

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